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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapters 10 - Opening Salvo

Chapter 10
Opening Salvo
     Events happened too quickly after the imposition of Martial Law in the country. The so-called ABC of Martial Law coined by Rueben Canoy in his Counterfeit Revolution, an acronym for Camps Aguinaldo, Bicutan and Crame were all filled to the rafters by those who were identified earlier in the hit list. Like a bull came rushing for the big kill against a matador, Martial law paved the way for the arrest for those earlier identified in the order of battle among the opposition. Thus, the first wave of arrest included Ninoy Aquino, Salonga, Tañada, Pimentel, Diokno and countless faceless individuals who were herded in Rehabilitation centers like drug addicts and criminals. Similar incidents happened in the provinces sending unfortunate souls into the stockades. Those who managed to slip away from the dragnet set by the Brown Shirts found in their solace and protection in the hills and mountains increasing to maximum the number of insurgents.
        “Where else would these hapless people go than to secure their lives to safety from the collective strength of the people up in the hinterlands?”
 President Marcos might have been shortsighted on this. But he was the direct source of such mass exodus of peasants, student leaders and ordinary citizens to the hills. In fact, he was aid to have recruited the highest number of NPAs.
        You cannot right a wrong approach with another wrong approach or solution in other words as Horace might view it.
        Those who have good connections with better-off families and were anticipating their fate under Marcos used the backdoor and went in haste to United States and other countries for safety. Undaunted by the sweeping detention and threats to their lives, these men with uncompromising virtues hold on their last breath and muster enough courage fighting back Marcos through the use of print media. Documenting human rights violations and evil of Martial Law, these young men published in the international dailies Martial sad stories drawing sympathy and financial resources helpful in handling Marcos’ downfall later. One such valiant group was Ninoy Aquino Movement based in US headed by Sonny Alvarez who became senator later. This group was credited in documenting the ill-gotten wealth amassed by Marcos while in office. Its brave expose’ would later win a Pulitzer Prize for San Jose Mercury News in California.
        The succeeding arrests of people alleged as either subversives or mere supporters followed suit and revealed untold sufferings of the brave Filipinos. Those who later fall into the military prison camps were many. The arrests were all-embracing regardless of creed, profession and persuasion. Fr. de la Torre was an SVD priest, Satur Ocampo aand Julius Fortuna were Journalists, and Fidel Agcaoli, a firebrand nationalist. Victor Corpus, an erstwhile professor at Philippine Military Academy in Baguio, Bernabe Buscayno, the founder of the New Peoples’ Army, the armed combatant of Communist Party of the Philippines. They fell into the hands of the military one after the other. The list continues.
        These gentlemen learned later the stark reality in detention centers and started paying the price for their cause. Burning of genitals, electric and water shock treatment, pulling off of fingernails using pliers among others became the fad of the time. The longer the prisoners do not confessed, the longer they were tortured. Task Force Detainees (TFD) established later in 1974 by Association of Major Religious Group has the complete data and presentation of the harrowing experience of the political detainees. Ninoy had also his Testament from the Prison Cell telling an account of his abduction, his spiritual transformation, his refusal to be tried by the Military Commission and the strong defense and encouragement and defense put up by Salonga in a Military Tribunal. The book was the product of his reflection while inside the prison cell he put into writing and collated from several manuscript he gives to Cory Aquino after each visit made. Ninoy did not recognize the legality of the military court and in fact sees no difference with a kangaroo court.
        Good for those who were properly accounted for as political prisoners, the Task Force Detainees and other cause-oriented groups rallied their release and freedom to the end. But for those summarily executed, it was just too bad for them to have darkness and the silence of their executioners as mute witnesses.
        “God knows how to punish these ruthless executioners comes the time of reckoning,” many survivors would soon reveal after experiencing the savagery of militarization.
        It is even disheartening to learn that those who were not able to resist the shock treatment became nuts and or given the coup de grace to lessen their sufferings. Euthanasia in action, you might say it. May they all rest in peace and God makes their souls whiter than snow. Ironically, movies would portray later these butchers as heroes never touching the plot of their stupid exploits. The moviegoers just loving seeing it anyway like crazy..
