CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Ateneo de Manila red-faced over Marcos invite

MANILA (UCAN): Jesuit Father Jose Ramon Villarin, president of Ateneo de Manila University, issued a public apology for what he described as the “hurt” the presence of Irene Marcos-Araneta at the launch of an art installation at the university on April 4 brought to victims of human rights abuses committed during the rule of her father the late president and dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.
 
In the wake of protests by the university’s student organisation, Father Villarin said on April 12 that the university recognised that her attendance had cast “doubts over (the university’s) solidarity with victims of the then-regime.”
 
He said, “We offer our deepest apologies for the hurt this has brought.”
 
Marcos-Araneta was invited to the unveiling of an outdoor art installation at the university by the head of Arete, the university’s creative hub, where plays and exhibitions depicting abuses under the dictatorship had been held.
 
In a statement, the student body said Arete is a “central space for creative, adaptive and independent thinking, values that the Marcoses systematically destroyed during the darkest era in Philippine history.”
 
The students said the presence of Marcos’ youngest daughter during the event was a “grave insult and vehement mockery of martial law survivors and martyrs.”
 
The head of Arete has since resigned.
 
Father Villarin said the Ateneo had not turned “a blind eye to the atrocities committed during the martial law years,” adding that it has even strengthened its “unfailing commitment to seek justice for the victims of the regime, (and) to counter historical revisionism.”
 
He said, “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.” 
 
Meanwhile, the students commended the “accountability taken by the university” and reaffirmed their commitment to continuously seek justice for the victims of martial law.
 
This is the second public apology issued by Ateneo involving the Marcoses. The first occasion was in 2014, after university alumni protested the invitation of the dictator’s widow, Imelda Marcos, to be guest of honour at the launch of the Ateneo Scholarship Foundation.

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