There’s the Rub

It is what you think

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The most common line apparently used by men who are caught in bed with another woman by their wife or girlfriend is “It’s not what you think.” Some, though, have used more creative excuses. One said he was just sleeping when the two women he was in bed with suddenly fell from the ceiling. Dennis Rodman insisted to Carmen Electra there was never a girl with him, which had Electra wondering at some point whether she had actually seen one or not.

I thought about this in light of Juan Ponce Enrile’s breathtaking insistence that his 1972 ambush was completely real, and that he had never confessed that it was fake. It’s that of a man caught in bed with another woman saying exactly the things above. Nahuli na, deny to death pa.

That confession was attested to, as Inquirer Research’s fact-check pointed out last Monday, by, among others, Raymond Bonner who wrote “Waltzing With A Dictator,” Sandra Burton who wrote “Impossible Dream,” and Katherine Ellison who wrote “Imelda.” That is quite apart from the millions of Filipinos who heard Enrile saying it on radio. Either they are incorrigible liars, or Enrile is.

That is the best vantage point from which to judge the veracity of Enrile’s account of history. This falls, everything else falls.

Lest we inquire too closely into the details of the ambush and his subsequent confession, Enrile’s draws our attention away from it by arguing thus: “Whether I was ambushed or not, martial law in the country was already an irreversible fact.” Marcos had already made up his mind to declare it. Why did he need to fake an ambush at all?

In fact, says Enrile, Marcos was already contemplating martial law from Day One, as seen in his inauguration speech in December 1965. In that speech, Marcos “decried the prevalence of venality in government … and pledged to execute the law, preserve the Constitution, and, if need be, to direct ‘the forcible if legal elimination of all lawless elements.’… Many took for granted what he said.  They did not bother to analyze it.”

What in God’s name is there to analyze? Everyone talked that way at the time, including Ninoy Aquino. They all decried the venality and inequality, warning shrilly about the “social volcano” that was about to explode unless something drastic, or radical, was done about it. That doesn’t mean they were contemplating martial law. That doesn’t mean Marcos himself was contemplating martial law.

You need not go far to find proof of it: Marcos ran for reelection in 1969. If he could have run for a third presidential term, he would have done so. In fact, he tried to turn the country from presidential to parliamentary to allow him to do so, this time as prime minister. He could not, which left him with martial law as the only option for staying on.

Marcos was never the brilliant strategist he and his generals portrayed him to be. He was just a talented political tactician who knew how to improvise.

Why did Enrile need to fake an ambush to trigger martial law? Precisely as a trigger. The one thing Marcos understood and Antonio Trillanes did not is that you don’t just mount a coup attempt without preparing the public psychologically for it. Lest we forget, which Enrile bids us do, martial law wasn’t just ushered in by his ambush, it was ushered in by a rash of bombings across Greater Manila, which Marcos attributed to the communists but which everybody knew was being done by the military. Enrile’s ambush would be the final straw.

Frankly, I don’t know why he chose to embark on this deny-to-death tack. When he could very easily have said, yes, he did fake his ambush, yes, he did confess to it, but he had a change of heart as martial law wore on, and he ended up fighting the very oppression he helped put up by way of atonement. All of which might have made him look like Paul on the way to Damascus stricken by light and turning his back on a sinful past to embrace a saintly future.

He did not. The only explanation for it is not that he is in legacy mode but that he is in pragmatic mode, the way he was when he, or Marcos, or both, faked that ambush. His attempt to absolve himself from blame from start to finish is meant to foist his son, Jackie, on us as a senator. The fellow has nothing to commend himself to the voters, he has only the reputation of his father for it.

But which is really the sublime irony of this. Because Jackie is the very refutation of his father’s claims that he was the biggest victim, and not the second biggest beneficiary, of martial law. Jackie’s notoriety is well known to the generation of Filipinos who lived through martial law and hasn’t completely forgotten it. Well up to the early 1980s, his name invoked fear and anger among a populace that had heard of his run-ins with people who displeased him, not least Bongbong Marcos. Marcos considers you a pariah and your son can afford to act this way?

Of course the public didn’t get to know about it through the newspapers of the time, which were as much a source of truth as Enrile’s book is, the kind that had for headline someone struck by lightning the morning after Ninoy was buried. They got it from the same rumor-mongering, which was banned under pain of jail, that said Ninoy’s funeral drew a million people to it.

Unless you are hallucinatory or possessed of blurry vision that you can actually mistake a pillow for a woman, you see your spouse in bed with another partner, you can be sure the partner did not fall from the ceiling and that he/she really was there. Unless you are drugged or cannot trust your senses, you can be sure that when someone suffers an improbable ambush and confesses later that it was self-induced, that it was an improbable ambush and that it was faked.

You can be sure that it is exactly what you think.

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