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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter 9 - Martial Law


Chapter 9
Martial Law


     Tmass singing of Philippine National Anthem just ended. The tone unlike in the past days sang mechanically was treated with collective nationalistic fervor everybody’s hands on their left breast. Lieutenant Joselito Ludemir, the school’s assigned military officer is very strict on that. Non-compliance of this nationalistic condition will lead you meted with punishments push-ups or running around the oval or doing civil duty like sweeping the ground. The music with much gusto was reminiscent of revolutionary period with feelings singing in the end “ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo!’ Pledge of allegiance to the country followed. Soon after the brief announcement from the principal, all students proceeded to campus quadrangle. Swelling with students, the quadrangle transformed itself outright into sea of humanity instantly. Two huge mango trees stood in between an old stage. Big Sony colored TV set and VHS installed by the school’s technician waited to be operated on. From the looks of it, it’s going to be another date with history, as the group would like to call it among themselves last week at Aling Nita’s refreshment parlor. That day Mr. Paler, the bulky Head of Related Subject department would discuss Martial Law, the much-sought topic for discussion lately in the school was up next.
          “So my dear students, ladies and gentlemen, take and hold your breath now. I have two very important announcements to make this morning,” he said formally breaking the ice. The inquisitive students have all their eyes focused on the speaker of the day.
          “First may I start with the good news. There will be no class for one week starting today, September 25, 1972,” he said pointing his index finger to the base of the rostrum.
Wave of catcalls and thunderous applause from the students ensued.
          “That’s one week, I repeat,” he emphasized allowing time to sink the good news into the consciousness of students.
          “So the management regrets to inform you that we gathered here just the same as scheduled last week to give us ample time discussing the issue to really take serious look on matters of great importance. If you wish we can have healthy debate on this. Never mind how long it would take. As soon as this forum is finished I would declare you could go back home free later. Those who have personal inquiries could also see me later.”
          Second wave of catcalls roars. It took few more minutes for Mr. Paler to calm down the students. Raising his right hand up fidgeting the students to pause from their sustained applause, he proceeded.
          “Okay. So did everybody get me right? That means that the entire country starting last Thursday, September 21, 1972 after the signing of that infamous Proclamation No. 1081 and the clearance of implementation granted by the president nine o’clock in the evening the following day, is already under Martial Law.
          Everybody who has pocket calendar should mark that date red to signify that the country is having important date with history.” Mr. Paler further dished out.
           Reaching for a copy of Philippine Free Press magazine from the table nearby he said. “It’s just like this,” Mr. Paler said  showing the second page revealing a caricature of Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, the Secretary of National Defense, holding and aiming a gun waiting the cue from Mr. Marcos when to command the fire. Dangling from the muzzle of that gun was a poster with the words                         ‘Martial Law’ indelibly marked on it.
          “That was last week’s issue yet. This very day Mr. Enrile continues firing that gun. And that is the bad news. I don’t know if such gun also points towards anyone of us right here in the campus,” he said with reservation his forefinger pointing his captive crowds.
          “We are, as I said, entering a new history other countries would perhaps envy or condemn – I don’t know -. So let history be our judge then. Unfortunately though, very soon we would all be treated to a live and interesting entertainment rarely happening in this planet.”
          “Like what?” Erly murmurs to Louie by his side.
          “Massacre, assassination, illegal detention, human right violation, institutionalization of graft and corruption, torture and all other military and para-military abuses,” Louie immediately answered Erly.
          “So I am earnestly requesting all of you my dear students to inform your parents about this development. Remember that a well-informed citizenry is a must to a vibrant democracy. If need be, you can have healthy discussion about this among yourselves. Third, whatever happens, be calm as Jesus advised to his disciples worried of the big waves their banca about to capsize. We are still in part one. By the way Part Two of this program would be the presentation of some TV footages our school technician painstakingly captured these past few days from local TV stations. For this morning, we will be showing to you the President, His Excellency Ferdinand E. Marcos addressing the entire nation about the necessity of declaring the Martial Law. This was taken just last Saturday 23rd 1972 this year of course just in the evening and was shown nationwide. The radio also broadcasted it verbatim and live. The stations who did not cooperate on this directed I suppose would be in trouble. I’m afraid they would either be blacklisted or have their licenses cancelled. Too bad. So don’t you be surprised folks if we have to call this forum and show you what’s going on at  least we would have an assurance that our heads would not be axed by those in power – the Almighty I mean.”
