Business and Cory:
An Affair To Remember
A BRIGHT September 1983 afternoon, Business Executive looked out his window along Ayala Avenue. He knew something strange was happening. What was causing all the racket? It was only 3 p.m. People were still trying to work. And those scraggly lines of men and women with placards, where wer they headed? The placards said Resign! Some had drawings of an octopus clutching coconuts, sugar canes, banks. The jeepney alongside blared its announcement loud enough to hear through the thick tinted glass the invitation to join the rally at Ugarte Football Field at 5:30. Time enough to close the books, finish up meetings and lock up for the day.
August 23, 1986–After the Airport Assassination, Business Executive knew that politics would be invading his air-conditioned office. He would have to make some kind of decision, surely.
At a business club meeting, Business /executive noted that the topic was on repression of media. A panel of publishers was introduced and when it was the turn of the publisher of a leading daily, there was lusty booing from the audience. Was this the ordinarily sedate business group? It was. In overflow numbers, some bringing along their spouses and their spouses’ coffee group. The questions from the floor were hostile: why was the Aquino funeral not given any coverage? (Applause punctuated the speakers’ denunciations – no answers were expected to the rhetorical questions.) Why did we have to get our news on our country from xeroxed periodicals? Why did our cousins abroad know more than we did about what was going on here?
Even the usually dry and statistics laden setting of the economic briefing by the establishment think-tank CRC flamed with passion. The presentors talked about a forecasted negative growth rate for 1984 – a peculiar euphemism for the expected decline in economic activity. They ticked off the causes: Crony capitalism which favored the Malacañang-connected few who were allocated loanable funds on the basis not of project viability and importance but hand-written notes on the margin. Graft and corruption which raised the cost of doing business. Take-over of healthy companies by the powerful after these were pummeled with debilitating legislation. Capital flight which indicated a lack of confidence in the business future and caused a succession of devaluations of the local currency.
The economy was being mauled.
Inflation threatened to be triple-digit. The peso-to-dollar exchange rate shot up 200%. The flourishing Binondo black market was being tolerated and “controlled” by Government as an alternative gray Central Bank, making a lot of money for its masters and, the Government claimed, contributing to the stabilization of the currency. Even the official unemployment figures were rising. Income distribution had worsened. Businesses were folding up. Multinationals like Ford, General Motors, Baxter were phasing out Philippine operations. Representative offices of international banks wee relocating out of the country.
The economic sky was falling. And there were many Henny Pennies to confirm the fact.
The economic bullet
The School of Economics of the University of the Philippines, the State University itself, came out with its own white paper analyzing the structural causes of the economic decline – “An Analysis of the Philippine Crisis: A Workshop Report” (June 1984). It made its findings public. The report spread through the xerox grapevine. The UP findings: Government was too involved in the economy through its own corporations and banks. If government influence was extended to the crony links, its hold on the economy was almost total. Prices of agricultural goods were regulated by fiat rather than by the marketplace. Because regulation favored keeping down prices, the effect was to starve the purchasing power of the countryside to keep the urban centers quiet. Decision-making was centralized in the national government and regional development was being left out of the priorities. The countryside was being dried out of cash.
There was too much politics in business.
It was not really the gun of August at the airport that shattered the barrier between politics and business. The relationship was there all along. So when one of the Siamese twins was shot, his brother also died. The bullet for politics also killed economics.
But the disaster was not to be so clearly contained. The metaphor of the bullet did not capture the cataclysm that followed. No – the effect was seismic.
The political plates started to move, the earthquake’s epicenter rippled out from the Manila International Airport to the whole country, and along with it the business sector.
Business Executive attended forums which discussed the political-economic situation as a business case. Participants broke up into workshop groups, compared notes, raised their voices in debate and presented to the plenary session their analysis and recommendations.
Again the business analysis reiterated the economic problems. Again they traced the labyrinth to the starting point at the airport. Again they came to the conclusion that the solution was indeed political. The objective was clear – there was a need to change the political leader. But with whom? They did not have the answer yet. Instead the businessmen talked of the process of selection, the criteria, and finally the strategy for unseating the incumbent.
And that’s where they were bogged down.
Meanwhile, Business Executive was getting calls from his associates. Was he joining the rally at 5:30 p.m.? it was getting to be as regular as the afternoon news or the clerks going off for coffee breaks. Every Friday, Business Executive would look out his office window. The yellow confetti would start at 4 p.m. – he could almost set his watch by it. some firecrackers, and then the awelling crowd from all sides. No, Business Executive could not just keep watching them. He subscribed to their cause. It was time to join.
Business Executive would wind up his meeting promptly at 5 p.m. He did not want to give the self-appointed guardians of the company’s “political neutrality” grounds for saying he was politicking during office hours. He went down to the basement car park, deposited his briefcase, shucked off his barong and put on his yellow shirt.
Clark Kent transformed to Superman!
It was his first time at a rally and he took his cues on what to do from the three month veterans. He sat down on the grass, crossed his legs in semi-lotus, and listened to the speeches. He mwt incredulous secretaries from his office, and the friends who kept calling him up. They flashed the L-sign and he flashed back. No, it wasn’t bad.
