The brutal massacre of farmers under the late Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and of farmers and police commandoes under her son B. S. Aquino 3rd has darkened their alleged legacy and whatever place they have in history. To many Filipinos, these violent incidents constitute a burden not only on the Aquinos but even on the next administration which could be as heavy as our problems in the South China/West Philippine Sea.
Cory served as our 11th president from 1986 to 1992. After the lapse of 18 years, her son PNoy was “hocus-PCOSed” into the presidency, from where he will mercifully be discharged on June 30. Cory Aquino knew nothing about running a government; like his late mother, the son does not know much either, and seems to be shadowed by violence from his first days in office.
On Jan. 22, 1987, some 10,000 to 15,000 farmers marched on Mendiola Street, a few hundred meters outside the gates of Malacañang, demanding the full fruits of land reform, as earlier promised by Cory. Many of these were farmers from Hacienda Luisita, the 6,453-hectare sugar estate owned by Cory’s original (Cojuangco) family, said to be bigger than Makati and Pasay City. The police opened fire on the marchers, killing 13 and wounding 39 others, while some 20 members of the police sustained minor injuries.
The massacre provoked such an outrage that former Senator Jose Wright Diokno and former Justice J.B.L. Reyes, two of the country’s most outstanding nationalists, resigned as chairman and vice chairman respectively of the presidential committee on Human Rights—-a severe blow on the Cory administration. A citizens’ commission was created under former Justice Vicente Abad Santos to investigate; this recommended the prosecution of all commissioned officers of the Western Police District and Integrated National Police field force who carried arms at the time.
The coup attempts, too
In the meantime, Cory had other instability problems. Between 1986 and 1987, there were six minor coup attempts against her. These were prompted by her soft treatment of the communists and corrupt elements in government, and her questionable legitimacy as president. She had become revolutionary president upon the fall of President Marcos, but she continued in office without having to go through an election, after the revolutionary government was abolished.
The biggest coup attempt was staged on Dec. 1, 1989 by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement and allied units under the combined leadership of then Colonel (now Senator and Vice Presidential candidate) Gregorio Honasan, Gen. Edgardo Abenina and retired Gen. Jose Ma. Zumel. The government was saved only by the intervention of the US government, which provided Marines ground support around the US Embassy, and air support from USS Enterprise and USS Midway.
On Nov. 16, 2004, state forces again opened fire on a farmers march on Hacienda Luisita, killing 12 farmers and two children, and wounding hundreds. This happened under the Arroyo administration, but it still involved the Cojuangco-Aquino’s oligarchic interests.
On August 22, 2010, the two-month-old PNoy presidency had a hostage-taking crisis inside a tourist bus at the very heart of Manila. Seven Hong Kong tourists and one tour guide were killed, and 13 others were injured before the hostage-taker was finally killed in an inept operation, which was really for the books. Aquino was reported to have watched the operation on TV from a nearby Chinese restaurant.
From Sept. 8 to 15, 2013, Aquino, assisted by then DILG Secretary and now LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas, commanded an operation of several thousand military men and police against a couple of hundred poorly armed fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front, who had come to Zamboanga City allegedly to raise the flag of “Mindanao independence.” This came to be known as the siege of Zamboanga.
The MNLF contingent, commanded by Habier Malik, seeing how badly outnumbered and outgunned they were, reportedly tried to sue for peace. They asked for a truce so they could vacate the area without any bloodshed. This was refused. So except for Malik who was reportedly wounded while escaping, the entire MNLF contingent was extinguished, while 10,000 homes were gutted down, and over 100,000 people were displaced.
On January 25, 2015, on the occasion of Cory’s 82nd birthday, PNoy flew to Zamboanga ostensibly to inspect the housing projects for the displaced victims of the earlier siege. In reality, it was to monitor by remote control Operation Exodus, the special operations under his direct command, involving the Special Action Force commandos of the Philippine National Police, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where they were supposed to “neutralize” two high-value terrorist targets, for which the US government had put up a bounty of $5 million.
This became known as the “Mamasapano massacre” where 44 SAF commandos perished after they were denied reinforcement by their operational commander, while under attack from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Several post-massacre incidents aggravated public recriminations against Aquino’s official conduct relative to this tragic incident. Many hold him responsible for the massacre, for having reportedly given the “stand down” order to the reinforcement units, when the SAF 44 were desperately begging for help.
