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Philippines Free Press
May 17, 2004
Perception is King
by Manuel L. Quezon III
IN the Philippines, perception is king, and plausibility is queen. If things are perceived to be, then they are, regardless of reality. At the same time, if something is plausible, it is viewed as probable –again, regardless of reality.
The reality is that the counting isn’t over, and only the counting will reveal what is true. But until the counting is done, the battle over perception and the campaign to enlist plausibility in aid of the campaign continues.
This early on, however, certain trends can be deduced from the recently-concluded national elections.
The first is the return of the importance of machinery, and an accompanying crisis of confidence in media driven campaigns. The failed campaigns of Ramon Mitra, Jr. in 1992, and of Jose de Venecia in 1998, convinced many observers that the era of the party machine had passed. Succesful campaigns, it was thought, would succeed or fail based on a combination of media savvy and shrewd back room operations (including dirty psychological warfare tricks). The campaigns of Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada were supposed to bear this out.
On the other hand, the dizzying success of Joseph Estrada’s 1998 campaign brought to the fore the importance of show business and personal charisma. The concept of effective communication being essential to a campaign is as old as politics itself: but the fact that Estrada was an actor seemed to indicate something new. The result was that the 2004 campaign suffered from the perception that popularity, in particular show-biz popularity, would rule the roost. This was a particularly dangerous delusion to suffer from on the part of the opposition, but it also put the administration in a demoralized position at the start of the campaign.
What everyone forgot was that the Estrada campaign had succeeded because it combined the old and the new; it had its own machine and its candidate (Estrada) spent as much time cultivating his media image as he did on doing the rounds with provincial kingpins to enlist their support. In that fight, his opponent had machinery but no charisma, and so, all things being equal, electoral success was actually determined by the tried and true electoral formula, “politics is addition.” The candidate with charisma and popularity could do well if he had a serviceable machine; the candidate with machinery alone, however, wouldn’t be able to sustain his momentum in the face of charisma.
The administration carefully cultivated the impression it had all the machinery, when in fact, had the opposition paid more attention to its own machinery, it could have seriously wrecked the administration efforts. The President was viewed not only as a party outsider, but an unpopular one, at that. But when the hustlings began, she did what her opponent failed to do: assiduously court the support of local kingpins. They could not wait in the wings forever. By imposing her personality on her campaign leaders, the president showed more inclinations to act as a leader who understood the rules of the game, thereby becoming palatable to local leaders. She did not shrink from the traditional role national leaders play in elections, which is to act as broker and referee in closely-contested local races. She therefore created a political infrastructure while being careful to give the impression it was there all along, even while she was cobbling it together.
The opposition’s main contender, on the other hand, either refused, or was unable, to play the game, and alienated local support. He stood to inherit the Marcos political machine as reinvigorated by Estrada. Instead, he squandered his opportunities by ignoring local leaders and refusing to mediate their various quarrels. Leadership for him was a zero sum game in a system in which the leader who can dole out the most gravy to everyone comes out ahead.
Fernando Poe, Jr. and his handlers bet on showbiz glitz and bet big. Not even Estrada had done so. When the President, having consolidated her machinery, then took the fight into the very field Poe’s people assumed was theirs for the taking, real trouble began. Taking the fight to Poe’s home ground points to the next trend observable in this election.
The second trend is a generational shift in national, and even local, politics, with interesting implications for the future. The strength of Poe was anchored on his ruling the showbiz roost. But as the campaign dragged on, his kingship was seen to be a titular one. The showbiz elite, in general, it is true, answered his call. Out of loyalty or fear, the majority of the powers that be gravitated to his campaign. But his command was eventually exposed as limited, not all-pervasive. In the first place, while only a small minority of showbiz personalities openly defied him, showbiz insiders did whisper that a significant number of actors and directors and producers kept a discreet silence. More significantly, the minority that did dare to go against him tended to come from the ranks of younger celebrities. Celebrities who, it must be remembered, had already demonstrated their capacity to eclipse Poe at the box office. Such was the case with Ai Ai de las Alas, whose “Tanging Yaman” had killed Poe’s “Pakners” at the box office, and whose own following was mobilized through her endorsement of President Arroyo. Raul Roco and Bro. Eddie Villanueva, too, had their own cast of showbiz supporters, generally young, generally more in tune with the audiences whose votes were being courted.
That audience –the electorate- it must be remembered, is predominantly young, and speaks a different language from its elders, whose rhetoric it despises. Poe’s fans are increasingly aging; his political lieutenants political dinosaurs; his machinery, aging as well. His opponents were more vigorous, and perhaps, more ruthless –certainly, more creative. The class-based rhetoric of Poe belonged to an earlier age, and was somewhat ineffective in light of a less rural, more mobile, and more sophisticated citizenry which had already rejected the two past masters of fostering class divisions, Marcos and Estrada. The numbers to whom this kind of rhetoric appeals, it is true, is significant, but still, a minority. And that minority, which could have spelled overwhelming victory if it had been nurtured, was disgruntled by their candidates inability to put up a strong fight. Those really wanting an iron-fisted leadership clung to Lacson, while those who disliked the incumbent, but also disliked her predecessor, either supported Villanueva or Roco. The President, fairly young herself, and surrounded by more young people than Poe, was better able to entice the young.
The third, and final, trend, is a longer, more strategic view of campaigns on the part of certain candidates. New forces have been unleashed, for whom the 2004 campaign was merely a prelude for 2007 and 2010. These include first time voters, and those slightly older, but for whom their first political experience was the Estrada impeachment. They include a new class of younger entrepreneurs and the remnants of the middle class, who want strong, even authoritarian leadership. And it includes those who have rejected traditional religious institutions, becoming, instead, born again Christians. The Roco, Lacson, and Villanueva campaigns were the most creative and demonstrated the inroads alternative machineries can make in traditional politics. Their techniques will have an impact on the techniques of their more traditional colleagues. Their electoral failure must be balanced by the surprising cohesion of their supporters, and their remarkable showing in the polls. They have tasted blood, so to speak, and their thirst for more will be hard to quench. They will, to a significant degree, affect the lay of the political land for some years to come.