          Chuckle from the students was heard all over. Soon Sony TV was mounted over a classroom table atop the stage. Lights flickered. Each one was caught in deep bated breath as historical political drama gradually unfolding before their naked eyes.
          The President and the First Lady in her signature mestiza gown was beside the President at the center of the table. Cigar-chomping Gen. Fidel Ramos, Enrile, Gen. Ver and other top brass generals belonging to the twelve apostle of Martial Law were all seated at the presidential table. Though their look did not conceal semblance of dreaded Gestapo of Herr Hitler, the confusion that breeds stress and apprehension among televiewers was reflected right in their very own faces. But not Marcos occupying the rostrum and is about to reveal and gauge the acceptability of his Martial Law declaration. The insignia of Presidency so pronounced was seen visibly attached dangling on the rostrum, a common sight among televiewers at the background.
          “…The proclamation of Martial Law is not a military takeover,.” the President broke the ice.  He then proceeded reading from the prepared speech part of the entire text of his Magnum Opus.
I as your duly elected President of the Republic, use this power implemented by the military authorities, to protect the Republic of the Philippines and our democracy. A republican and democratic form of government is not a helpless government. When it is imperiled by the danger of a violent overthrow, insurrection, and rebellion, it has an inherent built-in powers wisely provided for under Constitution. Such a danger confronts the Republic . . . .”
“Thus, Article VII, Section 10, paragraph 2 of the Constitution provides: The President shall be commander-in Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion. In case of invasion, insurrection, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privilege of the writ habeas corpus, or place the entire Philippines or any part thereof under Martial Law.”
          
          “This is not a military takeover of civil government of the Republic of the Philippines, which was established by our people in 1946,”  he continues. The officials and employees of our national and local governments continue in office and mush discharge their duties as before within the limits of the situation. This will be clarified by my subsequent orders which shall be given wide publicity.”
           
          Sobriety was written all over the faces of students as silence gripped the environment while President Marcos was serious reading his Martial Law statement. They’re dead serious listening wanting that each word uttered by the President would not slipped by their mind uncaught and misunderstood. About two-thirds of the entire students population congregated right below the stage enabling them to have commanding view of the recent video footage. The statement was long but the watchers didn’t mind. In their faces are traces of inquisitiveness of the whole issue of Martial Law. The President proceeded with his uninterrupted message. General Ramos was seen busy emitting smoke from his big cigar ala Fidel Castro of Cuba. Enrile, Ver and company occasionally engaged in a huddle with the First Lady; others were glued on their chairs. Marcos continues:
We will explain the requirements and standards or details as soon as possible. But any form of corruption, culpable negligence or arrogance will be dealt with immediately. The armed forces already cleaned up its own ranks. I am directing the organization of a military tribunal to look into military offenders immediately. For more than any other man, the soldier must get the standard of nobility. We must be courageous but we must be humble and above all we must be fair. As this is true of the soldier, it must be true of the civilians’ public officer.
Let no man who claims to be friend, relative or ally presume to seek license because of this relationship. If he offends the New Society, he shall be punished like the rest. Those who don’t peddle violence have nothing to fear. They can move about and perform their daily activities without any fear from government after the period of counteraction is over. The persons who will be adversely affected are those who have actively ‘fight against” the duly constituted government of the Republic of the Philippines by violence. But all public officials and employees whether of the national or local government must conduct themselves in the manner of a new and reformed society,” the President emphasized.
