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Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Man of the Year, 1971

 

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.

The Long Week, February 7, 1970

The Long Week

By Kerima Polotan

Bombs, Guns, Stones—Violence, Hate, Death.

1.

February 7, 1970WHEN THE WEEK began, it seemed to hold no surprises. The country had seen how many Congresses open before and except for a mugginess in the afternoon, rare in January, the Seventh held no special portents. The young had, of course, taken over the streets and were on Ayala Street, thrusting leaflets at passerby: An Appeal for a Non-Partisan Constitutional Convention. All week the week before, they’d been pretty busy, demonstrating in front of Malacañang. A particularly “militant” group had roughed up an army sergeant moonlighting as a photographer; they had peppered the air with elegant language, the accepted idiom of student activism, amplified many decibels with the aid of loudspeakers, language like: Putang ina mo! Ikaw Marcos, bumaba ka rito, napakayabang mo, 27 ang medalya mo, halika nga dito at tignan natin ang galing mo! I am from Cabiao, kung talagang matapang ka, bumaba ka rito at papatayin ka namin! x x x

Bukas, ang aabutin mo rito kung akala mo ay minura ka na, ay hindi pa namin naaabot ang pagmumura sa iyo. Mumurahin ka namin ng gabi. Putang ina mo x x x Putang ina ninyong mga Americans kayo, sino ang pupuntahan ninyo diyan, ang demonyong Presidente namin? ‘Yang gagong Pangulo namin diyan, bakit ninyo pupuntahan, gago naman iyan?

True to their word, they had frothed umaga, tanghali, at gabi, heroically cursing Mr. Marcos to his face, in the house where he lived, shocking even the hardened veterans of the Presidential Guard Battalion, but now in the afternoon sun, their young, clear faces turned Congressward, they seemed indeed, ten deep, and miles and miles of them, the hope of the fatherland.

Inside Congress, however, the familiar peremptoriness of security guards greeted guests—even the most inoffensive looking specimen got thoroughly sniffed at from head to foot and if you didn’t smell at all as if you had legitimate business on the premises, you were quickly waved off to a side door where khaki’d arms blocked the way. You thrust a press card and the guard’s sangfroid remained undented—one prepared, therefore, to offer a fistful of identification papers: credit card, driver’s license, insurance bill, plumber’s reminder, grocery list, beauty parlor receipt, but remembering from somewhere that occasionally a double whammy worked, one fixed the fellow with a look: left eye shut, right eye open, and then a whisper: Tsip, puede ba?

It worked, and one was suddenly inside, to one’s utter disappointment. One had not fought one’s way through to stand guard over a half empty hall, along with half a hundred TV cameras, and the minor functionaries of this Republic, the second officials, the junior assistants, who strutted and poked and pointed—“Mahina ang audio!”—but there were compensations. Eduardo Cojuangco, the husband of Gretchen Oppen, was there, in expensive barong; and so was Joe Aspiras, the ex-press secretary, in barong; and also Joe de Venecia, whom the papers called a Marcos Liberal, who had just shed (again according to the papers) an old love and acquired a new one, in coat and tie; a dear friend from Dumaguete: Herminio (Minion) Teves, the younger twin of Lorence, in coat and tie; Rafael Aquino, the Sorsogueño from Butuan City, in coat and tie. All brand new diputados, eager to be of service to the country, but already practised in the art (and craft) of winning people and influencing friends. You could tell—they strode as though they belonged (and did they not?), crossed their legs, scratched their colleagues’ back, held languid cigarettes, laughed their rich solid laugh. But no Rufino Antonio, poor man, with all his troubles—he should have stuck to selling motorcycles. However, with Antonio not there, was Roquito far behind? One glimpsed through a clump of faces, the Northern congressman, short, dark, chubby, smiling a genuine Ilocano smile, winning, irresistible, the kind where the charm comes straight from the solar plexus. You could see where Special Forces was written all over him.

