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Philippines Free Press Special 101st Anniversary Issue, August 29, 2009.
The cover photo of Cory Aquino which I took on August 24, 1983 was during her press interview after the transfer of Ninoy’s body from their time street home to Sto, Domingo church. There were only a handful of reporters from the various news bureaus probably due to fear of reprisal by the authorities. Only Radio Veritas was bold enough to cover the arrival at the airport thanks to Mr. Harry Gasser who was GM of Radio Veritas in 1983. He assigned Veritas reporters Jun Tanya to cover the arrival at the airport with Ben Paipon stationed in the OB van at Baclaran church where Ninoy was suppose to proceed for a thanks giving mass had he been released on house arrest.
The Friday Coup, They Almost Won!
By Teodoro M. Locsin
September 19, 1987–THE most bizarre thing about the Friday coup was not that it took place, or that it was defeated, but that so many are blaming each other for what should be a joyful victory and a reason to reflect on why we continue to be threatened by mutinies and attempted coups.
Cowardly cabinet members complained to the President why decision-making was left in the hands of Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo and Presidential Counsel Teddy Boy Locsin, although both Arroyo and Locsin did not discuss what kind of response the Government should make to the coup but simply received orders from her to communicate her toughline to the Police and the AFP.
Terrified Cabinet Members Complain Why They Were Not Allowed to Quarterback Long Distance
One Cabinet member, who had recommended that Enrile be called in to GHQ Crame so he could talk Gringo into laying down his arms and forgive and forget, complained why the Cabinet Crisis Committee was preempted by Presidential Counsel Teddy Boy Locsin. He was told that the members of the Crisis Committee had been called by the President. But, this Cabinet member said, one could not expect the Committee members to show up in Malacañang with all the firing going on. This was at 5 in the morning, 2 ½ hours after the firefight when little children were playing in the streets, picking up empty shells.
62-Year-Old Protocol Officer Walks Calmly Into a Killing Field
Another Cabinet member wryly commented that Protocol Officer Miguel Perez Rubio and his secretary Medy Dia had driven over to Malacañang at 2:30 a.m., while the firefight was going and, ordered by unidentified soldiers to get out of their cars, blithely walked the whole length from the foot of Ayala Bridge all the way to Gate 4 which was strewn with bodies and sticky with blood. Miguel and Medy merely got toilet paper to wipe their shoes and promptly arrogated to themselves the task of manning the telephones and preparing the stale bread sandwiches and rancid coffee.
Joker Arroyo and Secretary Locsin were in the Guesthouse after patrolling the city alone in their respective cars.
Cory’s Hardline Endangers Cabinet Members’ Lives and Wealth
Many members of the Cabinet were appalled that the hardline policy of Cory Aquino, which was not diluted by Arroyo and Locsin, might have gotten the AFP mad at all of them, and they might have been arrested or hurt by military men in the event of a junta was established.
These Cabinet members said that Locsin especially is unfit to be in government if he is so willing to risk their lives.
Locsin had ordered the closure of DZRH at 4 a.m. because the station was being used by the rebels, unknown to the station people, to send their signals out to the various rebel units, this according to General Ramos’s report to the Cabinet.
Moronic Senator of Moro Fame
And yet, one Senator, whose only claim to fame is the revival of Nur Misuari and the Muslim secessionist movement after Marcos had brilliantly divided the Muslims and crushed the secession at the cost of 600,000 civilian lives, 10,000 AFP soldiers (who fought some of the most brilliant campaigns in military annals, especially Gringo Honasan) and 2 million refugees and billions of pesos in damage, stopped the closure of DZRH in the name of press freedom.
Gringo Honasan had long wanted to shoot this Senator as a service to the Republic and as recompense for all the wasted soldier dead in the Muslim Wars, but thought the fellow’s life was not worth the bullet.
Joker Caused the Coup?
The complaining Cabinet members surfaced late in the day to say that the coup was caused by Joker Arroyo, whose inefficiency (meaning, stopping their business colleagues from stealing from the government and using government power to wrest privileges for themselves) had angered the military. They spoke of Locsin’s violation of the peaceful spirit of the EDSA Revolution in calling for air strikes against the TV stations whose broadcast of the rebel announcements were causing AFP troops and officers throughout the country to waver if not outright defect.
