Editorial that never wasBy Juan L. Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The dog-eared papers, on our computer, dealt with Ferdinand Marcos padlocking the press. This September is the 40th anniversary of Marcos’ imposition of batas militar in 1972.
One document is an “asso,” or arrest-and-seizure order. Signed by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, these papers were used by raiding teams to arrest 22 Manila-based journalists.
“Here is mine,” we told The Associated Press’ Carl Zimmerman, who had hitched a ride to Camp Crame. “Foreign correspondent?” snapped the colonel who snatched the asso. “You’re not to see these.”
“Assos” were also served on the Free Press’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon G. Rama, the Daily Mirror’s Amando Doronila, and others. We had fractured something called “Proclamation 1081.”
Our file has letters of protest. Jaime Zobel de Ayala, then the Philippines’ ambassador to London, received one from Financial Times editor JDF Jones saying, “I express concern at the detention by your government of our correspondent, Mr. Juan L. Mercado.” A cable from the Bulletin in Sydney says: “Our editor Donald Horne cabled President Marcos today requesting release…”
“Senator [Daniel] Inouye interceded with the Philippine Embassy in Washington,” Honolulu Star Bulletin editor A.A. Smyster wrote. The Associated Press’ managing editors and other US groups adopted resolutions on behalf of imprisoned journalists. The late cartoonist Corky Trinidad sparked these protests.
Memory anchors three essential elements for healing in a post-dictatorial regime, Inquirer columnist Randy David writes. “Truth, justice and reparation… Today’s young people hardly have an idea of what happened during 14 years of dictatorship.” The idea of establishing a “museum of memories” is being floated.
Consider the Marcos museum in Ilocos Norte. It houses the mausoleum that displays the embalmed remains of Marcos, a la Lenin and Mao. The memorabilia include books, the bed he was born in, even questioned World War II medals.
The Marcos medals were bogus, asserted a New York Times series by Seymour Hersh in 1986. The Times used US National Archives research done by University of South Wales professor Alfred McCoy. (His book “Closer Than Brothers” compares 1940 Philippine Military Academy graduates with those of Class 1972, who provided “the mailed fist for martial law”: Ping Lacson, Gringo Honasan et al.)
The services given by Marcos and 23 others to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1945 were “of limited military value,” Times reports by Jeff Gerth and Joel Brminkley added. “At no time did the Army recognize that any unit, designating itself as Maharlika, ever existed as a guerrilla force in the years of Japanese occupation…”
Yet, Marcos remains a hero to some. “Ilocos Norte has been an entire republic unto itself history-wise,” Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros notes. Its version of history differs from the rest of the country. Does that upset anybody?
In 2007, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines opened a Martial Law Memorial Wall in Quezon City. A year earlier, Manila inaugurated its Memorial Wall of the Victims of Martial Law. Etched into the black marble are the names of over 800 victims of the dictatorship, including Jose Diokno and activist Lean Alejandro. “I die just when I see the dawn break,” from Jose Rizal’s poem “Mi Ultimo Adios,” is carved into the plaque.
What will go into the “museum of memories”? Among other items, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s prison diaries. When military rebels were poised to overrun Malacañang in 1989, President Corazon Aquino entrusted the diaries to the Benedictine rector, Fr. Bernardo Perez.
Include also the Marcos diaries. People Power crowds discovered them in cardboard boxes, stashed in an obscure corner of Malacañang. Ambeth Ocampo has run excerpts in his Inquirer column, focusing on the days that ushered in the rule-by-bayonet. “The diaries are a primary source for the historian.”
Handwritten in English on Palace stationery, the penmanship unusually neat, the Marcos diaries offer “a compelling story of a complex man who sought to document his place among the world’s great leaders,” writes Los Angeles Times correspondent William C. Rempel in his book “Delusions of a Dictator.”
Instead, they show “a deceiver who lied to his allies, to his nation, to his wife, and, at times, even to his own diary… It documents fears and fantasies that drove a paranoid, messianic leader to depths of deceit and to the heights of authoritarian power.”
The Marcos diaries provide an answer to a puzzle that has bugged journalists: a second pooled editorial that never was.
The first ever pooled editorial here skewered the “Compartmentalized justice” of a decaying “New Society.” Upon the request of Chino Roces, the Manila Times’ Alfredo Roces wrote the draft. All dailies ran it on the same day. President Marcos went ballistic.
Malacañang phoned publishers with less grit. When a follow-up pooled editorial was proposed, the now defunct Evening News hastily bailed out, Viewpoint recalls. Others waffled. Thus, a second pooled editorial never materialized. Why?
In his Jan. 12, 1971, diary entry, Marcos wrote: “[Evening News publisher] Freddie Elizalde showed me a copy of an editorial which Chino Roces wanted to be pooled by all the newspapers castigating me and asking for my resignation and that of the cabinet. For good measure the editorial included the Vice President. It was opposed by Freddie and [Philippines Herald’s] Sebastian Ugarte… What a ridiculous spectacle Chino Roces is making of himself.”
“Journalists must remind people of what they prefer to forget,” columnist Simeon Dumdum wrote in “Speak Memory.” Battling amnesia, in the end, is “the struggle of man against tyranny.”
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