The business groups meantime had subdivided into cause-oriented splinters with acronyms that came out of the heroes’ gallery or synonyms for struggle. It did not matter that the memberships overlapped and the platforms all had phrases like restorian of democracy and freedom, and struggle for human rights. One thing was clear – they all wanted the tenant at the Palace out of there. Somehow.
The businessmen were using MBA methods to attack the problem. They came up with a list of potential standard bearers and a convenors’ group to manage the selection process. The fast track route asssumed a snap election and a process of self-selection among the short-listed cnadidates. The slow-track, which nobody bothered too mush about, was intended to elicit wider participation and more democratic procedures.
Again, the business analysts broke up into discussion groups. The selection process itself was wearing everybody out in marathon meetings. The more militant groups were already giving up on the electoral process altogether, although there was some gain made by the opposition in the 1984 parliamentary elections.
The economy was deteriorating fast. Business started asking different questions, businessmen were getting tired of the political games the politicians were playing. It was clear what the rules would be. There would have to be only one candidate which business would support. The candidate would have to be credible and morally beyond question. Once the rules were couched in those terms, only one name was left in the field.
And she was reluctant to run.
After the first reaction of – why not, the businessmen started convincing themselves of Cory Aquino’s attributes. They mobilized to get the one million signatures to draft her to become the lone opposition candidate. When she announced her candidacy and linked up with Laurel for unified ticket, businessmen put their managerial, financial, and logistical resources behind her.
Business Executive attended the campaign rallies. He read all the periodicals covering the candidates. He dropped money into the ubiquitous Cory boxes at the restaurants. He joined the citizens’ volunteer group to guard the election and keep it honest. He squeezed into the business group meetings where Coty spoke, standing the whole time by the side since there were no more tables to be had, and suprising himself by cheering his lungs out. And shedding tears. The last time he cheered that hard was at the collegiate ballgame and that was championship. But the stakes then were small – a trophy and a holiday.
When Business Executive travelled abroad he presented the case for a Cory presidency. Whenever he was asked whether the housewife really had it in her to win against such odds and with such “pitiful” qualifications, Business Executive argued, sometimes too heatedly, that business supported Cory because only she, a non-traditional politician with unquestioned integrity, could provide the moral leadership in which business confidence would again be possible. Business Executive said this so many times to so many people that his conviction almost became dogma.
Incredibly, she picked up at the rallies, won in the pre-election polls, won in the Namfrel tally, lost at the Batasan, then won at EDSA again. She was finally President.
Business – What now?
But six months into her presidency, what happened to the cheering squad that was business?
The only candidate business reformists said they would support became President. Her actions as President were those promised to carry out in her campaign speeches which the businessmen invariably interrupted with cheers. Wild cheers and stomping!
Have things changed?
Maybe Business’s honeymoon with the President is over. Honeymoons are not supposed to last. All the stages have been passed. The courtship and the chase to get her to accept the draft. The exchange of vows when Business went full tilt to support her candidacy. And then the euphoria and victory. The honeymoon may have ended with the Luneta mass of thanksgiving. After that – making the cabinet appointments, dissolving the parliament, replacing the local government heads, sequestering businesses, strengthening labor, reaching out to the radical left, and the thousand Government actions along the way. Accompanied by the thousand opinions on how problems should have been handled. The bride is no longer in her white gown. In this case, yellow. She is in her working clothes. The poetry of the campaign is over, the prose of Government follows.
The relationship of Business and Cory has gone on too long to be considered just a fling, an affair – only to remember.
Maybe now that the romance of the honeymoon has ended, the reality of marriage can begin.
by Teodoro M. Locsin
Reflections on Ninoy Aquino’s “The Filipino is worth dying for”
August 23, 1986–WHEN NINOY AQUINO was arrested, together with thousands whose only crime was love of truth, justice and liberty, no voice of protest was heard; there were no demonstrations by those still “free.”
Traffic flowed smoothly. Business went on as usual. The Church went on in its non-militant way, preaching submission, by its silence, to the brutal rule. Marcos’s Iglesia was all for it, of course. Thus was upheld the judgment of the Communist Prophet: “Religion is the opium of the people.” Politicians went on their, to use Shakespeare’s term, scurvy way. But what else could be expected of them? But what was heartbreaking was the general indifference to the death of liberty. The Filipino people did not give a damn.
Except a few. The unhappy few who found their cries against the death of liberty met with indifference if not scorn. Ninoy and Cory would afterward speak of how those they thought their friends pretended they did not know them!
There were no demonstrations of any consequence for years and years. When Ninoy, in ultimate defiance and despair, went on a hunger strike, masses were held for him at St. Joseph’s Church in Greenhills. A hundred or two showed up. An American Jesuit, Reuter, and a Filipino, Olaguer, said mass for Ninoy, witnesses to his cause. The currently most conspicuous member of the order busied himself with constitutional law and judicial resignation to Marcos’s “revolutionary” government. A banker showed up. No other demonstration for what Ninoy was slowly, painfully, starving himself to restore: the rule of law, not the rule of one man.
