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Looking Back

The Marcos diary

History is a slippery discipline because it requires critical use of conflicting primary sources or points of view. August 21, for example, is a holiday commemorating the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. on Aug. 21, 1983, but the same date can also refer to the August Twenty One Movement or ATOM protest runs led by Butz Aquino long before those by the media-hugging “Running Priest.” Aquino’s assassination further obscures the Plaza Miranda bombing on Aug. 21, 1971, when grenades were thrown on a stage where the Liberal Party was campaigning for their national and local candidates. Jose Ma. Sison continues to deny his responsibility for the bombing long blamed on Ferdinand Marcos. Sison and the Communist Party of the Philippines, according to Victor Corpus and Jovito Salonga, executed the bombing to produce a situation favorable for seizing power. Forty-six years after the event, with once secret documents declassified, historians may be closer to finding the truth.

Marcos stayed up all night on Sept. 21, 1971, receiving intelligence reports and updates on the bombing. He slept at 5 a.m. on Sept. 22 and that afternoon wrote in his diary:

“I have declared by Proclamation No. 889 a suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. This after the police, the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation], the CIS [Criminal Investigation Service] and others agree that the bombing of the LP [Liberal Party] rally at Plaza Miranda at about 9 p.m. and which resulted in 9 dead, 68 wounded with Sen[ator]s. [Jovito] Salonga and Sergio Osmeña Jr. fighting for their lives in surgery, was caused or done by subversives.

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“I attach copy of the proclamation and the newspapers of today (the 22nd) reporting the tragedy. [These and other attachments now missing from the surviving diary entries].

“It was necessary to convince the Secretary of Justice with the explanation that such a grave and heinous crime must be met with decisive action on the part of government. Otherwise our democracy is doomed.

“Sec. [Juan] Ponce Enrile was for outright declaration of martial law.

“Among those whom I called to the conference before I signed the proclamation were: PC [Philippine Constabulary] Chief Gen. [Eduardo] Garcia, Metrocom [Metropolitan Command] Chief Gen. [Mariano] Ordoñez, Acting Chief of Staff Gen. [Romeo] Espino, CIS Chief Col. [Prospero] Olivas, Internal Security Chief Gen. [Fidel] Ramos, and PSU [Presidential Security Unit] and PGB [Presidential Guard Battalion] Chief, Gen. [Fabian] Ver.

“Gen. Ramos drew up the list of persons to be arrested drawn from the original contingency plan. The traditionalists among the communist leaders were expurgated leaving about 27 Maoists. Although later on five were added including Dante Simbulan, Sixto Carlos Jr.

“We finished at about 4:30 p.m.

“Sen. [Benigno] Aquino [Jr.] who was absent from the platform during the bombing (suspiciously so) is the prime suspect as the mastermind or at the least agreed to allow the NPA [New People’s Army] to do the bombing. He claims that he was warned by a telephone caller at 6 p.m. that it would be his last speech. But when he talked to Sen. [Eva Estrada] Kalaw after the tragedy he claimed that when he was on the way to the rally, his party was diverted to the Jai Alai because something was going to happen in the rally and he would have to wait it out.

“Just in case the arrests of the Maoists should invite violent action, I am preparing an order proclaiming martial law.

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“For we cannot now compromise on this case. It must be solved. And neither should we temporize even with Ninoy Aquino. This man is most probably the mastermind of the whole dastardly plot. And in all probability his sidekick, a Commander Felman, (true name—Bert Santos) executed the plan. They may not have planned to kill or injure so many people. But merely to cause a scare. Either Commander Felman decided to kill the rivals of Ninoy within the Liberal Party or he goofed. But the result was tragic.

“Ninoy Aquino is the most ruthless man in the Philippines today.”

Marcos’ diary, being a self-referential document, has to be read critically and contrasted with other primary sources that form the other pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is Philippine modern history.

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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TAGS: Amberth R. Ocampo, Benigno Aquino Jr., Ferdinand Marcos, Looking Back, Marcos diary, Ninoy Aquino, plaza Miranda bombing
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