The Marcoses never really left homeBy Raissa Robles | 5:59 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Editor’s Note: Starting Sept. 21, the 42nd anniversary of the proclamation of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos, we have been running a series of articles to remember one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history. The articles are necessarily commemorations and more so a celebration of and a thanksgiving for the courage of the men and women who endured unspeakable pain and loss to overcome the Marcos dictatorship and regain our freedoms. These are some of their stories.
When the Marcoses fled Malacañang in 1986, many Filipinos heaved a sigh of relief, thinking they were gone for good.
Now 28 years later, the Marcoses are parked at the very doorstep of Malacañang, with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ only son and namesake being groomed to retake the Palace come 2016.
Ferdinand Jr. (Bongbong) is a senator eyeing the presidency; his sister Imelda Jr. (Imee) is governor of their northern stronghold; their mother Imelda is a congresswoman; and their late dictator-dad turned into a saintly-looking icon like the dead Pope that is miraculously preserved inside St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican.
Religious cults like the Alpha-Omega have sprung to await Marcos’ resurrection. As cult member Teresita Maglahus said in 1993: “We are waiting for a miracle in the Philippines, the new Jerusalem. It will be revealed to our countrymen and other nations that … President Marcos is God.”
How do you account for such a stunning reversal from ill fortune?
They never really left.
Political roots intact
The 1986 People Power Revolution did chop down the Marcos political tree. But its intricate roots that spread far and wide across the state bureaucracy and Philippine society remained intact. All the Marcoses had to do was nurture the roots and wait for the tree to grow back.
In 1998, by Imee Marcos’ own reckoning, “we waited 12 years to be on the right side of the fence.” Right side meant a political alliance with then victorious President-elect Joseph Estrada, velvet seats in Congress for Imee and her mother, and a governorship for Bongbong.
An ecstatic Imee spilled the family’s secret to success: “Many professionals were appointed by my father. So you have this immense bedrock of Marcos appointees who keep moving up.”
Like secret stay-behind units, this vast army of professionals scattered in all sectors of society have defended the Marcoses and helped erase the dark legacy of their regime.
For various reasons, no post-Marcos administration made it a point to keep the memory of the atrocities and the greed alive and pass this on to the next generation. I remember early on then President Corazon Aquino’s board of censors chief Manoling Morato scolding the public and the media for discussing the Marcos excesses. “Let’s stop demonizing the Marcoses,” he said, after the dictator died in 1989.
Morato was probably following the age-old Filipino practice of not speaking ill of the dead.
I have been a Marcos watcher since 1981 when I unwittingly witnessed the paper “lifting” of martial law in Malacañang. This was courtesy of an invite from Ferdinand Marcos’ speechwriter Adrian Cristobal who had taken over the Philippine Education Company which published The Review magazine. I was its associate editor.
I did not know it then but that was part of my political awakening—to see up close the pomp and power of the dictatorship. Imelda Marcos delayed the speech but no one minded. When she entered Heroes’ Hall, the center parted like the Red Sea as she walked regally, towering above all, heavily made up and in a terno that made her look like a character in a play. She knew how to stage drama.
Later, I would cover her as the governor of Metro Manila Commission, then as congresswoman and an accused.
Looking back, I can see the various factors that helped the Marcoses stage their comeback.
First of all, few in the political opposition that replaced Ferdinand Marcos knew how to run a government. President Corazon Aquino had to rely heavily on the bureaucracy that Marcos had built up to institutionalize his tyranny. Enough key civil servants remained closet Marcos loyalists or were sympathetic or deeply grateful to the Marcos couple for acts of favor.
President Cory tried to “deMarcosify” the bureaucracy through a purge but the Senate pressured her to suspend this twice, according to Dr. Ledivina Cariño, a University of the Philippines College of Public Administration professor in her 1992 book, “Bureaucracy for Democracy: the Dynamics of Executive-Bureaucracy Interaction during Governmental Transitions.”
This is probably what enabled Mrs. Marcos to beat her corruption conviction.
In 1991, President Cory’s government was faced with a difficult dilemma. The Swiss Federal Court had given an ultimatum: If Manila did not take Mrs. Marcos to court by December 20, 1991, the freeze on all the Marcoses’ Swiss bank assets, including the already identified US$356 million, would be lifted. That meant the Marcoses could claim them all.
This was why Imelda Marcos was finally allowed to come home.
Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr.—Mrs. Aquino’s second Interior and Local Governments Minister—told me the second factor that allowed Mrs. Marcos to manipulate the situation. The Aquino government stopped itself from implementing deeply needed reforms that could have rooted out the dictatorship because “we wanted to be the opposite of Marcos.”
When Marcos imposed Martial Law, he jailed his political enemies. When Imelda Marcos returned home on November 4, 1991, she was allowed to stage a dramatic homecoming.
Writing about that moment in “The Aquino Administration–Record & Legacy” published by the University of the Philippines Press in 1992, Mrs. Aquino’s executive secretary, Franklin Drilon (now the Senate President), said: “Mrs. Marcos was allowed to return with no restriction to the pomp and pageantry which accompanied it. Her personal security was ensured, and she was allowed to participate in the election.”
Goofy sound bites
Imelda’s return probably marks the start of the family’s slow but steady climb back to power. Reporters, both foreign and local, simply adored her because she gave such goofy sound bites.
By September 1995, as the Church and militant groups prepared to mount nationwide protests against the 27th anniversary of martial law, Mrs. Marcos defiantly said: “The martial law declaration on Sept. 21, 1972, was one of the best things that happened in Philippine history … to ensure peace for our country.”
Few recalled that this was the same woman who got a convicted murderer to win the presidency in 1965 by serenading voters and telling them—would someone as beautiful as I marry a murderer?
Off-camera, she tirelessly nurtured the network that she and her husband had built up over two decades of being in power. That network gave her the edge when she fought off hundreds of lawsuits and she was convicted on Sept. 24, 1993, for approving an “anomalous transaction” that caused the Light Rail Transit Authority, which she chaired, to lose the equivalent of US$4.8 million. The LRTA vice chair Jose Dans was also convicted for signing the contract on behalf of LRTA.
Convicted but never jailed
This transaction involved leasing out two train station terminals at below market rates to a private foundation that she herself put up and headed. Philippine General Hospital Foundation was supposed to raise funds for the state-owned Philippine General Hospital but its hospital director told me then in an interview that PGH never got a cent from PGH Foundation. Mrs. Marcos signed the contract with LRTA on behalf of the foundation even though she was also the LRTA chair.
In 1996, the Supreme Court found Mrs. Marcos “guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” sentenced her to 12 years in jail and fined her the equivalent of the anomalous contract. Dans was acquitted because the Court found “no conspiracy” between him and Mrs. Marcos.
Around the same time that the government of Fidel Ramos—the dictator’s second cousin—was prosecuting Mrs. Marcos in court, it was secretly negotiating a deal that only came to light in 1996 when former Solicitor General Frank Chavez asked the Supreme Court to stop it. The deal would have allowed the Marcoses to walk off with 25 percent of all their ill-gotten wealth—here and abroad. Tax-free. In addition, all pending criminal and civil cases against them would be dropped.
But that wasn’t all. Chavez presented a letter dated Jan. 24, 1995, from Mrs. Marcos’ lawyer to Presidential Commission on Good Government chair Magtanggol Gunigundo saying “it is further understood that $50 million will be taken from the top as approved by President Ramos and your
(Gunigundo’s) good self.”
“Where will the $50 million taken from the top go?” Chavez demanded to know as he asked to court to permanently bar all compromise deals with the Marcoses.
Just think. If the late lawyer Chavez had not won this case, the Marcoses would have walked off with at least US$89 million, or P3.9 billion (at P44 per dollar). That would have been their cut in the US$356 million loot the dictator and his wife stashed in Swiss banks—not for the Filipino people but for their three children. I have copies of Swiss documents to show this.
In addition, the government would never have known about the US$40 million Arelma account that the court recently awarded “with finality” to the government as part of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.
Senator Bongbong Marcos told me during a foreign correspondents forum in 2011 that he was still after striking a deal: “We’ve been pursuing a compromise settlement since 1986. We will continue to do so.”
You can just imagine what he will do with the rest of his family’s cases if he became President.
Part of the Marcos propaganda being propagated on the Internet is that no Marcos has ever gone to jail for any crime. Therefore all the crimes alleged against them are untrue.
Mrs. Marcos was acquitted in 1990 over the antiracketeering case in New York for four reasons. First, Mr. Marcos who was the principal accused was never arraigned because he said he was “too ill” to stand trial.
