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.