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The Defiant Era
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Forty years ago, the First Quarter Storm rocked Manila, which had not seen anarchy on this scale since the Pacific War. A look back at the movement, where it failed and where it succeeded
January 30, 2010-–THE thrilling thing about the year “was that it was a time when significant segments of population all over the globe refused to be silent about the many things that were wrong with the world.” “And this gave the world a sense of hope that it has rarely had, a sense that where there is wrong, there are always people who will expose it and try to change it.”
That was Mark Kurlansky writing in his marvelous book 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. From Cuba to China to Czechoslovakia, France, Mexico, Poland and the United States, young people began to rebel against the establishment. Kurlansky believes the postwar generation was prepared to do so, ironically because of the relative security and comfort they enjoyed and their having been born after the privations and traumas of World War II. And so young people in communist countries challenged party dictatorship while their counterparts in the democratic world turned leftward to challenge the bourgeois certainties of their elders, for it was in that year, too, here in the Philippines, that an elite family celebrated a wedding anniversary with heedless ostentation.
Filipinos born after the war, who had no memory of that period or the succeeding era of the Huks, came to share the restlessness and iconoclasm of their counterparts around the world: students demonstrated against the Vietnam War (it was the year of the T?t Offensive), and for social reforms in the Catholic Church and in the schools.
In that year, Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr. published a commentary in the American publication Foreign Affairs, describing the country as “a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. Here, too, are a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite. Here is a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Aquino was writing in response to the massacre of Lapiang Malaya ralliers on May 21, 1967. Democracy had survived the Huk rebellion; and yet, even the beneficiaries of the relative stability of the mid-Fifties to mid-Sixties left an increasingly better-educated and cosmopolitan urban middle class in discontent.
The First Quarter Storm came two years after the rest of the world was convulsed by student rebellions in 1968. By all accounts, 1969 was the year in which protesting in the style of the civil rights movement in the United States – peaceful, nonviolent, reformist – gave way to more militant protests and bluntly revolutionary aspirations among the youth, along with the flag hoisted with the red field up.
Ferdinand Marcos won an unprecedented full second term as president toward the end of that year. In those days, when presidential terms began on December 30, a newly elected president delivered his annual State of the Nation at the opening of Congress in January. In 1970, that address to Congress was scheduled on a Monday, January 26. A mere four weeks had passed since Marcos’s inaugural as the [Third] Republic’s first reelected president.
Recalling the era for The Philippine Century, an anthology of writings published in the Free Press, veteran journalist Dan Mariano writes: “Outside the Legislative Building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention.” Jose F. Lacaba, in “The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account,” the first of his articles on the First Quarter Storm for this magazine, writes that student leader Edgar Jopson, who was then a moderate, had his group’s microphones kept away from radical student leader Gary Olivar, and the radicals wrangled with the moderates just as Marcos had finished his speech and was stepping out of the Legislative Building.
It was then, Mariano’s account continues, that “a paper mache crocodile (representing government corruption) and a makeshift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew” in the direction of Marcos and his wife, Imelda. “Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft-drink bottles, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.”
The moderates tried to pacify by means of speeches the radicals, among them the Maoist Kabataang Makabayan. But the radicals, as Lacaba reports, were “spoiling for trouble” with the cops and were “in no mood for dinner-party chatter and elocution contests.”
From the battleground that was the vicinity of the Legislative Building on Burgos Drive, the demonstrations that now launched the First Quarter Storm moved on to the premises of Malacañang, after a relative lull of three days in which student groups still took to the streets to denounce the government. Then came Friday, January 30 – “so far the most violent night in the city’s postwar history,” as Lacaba writes in retrospect about these events.
The radicals were demonstrating again in front of the Legislative Building, as the moderates went to Malacañang for an audience with Marcos that turned into a tense confrontation. By the end of that meeting, the radicals had trooped as well to the Palace. As Lacaba reports in “And the January 30 Insurrection,” “[w]hat specific event precipitated the battle that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J. P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacanang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacanang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of ‘Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!’ Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! a rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.”
Firefighters arrived at the scene, literally to extinguish the political conflagration at the Palace gates, but the hose they aimed at the protesters yielded a “sputtering spurt,” then the comical became tragic as the protesters ran after and roughed up the fleeing firefighters, then rammed the fire truck into Malacañang’s Mendiola gate. The very center of power suddenly became a tear-gassed arena, as the presidential guards at once engaged the protesters who were lobbing Molotov cocktails into the Palace grounds.
Amid the blaze of a parked vehicle that had been set on fire, the presidential guards managed to drive out the mob, and the battle shifted again to downtown Manila where, this time, not just cops, but “constabulary troopers” confronted the protesters, reports Lacaba. There were also looters among this defiant crowd, who exploited the situation, smashing shop windows and spiriting away “jewelry and shoes.” Soon enough, “the soldiers started firing with Thompsons into the ground,” the dreadful staccato intended as warning, and yet some protesters were hit by shrapnel. Lacaba himself became caught up in the frenzy of rushing some of the injured to the nearby hospitals, and it is remarkable, going by his account, that not a few residents in the area helped hide the protesters who, fleeing from their pursuers, had wandered into the maze of Manila’s dark alleys.
By dawn, the revolution of January 30 was quite over, hundreds had been arrested and an eerie, smoke-filled silence was restored in the city. But this was just the beginning of the Storm. Marcos did not immediately issue his infamous dire warnings – his threats to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and declare martial law. He still maintained that air of equanimity, as opposed to the spitefulness attributed to him since. Nevertheless this period became his transition to authoritarianism. Vice President Fernando Lopez resigned from the Cabinet the next day.
These events were chronicled by the Free Press writers in what has since been widely acclaimed as “literature in a hurry.” Lacaba’s articles for this magazine and Asia-Philippines Leader remain in print in a book titled Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage: The First Quarter Storm and Related Events, which harks back to a time when protesting in front of the US Embassy was daringly new and not the ossified ritual that such actions became since; when communism and socialism were daring new thought and not bogged down in debates over whether they’re old cant; when the established social order was besieged and a generation of Filipinos thought it was possible to push it to the wall so that it would either reform or suffer destruction through revolution.
In contrast to Lacaba’s reportage, Kerima Polotan, sympathetic to Marcos where Lacaba was brilliantly antipathetic, recounted the same events but with hardly any sympathy for Marcos’s critics, whether old or young. Instead, she wrote of those in whom the radicalism of the youth inspired not admiration but fear.
“Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof,” went Polotan’s “The Long Week,” published alongside Lacaba’s accounts of the January 26 and 30 riots in the Free Press of February 7, 1970. “They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books – altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passage, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.”
Lacaba’s book recaptures the ferment, the freshness, of a period of agitation that resulted, alas, in dictatorship and in a generation robbed of their chance to lead. Yesterday’s FQS protesters are today’s middle-aged baby boomers with grown-up children of their own, often ensconced in the establishment, either in business or government. Yet the historical verdict seems clear: Lacaba’s articles have survived, Polotan’s, forgotten; youthful idealism continues to be honored; the New Society generally acknowledged to be a sham.
To read Lacaba’s book is to be able to answer a crucial question about that generation: Have yesterday’s activists-turned-today’s fat cats been able to totally jettison their radical youth, or is there something in them ingrained by that period that bears watching as they now handle the levers of power? I would argue that those FQS veterans now in high places cannot avoid a radically different outlook, with its quiet but perceptible impact on how power is wielded in the present day.
Reading eyewitness accounts of great events also points to the depressing reality that some things never change. The reactionaries remain so; the reformists stuck, too, in a rut of self-doubt; and the radicals in a time warp. And, indirectly, Lacaba’s book raises a question no one has ever been able to answer in a satisfactory manner. Did the agitation of idealistic and romantic youth in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies make dictatorship more appealing? For the shameful fact is that martial law was greeted with relief by a majority of Filipinos, at least from the upper and middle classes, who rejoiced in the curfew, in the cutting of hippie hair, not to mention the padlocking of Congress and suppression of liberties. For, if so, the Filipino may be innately reactionary – with all that such a conclusion shockingly implies.
Recalling that eventful first quarter of 1970, Dan Mariano writes, “Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent a 100 percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2.00 to P4.00, then P8.00. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.”
By April that year, a general strike was held protesting against increases in oil prices and transportation costs. The next year saw the Diliman Commune, the revolt by University of the Philippines students in February. But the sign of those times was not the Diliman Commune itself, which continues to throb gloriously in the memories of FQS veterans, but a parallel effort overlooked because it’s inconvenient. As students barricaded the campus and broadcast a recording of the President’s postcoital croonings to Dovie Beams, some residents in the area banded together and hunted down the radical students in the defense of order and their property rights.
And it was Ferdinand Marcos, the last product of the American educational system, but a mutant one in that his political maturity took place during the confused, corrupt and corrupting circumstances of the Japanese Occupation, who gambled on form trumping substance. So long as the trappings of legitimacy were maintained, the upper and middle class would embrace his “Revolution from the Center” and tolerate, if not actually accept with enthusiasm, his “New Society.”
The Plaza Miranda bombing took place on August 21, 1971. Two days after, 20 people were arrested as Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Martial law followed a year and a month later, restoring order on the surface but fueling the already underground radical movement that Jopson himself would at last join and sacrifice his life for. Yet, when revolution finally came, it wasn’t what the young radicals dreamed of in 1970. It was an entirely different creature, what came to be known as People Power in 1986, and Velvet Revolutions elsewhere since.
Patricio N. Abinales
A sympathetic media has kept the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on high profile such that foreign and domestic observers have cited them as evidence of a political system in perennial crisis mode and permanent instability. Intermittent ambushes by NPA and the occasional attacks by MILF commanders on AFP outposts are magnified, morphing into “major military offensives” that purportedly expose the fragility of government authority in the countryside.
Yet if one momentarily steps out of the din of the rhetoric and the reportage and looks at both insurgencies more objectively, one actually will also notice a number of under-reported incongruities. In the CPP’s case, reportage on the surge in ambushes fail to note that most of these are happening in the northeastern portion of Mindanao and only sporadically in other parts of the archipelago. Why this asymmetry exists is something that media seems uninterested to pursue. More importantly, media outlets appear not to spot the one clear anomaly that confronts the CPP today: its difficulty in complementing its “advances” in rural warfare with similar breakthroughs in the urban mass politics. While its parliamentary front Bayan Muna, has been instrumental in keeping the CPP at the center of bourgeois politics, and despite consistent print and media coverage of miniscule student protests led by other front organizations like Anakbayan, the truth is that the CPP is still years, perhaps even decades, of reaching the high numbers it had in the late years of the Marcos dictatorship.
No urban protest has shut down thoroughfares the same way as the waves of welgang bayan the CPP launched in the 1980s. No schools have been forced to suspend classes due to massive boycotts, nor factories locked-down because of widespread workers’ strikes. And when urban poor communities resist “urban renewal,” they do so because their immediate lives are at stake; there is hardly anything political in their battles against the police. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) now relies mainly on its “spokesman” delivering bad speeches in Congress; there is none anymore of those huge “poor people’s marches” that marked the heyday of the now dismissed Jaime Tadeo. The “loudest” of the CPP legal organizations, (in part because it is media savvy), is a fisherman’s group whose membership size is quite dubious (note, for example, that Pamalakaya has never had any national congress).
The question that journalists consistently failed to ask is why this unevenness in the CPP revival? Part of the problem has to do with the 1992 split when its Great Leader and eternal chairman Jose Ma. Sison presided over the destruction of the Party’s more dynamic and innovative regional organization, and the expulsion of over half of its central committee members. This singular Stalinist act deprived the revolution of the very cadres that presided over its growth; cadres known for their refusal to be straight-jacketed by Sison’s dogmatic devotion to Maoism, and who then devised creative strategies to turn the CPP into a national military and political movement. After their expulsion – and in the case of Filemon Lagman (Manila-Rizal), Arturo Tabara (Western Visayas) and Rollie Kintanar (NPA chief of staff and Mindanao), their Mafia-style execution – the Party has been having a hard time developing cadres of the same caliber as these “renegades.” The sickly Ka Roger pales in comparison to Kintanar, BAYAN’s Renato Reyes is a poor copycat of the late Lean Alejandro, and the best united front work Teodoro Casiño and Satur Ocampo have been doing of late is making backroom deals with landlords in Congress. Finally, of all the NPA guerrilla zones that remain active, it is only those in Mindanao that have shown the way. The irony here is that these were the same NPA units that Kintanar and the late Benjamin De Vera created and protected from the bloody internal executions of the 1980s.
These internal weaknesses are being aggravated by a shift in the state’s counter-insurgency warfare. While its senior leadership still refers to its strategy as a “war over hearts and minds,” the military – if we are to believe the claims of the pro-CPP human rights group Karapatan – has adopted a mini-version of the successful Phoenix program that nearly destroyed the entire Vietcong infrastructure in South Vietnam. The selective killing of activists and cadres suspected of playing important roles in the revival of the legal organizations in the towns and cities have maimed the urban mass movements that are supposed to function first as diversions to ease military pressures on the guerrilla zones, and later to back up the NPA as it shifts to a more aggressive conventional war against the Philippine state. But with their organizers dead and those who were supposed to succeed made to think twice before assuming senior positions that could be their death warrants, the Party is more and more forced to rely on its military power to maintain its image as the single biggest threat to the government. Hence the increase in the number of ambushes, which now includes the deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) akin to those used in Iraq by Al Qaeda. This, unfortunately, is not what “people’s war” is all about, but the CPP has really very little choice.
The other insurgency has taken a lot of headline space these days after the MILF and the government have come to terms over the issue of what exactly comprised the Moro people’s ancestral domain. The agreement came just at the right time for both protagonists. For Gloria Arroyo it was a chance to show Congress and the 13 percent who might watch her SONA that something is being done about the Mindanao war, and for the MILF, the agreement has further entrenched its position as the real spokesman (yes, the fundamentalist MILF is an all-male club) of the Moro people.
It is the criticism of weapons that has so far kept the MILF at the center of Mindanao’s political landscape (its senior adviser, the politico Michael Mastura once boasted at a donor’s conference that funders should listen to “us” because “we have the guns!”). A second look at this vaunted capability however raises certain question. Like the NPA, the MILF occasionally probes the AFP’s armor, the latest attacks a month or so before the above agreement (the MILF bosses claim these were tantrums by commanders who were supposedly frustrated at the slow pace of the negotiations).. But unlike the NPA, the MILF’s combat zones are extremely constricted — its forces rarely venture outside areas where the communities are under its control. Roughly, we are talking here of Maguindanao province, parts of Lanao del Sur (the southeastern portions), North Cotabato (towns bordering Lanao del Sur), Sulu and Basilan, and a little patch in South Cotabato. Not much of an area if placed in the larger island frame of Mindanao.
The MILF, in short, is fighting a defensive war and its attacks should be properly interpreted as warnings to the AFP to keep its units outside of rebel territory. They were never aimed to expand that space. And if the MILF does decides to “liberate” the rest of Mindanao in the name of the Bangsamoro, there is a 99 percent certainty that it will not even reach even the border of Southern Kudarat or go beyond Tubod, Lanao del Sur; all these despite its supposedly vaunted firepower (which, if one recalls, paled in comparison to the AFP’s when the two confronted each other in 2000).
To military limitations we add political insularity. The MILF has never disavowed that it is claiming Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu mainly for the Bangsa Moro, with the Christian majorities and lumad minorities having only minor, and the case of the lumad, no role at all in its realization. In fact it continues to stoke the resentment and biases of the latter by its military arrogance and dogmatic attachment to the myth of centuries-long of Moro resistance. The MILF has failed to realize that to ensure the success of its separatist goals, it must be able to draw in Christians and lumad into its fold. Unlike the CPP, the MILF feels no need for an NDF, and the reason for this is its belief that all Muslims are behind it.
This is not necessarily true. There is no solid evidence that the entire ummah is backs the MILF’s struggle. In fact frictions within the community are quite obvious. Family or clan loyalty is still far stronger than devotion to the Bangsamoro and prejudices abound between the three principal groups: the Maguindanaos, Maranaos, and Tausogs (again media seems to miss out on the fact that choices for ARMM are also often determined by which group’s turn to govern). Already, the recent hint by Arroyo’s people that elections to the ARMM may be postponed in the light of the ancestral domain agreement has elicited strong reservations from Muslim politicians whose role in the MILF’s Bangsamoro Judicial Entity is actually ill-defined. Are they expected to turn over power to the rebel group? One doubts if they will.
Insurgencies never win if the states they wish to overthrow do not collapse completely as a result of a major conventional war sustained by a steady supply of war material from powerful external sources. This was the case of the successful Asian communist revolutions of the 20th century. With the exception of East Timor, no other separatist movement has managed to break up a Southeast Asian nation-state. In fact, the universal path to success is through compromises with a nation’s government (see, in particular, the case of Burma). There is no such major war in the horizon for the Philippines and the patrons of Moro separatism are tired of wasting resources on a cause that appears to be succeeding better in the negotiating table than in the battlefield.
We will therefore most likely continue to be witness to these lingering-but-failing-to-succeed wars of the flea, their presence becoming more or less a permanent feature of our political narrative.
October 5, 1996
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.
