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August 30, 1998
The National Centennial: Who cares?
Filipinos will have nothing to celebrate but every reason to curse the government for yet another great waste of taxpayers’ money
by Manuel L. Quezon III
ITS logo can be seen everywhere: a stylized red, white and blue ribbon forming the number 100, surmounted by three gold stars and bearing the legend “Freedom, wealth of the nation” underneath. You can see this logo emblazoned on the aircraft of Philippine airlines, on vanity license plates, on stickers and in advertisements on television and newspapers.
The logo is that of the National Centennial, which Filipinos will be celebrating in 1998. Well, some people in government at the very least.
The Centennial and the patriotic events leading up to it are the concerns of the National Centennial Commission, headed by Salvador H. Laurel, an honest and decent man who, obviously, is not much of an executive. The commission over which he presides with well-meaning good humor is attached to the Office of the President. In keeping with the nature of the administration under which it was created, and to whose largesse it owes its existence, the centennial commission has found itself the subject of criticism for such things us fact-finding missions to observe the Tournament of Roses parade in the United States, for saying some very nice things that are then made a mockery of by its actions, and for generally allowing itself to be dragged into controversies as a result of the President’s tendency to unilaterally announce hare-brained schemes without warning his subordinates that they should expect some heat. In other words, the centennial commission is a characteristically Philippines 2000 institution, headed by people who have their hearts in the right place but who end up befuddled by the shady politicking that swirls around the administration.
The vague nature of the centennial commission’s mandate is at the root of the impression many people have that Laurel’s agency is adrift, and thus incapable of focusing its energies, much less mustering the popular support needed to make the Centennial meaningful.
Laurel’s commission is supposed to come up with programs and events to commemorate the Centennial. But what the Centennial actually is remains unclear. At first, sensibly enough, the commission said that the Centennial, which will take place on June 12, 1998, is no less than the hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence from a window of the Aguinaldo mansion in Kawit, Cavite.
Sounds clear enough. But every Independence Day since the creation of the commission—that is, the five June 12th’s celebrated since President Ramos took his oath of office—featured enormous placards and billboards proclaiming that June 12th to be the 94th, 95th, 97th, 98th, or 99th anniversary of independence.
Now there is very clearly a difference between commemorating the anniversary of the proclamation of independence and observing the anniversary of actual independence. The first is the anniversary of the particular moment in time when, with flags waving, bands playing and people cheering, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed that the Philippines and the Filipinos were, and ought to be, free. The second is the ritual commemoration of a reality that began at a certain point and has continued existing up to the present without interruption.
So which is it? Will we, in 1998, be commemorating the proclamation of our nation’s freedom, or will we be joyously celebrating four generations’ worth of emancipation from colonial rule?
To commemorate the former would be justified and grand; to commemorate the latter would be a self-induced deception and a lie. And yet, after the simple and lucid definition of purpose made when Laurel’s commission was created, it has done nothing to clarify this issue.
And this issue is vital. If the commission cannot even figure out its true mandate, how can the nation be expected to have a sense of purpose? A nation and a people should not be made to expend their energies in a nationwide fiesta celebrating an ambiguous state of affairs. One doesn’t need a degree in Philippine history to realize that our country has been independent for only two generations, that is, since July 4, 1946. In fact, a serious case could be made for dating our independence to an event as recent as the removal of the US bases. To assert that we have enjoyed the blessings of freedom uninterruptedly since 1898 is to go against the experience of the generation that fought the Japanese in anticipation of the independence promised—and fulfilled—in 1946. A generation whose members are still very much around to challenge any claims to a century of freedom.
There’s more. Apparently unsure of its true purpose, lacking the will to grapple with the problem, content with trying to please everyone and thus alienating almost everyone, the commission has spent the past five years on the defensive, trying to wriggle out of controversies instead of taking up the initiative. It has devoted its time to planning colorful events that have fallen flat because they were extravaganzas without a crucial component: the Filipino people.
With less than a year to go before the grand finale of the Centennial effort, it would be useful to look into the other reasons why the Centennial effort has been an unqualified flop.
The master plan hinged on the commemoration of a series of events, particularly the centennial of the beginning of the Philippine Revolution and the martyrdom of Rizal.
In both of these great anniversaries, the commission immediately handicapped itself by placing too much importance on the descendants of those who participated in the Philippine Revolution, among them the relatives of Rizal and ardent Rizalists. Not that the descendants of our freedom fighters should have been ignored; far from it. It is both necessary and proper that their patriotic legacies should be honored. But in settling for organizing reunions among the families that formed Kaanak and similar organizations, the commission set itself up in a position for which it was manifestly unqualified: arbiter among the factions that started to squabble over star billing in the Centennial celebrations.
The descendants of the Katipuneros from Tondo began to fight with the descendants of the fighters from Cavite; Magdiwang and Magdalo divisions sprang up once more with a ferocity intensified by a century of familial resentments. The commission, sensibly enough for a body tasked with focusing its attention on the proclamation of independence at Cavite, featured a number of descendants and sympathizers of Emilio Aguinaldo. Only to find itself being taken to task by admirers and relatives of Andres Bonifacio. To complicate things further, contending ideological points of view that have already been boiling since the 1960s, the last time the nation focused its attention on the revolutionary heroes, come to the forefront once more. The commission accused of being cozy club of ilustrados who were pointedly playing down the importance of the proletarian revolution led by Bonifacio.
The enormous amount of energy and media attention focused on these intramurals diverted attention from the fact that other than the Aguinaldistas and Bonifacionistas, the Caviteños and the Department of History of the University of the Philippines, no one else seemed to give a damn about what was going on. This marked the derailment of the Centennial effort from what should have been its primary purpose: to excite the majority of Filipinos who cannot trace their family trees to a veteran of the Revolution so that they will be inspired to proclaim that while they may not be able to trace an ancestor to the fight for freedom, they are prepared to exult in the fact that they are around today to enjoy that freedom.
In yet another example of how close the commission came to fulfilling its greatest task—only to swerve away from it—it got as far as proclaiming 1996, the year in which Bonifacio’s revolt and Rizal’s sacrifice were commemorated, the “Year of Filipino Heroes.” This took the spotlight away from personalities and finally gave recognition to the legions of heroes whose names have been lost to us. The commission’s lack of focus made the proclamation an empty slogan.
To make things even worse, the commission ended up holding the bag for the President, who decided he wanted a tower erected in Rizal Park ostensibly in commemoration of the Centennial but actually to glorify his incumbency. The resulting furor from artistic circles, gleefully echoed by the media, alienated the commission further from the very people in the best position to help it achieve its aims. Things went downhill from there. A convocation of scholars from around the world was held in Manila to tackle the significance of the Philippine Revolution. It ended up being a convention of Rizalists who delivered papers on every subject conceivable, except on the Philippine Revolution, and, most of all, Andres Bonifacio. Which further alienated the groups already convinced that the August 1896 anniversary was deliberately being turned into a nonevent, a suspicion confirmed on the centennial of the start of the Revolution when the deputy prime minister of Malaysia was made a Knight of Rizal in an official, face-saving gesture to make up for the embarrassment inflicted by Malaysia when it convened a conference on Rizal ahead of the Philippines.
Creating a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Knights of Rizal was the least the admirers of our national hero and the government could do to thank Malaysia for its friendly interest. But it was absolutely the worst thing anyone could do as far as slighting the admirers of Bonifacio was concerned. The commission became a party to this highly undiplomatic act undertaken in the name of diplomacy, which achieved nothing internationally while making enemies of a significant section of the already small number of people who cared about the Centennial in the first place.
The commemoration of the martyrdom of Rizal was accomplished with a little more success and less bruised feelings, something owed to the long-standing cohesiveness of the admirers of Rizal than to any effort of the government, whose single strike of genius was to put the ceremonies under the direction of Zeneida Amador, who managed to pull off a moving reenactment of Rizal’s final moments.
Since the storm and stress of 1996, things have been quiet, almost comatose, as far as the Centennial front is concerned. The most newsworthy Centennial-related event was a negative one—a tongue-lashing from a fuming Ramos offended by the apathy of the tiny audience that listened to his proclamation of the Centennial theme for this year. (What’s the theme for 1997? Can anyone remember? Anyone?) A presidential scolding that Laurel mercifully missed because he was out of the country.
The good news this year is courtesy of the Armed Forces, which raised the funds for the purchase of the house where the Tejeros Convention took place. The happy event was negated, however, by the scandal associated with the “restoration” of the Malolos Cathedral.
Patriotism and nationalism cannot be conjured from people’s hearts at the drop of a hat. All the balloons and brass bands in the world will never be able to evoke feelings of pride in one’s country, of solemn appreciation for the long and bloody history of our struggle for freedom. A people must understand that a nation’s history, like our lives is a combination of the sacred and the profane, the noble and disgraceful, the silly and the sublime. Instead of fostering understanding and an appreciation of our past and its contradictions and unifying themes, what was sown was division and discord. Instead of reaping public support, the commission has found itself subjected to derision and active opposition. It has provoked discord among intellectuals and factions, without achieving the mobilization of the majority of citizens as part of the effort to render homage to our heroes.
Saddest of all, all along it has meant well.
The hollowness, the emptiness of the Centennial effort is best demonstrated by an event that was reported to have taken place recently when a new monument to Andres Bonifacio was unveiled in Manila.
A few news reports mentioned that during the unveiling ceremonies, the descendants of Andres Bonifacio and the descendants of Emilio Aguinaldo came forward and publicly declared that they were putting an end to the animosity and resentment between their two clans as a consequence of the execution of the Supremo. And that they were calling on all their friends to forgive and forget in the name of national unity.
This declaration should have been an occasion for national rejoicing. In another era, it would have been reason for a Te Deum to be sung at the cathedral. For the declaration marked one of the noblest, most admirable, and meaningful events of the Centennial period.