To be a prisoner is to be dehumanized. It is to be no one. Nothing. You have no rights, no control of your life, no existence except what your jailer allows you. You eat, sleep, and live at his pleasure. You remain human only by saying No!
From Camp Bonifacio, Ninoy and Diokno were taken to Fort Laur where they were stripped naked and kept incommunicado in separate rooms, singing the best way they could to tell the other that they were still alive. After weeks and weeks in their sweatboxes, they were taken back to Bonifacio from which Diokno was finally released after two years. Leaving Ninoy alone. Thus he lived for five more years. Years during which he would watch the trail of ants on the wall and try to make friends with a mouse and go into a frenzy of physical exercise in that windowless room to keep his sanity. But still No! to Marcos and his rule.
Years more of solitary confinement, then a heart attack, with Imelda showing up at the hospital with a rosary (not the one with the inverted cross or the other with the face of an animal that were found in Malacañang after her hurried departure) and permission granted for Ninoy to leave for the United States for heart surgery. Freedom at last—freedom in exile. A death in life for one who misses his people. A sense of total irrelevance. For what is a Filipino like Ninoy—not one who went there to make it his home, to be an American—in that country? Home he must go.
Against all the warnings: Imelda’s, Ver’s….Against the advice of friends. What did he hope to accomplish by his return? Reconciliation, peace, restoration of Filipino liberties. He would address himself to the “good” he believed was still in Marcos. Did he ask his children what they thought about his going back? Yes, and his children said they would abide by his decision. Did he ask Cory what she thought?
“You are the one who will suffer, Ninoy,” said that long-suffering woman. “You decide.”
So he went home to death.
Why did Ninoy go so willingly enough to a fate he must have considered a possibility if not a probability? Why do men—and women—say No! to injustice and force? Why do they opt for good at the cost of their lives?
For love of country? Out of sheer patriotism?
Here is a mystery of human nature that defies solution while humbling us. Evil we know, and understand, knowing our nature. But good is something else. As martyrdom, it has had, history shows, a fascination for some. The cynic would say it is mere inflation of the ego. But how explain the slow martyrdom of Damien who lived among lepers, ministering to their needs, and finding a mystical fulfillment when he could say: “We lepers.” Ego-inflation still? If that is the supreme desire, then the cynic might try life in a leper colony. He should never think more highly of himself then. But cynicism is only fear—fear of knowing what one is. To debase the good is to rise in self-estimation. If all men are vile, then you are not worse than you might think you are. You just know the human score. To face and recognize goodness is to sit in judgment on oneself. Avoid it.
For us? Because, as he said, “The Filipino is worth dying for”? In spite of his indifference or submission to evil until the final sacrifice that reminded him of what he should be? Because Ninoy expected neither appreciation nor gratitude for what he did for until then a graceless breed? “He who would be a leader of his people must learn to forgive them,” he once said. Look not for praise or reward. The daring is all.
For what good is for all, whoever they are?
The mystery of human goodness is—according to one who has thought long and hard on the question—the final proof that, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, God is good. For from whom else could what is good in man have come if not from Him?
August 23,1986–If they had sent a limousine to the airport instead of a van, Marcos and Imelda would still be in Malacañang. The Conjugal Dictatorship, as the author of the book with that title called the regime, would still be in dictatorial power – to imprison, torture, murder whoever opposed the Monstrous Duo while the looting of the nation went on. The author of the book now lies in an unknown grave but Marcos and Imelda would be living horribly on.
Why the van? To take the body of Ninoy after his execution at the airport to a military camp where it would be dumped by his killers on the cement floor. (Why killers, not killer? Because he was killed by all those who plotted his assassination, not just by the soldier or officer who fired the shot. Only a conspiracy made possible the “salvaging”.) And so it came to pass.
But just think what would have happened to Ninoy – if he had been taken safely from the plane and escorted to a waiting limousine and brought to Malacañang. There Marcos and Imelda would be waiting to welcome him! Ninoy would have gone unsuspectingly and fallen into the trap. He would be alive today but politically dead. There would have been no millions accompanying his body for kilometers and kilometers to its grave, in outrage and grief at what they had done to him. No mass demonstrations against the dictatorship. No fearless confrontation of its clubs, guns and gas. No ceaseless cry for justice for Ninoy – and all the other victims of the regime. No People Power that drove the Two into headlong flight with their awful family and retainers and no such freedom as the Filipino people now enjoy.
Ninoy would be still alive but politically dead. And dead, politically and economically, would be the Filipino people with the exception of Marcos and his KBL Gang. (They would still be looting and killing together.) But why would Ninoy be politically dead?
He had been warned by Malacañang before his departure for Manila that there was a conspiracy to kill him if he went back. If Marcos et.al. had knowledge of such a conspiracy, why did they not go after the conspirators? Imelda had previously warned Ninoy that if he went back, there were those “loyal” to Marcos and her whom they could not control and who would, presumably, do him grievous harm. Kill him, in short. She offered him money to stay away. Afterward, she was quoted by Newsweek magazine as saying: “If Ninoy comes back, he’s dead.” How could she have been so certain of his death? How, if she and her husband were not set to kill him on his return?
