The 42nd anniversary of martial law, which President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed on Sept. 21, 1972 and lifted on January 17, 1981, came and went last Sunday without any unusual public demonstrations, except for some of the barbed remarks about “Marcos and his evil regime.” These were completely expected, given the sustained effort to proclaim B. S. Aquino 3rd’s imagined virtues against the “sins” of Marcos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, his immediate predecessor.
It was not until two days ago that President B. S. Aquino 3rd told a gathering of Filipinos in Boston that he had wanted to exact vengeance on Marcos for the assassination of his father, the late former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., upon his return to Manila from his three-year medical furlough in Boston on Aug. 21, 1983.
Ninoy had been arrested and jailed after the proclamation of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, tried and sentenced to death by a military tribunal, whose authority he did not recognize. But in 1980, Marcos allowed him to leave for the US to undergo a heart surgery. In 1983, he sent word he was coming home.
Amid rumors of ill health, Marcos tried, through his Defense Secretary, Juan Ponce Enrile, to dissuade him from coming home because of an alleged threat on his life, which, apparently, the government could not satisfactorily contain. This appeal fell on deaf ears.
Using a false passport, under an assumed name (Marcial Bonifacio), but accompanied by some American newsmen, Ninoy found his way to Taipei and then to Manila, where his assassin awaited him. The rest is history.
B. S. Aquino 3rd said he had wanted to exact vengeance at the heat of the moment, but Malacañang was careful to point out that reason ultimately prevailed, and he restrained himself. The regular bashing of Marcos is apparently proof of that restraint.
But certain myths have grown during the nine-year martial law period and since, which must now be put to rest. Only an honest and objective exhumation of the facts can do this. It is the task of this generation, particularly its intellectuals, to do so. They cannot afford to continue quoting the partisan propaganda of the Left and to transmit it to the next generation as the unvarnished truth.
The greatest danger to the country comes from an administration that denounces the “evils of martial law” and yet is determined to foist upon its people worse evils than those of martial law without establishing the constitutional basis for martial law, and formally proclaiming its existence. This is what B. S. Aquino 3rd has done to the country. And his description of the state of checks and balances during martial law describes exactly their present state under his present one-man rule.
Vice President Jejomar hit the nail right on the head when he said, “of utmost importance is preserving the rule of law and constitutional order, especially the independence of our Judiciary from the intrusion or influence of the Executive. We must fight to preserve the ideals of democracy as enshrined in our Constitution from all efforts to weaken the system of checks and balances and fortify the power of one branch over the other co-equal branches, a system that brought about the abuses of martial law.”
But aside from reincarnating the worst part of martial law de facto, the Aquino regime has spread so much political porn about the past that the average citizen could hardly see through the fog of propaganda. Those who have no means to verify the facts, least of all the truth, but simply rely on the conscript media for their daily diet are likely to be misled into believing that the declaration of martial law was the cause of all that has gone wrong in the country.
This is most unfortunate. The declaration of martial law was a consequence rather than a cause, certainly not a “cause uncaused,” but a constitutional response to a declared and virulent communist insurgency. It had its good points and its bad, which we could, and must now, analyze dispassionately. But one thing is clear: without the communist rebellion, there would have been no constitutional basis nor political necessity for the declaration of martial law.
So although his adversaries could rap Marcos for offenses committed by his subordinates, under the principle of command responsibility, it was not Marcos but the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army and the demagogues who helped to put the two together and made use of their insurgency to destabilize the government, who made the declaration of martial law absolutely necessary.
This distinction is absolutely vital if we are to benefit at all from the lessons of our history, and to correctly judge the merits of all the platitudes we hear from the same sources on every martial law anniversary, or whenever it suits their fancy. We need it for our political sanity.
Many consider Ninoy a “hero” because he was assassinated at the rundown international airport that now bears his name, and because he had been “unjustly” jailed, tried and meted a death sentence by a military tribunal before that. PNoy has not only formalized his late father’s status as hero, together with his late mother Cory; beyond that, he has put Ninoy on the same rank as Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero. But quite apart from his gruesome murder, which should never happen to anybody, Ninoy’s political record was (is) replete with contradictions and controversy.
Ninoy’s proud boast to his foreign correspondent-friends, before Marcos proclaimed martial law, was that, if ever he became president, his first act would be to declare martial law, in imitation of South Korea’s Park Chung Hee. He openly doubted that Marcos would have “the balls” to declare martial law before he actually did. Ninoy became the enemy of martial law only because he became its prisoner rather than its jailer, had his dream come true.
And much about his murder has remained a total mystery. His assassin is known—Rolando Galman, a gunman from Nueva Ecija who was instantly killed by government agents after he had shot Aquino. But the party or parties that had planned or ordered his assassination remain unknown to this day.
No independent investigation has shown any link between Galman and the Marcos regime, just as no similar investigation has shown that the capital charges against Aquino were pure fabrications or a dictator’s cruel whimsy. And neither Cory Aquino, who was president from 1986 to 1992, nor her president-son had ever shown any interest in ending the mystery.
Marcos’s great failure was in failing to prevent that murder, assuming he could have. But cold and indisputable evidence is needed to link him to it. Fifteen years before that, and for many years later, political propaganda blamed Marcos for the bombing of a political rally at Plaza Miranda which nearly wiped out the entire Liberal Party leadership, except for Ninoy, the LP secretary-general, who was serendipitously (some say suspiciously) absent from the stage.
Years later, the surviving victims of that outrage had to admit it was the communists, not Marcos, who were responsible for it. And questions have since persisted about Ninoy’s probable role in it. But this has remained uninvestigated.
Even Ninoy’s alleged role in bringing together Jose Ma. Sison’s CPP and Bernabe Buscayno’s (Commander Dante’s) NPA, which has been the subject of so much urban legend, has remained unexamined.
All that we have is an abundance of constantly recycled and regurgitated propaganda. This propaganda has been permanently loaded in favor of Aquino, against Marcos. It is time we heard from the Marcoses.
Except for one, who has no interest in politics, all members of the Marcos family are now in active public life—Imelda Marcos is in the House, Bongbong Marcos is in the Senate, and Imee Marcos is governor of Ilocos Norte. Yet they have continuously taken everything on the chin, rolled with the punches. They have not delivered any riposte.
In the interest of the historical truth, is it not time to open up an earnest inquisition, and also an open debate, in the pages of the national press or on TV perhaps, on the unresolved Marcos-Aquino controversy, so that the nation, particularly the present generation whose knowledge of recent history is based mostly on partisan propaganda, will know once and for all on whose side lies the whole truth, or at least the bigger truth?
This issue must be put to rest, and this could be the best way to do it.
Correction: In my last column (“A syndicate posing as a government?”), the “Old Testament” erroneously appears as the source of the narrative about the woman caught in adultery. The correct reference is to the “New Testament,” (John 8:6). Such slips shouldn’t happen, but they do, when the fingers and the eyes fail to work together. Sorry.