Whatever the surveys say, the campaign was a closely contested one, and the eventual outcome still holds some surprises. The battle for perception continues, because try as they might, the two leading contenders weren’t able to conjure up the perception of an overwhelming, or at least, inevitable, victory. At present the administration is trying to preserve its gains, but the closely contested national contest is being replicated in enough local contests to offer the opposition the opportunity to raid the squabbling local groupings of the administration, some of whom may be desperate for help, any help, to bring them victory. Therefore, the administration is busy guarding its machinery to ensure it doesn’t break down, while the opposition, back against the wall, is ruthlessly attempting to deny the administration a plausible victory.
The surveys prior to the election, and immediately after, offered the administration the chance to declare its victory plausible. But the manner in which the Commission on Elections bungled the voting, in particular the disenfranchisement of voters estimated by the Social Weather Stations to have reached 900,000 individuals, offers the opposition the chance to declare that enough people couldn’t vote to put the results of a close race in doubt. The collapse of the Namfrel quick count, too, places its efforts as an antidote to cheating –or the perception of cheating- in doubt. Monkeying around with the results on both sides becomes that much more plausible. The result is the denial of the administration of the perception of the inevitability of its victory, and affords the opposition a second wind –one coming at the heels of its blitzkrieg effort in the closing 10 days of the campaign, when its candidate finally came out swinging in a blizzard of ads. The effects of those ads, it seems, can be directly correlated with the closeness of the race. Smart money remains on a victory by the President. But in the continuing battle for perception and plausibility, the opposition is showing a startling resilience.
Red flags and raised fists
By Dan Mariano
Special to the Century Book
DURING the 1950s and early 1960s, nationalism was equated with communism. Filipinos were, in general, perfectly content to be regarded as the Americans’ “little brown brothers.”
Yet, in this sea of colonial mentality emerged islands of nationalism that invoked the unresolved conflict between Philippine Independence and America’s Manifest Destiny at the turn of the century.
These nationalist pockets were initially manned by politicians such as Claro M. Recto, Jose P. Laurel and Lorenzo Tañada, who gave inspiration t o associations like the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). By the mid-l960s, nationalism began to attract a younger crop of Filipinos.
In l964, a group of university students founded the Kabataang Makabayan. By l968, the KM’s patriotic platform was reinforced by Mao Zedong Thought. Later, that same year, its leading members—who had previously been associated with MAN—and several Huk commanders disenchanted with the old PKP declared the “re–establishment” of the Communist Party of Philippines along Maoist lines on December 26.
On March 29 of the following year, the New People’s Army (NPA) was organized, announcing the CPP’s determination to capture state power through armed struggle.
IN 1969, with the relaxation of sexual standards came the proliferation of pornography. Local movie producers made a killing out of films that titillated previously conservative Filipinos with frontal nudity and graphic bed scenes. A mere decade was all it took for the local film industry to take a licentious leap from wholesome, family-oriented movies like “Ibiang, Mahal Kita” to the salacious “Ang Saging ni Pacing,” which left little to the imagination.
Adding to the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere of 1969 were the lavish parties that the elite threw, giving currency to the phrase “ostentatious display of wealth.” The grandest of these was a banquet staged by the Lopezes—kingpins of the sugar bloc and owners of the country’s biggest broadcasting network and electric utility—where champagne flowed, literally, from a fountain.
IF 1969 was Fat Tuesday, 1970 became the nation’s Good Friday when popular passions reached boiling point.
Ferdinand Marcos had just won an unprecedented second term in an election that his political rivals and independent observers alike claimed were the dirtiest in the nation’s political history. Nevertheless, Marcos felt that his reelection vindicated the “record of performance” of his first term, which witnessed an explosion of public works construction that, for the most part, was financed with Japanese war reparations.
Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent 100-percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2:$1 to P4:$1, then P8:$1. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.
When he delivered his State of the Nation Address on the afternoon January 26, 1970 before a joint session of Congress, the popularity that allowed him to win reelection the year before was already badly eroded.
Outside the legislative building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention. As Marcos stepped out of the building and onto the driveway, a papier-mâché crocodile (representing government corruption) and a make shift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew in his direction. Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped off away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft drink bottle, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.
The first encounter of what would later be called the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 ran for several hours with either side gaining, losing and retaking ground on. J. Burgos Street in front of what was then the congress building. Another phrase would gain currency that evening: “police brutality.”
Rarely did the protesters number more than 10,000 at any given demonstration, but the impression they left was of a whole generation rising up in rebellion.
THE main focus of 1971 was the election for eight seats in the Senate. The bloody events leading up to the voting would exert a marked influence on the outcome.
Emboldened by the phenomenal growth of the youth movement, UP students occupied the Diliman campus and barricaded its main roads. In this, they won the support of the faculty, non-academic personnel and virtually the entire UP community.
The campus remained under the students’ control for several days until the university radio station began broadcasting a tape recording purportedly of Marcos making love to an American starlet, Dovie Beams. That proved to be the last straw. The President ordered the PC Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) to retake the campus. The first thing the troops did after dispersing the protesters was to smash the transmission equipment of DZUP, which was never heard from again.
On the eve of the by-election, the opposition Liberal Party was holding its final rally at Plaza Miranda when all of a sudden the stage was rocked with an explosion that was soon followed by another. The grenade attack killed about a dozen people and injured scores of others, including LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, Ramon Mitra, Eddie Ilarde and Eva Estrada Kalaw.
The blame quickly fell on Marcos, who merely encouraged the popular suspicion by suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus that same evening.
BY 1972, the feeling of dread that Marcos was up to no good had become so palpable that even sections of the press that had once given him favorable coverage began to turn critical and pro-opposition. Thus, when Senator Aquino delivered a privileged speech exposing an alleged plot to justify the declaration of martial law, the media painted the town red with the explosive disclosure.
The plot, codenamed Oplan Sagittarius, contained all the incidents that had already taken place that would lead the public to conclude that the situation was getting out of hand, the communists were running berserk, the political opposition was encouraging civil unrest and, therefore, the government had to step in to regain control.
All that needed to be carried out, according to the plot, was an attempt on the life of a high-ranking official of the Marcos administration.
That scenario unfolded one night in September 1972. The following day, the newspapers ran pictures of a car assigned to Enrile that bore so many bullet holes only a miracle could have made the defense secretary come out of it alive. Years later, after leading a coup against Marcos, Enrile would confess that the ambush had been staged.
Days later, Filipinos woke up to find their radios eerily silent. No newsboy came around to deliver the papers. Later in the afternoon, the television station owned by Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto went on the air and asked viewers to stand by for a very important announcement direct from Malacañang.