“. . . . The carrying of firearms outside residences without the permission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is punishable with death. Curfew is established from 12 o’clock midnight to 4 o’clock in the morning. The departure of the Filipinos abroad is temporarily suspended exceptions are those of official missions that are necessary. Clearances will be given by the Secretary of National Defense. In the meantime, rallies, demonstration are prohibited. So too are strikes in critical public utilities.

          It is my intention beginning tomorrow (September 24, 1972) to issue all the orders which would attain reforms in our society.”
          “That was yesterday, Sunday yet,” interrupted Mr. Paler to the viewing students.
This would include the proclamation of land reform all over the Philippines, the reorganization of the government, new rules and conduct for the Civil Service, the removal of corrupt and inefficient public officials and their replacement and the breaking up of criminal syndicates. I repeat – this is the same government that you, the people established in 1946 under the Constitution of the Philippines.”
          There is no doubt in everybody’s mind that a state of rebellion exists in the Philippines. The President went on to say in a singsong tone. He then narrated instances of rebellion he claimed part of conspiracy in overthrowing the government. People from different walks of life – from an ordinary man in the street to laborers, peasants in the countryside, industrialists in urban areas and those in the government know that there exists state of rebellion in the country, he claimed. Even the Supreme Court in its decision in the case of Lansang vs. Garcia on December 11, 1971 recognizes the danger of the problem and critical one which might become worse in due time. Consequently, commerce and industry in the country might also be paralyzed, he revealed. Should this happen, it would be tragedy to the economy of the country. President Marcos also scored on the sporadic guerilla warfare staffed by the New Peoples’ Army, the armed combatant of Communist headed by Ka Dante. There has been many casualties, he noted. The critical hot spots spelled out by the President were Isabela, Zambales, Tarlac, Camarines Sur, Quezon for Luzon and Lanao del Sur, Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Cotabato for Mindanao. The New Peoples’ Army reportedly controlled many provinces and municipalities and that they had successfully organized invisible shadow government and sizable barrio revolutionary committee.
          Infiltration by the Communist Party of the Philippines was so fast according to Marcos that they have expanded their operations in Cagayan, Nueva Viscaya and Quirino and Mountain Provinces of Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao, Bontoc and Benguet. His own province of Ilocos and La Union were likewise not spared. Practically what the President is trying to emphasize is the capability of the reds of geometric expansion to rural sanctuary even into the remotest barangays and far-flung provinces. This what exactly happened in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Quezon provinces. Now the trend is leading towards Albay and Sorsogon.
          Thus far, the President deliberately didn’t mention the status of Armed Forces of the Philippines. His statement was all focused on the armed elements of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP. He said that their strength increased to unprecedented 100% in six months period that is, 10,000 whose regular members are farmers in daytime and become soldiers of the people in the evening. Similar observation was made on the reportedly front organizations of CPP. The most militant Kabataang Makabayan chaired by Jose Maria Sison, former professor at University of the Philippines and Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan enjoyed increasing its chapters from 200 in 1970 to 317 by July, barely two months ago before the proclamation of Martial Law. Membership was said to have reached 15,000 from 10,000 enjoying an increase of 50%. These members underwent brainstorming, a rigid one for a neophyte. Those who were successfully indoctrinated became fanatical members. The SDK was said to have reached 1,495 such kinds of members by July that year.
          Taklin among those sitting in front understood full well what President Marcos so far dished out. He was sitting on the ground in cactus position. Despite critical situation seen through the television, he remains undaunted otherwise Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City could be a wrong place for him next     opening. There were many images playing in his mind: shadows of himself as warrior setting the pace for commando operation against reds in the hinterlands exchanging bullets.
          With President Marcos reading his Martial Law statement the more his consciousness drawn him to war zones seeing he killing rebels at will. The resonant voice of Mr. Paler behind the students however leads him back to where he was – in a quadrangle. Maybe he’s too exhausted physically drained after that non-stop treatise about the granting of emergency power to the President.