Ninoy decided to return, anyway. He brushed aside all advice, Filipino and American, not to go back. He would bring peace and democracy back to a suffering people. He gave the Communists five years to seize power if the Marcos dictatorship went on in its usual way. Then, blood would flow. He would seek a meeting with Marcos, talk to him about the need for a peaceful; and orderly restoration of democracy in their and our country, forestalling a Communist take-over. Think of the Filipino people, in God’s name, and of his Marcos’s – place in Philippine history!
“I believe that there is some good in Marcos, and it is to that good that I shall address myself,” Ninoy said to the Free Press editor, who argued against his return in a long talk in New York, shortly before Ninoy went, fearlessly and hopefully, to meet his appointment with death in Manila.
Ninoy’s naivete cost him his life. He believed there was some good in Marcos! Yet, though there was nothing good in Marcos, there was, surely, a way to get rid of Ninoy without killing him. Perhaps, Marcos was too sick at the time to make the final, fatal decision on what to do with Ninoy. He was too sick then, perhaps, and besides, he was surely too clever, too smart a politician to do such a stupid thing as to order Ninoy’s killing; he would have foreseen the consequences, being so clever, so smart. So went a column of the American political “pundit” Max Lerner. On what basis, on what evidence of Marcos’s innocence, the American wise guy rendered the verdict acquiting Marcos, it is difficult to ascertain. Who is so clever as never to make mistakes? Marcos politically infallible? Why the rush to verdict? Why not just keep one’s mouth shut? But Marcos was sick at the time, perhaps, near death. Could he have ordered the killing of Ninoy?
If Marcos was well enough, however, to order Ninoy killed, would he have done so, considering his alleged intelligence? He was able to terrorize and rob the Filipino people as he pleased, to the extent he wanted, and he never ceased wanting. This is intelligence? This is what those who collaborated with his regime called brilliance, turning away from those who opposed his regime. Isn’t the better part of valor prudence in the face of such a master intellect? Al Capone ruled Chicago for years and there was nothing the U.S. government could do all that time except, finally, get him for income tax evasion. Capone ruled – robbing and killing at will – so, he, like Marcos, was brilliant? Anybody could be “brilliant” – with a gun.
So, Marcos was brilliant – at the start. He did not have a gun, then: martial law enforced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines with his Number 1 hood, Ver, as chief-of-staff. Then, martial law! Brilliant he was, okay, or just cunning, unprincipled, a thinking son of bitch? All right, brilliant Marcos was. But the intellect deteriorates not meeting real challenge. The gun makes all challenge ineffectual. The mind becomes dull. Absolute power does not only corrupt absolutely, it stupefies. There is no need for intelligence when the guns serves. The blade of the mind rusts. Absolute power brings absolute stupidity. Such is the lesson of all dictatorships. Except the Communist challenge to contend with, and so remains as sharp as ever. Marcos, if in control when Ninoy was killed, had become just plain stupid.
Anyway, if Marcos did not order Ninoy killed, he must have at least considered that option when Ninoy announced his return. Marcos had a military mind and a commander considers all the options that may be taken in case of an enemy attack. And Ninoy was enemy. A political enemy. The most formidable one. Tañada and other Opposition leaders had been reduced to political impotence and pleading with Ninoy to come back and bring the opposition back to effective life. What should be done with Ninoy? The options before the Marcos regime were: house arrest for Ninoy upon arrival; solitary confinement in prison again; freedom – to lead the Opposition against the regime and then shot while campaigning, blaming the Communists for it, or while allegedly trying to escape from prison if he should be so held by the government. If, though allowed to live and campaign freely against Marcos, he should prove ineffective, not much of a threat, then, let him live.
These were the options of Malacañang on what to do with Ninoy. There was another option obviously not considered. What? Hell, welcome him! He’d be dead politically, and Marcos and Imelda could live happily with that. Before Ninoy’s arrival, the Liberal Party leadership held a council during which a top Liberal leader said with the utmost conviction:
“I am betting my last peso that Ninoy has made a deal with Marcos!”
If Marcos or, if Marcos was too sick at the time to be consulted, Imelda had ordered Ver to send a limousine to bring Ninoy from the airport to Malacañang, instead of having him shot there and his body taken to a military camp in a van, Ninoy, with his faith in the goodness of human beings beyond understanding, would have gone trustingly to the palace. And there he would have been met Imelda, not to mention Marcos if he could get up from his bed, assuming he was sick, and not only welcomed but even – anything is possible – embraced by the Two. Television and press cameras would, of course, record the touching scene: Ninoy, grinning boyishly – the Free Press editor always thought of him, because of the difference in their ages, as a kid, knowing the world, he thought, more than Ninoy in his innocence did – and the cameras clicking and exposing him to future ignominy. For the general conclusion would have been that Ninoy had, as the Liberal leader had bet, made a deal with the enemy of the People and would serve that enemy’s purposes thenceforth, surrendering manhood and principles for peace for himself and his family. For an end to exile, the worst fate for one who loves his country, who would never be at home anywhere else.