The old-timers were drifting in—Pablo Roman, who owns Bataan; Fermin Caram, who owns Filipinas; Ramon Mitra, who doesn’t own Palawan (yet), but does have a pair of sideburns reaching down to his knees and the start of a gross look; Carmelo Barbero, Carlos Imperial, Floring Crisologo, Constantino Navarro. On this side, the Supreme Court Justices, in black robes; across the floor from them, the cabinet: Carlos P. Romulo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franciso Tatad, Gregorio Feliciano, Leonides Virata, and Manang Pacita, wearing her hair shoulder-length, dressed in a bright Bonnie frock. Beside the cabinet, the lady justices of the court of Appeals; Cecilia Muñoz Palma, in a green terno, and that stalwart of the legal profession, Lourdes San Diego, who is said to know her law like some women know their beauty ritual, in a wine colored terno.

Where one sat, craning behind the backs of security, one was hemmed in, on the right, by TV announcers—“our very own Henry Halasan” in an off-white suit, demure and dimpled—and, on the left, by the military (the navy, the army, the air force) all in white duck. An attractive woman in a brief checkered dress desired to hurdle the railing that separated her from the military and one gallant junior aide extended a strong arm. She stood on a chair and lifted a leg and one could hear the military gasp in delight; my, my! If only all the subversives in the country had thighs like those—but after a while, the lady began to prove a nuisance, because she desired once more to return to the floor, and so executed that Open Sesame exercise and then once more, back with the military; and so on, three or four times, like a see-saw, and by then, the TV announcers’ Adam’s apples were bobbing up and down, and the junior aides were beginning to weary of her dance.

Then the Senators—Roy, Sumulong, Pelaez, Aytona, Tañada, Laurel, Padilla, Puyat, Eva Kalaw, feminine every inch of her, who walked in like Isadora Duncan, in a blue terno, but instead of wearing the panuelo across her shoulders, she’d wrapped it around her neck, and, voila! it was a scarf. However, the most beautiful neck on the floor that afternoon belonged to the Senadora from Laguna, Mme. Helena Benitez, the great and good friend of the Filipinescas dance troupe, who works very hard to get them their dollars and their accreditation; such a good sport, every chance she gets, she puts in a good word for them, they ought to make her muse or something.

One neck that looked different was Father Ortiz’s, buttoned high like a proper cleric’s, and if one hadn’t known him from previous invocations, you’d mistake him for chairman of the board of some multi-million peso mining corporation. All that eloquent talk of revolution has not affected the good and comfortable lives that many priests live. One remembered Father Ortiz from the NP convention of ‘67—he wasn’t Rector then—when he had also read a stirring invocation. He was to repeat his warning here, this afternoon, but in stronger words: “Our unsafe streets,” he said, prompting a Church non-lover to ask: if our streets are unsafe, how’d he get here? A people awaited redress, the young wanted change, the Rector said, an entire country trembled on the edge of revolution, the priest went on, but one thought, skeptic as usual, there were many voices today telling Government what was wrong with it, how many were telling the Church what was wrong with her?

Lift your seat, Mother, and look beneath the holy ass with which you’ve sat heavily on Property and Privilege for centuries, your banks, your estates, your tax-free schools—in the town where one comes from, the bishop owns a department store, a printing press, a tailoring shop, a pawnshop that preys especially on students, but daily, like the Pharisee, he bestows the blessings of Rome on a populace that sniggers behind his back because ten years ago, his family could barely eat in the province where he was born, but when he became bishop, he transported his entire clan to his diocese, and now each is propertied and privileged. Dialogue and keeping one’s cool being the fashion these days, one confesses an instinctive distrust of many fashions, including the fashion of thinking the Church can ever be revolutionary; confesses, further, to a habit of equating all the Church says with what one knows about it, personally; knows with one’s blood and mind: the Church flashes a shibboleth and you think you can grasp it and fight the evils of the world with it? The Irish father who talks endlessly of social justice likes to eat and drink well, and rides only with the rich of his town. That luckless priest who led a strike two years ago in the South is out of a job and out of a reputation, and is teaching in a diploma mill in Manila because his superiors chased him out of the province: what sayeth the Church to this?

The leaders of the Christian Social Movement live in low cost housing villages like Bel Air and Urdaneta; they speak to their servants in Tagalog; to their children in English, among themselves in Spanish—when their wives go to market, they say Espera to the fish vendor: these will lead a revolution? The Church reminds one of a greedy old whore, and like a greedy old whore, she won’t get off her back, even with the house next door already afire, because a couple of visitors are still in the parlor jingling their money, and she must have that too before she takes off.