        Marcos massive detention activists murdering some are reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s purging of his enemies he perceived as threat to chair vacated by Lenin. It’s not a far-fetched idea that Marcos’ attempt of putting the strong opposition behind barbed wires is a photo-copy of Stalin. The only difference and catch is that Marcos was smarter than Stalin. He knows how to execute his plan in the right place, right time and with right reason. At least, that is what Marcos perceived in proclaiming Martial Law on September 21, 1972.
        Martial Law as concept became hot stuff and most abused concept even among his apostles surprisingly. Marcos himself sounds like a fifteenth century reborn apologist defending its necessity. He repeatedly claims that it is not a military take-over civilian function, not even a coup d’ etat and never an attempt of installing a revolutionary government. The military has not taken over the government, he would flatly defend.
        ”It is merely called upon to assist the civil government to restore within the shortest possible time the tranquility of the Filipino people and the security of the Philippines,” explained AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Espino in defense of the military establishment.
        “Civil authority is still supreme except where it cannot perform its functions and prerogative or is not adequate to protect individual properties and life,” says Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.
        “A heaven-sent relief, “any foreign investors alarmed by the state of rebellion would say.
Too many justifications by too many apologists. Such had been the situation when Martial Law was implemented. There were indeed too many ‘whys’ depending on the personality of the speaker. Unfortunately, the more they utilized rhetoric the faster they explained the issue away. Such is the common perception of a layman. That following the declaration of Martial Law comes the death of democracy.
        Unknown to Juan de la Cruz, save for the President and his apologists, it has been thought that Uncle Sam helped in instigating the declaration of Martial Law. In fact, the Justice and Peace Review would divulge later that draft of Martial Law’s declaration was on the American Ambassador’s desk two months before it was issued. Who’s fooling whom? Quite understandable because the resurgence of nationalist movement threatening US and its allies was eminent. Internecine strife within the elite was just a good excuse.
        To whose benefits after all Martial Law accrued? Nothing else but US, Marcos and most importantly, the military establishment unparalleled in the history of the country. That the latter underwent sweet metamorphosis invested with enormous power and privilege by Marcos could be considered a lasting legacy. The opposite holds true. It’s the civilians who bear the high cost. To think that the majority who suffered most are the innocent victims, new born, children and even elders who should have been given decent burials makes the issue all the more outrageous.
For its part, it is understandable that Uncle Sam would like to maintain its US bases in the country and continue adopting the Philippines as its capitalist enclave enjoying its privilege from the past deal at will. The system for this approach is Manifest Destiny and Benevolent Assimilation.
        There are twenty other countries in the world where US blatantly intervened according to Tom Gervasi, Director, Center for Military Research and Analysis. These happened between 1800 and 1983. These countries are: Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Columbia, Chile, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, China, Siberia, Korea, Laos, Congo, Vietnam, Grenada and Panama. The research committee of the national movement for civil liberties also noted that between 1961 and 1976, the CIA carried out 900 major secret operations “aimed at overthrowing governments and otherwise influencing political development.”
        The recent political development in Middle East after has shown it all how ruthless Uncle Sam is in connivance with United Nations. So it’s practically very easy to sell one’s soul to Uncle Sam.
All you have to do is to keep mum about his intervention and meddling. That’s what happened to our country’s economy. Again we should learn a lesson from our past mistakes. Chiang Kai Shek, Gandhi, Tito and the rest taught us how to say “enough” or we allow the US strangles our economy further. Philippines is not a hopeless case after all.
