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Yearly Archives: 1971
by Teodoro M. Locsin
AS DEW IN APRIL
(Anonymous – 15th Century)
I sing of a maiden
That is makeless;
King of all kings
To her son she ches.
He cameth all so still
There his mother was
As dew in April
That falleth on the grass.
He cameth all so still
To his mother’s bower,
As dew in April
That falleth on the flower.
He cameth all so still
There his mother lay,
As dew in April
That falleth on the spray.
Mother and maiden
Was never none but she;
Well may such a lady
Godde’s mother be.
December 11, 1971—WHAT kind of a woman was she?
A woman of humility, we are told, receiving the angel Gabriel’s salutation thus: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”
Of an exalted spirit: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Savior.”
She knew her true station, she was the Mother of God, yet she kept the knowledge to herself, not boasting of her fortune to other women: “She kept all these sayings and pondered them in her heart.”
She brought up the child Jesus as a good mother would her child, attending to His needs throughout the years of His ministry without question or complaint, and followed Him weeping silently to His cross.
(“makeless” – matchless. “ches” – chose.)
She must have looked, it is argued, like her Son, for Christ had no father on earth, “therefore could only have derived His human lineaments form His mother.” The resemblance between mother and Son must have been perfect and complete.
“For had He been…not born of woman,” wrote Augustine, explaining the despair that could have then seized the sex, “the women might have despaired of themselves, recollecting the first offense, the first man having been deceived by a woman. Therefore we are to suppose that, for the exaltation of the male sex, Christ appeared on earth as a man; and, for the consolation of womankind, He was born of a woman only; as if it had been said, ‘from henceforth no creatures shall be base before God, unless perverted by depravity.’”
The faintly contemptuous attitude toward women implied in this passage from a former connoisseur of the sex stemmed from the relatively low regard in which men generally held their mothers and sisters in antiquity. With Christianity came, slowly, the elevation of woman to a parity with man, thanks to the adoration of Mary.
Yet, for some four hundred years there was no cult of Mary. “Neither in the early scripture nor in the early mosaics do we find any figures of the Virgin alone; she forms a part of a group of the Nativity or of the adoration of the Magi,” it has been observed. At one time, one sect, the Nestorians, held that in Christ the two natures of God and man remained separate, “and that Mary, His human mother, was parent of the man, but not of God; hence the title ‘Mother of God’ was improper and profane.” But an opposition party, the Monophysites, contended that in Christ the human and the divine came together and became one nature, “that consequently Mary was indeed the Mother of God.”
In the end, Mary won. A decree of the first council of Ephesus condemned Nestorius and his party as damned heretics and Mary was proclaimed, as a matter of orthodox faith, Queen of Heaven.
There is an allegedly authentic portrait of the Virgin which the Empress Eudocia, traveling in the Holy Land, came upon and sent home to her sister-in-law, who subsequently placed it in a church in Constantinople. “At that time, it was regarded as of very high antiquity and supposed to have been painted from life.” It was this portrait which, in legend at least, the old and blind Dandole took with him when he besieged and took Constantinople in 1204, bringing it in triumph to Venice where it may be seen in the Church of St. Mark.
At any rate, devotion to Mary increased and there was hardly a painter of importance in the West who did not attempt her portrait, who did not see her in his mind’s eye and seek to make that vision known and visible to other men. Such paintings showed her with the radiance of the sun over her head and the crescent moon under her feet, for the book of Revelation had spoken of “a woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” Known as “Stella Maria,” “Star of the Sea,” from her Jewish name, Miriam, she was shown with a veil on which was embroidered a star, while the lily, emblem of purity, was placed in the hands of angels in attendance. The rose, symbol of love and beauty, was present, too, for is it not said in Canticles, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys”?
She is an Enclosed Garden, a Well always full, a Fountain forever sealed, a Closed Gate, the Cedar of Lebanon, perfumed, healing and incorruptible.
Even unbelievers have paid her tribute, one, the philosopher Santayana, denying the existence of God but proclaiming Mary His mother, in a passage both reverent and ironical, and another, the essayist Charles Lamb, wishing he were a Catholic, so he could with propriety worship her. Greater praise has no woman—except, perhaps, in the simple faith and believing heart of the many and humble who call her, without equivocation, blessed: the true Mother of God.
There is a poem which the 15th-century poet François Villon wrote for his mother, addressed to the Virgin. A scholar, thief, perhaps pimp, killer—though in self-defense—and once condemned to be hanged, writing one of his greatest poems in the world on the eve of execution, Villon loved his mother and shared her humble faith, making of it a ballade, here presented in an English translation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
Lady of Heaven and earth, and therewithal
Crowned Empress of the nether clefts of Hell, —
I, thy poor Christian, on thy name do call,
Commending me to thee, with thee to dwell,
Albeit in nought I be commendable.
But all my undeserving may not mar
Such mercies as thy sovereign mercies are;
Without the which (as true words testify)
No soul can reach thy Heaven so fair and far.
Even in this faith I choose to live and die.
Unto thy Son say thou that I am His,
And to me graceless make Him gracious.
Sad Mary of Egypt lacked not of that bliss,
Nor yet the sorrowful clerk Theophilus,
Whose bitter sins were set aside even thus
Though to the Fiend his bounden service was.
Oh help me, lest in vain for me should pass
(Sweet Virgin that shalt have no loss thereby!)
The blessed Host and sacring of the Mass.
Even in this faith I choose to live and die.
A pitiful poor woman, shrunk and old,
I am, and nothing learn’d in letter-lore.
Within my parish-cloister I behold
A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore,
And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full
One bringeth fear, the other joy to me.
That joy, great Goddess, make thou mine to be, —
Thou of whom all must ask it even as I;
And that which faith desires, that let it see.
For in this faith I choose to live and die.
O excellent Virgin Princess! thou didst bear
King Jesus, the most excellent comforter,
Who even of this our weakness craved a share
And for our sake stooped to us from on high,
Offering to death His young life sweet and fair.
Such as He is, our Lord, I Him declare,
And in this faith I choose to live and die.
Here, in brief and in plain prose, an adaptation:
“I am a poor, old, ignorant woman who never learned to read but in church I see a picture of Paradise, which fills me with joy, and of Hell, where the damned are broiled, which frightens me. Let me go to heaven, Mother of God, where sinners go if they have faith and not pretense of it. In this faith I wish to live and die.
“Tell your Son to forgive me my sins, and He will do it, for it was you who bore Him, who left Heaven to become man and gave Himself so young to death to save us. He is our Lord and in this faith I wish to live and die.”
Finally, here is a poem by one, the author of such dark novels as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy, who wished he could believe:
CHRISTMAS EVE, and twelve of the clock,
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel
“in the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
by Edward R. Kiunisala
September 4, 1971–SATURDAY, August 21, at about 9:15 p.m., barely seconds after the Liberal Party candidates for Manila’s elective posts had been officially proclaimed on jam-packed Plaza Miranda, two fragmentation, combat grenades suddenly exploded in what proved to be the most villainous, outrageous and shameful crime in the annals of local political violence. It was a night of national tragedy and infamy as democracy—Philippine style—bared itself in all its terrifying ugliness.
For one dark, demented, damning moment of history, time stopped as tens of thousands of televiewers all over the country watched in utter horror the mass slaughter at Plaza Miranda. Miraculously, all top Opposition leaders who were there managed to cheat death. But not one of the eight LP senatorial candidates escaped injury. Sen. Jovito Salonga, as of this writing, is still fighting for his life, although the others were already pronounced “out of danger.”
Also on the critical list is Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who declined to seek reelection to pursue his electoral protest against Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Sen. Gerardo Roxas, LP president, and his wife, Judy, were badly injured.
So were Constitutional Delegate Salvador Mariño, chairman of the Manila LP chapter, and Ramon Bagatsing, LP mayoralty candidate for Manila.
LP senatorial candidates Edgar Ilarde and John Osmeña were badly wounded. Their damaged legs nearly had to be amputated. Ilarde may not be able to walk for from six months to one year while Johnny may be bedridden for about four months. Ilarde’s right leg was severely fractured while John’s leg’s artery was severed and his leg bones splintered.