Psychological Testing Proper Response to Coup?
What was needed, these critics said, was an in-depth analysis of the basic sub-structural flaws and subterranean tendencies in the typical soldier and officer that caused him to ally himself with Gringo Honasan and other hardliners. A deeper and more sympathetic understanding of the soldier’s “unconscious” (sic) was what the situation called for, rather than Arroyo and Locsin, two lawyers totally ignorant of psychology and religion, calling for immediate military response on the dubious premise that time was on the rebel side.
Philosophy Another Solution?
“What is time?” one Crisis Committee member asked? “Two thousand years of philosophy had not resolved that enigma. Who are these two to presume?”
Crippled and Fat Logic in the Media
In the face of all the bickering, and all the columns written by a mental cripple and a fat coward, whose gun collection is a cover for his medically certified impotence, and whose gun collection was the reason he objected in his columns to the checkpoints called for by President Aquino and the Chief-of-Staff, the President decided to go on the air.
“Let me set the record straight.
“Intelligence did not fail me on this occasion. We anticipated a coup attempt led by these specific officers for some time now. Certainly, 2 weeks before last Friday, Col. Gazmin of the Presidential Security Group was warning me that there would be another coup. General Ramos on August 24 had also told me that there were again disturbing reports of restlessness in the military. General De Villa’s intelligence corroborated the report I received.
“I was scheduled to go on a Regional Consultation on Friday, August 28. The PSG was therefore reduced by the number of officers and men that had to be deployed to the 3 provinces I would visit the next day. Nonetheless, Colonel Gazmin was ready:
“All PSG units were put on RED ALERT-STAND TO status in anticipation of an attack any time. They were prepositioned well in front of all approaches to Arlegui.
“Armored vehicles were prepositioned in strategic locations.
“At half past midnight, there was confirmed report of enemy sighting. The PSG braced themselves for the attack that came 1:45.
“I had gone to bed at midnight. I woke up to the sound of gunfire. I called General Ramos at his residence but they said he was in Camp Crame.
“I called Joker Arroyo in his residence but it was Jojo Binay I spoke to and who told me that Noynoy had been with him but had left for Arlegui.
“The rebel forces numbering about 200 led by Colonel Honasan, according to General Ramos’s report, attacked us from 2 directions: The main attack came up JP Laurel towards Arlegui, while the second came from the direction of Ayala Bridge. The rebels came in 6-by-6 trucks, had armored vehicles and high powered rifles. The PSG engaged the rebels at the checkpoint fronting Saint Jude, a firefight ensued. Two of our soldiers were killed in the first skirmish. I learned later that one sacristan in Saint Jude’s Church was also killed. A WAC was also killed.
“Five minutes later, while this was going on, still another group of rebel soldiers came up Ayala Avenue on 2 trucks and deployed at the corner of P. Casal and Nicanor Padilla Streets.
“Colonel Gazmin took me to the first floor because the firing was getting intense. Should the fighting further intensify, he suggested that I move to a safer place. I did not argue with Colonel Gazmin so as not to distract his attention from the work of defense, but I had no intention of leaving. This was my place. I remembered what had happened to Marcos who did not make a stand.
“The PSG repulsed the attacks; the rebel troops started to withdraw.
“At this point, my son, Noynoy, having heard that Arlegui was under attack rushed back to join me. We had tried to get through to him but had failed. He was driving the car with his bodyguard beside him and a backup vehicle following. They ran into the rebels. He went down and talked to them, and then as he got back into the car, the rebels fired on him and his backup. His bodyguard covered him and was repeatedly shot in the back. He himself was hurt. Everyone in the back-up was killed. Noynoy finally got through to Colonel Gazmin’s men who rushed to where he was and brought him to Arlegui. Noynoy told Colonel Gazmin not to tell me he was wounded — instead Noynoy talked to me on the phone telling me he was at the barracks with the PSG.
“The rebel forces were in full retreat by about 3 a.m. During this time I had been able to talk on the phone with General Ramos, I got in touch with Vice President Laurel, Ting Jayme, and Alran Bengzon. General Ramos told me that Villamor Airbase was also under attack. Joker Arroyo called me to say he was in touch with General Sotelo who told him that the rebels were occupying the two floors below him, but he assured us that there was no threat from the Air Force helicopters. His forces and the rebels would prevent either side from using them.
