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Is he? August 23, 1986

Is He?

by Teodoro M. Locsin

Reflections on Ninoy Aquino’s “The Filipino is worth dying for”

August 23, 1986–WHEN NINOY AQUINO was arrested, together with thousands whose only crime was love of truth, justice and liberty, no voice of protest was heard; there were no demonstrations by those still “free.”

Traffic flowed smoothly. Business went on as usual. The Church went on in its non-militant way, preaching submission, by its silence, to the brutal rule. Marcos’s Iglesia was all for it, of course. Thus was upheld the judgment of the Communist Prophet: “Religion is the opium of the people.” Politicians went on their, to use Shakespeare’s term, scurvy way. But what else could be expected of them? But what was heartbreaking was the general indifference to the death of liberty. The Filipino people did not give a damn.

Except a few. The unhappy few who found their cries against the death of liberty met with indifference if not scorn. Ninoy and Cory would afterward speak of how those they thought their friends pretended they did not know them!

There were no demonstrations of any consequence for years and years. When Ninoy, in ultimate defiance and despair, went on a hunger strike, masses were held for him at St. Joseph’s Church in Greenhills. A hundred or two showed up. An American Jesuit, Reuter, and a Filipino, Olaguer, said mass for Ninoy, witnesses to his cause. The currently most conspicuous member of the order busied himself with constitutional law and judicial resignation to Marcos’s “revolutionary” government. A banker showed up. No other demonstration for what Ninoy was slowly, painfully, starving himself to restore: the rule of law, not the rule of one man.

To be a prisoner is to be dehumanized. It is to be no one. Nothing. You have no rights, no control of your life, no existence except what your jailer allows you. You eat, sleep, and live at his pleasure. You remain human only by saying No!

From Camp Bonifacio, Ninoy and Diokno were taken to Fort Laur where they were stripped naked and kept incommunicado in separate rooms, singing the best way they could to tell the other that they were still alive. After weeks and weeks in their sweatboxes, they were taken back to Bonifacio from which Diokno was finally released after two years. Leaving Ninoy alone. Thus he lived for five more years. Years during which he would watch the trail of ants on the wall and try to make friends with a mouse and go into a frenzy of physical exercise in that windowless room to keep his sanity. But still No! to Marcos and his rule.

Years more of solitary confinement, then a heart attack, with Imelda showing up at the hospital with a rosary (not the one with the inverted cross or the other with the face of an animal that were found in Malacañang after her hurried departure) and permission granted for Ninoy to leave for the United States for heart surgery. Freedom at last—freedom in exile. A death in life for one who misses his people. A sense of total irrelevance. For what is a Filipino like Ninoy—not one who went there to make it his home, to be an American—in that country? Home he must go.

Against all the warnings: Imelda’s, Ver’s….Against the advice of friends. What did he hope to accomplish by his return? Reconciliation, peace, restoration of Filipino liberties. He would address himself to the “good” he believed was still in Marcos. Did he ask his children what they thought about his going back? Yes, and his children said they would abide by his decision. Did he ask Cory what she thought?

“You are the one who will suffer, Ninoy,” said that long-suffering woman. “You decide.”

So he went home to death.

Why did Ninoy go so willingly enough to a fate he must have considered a possibility if not a probability? Why do men—and women—say No! to injustice and force? Why do they opt for good at the cost of their lives?

For love of country? Out of sheer patriotism?

Here is a mystery of human nature that defies solution while humbling us. Evil we know, and understand, knowing our nature. But good is something else. As martyrdom, it has had, history shows, a fascination for some. The cynic would say it is mere inflation of the ego. But how explain the slow martyrdom of Damien who lived among lepers, ministering to their needs, and finding a mystical fulfillment when he could say: “We lepers.” Ego-inflation still? If that is the supreme desire, then the cynic might try life in a leper colony. He should never think more highly of himself then. But cynicism is only fear—fear of knowing what one is. To debase the good is to rise in self-estimation. If all men are vile, then you are not worse than you might think you are. You just know the human score. To face and recognize goodness is to sit in judgment on oneself. Avoid it.

For us? Because, as he said, “The Filipino is worth dying for”? In spite of his indifference or submission to evil until the final sacrifice that reminded him of what he should be? Because Ninoy expected neither appreciation nor gratitude for what he did for until then a graceless breed? “He who would be a leader of his people must learn to forgive them,” he once said. Look not for praise or reward. The daring is all.

For what?

For what good is for all, whoever they are?

The mystery of human goodness is—according to one who has thought long and hard on the question—the final proof that, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, God is good. For from whom else could what is good in man have come if not from Him?

The Devil?

Praise God!

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If, editorial, August 23, 1986

IF

August 23,1986–If they had sent a limousine to the airport instead of a van, Marcos and Imelda would still be in Malacañang. The Conjugal Dictatorship, as the author of the book with that title called the regime, would still be in dictatorial power – to imprison, torture, murder whoever opposed the Monstrous Duo while the looting of the nation went on. The author of the book now lies in an unknown grave but Marcos and Imelda would be living horribly on.

Why the van? To take the body of Ninoy after his execution at the airport to a military camp where it would be dumped by his killers on the cement floor. (Why killers, not killer? Because he was killed by all those who plotted his assassination, not just by the soldier or officer who fired the shot. Only a conspiracy made possible the “salvaging”.) And so it came to pass.

But just think what would have happened to Ninoy – if he had been taken safely from the plane and escorted to a waiting limousine and brought to Malacañang. There Marcos and Imelda would be waiting to welcome him! Ninoy would have gone unsuspectingly and fallen into the trap. He would be alive today but politically dead. There would have been no millions accompanying his body for kilometers and kilometers to its grave, in outrage and grief at what they had done to him. No mass demonstrations against the dictatorship. No fearless confrontation of its clubs, guns and gas. No ceaseless cry for justice for Ninoy – and all the other victims of the regime. No People Power that drove the Two into headlong flight with their awful family and retainers and no such freedom as the Filipino people now enjoy.

Ninoy would be still alive but politically dead. And dead, politically and economically, would be the Filipino people with the exception of Marcos and his KBL Gang. (They would still be looting and killing together.) But why would Ninoy be politically dead?

He had been warned by Malacañang before his departure for Manila that there was a conspiracy to kill him if he went back. If Marcos et.al. had knowledge of such a conspiracy, why did they not go after the conspirators? Imelda had previously warned Ninoy that if he went back, there were those “loyal” to Marcos and her whom they could not control and who would, presumably, do him grievous harm. Kill him, in short. She offered him money to stay away. Afterward, she was quoted by Newsweek magazine as saying: “If Ninoy comes back, he’s dead.” How could she have been so certain of his death? How, if she and her husband were not set to kill him on his return?

Ninoy decided to return, anyway. He brushed aside all advice, Filipino and American, not to go back. He would bring peace and democracy back to a suffering people. He gave the Communists five years to seize power if the Marcos dictatorship went on in its usual way. Then, blood would flow. He would seek a meeting with Marcos, talk to him about the need for a peaceful; and orderly restoration of democracy in their and our country, forestalling a Communist take-over. Think of the Filipino people, in God’s name, and of his Marcos’s – place in Philippine history!

“I believe that there is some good in Marcos, and it is to that good that I shall address myself,” Ninoy said to the Free Press editor, who argued against his return in a long talk in New York, shortly before Ninoy went, fearlessly and hopefully, to meet his appointment with death in Manila.

Ninoy’s naivete cost him his life. He believed there was some good in Marcos! Yet, though there was nothing good in Marcos, there was, surely, a way to get rid of Ninoy without killing him. Perhaps, Marcos was too sick at the time to make the final, fatal decision on what to do with Ninoy. He was too sick then, perhaps, and besides, he was surely too clever, too smart a politician to do such a stupid thing as to order Ninoy’s killing; he would have foreseen the consequences, being so clever, so smart. So went a column of the American political “pundit” Max Lerner. On what basis, on what evidence of Marcos’s innocence, the American wise guy rendered the verdict acquiting Marcos, it is difficult to ascertain. Who is so clever as never to make mistakes? Marcos politically infallible? Why the rush to verdict? Why not just keep one’s mouth shut? But Marcos was sick at the time, perhaps, near death. Could he have ordered the killing of Ninoy?

If Marcos was well enough, however, to order Ninoy killed, would he have done so, considering his alleged intelligence? He was able to terrorize and rob the Filipino people as he pleased, to the extent he wanted, and he never ceased wanting. This is intelligence? This is what those who collaborated with his regime called brilliance, turning away from those who opposed his regime. Isn’t the better part of valor prudence in the face of such a master intellect? Al Capone ruled Chicago for years and there was nothing the U.S. government could do all that time except, finally, get him for income tax evasion. Capone ruled – robbing and killing at will – so, he, like Marcos, was brilliant? Anybody could be “brilliant” – with a gun.