THE HOUR WAS late, Father Ortiz said, and how right he was, for here came now the ladies of the congressmen and their senators. Most favored was the terno, no one was in pantsuit, and muted colors predominated. Was that a diamond that sparkled on a breast? Impossible to tell from the distance, but by their chins and their humps your could identify them: Mesdames Lopez, Puyat, Aldeguer, Roy—and Virginia Veloso who sat in the last seat, front row, two arm’s lengths away from Imelda Marcos, exactly as they had sat together in class 20 years ago in Tacloban, when Mrs. Veloso had been the darling of the social swirl and Mrs. Marcos had partly paid her way through school working in the library.

Flanked by Senator Puyat and Speaker Laurel, both suited, Mr. Marcos stood on the rostrum, in a barong. He looked rested. He bowed to the Supreme Court, he looked up at the klieg lights, he glanced at his watch. He’d worked his way from the front door to the rostrum, shaking hands, murmuring greetings—the amenities. One after the other, the two gavels banged: “For my part, I declare the House open for the session,” said Speaker Laurel, an old sad man with long white hair who must now live with the memory of a Bicol hill and a dead son. “For my part,” rasped Senate President Puyat, “I declare the Senate open for the session,” then the invocation that would have the editorial writers the next day tripping over each other, praising it, but meaningless to this one citizen until the Church gives up its pawnshops. And finally, Mr. Marcos’s quick descent to the microphones three steps below and the State-of-the-Nation address that would all but be forgotten in the terror with which that long week ended…

Thirty-five minutes he spoke, forty, if you counted the applause before and after, to a hall that had been fuller in previous years. But the persistent talk of assassination had finally worked its poison, and the overzealous guards had kept out more people than they should have. Some nuns there were in the mezzanine, their arms folded, looking quietly at Mr. Marcos; a row of impassive-faced diplomats sat below, among them the Honorable Mr. Addis whose garage the students had burned down a couple of years ago; and no more than half a hundred citizens—non-military, non-political, non-official—brown, sober, thoughtful, scattered through the hall.

While Mr. Marcos and his retinue walked out of the hall, to their fateful encounter with the papier mache crocodile and the cardboard coffin, the reporters on the floor swarmed all over the Opposition, cornering Senators Salonga, Aquino, and Roxas, who dutifully cleared their throats and gave their verdicts. Aquino said it for the trio—“Mr. Marcos should have addressed his speech to his cronies.” One watched them, holding the reporters at bay, recoiling every now and then from a too obtrusive microphone—Senators Salonga is a fine man and a good Christian; he has a sharp mind, people think; is a legal luminary, and if all that means, does he offer you a cup of coffee when you call on him, he certainly does. In the privacy of his office, he sounds almost like an old friend and you can put your guard down, but not quite all the way down, because the warning bell in the back of your mind doesn’t quite stop ringing. Why is that? It’s probably the smile. Most people smile with eyes and lips together, and so, indeed, does the senator from Rizal, but not all the time. Often, he smiles only with his lips, and his eyes take on a waiting, wary look, and when that happens, it leaves the onlooker disquieted.

As for Ninoy Aquino, he looked as if he’d recovered completely from Caroline Kennedy’s devastating character sketch of him—walkie-talkie in the swimming pool. Now he shifted his roly-poly body from one foot to the other; he scratched his ear, he inclined his head, he tucked his hands beneath his armpits. Such a checkered, meteoric career Ninoy’s has been—at 17, youngest correspondent in the Korean War; at 19, Southeast Asian expert, even if much of what he turned out was, according to some, a rehash of other experts’ books. And then in rapid succession, mayor, governor, senator, and, who knows? In ’73, if the stars are kind and the cards are gentle, President? Some people are appalled at the possibility of a boy President, but why not? If the children have taken over the streets with their stones and their clubs and their gasoline-soaked rags, why not Ninoy in the study room, whittling a slingshot? Perhaps, it’s because there will always be something underdone about Ninoy—ambition or insight or judgment—something that skipped the slow, natural process of ripening (Kung baga sa mangga, kinarburo).

