The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is taking a turn towards the martial law era of former president Ferdinand Marcos, according to another former president who lived through the late strongman’s reign.
Former president Benigno Aquino III, whose family has been long identified as political rivals of the Marcoses, said yesterday that some of the government’s recent proposals remind him of the Marcos regime,
Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. “I’m a bit surprised by what I’ve been hearing. Now we again have a Ministry of Human Settlements… And we’re going to be renamed Maharlika,” Aquino told the crowd commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
“It seems we’re going back to the ways of the regime we fought in the dark days of martial law. Now it seems we are taking a detour. It’s up to us if we keep going deeper into this detour.” Aquino was referring to the recent creation of the Department of Human Settlements, which in the Marcos era was called the Ministry of Human Settlements, headed by then-first lady Imelda Marcos. By Maharlika, he meant the revival of moves to get the Philippines renamed to Maharlika, which Marcos took from the name of the military unit he claimed to have led in the Second World War. “The only one who became secretary of Human Settlements was Mrs Marcos. I hope this time it’s not Mrs Marcos again. Have pity on her. She’s already old.
“The last time I heard that was when it was Apo Ferdie who was in power. We’re not making a left turn. It seems we’re making a U-turn.
“Apo Ferdie” refers to Ferdinand Marcos, “apo” being a term of respect for an elder in the Ilocos Region, where the former strongman came from.
In an ambush interview after the programme, Aquino questioned whether the president’s move to rename the country was a “conscious decision.”
“It’s not just a poor choice of words. You don’t like the name Philippines. You’re a nationalist, you say it’s named after a Spanish king. Okay, you can accept that. It was Marcos who was floating that idea, was that a conscious choice to indicate a preference?” Aquino said. “Ministry of Human Settlements — that only existed for Imelda. If you would use those particular words, is it not just to indicate the function or is it indicative also of your own ideology?” he added.
The president has been vocal of his preference for Marcos, who steered the country for more than 20 years until he was forced to leave the country when people supported military men who defected from the government.
In a speech he delivered on Feb 11, the president said Marcos’ idea of using “Maharlika” instead of “Philippines” — derived from King Philip II of Spain who funded the exploration of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan — was correct.
“Actually, Ferdinand Marcos,” the president said. “Actually, Marcos was right. In his time, Marcos was really right. He wanted to change the name to Maharlika — the Republic of Maharlika. He wanted to change it. It means… more of a concept of serenity and peace.
Aquino warned against forgetting the lessons of the past, saying: “Forget what you learned about the past and it’s guaranteed that you would repeat the mistakes. That’s up to you. That’s democracy. It’s up to you if you will allow the repetition of a dark period of our history.”
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