The talking head that eventually came into view belonged to Francisco Tatad. With all the solemnity that he could muster, the press secretary announced that Marcos had issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.
The nightmare had begun.
Cory’s “Army”: Organizing People Power
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 10, 1987–AS SOON as Cory Aquino let it be known that she was not against the formation of a political party, her true-blue leaders began regrouping, reorganizing, consolidating and coalescing their political forces. With the political realignment, the battle lines between the pro-Cory and anti-Cory parties were drawn.
As of the latest count, no fewer than 14 political parties , aggrupations and organizations have come out for Cory. Many regional and local political entities have also committed their support to the lady President. Their first political task is to campaign for the approval of the draft constitution.
Ratification = Cory!
Before Cory left for Tokyo, three massive organizations had already sprung up in support of her call for the ratification of the proposed charter. These are the Lakas ng Bansa, a powerful political movement, led by Cory’s cabinet ministers; the Conglomerate of Business Groups, composed of business and industrial leaders; and the Coalition for Constitutional Approval, a five-party entity, whose initials, CCA, correspond with those of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
The original plan was to put up a single, all-encompassing administration party that would provide Cory with strong political support in the task of normalizing and rebuilding the country. It was obvious that Unido, the party under which Cory ran for and won the Presidency, was more of an enemy than a friend of Cory’s, an obstacle rather than a help in the realization of Cory’s vision.
Again and again, no less than Unido’s top guns, “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, attacked Cory’s stand. Unido’s dubious allegiance to the President was intolerable. Then came “Doy’s” open flirtations with Cory’s No. 1 challenger, Enrile.
Like Enrile, Laurel battled for presidential election in case the electorate turned down the draft constitution. He also subscribed to Enrile’s belief that the repudiation of the proposed charter would constitute a repudiation of the Cory government. Worse, “Doy” even agreed with the Marcos “loyalists” that there was no documentary proof of a Cory-Doy victory in the last election, ignoring the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of such a victory.
“Doy’s” liaison with the Marcos-Enrile gang and the muscle-flexing of the Marcos political tail, the KBL, and the so-called NP wings of Palmares and Cayetano prompted Cory’s supporters to do some seducing and muscle-flexing of their own. Lakas ng Bansa attracted to its fold political parties while the five-party coalition of the CCA underscored the political clout behind Cory. The lady President is clearly far from helpless as she sometimes appears to be.
The CCA’s lead party is the PDP-Laban, founded by the late Ninoy Aquino, now headed by Cory’s brother, “Peping” Cojuangco. Cory’s brother-in-law, “Butz” Aquino, with his militant Bandila, is also there. So is Salonga’s wing of the Liberal Party. Ramon Pedrosa’s Pilipino Democratic Socialist Party and Raul Manglapus’s Union of Christian Democrats complete the five-party coalition.
Another organization that has thrown its weight behind Cory is the Conglomerate of Business Groups, which draws individual members from different business and industrial organizations, like the Lions, the Rotary and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, among others.
Committed to Cory’s economic recovery program, the CBG counts with great influence in the world of business and industry, both here and abroad. Its support has given Cory a stronger moral authority to carry out her program of government.
But the grandest alliance of all is, perhaps, the Lakas ng Bansa, organized by Cory’s closest supporters, many of whom are members of the Cabinet. Although identified only as a political movement, it is considered as Cory Aquino’s “party of the future”. Right now, its top leaders are about the most visible, audible and credible spokesmen of the Cory government. Its president and seven of its 13 vice-presidents are all cabinet ministers.
The Lakas ng Bansa roster of officials reads like a Who’s Who in the government. Justice Secretary Neptali Gonzales, who bolted the Unido, is the movement’s president, Budget Minister Alberto Romulo, who threatened to leave Unido, is vice-president of the National Capital Region.
Other ministers who occupy vice-presidential positions in the Lakas ng Bansa are Heherson Alvarez of Agrarian Reform, Region II; Ramon Mitra Jr., of Agriculture, Region VI; Luis Villafuerte of Reorganization, Region V; and Antonio Cuenco of Political Affairs, Region VII. The remaining vice presidential positions were vacated by Ernesto Maceda and Rogaciano Mercado but will be filled up by top political leaders of their respective regions who also hold high positions in the new dispensation.
Judging from its composition, the Lakas ng Bansa, also known as Laban, is virtually the political movement of the administration. No other single political entity is more conversant with the over-all thrust of the Cory government than Laban, whose principal organizers are also some of Cory’s most trusted advisers. It has the blessings of “Peping” Cojuangco and its day-to-day affairs are run by its secretary-general, “Ding” Tanjuatco, Cory’s cousin.
Laban looks like a stronger version of the Unido, although the latter is a duly-registered political party while the former is not. Its membership comes from a much-wider political spectrum than Unido can ever hope to have. It expects to absorb all the pro-Aquino political forces and groups, like the Cory Aquino for President Movement, Cory Crusaders, Bisig, Bayan, Lakas ng Pilipino, Bansa, Kaiba, and many others.
Its founding fathers come from different political parties, like the Liberal, Nacionalista, PDP-Laban and even Unido itself. Not a few KBL leaders have already expressed their willingness to join. Its membership, according to Tanjuatco, is open to “all Filipinos, here and abroad, young and old, rich and poor of whatever sector, religion or affiliation.”
“Lakas ng Bansa is People Power continued, institutionalized nationwide, and reinforced with a driving vision to emancipate the Filipino people from all forms of poverty and tyranny. The movement will not stand aside ad watch democratic gains eroded. It will not only rally to defend these gains but it will also mobilize to consolidate them.
“We must realize that although we have driven the former president away, he has left behind his destructive and dismal legacy. In many areas of our country, his clones and heirs apparent — but more seriously his distorted values — remain firmly entrenched. A great movement of People Power is needed to expose and bury once and for all these vestiges from a recent and unlimited past.”
Many of Laban’s organizers hope to convert their movement into a duly-registered political party. If they haven’t taken positive steps towards that end yet, it is in deference to Cory’s wishes not to disturb the present so-called “rainbow coalition”. But they are ready. At a moment’s notice, when the movement’s directorate so wishes, Laban will be registered with the Commission on Elections as a full-fledged political party.