“General Alfredo Lim called up Colonel Gazmin at this time and said he had 600 men at my disposal; just to give him the orders.
“I then began to receive reports that the rebel troops that the PSG had repelled had converged and joined other rebels in front of Camp Aguinaldo. By 4 a.m. the reports said that the rebels had began scaling the walls of the Camp.
“At this time, General Biazon arrived with a battalion of Marines. I told him that I depended on him to resolve the situation in Camp Aguinaldo.
“I discussed the situation with General Ramos by phone twice while I was in Arlegui.
“At 7:30 a.m. I arrived at the Guesthouse. I called in Joker Arroyo and Teddy Boy Locsin. I told them that there would be no negotiations with the rebel troops, no terms of any kind. I wanted the situation resolved, the mutiny crushed by noon. I asked my daughter Ballsy to call General Ramos by the hotline, but it was dead. We tried the phones but they were either busy or dead. I told Teddy Boy to go to Camp Crame and stand by a working phone to keep me in touch with General Ramos. I told him to deliver my instructions to General Ramos. I kept telling General Ramos, General De Villa and Secretary Ileto to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Time was on the rebel side.
“Between 8 and noon time, I received calls from Teddy Boy on the situation in Aguinaldo. He first called at 9 to say that Ramos had told him that the attack would start at 10 a.m., when he had sufficient forces. I also talked to General Ramos. From time to time, Teddy Boy called and gave the phone to either General De Villa or General Ramos who kept me informed of developments.
“There was a standoff in Camp Olivas, he reported.
“The Recom Commander in Cebu had taken over the civil government.
“Constabulary and Police units had joined the rebels and occupied the Legaspi airport.
“There was a delay in the arrival of Biazon’s Marines because of engine failure and the slowness of his transport vehicles. The attack was moved to 11 a.m. At 11:15 Teddy Boy called again to say that the rebels were on the air in Channel 13. He said that measures were being prepared since early morning to stop both Channel 9 and 13 from broadcasting. But that something would be done soon. I told him I wanted the attack started. Colonel Gazmin told me that General De Villa said that the attack would commence at 11:30.
“At 11:30, although the Marines had not arrived, General Ramos opened fire with recoilless rifles on Camp Aguinaldo. The line had been drawn between our side and theirs. We delivered the message of “NO NEGOTIATIONS” even before my announcement in the afternoon.
“At about noon, I received the report that the composite police and SAF task force led by General Lim had relieved the siege of Channel 4 and had started the attack on Camelot Hotel.
“I went on the air at 3:15 in the afternoon to announce the artillery attack we had started and that there would be no negotiations with the rebels. I said that there would be no let-up in military operations until the rebellion was crushed.
“At around the same time, the composite force of Army, Constabulary and Marines breached the walls of Camp Aguinaldo and started to mop up the rebels. The GHQ building was burned down by the rebels.
“At around 5 o’clock, we learned later, the leader of the rebellion had fled with other key officers in a helicopter.
“Around 8 in the evening, General Ramos reported to me that Camp Aguinaldo was being cleared of all rebels.
“Partial reports indicate that 50 officers and 1,300 enlisted personnel were involved in the attempted coup, which was the bloodiest yet.
“Forty officers and 993 enlisted men either surrendered or were captured. Eight hundred twenty-five of them are detained in three ships of the Philippine Navy, the rest are in the Philippine Army gym.
“Government suffered 12 killed in action and the wounding of 15 officers, 42 enlisted men and 4 policemen. On the rebel side 19 died, while 39 others were wounded. Twenty-two civilians were killed.
“I grieve for the dead on both sides. When I ordered the attack, I knew that there would be violence but I had to prevent a greater violence.
“When we interviewed the captured, especially here in Malacañang, we found that the enlisted men had been told that they were on a test mission. Some of these rebel soldiers even had notebooks with them. Colonel Honasan had told them that they could not graduate from the course of the Special Operations School without such a practice. Soldiers from other units carried fake radio reports that Malacañang was under siege by the NPA.
“It is not the way of true leaders to delude their followers. The path of violence they chose violated their oath to country and Constitution, but the lies, the deception they perpetrated on their soldiers put to shame the noblest traditions of the Armed Forces.”