And that shaggy-maned Capiz senator, Gerardo Roxas, who has stopped at last talking of his illustrious father—now, he shook his head, and his thick crop of graying hair threatened to fall, but didn’t. “No controls?” said he, who had miraculously escaped an “assassination” attempt in Capiz last November. “Ask the travellers, the students abroad, or the banks.” He would take to the air later that night, at 9, in this continuing comedy skit of Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, to deplore with much tongue-clacking, the violence outside Congress—“…The first President,” intoned Senator Roxas with ill-concealed glee, “to be stoned in the history of this country.” Well, better that, Senator Sir, than to be spoken of now as “…the first President in the history of this country to sign away Philippine patrimony,” or to be known as the son of such a President; better a stone on the head than the memory of such a treachery, and then to revel in that singular betrayal and make political capital out of it.

ONE EMERGED TO find confusion outside. The President and his wife had sped away—“Binato si Marcos!” and the crowd milled in the lobby. A Congress employee manfully paged cars through the loudspeaker, but the system was not working, and no cars came. The sky was dark; there was the smell of smoke, the ominous ascent of embers; the Congress flag flew at half-mast for Salud Pareño of Leyte. Who was the enemy and who, the friend, was not clear at all. Below, the students hooted. Upstairs, the helmeted police waved and pushed. All stood in the lobby, milling around like so many aging cattle: come and go, duck and dart. One crossed the driveway to the embankment overlooking the fray, there was some running, some stoning, some swinging of clubs, and then a flurry behind us, and we turned to follow two policemen, one of them with a profusely bleeding mouth, dragging a pale and frightened boy in a brown T-shirt. The police would bring them all up, those they’d caught, seat them briefly in the corridor, and then disappear with their catch somewhere, while one alternated between lobby and embankment, driven from one to the other by confusion, and then curiosity. The approach to the driveway was guarded by soldiers (you could tell by their long guns and their silence), but the center was a melee of cop, Metrocom, congressman, and onlooker.

“Do you have a child below?” asked a cop from the shadows. “Because if you don’t have any,” he said, “go home.” No, was one’s certainly reply, and felt a vague, grateful stirring where one had nourished ten of them.

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. 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 passe, 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.

2.

AT FIVE P.M. the following Thursday, one sat in a roomful of police officers, listening to them recount their own version of Monday’s affray. There were colonels, majors, captains; police, PC, Metrocom—aging men with thinning hair and heavy paunches, looking (for a change) like what they (perhaps) really were: fathers.

“I have a son at Araneta U and I was afraid he was there,” said someone. Senator Pelaez’s name came up and another snorted audibly: “That guy,” he said. “He stood there, waving his hands, pacifying the crowd, saying ‘Stop it! Stop it! We’re here to protect you! Go ahead and demonstrate!’ Binato ikamo, pati siya nag-cover.

The force that secured Congress January 26 was called Task Force Payapa and was under the command of Colonel Jasmin, assisted by Major Izon. It consisted of an indeterminate number of PC soldiers, Metrocom troops, a Marine complement, and firemen, but on the shoulders principally of MPD’s Colonel Gerardo Tamayo fell the job of policing the rally. “I fielded only 270 men, 30 of them anti-riot,” Tamayo said, and everything was going on peacefully, until the Kabataang Makabayan ng Makati, arrived. They marched in singing, driving a wedge through the crowd and moved up to where the convent girls were, right up front. Earlier, the police had given the students two concessions they’d asked for, according to one colonel—the demonstrators had resented the two loudspeakers broadcasting the proceedings from inside Congress and now desired that the offending amplifiers be turned off. “This was done.” They also asked permission to use what one PC officer, reconstructing the evening, kept calling the “foyer” but was probably the elevated platform just below the flagpole, beneath the embankment, but whatever it was, permission was given and the students moved nearer the driveway.