Man of the Year
by Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
January 8, 1972–There was rice shortage again. Prices were never higher. Unemployment was appalling, lawlessness reigned. Justice was compartmentalized, with one law for the rich and powerful, another law, a sterner one, for the poor and weak. Graft and corruption in the government was more rampant than ever. Demonstrators against the administration were shot at by government troops as if they were game and the President shed crocodile tears. Lip service was paid to reform while chaos if not revolution threatened. Who could challenge the regime? It seemed irresistible, controlling as it did not only Congress but the local governments. How could the Opposition hope to win against the Marcos candidates in the senatorial election? Their victory would be taken as a national endorsement of the Marcos idea of government—and his perpetuation in power. Who would lead the resistance? The privileges of the writ of habeas corpus had been suspended and martial law continually mentioned if not actually threatened. Democracy was going down, down, down. Who would stop the fall? He would be the Man of the Year.
IN a conversation which took place about a week before the Plaza Miranda bombing incident on 21 August 1971, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., said to this writer:
“President Marcos has threatened again to charge me with subversion. It’s a bluff, but who knows?”
“Can he have forgotten so quickly how the Yuyitung affair backfired on him?” one said. But then, one thought, Marcos is not a machine weighing dispassionately the chances of success in this or that adventure but a vain and ambitious man with a great deal of power.
“A very dangerous man,” said Ninoy. He went on to say that he had a feeling of something big about to happen.
Some Ilocano politicians were in the room, among them the young Chavit Singson. They were reporting the steep rise of violent incidents in the North. Army-trained professional killers had been unleashed on the population of Northern and Central Luzon in preparation for the elections in November. They spoke in particular of a certain “Major” whose expertise in the art of assassination had earned him a license to kill. This assassin did not have to answer for his deeds to anyone and could kill at his own discretion. He had done a fine job in the North and was moving south. According to the latest reports then, he was operating in Mountain Province. Soon, they said, he would be in Manila.
They looked apprehensive and had come to Ninoy to see what he could do for them. “Nothing,” Ninoy answered them. He had neither the money nor the muscle to help them with. But he wanted to know for certain if they would stick it out with the Opposition to the end or succumb to the threats of the authorities. So long as they identified with the Opposition they were marked men. He would not hold it against them personally if they backed out at that moment but he did not want to waste time with anyone who would have a change of heart later on. A little reluctantly they all agreed to stick it out to the end. “You are dead men on leave,” Ninoy said. They nodded their heads in acknowledgment of the fact.
“If Singson makes it in Ilocos Sur and Dy in Isabela, I don’t care if we lose everywhere else,” said Ninoy. “Our cause will have been vindicated. These are the two spots most cruelly oppressed by the Marcos military machine. If we win in them, then we know we have pierced his armor. That’s consolation enough.”
That far back, Ninoy Aquino was already drawing the lineaments of the persona he would assume after the Plaza Miranda bombing and the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, when the country tottered on the brink of dictatorship: that of the resistance-hero. Within a week Ninoy would serve as the symbol of democratic man confronted with forces that seek to suppress his individuality and freedom.
Expressing his forboding that the forces of reaction and dictatorship were ready and eager to break out in a wave of repression that would sweep away all our rights and liberties, frankly, he said, he did not know how anyone could meet, with the hope of overcoming, the threat to the Republic.
“The secret is not to be afraid,” one said. Not that one knew for certain that courage overcomes all obstacles but that to be brave and defiant is the only way consonant with human dignity to face tyranny.
A week later two fragmentation bombs were tossed onto the stage of the Liberal Party’s proclamation rally held in Plaza Miranda. Nine persons were killed and 95 others were wounded. The leadership of the Liberal Party could have been wiped out that fateful night of 21 August. Not one politician was killed but many of those who stood on the stage were seriously hurt. One lost a foot and, for a week or so, Sergio Osmeña, Jr., and Senator Salonga fought for their lives on operating tables.
Upon hearing of the tragic event the first thought that occurred to one was that this was the perfect pretext to liquidate Philippine democracy “in the interest of order and security.” The question of who perpetrated the crime seemed irrelevant in the light of the knowledge that only the government had the power to use the incident to its own advantage.
One could suspect the Communists. How often had one heard them declaim that in the confrontation between capital and labor, between the bourgeoisie and the common people, discussion is futile and serves only as an intellectual sport for the upper class, peaceful reform is a pipe dream and society’s contradictions can only be resolved through bloody revolution! The Communist argument is logical enough. There may be other ways to improve social conditions but the Communist way has an impressive record of success. But what one should do is not necessarily what one would do—especially when the conditions are far from favorable. In the present context, a total breakdown of social order could only favor the “fascists”—if one may be allowed to use that term, with its strict historical associations, to designate all who are hostile to and have no use for the democratic way of life, holding it too inefficient—meaning to say, it breeds a climate that is not always healthy for rich thieves.
The Left is noisy but basically powerless. Were it not for the protection afforded it by the liberal bourgeoisie, the Left would be either dead, in jail or scratching out a bare existence in the mountains. It has neither the talent nor the muscle to command popular respect and obedience. It cannot, therefore, impose its kind of order on the country should anarchy break out and a power vacuum appear. Since constant self-criticism is the hallmark of the Marxist movement, no doubt the Left in this country is fully conscious of its limitations. What to do about them is the question.
The rumor that Ninoy Aquino had masterminded the bombing to rid himself of rivals for his party’s nomination for Presidential candidate spread swiftly throughout the country. The press in time discredited that rumor but what was puzzling then was the celebrity with which the story spread. The bombing and the rumor seemed connected, parts of one clever scheme whose aim was to destroy the Opposition. The Opposition was bombed and the Opposition was to be blamed.
On Monday, 23 August, President Marcos made the announcement that he had as of midnight, Saturday, suspended the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. The reason for this extraordinary measure, he said, was that there was a Maoist rebellion in progress.
Twenty persons had been arrested and were being detained in Camp Crame. All but one of them could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as Maoist. That was an oversight on the part of the President none made a note of the. His suspension of the writ had stunned the nation. The people felt, anyway, that is was not a question of whether he was rationally justified in the action he had taken. The power at his disposal could “justify” anything he did. The question was how far could he go, how far would he go. Hardly anyone believed the President’s words, but everyone paid heed to his power. From the outset it was a contest of nerves between the power of tyranny and the courage without arms of democratic men.
From noon onwards, on the day of the President’s announcement, the hours passed slowly in deathly calm. It was like a foretaste of life under a dictatorship: a life of quiet fear. A little longer the nation might have becomed accustomed to the situation, so easy is it to acquire the habit of obedience!
Suddenly the tense calm was broken. The voluble and tireless Ninoy Aquino began his counter-offensive and the spell of fascism was broken. Wherever he appeared, he carried a submachine gun at a time when no one outside the Administration would have dared be seen with one.
At the Manila Medical Center, the milling crowd at the entrance parted to admit the rotund frame of Senator Aquino come to check up on the condition of his colleagues. He passed by the government troops without even glancing at them, tight-lipped and looking confident of his ability to stand up to the Administration.
It was that picture that crystallized the people’s timid resentment against the Marcos Administration into an unshakeable determination to resist. The people fixed their eyes on Ninoy. If he got away with defying the President, how much better would they—the whole nation—fare!
The Administration caught on fast. Before it could expect the nation to submit, it would have to break the will of Senator Aquino. An object lesson would have to be made of him.
On Tuesday, President Marcos went on television. He laid the blame for the bombing of the LP rally on the Communists, who were planning, he said, to stage a revolution, of which the first act was the bombing incident at Plaza Miranda. He charged Senator Aquino with lending support to the Communist insurgent movement. He had “reliable” information that Ninoy Aquino had frequently met with such Huk field commanders as Dante, Mallari, Alibasbas, Freddie and Ligaya. He brought out a carbine with telescopic sight and a nickel-plated grease gun, which, he claimed, had been given by Ninoy to Huk commanders.
President Marcos presented two men, Max Llorente and Hernan Ilagan, who had been, he said, close friends of Senator Aquino until they discovered what he was really up to. Neither of them spoke a word all the time they were on TV. They just stood before the cameras with blank expressions until the President motioned for them to go away.
The evidence against Senator Aquino, he said, was overwhelming. It was only because he had hitherto “erred on the side of generosity” that he had not yet arrested the senator. But his tone suggested that that was a fault he would soon correct.
A raid on a Communist camp in Tarlac had uncovered a master plan to raze Manila and kidnap or assassinate prominent persons, the President went on. The bombing in Plaza Miranda was merely the prelude to a wave of Red Terror and a general civil war. He warned the radicals that the armed forces could cope with any situation they might create. He asked them to abandon the rest of their master plan, since it had no hope of succeeding, anyway. To avoid a costly confrontation between the Communists and the army, he would not hesitate to declare martial law and crush the insurgents before they had time to stage their planned insurrection.
Once more the Administration had the psychological advantage. People started losing heart. It was rumored that before the night was over, Senator Aquino would be arrested. After him, it would be only a question of time and accommodations in the stockades before all persistent critics of the Administration were in their turn arrested.
Later that night, Ninoy Aquino appeared on Channel 13. For once he looked serious. Opposite him, Juan Ponce Enrile, secretary of national defense, sat, grinning.
“I have been charged,” said Ninoy Aquino, “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 with the Communists. I have armed and funded the Huks, he told a press-TV-radio conference earlier tonight. And he hoisted before the people what he asserted was military intelligence information to nail down these charges.
“I say to him now: these are devious lies. I deny them flatly.
“He also hauled up arms I supposedly gave to the Huks. These, I charge him back, are his fabrications. Likewise, he brought before the TV cameras two supposed witnesses against me, one a longtime friend. I tell him: I will confront his witnesses.
“I say his charges are fabrications. And I challenge him to prove they are not.
“I say these are part of a sinister plot to obliterate the Opposition. And his very act is my proof. I say his motive is, far from securing the security of the people and the Republic, rather to secure the politics of his Party. This—again—is proven by his unholy timing.
“He says he has had the goods on me—that I have armed, funded and comforted the enemies of the state since 1965 and 1966. Why did he wait until tonight to unwrap the bill?
“I say that where the black bombers failed to wipe out the Opposition at Plaza Miranda, he would now succeed. This is his motive.
“I tell him: Mr. President, don’t do me any favors. Do your duty—and file your charges against me.
“Your duty is clear. And don’t forget your oath to apply the law evenly—if harshly. I know Lady Justice has worn a peek-a-boo since you came to power, but let Justice be blind once again in my case and let Justice take her full course in the charges you have leveled against me.
“I demand, in fact, Mr. President, that you bring 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 privilege, 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 nag-bomba together with the New People’s Army.”
On the night of the bombing he had not been on stage with the 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 there was over. He looked contented. Now there was no more having to choose. He had flung the President’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 died 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 bluffer. He’s thrown everything at me, but I’m numb. I told you that even before all this, at the Inter-continental. I’m really 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 a 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.
I asked him about the affidavits made by other witnesses implicating him in the crime of subversion.
“All his witnesses are dead, anyway. Putang ina. Hahahaha. Naku linabas ang mga baril, ayong mga lahat na…. Hahahaha. Jesus, what a farce! Aye, God! Goddamned this guy, he’s good, this Marcos. He almost convinced me I’m a Huk.”
Every day from then on the Marcos Administration hurled a new charge or threat at the senator, who exposed every charge as a lie and met each threat with smiling nonchalance. And yet the threats were real enough. One night the PC ringed his house to frighten his family. Members of the medical staff of the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac were picked up and questioned by the PC, who tried to force them into signing affidavits implicating Ninoy with the Huks. Houseboys and cooks were also arrested. His brother-in-law, Antolin Oreta, Jr., was “invited” by the army and then detained.
That he had had dealings with the Huks, Ninoy did not deny.
“What can I do about that? I have lived in Tarlac where the Huks operate most. The point I’m driving at with my frequent mention of Huks is that as governor of Tarlac I tried to arrive at a condition of peace that was not reached through bloodshed. In my six years of governorship, I don’t think there were more than 21 Huk killings. It was not until Mr. Marcos arrived on the scene that these things began to escalate. From 1966 up the present about 1,500 have been killed. My policy as governor had been to let everyone come to my office and talk things over: Huk and non-Huk, Nacionalista and Liberal. I believed that was the only way I could maintain peace in the province. I told the Huks, ‘This is a free country. So long as you don’t kill anyone this is a free country for you. You can speak against me, attack me in the barrios. Go ahead. I believe in our democracy. You have the right to air your views. If the people should ultimately prefer your system to the one I espouse, who am I to oppose the people?’
“The Army calls this co-existence.
“I call it survival. Moreover I have extreme faith in our democratic way of life. I firmly believe that exposed to both the democratic and Communist ideologies, the people will opt for democracy.
“When the Huks complained about bad roads, I immediately repaired them. When the Huks said a landowner was abusive, I immediately approached the landowner, and if the Huks were speaking the truth, I asked him to mend his ways. The landowners have called me a radical but all I did was ask them, ‘Which would you prefer? To negotiate with the Huks or get your head chopped off?
“The Army called it co-existence. Well, they can call it anything they want, but the Army was happy then. There was peace.”
As for his frequent meetings with the Huks, he had arranged these meetings not to solicit Huks support for his candidates but, on the contrary, to ask the Huks not to interfere in Tarlac politics. One such meeting had been at the request of Danding Cojuangco, the President’s right hand man, who was then running for governor, according to Ninoy.
To deprive the Liberals of support from any sector, the Marcos Administration continued its smear campaign against the spokesman for the Liberal Party. The charge of Communism dangling over Aquino’s head kept the Chinese, for one, from giving him any aid. The memory of the fate of the Yuyitung brothers was still fresh in their minds. To deny the Liberals American support, President Marcos invited a New York Times correspondent to interview him. He repeated his charges against Ninoy and said that if the Communists fielded a candidate in 1973, meaning Ninoy Aquino, he would be compelled to field his wife, Imelda, as his party’s candidate for President.
In answer, Ninoy said that eight years of Marcos are enough and to inflict six more years of Imelda on the country would be unthinkable! Addressing himself to the President, Ninoy said:
“If Mr. Marcos is fielding his wife in ’73 just to stop Ninoy Aquino, I’m telling him now, I’m not running. Keep your wife home, Mr. Marcos, do not tire her out with a gruelling campaign. I would like to spare her the hardship. I will not run in 1973, so long as Imelda’s doesn’t run either. Let Imelda and I make a blood compact, vowing not to run in 1973 as Presidential candidates.”
Asked to comment on Ninoy’s proposal, President Marcos answered:
“I refuse to comment on a speech by a comedian.”
Ninoy Aquino’s audacity and defiance bore fruit on November 8. The Liberal senatorial candidates swept the elections. In Ilocos Sur, Singson won as governor and in Isabela, despite the presence of Task Force Lawin, Dy won as well. Ninoy’s cause had, indeed, been vindicated. Even the poorest and most downtrodden emulated the example he had set. In Tarlac, the barrio folk themselves went out to protect the ballots they had cast, forming long processions to escort the ballot boxes to the municipalities. The senator had given a new lease on life to the democratic idea, which cynics had dismissed as an empty catchphrase incapable of firing anyone’s imagination, let alone convincing anyone to risk his life for it. The “people’s victory,” as Ninoy called it, of November 8 proved them wrong.
Because he stood for the people’s will to resist tyranny, drawing upon himself all the fury of its wrath without flinching, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., did more than anybody else to make that victory possible and is, therefore, the Man of the Year 1971 in the Philippines.
And the January 30 Insurrection
by Jose F. Lacaba
February 7, 1970–JANUARY 26 seemed explosive enough—but it was a whimper compared with the horrendous bang of January 30. The papers called January 26 a riot. January 30 was something else. “This is no longer a riot,” said a police officer. “This is an insurrection.” And the President called it a revolt—“a revolt by local Maoist Communists.”
January 26 was a Monday. On Tuesday the students met to plan a series of new rallies denouncing police brutality, and the President conferred with police officials. On Wednesday the President had a talk with some student leaders in Malacañang. On Thursday four groups of demonstrators, one of them led by U.P. President S. P. Lopez himself, staged simultaneous demonstrations at Malacañang, Congress, and Maharnilad. On Friday several other student groups held a sit-in outside the Malacañang gates—and just as their manifestation was about to end, all hell broke loose.
Tuesday, about 120 leaders, representing 36 schools and at least a dozen national youth organizations, gathered at the Far Eastern University. NUSP President Edgar Jopson, of the Ateneo, presided over the three-hour meeting, during which a resolution was passed demanding the resignation of certain officials of law enforcement agencies, and Friday was set as the starting date of the series of rallies. While the students were conferring at the FEU, the President was in a huddle with law enforcement officials in Malacañang. He told them to be “more tolerant to the future leaders of the country,” and ordered them to drop the charges against the students arrested on January 26.
Wednesday, Mayor Villegas announced that the Manila police would stay away from future demonstrations to avoid trouble, but that they would stand by, “within beck and call of violence erupts.” The NUSP and the National Students’ League rejected an invitation to meet with the President in Malacañang, saying they preferred to have the talks on Friday. Another group of student leaders went there anyway and heard the President say: “I personally do not want to have anything to do with the Constitutional Convention.” The Senate and the House created a committee to investigate the “root causes of demonstrations in general.” The Manila police filed complaints of alarm and scandal against 18 students caught in the battle of Burgos Drive. “The whole world is in ferment and youth is on the march,” said Brigadier General Vicente Raval of the PC. “It is essential that, in our country, we take the greatest care in dealing with the problem.” He proposed the immediate acquisition of “non-lethal equipment” for the police and urged that they be re-trained in “the highly sensitive science of dealing with demonstrators.”