Second, the Swiss bank documents that would have traced the money trail for the purchase of New York properties from Manila to Hong Kong to Switzerland to New York never came. Her lawyers had successfully blocked their release. Third, Mrs. Marcos’ lawyer Gerry Spence used the “I’m just a housewife” defense while the former First Lady put on an act before the jury. And fourth, the jurors felt Mrs. Marcos should be standing trial in Manila, not in New York.
If Twitter and Facebook had existed then, her trial would have had a different outcome.
Now let me go back to the LRTA case for which Mrs. Marcos was actually convicted. This illustrates how she has managed to escape convictions all these years.
Five years after her conviction by the Sandiganbayan over the LRTA anomaly, Ramos’ Solicitor General Romeo de la Cruz suddenly submitted a highly unusual request before the Supreme Court to reverse Mrs. Marcos’ conviction for lack of evidence.
I was greatly puzzled and shocked by seeing the chief government lawyer throw away a landmark case that the government had been trying to win all those years.
And so, I interviewed SolGen De la Cruz on the matter. He told me then: “Sandiganbayan erred. It should not have convicted Mrs. Marcos. It played blind to the evidence she presented. So we recommended to the Supreme Court…to acquit Mrs. Marcos.”
He also told me that he arrived at this on “purely legal grounds” and “without asking clearance form higher officials including President Ramos.”
This was even though his office was under the Office of the President and it was never involved in prosecuting the case before Sandiganbayan. The Office of the Ombudsman provided the prosecution lawyers.
I asked him how he got involved and he said it was because the Supreme Court had directed the SolGen, not the Ombudsman, to comment on Mrs. Marcos’ appeal for acquittal.
One of the boys
I asked him about his background and I learned that SolGen De la Cruz became a government lawyer in 1974 serving under Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza—Mrs. Marcos’ lead lawyer. De la Cruz slowly rose through the ranks before being appointed chief government lawyer by Ramos in February 1998—a nearly midnight appointment.
A disgusted human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag told me at that time, “Solicitor General Romeo de la Cruz’s flip-flop is a reflection of the new power situation. If, as we understand it, he is one of the boys of former Solicitor General and Justice Minister Estelito Mendoza, the snicker or wink factor will be there. That passes for administration of justice in our benighted country.”
The Supreme Court used Solgen De la Cruz’ stunning request for acquittal as one of the grounds to acquit Mrs. Marcos on Oct. 6, 1998, by a vote of 8-5-1.
“Thank you, Lord,” Mrs. Marcos said.
But former Senator Jovito Salonga had a different take on the verdict. He noted that five upheld Mrs. Marcos’ conviction: Chief Justice Andrews Narvasa, Justices Artemio Panganiban, Florenz Regaldao, Flerida Ruth Romero and Hilario Davide Jr.
But Salonga noted that seven of the eight justices who cleared Mrs. Marcos owed their appointments to senior judicial positions to Mr. Marcos or to Estelito Mendoza, her lead counsel.
I tried checking out Salonga’s statement and this is what I found. Four of the eight justices who had acquitted Mrs. Marcos once had her lawyer Estelito Mendoza as their boss.
Reynato Puno (now a retired Chief Justice) worked under Mendoza for nine years. Vicente Mendoza was Assistant SolGen under Mendoza from 1973 to 1980. Santiago Kapunan worked under Mendoza from 1972 to 1973. Fidel Purisima did not work under the SolGen but Mr Marcos appointed him a judge.
The two others who acquitted Mrs. Marcos were Antonio Martinez and Leonardo Quisumbing. I could not find any reference to Martinez but I personally knew Quisumbing who once worked at the Defense Department under Ramos. Jose Vitug abstained from voting.
If this was a jury in the United States, at the very least some of them could have been questioned for possible conflict of interest.
To this day, the Supreme Court is silent about its dark history during the dictatorship. When Renato Corona was Chief Justice, the court website just skipped any reference to the fact that it was the Supreme Court that legitimized the Marcos dictatorship. Today, if you click the icon that says “history,” nothing comes out.
Is the Supreme Court ashamed of its history? Or is it still being rewritten?
As my fellow journalist husband Alan wrote, “It is a truism that Filipinos are a forgiving people. But how will they ever forgive the crimes of the Marcoses? They cannot even seem to remember them.”
Raissa Robles is journalist-webmaster of raissarobles.com: inside Philippine politics and beyond and Manila correspondent of South China Morning Post. Her twitter handle is @raissawriter and her Facebook community page is www.facebook.com/raissawriter.