          “Now watch out for the big kill by the government troopers,” he bleared through the microphone taking Taklin and company unexpectedly. This time a colorful footage taken at the seashore in Palanan was shown. The camera focused on the ordinary ocean-going ship M/V Karagatan. Marcos’ voice like a sportscaster baritone provided an inside commentary:
          “This was the landing of M/V Karagatan with a reported 3,500 M-16 rifles of which only about 900 were recovered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines; about 30 rocket launchers of the M-40 variety of which only six (6) were recovered from the arena. Also recovered by our forces were 160,000 rounds of ammunition, two browning automatic rifles which were originally looted by defector Victor Corpus from the arsenal of the Philippine Military Academy, five garland M-6 rifles, one telephone switch board, seven telephone sets, numerous M-16 magazines and many revealing subversives documents.”
          The recovery according to Marcos was very important because of the three interrelated factors: it tells us that the NPAs could acquire military hardwires by bulk; that source of funding could be either taken from domestic to foreign source and third; that the armed combatants are capable of landing both military weapons and personnel anywhere in the country.
Louie, Taklin Horace, Grace, Limuel, Lorna, Josefil and the rest of the gang were all present. The rest were spread out and were part of the crowd. Each one listened attentively. Horace didn’t regret not raising any question earlier to Mr. Paler.
           The various TV footages especially that of President Marcos’ statement on Martial Law provided him the best answer. However firsthand information explained, he still believes that it is only infallible as far as Marcos is concerned. For he would probably ready to bet his life arguing its futility not even a remedy of containing his allegation of rebellion. He is ready to challenge anybody in fact who holds otherwise view. Unless every movement no matter how explosive such might be should be related to the countries present history that of making itself a responsive and active democratic country. The state of rebellion President Marcos would like to believe himself is just an indication of outpouring of nationalistic feelings in its fullest sense and should be addressed as such at its very roots. This is a big challenge for democracy, he believes. Martial law is not and never a short cut solution to such problem. Even ideologues change.
          People fighting the government are not fighting the government per se but rather for their empty stomach, lands to till, freedom and independence of the country. This is very crucial for Horace. Magsaysay once showed it giving resettlement here and there for the Huks breaking down the backbone of insurgency in the process. That’s what he did to Hukbulahap headed by then Supremo Luis Taruc. Satisfied by the sincerity shown by then President Magsaysay, he came down from the hills and joined the government helping deliver the goods and services for his men who were once deprived of government’s basic services.
          It is just really doesn’t make any sense fighting fellow Filipino, people of the same race, nation and blood, the thought running in his mind. The alleged conspiracy claimed by Marcos is therefore untenable. It is just a natural indication of how people react once they’re charge against the wall by the same government they helped  develop and sustain through their taxes ironically Marcos handily lend or sell to Uncle Sam. So it’s all over again the issue of nationalism and American imperialism.
“It is very easy to squeeze a nation indeed to death specifically if there’s an imprimatur from the West. Simple suicidal act in other words,” Horace thought.
Mindanao, the second largest island after Luzon in the country, suffered also the brutality of rebellion. President Marcos it seems would not leave any stones unturned in his campaign for Martial Law. So many killings happened to this island and Sulu he said numbering an aggregate 503,000 of which 1,000 civilians were killed in crossfire and 2,000 armed Muslims and Christians combatant. The 500,000 were those directly afflicted by war injured, displaced and or rendered homeless the rest were casualties from the government troops.
          Thus said, Marcos found no other better alternative than to resort to his last fortress of defense – declaration of Martial Law. From layman’s point of view there’s no question that the restlessness among the people is very disturbing. But was it legal or moral? Given the number of armed combatants Vis a Vis to the number of NPAs it was obvious that the government troops are in better position and could wipe out the rest from the face of the country. But why did he not deploy his armed troops to chase the reds sending instead citizens geographical units? Further, why did he assume that the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is of no use?
          “The reason is clear. He still wants to cling himself to power by invoking Constitutional authoritarianism,” Horace though after Marcos’ last statement from the footage.