Luis Taruc spoke and was, thank God, booed. Roger Arrienda, the only “revolutionist” who wears diamonds on his fingers and holds rather noisy court at Front Page Restaurant, spoke, and was booed. There was a squabble over the demonstrator’s microphone. Edgar Jopson of the NUSP was sending his rallyists home but Gary Olivar of the U.P. wanted to speak, and then—Colonel James Barbers picks up the story—“at exactly 5:55 p.m., the President came out, with the First Lady.” They booed him, but Mr. Marcos reportedly smiled: “Kumaway pa,” says Barbers.

You could feel the restless current up front—hands tossed (that’s the word the police use) this cardboard coffin, “but you know how the security is, there could have been a bomb inside, and so we tossed it right back. It returned; we tossed it back, like volleyball, you know. Then, the crocodile.” When Barbers heard the first stones, he pushed the President inside the car so hard Mr. Marcos hit his head and came up with a bump (“Police brutality! Someone laughs), but the President pushed his way out again because “we had forgotten Imelda” who stood outside protected by now by someone called Big Boy. (Big Boy would get a pop bottle in the face.) Colonel Fabian Ver’s men gave the Marcoses “body cover” and the car rolled away.

Did Tamayo, at this point, order his men to charge the youngsters? A Manila Times employee insists he did—“Rush them!” or words to that effect, Tamayo’s supposed to have said—but Tamayo says he didn’t. What he ordered his cops to do was to arrest those who had breached the peace. “Look,” Tamayo explains, “they were throwing stones, bottles, and clubs—would you like a picture of one cop who lost four teeth, and a picture of another cop who had to have ten stitches in the head, and a picture of another cop who got a nail in his knee?” The police say the troublemakers—“extremists”—came prepared; they had brought stones, the kind you buy at rock gardens; and clubs, dos por cuatro, nailed together. When the melee started, the police say, the boys ripped the clubs apart, and they had a lethal weapon, a sturdy dos por dos topped by a vicious nail. “On the other hand, our truncheons are made of rattan.” All right, but did they beat up even the girls? Not true, the police say, those girls are trained to be hysterical at the approach of a policeman, to drop to the ground and scream “Brutality!” at the top of their voices. And the missing nameplates? “Torn off by the students themselves,” someone declares with a very, very straight face. “Those extremists moved according to plan,” says Barbers who opens a book, Riots, Revolts, and Insurrections by Raymond Momboisse, and proceeds to read aloud a few pertinent quotes: The professional agitators use children, women, and old people (in Monday’s affray, two old veterans) to embarrass the police. Their aim is to cause bloodshed, it doesn’t matter whose; “to manufacture martyrs,” to gain a cause celebre, to precondition the public mind about police brutality. If there are police horses, they stick them with pins, or roll marbles under their feet, or slash away with razors.

How about police brutality? The TV showed them clearly beating up the fallen… A police officer says, “The trouble with these TV people is they like to position themselves behind police lines—they run when we run. Why don’t they station themselves behind the KM and shoot their footage from there?”

“Did you notice the demonstrators had more cameras on their side than the legitimate press had?” asks a police officer. “How quickly they spread the rumor that three students had been killed, and one body was at the NBI, being autopsied!” When someone raised a clenched fist, the stoning began. “Their technique is getting better and better. Even that tight romantic embrace the girls give the boys when they’re about to be arrested is part of their technique.” Some rookies “perhaps” got carried away, admitted an officer, but this was no tea party, as the long bloody hours of Friday subsequently proved.

Meanwhile, as the police reviewed their “facts” Salvador P. Lopez was being roundly scolded by Mr. Marcos in the Palace. Tuesday, he had called his faculty together to pass a resolution condemning police brutality; holding the Administration responsible for Monday’s labo-labo; and decrying the growing pattern of Fascist oppression in the country. Then, he decreed a certain per cent of their month’s salary be put into a common fund to help the students—totally unnecessary, according to a later clarification, because the University has a regular fund that provides for this—and after telling his faculty “I want a 100% attendance tomorrow,” adjourned the meeting. Wednesday’s papers carried pictures of Lopez being cheered on the steps of the U.P. for joining the students’ noble cause, but as anyone who has heard of Lopez from his Herald days could have foretold, the denouement of this episode was quite a surprise.

