Having served as presidential press secretary, spokesman, and information minister from 1969 to 1980 (during the Marcos years), I have been asked by friends, who seem to believe that I keep some of the nation’s unspeakable secrets, what value I give to the latest published speculations that Sen. Grace Poe Natividad Sonora Poe Llamanzares is–or at least could be–the illegitimate daughter of the late President Ferdinand Marcos by the former actress Rosemarie Sonora, sister of the more famous actress Jesusa Sonora Poe (aka Susan Roces), adoptive mother of the celebrated foundling.
As if that were not enough, I have also been asked to respond directly to fellow Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao’s question on this page on Monday: “Why does Poe refuse to take a DNA test with Marcos Jr.?”
To the first question, my answer is: I frankly don’t know; I never heard of any such thing during my ten years in the Cabinet.
Malacañang has always been an active rumor mill, constantly buzzing with all sorts of rumors about everybody. To the best of my knowledge, many saw Marcos as a ladies’ man, and he might have thought so himself. Although married to the most beautiful First Lady in the world, he also had feet of clay, and had his peccadillos, which did not escape the gossipmongers. And yet I never heard any talk about him and Rosemarie Sonora. Was this simply because I came on board the Cabinet after 1968?
It first appeared in Wikipedia
Before Mary Grace’s foundling story exploded as a major political controversy, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia in the Internet, used to carry a blunt reference to it. Only recently was this portion of her personal history deleted and the whole thing replaced with a version that reads like an official press release from her campaign headquarters.
Still, in the Senate where she sits with Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., they freely refer to each other as “brod” and “sis” — in obvious levity of course. In fact, prior to the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May election, in one meeting with Ilocanos residing in my village in Quezon City, Bongbong Marcos was asked if he would consider having Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares as his running mate, should he decide to run for President. His answer was witty and quick: “You mean you want to keep it in the family?”
Contrary to popular expectations, Bongbong decided to run for vice president, while his “sis” decided to file a Certificate of Candidacy for the presidency. But four petitioners, including this writer, Estrella Elamparo, Antonio Contreras and Amado Valdez, filed separate petitions questioning her constitutional eligibility for the office, for not being a natural-born citizen and for lacking the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates.
The First and Second Divisions of the Commission on Elections ruled favorably on the petitions, and the Comelec en banc affirmed the two decisions, disqualifying her as a candidate and cancelling her COC.
Although the Comelec ruling is deemed final and non-reviewable, she went up to the Supreme Court to ask for a Temporary Restraining Order and to file a petition for certiorari against the Comelec, alleging grave abuse of discretion, amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. The TRO was granted, and the Oral Arguments on her petition were scheduled to end after my column deadline yesterday.
The search for DNA
But in the middle of the hearings, she began digging graves–not in Jaro, Iloilo where she was found in the premises of the parish church on Sept. 3, 1968, but in nearby Guimaras–in search of a DNA match to prove that her father, as required by the 1935 Constitution, which was in force when she was born, was a Filipino.
This grave-digging caught the attention of the High Court, and in his interpellation of Mrs. Llamanzares’ counsel, Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta suggested that she extend her DNA search to the Ilocos region.
Many saw this as a subtle reference to the rumor that Marcos, who was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, and whose mortal remains lay unburied in the next town of Batac, waiting for a proper burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, may have fathered the foundling. There was a suppressed ripple of mirth when the magistrate made the suggestion. But now that her excavations have produced negative results, so some people have not hesitated to suggest a DNA test with Bongbong.
Why then has she refused to have such a test? This is what Bobi Tiglao is asking, and this is what some readers would like me to answer. I say that only Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares can answer this question.
It is on the same level as that other monumental question: Why did Cory Aquino during her presidency refuse to investigate her husband Ninoy’s assassination to find out the brains behind it, and why did her son, the incumbent President, similarly refused to carry out a serious investigation into the same?
From his own statements, Bongbong Marcos appears ready not only for a drug test, as suggested by some people and rejected by Senate President Franklin Drilon, but even for a DNA test with Mary Grace. The only problem here, according to a broadcaster friend of mine, is that when Bongbong was schooling in London, there were rumors that he had perished in a shooting accident and had to be replaced with a clone.
So the real Bongbong is gone, and the one sitting in the Senate and running for VP is a product of science. Thus, even if a match were established between Bongbong and Mary Grace, the best conclusion one could make is that they are related to each other, but neither of them is related to Marcos.
The real danger
Levity aside, the prospect of being declared the daughter of Marcos should terrify Mary Grace for the most obvious reasons. Right now, she is trying to maintain PNoy’s friendship and confidence in order to win her case at the Supreme Court, and repeat her “hocus PCOS” victory in the 2013 elections. So far, PNoy appears willing to play with her.
But the moment she is shown to be Marcos’s daughter, all that would be blown by the wind. The Manchurian candidate or Trojan horse would instantly become PNoy’s enemy number one.
We had a preview of this when Malacañang singled out Bongbong and warned the nation against his becoming “a dictator.” It was the most ludicrous statement imaginable. The senator is running for Vice President, a position that has no specific job description, and wields no power of any kind. But the mere possibility of having Bongbong as a “spare tire” in the presidency seems unthinkable.
So PNoy wanted him to apologize for his father’s declaration of martial law, which tried to turn back the communist rebellion, as though it was a crime to have prevented the communists from taking over. And that the son should now assume responsibility for his father’s decisions.
Aquino never thought of apologizing himself for his grandfather’s treason when he collaborated with the Japanese during the war, or for his father’s role in the 1971 bombing of Plaza Miranda, which nearly decimated the entire leadership of the Liberal Party, or in bringing together Chairman Jose Maria Sison of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Bernabe Buscayno, aka Commander Dante, of the New People’s Army, to wage armed struggle against the government, or in exposing to the British and the Malaysians Marcos’ national security operation in pursuit of the Philippine Sabah claim, etc.
Aquino appears completely unmindful of the fact that after bribing Congress to remove the Supreme Court Chief Justice and destabilize the entire Court, and after seizing the power of the purse to control the three coequal branches of government, he had himself become a dictator–an incompetent and inept dictator perhaps, but a dictator nevertheless.
But should Mary Grace ever be shown to have in her the blood of Marcos, Aquino would be the first one to denounce her and demand that she apologize for the sins of her father. And he would instantly see dictatorial tendencies in her genes.
This is probably why she will not have a DNA test with Bongbong, but will rely mainly on her financial backers to persuade the Justices to read the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence in the same way Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza read them.
However, if the Manila Times banner story on Monday is correct, that Sereno will do everything to favor Poe in order to protect herself from the consequences of her own questionable acts as Chief Justice, then the cancer attacking our Constitution and the survival of our democracy has truly metastasized.