Archbishop gives blessing to anti-Marcos protesters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has given Catholics his blessing to participate in anti-Marcos protests.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President said that he is backing Christians making a stand against the former President's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, in honor of those who suffered during Martial Law.

"Maraming nawala, namatay, nasugatan at napinsala dahil sa martial law. Ang karangalan ng kanilang pagpapakasakit ay dapat na alalahanin," he said.

"Kung sa inyong paninindigan, ang makisali sa mga rally ay kinakailangan at sa tingin ninyo ay bahagi ng ating tungkuling Kristiyano, kayo ay malugod kong hinihimok na dumalo dala ang aking basbas," Villegas added.

[Translation: Many were lost, died and wounded during Martial Law. We must remember the sacrifices they made. If you think that joining the rally is necessary and believe that it is part of your Christian duties, then I encourage you to join the protests with my blessing.]

Villegas said that the Marcos burial reopened wounds by Martial Law, and to stay silent would be a dishonor to the many victims of the authoritarian regime.

However, the Bishop also warned the protesters not to resort to violence.

Villegas reminded protesters to remain peaceful during the rallies. He urged Catholic participants to refrain from using force, and to keep civil when encountering pro-Marcos groups. He said that the protests must be fueled by dialogue, and not anger.

"Sa anumang rally o symposium o protestang gagawin, palaging tandaan na ang paninindigan ay dapat na mula sa pagmamalasakit at hindi higanti. Ang ating pag-usapan ay mga isyu at prinsipyo at iwasan ang pagmumura at paghamak sa kapwa taong iba ang pananaw sa atin," he said.

[Translation: In any protest, we must remember that we are driven by compassion and not revenge. We want to talk about our issues and principles, so refrain from violence against those who share different views from us.]

The statement comes as numerous groups plan to hold nationwide anti-Marcos protests on November 30. The Bonifacio Day rallies will be the second batch of mass protests, following the November 25 rally against Marcos' hasty burial at the Heroes' cemetery.

Villegas was the private secretary of the late Manila Archbishop, Jaime Cardinal Sin, who was a central figure in the 1986 EDSA revolution that ousted Marcos.

Villegas also encouraged older generations to keep the memory of Martial Law alive among the youth.

The Bishop enjoined parents to recount their experiences of Martial Law to their children, and praised younger generations for taking an active role in the protests.

Villegas stressed that Filipinos must not forget those who suffered during the Marcos regime.

He said the failure to pass on lessons learned from the experience would be an insult to those who perished, as well as a blow to our nation's history.

"Ang paglimot sa mga namatay sa Martial Law ay paglibak sa kanilang kabayanihan," he said

 [Translation: To forget those who perished during Martial Law would be to mock their heroism.]

The Archbishop has ordered the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to ring its church bells for five minutes from November 30 to December 2, in honor of Martial Law victims.

Villegas stressed the importance of being involved and taking a stand in the issue, saying its outcome was tied to our country's freedom. 

"Huwag lumimot. Manindigan. Makisangkot. Huwag pabayaang mawalang muli ang kalayaan!"

[Translation: Never forget. Stand firm and be involved. Never let our freedom be taken away again!]