To Be A Woman!
February 7, 1986–THERE has never been anything like it in Philippine history: a woman telling the machos of business and industry to do what she is doing, to stand up to the injustices against which they have been content merely to complain. That the economy is being ruined, has been ruined, from which they happily drew so much profit in the past; that the system under which they prospered is in dire danger of total collapse and eventual replacement by one that would have no place for them is evident to them. Free enterprise, that holy of holiest in their minds, is doomed by crony capitalism. And one with any sense of morality, of human right and dignity, can only recoil from government by, for, and of one man clearly determined to maintain his rule at whatever cost to the nation. But it took a woman to do what a man, or men, should have been doing: Fight! Being a man was sadly inadequate. One had to be something else. Be a woman — like her!
Said a foreign observer as applause interrupted her speech at the Manila Intercontinental Hotel:
“You may not agree with her program but you can smell the honesty!” She doesn’t smell, as the regime she would replace does, but “smell the honesty!”
“It is like a religious experience,” said an otherwise cynical observer during another speech of hers, this time at the Manila Hotel before more than 2,000 — a speech preceded by a standing ovation, interrupted by 55 bursts of applause during its course, then ending with another ovation. “Jubilation and pride” filled the men and woman who were there and heard Cory give the regime, in the most forthright language: hello.
Support for her cause — the cause of the honest, decent and good, the long-suffering and patient, until now — comes not only comes from the well-heeled but also from the poor, the barely surviving. She asks for their votes and money pours out for her from those the regime feels compelled to bribe, cheat and coerce. Women and children form a cordon around the vehicle carrying her from the airport to Cebu City in an act of loving protectiveness against goons, uniformed or not, of the powers that be. A KBL poll, in spite of the inevitable adjustments of the results to favor the pollsters, showed Cory ahead: 65/35 for the widow of the man murdered in the custody of the Marcos military. At an American Embassy Christmas party, a general of the regime told embassy officials loudly enough for others to hear, that a recent survey by the military showed Cory leading Marcos by 2 million votes—up to then.
How could it be otherwise but humiliating for the dictator? What’s worse, the challenger is a woman. A cartoon in a Hong Kong paper shows him, in one panel, fuming over the predicament, the shame of it all, running against a woman, then, in the next panel, demanding who’s responsible for his having to run against Cory instead of Ninoy, then, quieting down, saying in a small voice: “Forget it.”
Not only humiliating but, if he loses, whether against a man or a woman, unacceptable! How could justice be allowed to prevail after so much injustice by the regime? Would life, in the pleasurable sense of the word, be possible for him? For him and his?
Worse still, the woman was calling him a coward!
“I am here in Mindanao in the midst of the violence and devastation that Mr. Marcos has wrought. And I am not afraid to be here. But Mr. Marcos is.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he has not come to Mindanao in the past 10 years to see for himself the horrible effects of his greed, his brutality and his ignorance.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he will not come to Mindanao to stand in the physical presence of the people he has hurt and betrayed.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he will not stand before me and dare to hurl his charges in my face and let my answers be heard.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he needed over 2,000 troops to kill one man — Ninoy Aquino. And he has the gall to say he fought off hordes of Japanese soldiers at Besang Pass. What a laugh.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he whimpers about a little scratch in his hand and ignores the hole that his people blew out of the face of Jeremias de Jesus and the mangled bodies of the Opposition after the grenade attack he launched at them in Plaza Miranda.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of trying to cover up his cowardice with a salad of military decorations none of which he ever earned in the field of honor.
“I challenge Mr. Marcos to stand up, like a woman and answer my charges of his cowardice with truth — if he dares.”
He could meet one charge of cowardice based on his non-appearance in Mindanao, by going there, of course. But then came the U.S. Army leak about his war record and medals. My God, what next?
The election should never have been called, in the first place. Now, what must he do to “win”? it No. 1 . . . . . No. 2 . . . . . Number 3 . . . . . But who would believe in such a victory? He had until 1987 before having to run for reelection if he would stay in power—if he lived that long. All he had to do was sit there in Malacañang and rule. Why put his presidency at risk? True, the Americans were demanding an election for a new mandate as the condition of continued military and financial aid, but he could have told them to go to hell. They were not content with an election, any kind of election, it had to be honest and free — and what if he lost? What dictatorship ever willingly submitted to one of that kind? Why risk what you have to gain what you already have? That’s plain stupid. What could the Americans do to him that would be worse than what would happen to him if he lost in the election? Let them do their worst!
But victory was not to be ruled out — even in an honest and free election. That is, if the leading Opposition contender, Doy Laurel, were to gain the nomination, and it seemed clear enough that he would, boasting as he did of a political organization the others could not claim to have. Laurel, it was the Malacañang consensus, would be no problem. Especially since his candidacy would not unite the Opposition, none of the other contenders showing any willingness to concede that Laurel was the better man, the better bet. Cory would be a problem, but she was not running. (Not then.) The British Broadcasting Corporation survey showed Marcos leading Doy by a comfortable margin. So, let there be an election. It might not even need to be rigged.
Then Cory ran. And united the Opposition. Oh, my God again!
So, now there is Cory, challenging absolute power, with its Central Bank, AFP, Commission on Election and almost exclusive access to radio and television and the crony press all working for it. But could the Commission on Elections be wholly trusted despite its membership of Marcos appointees? Why not, if it ran true to form? And NAMFREL had yet to be given accreditation as a poll watcher. Now NAMFREL is an accredited observer and counter of votes, but could NAMFREL prevent fraud in the final official count? And what if terrorism kept people from freely voting, or vote-buying plus terror kept them at home? How could the true, untrammeled will of the people prevail?
To be resigned to evil is to support it. Acceptance is consent. So, Cory runs. Against all odds. And who knows, she may prevail. She will — if the good and brave are with her. The Filipino people cannot be held captive too long by any power, native or foreign. But they can be if there is no will to resist power however great.
“There are no tyrants,” as Rizal said, “where there are no slaves.”
Slavery is the just desert of slaves.