And yet, no further mention of it was made in the papers. NO effort was made to propagate this joyful news in the media. The commission did not say a word.
Why not? Because the event took place at a ceremony under the auspices of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim? Perhaps. A pathetic, petty reason, if true. Reason enough to understand why the Filipino people will not be filled with pride and awe on June 12, 1998. What will they have to celebrate? Pomp and circumstance at a scandalous cost, of no relevance to themselves and their loved ones, and of no consequence for a country that will be witnessing one more example of official extravagance.
To understand why no one cares about the Centennial is to understand why no one cares about the government, save those who directly benefit from it. It does not belong to the people. It belongs to a different world that feeds off us.
The reader may be tempted to ask, at the end of this catalogue of lost opportunities and squandered resources, if such an analysis isn’t counterproductive, leading to a feeling of cynicism that does nothing to salvage what must surely be one remaining opportunity to sort things out in time for the Centennial.
The answer would be: It is precisely to try to salvage something out of this sad state of affairs that harsh criticism such as this need to be made in public.
If it is important—and most people will agree it is important—to commemorate the anniversary of the proclamation of our independence, on the eve of the birth of the Malolos Republic, then we cannot leave such an important event in the hands of elected officials. It would be as futile as waiting for reforms from Spain in the time of the Propagandists. It is up to ourselves to make the Centennial meaningful just as it was up to ourselves to wrest our freedom from Spain and cajole it back from the hands of the Americans.
The Centennial of the beginning of our Revolution against Spain (which, incidentally, was the centennial of our first declaration of independence, reiterated in Kawit two years later) resulted in a marvelous musical, 1896, staged by Peta and which owed nothing to official support. It was a triumph in all respects, and lifted the hearts of the young and old, without glossing over the more sordid aspects of our freedom struggle. Watching it, one experienced in an hour and a half the exhilaration, the tearful pride, the compassion, the joy, anger and resolve that well all should feel when we think of the Revolution and the Centennial Feelings made possible by the songs and acting of a small group of young men and women. One saw what a true love for our past combined with dedication to make it mean something for people here, today, could accomplish.
So let those whose hearts and minds are in the right place take over. Stop waiting for the parade. Seek those who are doing the things that count and make people think.
As for the National Centennial Commission, its only legacy to us, besides the millions of pesos in taxpayers’ money wasted on its account, will be a concrete and ignoble one: the alteration of our flag.
On flagpoles everywhere, a new and different flag is masquerading as the emblem of our country. The color of its blue stripe is a neither-here-nor-there shade of blue lighter than that of the flag that three generations had honored; its red stripe is different, too. The proportions of the white triangle, with its sun and three stars, however, continue to be those of the flag specified by executive order during the Commonwealth, making this new flag neither a restoration of the slightly different proportions of the flag raised at Kawit nor a complete abolition of the flag we all know. These, without any enabling law, without public consultations, without even bothering to inform the very people who swear allegiance to it every morning.
The bastardized flag may owe something to the flag that went down in defeat under Aguinaldo, but it also harks back to the same flag raised at the inauguration of the Puppet Republic in 1943, and a variation of which was inflicted on a subjugated nation under Marcos. A flag dishonored through association, and whose legitimacy was long supplanted by the flag Filipinos fought for in Bataan, raised in triumph in 1946, borne at Ninoy Aquino’s funeral, waved at EDSA, and finally raised over the former US bases in 1992.
This is not the sort of legacy Salvador H. Laurel should want to leave us.
The Anatomy of Loyalty
By Edward R. Kiunisala
August 27, 1988–WHEN word reached them that Malacañang was under attack, they both jumped out of bed, made a few quick phone calls and, assured of the President’s safety, decided to report to the besieged Palace in that unholy pre-dawn hour. Bound by a common commitment and loyalty, two different persons, acting independently of each other, came up with the identical response and decision at a time of grave national crisis.
On their separate routes, unmindful of the risks involved, each went out to check up on government facilities and to monitor what was going on. Before daybreak, they were at their respective desks in Malacañang, carrying out the orders of the President.
Beyond the Call of Duty
They could have opted to play it safe, to discharge their duties by remote control: they chose to be where their leader was. Their response to the national emergency was above and beyond the call of duty. It was no gung-ho, derring-do feat; they acted simply from an unwavering sense of duty.
Of the 24 Cabinet members, only Joker Arroyo and Teodoro Locsin, Jr., were at the side of the embattled President during the most crucial moments of the bloody August 28 Honasan mutiny. National Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto could not be reached during the early hours of the coup. Other Cabinet members, called to an emergency meeting at 5:00 a.m., could not come.
“We die at our post,” said Arroyo.
Worse, the hotline to the Armed Forces chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos, who had earlier rushed to Camp Crame, was dead. Meanwhile, rebel forces had already penetrated Camp Aguinaldo and Villamor Airbase and taken over two television stations, Channels 9 and 13, while surrounding Channels 2 and 4. Rebels were reported to have also taken over the military camps in Pampanga, Legaspi City and Cebu.
In Metro Manila CAPCOM forces simply remained in their barracks, awaiting orders from high military command which had been immobilized by Honasan forces in Camp Aguinaldo. But for the timely arrival in Malacañang of a combat-ready brigade of marines and the prompt mobilization of the Manila police under General Alfredo Lim, the situation in the capital region looked bleak. The rebel forces seemed to have the upper hand.
Although the President had gone on the air early on to assure everyone that the government was on top of the situation, the people remained worried, especially when Channels 2 and 4 suddenly went off the air. The people’s apprehension heightened when Honasan himself cockily fielded questions from media even as the rebel-held Channel 13 telecast rebels’ claims of sure victory.
Some radio broadcasters readily sided with Honasan as they painted a grim picture of the government under siege.
Crush the Coup!
Another would have already capitulated or fled. But in her 18-month-old regime, Cory had seen enough of military mutinies and coup attempts—four, to be exact,—to be easily intimidated by another one. Determined to stay in Malacañang at all cost she assumed total command with only Arroyo and Locsin serving as her adjutants. Her iron will surfaced in the decision to crush the coup at once.
It was no impulsive judgement, but she had learned from the lessons of the February Revolution. Cory wanted to avoid the two big mistakes that led to the quick downfall of Marcos: loss of will to act immediately; and desertion of his post. The so-called “most decorated Filipino soldier of World War II” lost the biggest battle of his life because of failure of nerve.
President Aquino’s nerve didn’t fail her in the bloodiest ordeal of her 18-month-old administration. She knew that protracted negotiation could touch off an avalanche of defection. Her strategy was to bring the situation to a head, knowing as she did that the main bulk of the military, by training and tradition, would remain loyal to the flag unless forced by circumstances to defect.
Thus when Locsin motored to the “battle zone” to establish a direct line between Camp Aguinaldo and Malacañang, he knew exactly what to do: convey to the Chief-of-Staff the President’s orders as clearly and emphatically as possible. The rebels, led by Colonel Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, in Camp Aguinaldo, were to be crushed pronto! The President herself, in a telephone connection arranged by Locsin, verbally confirmed the order to General Ramos.
When the execution of the Malacañang order got delayed, Locsin minced no words: time was of the essence! A professional soldier, Ramos probably didn’t want to go half-cocked, knowing he didn’t have sufficient back-up troops to sustain an all-out attack. He might have even doubted that the soldiers around him would obey his order to attack the rebels they considered their brothers-in-arms.
But Locsin was only too well aware of the consequences of inaction and delay. Time was on the side of the rebels. Inaction could be taken as weakness, a situation that could trigger mass defection to the side perceived to be winning. He feared that if the government military forces held their fire longer, Honasan would gain more adherents—even from Camp Crame itself. Smelling defection, Locsin could only shake his head, muttering aloud to himself, “Somebody is going to get demoted for this.”
There were other instances that caused Locsin’s blood pressure to shoot up. One such case concerned five Metro Manila radio stations which aired materials that, in Locsin’s view, constituted a clear case of treasonous disinformation. The presidential counsel contacted the National Telecommunications Commission to get those stations off the air. The commission immediately complied, except in the case of DZRH, which it allowed to continue operating upon the intercession allegedly of Sen. Agapito “Butz” Aquino and National Press Club president Art Borjal.
But what really raised Locsin’s hackles was the case of Channel 13, which had been seized by rebel forces, along with Channel 9. Locsin wanted the military to retake both stations or knock off their transmitters to prevent the rebels from telecasting anti-government stuff. What the military did was cut off the Meralco power supply of those two channels—forgetting that they had back-up generators.
What Locsin feared, happened. Channel 13 went on the air, showing in portrait fashion a group of rebels in full battle gear, with their spokesman, a certain Lieutenant Mendoza, claiming widespread military support and predicting final victory before the end of that day. Worse, Channel 7, left unmolested by the rebels, took it upon itself to tape the rebel telecast and to replay it immediately, giving the impression that the Honasan forces were in control.
The presidential counsel hit the roof. He picked up a telephone and asked for the Presidential Security Group. Within earshot of General Ramos and other high-ranking military officers, he told the other end of the line to get “some of your people” to bomb Channel 13 “because nothing is moving from this end.” That form of reverse psychology worked. The military eventually managed to put Channel 13 off the air—without having to bomb it.
If Channel 13 remained in rebel hands and continued to air pro-Honasan propaganda, the government would have found itself in great trouble. It would have caused more confusion not only in the military but also among the public, and created a bandwagon effect in favor of the Honasan mutiny. During the February Revolution, control of television stations by the anti-Marcos forces was vital in demoralizing the Marcos camp, loosening his grip on power.
Key Word: Action
In this light, Locsin’s publicly perceived impetuosity vis-à-vis the Channel 13 case was only a logical reaction to a clear and present danger to the Republic. Although it meant sailing too close to the wind, it helped preserve the integrity of the State. It would be plain stupid just to wait and be clobbered by one’s enemies without hitting back.