So, Marcos was brilliant – at the start. He did not have a gun, then: martial law enforced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines with his Number 1 hood, Ver, as chief-of-staff. Then, martial law! Brilliant he was, okay, or just cunning, unprincipled, a thinking son of bitch? All right, brilliant Marcos was. But the intellect deteriorates not meeting real challenge. The gun makes all challenge ineffectual. The mind becomes dull. Absolute power does not only corrupt absolutely, it stupefies. There is no need for intelligence when the guns serves. The blade of the mind rusts. Absolute power brings absolute stupidity. Such is the lesson of all dictatorships. Except the Communist challenge to contend with, and so remains as sharp as ever. Marcos, if in control when Ninoy was killed, had become just plain stupid.

Anyway, if Marcos did not order Ninoy killed, he must have at least considered that option when Ninoy announced his return. Marcos had a military mind and a commander considers all the options that may be taken in case of an enemy attack. And Ninoy was enemy. A political enemy. The most formidable one. Tañada and other Opposition leaders had been reduced to political impotence and pleading with Ninoy to come back and bring the opposition back to effective life. What should be done with Ninoy? The options before the Marcos regime were: house arrest for Ninoy upon arrival; solitary confinement in prison again; freedom – to lead the Opposition against the regime and then shot while campaigning, blaming the Communists for it, or while allegedly trying to escape from prison if he should be so held by the government. If, though allowed to live and campaign freely against Marcos, he should prove ineffective, not much of a threat, then, let him live.

These were the options of Malacañang on what to do with Ninoy. There was another option obviously not considered. What? Hell, welcome him! He’d be dead politically, and Marcos and Imelda could live happily with that. Before Ninoy’s arrival, the Liberal Party leadership held a council during which a top Liberal leader said with the utmost conviction:

“I am betting my last peso that Ninoy has made a deal with Marcos!”

If Marcos or, if Marcos was too sick at the time to be consulted, Imelda had ordered Ver to send a limousine to bring Ninoy from the airport to Malacañang, instead of having him shot there and his body taken to a military camp in a van, Ninoy, with his faith in the goodness of human beings beyond understanding, would have gone trustingly to the palace. And there he would have been met Imelda, not to mention Marcos if he could get up from his bed, assuming he was sick, and not only welcomed but even – anything is possible – embraced by the Two. Television and press cameras would, of course, record the touching scene: Ninoy, grinning boyishly – the Free Press editor always thought of him, because of the difference in their ages, as a kid, knowing the world, he thought, more than Ninoy in his innocence did – and the cameras clicking and exposing him to future ignominy. For the general conclusion would have been that Ninoy had, as the Liberal leader had bet, made a deal with the enemy of the People and would serve that enemy’s purposes thenceforth, surrendering manhood and principles for peace for himself and his family. For an end to exile, the worst fate for one who loves his country, who would never be at home anywhere else.

Ninoy having thus apparently surrendered, having thus made peace with the Enemy, what else could the Filipino people have done but do the same? Peace without liberty, peace without dignity, peace without honor – peace at any price! The peace of the grave.

But they killed Ninoy.

If, August 23, 1986

August 23,1986

IF

If they had sent a limousine to the airport instead of a van, Marcos and Imelda would still be in Malacañang. The Conjugal Dictatorship, as the author of the book with that title called the regime, would still be in dictatorial power – to imprison, torture, murder whoever opposed the Monstrous Duo while the looting of the nation went on. The author of the book now lies in an unknown grave but Marcos and Imelda would be living horribly on.

Why the van? To take the body of Ninoy after his execution at the airport to a military camp where it would be dumped by his killers on the cement floor. (Why killers, not killer? Because he was killed by all those who plotted his assassination, not just by the soldier or officer who fired the shot. Only a conspiracy made possible the “salvaging”.) And so it came to pass.
(more…)

The Conscience of the Filipino: The Sacrifice (1986)

The Conscience of the Filipino: The Sacrifice
by Teodoro M. Locsin

“WHEN my blindfold was removed, I found myself inside a newly painted room, roughly four by five meters. The windows were barred and covered with plywood panels from the outside. A space of six inches had been left between the panels and the window frame to allow a slight ventilation. A bright daylight neon tube on the ceiling was on day and night. There was no electric switch and the door had no knob, only locks on the outside. Except from an iron bed without a mattress, the room was completely bare. No chairs, no table, nothing.

“I was stripped naked. My wedding ring, watch, eyeglass, shoes, clothes were all taken away. Later, a guard in civilian clothes brought a bed pan and told me I would be allowed to go to the bathroom once a day in the morning, to shower, brush my teeth and wash my clothes. In case of emergency, I must call a guard. I was issued two jockey briefs and two T-shirts which I alternated every other day. The guard held on to my toothbrush and toothpaste and I had to ask for them in the morning. Apparently the intention was to make me really feel helpless and dependent on everything on the guards. . . Diokno, who was brought in with me and locked up in an adjoining cell, later told me that he had gone through the same thing.

“They took my eyeglasses away and I suffered terrible headaches. For the first three or four days, I expected my guards were the ‘Monkeys’ who were licensed to kill. Suspecting they put drugs in my meager ration, I refused to touch it. I subsisted on six crackers and water for the rest of my stay. I became so depressed and despondent. I was haunted by the thought of my family. . .”

He came to question the justice of God. A friend had told him that God never slept. But what if He’s taken a siesta, Ninoy thought, “and when He finally wakes up, I’ll be gone?”

That was early in 1973 when he and Diokno, blindfolded and handcuffed, were taken by a helicopter emblazoned with the Presidential Seal to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and kept in solitary confinement in adjoining sweatboxes. To let the other know he was still alive, they would occasionally sing to each other. Neither could carry a tune.

After 30 days, he and Diokno were whisked out of their cells and returned to Fort Bonifacio. There they endured again solitary confinement, broken only by rare visits by their families. After a year or more, Diokno was released. Ninoy stated on in prison — for a total of seven and a half years.

“I would watch a line of ants go down the wall of my cell and another line going up and I would make a mental bet on which line, when the two met, would give way. I tried to befriend a mouse that ventured into my cell. When I felt my mind giving way, I would do a hundred pushups and then take a shower and I would be myself again.”

Every year in prison is a year thrown away out of the limited span of man’s life; it is the death penalty by installment: life without freedom is not life. Ninoy decided to fast and, if not given his freedom, die. His death would be on Marcos’s head. A terminal cry for justice, it would be an ultimate act of life.

On the 38th day of his hunger strike, his mother pleaded with him:

“My son, are you trying to outdo our Lord?”

Only one argument convinced him to break his fast and leave the divine record intact. He was told that the government would not let him die. A few more days of fasting would inflict irreparable damage on his brain and then the government would force-feed him. But he would be a vegetable by then. The government would be blameless.

It was during his hunger strike that he was made to stand trial before a military commission for all kinds of crime against the regime. I remember him, at one session, being lifted by two guards to the stage. He sat there and listened, without saying a word, as a government witness, a Huk commander, raged at him for being a Huk-coddler. Ninoy, he sputtered angrily, had helped him — yes, him, a Huk commander—when he was in need. Previously, another government witness had also accused Ninoy of helping the rebels. He was a man whom Ninoy had brought bleeding from gunshot wounds to a hospital in Manila. “The classic Filipino,” Ninoy said of this witness.

During the fast, one of Ninoy’s lawyers went to the newspapers and asked them to print Ninoy’s answer to the charges against him, charges those newspapers were playing up. Their answer was “no”. He asked if Ninoy’s answer could appear as an ad, which would be paid for, of course. The answer was still “no”. Later, the regime would accuse the American press of breach of journalistic ethics for “one-sided” reporting of the conduct of the regime.

When masses were being said for Ninoy during his hunger strike, only a hundred or so would attend. Nobody else seemed to care.
Now he was going back to all that.

“I am going home,” he said to me shortly before his departure from the United States for Manila.

“What for?”

He would seek an appointment with Marcos, he said. (He would get no further than the tarmac.)

“Have you thought of what would happen to you?”

We discussed the possibilities: arrest on arrival, followed by imprisonment again or house arrest or execution. Perhaps, freedom — who knows? I asked him if he seriously believed that he would be set free — to campaign in the coming elections against the regime, or as one of the Opposition candidates?
I reminded him of his conviction by the military court for murder which bears the death penalty.

“I don’t think they’ll shoot me. As for that conviction—if I were guilty, would I be going home? My return would be the best proof of my innocence. How could they shoot me then?”

I asked him what good his return would do. His arrival would be made a non-event by the government. He would be either imprisoned or kept under house arrest—in either case , isolated and neutralized. What could he hope to do when he got back?