Thursday, there were four groups of demonstrators. Students from the Philippine Normal College and members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines held separate rallies. Students from the University of the East gathered first at Malacañang, then moved on to Maharnilad, where trouble was avoided when a policeman whose jeep was stoned simply drove away without a fight. When the UE students left Malacañang, the UP professors, led by S. P. Lopez, arrived and were angrily reprimanded by the President: “You yourselves are vague and confused about the issues you have raised against the government.” The President challenged any Communist in the group to a debate, and when a student leader accused him of using the army and the Special Forces in the elections, he asked: “Are you a Liberal?” Meanwhile, police reporters agreed to wear distinctive uniforms when covering demonstrations, to avoid being stoned by students and clobbered by cops.
And then it was Friday, January 30.
Again, there were simultaneous demonstrations. To Congress went members of the KM, the SDK, the MPKP, and other militant groups. The NUSP and the NSL marched on Malacañang.
At about three in the afternoon, Jopson, Portia Ilagan of the NSL, and other student leaders went into Malacañang for a meeting with the President.
Sometime past five, the rally at Congress came to an end, and the demonstrators marched on to Malacañang, arriving there at about six.
What specific event precipitated the battled that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J. P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacañang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacañang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of “Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!” Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! A rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.
A commotion was now going on at the Mendiola gate of the Palace. A firetruck inside the Palace grounds advanced and trained its hoses on the student rebels. The students retreated, and a brief period of lull followed. At about seven, a truck from the Manila Fire Department, responding to an alarm, came up from Sta. Mesa, its sirens dead, and slowed down in front of St. Jude Church. The firemen probably intended to blast away at the students, but water must really be scarce. Nothing but an ineffectual, sputtering spurt came out of their water cannon. The students charged, the truck backed off—but not fast enough. The firemen who were not quick to flee got beaten up.
The rebels now had a captured firetruck at their disposal. They drove it toward the Mendiola gate and used it as a battering ram of sorts until the locks gave away, the chains broke, and the gate clanked open. Into the breach surged the more daring demonstrators. They had apparently come prepared for the assault. They lobbed molotovs and pillboxes into the Palace grounds; the flames spread down the road when the molotovs crashed to the ground, the nails and broken pieces of glass scattered when the pillboxes exploded.
Once inside the gate, the rebels stoned the buildings and set fire to the truck and to a government car that happened to be parked nearby. Before they could wreak more havoc, however, the Presidential Guard Battalion came out in force. They fired into the air and, when the rebs held their ground, fired tear gas bombs at them. The rebs retreated; the few how were slow on their feet, or were blinded by the tear gas, got caught in the Palace grounds and were beaten up with rifle butts and billy clubs and good old-fashioned fists and feet.
About this time, reinforcements from the Constabulary arrived, later to be joined by the army, the navy, and the Metrocom. The pattern of the January 26 battle was repeated: the military would attack, the students would retreat; the students would counterattack, the military would draw back. At about nine, the soldiers had gained control of Mendiola and J. P. Laurel. The students were holding Tuberias, Legarda, and Claro M. Recto; some had retreated down Arlegui and into Quiapo, where looters took advantage of the situation in the Lacson Underpass, breaking display windows and grabbing jewelry and shoes.
On Tuberias, when I got there at about nine o’clock, the students were turning away all vehicles. The soldiers were at the corner of Tuberias and Mendiola, and steadily advancing. The students held their ground, hurling rocks, until they heard the sound of rifles being cocked. Then they scattered, some jumping over high walls into the yards of houses, others being voluntarily let in by apartment inhabitants. I fell in with a small group that took shelter at the mouth of a dark alley. A boy of about 12, in slippers, obviously a resident of the place, said there was a way out if we wanted to take a chance. He guided us down the long dark winding alley, down narrow catwalks, past walls smelling of urine, past accessorias with crumbling facades, until we came out, to our surprise, on Claro M. Recto.
At the end of Recto, where it hits Legarda, the students were massed, tense, turbulent, flinging rock and insults at the men in uniform—they looked like Constabulary troopers—guarding the bridge that leads to Mendiola. In the center of the cross formed by Recto, Mendiola, and Legarda was a burning jeep, its flames a bright yellow curtain separating the combatants. From the left side of Legarda came more shouts; there were other demonstrators there, and the troopers had to guard the bridge against two armies of students, one attacking from the front, the other attacking from the side.
It was at this point, with the students closing in from Recto and Legarda, that the troopers started firing—rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, the sound of a Thompson submachine gun—into the ground. Dust and tiny pebbles exploded from the cement and, where I stood, two rows behind the front lines, I felt a sudden sharp stinging pain in my chest. I’m hit, I thought, when I saw spots of blood on my shirt front; but since I didn’t fall, I gingerly unbuttoned my shirt. Imbedded right below my right nipple was an itty-bitty piece of cement. I carefully pulled it out and was examining it like a jeweler scrutinizing some precious gem from the moon when, before my eyes, there passed a student, supported by his comrades, one of his hands—the right, I think—now nothing more than a mess of blood and burning flesh, the fingers dangling like dead worms attached to his wrist only by a few threads of broken bones.
I was standing there in horror when another student, limping, fell into my arms. I recognized him to be one of the students who had come with us through the alley from Tuberias. He had one wound on his right leg, below the knee, and another on the outer ankle bone. A bystander watching from the sidewalk helped me carry him up Claro M. Recto, where we found a white car—a Taunus, I think—whose owner was good enough to take us to the UE Memorial Hospital. There they treated my very minor wound, but they could do nothing, they said, for the boy who had been shot in the leg. We then took a taxi—the owner of the car had gone back to the battle scene, looking for some fraternity brods—and brought our ward to the Orthopedic Hospital, where, at that very moment, as bad luck would have it, a small fire was raging on one of the upper floors. The fire did something to the X-rays, and the interns had to put the wounded boy’s leg in a cast, unable to check if a bullet was in his system.
The doctors at the Orthopedic Hospital agreed to let the wounded student stay for the night, until his friends or relatives could be contacted; and the bystander who had helped me carry the boy now invited me to his apartment house in Sampaloc for coffee and conversation. It was about midnight. When we were near his place, we saw that Legarda was still in tumult. So we forgot all about the coffee and off to the battlefield we went again.
The demonstrators had captured an army truck near the market, near a PNB branch, and a noisy debate on what to do with it was going on. Some wanted to push the truck into the line of Metrocom and army men down the road, but its wheels had been punctured and this proved to be a difficult task. Others wanted to burn the truck down, and indeed someone threw a lighted match into the sheets of paper that had been dumped inside the truck. Another demonstrator, however, quickly jumped onto the truck and stomped out the fire; the houses were too close, he said, “h’wag na nating idamay ‘yong mga tao.”
While the debate continued, two more army trucks beamed their headlights on the demonstrators and started moving forward, followed by the soldiers. The students started throwing stones. Some toughies in the area who had come out to join the demonstrators used slingshots, but kept swearing under their breath because they had no stock of homemade arrows. “Metrocom!” went the shout. “Sumuko na kamo! Bato ini!” The soldiers kept advancing, and then they started firing with Thompsons into the ground. We all scattered, except for one boy who did not even flinch and called to everybody to return. “Balik kayo, balik!” he cried. “Hindi magpapaputok nang deretso ‘yan!” I don’t know what happened to him, because when another round of firing started, I found myself in another dark alley, with a new group of companions.
When I got out again, the army truck was gone, and the soldiers were back at the corner of Recto and Legarda. A long lull followed, about 30 minutes. Then the soldiers started to advance again, someone hurled a molotov cocktail at them, they charged, cocking their guns and following us right into dark alleys where, as before, the demonstrators found doors being opened to them, or people at second-floor windows warning them with gestures about the presence of soldiers in alleys the demonstrators would enter. I somehow got separated from all my companions and found myself all alone under a kulahan, sitting on damp cement. The resident of an apartment house across the alley saw me and discreetly turned off his lights.
Quiet once more. I emerged from my hiding place and walked out into a street from which I could see the church on Earnshaw. There was a small group of students clustered at the door of an accessoria, talking animatedly, and I joined them. I was listening to them relate their experiences when, at the corner of Earnshaw and this street we were in, a squad of Metrocom men appeared. Everybody fled, except myself, two students, and the occupants of the accessoria, who worriedly told us to get in if we didn’t want to get hurt. In that dark, dingy, cramped accessoria, the two students and I stayed for a whole hour, seated on the steps of very narrow stairs, gulping down glasses and glasses of water, smoking, talking in whispers—“Rebolusyon na ito, brod,” they said—until the coast was clear.
It was three o’clock in the morning when we came out. Later that morning, the papers said that four students, some of them non-demonstrators, had been killed: Feliciano Roldan of FEU, Ricardo Alcantara of UP, Fernando Catabay of MLQU, and Bernardo Tausa of Mapa High School. Almost 300 demonstrators and bystanders were arrested; most of them were detained at Camp Crame.
That night, the President appeared on television to inform the nation of the “premeditated attack on the government, an act of rebellion and subversion,” which the military had successfully repulsed. “The mob that attempted to burn Malacañang,” he said, “was not a mob of students, nor were they simply arsonists.” They waved red banners, carried the flag with the red portion up, called the streets they occupied “liberated areas,” and shouted “Dante for President!” Therefore, said the President, “these men dedicated to an evil purpose, and that is to destroy Malacañang Palace and/or take it over.” The plan to take over Malacañang, he went on, was hatched by either one or both of two groups—“one of them Communist-inspired and the other one not Communist-inspired.” Both groups were under surveillance.
To his nation, the President had a message: “Rest assured that the situation is under control. Rest assured that we will maintain peace and order. Malacañan Palace is well guarded, but more than this, the country and our government is well guarded. There is no takeover by any group of the military or of the civilian government. In the matter of the preparation of the plans of reaction against any attempt to take over this government, the action that will be taken will be well-studied, deliberate, cautious, and legal, and there will be no attempt to curtail constitutional freedom.”
To the “insurrectionary elements,” he gave warning: “Any attempt at the forcible overthrow of the government will be put down immediately. I will not tolerate nor will I allow Communists to take over.”
The same day, the nation learned that the retirement date of General Raval of the PC, which was supposed to be on February 1, had been postponed to April 1. The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines were on red alert.
March 12, 1966
LAST week, Teodoro M. Locsin, president and editor of the Philippines Free Press, was invited to appear before the congressional committees on foreign affairs, national defense and appropriations, and give his views on President Marcos’ proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The following account is based on a transcript of Locsin’s testimony and cross-examination by the committee members which lasted for more than three hours. Editing has been necessary for lack of space and love of English and in the interest of clarity. Some inaccuracies in Locsin’s extemporaneous (except for a few quotations) speech have been corrected (and comments inserted) in the final version.
LOCSIN: I would like to make it clear at the very start that I appear here not in representation of the Free Press but as just another citizen. A Filipino. I was not too eager about coming here because my views had already been published and I did not want to be repetitious, but one of you was quite insistent and so I must be repetitious. I must repeat what I said in a series of articles and editorials last year on exactly the same thing: the Macapagal proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The opposition presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos, led the opposition to the Macapagal proposal. The Free Press opposed it then as it opposes it now, unlike Marcos who, having won and being now president, has made a complete turnabout.
Only fools, we are told, do not change their minds. What kind of an argument is that? Does it mean that if you change your mind, you are not a fool? Is changing one’s mind the test of wisdom? That would make the man who changes his mind every day the wisest man in the world. Only a fool does not change his mind no matter how circumstances change, that may be argued, but to change your mind when there has been no change of circumstances calls for an explanation. You must give reasons for changing your mind, and where the reasons you give are diametrically opposite to the reasons previously given by you, your motives for changing your mind are certainly subject to question. Revising history is not an acceptable reason for a change of mind but monetary consideration is an understandable reason. Black can be called white if the price is right. Only fools are fooled by the glib argument that only fools never change their minds.
I wish to call your attention to a Manila Daily Bulletin headline: “Marcos certifies Vietnam aid bill in return for $$, etc.,” by Jesus Bigornia. “President Marcos gave Congress leaders yesterday a peek into American package commitments to….” And so on.
PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin…
LOCSIN: Just a minute…
PELAEZ: I should like to say for Mr. Bigornia before he gets into trouble that he said he did not write the heading of that article.
LOCSIN: Correct. Very good. Perhaps, then, Mr. Menzi wrote it. (Laughter from the committees and the audience.) Now, let me call your attention to the interesting relationship between Mr. Menzi, the publisher of the Bulletin, and Mr. Marcos. Mr. Marcos is his commander-in-chief. Mr. Menzi is Mr. Marcos’ military aide, the alter ego, in a sense, of Mr. Marcos. I have a dirty mind and I believe that this was a deliberate leak to the press—which Mr. Marcos would afterward deny. Not only that, it has not been denied by the Manila Bulletin which is certainly very close to, if it is not the organ of, Malacañang.
And let me recall: Congressman Pendatun was with me early last month when the Free Press was given an award by the Confederation of Filipino Veterans for militant journalism and its contribution to Philippine progress. I was at the same table with Speaker Villareal and Congressman Pendatun. Mr. Villareal made a very impassioned speech about going to Vietnam to save democracy, then he sat down beside me and said to me, pointing in the direction of an American admiral and the American minister, Richard Service, who were at the same table with us: “Let them pay for it, Teddy.” Now, what the devil was he trying to tell me?
I came here to speak to you as a Filipino who refuses, who would oppose the sake of his country’s honor. If we must take up prostitution, however, let us take it up cold-bloodedly and collect first and afterwards bow our heads in shame. If we are going to war for a stabilization fund, let us not be suckers. Let us consider the economic cost. The P35 million we appropriate for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would be the annual interest we would pay for the stabilization fund. (Not to mention, of course, the Filipino lives that would be lost.)
I came here in the belief that Congress would pass the Marcos bill. I came in resignation, in despair. I think that you will pass the bill although not as quickly as the previous Congress did—in a couple of days or almost as short a time as it takes to sign a voucher for unconstitutional allowances.
PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin, we have invited you because we want to deal with this question in an dispassionate a manner as possible. We have invited you knowing your stand on this. Now you tell us that the members of Congress will pass the bill. I don’t think there is anybody who can presume what each congressman will do. You may have reasons to believe that they will pass the bill but to assert that they will, I think that is not quite fair to all of us.
LOCSIN: I take it back. I hope you won’t.
PELAEZ: That’s better.
LOCSIN: I apologize.
PELAEZ: Each of us will try to decide on this, as far as I know, according to the best lights God has given us, regardless of the prostitution of other people. I myself am resolved to view this solely from the standpoint of national interest, of what’s good for our people. Whatever may be the feelings of anyone else will not and should not influence us.
LOCSIN: Thank you for reprimanding me. I have a terrible weakness—one of losing control over my feelings. I shall speak more dispassionately, gentlemen. If I have hurt anybody’s feelings, I am sorry. I let my feelings run away with me. Which is a very bad thing to do in a fight.
Now, let me begin. Why are Filipino troops being sent to the Vietnam war? Is it in fulfillment of a treaty obligation? You have heard Dr. Salvador Araneta on the subject. SEATO members that are closer to the battle have not sent troops. Nor is an act of war dictated by any defense commitment with the United States. The United States has not been attacked but is the one attacking. What can the Philippines do in Vietnam? Sending 2,000 Filipino troops there would not make any difference in the outcome of the war. The cost would be P35 million this year which could best be spent here for the building of roads and bridges which are so badly needed to bring agricultural produce to market and make the economy work. The United States has spent billions of dollars in Vietnam to little effect, I wrote last year. The communist-led Viet Cong control more and more of the country despite American money and military intervention. Nor has the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had any noticeable effect on the South Vietnamese rebel will to fight. What can the Philippines really do in Vietnam? Why should Filipino troops be sent there? The South Vietnamese government has received all the necessary money from the United States to build all the roads and bridges and schoolhouses and hospitals required. The Philippine contribution would be insignificant.
There are two possible reasons for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. One is monetary, the other, fear. I have spoken on the possible monetary consideration. Let me speak now on the matter of fear. If Vietnam falls, the United States, it is feared, may withdraw from the Philippines, leaving it defenseless against the Chinese Communists. Will the United States withdraw from Asia if Vietnam falls, leaving the Philippines—and Formosa, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, India and the rest of Asia—to face the Chinese Communists? Will the United States then withdraw into fortress, solitary fortress, America? (The New Republic observes: “However the war in Vietnam ends, this country plainly isn’t getting ready to pull out of the Far East, but intends spending billions more dollars on air bases and ports, in Vietnam itself, in Thailand, on Formosa and Okinawa, and in the Philippines.”) The fall of Vietnam would make the American position in the Philippines and the rest of Asia more essential than ever to American security. The United States is not in Asia for our health, you know.
The United States would rather, for its security, face a communist challenge in Vietnam, and, if Vietnam fell, in the Philippines and Formosa and Japan rather than in Hawaii, and if the Philippines fell, in Hawaii rather than in California. The farther away from the enemy, the better. But the reality of American power in Asia, the American pundit, Walter Lippmann, has noted, is not in any land force it may commit to the area but in its naval and air power. The fall of South Vietnam will not destroy U.S. naval and air domination in the Pacific. As for land power, Douglas MacArthur is quoted as saying, if I remember correctly, “It would be sheer folly for the United States to ever again commit U.S. forces in a land war on the Asian continent.” And here is former Congressman Miguel Cuenco on the proposal by then President Macapagal to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war: “I have serious doubts about the efficacy of foreign military intervention in Vietnam to contain communism and keep that unfortunate country in democratic hands. Experience has shown that civil wars or internal rebellions—and I consider the Vietnam war a civil war—are better left to the nations concerned for their own solution. The experience of Burma is in point. Burma has an internal communist problem and she has a common northern boundary with China of about 900 miles long. For the last 17 years she has fought successfully communism without any foreign aid or intervention and she succeeded in concluding treaties with Chin for the determination of boundary. It is significant that in the treaty Burma concluded with Great Britain in the year 1948, Burma refused to join the British Commonwealth and it is clearly stipulated that Burma renounces any protection from Great Britain.