Putting together everything that columnists and U.P. activists themselves said afterwards, Lopez didn’t exactly approach the altar of student militancy with, beg pardon, clean hands. He saw in Monday’s mauling a chance to throw a smokescreen over his own not-so-little troubles at the U.P., among them, a brewing rebellion of some faculty who thought his policies oppressive and wanted “democratization”—whatever that means in Diliman; his pay had also just been raised to P48,000 (he says without his intervention) amidst loud yelps from his underpaid employees; and—this is a beaut—Lopez wasn’t exactly the favorite anito of the campus radicals. They distrusted him, in fact, and as one student leader, speaking over the radio hours after Friday’s terror, put it: “He was like a Pontius Pilate (in the Palace), washing his hands of us when Marcos began berating him! Of those who went to see Marcos, we know who are really for us, and who aren’t.”

So Lopez and his safari went to the Palace, Thursday afternoon, hiring buses which they left at Agrifina Circle, walking from there to Malacañang, in buri hats, umbrellas, and scarves, taking care to give their better side to the camera—Lopez was always getting snapped doing something momentous, his broad face turned symbolically somewhere, that mouth open, his large hands spread, but, you see, he’d been taught all the tricks of success by a master, the great CPR himself, whose ashtrays he had probably fetched in his Herald and UN days, and he’d learned the fine art of accommodation. He was against whoever had just turned his back, and was for whoever faced him at the moment, and when he walked into Mr. Marcos who asked, first, if the resolution was the best the U.P., known for its proficiency in English, could master (“This reads like a student resolution!”); second, if in condemning police brutality, Lopez had all the facts?); and third, in “holding the Administration responsible for the pattern of repression and the violation of rights,” wasn’t Lopez making “a general gunshot accusation”?

If Lopez had been sincerely convinced about the justice of his cause, he would have stayed firm, wouldn’t he, now, but having patently espoused the students’ cause out of convenience, Lopez, again out of convenience, began to backtrack. He apologized to Mr. Marcos for the wording of the resolution and said it was not possible to “include all the specific issues”; moreover, it was not a resolution of accusation, Lopez now said, but “a declaration of concern.”

Lopez would have only one ally among the columnists in the next few days. Amando Doronila—who is not really as churlish as he sounds. If you took his column away, Mr. Doronila could still earn a living, assisting at Mass or lecturing on The Verities or chopping off the hands of those who pick their noses in public. The fact that Mr. Doronila alone saw in Lopez’s embarrassing docility the equivalent of an intellectual Tirad Pass or Custer’s Last Stand is not enough basis for concluding they’re two of a kind. Lopez, like a man who has worked hard all his life, looks forward only to retirement and a regular paycheck in the sunset of his life. Mr. Doronila, however, desires, above all, to die at the stake, sunset or sunrise, it doesn’t matter, for a belief he holds dear: the Doronila Monomania, part of the messianic syndrome, — a self-righteousness that makes you want to puke; the conviction that he alone is right all the time (isn’t Mrs. D. — ever?).

One recalls that curve one threw him about the word media, and the flurry with which he tried to hit it. Dr. Doronila, who likes to make these very important pronouncements above government, foreign affairs, economics, juvenile delinquency, the stock exchange, the penal system, democracy and similar topics, obviously didn’t know what hole media had crawled out of; probably thought it was Greek, as in Jason and Media (sic), and most Greeks may wear skirts but they’re not plural beneath, if you know what we mean. One’s concern for Dr. Doronila is such that one must warn him about bad grammar: it’s like bad breath, no one tells you about it, not even your best friend.

3.

THE CLIMAX of that long week came Friday, January 30, the inevitable finis to endless days of obscenity, ranting, and clubbing, but this time, the Putang ina mos came out of the barrels of guns, crackled above the sound of fire and breaking glass, exploded in the thud of truncheon against flesh.

The trouble erupted at 6:15 p.m., just as Edgar Jopson of the NUSP, and Portia Ilagan of the NSL, were leaving the Palace front door. Since 3:30 that afternoon, they had been closeted with Mr. Marcos in a dialogue, during which they had repeatedly demanded that Mr. Marcos put down in writing his pledge not to seek a third term. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Jopson was particularly insolent, elementary courtesy obviously not being part of the standard equipment in the activist’s kit.