“I’ll go to Marcos, if he’ll see me. I’ll appeal to his sense of history, of his place in it. He would not be publishing all those books of his if he did not care for the judgment of history, if he did not want to look good in it. And that would be possible, I’ll tell him, only if there was an orderly restoration of democracy and freedom for our people. Otherwise, there would be only revolution and terrible suffering. I give the moderate opposition five years to restore democracy, after that there will be only the Communists as an alternative to Marcos or his successor. I’ll offer my services to him, but my price is freedom for our people.”

“Do you seriously think,” I asked, “that if you are able to see him, he will listen to you?”

“I can only try. If he is as sick as they say he is, then, more than ever, I must talk to him. If he dies suddenly, there will be a brutal struggle for power. Orderly succession is possibly only under a democratic regime. He must set up a system to make such succession possible before he goes. I must talk to him if I can. Who know, he may listen. He will know he is talking to a man who does not care for life and its comforts and must be telling him the disinterested truth. On the 38th day of my hunger strike, I though I was as good as dead. A dead man. I have regarded the years that followed as a second life that I should be able to give up. I have already lived and died and I am ready to go. I cannot spend that extra life here in American just living well, while our people are suffering. I must go home.”

He was hopeful.

“Maybe Marcos will listen to me. He would not want to appear in our history as a man who took away the liberties of our people and gave them only suffering in return. I am making a bet that there is good in him, deep inside him, and I shall talk to that.”

“Have you ever thought of the record.”

“I must take the chance. Think of the good that will come to our people if he listens to me. What have I got to lose? My freedom? He can have it. I’ll do anything, I’ll be his servant, but my price is freedom for our people..”

Freedom wasn’t the only thing he could lose, I reminded him.

“I have died, I told you. This is a second life I can give up. Besides, if they shoot me, they’ll make me a hero. What would Rizal have been if the Spaniards had not brought him back and shot him? Just another exile like me to the end of his life. To the end of my life. But if they make that mistake…”

“I’d rather have a live friend than a dead hero,” I said, then asked myself what I was doing arguing with a man in determined pursuit of his destiny whatever that might be.

He talked about his meeting with Mrs. Marcos, of her warning that there were people loyal to them whom they could not control and who might kill him. Financial help was offered if he did not go home. He politely said nothing. As for the loyalists . . .

“So be it,” Ninoy said.

“What will you ask Marcos if you do get to see him?”

“I’ll propose a caretaker government to be set up composed of independent and respected men so that free and honest elections could be held and democracy finally restored.”

“Do you think he will agree to that? Do you know what that would mean?”

“Yes. First, he must step down. Resign. He has had so many years of power! Now, he can resign. He can retire from public office to the thanks of a grateful people that will forget what it had suffered in its joy at being free again. We are a forgiving people. What a graceful exit that would be from power. He’ll go with honor.”

Was it this identification that moved millions of Filipinos to follow Ninoy’s body to its simple grave? Hundreds of thousands lined the long road to Tarlac when his body was brought to his hometown, before the funeral in Manila. When the cortege passed Clark Air Force Base, American fighter pilots revved their engines in tribute.

This massive  outpouring of people and emotion had as much to do with what Filipinos had become once more, as with the national incredulity over the official version of the murder.

Soon after the imposition of martial law, a high American official reportedly described the Filipino people as composed of 40 million cowards and one son of a bitch. Otherwise, they should have risen as one against the destroyer of their liberties, the American must have reasoned. Yet, six million Jews went like sheep to the slaughter, stopping only to bicker over an extra crumb of bread that might keep one alive an extra day. The Nicaraguans swallowed 40 years of indignity and official thievery from the Somozas before putting an end to their rule. And the Poles, to date, have done nothing but picket. The Hungarians, after a brief spasms of prideful revolt, have traded the hope of liberty for that extra roll of toilet paper in the Soviet showcase of a consumer society.

The Filipino people rose in revolt against Spanish rule again and again through 350 years until the Revolution had cornered the last Spaniards in Manila. Then they fought the Americans, who had suddenly snatched the freedom that was almost in their grasp. Ten percent of the Filipino people died in that war. When the Japanese drove out the Americans, the Filipinos fought the Japanese.

Then came martial law, if not with American fore-knowledge and approval, definitely with American support after the event. First, submission. (Cowardice?) Resignation. (Not the Communists, for sure.) Almost 11 years after that, August 21, 1983, and Ninoy’s body bleeding on the tarmac.

The Filipino people are themselves again. And it took less than 11 years for a nation of “cowards” to be the men and women they are now.

So he went home, with these words:

“According to Gandhi, the willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God and man.”

Before boarding the plane from Taipei for Manila, he said to a television crew that was accompanying him on that fatal day:

“You have to be ready with your hand camera because this action can come very fast. In a matter of three, four minutes it could be all over and I may not be able to talk to you again. Now I am taking precautions. I have my bulletproof vest. But if they hit me in the head there’s nothing we can do.”

Then he gave a gold Swiss watch he prized to his brother-in-law.

“I think it’s victory if we just land,” he said as the plane came in on final approach.

And a victory it was, if death is ever a victory.

He had come home to Filipinos rejoicing at the economic privileges and political offices that the death of Filipino liberty had procured for them. To a people weakly submissive to authority whatever it be. The arrest of thousands of their countrymen and imprisonment for months, years, without charge or trial, had failed to move them. The torture inflicted on so many was ignored. “No one, but no one has been tortured,” Marcos said. But Amnesty International reported a state of terror at 84 prisons where interrogation was marked by use of “fists, kicks, karate blows, beating (with) rifle butts, heavy wooden clubs, and family-sized soft-drinks bottles. . . the pounding of heads against walls or furniture, the burning of genitals and pubic hair with the flame of a cigarette lighter, falanga (beating the soles of the feet), and the so-called ‘lying-on-air’ torture.” The last consists of being made to lie rigid with one’s head on the end of one bed and the feet on that of another then the body beaten or kicked when it sagged from weakness or exhaustion.

“When we start to feel the pain of those who have been victimized by tyranny,” Ninoy said, “it’s only then we can liberate ourselves… The feeling right now is ‘Fred was tortured, thank God it’s Fred, not me.’ That’s the tragic part. Society is atomized. Until the Filipino nation can feel the loss of one life as if it was their own, we’ll never liberate ourselves.”

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.

Again? Editorial for January 23, 1971



Again?

January 23, 1971–THOSE who lived through the Japanese Occupation, and that includes Pres. Ferdinand Marcos himself, know what a total horror it was, how people were tortured and heads cut off on mere suspicion of resistance to Japanese military rule—and how it did not discourage resistance. Everybody was a guerrilla, or claimed he was.

President Marcos keeps hinting at the imposition of military law on the Filipino people when he does not hint at the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. With the suspension of the writ, President Marcos could order the arrest of anyone and keep him or her in prison or in a concentration camp at his pleasure—that is, indefinitely. With the imposition of martial law, that is, the establishment of a military dictatorship, “Congress might as well close up,” as one congressman has observed. And the courts might as well close up, too, for Marcos would have absolute power. The independence of Congress and the Judiciary would be a thing of the past. Marcos’s rule would be absolute. He would be king.

Is the fate in store for the Filipino people to live under the sovereign will of “King Ferdinand”—and “Queen Imelda”?

As noted in the article beginning on page 2, the demonstrations in the United States have been marked by violence which makes the demonstrations here models of law and order by comparison. A magazine, Scanlans, features in one of its issues “Guerrilla Warfare in the U.S.A.,” and presents, in a most graphic fashion, the almost countless acts of sabotage, dynamiting, attacks on persons in authority and other acts of war against the government and the Establishment it is supporting—yet the American president, Richard Nixon, has never ventured to speak of the possibility of suspending the writ or imposing martial law. Were he to do so, he would be promptly impeached and removed from office.

Why does President Marcos keep on talking about suspending the writ or imposing martial law? One would think he could hardly wait to do so. And what good would that do? What good would that do him? Never mind what good it would do the country, but what good wold to do him? Having imposed martial law and become a dictator, how could he ever leave Malacañang and rejoin a people finally free of his rule? He must be a dictator for life to be secure.

He’d never be safe otherwise, no more than the Japanese—what was his name?—who headed the Kempetai could have lived with any sense of security among Filipinos once the Japanese forces had been disarmed. As a matter of fact, the Marcos Administration is reaching the point of no return to a democratic regime, for with so many young Filipinos killed merely for demonstrating against the manifest injustices of the government, how safe would Marcos & Co. be when no longer in power? Could Marcos afford to be no longer in Malacañang if more of the young should be slaughtered?

Was it necessary or wise to arm government forces with Armalites to maintain order during the demonstration in Plaza Miranda last week? Armalites are used in war. (The Americans use them in their war in Vietnam.) Has Marcos declared war on demonstrators, whose right to demonstrate he continually affirms—after all, it is a constitutional right and he is supposed to uphold the Constitution—that he must have his forces armed with Armalites when they confront the demonstrators?

