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80 years of the Free Press, August 13, 1988

80 years of the Free Press
After 80 years, the commitment to people and country lives on
Free Press, August 13, 1988
By Gigi Galang

FOR a publication that’s a byword in Philippine magazine publishing, the Philippines FREE PRESS ironically began life as a newspaper during the first decade of the American occupation of the Philippines. Its maiden issue came out on January 20, 1907 and contained both English and Spanish sections. Owned by Judge W. A. Kincaid and edited first by Percy Warner Tinan and then by Pat Gallagher, the first FREE PRESS was set up as an organ of the Moral Progress League, a group engaged in a crusade against vice in Manila.

The early venture proved to be a dismal failure. Unable to generate enough revenue, the paper, after only a year in circulation, stopped publication in 1908. Before the year was over, however, the FREE PRESS would experience a quick revival at the hands of a Scotsman and this time to stay and become an institution in the Philippine scene.

R. McCulloch Dick had worked on newspapers in the United States and Hong Kong before coming to the Philippines in 1900. Shortly after arriving in Manila, he found employment with the Manila Times, first as reporter and later as editor. It was during his eight year with the Times that Dick thought of reviving Kincaid’s Philippines FREE PRESS.

In 1908, Dick asked Martin Egan, then correspondent of Associated Press in Manila and managing editor of the Manila Times, to allow him to take the two-week vacation leave due him. He explained that he was going to sound out some businessmen on his idea of a new publication. Granted his leave, Dick set out on his project.

Of the 12 businessmen he approached to help bankroll the project, two came out in favor; three or four were lukewarm; the rest predicted doom. Despite lack of financial support, Dick went ahead and put his lifetime savings of P8,000 as capital for the venture.

Meanwhile, Kincaid had departed for the United States, but he had left behind a power of attorney with Charles A. McDonough. It did not take long for ownership of the defunct paper to change hands. With Kincaid’s approval, Dick paid the token amount of one peso for the newspaper’s list of subscriptions, name and goodwill.

A magazine for harmony

On August 29, 1908, a new Philippines FREE PRESS reappeared with Dick as reporter, editor and publisher rolled into one. Now in magazine format, the FREE PRESS was printed on 16 pages of cheap paper and newsprint. As before, it contained English and Spanish sections. The new edition was priced at five centavos per copy.

In the maiden issue of the new magazine, Dick spelled out the policy that his publication would adopt:

The FREE PRESS will be conducted as an independent journal. It’s chief aim will be to promote, in its humble way and in so far as it may, a friendly feeling between Filipinos and Americans think they are, and the Americans are much better than some Filipinos think they are. In any case it holds that more is to be gained by harmony and mutual forbearance than by suspicion, irritation and discord.

The new FREE PRESS offices were located at No. 44 Escolta, on the second floor of the same building which housed Manuel Pellicer, Manila Shirt Factory and Dry Goods Store, and another fledgling publication—the Daily Bulletin, which had offices and printing plant in the building. By arrangement with Daily Bulletin owner Carson Taylor, the FREE PRESS was printed by the Bulletin press.

Joining Dick on the staff were Don Alberto Campos who stood as first assistant and later editor of the Spanish section, Percy Warner Tinan who took charge of the advertising, and F. Theo Rogers who helped solicit ads and refused to be paid for his services. Rogers was later to become the magazine’s general manager.

Years of hardship

The early years were a struggle for the magazine. After just seven months of publication, Dick original investment had been exhausted and he was compelled to borrow P2,000 at 8 per cent interest per annum to continue publishing.

It was during this touch-and-go period for the FREE PRESS that dick displayed a strict sense of frugality. One of the off-cited accounts of his parsimony related to the time when the Spanish section editor left his light on overnight. When Dick discovered the deed the next morning, he called the electric company to find out how much it cost for a bulb to burn all night, then ordered the business department to deduct the amount from the Spanish editor’s salary.

After another six to seven months following the P2,000 loan, Dick had borrowed another P1,000 to keep the FREE PRESS going. The fresh capital infusion proved sufficient to sustain the project. Shortly after, the FREE PRESS began to turn a profit.

When the Bulletin transferred offices to the Cosmopolitan Building the FREE PRESS went along because of the printing services. The magazine continued to be printed on the Bulletin press until 1921 when the FREE PRESS finally erected its own building on Rizal Avenue and installed its own printing plant.

By 1925, with the publication doing good business and established as a regular reading fare, the FREE PRESS began publishing short stories, a new feature then in journalism. Not long after, it launched its annual short story contest.

In 1929, the P1,000 prize in the short story contest was won by Jose Garcia Villa for his story “Mir-i-nisa.” In 1936, the first prize was bagged by Manuel Arguilla for his “Epilogue to Reconciliation.”

The Free Press Staff

Aside from the handful of people who joined Dick in the early years of the FREE PRESS, the pre-war staff members of the magazine included composing room foreman Domingo Magsarili, writers Leon Guerrero, Frederic Marquardt, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay, Juan Collas, Alfonso Torres, D.L. Francisco, Ramon Navas, Roberto Anselmo, Federico Calero, Jose Joven, Jose G, Reyes and Teodoro Locsin, Sr. Artist Esmeraldo Izon drew the satirical cartoons that appeared on the magazine’s first page.

By the time World War II broke out, the FREE PRESS had become the most popular weekly publication in English and Spanish. Before the conquering Japanese closed the magazine in 1941, FREE PRESS circulation had gone past 80,000 copies per week.

Besides the paper’s becoming a journalistic casualty during the Japanese occupation, both Dick and Rogers were incarcerated at Fort Bonifacio. There, the Japanese attempted but failed to destroy the formidable Dick who kept his sanity by lecturing on Shakespeare before his fellow prisoners.

