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The Ruling Money, August 29, 1970

The Ruling Money

By Quijano de Manila

Anatomy of the Republic as a plutocracy. 

August 29, 1970–THE RICH are different,” said the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent his youth singing hooray for the difference and the rest of his life suffering from it. Though a great writer, Fitzgerald was a naïf. He knew the rich had the power to escape the usual penalties attendant on living at all in this world, but he thought the power to be a special quality bred in the rich by their money—a special strength or glamour, or magic even, that made them able to charm their way out of the consequences of what they did.

This, of course, is bull. As the Ted Kennedy drowning case showed, the rich can get into a stupid funk just like you and me. They get away with it because they are indeed “different,” not as Fitzgerald mystically thought but as Hemingway bluntly put it when fed that line about the rich being different. “Yes,” said Hemingway, “they have more money.”  Because the Kennedys have more money, son Ted could be given the benefit of the doubt—though it would be hard to say whose doubt that was.  Not the American public’s to judge from the polls.

The Kennedy case did dent a Philippine superstition about the United States: that there, unlike here, rich and poor are equal before the law. But the larger superstition that implies still persists, which may be put this way: if money is power, then the American common man has more power than, say, the Latin American, not only because of the greater amount of American money but because of its more general distribution.

In a densely documented exposé entitled The Rich and the Super-Rich, the American economist Ferdinand Lundberg explodes that superstition.  More than 30 percent of American wealth, he found out, was owned by only 1.6 percent of the adult population of 103 million. Since the government owned 20 percent of the wealth, that left less than half of the wealth to be divided among some 98 percent of the population, as of figures for the 1950s.

Of the top 1 percent who are rich, a fraction (0.11 percent) are super-rich; they own 45 percent of their group’s concentrated wealth.

The rest of the American people may be considered poor, and not just in comparison with the rich and the super-rich.

Of the have-not majority, 21.89 percent have gross estates averaging $ 15,000— “just enough to cover a serious personal illness.”

Another 18.4 percent of the population were “worth $6,000 on the average, which would probably largely represent participation in life insurance or emergency money in the bank… or two or three shares of AT&T.”

The remainder of the have-not group form the super-poor and they are the 50 percent of the population that own only 8.3 percent of the wealth. “They had an average estate of $1,800—enough to cover furniture, clothes, a television set and perhaps a run-down car.  Most of them had less, many had nothing at all.”

Half of the US population are composed of the super-poor while a fraction of 1 percent are super-rich!

Even if we regard the group in between as “middle class” we are still without an argument for the United States as a popular democracy—that is, where the people have the power. Money is power, but the American “middle class” don’t have that kind of money. They may have two cars in the garage, a TV in every room, insurance and savings accounts—but all that doesn’t make them the ruling money. Of a population of 103 million, says Lundberg: “We see that 1.4 million households own 65 percent of the investment assets, which are what give economic control. Automobiles and home ownership and bank deposits do not give such control.”

So, there goes the picture of the United States as a “people’s capitalism” with a widely diffused ownership of industry. The statistics are indeed impressive: in 1962 more than 17 million Americans owned shares in business enterprises and the figure was believed to have swelled to 20 million in 1968.

But: “Most stockholders own trivial amounts of stock; anybody would qualify as a stockholder if he owned only one share worth 10 cents. We are already aware that 1.6 percent of the population own more than 80 percent of all stock, 100 percent of state and local government bonds, and 88.5 percent of corporate bonds.”

And the “people capitalists,” how much do they own?

“Less than 20 percent of all stocks in 1963 were owned by some 15.4 million people.”

And the rest of the 103 million Americans had no share at all in this “people’s capitalism.” The gap between rich and poor that’s supposed to be narrower in the United States turns out to be a Grand Canyon.

But at least, surely, the American masses do have political power?  Lundberg says that this, too, like the “Affluent Society,” is a delusion. Without economic power there’s no political power; and the American masses are either too cowed or too indifferent to exercise even what power they have.

“Officials nominated by either one of two major parties are periodically elected at local, state and federal levels by a largely inept electorate that in most elections fails to participate to the full and in general turns out far below 50 percent. Whether the electorate fully participates makes no difference because most of the candidates are handpicked by nominating caucuses of the two major parties rather than of one party as in Russia. The caucuses function in default of popular activity; the populace simply has no political drive of its own. If Russia permitted a Socialist Party and a Communist Party (joined behind the scenes) it would be on all fours with the United States in respect of parties in the field; the candidates in the field might be politically identical twins, as is often the case in the United States (Johnson versus Goldwater).  Money plays a large role in the manipulation of this system—much larger than is usually conceded.”

Not the people but the super-rich finance the “system” and the financing is “down payment on future influence in government.” Since the people cannot or will not actively participate in government, Lundberg calls the set-up in the United States an “oligarchy by default.”

“Writers, focusing attention on Central America, refer caustically to the ‘banana republics’—those countries, economically dominated by the United Fruit Company, whose political leaders are bought and sold like popcorn. Conditions in the United States, mutatis mutandis, are not nearly so different. Even in such a presumably distinctive Latin American feature as the intervention of the military, the United States now clearly overshadows anything in this line the Latin American republics are able to show. Except that the United States has such large numbers of industrial and office workers, rather than landless peasants, it has few features to which general descriptions of Latin American society do not apply.  It might almost be said that there’s a growing tendency to mold the United States, apart from its industrial features, upon the ‘banana republics,’ this making it the Banana Republic par excellence.”

On top of the pile is a “well-established hereditary propertied class.” It’s the ruling money, the privileged oligarchy, the super-rich one percent. And it didn’t even earn its money or privilege.

“Great wealth in the United States is no longer ordinarily gained by the input of some effort, legal or illegal, useful or mischievous, but comes from being named an heir.  Almost every single wealth holder of the upper half of 1 percent arrived by this route.”

No more room at the top.

The rest of the Americans find how insecure “affluence” is when they lose a job.

“As was shown in the 1930s, Americans can become destitute overnight if deprived of their jobs, a strong support to mindless conformity. As a matter of fact, many persons in rather well-paid jobs, even executives, from time to time find themselves jobless owing to mergers, technical innovations or plant removal. Unable to get new jobs, they suddenly discover, to their amazement, that they are really poor.”

Ability, skills, talent, merely personal qualities, cannot be depended on as assets in the exploitative society.

“The incandescent Marilyn Monroe, as big as they come in filmdom and a veritable box-office Golconda, died broke.”

For that matter, so did poor Scott Fitzgerald, his talent worn out and wasted in the Hollywood dream factories, in the service of the big money that awed him when young.

Insecurity—Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” —is the American way of life.

How is the Philippine picture similar and different?

“FANTASTICALLY LOPSIDED” is how Lundberg describes income distribution in the United States. The Philippines money graph would provoke the same exclamation.

In May, 1969, the Senate committee on economic affairs issued a report on the country’s development from 1955 to 1968.

The most depressing finding was that, in a period of 13 years, “there has been no substantial change in the structure of our economy.” We were still an agricultural country of low productivity, with 58 percent of the labor force tied up in food production, only 11 percent engaged in manufacture. We had no capital-goods industry to speak of; our industry was more assembly than manufacture; and our manufacture was limited to durables like furniture and non-durables like cigarettes, had remained static since 1958, was heavily dependent on imported raw materials.

As a result, our foreign-trade deficit rose from over $147 million in 1955 to over $301 million in 1968: “The deficit in the last two years alone [1967-68] is greater than the combined deficit from 1957 to 1966.”

The national income had increased by 94 percent during the 13-year period, from almost P8 billion in 1955 to almost P15 billion in 1968. But again, this was partly a depressing finding. Despite an increase in average family income, and a shrink in the bottom group of society, the income structure had not changed either. The gap between rich and poor remained just as wide, or had widened further.

“In 1965, as in 1957, the 10 percent of our families who comprise the highest income bracket received 40 percent of the total income, leaving 60 percent of the income to be divided among 90 percent of the families.”

The figures for 1957 may be broken down thus:

2.8 percent of Filipino families earn over P5,000 a year.

17.1 percent earn between P2,001 and P4,999.

This 19.9 percent of Filipino families may be regarded as our “middle-class”—and it’s as meager as the incomes that make it comparatively well-to-do.

78.12 percent of all Filipino families earn less than P2,000 a year.

These are our poor and they comprise almost 80 percent of the nation’s households.

In this group are two subgroups that may be called the super-poor, because the figures on them are:

17.7 percent of Filipino families earn less than P1,000 a year.

11.6 percent earn less than P500.

Or almost 30 percent of the nation’s households living in stark misery.

Now for the other end of the scale.

1 percent of the nation’s families earn over P25,000 a year. These are the rich.

And one-tenth of this 1 percent earn over P100,000 a year. These are the super-rich.

So, in a country where 50 percent of the households live in poverty and 30 percent in utter misery, 1 percent of Filipino families live in affluence and a fraction of them live in super affluence.

Do these happy few constitute, as in the United States, an oligarchy?

Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who helped prepare that Senate report, thinks so. The 1 percent on top are the ruling money not only because they monopolize the wealth but because they control the sources of wealth (land, industry) and the forces of wealth (banking, politics). But the Philippine picture differs from the American in that we are still, more or less, in the robber-baron and nouveau-riche stage.

There’s still room at the top.

THREE LAYERS of wealth have accumulated since the turn of the century and Senator Aquino identifies these layers with lands, politics and banks.

“When the Americans came, a group of young lawyers started titling lands: this was the beginning of the big estates. Gregorio Araneta, for example, became the lawyer of the Tuason family that claimed this tremendous tract of land from Sampaloc to the Marikina Valley. The original source of the Philippine fortunes was, therefore, land—either Spanish grants, like the Ayala estate, or the acquisitions titled during the 1900s.

“The second generation of Filipino wealth came from government connections.  In the 1920s when Quezon was financing his independence missions, certain people got choice contracts from the government, like the Teodoros of Ang Tibay, the Madrigals of the shipping line.

“Then we have a third generation of millionaires: those who got concessions from government financing institutions, like the sugar barons. The Philippine National Bank was set up and it financed practically the entire sugar-mill construction of the period.  The movement was from Negros Occidental to Iloilo and the sugar barons—the Lopezes, the Javellanas, the Aranetas—started taking over virgin forest.”

The PNB marked an important development: Filipinos—or, at least, some Filipinos—began to have access to capital. Previously, all banks in the country were foreign-owned.  Not until 1938 was the first Filipino private commercial bank founded: the Philippine Bank of Commerce. And only after the war, during the Garcia era, did the native entrepreneur really understand why he should have his own bank.

“This cue was Garcia’s Filipino First. The Americans in the Philippines, the British, the Chinese—they had their own banks. But Filipinos had only the PNB to rely on and even there they were not, so to speak, getting the lion’s share, because the Chinese were more adept in the lagay system. So, we began putting up our own banks. The Rufinos set up the Securities Bank, the Santos family, their Prudential Bank; a group of sugar planters (Sarmiento, Antonino), their PCI Bank; and young professionals, graduates of foreign schools, came back and put to use what they had learned by establishing a bank of their own : the Far East.

“There was this proliferation of banks because the Filipino had suddenly realized that money begets money and that he who holds capital can control the economy. The development of native banking system spurred activity in all directions. Now, for the first time, the Filipino had his own capital. On it, he could borrow foreign funds to use for his own development. So, you had the opening of subdivisions, another source of funds, of capital, and you had the rise of local manufacturing industries, all financed by local banks. This is a healthy sign: the Filipino is becoming the master in his own house.”

But Senator Aquino sees one great danger: the Filipino who becomes master in Juan’s house may not be Juan de la Cruz himself. Juan may find that the foreign exploiter he kicked out has been replaced by a native one. “The Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, warned that a country can become the colony of its own people.” And the hurt is that it’s Juan’s money that will be used to make him poorer and his master richer. As the taxes that Juan pays to the government too often are used merely to enrich a few politicians, so, in the banking system, the money of the depositors, of the people, may be used merely to capitalize the owners of the banks.

Senator Aquino says that this is already happening.

“That’s why when Licaros became governor of the Central Bank he came up with the controversial Circular No. 306. This circular makes it official, in writing, that there are tremendous arrears (unpaid debts) in private banks—arrears accountable by the majority stockholders, officers and directors of private banks. In other words, they borrowed money from their own banks, they used the money that people had deposited with them—and they are in arrears. So, according to Licaros, the entire private banking system must never have more than 5 percent in arrears. [The present rate is at least 10 percent.] And he has suggested to us in Congress an amendment to the General Banking Act to penalize bank directors, officials and stockholders who borrow more than their equity in their bank.”

Such a curb, if imposed abruptly, would, thinks Senator Aquino, result in financial chaos: the rich who have been growing richer through two decades by using the depositor’s money would have to be given time to restructure their loans; and the senator also sees how these rich folk who compose a “syndicate” that controls the banks might evade the curb by lending their banks’ money to one another.

“But Licaros says that the moment you go from your bank to another, the application for a loan will have to be examined by two sets of people; it becomes an arm’s-length deal; you will have to put up some collateral; and if there’s somebody on the board of directors who’s not a member of the ‘syndicate’ he could raise hell if the loan is not aboveboard. Licaros maintains that, while this may not completely eliminate the practice, it would minimize it. My contention is: unless we restructure the banking system to break the stranglehold of a small elite of the affluent, this country will definitely become a colony of its own people.”

Already, warns the senator, around 50 super-rich families have become, in effect, the oligarchy that rules our lives.

“These 50 families or so control the private banking system and they now control about 50 percent of the total money in circulation. They are interlocked among themselves through marriage; they join together to buy up foreign corporations. So, already in control of capital, they end up owning the sources of capital. And this new breed of colonizers is sometimes more rapacious than the old ones.”

A public-utility firm previously foreign-run is taken over by the super-rich Filipinos—and what’s the first thing they do? Raise the rates. The service remains just as awful, or gets worse. This, grimaces Senator Aquino, is the fulfillment of Quezon’s wish: a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos.

And it’s not only in the private sector that the 50 super families are taking over.  They have also become the State; at least, they alone seem to know how to use it. For their own profit, of course. A good illustration of this is the priority they enjoy when it comes to loans of government funds. Those funds are supposed to be the people’s money. Do “the people” ever get a crack at it?

COMPOUND INJUSTICE it cannot but seem that the elite 10 percent who get 43 percent of the nation’s income should also monopolize the State funds available for capital.

The monopoly, as exemplified during the Marcos era, has been examined by Senator Aquino.

“We cannot get complete solid detailed data, but this much we know. The government has granted around ₱4.5 billion in loans during the Marcos administration. Of this, from 40 to 50 families got 2.3 billion, either by borrowing directly from, or getting their foreign loans guaranteed by, government financing institutions. In other words, some 40-50 families got almost 50 percent of the total loanable funds of the government.

“One family got a loan guarantee for ₱300 million; another, for ₱263 million; a third, for ₱178 million. Sunod-sunod na ‘yan.”

Just the names of those families betray their political connections; those actually—and eminently—in politics enjoyed even larger drafts.

“Two senators each got over ₱400 million; a congressman got ₱180 million. Now what could you possibly say about that?

“It’s true the loans may be not money given out by the government but money borrowed from abroad, on guarantees of the Philippine government—but if the borrowers fail to pay it’s the government that will have to pay.”

In snide terms: to favor 40 or 50 families, the government is willing to risk bankrupting 38 million Filipinos.  And these favored families may not even have to risk a signature. A joke in banking circles is that if you belong to the elite just the sound of your name (and the proper amount of kickback, of course) will suffice to get you a government loan. Once the deal is set you can line up your housemaids, chauffeurs and gardeners and make them sign the deed; you’ll get the money just the same.

One gigantic loan being negotiated by a top favorite of the regime had Senator Aquino worried because it looked at first like a direct loan from the government—which is supposed to be lean on funds.  Though even a government guarantee for such a huge loan still seems too great a risk, Senator Aquino is more or less resigned to letting the favorite get it— “as long as he himself signs for it.”

Making the State’s fiscal machinery exploitable by an elite is not peculiar to the Marcos administration. Every Philippine president, says Aquino, spawned his own set of millionaires. Quezon did it, to fund his own political machine, and the millionaires he created repaid love with love. “When the T-V-T became obnoxious to Quezon he called in his group of millionaires led by Madrigal and told them to put up a newspaper chain and they came up with the D-M-H-M.” Even the “freedom of the press” depends on the requirements of the ruling money.

Under the Republic the successive sets of millionaires have been identifiable with their respective gold mines.

“The first set was the surplus-property millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Roxas.  Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Quirino; the import-control millionaires under Quirino and Magsaysay; the reparations millionaires under Garcia; and Macapagal’s government-financed millionaires: the Todas, the Delgados, who put up the Hilton. Under Marcos we have the money-manipulators, the quick artists who dabble in stocks and make money on such manipulations as the devaluation of the peso.”

Of each new set, a few millionaires will survive the passing of the regime, the rest will sink back to obscurity, as a Tony Quirino fades away with the passing of his brother.  Those who survive “institutionalize” themselves; they can still be tagged according to their respective eras—a Dindo Gonzalez from Quirino times; a Chiongbian or Antonino or Rustia  or Tantoco or Durano from Garcia days; a Toda from the Macapagal era—but where, before, they were identified with a specific administration, now they can influence any administration. They can join the “syndicate” of the super-rich who control the nation’s wealth, the money supply, the banks and the State funds; and it’s this elite, says Senator Aquino, who really control the economic and political destinies of the country.

“Why do I say political? First: these bankers who control 50 percent of the total money in circulation can gang up against any political candidate, or, for that matter, can meet together and agree among themselves to support a particular candidate. Now, big politician needs big money. Big money only comes from big businessman.  Big businessman gives big money to big politician. Then big politician repays the favor.  That’s the cycle of corruption.

“Second: big businessman gets to feeling it’s more economical to seek public office himself instead of funding candidates who may become unreliable or recalcitrant.  This is the beginning of the businessman turned politician.  So now we have millionaires and bankers and industrialists going into politics to protect their interests. Not content with economic power, they want it combined with political power. And if they can’t run themselves, they make their wives run for office. This is the development of the dynasties.”

The senator thinks this “pyramiding” of wealth and power unhealthy.

“When the wealth of a country is used by a handful to make the rest of the population virtual slaves, that is unhealthy because it’s no longer a democracy. This is what the young activists denounce as feudalism: a small group of families controlling the destinies of the bulk of the population.”

Moreover, by controlling the politicians, or by being in politics themselves, the elite families ensure that no attempt to reform them out of power can ever succeed.  How impose tax laws or inheritance laws to redistribute the wealth when those whom these laws would hurt control the Palace and the Congress and the courts?

Nevertheless Senator Aquino insists that a beginning can be made.

“For example, in the matter of the government loans, I propose that any such loan over half a million be granted to a corporation only if 40 percent of its shares are offered to the public. A corporation not open thus to the public should not be granted a government loan. Why should the money of the people go to one rich family to make that family super-rich?  Only public-held corporations should enjoy priority.

“Another thing I would propose: rigid anti-trust laws. In the United States you can’t have what are called ancillary businesses. For example, you are General Motors, you have to purchase tires. You can’t set up a tire company because that would give you undue advantage. Nor a battery factory, because that’s also related to your main line.

“Now the Meralco: it generates 90 percent of the total power in this country. It’s putting up a transformer company. So, that new company will have a 90 percent captive market. If you were an individual wanting to put up a transformer company of your own, how can you compete? You would be fighting only for a 10 percent free market. But Meralco, which, under the law, may not make more than 12 percent profit, can pass all its income to that ancillary transformer company.”

That’s how the rich become richer.

And that’s why they will block anti-trust laws, anti-monopoly laws, inheritance-tax laws, land reform, tax reform, and every attempt to diffuse and equalize wealth.

But the situation is not entirely hopeless. The ruling money is also a built-in bomb.

