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Public, versus private, sins: editorial November 1, 1997

November 1, 1997

Public, versus private, sins

THE Filipino people have always been indulgent about the private sins and peccadiloes of their leaders. It is, for most of us,  part of our easy-going Catholicism. Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone, Jesus dared the righteously angry Jews, and like the people who ended up dropping their stones, many of us feel that an official’s marital infidelities are a matter best left up to the man, his wife, and God to sort out.

The only sins an official should be held accountable for are lying, stealing, killing and making a mockery of the rule of law. Whom he sleeps with, how often, and where, is of no concern to the public unless the person he has carnal relations with did it under duress or in expectation of favors no official should be expected or allowed to dispense in exchange for sexual services rendered.

In the case of theft, murder, deceit and the abuse of influence, the Filipino people have every right to condemn their leaders and throw them out of office: the sinless are the ones Divinely qualified to cast stones. But in all else, the public should respect what are serious family matters.

So when Kit Tatad begins to pontificate about the martial infidelities of another official —an official that sanctimonious son of Bohol was content to run with in previous elections— he lays himself wide open for interrogation: does the Senator have a right to cast stones in this case?

Many voices are beginning to be heard asserting that Tatad does not have the moral ascendancy necessary to get away with making such accusations. If these counter-accusations are true, then Tatad will come out as worse than a philanderer —he would be a hypocrite.

A happy home is a blessing. A home rocked by the discovery of marital infidelities on the part of one spouse, or disgraceful behavior on the part of the other spouse or the children, is a home struck by tragedy. The most other families can do is offer help if asked for it, or intercede if the behavior of one threatens the very lives of others. But otherwise, all another family can do is hope for the best. Personal problems are up to individual persons to solve. They are not a valid basis for evaluating the fitness of an official to be a public servant.

A leader is a lady’s man: so what if this is the case? Why is his wife willing to live with the fact? And if she can live with the knowledge that her husband cheats on her, what right do other people have to question the husband and wife?

For the public, the personal proclivities of the official are of no concern to them unless, in the course of his fooling around, the official begins to use public funds to support his other wives or mistresses. In that case, a legitimate public grievance is created.

But if the official does not steal; does not abuse the women he deals with; does not pull strings or exert influence on their behalf; does not comport himself in a way that causes scandal in public: then you have a non-issue.

But an official who prostitutes his talents in the service of an official who steals, lies, cheats and has people murdered is another story. The official, in serving such a master, becomes a party to those crimes; and an official who would bring public scandal on another official, and is guilty of similar indiscretions: why, that official is nothing more than an opportunist, a maligner of men and a perverter of morality.

The private citizen, upon becoming aware of the weaknesses of the former, is entitled, if he feels strongly enough about it, not to vote for such a man. But in the case of the latter official, then Juan de la Cruz has the obligation to vote against him: for the official is guilty of public sins, for which the punishment should be the removal from office.

Cinderella’s invited to the prom, editorial October 26, 1996


Cinderella’s invited to the prom

October 26, 1996–A FEW weeks ago, the leaders of the world’s richest countries wanted to feel good about themselves. They also wanted the world to feel good about them. So they announced that thenceforth the foreign debts of the poorest Third World countries—mostly in Black Africa—would be forgiven by them. Oh, how noble, how generous they were. It was hopeless, they said, to expect these blacks to pay the interest, let alone the principal, on their countries’ foreign debts—mostly stolen by black dictators, just like our foreign debt was largely stolen by an Ilocano dictator. Also dark.

That was several weeks ago.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund announced that the Philippines had been invited to share in paying off the debts of the world’s poorest Third World countries.

What they were saying was, as if it was a great honor, “Welcome to the club.”

Yes, indeed, like the totally tasteless and parvenu couple John and Marsha, Mother Philippines and her beau, our President, have been invited by the nabobs of the IMF to the world debt prom.

The IMF, lest ye have forgotten, was the cruel fiscal stepmother that had our country—poor starry-eyed heroine just recently free of the dictator’s shackles—scrubbing floors and eating dirt to pay the credit card bills of Makiki exiles Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

At a time when we were the world’s inspiration, heroes of democracies, we were told that we would be bereft of honor if we did not pay—and pay, and pay.

That debts were dubious and downright immoral did not matter. You did not argue with the IMF, which had the power of economic life and death over an economy struggling to restore a free market. They had the recipe for success, they said, and we had better follow it. Or else.

The recipe was simple: pay up. Pay the debts of the conjugal dictatorship; never mind that the money was stolen or wasted. And then you would, if not get better, certainly feel better about yourself.