Regime of Marcoses, cronies, kleptocracy
Dream on: Marcoses out to return home to Malacañang
Gone to the dogsPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:41 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Finally appearing before the Senate committee on peace and order Tuesday after having previously snubbed its summons, Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima admitted the widespread corruption in the PNP, said he was “ashamed” of this state of affairs, and vowed to correct the situation regardless of who’s involved: “Hinding-hindi po ako papayag na magkakaganun. Hindi na uubra ang mag modus operandi nila, ‘yan ang pinatigil ko at patuloy kong babantayan kahit sino man ang tamaan.”
Spoken like lines from a bad action movie. True to his public disposition so far of evading specifics and taking refuge in platitudes, Purisima’s ham-fisted promise treats the rampant criminality currently terrorizing our streets as largely a public-relations problem that can be remedied by stentorian, properly modulated statements from the top cop.
But it’s not going to work. Purisima’s detached, lackadaisical approach to his work seems only to have emboldened criminal syndicates to declare the current rudderless environment open season for kidnapping for ransom, car theft, “hulidap” and the like—with many such crimes pulled off in cahoots with or under the leadership of cops themselves. According to a special report run in this paper’s Metro pages, the kidnapping of Chinese Filipinos is on the rise again: 18 in 2012, 26 in 2013 and 28 as of last August. Koreans have also been popular targets. And ordinary Filipinos everywhere have had to endure daily street crimes from snatching to theft by common lowlifes, along with the extortion activities of lowlifes of an upper rank—those with uniforms, police badges and guns.
Just last week, members of the Manila Police District’s anti-car theft section were in hot water after a Pakistani casino financier came forward to accuse them of robbing him following the bogus charge that four of his cars were listed as stolen vehicles. The Pakistani said he and a Chinese friend were threatened that they would be charged with kidnapping if they didn’t cough up P300,000, which dropped to P100,000 after some requisite haggling. The alleged culprits? The chief of the anti-car theft section, Senior Insp. Rommel Geneblazo, and seven of his men, or practically the entire section. On the day they were ordered arrested by MPD Director Rolando Asuncion, the section’s office became a deserted space.
Meanwhile, as though to illustrate that police officers can also be generous and helpful toward people who tickle their fancy, a starlet-model posted on her Facebook page (since taken down) her profuse thanks that she was again able to beat color-coding raps on the strength of a business card of the PNP director for plans, Chief Supt. Alexander Ignacio, at the back of which he had written the instructions: “Please assist my EA, Alyzza Agustin.”
“Thank you so much sa napaka useful mong card with matching dedication pa,” Agustin had written. No explanation yet from the PNP whether the model, among 2013’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World according to men’s magazine FHM, is actually in its employ as Ignacio’s “executive assistant.”
But there was Purisima in the Senate, boldly declaring, in the face of the panorama of breakdown and rot his organization is experiencing: “Hinding-hindi po ako papayag na magkakaganun.” Huh? He has been PNP chief since December 2012. He’s not an upstart in the job, he has had nearly two years to effect changes—if he had the will and the gumption for it. The subtext of his odd future-tense statement seems to be that, from now on, having learned from the brickbats his poor performance has garnered, he will do better.
Again, that will not do. His abysmal track record in going after criminals and in cracking down on his erring men does not inspire confidence in the public. At this point, it only contributes to the widespread sense that law and order in the land has gone to the dogs. The Inquirer special report detailing the notorious kidnap-for-ransom cases of years ago and similar incidents just this year confirms that the safety and freedom of ordinary citizens from fear, harassment and violence by often well-connected criminals remain a dicey proposition—thanks to a lousy police force and a justice system that takes years, even decades, to mete out punishment for heinous crimes.
If this unending blight is to be stopped, it must start with a capable, aggressive and far-sighted leader at the top.
Sour grapesBy Ambeth R. Ocampo | Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:40 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Salcedo Auctions lived up to its “praise releases” recently by setting new auction records in the Rare Books department. Last month a first edition of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” published in Berlin in 1887, was put on the block with an estimate of P300-350,000; it sold at a whopping hammer price of P6 million. If you add the buyer’s premium and the value-added tax, the actual price paid was P7 million—the highest ever paid for a Philippine book.