 His conclusion surprisingly invokes God’s grace and blessing for his action.
          ‘All that we do is for the Republic and for you. Rest assured that we will continue to do so. I have prayed to God for guidance. Let us all continue to do so. I am confident that with God’s help we will attain our dream of a reformed society, new and brighter world.’
          “What for?” Erly murmured to Louie.
          “Maybe to confuse devil,” answered Louie.
          The school technician put off the TV set. Momentarily break.
          “Now back to sanity,” said Mr. Paler who hurriedly went upstage. Those who were sitting down arose as the Head of the Relate Subject Department got hold of the microphone.
          “Briefly then, what we have seen so far are images showing the prelude to Martial Law or Rule of the Camp if you wish straight from the horse mouth from no less than the author himself. From his statement, there are at least four points we have to understand fully well or those who would come after us would soon condemn us to obscurity. First, the country is in a state of rebellion. At least that what Marcos claims. Secondly, said conspiracy caught fire from Luzon all the way down to Mindanao in preparation of overthrowing the government by armed combatants belonging to the New People’s Army. By the way, don’t you also discredit possible resurgence of Moro Secessionists? Thirdly, it has been emphasized that the President cognizant of the danger posed by the lawless elements utilized two other courses of action authorized by the Philippine Constitution namely suppressing the reds by our armed forces but to no avail; suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in making the arrest of offenders easier. Having learned that the conspiracy has been raging hot like fireball out to grab power sending our economy reeling, it was necessary to resort for the final and ultimate antidote, Martial law what else. So much with that stuff, I know many of you too are reeling. I know that there are many questions at the back of your mind and that you know too that we could not fully answer them no matter how hard we could try. Hence, let me call it a day and thanks indeed for your general listening patience. Keep your violent reactions to yourself. You will outgrow them yourself as time passes by. You’re all dismissed. Good luck and see you next week.”                                      
. . . . . . . . .  . . .

          “What do you think of Martial law?” Taklin asked Driarco to check if both have the same vibration on the subject on their way back home. If Driarco would find the proclamation legal, then Taklin would know that after all he is not only a lone ranger supportive to the cause of Marcos.
          “As Horace explained last week at Aling Nita’s, I really think that the factors we saw earlier prompting the President in declaring Martial law should be seen from the entire context of nationalist interpretation of history. The rebellion, insurrection whatever stated by Marcos are just an indication of abnormality. In a democratic country like the Philippines there is no better substitute in acknowledging such development as legitimate outpouring of nationalists’ sentiment. Of course this is my point of view and I’m not at all surprised if others feel the same way. Pardon me but it’s not definitely my intention of ramming it down peoples’ throat. After all under Socratic tradition of dialogue you or any Juan de la Cruz might have better idea than us. It is immaterial. What is important is that it is always good to hear all sides to lessen the impact the issue might have later to many Juan de la Cruzes,” Driarco shared.
          “Don’t get me wrong buddy,” I too agree with you that force is deemed indispensable in quelling fires of rebellion. British did it to their conquered territories in many Asian countries infested by commies. Suharto did it to in Indonesia as averred by Horace. Classic example indeed,” Driarco said giving Taklin benefits of his doubts.
          “So I think it’s not really that surprising buddy when Marcos used PD 1081. It’s the best pretext he has to hold on to his power. Unless he intends inviting Uncle Sam’s troops in fighting the commies which is most unlikely because of their military bases right here. There’s just no way for Marcos to flex his military might. Besides, the US had already that enigma of North Vietnam. For all they know, they might receive the worst beating from the reds right here who are certified practitioner of War of the Flea or guerilla warfare.”
          “Disciples of San Tzu,” Taklin interrupted.
