MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipino activists who were jailed, abused and tortured during late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law asked the Commission on Elections Wednesday to disqualify his son and namesake from running for president next year, saying he may “whitewash” history and make it nearly impossible to recover plundered wealth.
At least 18 petitioners also expressed fears that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would make it hard for victims of his father’s dictatorship, who have not been compensated like thousands of others under reparation arrangements, to seek claims.
The new petition cites the same grounds as an initial complaint filed by rights groups this month, which argued that Marcos Jr. has once been convicted of tax evasion and that he wrongfully stated in his candidacy papers that he had never been found liable for a criminal offense that can bar him from public office.
Marcos Jr.’s camp has called the effort “propaganda” and vowed to address “this predictable nuisance” although it has not publicly issued a detailed reply. The issue, which should be resolved by elections commissioners before the May 9 vote, could spark a legal battle that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
The martial law victims said that Marcos Jr. “would render difficult, if not impossible, any unclaimed human rights reparations” and ”the recovery of the bulk of the ill-gotten wealth plundered by the Marcoses and their cronies.”
They said a new Marcos president “might lead to a white-washing and further proliferation of historical revisionism of the gravely inhumane abuses and extremely grand corruption committed by the Marcos dictatorship.”
Bonifacio Ilagan, a left-wing activist who was detained and tortured during Marcos’s rule, told an online news conference that Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid may be the family’s final attempt to retake power “and to completely turn history upside down.” One of the longest-held martial law detainees, 83-year-old ex-journalist Satur Ocampo, asked Filipinos to take to heart a “never again” attitude and actively oppose a Marcos return to the presidency.
Elections officials have invited Marcos Jr. and the petitioners to a preliminary meeting on Nov. 26.
Ferdinand Marcos placed the Philippines under martial rule in 1972, a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked Congress and newspaper offices, ordered the arrest of political opponents and ruled by decree.
He was toppled in an army-backed “people power” revolt in 1986. The ousted president died in exile in Hawaii three years later without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he and his family amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while he was in power.
A Hawaii court found him liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion from his estate to compensate more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.
His widow, Imelda Marcos, and her children were allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991. They have since made a political comeback, winning seats in Congress and powerful provincial posts and laying the ground for a return to the presidential palace and the top job they say was stolen from them.
Marcos Jr. has called the allegations against his father “lies.”
He has joined hands with Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, as his running mate. The president backs his daughter’s run for vice president but has opposed the tandem and vowed to never support Marcos Jr.