After backlash over Marcos interview, Toni Gonzaga urged to speak to martial law victims

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The Ateneo Martial Law Museum has urged actress Toni Gonzaga to reach out to martial law victims and their families, following her controversial interview with former senator Bongbong Marcos, son of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

"Your show has contributed to the Marcos family’s attempts to whitewash their human rights violations and its proven historical record," the museum said in an open letter to Gonzaga on Wednesday, two days after she released her interview with Marcos on her YouTube show “Toni Talks”.

"Inviting the son of a murderous and corrupt dictator of our country to your show benefits no one and pushes back the struggle to gain justice from the atrocities committed by the Marcos regime and against historical revisionism running rampant amongst our people," it added.

The Marcos presidency was marred by allegations of stolen public funds and human rights violations with the declaration of martial law in 1972. His widow Imelda was found guilty of graft in 2018 over crimes during his regime, but the Sandiganbayan dismissed some civil cases on the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the family due to lack of evidence.

Gonzaga’s vlog titled "The Greatest Lesson Bongbong Marcos Learned from His Father" is the top five trending YouTube video with 1.8 million views so far.

The Ateneo Martial Law Museum offered to facilitate Gonzaga's interview with martial law victims, saying that "hearing their stories and struggles will be much more inspirational for your audience than talking to anyone from the Marcos family."

"In the first place, the only reason why we are able to pursue our creative pursuits in a free society today was because of their sacrifices. We owe a lot to those who sacrificed their lives in order to fight for our freedom and democracy," it added.

Ateneo Martial Law Museum director Miguel Paolo Rivera also told CNN Philippines that what they are really questioning is the way the son of the late dictator was presented when he "is far from ordinary."

"He (Bongbong) has personally benefitted from what the Marcoses have stolen from public coffers and he continues to say outright lies about what had happened during his father's dictatorship," Rivera said.

Gonzaga or her team has yet to reach out to them, he added.

Netizens expressed their disappointment and questioned Gonzaga's neutrality in her vlog since the actress works for broadcast giant ABS-CBN, which was first shut down by the Marcos administration in 1972.

"Dapat ipaalala kay Toni Gonzaga na si Marcos ang unang nagpasara sa ABS-CBN. At sa gitna ng laban ng mga Kapamilyang Filipino sa sakit, sa korapsyon, sa kamatayan, ang pag-interview sa anak ng diktador ay tacit na endorsement ng values na kinakatawan ng pamilya ito," author and Kapamilya writer Jerry Gracio tweeted.

[Translation: Toni Gonzaga must be reminded that Marcos was the one who first shut down ABS-CBN. And amid the Filipinos’ fight against sickness, corruption and death, interviewing the son of a dictator is a tacit endorsement of values that his family represents.]

Others pointed out that the former senator was a godfather when the actress wed director Paul Soriano.

"It is highly impossible to be unbiased when your interviewee is your Ninong," @peacemotivated tweeted.

Meanwhile, supporters pointed out that Gonzaga was fair since she had previously interviewed members of the opposition, including Vice President Leni Robredo and lawyer Chel Diokno.

However, Rivera said this is not about political opponents, but about accountability.

"It is not about who Toni interviewed. It is about our people getting to know and getting to respect our history so that mistakes of dictatorship from the past will not be repeated," he said.

"As educators, our mission is to educate people, to lead them to the truth...they are free to decide based on their conscience on what needs to be done," Rivera added. "We will not dictate...We invite her, we are very open to have people who are actually heroes of our democracy be featured on her show."

Gonzaga has yet to comment on the matter.