          “Par excellence. Filipinos are unpredictable lot you know and are flexible as bamboos. I think they are better and effective practitioners of the trade than any of our neighboring countries. History incidentally avers the veracity of that observation. And the military would be quick to claim that we have an inherent aptitude and skills of warfare. For how could Lapulapu, Sultan Kudarat, Andres Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and the rest had successfully defended the country from foreign invaders for instance if they did not have that ingenuity or mastery of guerilla warfare. Another important factor that would give a lot of headache to our government troops of course is the country’s geographical location. Imagine an island of 7,100 separated in between by mighty bodies of waters. Given that situation, it would not be surpassing to know that it is next only to impossible destroying or annihilating entirely the reds. Look again at North Vietnam. See how the Americans looked like stupid. No matter how hard they projected themselves as heroes in movies there’s no way hiding the truth that by proportion, they suffered most than Ho Chi Minh’s foot soldiers.  So what do you think we get from that?”
          “More sufferings only for Juan de la Cruz. Worst still, wanton destruction of our economy,” Taklin thought. But he just remained silent wanting to get clearer perception of the whole story. Driarco was right. It is indispensable treating the issue from all angles.
          “So where that leave us? It simply requires us to go back to square one, that is, dialogue in any round table,” Driarco batted in catching up Taklin’s blistering pace wondering why he was acting like professor ala-Theodore dishing out his own treatise about demerits of Martial law. He might as well proceed since he has started it after all he’s now nearing the homestretch.
          “You see if Filipinos would only practice really democracy I don’t think there is a need to ask for more. If not then maybe benevolent dictatorship like those of Chiang Kai Shek of Taiwan and South Korea who happens to change one government after the other. Same with then Gandhi of India and Tito of Yugoslavia. Take note that some of these countries notably Taiwan and South Korea did not entirely cut the umbilical cord between them and USA. But they were brave enough reminding US not to strangle their countries by blocking open economy and free trade system. That’s the best thing ever did paving the way later to industrialization. Few more years and these countries could give the Americans run of their lives.”
          Taklin nodded.
           “Well taken Professor Driarco de la Serna. You’re indeed extra-ordinary lecturer. When you become a Bishop, please remember me.”
          “I’ll take you as my sacristan Mayor.”
Familiar voices were heard from behind. They were those of Erly, Horace and the rest of the gang catching up their pace.
          “Whatever happen to you there folks?” Erly addressed Driarco and Taklin briskly walking away from the crowds.
          “Your faces are ashen-looking. Seems like you’ve just woke up from your graves.”
          “Not surprising buddy,” Driarco answered looking back to Erly.
          “It’s the death of democracy in the country,” Taklin snapped.
          “My condolence, sincerest one to all of you,” he added.
          “Good for us we’re just looking like zombies walking on this concrete pavement. Bad for you and everybody else, you do all smell bloody corpse left by wolves,” Driarco interjected sending burst of laughter from the gang.
          “Hey there guys,” Limuel told the gang walking. “Mr. Paler forgot to tell us of the ambush of Mr. Enrile maybe inadvertently, Secretary of National Defense last week yet. Who do you think staged that ambush? Good that the poor guy was not killed.”
          “Where in the world do you think you would find a scripted ambush would go? Do you think that the different cast who stage that play as a show window of conspiracy in the country would murder their own Director,” articulated Horace.
          “You mean the ambush was merely used as an excuse by Marcos in proclaiming Martial Law,” Taklin snapped back.
          “Well said,” Louie complimented.
          “All in war you know is deception,” Horace braced himself for another round of discussion.
          “Truth has always been the first direct casualty in every war. Marcos does it in his Martial Law. It’s his war against us. The killing is just the effect of that deception. I just could hardly imagine the hypocrisy of this government, a Janus-faced government if I may, building schoolhouses for the children, applied loan from IMF and World Bank, making laws for workable Agrarian Reform etc. But look what the government has done so far to the same people it vows to help. The schoolhouses were not used as classroom but concentration camps instead, money as loan receipt were lost to graft and corruption among cronies among others.
          “Safe houses excuse me you mean . . .” Grace corrected.
