IN a meeting of confirmed Dilawans the other evening — meeting in honor of former president Corazon Aquino — the attendee who surprised me the most, having come the farthest, was Tomas “Buddy” Gomez. He now resides in Texas. He has previously written anecdotes about World War 2, but I cannot really say I can go back that far. The Waray should now be in Calbayog (for his numerous Valentines?).
Seventy-five years ago, we are told, more than 100,000 lives were lost in the Liberation of Manila that lasted roughly from Feb. 3, 1945 to a month or so later. Manila was supposed to have been the second most devastated city after Warsaw in World War 2.
Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita had left Manila in 1945, reportedly as an open city (as it was so declared by Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Dec. 26, 1941, to spare civilians and cultural landmarks from harm and destruction; Japan bombed it anyway). Command passed on to Adm. Sanjo Iwabuchi with his supposedly relatively undisciplined sadistic sailors.
Yet, Yamashita was hanged on the theory of command responsibility. A justice who dissented in the United States Supreme Court was Frank Murphy, the last American governor general here after whom Camp Aguinaldo was called in my youth. He decried that, no doubt, the vindictive high feelings of the moment would be satisfied, but in the sober afterglow would come the realization of the dangerous and boundless implications of what the court did that day to a fallen enemy commander. The Yamashita, or Medina, Standard remains today, though, as victor’s justice.
Georges Clemenceau supposedly said military justice is to justice what military music is to music (personally, I don’t find anything wrong with military music, but a lot wrong with its justice given my experience with Ferdinand Marcos’ military commissions administering military injustice).
Perhaps it wasn’t necessary to destroy Manila in 1945 in order to save it. History is said to be written by the victors. It was in James M. Scott’s 2018 book where I read that the redoubtable Carmen “Chitang” Guerrero Nakpil spat on the first American soldier she met in 1945, for making her a widow and daughter Gemma, an orphan, and, equally compelling, victimizing countless others and laying waste charming and genteel Manila, a city she had loved, and lost, to feckless American bombardment. “Damn you,” she later wrote, addressing the GI, “You did your best to kill us.” (Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita and the Battle of Manila, p. 428, 2018)
In the current administration’s bewildering World War 3 against local critics, I found hope last Monday when the Department of Justice threw out various Kenkoy, ooops, Bikoy, cases filed against Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, Veep Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and many others, including the Otso Diretso Senate candidates, patriots all. I had assisted Risa’s excellent legal team in fending off charges of sedition, inciting to sedition, cyberlibel, estafa and obstruction of justice.
Our adversary was remarkable Solicitor General Jose Calida, who I characterized as preferring to be a thoughtless tuta ni Digong rather than the usual thoughtful people’s tribune, echoing Compañero Arno Sanidad’s earlier refined observation (he, President Rodrigo Duterte and I share a common background in having attended San Beda University). Hindi po ako likas na bastos, napapagaya lang po and I don’t even use fentanyl.
Voices, not echoes
It seems we may have in the Justice Department voices, not echoes. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra says the water concession review may take six months. He may have to kiss his dream of being named a Supreme Court justice goodbye, but life would go on. (I myself turned down a signed high court appointment in January 1987, when I was 47, and the world did not end for me. To me, public service is its own reward and so many seniors bypassed by Marcos, far more deserving anyway, than I, were still around then.)
I did help magistrate Abdulhawid Bidin get there and it is time for another Muslim to go up and help promote national harmony. The Prez himself is reported to be one-fourth Muslim, but has shown no sympathy for the civilian Muslim victims when the brave Mamasapano 44 went to Muslim-held territory and got a rude welcome; they met typically fierce Muslim resistance, as shown by their elders of all denominations in Bataan in World War 2.
Poor Capas, the site of another possible Death March of sorts (?). Fort Magsaysay could have been a less controversial site for the patients under investigation for the coronavirus disease 2019. (Capas also has to contend reportedly with African swine fever.) Not in My Back Yard, Baby, (Nimby) is also a battle cry in resisting a nuke plant site, once we discard our pwede na mentality and approximate the technological competence, devotion to, and obsession with, perfection of the Japanese.
Japan is said to be most generous in its dealings with us and may find it puzzling that the administration can unilaterally declare a contract as onerous. That should be a task for an independent judiciary or arbiter to say, for fairness, stability and predictability, in our backyard, or wherever. Not a biased party. Too self-serving.
Government by tantrum
What we seem to have is a government by tantrum, headed by hizzoner, the meyor. Once he declares contracts entered into by former presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as containing onerous provisions, is there a government lawyer or judge who’d dare contradict him and risk a Taal Volcano eruption? Not ash falling, but peeing in pants we may detect as a rampaging bull in a china shop we seem to see in the Palace.
Maybe the silence of certain high officials is because of their belief that at times, silence is the unbearable repartee? Or is it the silence of the lambs? It reassures that the lambs are now apparently emitting sounds of democracy on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and ABS-CBN issues.
Pleasant welcome bleating, given that the right thing is being done (let’s assume that abrogating the VFA is the right thing, a huge debatable assumption), it is not being done in the right away (Fire!Aim!Ready! when it should be Ready!Aim!Fire), at the wrong time (given the specter of terrorism and China’s irredentism) and for the wrong reason at that (Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa cancellation), a totally disproportionate response. The Prez should have convened the National Security Council and coordinated with the Senate, for legitimacy and acceptability. Such a gesture matters.
Was it National Collegiate Athletic Association super-cheerleader Buddy Gomez who suggested that maybe in Digong’s time in our common alma mater in Mendiola, what Buddy and I had sung as Thomasian “Tantum Ergo” was transmogrified, oh no, into Benedictine Tantrum Ego?