Martial law victims: Marcos burial in heroes cemetery mocks our sacrifices

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime are vehemently opposing President Rodrigo Duterte's move to bury deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the National Heroes' Cemetery (Libingan ng Mga Bayani).

Duterte vowed to do so during the campaign trail.

He is now making good on that promise. He believes burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani will bring healing and closure to the country.

Also read: Duterte confirms Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani

On Sunday, Duterte said Marcos, as a former President and a soldier, is qualified to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

But those who suffered in fighting the Marcos dictatorship disagree. They said this will only add insult to injury.

Former human rights commissioner Etta Rosales said burying Marcos as a hero is a distortion of Philippine history.

"It is rubbing salt on raw wounds that still need to be healed," she said. "That is what it is doing. Because it is making a mockery of the struggle of the Filipino people to restore democracy."

An activist during the Marcos regime, Rosales claims she was illegally detained and repeatedly raped by military forces.

Rosales is appealing to President Duterte not to base his decision on his personal views of Marcos.

The President said his father had served in the Marcos cabinet and that he himself voted for Marcos before.

"I know you have a soft heart for Ferdinand Marcos because he gave your father employment. That is personal and private between you and the Marcoses, which we respect. But you are a president and you cannot substitute your private interests for the public interest," said Rosales.

Bonifacio Ilagan, who also faced illegal detention and torture during Martial Law, agreed with Rosales.

He said a hero's burial for Marcos sends the wrong message to young Filipinos: that crime pays.

"In the Philippines, yung kriminal ay binibigyan ng karangalan [honor is given to criminals]," Ilagan said.

For Ilagan, the move is a great advantage to the Marcos family's political plans.

"Can you imagine, the newly elected president of the Philippines is saying that Marcos should be honored. Napakalaking boost iyan sa claim ng mga Marcos," he said.

Compensation

If the president is really after closure, Ilagan said Duterte should pay more attention to the victims' compensation.

In 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, which offers financial compensation to rights abuses during the Marcos regime.

More than 75,000 people submitted applications for compensation to the claims board, which is tasked to receive and process claims of martial law victims.

The board has so far evaluated around 22 percent of the total number. The process is taking longer than expected due to the tedious task of verification.

"Kelangan namin i-verify ng mabuti [We need to verify very well]," said claims board chair Lina Sarmiento. "This is because we need to safeguard the rights of the legitimate claimants."

"At the end of the day, ang aming output is a list of legitimate claimants. We would like to see to it that the list will really reflect actual victims of human rights violations during martial law," she also said.

Martial law victims are not letting up that easily — they said they will try to convince the President to reconsider, whether through online petitions, protests or other means.