The Communist challenge or threat to the Philippines does not lie in any Chinese invasion of the Philippines. (Here is Newsweek: “And up to now, China’s leaders have shown that they are essentially cautious men. In Korea, Peking assiduously avoided getting drawn into the war until Gen. Douglas MacArthur led U.S. forces across the 38th parallel in a drive toward the Chinese border. In Tibet, Peking reasserted control over territory which has traditionally been subject to China. And in the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute, Peking was staking out what it considered to be its legitimate border. Says a British Foreign Office expert: They engaged in what one can best describe as an old-type imperial punitive expedition aimed at putting the Indians in their place. The fact is that the Chinese—Korea apart—have shown a marked reluctance to fight on other people’s territories.” What the Chinese promote are “wars of national liberation,” that is, internal conflicts, insurgency, revolution.) The Communists challenge or threat lies in social instability and economic depression and the failure of our democracy to work. Filipino Communists may hope to overthrow the “democratic” regime by appealing to the people with the promise of and to the landless and jobs for the jobless and the rest of the Communist line. Philippine security lies in a social order based on social justice, in economic progress, in less disparity between the rich who are so few and the poor who are so many, in increased productivity which calls for mobilization of all our resources. We have no financial surplus contrary to what Mr. Marcos and his secretary of finance would have us believe. We need all the money we can scrape up to build factories, implement land reform, irrigate and fertilize our fields, build roads and bridges—and make our democracy really work.
What can the Philippines do to save South Vietnam from communism that the United States has not already done? What is the United States really trying to do in South Vietnam? The United States is trying to get out of the Vietnam war without losing face. That is the long and short of it. It did not know what it was getting into when it went to Vietnam to fill the power vacuum created by the defeat of French colonialism according to the prestigious New Yorker magazine. As the situation deteriorated the United States found itself deeper and deeper in the mess with no means appropriate to its great power status to get out of it. Improvisation followed improvisation but the situation continued to deteriorate. Meanwhile, American opinion began to question more and more the wisdom of American intervention in Vietnam. There were demonstrations and heart-searchings by more and more Americans, “agonizing reappraisal” of what the United States was doing in that wretched place where we would join her.
“What is the root of all this swelling anti-Americanism among the Asians?” asks Walter Lippmann. “It is that they regard our war in Vietnam as a war by a rich, powerful, white, Western nation, against a weak and poor Asian nation, a war by white men against non-white men in Asia. We can talk until the cows come home about how we are fighting for the freedom of the South Vietnamese. But to the Asian peoples it is obviously and primarily an American war against an Asian people.”
And that is why the Americans want our flag there to join the flags of white Australia and white New Zealand and an American protectorate, South Korea. It is a shameful coincidence that even as the American congress appropriates more dollars for South Korea, the South Korean government is sending more thousands of its troops to fight( and die if necessary) for those dollars.
What are the possibilities of the Vietnam war? He United States has bombed North Vietnam. Suppose it escalates the war and bombs Hanoi. If the Americans should bomb the capital, North Vietnam would have no alternative but to turn its armed forces completely loose to join the South Vietnamese rebels. It would have nothing to lose then. That is why America hesitates over bombing China. Suppose the Americans were to bomb Red China. There are very few targets of nuclear opportunity in China. It is an underdeveloped country. There are few industrialized centers. After having used its atomic force on Red China short of exterminating 700 million people and standing indicted before all the civilized world for genocide, what could America do other than sending and landing an expeditionary force? Now, if 200,000 American soldiers (plus half a million South Vietnamese government troops) are having trouble with a hundred or two hundred thousand Viet Cong rebels in pajamas, what would happen to the American expeditionary force when it actually engaged Red China’s 3 million regular troops and 10 million “people’s militia”? The Americans will wander all over China like lost souls—and must forget all about the war against poverty at home. And the American action will introduce a new element into the relationship between Soviet Russia “confronting” each other now, but if the United States should bomb China, the Russians would say to themselves, and act accordingly, “Ah, after China, we next, maybe.”
Think further what will happen in a few years when China acquires not only the atomic bomb but the H-bomb. In a few years the Chinese should be capable of delivering the nuclear missile—not necessarily to the United states but here. China won’t need an intercontinental missile; she won’t need to hit America. All China has to say to the South Vietnamese is: If America gives us the atomic works, we will give you the atomic works unless you tell the Americans to get out, unless you withdraw your invitation, leaving America with no legal justification for intervening in Vietnam. (When that time comes, we must win the war against communism not by any brandishing of the American nuclear weapon to intimidate Communist China into good behavior. We must win then, as we must win now, each of us, our people to the side of democracy, and keep them there. A Chinese invasion would be out, then as now, but “wars of liberation,” that is, insurgency, internal revolt, would be the problem. And this problem is solved at home and not abroad.)
PELAEZ: Under your theory, we should tell America to get out of her bases in the Philippines—if we were to follow the consequences of your statement. In other words, we must change our foreign policy completely.
LOCSIN: We must reexamine our foreign policy then (and at all time) and we must not give provocation. What would be in the interest of Red China in attacking the Philippines, anyway, if the Philippines were not attacking or being used to attack Red China?
PELAEZ: And in the face of the fight between the two giants, you would perhaps think it better that we should be a neutralist country and not have American bases here.
LOCSIN: If the time ever comes when Red China with nuclear missiles and the United States with nuclear missiles should find themselves on a collision course from which they could not get away, let us keep out of the collision. (Let us not die with the Americans and the Chinese as a people. That is what nuclear war between the two would mean—if it ever took place. As a matter of fact, such a war will not take place, according to American military and political authorities, if the two governments do not go nuts, if they do not believe their propaganda against each other. As a matter of fact, even a conventional land invasion of China by the United States is held so unlikely “that the Pentagon has not even bothered to draw up plans for such a contingency,” according to Newsweek. There will be no nuclear war between the United States and Communist China unless they go crazy, and if they go crazy, God help us, that’s all.) In a nuclear war between the United States and Communist China, there will be few Asians left alive, communist or anti-communist.
PELAEZ: Precisely, the argument now of those who take the administration stand is that Vietnam is the testing ground whether Chinese expansionism can be stopped and that therefore the Philippines should make its modest contribution to stopping it, while you say that the Philippines can do nothing. The reason is advanced that if we can help in any way strengthen the morale of the South Vietnamese, that would help, hence, this proposal to us by the defense department that this engineering battalion will have for its specific mission the strengthening of the morale of the South Vietnamese by helping the South Vietnamese government construct public works. And this could mean something plus, of course, the show of flags that has been mentioned to us by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ramos. And one of the previous witnesses said that Americans would also need some morale boosting to be able to continue fighting communist aggression to Vietnam.
LOCSIN: May I say that first of all, the wisdom of the American involvement in Vietnam and its extent and the nature of the American strategy there is being reexamined by Americans themselves. We must not take it for granted, because we are Filipinos, we must not accept automatically the American government line as correct. Americans themselves are raising questions. We can hardly do otherwise unless we would be less than Americans. (We must not act like “little brown Americans.” In the first place, we are not Americans.) We must think for ourselves.
PELAEZ: That is why we are here.
LOCSIN: That, I hope, is why we are here. I am glad. Meanwhile, with respect to the alleged morale-boosting effect of our troops in Vietnam, may I quote from a letter of Senator Tañada to President Marcos:
“The proponents of the Vietnam adventure claim that our engineers can be of great help to South Vietnam. The engineers of the United States Army, with all their know-how and their modern equipment, are there. After they have done their jobs what can one little Filipino engineering battalion do that would make so much difference in that unhappy land?
“They say it would raise the morale of the South Vietnamese if they saw their Filipino brothers fighting side by side with them. If South Vietnamese morale has not been sufficiently boosted by the sight of those magnificent American giants with their marvelous modern weapons and their inexhaustible supply of dollars and K-rations, then nothing and no one can lift their morale. Why then this American insistence on getting us involved in the war? The only answer is that our presence there is needed to dissipate the growing impression that this is an American war against Asians. Surely we can find better use for Filipino lives than to waste them in a vain attempt to repair the American image in the eyes of thinking men.” (Tañada went on: “We are now spending one million pesos a year for our civil action group in Vietnam. We must appropriate 34 million pesos a year if we send 2,000 Filipino soldiers, and the war may last indefinitely. Both the Viet Cong and the Americans themselves seem to expect a protracted war. Senator John Stennis, chairman of the U.S. Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee, said, ‘It is sad but true that many of the six-year-old youngsters who started going to school this year can expect some time in their lives to patrol the swamps and mountains of Vietnam.’ Can we afford to throw away hundreds of millions of pesos? Considering the state of our finances, I believe we cannot. We do not have enough money to pay on time the salaries of our government employees, to implement our land reform program, to maintain and repair our roads and bridges, to construct irrigation canals to increase our production of rice, to repair our schools and open new classes for our rapidly expanding school population.
“It would be a crime to spend money on destruction when we have so little for our own much-needed construction. Besides, for good or ill, we shall remain in Asia, having to live with Asian neighbors with whom we may or may not agree on ideologies, forms of government or economic systems. Should we not then, if for no other reason than self-interest, exercise some caution and foresight in dealing today with our fellow Asians? I sincerely believe we should.”)
Let us think, before we enter the Vietnam war, what happened to America when it did. First, the United States sent merely civilians, then military advisers, then special troops with orders if fired upon by the Viet Cong not to fire back. Meanwhile, on South Vietnamese government fell, then another, then another, then another…. You can’t help those who won’t help themselves. The various South Vietnamese governments were given all the money they needed and the most modern weapons b the Americans, the most modern weapons short of the H-bomb, and they kept on losing more and more areas to the rebels. From a few dozen Americans to a few hundred to a few thousand to 150 thousand to 200 thousand to perhaps half a million Americans this year…. We shall begin with 2,000. (With how many Filipino troops in the Vietnam war shall we end?) Our 2,000 Filipino soldiers—they won’t even be noticed among a million American and South Vietnamese troops.
Let us fight communism here.
You must be tired of my voice by now. I get excited and I can’t help it. I am pleading for sanity and I may sound slightly insane….
LOCSIN: Let me read to you from an article by Edgar Snow on the American situation in Vietnam. Snow is the only American correspondent that Chou En-lai would talk to, who would be allowed into Red China. He was formerly associate editor of The Saturday Evening Post, a conservative magazine, and is a correspondent of Look, another conservative publication. He is the author of Red Star Over China, a classic book on the Chinese Communist revolution written, if I remember correctly, while the Communists were living in caves into which they had retreated before the pursuing forces of Chiang Kai-shek and when few people outside China gave the Communists a chance of winning. That was before the Second World War.
Not only the forces of Chiang went after the Communists, noted Snow. The Japanese went after them, too.
“The result was that between 1937 and 1945 the Chinese Communists increased their forces from 40,000 to more than one million, armed with equipment captured from puppet and invading troops. At that time the Communists were blockaded in their rear by Nationalist Chinese forces. They had no foreign allies, and no bases except the villages and their population living behind nominally enemy-conquered territory.”
Snow goes on:
“How is it that American hawks never reflected upon that experience? Do they consider the Vietnamese in a worse position? The United States is a far more formidable enemy than Japan, and Vietnam is much smaller than China. But Vietnam is not a peninsula like Korea or Malaya, it is not Greece with a Tito ready to close its rear, and it is not an island like Santo Domingo. Its western flank cannot be closed, its bases are far more advanced than were those of the Chinese Communists in the earlier war, and its rear—with the support of a China militarily more powerful than the Japan of 1937—seems limitless.
“Under the favorable political conditions just described, Vietnamese revolutionary leaders can gradually unite most of the nation in a holy war for independence. For such a struggle 30 million people are their potential base. Behind them, the productive energies of 700 million Chinese can be mobilized along an open frontier. Only nuclear bombing could effectively interrupt Chinese supplies of vital materials—or men, if developments obliged that.
“South Korea is also vulnerable to anti-American political activity, as demonstrated by recent violent reactions to the American-sponsored Seoul-Tokyo rapprochement. If China is bombed into the war it would be logical to expect repercussions in Korea. There exist pro-Communist underground organizations in the South. Heavy reinforcement of the 50,000 Americans already in Korea would be required to cope with renewed civil war. Despite the Japanese government’s resignation to US policy in Vietnam, until now, popular antiwar sentiment might make American air and naval bases untenable in Japan if conflict spread to China and Korea.
“Can an adequate ‘position of strength’ be won by limiting American operations to a modest Vietnam sanctuary held inviolable by command of the air and by ground units connecting a perimeter with immensely superior fire power? That would give the People’s Liberation Front ever wider military initiative and complete their political control over the land. North and South together, Vietnam could maintain half a million regular troops and at least as many armed partisans free to roam. In a thoroughly hostile countrywide every prudent American would have to scan every peasant as his potential assassin.
“If an urban based army needs a ten-to-one superiority to prevail in a people’s war led by guerrillas alone—as we are told by experts—what will be the ratio where partisans are supported by disciplined regular armies, operating from secure bases, over an unlimited front in inconclusive battles of endless maneuver?
“Defense of occupied enclaves must require ever-expanding penetrations, ultimately reaching across all Indochina. Laos will eventually require more than bombing attacks, and effective occupation of it would likely involve Cambodia. Thailand is now providing Americans with bases used for the bombing of Laos and Vietnam, and must expect eventual retaliation. ‘Free Thai’ partisans are beginning to emerge in the North and might in time become Bangkok’s major preoccupation.
“Political advantages bestowed by the ‘American invasion’ enable Ho Chi Minh’s disciples now to permeate most of Southeast Asia, to bring maximum numbers of people under their organizational influence and party control. A patriotic war educates great numbers of natural peasant leaders, arms them, unites them, and gives them an exalted purpose. In this sense Mao Tse-tung was probably right when he predicted that ‘the American imperialists’ would become the ammunition-carriers, the teachers, and the makers of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Not if they can possibly avoid it are the Chinese likely to intervene to relieve Americans of their unhappy role as the ‘only’ foreign invader.”
LOCSIN (continuing): American operations in Vietnam are increasingly involved in contradictions and the Americans are searching for a way to get out of that mess without losing their status as a great power.
MEDALLA: Do you mean to tell the committees that there is a plan of the United States to withdraw their help from Vietnam?
LOCSIN: It is one thing to say that the United States wants to withdraw, another to say that it has a plan of withdrawal. Let me quote John Emmett Hughes, a columnist of Newsweek and speech writer of Eisenhower when the general ran for president, and a former member of the editorial staff of Life. According to Hughes, there is the official American line on the Vietnam war and there is the private opinion in Washington which would settle for a Communist Vietnam provided it would take an independent attitude toward Red China. Well, the American could have had this 10 or more years ago—a Titoist Vietnam. And they could have spared the Vietnamese people all that suffering if they had settled then for an independent Communist Vietnam. (They did not, hence, this continuing war and the continuing agony of the Vietnamese people.) What I am trying to say is that Americans, like other people, make mistakes. Let us examine everything they propose and adopt what we believe to be correct and reject what we think is mistaken.
Let us take a look at the charge of aggression against Red China. It is said that China invaded India when Chinese troops crossed the McMahon—if that is the name—line. Well, the Chinese justification is that the boundary was drawn by a former imperialist power. Great Britain, and was never accepted by China, whether Nationalist or Communist. The non-violent Indians themselves were not above using violence when they invaded the Portuguese enclave of Goa—in the Indian national interest. The United States itself invaded Cuba, using Cuban exiles as troops. The U.S. government acted on the basis of CIA information, which turned out to be wrong. The Cuban exiles, instead of being welcomed by the Cubans with open arms as expected, were repelled. Kennedy exclaimed, “How could I have been so stupid as to have relied on experts!” or words to that effect. He wept. Do not believe all that CIA agents in Manila tell you. The CIA has been wrong before. They were wrong only recently about the situation in Santo Domingo. (Because of wrong information, the U.S. government found itself in a hell of an embarrassing position in that country.) Some say that the late Adlai Stevenson died of a broken heart—because of U.S. foreign policy which he had to defend before the United Nations. (While he said something, his government would be doing the opposite, making him look and feel like an ass.) Let us not break our hearts, too. If we must make mistakes, let them be our own.
However, if we do not want an independent Philippines, if the challenge of independence is too confusing for a people like us, if we are not good enough for independence, let us apply for American statehood. Then, when America goes to war, we go to war with it—as Americans. (As second-class Americans, of course, but as Americans, anyway.) Then we can send our millions of unemployed to California where they will share in the benefits of Medicare, the war against poverty, unemployment insurance….
PELAEZ: Like the Puerto Ricans in New York.
LOCSIN: Yeah, like the Puerto Ricans in New York. Over the dead body of American organized labor let us send our unemployed to America. Assuming that the Americans are willing to further “pollute” their bloodstream with brown Filipino blood, let us become Americans. Let us die as first-class Filipinos, which we are not, anyway, not yet—let us die as theoretically first-class Filipinos and be reborn second-class Americans. Then we could join the Negroes in their civil rights struggle and we should “overcome”—in, say, a hundred years. (Laughter from a Negro in the audience.)
If not, let us think.
PELAEZ: You said in the beginning that Thailand, a member of SEATO, was not doing anything in Vietnam. Why, you argued, should the Philippines? But it is disclosed in Snow’s article that Thailand has proofs that there are Communist guerrillas in her northeastern region and that Thailand is allowing its airfields to be used by American planes attacking Vietnam. May I add that Thailand has been fighting in Laos since 1962. It has been fighting the Pathet Lao since 1962 in coordination with the Americans. Now I would like to bring that out because of the argument why are we going to Vietnam when Thailand is doing nothing there when in truth and in fact Thailand is very much involved in the war.