Is there a war on?

The British, confronted with rampaging Chinese Communists in Hong Kong at the height of the Cultural Revolution, kept their cool. They sent police with only truncheons to meet the mob. If the mob should break through the police lines, it would be met with police armed with tear gas and riot guns. Only if the demonstrators should be able to overwhelm the second police contingent would the government give them the works. Armalites are the works—and the Marcos regime resorted to their use last week, killing four and wounding many others—almost as a matter of course.

After “Black Wednesday,” military rule and a Marcos dictatorship would seem to be an inevitable development. The further use of Armalites against demonstrators and the slaughter of more who cannot stomach the Marcos Administration would make it certain.

What would life under Marcos dictatorship be like—and its political and other consequences of the Republic?

With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be “polarized.” the Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded “misguided elements” (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.

Marcos, as a former guerrilla leader, should know how the Japanese failed to stop the Resistance against their rule. The more atrocities the Japanese committed, the more Filipinos they tortured and killed—the more joined the Underground. It became a matter of honor to do something against the oppressors, whether it be merely to contribute money to the guerrillas or to commit some act of sabotage against the government if not actually to go to the mountains and take up arms against the regime. Filipinos in tremendous numbers found they were not afraid to die for freedom. They were suddenly free from fear. Marcos himself got a lot of medals for not being afraid, and many more showed the same lack of fear though they got no medals for it. The country became one vast concentration camp except when men dared to be free.

Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not  be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would “forever” be?

Our republican institutions suffer from corruption but they do guarantee certain civil liberties—like freedom from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial and the right to demonstrate peaceably against the government for redress of grievances and to write an editorial like this. The denial of such liberties in all-too-many cases does not argue against the goodness of the institutions. Because there are thieves does not make the law against theft a bad one but only makes enforcement of the law more necessary than ever. Under our republican institutions we enjoy certain liberties, to repeat—if not too much economic progress. Justice is often mocked, true, but under a military dictatorship, there would be no justice at all, no liberty at all, and even less progress than ever. The entire economy would be organized into a government corporation run by Marcos & Co., and one has just to contemplate how Nawasa, the Philippine National Railways and other government corporations are run to know how the people would suffer under such a regime.

Only Marcos & Co. would profit from martial law. They should. They would be the law. The rest of us would be mere subjects—or outlaws.

Those who wish the President well should advise him to stop talking about martial law. Whatever he and his friends get out of it—would it really be worth it?

Political War and Martial Law? January 23, 1971

January 23, 1971

Political War and Martial Law?

FIRST, it was the Catholic Church that the Marcos Administration speaking through its propaganda organ, Government Report, accused of being “the single biggest obstacle to progress in the country,” just because the Catholic hierarchy would not cooperate with Malacañang in its plan to make the visiting Pope Paul VI a kid of PRO for the social welfare projects of the First Lady.

Then, it was the turn of the private press to be accused of standing between the government and the best interests of the people—by blackmailing poor President Marcos, or trying to, anyway, into going against those interests.

Then it was the turn of Meralco, or, to be precise, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., Eugenio Lopez, Jr., and, because of his relationship with them, Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez, to be accused of “undermining the best interests of the nation.”

Who’s next?

In a speech before the first national convention of the Philippine Congress of Trade Unions, President Marcos accused “the powers who are in control of some of the media” of trying to blackmail him into betraying the public trust.

“You cannot perhaps know the pressures that the President is subjected to,” he said, “the coercion, the intimidation. Some time ago, I received a message which indicated the sickness of our society—to the effect that if I did not approve a certain favor I would be attacked in the newspapers. My immediate reaction was: go right ahead and attack me. That is your privilege but I am going to judge these questionable transactions on the basis of their merits, not on anything else. I have decided, I said, that in 1973 I’ll retire from politics. That is my wish, that is my hope, and nobody is going to intimidate me in any way.”

President Marcos pleaded for help from the “great mass of our people” while promising to do all he could to better their lives.

Then, last Wednesday night, after government forces shot to death four and seriously injured or caused serious injury to many during what started as a peaceful demonstration of students and jeepney drivers, President Marcos warned that he might be forced to use his powers to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus if present disorders worsened while lashing out at “a particular pressure group” which he accused of inciting them to further passion.” The President said there were reports that the “pressure group” was financing the jeepney strikers as well as inciting them to violence.

On the other hand, he said, “I do not wish to believe this report,” and on the other, he said, “it is written and signed by responsible agents of our government.”

(Was it the same “responsible agents of our government” that told Malacañang that it was the American Central Intelligence Agency that was behind the recent troubles of the FREE PRESS and the President, in the first case, instigating the labor dispute—so a high Malacañang personage told the FREE PRESS editor—and, in the second case, planting Dovie Beams to smear the President and afterward oust him from the power as it did the corrupt Egyptian ruler Farouk?)

President Marcos went on:

“For and in behalf of the Filipino people, I appeal for sobriety. I beg on my bended knees that no man or group of men seek to inflame our people. Violence will not solve our problems. It will not solve our problems. It will not in any way help our country, it will not resolve any conflict.

He said that “this government under my leadership will never utilize the power, the latent, capable power that is in its hands to destroy any legitimate strike, nor to deprive the people of their liberties.”

“This should not be taken as a sign of weakness,” he said.

“There have been some talk about the President becoming soft and weak, supine and submitting and humiliating himself before the drivers.

“I do not look at it this way,” he said. “I look at it as a consultation with the people from whom my power comes. I consult with them because it is necessary that they know what the consequences are of their actions.

“I have not grown weak,” he said. “Rather, I have grown cautious and prudent because if violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if theirs should be terrorism, if there is assassination, I will have no other alternative but to utilize the extraordinary powers granted me by our Constitution.

“These powers are the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus under which any man can be arrested and detained for any length of time; and the power to declare any part or the whole of the Philippines under martial law.

“These powers I do not wish to utilize, and it is for this reason that I appeal to our people tonight.

“I do not do so for myself,” he said. “I do not say, ‘do not criticize me.’ I welcome criticism. But such things like ‘let us kill Marcos,’ or ‘let us fight in the hills,’ ‘mount a revolution’ is not going to help anyone, not even the press. . . .

“Yesterday there was a gathering of publishers called by a pressure group and they demanded that there be a pooled editorial to call Marcos all kinds of names.

“Now how will that help our people? How will it help solve our conflict? The pooled editorial is supposed to incite and inflame the people to further passion.

“I do not say anything except to appeal to them. Let the fight be between us, but do not involve our people. If the pressure groups have been hurt because I say that I will no longer compromise with them and I will stand for the welfare of our people, if in the past there had been compromises, now I will no longer allow it.

“I will not tolerate it. It is about time that we did this, and it is about time the President took the lead. I am taking the lead now.

“However much you may try to humiliate me, I will not knuckle down. I will stand by the people. But I appeal to you, please don’t bring down the house in flames. Please do not use violence to attain your end.”

The next day, Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez resigned from the cabinet of President Marcos in which he held the post of Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Under him the department earned the designation by the FREE PRESS of “Government Department of the Year 1970.”) The Vice-President said that he had tendered his resignation as early as December last year and that he had gone to President Marcos to reiterate his offer of resignation.

The President accepted the Vice-President’s resignation from his cabinet.

Here is President Marcos’s letter accepting the Lopez resignation:

“It is with deep regret that I received your offer to resign from your position as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is with even deeper regret that, in view of developments over the recent past, I must now accept your resignation.

“I assure you there is nothing personal in my acceptance of your resignation. You and I have been in the best relations. But your position in the cabinet has now become untenable in view of your relationship with the financial and political interests that I have identified as constituting a pressure group intent upon the destruction of my development program.

“I have given you more responsibility and invested your office with more prestige than any Vice-President notwithstanding the fact that the media controlled by the Lopez interests were vicious and malicious in their attacks against my person—with the obvious aim of discrediting the government in the eyes of the people, and thus undermining the best interests of the nation.

“While you were a member of my cabinet, the Lopez interests, specifically Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., and Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., were engaged in fomenting unrest and inciting the already militant and impassioned groups who advocate anarchy and assassination. The media controlled by the Lopez interests are still engaged in this, have in fact intensified their campaign against me, notwithstanding the fact that you once assured me of continued amity and cooperation.

“I have begged for unity in the political leadership, knowing that this is demanded by the times and expected by our people. However, the Lopezes have seen fit to make an issue of my refusal to approve their project for the establishment of a lubricating oil factory, a petrochemical complex, the purchase of the Caltex, and the use of the Laguna de Bay development project for reclamation of areas to be utilized for an industrial complex. There are many and varied favors, concessions and privileges which I am expected to extend to this group, but which I have not.