Rep. Ramon Mitra, another LP senatorial aspirant, suffered multiple leg and body injuries. A splinter went through his left breast muscles, ripping off flesh. But he is now out of danger along with the rest of the LP Senate bets—Eva Estrada Kalaw, Melanio Singson, Salipada Pendatun and Genaro Magsaysay, who all suffered various degrees of injuries.
But others on Plaza Miranda that night were not so lucky. Slaughtered were nine persons, including Manila Times photographer Ben Roxas. Some were mangled beyond recognition while others were dead on arrival at the hospital. The latest count showed that 96 others were injured that night.
Ramon Vecina, Free Press photographer, was also seriously wounded in that bloody night of the LP proclamation meeting.
“I am holding President Marcos personally responsibly for the brutal and senseless carnage that took place on Plaza Miranda,” muttered the LP boss, Sen. Roxas in his hospital bed.
“The Plaza Miranda incident has illustrated beyond doubt that there is not a safe place in the country where people may express their views without having to face the perils of assassination.
“I have only one message to leaders, followers and the electorate: Nothing will deter the LP nor dampen its determination to win the mandate of the people this election. We shall continue to fight for the right of our citizenry. I am grateful to the Almighty for those of us who were fortunate to have been spared.”
The gory incident happened so quickly no one among the victims knew what hit him. It took Manila police officers some two hours to know what went off on Plaza Miranda that night. The instant suspicion was that a bomb had been planted under the stage or had been lobbed in its direction from somewhere. Only after the grenade levers and pins were found did the authorities know the cause of the outrage.
Tragedy was farthest from the minds of the LP leaders when they ascended the Plaza Miranda stage that Black Saturday night on August 21. Of course, they were somewhat apprehensive of their safety, but such misgivings were not uncommon in public exposures in an election campaign. Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., LP secretary-general, Congressman Mitra and aides of Senator Osmeña had received threats over the telephone early that day, but all of them dismissed the threatening phone calls as the work of a crank.
Just the same, the LPs did not take any chances. Bagatsing sent his aides to secure the Plaza Miranda stage. Cesar Climaco, Manila’s new “garbage czar,” ordered the cleaning of Plaza Miranda that afternoon. Meanwhile, LP security officers kept an eagle eye on the stage to prevent sabotage. By about seven o’clock that night, a large crowd had already gathered on Plaza Miranda.
Former Sen. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo was originally requested to emcee the LP proclamation meeting, but he declined, so, Mariño took over. The local candidates were given three minutes each to deliver their speeches. An oppositionist crowd applauded each speaker thunderously. At about 9:10 p.m., all the local candidates had already spoken and the National Anthem was played.
The next part of the program was the proclamation of the LP’s local candidates in Manila. Roxas stood up and approached the battery of microphones. The photographers spread out to get a good view. FP photographer Vecina moved back from the stage, about five heads away to get a vantage shot. It was a great moment for the LP local candidates as Roxas, “by virtue of the powers” vested in him as head of the Liberal Party, proclaimed the official LP candidates for Manila’s elective positions.
As the local candidates, their hands raised high, beamed and smiled and acknowledged the lusty cheers of the audience, fireworks bathed the Plaza Miranda crowd with incandescence. There was a festive atmosphere as the pyro-technics burned and crackled. The local candidates happily returned to their seat and emcee Mariño started to speak again. But before he could finish the sentence, a fist-sized solid object hit the edge of the stage. Meanwhile all eyes were glued to the fireworks display. Somewhere, someone shouted, “Ibagsak ang mga tuta ni Marcos!” Almost simultaneously, the solid object which had hit the stage went off, ripping the wooden planks and blasting the people near it. FP photographer Vecina winced and fell and was buried by falling bodies.
At that moment, Mitra, who was talking to Roxas, felt shrapnel pierce his breast muscles. Recalling the threatening phone call, he ran. John Osmeña, seated to the right of Singson, embraced Singson and they both fell behind Salonga, who remained seated. The other LP senatorial aspirants dove for the floor. Roxas tried to run; his aide jumped on him to cover him.
Before Mitra could reach the stairs of the stage, another blast came, hitting Mitra from behind, throwing him off the stage to the ground near a six-by-six vehicle. All hell broke loose. Those on the stage scampered in all directions as did those on the ground. It was survival of the fittest! The weaker ones fell and were trampled underfoot.
In a matter of seconds, Plaza Miranda was empty; except for police officers and plainclothesmen—and the wounded and the dead. John Osmeña tried to sit up but later fell on the floor unconscious. Aides and bodyguards of top LPs along with police officers rushed to the stage and carried the wounded to places of safety. Rattan chairs were stacked up in heaps to make way for vehicles which would bring the victims to the hospitals.
Senator Osmeña and Singson were rushed to the FEU hospital.
Mitra and Salonga were brought to Medical Center Manila and Roxas and his wife to Makati Medical Center.
John Osmeña and Magsaysay were rushed to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital while Ilarde was brought to the Singian Clinic.
Senator Kalaw was taken to the De Ocampo Hospital and later that night transferred to the Chinese General Hospital.
Pendatun limped his way to an ABS-CBN truck which brought him to ABM Sison Hospital.
Other wounded victims were brought to PGH and De Ocampo Hospital.
About 10 minutes after the Plaza Miranda bloodbath, Climaco arrived and brought a semblance of order. Along with the police, he helped carry wounded onlookers and the dead to waiting vehicles to take them to hospitals. Our Vecina was unearthed from a pile of blood and dying persons. Recovering consciousness, Vecina, bleeding and weakened from loss of blood, clambered back to the stage and took some more shots. Exhausted, he asked to be brought to Medical Center Manila. While there, he took pictures of some of the Plaza Miranda victims. Then he again lost consciousness and was taken to the operating room.
Back at Plaza Miranda, MPD Chief Gerardo Tamayo arrived. With Climaco, Tamayo investigated the incident, at the same time ordering his men to look for clues. He also sought the help of bomb disposal experts from the army. About an hour after the blasts, Metrocom troops came and helped in restoring order and looking for clues. An hour and forty-five minutes later, President Marcos signed the order suspending the writ of habeas corpus and blaming the Communists for the bombings.
Police investigators found two grenade pins at a distance of two and a half meters from each other, with both pins about 17 meters from the stage. Two grenade levers were also found on the plaza. Outside of the levers and pins, no other clues were found. Sometime later, however, police officers found a witness who testified that he saw a man pull out a solid object from a bag and hurl it in the direction of the stage.
Since the time-lag between the blasts was only three seconds, the police theorized that two men, not just one, threw the grenades. It is impossible for one man in a sardine-packed crowd to throw two grenades in three seconds, said Tamayo. But the police were in no position to identify the criminals. First they thought a mad man did it, later they junked the idea.
If two men committed the heinous crime, the police theorized, then it was a planned criminal act. The timing of the grenade-throwing with the display of the fireworks indicated planning. The type of the grenades used, used for combat in Vietnam, and the way the grenades were thrown showed that the criminals were professionals, doing a professional job.
Meanwhile, media men, after a round of hospitals, sped to Malacañang where they were met by the First Lady, who reportedly showed them a report of a certain disgruntled major who said that something bad was going to happen that night. At that time, the President was closeted in his study room, preparing a statement on the Plaza Miranda tragedy. Little did anyone know that Marcos was readying the ground preparatory to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
When pandemonium broke loose at Plaza Miranda, American Ambassador Henry Byroade was in his bedroom about to retire. His staff rang him up to inform him of the incident. Meanwhile Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had attended a party at the Jai Alai, was on the way home to get his bullet-proof vest. He was scheduled to speak at the meeting at about two o’clock the following morning. On the way home, Aquino heard the tragic news on the radio. He sped home, grabbed a pistol, put on his bullet-proof vest and a combat jacket on top of it, then told his driver to take him to the hospitals where his wounded colleagues were confined. Aquino went up the Medical Center Manila, pistol in hand. Interviewed on the air, Aquino said that he hoped the criminal or criminals behind the Plaza Miranda carnage were mad men or demented persons because otherwise the Plaza Miranda crime meant the death of democracy.
