MANILA (AFP) – A leading Catholic university in the Philippines has apologised for inviting former first lady Imelda Marcos to speak after photos of her relishing the occasion caused a social media storm.
The 85-year-old wife of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was photographed flashing the victory sign with Ateneo de Manila University students in pictures that went viral on Facebook and Twitter.
“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 added that the Jesuit-run institution’s decision to invite Marcos to address scholars showed “hypocrisy at its best”.
Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for more than 20 years and his wife became a symbol of excess with her jet-setting lifestyle as millions at home languished in poverty.
She remains an extremely controversial figure in the country. In a statement circulated among Ateneo alumni late Sunday, the university’s chastised president apologised for her invitation to address scholars.
Jose Ramon Villarin said Ateneo had not forgotten Marcos’s brutal 20 year rule, during which thousands of activists were either killed or missing as the country plunged into poverty and chaos.
“I apologise for any doubts that may have arisen on the mission of the school, and the pain this may have caused,” Villarin, who was in one of the photos with Marcos, said.
He added that she had been invited to mark the 40th anniversary of a university scholarship programme that she helped found.
Ironically, Ateneo’s most famous alumni is Benigno Aquino Jr. – a Marcos arch rival whose assassination in 1983 triggered public anger that snowballed into the ouster of her husband in 1986.
Aquino’s son and namesake is the current president while Imelda Marcos is a second term congresswoman and her son is a senator.
The Marcos family is accused, but has never been convicted of, plundering up to 10 billion dollars from government coffers during their rule.