Robredo, Marcos face off on martial law at VP forum

MANILA, Philippines – Administration vice presidential bet Leni Robredo minced no words when she reiterated her criticism of martial law and the need to give justice to its victims in a forum attended by Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator.

Robredo spoke about her position on martial law at the Go Negosyo vice presidential forum at the Manila Polo Club on Monday, March 14.  Hosted by TV5 and Philippine Star, it featured 4 of the 6 vice presidential bets – Robredo, Marcos, Senator Francis Escudero, and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV – sharing the stage for the first time as rivals. 

"[Ang] EDSA, hindi po 'yun personal kay Bongbong Marcos o Pangulong Aquino, pero 'yun ay ang pagbibigay ng hustisya sa maraming naging biktima sa panahon ng martial law; pagbibigay po ng pagkakataon na 'yung sinasabi ko na nanakaw na salapi sa ating bansa ay maibalik," Robredo said.

(EDSA is not just personal to Bongbong Marcos and President Aquino, but it's a means to give justice to the many victims of martial law; a means to give way to the recovery of ill-gotten wealth so it can be returned to our coffers.) 

She was reacting to Escudero's statement that he was saddened that the 30th EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary seemed to be all about the fight between the Aquino and Marcos families.

In his speech at the EDSA anniversary – his last as Chief Executive – Aquino took a swipe at the younger Marcos for refusing to acknowledge his father's mistakes during his regime, including the abuses committed by the state during martial law. (READ: Marcos on dad's regime: What am I to apologize for?

Case in court

Sought for a reaction to Robredo's remarks, Marcos was initially reluctant to reply but later said, "Of course, I respect the opinion of the congresswoman but I would just like to point out that the PCGG [Presidential Commission on Good Government] has been in existence for 30 years with precisely that mandate."

"And all of these cases are in court and whatever the court decides, we, as should everybody else, [should] obey the court orders," he continued.

The usually polite and placid Robredo showed her fiercer side, as she took another jab at Marcos, saying that there are still millions of illegally amassed wealth to be recovered and cases to be resolved.

"Si Senator [Jovito] Salonga po, nung siya po 'yung PCGG chairman, na-estimate niya 'yung loot na $5 billion (P200 billion)  to $10 billion (466 billion), P170 billion pa lang ang narerecover natin, meron pang ilang kasong pending," she said. 

(When Senator Jovito Salonga was PCGG chairman, he estimated that the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth was $5 to $10 billion. But only P170 billion have been recovered and there are still pending cases.) 

"Meron pong dalawang may judgement na pero 'di pa rin nababayaran. Galing po sa court ng Singapore, galing sa court ng US," Robredo added.

(There were two verdicts handed down but the claims have not been paid. These are from courts in Singapore and the US.)

Marcos: Martial law justified

Asked by one of the panelists if martial law was justifiable, Marcos said that it was justified because it aimed to defend the government from insurgencies that aimed to overthrow it. 

To this, Robredo countered: "Kung 'yun [insurgencies] 'yung dahilan, bakit nagkaroon ng extrajudicial killings? [Bakit may] 300 media outlets [na] sinara dahil sa pag-kontra sa gobyerno?"

(If the insurgencies were the reason, why were there extrajudicial killings? Why were 300 media outlets shut down because they had negative reports about the government?)

On the 30th anniversary of the bloodless revolution that overthrew Marcos' father, Robredo issued several statements against the dictatorship.

Aside from citing facts and figures that martial rule was not the best period in Philippine history, contrary to what is claimed by the younger Marcos, Robredo had also said that the late president Marcos does not deserve to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery).

Marcos is statistically tied with Escudero for the top spot in the March Pulse Asia Research survey commissioned by ABS-CBN. Among the candidates, Robredo – who trails the two with a small margin, was the biggest gainer in the latest poll on vice presidential bets. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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