After the liberation and on the eve of the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946, Dick resumed publication of the FREE PRESS. In its post-war issue which came out on February 23, 1946, Dick explained the reasons for resuming publication of the FREE PRESS in an editorial entitled, “A Word to our Readers”:

After four years of “Blackout,” the FREE PRESS resumes publication. It is not the old Free Press as our readers know it. But we trust they will make allowances. We had really intended to postpone publication to a “more convenient season,” when conditions would be normal, but demand became so insistent with so many people asking “When is the FREE PRESS coming out?” that we finally capitulated—whether wisely or not, time will show.

Besides Dick and Rogers, of the pre-war staff members of the FREE PRESS only the triumvirate of Locsin, Ty and Tutay, plus artist Izon and composing room foreman Magsarili remained. But the magazine was joined by new talents, among them writers Nick Joaquin and Napoleon Rama, Artist Gene Cabrera, and Robert Hendry who was associate editor from 1947 to 1955, and who was later succeeded by Dick Kennewick.

Locsin, aside from writing two or three feature articles each issue, wrote almost all the editorials and was for some time the short story editor. (Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. would join the editorial staff in the sixties when he was barely 20. Later, Supreme Court justices would candidly tell Locsin Senior that they preferred his son’s pieces to his.)

The nation’s premier magazine

The years following the liberation of the Philippines from Japan were exciting, eventful and glorious for the FREE PRESS. Shortly after its revival, it won more and more readers and advertisers. By the time it reached circulation of 100,000, the vigor that marked the FREE PRESS’ style of journalism had made it the most successful magazine venture in the country.

The FREE PRESS came to be known as the publication that explored every significant event and issue without regard for the influence of people involved. During the American administration of the country, the magazine vigorously campaigned for an early independence of the Philippines from the United States. It also did not waver in its expose of venalities even in the highest office of the government.

For the FREE PRESS, exposing graft and abuse of public office was nothing less than a crusade. The commitment brought unrivalled influence on public opinion. It was said that no public official could afford to overlook the publication.

Nor was recognition limited to just inside the country.

In its August 26, 1955 issue, the New York Times paid tribute to the influence of FREE PRESS on Philippine life:

“Philippine elders have laboriously learned to read English so they could spell out for themselves the printed words of the FREE PRESS.
There’s many an argument in the barrios, a long-time American resident of the Islands said recently, that is settled for good at exactly the moment when someone remarks, “Well, the FREE PRESS said…”

“One reason for is that readers write more than half of the FREE PRESS. Subscribers report on a gay village fiesta; on an energetic mayor who gives medical injections and legal advices, teaches the catechism class and ghost writes all the letters of the community; on the successful mechanization of a small farm; the problems of a little barrio where all the water has to be carried by a cart a distance of three miles; a wedding of tribespeople in Zamboanga; a community ruined by hot feelings over politics; the only Filipino woman in Congress.”

One more significant fact that might be pointed out—the FREE PRESS was a newsmagazine long before Hadden and Luce developed Time. To this may be added that the many exclusives, explosive and otherwise, written by Locsin, Ty and Tutay came from tips furnished by people who had complaints against the government, other people or articles printed in the magazine.

A touch of libel

Proof of the courage that made the FREE PRESS a standout in the industry were the many libel cases brought against Dick (for an editorial written by then staffer Teodoro Locsin) by former governor Eliseo Quirino. The court acquitted the accused with commendation for service to the cause of good government. Governor Quirino gave a lechonada for Dick and Locsin. There was also the libel case filed at the behest of then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon. Dick himself was once ordered deported by Governor General Francis Burton Harrison. The case even reached the Supreme Court of the United States. It was later dropped when Harrison left the Philippines and placed administration of the country in the hands of Vice-Governor General Charles Emmet Yeater.

In August 1958, during the celebration of the FREE PRESS’ 50th anniversary, Dick and Rogers were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor by the Philippine government for their service to the cause of Philippine freedom. The same year, Dick received the Ramon Magsaysay award for literature and journalism.

On June 16, 1965, the FREE PRESS came out with a weekly Pilipino edition. Called the Philippine FREE PRESS Sa Wikang Pilipino, it had the same format and content as the original FREE PRESS. It reached a circulation of 40,000 quickly, largely the provincial school system which used it as reading material. Then it experimented with radical articles and “sexy” stories by avant garde writers. Circulation took a nose-dive. In December 1970, the Pilipino edition was closed; it was a flop.

The pioneer passes away

In September 1960, R. McCulloch Dick passed away. His death marked the end of his more than 50 years of influence on Philippine Journalism. At the time of his demise, Dick owned 99 percent of FREE PRESS stocks, which he bequeathed to Rogers and his own employees under certain conditions. The corporation eventually bought the stocks of Rogers who had returned to the United States and lost interest in the magazine. Rogers died in the United States in late 1963.

In the hands of Teodoro Locsin Sr. as publisher and editor, the FREE PRESS remained the fightingest publication in the country.

Twenty months before Marcos imposed martial law, the FREE PRESS painted the scenario of life under military rule:

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

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

On September 21, 1972, martial law was declared. The following day, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction No. 1 ordering the Press and Defense Secretaries to “take over and control or cause the taking over and control of the mass media for the duration of the national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by the President or his duly designated representative.”

Newspapers and magazines, including the FREE PRESS, were closed down, Leading media men, including Manila Times’ Chino Roces and the FREE PRESS’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon Rama, were arrested and imprisoned—without charges.

With the government clampdown, the FREE PRESS ended its many years as the country’s premier weekly magazine. It was not until 1986, 14 years after it was closed down, that the FREE PRESS reappeared in the country.

The magazine came out shortly before the February 7, 1986 snap elections to join the candidate Corazon Aquino’s campaign for the presidency.

After the EDSA revolution and the accession of a new regime, the FREE PRESS was relaunched as a fortnightly publication. But if the frequency was altered, the commitment to good government and the public interest never wavered.

That commitment—from the very birth of the magazine in 1908 to the present—in a sense explains the return in August 1988 of the FREE PRESS as a weekly journal of news and opinion.

Eighty years now lie behind the FREE PRESS. Unless catastrophe once more descends on the Philippines, it is certain to complete its first century of publication and offer more years of service to the life of the Filipino nation.