And so when Solita Monsod, then NEDA director general, dared suggest that we repudiate at least some of the debts incurred by Imelda Marcos and her husband, a howl rose from the bankers. And they hastened Monsod’s exit from the public service and the conversation of the NEDA into the Merril Lynch of Philippine officialdom. (Today the NEDA regularly leaks GNP figures to the stockbrokers of the Palace inhabitants.)

One day our country looked up from her drudgery and saw former communist nations such as Poland grandly absolved of their debts—absolved by the same demanding gang of overseers that insisted we pay back every penny stolen by the Marcoses. And our nation sighed, is there no fairness, no justice?

How sad it was to see a nice country finish last. If we’d had missiles and belonged to the Warsaw Pact—the alliance of communist powers aimed at Western Europe—perhaps we would have been treated better. Oh, well.

So we slaved on, until we were finally able to say that, despite the onerous burden of illegitimate debts, we were able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Well, by golly, it seems that the IMF has recognized this fact and invited us to take a seat at the table of lending countries. Well, not the presidential table, perhaps, but a table somewhere near the swinging doors to the kitchen. But who cares? Cinderella Philippines has been invited to the prom: we have arrived. now, the IMF tells us, we are in a position to help countries less fortunate than ourselves. This is better than letting the rich countries do it alone.

We hope the government doesn’t get into its daffy head to accept the IMF proposal. A nation that had the class to stand up for democracy, and that doggedly worked to dig itself out of an unjust economic situation, should not be forced by its lenders to give away the money it has so painfully earned. After all, it still has to pay for its own debt. A debt still due and, oddly, growing monstrously by the month. It has grown to $45 billion and still growing. But the economy has grown strong enough to meet the monthly installments on time.

To the bankers that means the economy has also grown strong enough to help pay off the debts of other countries who have no hope of paying any part of them.

We may be on our feet, but we are in no condition to throw money away. Ours is still a nation of indentured  servants abroad and starving workers at home. We must keep what we have for the benefit of ourselves, and by “ourselves” we don’t mean the slick Central Bank types in league with the IMF.

It is true that there is nobility in poverty, in working to satisfy the demands of heartless people. But there is no nobility in allowing yourself to be fooled. The servant invited to dine at his master’s table—but a potluck dinner, where he must also bring his own plate—is not ennobled but further debased by the insult to his intelligence.


Desierto Jugend, editorial October 5, 1996

October 5, 1996


Desierto Jugend

THE majority of our population now consists of the youth. This large and amorphous sector, surveys tell us, is growing rootless and wild, alienated in the Filipino diaspora. Their parents and other relatives have been leaving the country in droves in search of work, leaving them behind to shift for themselves, under the feeble hand of doddering grandparents and indifferent relatives.

It is becoming evident that the youth of today are very different from their immediate predecessors, the generation known as the Martial Law babies—the last generation of Filipinos to experience a trace of traditional upbringing. They are now old enough to get married and produce children of their own, even as a yet younger generation emerges whose mores puzzle even those just a few years older.

This alienated an alien generation—baptized by advertisers as Generation X or even post-Generation X—has social workers ringing the tocsin. Alarmed parents and school officials have done what they can to help, but that seems to be little.

This is sad but unavoidable.

But politicians, being the opportunistic species that they are, have been quick to sniff opportunities in our burgeoning youth electorate. They have plied them with parties and cash, discos and basketball courts, in the process of courting their votes. It doesn’t need a genius to see the correlation between the politicians’ eager mining of this electoral lode and the deepening disillusionment of the youth, and a far worse cynicism than even their elders had despite the corruption they witnessed in their time.

Now comes Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, with scheme to enlist schoolchildren to spy on grafters. His latest pet project was revealed during a “preconference dialogue” (government jargon for a simple meeting) attended by 40 student leaders. Speaking to representatives of the National Student Consensus, the Student Alliance for National Unity, and a representative of the UP Student Council, Desierto rumbled that “The junior graftwatch program seeks to revive old Filipino values and traditions and a sensible formula to prevent graft and corruption.”

Spying an old Filipino value. Only if you are a Macabebe.

At any rate, his suggestion was seconded by a lackey who said that students participating in the junior graftwatch will serve as the Ombudsman’s “eyes and ears.” Meaning, they will all have their backs turned to him so they can’t see what he is doing.

The idea of having children spying on adults has Orwellian implications—which should keep us from laughing off his idea the way people chuckled over the Kabataang Barangay, the movement of lumpen young that Marcos thought would be his Hitler Youth.

In the first place, having children ratting on their parents and relatives—or worse, the parents and relatives of schoolmates they do not know well but happen to dislike—smacks of communism.