Ninoy having thus apparently surrendered, having thus made peace with the Enemy, what else could the Filipino people have done but do the same? Peace without liberty, peace without dignity, peace without honor – peace at any price! The peace of the grave.
But they killed Ninoy.
If they had sent a limousine to the airport instead of a van, Marcos and Imelda would still be in Malacañang. The Conjugal Dictatorship, as the author of the book with that title called the regime, would still be in dictatorial power – to imprison, torture, murder whoever opposed the Monstrous Duo while the looting of the nation went on. The author of the book now lies in an unknown grave but Marcos and Imelda would be living horribly on.
Why the van? To take the body of Ninoy after his execution at the airport to a military camp where it would be dumped by his killers on the cement floor. (Why killers, not killer? Because he was killed by all those who plotted his assassination, not just by the soldier or officer who fired the shot. Only a conspiracy made possible the “salvaging”.) And so it came to pass.
August 23, 1986
by Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
“If this is the price I must now pay… so be it. It is a privilege, not a sacrifice”
“I have been charged, “with the most serious crime against the Filipino people by President Marcos. I have, he has charged, subverted the state and planned the overthrow of the government in a conspiracy.
“I demand, in fact, Mr. President, that you bring me to court – and prove that I am guilty or be shown as the biggest liar in Philippine political life.
“I ask him to charge me formally so he and I can meet before the bar of Philippine justice.
“If I am guilty, I will pay for my alleged crimes.
“if I am innocent, he must face the people and account for the lies, the plots, the smears he has so freely and ruthlessly waged against me. But if this is the price I must now pay for having abided unflinchingly with the faith you have put in me, I say: So be it. it is a privelege, not a sacrifice.”
Aquino stood up. Enrile squeezed his arm and gave him a reassuring smile, as though to say it was all a game, a show, and no real harm would come to him. But Ninoy’s dark expression did not change. If the President was in earnest, he did not like being threatened. If the whole thing was a ploy to save the President from having to make embarrassing explanations concerning the bombing incident and the measures he had adopted, he did not like being used. He walked out of the room without saying a word. We drove to his house in his car.
“Jesus Christ!” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Imagine the canard he is trying to foist. Ako pa ang nagbomba together with the New People’s Army.”
“At least, I’ll die with my boots on”
On the night of the bombing he had not been on stage with other Liberals. He was at a goddaughter’s despedida de soltera. His absence had lent some credence to the speculation that he had planned the bombing.
“Christ’s sake, this guy is really determined to send me to jail,” he said.
He leaned back in the seat. The ordeal was over. He looked contented. Now there was no more having to choose. He had flung the Presiden’s threat back in the man’s complacent face and he was happy with his decision. All that remained was for the authorities to pick him up.
“So what? So one or two years in a stockade. At least I’ll die with my boots on.”
Had he plans of escaping into the hills? I asked.
“Ha, oblige him? Nah, I’ll stick it out here.”
If they came for him, what would he do?
“Aba, I’ll go. Christ’s sake! And tell your father not to forget the pocketbooks when he’s brought in, too. I’ll bring in the Philippine Reports and resume my law studies in jail and when I come out, take the bar. This is the only chance I’ll have.”
At this we started laughing.
“ ‘I erred on the side of generosity, ‘ did you hear that? Boy oh boy, what a shit of a bluffer. He’s thrown everything at me, but I’m numb.”
I asked him about the two witnesses Marcos had presented.
If one added up all the time he had seen Hernan Ilagan, it would amount to three hours, he said. As for Max Llorente, he saved the man’s life once and his skin several times over. This was how the man repaid him!
“The classic Filipino, “ said Ninoy. It was favorite phrase of his. He had used it in previous conversations to describe Filipinos who lived off the fat of the land but refused to pay for any of it.
“The Army,” I said, “can cope with the population, I think.”
“I agree, but for how long?”
“The youth movement is divided. Don’t you think that is a defect?”
“No. it is harder to crush a movement. Everyone is a leader. So if anyone gets bumped off, the movement does not crumble, which is what usually happens to tightly knit organizations. As it is, the movement is like jelly. You grad it and it slips between your fingers. Everyone is expendable.”
“How long do you think this phenomenon of dissent will last? I was thinking, Marcos has not really used even a fraction of the power he commands to stifle dissent. What if he were to mow down the students, like they did in Mexico? Perhaps they wouldn’t show up in the streets again. As it is, the students are killed haphazardly and, therefore, no one is afraid. Death comes as it usually does, when your time is up. But behind the deaths in the streets, no one really thinks there is conscious malevolence. But if it were known that the government intends to slaughter the students should they take to the streets again in a riotious manner, would that not cow the students? Especially if the government demonstrated in a bloody massacre that it meant business?”
