High-ranking Ateneo officer resigns after backlash over Irene Marcos invite

Photo: Ateneo de Manila website
Photo: Ateneo de Manila website

Former presidential daughter Irene Marcos’s appearance at the launch of an art exhibit at Ateneo de Manila University’s Arete Amphitheater on Sunday has led to a public apology by the university’s president and the resignation of the Arete’s executive director.

AdMU President Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin today confirmed, then apologized for Marcos’ presence at the amphitheater, which has a long history of plays and exhibitions depicting human rights abuses committed by the regime of her father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He also announced that Yael Buencamino, the executive director of the Arete, has resigned due to the controversy.

Plays about the regime hosted by the Arete, the university’s premier creative hub, include Dekada ’70 and Desaparecidos.

“The University recognizes that her presence, even in a personal capacity, has cast doubts regarding its solidarity with the victims of the Martial Law regime. We offer our deepest apologies for the hurt this has brought,” Villarin said in the statement.

Irene was invited to the event by Buencamino, who “voluntarily” resigned from her post, according to the statement.

“I have accepted her resignation, even as I acknowledge with gratitude her exemplary performance in shepherding Arete during this nascent stage of its development,” Villarin said.

The university president said that the “unintended consequences” of the incident doesn’t mean that AdMU has turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed during the martial law regime. He said that the incident even “strengthened the university’s unfailing commitment” to help seek justice for the victims of martial law.

President Marcos enforced a nationwide martial law from 1972 to 1981. According to reports, at least 3,257 people were killed and some 35,000 others were tortured during those years.

In May 2018, ABS-CBN News reported that more than 11,100 victims of human rights abuses received compensation from the government, with the amount taken from the Marcos family’s Swiss bank deposits worth PHP10 billion (more than US$186,993,470).

Rappler reported that a New York federal court on Wednesday has ruled to distribute US$13.75 million (more than PHP712 million) to Filipino victims of the martial law regime, sourced from the settlement proceeds of paintings seized from Imelda.

Yesterday, human rights lawyer Rod Domingo told The Philippine Daily Inquirer that the distribution of the settlement proceeds to martial law victims will proceed, even with the efforts of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to stop the deal.

Domingo said this after the OSG renewed its rejection of the settlement deal that would give thousands of human rights victims US$1500 (more than PHP77,600) each.

“If the OSG is not happy because the impoverished victims will be awarded [with the settlement proceed], he should pursue his appeal in US courts since the rulings were decided therein,” Domingo said.

Meanwhile, university president Villarin said that “as an open community of learners, we learn from our missteps.”

“I call on the University community to hold fast to our commitment to justice and peace, and to help one another remain vigilant, especially during this time of forgetfulness,” he added.

The statement comes after the school’s student council, the Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila (Sanggu), demanded an apology from the Arete administration earlier this week and asked for an explanation for Irene’s presence.

“It is nothing but ironic that a Marcos participated in the event of the institution,” it said in the statement, adding that it is a “grave insult and vehement mockery” to martial law survivors.

“It (Arete) is the university’s central space for creative, adaptive, and independent thinking – values that the Marcoses systematically destroyed during the darkest era in Philippine history,” Sanggu added.

Read more Coconuts Manila articles here.

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