For others throughout the country, it was a sleepless night. Lights were on in many homes in Greater Manila. People stayed glued to their radio or TV sets, listening to the latest developments. Salonga and Osmeña were on the critical list, Pendatun and Eva Estrada were already pronounced out of danger. Radio reports captured the screams and agonized cries of victims in emergency wards.
Of the LP senatorial candidates, Salonga got it worst of all. He had no time to run after the first blast. The second one caught him sitting down, with the grenade going off only a few meters away. Salonga’s left cheek was shattered and a shrapnel imbedded itself in his left eye. His right arm was broken, with three of his fingers cut off. Shrapnel went through his left leg. All told, Salonga suffered some 30 wounds of various sizes and depths all over his body.
Senator Osmeña, too, was critically wounded. After the first blast, Osmeña turned around to duck, but the second blast came too soon and he suffered wounds in the back and the left arm. Shrapnel went right through Serging’s lungs. He was bleeding profusely when his aides picked him up. Upon arrival at the hospital, Osmeña’s heart stopped. The doctors had to massage his heart to revive him.
Singson, who sat beside Salonga, was lucky. When John Osmeña embraced him, he fell; John got most of the shrapnel from the grenade blast.
After the first blast, Ilarde tried to sprint for safety but the succeeding blast caught him in the leg and he fell unconscious. Mrs. Kalaw dove for the floor but shrapnel hit her right ankle and another got imbedded in her back.
Of the Manila local candidates, Councilor Ambrosio Lorenzo got it worst. The first blast came while he was on the way to his seat. The second blast hit him while he was trying to find out what hit him and he fell on the stage floor. Shrapnel saturated his body; one hit his left eye. As of this writing, Lorenzo, like Salonga, is still fighting for his life. A police major picked him up sprawled on the floor, stunned and bleeding.
Manila LP mayoralty candidate Bagatsing was hit on the left cheekbone and in the right heel. He also suffered several shrapnel wounds in his left side and back. He was under sedation for three days. His doctors have taken him off the danger list.
Other Manila local candidates were luckier—they had gone back to their seats about three rows behind when the first blast came.
National shock followed the Plaza Miranda bombings.
The question uppermost in the minds of the people was, of course: Who committed the crime?
Some blamed student activists; others, lunatics. President Marcos was quick to put up the blame on “subversives” who received “moral and material support from a foreign source, guided and directed by a well-trained, determined and ruthless group.”
Later, Marcos charged Senator Aquino with coddling and financing the “subversives.” The Marcos blast against Aquino created suspicion that Aquino might be behind the Plaza Miranda tragedy but people refused to believe in the innuendoes against Aquino. If Aquino had known what was going to happen on Plaza Miranda that night, he would surely have tipped off Senator Kalaw, who is his first-degree cousin.
In an interview, Senator Kalaw denounced the President for shifting the blame for the Plaza Miranda outrage to Aquino. The President’s move, she said, worked to deflect attention from the real perpetrators of the crime. A social work expert, Kalaw could not understand why Marcos was more concerned over shifting the blame to Aquino than looking for the real criminals. The President’s actuations, said Kalaw, were simply not fitting for the President, who should act as the father of the nation and not like Marcos.
Former Congressman Singson argued against the possibility that the Huks or the New People’s Army was behind the Plaza Miranda massacre. The revolutionaries, he said, anchor their hope of reforms on the Opposition. If they wiped out the Opposition, they would be doing a disservice to their cause. It just doesn’t stand to reason!
But whoever are the perpetrators of the horrible crime at Plaza Miranda, they have done a professional job. Which means that an intelligent mind was behind it. Climaco theorizes that two trained teams undertook the Plaza Miranda bombings. The two grenade throwers, he said, were encircled by their accomplices to give them elbow room to hurl the grenades. In other words, he said, the Plaza Miranda crime was the result of a team effort.
As of this writing, the Manila police are still in the dark as to identities of the Plaza Miranda criminals. But whoever and wherever they are now, the death of nine innocent persons and the injury to 96 others will haunt their conscience for as long as they live—if they have any conscience at all. They not only killed nine of their countrymen and wounded close to a hundred others, but also inflicted an irreparable injury on Philippine democracy.
It will take a long time before Plaza Miranda, the symbol of free expression, will be as it used to be. No one will ascend the Plaza Miranda stage again without fearing for his life. How much of the militancy, the courage, the national pride and the spirit of the Filipino people have gone that Black Saturday at Plaza Miranda?
By Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.
August 28, 1971—“WATCHING them live,” said Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., “I wonder why I do it at all.” With a sweep of his right arm he had described an arc that took in, symbolically, the area below us. We were standing before a large picture window that commanded a handsome view of the Makati villages.
“President Marcos has threatened again to bring charges of subversion against me. It’s a bluff, but who knows?”
“Would he pull something as stupid as that?” I wondered. “Has he forgotten how the Yuyitung affair backfired in his face?” But then, Marcos is not a computer but a man and, therefore, capable of making errors, which do more harm to his victims than to himself because of his power. Senator Diokno called him the most dangerous threat to freedom in this country.
“A very dangerous man,” Aquino said.
“And the secret is not to be afraid.”
“And all for them!” he said, indicating once more the villages. “Do they care at all about what is happening outside of their houses and clubs?”
“I suppose they do,” I answered. “The miserable condition of the common people must be affecting their businesses adversely.”
I knew he did not mean caring in that personal sense, but it is nonetheless true that it is only in that sense that the businessman cares at all. Nothing wrong in that, of course. The most natural thing in the world is for a man to be concerned only with what he owns and what benefits him exclusively. That is the essence of the bourgeois. If he grumbles about the deplorable state of the nation, all he is really complaining about is that others of his social class are getting a disproportionately larger share of the national loot and only because they are more intimate with the politicians in power than he is. That is why any movement for social reform that relies in any significant degree on the propertied class for support will betray its program. The victory of such a movement will mean only a change of masters and a new vocabulary to mask the same old exploitation of the common man.
Only the proletariat is capable of effecting a radical change, a permanent improvement. The condition of the proletariat being that of total destitution with regard to material possessions, the working man may pin his loyalty and sympathy only on his equally suffering fellowmen and not on objects that he alone can enjoy. All the proletariat has is his comrades, with whom he shares material poverty and spiritual alienation. He alone is, therefore, capable of creating a new society free from contradictions and held together by the bond of virile fraternity such as is forged in battle and not by the constricting web of greed. Communism is not about the equal redistribution of money but about the total abolition of money itself—the very concept of it and the society it has spawned.
Such, at any rate, is the radical view.
“But they are not all like that,” he said, “or I would have given up long ago. Some of their children have left comfortable homes and secure futures to work for the cause of social reform. Have you seen the Holy Spirit girls who volunteered to tend to the needs of the demonstrators before Congress? If you see them, you regain your hope.
“There are others, the radicals. They seem to have quieted down. Do not be fooled. They are not yet beaten. There are many who, given the means….Young men, timid in school, but now they are in the mountains. There is something about holding a gun in your hand….”
“Frantz Fanon said somewhere that for the oppressed of the Third World to regain a sense of human dignity it is necessary to put a gun in their hands,” I said. “But, perhaps, they will scatter with the first shot.”
“Do not underestimate them.”
“I shouldn’t,” I said. “In Shanghai in 1927 communist cadres like the youthful Chou En-lai defeated the reactionary government even though at the outset of the hostilities most of their armaments were still in the possession of the police.”
“If the government cracks down on dissent, the Left will go underground.”
“You mean individual acts of terrorism? The repression will be even harsher and if you think that will arouse the upper classes against the government, you are sadly mistaken. If fascism surfaces in this country, the businessmen will rally to its support.”
“Probably big business.”
“Because they are all in debt to the government.”
“But the small businessmen are being ruined by the policies of the present government. We know with whom they will side.”
“Do we? The backbone of the reaction has, strangely enough, always been the ruined middle class. Instead of gravitating toward the proletariat as one would expect them to, history has shown that they have always preferred to side with the fascist reaction. The horror or emptiness, of a totally uncertain future is worse than the rigors of familiar poverty and police terror. Remember how General de Gaulle exploited that fear of nothingness after the Paris riots? The middle class quickly rallied to his standard. I’m not comparing de Gaulle with President Marcos.”
