“It matters not how straight the gate,
How charge with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
– From Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Every September 21 of every year, people remember the declaration of martial law. The thing that comes to mind almost automatically is the chain of human rights violations. The immediate conclusion of the victims and their families is the slogan “Never again!” They are then joined by a chorus of pretenders who condemn human rights violation and President Ferdinand Marcos in the process. Why pretenders? Because these people did nothing when human rights violations were epidemic during Martial law. They were silent. They were hiding in the silences of their homes. They were out of the country enjoying the luxuries of their second home. They were cooperators of the Marcos regime – many of them serving in government and many more were luxuriating in their businesses.
Many of them were instruments of the regime. But when the Marcos regime was terminated, they were the ones installed in positions of power and enjoying the luxuries and privileges of the new regime which was more corrupt than the demonized Marcos government.
Has time changed? It has. But graft and corruption and human rights violations remain, even with greater force than during the time of Marcos. Add to that the inutility of the justice system, the uselessness of Congress of the Philippines, the decay of the executive branch, the scandal of the electoral processes, the complicity of mainstream media in singing praises to a discredited system, the infection of graft and corruption in the military and the police, the docility of our people rendered hopeless by a system that they could not understand.
Everyone wants accountability for human rights violation. Was Ferdinand Marcos accountable and responsible for those violations? Yes, only for reason of command responsibility. But Marcos is dead and his accountability and responsibility died with him. Who then should be held accountable for wanton human rights violation?
The persons accountable and responsible for human rights violation during martial law are still alive and kicking. They are their eminences – Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile during martial law, one time President of the Senate, Congress of the Philippines and now senator of the realm; and former president Fidel Ramos, then Chief of the Philippine Constabulary during Martial law.
Why Enrile? He implemented Martial law and he was the Martial law czar. He signed the ASSO – Arrest Search and Seizure Order – and he was the overseer of the Martial law prisons, “safe houses,” and detention centers. Ramos? He too was the overseer of the Constabulary prisons, “safe houses” and detention centers. Ramos managed the biggest detention center of the Philippine Constabulary – the Headquarters Philippine Constabulary Gymnasium (HPC) – and its allied prisons in Camp Crame.
So the festival of evil and corruption in this country continues. Everyone says we need a revolution. But everyone wants the other fellow to do it for him. So no effective and successful revolution takes place except in the mountain fastnesses of this country where the enemies of the rebels are lack of food, lack of shelter, lack of medicine and medical attendance, leeches, mosquitoes, snakes and what have you. Of course, you and I know, we all know, that waging a revolution in the mountains is insane. But this country is insane and another demonstration of insanity does not spell any difference.
So who is at fault that we are in this quagmire or slough of despond? Don’t look at our leaders. They are not the principal culprits. The fault is yours and mine why the country is like this. In the well-remembered lines in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
“The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
On these premises, I keep on asking myself, what have I done to right the wrongs of the past and of the present? It is a nagging and pestiferous question. So I have this answer.
A candid selfie of me
After getting out of the Marcos political prisons during Martial law, I decided to do battle with the Marcos regime by joining the political opposition. In 1978; when Marcos challenged the opposition to participate in the first elections for the interim Parliament during Martial law, the Manila-led national opposition almost to a man decided to reject the challenge, except former Foreign Minister Salvador P. Lopez, former mayor Rama of Cebu City and this writer who opposed the decision. The theory of the old men of the opposition led by President Diosdado Macapagal was that to participate in the elections would legitimize Marcos.
With utmost respect to the oldies but with intense vehemence, I replied that the Philippines is not the USA, France and Britain where legitimacy means elections. In developing countries like the Philippines, possession of power is legitimacy. So I told them that if we do not wish to respond to the Marcos challenge, the only legitimate avenue for us would be to join the armed revolution. Everyone was silent; there were no takers.
So I finally told them that I would organize a regional political party in response to the Marcos challenge. I did by organizing the legendary Mindanao Alliance (MA). It was the first regional party to be organized in the Philippines with lawyer Firdausi “Seng” Abbas of Lanao as secretary general and lawyer Jesus Balicanta of Zamboanga City as regional chairman for Region 12.
As the Marcos regime was interested in the Opposition participation in the 1978 interim Parliamentary elections, Mindanao Alliance was featured prominently in the front pages of the martial law media. MA fielded candidates in four regions in Mindanao and MA blasted the Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) in Region X composed of the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Camiguin and the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Gingoog and Surigao; and in Region XI composed of the provinces of Davao, Cotabato del Norte, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte, and Surigao del Sur.
The day before the filing of certificates of candidacy for the interim Parliamentary elections, Secretary Raquiza told me this: “You know, Bono, President Marcos is waiting for you to agree to run under the KBL in the coming elections. Why not run with us and you will top the winners in the region and even beat Pelaez. You have no money and no organization, how can you win?”
Diplomatically, I replied, “Tata, you are right about the things that you said except that it’s not just money and power that can make you win elections, if the elections are clean and honest. The ultimate judge is the people and I’ll take my chances with the people. Anyhow, Tata, thank the President for me for the offer.”
The rest is history. We clobbered our opponents in the Region. We won the election but we lost the proclamation. None of the MA winners in Region XI, which meant all MA candidates, was proclaimed. In the case of Region X, eight of the nine MA candidates won; Vice-President Emmanuel Pelaez was the lone KBL survivor in the MA avalanche. But there was a strange twist in the case of Region X. Marcos, probably curious about the turn of events in the region, President Marcos called Vice President Pelaez and Secretary Antonio “Tony” Raquiza to a meeting in Malacanang.
