Ateneo apologizes for inviting Imelda Marcos
MANILA, Philippines–Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, has issued a public apology for having invited former first lady Imelda Marcos to be the guest speaker at the 40th anniversary of the Ateneo Scholarship Foundation (ASF) on Saturday, after photos of the event went viral on Facebook and caused a social media storm over the weekend.
The 85-year-old widow of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was photographed flashing the victory sign with Ateneo students.
Much of the criticism on social media said the photos were a reminder of the human rights abuses during the Marcos regime that claimed the lives of several Atenean freedom fighters, among them, Edgar Jopson.
In a statement circulated among Ateneo alumni late Sunday and posted on the Ateneo website, Villarin “apologize(d) for any doubts that may have arisen on the mission of the school and the pain (the) event may have caused.”
Added the statement: “Please know that in the education of our youth, the administration will never forget the martial law years of oppression and injustice presided over by Mr. Ferdinand Marcos.”
Villarin explained that the now Ilocos Norte representative was invited because the ASF was started with a donation from the proceeds of a piano concert Imelda Marcos had organized in 1974.
The Ateneo official also clarified that the ASF was not an official school arm, and that Saturday’s event was meant only as a “celebration of our scholars, the foundation’s scholarship programs, and the generosity of countless benefactors over the last 40 years.”
“I would like to assure you that we in the administration have learned our lesson to be more mindful of those we invite to our celebrations,” Villarin said.
The photos drew sharp comments from netizens who also noted recent postings on social media by “Marcos propagandists…trying to erase the memory of Marcos’ crimes from the consciousness of everyone.”
“To those who did not experience the Marcos era and believe they are saints, you do not know how merciless they were,” said Joel Ramos on Facebook.
Andy Summers said the Jesuit-run institution’s decision to invite Marcos to address scholars showed “hypocrisy at its best.”
Villarin said the Ateneo had not forgotten Ferdinand Marcos’ brutal rule, during which thousands of activists were either killed or went missing as the country was plunged into poverty and chaos.–With an AFP report
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