Last of 2 parts
EARLY in 2010, it became clear that a late entry into the presidential race, Sen. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino 3rd of the Liberal Party, had become a very serious contender. The knives of his political rivals were quickly unsheathed for this unexpected frontrunner.
One of the designated hitmen was Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who declared on the Senate floor that his colleague Aquino must prove that he was psychologically fit to seek the highest position in the land. Cayetano, the secretary general of the Nacionalista Party that fielded Sen. Manuel Villar in the 2010 presidential race, was apparently referring to the Bulatao report, which was released by Guido Delgado, another Villar sympathizer, in a chain email that went viral.
Meanwhile, over at the Ateneo de Manila University, the retired Jesuit psychiatrist Bulatao, more fondly known as “Father Bu” to the Ateneo community, issued a denial. In an official statement released on April 27, 2010, just days before the elections, Bulatao said:
“It has come to my attention that an unverified psychiatric evaluation allegedly signed by me in 1979 about the mental condition of Sen. Benigno C. Aquino 3rd is currently circulating in the news. I categorically deny having written and signed that report.”
At the time, the 87-year-old Bulatao had already long retired as professor at Ateneo’s Department of Psychology, which he had founded, although he still used that title and designation in issuing the denial. Bulatao would die in 2015 at the age of 92, but no one from the Ateneo community would ever be able to get anything more from him about the issue of the report that bears his name.
When asked directly about it, Father Bu, who was in the care and custody of the pro-Aquino Philippine Jesuits, would only smile and gently change the subject.
(By the way, a GMA news report published online yesterday said Ateneo has reissued Bulatao’s denial and condemned as “fake news” the revival of the issue “pertaining to the fabricated psychiatric evaluation of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.” Only this writer was revived the story, even if the GMA report did not even identify this column as the source.)
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I was late to the story of the Bulatao report on Aquino, but I tried my best to catch up. I could not find a way to get through to the eminent psychiatrist, who would not have talked anyway, so I tried to work around that handicap.
My big break came when a mutual friend introduced me to another prominent Philippine Jesuit, Father Romeo “Archie” Intengan, SJ. Father Archie was a well-known anti-Marcos activist who was jailed and fled to Spain to escape the dictator’s wrath.
Ferdinand Marcos himself accused Intengan, who led a series of protest actions against alleged fraud that attended the 1978 elections for the Interim Batasang Pambansa, of masterminding several terrorist bombing attacks. Intengan was only able to return to the Philippines after the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution that ousted Marcos.
Father Archie, who was the Jesuit provincial (or superior) in the Philippines from 1998 to 2004, agreed to talk to me at Ateneo’s Loyola House of Studies shortly before he died of a heart attack in 2017 at the age of 75. Intengan, a life-long political activist, said I could discuss anything with him, including the controversial Bulatao report.
Father Archie proved to be no pushover for a journalist seeking direct answers to old questions. When we finally got to the report on Aquino, he implied that Bulatao’s hands were necessarily tied in the matter.
How could they not have been, Intengan said, if the Philippine Jesuits have always favored the Aquino family? And why would Bulatao not be pressured to deny what looked, to Father Archie anyway, like a legitimate psychiatric evaluation, when the preeminent psychiatrist was under the care of the Jesuits?
But Intengan would not categorically state that the report was true or not or if Bulatao was forced to recant it or not. And now that both Bulatao and Intengan are dead, there is simply no other version of events that remains except that of the Jesuit university that to this day remains supportive of all things Aquino.
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Ultimately, I never got to write about the Bulatao report because no one with enough authority would validate or debunk it apart from the official (and, in my view, self-interested) source. Which is not to say that mere googling is enough to confirm or deny any story.
In any case, Aquino, psychologically fit or not, already wreaked so much damage on this country during his term that it seems like a pointless exercise to wonder if any warning made earlier would have made a difference.