“Perhaps, but it won’t happen like that,” said Aquino. “I agree that Marcos has used restraint. Any other man would have sent paratroops to recapture that radio station from which the students broadcast insults at President Marcos. They called him “magnanakaw” and a host of other things. That is his strength. He has not put a single student, journalist or politician in jail or had anyone killed who is prominent. He knows that the violent death of a prominent personality will be blamed on him.”
“And who will cast the blame and what does he care if he will not be punished?” I said.
“I know what you mean. The people are inert. I get more than 300 letters a day encouraging me, but I know that in a showdown, none will come forward to risk his life with me. But they will feel it deeply when one who has fought for them is hurt or killed because of it.”
“And what will they do? Will they avenge their champion?”
“I don’t know and we shouldn’t care. What they will do is none of our concern. Our role is to fight for the people. Whether they will show gratitude or not, immediately, later or never, should not enter into our calculations. That is our fate, to fight for what is right. Your father told me about how long the Free Press had been fighting and as far as he could see, nothing much had improved.”
“And you think that he had missed the point of all his endeavors?” I said. “The point is in the effort?” The outcome is irrelevant?”
He was up on his feet, with the portfolio in his hands.
“I’ll be late,” he said. Then he was out of the room. No introduction, no farewell. I had only half risen from my chair. I looked at the clock, the time had passed quickly. We had spoken for two and half hours. Most of what he had told me is unprintable. But the important part, I felt, was the last part. Could it be that a new breed of politician has come into being? I had given up all hope. I would have been satisfied if the next crop of politicians were bigger crooks than the present ones, so long as they were witty, refined and candid. But now, I wonder. Has one been too ready to throw in the towel?
“Honesty is becoming a fad” – that stuck in my memory. I always thought, why steal money when being honest will bring one glory? Isn’t money acquired to buy glory? Honesty in a position of power is the fastest way to fame. Why were there crooks who stole more than they would ever need if they lived twice over and then moaned that they had lost their good names? Hadn’t it ever occurred to them that if they did not steal so much, they could have both comfort and an honorable name? Perhaps, it finally has.
Addressing Senate President Gil Puyat, Aquino said:
“Mr. President, I would now like to enter these words into our records: Should I be assassinated, my blood would be on the hands of those who set me up for the kill.
“I do not know what fate awaits me, Mr. President. For the last five years, I have discharged my duty as God and my conscience have shown me the way. I have vowed, that here in the Senate, the ideals of our just and free society will be upheld – and only after we shall have perished, will thy be tampled upon.
“Rizal was truly prophetic when he said: ‘There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.’ And it is my conviction that tyranny will not rule the land so long as there are no slaves in this chamber.
“Mr. President, I am only human. And I must confess my disenchantment and near-despair. I see the cherished fundamental institutions of our country crumbling before us – to give way to the personal designs of a determined couple.
“I am seeing the collapse of our economy, of our monetary system, as the price that must be paid to perpetuate this family rule.
“I see the people in the hills. Their armed ranks are swelling, choosing a life of the hunted out of sheer despair.
“Our students and the young are out on the streets – in protest against the stifling environment.
“All these communal sufferings, Mr. President, so that one man and his wife can perpetuate themselves in power!
“Mr. President, allow this hmble representative to reiterate his commitment to the cherished ideals of our just and democratic society designed for us by our founding fathers.
“To Mr. Marcos, I say this: I am against you, yes; against the Republic, no!
“my fidelity is to the Constitution, not to your administration – and while I refuse you my loyalty, I give it unswervingly to the people, the Republic, the government.
“And in behalf of our people, agonized and terrified as they are, I ask you: do not mistake their disillusion for rebellion and their frustrations for subversion. Call off, Mr. President, your campaign of fear against them!
“I do not believe in communism, Maoism or any other ism repugnant to our own Filipinism. I love and I owe allegiance to our Republic – and to no other!” said Aquino.
The Conscience of the Filipino: The Sacrifice
by Teodoro M. Locsin
“WHEN my blindfold was removed, I found myself inside a newly painted room, roughly four by five meters. The windows were barred and covered with plywood panels from the outside. A space of six inches had been left between the panels and the window frame to allow a slight ventilation. A bright daylight neon tube on the ceiling was on day and night. There was no electric switch and the door had no knob, only locks on the outside. Except from an iron bed without a mattress, the room was completely bare. No chairs, no table, nothing.
“I was stripped naked. My wedding ring, watch, eyeglass, shoes, clothes were all taken away. Later, a guard in civilian clothes brought a bed pan and told me I would be allowed to go to the bathroom once a day in the morning, to shower, brush my teeth and wash my clothes. In case of emergency, I must call a guard. I was issued two jockey briefs and two T-shirts which I alternated every other day. The guard held on to my toothbrush and toothpaste and I had to ask for them in the morning. Apparently the intention was to make me really feel helpless and dependent on everything on the guards. . . Diokno, who was brought in with me and locked up in an adjoining cell, later told me that he had gone through the same thing.