And what will they rat about? How children in short pants, or mere teenagers in high school and college, are supposed to determine cases of graft and corruption hasn’t been explained. Neither has it been clarified how the children are supposed to report any wrongdoings—will there be Maoist-style “struggles”? Uproarious meetings during which children will finger their elders?

And what sort of values will be fostered by having children snooping around during class hours? The virtue of studying hard? The virtue of respect for elders? The virtue of telling the truth?

We can only see the Ombudsman’s idea leading to the propagation of certain types of behavior that are, indeed, very Filipino—such as cowardice, treachery, envy, issuing in behavior that has shamed generations of Filipinos.

Behavior that marked the most shameful and tragic periods of our past, from the stool pigeons and balimbings of the era of Marcos, to the Makapilis of the Japanese Occupation, to the Macabebe Scouts of the Filipino-American war, down to the traitor who assassinated Diego Silang and the chieftains who sided with the Spaniards.

We can only see duplicity being more ingrained in schoolchildren. We can only predict an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia coming out of the Ombudsman’s little plan. This is no way to bring up the youth.

Haven’t we seen the Kabataang Barangay mutate under the present dispensation into the Sangguniang Kabataan, training ground for pork-barrel cadres? And this is only one example of the way greed can be institutionalized; this is bad enough, but training in scholastic espionage is the limit.

What we shall end up with are not just the shiftless and empty-headed youth of today who can no longer read or write, but amateur spies who will dare to scribble gibberish as their reports on the conduct of the neighbors. This isn’t just evil. It is pathetic.



Our Centennial diplomacy, editorial September 21, 1996

September 21, 1996


Our Centennial diplomacy

THIS, the first year of our Centennial celebrations, has served to highlight the gravity of our collective historical amnesia. This loss of memory would be pardonable—because, after all, amnesia is often reversible—if it weren’t exacerbated by the selective amnesia of our officials. They seem to think that making a lot of noise about Rizal will distract the public from pondering on the gruesome legacy of the Revolution he condemned.

Mercifully, this attempt to blot out the disquieting aspects of our past has been noticed by enough journalists and academics to ensure that instead of the bland Centennial festivals hoped for by the government, a sort of guerrilla war on the cultural front is taking place. And so we are content with the fact that our commemoration of the Filipino struggle for freedom will benefit from the nation’s conscience in the schools.

But the government’s efforts on the diplomatic front seem to have escaped serious criticism. This is lamentable in that the Centennial face presented by our Republic’s leaders will often be the only aspect of our country to be noticed by the rest of the world in the next few years. And that face is one of bumbling confusion, which would be pitiful if it didn’t smack so much of the mendicant foreign policy we’ve had since it was criticized by Claro M. Recto almost two generations ago.

Our diplomatic tradition is one of subservience, and while we have ceased to expend our energies on reaming Uncle Sam, apparently we have gotten to enjoy the habit so much that we just had to start reaming someone else: if not Singapore for its authoritarian method, then Indonesia for its spectacular graft-ridden progress, of which, you would think, we had had enough under Marcos. And now it is Malaysia.

Indeed in the case of Malaysia, our diplomatic tack has tended toward finding choice morsels to praise.

The Centennial is supposed to be the commemoration of our country’s struggle for freedom, a struggle that, as Jesuit priest Jose Arcilla pointed out, was the culmination of one great historical cycle and the beginning of another.

Our Propaganda Movement and Revolution were the last of the great upheavals generated by the European Enlightenment, which gave birth to the American, French and South American revolutions and came to end with ours. On the other hand, our Revolution and the Filipino campaigns for autonomy that followed it were the beginning of a worldwide movement to bring an end to Western colonialism—a struggle that had its parallels in the great Indian struggle under Gandhi.

This is a commemoration that obviously calls for the highest dignity, independence of mind and seriousness by our people and our leaders. And it should be marked with greater resolve by everyone to demonstrate pride in our past and present achievements. Instead of this, all we have seen is the usual sycophantic and maladroit behavior on the part of the people entrusted with planning the Centennial celebrations.

Characteristically, to celebrate our Centennial we spotlight on Malaysia: a country that has had the chutzpah to lecture us on democracy while almost every critic of Mahathir is in jail, and that had the nerve to preempt the Philippines in commemorating Rizal, to the extent that it hosted an international conference on our national hero, which humiliated the Philippine government. And yet Malaysia was not even conceivable as a separate country at the time of the freedom struggle in which Rizal figured with glory. A man who has been mistaken as the Great Malaysian—when, at worst, he might be called the Great Malayan; although, the best superlative for him might be the First Filipino.