(Is it surprising, then, that the Communists are trying to subvert the Thai government? Who can say that Thailand is not giving provocation? Are their bases not being used to attack the Communists?—LOCSIN.)
PELAEZ (continuing): You are right when you say that fear is one of the considerations in passing the Vietnam war bill but I would not say that it is a case of fear to be concerned about the future security of our country. The dilemma is this: You say that the situation in Vietnam is hopeless, that whatever the Americans may do there will not make any difference, the other forces will triumph. We also know of the assault on Thailand. As Snow reveals, there are already Communist guerrillas in Thailand. In other words, the frontier of the Philippines is not now just the Philippines but Thailand, a member of SEATO. If Vietnam falls, the impact will be such, as the Department of National Defense people said here, there will be a resurgence of the Huk movement here and of communism in other Southeast Asian countries. On the other hand, we are told that by sending this engineering battalion we might help in a small way in trying to build up the morale of South Vietnam to resist aggression. And while you say that we cannot do anything, I am thinking of the saying that “for want of a nail, a shoe was lost, and for want of a shoe….” No matter how little our participation may be, it might lead to a chain reaction of morale building or somehow strengthen the resistance of the South Vietnamese to aggression.
LOCSIN: Speaking of nails, there are nails that save and there are coffin nails.
PELAEZ: There are.
LOCSIN: Let the nails not be used to close our coffin.
PELAEZ: What should we do in the face of this impending, let us say, triumph of Communist ideology here and China’s domination of Southeast Asia?
LOCSIN: That is a very difficult question to answer and we must answer as carefully as possible. Let us think, every step we take. First of all, China is there. Just as the United States cannot tolerate a Cuba that is hostile to it, no matter how small Cuba is, and we believe that America, or Americans would have us believe that what the United States did to Cuba was justified—well, put yourselves in China’s place. If there were Chinese Communist troops in Mexico, what would the United States do? Now, put yourselves in China’s place….
PELAEZ: Following that line, the presence of American bases in the Philippines is a provocation to China.
LOCSIN: It is a calculated risk as far as we are concerned, good only if there is no nuclear war, fatal if nuclear war comes.
PELAEZ: Would you then recommend that our policy be reexamined toward removing American bases here?
LOCSIN: I would recommend that we reexamine the conduct of those bases since everything done involving the bases affects us. As potential casualties we should be allowed to put in our two-cents’ worth. We must not let those bases be operated by the Americans unilaterally, as they please, without consulting us, because we might get hit.
PELAEZ: You would go so far as to advocate the removal of those bases?
LOCSIN: Not this year, not next year, but who knows—in 10 years. Only fools do not change their minds, they say.
PELAEZ: You are quoting that now.
LOCSIN: That is right, because conditions may change in 10 years.
PELAEZ: The terms of the lease have been shortened to 25 years.
AGBAYANI: I would like to raise one point….
PELAEZ: You said the United States is fighting on the mainland of Asia because it is defending itself, that the farther away the fight is, the better for it. The proponents of the troops-to-Vietnam bill are using precisely the same argument, that the farther away the fight is, the better. Why wait until the fight is on our shore?
LOCSIN: American thinks it can effectively stop the Viet Cong there. I happen to think the opposite. Certainly, our participation will not help significantly stop the Viet Cong. Of course, if America is fighting to lose, that’s another matter. It would be crazy, however.
PELAEZ: The United States is fighting to win.
LOCSIN: It believes it is fighting to win. Therefore, it has reason for fighting there—from the military point of view. But we know that our 2,000 troops would be lost among half a million South Vietnamese troops and, eventually, half a million American troops, so what would we be doing there? The expedition would cost P35 million this year and we need every centavo we have to make our democracy work here. Let us make no enemies where we can make no friends, to quote Recto. There is no doubt that Red China is there and that we, unfortunately, are here, in the position of Cuba with respect to the United States. Let us buttress our independence here. The Cubans are not sending an expeditionary force to Florida to fight an anti-American war there; they are fighting their anti-American war, their war of independence, in Cuba itself. Let us fight our anti-Communist war here. But you know very well why we are sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. Is it not for a stabilization fund?
PELAEZ: I think I speak for the members of these committees when I tell you that we don’t have any definite information as to that. Do you have any? Because we don’t.
LOCSIN: First of all, what is the secret reason that the President will not tell the people for sending us to war?
PELAEZ: The way the problem has been presented to us by the defense department, we are not going to be involved in any combat operations. The Philippine contingent will not be employed in combat or combat support activities. It will undertake engineering construction, rehabilitation and development activities, render assistance to government and civic enterprises engaged in public health, community work and other related socio-economic activities, undertake interior security and defense of installations, facilities and construction sites. The defense people have agreed to a proposal by committee members that if we should report out this bill, it would carry an express provision that these engineers and their security support would not be involved in combat operations. The question is whether such a Philippine contingent would constitute a provocation or an act of war and be against our national interest or whether it would enhance our national interest as the defense people and the administration tell us.
LOCSIN: Let us, therefore, ask ourselves the question and not beg it. Why are we sending those troops there and what good would they do and what harm? Why? What for?
PELAEZ: We have been trying to find the answer to that question and yesterday there was a hint of why. We were told that seven engineer battalions would be constituted here and properly equipped. Congress was asked to appropriate money. It was assumed that the United States would give the equipment and that all those seven engineer battalions, plus the three engineer battalions in existence, or a total of 10, would be sent to the rural areas to do rural development work.
LOCSIN: In the Philippines?
PELAEZ: In the Philippines.
LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war for American economic aid here.
PELAEZ: I don’t know. I say it may be a hint.
LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to war for American money. All right, let us not fool the people. We are so poor that—what do they say? Beggars can’t be choosers. We are poor, so w send our soldiers to war for American economic aid. If that is it, that may be a practical proposition.
PELAEZ: That is why we are holding these hearings. We want the people to know that we are trying to reveal to them as much information as possible consistent with reasons of security.
LOCSIN: What will happen to us once our troops are there? The American congress appropriates a hundred million dollars or more for a Philippine stabilization fund—and everybody will know why we went to war: We were bought! And if the American congress does not appropriate any money, then we will be suckers! (Laughter.)
PELAEZ: If you will recall, in 1961, under the Nacionalista administration, the United States under Kennedy decided to withdraw military support from Laos and agree to the coalition government in which the Pathet Lao would be represented. Then President Garcia and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Serrano protested and said that there was evidence, expert testimony, that Laos could be held, and that if the United States allowed a coalition government to take the place of American support, infiltration and subversion in Vietnam would increase because Laos would be mostly under the control of the Pathet Lao. And the administration under Macapagal under which I was foreign secretary took the same line and we warned the United States that the setting up of this neutralist coalition government in Laos would make our situation in Vietnam more difficult. And it seems that we have been borne out by the facts. And so we are being told by the Americans: “You told us before to commit ourselves more firmly in Laos while we were being criticized that we were not committed enough in Vietnam, now that we are committed to stay in Vietnam and we ask a little help from you, you say, ‘Well, you do the fighting and you do all the job and we will not help you in any way.’”
LOCSIN: I never criticized America for not committing itself more in Vietnam. In fact, some years ago, I had a conversation with an American and he asked me what I thought the United States should do in Vietnam. I replied: “Go home. More precisely, go home or tell Diem (or whoever was in power then) to win over the people by immediate social reforms or you Americans would walk out. You would have a perfectly good reason for walking out. You would not lose any face.” If the war was to be converted into a popular war against the Communist, give the people something to fight for instead of putting all oppositionists as Diem did in concentration camps. Well, that was not done. And America, instead of walking out of the war, got in deeper and deeper in support of more and more unpopular regimes. Now they are sorry for acquiescing in the assassination of Diem. For the present setup is worse, we are told, than the one eliminated.
PELAEZ: Precisely, we are told that since the Honolulu Declaration this other aspect of the fight against communism has been emphasized, that is, to win the hearts of the people. And we are being asked, according to the proponent of the Vietnam measure to participate in this.
LOCSIN: In winning the hearts of the people?
PELAEZ: In winning the hearts of the people by helping the Vietnamese government undertake these tasks which would strengthen their morale and give them reason to trust the government, to have some concern for the present government, plus the promise of future democratization. Too late, perhaps, but at least we are being told now that there are two phases to this war. The Americans will take care of the military aspect and we are being asked to help the government of South Vietnam win the hearts of the people.
LOCSIN: It is certainly late in the game trying after all these years to win the hearts of the people. And this promise of the military government that it would be more democratic—it is like a cigarette addict that swears off smoking, I would not rely on it. The first thing the military government should do to show some sign that it means what it says is to institute land reform on a massive scale. That is what John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby preached all over South America. Be with the democratic revolutionary forces. Suppose we build 10 hospitals in Vietnam—will that influence the outcome of the war in any way? But institute land reform, implement it as we are not implementing our land reform. (Instead, we are subsidizing rice production under tenancy.) Implement land reform in Vietnam and the government will begin to win the hearts of the people with no help from Filipino troops. They won’t need us. They only need reform and only they can reform themselves. Nobody can reform you except yourself—short of beating you on the head or shooting you. Then there would be no need of reform.
Let the South Vietnamese military government institute democratic reform to win the hearts of the people and we shall know they are really serious about winning the war and we can begin to feel there is hope there. But don’t let us be sucked in. If we send troops this year, we cannot withdraw them next year, they will be there until the war is over. We will look like a bunch of cowards if we quit and they will say that the Filipinos want money from the Americans and the Americans are not coming across, that is why the mercenary Filipinos are leaving.
If we go to the Vietnam war, we shall be stuck in that war; if the war lasts for 10 years, we shall be stuck in the war for 10 years. We should make up our minds if we send troops to that war that they are going to be in the war for 10 years if not more and we must be prepared to pay the cost of a 10-year war—or let us send no troops at all. We have no draft here because there are enough jobless enlisting voluntarily in the armed forces, but what if the war goes on and on? I hope my sons and yours will not be drafted for the Philippine war in Vietnam 10 years from now. In America they are saying that six-year-old American boys will wind up in the jungles of Vietnam if there is no negotiated peace. You want our country to go to the war in Vietnam? Then, may God help you and me. Thank you, gentlemen.
PELAEZ: You have been testifying for over an hour. We do not want to impose upon you but would you care to continue this dialogue this afternoon?
LOCSIN: If you wish. But I am utterly exhausted and my blood pressure has gone up lately and I may well die before the Vietnam war is over.
PELAEZ: Could you possibly come over at 3 in the afternoon? Would it be too much of an imposition?
LOCSIN: Your wish, gentlemen, is my command.
PELAEZ: It is not a command at all.
LOCSIN: I shall be here.
PELAEZ: Gentlemen, the session is resumed. Before the questions, would Mr. Locsin care to make a further statement?
LOCSIN: Yes…. Once we have committed troops to the Vietnam war and they are fired at and fire back, once we are not only in but also at war, if I were to speak out and criticize the government’s position, I could very well be accused of treason. I could be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Once we are at war, civil liberties may well be suspended. We should all shut up, lest we be accused of demoralizing our forces.
When we go to the Vietnam war, let me repeat, we will be committing the Philippines to stay in the war until it ends. We cannot recall our forces until the war is over. And we shall commit more and more troops as the war goes on. The Americans began with a few civilian advisers, then sent special forces with orders not to fire back when fired upon, and now there are 200,000 American troops in the war and their number may be increased to half a million. How many troops will we wind up sending to the Vietnam war once we are in it?
And now, I shall be glad to answer your questions—while I may still speak freely without being accused of treason.
PELAEZ: Thank you, Mr. Locsin. I want to say that if anyone else of treason or try to curtail the liberty of any citizen on the technical ground that we are at war, I will be the first to offer my services to defend you—as I had in the past. But I don’t think we will arrive at that extreme. But if we do, you can be sure that all the members of these committees will be at your side.
LOCSIN: And yet, Mr. Congressman, it will be recalled that President Marcos when only a candidate for president accused then President Macapagal of trying to create a situation by sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war to declare a state of emergency here and curtail all civil liberties. (The sending of Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would give Macapagal an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime, Marcos argued then. Won’t the sending of Filipino troops now give Marcos an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime?)
But I should not be the one here testifying against sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. The best witness should be Marcos himself. Now, you will say that he was a candidate when he declared himself against the proposition and everybody knows how candidates are, that’s politics, but once elected president, a man must consider all the angles in meeting the awesome responsibilities of the office. All right, let us just consider the words of Candidate Marcos by themselves, whether they are true or not, regardless of who said them.
“History shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institution.”
If this was true in 195, is it no longer true in 1966?
“The sending of combat troops will commit our country to war without regard for the provision of our Constitution for a declaration of war, and in the face of the express mandate in which we renounce war as an instrument of national policy.”
Was this true in 1965 but is no longer true in 1966?
“The worst part of it is that our troops can hardly do anything to influence the tide of war.”
True in 1965 but no longer true in 1966?
“What South Vietnam needs is the will to fight, which cannot be exported.”
Was this true in 1965 but no longer true in 1966? How explain the desertion of one hundred thousand soldiers from the South Vietnamese army?
“It (Philippine-American friendship) will be served today and in the future by Filipino leaders who act with becoming dignity and maturity as well as true good will toward America, rather than those who miss no chance to yelp their loyalty and manifest a canine devotion which only results in embarrassing American no less than the Philippines before the whole world.”
What was “canine devotion” or the act of a dog in 1965 is now the act of free men in 1966?
Let us forget that Candidate Marcos said these words. Let us just consider the words by themselves. Are they not still true? Are we not stuck with them as Filipinos—if we would act as men and not as dogs?
Now, your questions, please.
PELAEZ: The gentleman from Pangasinan, Congressman Reyes.
REYES: Mr. Locsin, you read to us excerpts from a speech of then Candidate Marcos. I am not defending him, I am speaking objectively, but is it not possible that Candidate Marcos did not have all the facts then at his command while now, as president, he has, hence, his change of position, an understandable one?
LOCSIN: It is possible he has now new facts at his command, in which case we, the people, are entitled to be told those new facts, on the basis of which he would send the Philippines to war. As a matter of fact, his statements referred not to immediate facts but to history, which has not changed. At any rate, if there are new facts which would justify his change of position, let us have them.
REYES: But can we not say that history is capable of various interpretations? May one not change one’s interpretation?
LOCSIN: In which case, he should cite facts and figures to support his new interpretation of history.
Just in case you think that I am opposing the bill to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war because I do not like President Marcos, I would like to make it a matter of record that last year then President Macapagal invited the Free Press staff members to dinner in Malacañang and kept them there until midnight in the vain attempt to convince me to change my position on the proposition. Among those who argued in favor of it were then Defense Secretary Peralta, Senator Rodrigo, an intelligence officer, a Colonel Hernandez, if I recall correctly, and, of course, the President himself. Letters sent from Washington by Ambassador Ledesma were read to make me change our minds. Finally, I said, “All right, Mr. President, have a brief prepared for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war and the Free Press will publish it in full—and I will answer it. Is that a fair deal?” “Yes,” Mr. Macapagal said. And the chief of staff, General Santos, was commissioned to do the brief and we published it and I answered it. So, you see, there is nothing personal in my opposition to the bill. My position has not changed. Only presidents have changed. (Laughter.)
PELAEZ: That may be the most important fact that caused the change of heart of the President.
LOCSIN: What’s that?
PELAEZ: The fact that he is president now and he believes there will be no deterioration of the local situation because under his leadership he can hold this country together.
LOCSIN: I hope he is right.
REYES: Mr. Locsin, I was not present this morning but I take it that you are against sending troops to Vietnam.
LOCSIN: That is right.
REYES: Do you agree with me that the war in Vietnam is an ideological one?
LOCSIN: It is “a war of national liberation” by communist-led rebels. If you call it an ideological war, all right. It is a civil war. The fact that there are intervening foreign troops does not make it less of civil war. (Are the North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam foreign troops? Are they not Vietnamese, too? But the American troops, Australian troops, New Zealand troops, South Korean troops—these are certainly foreign troops.) There were American, Russian, Italian and German troops in the Spanish civil war but that did not make it not a civil war. When the two principal belligerents are one people, the war is a civil war.
REYES: That is true. But, perhaps, the cause for which the Spanish civil war was fought was not as pronounced as it is today?
LOCSIN: What are we supposed to fight for in Vietnam? Democracy?
REYES: Among other things.
LOCSIN: Yet, according to former U.S. President Eisenhower, America could not affords self-determination, that is, democracy, in Vietnam, under the Geneva Agreements, because the Viet Cong would win. Why don’t you read Senator Salonga on the Vietnam war dilemma?
REYES: That is right, we are agreed on that. We are agreed that there is a civil war there, but over and above the civil war, don’t you agree with me that the fight there is one between two ideological forces—communism and democracy?
LOCSIN: Granting that, what then?
REYES: During the Crusades, almost every nation contributed to the cause it believed in. Don’t you think that now a nation should contribute its bit to the cause it believes in?
LOCSIN: In other words, should we send troops to Vietnam? I say we can’t afford to, and let us have democracy at home.
REYES: When we fought the Huks, was that not an ideological war?
LOCSIN: All right.
REYES: In the ideological war here against the Huks, the government spent billions of pesos. Should we not help in the war against the Communists over there? It is merely an extension of the war we fought here.
REYES: Why do you say that?