Its organizational set-up is virtually complete, including the draft of its constitution and by-laws. It has already adopted the slogan — “Lakas ng Pagkakaisa, Lakas ng Bayan” — a red dove in flight with a broken chain attached to its leg. The red dove, according to Laban officials, symbolizes a courageous and gentle people in their journey towards liberation as represented by the broken chain.
About 2,500 delegates attended the launching of Lakas ng Bansa at the Valle Verde Auditorium in Pasig, Metro Manila. PDP-Laban’s “Peping” Cojuangco and Jose Yap were there. So were Villafuerte and Cuenco of Unido. But “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, Unido’s “dynamic duo”, were conspicuously absent. All the delegates were one in their stand to protect Cory from what they called “remnants” of a horrible regime and other “adversaries.”
Lakas ng Bansa was established, according to Minister Gonzales, principally to support Cory’s effort in rebuilding the nation, and its doors are open to all, even to card-carrying members of established political parties without their losing party membership. It was organized, he stressed, “not in opposition to, but in harmony with existing political parties that support President Aquino”. Its first major objective is to restore constitutional democracy “by working for the ratification of the new constitution”.
To repeat, the battle lines have already been drawn. On one side are pro-Cory parties, groups and aggrupations, numbering no fewer than 14 national entities, not counting the seven regional and local ones. On the other side are only two political parties: Enrile’s Nacionalista Party of Palmares and Cayetano and Marcos’s abominable KBL. You may add a third one, if you don’t consider Kalaw’s Liberal Party circus a mere nuisance.
As for Adaza’s Mindanao Alliance, forget it. Such an alliance is only between Homobono and Adaza, for, by and of Homobono Adaza himself. For all intents and purposes, Adaza is nothing more than an appendage of Enrile’s political gang. Kalaw and Adaza used to be “supporters” of Cory, but for one reason or another, they parted ways with her after she assumed power. Wittingly or otherwise, both have in effect aligned themselves with the Marcos-Enrile alliance while maintaining their individual political identity.
In the case of Unido, one has to play it by ear. After wagging against the draft constitution earlier, “Doy” Laurel is now wagging in favor of it. Perhaps, he is playing it by ear as he awaits the wigwag from his elder brother, “Pepito”, who calls the shot in his own wing of the Nacionalista Party. One thing is clear: “Doy” will zig when “Pepito” zigs and zag when “Pepito” zags. Expect Rene Espina to zigzag along with them.
But “Pepito’s” mind is made up. He is for the ratification o the proposed constitution, which, he believes, is an improvement on the 1973 Constitution, “designed for the one-man rule of Marcos”. While the draft charter is “an imperfect document” says “Pepito”, it can “satisfy the desires and even the demands of all the segments of our society”.
“I would never have signed the draft constitution if I believed it would be inimical to the Filipino people. On the contrary, I felt that for all its imperfections and shortcomings, it would guide and inspire us in the fashioning of a freer and richer future after the ordeal of the past despotism from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves.
“It is a worn argument, I suppose, but it is no less valid for the telling, and so I repeat the ratification of this constitution will provide our country with the stability it needs to plan more realistically and to adopt more enduring policies for the days ahead.”
Blas Ople’s Partido Nacionalista ng Pilipinas is also for the approval of the draft constitution. While some PNP members are against it, Ople and his three PNP confreres, who were ConCom members, like Pepito, are duty-bound to uphold what they helped to formulate. Ople’s closest side-kick in the PNP, Teodulo Natividad, also a ConCom member, has already put himself squarely behind the ratification of the proposed charter.
In his typically bombastic manner, Ople announced that the ratification of the new constitution “will erect the sovereign ramparts” to foil all existing conspiracies against the Republic, making all “hidden agendas” obsolescent. He also warned that those who want to seize power still hope to abort the plebiscite and “prolong the constitutional vacuum” because they know that the ratification of the new charter will “foreclose their option of mass violence for toppling the government.”
“All claimants to power, therefore, increasingly realize that the period for an unconventional challenge to the government is definitely capped by the cabinet deadline. Beyond that date, they will have to recast their plans to be able to stay in the game, by preparing for constitutional and peaceful elections.”
The Tried and Tested
But Cory will have to bank on her tried-and-tested supporters to hurdle one of the severest tests of her political career: the approval of the draft charter, whose repudiation could be perceived as a public rejection of her young administration. Such a perception, however, could only come from a distorted sense of logic. Cory had nothing to do with the formulation of the proposed charter, except to appoint the people who drafted it. Whatever flaws it has should not be blamed on Cory but on the people who produced it.
Unlike the 1973 Constitution, which was written for and in behalf of Marcos, the 1986 draft charter is the product of the free interplay of ideas among 47 commissioners insulated from Malacañang influence. Nobody can accuse Cory of doing to the 1986 proposed charter what Marcos did to the 1973 Constitution. In other words, if the people rejected it in the plebiscite, they would do so not because they had withdrawn their support from Cory but because they disapproved of the proposed constitution. So, let Cory call for an elected — this time — constitutional convention!
But the Marcos-Enrile political gangs do not see it that way. They had been peddling the idea that rejection of the new charter would mean the withdrawal of public support from Cory, and therefore, Cory must get a fresh mandate from the electorate to continue in office. And yet, they don’t want Cory to campaign for the ratification of the new charter. Where’s the logic there?
Logical or not, Cory has accepted the challenge — and she is campaigning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, partly because she wants to settle, once and for all, the fake issue of the legitimacy of her government, principally because she really believes that the approval of the draft charter is a giant step towards normalcy and national stability. What the means is that Cory is willing and ready to give up her vast powers under the Freedom Constitution in favor of the 1986 constitution, which establishes limitations on the powers of the Presidency. She’s not power-hungry.
If Cory were like Marcos, she wouldn’t give a hoot for the draft charter. Its rejection would be sufficient justification for her to continue wielding her plenary powers under the Freedom Constitution and call for an elective ConCom to draft another Constitution. Until the electorate approved a new charter, she could go on ruling under the mantle of a revolutionary government. She would be an all-powerful Chief Executive for as long as she continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of her people — which she does.
But Cory is not Marcos—and she is infinitely more perceptive than Marcos, who viewed things only in the light of his insatiable greed for power and self. Precisely because of that, she is working hard for the approval of the new constitution although it means the diminution of the powers that she currently enjoys. Cory’s support for the ratification of the new charter is proof to all that she is no power-hungry politician.