          “I love you for that. Right, safe houses rather of the schoolchildren transformed overnight into internal refugees. If I may continue, what happens to billions of dollars we get from financing institutions and so-called military aids from Uncle Sam? It’s a pity that forty percent of this money is paid back to the foreigners with the country spending only the remaining sixty percent. How could a country survive given that situation? Holy cow! Most unlikely, the government doesn’t have any saving capacity. Incredible but true? No way!”
          Recalling that one important item was left out, he said: “Oh yes what about agrarian reform program reputed to be the cornerstone of his New Society? Has there been any significant degrees enacted ensuring the improvement of Juan de la Cruz’ quality of life? Farming sector incidentally comprise the great majority of our total labor force. How about the small landowners the President deprived owning the lands, are they given support services they could take off for small economic enterprise? True that he has successfully transformed the Department into a Ministry with its Secretary, presently a Minister and become member of his cabinet family, a feat not even discovered by any other countries but look on million of farmers. They still remain ordinary farmers subject to the whims and caprices of the landowners and middlemen. One of the great irony, for while they feed the nation and protect the land, they themselves are malnourished practically caught in the quagmire of poverty. Worst still, they are merely tenants of absentee landlords,” Horace explained sharply. Catching his breath while with the group walking, he allowed himself to be roasted? But there was only silence.
          “Hello is there anybody home? It seems that God just passed by,” he disturbed.
          “Yea. We’re all wide awake,” Erly broke his group’s silence.
          “Good grief kid,” Horace lifted Erly’s spirit.
          Listening seriously the sharing of Horace, Taklin could not help himself but empathize with his good friend’s excellent synthesis. Sometimes misinterpreted as neophyte ideologue whose idealism would wither in the passage of time but Horace doesn’t mind branded as one. After all, he knows maybe the on-going issue better than others.
          Thinking aloud on the prospect of Agrarian Reform under President Magsaysay already underway towards progress, it would have been a brighter one. Unfortunately, he met his untimely death when his airplane he and some friends took for Cebu crashed at Mt. Manunggal, Cebu. His dream of liberating the farmers died with him on that fateful 1956 incident.  He had long been dead but not his vision of liberating farmer beneficiaries from the bondage of slavery. Supremo Luis Taruc of Huklabalahap Movement was one of his prize catch through the genius of then budding political figure Benigno Aquino Jr. The various resettlement projects he opened like those of project ABC for resettlement projects in Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Capiz averred the sincerity of Magsaysay in pursuing genuine Agrarian Reform Program. Thinking aloud on the crash of ill-fated airplane, Horace considered the Pentagon’s factor. President Roxas died too of heart attack at Clark Air Base prompting Elpidio Quirino assumed the presidency. Manuel Luis Quezon too of tuberculosis in Australia if the memory serving right.
          “Oh those dirty unfounded thoughts coming transforming me into devil’s advocate,” the idea amusing him.
           There are no available documents supporting the reliability and validity of his conjecture. His’ was merely a figment of imagination.
          When KGB would divulge Uncle Sam’s participation, this might embolden me conducting my own paper trail of the conspiracy. Conjecture is merely pure guess and nothing else,” he settled his wayward idea in the dustbin.
          “Next time maybe when able and material evidences are mounting, comprehensive and compelling at the right time’” he gathered his thoughts.
          “The saving grace would be that of Marcos,”
          “I hope so,” Grace snapped back uncertain.
          “Why not when significant events is this time seemingly is on the side of the people. Why so? Well if we have Andres Bonifacio’s Katipuneros writing their protest against the Spanish colonizers using their blood, maybe the strongman Ferdinand Marcos would not  be far behind as he personally wrote with his own hands Pres. Decree 27 or Operation Land Transfer in 1972 establishing the ceiling to five hectares corn lands and seven hectares for rice albeit weird to dramatize his political will for its success.”
          “Good to know that he also placed right away the entire country under Agrarian Reform Program under Presidential Decree No. 2 matching his PD1081 of Martial Law,”  Erly interjected stamping his imprimatur to that  historic agrarian reform legislation.