(In one’s youth, when you used obscenity, you washed your mouth with soap and water afterwards, but you can see how liberated the take-over generation is today: “All right ‘yan, brod, basta’t for the country, putang ina nating lahat!”)

Jopson and Ilagan had promised Mr. Marcos there would be no violence because the demonstrators had marshals to police the students, they said (they had demanded that the police—a few traffic cops—and the PGB be withdrawn), but in the lobby of the Palace what should greet the two but—irony, irony—the sound of bulbs breaking; and above the ominous rumble of running feet, the noise of exploding glass, rose the familiar obscenity of their fellow revolutionaries: Hoy, Jopson, putang ina mo, lumabas ka rito at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari sa iyo!

By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.

Back at the Palace front door, continues this eyewitness, “Jopson and Ilagan looked suddenly sick, like two kids who’d bitten off more than they could chew. The Palace grounds were dark, and at first, we thought they didn’t want to walk back to their friends because of the darkness. Colonel Ver offered to light their way with the headlights of his jeep. Jopson nervously refused.” This boy who, for hours, had ranted in the study room, talking to Mr. Marcos as though Mr. Marcos were his houseboy; who’d gestured floridly like some latter-day Napoleon dictating surrender terms to a beaten foe at Austerlitz-on-thePasig, would not walk, alone, in the dark, to his friends. His courage stopped short of that one simple act.

Hadn’t they, Wednesday that week, flaunted a sign outside Gate 3: “We too can suffer, we too can die”? Ah, yes, but not in the dark, and not alone, and not without the cameras. They clung like children to the very people their group had cursed without letup—accompanied by one PGB captain and a security man, Jopson and Ilagan were ferried across the river and seen safely out of Malacañang Park.

Before the wild night was ended, four students lay dead, innocent bystanders all, and four mothers weep today. Over a hundred were in hospitals, injured; and three hundred more, detained at the MPD and in Camp Crame. Most of the casualties fell in the see-sawing battled for Mendiola bridge. Driven from there, the demonstrators had retreated to old Azcarraga, in front of a Nawasa branch office. There, they set a Yujuico bus on fire and sent it rolling towards Mendiola bridge. They set fire to parked jeeps and cars, Meralco posts; upturning Yeba’s iron railings; Yeba who had said Thursday, his great big beautiful eyes mesmerizing his audience, that woman’s mouth of his pouting now and then, that he would lead the police, and the strategy they would employ would be one of “containment.”

Hours and hours later, the radio broadcast an appeal of two U.P. student leaders for food, for money, for help. They’d been set upon, one said, clubbed and shot and arrested. The Metrocom had blocked all exits in Sampaloc, in Quiapo, in España, and picked up, willy-nilly, all those they fancied, but kind people, people who sympathized with the revolution, had put up many students in their own houses, fed and bedded them—one reproduces here, as well as one can remember, that appeal, because two things about it disquieted the listeners: the U.P. student sounded too much like a parrot, sticking to just one jargon, and for one who would bring about a better world, he reasoned with a child’s petulance: Mga kababayan, kami po ay nangangailangan ng tulong n’yo, no, pagkain, o pera, no, pakidala lang ninyo sa U.P. Student Council, Diliman, no, at matatanggap namin iyan, no. Kailangan po natin ibagsak ‘yang Pascistang si Marcos, no, kami mga anak ninyo na binugbog, binaril, no, ng mga kawal ng Pascistang si Marcos, no. Magsamasama tayong lahat, no, magkaisaisa tayo, no, para sa bayan, para sa demokrasya, no.

And the violence?

Papano, sa ganyang demonstration talagang mayroong mga maiinit ang ulo, no, pagod na pagod na kami sa mga broken promises ni Marcos, no, totoo nga, namato ang ilan sa amin, no, nagsusunog ng kaunti, nagpaputok ng rebentador, no, ngunit ang lahat ba namang iyan ay sapat na upang kami ay bugbugin, sipain, barilin, at arestohin?

They’d stoned a little, burned a little.

Sow a little anarchy—reap a little death, and death (big or little or medium-sized) is always, alas, for real.