If the nation is to survive, it must be ready to use all means available to protect itself. It cannot afford to be negligent, squeamish or wishy-washy. That is the natural law of survival and those who ignore it will live to regret it, if they live at all. The iron rule in emergency situations, according to Henry Kissinger, is: “Whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.” The key word is action.
That is the message of the Locsin behavior, which some media practitioners and professional critics completely missed. It is the message that Arroyo wanted to underscore when he wondered aloud why it took the military about 16 hours to quell the mutiny of a small band of rebels. Like Locsin, Arroyo was bothered by the military’s hesitation to obey the Commander-in-Chief’s order to attack.
The roles that Arroyo and Locsin played that August 28 became Metro Manila’s liveliest conversation piece for quite some time. While they eventually reaped more praise than criticism, their detractors obtained more mileage, coming as they did from the more influential and vociferous gentry, which included prelates, politicians, press people, businessmen and some members of the military. It was a masterfully orchestrated propaganda blitz to discredit the two whose no-nonsense, abrasive style had kept the hyenas, jackals and wolves away from the doors of Malacañang.
Arroyo and Locsin, who had stuck it out with the President, were being made to appear like heels, while the rebels who wanted to grab power, killing and wounding hundreds, were hailed as heroes. For obeying the President, they were charged with interfering in military operations, as if the Commander-in-Chief had no right to tell the military what to do.
Lamented Arroyo: “We should have rejoiced after winning, but suddenly, Teddyboy and myself were being treated like Gringo, as if we did the damage.”
In an appearance before a jampacked Congress, Arroyo brilliantly defended his and Locsin’s action during the Honasan coup as he put his critics to shame for wanting “to make decisions for us.” Then he started dropping bombs. To an overwhelmingly appreciative gallery, Arroyo and Locsin were heroes of the hour. It was Arroyo’s finest hour as he scored the greatest political performance of his life.
The first targets were three businessmen linked with the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference. Arroyo charged the trio with “treason of the highest order,” as he damned businessmen who wanted to take advantage of the country’s financial conditions to gain more economic power.
Arroyo then went on to deal with Vice President Salvador Laurel, Finance Secretary Jaime Ongpin and AFP spokesman Col. Honesto Isleta. He accused Laurel of “fomenting” trouble in the military, blamed Ongpin for the Planters Products fiasco, and dubbed Isleta as the Goebbels of the military establishment. Arroyo minced no words.
During interpellation, Arroyo took on a number of congressmen who wanted to test his mettle. One by one they fell as he demolished them by sheer force of logic. But that was to be Arroyo’s valedictory. The President accepted his resignation, along with Locsin’s, Ongpin’s and Laurel’s. Like a good soldier, Arroyo was ready to go.
But while the President accepted the resignations of Laurel and Ongpin with no more than a courtesy “regret,” she praised Arroyo to the skies and retained the services of Locsin as consultant, not to mention chief speechwriter. To let go of a long-time friend and defender must have been extremely difficult decision for the President to make but it had to be made in the interest of unity of the Cabinet.
The Green-eyed Monster
The enemies of Arroyo and Locsin did not surface all at one time. Some had been friends and allies in the struggle against the dictatorship. But somehow things changed right after Cory Aquino assumed power, especially after Arroyo and Locsin emerged as her closest advisers. But what really got some people angry with Arroyo and Locsin was that they were beyond manipulation or corruption.
There were other reasons that fueled the antagonism of their enemies: 1) envy; 2) differences in political perceptions; 3) variance in ethical principles; 4) contrast in styles. While some of the causes were peripheral, others were too fundamental to be glossed over. They touched the very basic issue of quality in the public service.
But first, let’s discuss cause number one: envy, the most common wrecker of human relations. Envy is the resentment one feels because someone else possesses or has achieved what one wishes to possess to have achieved.
In the case of Arroyo and Locsin, they were perceived to posses, or to have achieved, something enviable: the President’s respect and admiration and the distinction of being considered her closest advisers. No other Cabinet member enjoyed such rapport with the President.
More than rapport, Arroyo and Locsin also had the full trust and confidence of the President, who reportedly gave more weight to their counsel than to that of others. What’s more, they wielded not only the powers inherent in their offices but also those delegated by the President. In her foreign travels, she would bring Locsin along with her to top-level conferences not accessible to other Cabinet members, while leaving Arroyo behind to take charge of the government in her absence.
One of the saddest things about envy, says Karl Olsson, a noted thinker, is its smallness. To be envious, he points out, is to turn eternally like a caged rat within the tight radius of malice, an evil intent to injure others. Olsson believes that the biggest obstruction to a successful team effort is envy.
Now to the basic differences in political perceptions. Arroyo and Locsin, though highly politicized, are non-politicians. They owed no allegiance to any political party and entertained no ambitions to any elective office. They seemed obsessed with the idea of restoring politics as the science of good government, not as an art of plotting and scheming and wheeling and dealing for personal power, glory and fortune.
While Arroyo, a human rights lawyer, is considered a leftist, and Locsin, a corporate lawyer, is believed to be a rightist, they are really both within the centrist fold.
They are intense believers in republicanism, while harboring deep-seated distrust of militarism, a condition that led many to suspect that they were anti-military. As technocrats, they were drawn to problems and issues rather than to rankings and personalities. They belonged to that rare breed of public servants who go about their tasks without fear, favor or fanfare. Playing ball with power brokers, influence peddlers and get-rich-quick schemers violated their sense of honor.
They were, therefore, both an enigma and an obstruction to traditional politicians.
Then there is the variance of ethical principles. The norms of political conduct of Arroyo and Locsin vary from those of traditional politicians. The duo embrace an ethic founded on the Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not steal. With emphasis on the value of honesty, probity and integrity, they eschew the politics of accommodation as demonstrated in the common practice of scratching one another’s back.
Despite tremendous temptations that came with their territory, they remained upright and incorruptible in office. No one could accuse them of hanky-panky in the 18 months that they held power. While graft and corruption continued to bedevil the Aquino administration, they succeeded in keeping their noses clean. Honesty is the best policy; it is also, a dangerous policy. It is discouraging to think, says Noel Coward, how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. So rare a commodity is honesty that people don’t easily believe it even if it’s staring them in the face.
At work, such people as Arroyo and Locsin are not usually fun to be with. They look for perfection in others as they demand it from themselves. Worse, they are not likely to hide their feelings or sweeten their language. Popularity means little to them. Consequently, they are often perceived as arrogant, discourteous, belligerent.
Thus, when Senator Ernesto Maceda and Congressman Emigdio Tanjuatco took the Cabinet to task, making a dig at Arroyo and Locsin, the latter promptly countered by telling the two solons “to keep their sticky fingers to themselves.” Arroyo hit back by describing some congressmen as “the best argument for birth control.”
To demagogues, such a style is outrageous because it leaves very little room for bargaining, the principal source of political power. The politician is powerful because of his role as patron of his bailiwick, the dispenser of largesse, like contracts, jobs, franchises, permits, grants, etc. If he loses his bargaining power, he loses his hold on his followers.
Honest officials are naturally on a collision course with some traditional politicians. Honesty, sincerity and uprightness in public service pose a real threat to demagoguery. But honest public officials, of course, constitute only a small minority in the government.
Said Shakespeare: “To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one picked out of ten thousand.”
Although they had done their duty as best they could, Arroyo and Locsin knew that “as this world goes,” their services were expendable, that in the business of running a government, choices are not limited to black and white, but include many shades of color in-between. Their loyalty to the President was unequivocal: They trusted her as much as she trusted them. When the President finally made her decision, Arroyo and Locsin understood.
What’s with Doy?
Only a heartbeat away from the Presidency, the Vice-President is disliked if not despised by the press which either damns him outright or damns itself by silence over his questionable acts. Worse, even his friends . . .
October 3, 1987–YET he had yielded in favor of Cory as presidential candidate of the opposition then and agreed to be second to her. The Presidency had been Doy’s life ambition. His father was President, albeit only by appointment by the Japanese invaders in World War II, and faced trial for treasonable collaboration with the enemy after the war. (Together with Claro M. Recto, who had served as secretary of foreign affairs, and Benigno Aquino, Sr., who was Speaker in the made-in-Japan government.) Lorenzo Tañada headed the People’s Court that would have tried them — but for the grant of amnesty by then Pres. Manuel Roxas. Laurel Sr. went on to run for President against then Pres. Elpidio Quirino and would have won and been a truly elected President of the Republic if he had not been so grossly cheated in that 1949 election by the First Great Ilocano’s political gang.
What his father was cheated of, Doy would win and be President — despite the predictable resort by the Worst Ilocano to mass vote-buying (with billions from the Jobo-headed Central Bank) plus fraud (with his Commission on Fake Elections) and, of course, plain terrorism — as events bloodily proved. He, Doy, should be the opposition’s presidential candidate, not Cory, a “mere housewife”. Didn’t his UNIDO pit candidates for the Batasan against the Dictator’s candidates and win — yes, not many seats but at least some? Pit a politician against a politician.
But all but Doy — at least initially—could see that he could not win against Marcos. He was the “ideal” candidate of the opposition as far as the Dictator was concerned. He could lick Doy—even in a clean election, he was assured — by his cohorts and himself. In the end, sense prevailed and Doy agreed to run for Vice-President to Cory’s President. And won with her.
Or, to be precise, lost with her. Marcos was proclaimed duly reelected President and his runningmate, Arturo Tolentino, elected Vice President, after a scandalously false count of votes by his Commission on Fake Elections, by the bats (political birds that flew in the night) in his Batasan. Marcos was still President — under his fake Constitution. (One never approved by the people in a plebiscite as it provides before it could become The Law.) Under that charter — under which Cory and Doy had run — they had both lost.