“Divine Providence,” says Senator Aquino, “has provided for certain checks to self-perpetuating royalty, as can be seen in what happened to European royalty.”

The built-in bomb is in-breeding.

Sila-sila ang nagasawahan,” laughs the senator.

THE INCESTUOUSNESS of ruling money ensures its downfall better than any socialist law—especially in the Philippines, where energy seems to drain out of a family in two or three generations.

In two generations the Quezon, and in three generations the Legarda, family is faced with extinction. The Castelvi were authentic bluebloods but in barely a century slid from top drawer to déclassé. The Ayala-Zobel business empire rides the impetus brought in by two outsiders, McMicking and Soriano; the direct heirs have turned to art and culture. Of the two boys who inherited the Cojuangco hacienda, neither is running it; authority has passed to those who married into the family. The department-store Aguinaldos were a tycoon family before the war; the third generation has run out of steam. A similar attenuation of spirit imperils every big business family in the country, whether it be the Elizalde or the Yulo or the Roces, and the trend is to bring in outsiders: the family itself can no longer supply the talent. The Madrigals have to employ professional managers to run their businesses; so do the Lopez brothers, who own the biggest fortunes in the country but, alas, cannot count on their sons to take over and carry on.

This is our protection against “dynasties”: that they don’t last long enough to be a dynasty.

“Therefore,” says Senator Aquino, “you really cannot talk of old fortunes in the Philippines.  The oldest fortune today would not be more than a hundred years old. It’s money without pedigree. All of it started, somehow, somewhere, in corruption; then the children gamble it away.

“It’s a phenomenon: how the children of the rich tend to backslide. They join the jet set, or they go into art. It’s very rare for the children of the founder to take over the business and improve it. By the third generation you get the young heirs stricken with guilt and social conscience, and the rich hippies rebelling against their own Establishment, and the alienated young who take pot because they have so much money.  The rich plant the seeds of their own destruction.”

Even if there are competent heirs to take over the family business, outsiders must still be brought in and allowed to occupy positions of power.

“You are a millionaire with 20 industries and three sons. How can they run all those industries? The era of the individual swashbuckler, the one-man show, is passing; Gonzalo Puyat, Amado Araneta—they are a vanishing breed. Modern industry demands so many different special talents you can only be chairman to a board composed of those talents. And whereas, before, a family could raise a million and start an industry, today capital is in terms of tens of millions. You would have to invite 20 or 30 other families to join in—and the diffusion of wealth begins. It’s no longer a closed family corporation, a tayo-tayo outfit where father is the president, mother is the treasurer, and the children are the directors. You have to hire professional managers.

“This is the new development. An elite is developing which Adolf Berle calls ‘the powerful without money.’ Before, you could have power only with money. Now, you can have power without money, by becoming the professional manager of a giant corporation, not because you own stock in it but because of sheer talent. For example: McNamara of Ford, Lyn Townsend of Chrysler, Knudsen of General Motors. They are technical people who rose from the ranks to wield tremendous power without money.  The same thing, I submit, is happening in our country: the rise to power of technical talent who do not come from landed families. A classic example is Leo Virata.”

The trend is most visible in the Marcos cabinet.

“To the credit of Marcos, no other administration has given so much opportunity to the technocrats. The President has realized that to come up with a government for the 1970s he can no longer rely on the old political talent; he has to backstop his political organization with an army of technocrats. That is why he brought in management experts like Ponce Enrile, Alex Melchor, Cesar Virata, Gerry Sicat, Placido Mapa. The age of the technocrat has come.”

What this means is that technical talent is becoming a counterforce to the ruling money. If they should put up a candidate for president against the candidate of the plutocrats, the technocrats could change Philippine society without a revolution—because, says Aquino, the presidency is armed with revolutionary power. “I have always contended that the successful Philippine revolution will be a Palace coup.” A young president elected to power by the technocrats, should he wish to destroy the Establishment that opposed him, has only to use the laws that empower him to take over all public-utility and communications companies, seize their assets and equipment, recall the franchises. With one stroke he could raze the Establishment. No president has yet dared use this power of his against the plutocrats because every president has owed his position to them.

“But the elite have now realized the implications of this terrible power concentrated in the hands of the chief executive and that’s why they’re going to make their influence felt in the Constitutional Convention, to have that power diluted. This is one of the current moves of the elite.”

The senator is strongly against such a dilution of presidential powers, even if, ultimately, he is not so despairing of the elite as he may sound.

“The advantage of the money establishment in this country is its resiliency. It is not rigid, you can move it; it is not impervious to public opinion.  Look at the Church:  it is changing. The Filipino elite may not even have to respond to the challenge, because they will do the challenging. They will grab the leadership again, this opportunistic elite of ours. And they are pragmatic, they are innovators. They will lead the Revolution. They realize that, if the old system is not changed, their hard-earned money will go.”

THIS OPTIMISM may be justified. Ours is, after all an Establishment that hardly deserves the name, so barely founded is it;  and many of the plutocrats can remember the days when papa rode the buses and mama was the neighborhood usurer. Money itself upstart has no nose to turn up at upstarts, nor can “society” crystallize in a country where each change of regime brings on a crop of parvenu.

Despite the great distance, the view from the bottom is still of room at the top.  McMicking and Soriano began as accountants for the Ayalas; and Gregorio Araneta, as the Tuasons’ attorney. With the rapid attenuation of blood, today’s plutocrat, when considering an applicant, whether for manager or son-in-law, may not be so concerned to ask what family he comes from as what business school: Harvard? Wharton? Since it’s talent that counts in such schools, their Filipino graduates today are apt to be poor boys who made it aboard on fellowship or grant. If, says Senator Aquino, we spent as much effort searching for such talent to send to good schools as we spend searching for shapely girls to send to beauty contests, we would be hastening social reform.

That the rich can be scared into conscience was proved by the number of balls canceled in the wake of the riots and by the sudden swell of the Christian Social Movement, at whose meetings, one hears, Mr. Manglapus has only to shake a warning finger to get, like another Savoranola, the greatest ladies stripping off their jewels to cast at his feet. But even apocalypse may at last come to feel like something one can live with; and the latest communiqués from the front—Bantay and Cadiz and Cotabato, Expo and Customs, ballroom and fashion salon—indicate that the powerful have recovered from shock and it’s business as usual. Optimism over their voluntary reform should therefore be tempered by the thought of the Bourbons who came and went, and came back again, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

If one has any doubts about who rules and owns this country, one has only to consider the curious upsurge of violence by the “forces of the law,” as if the Establishment, having got over its scare, would have us remember who holds the fire power. Polcom is supposed to have reported an increase of violence but most probably didn’t say if the increase was of violence done by the people or done to the people—and included the burning of that barrio in Bantay, the massacre of those barrio officials in Tarlac. One could then go and ask on which side the police always are during labor strikes; or the PC, when peasants are being burned out of their property or being shot down in cold blood; or the courts, when the question is the defense of Establishment property. Since ours is a plutocracy, they rule the country who own it—and the police agencies are their private security guards. That’s the best index of where power resides—and how uneasily.

In Canton, an island on the river served as castle for the ruling of money, which was foreign, in the days when such enclaves in China could keep a snigger at the gate: No dogs or Chinese allowed. There were tycoon of taste in Canton and the enclave they built was beautiful—tree-shaded lanes, a splendid mall, lordly manors spaced by lawn or garden—but they didn’t know whom they were really building for. They are long gone now and, in what was their Forbes Park, Chinese workers share the houses from which, before the Revolution, money ruled.

In Havana, there are similar relics from the days of the ruling money: elegant villages, a yacht club, a polo club, exclusive beaches. Again, the tycoon, both native and foreign, of Batista days didn’t know for whom they gilt a ceiling or marbled a floor.  They couldn’t take it with them—and the people have taken over. In the stylish villages, the great houses are now clinics or colleges or rest homes for workers. The yacht club is a fishermen’s cooperative and on weekends turns into a rendezvous for proletarian boating aficionados. On the beaches once exclusive to those who had the color of money now swim every shade of sepia, every kind of black. The polo club has been turned into a boarding school for young talent and on the grounds where the jet set gamboled teenage Cubans paint, sculpt, dance, compose music, stage dramas, put on concerts—and all as wards of the State, which scouts for talent.

“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

Next time you ride past Forbes Park, remember: the ruling money never knows for whom it builds a Versailles.

Ferdinand E. Marcos: An Appreciation, August 29, 1970

Ferdinand E. Marcos: An Appreciation

By Gregorio C. Brillantes

Don’t lose heart, folks—as The Man said, this nation can be great again!

August 29, 1970—CERTAIN Liberals and Nacionalistas with presidential ambitions, and scores of other Filipinos, including many who once idolized him, will likely dispute it; but in our time, in our country, Ferdinand E. Marcos remains destiny’s favorite son.

The trials he has had to endure, the fearsome obstacles he has encountered and overcome—tests of manhood which would have reduced lesser mortals to quivering blobs of jelly—have only added, it would seem, to the zest with which he has pursued, as the song puts it, his glorious quest. Charged with murder in his law student days, he defended himself with such flourish and skill as to win acquittal from the High Tribunal and went on from there to pass the bar exams with highest honors—a twin feat probably without parallel anywhere in the world. (It has been the sad fate of other men as great and as brilliant to meet an early end, behind bars, on the gallows or before a firing squad, their full potential unrealized, the noble promise of their lives unfulfilled, mankind thus rendered so much the poorer.) From his daredevil exploits in the last war, he merged with a chestful of Fil-American medals, the most decorated soldier of his country. The pride of his generation, he has since continued to win, with undiminished energy, the honors and prizes that the nation sees fit to offer only to the brave and the true, not the least of these rewards being the love of a fabulous lady. As everyone knows only too well, he became the first president of the Republic to be reelected, an awesome triumph which, true to form, he achieved with an unprecedented majority of two million votes over his LP rival, who, by the way, still thinks he wuz robbed.

That was but less than a year ago. Forward with Marcos and Lopez—the unbeatable Performance Team! Remember the tumult and the shouting, the sense of a vast master plan carried out without a hitch, of irresistible destiny fulfilling itself? Remember J.V. Cruz on TV working suavely for his ambassadorship, explaining what “extrapolation” was all about, and Serging Osmeña hoarse and tired in defeat, and then the morning after, the outcries about goons and massive fraud and vote-buying all the rest of that exciting week? Barely 10 months have passed—yet it seems like ages ago. Was it only last November that the Second Mandate dawned upon an expectant land? So much has happened since then that it feels as though not months but years separate us now from President Marcos’s day of victory. Propelled as it were by a combustible concentration of changes and events, the nation has moved forward, as President Marcos himself loved to predict, although he could not have guessed the precise direction—and such has been the distance we as a people have covered that Eelction Day 1969 seems much more remote in time than it really is.

The President, of course, is not one to stand still or lag behind while history is in the making; and since the auspicious first month of Marcos II marked by unusually festive fireworks in the vicinity of Malacañang, he has been striding with the usual confidence and vigor toward more achievements, more honors and distinctions. The gods who watch over the Filipino race must have reserved their fondest benediction for the likes of him, for it seems there is nothing that he wills or does, nothing that he encourages or allows to happen which does not exalt him, does not distinguish him from the common run of men. His is a light that was never meant to be hidden under a bushel of mediocrity; his life indeed is the stuff of legend, and he can no more evade fame and distinction than he can renounce his sworn duty to his people, which is to serve them and make the country, if not “great again,” at least not hostile to the idea of greatness. (He did say, after all: “This nation can”—not shall—“be great again.”)

Thus to the scroll citing President Marcos’s many achievements has been added some more honors earned in the six or seven months following the riotous celebrations of January. He has, for instance, in less than a year of the Second Mandate, merited the distinction of having the deepest and widest credibility gap ever to yawn at the feet of a Philippine president. (“If Marcos were to run today, Racuyal would beat him!” swears our barber from Pampanga.) Amazingly, for all the disgust and skepticism he has spawned, he has at the same time aroused the increasingly passionate attention of the populace, including even those citizens who normally pay no heed to politicians. (“What is Marcos up to? What will he do next?” wonder radicals and moderates, natives and aliens, labor and management , laymen and clergy.) Above all, his is the distinction of being held solely accountable, by more and more of the people, for the multitude of troubles that have of late descended upon the country.

Never before in our history have so many blamed so much on one man.

But so-called public opinion, the same history would testify, has not always been as enlightened as it should be; it has committed many gross and costly errors, and the living proofs of these blunders may be found today delivering privileged speeches in Congress. The voice of the people, in this country anyway, is seldom, alas, the voice of God; in the instances it has reflected divine wisdom, goons in the hire of the devil have been quick to silence it at the polls. Popular tastes and convictions are more often than not suspect, especially in so confused and clamorous an activity as politics, Philippine style. Public sentiment is rarely infallible, and as it applies now to the much-maligned President, it is wide off the mark, quite petty, misinformed, ungrateful, unjust, disproportionate, lacking in perspective. The accusation, spoken harshly where detractors of the President gather in rebellious force, as in Plaza Miranda or along Mendiola—the charge that he is a fascist, a fake patriot, a power-crazed, money-obsessed operator with the mentality of a small-town politico, is surely anything but a sane and reasonable conclusion. It is the emotional judgment of a people who believe, mistakenly, that they have been robbed of their faith and hopes in a man of destiny.

The course, the direction of Ferdinand E. Marcos’s destiny belies the indictment of public opinion, his motives and ideals repudiate it, his actions disprove it. True, his greatness has dimmed somewhat, as if the general dissatisfaction with his regime had formed a smog that the radiance could scarcely penetrate—but the greatness is still there, in the man, for those who seek it, a guiding light for all seasons. Even the elect of God, we are told, don’t arrive at divine knowledge without undergoing what mystics call the dark night of the soul; they must fast and pray for illumination. The perception of certain forms of greatness a notch or two below the Almighty’s likewise calls for some effort, but the strain would be well worth it in terms of inspiration, splendor of vision and peace of soul. It goes without saying that such irreverent cynics as columnists Maximo V. Soliven and Amando Doronila—O ye of little faith!—are denied the spiritual rewards bestowed on the pure and humble of heart, like Teodoro Valencia or Emil Jurado, who are reportedly in constant communion with the power and the glory.

Let us then follow the example of the truly wise and contemplate, without partisan rancor, dispassionately but with all the powers of intellect and will, as Jesuit retreat masters are wont to remind us, the issues that the people’s parliament has raised against President Marcos.

The President and his party, it is charged, spent P168 million in so-called barrio improvement funds and untold millions more in God knows what funds to “buy” his reelection, in the process of which he debauched the currency and brought down upon all our anxious heads a host of evils—ever-soaring prices, shrinking incomes, strikes, mass layoffs, business and industry in a state of suspended animation. Because of the economic dislocation—compound fractures is more like it, according to the President’s more cantankerous critics—there is now an upsurge of graft and corruption, violence and gangsterism as the low- or no-income sectors of the population strive to cope criminally with the rising cost of living.

The President, it is further charged, is a champion of imperialism, feudalism and fascism. He has demonstrated nothing less than canine devotion to the imperialist cause in Asia, as witness the infamous Philcag deal with what Senator Aquino brands the “Americanization” of his regime. He has conspired with the rapacious landlord class to perpetuate feudalism, depriving the land reform program of needed funds, so his accusers say. He is a veritable Hitler who relishes the use of force to smash dissent in the streets and resistance to fascism in Central Luzon, charge student militants. At the same time, he has proved to be the tuta of a tuta with his administration’s brutal deportation of the Yuyitung brothers to Taiwan.

The President, insist his persecutors, supports political warlordism—just think, they tell us, what a strong and moral president would have done after somebody’s goons burned and shot up that barrio in Bantay! He has not acted to stop rampant deforestation, his critics claim, and at the rate our forests are being destroyed—three hectares a minute—this nation before long will be a desert, a wasteland! And how many of the promises he made way back in 1965 has he fulfilled? (“Bring down high prices. . .Rule of law. . . Economy in the government. . .Nationalistic policy. . .Heroic leadership,” etc.) More savage questions are flung at us: Isn’t he already the richest man in Asia, but still insatiable, wanting more loot, at least half of PLDT, shares in Benguet, a TV station, choice real estate in various parts of the country? When will he renounce his worldly possessions, as he promised, and set up that foundation? Isn’t he just biding his time to impose martial law and install himself as the Great Dictator? Isn’t he plotting to rig the Constitutional Convention so he could run for a third term or become president for life? And so forth, and so on, a litany of outrage and apprehension.

Is President Marcos as detestable as these unkind critics, uncharitable detractors and irresponsible radicals have painted him out to be?

Could a man so favored by destiny and embodying a special greatness be such an abomination to his people?

One recoils from such malevolent thoughts. No! Of course not! Impossible!

It is time we put those wild-eyed and long-haired accusers of the President where they belong—in a padded cell and under sedation—and restored calmness and objectivity to the so-called public opinion of our disjointed times. This must be done in justice to the President, who has suffered enough in his mission to lead his people to peace and prosperity. The President is a man of heroic qualities, as we have seen; but he remains a man, vulnerable to the ailments that flesh is heir to. We gather from Luis Beltran of the Evening News that the President suffers on occasion from a curious disease which “makes tears fall from his eyes, renders him deaf and makes his throat hurt.” We could help ease the President’s aches and pains, help lighten his grievous burdens by reassuring him of our loyalty and our faith.

Assuming, for the moment, that the malicious charges leveled against the President are true, men of good will and unflinching faith in the Marcos destiny—and this unfortunate country is not bereft of them—would still perceive that whatever harm might have been done is far outweighed, rendered insignificant, by the national blessings resulting from these presidential “crimes” rashly condemned by a disenchanted, short-sighted people. It is all a matter of point of view, of angle and depth (or shallowness) of vision: what is so outrageous from a certain vantage point is revealed, from another, as good and desirable in its true nature. Filipinos who now view President Marcos as a sort of calamity—not a few even blamed him for those earthquakes—should change the slant of their perspective, regard the object of their ire from a different plane.

Then will they understand what they in anger or prejudice or despair have failed to comprehend: that the President, even in committing what appear to be crimes against the people, or refusing to act for their benefit, has had only the people’s welfare at heart. He knows that without the people, he would not be where he is today: at the seat of supreme power, his heart’s desire, his destiny. It is simply inconceivable that a man of such charisma, sensitivity and intelligence should willfully deliver them to disaster; their doom would be his own as well, for is he not one with them? Did he not fight and bleed for them in the crucible that was Bataan? And despite the expense and the hazards, didn’t he become congressman, senator and finally president the better to serve them?

No Filipino loves his country more than President Marcos—a truth that will reveal itself after the prescribed shift in viewpoint.

Consider anew the spending orgy during the last elections—was it not actually a laudable attempt to redistribute wealth and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor? As Senator Lagumbay, statesman and artist and one of the more perceptive of our solons, said recently concerning budgetary deficits caused by wanton election spending: “The father of children who are sick will not hesitate to go into debt to give them the medicines they need.” The fiscal and economic consequences of the President’s compassion for the electorate are not without their positive aspects—for has the price spiral not encouraged the people to give up vain material things and prodded them to practice austerity which, everyone will agree, is good for the soul and cuts down on cholesterol? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust and moth consume…” As for the President’s alleged servility to imperialist America—is it not merely expressive of Filipino gratitude for American tutelage in the arts of democracy? And is not the “Americanization” of his administration the next best thing to the statehood that many Filipinos still dream of? And regarding the Yuyitung case, for which certain benighted sectors of the press would consign the President to the innermost circle of hell, didn’t the magnificent show of collaboration between Taipei and Malacañang further strengthen the ties that bind two “Free World” nations committed to the defense of freedom and democracy?