Several formal inquiries, including one in the Senate, have tried to paper over Aquino’s direct accountability for the death of the 44; but he is not yet out of the woods. Several individuals and groups have threatened to file criminal charges against him and his collaborators as soon as he is out of office. There could be a long queue of people wanting to institute proceedings against him on various issues.
The Kidapawan massacre is the latest. It could have been avoided simply by releasing 5,000 or 15,000 sacks of rice to the North Cotabao farmers whose families had been starving because of the prolonged drought. But for some unexplained reasons, the simplest solution turned out to be the last thing they could think of. The Left saw an opportunity to exploit the situation, and wasted no time to do so; the result was the “massacre” with a handful of dead and hundreds wounded, which Aquino could not bear to look at and commiserate with.
Bookends to violence
Thus, from the Jan. 22, 1987 Mendiola massacre under Cory to this April 1, 2016 Kidapawan massacre under PNoy, we now see the two Aquino presidencies, despite the gap of 18 years, joined together by a history of state violence against the poorest of our citizens. Mendiola and Kidapawan stand at the beginning and the end of these two violence-racked regimes like two bloodied bookends. They expose the emptiness of the legacy which PNoy likes to claim for his late parents and for himself; and they reveal the darkness of the mother-and-son rule, which he likes to paint in shades of gold.
Our present state
But the Kidapawan massacre is not the last note in the dirge accompanying PNoy’s exit. These are some of the more disturbing ones that define our present state:
1) At least 18 provinces are now suffering from drought. All of Mindanao is experiencing extended power blackouts. But so far away from Mindanao, Terminal 3 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport had a costly (and unsatisfactorily explained) five-hour blackout.
2) After an unexplained bomb scare at Ateneo University on Loyola Heights, a fire of undetermined and unexplained origin struck at the University of the Philippines Faculty Center and the University of the East. Is there a new “Light a Fire Movement” out there, and what are the next targets?
3) The Commission on Elections, Smartmatic and its Brazilian partner have not satisfied the public demand for the restoration of security and security features and accuracy mechanisms into the precinct council optical scan (PCOS) voting machine, now renamed Vote Counting Machine (VCM), and appear more interested in how to circumvent the Supreme Court directive that the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT) be installed into the VCM.
4) Meanwhile, the various presidential camps are trying to acquire their respective individual ViaSat transmission capabilities for the election. They intend to run parallel operations with the Comelec and Smartmatic. What will this do to the election?
5) The corporate cronies, the casino owners and operators, and presumably the crime lords, drug traffickers and money launderers have become the biggest financiers of the presidential candidates, so the real competition is no longer between or among the candidates, but between and among their backers, who all want to own the next president and government. The election has become the biggest game in the biggest casino in operation, called the Republic of the Philippines.
6) The paid propaganda surveys have become the principal, if not sole venue, of political campaigning, and all unverified and unverifiable claims, dressed as survey results, are uncritically marketed by the commercial media to their consumers, who swallow the garbage hook, line and sinker. National candidates no longer buy individual votes; they simply buy the surveys whose “results” are not simply used to “condition the minds” of undecided voters but rather to guide the cheating syndicates in rigging the election results. Having earlier accepted the bogus survey results, the voters and the candidates will not reject the rigged results.
7) Because of one individual’s burning ambition to become the president, supported by the most powerful and ambitious business funders, regardless of her eminent lack of qualifications under the Constitution, several Justices of the Supreme Court have been forced to come out with a position in her favor without any basis in the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence. This has made our highest Court the butt of all uncharitable and unfair statements, even among lawyers and judges, who are otherwise required to speak of the Court and our magistrates with utmost reverence and respect.
The mess we’ve created
What we have done to this country is not so easy to contemplate, much less forgive. We have turned it into a first-class mess. We all share in this guilt, including those who believe themselves innocent. But the guiltiest must be prepared to accept their part and make amends. I wonder what gives Aquino the courage to insist that Bongbong Marcos apologize for his father’s failure to turn over this country to the communists, and brag about the non-existent things he imagines he and his dead parents have done for us.
Far more important than this, I wonder what gives anyone the courage to believe they have an outside chance of fixing this gargantuan mess, without being ready to die for their Faith if they have any, or at the very least for the Constitution, if that was the minimum requirement?