“As I have previously said, the pressure group I have identified is intent upon maligning my Administration and, by means of propaganda and various maneuvers, has sought to undermine public confidence in the government under my stewardship. These designs of this pressure group, according to very reliable information, took a particularly insidious form in the incitement and support it provided to the elements which participated in the violent demonstrations yesterday.

“It is now obvious that this pressure group is not unwilling to employ the most despicable means, including crime and anarchy, to achieve its ends. From our long association, you know, of course, that I have been tolerant of this and other pressure groups in the past—indeed, so tolerant as to give many people the impression that I have succumbed to their devices and manipulations.

“I assure you that I have not succumbed to them. I had merely endeavored to remain as calm, at the same time watchful, as the great responsibilities of my office required.

“You assure me that you cannot continue in your position as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources while the shadow of doubt and suspicion hangs over you in view of your relationship to one of the pressure groups I have spoken of. I am glad that you realize the difficult and untenable position you are in. While I would have wanted you to continue as a member of my cabinet, I feel on the other hand that the events that will follow and the decisions that I will have to make from here on, possibly affecting the interests and personal fortunes of the pressure groups I have mentioned, could cause personal embarrassment for both of us, and the only way to avoid such embarrassment would be to accept your resignation.

“Finally, I wish to thank you for the assistance you have given my Administration.”

Eugenio Lopez, Jr., president of the Philippine Petroleum Corporation, a subsidiary of the Meralco Securities Corporation, said, in so many words, that President Marcos was lying when he said that he, Lopez, Jr., and his father had been exerting pressure on him, the President, particularly in the case of the lubricating oil refinery in Sucat, Muntinglupa, Rizal.

As reported by the Manila Chronicle:

“The PPC president said that the PPC had been duly granted authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery by the Board of Investment on September 8, 1969, in a letter signed by then BOI Chairman Cesar Virata.

“The MSC applied to the BOI for authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery on May 2, 1969, in response to a publication on April 9, 1969, of the second Investment Priorities Plan.

“The Central Bank of the Philippines, after ascertaining the economic viability of the project, approved PPC’s request to proceed with the acquisition of necessary foreign loans to finance the project.

“One of two unsuccessful applicants who applied for the authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery questioned the BOI award to PPC.

“The National Economic Council conducted hearings on PPC’s application, after which it confirmed and approved PPC’s application on its merits.

“Lopez, Jr., said that on August 18, 1970, the Laguna Lake Development Authority in a letter signed by its general manager, advised the PPC that the area whereon PPC wished to construct the refinery ‘will be reclaimed by the Authority, and the Authority’s Board has approved a resolution for this purpose.’ The letter, he said, further stated that the PPC ‘may locate, install and operate your lubricating oil refinery on the land which will be reclaimed by the Authority.’

“Based on this letter, PPC purchased in October last year the necessary land on the lake front wherein the reclamation would be undertaken, he said.

“The memorandum-agreement to that effect, he also said, was signed between the LLDA and the PPC on Sept. 1, 1970. The two parties agreed that up to 24 hectares of land at Barrio Sucat, Muntinglupa, would be reclaimed for the PPC plant’s site.

“He said that prior to undertaking reclamation of the proposed site of the refinery, the Laguna Lake Development Authority coursed an implementation letter to the President of the Philippines. The letter was routed through the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Presidential Economic Staff and the Malacañang Legal Staff.

“All of these offices favorably endorsed approval of the order, Lopez, Jr., said.

“In other words, he said, it was only the approval of President Marcos for the Laguna Lake Development Authority to proceed with the reclamation of the proposed site of the oil lubricating refinery that was being awaited.

“Considerable expense has been made in various works preparatory to the construction of the refinery, it was learned.

“According to Lopez, Jr., the lubricating oil refinery when in full operation will not only earn dollars but will also allow the Philippines to net foreign exchange savings of up to $13 million annually or up to $35,000 a day.

“The Export-Import Bank of Washington, D.C., on December 30 last year approved financing for the PPC refinery in the amount of $15.5 million, Lopez, Jr., said.

“Also on January 5, 1970, the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank, approved financing for the construction of the PPC refinery in the same amount of $6.2 million and on the basis of the merit of the project agreed to purchase equity in the refinery in the amount of $1.8 million thereby providing financing totaling $8 million, Lopez, Jr., added.”

Reaction

Leaders of the striking jeepney drivers said that “there was no truth to President Marcos’s charge that the demonstration which turned violent later in the day was financially supported by Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez and his brother.”

One of the leaders said:

“I boil when people ask me about this report. There is no truth to that charge.”

Another leader of the striking jeepney drivers said:

“The Lopez brothers have not helped the striking drivers and the same is true with the members of the so-called  vested interest group.”

One of the leaders of the student activists, Chito Sta. Romana of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, said that his group did not know of anyone belonging to “the so-called pressure group responsible for Wednesday’s rally.”

Raul Manglapus, president of the Christian Social Movement, said the Filipino people “are waiting for the President to muster for himself the courage to take firm steps to restore popular confidence in his leadership. . . Our country is fast moving into a state of anarchy, disintegration and despair. Most of this condition comes from a deep and rampant popular distrust in the word and in the action of the President.”

Nacionalista Rep. Antonio M. Diaz from Zambales said the greatest single factor plaguing the nation today is “loss of confidence in the leadership in all branches of government,” and, he went on, “unless faith in our leadership is restored, the anger of our people cannot be assuaged.”

Liberal Rep. Ramon V. Mitra from Palawan said:

“By using violence against unarmed citizens ventilating the ills and problems of present-day society, the Marcos Administration is stifling the voice of the people crying for much-needed reforms.”

The national president of the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino (MPKP), Ruben D. Torres, denounced the “renewed threat of President Marcos to impose martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus.”

Nacionalista Speaker Jose B. Laurel, Jr., said:

“The Constitution is specific. It allows the President to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or to place the country or any part thereof under martial law only in cases of ‘invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.’ I do not think any of these circumstances exist at the moment.”

Nacionalista Sen. Jose Diokno proposed that President Marcos and all other elected national officials resign and another election be held in June to determine whether the people still have confidence in them.

Liberal Rep. Jose B. Lingad from Pampanga said that President Marcos should prove his patriotism by resigning from office or at least taking a leave of absence, the people having lost confidence in him.

“If Marcos went through with his threat to lift the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law,” Lingad went on, “Congress might as well close shop.”

Must the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be suspended, enabling the President to send to prison or otherwise detain anyone indefinitely? Must 38 million Filipinos be placed—by declaring martial law—under a military dictatorship headed by Ferdinand Marcos?

The demonstrations held so far in the Philippines against the government and the violence that has marked some of them are nothing compared with the violent expressions of protest in the United States. President Nixon  has yet to speak of the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law on the America people. If he were to do so, is there any doubt he would be impeached and ousted from office? Why does President Marcos keep talking of the possibility of suspending the writ or imposing martial law on us? The solution for the problem of social unrest in the Philippines is not suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the imposition of a military dictatorship on the Filipino people but reform. Regain the confidence of the people. Stop corruption and the waste of the nation’s resources in senseless extravagance. Set a moral example. Be a true President of the Filipino people. Is that too difficult to do?

Must the writ be suspended?

Must there be martial law?

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.

The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account, February 7, 1970

The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account

Jose F. Lacaba

 

February 6, 1970–IT WAS FIVE MINUTES PAST FIVE in the afternoon, by the clock on the Maharnilad tower, when I arrived at Congress. The President was already delivering his State of the Nation message: loudspeakers on both sides of the legislative building relayed the familiar voice and the equally familiar rhetoric to anyone in the streets who cared to listen. In front of the building, massed from end to end of Burgos Drive, spilling over to the parking lot and the grassy sidewalk that forms an embankment above the Muni golf course, were the demonstrators. Few of them cared to listen to the President. They had brought with them microphones and loudspeakers of their own and they lent their ears to people they could see, standing before them, on the raised ground that leads to the steps of the legislative building, around the flagpole, beneath a flag that was at half-mast. There were, according to conservative estimates, at least 20,000 of them, perhaps even 50,000. Beyond the fringes of this huge convocation stood the uniformed policemen, their long rattan sticks swinging like clocks’ pendulums at their sides; with them were the members of the riot squad, wearing crash helmets and carrying wicker shields.

I came on foot from the Luneta, which was as far as my taxi could go, and made straight for the Congress driveway. A cop at the foot of the driveway took one look at my hair and waved me away, pointing to the demonstrators beyond a row of white hurdles. When I pointed to the special press badge pinned to the breast pocket of my leather jacket, he eyed me suspiciously, but finally let me through the cordon sanitaire. The guard at the door of Congress was no less suspicious, on guard against intruders and infiltrators, and along the corridors it seemed that every man in uniform tightened his grip on his carbine as I passed by, and strained his eyes to read the fine print on my press badge.