Locsin on Ramos
After the broadcast, Locsin reported to the President the brilliant way General Ramos had sized up the situation, how carefully he had weighed the options. The resoluteness with which he inspired the men to attack the Camp after he was sure they would respond.
The initial artillery barrage had accomplished its purpose, which was to draw the line between the two sides and stop all further talks that might have led — perhaps to surrender by Gringo, but more likely to a mass defection by the entire Armed Forces.
It was when Gringo’s boys shot one Marine who was loitering outside Aguinaldo that the initially hesitant Marines, their blood up, attacked the Camp.
God’s love for Cory appears inexhaustible, but actually will run out sooner than the cowards in her Cabinet find the words for their usual after-the-game quarterbacking.
Cory’s Proclamation No. 3
By Napoleon G. Rama
April 19, 1986–OF a sudden a word used by the Corazon Aquino crowd, “revolutionary,” was verboten. Unmentionable. This was when the Aquino Cabinet was mulling over the definition of her kind of government and was scheduling the announcement of Proclamation No. 3, the President’s most important law so far.
There were nearly 2,000 words in Proclamation No. 3, declaring the status and nature of the Aquino regime. Nowhere could one find the world “revolutionary”. And this is a government, all evidence would declare, born out of a revolution. The favored words in the Proclamation were the less muscular “provisional”, and “transition” and “temporary.”
Was the “tough” lady bending over backwards to accommodate her critics? Earlier, the Minister of Justice Neptali Gonzales had dropped the broad hint that she favored the “revolutionary government” idea. What a howl went up from the Batasan Pambansa, both from the KBL and UNIDO MPs to whom “revolutionary” meant “dictatorial”. Of them the one person whose views counted most with the President was MP Cecilia Muñoz Palma, her confidante and closest adviser up to some weeks ago. She gave it straight to the President. To declare her government “revolutionary” and abolish the Batasan Pambansa was to behave no better than Dictator Marcos, Palma said.
It’s not hard to understand the Batasan members’ opposition. The Batasan is a very good-paying job, counting the allowances and the pork barrel doles. Add to this, political power, the name of the game in politics. Being in the Batasan is the best insurance against prosecution or persecution. Without the parliamentary armor, they would be naked to legal or extra-legal process by the dedicated fiscals or foes in the new regime. Palma, though, had honest if shakey reasons for her views.
But to those in favor of a revolutionary government, the issue was simple. It was a revolution that midwifed the present regime. The people’s mandate is thorough change as soon as possible. It cannot be achieve without dismantling the entire Marcos dictatorial government and removing his warlords and lieutenants who had given him aid and comfort and long tenure. People will not understand if the Marcos setup and men were retained in positions of authority. The solution was to cut clean from the old regime, start afresh without any ties to the old evil. The formula is as simple as cutting the Gordian knot.
But how would the other nations receive the revolutionary government to which most nations are normally allergic?
To the new President the dilemma was a formidable one. But it didn’t faze her. The problem uncovers a new side to Corazon Aquino—the ability to walk the tight rope, avoid confrontations through the use of diplomatic semantics, a necessary art for a national leader. She was able to concede to the critics minor points while holding on to the vital ones.
Instead of defining her form of government, she defined the Constitution that would be the basis of that government. And she had a noncontroversial label for it, the “Freedom Constitution,” which was to be drafted by honorable men to be appointed by her. She gave herself a deadline of from 30 to 50 days to name them.
Instead of identifying her mandate as coming from the people staging a revolution, she described her source of authority as “the direct mandate of the people as manifested by their extraordinary action”. It wasn’t a revolutionary regime but a transition regime based on a provisional constitution leading to a democratic government.
Of course, she didn’t write Proclamation No. 3. But the verifiable fact is that several conflicting memoranda and drafts were submitted to her. Even her own cabinet was split on the subject. It was she who made the decision and picked the final draft. Choosing the option and making the decision is what matters in the governing of a country. It was the best draft and the best decision under the difficult circumstances.
Like many proclamations born out of compromise, Proclamation No. 3 is not without its flaws. But first note the careful, felicitous wording of Proclamation No. 3—
“DECLARING A NATIONAL POLICY TO IMPLEMENT THE REFORMS MANDATED BY THE PEOPLE, PROTECTING THEIR BASIC RIGHTS, ADOPTING A PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION, AND PROVIDING FOR AN ORDERLY TRANSITION TO A GOVERNMENT UNDER A NEW CONSTITUTION.
