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Philippine President sparks painful memories of Marcos era for SoCal Filipinos




Filipino Americans protest plans to re-bury former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos in Manila's hero cemetery. Here they gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, September, 2016. Photo courtesy of Ren Arrieta.
Filipino Americans protest plans to re-bury former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos in Manila's hero cemetery. Here they gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, September, 2016. Photo courtesy of Ren Arrieta.
Photo courtesy of Ren Arrieta

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In less than three months on the job, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a series of controversial moves: an insult that led to President Obama cancelling a visit, an anti-drug campaign that has left hundreds of bodies in the streets of Manila, the capital.

And, in a painful reminder to the unresolved and divisive legacy of former US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte has pushed forward with a campaign pledge to re-bury Marcos in Manila's cemetery for military heroes, known as Libingan ng mga Bayani.  The plan, which has been temporarily halted by the country's Supreme Court, has rekindled harsh memories for some Filipinos in the L.A.-area who recall the two-decade-long Marcos era when tens of thousands were killed, detained or tortured.

"It's very painful for me," said Arturo Garcia, who said both his wife and child died during the Marcos martial law period when he was an activist in the Philippines.

Garcia has led a group of other Filipino Americans, called Movement Against the Internment of the Dictator, in protesting the burial plan, most recently gathering in front of the country's consulate in Los Angeles last week.

"It's a distortion of history," said Garcia, who referred to the Marcos rule as a time of rampant corruption and "a reign of terror."

Still, some Filipinos in the U.S. have expressed strong support for President Duterte, arguing that a political system plagued by corruption requires a strong leader. Supporters also point to his peace efforts to end a long-running communist insurgency in the country and to the fact that he hails from Mindanao, a southern region that has historically been neglected by the political elite in Manila.

Garcia said he hears plenty of support for Duterte from his fellow Filipinos in Southern California and he understands the desire for good leadership.

"Even me, I think the Philippines needs a strong leader," said Garcia. "But a person who has respect for human rights."

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