“They took my eyeglasses away and I suffered terrible headaches. For the first three or four days, I expected my guards were the ‘Monkeys’ who were licensed to kill. Suspecting they put drugs in my meager ration, I refused to touch it. I subsisted on six crackers and water for the rest of my stay. I became so depressed and despondent. I was haunted by the thought of my family. . .”
He came to question the justice of God. A friend had told him that God never slept. But what if He’s taken a siesta, Ninoy thought, “and when He finally wakes up, I’ll be gone?”
That was early in 1973 when he and Diokno, blindfolded and handcuffed, were taken by a helicopter emblazoned with the Presidential Seal to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and kept in solitary confinement in adjoining sweatboxes. To let the other know he was still alive, they would occasionally sing to each other. Neither could carry a tune.
After 30 days, he and Diokno were whisked out of their cells and returned to Fort Bonifacio. There they endured again solitary confinement, broken only by rare visits by their families. After a year or more, Diokno was released. Ninoy stated on in prison — for a total of seven and a half years.
“I would watch a line of ants go down the wall of my cell and another line going up and I would make a mental bet on which line, when the two met, would give way. I tried to befriend a mouse that ventured into my cell. When I felt my mind giving way, I would do a hundred pushups and then take a shower and I would be myself again.”
Every year in prison is a year thrown away out of the limited span of man’s life; it is the death penalty by installment: life without freedom is not life. Ninoy decided to fast and, if not given his freedom, die. His death would be on Marcos’s head. A terminal cry for justice, it would be an ultimate act of life.
On the 38th day of his hunger strike, his mother pleaded with him:
“My son, are you trying to outdo our Lord?”
Only one argument convinced him to break his fast and leave the divine record intact. He was told that the government would not let him die. A few more days of fasting would inflict irreparable damage on his brain and then the government would force-feed him. But he would be a vegetable by then. The government would be blameless.
It was during his hunger strike that he was made to stand trial before a military commission for all kinds of crime against the regime. I remember him, at one session, being lifted by two guards to the stage. He sat there and listened, without saying a word, as a government witness, a Huk commander, raged at him for being a Huk-coddler. Ninoy, he sputtered angrily, had helped him — yes, him, a Huk commander—when he was in need. Previously, another government witness had also accused Ninoy of helping the rebels. He was a man whom Ninoy had brought bleeding from gunshot wounds to a hospital in Manila. “The classic Filipino,” Ninoy said of this witness.
During the fast, one of Ninoy’s lawyers went to the newspapers and asked them to print Ninoy’s answer to the charges against him, charges those newspapers were playing up. Their answer was “no”. He asked if Ninoy’s answer could appear as an ad, which would be paid for, of course. The answer was still “no”. Later, the regime would accuse the American press of breach of journalistic ethics for “one-sided” reporting of the conduct of the regime.
When masses were being said for Ninoy during his hunger strike, only a hundred or so would attend. Nobody else seemed to care.
Now he was going back to all that.
“I am going home,” he said to me shortly before his departure from the United States for Manila.
He would seek an appointment with Marcos, he said. (He would get no further than the tarmac.)
“Have you thought of what would happen to you?”
We discussed the possibilities: arrest on arrival, followed by imprisonment again or house arrest or execution. Perhaps, freedom — who knows? I asked him if he seriously believed that he would be set free — to campaign in the coming elections against the regime, or as one of the Opposition candidates? I reminded him of his conviction by the military court for murder which bears the death penalty.
“I don’t think they’ll shoot me. As for that conviction—if I were guilty, would I be going home? My return would be the best proof of my innocence. How could they shoot me then?”
I asked him what good his return would do. His arrival would be made a non-event by the government. He would be either imprisoned or kept under house arrest—in either case , isolated and neutralized. What could he hope to do when he got back?
“I’ll go to Marcos, if he’ll see me. I’ll appeal to his sense of history, of his place in it. He would not be publishing all those books of his if he did not care for the judgment of history, if he did not want to look good in it. And that would be possible, I’ll tell him, only if there was an orderly restoration of democracy and freedom for our people. Otherwise, there would be only revolution and terrible suffering. I give the moderate opposition five years to restore democracy, after that there will be only the Communists as an alternative to Marcos or his successor. I’ll offer my services to him, but my price is freedom for our people.”
“Do you seriously think,” I asked, “that if you are able to see him, he will listen to you?”
“I can only try. If he is as sick as they say he is, then, more than ever, I must talk to him. If he dies suddenly, there will be a brutal struggle for power. Orderly succession is possibly only under a democratic regime. He must set up a system to make such succession possible before he goes. I must talk to him if I can. Who know, he may listen. He will know he is talking to a man who does not care for life and its comforts and must be telling him the disinterested truth. On the 38th day of my hunger strike, I though I was as good as dead. A dead man. I have regarded the years that followed as a second life that I should be able to give up. I have already lived and died and I am ready to go. I cannot spend that extra life here in American just living well, while our people are suffering. I must go home.”
He was hopeful.
“Maybe Marcos will listen to me. He would not want to appear in our history as a man who took away the liberties of our people and gave them only suffering in return. I am making a bet that there is good in him, deep inside him, and I shall talk to that.”