But they won just the same after the People Revolution of Cory’s faithful proclaimed her the truly elected President of the Philippines — and Doy the Vice-President. It was not by virtue of Marcos’s Constitution that Cory assumed the Presidency and Doy the Vice-Presidency but by the Will of the People. As expressed in an unprecedented revolution — one not stained by blood.
And that Will was expressed again in the February plebiscite that ratified her Constitution—replacing the Freedom Constitution which was also hers. More than two-thirds of the electorate voted for the charter, not because they had read it — most did not bother — but because it was hers. And the Will was reaffirmed in the May congressional election in which 22 out of 24 senatorial candidates came out as winners — mainly because they were her candidates. Most of the voters did not know most of the winning senatorial candidates administration from Adam. One won despite what people knew or thought of him — because he was Cory’s candidate.
Corazon C. Aquino is the elected President of the Philippines and Salvador Laurel the Vice President — by the Will of the Filipino People, not by virtue of the Marcos fake Constitution but by the People Power revolution and the overwhelming reaffirmation of confidence in her presidency in the February plebiscite and May election this year.
For his political collaboration with Cory, Doy was rewarded with the position of premier, which went out of existence with the Batasan under the Freedom Constitution, and secretary of foreign affairs. Under the American system, the Vice-President is just a spare tire. He’s nobody until the President dies, naturally or by assassination, or becomes incompetent to discharge the duties of his office—or impeached, as Nixon nearly was because of Watergate, saving himself from that shameful rejection through resignation. Leaving with his tail between his hind legs, as then American President Johnson said the United States would never do in Vietnam. A terrific musical comedy of Pre-World War II vintage, Of Thee I Sing, with words and music by George and Ira Gershwin, had a bewildered man as Vice-President of the United States or candidate for that position. He didn’t want it. Maybe he was a nobody, but he did not want it to be made official. As it was, nobody could remember his name.
“Of thee I sing, baby . . .” went the song, but how could anybody sing the Vice-Presidential bet’s name if nobody knew it? Who he?
To compensate the American Vice-President for his sorry but expectant position in political life, he is designated presiding officer of the Senate, rescuing him from total anonymity. Such is George Bush, who has proven his fitness for removal from public memory by hailing Marcos’s “devotion to democratic principles” or such bull as that.
Not Made in Heaven
In the case of Doy, what now? That his political union with Cory was not made in heaven — of political ideas and principles — was made clear soon enough with his demand to be “parallel” President with her. He was elected as substitute if she died or was incapacitated, not co-equal. But Doy wanted to be President, of only on a half-and-half basis. Nothing doing, Cory soon made it clear to Doy.
Must Doy then wait for five years, until the 1992 presidential election, before he could be President? Sure, Cory has said she did not want reelection, and the new Constitution appears to ban that, but what if a million or more signatures were gathered calling for amendment of the charter to allow her to run for reelection? Even if she retired wearily into private life, could Doy be certain he would have her support in the presidential election? Would he be her candidate? How about the other presidential hopefuls in the ruling party she might like more than Doy? Does she like him more than any of the others? Why like him — after all the trouble or problem he has been causing her.
If Doy ran for President five years from now, how many would vote for him? The political field would be divided how many ways? Doy’s UNIDO would just be “one of those things” — those political things. And if Cory were to come out in support of a candidate other than Doy . . .
Cory has said nothing in the least derogatory to Doy. But the press has been giving him hell, not only righteously but with enjoyment, one gets the feeling. It is having fun with him — as he goes on making, in its opinion, a fool of himself.
When Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo was invited to speak before the House of Representatives on the political situation after the August 28 attack by AFP renegades on the government — a nearly successful one — Malaya headlined the Arroyo address thus:
“ARROYO HITS LAUREL, 3 TOP BUSINESSMEN
“Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo yesterday accused Vice-President Salvador H. Laurel and three prominent businessmen of destabilizing the Aquino government as he denied charges that he and Presidential Counsel Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. meddled in military operations during the failed Aug. 28 coup.”
How was Doy destabilizing, or trying to destabilize, the Aquino government? What would he have gained by it if he had succeeded?
Business World’s Ninez Cacho-Olivares, whose Cup of Tea has never been Doy, not even before the 1986 presidential and vice-presidential election, recalling then the long past services to Marcos of Doy and his brother Pepito and his father who got Marcos off the hook when he was tried for murder of his father’s political rival — Doy’s most dedicated nemesis in the press had this to say about Doy’s latest act:
“Irresponsibility at Its Height
“Vice-President Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel has belly-ached many a time to the media that he is being bypassed or that he is being ignored by Malacañang. The general perception is that he is ‘out’ of the decision-making process in the Guest House.
“And, indeed, in many instances, it does seem — as far as media reports go — that the President generally ignores her Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“But I know of no one who disapproves of the attitude the Palace officials have displayed towards Mr. Laurel. One even appreciates that Palace attitude, for Mr. Laurel has proven, through his recent actuations, to be an utterly irresponsible public official.
“Mr. Laurel was highly visible after the aborted coup, and has engaged in dialogs with officers and men of the AFP. He told all and sundry that he has been authorized by the President to hold dealings with the military to assess the soldiers’ grievances and complaints. Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo confirmed this, however, he pointed out that Mr. Laurel has not been authorized by the President to create a wedge between the military and the civilian government.
“And that is precisely what Mr. Laurel has done through the set of questions he posed before the soldiers. He added fuel to the fire when he asked the soldiers whether they wanted Arroyo and Locsin out of the Cabinet. He displays the height of irresponsibility when he, as the second highest official in the land, asks soldiers the question, ‘Should we remove the Communists in the government?’
“And for all his outrageous actuation, he reportedly said, ‘It is better to allow them to shout than to shoot,’ adding his dealings are very positive steps in addressing the grievances of soldiers. ‘It has helped to defuse an otherwise tense situation. This is because our soldiers have been made to feel that the Government is willing to listen to their grievances and to act on those that are legitimate and reasonable.’
“With a Vice-President like that, I dread the thought of his ever succeeding the President. What he had done, in my opinion, was to allow the soldiers who have been fed the disinformation that there are Communists in the Aquino Government to call the shots on the matter. The question presupposes that there are Communists in the Aquino Government and this smacks not only of irresponsibility but of malice. He has done the Aquino Government a disservice and really should be shown the door for his misdeed. It is evident that he wants certain Cabinet officials out, and he used that opportunity to boost the demand to oust these Cabinet officials and in the process, he succeeded in driving a deeper wedge between the military and the civilian government.
“Obviously, Vice-President Laurel was playing up to the soldiers and engaging in the same game Juan Ponce-Enrile played. He wanted to add fire to the anti-Communist hysteria being fanned by the mutineers and, at the same time, be identified as the soldiers’ defender and ally. But at whose expense? The President’s? The Government’s?
“The Vice-President was given a job to do by the President. He botched it, and he deserves to be out.”
And here is a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial — with cartoon yet:
“What is Laurel Really Up To?
“On Aug. 27 ranking officials of the so-called defense establishment and Vice-President Laurel met behind closed doors for two hours at the latter’s office. When they emerged out from that gathering, Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto, AFP chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, vice-chief of staff Lt. Gen. Renato de Villa and an official of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, refused to answer questions raised by reporters at the scene. For his part, the Vice-President said that he had merely been given a briefing on the peace and order situation.
“The day before that closed-door meeting, a widely successful protest against raised fuel prices had been staged. On that Thursday itself, the mass arrest of leaders of militant union and transport workers was underway. Conservative politicians and their reactionary spokesmen in media were agitating for even more draconian measures and a more thorough crackdown on ‘leftists.’ Reporters who caught the defense officials emerging out of Mr. Laurel’s office could not help suspect that something was afoot. Several hours later, Gregorio Honasan launched his bloody venture to unseat, if not actually murder, President Aquino.
“As the mutiny was in progress, nothing was heard from Mr. Laurel — highly uncharacteristic of a public figure who almost always has something to say about anything. Throughout that Friday morning foreigners, presumably Americans, were seen going in and out of his house. It was only in the afternoon, when the tide had turned clearly in the favor of the government, that the Vice-President became accessible and joined the indignant chorus of ruling-coalition politicians condemning the military rebellion. In the days that followed, Mr. Laurel would also join other conservatives both in and out of government in pressing Malacañang to look into the ‘causes’ of the rebellion. And as far as they were concerned these causes were the low pay of the soldiery and allegedly Communist advisers surrounding Mrs. Aquino. Strangely few of them demanded justice for the innocent victims of the rebellion. What in effect these conservatives were demanding was for the Aquino administration to give in to the mutineers’ demands — the very same demands that were delivered through the barrel of the gun.
“Over the past few days, Mr. Laurel has been making the rounds of military camps throughout the islands on a purported mission of ‘dialog’ (a much abused term, which as currently used, has no exact definition) with AFP servicemen. But from what we have been able to gather, the Vice-President has in fact only succeeded in agitating further the already restive soldiers. So what is Mr. Laurel really up to?
“Evidently, the Vice-President has some serious explaining to do, not only to his immediate superior, the President, but also to the people. His puzzling behavior immediately before, during and after the Aug. 28 mutiny has led observers to suspect that he is more involved in recent developments than he would care to make the public believe. Moreover, Mr. Laurel’s much-publicized links to an ultra-rightist international organization of modern-day witch hunters has not allayed the growing misgivings about him.”
And here is Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Hilarion M. Henares, Jr., who claims to be a friend of Doy’s, with the most searing indictment of his “friend”, making the enemies almost friendly:
“Sadly, Sadly . . . What Are We to Do With You, Doy?
“What’s wrong with this guy Doy Laurel?
“Volunteering to ‘survey’ the feelings of the Armed Forces, he harangues them with pointed leading questions—Do you want Cory to fire Joker? Teddyboy? Noel Soriano? Do you favor amnesty for Honasan?
“He never asked: Do you want Cory to fire Doy?