When Marcos “lifted” martial law, he did it only on paper. He retained his vast powers, even the power over the lives and fortunes of his critics and enemies. This is not the case with Cory. If the proposed charter is approved by the people, Cory will have much less power than she would have under the 1935 Constitution. Hers will be a republican government answerable to the people, from whom government powers should emanate.
On this score, a large segment of the people are behind Cory all the way. Besides the Lakas ng Bansa, the Coalition for Constitutional Approval and the Conglomerate of Business groups, other large movements have recently organized themselves in support of Cory’s campaign for the ratification of the proposed constitution. Noteworthy are Bansa, composed of some 20 large farmer organizations, led by former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, and Kaiba, the biggest women political party of the country today, led by Princess Tarhata Lucman.
Lakas ng Pilipino, headed by Charito Planas, is also campaigning for the approval of the new constitution. So are Partido ng Bayan of the late Rolando Olalia and the Lapiang Manggagawa of Jose Villegas. The Philippine Islamic Democratic Party has also come out openly in favor of the approval of the proposed charter. Even militant organizations , like Gabriela, Bisig and Bayan are behind Cory.
Cory’s Unarmed Forces
All these political parties, aggrupations, civic organizations and militant groups now constitute Cory’s unarmed army, which is committed to preserve the gains of the People Power Revolution. They are behind Cory in her quest for a stable and prosperous nation, as they stood by her in her struggle to oust the Dictator. Whether they will eventually fuse into a single political party for Cory or not, the fact remains that they are now solidly one behind her.
Their militant interest in the country’s welfare should serve as a warning to all those, particularly Enrile’s military coup-koos and the Marcos Mafia. These would kill the Filipino people’s newly-recovered rights and liberties — again! Having organized on its own free will, Cory’s “army” is out to prove that People Power remains a tower of strength for a people who loves justice and peace. How strong that Power is will be shown in the outcome of the plebiscite on the proposed constitution.
Triumph of the Will
By Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.
There was a time, remarkably, when Filipinos thought Marcos to be a genius. It was like a man’s admiring the agility of his wife’s lover in getting in and out of their bed while he was brushing his teeth. Cory dismissed this proposition contemptuously.
February 7, 1986—THE stage was like the whitecap of a giant wave. Cory walked from one side of the stage to the other, as Doy asked her to check the crowd’s responses to his questions: Were they for the Opposition? Were they tired of Marcos? Were they determined to rid themselves of his dictatorship, whatever the price? Where they going to vote for Cory-Doy? Arms and voices rose in unison.
Doy was like the heavy blade to the fine, sharp edge of Cory. With his hoarse but powerful voice, he defined the issues of the election and channeled the passions and thoughts of the crowd to the single direction of a resounding “No” to more of Marcos and a thunderous “Yes” to a future under the Opposition. But it was not spellbinding demagoguery on his part.
One got the feeling, looking down at that mass, that it held the two of them in the thrall of a collective determination to end the Marcos regime and give themselves, through Cory and Doy, a chance to control again their destinies. Cory was the edge of that determination, Doy was the blade but the people were the spear shaft and theirs was the force that would propel it forward. The same feeling came to you even in the rallies in smaller cities and in the towns. It was, as Art Borjal, the Inquirer columnist said, the people campaigning for president against Marcos.
Cory walked back and forth, smiling, occasionally raising her hand in the “laban” sign. But she exuded, one felt, even from that height and distance, not so much the self-confidence of a seasoned politician as the feeling that she was at home. When it was her turn to speak, her voice came across with the given authority of the one you most respect in a household. No nonsense, clear, and coming at you from a set of moral assumptions you could question only at the risk of feeling like a pariah, of inviting her disdain. She was reversing the values of the Filipino under 20 years of Marcos.
Marcos’s whole life was dedicated to the proposition that nothing succeeds like success, and that the attainment of your personal ends justifies any means whatever at the expense of others. There was a time, remarkably, when Filipinos would say admiringly that Marcos was a genius as he got away with one constitutional, legal, moral and fiscal travesty after another. It was like a man admiring the agility of his wife’s lover in getting in and out of their bedroom while he was brushing his teeth.
Cory did not refute this proposition. She just dismissed it contemptuously. Twenty years of despoiling a nation with impunity, and not infrequent popular acclaim, ceased to be a ringing testimonial of what one Filipino can do to an entire nation if he sets his mind to it, by golly, but a simple and contemptible betrayal of trust. Marcos had said, “This nation can be great again.” (Referring, it turned out, to himself and a greed of national proportions.) Cory, walking up and down the stage, in a yellow dress with simple lines, was showing that it can be clean again. And that this mattered more.
Darkness had fallen when she came to the end of her speech. Only the stage was lighted. There was a signboard, she said, in one of the towns where she campaigned, and it read: “Cory, isang bala ka lang.” If this was Marcos’s message to her, she said, her answer was, raising her arm with the forefinger sticking out, “Marcos, isang balota ka lang.” In the darkness that had closed in like a threat, one felt the vulnerability of this response to the irrefutable argument of a bullet. One also felt a wave of protectiveness rise form the crowd and enfold her.
Afterwards someone remarked, “She’s certainly grown in her role.” I thought, “No, she simply stepped into it.” It was the same Cory I had first met in 1971.
It was the night of the Plaza Miranda bombing. Marcos had immediately blamed the communists for it and declared he was suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and ordering everyone to turn in his guns. Ninoy fetched me in his blue LTD and thrust into my hands what looked like a piece of artillery. He was in a dramatic mood again. “That’s a BAR,” he said, “a Browning automatic riffle. Surrender guns, Marcos says, let’s see about that. This guy’s out to kill us all and he wants us to go like sheep to the slaughter.”
We were going, he said, to confront the secretary of defense, Enrile, before the TV cameras, and “let’s see them try to disarm us.”
I don’t recall what passed between them, except that, after the show, Enrile told us that he had gotten the pair of boots we had complimented him on in a shop in San Francisco and wrote the name on a piece of paper.
I don’t know if Ninoy’s bravado had arrested a plan for martial law after the suspension of the writ if the people showed that they were cowed. But it looked like that because the Administration was on the defensive thereafter as Ninoy barnstormed the country for the hospitalized Opposition senatorial slate. And when the Opposition won by a landslide, Marcos went on the air and said that he was accepting the victory as a rebuke from the people.