Mr. Dick, August 13, 1988

August 13, 1988

“Mr. Dick”

By Teodoro M. Locsin

OF the dead we should speak only good, we are told, which makes it difficult—for how are people to tell whether we are doing only what is proper or telling the truth?

In the case of Mr. Dick, it is doubly difficult, for he distrusted praise, or, to be precise, he was wary of its insidious effect. He liked it, I suppose, as much as any man, but with this difference: he felt it was weakening; it made you pleased with yourself. When things are going well, he would say, that is the time to be worried. A most canny Scot!

And there is this further point: To praise a man with whom one was so closely associated is, somehow, to praise oneself, and as he would say, self-praise is no praise. Yet, I must say it, now or never, the earth having received its “honored guest.” He was the one great man I knew.

A difficult man to work with, for he demanded, it sometimes seemed, too much from you. You forgave him only because it was obvious that he demanded even more from himself. To see him in terrible pain with every movement an agony, still doing his work, day after day, year after year—it was impossible to find excuses for any failure to do the best you could.

“Do not grow old,” he would say, and, sometimes, when the pain was unbearable, he would cry: “Let me die.” But the next morning he would be at his desk as usual—though he had to be half-carried there—working for the FREE PRESS. He never spared himself. He would not be a burden; he must earn his keep! What was important to him was not how he felt, but the magazine, which had for him a kind of transcendent existence apart from the people who composed it.

He had the quality of disinterestedness that marks the man one could call great. His temper was explosive, but his anger was never spiteful; it was impersonal; he did not know hate. We nurse our wrath to keep it warm, as the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, would put it, but the anger of Mr. Dick, provoked by some mistake, did not last long. “I have a vile temper,” he would apologize. His anger could pierce like a sword, sharp and cold, but it left a clean wound; nothing festered. He was never mad at the man but the act.

He made of the public interest a kind of mystique, which he would have his magazine solely serve. The general good was his own particular creed, and he equated it with truth and justice. It seemed to him the mark of a noble man that he should concern himself not merely with his interest but with the interests of others. It is the peculiar purpose of the press, he thought, to seek out such a man and give him praise—and go after his vicious opposite.

A lot of people talk about serving the public interest these days, of course, but what made Mr. Dick different was the fact that he meant it. Tired expressions and mere common-places, which one would avoid because so many had made use of them to deceive, regained authority on his lips. Shopworn phrases seemed newly made; old saws turned into “modern instances” through the force of example and belief. He was what he said.

“What’s his racket?” one thinks when somebody speaks of the “general welfare” and the “common good.” But words were, to Mr. Dick, meant to express thought, not hide it. He pretended to nothing he was not. He would not even think of doing it. Having known him, it was an almost painful experience listening to some public figure invoke the public interest while promoting his own; you are embarrassed by the transparent attempt to impress, by the obvious lies.

“Damn it,” he said impatiently once to an acquaintance who was trying to convince him that he was not guilty when he quite plainly was, “Damn it, can’t you tell the truth?”

He was a measure for other men. In most of them one found something contemptible, something not quite straight. Though the years bent his body until he walked, or shuffled, with his face to the ground, nothing else in Mr. Dick bowed.

Let us honor if we can

The vertical man

Though we value none

But the horizontal one.

Because he meant what he said, Mr. Dick had a reality most people do not have. The outline of the man was sharp and clear, that of others shifty and vague. He had the definition of rectitude. The dishonest continually change shape. Thus, thieves, who convert what does not belong to them into their own, assuming the substance of others, take, in Dante’s vision of hell, reptilian forms, becoming lizards and snakes. But the honest do not change; they are always themselves.

Rectitude, it should be noted, is not the same as being righteous, which is repulsive. To be straight is not to be smug. Mr. Dick was the most humble of men as he was the most upright. And if he seemed the embodiment of the decorous and correct, he was also, when his work was done and dinner was waiting and the company good, the mellowest of human beings. A drink or two would set him reminiscing. (The iron grew soft in the warmth of a Martini.) The sentimentalist had the upper hand.

Let the record be set straight. Mr. Dick enjoyed a good drink. He never pretended he did not. For some 50 years he did not touch a drop—having promised his mother he would not, but with middle age he felt he could handle a cocktail as well as the next man. He drank in moderation, but the legend would have him totally abstemious. Advertising liquor, however, was something else, and the FREE PRESS gave up a small fortune each year of its life turning down liquor ads. It served to buttress its independence. Advertisers who would dictate to the paper were rendered impotent, for how could they really hurt the FREE PRESS? If it could turn down legitimate liquor advertisement, why should it “play ball” with them just to get their business? Mr. Dick made principle somehow work. This is not easy.

“Let your spear know no brother,” he would quote from an upstanding man in public affairs early in the century. If you must fight, fight for a cause—impartially. Not that he loved a fight, for its own sake. He would neither run away from nor be rushed into a fight. “Everybody loves a dogfight,” he would say, while he debated whether a battle was necessary. Fighting for the sake of fighting is silly!

A man fought for a cause; to fight for any other reason was to be not a fighter but a bruiser.

He loved a clean blow. Say it if you must, in the public interest. If in doubt, cut it out. Never insinuate.

When a writer allowed his political feelings to get the better of him and damned a president by calling a previous one “not a swine,” Mr. Dick was furious.

“Would you have said he was not a swine if you did not mean to suggest that the other was?”

He was, indeed, a man to reckon with. If, for your own purposes, you tried to get around him, you would find it was useless. Sooner or later, you would be confronted with the truth and have to face, after him—yourself.

He thought of you as a man, not as a subordinate, and if you acted as you should, there could be no issue between the two of you. Sometimes, when he seemed too demanding, you would ask yourself what his game was? What was behind that formidable front? In the end, you would realize he had no game at all. It is impossible to see through most men, to see through the virtuous show, to see the man himself. In the case of Mr. Dick, one could not see through him because he was all there right in front of you. He believed in being true to certain things, and that, perhaps, was what made him seem incredible. How could he possibly mean it? But he did.