LOCSIN: Because if we are going to fight the Communists wherever they take to arms, we will be fighting them all over the world.
REYES: Did not foreign Communists give aid and arms to the Huks?
LOCSIN: The Huks got their arms by capturing them from the government troops, not from foreign sources. During the war, the Huks got American arms, of course, that were not taken by the Japanese.
REYES: I think the rural areas would know more about that.
LOCSIN: No Chinese arms have been discovered, nor Russian arms.
REYES: They have been discovered, according to Camp Crame, that is, the army authorities.
LOCSIN: I have not heard of it.
REYES: There were newspaper reports to the effect that landings were made during the fight against the Huks. Submarine landings were made to deliver foreign aid to the Huks—don’t you agree with me?
LOCSIN: All I can say is, “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” (Laughter.)
REYES: I know, but in some papers….
LOCSIN: …including the Free Press. (More laughter.)
REYES: If we fought against communism here, don’t you think we should fight against communism abroad rather than here where our families would suffer?
LOCSIN: Unfortunately, the war in Vietnam is not a war between democracy and communism but between feudalism and communism. The South Vietnamese authorities have never heard of democracy. They would shoot you if you put democracy in practice there. They had one election under Diem and one opposition leader got elected and they put him in prison.
REYES: Don’t you think we should help in informing them about democratic government because they know so little about it, then?
LOCSIN: Let us send them books on democracy (Laughter.)
REYES: Among other things. I may agree with you there.
LOCSIN: But you cannot help those who won’t help themselves. They have kept their country at war for how many years now because of their stupid refusal to reform, to give the people the beginning of democracy. And now, I think, it is too late. I may be wrong.
REYES: I may be wrong, too. That is why we are here to gather information the best way we can.
PENDATUN: I told Mr. Locsin this morning that I did not intend to ask him any question because it was very difficult for me to separate Citizen Locsin from Editor Locsin—to me he is Mr. Free Press Locsin—and I thought that newspapermen always have the last say. I did not want to place myself in a position where I would not be able to have the last say.
LOCSIN: If you like, we can keep your questions anonymous. I can just refer to you as “A Congressman.”
PENDATUN: But I don’t want him to have the impression that I do not respect the views he expressed here. Now, I would like to ask questions on the stand of Mr. Marcos during the election and his stand after he became president. When Mr. Marcos was a candidate and he opposed Mr. Macapagal’s proposal to send troops to Vietnam, Mr. Locsin agreed with Mr. Marcos.
LOCSIN: He led the opposition and I was one of the oppositionists.
PENDATUN: In other words, Mr. Marcos agreed with Mr. Locsin. (Laughter.) But after the election, Mr. Marcos found himself in the shoes of Mr. Macapagal and he found out the soundness, the urgency, the necessity to send this engineering battalion in answer to a request from a friendly country, a protocol state under SEATO. When he became president, Mr. Marcos realized that the position of Mr. Macapagal was the correct position for a president of the Philippines. Cannot Mr. Locsin appreciate the frankness of Mr. Marcos when he said on television that he would subordinate his personal prestige to the cause of national security….
LOCSIN: As I said, a man is entitled to change his mind, but he should explain why he changed his mind.
PENDTUN: And the explanation Mr. Marcos made on TV was not sufficient?
LOCSIN: I refer you to an editorial of the Free Press this week in which a citizen takes that television speech of Mr. Marcos and tears it to pieces sentence by sentence. If you still believe that the explanation of Mr. Marcos is satisfactory, if it is satisfactory to you, I hope it is also satisfactory to Mr. Marcos himself, and there is nothing more I can say.
PENDATUN: Frankly speaking, if I have to base my belief that Mr. Marcos is justified in changing his stand on that TV statement, that statement is really not sufficient to justify his stand. But unfortunately there are other important factors for changing his stand. And probably for reasons of his own he cannot reveal them now. But I would like to grant that history would prove Mr. Marcos right.
LOCSIN: I hope history will prove Mr. Marcos right because I have to live here. As for his secret reasons for sending us to war, I think the people are entitled to know what they are. Whether they are creditable reasons or not, that remains to be seen, but I think there is only one new reason and that reason is money. I hope I am wrong.
PENDATUN: I do not agree that sending an engineering battalion to Vietnam is sending the country to war. We are merely going to help a beleaguered country which is a protocol state under SEATO and it is our moral and legal obligation to do so.
LOCSIN: Do you believe there is a war going on there?
LOCSIN: Are you going there?
LOCSIN: Then are we not going to war.
LOCSIN: It is a war on an international scale, according to President Marcos.
PENDATUN: With due respect to President Marcos, I disagree with him when he says that because it is wrong.
LOCSIN: You know what modern war is. It is not just shooting at each other. Modern war is propaganda war. Modern war is building roads and blowing up roads and rebuilding the roads. Modern war is putting up hospitals for the wounded. Modern war is bombing cities and killing civilians and children. Modern war is total war and civil war is more total than most wars. That is what war is. And if we are going to war, let us not say that we are not going to war. Let us not go to war and pretend we are not going to war because we will kid nobody. If we believe we must fight (President Marcos was afterward to declare on board an American aircraft carrier: “WE WILL FIGHT” after saying that the mission of the engineering battalion with combat security he would send to the Vietnam war was non-combat), let us be candid, let Congress face the problem squarely and vote as required by the Constitution. I bet you can get the two-thirds vote required in the House anyway.
PENDATUN: Well, while we are constructing roads and buildings there and our people are attacked, it is our duty to fight.
LOCSIN: So, we are going to war, then. All right. But let us go to war with our eyes open—if we must go to war.
PENDATUN: How can you say we are going to war?
LOCSIN: Are we not sending troops to the Vietnam war?
PENDATUN: How can we be said to be going to war when we cannot declare war against anyone because we don’t know against whom to declare war?
LOCSIN: We can declare war against China, Hanoi and the National Liberation Front.
PENDATUN: China and Hanoi have found it very convenient to commit infiltration, subversion, aggression without declaring war.
LOCSIN: All right, let us declare war or let us not, but let us know what we are getting into, and what we are getting into is war. We are sending men in uniform, with guns. That is a show of force. Even if our men were merely draining swamps or building roads and schoolhouses, they would be relieving South Vietnamese who could then be sent to the front to fight. So, we would be in the war. We would be part of the war against the Viet Cong.
PENDATUN: The Communists have not declared war yet they are committing aggression against the democracies, and we would be helpless if we did nothing unless we declared war. We cannot declare war because that would be aggression.
LOCSIN: All right. Let us not declare war but let us know we are going to war. Is that all right?
TEVES: Mr. Locsin, I must admit that even if I had been in favor of this bill since last year, your argument this morning was quite telling and I am now in doubt as to the position I should take. But certain things disturb me. Among them is the fact that the United States and South Vietnam are asking our help in the form of a battalion of combat engineers. We are faced with a dilemma. If we don’t send, we might be accused of not being sympathetic to their cause, to the cause of democracy, while back in the United States there is a hue and cry for the American forces to pull out of Vietnam, and our action may give Americans further incentive to pull out. And should this happen, should the U.S. forces in South Vietnam pull out and should the 7th Fleet pull out, don’t you think we will be very vulnerable to the Communists, to communist ideology and communist aggression without the U.S. 7th Fleet helping us block communist movements?
LOCSIN: It is precisely the position of such men as Walter Lippmann that the United States should make a stand where they would not be involved in a land war on the mainland of Asia—a war against which such American generals as Eisenhower and MacArthur warned. The United States should make a stand where their naval and air superiority is unquestioned—in Japan, Formosa, the Philippines, Australia. If they lose Vietnam, they will hold on to the Philippines even more, in the same way that if they lose the Philippines, they will hold on even more to Hawaii. They will not think, in either case, of retreating into solitary Fortress American—that would be militarily stupid.
TEVES: Precisely, by our refusal to help the United States in the mess it got itself into, the United States may feel that if we do not join them in their hour of need they should not join us in our hour of need.
LOCSIN: The point I am trying to make is that, as many American political writers believe, the American war in Vietnam is the wrong war, it is the wrong place to fight….
TEVES: But even granting it is the wrong war….
LOCSIN: You mean, let us show them we love them so much that even if they are making fools of themselves in Vietnam, we shall make fools of ourselves there, too? That may be a point to be considered.
TEVES: It is a fact that they are committed….
LOCSIN: And we can tell the American people that against our better judgment we will join them in the war in Vietnam, we will be there with them through thick and thin, and we hope they won’t make us wait for 20 years to collect war damage if we are ever hit again.
MITRA: May I interrupt the gentleman on that point? I think there is an American writer who said that the situation of America in the Vietnam war is like a person who went into the water to fight the sharks. Mr. Locsin, I think, raises the question whether, if America wants to make a fool of itself by jumping into the water to fight the sharks, we should jump into the water and join the Americans in fighting the sharks.
LOCSIN: Maybe, to show them that we love them more than they have ever been loved by anyone before.
TEVES: It is not a question of love, it is a question of self-preservation.
LOCSIN: There is no question of self-preservation here because America will stay in the Philippines if it suits its interests and not because of anything we do. America has been nicer to its former enemies than to the Philippines. If we had bombed America, if we had bombed Pearl Harbor, we would have gotten more economic aid than we did, and with no strings attached.
TEVES: I have made mention of that, Mr. Locsin.
LOCSIN: That is the whole point. Why is America in Japan? Because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that is why America is in Japan. (Laughing) America is maintaining bases in Japan and will defend Japan against attack by Red China—why? Because the Japanese showed that they were with the Americans in their hour of need? No! The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and killed Americans and treated their American prisoners of war like animals. And that is how the Japanese gained the respect of America. Not with “canine devotion” but with a show of realistic appreciation of what are their interests.
TEVES: You say this is a fight among giants and we are such small fry we should not get involved in it because we have nothing to do with this fight between communism and democracy in South Vietnam. Do you want us just to fold our hands and let South Vietnam fall and if communism wins it is immaterial?
LOCSIN: History will take its course in Vietnam regardless of any intervention by us. What will happen there will happen there and there is nothing 2,000 Filipino troops, among half a million South Vietnamese government troops and eventually half a million American troops, can do to influence the course of events. Let us instead set our house in order for the day of reckoning, the moment of truth. Let us make our democracy work so that if there should ever be a confrontation with the Communists, we shall know what we are confronting them for. You cannot tell the people just to be against something. Let us do positive things for democracy here, and that would require our full attention. Once we are at war in Vietnam or in that war in a really significant fashion—if we would be in the war in an insignificant fashion, that would be stupid; why be in the war at all?—it will consume more and more of our national energy. Going to war is the last resort of bankrupt nations, you know. That is why Mussolini sent Italy to war in Ethiopia, because the Italian economy was bankrupt. The Germans took up fascism and war because German democracy did not work.
TEVES: But should South Vietnam fall under communist control, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos will follow. We will be the only democracy left and it will be very hard for us to stand, we will be vulnerable to aggression and subversion and infiltration. We had a taste of these before and we might have them again.
LOCSIN: And do you think that India and Pakistan and Burma and Cambodia are not considering these things, too? And yet they are not sending any troops to the Vietnam war. You know what the British are doing? The British pound depends on American financial support. Without it, the pound would collapse. But all that Johnson is getting from Wilson after twisting Wilson’s arm is words to this effect: “You are doing great. We are with you.” But the British are not sending any troops. The Chinese Nationalists have offered to send troops but the Americans have turned down the offer. The Americans don’t want Chinese Nationalist troops in the Vietnam war. They would create a dangerous situation. It appears that what is bad for the Chinese Nationalists is good for the Filipinos.
TEVES: The reason is the Vietnamese resentment of the Chinese, I understand.
LOCSIN: That is a possible reason. But the real reason, I think, is that the Americans don’t want the Chinese Nationalists to provoke Red China. Instead, let the Filipinos do the provoking—that’s the American policy. What are we? Children? Why does not Japan send troops to the Vietnam war? Japan sends only doctors. Japan can manufacture the atomic bomb, an absolute deterrent to communist invasion because any naval fleet the Chinese Communists might assemble against Japan would evaporate in an instant. Why has Japan (which could be so secure against Chinese Communist invasion) refused to send troops to Vietnam? But we—we will be so brave, we will send soldiers! We will be more militaristic than the Japanese. We, with our resources!
And think, if we provoke the Chinese Communists sufficiently, they will have the H-bomb in a few years, we are told, and they will not have to fire it at us from the mainland, they can load it in a torpedo and shoot it into Manila Bay. How would you like that? Those of us who don’t die from the blast will die from the fall-out….
AGBAYANI: Mr. Chairman, with your permission. First of all, I would like to establish some areas of agreement with Mr. Locsin and clarify some points. Would you agree with me when I say that that the issue here is not one of neutralism and that the opponents of the bill are not neutralists?
LOCSIN: Some may be neutralists but others are not. Neutralism is not an issue in the sense that some nations are allied wit the United States, yet they do not join the United States in all its wars. The British are allied with the United States, so are the Japanese, and France has an alliance with the United States, and so has Pakistan, and none of them has sent troops to join the Americans in Vietnam. India is neutralist.
AGBAYANI: I agree with you. Precisely, Great Britain, a signatory of the SEATO pact, has sent six advisory men and one professor in English in Quay University.
LOCSIN: I think we can send two professors and outdo the British. (Laughter.)
AGBAYANI: Are we all agreed that North Vietnam is communist-oriented?
LOCSIN: Its government is communist.
AGBAYANI: And the Viet Cong are communist led?
AGBAYANI: And that is why even the opponents of the bill sending troops to the Vietnam war who are not neutralists are in favor of giving aid in one form or another to Vietnam?
LOCSIN: I suppose you might say that.
AGBAYANI: Would you agree that under the SEATO pact we have a flexible commitment and sending medical aid would be a compliance with the commitment and we are not legally obligated to send troops or an engineering battalion?
LOCSIN: I believe we are free to do what we believe is wise. With or without the SEATO pact, we can send troops, if we want to, not only to Vietnam but to Africa. But we are not bound, under the SEATO pact, to send troops to Vietnam.
AGBAYANI: Would you not say that under the SEATO pact while we are not required to send troops or an engineering battalion, we are committed to increase our assistance to South Vietnam within our capabilities and consistent with our commitment elsewhere?
LOCSIN: I am not an expert on the pact but don’t you think the whole thing begs the question? We can say we are broke and whatever aid we are sending is consistent with our bankruptcy. We can say we cannot afford to send troops with an appropriation of P35 million this year. (The Philippines can increase its medical aid to South Vietnam, a Free Press editorial afterward observed, and fulfill its alleged commitment to increase aid.) There are commitments and commitments.
AGBAYANI: I have been saying all the time that we must know exactly what “commitment” means, especially what the U.S. commitment to us means. Is it your proposition that actually the United States, in signing the SEATO pact with us as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty, has a wide discretion in the kind of action it will take to help us?
LOCSIN: Whatever the United States does will be dictated by the military situation. The United States fought in Bataan and lost and took three years to return. Had it failed to come back, it could always have said, “Well, we did our best.” Suppose American cities are bombed in a future war—the United States would not have to send aid here and it would have a perfectly good reason for not doing so.
AGBAYANI: To say that an armed attack against the territory of one will be recognized as a threat to the safety and security of the other is to say actually what? I asked Undersecretary of Justice Teehankee whether he agreed with me that should he be attacked and I should consider the attack a threat to my safety and security, I should be justified in running away. Our people should not go into anything with their eyes closed.
LOCSIN: I would like to know if America has requested us to send troops to the Vietnam war.
PELAEZ: As far as the request is concerned, the request came from South Vietnam.
LOCSIN: So, there has been no American request?
PELAEZ: As far as we know, there has been no official evidence submitted to us that this has been requested by the United States.
AGBAYANI: I want to go into the issue of constitutionality. It is argued by the proponents of the bill to send troops to Vietnam that while it is true that the Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy, sending the engineering battalion would be a defensive war measure. What do you think?
LOCSIN: I suppose they can argue like that. The question is, “Is that a wise act of defense?” If the measure is unconstitutional, we should be against it, of course….
AGBAYANI: They can always argue that our Constitution is a dynamic one and may adjust its meaning to changing circumstances or situations. So, the question is, indeed, whether the measure is a wise act of defense or not.
LOCSIN: If the act is an act of war, whether wise or not, it would require a two-thirds vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate—of all the members.
AGBAYANI: We agree that the United States is our friend, but even as a friend it cannot love the Filipinos more than it loves itself and the best friends of the Filipinos are the Filipinos themselves.
LOCSIN: I would certainly agree with you on that.
AGBAYANI: According to the proponents of this measure, being friends of ourselves we must go to the defense of our country by fighting in South Vietnam.
LOCSIN: I would say that we can help our friend America not by encouraging it in a questionable if not downright foolish venture but precisely by setting our house in order and thus provide its bases here with greater security. I had a conversation with an official of the U.S. State Department some time ago and we talked about Philippine economic development. I said that if our economy were improved, there would be no anti-American threat here. As our economic problems multiply—we are producing so many babies and not enough goods—there will be a great outcry from the have-nots. Eventually, they will blame the Americans and create insecurity for American bases. “If you help us develop the Philippine economy for the Filipinos, you will be helping yourselves,” I said, “for your bases will be secure.” The United States will not need to fight, as it must in Vietnam, in defense of its bases in the Philippines.
At any rate, we have given the United States sites for its bases, rent-free. We have given it parity, free trade—until we went broke when all the dollars were gone, spent on American goods. What more do we have to give the United States?