The doors of the session hall were locked, presumably to prevent late entrances from disturbing the assembly listening to the President’s message. A clutch of photographers who had arrived late milled outside the session hall, talking with some men in barong Tagalog, pleading and demanding to be let in. The men in barong Tagalog shook their heads, smiled ruefully, and shrugged; they had their orders. I decided to go out and have a look at the demonstration.

Among the demonstrators it was possible to feel at ease. None of them carried guns, they didn’t stand on ceremony, and there was no need for the aura of privilege that a press badge automatically confers on its wearer. I took off the badge, pocketed it, and reflected on the pleasurable sensation that comes from being inconspicuous. It seemed awkward, absurd, to strut around with a label on a lapel proclaiming one’s identity, a feeling doubtless shared by cops who were even then surreptitiously removing their name plates. Also, I was curious. No joiner of demonstrations in my antisocial student days, I now wanted to know how it felt like to be in one, not as journalistic observer but as participant, and I wanted to find out what treatment I could expect from authority in this guise.

I found out soon enough, and the knowledge hurt.

At about half past five, the demo that had been going on for more than four hours was only beginning to warm up. The colegialas in their well-pressed uniforms were wandering off toward the Luneta, munching on pinipig crunches and dying of boredom. Priests and seminarians lingered at one edge of the crowd, probably discussing the epistemology of dissent. Behind the traffic island in the middle of Burgos Drive, in the negligible shade of the pine trees, ice cream and popsicle carts vied for attention with small tables each laden with paper and envelopes, an improvised cardboard mailbox and a sign that urged: Write Your Congressman. In this outer circle of the demo, things were relatively quiet; but in the inner circle, nearer Congress, right below the mikes, the militants were restless, clamorous, chanting their slogans, carrying the streamers that bore the names of their organizations, waving placards (made out of those controversial Japanese-made calendars the administration gave away during the campaign) that pictured the President as Hitler, the First Couple as Bonnie and Clyde.

There were two mikes, taped together; and this may sound frivolous, but I think the mikes were the immediate cause of the trouble that ensued. They were in the hands of Edgar Jopson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, the group that had organized the rally and secured the permit for it. The NUSP dubbed its demonstration “the January 26 Movement”; its chief objective was to demand “a nonpartisan Constitutional Convention in 1971.” Demonstrations, however, are never restricted to members of the organization to which a permit has been issued. They are, according to standard practice, open to all sympathizers who care to join; and to the January 26 Movement the veterans of countless demos sent their representatives. Swelling the numbers of the dissenters were youth organizations like the Kabataang Makabayan, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino, the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati; labor groups like the National Association of Trade Unions; peasant associations like the Malayang Samahang Magsasaka.

Now, at about half past five, Jopson, who was in polo barong and sported a red armband with the inscription “J26M,” announced that the next speaker would be Gary Olivar of the SDK and of the University of the Philippines student council. Scads of demonstration leaders stood with Jopson on that raised ground with the Congress flagpole, but Olivar was at this point not to be seen among them. The mikes passed instead to Roger Arienda, the radio commentator and publisher of Bomba. Arienda may sound impressive to his radio listeners, but in person he acts like a parody of a high-school freshman delivering Mark Anthony’s funeral oration. His bombast, complete with expansive gestures, drew laughter and Bronx cheers from the militants up front, who now started chanting: “We want Gary! We want Gary!”

Arienda retreated, the chant grew louder, and someone with glasses who looked like a priest took the mikes and in a fruity, flute-thin voice pleaded for sobriety and silence. “We are all in this together,” he fluted. “We are with you. There is no need for shouting. Let us respect each other.” Or words to that effect. By this time, Olivar was visible, standing next to Jopson. It was about a quarter to six.

When Jopson got the mikes back, however, he did not pass them on to Olivar. Once more he announced: “Ang susunod na magsasalita ay si Gary Olivar.” Olivar stretched out his hand, waiting for the mikes, and the crowd resumed its chant; but Jopson after some hesitation now said: “Aawitin natin ang Bayang Magiliw.” Those seated, squatting, or sprawled on the road rose as one man. Jopson sang the first verse of the national anthem, then paused, as if to let the crowd go on from there: instead he went right on singing into the mikes, drowning out the voices of everybody else, pausing every now and then for breath or to change his pitch.

Olivar stood there with a funny expression on his face, his mouth assuming a shape that was not quite a smile, not quite a scowl. Other demonstration leaders started remonstrating with Jopson, gesturing toward the mikes, but he pointedly ignored them. He repeated his instructions to NUSP members, then started acting busy and looking preoccupied, all the while clutching the mikes to his breast. Manifestoes that had earlier been passed from hand to hand now started flying, in crumpled balls or as paper planes, toward the demonstration leaders’ perch. It was at this point that one of the militants grabbed the mikes from Jopson.

Certainly there can be no justification for the action of the militants. The NUSP leaders had every right to pack up and leave, since their permit gave them only up to six o’clock to demonstrate and they had declared their demonstration formally closed; and since it was their organization that had paid for the use of the microphones and loudspeakers, they had every right to keep these instruments ot themselves. Yet, by refusing to at least lend their mikes to the radicals, the NUSP leaders gave the impression of being too finicky; they acted like an old maid aunt determined not to surrender her Edwardian finery to a hippie niece, knowing that it would be used for more audacious purposes than she had ever intended for it. The radicals would surely demand more than a nonpartisan Constitutional Convention; they would speak of more fundamental, doubtless violent, changes; and it was precisely the prospect of violence that the NUSP feared. The quarrel over the mikes revealed the class distinctions in the demonstration: on the one hand the exclusive-school kids of the NUSP, bred in comfort, decent, respectful, and timorous; and on the other hand the public-school firebrands of groups like the KM and the SDK, familiar with privation, rowdy, irreverent, troublesome. Naturally, the nice dissenters wanted to dissociate themselves from anything that smelled disreputable, and besides the mikes belonged to them.

Now the mikes had passed to a young man, a labor union leader I had seen before, at another demonstration, whose name I do not know.

It had happened so fast Jopson was caught by surprise; the next thing he knew the mikes were no longer in his possession. This young labor union leader was a terrific speaker. He was obviously some kind of hero to the militants, for they cheered him on as he attacked the “counter-revolutionaries who want to end this demonstration,” going on from there to attack fascists and imperialists in general. By the time he was through, his audience had a new, a more insistent chant: “Rebolusyon! Rebolusyon! Rebolusyon!”

Passions were high, exacerbated by the quarrel over the mikes; and the President had the back luck of coming out of Congress at this particular instant.

WHERE THE DEMONSTRATION LEADERS STOOD, emblems of the enemy were prominently displayed: a cardboard coffin representing the death of democracy at the hands of the goonstabulary in the last elections; a cardboard crocodile, painted green, symbolizing congressmen greedy for allowances; a paper effigy of Ferdinand Marcos. When the President stepped out of Congress, the effigy was set on fire and, according to report, the coffin was pushed toward him, the crocodile hurled at him. From my position down on the street, I saw only the burning of the effigy —a singularly undramatic incident, since it took the effigy so long to catch fire. I could not even see the President and could only deduce the fact of his coming out of Congress from the commotion at the doors, the sudden radiance created by dozens of flashbulbs bursting simultaneously, and the rise in the streets of the cry: “MARcos PUPpet! MARcos PUPpet! MARcos PUPpet!”

Things got so confused at this point that I cannot honestly say which came first: the pebbles flying or the cops charging. I remember only the cops rushing down the steps of Congress, pushing aside the demonstration leaders, and jumping down to the streets, straight into the mass of demonstrators. The cops flailed away, the demonstrators scattered. The cops gave chase to anything that moved, clubbed anyone who resisted, and hauled off those they caught up with. The demonstrators who got as far as the sidewalk that led to the Muni golf links started to pick up pebbles and rocks with which they pelted the police. Very soon, placards had turned into missiles, and the sound of broken glass punctuated the yelling: soft-drink bottles were flying, too. The effigy was down on the ground, still burning.

The first scuffle was brief. By the time it was over, the President and the First Lady must have made good their escape. The cops retreated into Congress with hostages. The demonstrators re-occupied the area they had vacated in their panic. The majority of NUSP members must have been safe in their buses by then, on their way home, but the militants were still in possession of the mikes.

The militants were also in possession of the field. Probably not more than 2,000 remained on Burgos Drive —some of them just hanging around, looking on; many of them raging mad, refusing to be cowed. A small group defiantly sang the Tagalog version of the “Internationale,” no longer bothering now to hide their allegiances. Their slogan was “fight and fear not,” and they made a powerful incantation out of it: “Ma-ki-BAKA! Huwag maTAKOT!” They marched with arms linked together and faced the cops without flinching, baiting them, taunting them.

“Pulis, pulis, titi matulis!”

“Pulis, mukhang kuwarta!”

“Me mga panangga pa, o, akala mo lalaban sa giyera!”