        Power begets power. Marcos himself became Jack Whirler of all trades’ double as a result of his PD 1081. Sustaining fourteen long years of dictatorship is no ordinary feat to a mortal. But Marcos did it extraordinary. First, it allowed him to produce another Constitution. Second, as Commander-in-Chief, he could make as many Presidential Decrees, General Orders, Letters of Instruction and similar decrees as he wishes. He did enjoyed his orgy of making laws. Cardinal Sin himself later criticized Marcos’ prolific decrees which became laws of the land claiming that even saliva he spits are made laws the following day. Thus, ushering the death of democracy. With one man rule anyway plus the blind loyalty of his cohorts and trusted lieutenants, how would democracy survive. Domino effect was all felt everywhere in judicial system, Senate and House of Representatives. The judiciary, legislature and congress stripped off of their vital functions were transformed into mere rubber stamp by Marcos overnight. Good that he did not go nuts managing and controlling everything. It’s quiet tough specially for an ordinary citizen. Take for instance his smorgasbord long list of laws. Any ordinary taxpayer would suffer an intellectual indigestion, a great shame to this country of many higher institutions of learning, once he reads them. Consider for example his moralizing in his first fifteen general orders extolling Filipinos of adopting Cleanliness is next to Godliness dictum be it in his house, road, and community or in government and encouraging thriftiness by limiting town fiesta to only one day making it as simple and economical as possible. People from Bohol and Dalagit, Cebu could definitely not buy such idea or general order as Marcos might say it.
        While his general order deals with not so-serious issues, his letter of instructions were imperative and coercive ordering his Secretaries of different Department to take control of everything their hands could lean on for and in behalf of the government. And this one is for Ripley’s believe it or not, indeed one of Martial Law’s irony. It tried to confiscate vital private industries and yet Marcos himself and cronies keep theirs and worst, engage in wanton destruction of other properties. As an offshoot of this modus operandi, each crony would amass wealth as much as he could with impunity. Management by example, the greedy cronies justify. Manapat’s Some Are Smarter Than Others written in monastery provides revealing account of the plunder of the economy by selected few smarter than others as the title of the book suggest..
        Presidential decrees were another laws of the land couched in legalistic terms but were good only in papers. Example of these were PD 2 and 27, two agrarian related decrees subjecting the entire country under Agrarian Reform Program and decreeing the emancipation of tenants from the bondage of soil applying only to the tenant-farmers of private agricultural lands primarily devoted to rice and corn. Well decreed but not when it dawns to Juan de la Cruz that the President himself excluded 1,800 hectares of his farm right in his own backyard in Ilocos Sur. Follow what I say but not what I do, he would probably meant.
         His PD 28 establishing seven Regional Prisons so far served its purpose later. Generally though, such aforementioned proclamation did more damage to many Juan de la Cruzes prompting them to seek defense in the mountain either becoming armed combatants or merely supporter of the rebels’ cause. With thousands of concerned Filipinos fleeing in the hills finding strength from collective force of the people, Marcos definitely qualifies as the biggest NPA recruiter.
        Over all, it’s the Filipinos themselves who received the severe beatings from the proclamation of Dictatorship. Filipinos to mean the great majority herded in many prison camps who were civilians with the rest allegedly subversives or participants to commission of crimes. Initial numbers apprehended by the military troops was 60,000 of whom 45,958 were later released leaving 4,553 and the 2,500 as participants in the commission of common crimes. Unfortunately, none of those charge with violent overthrow of the government and those who committed crimes were brought into the court. How could the military tribunals anyway handle their cases given their numbers? Soon the government face additional burden of maximizing budget for meals of those newly arrested. Alarmed by the worsening scenarios of Martial Law, The Roman Catholic Association of Major Religious organized the Task Force Detainees on January, 1974 barely more than one year after the declaration of Martial Law. TFD calculated that there were 75,000 prisoners of conscience. Other human right group followed suit. The Free Legal Assistance Group extended free legal services to political detainees and calls for better prison condition and facilities.
        The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) organized October 1979 also extended the necessary lift by documenting human rights violation, a fact many military men didn’t like or abhorred. If a military kills a rebel out of official duty in protecting the sovereignty of the state and security of its citizen, he would be charged with human rights violation. But if a rebel happens to kill a government trooper, it is just alright, said one disgruntled military.