It is very hard to quarrel with that kind of policy statement. The WHEREASES were equally non-controversial and factual:
“WHEREAS, the new government was installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people assisted by units of the New Armed Forces of the Philippines; WHEREAS, the heroic action of the people was done in defiance of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended; WHEREAS, the direct mandate of the people as manifested by their extraordinary action demands the complete reorganization of the government, restoration of democracy, protection of basic rights, rebuilding of confidence in the entire government system, eradication of graft and corruption, restoration of peace and order, maintenance of the supremacy of the civilian authority over the military; WHEREAS, to adequately respond to the mandate of the people and to achieve a transition to a government under a New Constitution in the shortest time possible and WHEREAS, during the period of transition to a New Constitution it must be guaranteed that the government will respect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The significant stress is that the authority of the President emanated from the people as manifested by their extraordinary action. The main objective is to implement the people’s will to restore democracy and basic rights and remove the evils of the old regime through a New Constitution to be drafted in the shortest possible time. And there is a stern reminder to the New Armed Forces that under our system civilian authority enjoys supremacy over the military, and before they get ideas, it was the people that installed the new regime and their role was to assist the people in supporting it.
Except for the fumble in the penultimate WHEREAS because of the absence of a verb, hence, producing an incomplete sentence, the premises are sound and persuasive.
The portion of the Proclamation whose consistency can be called into question by political scientists is Article I which adopts certain provisions of the 1973 Constitution and rejects the rest. There cannot be a selective or partial acceptance of a Constitution. To adopt as valid certain provisions in the Marcos “Constitution” is to admit that the Marcos “Constitution” was validly ratified and still in force—a position contrary to that originally held by the present regime which never recognized the validity of the charter. One who accepts as valid a portion of that “Constitution” is estopped from rejecting or invalidating the other provisions in the same “Constitution.”
After admitting that partial validity and therefore the valid ratification of that “Constitution,” one can no longer ignore, revise or annul any portion of that “Constitution” since one is bound by the terms and procedures prescribed by said “Constitution” by which one may revise or annul any provision in it. The Marcos “Constitution” provides that for any of its provisions to be invalidated, annulled or revised, there must first be a constituent assembly (the Batasan constitution itself as such), or a constitutional convention elected by the people, that would draft the constitutional amendments and submit them to the people for ratification in a plebiscite. Thus, the President having recognized the validity and existence of the Marcos “Constitution,” she cannot now arbitrarily nullify, repeal or revise its provisions without calling for a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention and a plebiscite.
Provisions adopted by the Proclamation are noncontroversial articles on National Territory, Citizenship, Bill of Rights, Duties and Obligations of Citizens, Suffrage, Declaration of Principles, Judiciary, Local Governments, Constitutional Commissions, Accountability of Public Officers, National Patrimony and General Provisions. Rejected by the regime are the articles on Batasan Pambansa (abolishing it), the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, Amendments and the Transitory Provisions.
The criteria for the adoption and the abolition of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution are unassaible, even if the fundamental legal procedure raised earlier remains questionable. The Proclamation went on to implement the objectives set forth in the WHEREASES.
At this writing even a brother-in-law of the President had come out with a front-page attack on the Promulgation, zeroing in on the authority of one person, the President, to make such Proclamation and constitute a constitutional body with “handpicked” palace appointees. “Mrs. Aquino,” Alejandro Lichuaco said, “for all her immense popularity, cannot claim to having been empowered by the people to write a new constitution. Much less can the appointees…” Even Marcos, he argued, did not abolish the Constitutional Convention of 1973, composed of delegates elected by the people. Marcos realized that a Constitutional Convention or body made up of his handpicked men would be ridiculous, Lichuaco added.
Like Palma and the rest, the President’s brother-in-law damns the revolutionary nature of the government, the essence of Proclamation No. 3 for all its cautious language. And this is the core of the issue.