The President has a soft spot in his heart for the students, especially the nationalistic activists, and he has taken pains to provide them with issues to rouse them up and keep them from physical, mental and ideological stagnation. Suppose the President never bothered to give them cause for pickets and demonstrations—they would all be smoking pot and watching smut movies instead, languid preoccupations that would not predispose them to any politicalization. The rise of youth radicalism, which promises to restructure and revitalize our ailing society, the nation owes to President Marcos.

With regard to the Bantay case, the simple-minded had expected the President to do something dramatic, like helicoptering down on the burned barrio of Ora and poking among the ruins; but he wisely chose to maintain a statesmanlike distance from the protagonists, lest his presence be misconstrued as lending aid and comfort to one party or the other. It is true that he was photographed in a conspiratorial huddle with his Ilocano friend, Congressman Floring Crisologo, but that was nothing but a pose arranged by a weekly magazine for a promotional gimmick. If he has shown little enthusiasm for land reform, as he has been repeatedly charged, that could be due to his determination to spare long-suffering farm tenants the troublesome capitalistic burdens of ownership. As for the Philippines turning into a desert because of his alleged reluctance to stop illegal logging, has it not occurred to his simple-minded critics that rock and sand exports may yet resolve our balance of payments difficulties, and that as the Sahara of Asia, we shall probably strike oil and banish poverty for good from our underdeveloped shores?

True, he said he would renounce his worldly possessions and establish a foundation, but he didn’t say when; great men have their own timetables, and will not be rushed by vile insinuations. Possibly the President has decided to postpone his philanthropic endeavors to a future term in office, a prospect that alarms his detractors, who have been issuing dire warnings that he will pack the Constitutional Convention with his men. But why should anyone be alarmed by his desire to be president longer than eight years or perhaps for life? Isn’t it all of a pattern, the extension of the glorious quest, the irresistible command of that destiny which has brought us so many blessings?

If he wants to go on serving his people for as long as he can climb the grand stairway in Malacang unassisted, the least a grateful nation can do is let him. Ten or twenty years more of nation-building may sap his strength and make climbing that starway an ordeal, but neither age nor infirmity should deter him from his noble mission; Salazar of Portugal, one recalls, presided admirably over the affairs of his country from a wheelchair, if not a sickbed, for the better part of his reign.

“Politics galvanizes into action all the beautiful hopes that a man can nurture in his heart for his country and for his nation. Politics is my life,” Hartzell Spence quotes Ferdinand E. Marcos in his biography of the President, For Every Tear a Victory, a book we keep on a special shelf of inspirational reading, along with the works of Norman Vincent Peale and S. J. Perelman (not a Jesuit).

No President has done more for his people. Never have a people owed so much to their President.

Tadhana, fate, has decreed it: Ferdinand E. Marcos, the sixth president of the Republic, will long be remembered for what he has done, and for what he will yet do.

Kit and Larry: The boys in the back room, July, 1970

Kit and Larry: The boys in the back room

By Quijano de Manila

July 1970–THE boys in the back room will have been there a year come August and they’re moving towards their first anniversary amid distressing rumors that the first shall be the last.

The back room is the Malacañang Press Office and the boys supposedly besieged there are Kit and Larry—or, to give them their official titles, Press Secretary Francisco Tatad and Assistant Press Secretary Lorenzo Cruz. From their back room come the Palace bulletins on what’s happening in the front room, for their job is to report on the President, as well as hand out the chronicles on the Palace gathered for the front page. Their other job is to act as liaison between the press and the President.

How well have they been doing their twin job?

There is said to be some dissatisfaction with the President’s image these days and, of course, the Press Office gets part of the blame. Discontent with its work has been read into two recent happenings: the removal of the press secretary from the cabinet, and the appearance of Government Report as the publicizer of the executive office.

On the other hand, the newsmen whose regular beat is the Palace are also said to be not quite happy about how the Press Office facilitates their coverage and this has led to a guessing game on who among possible replacements could work more harmoniously with the press. Until recently, the name of Sweepstakes Chairman Nereo Andolong was most loudly dropped—but it now seems to have been dropped for good. No new names have cropped up; the names that plague the back room are mostly of old grudges spreading scareheads.

Last month, an interviewer even told Larry Cruz the exact date on which the Press Office to be revamped: June 23. The day has come and gone, but Kit and Larry are still in the back room. Nevertheless, there are people who go on insisting that a “big revamp” there is in the offing.

“It seems they are more sure about that,” smiles Larry, than the President. I think only the President knows when we are to be booted out, or if he wants to. I don’t think he wants a revamp. As far as I know there are no plans to revamp the Press Office. We have not had any inkling at all.”

As Larry sees it, the current intrigues are not news; they are merely the sequels of the power struggles that erupted last year when the ten press secretary, Joe Aspiras, decided to run for Congress and a number of people began jostling for the position about to be vacated. Since the contenders were veteran newsmen, the selection of so young an unknown as Kit Tatad—prematurely announced in Joe Guevara’s column—could not but arouse antagonism. The vets had been passed up for a little pup of an “interloper.” Larry Cruz happened to come on Tatad at the MOPC at around this time and he asked Kit if he really had been offered the Press Office. Kit Tatad said yes, but he had not yet accepted. And if he should accept, would Larry be willing to join him as assistant press secretary? It was Larry’s turn to flip. Kit was compounding his chief crime: he was only 28 and he would take on as assistant secretary somebody who was only 27! Together, Kit and Larry as the boys in the back room would be the Children’s Hour in the Great Again Society.

Not that Larry Cruz was a greenhorn, whether as deadline byliner or as political drumbeater. His father is the Daily Mirror editor and from college (FEU, liberal arts, unfinished) Larry had passed to the news desk of DZMT, later became news director of Channel 5. In 1961, during the last months of the presidential campaign, he worked briefly for the NP propaganda. “I had a very minor role preparing radio news; it was merely a technical job. When Garcia lost, we disbanded. We went to the office one morning and fount it abandoned: no more air-conditioners, no more typewriters.” Larry moved on to the news directorship of the Herald radio station, then to an associate editorship on the Graphic. In 1965 he became the Manila bureau director for Asia Magazine. After the 1965 campaign, Larry was introduced to Blas Ople, who was scouting for talent. “It was Blas Ople who actually ran the 1965 campaign; his was the strategy group. It was so effective the President decided to retain it. Blas got a bigger office, a bigger staff, and he was doing all the speeches of the President, major and minor. Actually his writers’ group was a technical service—Blas Ople & Associates—but after the 1965 campaign they had only one client: the President. And Blas Ople said to me: ‘Why don’t you join us? So I joined him on a part-time basis. In the 1967 campaign I was backstopping for Ariel Bocobo, who was NP spokesman. Just before the 1969 campaign I thought of resigning from Asia Magazine and I told Blas I could work full time for him. So I was deeply involved in the 1969 campaign.”

Larry had married young, in his teens (he’s the father of four), but the need for security was out-itched by a liking for new horizons. The Blas Ople group was such a frontier; now, in mid-campaign, Kit Tatad offered another.

Kit and Larry had known each other since the time they had covered the foreign office for their respective news agencies. A pioneer campus reb, Kit Tatad had left the UST without graduating, went to work for Agence France, then shifted to the Manila Daily Bulletin, where he became a columnist. Something he wrote attacking Kokoy Romualdez brought him to Kokoy’s attention. ’Tis said that Kokoy had known the young man only a few months when he proposed Tatad for the press secretaryship.

The move to revamp the Press Office, to gear it to the campaign, started in the summer of ’69. Joe Aspiras was still nominally the press secretary, but it was his assistant, Jake Clave, who was doing the work. Aspiras would have liked Jake to succeed him as press secretary—which would have meant that Johnny Tuvera, the “brain trust” of this group, the Ilocano bloc, would have been the assistant press secretary. Unfortunately, Jake Clave was not acceptable to the Waray bloc, which opined that “si Jake masipag, pero ang estilo niya nagsisilbe ng café.” The complaint was that no new ideas were coming from the Press Office; a new-idea man would have to be put there, preferably a young man with imagination.

Andolong clearly wanted the position, other names in the running were newsmen Johnny Perez and Gene Marcial. Then out of the blue dropped the name of Kit Tatad—and his backer was the Waray bloc. This almost united the other contenders in an effort to stop the “interloper” and “upstart.” Then Joe Guevara jumped the gun by revealing that Kit had already been offered the position.

“That was,” relates Larry Cruz, “when we met at the MOPC and I asked Kit how true was the rumor. He said: ‘It’s true. The President had me called to the Palace and he told me they were thinking of asking me to become press secretary and would I accept. I told him I felt very flattered and would consider the job a challenge. But first, I would have to talk to my publisher (Hans Menzi of the Bulletin).’ But before Kit could do that, the news came out in Joe Guevara’s column and Menzi was mad. Kit had to resign at once from the Bulletin.

“Then he found himself in a very embarrassing position, jobless for about two months. Andolong was campaigning hard to get the Press Office. So, nabitin ang appointment ni Kit.

“At that time I was working full time with Blas on propaganda. I was editing a magazine and a tabloid. Kit said: if he got the appointment, would I come in as assistant secretary. I told him the President didn’t know me; I did not know how the President felt about me. But Kit said: “Sigue na, if I take the job I would like to have somebody I can work with.’ We had worked together, we went around together. I read him, he reads me. We have the same likes and dislikes. I told him I would have to talk with Blas Ople.

“I explained the situation to Blas around June. ‘Blas,’ I said, ‘Kit is in a dilemma because he was offered his job, nabibitin, and he would not like to work with Gene Marcial [then rumored as a possible assistant press secretary], so there’s a problem. Blas said: ‘Let’s work for you.’ Afterwards, Kit asked Blas: ‘What about Gene Marcia?’ Gene Marcial was close to Kokoy but it was Kokoy who had named Kit for the Press Office. Then it was intended that Gene would take over at the Graphic when Luis Mauricio became NP spokesman. But when Mauricio was named the party spokesman he didn’t resign from the Graphic, he just went on leave. So, Gene Marcial was out again. According to the talk, he was so disgusted he had this rift with Kokoy and then he joined Osmeña.”

Meanwhile, in mid-campaign, he Press Office was becoming demoralized because the question of he secretaryship was still up in the air. Since the anti-Kit forces would not yield, a dark horse was sought.

“Blas Ople talked it over with the President on the telephone: ‘How about Johnny Gatbonton?’ [Gatbonton is the ex-editor of Asia Magazine.] Said the President: ‘Sound him out.’ So Blas called up Johnny, who was in Hong Kong, and Johnny turned it down flat. Then somebody said: ‘Why don’t we try Chitang?’ But Carmen Guerrero Nakpil said: ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for that kind of job.’ So, Kit na. Blas told the President: ‘Mr. President, you have to decide one way or the other soon.’ And the President asked Blas: ‘Whom do you support?’ And Blas said: ‘Kit, because we know how he works and we read him and he’s not so bad.’

“That meeting was in the morning. That afternoon I went to the movies and didn’t come home till ten in the evening. I found an order to report to the Palace at four the next afternoon to take my oath. Kit and I had already been appointed. We came in on August 16.

“What Jake Clave can’t forget is what Kit said in an interview just before his appointment. Kit said he wanted to invest the Press Office with a new style, a new image. Jake Clave said to Johnny Tuvera: ‘Tang na! What style and what image!’ They have not yet forgiven Kit. Terrific ang intrigue, which lasts up to now.”

 

The back room the boys took over in August of last year had been in crisis for two months and they waded into chaos.

“We were lost,” shrugs Larry. “We didn’t know how things were. Clave stayed just long enough to give me the key to his drawer ad brief us, but we found out later that there were so many things he failed to tell us. So, for the next three months we were groping. But the important thing was to get the stories across; the problem was how to handle the newsmen.”

Setting the back room in order had to wait while Kit and Larry concentrated on the task at hand: to report on the President’s campaign and to help the press cover it.

“The press was sounded out before our appointment and they had no objections to Kit. They had objections to Andolong and they still have up to now. The impression he tries to create is that he’s financing the radio commentators—and newsmen will be just as well off once he is press secretary.”

The appeasement of Andolong was to cost the Press Office some prestige and funds.

“Andolong was told: ‘Nering, paciencia ka na muna; we have a commitment to Kit.’ So there was this compromise. Inalis sa amin ang National Media. Before, the National Media was under the supervision of the Press Office. Its funds were taken away from us, they did not trust us with the money. So it’s now under the Office of the President. Aspiras, since he’s a favorite there, was the only one who really controlled it—which means Clave and Tuvera also, since they are with Aspiras; and the money was used during the campaign. You see, there’s inter-action.

“As Andolong told me, Kit was to be given pen and paper, no money. Anyway, Kit and I were glad that campaign funds were not to come from us. We would have, not money, but talagang press work, and that’s what we consider the challenge. Nering was in charge of the provincial press and the radio. Jake financing and Blas was in charge of special projects, of which we were a part. But Blas had to account for all our expenses—for example, if we ordered a thousand Imelda pictures. In other words, malinis ang pasok namin, clean slate.”

No extra funds, aside from its own budget, were transferred to the Press Office?

“A little, but not a fraction of what Aspiras and Clave had. We only got that little extra when we went out on campaign trips—say, five thousand for one week’s expenses.”

The expenses were bedding and boarding the newsmen who went along on the trip—and here Kit and Larry learned of a sly practice of the Press Office, the same practice exposed by Kerima Polotan in a recent article. Besides the legitimate bed and board while on the road, he newsmen might be treated to a night on the town and provided with the usual entertainment—but the Press Office kept an account of each newsman’s special entertainment: what it was and how much it cost.

“Why should you take a fellow out, say, to a night club and then keep his chit to use against him later on? That is foul. But it was the practice before. Kerima was not talking about us, she was talking above Clave. It was Clave who kept the chits. So, everyone is attacking the Press Office for doing such a thing.”

Another thing the new back-room boys learned was that certain newsmen who went along on a trip received a “baon” from the Press Office.

“When we came in, that was the system. On every trip the newsmen were given an allowance of a hundred pesos a day; so for five days that’s five hundred. We asked: Is that necessary; shouldn’t we try to remove a system like that? But it was accepted fact, inherited practice, and we could not change it during the campaign. That wasn’t possible then, but certainly we chose the people na bibigyan. They expected it, no longer as a bribe, but as part of the standard operating procedure.

“Then we discovered that, apart from these regular dole-outs, some newsmen were getting five hundred pesos a month from the Press Office. After the campaign we said: ‘Ihinto na ’yan at masama; dapat ma-stop.’ No more of these news photographers who, when they take a picture, tumataga. No more libre this and libre that. They don’t look on it as bribes any more but as our duty to them.

“We have stopped the regular dole-outs. Now when we go on a trip, our fund is very small, only for transportation, board and lodging. Night clubs, all right we take them out. I don’t want them to feel that nagmamalaki o nagmamalinis kami, no. When we are out in the provinces, we live together, we sleep in the same room, it’s my job to be with them.”

Though the new arrangement has caused gripes, Larry feels he can stomach the gripes better than he could stomach the system he inherited and had to continue during the campaign.

“That’s what we didn’t like about the job at first: to be party to corruption. That’s why we said: After the campaign, wala na, clean slate.”

 

 

The first year of Marcos II has, however, turned out to be more grueling than the campaign. Young, mod, restive, unconventional, and supposedly liberal and progressive of ideas, Kit and Larry were both to find themselves, during the demos, on the wrong side of the generation gap, an anomaly made flagrant by the kind of hair and habiliments the press secretary affects. The boys in the back room look as if they belonged behind the barricades instead.

“People who know us,” says Larry, “ask how we can take it—but they don’t know the situation from inside. We do. We know the President is not fascistic, definitely not. Pinagmumura si General Raval; pag ang military ay nagexcess, pinapatawag—but that’s not printed. We know what his instructions were on the students, on the activists: no shooting. When some students were killed, talagang masama ang loob namin, but these were individual actions. We knew what the President’s instructions were. So, no quarrel. The students say he is a fascist; we don’t think that the people are saying he is. The students make a mistake in thinking that their minority opinion is the majority opinion. I think the President has been held back a bit in his progressive policies (like trade with the socialist bloc) because of the troubles. He has to stop the anarchy that’s threatening the country and this can’t be done with wishy-washy stands. So I think he can’t help but abandon his liberal policies to firm up against the Communists.”

And against the Now Generation.

Would this explain the removal of The Hair from the cabinet?

Replies Larry:

“Two months before the actual de-cabinetization, Kit was told about it. The President called him and said: ‘There’s a move to reduce the cabinet.’ There were originally twelve cabinet positions created by law. In Magsaysay’s time, because then Press Secretary J.V. Cruz was so good at press releases, a cabinet position was created for him by executive order. Then, one cabinet position after another was created. President Marcos elevated some offices to cabinet rank, like the PACD, the SWA, the Panamin. One reason was to give them emphasis; another reason was political. For example, the PACD and the Panamin, if they’re not of cabinet rank, they could engage in politics; if they are of cabinet rank, they have to work in earnest.”

But the result was a swollen cabinet: 27 positions. After the elections the attacks began. Could a cabinet position be created by executive order? And there was pressure on the Palace to return the cabinet to the original size defined by law.

“The President asked Kit: ‘How do you feel about it?’ This was around February. Said Kit: ‘The rank is not important, Mr. President, except as it affects our operations. For instance, if we want other government offices to help us in disseminating information, we can summon the necessary people because we have cabinet rank.’ So, Kit submitted a position paper on why the press secretary should be retained on the cabinet. The President read it and said: ‘Okay, you stay.’ The original plan was to remove from the cabinet only those positions created during the campaign—and the Press Office was not one of them. But Maceda wanted us to be decabinetized. He had started this long before the attacks on the cabinet as a whole. He was singling out the Press Office.”

Why was then Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda so hostile to the Press Office?

“Maceda wanted to be all powerful,” replies Larry. “He wanted to control everything under the executive department. Can you imagine an executive secretary going over the overtime operations of another office? One day he returned some overtime statements we had sent for his approval. Imagine an executive secretary writing our administrative officer to say: ‘Do you mean to tell me that all these people actually rendered overtime on holidays like Christmas and New Year? I can’t believe such patriotism. They should be given the Pro-Patria Award!’ But our office is manned 24 hours a day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Of course, because walang hinto ang balita. It’s just like a newspaper office or a radio station. The drivers, the messengers, the typists, they work on holidays. So, Kit wrote Maceda: ‘Such remarks are uncalled for, are unbecoming to a person of your high position, are not fit in the company of gentleman.’ Kit pointed out that it was for him to decide whether the people in his office should render overtime or not. Then Maceda replied: ‘It may interest you to know that according to such-and-such a law or administrative order, your office is under my office.’ That was published. In other words, nagkaroon ng personal enmity. A very lively quarrel, and Kit had the upper hand because we proved that the people whose overtime Maceda questioned had really worked overtime.

“Then one day the President summoned the cabinet to what was supposed to be a meeting. One by one he called to a small room those who were to be removed from office. Kit was not called. But Maceda was called. He had no inkling at all he was to be removed as executive secretary. It was like a thunder bolt. He went into that small room and he came out broken.”

Maceda had a week more as executive secretary and during that week, if Larry Cruz is to be believed, he worked to get back at the Press Office. The President was warned that Pelaez was about to launch an attack on the validity of cabinet positions created by executive order. So, though the President had originally intended to de-cabinetize only those positions he had created during the campaign, the press secretary’s cabinet rank got included in the ax.

“Among the last acts of Maceda as executive secretary was to sign the de-cabinetization orders, which included the Press Office. I said to Kit: ‘Well, Maceda died fighting!’”

 

 

The current troubles are chiefly three.

First is the, until recently, continuing Andolong campaign to get the Press Office. When Andolong went on leave from the Sweepstakes, it was assumed that this was a terminal leave and that he had finally got what he wanted—but it now looks as if he has been told, more or less once and for all, that he’s not going to be press secretary.

