What Ninoy told the US about Marcos
At 450 printed volumes and counting, the entire series known to historians as “The Foreign Relations of the United States” is formidable; a medal should be struck for any living person who has read through it.
The series, started in 1861, is a compilation of annotated and cross-referenced documents that record the major policy decisions and their consequences in the shaping of US foreign policy. Documents once classified as top secret are sourced from the US State Department, Presidential Libraries, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, etc., providing an insider’s look into the way US history has related to other countries, including our own. Recent volumes are of interest because they go beyond diplomatic material and include those that refer to intelligence and covert operations.
Reading through material available online gives one the feeling of seeing nothing but the proverbial tip of the iceberg and the realization that a lot of historical material that refer to the Philippines remain in various repositories in the US waiting to be mined by Filipino historians. Cables exchanged between the State Department and the US Embassy in Manila contain detailed reports on the situation in the country and some very frank assessments of the personalities of the times. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos figure prominently in Volume XX of the series that covers the years 1969-1976 and in the documents so far made public it is clear that the US relationship with Marcos had as a backdrop the use of the US bases in the Philippines and US business interests and investments in the country.
On Sept. 21, 1972, a confidential telegram was received in the State Department from the US Embassy in Manila drafted by John Forbes on Sept. 20 and cleared by two others on the subject “Senator Aquino’s Views on Martial Law and the Political Future of Ferdinand Marcos.” We all know that while the declaration of martial law was back-dated, for numerological purposes, to Sept. 21, it was actually put into effect on Sept. 23. So events overtook the embassy telegram that was based on a private conversation on Sept. 12 between Ninoy Aquino and the political counselor of the US Embassy, when Ninoy expressed his belief:
“that Marcos would declare martial law in order to stay in power … [that] Marcos is faced with serious economic problems as a result of the floods and the [Supreme Court] Quasha decision, which Aquino thinks will have a severe dampening effect on foreign investment. With rapidly worsening law and order and Communist dissident problems added to these economic woes, Aquino believes that Marcos must take strong actions in the near future and that these will include martial law.
“If the President follows this course, Aquino said that, ‘for the good of the country,’ he will support Marcos. However, Aquino pointed out, martial law could backfire on the President, and Aquino expressed doubts that the [Government of the Philippines] has sufficient resources to carry out martial law successfully. As for his own political ambitions, Aquino believes that the possibilities of his becoming head of government by legitimate means are quickly diminishing, and he is accordingly keeping open an option to lead an anti-Marcos revolution in alliance with the Communists.”
Furthermore, Aquino had a dim view of the Liberal Party winning in the coming 1973 elections, and hinted that while Marcos was barred from seeking a third term he could field his wife Imelda who “would certainly win if she ran since the President could fill the ballot boxes with fake votes and employ other illegitimate means of ensuring her success.” Aquino’s pessimism stemmed from his disappointment over the defeat of a draft provision debated in the Constitutional Convention that would ban Marcos and his wife from becoming president or prime minister.
We do not know if it was bravado on his part at the time but Aquino said that if he were president he wouldn’t hesitate to take strong measures and said he would “execute corrupt officials at Luneta as a lesson to other officials that he meant business.” So much of our contemporary history lies waiting to be uncovered in the United States.
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