“He did this once before, you know, riding in on people’s pent-up emotions to promote his obvious ambitions for the presidency.
“Last year, in the reconciliation meeting between President Cory and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Doy Laurel spoke out of turn, saying that the only way to achieve reconciliation is to acquiesce in a ‘previous top level meeting’ — get rid of three Cabinet members, Aquilino Pimentel, Bobbit Sanchez and Joker Arroyo.
“Cardinal Sin denied he ever made such demands, and went into his chapel to pray for the soul of a fool.
“Ambassador Bosworth maintained a pained and stony silence, and wished he could stuff his shoes into the mouth of a fool.
“Doy Laurel just felt foolish.
“These days, the fool is ever the fool, a louse as he ever was.
“I have mutual friends with Doy than most people I know. I genuinely respect his father and brothers. In La Salle, he was the classmate of Ronnie Velasco, my brother, and many others—a class of machos where Doy is acknowledged to be the fastest with the mostest.
“If brother Teddy, the meanest cock in the Henares coop, takes his hat off to Doy, then Doy is IT, better than that high-spending tourist Tony Gonzalez.
“I asked our mutual friends, most of whom grew up with Doy, Will you vote for Doy? Silence and a vigorous shaking of the head.
“Why not? Silence and a shrug of the shoulder.
“Is Doy a thief, a crook? No . . .
“Is he ugly, repugnant, abominable? No . . .
“Is Doy an unmitigated liar? Not really . . .
“Is Doy a hypocrite, a scoundrel, a con-man? No . . .
“His smile that looks halfway between a snarl and a smirk? No, that’s the problem of his dentures . . .
“Then why wouldn’t you vote for him? I do not know . . . but I will be damned if I will vote for him.
“Now that is the eternal dilemma of Doy. If he only knew why his friends won’t vote for him, then perhaps he can do something about it.
“But he does not know, nobody knows, and that’s his problem.
“Well, I know the reason why, Doy. You have been a special study of mine for the last two years, and I know. And being your friend, I will tell you.
“I ran for the Senate at the same time you and Ninoy Aquino did. I lost while you and Ninoy won. Our mutual friends voted for you then, even if you were on the side of Marcos. You were terrific in the Senate, Doy, you were nationalistic . . . you exposed the secret protocols Carlos Romulo signed with the American ambassador.
“When I was chairman of the National Economic Council, I was approving all proposals of American firms for US guarantees against political risk in the Philippines. Imagine my chagrin when you exposed a secret agreement that bound the Philippine government to compensate the US government for losses arising from political risk! That Romulo!
“I admired you for that, Doy. You were okay, just like your papa and cuyas.
“Even during martial law, still allied with Marcos, at least you and your brothers maintained an independent posture, and in the end severed your connection with the dictator.
“You were still OK then, especially during the time of troubles after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
“I think you started to change when you entertained the notion of being nominated for president. That’s no sin, but when you began to kowtow to embassy officials and make pro-American noises in order to get the support of the CIA and neanderthal Americans, you took the fatal step to perdition.
“But you gloried in it — you hired an American Steve Thomas as security guard, and our friend Roger Davis as your publicity man, so people would think you were favored by the CIA.
“The change from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde occurred I believe when you announced during the crucial time we expected to be presented a Cory-Doy ticket, that the deal was off, and that come what may, you’d be a candidate for the presidency.
“You were never a viable candidate. You were being used by the Americans to extract a commitment from Cory on the American Bases, so Cory had to backtrack from ‘Bases out in 1992!’ to ‘I want to keep my options open.’ You were the cat’s paw, Doy, and you knew it.
“After the revolution, Doy, you became not only vice-president, but also prime minister and minister of foreign affairs—three powerful positions, Doy—while your colleagues in the Unido got nothing, except Orly Mercado who was appointed Rizal Park attendant. Your faithful Rene Espina gritted his teeth, acquired a couple more bags under his eyes, and bolted to the opposition.
“Then you came up with the idea of a Parallel Presidency, to have your own official line organization all the way down to the barangay level, that will allow you to exercise the powers of the presidency. Admit it, that was the idea of Bosworth and Kaplan, right?
“In effect you and your American friends implied that Cory as a housewife is not competent to be president, that you Salvador Laurel should take over the reins of government and assure the Americans of their bases and business monopolies.
“Fortunately, Cory Aquino is no fool, and her advisers no pushovers for the neanderthals.
“You struck out on that one, Doy.
“Poor Doy, even the lowest embassy employees do not respect you as foreign secretary. They totally bypass your office and directly deal with our highest officials, against all rules of protocol.
“Sadly, sadly, we ask Cory to relieve you of the foreign affairs portfolio.
“What are we to do with you, Doy?”
Even the Communists, whom one might think consider him a good argument for communism, don’t like Doy. Here goes a Malaya report:
“LAUREL ACCUSED OF ‘FOMENTING’ UNREST IN AFP
“Former rebel peace negotiator Satur Ocampo accused Vice-President Salvador Laurel of political grandstanding and fanning unrest within the already divided military . . .
“Commenting on Laurel’s visits to military camps last week, Ocampo, who went into hiding early this year following the collapse of peace negotiations with the Aquino government, said the Vice-President has been more concerned with projecting his political image than looking into the causes of unrest within the military.
“’What he is doing now is projecting himself, but at the same time creating unrest within the military.’”
But why should Doy be doing that?
Divide the AFP — so the Communists will win?
Make more AFP rebels against the Aquino government if their demands, as proclaimed by Doy, are not granted?
Among the demands of the officers and soldiers with whom Doy cuddled up during his military camp visits, is amnesty for Gringo Honasan and his followers in the attack against the government. This demand the government has made clear is totally unacceptable. Not only to the government but to the AFP top command. But Doy played it up — for all it was worth to him.
So, if the impossible demand and others of the same category are rejected, more of the AFP would defect to the rebel camp?
And help mount another attempt at a coup to overthrow the Aquino government?
Turning Cory into a ceremonial President if not killing her?
But who will head that government? That military junta? Enrile? If not Enrile, then Gringo? Why not Gringo — who laid his life on the line to seize power?
BUT SURE AS HELL, NOT DOY!
He just has to wait until Cory drops dead or becomes incompetent to discharge her duties as President. In which latter case, there might well be another attempt at a military coup and the next head of state would be anybody but Doy.
Doy will just have to wait until Cory dies—of natural death.
Last week, Doy tendered his irrevocable resignation as secretary of foreign affairs from the Aquino cabinet.
The President accepted it.
“Good!” many sighed in relief.
C’est la vie — political wise.
The Friday Coup, They Almost Won!
By Teodoro M. Locsin
September 19, 1987–THE most bizarre thing about the Friday coup was not that it took place, or that it was defeated, but that so many are blaming each other for what should be a joyful victory and a reason to reflect on why we continue to be threatened by mutinies and attempted coups.
Cowardly cabinet members complained to the President why decision-making was left in the hands of Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo and Presidential Counsel Teddy Boy Locsin, although both Arroyo and Locsin did not discuss what kind of response the Government should make to the coup but simply received orders from her to communicate her toughline to the Police and the AFP.
Terrified Cabinet Members Complain Why They Were Not Allowed to Quarterback Long Distance
One Cabinet member, who had recommended that Enrile be called in to GHQ Crame so he could talk Gringo into laying down his arms and forgive and forget, complained why the Cabinet Crisis Committee was preempted by Presidential Counsel Teddy Boy Locsin. He was told that the members of the Crisis Committee had been called by the President. But, this Cabinet member said, one could not expect the Committee members to show up in Malacañang with all the firing going on. This was at 5 in the morning, 2 ½ hours after the firefight when little children were playing in the streets, picking up empty shells.
62-Year-Old Protocol Officer Walks Calmly Into a Killing Field
Another Cabinet member wryly commented that Protocol Officer Miguel Perez Rubio and his secretary Medy Dia had driven over to Malacañang at 2:30 a.m., while the firefight was going and, ordered by unidentified soldiers to get out of their cars, blithely walked the whole length from the foot of Ayala Bridge all the way to Gate 4 which was strewn with bodies and sticky with blood. Miguel and Medy merely got toilet paper to wipe their shoes and promptly arrogated to themselves the task of manning the telephones and preparing the stale bread sandwiches and rancid coffee.
Joker Arroyo and Secretary Locsin were in the Guesthouse after patrolling the city alone in their respective cars.
Cory’s Hardline Endangers Cabinet Members’ Lives and Wealth
Many members of the Cabinet were appalled that the hardline policy of Cory Aquino, which was not diluted by Arroyo and Locsin, might have gotten the AFP mad at all of them, and they might have been arrested or hurt by military men in the event of a junta was established.
These Cabinet members said that Locsin especially is unfit to be in government if he is so willing to risk their lives.
Locsin had ordered the closure of DZRH at 4 a.m. because the station was being used by the rebels, unknown to the station people, to send their signals out to the various rebel units, this according to General Ramos’s report to the Cabinet.
Moronic Senator of Moro Fame
And yet, one Senator, whose only claim to fame is the revival of Nur Misuari and the Muslim secessionist movement after Marcos had brilliantly divided the Muslims and crushed the secession at the cost of 600,000 civilian lives, 10,000 AFP soldiers (who fought some of the most brilliant campaigns in military annals, especially Gringo Honasan) and 2 million refugees and billions of pesos in damage, stopped the closure of DZRH in the name of press freedom.
Gringo Honasan had long wanted to shoot this Senator as a service to the Republic and as recompense for all the wasted soldier dead in the Muslim Wars, but thought the fellow’s life was not worth the bullet.
Joker Caused the Coup?
The complaining Cabinet members surfaced late in the day to say that the coup was caused by Joker Arroyo, whose inefficiency (meaning, stopping their business colleagues from stealing from the government and using government power to wrest privileges for themselves) had angered the military. They spoke of Locsin’s violation of the peaceful spirit of the EDSA Revolution in calling for air strikes against the TV stations whose broadcast of the rebel announcements were causing AFP troops and officers throughout the country to waver if not outright defect.
