Days of Shame: August 21, 1971 and 1983


August 21 is the most significant date in our post-war history, when two historic, connected events happened, the consequences of which make up our messy present.

First: The Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971. Four grenades were hurled at the stage of the Liberal Party’ grand miting de avance, killing nine and wounding 95 others. Many of the Party’s leaders and senatorial candidates were seriously injured.

The bombing was blamed on President Ferdinand Marcos, and public opinion believed so. As a result, most of his senatorial and congressional candidates lost in the elections that year, drastically weakening his political strength.

Kept secret for decades, but now believed to be true by most in the Communist Party, the bombing was ordered by its chairman then, Jose Ma. Sison, and executed by his most inner circle, called the party’s Executive Committee of the Political Bureau (See, among other accounts, Gregg Jones’ “Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement” and the more recent “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions by Mario Miclat”).

The motive: In the words used by communist party documents at that time, “to intensify the split within the ruling class” in order to create another “revolutionary flow.” In ordinary language, the bombing would push the opposition Liberal Party and their ruling-class supporters to strike back, even violently, at Marcos. The country would plunge into civil war in which the communist party as a very organized and armed force could take advantage of to capture power.

August 21: Left in 1971, right before the grenade attack; right in 1983, right after a soldier shot Ninoy point -blank in the head.

August 21: Left in 1971, right before the grenade attack; right in 1983, right after a soldier shot Ninoy point -blank in the head.

Few believed the most commonsensical question then: Why would Marcos, whom even his enemies credited as a brilliant strategist, undertake such an attack which obviously would be blamed on him?

Second, the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. on August 21, 1983. The political instability triggered by that event combined with the economic downturn at that time, due to the global debt crisis, led to the country’s worst recession ever. With GDP contracting by seven percent each for 1984 and 1985, Marcos’ political death in 1986 became well neigh inevitable, although it was obviously the aborted coup attempt against him and the massing of a hundreds of thousands of Filipinos at EDSA to defend the military rebels that plunged the dagger into the regime’s heart.

One event on August 21, 1971 triggered events that led to the imposition of martial law and the start of Marcos 13-year dictatorship. Another, on the same date twelve years later in 1983 triggered events that led to the fall of that dictatorship.

Why did the Plaza Miranda bombing lead to martial law?

Marcos believed that Aquino himself planned or at least was involved, in conspiracy with the communists, in the Plaza Miranda attack. With such a brazen use of violence, Marcos could but conclude that he would be killed, outrightly or through a death sentence by a court for that alleged deed, when he steps down from power in 1973. Imposing martial law and becoming a dictator, was his survival plan—with the perks of course of absolute power and unlimited wealth.

Marcos had good reasons to suspect Aquino. The opposition leader Aquino had supported the then rag-tag New People’s Arm, by giving them refuge and supplies in the vast Hacienda Luisita owned by this wife’s family.

Most importantly, Aquino— the unrivaled star of the Liberal Party—wasn’t at Plaza Miranda when it was attacked. He claimed later, according to one report that he was with the Laurels in a nearby restaurant who were having a birthday celebration. He said he was delayed in going to Plaza Miranda since he was waiting for Cocoy Laurel’s singing number to end.

There have been rumors though that NPA Commander Pusa, a Tarlac-based hit man known to be close to Aquino, warned him to delay his arrival at Plaza Miranda for reasons the guerilla however did not disclose. A leftist leader at that time, now US-based Fluellen Ortigas, reportedly was with Aquino just before the attack. He allegedly had told his close friends that he always wondered why Aquino seemed to be dally-dallying on the way to the most important political event of the year.

It was Plaza Miranda that prodded Marcos to declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus a month after the attack. It was the timid response of the elite to this suspension of civil liberties that convinced Marcos that he could pull off martial law a year later.

Sison calculated that the Plaza Miranda bombing blamed on Marcos would intensify the split within the ruling class and therefore bring about a revolutionary flow. He miscalculated. The attack helped Marcos to set up his dictatorship, which would nearly decimate the NPA and the party in the mid-70s that Sison himself was captured in 1977 —to be released by Corazon Aquino in 1986.

Except for a tiny faction of the elite that Marcos cleverly limited his attack on, mainly the politico-economic elite clan of the Lopezes, the Philippine ruling class either believed that the Plaza Miranda bombing was the communists and Aquino’s plot, or that whoever was responsible, it created an unstable political situation that risked a communist take-over.

Who wouldn’t fear a communist take-over at that time when right after the grenade attack the communists tried to smuggle into the Isabela hinterlands 2,000 M-14s, courtesy of Mao Tse Tsung himself? Former ranking communists would later claim that the two events were connected. Sison estimated that without the “revolutionary flow” the bombing would create, there wouldn’t be enough activists to recruit into the NPA to use those rifles.

Why wouldn’t the ruling class support Marcos’ dictatorship? In 1973, right after martial was declared, GDP surged to 8.9 percent, the highest growth rate ever recorded for our country, and from 1972 to 1979, it averaged a high 6 percent yearly.

But August 21, 1971 is a day of the shame for the party supposedly of the poor.