“A few months ago your father told me that the country simply wasn’t ripe for a revolution. Now I’m not so sure I agree with him.”
“I’m not sure about anything.”
“If that were the case with all of us, how could we continue to fight?”
“Yes, I sometimes think I do it out of habit myself,” he said, massaging a swollen wrist the result of an accident he had encountered as a result of one of those “things” he did that he knew would benefit chiefly those worthless ones in their flashy cars and mindless pursuit of pleasure.
Marxism is a mixture of determinism and voluntarism. As Lenin did in 1917, setting the precedent, the communist would split a society wide open even before its time was up—if he had the power.
Each day that passes brings a further worsening of the condition of the common people and a progressive narrowing of our political choices down to two: communism or the capitalist reaction, that is—fascism. There will come a time when men will have to choose either of these two and there will be no third alternative. There are no neutrals in wars and revolutions. “Those who are not with me are against me because their diffidence in joining me amounts to a criticism of my position, a criticism that can only benefit my enemies.” That is how the communist will reason. And it is true because the fascists benefit from the apathy of the people. Communism is dynamic. For it to thrive everyone who considers himself for it must serve it to the limits of his capacity and ability. Because it is truly popular, of the people, no one can avoid active involvement without forfeiting his role as a communist. But the fascists are content if the people are indifferent, so long as they pay their taxes and do not protest the frequent abuses of their civil rights.
To side with capitalism amounts to accepting responsibility for all iniquities perpetrated by that system. Capitalism meant the extermination of whole races that had stood in the path of its expansion. It means the inhuman exploitation of millions, hundreds of millions of Asians, Africans and Latin Americans. And the most galling part of it is that all this is carried out under the banner of democracy. All for the benefit of a few hundred families all over the world.
The Communist Practice
To side with the communists, on the other hand, one must accept responsibility for the starvation of the kulaks, the liquidation of eminent communists by the Soviet government, the betrayal of the communist cause in the Spanish Civil War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. A movie like Costa-Gavras’s The Confession raises once more the question that plagued the intellectuals of the immediate postwar period: Is it possible to serve the communist cause without having to condone some of its atrocious practices or must one serve blindly without scruples in order to avoid the charge of objective treason?
Arthur Koestler was one of the first to explore this problem. In his novel, the protagonist falsely confesses to crimes he had never committed against the Soviet government so as not to discredit that government before the world. If he had insisted on his innocence, no communist would have believed him. Only the capitalist press would have taken his side. They would have played up his opposition, and, thus, ultimately, he would be serving their purposes. He would have become, in fact though not in motivation, a traitor.
In the 1930s, when top Russian communists were arrested, tried and executed, the communist press enjoined all antifascists to refrain from protesting the apparent injustice done to these men who had served communism so well. Any criticism of the Soviet purges would only weaken the communist cause and shore up the fascist position, the argument went. “To criticize the Moscow Trials is to say that the fascists never intervened in Spain, that the capitalists never broke up strikes and murdered workers in the United States, that there is no such thing as imperialism.” That was the formula.
In The Confession, Artur London, on whose memoirs the movie is based, finally admits his guilt and foregoes his right to appeal the apparently unjust decision of the communist tribunal because his defense attorney has informed him that the arch-capitalist party in the United States has won the presidential election. Eisenhower is president of the United States and communists must do everything in their power to strengthen the communist camp in the coming contest for world domination. They can do this best by not questioning the decision of the tribunal. To do so would be tantamount to questioning the integrity of the Revolution and would only serve the imperialist cause.
In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, when the United States was girding its loins for imperialist adventures and Western Europe cowered in fear of the massive communist forces deployed along its borders, the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote an essay called “Humanism and Terror.” In it he sought to justify the mystifying character of communist justice. (In two previous articles, we have tried to show what this justice consists of.) In a situation fraught with danger, communism may be allowed to use any means to preserve itself since it is the last hope of humanity. Stalinist Russia was surrounded by deadly capitalist foes, principally Nazi Germany. To criticize the policies of Stalin amounted to treason since not only did it fail to change his policies, prompting Stalin to resort to ever more repressive measures which further unsettled the country, but it also weakened the government. The Nazi invasion of Russia showed that Stalin’s policy of forced industrialization was correct, no matter what the cost in human suffering. If Stalin’s critics had been allowed to govern Russia, they would have taken their time industrializing the only socialist state in the world, which would have consequently perished under the Nazi lance.
Now the question is raised, when are the communists going to stop using that line?
A few years ago, the armies of the Warsaw Pact occupied Communist Czechoslovakia and deposed a popular government for one subservient to the Soviet Union. The familiar reasons looked much too frayed along the edges from overuse and antifascists throughout the world have been at a loss to justify the invasion. Up to now I haven’t come across a good justification for it. It is fortunate that Communist China has emerged to represent communism in this part of the world. Unlike the Soviet Union, China has not up to the present abused its position. It has not invaded on the pretext of preserving the Revolution. It has not sacrificed foreign revolutionary movements for its own security. On the contrary, it has, whenever possible, committed itself to the revolutionary struggle everywhere in the world, from Africa to North Korea to Vietnam. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that one major communist country has, time and again, abused its privileged position in history. For the position of the communists is, indeed, privileged. Only they are justified to use violence, says Merleau-Ponty, since like surgeons they resort to bloodshed to save the patient, not to exploit or kill him. The capitalists, on the other hand, use violence as a means of exploiting men for the benefit of a favored few.
The time is not yet here when we will have to choose between these painful alternatives. But it isn’t far off. In the meantime, what we can do is to weaken tyranny with whatever means we have at hand. It is true that both political parties are fundamentally the same. Both serve the interests of the upper class, especially since their composition derives mostly from that class. But at the moment there is only one of the parties in power and the man who heads it has done more than any president before him to further fascism in this country. Never has the army been used so often to crush dissent. Tales of political assassination have become too rife to be dismissed as mere political gimmicks of the opposition. Perhaps, the present government is not half as bad as it is made out to be by its foes, but half is bad enough. And why take the risk? While one still can, one must do everything to cut it down to manageable size and nothing less than the defeat of its candidates can accomplish that. [This article was written before the opposition’s overwhelming victory in the 1971 senatorial election that came after the Plaza Miranda bombing.] Our liberties, such as they are, are what’s at stake. In issue is bourgeois democracy or One-Man Rule.
Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement?
March 20, 1971–WHATEVER happened to the list of Delinquent Oligarchs released by Malacañang in its frantic effort to project an image of President Marcos as the leader of a Revolt of the Masses against the Rich, working, idle or profligate? That the little Goebbels of the Military Kickback Complex would succeed in their propaganda gimmickry is too absurd to consider even for a moment. Marcos as Man of the Masses—who can swallow that? Only the Insecure Oligarchs were bothered, but only for a moment.
Just the same, the release of the list was a good thing. The people knew who, among the Rich, owed them—and how much. It should also have served to prod the honorable members of Congress to look into the alleged delinquency and enact remedial legislation to prevent its recurrence and salvage what could be salvaged of the government’s, that is, the people’s investment in the controversial enterprise.
This is to assume that the senators and representatives give a damn about what happens to the people’s money.
The question is: Do they?
So far, there has been only deafening silence and utter passivity on the part of the so-called servants of the people in Congress. Correction, please. The silence was not unanimous. A congressman, Gaudencio Beduya, delivered a speech “exposing” the state of the people’s investment in the Iligan Steel Mills, Inc. And a senator, Salvador Laurel, came out in denunciation—that’s right, in denunciation—of the Malacañang release of the list of rich debtors of the people. It would weaken them, the senator said, in effect. The debtors, not the people, that is.
