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Speaker, others to skip Ferdinand Marcos' Libingan birthday rites

Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos has invited congressmen and senators to the celebration of the birth centennial of her husband, the late president Ferdinand Marcos, at his burial site at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Monday. Rosette Adel/File

MANILA, Philippines — Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos has invited congressmen and senators to the celebration of the birth centennial of her husband, the late president Ferdinand Marcos, at his burial site at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Monday.

But from all indications, only a few of the lawmakers would show up.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he did not receive an invitation. “I have better things to do,” he said.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, one of those invited, said the Libingan party shows that “the Marcoses’ shamelessness is beyond words and their sense of entitlement knows no bounds.”
His opposition colleague Tom Villarin of Akbayan said he “puked” or vomited on the invitation upon receiving it.

Several administration allies who received invitations said they are not sure if they could attend, since the House has morning and afternoon sessions on Monday to continue tackling the proposed P3.8-trillion 2018 national budget.

Leftist group Bayan Muna said it would hold rallies at the Libingan to protest the late martial law ruler’s planned 100th birthday celebration by his family.

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A source at the House of Representatives said Mrs. Marcos had her staff deliver the invitations early this week to the offices of her colleagues at the Batasan complex in Quezon City.

A Senate source said all senators were invited. However, he was not sure if they would attend. Another source said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III would skip the event.

Also invited were other government officials, presumably including President Duterte, and foreign diplomats. The Marcoses are Duterte’s close allies.

The President has declared Monday a holiday in Ilocos Norte, the Marcoses’ home province. It was Duterte who allowed the burial of Marcos at the Libingan.

The President is advocating the grant of immunity from criminal prosecution for the Marcos heirs in exchange for returning their alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Asked if he and other House leaders got invited, House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said, “Not that I know of.”

Upon Fariñas’ initiative, the House is investigating the alleged diversion of tobacco funds by Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos to the procurement of 115 buses, multi-cabs and mini-trucks. Imee claims there was no irregularity.

House Minority Leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said he would go if he received an invitation.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said he has not seen an invitation. Benitez is a son of Jose Conrado Benitez, Mrs. Marcos’ deputy when she was minister of human settlements during her husband’s rule.

Some congressmen expressed disbelief when informed that Alvarez did not get invited while Lagman and Villarin received invitations.

In a statement, Lagman said the Marcos heirs “must unequivocally commit the immediate surrender of the totality of the Marcos ill-gotten hoard without conditions, instead of celebrating in the Libingan, which he does not deserve and does not deserve him.

“The burial of the late dictator in the cemetery of heroes in itself is the height of desecration of a sacred and hallowed memorial shrine,” Lagman said.

“This planned party celebrating the centennial of his birth defiles the memory of all the legitimate heroes buried in the Libingan even as it rubs salt on the still-bleeding wounds of the thousands of victims of the Marcoses’ brutalities, atrocities and unparalleled greed and plunder of the national coffers,” he said.

“Clearly, there is no measure to the depths of depravity that the Marcoses are willing to sink to. In the face of this shamelessness and utter lack of remorse, Filipinos cannot afford not to fight back and be silent.”

Villarin said, “With President Duterte’s blessings and absolution of their sins, including his push for their immunity from prosecution, the Marcoses are enjoying their heyday since they were booted out by people power.

“While Duterte and Marcos party in the Libingan, the blood of thousands killed by both of them cry out for justice! The day of reckoning will come and history will judge harshly those who kill the truth and our own humanity,” he said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the planned birthday celebration at the Libingan is the “height of callousness” on the part of the Marcoses.

“This is a grave insult to the victims of human rights violations during martial law and even the Filipino nation. They really want to revise the judgment of history on Ferdinand Marcos and their family. It seems that they are really bent to return to Malacañang and this event is part of that plan,” he said.

Zarate announced that Bayan Muna and other leftist groups would hold protest actions on Monday “to condemn the resurgence of the Marcoses and call for justice for their victims.”

The military, for its part, said they have secured the Libingan after the Marcos family coordinated their efforts to make the gathering a private affair.

“Coordination has been made and the Marcos family informed us that the event would be private. They even denied media requests to cover the event,” Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

The Philippine Army, being the custodian of the Libingan, is obliged to secure the area.

Arevalo said soldiers would be deployed at the Libingan to ensure the sanctity of the place from anti-Marcos rallyists.

“Rallies or protest actions will not be allowed inside,” Arevalo said.

On the other hand, Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano delivered to Duterte and the Marcos family a proposed compromise agreement for the release of the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the family, which he said would not need congressional approval.

Lozano proposed the agreement should be signed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who will represent the President, and Mrs. Marcos on behalf of the family.

Lozano proposed the agreement should be signed on Monday, during the 100th birth anniversary of the late strongman. – With Perseus Echeminada, Jaime Laude

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