News / World

Philippine gov't historian resigns over dictator's burial

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government's top historian resigned Tuesday to protest the president's decision to allow the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a heroes' cemetery, in a growing political storm over the entombment.

Maria Serena Diokno said in a statement that she will join protests against the Nov. 18 burial, including one scheduled at a pro-democracy shrine on Wednesday.

Diokno, who was chairwoman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, said Duterte could have blocked Marcos's burial in the cemetery despite a Supreme Court decision that dismissed petitions against the entombment.

Diokno said the burial was wrong, "denies our history, erases the memory of lives lost and destroyed, mocks the collective action we took to oust the dictator."

Marcos was ousted in a 1986 "people power" revolt, a largely peaceful, army-backed uprising that helped inspire similar mass actions against authoritarian regimes worldwide. His presidency was marked by largescale corruption and human rights violations, including disappearances, killings and torture of thousands of political dissidents.

Duterte, whose father served in Marcos's Cabinet, allowed the burial on grounds that there was no law barring his interment at the Heroes' Cemetery, where presidents, soldiers, statesmen and national artists are buried. It was a political risk in a country where democracy advocates still celebrate Marcos's ouster each year.

Duterte's decision was upheld earlier this month by the Supreme Court. Marcos opponents had 15 days to appeal the decision, but Marcos's family, backed by Duterte's defence and military officials, buried him at the cemetery last week in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony with military honours .

The stealthy burial enraged democracy advocates and sparked protests in Manila and other cities.

"President Duterte could have taken the higher ground," Diokno said. "But he chose not to."

Under Diokno, the historical commission released a study in July that opposed Marcos's burial at the cemetery, stating that he lied about receiving U.S. war medals and his "military record is fraught with myths, factual inconsistencies and lies."

Diokno is the daughter of a late nationalist and prominent senator, Jose Wright Diokno, who was detained for nearly two years without any charges under Marcos.

Diokno said she wanted to stay at the commission but was inspired to see many young Filipinos joining recent anti-Marcos rallies.

"They, we all, will guard our history," she said. "Never again will we allow any remnant of the authoritarian past to take hold of our country."