The critics don’t seem to have fully assessed the extraordinary dimensions of the problem confronting the President. Marcos had been entrenched for 20 years. Most of his men in the Batasan, and local governments and bureaucracy had been there for 20 years. The apparatuses of Martial Law had been there for at least 14 years. Over these decades Marcos and Imelda had also set up their own organizations and secret networks outside the government. The “Constitution,” the laws, policies and many offices of government under the Marcos regime had a common purpose: to prop up, strengthen and prolong his dictatorial regime. The plunder of the nation started two decades ago. Never has the world seen greed as devouring as Marcos’s and never has history recorded a loot by anybody so great as his. No surprise the national treasury is empty, the national economy in extremis.
For smaller problems, a revolutionary government or the exercise of unencumbered power by the President had been required. Even the old 1935 Constitution recognized emergency situations and thus provided the President with extraordinary powers. What was contemplated then was mostly natural or short-lived calamities. What we have now is a 20-year old calamity.
The clear mandate of the people was for change, and urgent change. The problem is that under the circumstances you cannot institute change without first dismantling and demolishing the entrenched apparatuses of dictatorship and removing the entrenched accomplices of the dictator. If the President had to follow the normal constitutional and legal procedures contemplated by the law to be followed under normal circumstances, that change may never happen or it may come too late.
The hair-curling problems of the nation calls for quick, firm and tough decisions. And that is exactly what the President has done in decreeing the Proclamation. The wishy-washy decisions and the tedious procedures will not do under the present conditions of the nation. All constitutions in the world recognize extraordinary situations calling for dispensing with the niceties of law.
Besides, the Proclamation provides only a provisional constitution which has to be debated publicly, ratified by the people and if need be, revised and amended by the proper body elected by the people. It’s an emergency constitution. The Proclamation provides for elections for government officials. One emergency situation that cannot be helped is that the government does not have the money to hold elections now.
If it is admitted that President Aquino’s support from the people is “immense”, as seen here and the world over, she can represent better and speak for the people in a representative system of government than the abolished Batasan many of whose members cheated or shot their way into it.
It would be unfair to compare her and her government with Marcos and his regime. First, Marcos in 1972 changed or transformed a democratic government to a dictatorship. Aquino is dismantling a dictatorship in order to install a democracy. Aquino had been fighting for the basic freedoms and human rights. Marcos had been defending and fighting for a despotic government. In equating Marcos with Aquino, the critics subvert their own case.
Bernard Shaw said that those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Critics are a dime a dozen. To be one all that is needed is delusion of intelligence and wisdom. To make the best of a bad situation, to restore their lost freedom and dignity to the Filipino people and give them hope for the future requires an extraordinary person, and such a person her critics are not. Corazon C. Aquino is.
To Be A Woman!
February 7, 1986–THERE has never been anything like it in Philippine history: a woman telling the machos of business and industry to do what she is doing, to stand up to the injustices against which they have been content merely to complain. That the economy is being ruined, has been ruined, from which they happily drew so much profit in the past; that the system under which they prospered is in dire danger of total collapse and eventual replacement by one that would have no place for them is evident to them. Free enterprise, that holy of holiest in their minds, is doomed by crony capitalism. And one with any sense of morality, of human right and dignity, can only recoil from government by, for, and of one man clearly determined to maintain his rule at whatever cost to the nation. But it took a woman to do what a man, or men, should have been doing: Fight! Being a man was sadly inadequate. One had to be something else. Be a woman — like her!
Said a foreign observer as applause interrupted her speech at the Manila Intercontinental Hotel:
“You may not agree with her program but you can smell the honesty!” She doesn’t smell, as the regime she would replace does, but “smell the honesty!”
“It is like a religious experience,” said an otherwise cynical observer during another speech of hers, this time at the Manila Hotel before more than 2,000 — a speech preceded by a standing ovation, interrupted by 55 bursts of applause during its course, then ending with another ovation. “Jubilation and pride” filled the men and woman who were there and heard Cory give the regime, in the most forthright language: hello.
Support for her cause — the cause of the honest, decent and good, the long-suffering and patient, until now — comes not only comes from the well-heeled but also from the poor, the barely surviving. She asks for their votes and money pours out for her from those the regime feels compelled to bribe, cheat and coerce. Women and children form a cordon around the vehicle carrying her from the airport to Cebu City in an act of loving protectiveness against goons, uniformed or not, of the powers that be. A KBL poll, in spite of the inevitable adjustments of the results to favor the pollsters, showed Cory ahead: 65/35 for the widow of the man murdered in the custody of the Marcos military. At an American Embassy Christmas party, a general of the regime told embassy officials loudly enough for others to hear, that a recent survey by the military showed Cory leading Marcos by 2 million votes—up to then.