Because of the Plaza Miranda bombing its leadership ordered, the communist party had lost its moral grounding, exposed to be as ruthless and Machiavellian as Stalinist and Maoist parties are all over the world. It fooled thousands of our idealistic young men and women to devote and even sacrifice their lives to fight a dictatorship which the communist leadership in effect helped install by bombing Plaza Miranda.

August 21, 1971 is a day of shame for one party of the ruling class. The Liberal Party, the target of the attack, opportunistically joined the frenzy of communist-led propaganda that it was Marcos who was its brains—just to win the 1971 elections.

Even after the dictator’s fall, the Liberal Party didn’t bother to find out who really was responsible for the single most important event in its history. Shamelessly, it even distanced itself from the conviction of Jovito Salonga, one of its revered leaders whose wounds from the attack disfigured his face and severely weakened his health: that it wasn’t Marcos who ordered the attack but the communists under Sison.

With the suspicion that Aquino was part of the Plaza Miranda plot, or at least didn’t warn his colleagues of the attack, his wife President Corazon Aquino and his family with their vast power and wealth could have left no stone unturned to settle who was responsible for this key event in our history.

They didn’t bother, since that would weaken the image they wanted of Marcos—evil personified.

A similar nonchalance also makes August 21, 1983 a day of shame for our nation.

Despite their vast political and economic powers, especially when Corazon Aquino was president 1986 to 1992, the Aquinos and Cojuangcos didn’t bother to unmask the murder’s brains. Some 16 officers and soldiers were convicted by the Sandiganbayan for the murder and given life sentences in 1990. All of the assassination’s details have been uncovered, except who the mastermind was. (The full text of the decision posted at

Why didn’t then President Cory Aquino offer them pardon —and maybe even money to live in security abroad—in exchange for identifying the brains of the murder that shaped our history?

There is another question that bothers me a lot. Was it just sheer coincidence that two historic events occurred on the same date?

I wonder. In what would be his death voyage, Aquino arrived in Taipei August 19, 1983. But he booked his flight to Manila August 21. Was the date of his return to the country a secret message to the dictator, one that only he and Marcos would understand?

Download  The Full Text 1990 Sandiganbayan Decision on the Aquino Assasination and www.


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  1. si ninoy ang may kagagawan ng 08.21.71 bombing. ask nyo si general corpus kung buhay pa. inamin nya sa mga television interviews after cory’s death na sila ang may kagagawan per ninoy’s orders. inamin nya ito noong npa pa sya. tingnan nyo kung anong nangyari kay corpus nawala na sa limelight.

  2. I have read this book Red Revolution by Gregg Jones 15 years ago and i make a copy of the book and i still have, it untill now, I keep on saying over and over again that it was Jose Ma Sison is the brain it was only ignored. Aquino and Commander Dante is a good friend and mag-kumpare one reason Sison delayed Aquino going to Plaza Miranda, not only that everything that happened in NPA movement Ninoy and Corazon Aquino know because Commander Dante is always in the House in Hacienda. I Suspect that Danding Cojuanco has something to do with Ninoy Death because, Ninoy is controlling The hacienda and Cojuanco dont like that, and the other suspect is all of marcos political rivals, because the only way they could kick-out marcos is killed Aquino a sacrificial goat. You see even Aquino compete with marcos in presidential Election, Aquino will not going to win, Because Marcos is to strong in that time.
    The most logical question is Why Marcos and Imelda will have Aquino killed in their own country which they knows they will be blame, In my point of view marcos has billion of dollars hidden somewhere, He can have Aquino killed when Aquino is in United State for a price of $50,000.00 dollars, why not?, aquino is nothing in United States and one thing their so many Gangster and mafia in United States For a price of $50,000.00 dollars he will be killed in no time, and no one could blame Marcos. So people be smart and don’t fucking fool your self, its too long that this politician and rich politician friend fooling you for the rest of your life. Stand up like a man, were are all your balls.

  3. The Aquino family is the Philippine’s camelot. When John F. Kennedy was assasinated in 1963, at to this point and time, still no closure who did it and why. My political awareness was awaken-up by a single gun shot in 1983. There is still no answer who did it and why. I was very dissapointed with the previous administration for granting freedom to those people involved in the assasination. I find this decision very disturbing and poor. These are the reasons why the Philippines will remain a third world country in our lifetime.

  4. On August 21, 1971,I was there in front close to the stage,in fact to close that my arms were resting on the edge of the stage when the 2 explosions happened. It was a miracle I was unscathed when I was only a few feet from the row of dignitaries on the stage who were either dead or severely injured. The man next to me was slightly injuredt on the left side of his face and ran away. I stood there shocked as I watched the injured or dead sprawled on the floor and or slumped on their seats..The TV camera located in the middle of the Plaza keep on filming. It was a shame, medical help took a long time to arrived. The initial findings said, it was a convict who was given a “furlough” (supposedly by Marcos’ order) to do the dastardly act. He positioned himself at the Phil. Savings Bank and tossed the grenades. As quickly he was “furloughed” was as quickly he was sent back to prison. Since then nothing was heard of him.