AGBAYANI: Our friend the United States gives us aid but, as you have said, with many strings attached. As a matter of fact, I have sponsored a resolution in the House to investigate the NWSA deal involving about P79 million loaned to the Philippines through NWSA with about P18 million to be paid to American consultants. But, of course, we must not begrudge the Americans that for they love their own people—as they should.
But to go to another point, I say that with American forces in South Vietnam and the more than half a million South Vietnamese government soldiers, there is no danger of South Vietnam’s falling into communist hands.
LOCSIN: It may well be that they will have “permanent pockets” which they can defend militarily. But these pockets will leave the Viet Cong free, as Edgar Snow has pointed out, to roam all over the countryside as they please. Incidentally, part of the price of saving non-existent South Vietnamese democracy is about a million refugees from bombed-out villages. The question may well be raised: Is the liberation of Vietnam worth the price? Suppose we have a civil war here. Then some foreign power comes in, prolonging the war, and we have 20 years of civil war in the name of saving democracy (and we do have some democracy while they have none at all in South Vietnam) and our barrios are set on fire and our children burned alive, how would we like that? But that would occur only if there were insurgency and that is why the big thing is to prevent the possibility of insurgency. Once it starts, we will be in hell. It may last 10 years. And so, let us set our house in order first of all and we shall be safe.
AGBAYANI: If the United States can cope with the military situation in South Vietnam, why send a Filipino engineering battalion there? It may be argued. Do you believe the United States would have to bow down in defeat in South Vietnam eventually?
LOCSIN: If they can cope with the situation there, then there is no need for our troops. If they cannot cope with the situation, then we should not send troops. What can our troops do?
AGBAYANI: But the United States will probably triumph in South Vietnam. According to them, all they want is to preserve South Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. They have no military ambition, they are not going to cross the 17th parallel, they will withdraw afterward.
LOCSIN: What I know is that Eisenhower said in his memoirs that they could not afford a free election in South Vietnam because the Viet Cong would win. When can they afford a free election in South Vietnam in which the Viet Cong will not win?
AGBAYANI: Why are we sending troops to Vietnam? To save democracy when actually the South Vietnam government is not democratic? However, whether South Vietnam is a democracy or not is immaterial from the point of view of our own security. If the South Vietnamese government is with us, that makes it one more bastion of democracy, that is, it serves as a buffer state.
LOCSIN: The point is, the Americans have taken over the war. What are we trying to do? We are trying to help the hopeless?
AGBAYANI: You do not agree that America will most probably win the war?
LOCSIN: I don’t think Americans themselves are prepared to say that. They are hoping for a negotiated peace. If they prolong the war and keep on sending troops, the result will be a massive slaughter-house. That is what happened in Verdun in the First World War. The Germans would send more troops to the front and the French would send more troops while the casualties mounted. You know how many were killed. Rather than send troops to the Vietnam war, we should offer our services to bring about a settlement of the conflict and tell the Americans as some of their own people are telling them that they cannot bring about a settlement if they exclude their main antagonists from the conference table. How can they negotiate with the Viet Cong without talking things over with them?
AGBAYANI: But the negotiation is supposed to be with North Vietnam.
LOCSIN: That is the whole trouble. Why should North Vietnam tell the Viet Cong to stop fighting (The North Vietnamese government can apparently take American bombing of North Vietnam and how can it hit back at the Americans except through the Viet Cong?) As for Red China, it wants the United States to remain in the war. The greater the American concentration on the Vietnam war, the greater the dissipation of American resources.
AGBAYANI: But is it not a fact that the Viet Cong derive a large part of their strength from North Vietnam?
LOCSIN: Not as much as South Vietnam derives its strength from the United States. North Vietnam has not taken over the Viet Cong war effort in South Vietnam but the United States, let us face it, is doing most of the fighting now for South Vietnam. The Americans rely so little on the South Vietnamese that they withhold intelligence from them, resulting in a big foul-up on at least one occasion. The Americans believe that if they tell the South Vietnamese army everything, it will leak to the Viet Cong. As a matter of fact, without the Americans telling the South Vietnamese army everything, vital information leaks to the Viet Cong anyway, I have read.
AGBAYANI: I agree with Mr. Locsin that America will not go to the defense of the Philippines if it is not to the American interest to do so, and it does not matter whether we send troops to Vietnam or not. By the same token, the Chinese Communists will not attack the Philippines unless it is to their interest to do so, and it will make no difference whether we send troops to Vietnam or not.
LOCSIN: I suppose that is so. Since our troops will not determine in any way the outcome of the war in Vietnam, the Chinese Communists will not attack us just because we sent troops. You have a point there.
AGBAYANI: Thank you. Now, do we not agree that the Chinese Communists have a plan to conquer the Philippines, if not through external aggression, certainly through subversion, and we must therefore be on guard against the same within our country?
LOCSIN: To quote Mr. Marcos again, “history shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institutions.”
AGBAYANI: Now there is a move among the committee members to amend the bill so as to limit the activity of the engineering battalion to construction and rehabilitation work and other civic action. It can then be argued that although they are Filipino troops wearing the uniform of our armed forces, they will not be going to war and our action will not be provocative of the Communists. Besides, it makes no difference because if it is in their time-table to conquer the Philippines, they will come in anyway.
LOCSIN: There is no evidence of any time-table for the conquest of the Philippines. But there are distortions of quotations, of statements of Chinese Communist officials by the Western press. I refer you to a book, A Curtain of Ignorance, by Felix Greene.
AGBAYANI: I cannot really say whether there is such a time-table or not but we do have proof that the Communists, whether Chinese or Russian, would try to take over the Philippines by subversion, so whether there is a time-table or not….
LOCSIN: Filipino Communists desire to gain power, of course, and take over the government of the country. So do the Liberals. So did the Nacionalistas last year. Our problem is to prevent communist insurgence here.
AGBAYANI: Going back to the bill to send troops to Vietnam, it is argued that they will not do battle but just participate in construction.
LOCSIN: How can we know what will happen once they are there? I beg you to remember that the commitment will not be for 1966 only. Once we are in the war, we will remain in Vietnam until the war is over. If there are casualties, they will be replaced. We will spend P35 million this year, P50 million next year…. Where will we get the money? From the stabilization fund? From the Americans?
AGBAYANI: Do you have any knowledge of a stabilization fund offer?
LOCSIN: There was talk of it even under Macapagal. Don’t tell me we are going to send our men there at the cost of P35 million this year, at least P350 million in 10 years if the war lasts that long, without expectation of monetary reward. That may be democratic but it is certainly expensive.
AGBAYANI: You mean to say we might as well know what we are getting for the blood of our soldiers?
LOCSIN: We should know what we are getting into and what we are selling our soldiers’ lives for.
AGBAYANI: What about the amendment to insert the word “voluntary” so as to have only volunteer troops to go to Vietnam?
LOCSIN: Volunteer soldiers or non-volunteer, they will still be Philippine government troops. I don’t see why we have to send an engineering battalion with combat security when South Vietnam needs doctors so badly. Why this insistence on troops? Because the United States wants the Philippines to be in the war, to make its Vietnam war a Filipino war, too. It does not really matter what Filipinos do in Vietnam so long as the Americans can tell the world that the war is not just an American war but an Asian one in which Filipinos are involved. What can we really do there? After so many years, we have not even been able to complete the Nagtahan Bridge and the Guadalupe Bridge…. What the Americans want is our military presence in the Vietnam war, that’s all.
AGBAYANI: For psychological purposes.
LOCSIN: That’s what they will pay us for.
PELAEZ: It is now five o’clock and under our rules we cannot hold committee hearings once the session starts. So we wish to thank you, Mr. Locsin, for the very helpful statements you have made and I am sorry if we have inconvenienced you. But I wish to assure you that everyone in the committees appreciates your active participation in the hearings.
LOCSIN: And I must thank the members of the committees, in spite of my initial reluctance to speak here, for listening to me as they have. If I spoke too passionately, blame it on my temperament but do not hold it against my arguments.
PELAEZ: Thank you very much.
March 23, 1963
The answer to communism
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Land for the landless, capital for industry, social stability
President Macapagal asks Congress to rise to challenge of greatness and dare end poverty with no loss of liberty.
COMMUNISM promises land to the landless, hence its attraction to the millions who till land not their own and are condemned to poverty thereby. It is idle to argue that communism does not fulfill its promise, that collective farms or communes are state-owned, that communism merely replaces the landlords with the biggest one of all. So great is the despair of the landless that any promise of land is taken as better than none at all.
The democratic answer to communism is land for the landless—without loss of liberty.
This week, President Diosdado Macapagal called on Congress to give this answer to communism, to meet its challenge the democratic way.
The need for land reform was pressing and obvious when independence came and the Republic was proclaimed. The tenancy system perpetuated poverty and bred dissidence. The official answer to communism, however, was not land reform but force. The result was discouraging. The mere use of force did not stop the Huks.
In 1952, an exhaustive study of land tenure problems was prepared by Robert S. Hardie, land reform specialist of the Mutual Security Agency and formerly attached to the office of General Douglas MacArthur in Japan. Land reform made true democracy possible in Japan and contained the forces of communism; it should have the same effect here, it was thought. The Hardie Report, however, was met with denunciation by the Liberal regime then. Then President Quirino called the report exaggerated and then Speaker Perez described it as “communist-inspired.”
Ramon Magsaysay crushed the Huk movement but did not think that communism could be permanently checked without land reform; while the tenancy system kept the people poor, dissidence was inevitable. When he became president, he struck at the root of the evil with a land reform program—which Congress promptly emasculated. Landlords and their tools in Congress tried everything to block passage of the measure. Eventually, with it seemed that nothing could stop Magsaysay from making available land to the landless, death intervened.
Now, it is Diosdado Macapagal’s turn to effect land reform, to get the government to face the reality of the basic Philippine problem. There is poverty. There is mass unemployment. There are constant shortages of food and other necessities. Prices are high and keep going higher. There is insufficient capital for investment in industry. The population is exploding. More and more money must be appropriated for the armed forces to maintain an obsolete system which condemns millions to poverty and the nation as a whole to low productivity. Now, it is Diosdado Macapagal’s turn to strike at the evil of tenancy.
A sentimental approach will not do; hearts bleeding for the poor are not enough. Too many congressmen are landlords or tools of landlords—from whom they get campaign funds, retainers, etc.—for emotion to prevail in the Senate and the House. And the Mexican experience has shown that it is not enough to give land to the landless if they do not know what to do with it, if they are not provided with the necessary credit facilities for increasing production. A poor landowner is still a poor man.
Just the same, “the exploiter is no longer sole master, the sole established force,” writes an observer of the Mexican scene. “Against him, however poor, however inexpert it may still be, even though burdened with deceits and dreams, a peasantry has won its social liberty. Badly organized, bristling with obstacles, even ‘sabotaged,’ a bad agrarian reform is better than no reform at all.”
It may be the start of a true, an effective one.
And the time to start one is now.
“The National Economic Council recently disclosed that the Philippine production of palay decreased from 3,739,500 tons in 1960 to 3,704,800 tons in 1962,” according to the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
At the same time, the population keeps increasing at a record rate and the “revolution of rising expectations” goes on; more and more is expected of democracy by those whose allegiance it would keep.
If the opposition to land reform has been formidable, it may be diminished by a general realization of the cost of that which should be reformed, if the nation could be made to see plainly the evils of tenancy.
Let us list them:
- Low Productivity. Tenant farming means primitive farming. The tenant makes so little he is perpetually in debt; he is usually the victim of usury. This makes impossible the use of fertilizer. He can’t afford an irrigation system. He hardly feels the need of one, poverty keeping him ignorant of modern technology. Low productivity means food shortages and the need to import food, to pay for whose importation foreign exchange must be used that should otherwise go into the establishment of new industries.
- Low Purchasing Power. Having so little money, the millions condemned by tenancy to poverty cannot afford to buy the products of industry. Why establish new ones when the market is so limited? At the same time, we look to the establishment of new industries to provide jobs for the increasing army of the unemployed. From tenancy result both unemployment and poverty.
- Lack of Capital for Industry. The Philippines cannot look to foreign sources for the bulk of the capital needed for industrialization; most of the capital must come from domestic sources. But most domestic capital is frozen in land. Without land reform, that capital would remain frozen there. While tenancy remains profitable for the landlord though not for the tenants, where would the country get the capital for the new industries? Industrialization must wait or proceed at a pitifully slow pace while the population explodes and the number of the jobless increases.
- High Prices. With production so low and so much of what the people need having to be imported, prices must remain high and, as population increases, go higher. Those who complain of high prices should blame tenancy.
- Social Instability. With millions so poor, how can the social order have any stability? It’s like living on top of a volcano. Those who like to live dangerously may enjoy it; for the rest, there is only the haunting sense of total insecurity.
- Too Big Army. Some P2,000,000,000 have been spent on the armed forces since Liberation—from the Japanese but not from tenancy. If the Republic has had to maintain so big a military establishment, it is in order to contain dissidence, which is bred by tenancy. It is ironical that owners of tenant-operated farms are among the worst tax-evaders in the country; at any rate, they are among the lowest taxpayers, yet the Republic has had to spend so much on an army principally to maintain tenancy.
What use is there for so big an army? To protect us from communist attack? We have American bases here; these would be targets in case of nuclear war; meanwhile, they serve as shields. What good would they be if they did not stop the Chinese communists from attacking the Philippines? We risk the presence of U.S. bases here to enjoy what if not security from such attack? And there is the China Sea.
No, we have such a big army—because of tenancy. It is significant that even as the President calls on Congress to pass his land reform measure, a Liberal leader envisions a smaller professional army—supported by a citizen one. Such a citizen force cannot be depended upon to fight for tenancy.
- Political Immaturity. You cannot distil political independence out of economic misery. Why do people sell their votes? Because they need money. Poverty is the great enemy of democracy; it makes democracy meaningless to the people and keeps democracy weak against its enemies.
These are the evils of tenancy. While tenancy persists, there will be poverty. The rise of Communist China poses a constant challenge to our democracy. How are we to meet the challenge? By perpetuating poverty? This is the counsel of the suicide, not of one who would keep his rights and defend his liberty.
Land reform is clearly a necessity. Its problems are, however, many. Our government is a constitutional one. The right of the landlords to just compensation for their lands must be assured. The tenants, when they become landowners, or before they could get title to the land, must pay for it. Payment will be possible only if their income is raised, through increased productivity. And this will be possible only through extension of the necessary credit for fertilizer, irrigation and other means of increasing the yield of the land.
Expropriation should be the last resort. It may mean having to pay for the land in cash, and the government simply does not have enough money. Persuasion should be mainly relied upon to get landlords to turn in their lands for government bonds and stocks in private industry. A realistic reassessment of land values should make tenancy less profitable to the landlord while exemption from the payment of capital gains tax plus tax-free interest-bearing bonds plus stocks in private industry should make expropriation unnecessary.
With land titles purchased from landlords added to its original capitalization, a land bank may generate additional capital for investment in new industries. Thus, not only may he abolition of tenancy be speeded up but also the industrialization of the country—and the end of its present poverty.
Those who opposed land reform have the burden of proposing an alternative to it as a solution to our problem of poverty, mass unemployment and social instability in the face of the communist challenge.
This is not to say that the land reform measure, if made into law, would be properly implemented. That is another problem. But before there could be proper implementation of so necessary a law, there must first be a law.
In his message to Congress, President Macapagal stressed this necessity:
“A nation that flies from realities succeeds merely in postponing its own progress. The realities remain. The future belongs to those courageous enough to confront the necessary but disagreeable tasks of today.
“For decades, our leaders have temporized with the problem of land reform. They have found all kinds of reasons for not daring to go forward. Somehow they always fell shy of the truth that the great stumbling block to our national progress, though certainly not the only one, was the antiquated land tenure system. We know, in our hearts, that any further steps forward would be possible, for this nation, only if this block were removed.
“In our confrontation of this problem, the moment of truth has arrived for all. Suddenly a challenge of greatness is thrust upon the leaders of this nation, but especially upon the representatives of our people in this Congress.
“I must impress upon you the importance of a decision vital to the development of the agricultural potentials of this nation. I find it my duty to rouse you into a new awareness of the problem, to appeal to you for support of a program designed to promote the general welfare, to ask you to take the bold but realistic steps which our economic situation demands. We cannot hope to build a strong and self-sufficient nation without strengthening its foundations.
“Land is our most valuable resource; agriculture, the most important means of converting its potentials into the necessities of life. For all its national importance, agriculture in the Philippines has progressed so slowly that we must constantly race against population growth. Our production is slow; it takes three families in the agricultural section to produce the necessary food and fiber for themselves and one family in other sectors of our economy. Compare this rate with that of the American farmer who produces food for 23 Americans and three foreigners. Our production is hindered by the very structure that should support it—the social struc- ??? Although many of our people are engaged in agriculture, they fail to produce sufficient raw materials to develop our industries. This is not their failure, really, but ours, for we have not provided them greater opportunities.
“Agricultural production in the Philippines is largely dependent on the efforts of small farmers. Forty percent of our farmers do not own the land on which they were born and the land on which they will spend ??? ducing our staple crops of rice and corn and one of our most important export crops—sugar—is predominantly operated by tenants.
“The poverty of our rural areas tends to increase in direct proportion to the incidence of sharecrop tenancy and its concomitant, absentee landlordism. In failing to change the status of tenant farmers, we set narrow limits to our own agricultural productivity; we abet poverty; we abet grave social injustices.
“[Some] have taken some halting and half-hearted steps to mitigate the tenancy problem. But such reluctant, stop-gap solutions no longer suffice. We have reached a stage in our national growth which makes genuine land reforms imperative. To go forward in social and economic development, we have first to recast the structure of agriculture to enable it to grow in productivity and give momentum to industrial progress.