Detention and arrest of political detainees is just a prelude to another important dimension of Martial Law i.e. torture reminiscent of Hitler’s systematic genocide of the Jews he alleged belonging to lowly and degrading Aryan race. Actonian adage of Edmund Burke was right: “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
        Marcos denied it several times. But torture was part of his machinery. Aberrations, he might say yes but not outright torture ban by Geneva Convention and Protocol II where the Philippines was a signatory. Amnesty International quickly dismissed that idea with their findings November-December 1975, three years after Martial Law, involving 105 political prisoners. AI noted that 68 of the prisoners were subjected to brutal treatment during their interrogations following their arrest. This was not so widespread among women detainees though “intimidation involving threats of sexual assault was common place,” AI wrote. Methods used were: electric shock using a small generator sending electric current to genitals; San Juanico Bridge, named after one of the longest bridge in Asia connecting several islands in the Visayas. This refers to lying-on-the-air torture where a detainee lies with his feet on one bed and his head on the other bed. He’s then beaten when his body falls or sags. Other forms are truth serum, famous among detective fiction and stories; Russian roulette, Falanga-beating soles of feet until a detainee is unable to walk; beating with fists, kicks and karate blows; beating of contusive instruments; heads pounded against the walls or furniture; standing naked before an air-condition unit; water cure and other forms of torture. People notorious of doing these are mostly officers of PC, NISA and other military and police intelligence officers, AI further noted.
        Lt. Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, Provincial commander of Cagayan Province, former head of C2 Special Intelligence team was considered as one of the most persistent and systematic Lord of Torture in the military according to EMJP. He employs almost all techniques imaginable to squeeze desired information by putting filthy things in the mouth of a detainee like a cockroach, dead rat or even human excreta. That’s what he did to Henson Laurel and Satur Ocampo, erstwhile journalists. Gerry Bulatao who would become top executive of the Department of Agrarian Reform suffered similar fate from the hands of this rabid torturer. Similar complaint was lodged against Gen. Jovito Palparan called the Berdugo for having killed many rebels during his round in Mindoro. His orgy of  killings   innocent civilians and leaders made him a dreaded military officer during his term..
        The arrest was indeed sweeping for as long as your name is included in the list of battle. Your day and nights will be never be the same again until you’re captured and treated to horrendous persecution. But good for these people that their bodies were accounted for. Those enforced disappearances incidentally are yet to be counted and itemized. There are thousands of them.  One such tragic end was Nong Colas who after volunteering as missionary in a village hasn’t returned yet home. The reason why Cedric, his eldest son still celebrates his birthday with an earnest hope short of miracle that he would come back someday. Unfortunately, the incident right after the declaration of Martial Law and since then not even any shadow of his father could be seen, let alone his name heard.
        There have been reported cases of those who went nuts as a result of torture. Others just died. The rest were just given coup d’ grace. If distrust by the military against the political detainees and ordinary civilian would stay killing in turn these detainees and or civilians in the process, then we are not far remote on what happened to Khmer Rouge Regime under Pol Pot where close to 700,000 or 1 million people died between 1975-79 of illness, exhaustion and or starvation. A certain Fernandez incidentally of course of  Filipino lineage was incidentally one  among the accomplice of Pol Pot’s savagery. When do we Filipinos ever learn? While there is still time or when we’re already blown into bits and pieces to borrow Aldous Huxley idea in his Brave New World.
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        Undoubtedly, Martial Law was never that good alternative. It brings us closer to death all the more each day. This what many Filipinos  experience, treated as scapegoat of a system not of their own choice.
        It was just like double whammy among human rights victims as torturers would even become big guns of the society they serve – from Brigadier General to Lawmakers of the land, Senators in Senate and Congressmen in the House of Representatives.  Their lives were even portrayed as role models in make-believe world of movies. And the gullible Filipino moviegoers just enjoyed viewing them anyway not knowing their real story and the pivotal roles they played in the past. Same people holding on to power and their dynasty taking turn later one after the other.
        “Wowow,  when would this vicious cycle ends?” the bottom line and hanging  question the group wants addressed.
        What a fun the group had – all open for possibilities where years would lead them through.
        Those however both of Driarco and Taklin was already consecrated for a purpose as if following pre-ordained path giving themselves in service for others. Fr. Driarco smiled thanking the power of reflection, his mind transformed into a temporary camera e events of the past on cue could be played back at will in such colorful fashion.
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