Contrary to a rumor circulating in collecting circles, I am, unfortunately, not the consignor of the “Noli.” As a matter of fact, I now regret having sold my copy of the rarer “El Filibusterismo,” published in Ghent in 1891, three decades ago for P7,000. Had I held on to my mint-condition, first-edition “Fili” and created the proper media hype, maybe I could have sold it for about the same price as the “Noli” today. As they say in Filipino, nasa huli ang pagsisisi (regret comes in the end).
Consulted about the “Noli” by parties interested in bidding for it at the Salcedo auction, I said the book shouldn’t fetch more than P500,000, or about $12,000. I based this conservative estimate on the last copy of a first-edition “Noli” that was put up for auction in 2004 as part of the 75th anniversary of the Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian Society (PNAS). This copy personally inscribed by Rizal and presented to the mother of his girlfriend Nellie Boustead was then offered with the reserve price of $10,000. Not a bad mark-up for something acquired dirt-cheap on eBay. The PNAS catalogue entry reads:
“1st edition Book ‘Noli me tangere.’ Published by Berlin Buchdruckerei-Action-Gesellschaft Setzerinen-Schule des Lette-Vereins, Berlin 1886, one of the greatest and valuable book written by Dr. Jose Rizal leading to the ‘Cry of Independence.’ At one time, Dr. Jose Rizal even considered burning the manuscript of this book—which might have altered the course of history. The Spanish authorities banned the book for reason that it was heretic and subversive: anyone caught in possession of this book, is subject to imprisonment. The first edition book published in Berlin on 1886 became very rare. This particular first edition book to be auctioned by the PNAS has an intriguing question: Inside is a handwritten dedication addressed to Ms. Nelly Boustead, stating ‘adieu’ and signed ‘el autor.’ Mystery surrounds why he would write ‘adieu’ which actually meant goodbye instead of the usual salutations? And why would he sign ‘el autor’ instead of his usual signature? Some Rizalista historian has written of a love story between the two lovers. Extremely rare. $10,000.”
I expected a sober, better-researched, and better-written description from the PNAS, but I realized that auction catalogues in the Philippines have a lot to learn from similar catalogues from the West that provide erudite bibliographic information rather than create intrigue and mystery over the item to increase its desirability and raise its sale price. First, the “Noli” was published in 1887, not 1886. Second, the accompanying photograph of the inscription is definitely by Rizal but the cataloguer misread “Dedica” for “Adieu” and mistook “M. Boustead” for Rizal’s girlfriend Nellie. Actually, it was the mother, Madame Boustead, which explains why the dedication required the more formal “el autor” instead of Rizal’s iconic signature. Translated from the original Spanish, the inscription reads: “To Mrs. Boustead [this book] is dedicated [by] the author.”
Whoever owns this inscribed copy of the “Noli” today should be happy that an unsigned, not-so-mint-condition “Noli” sold for P7 million because it is worth much more. But then auctions are not a true measure of value or a barometer of the market because these operate, not on true market value, but on the desire of one buyer to own something at any price. The value of an object remains with the buyer, who may or may not be able to resell for the same price paid.
Nevertheless, other encouraging results were: P408,000 for an 1890 first-edition copy of Rizal’s annotated edition of Antonio de Morga’s “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas,” and P250,000, or a quarter of P1 million, for a copy of the small pamphlet “Constitution Politica De la Republica Filipina,” better known as the Malolos Constitution, and published in Barasoain in 1899. The latter can still be found and bought for much less, the same for Rizal’s edition of the Morga. However, there is an autographed copy of the Morga in a private collection in Makati for which I had long wanted to make an offer, but with the record prices now set I will not get it cheap.
I was a college student on an allowance when I started collecting Filipiniana in the 1980s. There were no crazy auctions then, and with perseverance one could build a decent library, as I did. My regret, in the glow of these auction prices, is that I gave up on rare books 10 years ago because as a historian, I needed the content rather than the actual books. I did not need a first edition if a reprint or photocopy was available.
Today, I have a growing digital library that is more portable than a roomful of books. My problem is that I am more of a historian than a collector. I may not make millions for the books I own, and console myself with the thought that I am a sour but happy grape.
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Comments are welcome at email@example.com
Pendulum swingBy Amando Doronila | Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:39 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
(Concluded from Sept. 24)
CANBERRA—During the first leg of his trip to Europe, President Benigno Aquino III unburdened to a group of German businessmen in Berlin his concerns about the “overreach” of the Supreme Court’s review power.