Psychological Testing Proper Response to Coup?
What was needed, these critics said, was an in-depth analysis of the basic sub-structural flaws and subterranean tendencies in the typical soldier and officer that caused him to ally himself with Gringo Honasan and other hardliners. A deeper and more sympathetic understanding of the soldier’s “unconscious” (sic) was what the situation called for, rather than Arroyo and Locsin, two lawyers totally ignorant of psychology and religion, calling for immediate military response on the dubious premise that time was on the rebel side.
Philosophy Another Solution?
“What is time?” one Crisis Committee member asked? “Two thousand years of philosophy had not resolved that enigma. Who are these two to presume?”
Crippled and Fat Logic in the Media
In the face of all the bickering, and all the columns written by a mental cripple and a fat coward, whose gun collection is a cover for his medically certified impotence, and whose gun collection was the reason he objected in his columns to the checkpoints called for by President Aquino and the Chief-of-Staff, the President decided to go on the air.
“Let me set the record straight.
“Intelligence did not fail me on this occasion. We anticipated a coup attempt led by these specific officers for some time now. Certainly, 2 weeks before last Friday, Col. Gazmin of the Presidential Security Group was warning me that there would be another coup. General Ramos on August 24 had also told me that there were again disturbing reports of restlessness in the military. General De Villa’s intelligence corroborated the report I received.
“I was scheduled to go on a Regional Consultation on Friday, August 28. The PSG was therefore reduced by the number of officers and men that had to be deployed to the 3 provinces I would visit the next day. Nonetheless, Colonel Gazmin was ready:
“All PSG units were put on RED ALERT-STAND TO status in anticipation of an attack any time. They were prepositioned well in front of all approaches to Arlegui.
“Armored vehicles were prepositioned in strategic locations.
“At half past midnight, there was confirmed report of enemy sighting. The PSG braced themselves for the attack that came 1:45.
“I had gone to bed at midnight. I woke up to the sound of gunfire. I called General Ramos at his residence but they said he was in Camp Crame.
“I called Joker Arroyo in his residence but it was Jojo Binay I spoke to and who told me that Noynoy had been with him but had left for Arlegui.
“The rebel forces numbering about 200 led by Colonel Honasan, according to General Ramos’s report, attacked us from 2 directions: The main attack came up JP Laurel towards Arlegui, while the second came from the direction of Ayala Bridge. The rebels came in 6-by-6 trucks, had armored vehicles and high powered rifles. The PSG engaged the rebels at the checkpoint fronting Saint Jude, a firefight ensued. Two of our soldiers were killed in the first skirmish. I learned later that one sacristan in Saint Jude’s Church was also killed. A WAC was also killed.
“Five minutes later, while this was going on, still another group of rebel soldiers came up Ayala Avenue on 2 trucks and deployed at the corner of P. Casal and Nicanor Padilla Streets.
“Colonel Gazmin took me to the first floor because the firing was getting intense. Should the fighting further intensify, he suggested that I move to a safer place. I did not argue with Colonel Gazmin so as not to distract his attention from the work of defense, but I had no intention of leaving. This was my place. I remembered what had happened to Marcos who did not make a stand.
“The PSG repulsed the attacks; the rebel troops started to withdraw.
“At this point, my son, Noynoy, having heard that Arlegui was under attack rushed back to join me. We had tried to get through to him but had failed. He was driving the car with his bodyguard beside him and a backup vehicle following. They ran into the rebels. He went down and talked to them, and then as he got back into the car, the rebels fired on him and his backup. His bodyguard covered him and was repeatedly shot in the back. He himself was hurt. Everyone in the back-up was killed. Noynoy finally got through to Colonel Gazmin’s men who rushed to where he was and brought him to Arlegui. Noynoy told Colonel Gazmin not to tell me he was wounded — instead Noynoy talked to me on the phone telling me he was at the barracks with the PSG.
“The rebel forces were in full retreat by about 3 a.m. During this time I had been able to talk on the phone with General Ramos, I got in touch with Vice President Laurel, Ting Jayme, and Alran Bengzon. General Ramos told me that Villamor Airbase was also under attack. Joker Arroyo called me to say he was in touch with General Sotelo who told him that the rebels were occupying the two floors below him, but he assured us that there was no threat from the Air Force helicopters. His forces and the rebels would prevent either side from using them.
“General Alfredo Lim called up Colonel Gazmin at this time and said he had 600 men at my disposal; just to give him the orders.
“I then began to receive reports that the rebel troops that the PSG had repelled had converged and joined other rebels in front of Camp Aguinaldo. By 4 a.m. the reports said that the rebels had began scaling the walls of the Camp.
“At this time, General Biazon arrived with a battalion of Marines. I told him that I depended on him to resolve the situation in Camp Aguinaldo.
“I discussed the situation with General Ramos by phone twice while I was in Arlegui.
“At 7:30 a.m. I arrived at the Guesthouse. I called in Joker Arroyo and Teddy Boy Locsin. I told them that there would be no negotiations with the rebel troops, no terms of any kind. I wanted the situation resolved, the mutiny crushed by noon. I asked my daughter Ballsy to call General Ramos by the hotline, but it was dead. We tried the phones but they were either busy or dead. I told Teddy Boy to go to Camp Crame and stand by a working phone to keep me in touch with General Ramos. I told him to deliver my instructions to General Ramos. I kept telling General Ramos, General De Villa and Secretary Ileto to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Time was on the rebel side.
“Between 8 and noon time, I received calls from Teddy Boy on the situation in Aguinaldo. He first called at 9 to say that Ramos had told him that the attack would start at 10 a.m., when he had sufficient forces. I also talked to General Ramos. From time to time, Teddy Boy called and gave the phone to either General De Villa or General Ramos who kept me informed of developments.
“There was a standoff in Camp Olivas, he reported.
“The Recom Commander in Cebu had taken over the civil government.
“Constabulary and Police units had joined the rebels and occupied the Legaspi airport.
“There was a delay in the arrival of Biazon’s Marines because of engine failure and the slowness of his transport vehicles. The attack was moved to 11 a.m. At 11:15 Teddy Boy called again to say that the rebels were on the air in Channel 13. He said that measures were being prepared since early morning to stop both Channel 9 and 13 from broadcasting. But that something would be done soon. I told him I wanted the attack started. Colonel Gazmin told me that General De Villa said that the attack would commence at 11:30.
“At 11:30, although the Marines had not arrived, General Ramos opened fire with recoilless rifles on Camp Aguinaldo. The line had been drawn between our side and theirs. We delivered the message of “NO NEGOTIATIONS” even before my announcement in the afternoon.
“At about noon, I received the report that the composite police and SAF task force led by General Lim had relieved the siege of Channel 4 and had started the attack on Camelot Hotel.
“I went on the air at 3:15 in the afternoon to announce the artillery attack we had started and that there would be no negotiations with the rebels. I said that there would be no let-up in military operations until the rebellion was crushed.
“At around the same time, the composite force of Army, Constabulary and Marines breached the walls of Camp Aguinaldo and started to mop up the rebels. The GHQ building was burned down by the rebels.
“At around 5 o’clock, we learned later, the leader of the rebellion had fled with other key officers in a helicopter.
“Around 8 in the evening, General Ramos reported to me that Camp Aguinaldo was being cleared of all rebels.
“Partial reports indicate that 50 officers and 1,300 enlisted personnel were involved in the attempted coup, which was the bloodiest yet.
“Forty officers and 993 enlisted men either surrendered or were captured. Eight hundred twenty-five of them are detained in three ships of the Philippine Navy, the rest are in the Philippine Army gym.
“Government suffered 12 killed in action and the wounding of 15 officers, 42 enlisted men and 4 policemen. On the rebel side 19 died, while 39 others were wounded. Twenty-two civilians were killed.
“I grieve for the dead on both sides. When I ordered the attack, I knew that there would be violence but I had to prevent a greater violence.
“When we interviewed the captured, especially here in Malacañang, we found that the enlisted men had been told that they were on a test mission. Some of these rebel soldiers even had notebooks with them. Colonel Honasan had told them that they could not graduate from the course of the Special Operations School without such a practice. Soldiers from other units carried fake radio reports that Malacañang was under siege by the NPA.
“It is not the way of true leaders to delude their followers. The path of violence they chose violated their oath to country and Constitution, but the lies, the deception they perpetrated on their soldiers put to shame the noblest traditions of the Armed Forces.”
Locsin on Ramos
After the broadcast, Locsin reported to the President the brilliant way General Ramos had sized up the situation, how carefully he had weighed the options. The resoluteness with which he inspired the men to attack the Camp after he was sure they would respond.
The initial artillery barrage had accomplished its purpose, which was to draw the line between the two sides and stop all further talks that might have led — perhaps to surrender by Gringo, but more likely to a mass defection by the entire Armed Forces.
It was when Gringo’s boys shot one Marine who was loitering outside Aguinaldo that the initially hesitant Marines, their blood up, attacked the Camp.
God’s love for Cory appears inexhaustible, but actually will run out sooner than the cowards in her Cabinet find the words for their usual after-the-game quarterbacking.
Cory’s “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.
Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement?
March 20, 1971–WHATEVER happened to the list of Delinquent Oligarchs released by Malacañang in its frantic effort to project an image of President Marcos as the leader of a Revolt of the Masses against the Rich, working, idle or profligate? That the little Goebbels of the Military Kickback Complex would succeed in their propaganda gimmickry is too absurd to consider even for a moment. Marcos as Man of the Masses—who can swallow that? Only the Insecure Oligarchs were bothered, but only for a moment.