He believed in fairness, and carried his belief to what may seem to others fantastic lengths. When he was already ailing, he had to make a long trip by car to face trial on a libel charge. There were three of us on the back seat: Mr. Dick, our lawyer, then Rep. Emmanuel Pelaez, and myself. I was in the middle, Mr. Pelaez at my left, Mr. Dick at my right. We started early in the morning. The congressman had the sun on his face but did not mind. Mr. Dick, however, did, and half-way between Manila and Baguio told the driver to stop the car.

“You have had the sun on you half the way,” he said to Mr. Pelaez, showing his watch. “Now it is my turn. It is not right that you should be inconvenienced all the way. I can’t allow it.”

“But Mr. Dick,” the congressman protested, “I don’t mind the sun at all.”

“I can’t have you as you are all the way from Manila. I would not feel right.”

“Mr. Dick, you are an older man, and not well…”

“Please, humor this old man then.”

And slowly, painfully, the change in places was effected half-way between Manila and Baguio.

When he was not hard at work, or exploding over some mistake, his manners could be courtly and elaborate. Praise did not come casually from him. A note of appreciation would be as carefully composed as an essay, with words stricken out for others more precisely to the point; you knew exactly for what you were being praised. (You also knew exactly what you were getting hell for.) There was nothing lax about the man.

One never presumed on anything with him.

“That’s not the way I do business!” he once said, and the man he said it to never forget it.

“Order is heaven’s first law,” he would say. And order would reign on the desk of the man the note was sent to.

He had no use for servility; it could not be trusted. He would tell his staff with relish the story of the Englishman who went to America to look for work and, having found a place in a factory, immediately asked: “Who’s the management here? Whoever it is, I’m against it!”

He had a difficult life. He would speak of the bitter poverty of his childhood and of his father’s untimely death, leaving his mother as the family’s sole support. (She was known, among an honest people, as “the honest widow Dick.”) He would recall the early days of FREE PRESS, how he had a table in the office for a bed. His only indulgence was a single bottle of soft-drink at the end of the week. (How he looked forward to it!) It was hard going, indeed.

And there were his clashes with the American authorities. An American captain, or something, challenge him once to a duel. (He liked Taft. “It was at a banquet when Taft, with clenched hand and a trembling voice, said: ‘The Philippines for the Filipinos!’ F. Theo. Rogers and I were for Philippine independence and when we entered a restaurant we would hear them say, ‘There go those sons of bitches Rogers and Dick!’”) He did not know, he would say, how the FREE PRESS would have survived without the unsolicited help of Mr. Rogers…

He was always talking of his association with Mr. Rogers—and Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., of the Manila Times. Last week, at the necrological services of Mr. Dick, Joaquin Roces said of his father’s friend:

“Time is too short for us to record here the early career of his plain-speaking magazine, which in the span of a few short years gained the position of monitor for the government and the nation. But the time is never too short to omit mention of R. McCulloch Dick, the uncompromising Scot who maintained the simple creed: ‘The people can never be wrong.’

“In the spirit of tolerance that he brought to his task, there was always room for the little man who sought justice—but there was not an inch of space for the powerful in the land, the tycoons of government, the men who sat in the seats of the mighty-whether they were Filipinos or Americans—if they were not on the people’s side.

“R. McCulloch Dick was not the most tolerant of men where his most cherished ideals were concerned. There was a sign on the door of the FREE PRESS editorial rooms: ‘No crooks or grafters need apply.’ It may have been invisible, but it was there.

“R. McCulloch Dick left for us a heritage. It is not a formula for making money fast; it is not a prescription for getting close to the powers in the government. Those who accept it will be accepting a burden to carry—the burden of the journalist’s duty to the people.

“And this is a burden, indeed…

“My late father used to tell this story: It appears that Mr. Dick, toward the end of the Harrison administration, noted that the Governor General had been absenting himself from his office altogether too much. He opened an editorial campaign that shook the rafters in Malacañan. The governor, using his vast powers, ordered the deportation of the fighting editor-publisher. When the latter’s personal friends—among them my father and others whose opinion Mr. Harrison respected—intervened, the deportation order was rescinded, and Mr. Dick remained to steer of course of the FREE PRESS for the next 42 years. And never, before or since those eventful days in 1918, has the FREE PRESS ever taken a backward step from the ideas of R. McCulloch Dick—’The people can do no wrong!’

“This, then was R. McCulloch Dick: the man who had so much to give, and who gave it all to the people. He gave not because he was forced to give, but because he loved the people so much that he could not conceived being in opposition to anything that could possibly benefit them.”

Mr. Dick got in trouble, too, of course, with the Filipino authorities. Only fear of public opinion stopped the Liberal administration from deporting him. (Many of those whom his paper had hit the hardest would say, even as they hit back, “I have nothing against Mr. Dick himself.” And last week, at the necrological services, the press secretary of President Garcia was there to pay Mr. Dick tribute: “When future generations of our people ask who Mr. R. McCulloch Dick was, let it be said that he was a friend—a true friend of the Filipino people!”) But enough of his battles with the authorities.

“His many unreported deeds of kindness and generosity earned for him the love of his poor and unlettered neighbors who looked up to him not only as a man who was ever ready to champion their rights but also as one who was always there to help them meet their most pressing needs,” said Jose R. Arcangel of the National Press Club at the necrological services. “It was a touching scene, indeed, at the mortuary where he lay, to see fisherfolk from Malabon render their simple but eloquent tribute to the man who had been unsparing in his benefactions to them.”

He did what he had to do “without fanfare.” The story is told that when a correspondent of the American magazine Time was going to publish about him, Mr. Dick pleaded with the man to leave him alone. “I will pay you not to write about me.” He hated publicity, raised hell with Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., when a picture of them together during a fishing trip appeared in Don Alejandro’s paper.

He was a fighter, but a shy one. He fought—but only for what he considered the people’s good. When he spoke of their plight, it was with an urgency that came from direct contact. He lived among them, among the poor—as those discovered who saw for the first time, at his burial, the house where Mr. Dick lived. The poor were all around him. How could he disregard their need?