He said he was seeking a “healthy compromise” with the high court on when it should use its power to review the actions of the other two branches of government (the executive and legislative). “What we are envisioning in this dialogue is to find that healthy compromise that gives them power to provide check and balance, but doesn’t tend itself to want to use a power that is very strong, very powerful,” he said. Such a power is supposed to be used “with restraint … but was being used too much.”
He apparently referred to the high court’s unanimous decision that struck down as unconstitutional portions of the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, the source of pork barrel funds for public works projects nationwide, and warned of a possible “collision” with the executive branch.
Aquino’s speech depicted the executive branch as weak relative to the judiciary. In overstating his case that exaggerated the high court’s power of review in the DAP case—which has come under heavy domestic criticism as a mechanism through which he has attempted to consolidate his already formidable executive powers and to establish an alleged “fiscal dictatorship” without declaring martial law—Aquino said judicial review was hardly used during the martial rule of Ferdinand Marcos (1972-1986).
“It seems that we have swung from one end to the other extreme, wherein before they didn’t want to interfere whatsoever, [but] now, it seems they feel compelled to interfere in everything,” Aquino said. He then said he was open to proposals to amend the Constitution, if only to limit the power of judicial review.
In mentioning martial law, the President stood historical records on their head. His speech in Berlin came in the midst of the commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law in September 1972. The Aquino administration released on that occasion excerpts of Marcos’ diaries, which detail his plans to put the Philippines under martial law and to establish a dictatorship. The diaries reveal Marcos’ acts that dismantled the entire institutional structures that underpinned Philippine constitutional democracy, including an independent Supreme Court and legislature and a free press.
Within the few hours between Marcos’ signing of Proclamation No. 1081 (he moved the date to Sept. 21, which is divisible by his favorite number 7) and his announcement on national television of the martial law decree on Sept. 23, Congress was padlocked, newspapers and radio-TV stations shut down, and individuals on target lists arrested, including journalists, opposition politicians, and activists from the Left, in one of the swiftest seizures of state power by a sitting government in the Third World in the postcolonial era.
Aquino’s attack on the Supreme Court of supposed overreach in the exercise of its power of review was out of context and did not capture the reality that its intervention in the DAP case “paralyzed” the presidential economic initiatives. On the contrary, there is more to be alarmed in the President’s admission that he is open to proposals to extend his term beyond 2016, through an amendment of the Constitution’s provision on term limits. The admission highlighted the issue of term extension on the agenda as he entered the last two years of his presidency.
The Marcos diaries recall how the dictator tried to subvert the high court to avert it from being used by martial law victims to review the constitutionality of Proclamation 1081. Jose Diokno, Max Soliven, Chino Roces, and others taken in the first round of arrests filed a petition with the high court for a writ of habeas corpus. On Sept. 24, 1972, a Sunday, Marcos wrote in his diaries: “I asked Justices Claudio Teehankee, Antonio Barredo, Felix Makasiar and Felix Antonio to see us. They insisted that the government should submit to the Supreme Court for the court to review the constitutionality of the Proclamation. So I told them in the presence of Secretaries Juan Ponce Enrile and Vicente Abad Santos and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza that if necessary, I would formally declare the establishment of a revolutionary government so that I can formally [reverse] the actions of the Supreme Court. They insisted that we retain a color of constitutionality for everything. But I feel that they are still image building and do not understand that a new day has dawned.”
According to Philippine Diary Project documents, which include the Marcos diaries, on Sept. 25, 1972, Marcos continued to stare down the Supreme Court—and to express satisfaction with how everything has turned out. On that day he wrote: “Public reaction throughout is welcome to martial law because of the smooth establishment of peace and order and the hope of a reformed society. In fact, most everyone now says this should have been done earlier. It is indeed gratifying that everyone now finds and discovers I am some kind of a hero. There is nothing as successful as success!”
On the same day, Marcos met Justices Fred Ruiz Castro and Salvador Esguerra for consultation. He wrote: “I told them frankly that I needed their help and counsel because we must keep all actuations within constitutional limits. Justice Castro asked, ‘Is this a coup d’etat?” And I told him that it is not but it is an extraordinary power of the president for a situation anticipated by the Constitution. Justice Esguerra said immediately that he feels that it is legitimate exercise of martial law.”
Occupy CentralBy Michael L. Tan | Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:38 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Hong Kong’s Occupy Central is an intriguing study in civil disobedience.