Just the same, the release of the list was a good thing. The people knew who, among the Rich, owed them—and how much. It should also have served to prod the honorable members of Congress to look into the alleged delinquency and enact remedial legislation to prevent its recurrence and salvage what could be salvaged of the government’s, that is, the people’s investment in the controversial enterprise.
This is to assume that the senators and representatives give a damn about what happens to the people’s money.
The question is: Do they?
So far, there has been only deafening silence and utter passivity on the part of the so-called servants of the people in Congress. Correction, please. The silence was not unanimous. A congressman, Gaudencio Beduya, delivered a speech “exposing” the state of the people’s investment in the Iligan Steel Mills, Inc. And a senator, Salvador Laurel, came out in denunciation—that’s right, in denunciation—of the Malacañang release of the list of rich debtors of the people. It would weaken them, the senator said, in effect. The debtors, not the people, that is.
Other members of Congress have kept their mouths shut. Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had denounced the government investment in a new sugar central, AIDSISA, and moved the Senate to a Blue Ribbon investigation of the case, had nothing to say this time. Cat got his long tongue? Sen. Jovito Salonga, usually so eloquent in defense of the people’s interests, was similarly silent. Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, champion of citizen’s rights, had nothing to say, either. And so forth and so on. Yet, the issue is a grave one. As the FREE PRESS said in an editorial:
“Since neither the Socialists nor the Communists are in power, Socialism, with or without the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, remains a dream, and we must make the most of what we have, a non-Socialist regime, by making it as progressive as possible. In its most advanced sector, the economy is Capitalist in nature and motivation. Capitalism and Oligarchy are, however, inseparable, one leading, inevitably, to the other; Capitalism ends in the concentration of the capital in the hands of a few as the big eliminate the small in the name of free enterprise and competition. But under whatever regime, delinquency in the payment of obligation is not to be tolerated, it is generally agreed. Debts must be paid, whether by Oligarchs or the most modest of entrepreneurs. The alternative is total economic dislocation. President Marcos may or may not effect a reconciliation with the Oligarchs, ‘oppressive’ or ‘enlightened,’ to suit his purposes and conveniences, but has he any alternative but to go after and collect from bad debtors who owe government financial institutions, that is, the Filipino people, so much and have not settled their accounts for so long? If he cannot do this, what good is he as President? Is he good for anything at all?”
In the face of the failure of the President to do his duty and protect the interests of the people, what will the honorable members of Congress do? Will they just do nothing themselves? If they do, the people should not be blamed if they thought their government utterly hopeless, that is, utterly indifferent to their welfare.
What should the people do if Democracy—Philippine Style—is finally exposed as merely an Honorable Gentlemen’s Agreement, to protect each other’s vested interests, that the unspoken rule in House and Senate as well as in the Executive Department is “You lay off my oligarch and I’ll lay off yours”?
What should the people do, then? Still go on believing in “democracy,”? still go on just voting—for what?
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 Presidents 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 didnt 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 ones 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 Anthonys 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 oclock 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 nyo!
Baka mangreyp pa kayo, lima-lima nang asawa nyo!
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 demonstrationsone at the US Embassy on the arrival of Agnew, the other at Malacañang to denounce police brutality and the rise of fascismstudents 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 didnt touch him. Nag-iisa yan, pabayaan nyo 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 retreatnorth 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 nyo 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 masters 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 senators 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 jeepneys 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 cops 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 dont think I can be blamed for losing my cool. Putangnamo, I shouted at him, tutulong ako don, 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 jeepneys 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 OCLOCK. 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 violenceit 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.
That was 1967
By Quijano de Manila
DEHIN GOLI was 1967 and it wasn’t pogi either.
This year of disgrace stank with the lousiest polls in memory, a colossal snafu of an election composed in equal parts of villainy and ineptitude. Then Comelec had the gall to blame the mess on “lazy voters.” If the people are to blame it’s because they have too long suffered the insults of their “servants.”
The amok campaign that preceded the messy polls did good in revealing why ours is a violent society. The moral crusaders have been barking up the wrong tree, straining at the gnat of mass media while swallowing the rampaging elephant of politics. What James Bond movie can beat a Philippine poll campaign in ruthlessness? And 007 is but fiction while bloody politics is the world in which we live, move and have our being, besides spawning models for pragmatic behavior. The lesson dinned by these models, year after election year, is that one has to be ruthless, but ruthless, to get anywhere at all; and our young can now argue that, if they run wild enough, they, too, may be able to run for public office and maybe even win an election, like certain notorious ’67 exemplars. Their elders certainly weren’t slow this year in proving all over again that politicians form the largest criminal class in the Philippines.
If told that certain people in this country are allowed, every two years, to litter streets with waste paper, deface walls with propaganda, disturb the peace of the night with loudspeakers, terrorize the land with armed goods, corrupt the citizenry with bribes, and disrupt public order with their quarrels, feuds, gunfights and blood baths, we would surely say that so criminal a group belongs behind bars. What we actually say, on election day, is that this group belongs in public office; and any misgivings we may have are silenced by the admonition to be grateful that, at least, we are free to have this people to litter, deface, disturb, terrorize, corrupt and disrupt the land. Just think of all the slave states that don’t enjoy our good fortune!
Even so, Campaign ’67 was the limit. From the Gordon killing to the Alberto killing to the Ilocos Sur carnage, the campaign moved to a glut point beyond which the public might have thrown up in sheer nausea. Apparently the danger point was not reached; but the nausea could explain the resounding NO to the plebiscite proposals to increase the number of congressmen and to allow them to sit in the constitutional convention. The people have spoken, they don’t want more politicians, may their tribe not increase.
And who can blame the long-suffering public? One would have thought that, with the elections over, the politicians would be merciful enough to give us some respite from their wranglings and wearily did we applaud the ritual post-poll call to forget the animosities of the campaign and restore peace to the land. But, not surprisingly, the smoke of the savage campaign continues to darken the post-election battlefield, for violence breeds violence. The triumphant suburban mayor who warned his town’s teachers that they would feel the weight of his wrath because they didn’t support him would have been just as vindictive if he had lost; Philippine political tradition justifies vindictiveness in both winner and loser. If you win, you have been authorized a course of violence; if you lose, your only recourse is violence. And we, the hapless electorate, the supposed masters of the land, are free to vote only for winners.
Compared to political violence, civic violence, this year was pathetic, especially that “rebellion” of Tata Valentin’s fanatic peasants. In the other top crime cases – Lucila Lalu’s and Maggie de la Riva’s – the chief suspect was the Philippine press, which offered an alibi: it was conducting a crusade at the time. Detective work by the U.P. Institute of Mass Communication indicated that the press was indeed conducting a crusade, a circulation crusade. The Philippine Press Council, the watchdog of a watchdog press, may never recover from that expose of the U.P. For the local press, 1967 is the year when Lucila Lalu (for noble crusading reasons, of course) outranked the Arab-Israeli War on the front pages.
But if the press was hysterical so were other crusaders. Unpermissive though it is, Philippine society seems to see itself as a wide-open a go-go where anything goes. Actually, it’s one of the most inhibited in the world – timid, fearful, square, censor-ridden, reactionary and, therefore, hysterical, ever ready to make a mountain out of a molehill. But it imagines itself as being right there with the Now Generation, as being a with-it culture as hippie as the mod world of London and New York.
The gap between what our society thinks it is and what it really is produced comedy in 1967. A prize example is the to-do over the mini skirt. Churchmen fulminated against it, legislators threatened to outlaw it, moralists blamed the crime wave on it, and the literati debated its pros and cons. But visitors from abroad could only wonder why Filipinos were arguing so heatedly over something that just wasn’t there. One expatriate from New York complained that he had been in Manila a month already and still had to see a true mini. What passes for mini among us – a skirt barely baring the kneecaps – would be a crinoline abroad; and outside Manila even this timid mini is hardly what you might call standard. Yet we spent spirit denouncing or defending what was never more than a showpiece on local fashion ramps. Our line of reasoning seems to have gone this way: mini is mod; we are mod; therefore, the mini must be the mode among us. And those who know the true mini watched in bewilderment as we bade the little skirt that wasn’t there to go away.
Such exorcisms were in the spirit of a culture which, in the same year its haute couture dazzled Europe in the creations of Pitoy Moreno saw a band of folk mystics turn Taft Avenue into Armageddon, armed with amulets and their faith in a father anito, a mother anito, a son anito, a tribe anito and any number of hero and ancestor anitos. Avenue and amulet paired no more oddly this year than did sophisticated beach resort and witch doctors, as in the celebrated shocker of faith healer Tony Agpaoa ministering to American pilgrims in search of miracles on Bauang’s cote d’azur. We blushed to think that, because of doctor Tony, the world might think us still a primitive tribe, when here we were already able to pronounce psychedelic and maybe even understand it. But tribal we were in ’67, more curious about a woman cut up into serving pieces than in a war abroad that had the rest of world on edge; more concerned about the tribal feuds, killings and vendettas that we miscall elections than in the event of the year that may prove to be of more concern to us: the fall of the pound. Shut up in our little settlement, we hardly heard the rumblings next-door in China and scolded those who showed interest – though ’67 did hear the first serous proposals to start communicating with the Red half of the world.
The proposals stemmed from a threat early in the year of another rice shortage and the possibility that we might have to buy rice from China. (That country, incidentally, was so often rumored this year as about to collapse it began to lock as marvelous as Pisa’s leaning tower.) Happily for our souls, our bellies were spared the contagion of Red rice, saved from the outrage by what has aptly became known as miracle rice though there are those who aver that miracle rice makes for good reaping but poor eating. On a level with amulet and faith healing was the attempt to exercise the bad spirits of indolence and ineptitude from the rice fields by transforming the immemorial planting incantation, Magtanim hindi biro, into a “happy song.” The Revised Version is awful; the original was at least honest in seeing planting as back-breaking drudgery; but we cling, like Tata Valentin and doctor Tony, to the tenets of magic: you make a thing so by saying it is so. Alas, saying that planting rice is fun doesn’t remove the back – breaking drudgery from it; only machines and technical skill can do that. Another act of magic this year was the Rural Development Congress sponsored by the Catholic hierarchy. ‘The Church Goes To The Barrio,’ announced that congress. But having said so, the Church seems to believe it already is in the barrio – though the peasants have yet to feel the august presence in their midst.