Many of our nationalists speak of the Filipino people and their needs most passionately, yet live in a world completely apart, a world of privilege and wealth. What can these know of the people? Mr. Dick was with the Filipino people in life and death. He is buried in the cemetery of the town of Malabon, Rizal, across thousands of miles from his native Scotland and 87 years later he came to find his final rest there.

He stood by what he said, bearing witness to his words by his deeds. Sincerity and disinterestedness marked his life, and an unqualified devotion to an ideal of the press as a force for the general good. “The truth will set you free,” he would say, believing it. He would permit no compromise. “We are no hucksters,” he would say to his staff. Thinking of him, one thinks of “those who were truly great.” Surely he is of their number—

Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.

Born of the sun they traveled

A short while toward the sun,

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

He lived long but never faltered in his journey toward the light and the air is vivid with his honor.

End

The Friday coup: they Almost won! September 19,1987

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.

President Aquino:

“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.

Another miracle.

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.

Is he? August 23, 1986

Is He?

by Teodoro M. Locsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So he went home to death.

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

For love of country? Out of sheer patriotism?

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

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

For what?

For what good is for all, whoever they are?

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

The Devil?

Praise God!

If, editorial, August 23, 1986

IF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they killed Ninoy.

If, August 23, 1986

August 23,1986

IF

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

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

The Conscience of the Filipino: The Sacrifice (1986)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What for?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was hopeful.

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

“Have you ever thought of the record.”

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

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

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

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

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

“So be it,” Ninoy said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So he went home, with these words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conscience of the Filipino: The Exemplar

The Conscience of the Filipino

The Exemplar

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

February 2, 1986–DEFEAT is usually termed ignominious unless one fights to the end, against overwhelming odds, then it is called honorable. Thus, Spartan mothers told their sons setting forth to war to return with their shields or on them. But there is another kind of defeat, and it’s a rare one. Rare in history, and most rare in political history, for politics seems to bring out the worst, the meanest in men. It’s more than just honorable, it’s glorious, and that is defeat from self-denial: to lose when one might have won, out of a sense of high purpose. Such was the defeat of Pres. Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 presidential election. He lost in his presidential reelection bid because he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. He would not stretch the meaning of the word “promise” to cover mere attempt. Surely, one may not be expected to do more than one can, but he would not equate mere attempt with performance and what he was not sure he could do, he would not promise. Presidential candidates promise to balance the budget and get elected only to unbalance the budget even more, and people do not hold it too much against them. Failure to fulfill a political promise is taken as just one of those things, like death and taxes. One learns to live with it. Not to promise what one is not sure one can do is, surely, naive. After all, one might be able to do it. Things might improve. To hold promise under so strict a definition is not, well, not common. But Sergio Osmeña was not a common man.

He might have been President earlier if he had not yielded his right to a sick man who would cling on to the office. Too long had he played a secondary role to the flamboyant Quezon, now he would be first at last! Quezon’s term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth expired in 1943 and Osmeña was to succeed him in the office under the Constitution. But Quezon argued that the war had suspended the Constitution and he should be allowed to serve as President indefinitely. For life, if the war went on. Well, he did, remaining President until death took him. Though convinced that he should be President, with every legal reason supporting his position, Osmeña acceded to Quezon’s plea. The Filipino people had come to think of him, Quezon, as the symbol of the Philippine government-in-exile and Osmeña’s taking over might create confusion, the ailing man argued. Osmeña listened and gave way. Let his old political rival have his way since he wanted the office so much! He himself suffered from no such obsession. And if it was good for the Filipino people that he should step aside, that is the way it should be. Told after Quezon’s death that he was now President, all Osmeña said was: “Am I?”

Asked when he would take the oath of office, Osmeña said he would first attend to the funeral arrangements, then asked to be left alone so he could compose a tribute to his dead associate. Later, he offered Quezon’s widow and children the continued use of their elegant quarters at the Shoreham Hotel and a pension, the law being silent then on such provision for the widows of past presidents.

When the U.S. government ordered the prosecution of Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese during the war, Osmeña asked General MacArthur to release them on his personal guarantee. He thought they had served in the Japanese puppet government to act as buffers between the people and the brute force of the invaders. But MacArthur could not go against Washington and so herded them all in the Iwahig penal colony.

But while understanding toward collaborators — the political ones like Roxas, who would afterward take the Presidency away from him, Laurel and Recto — Osmeña would show no favor to two of his sons who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese for money, and when one of them tried to see him in Leyte, wearing a guerrilla outfit, he refused to see him. The son stayed under a tree all morning waiting for his father to change his mind, but the old man was unrelenting. The other son, whom we visited in prison, cursed him. But the law, as Osmeña held it to be, is impersonal, whatever heartbreak that might mean to the enforcer. When, during the trial of that son, he had to be confined at the Quezon Institute for the tubercular, and asked for “better facilities,” the father said his son should be given the same facilities the others had, not more, not less.

When Roxas split from the Nacionalista Party and created the Liberal Party to run for president, Osmeña, in the interest of national unity, prepared to retire and let Roxas have the field to himself. But those who wanted to hold on to their government positions argued with Osmeña that he should run to demonstrate that the Philippines was capable of holding a true election, a democratic electoral contest even amidst the ruins of war, that an orderly succession was possible — the ultimate test of political maturity. National unity would be served and Americans who held that Filipinos were incapable of self-rule and therefore unworthy of independence would be confounded.

So, Osmeña decided to run. But run in his own fashion.

Under the law then, the Nacionalista Party, as the majority party, was entitled to two election inspectors and the Commission on Elections to one, with none for the splinter party. Osmeña had the law amended so that the Roxas party would be entitled to one inspector in each precinct and would not be cheated without detection.