“Takbo kayo nang takbo, baka lumiit ang tiyan n’yo!”

“Baka mangreyp pa kayo, lima-lima na’ng asawa n’yo!”

“Mano-mano lang, o!”

NOTHING MORE CLEARLY REVEALED THE DEPTHS to which the reputation of the supposed enforcers of the law has sunk than this open mocking of the cops. Annual selections of ten outstanding policemen notwithstanding, the cops are generally believed to be corrupt, venal, brutal, vicious, and zealous in their duties only when the alleged lawbreaker is neither rich nor powerful. Those who deplore the loss of respect for the law forget that respect needs to be earned, and anyone is likely to lose respect for the law who has felt the wrath of lawmen or come face to face with their greed.

The students who now hurled insults at the cops around Congress differed from the rest of their countrymen only in that they did not bother to hide their contempt or express it in bitter whispers. In at least two recent demonstrations—one at the US Embassy on the arrival of Agnew, the other at Malacañang to denounce police brutality and the rise of fascism—students had suffered at the hands of the cops, and now the students were in a rage, they were spoiling for trouble, they were in no mood for dinner-party chatter or elocution contents.

In the parliament of the streets, debate takes the form of confrontation.

While the braver radicals flung jeers at the cops in a deliberate attempt to precipitate a riotous confrontation, the rest of the demonstrators gathered in front of the Congress flagpole, listening to various speakers, though more often outshouting them. Senator Emmanuel Pelaez had come out of Congress, dapper in a dark-blue suit, and the mikes were handed over to him. Despite the mikes, his voice could hardly be heard above the din of the demonstrators. Because Pelaez spoke in English, they shouted: “Tagalog! Tagalog!” They had also made up a new chant: “Pakawalan ang hinuli! Pakawalan ang hinuli! Pakawalan ang hinuli!” Not after several minutes of furious waving from student leaders gesturing for quiet did the noise of the throng subside.

Pelaez made an appeal for peace that received an equal amount of cheers and jeers. Then he made the mistake of calling MPD Chief Gerardo Tamayo to his side. The very sight of a uniformed policeman is enough to drive demonstrators into a frenzy; his mere presence is provocation enough. The reaction to Tamayo was unequivocal, unanimous. The moment he appeared, fancy swagger stick in hand, an orgy of boos and catcalls began, sticks and stones and crumpled sheets started to fly again, and Pelaez had to let the police chief beat a hasty retreat.

With Tamayo out of sight, a little quiet descended on the crowd once more. Speeches again, and more speeches. The lull, a period of watchful waiting for the demonstrators, lasted for some time. And then, from the north, from the Maharnilad side of Congress, came the cry: “Eto na naman ang mga pulis!”

Thunder of feet, tumult of images and sounds. White smooth round crash helmets advancing like a fleet of flying saucers in the growing darkness. The tread of marching feet, the rat-tat-tat of fearful feet on the run, the shuffle of hesitant feet unable to decide whether to stand fast or flee. From loudspeakers, an angry voice: “Mga pulis! Pakiusap lang! Tahimik na kami rito! Huwag na kayong makialam!” And everywhere, a confusion of shouts: Walang tatakbo! Walang uurong! Balik! Balik! Walang mambabato! Tigil ang batuhan! Link arms, link arms! Ma-ki-BAKA! Huwag maTAKOT!

The khaki contingent broke into a run. The demonstrators fled in all directions, each man for himself. Some merely stepped aside, hugging the Congress walls, clustering around trees. The cops at this time went only after those who ran, bypassing all who stood still. Three cops cornered one demonstrator against a traffic sign and clubbed him until the signpost gave way and fell with a crash. One cop caught up with a demonstrator and grabbed him by the collar, but the demonstrator wriggled free of his shirt and made a new dash for freedom in his undershirt. One cop lost his quarry near the golf course and found himself surrounded by other demonstrators; they didn’t touch him—“. Nag-iisa’ yan, pabayaan n’yo ”—but they taunted him mercilessly. This was a Metrocom cop, not an unarmed trainee, and finding himself surrounded by laughing sneering faces, he drew his .45 in anger, his eyes flashing, his teeth bared. He kept his gun pointed to the ground, however, and the laughter and sneers continued until he backed off slowly, trying to maintain whatever remaining dignity he could muster.

The demonstrators who had fled regrouped, on the Luneta side of Congress, and with holler and whoop they charged. The cops slowly retreated before this surging mass, then ran, ran for their lives, pursued by rage, rocks, and burning placard handles. Now it was the students giving chase, exhilarated by the unexpected turnabout. The momentum of their charge, however, took them only up to the center of Burgos Drive; either there was a failure of nerve or their intention was merely to regain ground they had lost, without really charging into the very ranks of the police.

Once again, the lines of battle were as before: the students in the center, the cops at the northern end of Burgos Drive.

In the next two hours, the pattern of battle would be set. The cops would charge, the demonstrators would retreat; the demonstrators would regroup and come forward again, the cops would back off to their former position. At certain times, however, the lines of battle would shift, with the cops holding all of the area right in front of Congress and the students facing them across the street, with three areas of retreat—north toward Maharnilad, south toward the Luneta, and west toward the golf course and Intramuros. There were about seven waves of attack and retreat by both sides, each attack preceded by a tense noisy lull, during which there would be sporadic stoning, by both cops and demonstrators.

Sometime during the lull in the clashes, two fire trucks appeared in the north. They inched their way forward, flanked by the cops, and when they were near the center of Burgos Drive they trained their hoses on the scattered bonfires the students had made with their placards and manifestoes. Students who held their ground, getting wet in the weak stream, yelled: “Mahal ang tubig! Isauli n’yo na ’yan sa Nawasa!” Other demonstrators, emboldened by the lack of force of the jets of water, came forward with rocks to hurl at the fire trucks. The trucks hurriedly backed away from the barrage and soon made themselves scarce.

At one student attack, the demonstrators managed to occupy the northern portion the cops had held throughout the battle. When the cops started moving forward, from the Congress driveway where they had taken shelter, the demonstrators backed away one by one, until only three brave and foolhardy souls remained, standing fast, holding aloft, by its three poles, a streamer that carried the name of the Kabataang Makabayan. There they stood, those three, no one behind them and the cops coming toward them slowly, menacingly. Without a warning, some cops dashed forward, about ten of them, and in full view of the horrified crowd flailed away at the three who held their ground, unable to resist. The two kids holding the side poles either managed to flee or were hauled off to the legislative building to join everybody else who had the misfortune of being caught. The boy in the center crumpled to the ground and stayed there cringing, bundled up like a foetus, his legs to his chest and his arms over his head. The cops made a small tight circle around him, and then all that could be seen were the rattan sticks moving up and down and from side to side in seeming rhythm. When they were through, the cops walked away nonchalantly, leaving the boy on the ground. One cop, before leaving, gave one last aimless swing of his stick as a parting shot, hitting his target in the knees.

The cops really had it in for the Kabataang Makabayan. The fallen standard was picked up by six or seven KM boys and carried to the center of Burgos Drive, where it stood beside another streamer, held up by members of the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati, bearing the words: “Ibagsak ang imperyalismo at piyudalismo!” When the cops made another attack and everybody in the center of Burgos Drive scattered, the KM boys again held their ground. The cops gave them so severe a beating one of the wooden poles broke in half.

I had taken shelter beneath the Kilusan ng Kabataang Makati streamer during the attack; we were left untouched. The KM boys had to abandon their streamer. One of them, limping, joined us, and when the cops had gone he asked me, probably thinking I was another KM member, to help him pick up the streamer. I thought it was the least I could do for the poor bastards, so I took hold of the broken pole and helped the KM boy carry the streamer a little closer to the Congress walls. There I stood, thinking of the awkwardness of my position, being neither demonstrator nor KM member, until a few other guys began to gather around us. I handed the broken pole to someone who nodded when I asked him if he belonged to the KM.

About this time, or sometime afterwards, Pelaez was down on the street, surrounded by aides and students all talking at the same time, complaining to him about missing nameplates and arrested comrades. He was probably still down there when the cops advanced once again. Panic spread, and I found myself running, too. In previous attacks I had merely stepped aside and watched; but I had already seen what had happened to the KM boys who refused to flee, and I had seen policemen, walking back to their lines after a futile chase, club or haul off anyone standing by who just happened to be in their way, or who seemed to have a look of gloating and triumph on their faces; and I realized it was no longer safe to remain motionless. I had completely forgotten the press badge in my pocket.

Meanwhile, it seemed that certain distinguished personages trapped inside the legislative building had grown restless and wanted to get on to their mansions or their favorite night clubs or some parties in their honor, but cars were parked up front. At any rate, some cars started moving up the driveway to pick up passengers. The sight of those long sleek limousines infuriated the demonstrators all the more; the sight of those beautiful air-conditioned limousines was like a haughty voice saying, “Let them eat cake.” Cries of “Kotse! Kotse!” were followed by “Batuhin! Batuhin!” Down the driveway came the cars, and whizz went the rocks. Some cars even had the effrontery of driving down Burgos Drive straight into the lines of the demonstrators, as though meaning to disperse them. All the cars got stoned.