Later that evening, well past midnight, we went to Times Street for dinner. We sat down to pork chops and fried rice. Cory moved around the sala, occasionally stopping to listen to what we were talking about. Other people had dropped in and Ninoy regaled them with a slightly embellished account of how he had challenged the government that evening. He turned to me to confirm every detail he gave until Cory fixed a no-nonsense, it’s late gaze on both of us and we all just ate quietly after that. I remember this when I noticed Cory at the Makati rally lean toward Doy and motioned him to tone down his theatrics. But Doy was beyond reproof even from her. And, anyway, he didn’t have to go home to Times Street.
If you study the picture of Cory looking at a weary-faced Ninoy in the prisoner’s dock in the Supreme Court, you will see a woman whose loyalty, support, admiration and affection are total givens, but who remains very much her own person with her own thoughts about the situation.
She hasn’t changed. The circumstances around her have changed. Her role has changed and she has suffered much in the process. But she hasn’t changed. The integrity and individuality remain the same. It is this constancy, this sureness about how people should behave, this steadiness one might call indomitability were it not for the refinement with which it is manifested, that explains how she was able to forge unity among the proud chieftains of the Opposition.
It is well to remember that the unity she forged was not among dependent and undistinguished clones, like the KBL that Marcos holds in his hand. Doy Laurel, Pepito Laurel, Tañada, Mitra, Pimentel, Adaza, Diokno, Salonga and the handful of others who kept the democratic faith, each in his own fashion, through the long years of martial law, are powerful political leaders in their own right. Each has kept or developed, by sagacity and guts, a wide personal following. Not one thinks himself subordinate to another in what he has contributed to keep alive the democratic faith. As far as Doy is concerned, his compromises had enabled him to kept at least one portion, Batangas, of a misguided country as a territorial example of viable opposition. An example to keep alive the hope that the rest of the country could follow suit and become free in time.
We have forgotten how much strength and hope we derived from the stories of Batangueños guarding the ballot boxes with their lives and Doy’s people keeping, at gunpoint, the Administration’s flying—or was it sailing?—voters from disembarking from the barges in which they had been ferried by the Administration. This is the language Marcos understands, the Laurels seemed to be saying, and we speak it.
We have forgotten the sage advice of Pepito Laurel which stopped the endless discussion about how to welcome Ninoy. Every arrangement was objected to because, someone would remark, Marcos can foil that plan by doing this or that. Pepito Laurel said, “Huwag mo nang problemahin ang problema ni Marcos. His problem is how to stop us from giving Ninoy the reception he deserves. Our problem is to give Ninoy that reception. Too much talk going on here!” that broke the paralysis of the meeting.
This is the caliber of men who were approached with a project of unification that entailed the suspension, perhaps forever, of their own ambitions. Cory would be the presidential candidate, and Doy who had spent substance and energy to create ex nihilo a political organization to challenge the Marcos machine must subordinate himself as her running mate. In exchange, the chieftains would get nothing but more work, worse sacrifices and greater perils. Certainly, no promises.
After two attempts, she emerged, largely through her own persuasive power and in spite of some stupid interference, as the presidential candidate of the Opposition, with Doy as her running mate. She had not yielded an inch of her position that all who would join the campaign must do so for no other consideration than the distinction of being in the forefront of the struggle. This should be enough. She had exercised the power of her disdain.
Cory calls on people for advice, but she has no advisers in the sense of a tight circle whose ideas dominate her thinking and invariably decide her actions. She is repelled by importunate offers of counsel and shows it. Even that circle of ardent support called the Council of Trent, because admission is based on holiness, wholesomeness, and the ability to endure and relish interminable discussions, know better than to push its ideas on her. The closest it can come to influencing her is to present draft encyclicals for her consideration and frequent, but gentle, rejection. And, as the campaign has progressed, she has found a wider door to an understanding of the country she might rule in the multitudes that have flocked to her yellow standard.
Cory Aquino returned to the Philippines dressed in black, with a will to justice, but with the paramount aim of presiding over the last honors to be given to her martyred husband. She would have limited herself to this and to a solitary struggle for justice, if the people had not reacted with outrage. She had learned, as Ninoy never did, not to be hurt by indifference or misunderstanding. Not to depend on anyone.
She did not try to whip up further the fury of the people. She announced, with quiet dignity, that another injustice had added itself to the long list of injustices under Marcos. As far as she was concerned, she would dedicate herself to seeing justice done for Ninoy, for others like him, for the country. If others would join her, so be it. There was a deliberate disregard for passion as a force for change, unless it was combined with a clear conviction and a firm and deliberate commitment to go all the way. Absent that, she’d just as well go it alone. Ninoy had done it and she was prepared to pay the price. She does not seem to want people to follower so much as to be with her in what she is doing. She may have read the people right for they appear to rally to her so that she will lead them in the direction they have already decided on.
Marcos has grown so great—in his possessions, power and prerogatives—that he has to be carried and can barely hold himself together. He is starting to come apart in places. Cory, on the other hand, looks slight but she’s all there, held together by an unquestioned set of values, a disturbing ability to embarrass you into self-sacrifice, and a will to triumph with the people.
by Edward R. Kiunisala
September 4, 1971–SATURDAY, August 21, at about 9:15 p.m., barely seconds after the Liberal Party candidates for Manila’s elective posts had been officially proclaimed on jam-packed Plaza Miranda, two fragmentation, combat grenades suddenly exploded in what proved to be the most villainous, outrageous and shameful crime in the annals of local political violence. It was a night of national tragedy and infamy as democracy—Philippine style—bared itself in all its terrifying ugliness.
For one dark, demented, damning moment of history, time stopped as tens of thousands of televiewers all over the country watched in utter horror the mass slaughter at Plaza Miranda. Miraculously, all top Opposition leaders who were there managed to cheat death. But not one of the eight LP senatorial candidates escaped injury. Sen. Jovito Salonga, as of this writing, is still fighting for his life, although the others were already pronounced “out of danger.”
Also on the critical list is Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who declined to seek reelection to pursue his electoral protest against Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Sen. Gerardo Roxas, LP president, and his wife, Judy, were badly injured.
So were Constitutional Delegate Salvador Mariño, chairman of the Manila LP chapter, and Ramon Bagatsing, LP mayoralty candidate for Manila.