An act of political madness, the usual practitioners of politics would say. Well, Osmeña was mad — mad for fairness. Before the election, Osmeña was scheduled to leave for Washington with Roxas and Jose Zulueta, then Speaker of the House. When their names were forwarded to Washington for the necessary clearance, Roxas was not “cleared” for the trip. A newspaperman heard of the Washington message and asked for a copy so it could be published, demoralizing the Roxas camp. Osmeña would have nothing to do with it.

“Let me keep that in my safe,” said the President then of the Philippines (How such a President made a Filipino feel clean!) He would not hit the man who sought to remove him from his position “below the belt.”

When it was suggested that he use the Philippine Air Force for an island-hopping election campaign, he ordered all units grounded. Then, when told that Eulogio Rodriguez — “Mr. Nacionalista” — had used an Air Force plane in campaigning for the party’s ticket outside Luzon, to deliver campaign material, Osmeña ordered his secretary of defense, Alfredo Montelibano, to call up Roxas and offer the use of an Air Force plane to equalize advantages. The offer was made twice.

“The fight is over,” said Rodriguez. “Roxas is really fortunate. His campaign manager is Osmeña.”

When an appointment of a Roxas supporter to provincial fiscal was up for approval by Osmeña, he was advised to turn it down because of the man’s political affiliation. That was one of the few times Osmeña showed anger.

“Tell them,” he said, “a man is appointed to an office because his qualifications call for it, not because of his political sympathies.”

Government employees held a rally before Malacañan demanding backpay for services to the government under the Japanese and Osmeña was urged to promise them backpay if elected, even though Washington had not yet set aside the money as it had promised.

“I can’t do that.”

“You need their votes.”

“No, I have to tell them the truth.”

So, he told the rallyists who represented a multitude of government employees all over the country that he would not fool them, he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. And they shouted, “Long live Roxas!”

He would not campaign for election as he would not lie. He had the duties of his office to do, work to do for a ruined country.

“I will just stand before the electorate on the basis of my record and what I have done for the country all these years.”

He did make an election-eve speech — on the state of the nation.

He had served the Filipino people well. If they were not satisfied with his service, if they believed another would serve them better, he was happy to go. He lost by 200,000 votes. If he had lied to that howling mob before Malacañan, he might have gained their votes and those of their families and friends, and won. But he would not lie.

He lost — and felt no rancor toward the winner. Not one word could be extracted from him by a journalist in derogation of Roxas. He was a gentleman to the end.

Why did he refuse to campaign?

“Those were abnormal times,” he said later, “those days after the liberation. There were tens of thousands of loose firearms in the hands of private citizens. The peace and order situation was uncertain. If I had gone out to denounce my political opponents and urged my leaders in the provinces to win the election at all costs, perhaps I could have won, but there would have been bloodshed. Political wrangles might have aggravated the prevailing situation. So, I told my leaders to allow the opposition to say anything its spokesmen wanted to say in their meetings and in the newspapers. I believed then as I do now, that as President it was my highest duty to set an example to the rest of the candidates, to avoid trouble that might endanger the nation and cause our people to lose faith in the government and its officials.”

His old rival and beneficiary, Quezon, said, after defeating him—yet not defeating him in the disgraceful sense of the word:

“It is useless to try to defeat him; he is in alliance with God.”

He set an example for his people and those who led them after him — in vain. The motivation behind the degradation of democracy that came after was best expressed in the words of a high government official:

“What are we in power for?”

Osmeña set an example. He set a standard for those who would govern a people, and it was not enough. He had done his best. I visited him in retirement and found a man—a gentleman—at rest.

No Thanks, January 8, 1972

 

No Thanks
By Teodoro M. Locsin

January 8, 1972–IF you are enjoying your constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against you, to a speedy and public trial, and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is no thanks to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld President Marcos’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, that is, of these constitutional rights, placing us all completely at the mercy of the President. The President did not act arbitrarily when he suspended the privileges of the writ, ruled the court. Did he act correctly? The court would not say. But not arbitrarily, said the court. He had his reasons—as if we do not all have our reasons for violating the law when we do. So there went our liberties, thanks to the Supreme Court.

And after our liberties—the Supreme Court itself, with the imposition of martial law, for which the Constitution provides the same grounds as for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus?

Under the Constitution, the President “in case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it… may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

But who is to say whether the constitutional justification for the suspension of the privileges of the writ exists or not?

Just the President?

That would be to insert, as previously noted here, an instant-destruct mechanism in the Constitution. There might as well be no Constitution at all. For all the President would have to do, under such an interpretation of the charter, is to say that there is invasion or insurrection or rebellion or imminent danger thereof and public safety requires the suspension of the writ—or the imposition of martial law—and that would be the end of the Constitution and all our liberties. The constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus are the same as those for the imposition of martial law, which is the law of war, which is now law at all but the law of sheer force. War is legalized murder, and when murder is legal, how can it be said that there is any law at all?

The Supreme Court, reversing an old ruling under which it inhibited itself from inquiring into the grounds for the Presidential suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus in the name of separation of powers, was satisfied in the present instance that one of the constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ did exist, namely, a state of rebellion. But the court would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension, also existed. That was for the President to judge, correctly or otherwise, according to the court, which thus abdicated its power of judgment to the Executive.

The logic of this decision is appalling. Logically, all that’s needed, in the view of the court, for the suspension of our liberties is the existence of a state of rebellion—limited or otherwise—and the President’s judgment that public safety requires the suspension of the privileges of the writ. Under such a ruling, the privileges of the writ might have been constitutionally suspended the last 25 years, for there had been a state of rebellion in Central Luzon all those years. Due process depended all that time on the discretion of the President, whoever he was.

All in the name of “separation of powers”! Such separation a lone stands between due process and arbitrary rule, between the rule of law and the rule of men, between democracy and dictatorship. The powers of government are distributed among the legislature, the judiciary and the executive to avoid concentration of powers in one, which is the essence of dictatorship. The legislature enacts laws; the judiciary adjudicates, and the executive enforces the laws. Legislators legislate, judges judge, the executive executes—and the rights of the individual are preserved. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Surely, there is not need to cite examples from history, recent and ancient, to support this proposition. Only saints may be entrusted with absolute power—but only because they are not interested in it. Our congressmen, judges and Presidents are no saints.