Larry Cruz observes that if Andolong were appointable he would have been appointed long ago—like when the Press Office was revamped during the campaign.

“And after the campaign, with all the pressure, he should have been appointed—if the President thought he was competent. He was not appointed. Then the press began to hit him for how things were at the Sweepstakes. Matagal nang gustong alisin si Andolong, wala lang mapaglagyan, because he wanted the Press Office.”

Why was he so set on that?

“For prestige. He felt that, as press secretary, he would be strong with the President, he could get back the special funds. We don’t have those funds because of our attitude: that the Press Office is not to be the doler out or giver or money. But Nering believes he can make the same money at the Press Office that he’s making at the Sweepstakes and have more prestige besides. He said to me: ‘Bibirahin ko si Kit.’ He went on leave thinking he was going to be appointed. Now it seems he cannot get it, not even as a matter of saving face. So: ‘I’ll just ask for the PNB,’ he tells me now. Director of the PNB, that’s his new target.

The talk is that, whether or not Andolong has given up on the Press Office, he certainly has not dropped the grudge fight against Tatad: he is still set on getting Tatad yanked out and will back anybody who can topple Kit.

Trouble number two is the supposed animosity of certain newsmen toward the press secretary. It seems there’s a belief that the Press Office has a P10,000 fund for newsmen that it’s not spending on the newsmen. The resentful may be spreading the rumor that, even if Tatad is not replaced, the job of liaison between press and Palace will be removed from him and a special position created to take care of that.

Larry Cruz believes, of course, that the basic grievance is the stoppage of handouts. And he thinks that newsmen in general, especially those who resented the Andolong campaign line, are all for the new policy at the Press Office.

“But if you ask somebody who was getting money before and now wala, if you ask him: ‘Are you happy now?’—naturally he will say he’s not happy. In other words, if that’s to be the measure of our competence, then we are incompetent.”

Trouble number three is the feud raging between Tatad and the Clave-Tuvera group, who, says Larry, have never forgiven Kit for displacing them, though they were moved up to the President’s office as executive assistants.

One irritant is a body of research materials gathered by the Clave-Tuvera group while still at the Press Office, and which they still hang on to. Though the materials were gathered for the Press Office and continue to be housed in a Press Office room, the folk there say they have no access to those materials and have had to establish a research library of their own.

Another irritant is the Tuvera-edited Government Report, which, however the boys in the back room may pooh-pooh it, is a thorn in their side. Something that, logically, their office should be doing is being done by the competition. Tatad, in fact, is supposed to have claimed that he thought up the idea first and this has led to an amusing war of words between him and the Tuveras.

Larry Cruz says that he and Kit were really planning to put out a regular report on the doings of the government (a tentative name for the gazette was Ang Bansa) when, without their having been notified in advance, the Tuvera Government Report began appearing in March. The back room had to scuttle its project.

“What we were thinking of putting out was an information bulletin. Press work, not propaganda. We have done away with propaganda in the Press Office. Our work is legitimate press work; we are press officers. But Government Report is not an information bulletin. It is a pugnacious and combative publication. It is intended to answer the attacks of newspapers on the administration and to defend what image of the administration it feels has been distorted, even putting out distorted and malicious reports. But what we wanted was something more informative, like the bulletin the German government puts out, or the Scala of the Italians. We see ourselves as the legitimate information office of the Office of the President.”

Or as Kit Tatad puts it:

“What I did say was that I had an idea of government newspaper which would put forward government policies and/or positions before they were misrepresented, distorted or perverted by any sector; without, however, promoting an editorial policy of anger, superciliousness and intolerance.”

The boys in the back room weren’t just being envious.

“It is an injustice to me,” says the press secretary, “rather than to Mr. Tuvera to say that I should wish any part of Mr. Tuvera’s Government Report.”

Larry thinks this is an old fight.

“It dates back to our being ‘interlopers,’ because their ambition was thwarted, that of Jake and Tuvera. They saw it as a personal affront, that they were removed. I know this for a fact because every time I go up there they publicly shout that they’re supporting me and that they want me to be the press secretary—para mag-away kami ni Kit. But Kit wants this to remain a battle of words, and that it should not affect the President. This is a battle of personalities, but our role should be larger, beyond personalities.

“Kit and I are the type who will not remain a minute longer in office if we know we are not wanted. Actually, the President trusts us more than some people think. For example, we make recommendations for press releases: what should be said, what action on what problem should be announced. In a press release it’s the President who speaks. Therefore, we know how much the President appreciates our work from how much of our suggestions he uses. It was Kit who prepared three of the President’s most recent major speeches, including the Asia one.

“If the President feels we are competent enough, no mater what the intrigues, they will have no effect. Now, if the President feels we are not competent…Nobody is fighting for us, not even ourselves. Kokoy helped Kit get the appointment, but Kokoy has never influenced the Press Office in any way whatsoever. This is a very independent Press Office. He may fight for us—baka hindi. If we need a supporter at all, I would like to think we have one in Blas Ople.”

Asked how he sees the position of the boys in the back room, Ople replies:

“Well-entrenched.”

The Press Office has an annual budget of P1,300,000 and geographically, has moved closer to the Palace. It used to be in an outpost way out near the edge of the Palace compound, it now occupies a building (wasn’t it a cantina before?) right beside the executive offices.

The new location is swankier but it still feels like the kind of scene where Marlene Dietrich says to go see what the boys in the back room will have.

Have rock, will demonstrate, March 7, 1970

Have Rock, Will Demonstrate

By Napoleon G. Rama

Staff Member

 

“The Greater The Evils in a Society, The Harsher The Repercussions.”

 

March 7, 1970–NOTHING is more symbolic of the sad and uncertain state of the nation than the sight of row upon row of buildings in Manila and suburbs, windows and doors patched with plywood, like so many bandaged casualties of some violent happening.

To new arrivals there is no sight more startling, more eerie—so suggestive of dark danger lurking somewhere nearby, or imminent, invisible doom fast descending on the most noble and loyal city of Manila. The whole scenery is not without its comic effects: tall, elegant buildings propped up by marbled columns ludicrously wearing a patchwork of thin, unpainted wooden sheets, crudely and carelessly put together as if by clumsy carpenters, giving the once sleek and shiny structures the tattered look of a barong-barong. Poetic justice. The vengeance of the barong-barong, at last?

It could be a portent of the upheaval ahead—the levelling of status and conditions, the equalization of men through violence and vendetta. Or perhaps the brutalization of society.

Those steeped in the history of the nation and versed in the chemistry of the Filipino in our time can only survey with amused and knowing eye the unseemly scenario—the blending of the comical and the sublime, the solid and the sham, the silly and the sinister, hinting at the confusion and contradictions within.

Rich country, poor people; great country, small leaders—is the sum of the contrasts afflicting the nation.

Future historians will write how this nation was the first to drive away its colonizers only to become a colony of its own government run by crude and callous politicians who could not hear the tick-tock of the clock of history.

The question is not why the demonstrations, why the rumbling of revolution in the streets. Truth to tell, we have been asking for it for a long, long time. Or didn’t we know? The sins of omission and commission have over the years, over the decades, accumulated. Something simply has to give. The warning was sounded years back. But nobody paid any heed. The wonder is that violence in the streets has been rather late in coming.

The young are merely trying to do the things that their elders, by default, have left undone. Or put it another way, trying to undo the things that the leaders have done to the nation. Now we, the elders, can only weep like children over the loss of opportunities, rights and values that like men we didn’t know how to defend.

It’s too late now for bellyaching. Many complain that the demonstrations are attended by violence. What did one expect? The greater the evils in a society, the harsher the repercussions. The studentry seeks to remedy such evils. It has opted for a formula it thinks will bring results. Grandes males, grandes remedios.

In the past, peaceful demonstrations were largely ignored, both by the press and the people in the saddle. The students have merely discovered that a stone thrown here, a molotov cocktail there, plus broken glass windows and bashed-in heads, could get some results, and inspire, if not fear, nervous concern in the Establishment.

This is not to say that violent or vandalistic demonstrations are the best strategy for getting results or reforms, as things stand now. But when previous demonstrations were ignored and their politely-stated grievances remained unheeded and unheard, one could only expect the thunder and fire next time. Recall how, before the bloody rallies became a fad, a group of well-behaved demonstrators had to camp night and day for weeks at the Agrifina Circle before it could get an audience with and some concessions from administration people.

Consider the anti-congressional allowances rally years ago, which included a march on Congress and Malacañang by both students and elderly members of the Philconsa; the delegation of Bulacan fishermen, deprived of their livelihood by illegally constructed river dikes of the greedy rich and politically powerful; the delegation of tobacco farmers and traders from Ilocos Sur pleading with the President in Malacañang to stop the economic blockade in that province, and scores of other protest rallies. They were all peaceful demonstrations. Nothing came of them.

Thus, even the new violent twist to recent demonstrations was not the exclusive and original making of the students. It was the unconcern and inaction of the administration leaders that gave rise to the riotous rallies.

But the Marcos Administration should consider itself lucky that the students are still demonstrating although with some violence, and have not yet decided to go underground or found a Fidel Castro or a Che Guevarra and have not yet gone to the mountains from where they can mount a real revolution.

For the men in the saddle the situation is not hopeless as long as the students continue to demonstrate or plan rallies. It’s the best evidence that they still, in their hearts, believe, despite the noisy outbursts of the extremists among them, that it is still possible to wring reforms from the Establishment through processes within the framework of the system, and that resort to the ultimate measure—revolution—is not yet necessary.

The students are intelligent enough to know that it would be senseless to go on demonstrating if there was no hope left, or that the system and men whom they denounce are beyond formation or redemption.

But time is running out and such hope and such faith, getting fainter each day, could be extinguished by stupidity, bullheadedness and panic on the part of the Administration. It’s time for urgent action instead of pious pledges.

For one thing, the biggest single problem and handicap of the President is his credibility gap. Hence, his sworn statements and speeches will not do. A dialogue between him and the students is out of the question. But to tackle the demonstration problem he has to establish some communication with the students.

The dilemma can be solved by a presidential committee composed of the most prestigious and respected men he can find in our outside the government to represent him in the negotiations with the student leaders. The committee, it must be announced beforehand, will be invested with full powers to make decisions, act on the legitimate demands of the students and implement its decisions as quickly as possible.

They are still, in this country, men of integrity and intelligence whom the students can trust and respect. They can hold fruitful and intelligent dialogues with the demonstrators. A dialogue through press releases and speeches at Plaza Miranda won’t do. There’s a need for a face-to-face discussion of demands and grievances, of what is negotiable and what is not, a spelling out of the solutions and actions to be taken—and a truce, a ceasefire during which the agreements are implemented, a testing of the good faith of the negotiators.

Above all, the situation calls for swift, dramatic action on the part of Malacañang, not so much to meet the demands of the students as to bridge the credibility gap.

The major demands of the demonstrators include limiting the term of the President to one without reelection and iron-clad guarantees that President Marcos himself would not try for a third term or an expansion of his present term. After the unfortunate January 30 conference in Malacañang where the students had to wring out of a reluctant and sore President the pledge not to seek a third term, the students are convinced that the President will somehow rig the Constitutional Convention to secure for himself, if not a third term, an extension of his present tenure.

This is one issue that has fueled the demonstrations. More solemn abjurations and sworn affidavits by the President at this stage of the game will have little effect on the doubting Thomases. Resolute, dramatic action is what’s called for. And the President, whose powers are vaster than what are stipulated in the Constitution and the laws has few dramatic options open to him.

He could jump the gun on the students by asking Congress to approve a constitutional amendment limiting the term of the President to one starting from 1974 and disqualifying the incumbent from seeking a new or extended term.

On clearly meritorious and popular constitutional proposals like no reelection for the President, Congress need not wait for the Constitutional Convention to be constituted two years from now. Such a move would not queer the task of the Convention, for Congress has the power to amend the Constitution by a three-fourths vote of all members of both chambers voting separately.

This is what the President can do. He can see to it that Congress limit its constitutional proposals to a few non-controversial amendments, generally accepted as necessary. The Constitutional Convention can still properly undertake its task of overhauling the Constitution in 1971 and will still have the power to revise or reject amendments inserted by the present Congress.

The point here is that the sullen, restless populace may not have enough patience to wait for two years before seeing the institution of drastic reforms in the system. Swift action by the President and Congress to meet the legitimate demand for these reforms may be the formula for defusing the demonstration timebomb.

Of course the more orthodox but necessary course of action has still to be done. The President still has to institute  a no-nonsense revamp of major offices of the government known for their shenanigans and venalities.

The conduct of the last elections is one of the major issues raised by the demonstrators. The President can employ the persuasive power of his office to get Congress to act quickly on the major electoral reform measures now pending in the legislative department.

It’s also time the President put his foot down on the big deals and the kickbacks about which everybody knows. He should know by this time that there’s no way of keeping certain deals secret when these involve millions of pesos of the people’s money. Like truth, the stink will out, like it or not. The Special Forces, the main instrument of terrorism in the last elections, must go, if he cannot prosecute the ringmasters. His austerity program must be implemented and made meaningful by his own example and those on the high perches of government properties such as Fort Bonifacio to finance the vital land reform program.

These are some of the necessary things that the President can do in the face of demonstrations. He is racing against time. The art is no longer matching urgent action to urgent words. The situation calls for urgent action—and more urgent action.

And the January 30 Insurrection, February 7, 1970

And the January 30 Insurrection

by Jose F. Lacaba

 

February 7, 1970–JANUARY 26 seemed explosive enough—but it was a whimper compared with the horrendous bang of January 30. The papers called January 26 a riot. January 30 was something else. “This is no longer a riot,” said a police officer. “This is an insurrection.” And the President called it a revolt—“a revolt by local Maoist Communists.”

January 26 was a Monday. On Tuesday the students met to plan a series of new rallies denouncing police brutality, and the President conferred with police officials. On Wednesday the President had a talk with some student leaders in Malacañang. On Thursday four groups of demonstrators, one of them led by U.P. President S. P. Lopez himself, staged simultaneous demonstrations at Malacañang, Congress, and Maharnilad. On Friday several other student groups held a sit-in outside the Malacañang gates—and just as their manifestation was about to end, all hell broke loose.

Tuesday, about 120 leaders, representing 36 schools and at least a dozen national youth organizations, gathered at the Far Eastern University. NUSP President Edgar Jopson, of the Ateneo, presided over the three-hour meeting, during which a resolution was passed demanding the resignation of certain officials of law enforcement agencies, and Friday was set as the starting date of the series of rallies. While the students were conferring at the FEU, the President was in a huddle with law enforcement officials in Malacañang. He told them to be “more tolerant to the future leaders of the country,” and ordered them to drop the charges against the students arrested on January 26.

Wednesday, Mayor Villegas announced that the Manila police would stay away from future demonstrations to avoid trouble, but that they would stand by, “within beck and call of violence erupts.” The NUSP and the National Students’ League rejected an invitation to meet with the President in Malacañang, saying they preferred to have the talks on Friday. Another group of student leaders went there anyway and heard the President say: “I personally do not want to have anything to do with the Constitutional Convention.” The Senate and the House created a committee to investigate the “root causes of demonstrations in general.” The Manila police filed complaints of alarm and scandal against 18 students caught in the battle of Burgos Drive. “The whole world is in ferment and youth is on the march,” said Brigadier General Vicente Raval of the PC. “It is essential that, in our country, we take the greatest care in dealing with the problem.” He proposed the immediate acquisition of “non-lethal equipment” for the police and urged that they be re-trained in “the highly sensitive science of dealing with demonstrators.”

Thursday, there were four groups of demonstrators. Students from the Philippine Normal College and members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines held separate rallies. Students from the University of the East gathered first at Malacañang, then moved on to Maharnilad, where trouble was avoided when a policeman whose jeep was stoned simply drove away without a fight. When the UE students left Malacañang, the UP professors, led by S. P. Lopez, arrived and were angrily reprimanded by the President: “You yourselves are vague and confused about the issues you have raised against the government.” The President challenged any Communist in the group to a debate, and when a student leader accused him of using the army and the Special Forces in the elections, he asked: “Are you a Liberal?” Meanwhile, police reporters agreed to wear distinctive uniforms when covering demonstrations, to avoid being stoned by students and clobbered by cops.

And then it was Friday, January 30.

Again, there were simultaneous demonstrations. To Congress went members of the KM, the SDK, the MPKP, and other militant groups. The NUSP and the NSL marched on Malacañang.

At about three in the afternoon, Jopson, Portia Ilagan of the NSL, and other student leaders went into Malacañang for a meeting with the President.

Sometime past five, the rally at Congress came to an end, and the demonstrators marched on to Malacañang, arriving there at about six.

What specific event precipitated the battled that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J. P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacañang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacañang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of “Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!” Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! A rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.

A commotion was now going on at the Mendiola gate of the Palace. A firetruck inside the Palace grounds advanced and trained its hoses on the student rebels. The students retreated, and a brief period of lull followed. At about seven, a truck from the Manila Fire Department, responding to an alarm, came up from Sta. Mesa, its sirens dead, and slowed down in front of St. Jude Church. The firemen probably intended to blast away at the students, but water must really be scarce. Nothing but an ineffectual, sputtering spurt came out of their water cannon. The students charged, the truck backed off—but not fast enough. The firemen who were not quick to flee got beaten up.

The rebels now had a captured firetruck at their disposal. They drove it toward the Mendiola gate and used it as a battering ram of sorts until the locks gave away, the chains broke, and the gate clanked open. Into the breach surged the more daring demonstrators. They had apparently come prepared for the assault. They lobbed molotovs and pillboxes into the Palace grounds; the flames spread down the road when the molotovs crashed to the ground, the nails and broken pieces of glass scattered when the pillboxes exploded.

Once inside the gate, the rebels stoned the buildings and set fire to the truck and to a government car that happened to be parked nearby. Before they could wreak more havoc, however, the Presidential Guard Battalion came out in force. They fired into the air and, when the rebs held their ground, fired tear gas bombs at them. The rebs retreated; the few how were slow on their feet, or were blinded by the tear gas, got caught in the Palace grounds and were beaten up with rifle butts and billy clubs and good old-fashioned fists and feet.

About this time, reinforcements from the Constabulary arrived, later to be joined by the army, the navy, and the Metrocom. The pattern of the January 26 battle was repeated: the military would attack, the students would retreat; the students would counterattack, the military would draw back. At about nine, the soldiers had gained control of Mendiola and J. P. Laurel. The students were holding Tuberias, Legarda, and Claro M. Recto; some had retreated down Arlegui and into Quiapo, where looters took advantage of the situation in the Lacson Underpass, breaking display windows and grabbing jewelry and shoes.

On Tuberias, when I got there at about nine o’clock, the students were turning away all vehicles. The soldiers were at the corner of Tuberias and Mendiola, and steadily advancing. The students held their ground, hurling rocks, until they heard the sound of rifles being cocked. Then they scattered, some jumping over high walls into the yards of houses, others being voluntarily let in by apartment inhabitants. I fell in with a small group that took shelter at the mouth of a dark alley. A boy of about 12, in slippers, obviously a resident of the place, said there was a way out if we wanted to take a chance. He guided us down the long dark winding alley, down narrow catwalks, past walls smelling of urine, past accessorias with crumbling facades, until we came out, to our surprise, on Claro M. Recto.

At the end of Recto, where it hits Legarda, the students were massed, tense, turbulent, flinging rock and insults at the men in uniform—they looked like Constabulary troopers—guarding the bridge that leads to Mendiola. In the center of the cross formed by Recto, Mendiola, and Legarda was a burning jeep, its flames a bright yellow curtain separating the combatants. From the left side of Legarda came more shouts; there were other demonstrators there, and the troopers had to guard the bridge against two armies of students, one attacking from the front, the other attacking from the side.