LP senatorial candidates Edgar Ilarde and John Osmeña were badly wounded. Their damaged legs nearly had to be amputated. Ilarde may not be able to walk for from six months to one year while Johnny may be bedridden for about four months. Ilarde’s right leg was severely fractured while John’s leg’s artery was severed and his leg bones splintered.
Rep. Ramon Mitra, another LP senatorial aspirant, suffered multiple leg and body injuries. A splinter went through his left breast muscles, ripping off flesh. But he is now out of danger along with the rest of the LP Senate bets—Eva Estrada Kalaw, Melanio Singson, Salipada Pendatun and Genaro Magsaysay, who all suffered various degrees of injuries.
But others on Plaza Miranda that night were not so lucky. Slaughtered were nine persons, including Manila Times photographer Ben Roxas. Some were mangled beyond recognition while others were dead on arrival at the hospital. The latest count showed that 96 others were injured that night.
Ramon Vecina, Free Press photographer, was also seriously wounded in that bloody night of the LP proclamation meeting.
“I am holding President Marcos personally responsibly for the brutal and senseless carnage that took place on Plaza Miranda,” muttered the LP boss, Sen. Roxas in his hospital bed.
“The Plaza Miranda incident has illustrated beyond doubt that there is not a safe place in the country where people may express their views without having to face the perils of assassination.
“I have only one message to leaders, followers and the electorate: Nothing will deter the LP nor dampen its determination to win the mandate of the people this election. We shall continue to fight for the right of our citizenry. I am grateful to the Almighty for those of us who were fortunate to have been spared.”
The gory incident happened so quickly no one among the victims knew what hit him. It took Manila police officers some two hours to know what went off on Plaza Miranda that night. The instant suspicion was that a bomb had been planted under the stage or had been lobbed in its direction from somewhere. Only after the grenade levers and pins were found did the authorities know the cause of the outrage.
Tragedy was farthest from the minds of the LP leaders when they ascended the Plaza Miranda stage that Black Saturday night on August 21. Of course, they were somewhat apprehensive of their safety, but such misgivings were not uncommon in public exposures in an election campaign. Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., LP secretary-general, Congressman Mitra and aides of Senator Osmeña had received threats over the telephone early that day, but all of them dismissed the threatening phone calls as the work of a crank.
Just the same, the LPs did not take any chances. Bagatsing sent his aides to secure the Plaza Miranda stage. Cesar Climaco, Manila’s new “garbage czar,” ordered the cleaning of Plaza Miranda that afternoon. Meanwhile, LP security officers kept an eagle eye on the stage to prevent sabotage. By about seven o’clock that night, a large crowd had already gathered on Plaza Miranda.
Former Sen. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo was originally requested to emcee the LP proclamation meeting, but he declined, so, Mariño took over. The local candidates were given three minutes each to deliver their speeches. An oppositionist crowd applauded each speaker thunderously. At about 9:10 p.m., all the local candidates had already spoken and the National Anthem was played.
The next part of the program was the proclamation of the LP’s local candidates in Manila. Roxas stood up and approached the battery of microphones. The photographers spread out to get a good view. FP photographer Vecina moved back from the stage, about five heads away to get a vantage shot. It was a great moment for the LP local candidates as Roxas, “by virtue of the powers” vested in him as head of the Liberal Party, proclaimed the official LP candidates for Manila’s elective positions.
As the local candidates, their hands raised high, beamed and smiled and acknowledged the lusty cheers of the audience, fireworks bathed the Plaza Miranda crowd with incandescence. There was a festive atmosphere as the pyro-technics burned and crackled. The local candidates happily returned to their seat and emcee Mariño started to speak again. But before he could finish the sentence, a fist-sized solid object hit the edge of the stage. Meanwhile all eyes were glued to the fireworks display. Somewhere, someone shouted, “Ibagsak ang mga tuta ni Marcos!” Almost simultaneously, the solid object which had hit the stage went off, ripping the wooden planks and blasting the people near it. FP photographer Vecina winced and fell and was buried by falling bodies.
At that moment, Mitra, who was talking to Roxas, felt shrapnel pierce his breast muscles. Recalling the threatening phone call, he ran. John Osmeña, seated to the right of Singson, embraced Singson and they both fell behind Salonga, who remained seated. The other LP senatorial aspirants dove for the floor. Roxas tried to run; his aide jumped on him to cover him.
Before Mitra could reach the stairs of the stage, another blast came, hitting Mitra from behind, throwing him off the stage to the ground near a six-by-six vehicle. All hell broke loose. Those on the stage scampered in all directions as did those on the ground. It was survival of the fittest! The weaker ones fell and were trampled underfoot.
In a matter of seconds, Plaza Miranda was empty; except for police officers and plainclothesmen—and the wounded and the dead. John Osmeña tried to sit up but later fell on the floor unconscious. Aides and bodyguards of top LPs along with police officers rushed to the stage and carried the wounded to places of safety. Rattan chairs were stacked up in heaps to make way for vehicles which would bring the victims to the hospitals.
Senator Osmeña and Singson were rushed to the FEU hospital.
Mitra and Salonga were brought to Medical Center Manila and Roxas and his wife to Makati Medical Center.
John Osmeña and Magsaysay were rushed to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital while Ilarde was brought to the Singian Clinic.
Senator Kalaw was taken to the De Ocampo Hospital and later that night transferred to the Chinese General Hospital.
Pendatun limped his way to an ABS-CBN truck which brought him to ABM Sison Hospital.
Other wounded victims were brought to PGH and De Ocampo Hospital.
About 10 minutes after the Plaza Miranda bloodbath, Climaco arrived and brought a semblance of order. Along with the police, he helped carry wounded onlookers and the dead to waiting vehicles to take them to hospitals. Our Vecina was unearthed from a pile of blood and dying persons. Recovering consciousness, Vecina, bleeding and weakened from loss of blood, clambered back to the stage and took some more shots. Exhausted, he asked to be brought to Medical Center Manila. While there, he took pictures of some of the Plaza Miranda victims. Then he again lost consciousness and was taken to the operating room.
Back at Plaza Miranda, MPD Chief Gerardo Tamayo arrived. With Climaco, Tamayo investigated the incident, at the same time ordering his men to look for clues. He also sought the help of bomb disposal experts from the army. About an hour after the blasts, Metrocom troops came and helped in restoring order and looking for clues. An hour and forty-five minutes later, President Marcos signed the order suspending the writ of habeas corpus and blaming the Communists for the bombings.