“Unfortunately, the common opinion of land reform is that it is for the benefit of the poor and at the expense of the rich. On the contrary, land reform, by increasing production and income and by giving dignity to a large portion of our people, can be instrumental in the promotion of general social and economic progress.
“In our small farmers lies a great potential of energy for growth. Let us unleash these tremendous productive energies. Tied up in our land is the greatest of our capital resources. Let us release these resources so that our business and industry may go forward. In the end, we can all look back to this day and recall with satisfaction that we had the courage to face the demands of reality and to take this challenging step for the delivery of our people from economic and social bondage.”
This is a call to greatness. Dare we not answer it? This is a call to the confrontation of reality. Dare we ignore it? There is no fool’s paradise; there are only fools, and they soon pay the penalty. There is no substitute for or avoidance of reality.
JUAN DE LA CRUZ
October 9, 1948
By Teodoro M. Locsin
ON October 1 the first census of the Republic of the Philippines started with more than 30,000 enumerators going from house to house, farm to farm, office to office, to provide the Philippines with what the President called bible of facts. The census will cover population, industries, agriculture, natural resources, livestock and whatever one would want to know about the country and its people. At the end of the census, after an expenditure of some P7,000,000, the public will know how many Filipino citizens are native-born and how many are naturalized; how many are male and how many female; the number of minors; how may are Catholics, Aglipayans, Protestants, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, and Presbyterians; how many Spanish, how many the National Language; the number of farmers, businessmen, government men, students, unemployed; how many were killed during the occupation and how they died; the number of those who use modern home devices and those who live as their grandfathers used to live.
Who, of course, does not exist.
There is no average Filipino working in an average job, living in an average house, having an average family (one wife, five and a half children?), eating an average meal, leading an average life. The average Filipino is a product of the statistical mind and in his veins run figures, not blood. He gets old slowly, his average age gradually rising as living conditions improve. War, hunger, epidemic may suddenly make him very young or very old, depending on whom the disaster takes. The average man is not to be seen on land or sea.
Prize of Battle
This is our own private census, and it covers only one man and his family, one room, which is his home. He is not the average Filipino. He is living flesh and blood, facing, as they come up, the problems of life and death, with whatever means are actually at hand. He is of no importance, except in the sense that every man is of supreme importance—to himself. He is not rich, nor is he at the bottom of the economic scale, that is, unemployed. He is usually hardpressed, but he manages to have almost enough to eat for his family and himself. He has a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and a cot. He has been to school, he can read and write. There must be millions like him in the Philippines, hundreds of millions in Asia and the rest of the world. It is for his allegiance that the current battle of ideologies is being fought. He is the prize of the Battle of the World.
His name is Severino Burgos. He was born 29 years ago in Candelaria, Quezon. His father was a teacher by the name of Elias Burgos; his mother’s name was Isabel Hernandez. The family moved to Tanauan, Batangas, when his father lost his teaching job in Candelaria. In Tanauan the old Burgos taught Tagalog and came to own a house with galvanize iron roof and walls not of nipa board. There were seven children—four boys (Severino counted on his fingers) and three girls. All went to school, but one reached only up to the fourth grade, another up to third. Severino himself says he had gone up as high as second year.
The color of Severino’s skin is dark mahogany, his cheek-bones are high, his eyes narrow and slanted. His national hero, Rizal, had Spanish blood and Chinese, but Severino would seem to be pure Indonesian in racial stock, or Malay. Of his ancestors early histories say that they were highly literate; they mined for gold, wove cotton and silk, wrought in metal, farmed, kept livestock, built ships, traded with the East and waged wars; nowhere do the histories mention poverty and savagery. Then the Spaniards came, and with forced labor, oppressive taxes and other cruelties killed a third of the population in sixty years and drove the survivors to indolence and want. For when the Spaniard took everything, only a fool would work. Thus Christianity came to the Philippines.
A Good One
Severino is a Catholic, like most Filipinos, but like many he does not go to church. He takes Sunday literally as a day of rest, unless he can find extra work and thus make extra money. He is carpenter. On Sunday neighbor may ask him to repair a gate or make a table, and that means he would be able to pay the doctor’s bill, sometimes as high as P20, for his sickly wife. His wife has beri-beri—signature of malnourishment.
Manila is a city of unemployment and opportunities. Severino might have been anything. he might have been a bum, standing at street corners, whistling at the pretty girls that pass by, living somehow, on someone. He might have been a driver of a jeepney or a bus. He might have been a waiter, a salesman or a cop. He might have been a pickpocket or a hold-up man. But such robberies as he would commit would be small ones, for he has no connections and sooner or later he would be caught. He might have been anything—lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, a businessman. They will tell you in this wonderful and terrible city that once upon a time there was a newsboy and today he is a merchant prince. Severino is a carpenter, a good and honest one.
He left the provinces when he was twenty to look for work in Manila. He found a job at the National Food Products Corporation at P35 a month. An easy job: messenger-clerk. He was holding that job when the Japanese came.
He fled to his province, returned to the city after three weeks, worked in the NFPC as watchman. And married Francisca Bernaldo, the same age as he was. She made rice-cakes which she sold at the foot of Sta. Mesa Bridge. They had a child—a boy.
Life in the city becoming impossible on his salary, Severino took his family with him back to the provinces. He bought and sold coconut oil and rice and thus had something to eat until the Americans came. He was not a guerrilla, nor were most Filipinos guerrillas, although some guerilla rosters would have you believe that everybody was in the Resistance, man, woman and child, living and dead. He worked, he suffered, he waited and lived.
Then the Americans came. From Tanauan he moved to Cabuyao, Laguna, then to Canlubang, looking for work. The Americans offered him a job, that of carpenter. Severino learned to be one. He is still a carpenter and he probably will die one.
Room and Board
Today Severino owns P50 worth of carpenter tools. He works for P6 a day, six days a week, at Camp Murphy, setting up pre-fabricated huts, making tables, chairs, office equipments. He makes an average of P156 a month, which is more than what many teachers make, less than a small government crook. Of this sum he is able to save, by living the way he does, as much as P10, unless his wife gets sick. Then he goes into debt.
He and his family live in a room six meters by five on the ground floor of a house for rent. He shares that floor with four other families occupying more or less the same space he does. For the room in which the water is one inch deep when there is heavy and continuous rain, Severino pays P30 a month. There is one toilet, one bathroom, one kitchen in which the water may rise as high on rainy days as Severino’s knees.
For breakfast Severino has tea with milk and sugar and two pan de sals. He takes his lunch with him to work: rice, one salted egg, a tomato. A weapons-carrier picks him up in the morning and brings him back in the afternoon. For supper he and his family have rice with fish or gulay of either mongo or upo. Sometimes they have meat. When rice was very difficult to get, they ate what rice they could get mixed with malagkit. His food bill a day is P2.50, a total of P75 a month. Sometimes he buys his second child, a girl, a bottle of soft drink. (The first one, the boy, as with many Filipino families, lives with the grandmother who probably spoils him.) His wife is sickly, as I have said. Severino does not know anything about calories and the minimum human requirement of the stuff, but he knows that his wife has beri-beri from malnourishment.
He smokes a pack of Piedmonts a day, and his wife smokes cigarettes locally made. They go to the movies twice a month at a nearby second-run theater.
“Do you go to the Boulevard on Sunday for a breath of fresh air, Severino?”
“No. We have not budgeted for that.”
He owns three pairs of khaki and one pair of white trousers, two khaki shirts and three of another kind.
Oh, yes, he reads the Manila Times and the Manila Chronicle at his mother-in-law’s house. His sister-in-law is a teacher and must keep up with the news.
“Do you think there will be war, Severino?”
“I don’t know if there will be war. It is not for me to say whether there will be one… They might call me a Communist.”
“What do you think of Communism?”
“What is your idea of Communism?”
“Everybody works for the government, is that right? Everybody has work. I don’t know.”
“Do you like Communism?”
“I am against it. I am for democracy.”
“Why are you for democracy, Severino?”
“Because do we owe America, Severino?”
“America gave us education and the movies.”
“What kind of movies do you like, Filipino or American movies?”
“I like American movies, Filipino movies are all the same. Always about a rich boy and a poor girl or a poor boy and a rich girl. All nonsense.”
“What else do you like about democracy, Severino?”
“Democracy means freedom of speech, government of the people…”
“For whom did you vote during the last elections?”
“I… I forgot to vote.”
“What else have you got against Communism?”
“I want to be able to work where I like.”
“Have you ever thought of working for a private firm?”
“I would like to. Private firms pay well. But when you go to ‘Puyat’ there is always a ‘No Vacancy’ sign outside. And besides a government job is a steady one. There is no security outside. It is better to work for the government.”
“Why don’t you go on your own, Severino?”
“That needs capital.”
“Suppose you lose your present job?”
“The government will somehow find a job for me.”
This year Severino’s wife had a third child, a boy, who died after a day and a half. The crypt at the cemetery cost P35. The funeral services including a wooden coffin and car service amounted to P50. The sum of P40 was spent for the food of the mourners and transportation to the cemetery. It cost P125 in all to bury in a fitting manner Severino’s child. The money came from Severino’s co-workers, from relatives, from his own pocket.
Severino is patient, hard-working, and does not complain. Nonetheless, life is difficult. He is not clever, he has no influential friends, he is not one of those “smart operators” who make a fortune in a deal—never mind what kind of deal. He works with his hands, he adds, no matter how insignificantly, something to the country’s wealth, he gives for what he consumes. He is the salt of the Philippine earth. Let us call him Juan de la Cruz.
Notes on the Eve of July 4
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Random Thoughts and a Trial Balance of the First Year of the Philippines Republic
June 28, 1947–HOW free is the Philippines? How real is Philippine independence?
To answer those questions best, one should first take a look around, compare and take notes. How free and independent is any nation in the world? Today two giants bestride the world: the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A third giant, the British Empire, is on the decline. The rest are political satellites or economic dependencies of either of the first two powers, or their uneasy neighbors. The world is slowly coming into unity—it is in the throes of the last great revolution preceding the creation of a single world state—and national independence, in the insular sense of the term, is a conception that is increasingly obsolete. The world must federate or perish.
Toward the United States the hand of almost every nation is stretched for aid, at the same time there is the haunting fear of “dollar domination.” An unreasonable attitude, perhaps, for if you are seeking a loan, if not an outright gift, you must consider, in fact you will only get the loan or gift if you accept, the lender’s or donor’s terms. Yet, even as one receives, one resents. The creditor, though one goes to him gladly and willingly enough, is the object of hard thoughts. And such is human nature that one finds it easier to forgive one’s enemies than those to whom one owes favors.
In this regard, the United States should not be surprised if, in giving but at the same time bargaining, the recipients should accept and at the same time prove resentful. America, perhaps, should give freely, without conditions, without reservation, regardless of the kind of government of the country she gives to. Perhaps she should help and strengthen those of rival ideology. Then she would no longer be accused of exerting pressure, of resorting to political dictation. Then se would be universally praised if in private considered a damned fool.
Toward the Soviet Union, those communist persuasion look as to a New Rome. Salvation lies there. The triumph of the Soviet Union is the triumph of the workers of the world. Russia comes first—thus the native communist line goes, for if Russia succeeds, can communism in every country be far behind? In brief, the communist denies that he places Russia’s interests over and above his country’s. In his mind there is no opposition between the two. His country’s and Russia’s interests are one. That is the Marxist outlook, the Leninist view.
The question, therefore, does not arise in the communist mind as to the possibility of Russian domination. All communists are of one faith. As the Pope of Rome is to all Catholics their spiritual father, so Stalin is to communists everywhere, their political mentor and guide. Russia is where they fly to, when trouble comes. Russia, which had provided safe harbor for such distinguished refugees from counter-revolution as Madame Sun Yat-sen and Bulgaria’s present communist boss, Georgi Dimitrov. Russia can do no wrong.
In the Philippines, the searching and liberal mind harbors no similar illusion, that the United States can do no wrong. At the same time it is confronted with benefits undoubtedly received from the United States, with aid actually extended, with favors conferred. The United States has been a friend, but is it nothing else? Is it not also, by the conditions of dependency it has helped to create, a threat to Philippine independence and sovereignty?
A year of republican existence shows the Philippines politically free—but economically bound to the United States. The United States has supported and maintained the present government of the Philippines; had it withdrawn its support, that government might have collapsed in less than the 12 months of its existence. Inflation, unemployment and social disorder would have gripped the country.
The Begging Attitude
American money has kept Roxas in Malacañan. The alternative to American relief is trouble. Let the Americans withdraw and who will provide the arms to equip the Philippine Army and the money to pay the man now in the field containing the forces of agrarian revolt?
The Philippines is politically free—have no doubt about that. Its government has granted base sites to the United States after negotiation and without duress. What has been given has been freely given. Both parties agreed to the terms.
The Philippines has exercised other acts of sovereignty—at the same time the independence of a nation is no different from that of a man. An empty sack, it has been well put, cannot stand alone.
The Philippines asks for American loans and relief, it has opened, in exchange for the payment of war-damages, its natural wealth to American exploitation. The exchange has been ratified by popular vote in a national plebiscite. Nobody stuck a gun in the back of the people: they wanted American money and were prepared to pay the price for it. If the Philippines is not as free as it might be, that is the will of its people and government. Nobody forced it to give anything away.
Which is not to say that it is independent and free. A man who has mortgaged his property, who is increasingly in debt and sees little prospect, as he conducts his affairs, of achieving solvency, cannot be said to be free. He is tied to his creditor. Need compelled him to it, but he signed that mortgage deed willingly enough.
How long will American money be poured into the islands and keep its government going and the people out of the breadlines—and out of the radical camp? And has such aid been as effective as it might have been?
Today, as fast as the United States is pouring money into the Philippines, money is leaving it. There is a fearful disparity between Philippine imports and exports. Meanwhile, Philippine industrialization—which free trade, in the opinion of many, has rendered complex and difficult if not impossible—is largely on paper. When American dollars run out, what then? Will the Philippines then be able to stand on its own? Or will it collapse like an empty sack?
Must the Philippines be in a state of perpetual economic dependency on the United States—like an idiot child or a lunatic ward, a hopeless cripple? Ahead are only more and more American loans, assuming that one gets them all. Not discernible are a balanced budget, full employment and agrarian peace. Before us is only the perpetually extended hand. The begging attitude.
Meanwhile, much of American relief is going into the hands of a few who, as in China, are slowly and quietly consolidating their economic monopoly over the islands’ resources. One hears, more and more often, of this million-peso deal and that multi-million-peso transaction in which some great industry or business passed into the ownership of a Malacañan-connected few. One hears of trips abroad by some Liberal where money is being secretly cached. Rumors only, perhaps—but the air is thick with them. Everywhere one seems to smell corruption. Thus it was, before the Czarist throne fell—it had no American hand-out to prop it up. Where are the classic capitalist virtues of hard work, honesty and thrift?
Meanwhile, a new prophet, accusing the present administration of puppetry, comparing it—the last insult—to his Jap-dictated own, has risen. Jose Laurel, president of the Japanese puppet republic of the Philippines, promise or hints at salvation from American relief ad loans. Under him as President, his people would be sovereign and finally free of the Americans. Philippine independence would be, after so many centuries of alien rule, a reality.
His attacks are well received, for he is appealing to a legitimate and inemdicable sentiment: the nationalist one. One is shame-faced at biting the hand that fees one, but the desire for economic independence in addition to political freedom is in every true citizen. In the end, a man becomes calloused and think’s that if the Americans are giving us money, it is for a purpose of their own, and to thank them would be superfluous and even impractical. It is a bargain, involving in no way the sentiment of gratitude, and both parties benefit by it, and pay the price agreed.
Besides, how little of it is going to the people! Let those who owe the Americans pay them. Those who become rich overnight, who ride in limousines, who own tall and imposing buildings: the surplus millionaires, the import magnates, the flourishing professionals. The people—most of them—still live in nipa huts, go without medical attention, are little more than peons to their landlords, scratching a bare living off the earth. They own nobody a thing,
What America has given has not reached the right people. In the midst of recrimination, it should be of some consolation to her that the firmest faith in her still abides in those she has least benefited, that among the common people to whom only the littlest bit of her great beneficence has filtered remains a warm and unshakable confidence in her ideals.
Meanwhile, I remember Luis Taruc—the last time I saw him, before that famous exchange of letters with Roxas, before he took to the field. Today he is an outlaw, he faces extermination. There is no hope for him. He will die.
Even then he knew that he would die. He was prepared for what he called his martyrdom. In the eyes of the law he is worse than a brigand, he is a rebel against the government, an enemy of the state. But for his convictions he was prepared to die, to give up his life for something outside himself.
That is reassurance, to know today that there are such Filipinos. His side may be the wrong side, or his methods wrong, or his ideas not right—but he was ready to sacrifice all so that, as he thought, those who live after him may live better, more decently, as freemen. In a time and in a country where the men in authority seem to have only one thought: money, loot—it is comfort to know that there is still iron in our spirit.
Ideologies change, philosophies are overthrown. The social order of today is only a historical footnote to tomorrow. But one thing stands, without which nothing much can be achieved under whatever social order: integrity. Character.
If a man is a man, in such times of change as these, it is enough. He may be wrong, but how many are wrong and are not even men! He may be an enemy, but one respects him.
I, for one, find it good to know that there are, when everything seems for sale, Filipinos who cannot be bought, who stand for something outside their own comfort. For it is not enough to have the right principles, one must have the necessary integrity and strength of character.