By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Ilonggo members of the House of Representatives on Friday defended their affirmative votes on the controversial House Bill (HB) No. 7137, which seeks to declare September 11 of each year as “Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in Ilocos Norte province.
HB No. 7137 declares Sept. 11 as a special, non-working public holiday in the northern Philippine province.
The bill was approved on third reading on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 by the House of Representatives with 197 affirmative votes, against 9 negative votes and 1 abstention.
It was authored by Representatives Ria Christina Fariñas (Ilocos Norte-1st), Angelo Marcos Barba (Ilocos Norte-2nd), and Rudy Cesar Fariñas I (Probinsyano Ako partylist).
Rep. Barba is a nephew of the late dictator by his youngest sister, Fortuna Marcos Barba.
Its passage attracted controversy, with critics calling the bill an “act of historical revisionism”, noting the atrocities during the rule of the bill’s namesake, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The bill is also expected to “swiftly” pass in the Senate according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday.
In an interview with Aksyon Radyo Iloilo, Rep. Lorenz Defensor (Iloilo-3rd) confirmed that he did vote yes for the bill, explaining that it was a “local law”, applicable only to Marcos’ home province.
“This is a bill that we leave to the [province] of Ilocos Norte on how they celebrate the things that are important to them. In most cases, this is similar to bills changing the names of schools or roads, and the same as dedicating holidays to people who they think are important to their province,” Defensor said.
Defensor clarified that if the bill was to be applied nationally, he would “definitely vote no”.
“If this were a national bill, declaring it to be a national holiday in the country, I’ll surely say no, but if this a local bill pertaining to a municipality or a province [like] Ilocos [Norte], we’ll just leave that to the representatives of their province,” he added.
In a phone interview, Rep. Michael Gorriceta (Iloilo-2nd) confirmed to Daily Guardian that he also voted “Yes” on the bill for the same reason, calling the bill “parochial” in nature.
Gorriceta added that if there would be any similar bill for any personality in Western Visayas, the bill’s proponents will also support such a measure.
“This House Bill is basically parochial in nature, meaning we will leave it to Ilocos Norte on how they will apply it since it will only be for them. If there would be bills like this dedicated to a person in Iloilo province or the whole of Western Visayas, I’m sure that the representatives will support it just the same,” Gorriceta said.
‘NOT HISTORICAL REVISIONISM’
Defensor and Gorriceta likewise clarified that their affirmative vote for HB No. 7137 was not in support of the Marcos administration.
Defensor explained that he continues to condemn the actions of the former president during the latter’s 21-year-rule.
The lawmaker cited his opposition to Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 when it was deliberated upon in the lower house.
“Until now, I condemn the abuses of the Marcoses and their cronies with what they did during the Martial Law [era], of their abuses of their power to lift themselves up. I continue to condemn the human rights abuses and I don’t want that to happen again. A semblance of a move to closer to Martial Law such as passing the Anti-Terror Bill, I voted no. Until now, [Ferdinand] Marcos will never be a hero for me and hopefully [the same] for the Ilonggos,” Defensor said.
Gorriceta said that the bill is purely for the people of Ilocos Norte, and not for the celebration of what had happened during the Marcos presidency.
Daily Guardian has also reached out to Reps. Julienne Baronda (Iloilo City-Lone), Janette Garin (Iloilo-1st), and BJ Biron (Iloilo-4th) and Raul Tupas (Iloilo-5th) as of this writing but they have yet to respond. (With reports from Rappler and Philippine Daily Inquirer)