At this writing now into its third day (the fourth, by the time you read this), the protest action has seen the occupation of the central business district of Hong Kong by several thousand people, mostly young students who are boycotting classes.
The protest was launched to pressure the central Chinese government to allow general suffrage and open nominations of candidates in Hong Kong’s next election, scheduled in 2017. Under the present system, the candidates are preselected by Beijing.
I have been following the reports on Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, which include almost hourly updates throughout the day (and night)—and the emerging picture is a protest marked by amazing restraint on the part of the protesters, and, to some extent, by the police. On the first night of the protest action the police did fire tear gas and pepper spray into the crowds, and arrested some of the leaders and demonstrators, who were released after a brief detention. The crowds retreated from the tear gas, but stayed on.
All over the world, and especially in the Philippines, a rally with young people would be marked by tense and angry confrontations that often erupt in violence. In Hong Kong, the main tumult seems to comprise crowds chanting the name of Hong Kong’s governor-general, followed by “Resign!” The South China Morning Post did report that some of the policemen were complaining about being on the receiving end of foul language from some of the protesters.
Except for the pepper spray and tear gas, no assaults or violent incidents have been reported. On the second night there was a car that reportedly sped into the crowd, but the incident did not result in injuries. There was also a report of an elderly woman who started hitting protesters with a stick, but she explained later that she was retaliating because they used foul language on her.
The protesters have been able to police themselves, even to make vital decisions by a show-of-hands vote—for example, whether to reduce (or not) the barricades along Nathan Road, one of the main streets. They decided against it.
The protesters seem to be doing a lot of group singing, although the news reports don’t say what the songs are. At one point, a group of classical music students calling themselves “Strings of Justice” showed up with violins, violas, cello and cajon to play for the crowds, including a song, “Do You Hear The People Sing,” from “Les Misérables.” No revolutionary songs, as you’d expect in such protest actions.
Most incredible were reports that there was no littering of the streets, with the protesters properly disposing of their garbage.
For high-tech Hong Kong, this civil disobedience movement would not be complete without parallel actions on social media—and that’s where there seems to be more confrontations between those who support and those who oppose the mass action. Those supporting Occupy Central mainly talk about the future of democracy in Hong Kong, while those who oppose say the protesters are not being grateful for years of prosperity and peace in the former British colony.
There has also been a reported conspiracy angle, with social media users “attacking” pro-Beijing bloggers and accusing them of being paid by the Chinese government, or of being agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency.
I do wonder at times about the forces behind the protests. You cannot have a completely spontaneous protest movement of this size, and of this civil deportment, without conscious organizing, and direction. Some leaders of the protest action have been visible, notably a 17-year-old student, Joshua Wong, who heads a group called Scholarism. He was among those arrested and briefly detained.
The calls for democratic reforms have been around for a few years now, emanating from a number of opposition parties and civil society organizations in Hong Kong, but again, there does not seem to be a central coordinating body for all these. Twitter sites with names like Occupy Central and #hkclassboycott have been clearly functioning as communications hubs, with calls like “Retreat. Stay safe.” But again, it is not clear who is calling the shots.
I do worry as I write this, on Sept. 30, the eve of China’s National Day. For sure it is something that the rally organizers had in mind. Already, the government has called off the fireworks scheduled to celebrate the occasion.
Will there be another kind of fireworks? Will there be a “mini Tiananmen,” as one Hong Kong legislator has direly warned? He was referring to youthful prodemocracy activists in Beijing more than 25 years ago, who held their ground for several days before the government cracked down one night, leading to the deaths of a still undetermined number of protesters.
I am fearful, too, that Occupy Central might be similar to the Arab Spring, the prodemocracy movements in several Middle Eastern countries that saw huge crowds thronging the streets, with social media playing an important role. Long-ruling despots were brought down in Egypt and Libya, but what followed has been widespread instability, even a breakdown of the fragile democracies that came about and a rise of extremist Islamist groups filling the political vacuum.
Political movements need strong organized groups, with a clear vision that can be sustained in the long run, fueled by more than ideals and good will.
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Errata for the last column: I wrote about the late botanist Leonard Co mentioning that he would have turned 61 on Sept. 29. His birthday was actually Dec. 29. I also mentioned Vigan as one of the Philippine towns named after a tree, and erroneously placed it in Ilocos Norte when it should be Ilocos Sur.
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