Other members of Congress have kept their mouths shut. Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had denounced the government investment in a new sugar central, AIDSISA, and moved the Senate to a Blue Ribbon investigation of the case, had nothing to say this time. Cat got his long tongue? Sen. Jovito Salonga, usually so eloquent in defense of the people’s interests, was similarly silent. Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, champion of citizen’s rights, had nothing to say, either. And so forth and so on. Yet, the issue is a grave one. As the FREE PRESS said in an editorial:
“Since neither the Socialists nor the Communists are in power, Socialism, with or without the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, remains a dream, and we must make the most of what we have, a non-Socialist regime, by making it as progressive as possible. In its most advanced sector, the economy is Capitalist in nature and motivation. Capitalism and Oligarchy are, however, inseparable, one leading, inevitably, to the other; Capitalism ends in the concentration of the capital in the hands of a few as the big eliminate the small in the name of free enterprise and competition. But under whatever regime, delinquency in the payment of obligation is not to be tolerated, it is generally agreed. Debts must be paid, whether by Oligarchs or the most modest of entrepreneurs. The alternative is total economic dislocation. President Marcos may or may not effect a reconciliation with the Oligarchs, ‘oppressive’ or ‘enlightened,’ to suit his purposes and conveniences, but has he any alternative but to go after and collect from bad debtors who owe government financial institutions, that is, the Filipino people, so much and have not settled their accounts for so long? If he cannot do this, what good is he as President? Is he good for anything at all?”
In the face of the failure of the President to do his duty and protect the interests of the people, what will the honorable members of Congress do? Will they just do nothing themselves? If they do, the people should not be blamed if they thought their government utterly hopeless, that is, utterly indifferent to their welfare.
What should the people do if Democracy—Philippine Style—is finally exposed as merely an Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement, to protect each other’s vested interests, that the unspoken rule in House and Senate as well as in the Executive Department is “You lay off my oligarch and I’ll lay off yours”?
What should the people do, then? Still go on believing in “democracy,”? still go on just voting—for what?
WILL THERE BE MARTIAL LAW?
By Napoleon G. Rama
January 30, 1971—His theme was sobriety and unity in the hour of crisis; his delivery, cool and slow; his tone, soft and supplicating. But the words were intimidating.
“If violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if there should be terrorism, if there is assassination, I will have no other alternative but to utilize the extraordinary powers granted me by our Constitution. These powers are the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus under which [suspension] any man can be arrested and detained any length of time; and the power to declare any part or the whole of the Philippines under martial law. These powers I do not wish to utilize and it is for this reason I appeal to our people tonight.”
With just this one paragraph President Marcos spoiled what could have been one of his best speeches, certainly the most impressive TV performance since he spoke before the US Congress.
All throughout the first 20 minutes of his speech—a persuasive plea for restraint and understanding—he displayed style and coolness under fire, until he struck the jarring chords. Thus, the newspaper headlines the next day couldn’t help but scream the frightening words: “martial law.” Instead of calm, the speech succeeded in spreading alarm throughout the breadth and width of the nation.
Weeks after he made the speech and after the jeepney drivers ended their strike, political quarters, campuses, coffee shops and wherever people gathered were still abuzz with the dreaded words—articulated sometimes in anger but mostly in fear.
School tots come home asking their mommies what’s this “martial law” their teachers were talking about in grave and fearful tones.
Opposition leaders bristle with counter-warnings and charges of goon mentality against the President.
Student leaders answered him with threats of larger and more violent demonstrations.
Religious leaders chide the President and invite him to look into what ails the nation, at the rampant social injustice that spawns social unrest.
Constitutional Convention delegates feverishly hold emergency meetings to plot out their moves in case martial law is declared.
For all the efforts of the President (buried in the inside pages of the dailies) to quiet the anxieties and allay fears, the nervous talk goes on. There has been, said the President, a misreading of his statement. He had stressed certain conditions before he would declare martial law. The present drift of events, he now said, does not lead to those conditions.
The reason he mentioned martial law in his speech, he explained, was to warn radicals about the consequences of their acts, to stop further violence which, he said, was about to crop up.
He branded as irresponsible the threat of LP Congress leaders to boycott the sessions of Congress if Marcos declared military rule in the country or any part of it.
“Ridiculous” was the word he used to describe speculations that he would manipulate the present situation to bring about the conditions which would justify the imposition of martial law.
What probably upset the President more than anything else was the damning reaction of leaders of his own party.
The proclamation of martial law, declared the top NP leader in the House of Representatives, Speaker Jose B. Laurel, would be “an admission of weakness” on the part of the government.
“It would seem that the situation has become uncontrollable and unless martial law is proclaimed the government cannot function,” he said.
The Speaker pointed out that although under the Constitution the President may proclaim martial law without first getting the consent of Congress, he has to meet certain constitutional requirements.
“Legally, the issuance of a proclamation on martial law may be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Laurel said.
In harsher tones, he called President Marcos’s “veiled threats” untimely and uncalled for.
He said that there are many “fence-sitters” now merely critical of the Administration.
“The moment martial law is declared,” he said, “and they suspect that they are on the list of people to be picked up by the military, they will go to the hills.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Arturo Tolentino commented:
“Definitely, there is no justification yet to impose martial law.”
In a meeting with his Congress leaders in the Palace, the President’s talk of martial law drew a similar reaction from NP solons: no good! Several NP congressmen and senators warned the President that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus might only worsen the already critical situation.
Sen. Leonardo Perez, one of the Marcos stalwarts in the Senate, said that military rule would be ill-advised for the moment.
In a hurriedly convened caucus, the LPs came up with a plan to boycott the session of Congress if President Marcos declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus. They elaborated that even if they went on leave, they will continue to discharge their duties and responsibilities….
In the mountains?
Sen. Gerry Roxas, LP president, said that the LP solons will continue to fiscalize the government outside the halls of Congress and will resume attending the session only upon restoration of the normal process of civil government. They will refuse to be identified with the government the moment it declares martial law.
Read the LP manifesto:
“WE BELIEVE THAT A DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW OR THE SUSPENSION OF THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS INTENDED TO ELIMINATE ALL OPPOSITIONS; TO SUPPRESS DISSENT; FREE SPEECH, AND FREE PRESS, ALL CIVIL LIBERTIES, AND INSTALL A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP THROUGHOUT THE LAND.”
On the other hand, several delegates to the Constitutional Convention voiced their determination to continue holding pre-convention meetings and convention sessions, once opened formally, and risk life and limb in defense of the Constitutional Convention.
The most interesting comment came from churchmen. Isabelo de los Reyes, supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, said that the President must have gotten the wrong advice, hence, his gross indiscretion.
He warned that the imposition of military rule would only “boomerang” on the President.
Fr. Horacio de la Costa, historian and former provincial of the Society of Jesus, said that the establishment of military rule would subvert the Constitutional Convention and only invite the very perils that the President would want to avoid—anarchy and communism.
Bishop de los Reyes suggested that the President unbend and mix with the people without displaying military force, to “show that he trusts his own people and that his own people trust him.”
The bishop was for attacking the disease and not the symptoms. He said that no democratic nation could subsist without social justice.
“Lack of social justice causes social unrest,” he argued.
“While President Marcos exalts the duties of the people towards the Republic,” he added, “young students and jeepney drivers exalt human rights and believe that social victory, permanent social victory, will come only through loyalty towards principles, justice, truth, sacrifice—and constancy in sacrifice.”
He went on:
“While the police and the army are ready to kill but not to die for a salary, our students and jeepney drivers, with a common devotion to social justice, are ready to fight and die side by side for their principles.
“This is no time for mediocrity anywhere in the government.
“Let our President show his grandeur not by words but by deeds; by showing himself a statesman who believes, speaks, and acts without anger to help the people recover from a long and somber period of economic desperation.”
Father de la Costa expressed concern over the coming Constitutional Convention. If the President, he said, opted for military rule, it could nullify all chances of the Constitutional Convention drawing up the radical but peaceful reforms that are needed and instead invite anarchy.
The Jesuit scholar, speaking before a seminar for newsmen, said that one of the immediate national objectives should be to ensure the holding of the Constitutional Convention, scheduled to open June 1 if not earlier. The imposition of martial law at this time is not necessary and will make the attainment of this objective impossible.
“The Convention must open under conditions that will permit it, in freedom, to at least initiate the radical structural changes in our government and society which will permit rapid progress towards both social justice and socioeconomic development,” he said.
Should martial law be imposed, the Convention could fall by the wayside, he warned, and another avenue for peaceful dialogue, for reaching a national consensus for reforms, would thereby be closed.