It was at this point, with the students closing in from Recto and Legarda, that the troopers started firing—rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, the sound of a Thompson submachine gun—into the ground. Dust and tiny pebbles exploded from the cement and, where I stood, two rows behind the front lines, I felt a sudden sharp stinging pain in my chest. I’m hit, I thought, when I saw spots of blood on my shirt front; but since I didn’t fall, I gingerly unbuttoned my shirt. Imbedded right below my right nipple was an itty-bitty piece of cement. I carefully pulled it out and was examining it like a jeweler scrutinizing some precious gem from the moon when, before my eyes, there passed a student, supported by his comrades, one of his hands—the right, I think—now nothing more than a mess of blood and burning flesh, the fingers dangling like dead worms attached to his wrist only by a few threads of broken bones.

I was standing there in horror when another student, limping, fell into my arms. I recognized him to be one of the students who had come with us through the alley from Tuberias. He had one wound on his right leg, below the knee, and another on the outer ankle bone. A bystander watching from the sidewalk helped me carry him up Claro M. Recto, where we found a white car—a Taunus, I think—whose owner was good enough to take us to the UE Memorial Hospital. There they treated my very minor wound, but they could do nothing, they said, for the boy who had been shot in the leg. We then took a taxi—the owner of the car had gone back to the battle scene, looking for some fraternity brods—and brought our ward to the Orthopedic Hospital, where, at that very moment, as bad luck would have it, a small fire was raging on one of the upper floors. The fire did something to the X-rays, and the interns had to put the wounded boy’s leg in a cast, unable to check if a bullet was in his system.

The doctors at the Orthopedic Hospital agreed to let the wounded student stay for the night, until his friends or relatives could be contacted; and the bystander who had helped me carry the boy now invited me to his apartment house in Sampaloc for coffee and conversation. It was about midnight. When we were near his place, we saw that Legarda was still in tumult. So we forgot all about the coffee and off to the battlefield we went again.

The demonstrators had captured an army truck near the market, near a PNB branch, and a noisy debate on what to do with it was going on. Some wanted to push the truck into the line of Metrocom and army men down the road, but its wheels had been punctured and this proved to be a difficult task. Others wanted to burn the truck down, and indeed someone threw a lighted match into the sheets of paper that had been dumped inside the truck. Another demonstrator, however, quickly jumped onto the truck and stomped out the fire; the houses were too close, he said, “h’wag na nating idamay ‘yong mga tao.”

While the debate continued, two more army trucks beamed their headlights on the demonstrators and started moving forward, followed by the soldiers. The students started throwing stones. Some toughies in the area who had come out to join the demonstrators used slingshots, but kept swearing under their breath because they had no stock of homemade arrows. “Metrocom!” went the shout. “Sumuko na kamo! Bato ini!” The soldiers kept advancing, and then they started firing with Thompsons into the ground. We all scattered, except for one boy who did not even flinch and called to everybody to return. “Balik kayo, balik!” he cried. “Hindi magpapaputok nang deretso ‘yan!” I don’t know what happened to him, because when another round of firing started, I found myself in another dark alley, with a new group of companions.

When I got out again, the army truck was gone, and the soldiers were back at the corner of Recto and Legarda. A long lull followed, about 30 minutes. Then the soldiers started to advance again, someone hurled a molotov cocktail at them, they charged, cocking their guns and following us right into dark alleys where, as before, the demonstrators found doors being opened to them, or people at second-floor windows warning them with gestures about the presence of soldiers in alleys the demonstrators would enter. I somehow got separated from all my companions and found myself all alone under a kulahan, sitting on damp cement. The resident of an apartment house across the alley saw me and discreetly turned off his lights.

Quiet once more. I emerged from my hiding place and walked out into a street from which I could see the church on Earnshaw. There was a small group of students clustered at the door of an accessoria, talking animatedly, and I joined them. I was listening to them relate their experiences when, at the corner of Earnshaw and this street we were in, a squad of Metrocom men appeared. Everybody fled, except myself, two students, and the occupants of the accessoria, who worriedly told us to get in if we didn’t want to get hurt. In that dark, dingy, cramped accessoria, the two students and I stayed for a whole hour, seated on the steps of very narrow stairs, gulping down glasses and glasses of water, smoking, talking in whispers—“Rebolusyon na ito, brod,” they said—until the coast was clear.

It was three o’clock in the morning when we came out. Later that morning, the papers said that four students, some of them non-demonstrators, had been killed: Feliciano Roldan of FEU, Ricardo Alcantara of UP, Fernando Catabay of MLQU, and Bernardo Tausa of Mapa High School. Almost 300 demonstrators and bystanders were arrested; most of them were detained at Camp Crame.

That night, the President appeared on television to inform the nation of the “premeditated attack on the government, an act of rebellion and subversion,” which the military had successfully repulsed. “The mob that attempted to burn Malacañang,” he said, “was not a mob of students, nor were they simply arsonists.” They waved red banners, carried the flag with the red portion up, called the streets they occupied “liberated areas,” and shouted “Dante for President!” Therefore, said the President, “these men dedicated to an evil purpose, and that is to destroy Malacañang Palace and/or take it over.” The plan to take over Malacañang, he went on, was hatched by either one or both of two groups—“one of them Communist-inspired and the other one not Communist-inspired.” Both groups were under surveillance.

To his nation, the President had a message: “Rest assured that the situation is under control. Rest assured that we will maintain peace and order. Malacañan Palace is well guarded, but more than this, the country and our government is well guarded. There is no takeover by any group of the military or of the civilian government. In the matter of the preparation of the plans of reaction against any attempt to take over this government, the action that will be taken will be well-studied, deliberate, cautious, and legal, and there will be no attempt to curtail constitutional freedom.”

To the “insurrectionary elements,” he gave warning: “Any attempt at the forcible overthrow of the government will be put down immediately. I will not tolerate nor will I allow Communists to take over.”

The same day, the nation learned that the retirement date of General Raval of the PC, which was supposed to be on February 1, had been postponed to April 1. The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines were on red alert.

The Long Week, February 7, 1970

The Long Week

By Kerima Polotan

Bombs, Guns, Stones—Violence, Hate, Death.

1.

February 7, 1970WHEN THE WEEK began, it seemed to hold no surprises. The country had seen how many Congresses open before and except for a mugginess in the afternoon, rare in January, the Seventh held no special portents. The young had, of course, taken over the streets and were on Ayala Street, thrusting leaflets at passerby: An Appeal for a Non-Partisan Constitutional Convention. All week the week before, they’d been pretty busy, demonstrating in front of Malacañang. A particularly “militant” group had roughed up an army sergeant moonlighting as a photographer; they had peppered the air with elegant language, the accepted idiom of student activism, amplified many decibels with the aid of loudspeakers, language like: Putang ina mo! Ikaw Marcos, bumaba ka rito, napakayabang mo, 27 ang medalya mo, halika nga dito at tignan natin ang galing mo! I am from Cabiao, kung talagang matapang ka, bumaba ka rito at papatayin ka namin! x x x

Bukas, ang aabutin mo rito kung akala mo ay minura ka na, ay hindi pa namin naaabot ang pagmumura sa iyo. Mumurahin ka namin ng gabi. Putang ina mo x x x Putang ina ninyong mga Americans kayo, sino ang pupuntahan ninyo diyan, ang demonyong Presidente namin? ‘Yang gagong Pangulo namin diyan, bakit ninyo pupuntahan, gago naman iyan?

True to their word, they had frothed umaga, tanghali, at gabi, heroically cursing Mr. Marcos to his face, in the house where he lived, shocking even the hardened veterans of the Presidential Guard Battalion, but now in the afternoon sun, their young, clear faces turned Congressward, they seemed indeed, ten deep, and miles and miles of them, the hope of the fatherland.

Inside Congress, however, the familiar peremptoriness of security guards greeted guests—even the most inoffensive looking specimen got thoroughly sniffed at from head to foot and if you didn’t smell at all as if you had legitimate business on the premises, you were quickly waved off to a side door where khaki’d arms blocked the way. You thrust a press card and the guard’s sangfroid remained undented—one prepared, therefore, to offer a fistful of identification papers: credit card, driver’s license, insurance bill, plumber’s reminder, grocery list, beauty parlor receipt, but remembering from somewhere that occasionally a double whammy worked, one fixed the fellow with a look: left eye shut, right eye open, and then a whisper: Tsip, puede ba?

It worked, and one was suddenly inside, to one’s utter disappointment. One had not fought one’s way through to stand guard over a half empty hall, along with half a hundred TV cameras, and the minor functionaries of this Republic, the second officials, the junior assistants, who strutted and poked and pointed—“Mahina ang audio!”—but there were compensations. Eduardo Cojuangco, the husband of Gretchen Oppen, was there, in expensive barong; and so was Joe Aspiras, the ex-press secretary, in barong; and also Joe de Venecia, whom the papers called a Marcos Liberal, who had just shed (again according to the papers) an old love and acquired a new one, in coat and tie; a dear friend from Dumaguete: Herminio (Minion) Teves, the younger twin of Lorence, in coat and tie; Rafael Aquino, the Sorsogueño from Butuan City, in coat and tie. All brand new diputados, eager to be of service to the country, but already practised in the art (and craft) of winning people and influencing friends. You could tell—they strode as though they belonged (and did they not?), crossed their legs, scratched their colleagues’ back, held languid cigarettes, laughed their rich solid laugh. But no Rufino Antonio, poor man, with all his troubles—he should have stuck to selling motorcycles. However, with Antonio not there, was Roquito far behind? One glimpsed through a clump of faces, the Northern congressman, short, dark, chubby, smiling a genuine Ilocano smile, winning, irresistible, the kind where the charm comes straight from the solar plexus. You could see where Special Forces was written all over him.

The old-timers were drifting in—Pablo Roman, who owns Bataan; Fermin Caram, who owns Filipinas; Ramon Mitra, who doesn’t own Palawan (yet), but does have a pair of sideburns reaching down to his knees and the start of a gross look; Carmelo Barbero, Carlos Imperial, Floring Crisologo, Constantino Navarro. On this side, the Supreme Court Justices, in black robes; across the floor from them, the cabinet: Carlos P. Romulo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franciso Tatad, Gregorio Feliciano, Leonides Virata, and Manang Pacita, wearing her hair shoulder-length, dressed in a bright Bonnie frock. Beside the cabinet, the lady justices of the court of Appeals; Cecilia Muñoz Palma, in a green terno, and that stalwart of the legal profession, Lourdes San Diego, who is said to know her law like some women know their beauty ritual, in a wine colored terno.

Where one sat, craning behind the backs of security, one was hemmed in, on the right, by TV announcers—“our very own Henry Halasan” in an off-white suit, demure and dimpled—and, on the left, by the military (the navy, the army, the air force) all in white duck. An attractive woman in a brief checkered dress desired to hurdle the railing that separated her from the military and one gallant junior aide extended a strong arm. She stood on a chair and lifted a leg and one could hear the military gasp in delight; my, my! If only all the subversives in the country had thighs like those—but after a while, the lady began to prove a nuisance, because she desired once more to return to the floor, and so executed that Open Sesame exercise and then once more, back with the military; and so on, three or four times, like a see-saw, and by then, the TV announcers’ Adam’s apples were bobbing up and down, and the junior aides were beginning to weary of her dance.

Then the Senators—Roy, Sumulong, Pelaez, Aytona, Tañada, Laurel, Padilla, Puyat, Eva Kalaw, feminine every inch of her, who walked in like Isadora Duncan, in a blue terno, but instead of wearing the panuelo across her shoulders, she’d wrapped it around her neck, and, voila! it was a scarf. However, the most beautiful neck on the floor that afternoon belonged to the Senadora from Laguna, Mme. Helena Benitez, the great and good friend of the Filipinescas dance troupe, who works very hard to get them their dollars and their accreditation; such a good sport, every chance she gets, she puts in a good word for them, they ought to make her muse or something.

One neck that looked different was Father Ortiz’s, buttoned high like a proper cleric’s, and if one hadn’t known him from previous invocations, you’d mistake him for chairman of the board of some multi-million peso mining corporation. All that eloquent talk of revolution has not affected the good and comfortable lives that many priests live. One remembered Father Ortiz from the NP convention of ‘67—he wasn’t Rector then—when he had also read a stirring invocation. He was to repeat his warning here, this afternoon, but in stronger words: “Our unsafe streets,” he said, prompting a Church non-lover to ask: if our streets are unsafe, how’d he get here? A people awaited redress, the young wanted change, the Rector said, an entire country trembled on the edge of revolution, the priest went on, but one thought, skeptic as usual, there were many voices today telling Government what was wrong with it, how many were telling the Church what was wrong with her?

Lift your seat, Mother, and look beneath the holy ass with which you’ve sat heavily on Property and Privilege for centuries, your banks, your estates, your tax-free schools—in the town where one comes from, the bishop owns a department store, a printing press, a tailoring shop, a pawnshop that preys especially on students, but daily, like the Pharisee, he bestows the blessings of Rome on a populace that sniggers behind his back because ten years ago, his family could barely eat in the province where he was born, but when he became bishop, he transported his entire clan to his diocese, and now each is propertied and privileged. Dialogue and keeping one’s cool being the fashion these days, one confesses an instinctive distrust of many fashions, including the fashion of thinking the Church can ever be revolutionary; confesses, further, to a habit of equating all the Church says with what one knows about it, personally; knows with one’s blood and mind: the Church flashes a shibboleth and you think you can grasp it and fight the evils of the world with it? The Irish father who talks endlessly of social justice likes to eat and drink well, and rides only with the rich of his town. That luckless priest who led a strike two years ago in the South is out of a job and out of a reputation, and is teaching in a diploma mill in Manila because his superiors chased him out of the province: what sayeth the Church to this?

The leaders of the Christian Social Movement live in low cost housing villages like Bel Air and Urdaneta; they speak to their servants in Tagalog; to their children in English, among themselves in Spanish—when their wives go to market, they say Espera to the fish vendor: these will lead a revolution? The Church reminds one of a greedy old whore, and like a greedy old whore, she won’t get off her back, even with the house next door already afire, because a couple of visitors are still in the parlor jingling their money, and she must have that too before she takes off.

THE HOUR WAS late, Father Ortiz said, and how right he was, for here came now the ladies of the congressmen and their senators. Most favored was the terno, no one was in pantsuit, and muted colors predominated. Was that a diamond that sparkled on a breast? Impossible to tell from the distance, but by their chins and their humps your could identify them: Mesdames Lopez, Puyat, Aldeguer, Roy—and Virginia Veloso who sat in the last seat, front row, two arm’s lengths away from Imelda Marcos, exactly as they had sat together in class 20 years ago in Tacloban, when Mrs. Veloso had been the darling of the social swirl and Mrs. Marcos had partly paid her way through school working in the library.

Flanked by Senator Puyat and Speaker Laurel, both suited, Mr. Marcos stood on the rostrum, in a barong. He looked rested. He bowed to the Supreme Court, he looked up at the klieg lights, he glanced at his watch. He’d worked his way from the front door to the rostrum, shaking hands, murmuring greetings—the amenities. One after the other, the two gavels banged: “For my part, I declare the House open for the session,” said Speaker Laurel, an old sad man with long white hair who must now live with the memory of a Bicol hill and a dead son. “For my part,” rasped Senate President Puyat, “I declare the Senate open for the session,” then the invocation that would have the editorial writers the next day tripping over each other, praising it, but meaningless to this one citizen until the Church gives up its pawnshops. And finally, Mr. Marcos’s quick descent to the microphones three steps below and the State-of-the-Nation address that would all but be forgotten in the terror with which that long week ended…

Thirty-five minutes he spoke, forty, if you counted the applause before and after, to a hall that had been fuller in previous years. But the persistent talk of assassination had finally worked its poison, and the overzealous guards had kept out more people than they should have. Some nuns there were in the mezzanine, their arms folded, looking quietly at Mr. Marcos; a row of impassive-faced diplomats sat below, among them the Honorable Mr. Addis whose garage the students had burned down a couple of years ago; and no more than half a hundred citizens—non-military, non-political, non-official—brown, sober, thoughtful, scattered through the hall.

While Mr. Marcos and his retinue walked out of the hall, to their fateful encounter with the papier mache crocodile and the cardboard coffin, the reporters on the floor swarmed all over the Opposition, cornering Senators Salonga, Aquino, and Roxas, who dutifully cleared their throats and gave their verdicts. Aquino said it for the trio—“Mr. Marcos should have addressed his speech to his cronies.” One watched them, holding the reporters at bay, recoiling every now and then from a too obtrusive microphone—Senators Salonga is a fine man and a good Christian; he has a sharp mind, people think; is a legal luminary, and if all that means, does he offer you a cup of coffee when you call on him, he certainly does. In the privacy of his office, he sounds almost like an old friend and you can put your guard down, but not quite all the way down, because the warning bell in the back of your mind doesn’t quite stop ringing. Why is that? It’s probably the smile. Most people smile with eyes and lips together, and so, indeed, does the senator from Rizal, but not all the time. Often, he smiles only with his lips, and his eyes take on a waiting, wary look, and when that happens, it leaves the onlooker disquieted.

As for Ninoy Aquino, he looked as if he’d recovered completely from Caroline Kennedy’s devastating character sketch of him—walkie-talkie in the swimming pool. Now he shifted his roly-poly body from one foot to the other; he scratched his ear, he inclined his head, he tucked his hands beneath his armpits. Such a checkered, meteoric career Ninoy’s has been—at 17, youngest correspondent in the Korean War; at 19, Southeast Asian expert, even if much of what he turned out was, according to some, a rehash of other experts’ books. And then in rapid succession, mayor, governor, senator, and, who knows? In ’73, if the stars are kind and the cards are gentle, President? Some people are appalled at the possibility of a boy President, but why not? If the children have taken over the streets with their stones and their clubs and their gasoline-soaked rags, why not Ninoy in the study room, whittling a slingshot? Perhaps, it’s because there will always be something underdone about Ninoy—ambition or insight or judgment—something that skipped the slow, natural process of ripening (Kung baga sa mangga, kinarburo).

And that shaggy-maned Capiz senator, Gerardo Roxas, who has stopped at last talking of his illustrious father—now, he shook his head, and his thick crop of graying hair threatened to fall, but didn’t. “No controls?” said he, who had miraculously escaped an “assassination” attempt in Capiz last November. “Ask the travellers, the students abroad, or the banks.” He would take to the air later that night, at 9, in this continuing comedy skit of Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, to deplore with much tongue-clacking, the violence outside Congress—“…The first President,” intoned Senator Roxas with ill-concealed glee, “to be stoned in the history of this country.” Well, better that, Senator Sir, than to be spoken of now as “…the first President in the history of this country to sign away Philippine patrimony,” or to be known as the son of such a President; better a stone on the head than the memory of such a treachery, and then to revel in that singular betrayal and make political capital out of it.

ONE EMERGED TO find confusion outside. The President and his wife had sped away—“Binato si Marcos!” and the crowd milled in the lobby. A Congress employee manfully paged cars through the loudspeaker, but the system was not working, and no cars came. The sky was dark; there was the smell of smoke, the ominous ascent of embers; the Congress flag flew at half-mast for Salud Pareño of Leyte. Who was the enemy and who, the friend, was not clear at all. Below, the students hooted. Upstairs, the helmeted police waved and pushed. All stood in the lobby, milling around like so many aging cattle: come and go, duck and dart. One crossed the driveway to the embankment overlooking the fray, there was some running, some stoning, some swinging of clubs, and then a flurry behind us, and we turned to follow two policemen, one of them with a profusely bleeding mouth, dragging a pale and frightened boy in a brown T-shirt. The police would bring them all up, those they’d caught, seat them briefly in the corridor, and then disappear with their catch somewhere, while one alternated between lobby and embankment, driven from one to the other by confusion, and then curiosity. The approach to the driveway was guarded by soldiers (you could tell by their long guns and their silence), but the center was a melee of cop, Metrocom, congressman, and onlooker.