One apple-green Mercedes-Benz, belonging to Senator Jose Roy, screeched to a stop when the rocks thudded on its roofs and sides. The driver got out and started picking up rocks himself, throwing them at the students. A few cops had to brave the rain of stones that ensued to save the poor driver who had only tried to defend his master’s car. The demonstrators then surged forward with sticks and stones and beat the hell out of the car, stopping only when it was a total wreck. “Sunugin!” rose the cry, but by then the cops were coming in force.

The demonstrators had hired a jeepney in which rode some of their leaders. It had two loudspeakers on its roof, was surrounded by students, and inched its way forward and backward throughout the melee. The cops, seemingly maddened by the destruction of a senator’s Model 1970 Mercedes-Benz, swooped down on the jeepney with their rattan sticks, striking out at the students who surrounded it until they fled, then venting their rage some more on those inside the jeepney who could not get out to run. The shrill screams of women inside the jeepney rent the air. The driver, bloody all over, managed to stagger out; the cops quickly grabbed him.

When the cops were through beating up the jeepney’s passengers, they backed away. Some stayed behind, trying to drag out those who were still inside the jeepney, from which came endless shrieks, sobs, curses, wails, and the sound of weeping. It was impossible to remain detached and uninvolved now, to be a spectator forever. When the screams for help became unendurable, I started to walk toward the jeepney, and was only four or five steps away when, from the other side of the jeepney, crash helmet, khaki uniform, and rattan stick came charging at me. The cop’s hands gripped his stick at both ends. “O, isa ka pa, lalapit-lapit ka pa!” he cried as he swung at me. I stepped back, feeling the wind from the swing of his stick ruffle the front of my shirt. In stepping back I lost my balance. Before I realized what had happened, I was down on my back and the cop was lunging at me, still holding his stick at both ends. I caught the middle of the stick

with my hands and, well, under the circumstances, I don’t think I can be blamed for losing my cool. “Putangnamo,” I shouted at him, “tutulong ako do’n, e!”

I jumped to my feet, dusted myself off angrily, and glared at my would-be tormentor. If my eyes had the gift of a triple whammy, he would be dust and ashes now. We stared at each other for a few seconds, but when I dropped my glance down to his breast, to see no nameplate there, he turned his back and slowly walked away. I had no intention of doing a Norman Mailer and getting arrested, so I let him go. By this time, the jeepney’s passengers had decided, screaming and swearing and sobbing all the while, to abandon their vehicle with its load of mimeographed manifestoes and various literature, and to look for a safer place from which to deliver their exhortations to their fellow demonstrators.

On two other occasions, I found myself running with the demonstrators. Once I jumped down with them to the golf course and got as far as the fence of the mini-golf range. Behind us, the cops were firing into the air. When it was the students’ turn to charge, I found my way back to the street. Another time, running along the sidewalk down rows of pine trees toward the Luneta, I saw a girl a few meters away from me stumble and fall. I stopped running, with the intention of helping her up, when whack! I felt the sting of a blow just below my belt and above my ass. When I turned around the cop was gone; he was swinging wildly as he ran and I just happened to be in the way of his rattan. The girl, too, was nowhere to be seen; there was no longer anyone to play Good Samaritan to.

As I stood there, rubbing that part of me where I was hit, I heard more screaming and curses from the golf course. A boy and two girls, who had decided to sit out the attack on a mound, had been set upon by the cops. People inside the mini-golf enclosure were yelling at the cops, shaking their golf clubs in helpless fury. “Tena, tulungan natin!” cried one demonstrator; but the cops had retreated by the time we got to the trio on the mound. The two girls were cursing through their tears; the boy was calm, consoling them in his fashion. “This is just part of the class struggle,” he said, and one girl sobbed, “I know, I know. Pero putangna nila, me araw din sila!”

IT WAS NOW EIGHT O’CLOCK. The battle of Burgos Drive was over, Burgos Drive was open to traffic once more. I decided it was time to go to the Philippine General Hospital for a change of scene. Crossing the street, on my way to Taft Avenue, I saw for the first time, on the Luneta side of the traffic island, a row of horses behind a squad of uniformed men.

At the PGH, confusion reigned. More than thirty demonstrators with bloody heads and broken wrists had been or were being treated along with three or four policemen hit by rocks. Other students kept coming, looking for companions, bringing news from the field. The battle was not over yet, they said, it had merely shifted ground. The cops were chasing demonstrators right up to Intramuros, all the way to Plaza Lawton; were even boarding jeepneys and buses to haul down demonstrators on their way home. There was a rumor that two or three students had been killed— did anyone know anything about it? (It proved to be a false alarm.) Even NUSP members were at the PGH. Some of them had called up Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda, and he came in a long black car, mapungay eyes, slicked-down hair, newly pressed barong Tagalog, and all, accompanied by a photographer and scads of technical assistants or security men.

The next day came the post-mortems, the breast-beating, the press releases, the alibis.

“We maintain,” said MPD Deputy Chief James Barbers, “that the police acted swiftly at a particular time when the life of the President of the Republic— and that of the First Lady— was being endangered by the vicious and unscrupulous elements among the student demonstrators. One can just imagine what would have resulted had something happened to the First Lady!” Barbers did not bother to explain why the rampage continued after the President being protected had gone.

Manila Mayor Antonio J. Villegas commended Tamayo and his men for their “exemplary behavior and courage” and reportedly gave them a day off. Then he announced that Manila policemen would henceforth stay away from demonstration sites. “I’’m doing this to protect Manila policemen from unfair criticism and to avoid friction between the MPD and student groups.”

“The night of January 26,” said UP president S.P. Lopez, “must be regarded as a night of grave portent for the future of the nation. It has brought us face to face with the fundamental question: Is it still possible to transform our society by peaceful means so that the many who are poor, oppressed, sick, and ignorant may be released from their misery, by the actual operation of law and government, rather than by waiting in vain for the empty promise of ‘social justice’ in our Constitution?”

The faculty of the University of the Philippines issued a declaration denouncing “the use of brutal force by state authorities against the student demonstrators” and supporting “unqualifiedly the students’ exercise of democratic rights in their struggle for revolutionary change.” The declaration went on to say: “It is with the gravest concern that the faculty views the January 26 event as part of an emerging pattern of repression of the democratic rights of the people. This pattern is evident in the formation of paramilitary units such as the Home Defense Forces, the politicalization of the Armed Forces, the existence of private armies, foreign interference in internal security, and the use of specially trained police for purposes of suppression.”

From the Lyceum faculty came another strongly worded statement: “Above the sadism and inhumanity of the action of the police, we fear that the brutal treatment of the idealistic students has done irreparable harm to our society. For it is true that the skirmish was won by the policemen and the riot soldiers. But if we view the battle in the correct perspective of the struggle for the hearts and minds of our youth, we cannot help but realize that the senseless, brutal, and uncalled-for acts of the police have forever alienated many of our young people from our society. The police will have to realize that in winning the battles, they are losing the war for our society.”

While he deplored the “abusive language” he read in some of the demonstrators’ placards, Senator Gil J. Puyat said, “I regret the use of unnecessary force by the police when they could have used a less harmful method.”

IF the police had “kept their cool,” said Senator Benigno Aquino, there would have been no violence—“it takes two to fight.” Senator Salvador Laurel said he had witnessed “with my own eyes the reported brutalities perpetrated by a number of [police officers] upon unarmed students, some of them helpless women.” Senator Eva Kalaw warned: “The students set the emotional powderkeg that may become the signal for wave upon wave of unrest in the streets, in the factories, on the campuses, in our farms.”

“Students,” said President Ferdinand Marcos, “have a legitimate right to manifest their grievances in public and we shall support their just demands, but we do not consider violence a legitimate instrument of democratic dissent, and we expect the students to cooperate with government in making sure that their demonstrations are not marred by violence.”

Some of the students began talking of arming themselves the next time with molotov cocktails and pillboxes, of using dos-por-dos as placard handles, of wearing crash helmets. Everyone agreed that the January 26 confrontation was the longest and most violent in the history of the Philippine student movement.

And then came January 30.

Note: in an email on the Plaridel e-mail list, the author provided the following historical notes:

Maharnilad is what the Manila City Hall was called back then. Congress, not far from Maharnilad, was a single building that housed both the Senate and the House of Representatives; it now houses the National Museum.

Edgar Jopson, better known as Edjop, derided by radicals as a reformist during the First Quarter Storm, ended up in the martial-law period as a leading member of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines; he was killed in Mindanao in 1982.