Police investigators found two grenade pins at a distance of two and a half meters from each other, with both pins about 17 meters from the stage. Two grenade levers were also found on the plaza. Outside of the levers and pins, no other clues were found. Sometime later, however, police officers found a witness who testified that he saw a man pull out a solid object from a bag and hurl it in the direction of the stage.
Since the time-lag between the blasts was only three seconds, the police theorized that two men, not just one, threw the grenades. It is impossible for one man in a sardine-packed crowd to throw two grenades in three seconds, said Tamayo. But the police were in no position to identify the criminals. First they thought a mad man did it, later they junked the idea.
If two men committed the heinous crime, the police theorized, then it was a planned criminal act. The timing of the grenade-throwing with the display of the fireworks indicated planning. The type of the grenades used, used for combat in Vietnam, and the way the grenades were thrown showed that the criminals were professionals, doing a professional job.
Meanwhile, media men, after a round of hospitals, sped to Malacañang where they were met by the First Lady, who reportedly showed them a report of a certain disgruntled major who said that something bad was going to happen that night. At that time, the President was closeted in his study room, preparing a statement on the Plaza Miranda tragedy. Little did anyone know that Marcos was readying the ground preparatory to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
When pandemonium broke loose at Plaza Miranda, American Ambassador Henry Byroade was in his bedroom about to retire. His staff rang him up to inform him of the incident. Meanwhile Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had attended a party at the Jai Alai, was on the way home to get his bullet-proof vest. He was scheduled to speak at the meeting at about two o’clock the following morning. On the way home, Aquino heard the tragic news on the radio. He sped home, grabbed a pistol, put on his bullet-proof vest and a combat jacket on top of it, then told his driver to take him to the hospitals where his wounded colleagues were confined. Aquino went up the Medical Center Manila, pistol in hand. Interviewed on the air, Aquino said that he hoped the criminal or criminals behind the Plaza Miranda carnage were mad men or demented persons because otherwise the Plaza Miranda crime meant the death of democracy.
For others throughout the country, it was a sleepless night. Lights were on in many homes in Greater Manila. People stayed glued to their radio or TV sets, listening to the latest developments. Salonga and Osmeña were on the critical list, Pendatun and Eva Estrada were already pronounced out of danger. Radio reports captured the screams and agonized cries of victims in emergency wards.
Of the LP senatorial candidates, Salonga got it worst of all. He had no time to run after the first blast. The second one caught him sitting down, with the grenade going off only a few meters away. Salonga’s left cheek was shattered and a shrapnel imbedded itself in his left eye. His right arm was broken, with three of his fingers cut off. Shrapnel went through his left leg. All told, Salonga suffered some 30 wounds of various sizes and depths all over his body.
Senator Osmeña, too, was critically wounded. After the first blast, Osmeña turned around to duck, but the second blast came too soon and he suffered wounds in the back and the left arm. Shrapnel went right through Serging’s lungs. He was bleeding profusely when his aides picked him up. Upon arrival at the hospital, Osmeña’s heart stopped. The doctors had to massage his heart to revive him.
Singson, who sat beside Salonga, was lucky. When John Osmeña embraced him, he fell; John got most of the shrapnel from the grenade blast.
After the first blast, Ilarde tried to sprint for safety but the succeeding blast caught him in the leg and he fell unconscious. Mrs. Kalaw dove for the floor but shrapnel hit her right ankle and another got imbedded in her back.
Of the Manila local candidates, Councilor Ambrosio Lorenzo got it worst. The first blast came while he was on the way to his seat. The second blast hit him while he was trying to find out what hit him and he fell on the stage floor. Shrapnel saturated his body; one hit his left eye. As of this writing, Lorenzo, like Salonga, is still fighting for his life. A police major picked him up sprawled on the floor, stunned and bleeding.
Manila LP mayoralty candidate Bagatsing was hit on the left cheekbone and in the right heel. He also suffered several shrapnel wounds in his left side and back. He was under sedation for three days. His doctors have taken him off the danger list.
Other Manila local candidates were luckier—they had gone back to their seats about three rows behind when the first blast came.
National shock followed the Plaza Miranda bombings.
The question uppermost in the minds of the people was, of course: Who committed the crime?
Some blamed student activists; others, lunatics. President Marcos was quick to put up the blame on “subversives” who received “moral and material support from a foreign source, guided and directed by a well-trained, determined and ruthless group.”
Later, Marcos charged Senator Aquino with coddling and financing the “subversives.” The Marcos blast against Aquino created suspicion that Aquino might be behind the Plaza Miranda tragedy but people refused to believe in the innuendoes against Aquino. If Aquino had known what was going to happen on Plaza Miranda that night, he would surely have tipped off Senator Kalaw, who is his first-degree cousin.
In an interview, Senator Kalaw denounced the President for shifting the blame for the Plaza Miranda outrage to Aquino. The President’s move, she said, worked to deflect attention from the real perpetrators of the crime. A social work expert, Kalaw could not understand why Marcos was more concerned over shifting the blame to Aquino than looking for the real criminals. The President’s actuations, said Kalaw, were simply not fitting for the President, who should act as the father of the nation and not like Marcos.
Former Congressman Singson argued against the possibility that the Huks or the New People’s Army was behind the Plaza Miranda massacre. The revolutionaries, he said, anchor their hope of reforms on the Opposition. If they wiped out the Opposition, they would be doing a disservice to their cause. It just doesn’t stand to reason!
But whoever are the perpetrators of the horrible crime at Plaza Miranda, they have done a professional job. Which means that an intelligent mind was behind it. Climaco theorizes that two trained teams undertook the Plaza Miranda bombings. The two grenade throwers, he said, were encircled by their accomplices to give them elbow room to hurl the grenades. In other words, he said, the Plaza Miranda crime was the result of a team effort.
As of this writing, the Manila police are still in the dark as to identities of the Plaza Miranda criminals. But whoever and wherever they are now, the death of nine innocent persons and the injury to 96 others will haunt their conscience for as long as they live—if they have any conscience at all. They not only killed nine of their countrymen and wounded close to a hundred others, but also inflicted an irreparable injury on Philippine democracy.
It will take a long time before Plaza Miranda, the symbol of free expression, will be as it used to be. No one will ascend the Plaza Miranda stage again without fearing for his life. How much of the militancy, the courage, the national pride and the spirit of the Filipino people have gone that Black Saturday at Plaza Miranda?