“Do you have a child below?” asked a cop from the shadows. “Because if you don’t have any,” he said, “go home.” No, was one’s certainly reply, and felt a vague, grateful stirring where one had nourished ten of them.

Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof. They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books—altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passe, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.

2.

AT FIVE P.M. the following Thursday, one sat in a roomful of police officers, listening to them recount their own version of Monday’s affray. There were colonels, majors, captains; police, PC, Metrocom—aging men with thinning hair and heavy paunches, looking (for a change) like what they (perhaps) really were: fathers.

“I have a son at Araneta U and I was afraid he was there,” said someone. Senator Pelaez’s name came up and another snorted audibly: “That guy,” he said. “He stood there, waving his hands, pacifying the crowd, saying ‘Stop it! Stop it! We’re here to protect you! Go ahead and demonstrate!’ Binato ikamo, pati siya nag-cover.

The force that secured Congress January 26 was called Task Force Payapa and was under the command of Colonel Jasmin, assisted by Major Izon. It consisted of an indeterminate number of PC soldiers, Metrocom troops, a Marine complement, and firemen, but on the shoulders principally of MPD’s Colonel Gerardo Tamayo fell the job of policing the rally. “I fielded only 270 men, 30 of them anti-riot,” Tamayo said, and everything was going on peacefully, until the Kabataang Makabayan ng Makati, arrived. They marched in singing, driving a wedge through the crowd and moved up to where the convent girls were, right up front. Earlier, the police had given the students two concessions they’d asked for, according to one colonel—the demonstrators had resented the two loudspeakers broadcasting the proceedings from inside Congress and now desired that the offending amplifiers be turned off. “This was done.” They also asked permission to use what one PC officer, reconstructing the evening, kept calling the “foyer” but was probably the elevated platform just below the flagpole, beneath the embankment, but whatever it was, permission was given and the students moved nearer the driveway.

Luis Taruc spoke and was, thank God, booed. Roger Arrienda, the only “revolutionist” who wears diamonds on his fingers and holds rather noisy court at Front Page Restaurant, spoke, and was booed. There was a squabble over the demonstrator’s microphone. Edgar Jopson of the NUSP was sending his rallyists home but Gary Olivar of the U.P. wanted to speak, and then—Colonel James Barbers picks up the story—“at exactly 5:55 p.m., the President came out, with the First Lady.” They booed him, but Mr. Marcos reportedly smiled: “Kumaway pa,” says Barbers.

You could feel the restless current up front—hands tossed (that’s the word the police use) this cardboard coffin, “but you know how the security is, there could have been a bomb inside, and so we tossed it right back. It returned; we tossed it back, like volleyball, you know. Then, the crocodile.” When Barbers heard the first stones, he pushed the President inside the car so hard Mr. Marcos hit his head and came up with a bump (“Police brutality! Someone laughs), but the President pushed his way out again because “we had forgotten Imelda” who stood outside protected by now by someone called Big Boy. (Big Boy would get a pop bottle in the face.) Colonel Fabian Ver’s men gave the Marcoses “body cover” and the car rolled away.

Did Tamayo, at this point, order his men to charge the youngsters? A Manila Times employee insists he did—“Rush them!” or words to that effect, Tamayo’s supposed to have said—but Tamayo says he didn’t. What he ordered his cops to do was to arrest those who had breached the peace. “Look,” Tamayo explains, “they were throwing stones, bottles, and clubs—would you like a picture of one cop who lost four teeth, and a picture of another cop who had to have ten stitches in the head, and a picture of another cop who got a nail in his knee?” The police say the troublemakers—“extremists”—came prepared; they had brought stones, the kind you buy at rock gardens; and clubs, dos por cuatro, nailed together. When the melee started, the police say, the boys ripped the clubs apart, and they had a lethal weapon, a sturdy dos por dos topped by a vicious nail. “On the other hand, our truncheons are made of rattan.” All right, but did they beat up even the girls? Not true, the police say, those girls are trained to be hysterical at the approach of a policeman, to drop to the ground and scream “Brutality!” at the top of their voices. And the missing nameplates? “Torn off by the students themselves,” someone declares with a very, very straight face. “Those extremists moved according to plan,” says Barbers who opens a book, Riots, Revolts, and Insurrections by Raymond Momboisse, and proceeds to read aloud a few pertinent quotes: The professional agitators use children, women, and old people (in Monday’s affray, two old veterans) to embarrass the police. Their aim is to cause bloodshed, it doesn’t matter whose; “to manufacture martyrs,” to gain a cause celebre, to precondition the public mind about police brutality. If there are police horses, they stick them with pins, or roll marbles under their feet, or slash away with razors.

How about police brutality? The TV showed them clearly beating up the fallen… A police officer says, “The trouble with these TV people is they like to position themselves behind police lines—they run when we run. Why don’t they station themselves behind the KM and shoot their footage from there?”

“Did you notice the demonstrators had more cameras on their side than the legitimate press had?” asks a police officer. “How quickly they spread the rumor that three students had been killed, and one body was at the NBI, being autopsied!” When someone raised a clenched fist, the stoning began. “Their technique is getting better and better. Even that tight romantic embrace the girls give the boys when they’re about to be arrested is part of their technique.” Some rookies “perhaps” got carried away, admitted an officer, but this was no tea party, as the long bloody hours of Friday subsequently proved.

Meanwhile, as the police reviewed their “facts” Salvador P. Lopez was being roundly scolded by Mr. Marcos in the Palace. Tuesday, he had called his faculty together to pass a resolution condemning police brutality; holding the Administration responsible for Monday’s labo-labo; and decrying the growing pattern of Fascist oppression in the country. Then, he decreed a certain per cent of their month’s salary be put into a common fund to help the students—totally unnecessary, according to a later clarification, because the University has a regular fund that provides for this—and after telling his faculty “I want a 100% attendance tomorrow,” adjourned the meeting. Wednesday’s papers carried pictures of Lopez being cheered on the steps of the U.P. for joining the students’ noble cause, but as anyone who has heard of Lopez from his Herald days could have foretold, the denouement of this episode was quite a surprise.

Putting together everything that columnists and U.P. activists themselves said afterwards, Lopez didn’t exactly approach the altar of student militancy with, beg pardon, clean hands. He saw in Monday’s mauling a chance to throw a smokescreen over his own not-so-little troubles at the U.P., among them, a brewing rebellion of some faculty who thought his policies oppressive and wanted “democratization”—whatever that means in Diliman; his pay had also just been raised to P48,000 (he says without his intervention) amidst loud yelps from his underpaid employees; and—this is a beaut—Lopez wasn’t exactly the favorite anito of the campus radicals. They distrusted him, in fact, and as one student leader, speaking over the radio hours after Friday’s terror, put it: “He was like a Pontius Pilate (in the Palace), washing his hands of us when Marcos began berating him! Of those who went to see Marcos, we know who are really for us, and who aren’t.”

So Lopez and his safari went to the Palace, Thursday afternoon, hiring buses which they left at Agrifina Circle, walking from there to Malacañang, in buri hats, umbrellas, and scarves, taking care to give their better side to the camera—Lopez was always getting snapped doing something momentous, his broad face turned symbolically somewhere, that mouth open, his large hands spread, but, you see, he’d been taught all the tricks of success by a master, the great CPR himself, whose ashtrays he had probably fetched in his Herald and UN days, and he’d learned the fine art of accommodation. He was against whoever had just turned his back, and was for whoever faced him at the moment, and when he walked into Mr. Marcos who asked, first, if the resolution was the best the U.P., known for its proficiency in English, could master (“This reads like a student resolution!”); second, if in condemning police brutality, Lopez had all the facts?); and third, in “holding the Administration responsible for the pattern of repression and the violation of rights,” wasn’t Lopez making “a general gunshot accusation”?

If Lopez had been sincerely convinced about the justice of his cause, he would have stayed firm, wouldn’t he, now, but having patently espoused the students’ cause out of convenience, Lopez, again out of convenience, began to backtrack. He apologized to Mr. Marcos for the wording of the resolution and said it was not possible to “include all the specific issues”; moreover, it was not a resolution of accusation, Lopez now said, but “a declaration of concern.”

Lopez would have only one ally among the columnists in the next few days. Amando Doronila—who is not really as churlish as he sounds. If you took his column away, Mr. Doronila could still earn a living, assisting at Mass or lecturing on The Verities or chopping off the hands of those who pick their noses in public. The fact that Mr. Doronila alone saw in Lopez’s embarrassing docility the equivalent of an intellectual Tirad Pass or Custer’s Last Stand is not enough basis for concluding they’re two of a kind. Lopez, like a man who has worked hard all his life, looks forward only to retirement and a regular paycheck in the sunset of his life. Mr. Doronila, however, desires, above all, to die at the stake, sunset or sunrise, it doesn’t matter, for a belief he holds dear: the Doronila Monomania, part of the messianic syndrome, — a self-righteousness that makes you want to puke; the conviction that he alone is right all the time (isn’t Mrs. D. — ever?).

One recalls that curve one threw him about the word media, and the flurry with which he tried to hit it. Dr. Doronila, who likes to make these very important pronouncements above government, foreign affairs, economics, juvenile delinquency, the stock exchange, the penal system, democracy and similar topics, obviously didn’t know what hole media had crawled out of; probably thought it was Greek, as in Jason and Media (sic), and most Greeks may wear skirts but they’re not plural beneath, if you know what we mean. One’s concern for Dr. Doronila is such that one must warn him about bad grammar: it’s like bad breath, no one tells you about it, not even your best friend.

3.

THE CLIMAX of that long week came Friday, January 30, the inevitable finis to endless days of obscenity, ranting, and clubbing, but this time, the Putang ina mos came out of the barrels of guns, crackled above the sound of fire and breaking glass, exploded in the thud of truncheon against flesh.

The trouble erupted at 6:15 p.m., just as Edgar Jopson of the NUSP, and Portia Ilagan of the NSL, were leaving the Palace front door. Since 3:30 that afternoon, they had been closeted with Mr. Marcos in a dialogue, during which they had repeatedly demanded that Mr. Marcos put down in writing his pledge not to seek a third term. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Jopson was particularly insolent, elementary courtesy obviously not being part of the standard equipment in the activist’s kit.

(In one’s youth, when you used obscenity, you washed your mouth with soap and water afterwards, but you can see how liberated the take-over generation is today: “All right ‘yan, brod, basta’t for the country, putang ina nating lahat!”)

Jopson and Ilagan had promised Mr. Marcos there would be no violence because the demonstrators had marshals to police the students, they said (they had demanded that the police—a few traffic cops—and the PGB be withdrawn), but in the lobby of the Palace what should greet the two but—irony, irony—the sound of bulbs breaking; and above the ominous rumble of running feet, the noise of exploding glass, rose the familiar obscenity of their fellow revolutionaries: Hoy, Jopson, putang ina mo, lumabas ka rito at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari sa iyo!

By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.

Back at the Palace front door, continues this eyewitness, “Jopson and Ilagan looked suddenly sick, like two kids who’d bitten off more than they could chew. The Palace grounds were dark, and at first, we thought they didn’t want to walk back to their friends because of the darkness. Colonel Ver offered to light their way with the headlights of his jeep. Jopson nervously refused.” This boy who, for hours, had ranted in the study room, talking to Mr. Marcos as though Mr. Marcos were his houseboy; who’d gestured floridly like some latter-day Napoleon dictating surrender terms to a beaten foe at Austerlitz-on-thePasig, would not walk, alone, in the dark, to his friends. His courage stopped short of that one simple act.

Hadn’t they, Wednesday that week, flaunted a sign outside Gate 3: “We too can suffer, we too can die”? Ah, yes, but not in the dark, and not alone, and not without the cameras. They clung like children to the very people their group had cursed without letup—accompanied by one PGB captain and a security man, Jopson and Ilagan were ferried across the river and seen safely out of Malacañang Park.

Before the wild night was ended, four students lay dead, innocent bystanders all, and four mothers weep today. Over a hundred were in hospitals, injured; and three hundred more, detained at the MPD and in Camp Crame. Most of the casualties fell in the see-sawing battled for Mendiola bridge. Driven from there, the demonstrators had retreated to old Azcarraga, in front of a Nawasa branch office. There, they set a Yujuico bus on fire and sent it rolling towards Mendiola bridge. They set fire to parked jeeps and cars, Meralco posts; upturning Yeba’s iron railings; Yeba who had said Thursday, his great big beautiful eyes mesmerizing his audience, that woman’s mouth of his pouting now and then, that he would lead the police, and the strategy they would employ would be one of “containment.”

Hours and hours later, the radio broadcast an appeal of two U.P. student leaders for food, for money, for help. They’d been set upon, one said, clubbed and shot and arrested. The Metrocom had blocked all exits in Sampaloc, in Quiapo, in España, and picked up, willy-nilly, all those they fancied, but kind people, people who sympathized with the revolution, had put up many students in their own houses, fed and bedded them—one reproduces here, as well as one can remember, that appeal, because two things about it disquieted the listeners: the U.P. student sounded too much like a parrot, sticking to just one jargon, and for one who would bring about a better world, he reasoned with a child’s petulance: Mga kababayan, kami po ay nangangailangan ng tulong n’yo, no, pagkain, o pera, no, pakidala lang ninyo sa U.P. Student Council, Diliman, no, at matatanggap namin iyan, no. Kailangan po natin ibagsak ‘yang Pascistang si Marcos, no, kami mga anak ninyo na binugbog, binaril, no, ng mga kawal ng Pascistang si Marcos, no. Magsamasama tayong lahat, no, magkaisaisa tayo, no, para sa bayan, para sa demokrasya, no.

And the violence?

Papano, sa ganyang demonstration talagang mayroong mga maiinit ang ulo, no, pagod na pagod na kami sa mga broken promises ni Marcos, no, totoo nga, namato ang ilan sa amin, no, nagsusunog ng kaunti, nagpaputok ng rebentador, no, ngunit ang lahat ba namang iyan ay sapat na upang kami ay bugbugin, sipain, barilin, at arestohin?

They’d stoned a little, burned a little.

Sow a little anarchy—reap a little death, and death (big or little or medium-sized) is always, alas, for real.

Day of Terror: Fire and Death in Manila, in 1945, February 7, 1970

Day of Terror: Fire and Death in Manila, in 1945

by Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero

Diliman, Quezon City

February 7, 1970–FOR SHEER horror and cruelty hardly anything in history surpasses the cold-blooded massacre of thousands of civilians and the systematic burning of the entire districts of Ermita, Malate, Paco, Singalong, and Pasay during the Liberation of Manila in 1945.

One morning we heard from some youngsters that the Americans were already in Paco. Though there was no way of confirming these reports, we felt a bit relieved. Suddenly shots rang out somewhere in the district. The Japanese were shooting every human being on sight. At 4 p.m., the Japanese started burning the Union Church (now Regis House) on Isaac Peral Street. People fleeing from the fire were mowed down by rifles and machine guns.

My mother was cooking rice for supper when we heard the screams of “Fire! Fire!” We looked out the windows and saw the houses in front burning fiercely.

We decided to stay indoors as long as we could, but a group of Japanese soldiers, shooting their guns in the air, stopped in front of the Bueno house where we were staying. They ordered us, men, women, and children, to follow them. They stripped us of all our valuable belongings. My mother had in her bayong about eight pieces of gold coins intended for the chalice of my brother, Fr. Lorenzo the Jesuit, who had left for the United States in June 1941 to finish his theology in Kansas. This bayong the Japanese grabbed from my mother’s hands at bayonet point. My mother tried to grab it back. I screamed, “Don’t, Mother!” The men and boys were then taken to a house on the right side of Plaza Ferguson corner Alhambra, the very house where all of us brothers and sisters had been born, and herded into the large room where our father had died 20 years before. (We had sold the house before the war.) We were about 200 yards from Ermita Church, which was aflame. Speechless and horrified, we watched Japanese soldiers close all the windows and finally nail the main door shut. Later we were to learn that the women had been taken to the Bay View Hotel.

Rumors spread that the Japanese would blow us all up with dynamite. Resigning ourselves to whatever horrible fate was in store for us, we began saying our last prayers. Through the closed shutters we could watch how the fire was devouring the beautiful church, which my grandfather Lorenzo had designed about 80 years before, and the surrounding area. Hundreds of people who had sought shelter inside the church and the convent were machine-gunned.

The heat coming from the crackling flames was almost unbearable. Throughout the night we could hear shots in different sections of the district—hundreds of Ermita residents were dying or were to die that evening.

At 4 p.m. the next day a platoon of soldiers came and ordered us to move on to the University Club two blocks away. A Chinese, seriously wounded, couldn’t walk, so the Japanese simply shot him in the head and left his body on the street. We were placed in one room, and the door was bolted and nailed.

Two days later the Japanese ordered us to proceed to the Manila Hotel. There we hid in dugouts as American shells passed over our heads. From the dugouts we watched the Legislative Building crumbling with every blast. An hour later we were taken to the balcony of the hotel’s Winter Garden. Each day our captors fed us some tiny biscuits which tasted like adobe and were as hard. They gave us half a cup of water twice a  day.

One morning, when we were not being watched, about a dozen of us ran to the swimming pool of the Army & Navy Club and, dirty as the water was, drank gallons of it. Sometimes I would sit in a corner and imagine what I would do when the holocaust was over: I would drink gallons and gallons of cold water. Some men sold their watches to the Japanese for extra water. But my brothers and I had nothing: the Japanese had taken away everything we had.

We were worried about our mothers, wives, and sisters. We had no idea where they had been taken when the Bay View Hotel caught fire. In the face of impending death, we wondered if our loved ones had already preceded us to the Great Unknown, and how soon we would follow them.

Several wounded Japanese soldiers were taken to the Winter Garden on Saturday, February 17. They were placed on the ground floor. Late in the evening we heard them moaning. An officer slapped one of the wounded soldiers who was making a racket. Strangely enough, we felt relieved to discover that even the Japanese soldier, for all his brutality and stoic nature, knew how it was to die in pain.

Sunday afternoon, February 18, the Americans started shelling the Manila Hotel. The stucco ceiling fell, the walls disintegrated. The smoke made breathing hard, and the heat was so intense we felt as though we were inside a stove. Instinctively we dashed for the outer balcony, but the Japanese guards threatened us with their bayonets.

The far end of the Winter Garden caught fire. The bodies of several Chinese women and children lay about on the floor. We stood at the top of the stairs, not knowing what to do. At every door were soldiers with fixed bayonets. It was unthinkable to try jumping from the windows. Then, like madmen, we turned to a door to the left. The flames were beginning to eat part of it, too. Then we saw a tiny window near the burning door, and we escaped through that opening.

Exhausted, gasping for breath, we threw ourselves on the grass. We left a number of dead behind us. Suddenly we heard firing from the walls of Intramuros. The Japanese there were shooting at us. By now the entire hotel was in flames. Intramuros and Ermita were a blazing inferno.

We tried to sleep. The moon was shining, and the fires made the night bright as day. The shelling and the crackling flames made sleep impossible. Soon a Japanese officer told us to go to the Rizal monument on the Luneta. When we got there, we choked with joy. The women were there—our mothers, wives, and sisters were there! My brothers and I embraced our mother, but without any tears. There was no time for tears. When the Miramar Arms building caught fire a week before, they had been taken to the Rizal monument and left to fend for themselves. My mother related how the Japanese visited the group every night, picked out the young girls, raped, and then killed them. A drunken soldier stuck his bayonet into the throats of two very young girls.

The shelling continued unabated until Tuesday, February 20.  At nine o’clock on that day, a young girl in the crowd shouted: “Look! The Americans!” She pointed in the direction of the Army & Navy Club. We saw three or four tanks advancing slowly. Helmeted figures moved cautiously among the tanks, as if on the lookout for snipers. We could not be sure, dazed as we were, whether they were American tanks and American soldiers. “But they are Americans!” the girl insisted. All the time shells rustled and whined over our heads.