How could it be otherwise but humiliating for the dictator? What’s worse, the challenger is a woman. A cartoon in a Hong Kong paper shows him, in one panel, fuming over the predicament, the shame of it all, running against a woman, then, in the next panel, demanding who’s responsible for his having to run against Cory instead of Ninoy, then, quieting down, saying in a small voice: “Forget it.”
Not only humiliating but, if he loses, whether against a man or a woman, unacceptable! How could justice be allowed to prevail after so much injustice by the regime? Would life, in the pleasurable sense of the word, be possible for him? For him and his?
Worse still, the woman was calling him a coward!
“I am here in Mindanao in the midst of the violence and devastation that Mr. Marcos has wrought. And I am not afraid to be here. But Mr. Marcos is.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he has not come to Mindanao in the past 10 years to see for himself the horrible effects of his greed, his brutality and his ignorance.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he will not come to Mindanao to stand in the physical presence of the people he has hurt and betrayed.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he will not stand before me and dare to hurl his charges in my face and let my answers be heard.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he needed over 2,000 troops to kill one man — Ninoy Aquino. And he has the gall to say he fought off hordes of Japanese soldiers at Besang Pass. What a laugh.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of cowardice because he whimpers about a little scratch in his hand and ignores the hole that his people blew out of the face of Jeremias de Jesus and the mangled bodies of the Opposition after the grenade attack he launched at them in Plaza Miranda.
“I accuse Mr. Marcos of trying to cover up his cowardice with a salad of military decorations none of which he ever earned in the field of honor.
“I challenge Mr. Marcos to stand up, like a woman and answer my charges of his cowardice with truth — if he dares.”
He could meet one charge of cowardice based on his non-appearance in Mindanao, by going there, of course. But then came the U.S. Army leak about his war record and medals. My God, what next?
The election should never have been called, in the first place. Now, what must he do to “win”? it No. 1 . . . . . No. 2 . . . . . Number 3 . . . . . But who would believe in such a victory? He had until 1987 before having to run for reelection if he would stay in power—if he lived that long. All he had to do was sit there in Malacañang and rule. Why put his presidency at risk? True, the Americans were demanding an election for a new mandate as the condition of continued military and financial aid, but he could have told them to go to hell. They were not content with an election, any kind of election, it had to be honest and free — and what if he lost? What dictatorship ever willingly submitted to one of that kind? Why risk what you have to gain what you already have? That’s plain stupid. What could the Americans do to him that would be worse than what would happen to him if he lost in the election? Let them do their worst!
But victory was not to be ruled out — even in an honest and free election. That is, if the leading Opposition contender, Doy Laurel, were to gain the nomination, and it seemed clear enough that he would, boasting as he did of a political organization the others could not claim to have. Laurel, it was the Malacañang consensus, would be no problem. Especially since his candidacy would not unite the Opposition, none of the other contenders showing any willingness to concede that Laurel was the better man, the better bet. Cory would be a problem, but she was not running. (Not then.) The British Broadcasting Corporation survey showed Marcos leading Doy by a comfortable margin. So, let there be an election. It might not even need to be rigged.
Then Cory ran. And united the Opposition. Oh, my God again!
So, now there is Cory, challenging absolute power, with its Central Bank, AFP, Commission on Election and almost exclusive access to radio and television and the crony press all working for it. But could the Commission on Elections be wholly trusted despite its membership of Marcos appointees? Why not, if it ran true to form? And NAMFREL had yet to be given accreditation as a poll watcher. Now NAMFREL is an accredited observer and counter of votes, but could NAMFREL prevent fraud in the final official count? And what if terrorism kept people from freely voting, or vote-buying plus terror kept them at home? How could the true, untrammeled will of the people prevail?
To be resigned to evil is to support it. Acceptance is consent. So, Cory runs. Against all odds. And who knows, she may prevail. She will — if the good and brave are with her. The Filipino people cannot be held captive too long by any power, native or foreign. But they can be if there is no will to resist power however great.
“There are no tyrants,” as Rizal said, “where there are no slaves.”
Slavery is the just desert of slaves.