The 1986 rebellion in the Philippines named the dictator’s son as the leader

Manila, Philippines — Pro-democracy protesters in the Philippines marked the anniversary of a military-backed “people power” uprising in 1986 on Saturday with the son of the ousted dictator who is now president in a stunning comeback.

About 1,400 demonstrators gathered in Metro Manila along EDSA, the shrine to democracy, some waving Philippine flags and holding placards reading “Never Forget.” The same number of leftist activists, who portrayed Marcos Jr. as a pest, demonstrated separately at the nearby pro-democracy monument.

Millions of Filipinos gathered on the usually traffic-clogged highway in February 1986 to defend senior military and defense officials who had defected from the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos and were preparing to fight in two neighboring camps. The ailing president, who imposed martial law from 1972 to 1981, was exiled with his family and relatives to the United States, where he died three years later.

The uprising shocked the world and heralded a change in authoritarian regimes. But in the nearly four decades since the uprising, poverty, landlessness, stark disparity between rich and poor, and injustices have become deeply entrenched, shrouding the legacy of an almost bloodless insurgency.

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The Marcoses returned to the Philippines in 1991 and gradually returned to political power despite the looting and widespread human rights atrocities that forced the family patriarch from power to global infamy.

Last May, Marcos’ son and namesake won the presidential race in one of the most dramatic political comebacks in history.

“It’s kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it?” How did this happen? You remember those who sacrificed their lives and you are very sad for those who were tortured, who lost their loved ones,” Judy Taguiwalo, a former political prisoner during the dictatorship and torture survivor, told The Associated Press.

Taguiwalo, now 73 and ailing, said the generation of activists who fought the dictatorship was fading and many had died, but he remained optimistic and defiant.

“There is a new generation of fighters,” he said. “Tyranny may return, but there is no eternity in tyranny until we stop resisting, even if it is an uphill battle or if we are misinformed by disinformation.”

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Supporters of Marcos Jr. hailed his massive victory as a political vindication, but opponents said he regained the top job through well-funded social media propaganda that whitewashed the family’s history in a country considered one of the biggest users of the Internet and social networking sites. . media including Facebook and TikTok.

He has steadfastly refused calls from anti-Marcos groups to apologize for the atrocities and looting committed under his father’s rule, saying in a televised interview from the presidential seat in Manila in September that it was wrong to label his father a dictator.

Faced with the embarrassment of issuing a statement on the occasion of the 1986 coup that overthrew his father, Marcos Jr. called for reconciliation without referring to the event as a democratic milestone, as his predecessors had done.

“Once again, I extend my hand of reconciliation to those of different political persuasions to unite in building a better society — a society that will bring progress, peace and a better life for all Filipinos,” Marcos Jr. said in a statement posted on Facebook.

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“When we look back at a period in our history that divided the Filipino people, I am one with the nation as we remember the times of trial and how we came out of them united and stronger as a nation,” he said.

Renato Reyes, a member of the leftist Bayan Alliance, said the president’s offer is a “sound bite, but it lacks sincerity and substance,” given Marcos Jr.’s refusal to acknowledge abuses committed during his father’s rule.

The ousted president died in exile in Hawaii three years after he was ousted without admitting any wrongdoing, including allegations that he and his family amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while in power.

A Hawaii court later indicted him for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who sued him for torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.