“Have you ever thought of the record.”
“I must take the chance. Think of the good that will come to our people if he listens to me. What have I got to lose? My freedom? He can have it. I’ll do anything, I’ll be his servant, but my price is freedom for our people..”
Freedom wasn’t the only thing he could lose, I reminded him.
“I have died, I told you. This is a second life I can give up. Besides, if they shoot me, they’ll make me a hero. What would Rizal have been if the Spaniards had not brought him back and shot him? Just another exile like me to the end of his life. To the end of my life. But if they make that mistake…”
“I’d rather have a live friend than a dead hero,” I said, then asked myself what I was doing arguing with a man in determined pursuit of his destiny whatever that might be.
He talked about his meeting with Mrs. Marcos, of her warning that there were people loyal to them whom they could not control and who might kill him. Financial help was offered if he did not go home. He politely said nothing. As for the loyalists . . .
“So be it,” Ninoy said.
“What will you ask Marcos if you do get to see him?”
“I’ll propose a caretaker government to be set up composed of independent and respected men so that free and honest elections could be held and democracy finally restored.”
“Do you think he will agree to that? Do you know what that would mean?”
“Yes. First, he must step down. Resign. He has had so many years of power! Now, he can resign. He can retire from public office to the thanks of a grateful people that will forget what it had suffered in its joy at being free again. We are a forgiving people. What a graceful exit that would be from power. He’ll go with honor.”
Was it this identification that moved millions of Filipinos to follow Ninoy’s body to its simple grave? Hundreds of thousands lined the long road to Tarlac when his body was brought to his hometown, before the funeral in Manila. When the cortege passed Clark Air Force Base, American fighter pilots revved their engines in tribute.
This massive outpouring of people and emotion had as much to do with what Filipinos had become once more, as with the national incredulity over the official version of the murder.
Soon after the imposition of martial law, a high American official reportedly described the Filipino people as composed of 40 million cowards and one son of a bitch. Otherwise, they should have risen as one against the destroyer of their liberties, the American must have reasoned. Yet, six million Jews went like sheep to the slaughter, stopping only to bicker over an extra crumb of bread that might keep one alive an extra day. The Nicaraguans swallowed 40 years of indignity and official thievery from the Somozas before putting an end to their rule. And the Poles, to date, have done nothing but picket. The Hungarians, after a brief spasms of prideful revolt, have traded the hope of liberty for that extra roll of toilet paper in the Soviet showcase of a consumer society.
The Filipino people rose in revolt against Spanish rule again and again through 350 years until the Revolution had cornered the last Spaniards in Manila. Then they fought the Americans, who had suddenly snatched the freedom that was almost in their grasp. Ten percent of the Filipino people died in that war. When the Japanese drove out the Americans, the Filipinos fought the Japanese.
Then came martial law, if not with American fore-knowledge and approval, definitely with American support after the event. First, submission. (Cowardice?) Resignation. (Not the Communists, for sure.) Almost 11 years after that, August 21, 1983, and Ninoy’s body bleeding on the tarmac.
The Filipino people are themselves again. And it took less than 11 years for a nation of “cowards” to be the men and women they are now.
So he went home, with these words:
“According to Gandhi, the willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God and man.”
Before boarding the plane from Taipei for Manila, he said to a television crew that was accompanying him on that fatal day:
“You have to be ready with your hand camera because this action can come very fast. In a matter of three, four minutes it could be all over and I may not be able to talk to you again. Now I am taking precautions. I have my bulletproof vest. But if they hit me in the head there’s nothing we can do.”
Then he gave a gold Swiss watch he prized to his brother-in-law.
“I think it’s victory if we just land,” he said as the plane came in on final approach.
And a victory it was, if death is ever a victory.
He had come home to Filipinos rejoicing at the economic privileges and political offices that the death of Filipino liberty had procured for them. To a people weakly submissive to authority whatever it be. The arrest of thousands of their countrymen and imprisonment for months, years, without charge or trial, had failed to move them. The torture inflicted on so many was ignored. “No one, but no one has been tortured,” Marcos said. But Amnesty International reported a state of terror at 84 prisons where interrogation was marked by use of “fists, kicks, karate blows, beating (with) rifle butts, heavy wooden clubs, and family-sized soft-drinks bottles. . . the pounding of heads against walls or furniture, the burning of genitals and pubic hair with the flame of a cigarette lighter, falanga (beating the soles of the feet), and the so-called ‘lying-on-air’ torture.” The last consists of being made to lie rigid with one’s head on the end of one bed and the feet on that of another then the body beaten or kicked when it sagged from weakness or exhaustion.
“When we start to feel the pain of those who have been victimized by tyranny,” Ninoy said, “it’s only then we can liberate ourselves… The feeling right now is ‘Fred was tortured, thank God it’s Fred, not me.’ That’s the tragic part. Society is atomized. Until the Filipino nation can feel the loss of one life as if it was their own, we’ll never liberate ourselves.”