           “But why in the world after putting the entire country under Agrarian reform through his Pres. Decree No. 2 he managed exempting 1,800 hectares agricultural lands  from such coverage right in his own backyard!” a bombshell dropped by Horace.
          Long silence ensued each one seeing each other eye to eye shock attack of the untimely disclosure.
          “Sorry guys for it seemed I hit the nerve right on that  revelation. But I hope you should not be romantic and should be cautious on all the programs undertaken by the government. Look who are those in power? They’re all multimillionaires. Oligarchs no less. They’re spread in all branches of the government. And see all those big guns in Senate and Congress.  Ordinary Juan de la Cruzes  can’t simply afford buying the votes. Election is such a very prohibitive business. And unless you’re endeared to the general voting public as entertainers better forget running in an election.,” Horace further qualified.
          “Better then to have this Oligarchs lead in establishing industry creating labor source for subsisting Filipinos,” Grace volunteered.
          “It depends. Maybe in some industries but not Agrarian Reform because the bottom line is the land. In fact they are everywhere. And they’ve been there since the time of Spanish Conquistadores arrogating as many hectares they could grab and manage. But look the status of their laborers?  They’re merely used as accessories in perpetuating themselves in power what with the starvation salaries they are receiving and harassments when they fight against for mutually better arrangement or implementing what is there in the law.”
          But there are some exceptions when Oligarchs bought the property unfortunately have succeeded railroading the project evading the true intent of agrarian reform.
          “Hacienda Luisita is good example. Specifically, addressing the bone of contention which is the physical distribution of the 1,400 hectares no less representing one third of  6,500 hectares plantation to10,700 landless tillers,” Horace revealed.
          “Skewed agrarian reform? This is it with the Oligarchs arrogating themselves vast track of agricultural lands with majority total poor scampering on small landholdings; worst, many becoming illegal settlers of private properties. This is definitely what we don’t want the program to happen.”
“That’s why we need not necessary bright minds there in Congress and Senate that could legislate better laws than what we have now,” Horace ended.
It was such an acerbic remark from Horace indicating the need of probing the validity of  any issues raised to establish credibility of presidential, legal decrees and issuances.
          “The government is thriving on our peoples’ taxes exorbitant and prohibitive yet. We should therefore ask where did our money goes and convinced only when they give best and convincing answers. Otherwise, that right to know and giving feedback to government are waived, we don’t have any business either criticizing let alone has no moral ground and persuasion of fighting against it.”
Limuel, Taklin and Driarco who were just listening seemingly were all dumbfounded resolved in giving the floor to Horace.
          “Such is an ugly face of Haciendas and I hope future legislation would address this issue. Problem is the government might insert Stock Distribution Option clause giving back the control of the land through buying out the rights of the farmers depriving them chance  of owning the land.”
          “That exactly took its heavy toll in many similar haciendas in the country from HLI in Luzon, vast track of sugar plantation in Negros in  Visayas and huge Pineapple Plantation in Bukidnon and Gensan in Mindanao. Worst were several lives lost perpetuated by mighty landowners and the still continuing   harassment inflicted on  farmer leaders whose only concern is  the protection of their ranks, their respective families through physical possession of the lands for acquisition and distribution to them. I have several sensitive graphic footages and relevant documents uploaded on my email that defy description some of these haciendas showing some very sensitive scenes involving sons of this Oligarchs harassing farmer leaders. Who’s fooling whom in this program when these Oligarchs have been reiterating in media that no way they would distribute their property, “
          “Let President Marcos therefore prudently act fast or event might overtook him. But first he should eat his own words to show his sincerity first.  He should because such action could avert him a disgrace securing and carving him instead a niche in the country’s agrarian history and as his saving grace in what might be unpredictable reign of power.  But would he?” the question re-echoing on the consciousness of the clique.
          “Young and restless-that’s we were back then,” now Fr. Driarco smiled as the tale of dictatorship closed. But he was wrong. The journey towards Calvary is just beginning showing its ugly mongrel. This what indeed makes his day.

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