At any rate, the Malaysian Rizal conference was splendidly organized, serious discussions were held, and it took place a full year before anything concrete was scheduled to take place here (our Centennial energies being wasted, at the time, on Centennial Tower stupidities).

And what did our government do to make up for this slap on its face? Why, it organized an International Conference on the 1896 Philippine Revolution. This may have been international, but it was hardly a conference—and, worst of all, it essentially failed to take up the 1896 Revolution.

The conference took place over three hectic days, the end of which was marked by a speech by Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia who had organized the Malaysian Rizal conference the year before. But the high point of the conference was the signing of a resolution that criticized the utter (actually merciful) lack of media attention on the conference.

From the start, it struck some observers as strange that on August 23, the centenary of the Katipuneros’ tearing up of their cedulas, Ibrahim was being honored with the distinctions pertaining to the Knights of Rizal in a ceremony that marked the conclusion of one full day of lectures on Rizal, during a three-day affair meant to commemorate the Revolution he had, at best, bewailed for the loss of lives its threatened, and, at worst, condemned as counterproductive of higher national aims.

The reason for this strange event was simple. The Philippine government had to find a way—any way—to quid Malaysia’s quo, and the conference on the Revolution was the most convenient way.

Never mind the true purpose of the conference—never mind the incongruity of honoring Rizal to the extent of overshadowing Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Malaysia had to be fawned on, and if some people wrinkled their noses at the brown noses of our officials, tough. Pride and nationalism—simple self-respect and dignity—do not build Proton Wiras. And besides, Rizal has been so often honored in the past, a commemoration honoring him yet again would be easier to pull off than one honoring the less celebrated and real heroes of the 1896 Revolution.

In the event, they didn’t even honor Rizal, because the Philippine representative just compared himself to the national hero and confined his speech to drawing parallels between Rizal’s life and his own failures. The Malaysians again ran off with the prize with a well-prepared, if not entirely credible, interpretation of the national hero.


Their baby? Editorial for March 5, 1994

March 5, 1994

A TWO-headed baby was born recently in the town of Taraclia, Moldova. Aside from two heads, the baby also has two hearts, two sets of lungs and two spinal cords but only one set of limbs. Doctors blame the 1986 Chemobyl nuclear disaster for the defects.—Reuters

THE Constitution is new. What’s wrong with it? Why amend it?

Abolishing the Senate will leave only the House of Turon to meet the problems of the nation. With what? A piece of the delicacy? The Constitution vests legislative power in the Senate and the House. Without the Senate, the people will be at the mercy of the House and its voracious appetite. The senate makes them more secure.

What are the problems of the nation? Mass poverty and unemployment; graft and corruption in the government; continuing violation of human rights; widespread rebellion; massive deforestation, which threatens to turn the country into a desert; mockery of justice: the rich few get away with robbery and murder while the poor feels its lash. And other evils too many to enumerate here. None of them is to be blamed on the Constitution.

If the senators were to agree to the scrapping of the Senate, they would become and insignificant minority of 24 against 180 and could do nothing to improve the performance of whatever the House would be called. They would be called the same as the company they kept. Good for nothing, if not crooks.

President Ramos would still hold on to power—as premier. By running for membership in the House or Parliament and after using his P10 billion pork barrel for the re-election of the members, he would get their votes as prime minister. They would lick the hand that fed them. Lie dogs.

True, he has sworn:

“I have no plan or ambition or inclination to stay on as President when my term ends in 1998. Even if the Constitution were amended to allow my re-election, I would not seek re-election. Even if the people want it and vote that I stay in office, I shall not serve. If the Constitution were amended to introduce the parliamentary system, I would not run for office; and if elected, I would reject it.”

Or he would argue:

“The voice of the people is the voice of God. Who am I to go against God?”

Or keep his word.

Or, Speaker Jose de Venecia would be premier. And “behest loan” the rule?

Why not leave the Constitution alone?

They ran under it and should defend it.

Wanted, A Respectable Opposition: editorial for September 3, 1988

Philippines Free Press Editorial
September 3, 1988

Wanted: A Respectable Opposition

THE late Pres. Manuel L. Quezon expressed a preference for “a government run like hell by Filipinos” to “one run like heaven by Americans.” The government run by Americans was hardly heavenly, what with its colonial economy keeping the country a producer of cheap raw material for export and a market for highly-priced imported goods, and the Filipino people in their place as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” The Army and Navy Club with the sign: “Dogs and Filipinos not allowed.” And a cultural brainwashing that left the Filipino with one dream: to be an imitation American.

If the American-run government was not celestial, the Filipino-run was sure hellish or at least purgatorial. Democracy being the only saving grace, for allowing the Filipinos to kick out their Presidents and representatives and kick in the next hungry pack that turned out no better. Hungry mosquitos replacing over-fed ones, in the words of the late Manila mayor, Arsenio H. Lacson.