In the afternoon, two women ran towards the tanks which had paused on the street near the Army & Navy Club. The women came back frantically crying: “The Americans say we must leave this place—fast!” One of the women was holding three cakes of Palmolive soap.

We all flew rather than ran towards the Army & Navy Club. The Americans and their monstrous tanks were parked at the corner. But as I looked around and saw the utter devastation of Ermita, our house in ruins, I couldn’t bring myself to smile at the Americans, I could only whisper bitterly: “You’re too late. You shouldn’t have come back, dammit!”

 

The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account, February 7, 1970

The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account

Jose F. Lacaba

 

February 6, 1970–IT WAS FIVE MINUTES PAST FIVE in the afternoon, by the clock on the Maharnilad tower, when I arrived at Congress. The President was already delivering his State of the Nation message: loudspeakers on both sides of the legislative building relayed the familiar voice and the equally familiar rhetoric to anyone in the streets who cared to listen. In front of the building, massed from end to end of Burgos Drive, spilling over to the parking lot and the grassy sidewalk that forms an embankment above the Muni golf course, were the demonstrators. Few of them cared to listen to the President. They had brought with them microphones and loudspeakers of their own and they lent their ears to people they could see, standing before them, on the raised ground that leads to the steps of the legislative building, around the flagpole, beneath a flag that was at half-mast. There were, according to conservative estimates, at least 20,000 of them, perhaps even 50,000. Beyond the fringes of this huge convocation stood the uniformed policemen, their long rattan sticks swinging like clocks’ pendulums at their sides; with them were the members of the riot squad, wearing crash helmets and carrying wicker shields.

I came on foot from the Luneta, which was as far as my taxi could go, and made straight for the Congress driveway. A cop at the foot of the driveway took one look at my hair and waved me away, pointing to the demonstrators beyond a row of white hurdles. When I pointed to the special press badge pinned to the breast pocket of my leather jacket, he eyed me suspiciously, but finally let me through the cordon sanitaire. The guard at the door of Congress was no less suspicious, on guard against intruders and infiltrators, and along the corridors it seemed that every man in uniform tightened his grip on his carbine as I passed by, and strained his eyes to read the fine print on my press badge.

The doors of the session hall were locked, presumably to prevent late entrances from disturbing the assembly listening to the President’s message. A clutch of photographers who had arrived late milled outside the session hall, talking with some men in barong Tagalog, pleading and demanding to be let in. The men in barong Tagalog shook their heads, smiled ruefully, and shrugged; they had their orders. I decided to go out and have a look at the demonstration.

Among the demonstrators it was possible to feel at ease. None of them carried guns, they didn’t stand on ceremony, and there was no need for the aura of privilege that a press badge automatically confers on its wearer. I took off the badge, pocketed it, and reflected on the pleasurable sensation that comes from being inconspicuous. It seemed awkward, absurd, to strut around with a label on a lapel proclaiming one’s identity, a feeling doubtless shared by cops who were even then surreptitiously removing their name plates. Also, I was curious. No joiner of demonstrations in my antisocial student days, I now wanted to know how it felt like to be in one, not as journalistic observer but as participant, and I wanted to find out what treatment I could expect from authority in this guise.

I found out soon enough, and the knowledge hurt.

At about half past five, the demo that had been going on for more than four hours was only beginning to warm up. The colegialas in their well-pressed uniforms were wandering off toward the Luneta, munching on pinipig crunches and dying of boredom. Priests and seminarians lingered at one edge of the crowd, probably discussing the epistemology of dissent. Behind the traffic island in the middle of Burgos Drive, in the negligible shade of the pine trees, ice cream and popsicle carts vied for attention with small tables each laden with paper and envelopes, an improvised cardboard mailbox and a sign that urged: Write Your Congressman. In this outer circle of the demo, things were relatively quiet; but in the inner circle, nearer Congress, right below the mikes, the militants were restless, clamorous, chanting their slogans, carrying the streamers that bore the names of their organizations, waving placards (made out of those controversial Japanese-made calendars the administration gave away during the campaign) that pictured the President as Hitler, the First Couple as Bonnie and Clyde.

There were two mikes, taped together; and this may sound frivolous, but I think the mikes were the immediate cause of the trouble that ensued. They were in the hands of Edgar Jopson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, the group that had organized the rally and secured the permit for it. The NUSP dubbed its demonstration “the January 26 Movement”; its chief objective was to demand “a nonpartisan Constitutional Convention in 1971.” Demonstrations, however, are never restricted to members of the organization to which a permit has been issued. They are, according to standard practice, open to all sympathizers who care to join; and to the January 26 Movement the veterans of countless demos sent their representatives. Swelling the numbers of the dissenters were youth organizations like the Kabataang Makabayan, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino, the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati; labor groups like the National Association of Trade Unions; peasant associations like the Malayang Samahang Magsasaka.

Now, at about half past five, Jopson, who was in polo barong and sported a red armband with the inscription “J26M,” announced that the next speaker would be Gary Olivar of the SDK and of the University of the Philippines student council. Scads of demonstration leaders stood with Jopson on that raised ground with the Congress flagpole, but Olivar was at this point not to be seen among them. The mikes passed instead to Roger Arienda, the radio commentator and publisher of Bomba. Arienda may sound impressive to his radio listeners, but in person he acts like a parody of a high-school freshman delivering Mark Anthony’s funeral oration. His bombast, complete with expansive gestures, drew laughter and Bronx cheers from the militants up front, who now started chanting: “We want Gary! We want Gary!”

Arienda retreated, the chant grew louder, and someone with glasses who looked like a priest took the mikes and in a fruity, flute-thin voice pleaded for sobriety and silence. “We are all in this together,” he fluted. “We are with you. There is no need for shouting. Let us respect each other.” Or words to that effect. By this time, Olivar was visible, standing next to Jopson. It was about a quarter to six.

When Jopson got the mikes back, however, he did not pass them on to Olivar. Once more he announced: “Ang susunod na magsasalita ay si Gary Olivar.” Olivar stretched out his hand, waiting for the mikes, and the crowd resumed its chant; but Jopson after some hesitation now said: “Aawitin natin ang Bayang Magiliw.” Those seated, squatting, or sprawled on the road rose as one man. Jopson sang the first verse of the national anthem, then paused, as if to let the crowd go on from there: instead he went right on singing into the mikes, drowning out the voices of everybody else, pausing every now and then for breath or to change his pitch.

Olivar stood there with a funny expression on his face, his mouth assuming a shape that was not quite a smile, not quite a scowl. Other demonstration leaders started remonstrating with Jopson, gesturing toward the mikes, but he pointedly ignored them. He repeated his instructions to NUSP members, then started acting busy and looking preoccupied, all the while clutching the mikes to his breast. Manifestoes that had earlier been passed from hand to hand now started flying, in crumpled balls or as paper planes, toward the demonstration leaders’ perch. It was at this point that one of the militants grabbed the mikes from Jopson.

Certainly there can be no justification for the action of the militants. The NUSP leaders had every right to pack up and leave, since their permit gave them only up to six o’clock to demonstrate and they had declared their demonstration formally closed; and since it was their organization that had paid for the use of the microphones and loudspeakers, they had every right to keep these instruments ot themselves. Yet, by refusing to at least lend their mikes to the radicals, the NUSP leaders gave the impression of being too finicky; they acted like an old maid aunt determined not to surrender her Edwardian finery to a hippie niece, knowing that it would be used for more audacious purposes than she had ever intended for it. The radicals would surely demand more than a nonpartisan Constitutional Convention; they would speak of more fundamental, doubtless violent, changes; and it was precisely the prospect of violence that the NUSP feared. The quarrel over the mikes revealed the class distinctions in the demonstration: on the one hand the exclusive-school kids of the NUSP, bred in comfort, decent, respectful, and timorous; and on the other hand the public-school firebrands of groups like the KM and the SDK, familiar with privation, rowdy, irreverent, troublesome. Naturally, the nice dissenters wanted to dissociate themselves from anything that smelled disreputable, and besides the mikes belonged to them.

Now the mikes had passed to a young man, a labor union leader I had seen before, at another demonstration, whose name I do not know.

It had happened so fast Jopson was caught by surprise; the next thing he knew the mikes were no longer in his possession. This young labor union leader was a terrific speaker. He was obviously some kind of hero to the militants, for they cheered him on as he attacked the “counter-revolutionaries who want to end this demonstration,” going on from there to attack fascists and imperialists in general. By the time he was through, his audience had a new, a more insistent chant: “Rebolusyon! Rebolusyon! Rebolusyon!”

Passions were high, exacerbated by the quarrel over the mikes; and the President had the back luck of coming out of Congress at this particular instant.

WHERE THE DEMONSTRATION LEADERS STOOD, emblems of the enemy were prominently displayed: a cardboard coffin representing the death of democracy at the hands of the goonstabulary in the last elections; a cardboard crocodile, painted green, symbolizing congressmen greedy for allowances; a paper effigy of Ferdinand Marcos. When the President stepped out of Congress, the effigy was set on fire and, according to report, the coffin was pushed toward him, the crocodile hurled at him. From my position down on the street, I saw only the burning of the effigy —a singularly undramatic incident, since it took the effigy so long to catch fire. I could not even see the President and could only deduce the fact of his coming out of Congress from the commotion at the doors, the sudden radiance created by dozens of flashbulbs bursting simultaneously, and the rise in the streets of the cry: “MARcos PUPpet! MARcos PUPpet! MARcos PUPpet!”

Things got so confused at this point that I cannot honestly say which came first: the pebbles flying or the cops charging. I remember only the cops rushing down the steps of Congress, pushing aside the demonstration leaders, and jumping down to the streets, straight into the mass of demonstrators. The cops flailed away, the demonstrators scattered. The cops gave chase to anything that moved, clubbed anyone who resisted, and hauled off those they caught up with. The demonstrators who got as far as the sidewalk that led to the Muni golf links started to pick up pebbles and rocks with which they pelted the police. Very soon, placards had turned into missiles, and the sound of broken glass punctuated the yelling: soft-drink bottles were flying, too. The effigy was down on the ground, still burning.

The first scuffle was brief. By the time it was over, the President and the First Lady must have made good their escape. The cops retreated into Congress with hostages. The demonstrators re-occupied the area they had vacated in their panic. The majority of NUSP members must have been safe in their buses by then, on their way home, but the militants were still in possession of the mikes.

The militants were also in possession of the field. Probably not more than 2,000 remained on Burgos Drive —some of them just hanging around, looking on; many of them raging mad, refusing to be cowed. A small group defiantly sang the Tagalog version of the “Internationale,” no longer bothering now to hide their allegiances. Their slogan was “fight and fear not,” and they made a powerful incantation out of it: “Ma-ki-BAKA! Huwag maTAKOT!” They marched with arms linked together and faced the cops without flinching, baiting them, taunting them.

“Pulis, pulis, titi matulis!”

“Pulis, mukhang kuwarta!”

“Me mga panangga pa, o, akala mo lalaban sa giyera!”

“Takbo kayo nang takbo, baka lumiit ang tiyan n’yo!”

“Baka mangreyp pa kayo, lima-lima na’ng asawa n’yo!”

“Mano-mano lang, o!”

NOTHING MORE CLEARLY REVEALED THE DEPTHS to which the reputation of the supposed enforcers of the law has sunk than this open mocking of the cops. Annual selections of ten outstanding policemen notwithstanding, the cops are generally believed to be corrupt, venal, brutal, vicious, and zealous in their duties only when the alleged lawbreaker is neither rich nor powerful. Those who deplore the loss of respect for the law forget that respect needs to be earned, and anyone is likely to lose respect for the law who has felt the wrath of lawmen or come face to face with their greed.

The students who now hurled insults at the cops around Congress differed from the rest of their countrymen only in that they did not bother to hide their contempt or express it in bitter whispers. In at least two recent demonstrations—one at the US Embassy on the arrival of Agnew, the other at Malacañang to denounce police brutality and the rise of fascism—students had suffered at the hands of the cops, and now the students were in a rage, they were spoiling for trouble, they were in no mood for dinner-party chatter or elocution contents.

In the parliament of the streets, debate takes the form of confrontation.

While the braver radicals flung jeers at the cops in a deliberate attempt to precipitate a riotous confrontation, the rest of the demonstrators gathered in front of the Congress flagpole, listening to various speakers, though more often outshouting them. Senator Emmanuel Pelaez had come out of Congress, dapper in a dark-blue suit, and the mikes were handed over to him. Despite the mikes, his voice could hardly be heard above the din of the demonstrators. Because Pelaez spoke in English, they shouted: “Tagalog! Tagalog!” They had also made up a new chant: “Pakawalan ang hinuli! Pakawalan ang hinuli! Pakawalan ang hinuli!” Not after several minutes of furious waving from student leaders gesturing for quiet did the noise of the throng subside.

Pelaez made an appeal for peace that received an equal amount of cheers and jeers. Then he made the mistake of calling MPD Chief Gerardo Tamayo to his side. The very sight of a uniformed policeman is enough to drive demonstrators into a frenzy; his mere presence is provocation enough. The reaction to Tamayo was unequivocal, unanimous. The moment he appeared, fancy swagger stick in hand, an orgy of boos and catcalls began, sticks and stones and crumpled sheets started to fly again, and Pelaez had to let the police chief beat a hasty retreat.

With Tamayo out of sight, a little quiet descended on the crowd once more. Speeches again, and more speeches. The lull, a period of watchful waiting for the demonstrators, lasted for some time. And then, from the north, from the Maharnilad side of Congress, came the cry: “Eto na naman ang mga pulis!”

Thunder of feet, tumult of images and sounds. White smooth round crash helmets advancing like a fleet of flying saucers in the growing darkness. The tread of marching feet, the rat-tat-tat of fearful feet on the run, the shuffle of hesitant feet unable to decide whether to stand fast or flee. From loudspeakers, an angry voice: “Mga pulis! Pakiusap lang! Tahimik na kami rito! Huwag na kayong makialam!” And everywhere, a confusion of shouts: Walang tatakbo! Walang uurong! Balik! Balik! Walang mambabato! Tigil ang batuhan! Link arms, link arms! Ma-ki-BAKA! Huwag maTAKOT!

The khaki contingent broke into a run. The demonstrators fled in all directions, each man for himself. Some merely stepped aside, hugging the Congress walls, clustering around trees. The cops at this time went only after those who ran, bypassing all who stood still. Three cops cornered one demonstrator against a traffic sign and clubbed him until the signpost gave way and fell with a crash. One cop caught up with a demonstrator and grabbed him by the collar, but the demonstrator wriggled free of his shirt and made a new dash for freedom in his undershirt. One cop lost his quarry near the golf course and found himself surrounded by other demonstrators; they didn’t touch him—“. Nag-iisa’ yan, pabayaan n’yo ”—but they taunted him mercilessly. This was a Metrocom cop, not an unarmed trainee, and finding himself surrounded by laughing sneering faces, he drew his .45 in anger, his eyes flashing, his teeth bared. He kept his gun pointed to the ground, however, and the laughter and sneers continued until he backed off slowly, trying to maintain whatever remaining dignity he could muster.

The demonstrators who had fled regrouped, on the Luneta side of Congress, and with holler and whoop they charged. The cops slowly retreated before this surging mass, then ran, ran for their lives, pursued by rage, rocks, and burning placard handles. Now it was the students giving chase, exhilarated by the unexpected turnabout. The momentum of their charge, however, took them only up to the center of Burgos Drive; either there was a failure of nerve or their intention was merely to regain ground they had lost, without really charging into the very ranks of the police.

Once again, the lines of battle were as before: the students in the center, the cops at the northern end of Burgos Drive.

In the next two hours, the pattern of battle would be set. The cops would charge, the demonstrators would retreat; the demonstrators would regroup and come forward again, the cops would back off to their former position. At certain times, however, the lines of battle would shift, with the cops holding all of the area right in front of Congress and the students facing them across the street, with three areas of retreat—north toward Maharnilad, south toward the Luneta, and west toward the golf course and Intramuros. There were about seven waves of attack and retreat by both sides, each attack preceded by a tense noisy lull, during which there would be sporadic stoning, by both cops and demonstrators.

Sometime during the lull in the clashes, two fire trucks appeared in the north. They inched their way forward, flanked by the cops, and when they were near the center of Burgos Drive they trained their hoses on the scattered bonfires the students had made with their placards and manifestoes. Students who held their ground, getting wet in the weak stream, yelled: “Mahal ang tubig! Isauli n’yo na ’yan sa Nawasa!” Other demonstrators, emboldened by the lack of force of the jets of water, came forward with rocks to hurl at the fire trucks. The trucks hurriedly backed away from the barrage and soon made themselves scarce.

At one student attack, the demonstrators managed to occupy the northern portion the cops had held throughout the battle. When the cops started moving forward, from the Congress driveway where they had taken shelter, the demonstrators backed away one by one, until only three brave and foolhardy souls remained, standing fast, holding aloft, by its three poles, a streamer that carried the name of the Kabataang Makabayan. There they stood, those three, no one behind them and the cops coming toward them slowly, menacingly. Without a warning, some cops dashed forward, about ten of them, and in full view of the horrified crowd flailed away at the three who held their ground, unable to resist. The two kids holding the side poles either managed to flee or were hauled off to the legislative building to join everybody else who had the misfortune of being caught. The boy in the center crumpled to the ground and stayed there cringing, bundled up like a foetus, his legs to his chest and his arms over his head. The cops made a small tight circle around him, and then all that could be seen were the rattan sticks moving up and down and from side to side in seeming rhythm. When they were through, the cops walked away nonchalantly, leaving the boy on the ground. One cop, before leaving, gave one last aimless swing of his stick as a parting shot, hitting his target in the knees.

The cops really had it in for the Kabataang Makabayan. The fallen standard was picked up by six or seven KM boys and carried to the center of Burgos Drive, where it stood beside another streamer, held up by members of the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati, bearing the words: “Ibagsak ang imperyalismo at piyudalismo!” When the cops made another attack and everybody in the center of Burgos Drive scattered, the KM boys again held their ground. The cops gave them so severe a beating one of the wooden poles broke in half.

I had taken shelter beneath the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati streamer during the attack; we were left untouched. The KM boys had to abandon their streamer. One of them, limping, joined us, and when the cops had gone he asked me, probably thinking I was another KM member, to help him pick up the streamer. I thought it was the least I could do for the poor bastards, so I took hold of the broken pole and helped the KM boy carry the streamer a little closer to the Congress walls. There I stood, thinking of the awkwardness of my position, being neither demonstrator nor KM member, until a few other guys began to gather around us. I handed the broken pole to someone who nodded when I asked him if he belonged to the KM.

About this time, or sometime afterwards, Pelaez was down on the street, surrounded by aides and students all talking at the same time, complaining to him about missing nameplates and arrested comrades. He was probably still down there when the cops advanced once again. Panic spread, and I found myself running, too. In previous attacks I had merely stepped aside and watched; but I had already seen what had happened to the KM boys who refused to flee, and I had seen policemen, walking back to their lines after a futile chase, club or haul off anyone standing by who just happened to be in their way, or who seemed to have a look of gloating and triumph on their faces; and I realized it was no longer safe to remain motionless. I had completely forgotten the press badge in my pocket.

Meanwhile, it seemed that certain distinguished personages trapped inside the legislative building had grown restless and wanted to get on to their mansions or their favorite night clubs or some parties in their honor, but cars were parked up front. At any rate, some cars started moving up the driveway to pick up passengers. The sight of those long sleek limousines infuriated the demonstrators all the more; the sight of those beautiful air-conditioned limousines was like a haughty voice saying, “Let them eat cake.” Cries of “Kotse! Kotse!” were followed by “Batuhin! Batuhin!” Down the driveway came the cars, and whizz went the rocks. Some cars even had the effrontery of driving down Burgos Drive straight into the lines of the demonstrators, as though meaning to disperse them. All the cars got stoned.