However, the Church continues to be very active indeed in crusading against short sleeves, the mini, naughty movies and Sex. That, with the nation in crisis, is the Church’s idea of Catholic Action. For a typical champion of that kind of action, Manila Vice-Mayor Astorga, 1967 was a year of both triumph and frustration – triumph, because his crusade against the motels was upheld by the Supreme Court; and frustration, because, at this writing, he seems to have been rejected by the city he accused of too much fornication. Also rejected by this unregenerate city was the Iglesia Ni Cristo, which couldn’t fly Mr. Ocampo to City Hall even with Malacañang as the other engine.
For Yeba of Maharnilad, ’67 was Come On, Seven; and he provided along with Ninoy Aquino, the kindly light in the gloom encircling the Liberals. Hizzoner started the year with a bang by closing down American retail establishments, in line with Judge Jarencio’s interpretation of the retail law. Forced by the Palace to let the Americans go on retailing, Yeba took his fight to the Supreme Court. For this, he was denied garbage trucks from reparations and funds that belonged to the city. His year-long fight with the Palace culminated with the poll battle that was such a disaster for Malacañang and the Iglesia. Villegas the victor is already looking forward to a larger fight with the Palace in ’69.
Yeba and Ninoy easily top the news personalities of the year, which will have to include a dead man, poor Fenny Hechanova, who excited in a blaze of headlines because of the bizarre way he died, of gas poisoning, in a French villa. Nor can there be any question about which is the Family of the Year. The Laurels win hands down, or up, what with Speaker Pepito getting shot in cheek and chest in a night club; son Banjo running for mayor of Tanuan and winning; uncle Doy running for the Senate and almost getting crippled in a campaign accident; and Uncle Dodjie getting killed in Macao in a Grand Prix race. But ’67 should also be remembered as the year Speaker Pepito had a spat with Ambassador Blair over the “balasubas dollar.” The Loser of the Year is properly Pancho Magalona, who didn’t make it to the Rizal capitol but did give professional politicos a much-needed lesson on how to be a gentleman in politics. As for Woman of the Year, it’s a toss-up between Maggie de la Riva, who made the headlines, and Helen Benitez, who made the Senate.
Though President Marcos won the elections, using all the resources of the administration, ’67 was, news-wise, an off-year for him, his one authentic headline moment being that operation of his for gallstones. It was a quiet year for Imelda Marcos, too, compared to last year’s Summit. But for Kokoy Romualdez, ’67 meant the graduation of kid brother from the short pants of special envoy to the working clothes of an elective official: governor of Leyte.
The year’s visitors ranged from a boorish Robert Vaughn and a captivating Kathryn Grayson to a reigning pop idol, Del Shannon, who epitomized the year by just lolling back towards the end of his show at the Coliseum to sing Sunny, while the house rose for a standing ovation. But the most charming showbiz visitor of the year was Trini Lopez, and too bad he had to perform at the Rizal at prohibitive prices. Trini is a taut, tense, intense singer who doesn’t horse around onstage but does get a terrific hold on his audience – and you haven’t heard Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma until you hear Trini whispering it wistfully, as he did at the Rizal, after dedicating it to “my friend Dodjie Laurel,” whose death had just been announced.
The year continues the high climb of pop music, which is becoming indistinguishable from “serious” music – or, rather, is cutstripping long-hair music in complexity and inventiveness. The Beatles have already been recognized by eminent composers as a great musical fact and the intricate music flowering under their influence explains why. The aforementioned Sunny is a bench mark in pop music, a restructuring of the pop tune. Instead of the traditional refrain, middle section, and reprise of the refrain, Sunny simply extends the refrain, but with subtle shifts in beat in each stanza and the use of off-rhymes in the lyrics. It’s as if a sonnet were written with two octaves, or more, but without losing its form. Sunny is one hell of a great song.
The wonderful thing about 1967 is that it’s chockful of great songs. These new pop tunes are longer than the standards of the past, more sustained, more complex, more literate, more witty. A song like This Day is adult in thought and feeling, far removed from the love-dove June-moon format of yesterday’s hits. The sophistication is obvious in the words and music of such ’67 hits as Bus Stop, A Kind of Hush, Runaway, Homeward Bound, and Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling, the last one being memorable for its admonition to “Take off your clothes, my love, and close the door.” Even a conventional “sweet” song of ’67 like Lorelei considerably improves on the Mona Lisa genre and a progressive melody like All I See Is You just about breaks your heart with its fresh loveliness. As the year ends the air throbs to the strains of A Man and a Woman; but the memory song of 1967 is definitely Going Out of My Head, an extension of the Cole Porter style, and more valuable than a dozen pretentious symphonies. The concert halls are in the wrong part of the world; they should transfer to the discotheques, if they really want to promote great music.
What we wore in ’67 was principally paisley and psychedelic. The paisley had a brief vogue in mid-year but the psychedelic may carry over into ’68. Stripes in shirt-jacs gave way to bold prints and plaids. The color-stripped skipper so popular in the early 1950’s is making a comeback. Ugliest male style of the year was plaid for trousers, or the male palazzo pants. Colored patterns are tolerable in shorts, repulsive in longs. The Beatle bangs are being replaced by the DC-5 haircut (something like Rizal’s) that the Dale Clark Five made popular, and the Startrek, after the style of a TV serial hero. Whether to hide or show off their long hair, boys are wearing their collars higher and higher.
For the girls, the Twiggy haircut has made inroads on the long flowing tresses worn kook-style, nakalugay, that were so popular during the first half of the year. Dresses graduated from granny to mini to tent. Local thighs are still not for public eyes but the knees are definitely cut to tease. With the twiggy and the tent, the girls wear textured stockings in pastel hues, slingback shoes (with the ankle showing), mini hand – or shoulder bags, large-strapped psychedelic watches, and costume jewelry of hoop, dangling or wooden earrings, psychedelic bracelets, “nut” rings and enameled bangles. In general, the fashion is “kicky” – bare as much as you dare – and tends to low waists, low belts, low pockets, bubble pants and wrangler jeans.
Boys and girls this year shared fishnet socks, the paisley, and the three “in” fashion colors: green, pink and yellow. But where boys’ clothes are getting tighter all the time (the male shirt is now as closely fitted as girl’s blouses used to be) feminine clothes are loosening wider and wider.
Pogi dehin goli was, of course, the expression of the year and it has bred a host of variations. Pogi nga, goli nga, pero dehin naman siopil. Which means he doesn’t use Colgate. And other objections are phrased as dehin naman bonsa and dehin naman brocha. If you’re so backward you know only the original expression, you get plastered with a hoot: “Rural na yan, pare!” Kanto boys this year saluted the sexy with a reckless sigh: “Di bale majaime-jose, makamaggie lang!” And the stylish greeting is no longer Hi! But Harken! The pogi with a limp wrist is properly a pogita; and the mature pogi is either a mamords or a spidial (ideal man). It’s rural to have a shindig; the very sophisticated now put on a soiree, where nobody dances and you just eat, drink, talk and neck to dim lights. And if you’ve got a screw missing you’re a 99 – meaning you’re only 99% there.
The twiggies and pogies started out dancing the soul in ’67 (to Bus Stop), switched to the shingaling (with Helen Gamboa doing the bebe, bebe stuff best of all) and then to the boogaloo. They slow-dragged to Sitting in the Park and did the Funky Broadway to Tabatha Twitchit. Dancing has become so spontaneous the rule is maski papano – or mash-k-pops!
Having mentioned Helen Gamboa, one should go on and nominate her as the Movie Star of the Year, because she a brought a new quality to movie heroines: crisp and piquant instead of the usual soggy or tomboy types. Her Operation Discotheque was one of the year’s best jobs, a musical-agent film that outdid Sabotage in craftsmanship. The only other film that one found memorable was Cover Girls, where everybody in the cast did the best acting of their careers. The early provinciano scenes were rather painful, as are all local take-offs on hicks, but when the film moved into fashion house and a movie studio it turned into entertaining satire, broad but hilarious, and with a deadly aim. Susan Roces and Amalia Fuentes proved they could sparkle even if given intelligent material; Tony Cayado, taking all haute couture for his province was a scream; and very special mention must be made of Tita Muñoz, who, here as in Operation Discotheque, displayed a flair for cinema that shouldn’t go to waste. She shone to far more advantage in these two commercial films than in the loftier-minded Flight of the Sparrow.
Of the films abroad, A Man For All Seasons was somewhat overrated, Chaplin’s Countess From Hong Kong was terribly underrated, but Alfie and Darling lived up to their rave reviews. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton contributed three films to the year’s top crop: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Hour of the Comedians. The box-office bonanza of the year were the Italian westerns, the best of which, like A Coffin For Django, are gothic masterpieces. The latest James Bond is the slowest in pace of the series; far more shocking was Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark, which will probably still be reshowing when we have forgotten what the other ’67 films were.
And what else of ’67 is there to remember? The original a-go-gos at the Nile, complete with girls in cages; and the Sulo Friday a-go-gos, which have proved more durable. Susan Salcedo at Victoria Peak getting the place jumping with her throaty rock and sweetly winding up the night with The Party’s Over. Mike Parsons shooting the first Philippine underground film at his Pasay house; and the night at Indios Bravos that the film was “premiered.” Elorde pitifully dancing around in the ring to the boos of the crowd, the last time he fought at the Coliseum. And the fine chill that set in early in December to make this the coldest holiday season in years.
Nothing so good in ’67 as it’s ending.