The Survivor: Man of the Year for 1987

January 9, 1988

Man of the year

HOPE springs eternal, as in the case of the political prisoner being blindfolded before the firing squad. It might misfire.
One clings to life, however miserable. Life is better than none—except to the would-be suicide. He does not think so, and pulls the trigger. A martyr to his conviction. But just to go on living, under the most adverse conditions, is worth it. Just survive!

But is life, as it is, better than none—to the wretched of the earth? Perhaps, life after death will be an improvement.

There’ll be pie
In the sky
By and by.
It’s a lie!

So went the International Workers of the World’s gibe at organized religion’s panacea. Suffer here, enjoy there— forever! Opium of the people? But relaxing!

And what if there is no life after death? Well, who can tell? Who really knows anything about “that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns”? Ask no question and you will be told no lies. A question without an answer is a silly one. But there is a question that may be reasonably asked:

“Is there life—after life?” After birth?

Life worth living?

Is living in Smoky Mountain life? Worth living?

Must be. Or so many thousands of human beings—like you and me—would not be living there. Not rising in revolt against their inhuman condition and burning the city down. They’re alive. Enough reason for being.

Life is good—however its condition. That is the ultimate affirmation of faith. That is the Survivor’s Creed.

The Survivor, then, is the Man of the Year. He took all that life and the regime he suffers under but still maintains,  with protest but also with patience. Showing “grace under pressure”—to the exasperation of those who would replace the present dispensation with its flawed rights and liberties with a dictatorship, fascist or Communist, that would strip him of all rights but promises rice for his liberties. He’s still free—to suffer but protest against his suffering. Still being robbed but protesting the robbery. Still being tortured—as that poor young man who was burnt with lighted cigarettes and had electrode wires attached to his genitals if he did not come across with P10,000 for the police…

Life is good—despite the Government and the Opposition, fascist and Communist, offering only the alternative of the Tiger or the Hyena. One suffers and labors and provides, however inadequately, for the needs of those one loves, one’s family, the Real Country—without hurting others. One is a good man or woman. One survives—remaining human.

“To the Survivor!”

The Man of the Year.

A thankless job, editorial, September 19, 1987

A thankless job

September 19,1987–“ATTACK!” the President ordered. “Now!”

Her order was not obeyed. She is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but no attack was launched.

Why? she wanted to know.

But the Malacañang phones were dead. She could not get in touch with Chief-of-Staff General Ramos in Camp Crame across EDSA from Camp Aguinaldo which the rebels had taken.

Presidential Special Counsel Teddy Boy Locsin was told to take her message to Ramos to attack. When the attack continued to be delayed, he blew up. There was grave and imminent danger of mass defection of officers and soldiers to the rebel camp if the rebels held on much longer. Attack now or pay later with — defeat!

(The defection of the security force of Congress to the rebels and the declared support of the Philippine Military Academy cadets for the rebels would make it clear that mass defection of the military was not a mere possibility but a probability. Even if a mere possibility, it must be taken into account, as military science dictates, and action taken accordingly. It was at the PMA that a bomb was recently planted to blow up the President when she addressed the graduating military guardians of the Republic.)

General Ramos finally saw that and ordered the attack. (He thanked Locsin later for his counsel, temper and all.) Battle was drawn. No more playing both sides. Government forces fired straight — not up or down — at the rebel position, were fired at, fired back and, with air force support, brought the rebels to their knees.

IF the rebels had won, they would have closed Congress and reduced the press and the rest of media to their former canine condition under the Marcos dictatorship. For doing what he did to help save the day for democracy, the President’s Special Counsel drew fire from the cretins and cowards of government and press. (Especially from one the President had called, through Locsin, a crook.) Senate and House passed a resolution declaring support for the President. Brave, huh? How many would have defected to the rebel side if it showed signs of winning? One “honorable” member of the Senate was reported to have said that if the rebels had won, he and his kind would just have to play along with them! Worth dying for? But good and loyal soldiers of the armed forces of the government died for them!

Meanwhile, radio and TV stations were lending treasonous aid and comfort to the rebels and had to be threatened with forcible closure before they stopped broadcasting rebel propaganda and recruiting defectors to the rebel camp.

That the rebels did not win defied the law of military and political gravity.

A miracle.

Meanwhile, shit from the shits in government, press — from businessmen, who think only of money, and alas, me Church.

Keep it up! The rebels will look good — not to mention the Communists!

If, editorial, August 23, 1986


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, August 23, 1986

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.