The press and other media and citizen groups should move together to impress on President Marcos the disastrous consequences of military government, the Jesuit priest added.
He forecast that if martial law came, it would polarize the people and could lead to anarchy, authoritarian rule, or even, possibly, a communist takeover. The repression implicit in martial law will effectively block the kind of national dialogue that is needed, he said.
The principal student organizations and adult citizen groups should be invited by the press, radio and TV to clarify both their thinking and their public statements and the meaning, the objectives, the advisability or the necessity of revolution, he suggested.
President Marcos’s opponent in the last elections, Sen. Sergio Osmeña Jr., warned that martial law might be “the trigger that could spark a bloody revolution.” The threat of martial law would make a bigger mess of the national economy already in a shambles. Martial law “would make more unfavorable the climate for business and capital, thereby aggravating the serious economic difficulties now confronting the country.”
Osmeña damned the brutal action taken by government troops against the demonstrating students. Granting, he said, that the explosions were caused by infiltrators, did they constitute sufficient provocation for the government troops to act as they did?
“It would have been enough for them to use tear gas to disperse the crowd,” he said. “But they went much further than that, as if their being in uniform and having guns gave them the license to kill at the slightest excuse.”
Indeed, the most intriguing feature of the Plaza Miranda incident where four were killed during the jeepney driver-student demonstration was the use of Armalites by rampaging government troops—not just to disperse but to gun down student demonstrators who were already on the run.
It was a ruthless departure from the agreed and civilized formula of employing truncheons or tear gas which proved so effective in the demonstrations middle of last year. This time, it seems, there was a deliberate plan to crush demonstrations by brutal force and terrorism—to give the demonstrators a lesson and a preview of what would happen in future demonstrations?
It was a peaceful demonstration until late in the afternoon when a pillbox was exploded somewhere in Plaza Miranda. This was followed by shots fired into the sky. At this stage, everyone was scampering out of Plaza Miranda, seeking cover. In a jiffy, national government troops, replacing the Manila policemen, invaded the plaza. In five minutes, or just before the troops armed with Armalites poured into Plaza Miranda, both the students and the on-lookers had emptied the plaza and spilled into Quezon Boulevard and the side streets. TV cameras showed that the troops were not there just to disperse the crowd but to give chase to demonstrators running for their lives away from the plaza.
A TV replay showed a soldier aiming and shooting at demonstrators who were no longer in Plaza Miranda. On the streets nearby the soldiers were engaging in mopping up operations, not to scatter a defiant crowd but, it seems, to hunt and shoot down those running away from the demonstration site. The scene was undistinguishable from a war operation in Vietnam: soldiers in single file, in crouching position, ears and eyes alert, trigger-happy fingers ready to shoot at the slightest noise or motion of the enemy.
But there is a difference. In Vietnam, government and American soldiers carry Armalites only in battle or mopping up operations. They don’t use the terrible weapon for police work—as did our troopers at Plaza Miranda.
Foreigners were shocked to see Armalite-carrying soldiers employed by the national government to break demonstrations by students who were not even armed. Why did the government abandon the civilized manner of controlling demonstrators in favor of the monstrous method? Why were truncheon-bearing soldiers conspicuously absent in that Plaza Miranda demonstration?
What is Malacañang up to?
It’s now evident that the net result of the President’s veiled threat of imposing martial law has alienated many of his political allies, if not the whole nation. None of his top lieutenants in the party has come up endorsing the presidential statement. Everyone of them thought the President made a costly tactical blunder in making such a threat, despite his cushioning conditions for suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law. Worse, even the moderates who frown upon violent demonstrations are having second thoughts. Many of them are gravitating toward the radical group, the extremists.
The impression conveyed is that the President will resist reforms, hence the idea of martial law to defend the status quo— Marcos style. In political quarters, the martial law idea is seen as a Marcos formula for perpetuating himself in office—at all costs! All are agreed that, as things are, neither the President nor the First Lady can hope to stay in Malacañang after 1973, even if they succeeded in rigging the Constitutional Convention into drawing up a constitution permitting an expansion of his term or succession by the First Lady to his office. If they can’t stay in Malacañang beyond 1973 by popular election, then the only remedy is to place the whole country under a military dictatorship, with Marcos the dictator, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
That is, to stay in power not by ballot but by bullet.
If the President entertained such a notion, he would be smart to drop it. Military rule would need the support of some segment of the population to maintain itself. As things stand now, almost everyone is against the idea of martial law. You can’t just defy the whole nation and survive. The armed forces would carry out orders to fight certain segments of the population but not the whole population. When ordered to terrorize the nation and repress the rights of all on flimsy grounds, the armed forces would surely think twice before obeying such orders. It is doubtful that the majority of the military brass warms up to the idea of martial law.
The loyalty of the military men to the President is still to be tested. The defection of a Philippine Military Academy instructor, Lieutenant Corpus, should give an inkling of the shaky hold of the Establishment on the military brass. It’s significant that after Lieutenant Corpus defected, the President felt compelled to order a loyalty check in the armed forces, including a cloak-and-dagger once-over of the headquarters of the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary.
A government by martial law must be premised on indubitable loyalty of the military to the ruler decreeing the martial law and substantial popular support. Hitler and Mussolini had such loyalty and support. And the fact is, the President himself is not quite sure of the loyalty of the armed forces when the chips are down—and certainly not the support of the people.
Revolt of the Masses—Marcos Style
By Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.
A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcize this spectre; Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
Two things result from this fact.
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be itself a Power.
II. It is time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.
—From the communist manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich (just call me “Fred”) Engels
January 30, 1971—A SPECTRE is haunting the Philippine oligarchy: the spectre of the Revolt of the Masses led by no less than the President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, the biggest oligarch of them all, according to the opposition, not to mention close friends, who add, however, that since he has amassed a fortune which three generations of Marcoses cannot spend, he desires now to serve the nation.
All the powers of the Establishment, all vested interests should enter into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre; owners of public utilities, sugar centrals and estates, mines, cement factories, oil companies, banks, etc., as well as the Fourth Estate and the CIA.
To this end, one of these Powers has gathered in “that tall building in the suburbs”—the publishers and editors of the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines—to vilify the Marcos administration and bring it down through a series of “pooled editorials.”
The debauchment of the currency, political terrorism on a scale and of a virulence never reached before, the deterioration of public order, the utter loss of confidence in the institutions of the republic on the part of the common people have all been blamed on President Marcos by these conspirators. Two things have resulted from their efforts.
I. The universal opinion is that Marcos is the worst president this nation has ever had.
II. Anyone who says a good word for the President damages his reputation irreparably.
It is high time that this fairy tale of Marcosian malevolence is shown for what it is: a vicious lie started by certain vested interests who would bend the President to their corrupt will. For this purpose, President Marcos has come out with a declaration of war on the Oligarchy.
“It is now time to fight the pressure groups and the oligarchs in the name of the people,” said the President. “There are too many inequities. The rich continue to grow richer and the poor continue to grow poorer. I will see to it that my remaining three years will be devoted to removing these inequities.”
He confessed to having compromised with the oligarchs in the past. He had thought that the rich could be counted on to help in the development of the nation, to give it the industrial base without which it could never pull itself out of the quagmire of feudal poverty and stagnation and the condition of an economic colony of the industrial states. But all that is past! The President said he had finally realized that nothing can be expected of the rich except progressive greed and an inexorable instinct for monopoly. Conscience, it seems, is one luxury the rich cannot afford to have.
If it was a blinding vision that converted Saul of Tarsus from a pagan inquisitor on the trail of fugitive Christians into Saint Paul, it was a brownout plunging Greater Manila into a darkness only relieved by a full moon just five minutes before President Marcos was to deliver a speech on the crippling jeepney strike that transformed “the richest man in Asia”—as his enemies call him—into a protector of the common people, the leader, as he would like to style himself, of a popular revolution from the top. “Revolution from the top,” an old slogan used with no effect during last year’s student riots, will become a reality at last!