It is for the courts, then, to do the job of judging; it’s their proper function. While the courts are open, they should be open for business—it’s none of the business of the Executive to do it for them. To vest the President with judicial powers is to go against the principles of separation of powers while the courts can exercise them.

What are courts for if not to judge?

Why should they let the President do what they should do while they can do it?

In what way does public safety require such abdication of power by the courts?

Is somebody guilty or suspected of rebellion? Of violating the Anti-Subversion Act? File the proper charge against him in court. There must be some evidence against him to justify, if not prosecution, at least suspicion. Suspicion must be based on something, otherwise it is stupid or insane, and should the rights of citizens rest on such a base? If there is no evidence at all, how could the suspect be suspect? Of what? Judgment that is arbitrary is no judgment at all, so suspicion for no reason at all is not suspicion but the vagaries of a wandering mind.

But birds of a feather flock together, it will be argued. How about guilt—by association? There are Communists—and Communist fronts, serving, wittingly or not, the purposes of the Communists. Following that argument, the Civil Liberties Union, whose membership includes justices of the Supreme Court, may well be suspect, having demonstrated with alleged Communist fronts against the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. And there is former Sen. Lorenzo Tañada of Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism—should he not have been arrested without warrant and jailed on suspicion of serving the cause of subversion? Look at his “suspicious” associations! But how would charges against him stand up in court, if courts performed their proper function? If he was not arrested and jailed, it was only because it was not to the convenience of the Administration—and no thanks to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court satisfied itself that one constitutional ground for the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus existed, namely, a state of rebellion, but would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ, also existed, yet went ahead and upheld the suspension. A decision, one might say, that stood on one foot, not on two. A lame one. And our liberties limped along with it.

This is not to question the integrity of the Supreme Court but merely its judgment. Why such a decision? No less than President Marcos himself said early in 1971 that “last year, we broke the backbone of the Huk or HMB movement in Central Luzon with the capture of Faustino del Mundo, alias ‘Commander Sumulong,’ and Florencio Sala, alias ‘Commander Ponting,’ and with the death of Pedro Taruc, HMB chief, during a gunbattle with government troops. Successes against the New People’s Army were likewise significant. We captured several NPA commanders and forced that organization to go into further hiding. Our latest intelligence reports indicate a major dissension within its ranks arising from some failures of its leadership.”

And Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Garcia, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, said in an article in the June 1, 1971 issue of the Journal of Commerce of New York that “insurgency and subversion are not serious problems of the government….It can be safely stated that peace and order in the Philippines can stand favorable comparison with other countries of the world.”

And Gen. Manuel T. Yan, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told the press that the grounds for the imposition of martial law—the same as those for the suspension of the privileges of the writ—did not exist.

Yet the Supreme Court said that the President acted in accordance with the Constitution when he suspended the privileges of the writ while refusing to say whether he acted correctly or not, leaving it to the President’s judgment whether public safety required the suspension or not. So long as he had reasons for acting as he did, he was within his rights—right or wrong. There must be separation of powers, so let the President be the judge!

So much for the refusal of the Supreme Court to say whether public safety required the suspension of our liberties, a constitutional condition for the suspension. With our liberties went the principle of separation of powers, which the court invoked in upholding the President’s act, thus investing him with judicial powers through their abdication by the court. While invoking the principle, the court scrapped it. The Executive became the Judge—while judges were still around. What kind of separation of powers is that? Consolidation of powers in one man is the truer term.

If we are enjoying our constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against us, to a speedy and public trial and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is, to repeat, no thanks to the Supreme Court. As a New Year greeting to the Filipino people President Marcos announced last week the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the country, effective as soon as the Quezon City court ruled on the question of the legality of the arrest without warrant of persons accused of violating the Anti-Subversion Act. The suspension would be lifted regardless of the decision of the court; the government was merely waiting for the court to decide, it was explained, so as not to make the decision academic before it could be handed down.

If not a trick, why did the President decide to lift the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus? Former Senator Tañada had announced that he would go to the Supreme Court to question the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ. Assuming for the sake of argument that the suspension of the privileges of the writ as justified last year, is continued suspension still justified? There was a state of rebellion then as there is a state of rebellion now—limited rebellion in either case. The existence of such a state made the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ constitutional because not arbitrary although not necessarily correct, according to the Supreme Court. Whether public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ—another constitutional condition for the suspension—the court would not say. Now, if the President had not lifted the suspension of the privileges of the writ and the question of their continued suspension had been raised before the court, how would the court have decided? In view of the continuing state of rebellion, would the Supreme Court have once more upheld the President, refusing to look into the question whether he was acting correctly or not, whether public safety indeed required the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ? With the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, the President spared the Supreme Court the possible embarrassment of having to pursue the logic of its decision upholding his suspension of the privileges of the writ to its ultimate absurdity, keeping the privileges suspended until the last Huk or subversive is dead.

Mary, December 11, 1971

TML-Mary 1 TML-Mary 2 TML-Mary 3

Mary

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

AS DEW IN APRIL

(Anonymous – 15th Century)

I sing of a maiden

That is makeless;

King of all kings

     To her son she ches.

    He cameth all so still

                    There his mother was

As dew in April

                         That falleth on the grass.

      He cameth all so still

                       To his mother’s bower,

           As dew in April

                            That falleth on the flower.

        He cameth all so still

                     There his mother lay,

As dew in April

                          That falleth on the spray.

      Mother and maiden

                        Was never none but she;

          Well may such a lady

                  Godde’s mother be.

 

December 11, 1971—WHAT kind of a woman was she?

            A woman of humility, we are told, receiving the angel Gabriel’s salutation thus: “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

            Of an exalted spirit: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Savior.”

            She knew her true station, she was the Mother of God, yet she kept the knowledge to herself, not boasting of her fortune to other women: “She kept all these sayings and pondered them in her heart.”

