Estrada Stirs Marcos Ashes

Article excerpt

Greater leniency towards former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos is fuelling controversy over the new Estrada Administration.

The ghost of Ferdinand Marcos is kicking up a lot of dust as it demands a historical reassessment nine years after the death of the Philippines' dictator.

Chased into United States exile by a bloodless "people power" revolt which ended 20 years of rule in 1986, the Marcos family has won more sympathy from President Joseph Estrada's new administration. Mr Estrada allowed the remains of the disgraced former president to be laid to rest on July 11 at the armed forces cemetery, which bears the weighty name of Heroes' Cemetery.

The simple tomb rests in the leafy suburban Manila Park beside those of two former presidents -- much to the chagrin of former President Corazon Aquino.

Mr Estrada, who began ms six-year term on June 30, sparked an uproar when he announced that he wished to "bury the past" and, with it, the divisive issue of Marcos' place in history.

Mrs Aquino and her successor Mr Fidel Ramos, two of the leaders of the revolt which toppled Mr Marcos, had banned iniatives to have their predecessor interred at the Heroes' Cemetery, which has the remains of all but five of the country's deceased presidents.

The ban was based on security and the symbolism it would project to the rest of the world.

Post-Marcos governments had pursued a global effort to reclaim through the courts his alleged ill-gotten assets. These efforts were often in competition with a group of anti-Marcos dissidents, which has won a US court award for US$2 billion dollars in damages against the Marcos estate to compensate them for human rights violations.

Mr Ramos, a distant Marcos cousin, had agreed to have the remains flown home from Hawaii in 1993, but ruled out a Heroes' Cemetery burial.

"Even after death, it seems Ferdinand Marcos manages to court controversy, manages to work webs of intrigue," said University of the Philippines political scientist Mr Alex Magno. He said this dispute, Estrada policy initiatives -- such as his determination to rid Congress of control of so-called pork barrel funds -- "sets apart the Estrada presidency from the cautiousness that has characterised his predecessor". …