Convinced that the brownout was not an accident but contrived by the Lopezes, who own the controlling stock of the Meralco, to humiliate him and exacerbate the tensions generated by a seemingly insoluble strike—which he suspected was inspired and financed by the same party—President Marcos publicly pointed at the Lopezes an accusing finger, calling them the most malevolent of the oligarchs who are strangling the common people with high prices.
In the darkness, before a dead microphone, what he had wanted was not light but electricity which would give him the voice to reach his people, for whom he was no longer the President of the Republic but a dangerous nuisance they would have to endure for three awful years more because he has the armed forces at his beck and call.
The increasing cost of living is responsible for the credibility gap, the President is aware. He insists, however, that the blame be not placed on him. True, he had devalued the peso, but it was the increase in Meralco rates that started the spiraling of prices.
The Lopezes, he said, had tried to intimidate him into approving several projects of dubious advantage to the nation. One of these would give them a monopoly of this country’s oil supply. They had threatened, if he did not accede to their request, to launch a vehement campaign in the media they own to discredit him before the nation.
(Vice-President Lopez resigned from the Marcos Cabinet. The Department of Agriculture, which he had charge of, is one of the few departments that exudes a good smell. But he had to go—and he did.)
Labor groups, said the President, have been clamoring for a rollback of the new Meralco rates—“one of the major causes for the spiraling of prices of all other prime commodities.” He has, therefore, ordered a restudy of the Public Service Commission decision granting the Meralco increased rates up to 54 percent over the previous rates.
Emilio Abello, chairman of the board of directors of the Meralco, criticized the President’s move for a retrial of the Meralco case.
“The President should know that under our system of the tripartite separation of powers and under a rule of law, the President of the Republic should not directly or indirectly interfere in the free and untrammeled exercise by the Supreme Court of its powers under the Constitution.”
If the trade unions are really intent on rolling back the Meralco rates, said Abello, “they should ask the President to roll back the rate of exchange from over P6 to $1 to the previous rate of P3.90 to $1, and we will immediately also roll back our present increased rates to what they were before the floating rate.”
President Marcos said that the favorable PSC decision on the Meralco case was achieved by bribery. The Meralco, which has an income of P93 million annually, pays only 25% on its income instead of 75% because the Lopezes were able to have a bill passed in Congress requiring the Meralco to pay only that comparatively small amount, said the President.
Labor, the President went on, has answered his call to arms and has rallied to his side. Labor leaders submitted a resolution encouraging the fight against the “oligarchs.” The resolution, according to the President, clearly proves just where the sympathies of labor truly lie—with him!
The next day, however, the President was criticized by the labor leaders for “giving a slant to the resolution” they had given him.
“We are not for anybody,” said Roberto S. Oca, president of the Pinagbuklod na Manggagawang Pilipino. The workers had been invited to the Palace and they could not refuse, said Oca. “As union men,” Oca went on, “we would be untrue to our cause if we didn’t support any effort for the uplift of the groaning workers.”
The unions, he said, are not only interested in rolling back the new Meralco rates but also the price of fuel and other products as well. The President, said Oca, even promised to go after businesses supposedly owned by his “cronies.”
“If the President reneges on his promise,” Oca warned, “then the workers will join the activists in the streets.”
The labor leader concluded by saying, “I will never allow myself and labor to be made an instrument of President Marcos to put down the Lopezes. I am closer to Vice-President Lopez than to anybody else.”
Cipriano Cid, national president of the Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions, and of the Lapiang Manggagawa sa Filipinas, denounced Malacañang’s efforts to use the labor groups to serve its own selfish purposes, as Cid put it.
“The practice of professional labor leaders who flop over to the politicians whenever an opportunity arises to publicly declare their ready subservience is a highly condemnable practice which has retarded the progress of labor all these years,” said Cid.
“If the trade unions and labor leaders had noted deterioration of any matter prejudicial to the workers economically or socially, they could have spoken without waiting to be called and be used for purposes other than their own.
“They had to use President Marcos and Malacañang as a forum for their traditional subservience to politicians and government officials at the sacrifice of their cause and their own dignity and independence.
“No wonder Filipinos and foreigners, particularly Americans, feel they can use Filipino unions and their leaders as doormats.”
Cid informed Secretary Allegedly of Labor Blas Ople that he was aware of Malacañang’s “efforts to promote and continue dividing the labor front by the formation of multiple labor centers with the support of the President and the Labor Department.” For labor to be effective in its demands, it must be united, he said. But the Marcos administration has made it a policy to establish many centers of authority in the labor movement.
“We do not deny any damn fool’s right to form and organize any and all kinds of unions to his heart’s content if this would satisfy his vanity and his ends but not with the open support of the President and his labor secretary,” Cid concluded.
Unfazed by labor’s repudiation of his “revolution,” the President declared that he would fight the cartels and monopolies “to the finish.”
“It is high time that we did something about them. And we are now moving against these business and political empires for the good of the state.”
It was not desire for revenge but the interests of the people that motivated his “revolts,” according to the President.
“I did not ask for this fight. I am a patient man but I will not run from a fight, especially from those who seek to further their own selfish interests at the expense of all, particularly of the poor.”
President Marcos vowed that he would end once and for all the control of big sectors of the media by vested interest groups. These groups cannot be made to account for their actions, according to the President, since they control so much of the press, radio and television. There is no way to bring their anomalies to public notice.
“This only proves my earlier statements that it is dangerous for any single man or group to own such a substantial portion of the media in the country, without having to account for it to the people.”
The Roces and Prietos are not only in the lumber industry, the movie business, real estate and racing but also in the publishing business, with the Manila Times, the Daily Mirror, Taliba, Women’s Magazine, and in radio and television.
The Elizaldes are not only in sugar, rope, rhum, steel but also in publishing, with the Evening News and The Sun, and in radio and television.
Hans Menzi is in zippers, fruit, and has just gotten a huge loan from the government or a government guarantee of one for a paper mill or something—and is also in publishing, with Manila Daily Bulletin and Liwayway.
The Sorianos have beer, ice cream, soft drinks, Bislig, and so forth and so on—and also the Philippines Herald and Channel 13.
And there is President Marcos’s own close associate, Roberto Benedicto, who is not only in this and that but also in television, having acquired for himself and others (?) at something like P10 million the formerly Lopez-owned Channel 9.
Not only the Lopezes but also these would come under the presidential classification of groups that “cannot be made to account for their actions, since they control the media,” with “no way to bring their anomalies to public notice,” should they be guilty, one might add, of anomalies. There is the Department of Justice, of course, which the Presidnet could order to go after them, as he has done in the case of the Lopezes, but this is not the time to quibble with the President and his war against the oligarchs.
“Down with the oligarchs!”
To be precise, “Down with the oppressive oligarchs!” For President Marcos makes a distinction between mere oligarchs and “oppressive” oligarchs, a distinction, however, which escapes one, for what is an oligarch if not oppressive? Where would be the profit, where would be the power and the glory in being an oligarch if one did not exploit the advantages of one’s position? One might as well be a diabolist who did not go for the Black Mass or would have nothing to do with Satan. An oligarchy is government by the rich few, of the rich few and for the rich few and must necessarily be oppressive of the impoverished many. The rich are either oligarchs, and, therefore, oppressive, or they are not oligarchs at all, merely people with a lot of money. Concentrations of wealth in a few tend, however, to further concentration of wealth in ever fewer, that is, toward monopolies and cartels, and President Marcos, forgetting his distinction between mere oligarchs and “oppressive” oligarchs, announced that he would extend the Revolt of the Masses that he led to bring down monopolies and cartels outside of the Lopez economic empire. He would subject to government investigation oil companies, rumored to be operating as a cartel, that is, a conspiracy against the consumers, keeping prices up through price-fixing and suppression of competition. He would deal similarly with such public utilities as the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company, which had increased its rates like Meralco, and airlines like Toda’s Philippine Air Lines, and the shipping lines and bus companies, presumably.