            She brought up the child Jesus as a good mother would her child, attending to His needs throughout the years of His ministry without question or complaint, and followed Him weeping silently to His cross.

(“makeless” – matchless. “ches” – chose.)

She must have looked, it is argued, like her Son, for Christ had no father on earth, “therefore could only have derived His human lineaments form His mother.” The resemblance between mother and Son must have been perfect and complete.

“For had He been…not born of woman,” wrote Augustine, explaining the despair that could have then seized the sex, “the women might have despaired of themselves, recollecting the first offense, the first man having been deceived by a woman. Therefore we are to suppose that, for the exaltation of the male sex, Christ appeared on earth as a man; and, for the consolation of womankind, He was born of a woman only; as if it had been said, ‘from henceforth no creatures shall be base before God, unless perverted by depravity.’”

The faintly contemptuous attitude toward women implied in this passage from a former connoisseur of the sex stemmed from the relatively low regard in which men generally held their mothers and sisters in antiquity. With Christianity came, slowly, the elevation of woman to a parity with man, thanks to the adoration of Mary.

Yet, for some four hundred years there was no cult of Mary. “Neither in the early scripture nor in the early mosaics do we find any figures of the Virgin alone; she forms a part of a group of the Nativity or of the adoration of the Magi,” it has been observed. At one time, one sect, the Nestorians, held that in Christ the two natures of God and man remained separate, “and that Mary, His human mother, was parent of the man, but not of God; hence the title ‘Mother of God’ was improper and profane.” But an opposition party, the Monophysites, contended that in Christ the human and the divine came together and became one nature, “that consequently Mary was indeed the Mother of God.”

In the end, Mary won. A decree of the first council of Ephesus condemned Nestorius and his party as damned heretics and Mary was proclaimed, as a matter of orthodox faith, Queen of Heaven.

There is an allegedly authentic portrait of the Virgin which the Empress Eudocia, traveling in the Holy Land, came upon and sent home to her sister-in-law, who subsequently placed it in a church in Constantinople. “At that time, it was regarded as of very high antiquity and supposed to have been painted from life.” It was this portrait which, in legend at least, the old and blind Dandole took with him when he besieged and took Constantinople in 1204, bringing it in triumph to Venice where it may be seen in the Church of St. Mark.

At any rate, devotion to Mary increased and there was hardly a painter of importance in the West who did not attempt her portrait, who did not see her in his mind’s eye and seek to make that vision known and visible to other men. Such paintings showed her with the radiance of the sun over her head and the crescent moon under her feet, for the book of Revelation had spoken of “a woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars.” Known as “Stella Maria,” “Star of the Sea,” from her Jewish name, Miriam, she was shown with a veil on which was embroidered a star, while the lily, emblem of purity, was placed in the hands of angels in attendance. The rose, symbol of love and beauty, was present, too, for is it not said in Canticles, “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys”?

She is an Enclosed Garden, a Well always full, a Fountain forever sealed, a Closed Gate, the Cedar of Lebanon, perfumed, healing and incorruptible.

Even unbelievers have paid her tribute, one, the philosopher Santayana, denying the existence of God but proclaiming Mary His mother, in a passage both reverent and ironical, and another, the essayist Charles Lamb, wishing he were a Catholic, so he could with propriety worship her. Greater praise has no woman—except, perhaps, in the simple faith and believing heart of the many and humble who call her, without equivocation, blessed: the true Mother of God.

There is a poem which the 15th-century poet François Villon wrote for his mother, addressed to the Virgin. A scholar, thief, perhaps pimp, killer—though in self-defense—and once condemned to be hanged, writing one of his greatest poems in the world on the eve of execution, Villon loved his mother and shared her humble faith, making of it a ballade, here presented in an English translation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

Lady of Heaven and earth, and therewithal

Crowned Empress of the nether clefts of Hell, —

I, thy poor Christian, on thy name do call,

Commending me to thee, with thee to dwell,

Albeit in nought I be commendable.

  But all my undeserving may not mar

 Such mercies as thy sovereign mercies are;

    Without the which (as true words testify)

  No soul can reach thy Heaven so fair and far.

      Even in this faith I choose to live and die.

   Unto thy Son say thou that I am His,

      And to me graceless make Him gracious.

   Sad Mary of Egypt lacked not of that bliss,

  Nor yet the sorrowful clerk Theophilus,

                 Whose bitter sins were set aside even thus

       Though to the Fiend his bounden service was.

  Oh help me, lest in vain for me should pass

(Sweet Virgin that shalt have no loss thereby!)

 The blessed Host and sacring of the Mass.

     Even in this faith I choose to live and die.

   A pitiful poor woman, shrunk and old,

 I am, and nothing learn’d in letter-lore.

   Within my parish-cloister I behold

A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore,

And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full

sore:

   One bringeth fear, the other joy to me.

  That joy, great Goddess, make thou mine to be, —

Thou of whom all must ask it even as I;

  And that which faith desires, that let it see.

For in this faith I choose to live and die.

   O excellent Virgin Princess! thou didst bear

  King Jesus, the most excellent comforter,

       Who even of this our weakness craved a share

       And for our sake stooped to us from on high,

          Offering to death His young life sweet and fair.

   Such as He is, our Lord, I Him declare,

And in this faith I choose to live and die.

Here, in brief and in plain prose, an adaptation:

“I am a poor, old, ignorant woman who never learned to read but in church I see a picture of Paradise, which fills me with joy, and of Hell, where the damned are broiled, which frightens me. Let me go to heaven, Mother of God, where sinners go if they have faith and not pretense of it. In this faith I wish to live and die.

“Tell your Son to forgive me my sins, and He will do it, for it was you who bore Him, who left Heaven to become man and gave Himself so young to death to save us. He is our Lord and in this faith I wish to live and die.”

Finally, here is a poem by one, the author of such dark novels as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy, who wished he could believe:

CHRISTMAS EVE, and twelve of the clock,

“Now they are all on their knees,”

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

“Come; see the oxen kneel

“in the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,”

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.