There, as related by Raquiza, the following conversation took place:
PRESIDENT MARCOS (FM) asking PELAEZ: Manny, why did Canoy, Adaza and Geotina clobber your group in the Region?
PELAEZ: No, Mr. President, there were only two winners in their group in the Region and we have to proclaim both of them as without their proclamation, we will have trouble in the Region.
PELAEZ: Canoy and Adaza.
FM: Proclaim Canoy but not Adaza.
You might ask this question: Why did Marcos order that I be not proclaimed but Canoy. Well, Marcos was a student of Sun Tzu’s the Art of War where the first rule in warfare is to know yourself and your enemy. Knowing that, you can wage a hundred battles and win all of them. In the words of The First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, I was one of the Opposition leaders whom Marcos studied seriously and when she came back from exile in Hawaii, she told me during the launching of Joe Lad Santos book, “You know Homobono, without your mouth in Parliament we will still be in power today. My only consoling thought is that we are out of power and so are you.”
In the first local elections in 1980 during Martial law, I ran for Governor of Misamis Oriental and I was one of two opposition governors out of 73 governors in the whole country. Pelaez was the political kingpin in my province. I had no mayor, no local officials and fighting the machinery of the national government. Marcos delivered a speech against me in the capital of my province. The people of Misamis Oriental smashed the Marcos and Pelaez machinery by an astonishing majority of more than 20,000 votes.
As governor, I constructed more than 1,000 shallow and deep wells throughout the province which virtually erased gastro-enteritis and all other water related diseases in the area; built concrete bridges over streams, rivers and brooks which never saw bridges for more than a century; built kilometers of farm to market roads reaching the tips of the mountains, unseen before with all the governors before me; built schools all over my province; cleaned the provincial capitol and the surrounding park; streamlined government operations; quick and immediate response to calamities; re-oriented government officials and the people of my province on proper governance and correct human behavior, including love of country and care for their neighbors.
Most of all, in the process of reorientation, I told the people that partisan politics was over after the elections and whether they like it or not I am the Governor of Misamis Oriental, not just of my political party or any vested group. I disciplined my province with actual performance without having to kill anyone to prove my point. The people marched with me because they knew that I meant business and I knew how to do my job right.
Snap elections of 1986
Before the snap presidential elections of 1986, President Marcos talked to Secretary Raquiza and asked him this question: “Tony, how do you solve the problem like Adaza?”
Raquiza replied, “The man has no money. His car is an ordinary Toyota. He does not have a house in Manila. So you know the solution to the problem.”
Marcos, by way of reply, asked Raquiza, “Did you tell me that he is your friend?”
Raquiza answered, “Yes, Mr. President, he is like my son.”
President Marcos finally commented, “Tony, I am afraid, you don’t know the man.” Since Marcos studied his opponents and was a student of Sun Tzu, his judgment of me was bull’s eye.
After I got elected as governor, I had this interesting incident in the office of President Marcos where he tried to persuade me to join him on the argument that I should join him for the following reasons: that we both graduated from UP law; that we dreamed dreams for our people; that I was an ideologue and so was he; and after a pause, he said that we were two of kind. Of course, I did not join him despite the compliments because I valued my integrity and honor more than anything else.
Again, before the snap presidential election of 1984, Marcos and FL Imelda tried to persuade me to leave for the United States with my family and check in at the Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland, USA. I politely refused them. But a few days later, my friend MP Edelmiro Amante, who became a congressman and later Executive Secretary to President Ramos, told me that a group of businessmen wanted me to leave for the USA with my family for a consideration of no less than $50 MILLION. I also refused saying that if I did that I would die within 15 days because every morning when I look at myself at the mirror, I’d see a man with two horns and I could not just stand that.
When I was in the regular Parliament, I delivered speeches that were hated by the Marcos boys; led the impeachment charge against Marcos and the inquiry into the so-called Marcos loot; and I was the last man standing in Parliament disputing the figures in the Certificates of Canvas that Marcos won the elections.
With Cory Aquino as President, I was the first outsider to whom Cory offered a seat in the Supreme Court. I rejected it on the argument that it’s for old men but the real reason is that the Cory boys wanted to buy my silence with a seat in the Supreme Court. Cory pressed me to choose any position I wanted except the Cabinet but I just told her that I was not interested in a job and I just wanted her to succeed as President.
When Fidel V. Ramos became President I was told by Speaker Joe de Venecia and later Executive Secretary Amante that I could immediately be appointed to the vacant position of Chairman of the Comelec or Solicitor General which was to be vacated by lawyer Raul Goco who was on his way to becoming Ambassador to Switzerland. I did not accept any of these jobs. I hate any form of compromise, especially if it involves my integrity.
Why am I writing this? I just want to set the record straight for people who don’t know me and who ask what I have done for this country. On top of this, they better not ask me about my academic and non-academic records as a student from elementary to UP because they will just embarrass themselves with my reply.
I am not running for any office. I am not a movie star or a singer in a contest. I am not an advertiser for any product or a political campaigner for God knows who. I don’t give a damn whether people like me or not. I just want to do something for God and country. That is all there is to it. That’s why I write columns and books, to fulfill God’s will and design a country of my choice, not anybody’s, but mine. I just want to do what I think is best and what is right, and the rest of the world can go to Hell, if they want to.