The Lopez brothers do not owe any government financial institution nor do they enjoy any government guarantee for their loans, but other “Oligarchs” are up to their eyeballs in government guarantee. Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. has furnished the Free Press with a list of those who enjoy government guarantees of loans in the tens and hundreds of millions of pesos. Among them is the Negros group which recently acquired the Esso fertilizer plant through a huge government guarantee. And there is the Elizalde Steel Rolling Mills, Inc., which enjoys a government guarantee of a loan in the tens of millions of pesos. And the Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, Inc., which, also according to the senator, enjoys a government guarantee of five hundred million or half a billion pesos! These are completely at the mercy of the Marcos administration. Any complaint, for instance, of undue increase in the price of fertilizer or discriminatory conduct on the part of the fertilizer company should bring down upon the head of the management the wrath of the Leader of the Revolt against the Oligarchs—Oppressive Style.
Complaints against the price of steel, which is so essential to the industrialization of the country, should lead to quick and ruthless presidential action against the Elizalde Steel Rolling Mills and Iligan Integrated Steel Mills.
“Bethlehem Steel Gives in to Nixon: Price Cut Ok’d.”
It can happen here under the new Marcos dispensation.
And naturalized Chinese who control the food supply have been designated by the President as special targets of investigation. In other words, watch out, Antonio Roxas Chua and others—however much you might have contributed to President Marcos’s campaign for reelection! This is the new Marcos and no “oppressor” of the people will be spared.
“X-Y-Z” should tremble before the wrath to come.
Encouraging the President, “a majority party congressman urged President Marcos to expand his crackdown on economic oligarchy to include giant private corporations in which the government has substantial investments,” according to an Evening News report last week.
“Rep. Gaudencio Beduya (N, Cebu) said he had in mind private firms in which the government has sunk hundreds of millions of pesos in investments with very little hope of at least recovering them.”
The handwriting on the wall?
Is the “revolution from the top” finally here?
With such a revolution going on, President Marcos, assured of the support of the broad masses of the people, as the communist jargon goes, would no longer need a huge military establishment in order to maintain his establishment. There would be no need to spend P700 million a year for the armed forces. Against whom would they be defending this regime? Huks would be defecting to the government side as the Marcos-led Revolt of the Masses becomes even more revolting to the Oligarchy. The money saved by reducing drastically the army budget could go into the massive implementation of land reform, finally liberating the toiling peasants from their ancient bondage to feudalism as practiced by some of the President’s best friends.
“Arise, ye wretched of the earth, and follow the Leader!” (The President, not the magazine.) “You have nothing to lose but your change.
“You have a world to win!”
Then comes the dawn.
Malacañang vs. Meralco
by E. R. Kiunisala
It’s a “Fight to the Finish” Between President Marcos and The Brothers Lopez.
January 30, 1971–IT WAS the surprise of surprises—it came like a bolt out of the blue, setting the country all agog, leaving politicians and businessmen on tenterhooks.
Until then, nobody thought that the six-year old political marriage between Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos and the Lopez brothers, Eugenio, Sr., and Fernando, the Vice-President, would ever be dissolved. After all, the common belief was: what politics has joined together, not even the public interest can put asunder.
But the political divorce is now a fait accompli and it is fast developing into a full-scale war between Malacañang and Meralco, the financial bastion of the Lopezes. Malacañang has opened fire at the Meralco and the latter fired back in kind.
A “fight to the finish,” declared Marcos.
“So be it” might well be the reply of the Lopezes.
January 23, 1971–THOSE who lived through the Japanese Occupation, and that includes Pres. Ferdinand Marcos himself, know what a total horror it was, how people were tortured and heads cut off on mere suspicion of resistance to Japanese military rule—and how it did not discourage resistance. Everybody was a guerrilla, or claimed he was.
President Marcos keeps hinting at the imposition of military law on the Filipino people when he does not hint at the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. With the suspension of the writ, President Marcos could order the arrest of anyone and keep him or her in prison or in a concentration camp at his pleasure—that is, indefinitely. With the imposition of martial law, that is, the establishment of a military dictatorship, “Congress might as well close up,” as one congressman has observed. And the courts might as well close up, too, for Marcos would have absolute power. The independence of Congress and the Judiciary would be a thing of the past. Marcos’s rule would be absolute. He would be king.
Is the fate in store for the Filipino people to live under the sovereign will of “King Ferdinand”—and “Queen Imelda”?
As noted in the article beginning on page 2, the demonstrations in the United States have been marked by violence which makes the demonstrations here models of law and order by comparison. A magazine, Scanlans, features in one of its issues “Guerrilla Warfare in the U.S.A.,” and presents, in a most graphic fashion, the almost countless acts of sabotage, dynamiting, attacks on persons in authority and other acts of war against the government and the Establishment it is supporting—yet the American president, Richard Nixon, has never ventured to speak of the possibility of suspending the writ or imposing martial law. Were he to do so, he would be promptly impeached and removed from office.
Why does President Marcos keep on talking about suspending the writ or imposing martial law? One would think he could hardly wait to do so. And what good would that do? What good would that do him? Never mind what good it would do the country, but what good wold to do him? Having imposed martial law and become a dictator, how could he ever leave Malacañang and rejoin a people finally free of his rule? He must be a dictator for life to be secure.
He’d never be safe otherwise, no more than the Japanese—what was his name?—who headed the Kempetai could have lived with any sense of security among Filipinos once the Japanese forces had been disarmed. As a matter of fact, the Marcos Administration is reaching the point of no return to a democratic regime, for with so many young Filipinos killed merely for demonstrating against the manifest injustices of the government, how safe would Marcos & Co. be when no longer in power? Could Marcos afford to be no longer in Malacañang if more of the young should be slaughtered?
Was it necessary or wise to arm government forces with Armalites to maintain order during the demonstration in Plaza Miranda last week? Armalites are used in war. (The Americans use them in their war in Vietnam.) Has Marcos declared war on demonstrators, whose right to demonstrate he continually affirms—after all, it is a constitutional right and he is supposed to uphold the Constitution—that he must have his forces armed with Armalites when they confront the demonstrators?
Is there a war on?
The British, confronted with rampaging Chinese Communists in Hong Kong at the height of the Cultural Revolution, kept their cool. They sent police with only truncheons to meet the mob. If the mob should break through the police lines, it would be met with police armed with tear gas and riot guns. Only if the demonstrators should be able to overwhelm the second police contingent would the government give them the works. Armalites are the works—and the Marcos regime resorted to their use last week, killing four and wounding many others—almost as a matter of course.
After “Black Wednesday,” military rule and a Marcos dictatorship would seem to be an inevitable development. The further use of Armalites against demonstrators and the slaughter of more who cannot stomach the Marcos Administration would make it certain.
What would life under Marcos dictatorship be like—and its political and other consequences of the Republic?
With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be “polarized.” the Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded “misguided elements” (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.
Marcos, as a former guerrilla leader, should know how the Japanese failed to stop the Resistance against their rule. The more atrocities the Japanese committed, the more Filipinos they tortured and killed—the more joined the Underground. It became a matter of honor to do something against the oppressors, whether it be merely to contribute money to the guerrillas or to commit some act of sabotage against the government if not actually to go to the mountains and take up arms against the regime. Filipinos in tremendous numbers found they were not afraid to die for freedom. They were suddenly free from fear. Marcos himself got a lot of medals for not being afraid, and many more showed the same lack of fear though they got no medals for it. The country became one vast concentration camp except when men dared to be free.
Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would “forever” be?
Our republican institutions suffer from corruption but they do guarantee certain civil liberties—like freedom from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial and the right to demonstrate peaceably against the government for redress of grievances and to write an editorial like this. The denial of such liberties in all-too-many cases does not argue against the goodness of the institutions. Because there are thieves does not make the law against theft a bad one but only makes enforcement of the law more necessary than ever. Under our republican institutions we enjoy certain liberties, to repeat—if not too much economic progress. Justice is often mocked, true, but under a military dictatorship, there would be no justice at all, no liberty at all, and even less progress than ever. The entire economy would be organized into a government corporation run by Marcos & Co., and one has just to contemplate how Nawasa, the Philippine National Railways and other government corporations are run to know how the people would suffer under such a regime.
Only Marcos & Co. would profit from martial law. They should. They would be the law. The rest of us would be mere subjects—or outlaws.
Those who wish the President well should advise him to stop talking about martial law. Whatever he and his friends get out of it—would it really be worth it?