  5. about ninoy’s death, it’s like a game of chess, sacrifice the knight to get the king. history tells us it worked. do you really think that mother and son, both ph prez then and now, do not know who is the real brain/s. common guys. keeping the mystery around the real brain/s suits the living cojuangco aquino well…i’m always wondering that it seems nobody wants to know the real truth seriously. it appears people are contented to the common tsismis around and accepted it as is. the ghost of ninoy must be yelling at his kin, or, maybe, even in the other dimension ninoy can keep lies within himself…

  6. Daniel B. Laurente on

    President Ferdinand E. Marcos will stay as great President to those who knows him well but not to the opposition group.

  7. Dencio Pascual on

    This will make a very good material for conspiracy novel, maybe Dan Brown can make this into a top selling book.

    I do believe the author’s contention that the Plaza Miranda bombing was the handiwork of the communist party. As to Ninoy’s assassination, there are three leading suspects – Marcos, Danding and again the Communist Party. Very mysterious indeed.

    Having said this, there is really a need to re-write Philippine History especially from the time of Philippine Revolution against Spain up to the present. Note that our history have been window dressed during these important era. One thing is clear, the rich have intentionally doctored our history to their favor from the Illustrado Aguinaldo, to the Marcoses and the Cojuancos and many more.

    Why was Bonifacion killed? The simple reason is he did not belong anymore once the illustrado or rich katipuneros led by Aguinaldo joined the fray and assumed that it was their right to lead since they are the educated and rich. Let us start with Jose Rizal, no doubt about his heroism and patriotism but he also came from a rich clan, studying in Ateneo and UST at that time. He was also able to go to Spain, who could do that unless you have the money and influence. Who were Rizal’s barkadas in Spain, Juan Luna and company, they are also pinoys coming from the rich clans. In the first place where did the Ortigas, Ayalas, Zobels, Sorianos got their vast tracts of lands, of course from the Spanish colonizers. Look at their names, are they not Spanish? These lands were just given to them for free, merely because their roots can be traced to Spain and of course they were close to the kitchen.

    The Japanese occupation is not just a simple story of bombing, death march and the return of McArthur. The japs were with us for more than 4 years and the businessmen and the illustrados all over the country collaborated with the japs to maintain their status.

    Who signed the Philippine Independence giving USA the right to rampage our natural resources and occupy the most beautiful places in the country for free for 50 years. For me this the most unfair and most stupid piece of document ever signed by our country. It was masked by the granting of Philippine Independence but at what cost – the lifeblood of the country will be sucked for fifty years. Again, who are the Pinoys who partnered with American businessmen in pillaging our natural resources especially our minerals and timbers. Does every pinoys know that we were once in the top 5 gold producers in the world. Where did the money go, of course to the American companies who owned the gold mines in Baguio and to their exclusive pinoy partners.

    Somebody should initiate this project, rewrite Philippine History the last 120 years, let the truth be told. It will not only be an interesting read, it will finally enlighten most of us on the real root of our distorted culture and values.

  8. Has there ever been a major crime in this country that was ever solved? 30 years after and where are we? We still go around in circles chasing after our tails, voting for the same bunch of crocodiles and we get screwed everyday by the government no matter who sits. If this country wants to get somewhere, it has to change its mindset and get a different attitude. Enough of trapos, enough of corruption, enough of a lack of discipline and love for self. Filipinos obviously don’t love their country enough because we’re still in the same hole we were 30 + years ago.

  9. Sana hindi na lang pinatay si Ninoy. Dahil ang sumunod, sina Cory at Noynoy ay mas walang kuwenta pala.

  10. I always knew Pres. Marcos was not that stupid to do it, (Have Ninoy killed) they were friends, fraternity brothers. The only thing that separated them were their political convictions. one right the other left. Marcos use to visit Aquino at Aguinaldo and they played chess whilst he was there. I’d take Marcos anytime, than the mother and son present administration.

  11. pusila pusila means barilin mo na barilin mo na. or pull the trigger pull the trigger. Bisaya yun. E sino ba ang bisaya na kaaway ni ninoy nuon.

  12. August 21 should not be a holiday. We have too many holidays in the Philippines. Holidays are economically counter-productive.

  13. yes, this is a shame indeed, but i guess this belongs to the “coincidence” category… interesting article by the way….

  14. Voice from the Wilderness on

    The real truths surrounding these shameful events seems will forever be shrouded by mystery because there are powerful forces that wants it to be. It may be possible that the ones who benefited most from this tragic political events have known the real truth, but wants it hidden forever because its revelation may lead to their eventual destruction.

  15. enrique pacardo on

    Add the third event: today august 21, 2013, metro manila is submerged in flood and pork barrel scandal- three providential events.

  16. Artemio Socorro on

    How true is it then that Raul Gonzales, the lead investigator and prosecutor of the Aquino’s assassination during Cory’s presidency, had a witness that will directly link Danding Cojuanco as the mastermind but was disallowed by Cory herself?

    • Mr. Socorro I only wish that Mr. Gonzales and his witness are still alive until the term of the present President is over and then maybe we can say both our history and our constitution should be changed.