One apple-green Mercedes-Benz, belonging to Senator Jose Roy, screeched to a stop when the rocks thudded on its roofs and sides. The driver got out and started picking up rocks himself, throwing them at the students. A few cops had to brave the rain of stones that ensued to save the poor driver who had only tried to defend his master’s car. The demonstrators then surged forward with sticks and stones and beat the hell out of the car, stopping only when it was a total wreck. “Sunugin!” rose the cry, but by then the cops were coming in force.

The demonstrators had hired a jeepney in which rode some of their leaders. It had two loudspeakers on its roof, was surrounded by students, and inched its way forward and backward throughout the melee. The cops, seemingly maddened by the destruction of a senator’s Model 1970 Mercedes-Benz, swooped down on the jeepney with their rattan sticks, striking out at the students who surrounded it until they fled, then venting their rage some more on those inside the jeepney who could not get out to run. The shrill screams of women inside the jeepney rent the air. The driver, bloody all over, managed to stagger out; the cops quickly grabbed him.

When the cops were through beating up the jeepney’s passengers, they backed away. Some stayed behind, trying to drag out those who were still inside the jeepney, from which came endless shrieks, sobs, curses, wails, and the sound of weeping. It was impossible to remain detached and uninvolved now, to be a spectator forever. When the screams for help became unendurable, I started to walk toward the jeepney, and was only four or five steps away when, from the other side of the jeepney, crash helmet, khaki uniform, and rattan stick came charging at me. The cop’s hands gripped his stick at both ends. “O, isa ka pa, lalapit-lapit ka pa!” he cried as he swung at me. I stepped back, feeling the wind from the swing of his stick ruffle the front of my shirt. In stepping back I lost my balance. Before I realized what had happened, I was down on my back and the cop was lunging at me, still holding his stick at both ends. I caught the middle of the stick

with my hands and, well, under the circumstances, I don’t think I can be blamed for losing my cool. “Putangnamo,” I shouted at him, “tutulong ako do’n, e!”

I jumped to my feet, dusted myself off angrily, and glared at my would-be tormentor. If my eyes had the gift of a triple whammy, he would be dust and ashes now. We stared at each other for a few seconds, but when I dropped my glance down to his breast, to see no nameplate there, he turned his back and slowly walked away. I had no intention of doing a Norman Mailer and getting arrested, so I let him go. By this time, the jeepney’s passengers had decided, screaming and swearing and sobbing all the while, to abandon their vehicle with its load of mimeographed manifestoes and various literature, and to look for a safer place from which to deliver their exhortations to their fellow demonstrators.

On two other occasions, I found myself running with the demonstrators. Once I jumped down with them to the golf course and got as far as the fence of the mini-golf range. Behind us, the cops were firing into the air. When it was the students’ turn to charge, I found my way back to the street. Another time, running along the sidewalk down rows of pine trees toward the Luneta, I saw a girl a few meters away from me stumble and fall. I stopped running, with the intention of helping her up, when whack! I felt the sting of a blow just below my belt and above my ass. When I turned around the cop was gone; he was swinging wildly as he ran and I just happened to be in the way of his rattan. The girl, too, was nowhere to be seen; there was no longer anyone to play Good Samaritan to.

As I stood there, rubbing that part of me where I was hit, I heard more screaming and curses from the golf course. A boy and two girls, who had decided to sit out the attack on a mound, had been set upon by the cops. People inside the mini-golf enclosure were yelling at the cops, shaking their golf clubs in helpless fury. “Tena, tulungan natin!” cried one demonstrator; but the cops had retreated by the time we got to the trio on the mound. The two girls were cursing through their tears; the boy was calm, consoling them in his fashion. “This is just part of the class struggle,” he said, and one girl sobbed, “I know, I know. Pero putangna nila, me araw din sila!”

IT WAS NOW EIGHT O’CLOCK. The battle of Burgos Drive was over, Burgos Drive was open to traffic once more. I decided it was time to go to the Philippine General Hospital for a change of scene. Crossing the street, on my way to Taft Avenue, I saw for the first time, on the Luneta side of the traffic island, a row of horses behind a squad of uniformed men.

At the PGH, confusion reigned. More than thirty demonstrators with bloody heads and broken wrists had been or were being treated along with three or four policemen hit by rocks. Other students kept coming, looking for companions, bringing news from the field. The battle was not over yet, they said, it had merely shifted ground. The cops were chasing demonstrators right up to Intramuros, all the way to Plaza Lawton; were even boarding jeepneys and buses to haul down demonstrators on their way home. There was a rumor that two or three students had been killed— did anyone know anything about it? (It proved to be a false alarm.) Even NUSP members were at the PGH. Some of them had called up Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda, and he came in a long black car, mapungay eyes, slicked-down hair, newly pressed barong Tagalog, and all, accompanied by a photographer and scads of technical assistants or security men.

The next day came the post-mortems, the breast-beating, the press releases, the alibis.

“We maintain,” said MPD Deputy Chief James Barbers, “that the police acted swiftly at a particular time when the life of the President of the Republic— and that of the First Lady— was being endangered by the vicious and unscrupulous elements among the student demonstrators. One can just imagine what would have resulted had something happened to the First Lady!” Barbers did not bother to explain why the rampage continued after the President being protected had gone.

Manila Mayor Antonio J. Villegas commended Tamayo and his men for their “exemplary behavior and courage” and reportedly gave them a day off. Then he announced that Manila policemen would henceforth stay away from demonstration sites. “I’’m doing this to protect Manila policemen from unfair criticism and to avoid friction between the MPD and student groups.”

“The night of January 26,” said UP president S.P. Lopez, “must be regarded as a night of grave portent for the future of the nation. It has brought us face to face with the fundamental question: Is it still possible to transform our society by peaceful means so that the many who are poor, oppressed, sick, and ignorant may be released from their misery, by the actual operation of law and government, rather than by waiting in vain for the empty promise of ‘social justice’ in our Constitution?”

The faculty of the University of the Philippines issued a declaration denouncing “the use of brutal force by state authorities against the student demonstrators” and supporting “unqualifiedly the students’ exercise of democratic rights in their struggle for revolutionary change.” The declaration went on to say: “It is with the gravest concern that the faculty views the January 26 event as part of an emerging pattern of repression of the democratic rights of the people. This pattern is evident in the formation of paramilitary units such as the Home Defense Forces, the politicalization of the Armed Forces, the existence of private armies, foreign interference in internal security, and the use of specially trained police for purposes of suppression.”

From the Lyceum faculty came another strongly worded statement: “Above the sadism and inhumanity of the action of the police, we fear that the brutal treatment of the idealistic students has done irreparable harm to our society. For it is true that the skirmish was won by the policemen and the riot soldiers. But if we view the battle in the correct perspective of the struggle for the hearts and minds of our youth, we cannot help but realize that the senseless, brutal, and uncalled-for acts of the police have forever alienated many of our young people from our society. The police will have to realize that in winning the battles, they are losing the war for our society.”

While he deplored the “abusive language” he read in some of the demonstrators’ placards, Senator Gil J. Puyat said, “I regret the use of unnecessary force by the police when they could have used a less harmful method.”

IF the police had “kept their cool,” said Senator Benigno Aquino, there would have been no violence—“it takes two to fight.” Senator Salvador Laurel said he had witnessed “with my own eyes the reported brutalities perpetrated by a number of [police officers] upon unarmed students, some of them helpless women.” Senator Eva Kalaw warned: “The students set the emotional powderkeg that may become the signal for wave upon wave of unrest in the streets, in the factories, on the campuses, in our farms.”

“Students,” said President Ferdinand Marcos, “have a legitimate right to manifest their grievances in public and we shall support their just demands, but we do not consider violence a legitimate instrument of democratic dissent, and we expect the students to cooperate with government in making sure that their demonstrations are not marred by violence.”

Some of the students began talking of arming themselves the next time with molotov cocktails and pillboxes, of using dos-por-dos as placard handles, of wearing crash helmets. Everyone agreed that the January 26 confrontation was the longest and most violent in the history of the Philippine student movement.

And then came January 30.

Note: in an email on the Plaridel e-mail list, the author provided the following historical notes:

Maharnilad is what the Manila City Hall was called back then. Congress, not far from Maharnilad, was a single building that housed both the Senate and the House of Representatives; it now houses the National Museum.

Edgar Jopson, better known as Edjop, derided by radicals as a reformist during the First Quarter Storm, ended up in the martial-law period as a leading member of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines; he was killed in Mindanao in 1982.

That Marcos Foundation, January 31, 1970

That Marcos Foundation

By Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.

A Free Press reader, the sportsman “Dindo” Gonzales, recently asked the editor why the magazine had not gone thoroughly into President Marcos’ declaration that he would give away all his worldly possessions to the Filipino people. The editor called the reader’s attention to the Free Press article, “Second Mandate,” in the January 10 issue, in which the writer gave a satirical account of the Marcos inauguration as reelected President and the presidential renunciation of material wealth. But “Dindo” wanted more, and so, perhaps, do other Free Press readers.

Has the Free Press been remiss in the fulfillment of its journalistic duty? The editor himself has not given anything worth mentioning to the poor, hence his initial reluctance to look the Marcos gift horse too closely in the mouth, but the customer is always right, so here goes:

January 31, 1970ON THE eve of his second inauguration as President of the Philippine Republic some Catholic bishops addressed a letter to Ferdinand Marcos:

“We are at a moment of our nation’s history when we crucially need a charismatic leader, a deeply moral person whose honesty and integrity are beyond reproach, a President who will inspire us to be really one in action and national consciousness.

“We need a leader who will not tolerate graft and corruption, self-enrichment, vote-buying and goon-hiring which make a mockery of democracy, almost unlimited over-spending for campaigns, a real social crime especially in a country like ours.

“We need a deeply Christian leader who will be the moral conscience of our other political and economic leaders. And we ask you in the name of God to be such a leader.”

They asked for the impossible—for an elected president who did not overspend for his election into office. Such a man, like the perennial candidate, Racuyal, will never make it because organizations like the Church do not support what they regards as crackpots.

Reacting to the bishops’ letter, which is an indirect indictment of his first administration, President Marcos declared that he would give up all his wealth as an example that he hoped the affluent would try to emulate.

Soon thereafter The Manila Chronicle published interviews with persons from different sections of Philippine society on the presidential renunciation of wealth. The well-off were naturally skeptical. Like all people they projected their own selfishness and inability to conceive of their ever performing a generous deed onto the image of a man, who like them is also rich.

Speaker Laurel, whose political fate at that time was uncertain and depended on the President’s whim, praised him. The President, he said, by his statement had set a standard of behavior which he hoped the nation would try to follow. Congress, he added, had already lived up to this standard in the past years, presumably the years of his leadership, and he hoped that it would continue to do so for many years to come. (That’s a joke, son.)

Setting aside the hogwash, the representative from Cagayan, Benjamin Ligot said, “It would be hypocritical for a congressman who is not a millionaire to say that he is willing to give (his) allowances. We in Congress who are poor need the allowances.” That, after all, is why people run for Congress: to alter for the better their financial condition.

How far the common people are from political cynicism is shown by the fact that, as the Chronicle interviews show, they do not dismiss the gesture out of hand.

The President’s gesture may have no substance, they say; the future will show whether he means what he says or not. For the present, what is important is the gesture. That, they say, is better than nothing.

The President’s renunciation of wealth is an indictment of the rich. It implies that to be rich in this society is to occupy an immoral position. No effort is made to correct anything unless it is thought to be wrong. The President’s promise to give up all his riches reads like a resolution on rectification. The resolve to correct presupposes that one acknowledges an imperfection somewhere.

That the rich should finally begin to lose their complacency, their self-righteousness is some kind of improvement on the past. The gesture is what is important now; it is something that has happened. The substance of the gesture is for the future to praise or criticize.

A minority of those interviewed by the Chronicle dismissed the President’s promise as “baloney.” This society, one man said, is incapable of generating the liberal impulse in the breast of anyone living in it. It is ridiculous to compare Marcos to Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Gandhi. Their kind of selfless dedication is possible only among the new races that have been formed in the crucible of revolution and war.

The most cynical response came, of course, from the rich and their hired spokesmen in the press. If President Marcos is a rich man, then he is one of them. The rich know what they are. Being rich, it is not in them to give up any of their riches. And besides, how much of his riches will he give? Certainly, he cannot give away the hidden riches they attribute to him. That would be self-incriminating.

He can do it, of course. It’s been done before. But he will have to retire to a monastery or go to jail. St. Francis and St. Agustine did it. One gave up a life of idleness and luxury, the other a life of profligacy. Both retired from society, from this world, to the city or to live simply and poorly he must live in a world where poverty is exalted at an ideal, otherwise he will be degrading himself. Monks, mystics and saints who lived in poverty did not in reality live in this world. Their bodies inhabited this world, but their egos lived in a transcendent realm. It is only in that other world—and China—that one who gives up all his material possessions can feel at home.

It is stupid to compare Marcos to St. Francis, as a Manila Chronicle columnist did. Marcos cannot give up all his wealth and live amongst us. He will be despised for his stupidity and for the alms he will have to beg for. If a man incapable of religious transport, an ordinary man, in short, gives up all he has and continues to live among those who place the highest value on material possessions, and thus brings on himself their contempt and mockery, he will even be greater than St. Francis.

Since he cannot really give up all his possessions, why then did Marcos promise to? His closest friends are rich. If he gives up all his wealth, he loses their respect and affection. Not because they are false friends, but because his life will then be incompatible with theirs. He will, in giving up his wealth, execute an act that is foreign to the nature of a rich man. Possessions are what make a man rich or poor. The rich have more of them, the poor have less. Take riches away from the rich and they are no longer rich but poor. Does Marcos want to alienate himself from the only circle of friends he really knows and with whom he feels most at home?

It was an unwise statement to make. No matter how much he gives up, it will never be enough to satisfy the skeptical, until he is actually seen wearing rags. If he had only said that he would start a foundation, what could be said against it?

Still something is better than nothing. It does put the rich on the spot. Will they also give? All? What if Marcos gives and they do not? And if Marcos does not give, what right will they have to criticize him? He will have proven himself to be no better and no worse than they are.

At any rate, the Free Press asked the President to make a clarification of his controversial statement if he cared to, and he did. Here it is:

STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS ON THE DECISION TO CREATE THE FERDINAND E. MARCOS FOUNDATION, INC. TO ENABLE THE PRESIDENT TO TRANSFER HIS MATERIAL POSSESSIONS TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE.

“(This is intended as an answer to a query from the Philippines Free Press on the circumstances leading to the President’s New Year’s eve announcement which has met with high enthusiasm in many parts of the world, but with some skepticism among local critics. Authenticated by the Press Secretary, Mr. Francisco S. Tatad, Malacañang Press Office.)

“The decision to create the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc. was taken early in 1969. It was not an altogether easy decision to make, but once made, my wife and I agreed that whether I won or lost the election, the Foundation should be formed, to help in the advancement of education, science, technology and the arts.

“I asked a group of five men to study the plan. This was composed of Messrs. Juan Ponce Enrile, Geronimo Velasco, Cesar Virata, Cesar Zalamea, and Onofre D. Corpuz. They will now act as trustees of the Foundation on the basis of official papers filed today, 22 January 1970, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, incorporating the Foundation.

“The corporation will take over the assets that I will transfer, and these assets will constitute the actual Foundation for educational, scientific, cultural and charitable purposes. As soon as the corporation is finally organized, and the assets to be transferred have been completely inventoried, the actual transfer shall be made through a deed of trust to be executed by me, with the conformity of the First Lady, my wife. The Foundation will hold title to the property, administer it and utilize its income according to its stated purposes.

“Announcement of the Foundation could have been made any time during the previous year; but it was a political year, and that mere fact alone could have been made the basis of much skepticism, questioning and ridicule. The Foundation would have been dismissed as pure political gimmickry, an attempt to buy votes. So I urged complete discretion on the part of the prospective trustees, and on my part, avoided the slightest reference to it.

“It was not until New Year’s eve that I thought the announcement could be made. I felt then that it was opportune to make the announcement, having earlier, in my second Inaugural Address, called for new measures of self-sacrifice, and having glimpsed some kind of eagerness on the part of the public to respond to that appeal. I, therefore, issued the following statement:

“ ‘Moved by the strongest desire and the purest will to set the example of self-denial and self-sacrifice for all our people. I have today (31 December 1969) decided to give away all my worldly possessions so that they may serve the greater needs of the greater number of our people.

“ ‘I have therefore decided to give away, by a general instrument of transfer, all my material possessions to the Filipino people through a Foundation to be organized and to be known as the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc.

“ ‘It is my wish that these properties will be used in advancing the cause of education, science, technology and the arts.

“ ‘This act I undertake of my own free will, knowing that, having always been a simple man, my needs will always be lesser than the needs of many of our people, who have given me the highest honor within their gift, an honor shared by no other Filipino leader.

“ ‘Since about a year ago, I have asked some of my closest confidantes to study the mechanics of this decision. Today studies have been completed, and a Foundation will now be formed to administer these properties and all funds that may be generated therefrom.

“ ‘For the moment, my most sincere hope is that this humble act shall set the example, and move to greater deeds of unselfishness and compassion, many of our countrymen whose position in society gives them a stronger duty to minister to the needs of our less fortunate brothers and countrymen.’” (End of statement.)

“Since that announcement all sorts of questions have been asked, and many seem more concerned with the question of the Foundation’s actual worth than with the fact that there is a foundation, and that through it the President will be able to transfer his material possessions to the Filipino people.

“Whereas, the law must determine what exact description of property I should be able to transfer to the Foundation, the transfer to the Foundation, the transfer contemplates ‘all worldly possessions’ which the law will allow. In time, the Foundation itself should be able to present an evaluation of its assets. But in the meantime, I believe it sufficient to say that the Foundation is there, or is going to be there, and that is really what matters.”

What is one to believe?

After he had risen from the grave, Jesus appeared to his disciples. But Thomas, “called the Twin…was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

“‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’”

Thus speaks the Gospel according to John, to which one can add no comment.


* * * *

EDITORIAL NOTE

The question is, obviously, centered on the meaning of “all.” Did the President really mean what he said about giving up ALL his worldly possessions? Under the law, he cannot give away his wife’s half of the conjugal property. Half of all that is acquired with earnings during the marriage belongs to each of the spouses for him on her to give away or keep.

And what is the “all” of the man whom the Liberals like to describe as “the richest man in Asia?”

The President, of course, did not have to give anything away at all. But if he did not mean what he said, why did he say it? From sheer demagoguery? Rashly—in panicky answer to the seven bishops’ challenge to give the Filipino people a Christian government, something they never had?

If the President gave all his worldly possessions to the poor, he would be more Christian than the Catholic Church itself, which is holding on to its worldly possessions like nobody’s business. Christ told the rich young man to give what he had to the poor and follow Him, but the Church charges interest when it lends. That’s business. Why must Marcos do more?

The mocking judgment on the Marcos statement about giving up all he had to the Filipino people is a form of self-judgment. Catch anyone doing that! Who would give, not all but a substantial portion of his wealth to the poor? A certain amount, why not? It would be tax deductible and there is the publicity, but certainly not so much that it would hurt. And, of course, not all. That would be Christian, not to say communistic. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, Christ said, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Well, if one were rich, one would damn well rather go to hell. Right?

To be poor, let’s face it, is awful. Only the rich romanticize about poverty.

Why did the President say he would give ALL his worldly possessions to the Filipino people? If he had said he would give some, nobody could have made an issue or a joke of it. Now, no matter how much he gives, it will not be enough.

“Is that all”? the question will be asked by those who do not give or hardly give anything at all.

Yet, something is better than nothing, indeed. If only he had not said “all”!