“Where were they when the many years of oppression and atrocities were happening? Were they sitting on the lap of the dictator?”

This was the reaction of Sr.Emelina Villegas, ICM, President of Board of Trustees of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights when the Supreme Court on November 8 upheld President Duterte’s order to allow the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).

Villegas, a Catholic nun, was among the staunchest supporters and advocates of the labor movement at the height of martial law. She risked her life and limbs by spending her younger years in religious life with striking workers, families of victims of atrocities and oppressed people fighting against Marcos dictatorship.

Even before Marcos declared martial law, at least three workers have already been killed in the Labor Day massacre in 1971. Marcos’ dictatorial rule imposed a total strike ban followed by a series of crackdown on trade unionists including prominent leaders of the labor movement including Bert Olalia, and Crispin Beltran.

“Those who voted for the late dictator’s interment in the LNMB closed their eyes to a historical period of our country and disregarded the sufferings, atrocities endured by all of us,” Villegas averred.

“It legalizes the injustices committed against the Filipino people by the dictator and exonerates the Marcoses for the numerous human rights violations and plunder under martial law, which they have yet to be held accountable for,” Villegas averred.

The decision jolted many, both martial law victims and not. “It is unnerving that the nine court justices cited that ‘has not been convicted of any crimes involving moral turpitude in any court’ when thousands of martial victims have been crying for justice. What court controlled by a dictator at the time will convict him? The decision was a betrayal of what had people fought and died for to oust the dictator,” the nun added.

Villegas however, quipped that we should not also be part of historical blindness that the nine magistrates did by assuming that those buried in LNMB were actually heroes. “No, in LNMB, there were also American soldiers who were also involved in the killings of Filipinos, and others whom the reactionaries called heroes. Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, Rizal, Crispin Beltran, or Felixberto Olalia and others who really gave their lives of for the country were not buried there. So, we rage now and will continue to rage against injustices. We will tell the young and children, that at LNMB, most if not all buried there “cannot be considered as heroes of the Filipino people,” Villegas explained.

The nun added that CTUHR will continue to join the people to fight against “even the slightest insinuation” that there was something heroic that Marcos did as President of this country.###

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