Viewpoint

When the strong weep

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How would Sen. Jose Diokno (1922-1987) see those six tarred senators who twisted in the wind at Monday’s rallies against the pork barrel scam?

If historian Ambeth Ocampo were born 30 years earlier, he regretted, he could have watched Diokno or Sen. Claro Recto debate. The Senate then had a Lorenzo Tañada, an Emmanuel Pelaez, a Jovito Salonga.

Not anymore. Scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles “asked me to pick up a Montblanc pen from Rustan’s,” said Whistleblower No. 9. She paid P65,000 in cash and had the senator’s name engraved. So, “did Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. brag to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada: My pen is mightier than yours”? Dr. Carolina Camara of Butuan e-mailed.

“More important” than Montblanc pens is what “induced [Senator Diokno’s family] to shed tears,” wondered President Aquino in an Inquirer interview on the 30th anniversary of his father’s murder.

Diokno and Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. vanished from their Fort Bonifacio cells and their personal effects were returned without explanation. “Will he not need his toothbrush?” Corazon Aquino asked stone-faced jailors. Over 42 days, the two families searched.

Blindfolded and handcuffed to escorts, Diokno and Aquino were secretly helicoptered to Nueva Ecija. “Their escorts had .45 pistols pointed at the midsection of both my dad and Senator Diokno,” P-Noy recalls. “They didn’t know where they were being brought.”

Aquino smuggled “A challenge to martial law” that the Bangkok Post published in a three-part series. Reprisals followed. They were half-starved to death in solitary confinement at Fort Magsaysay.

“I admire the Dioknos,” P-Noy added. “They are tougher than us. As tough as us at the very least. But when I saw them step out of [the Fort Magsaysay] building, they were in tears. A few minutes later, the 13-year-old Aquino and his family saw why Carmen Icasiano-Diokno and her family had wept.

They saw, behind cell bars, Benigno Aquino Jr. “He had no glasses. He was unshaven, no watch, no ring… He held on to his pants because he lost so much weight,” P-Noy told Lifestyle editor Thelma Sioson San Juan. “He was so pleased to see us, very emotional.”

The strong weep, too. Tears of the Dioknos and Aquinos remind us of what the gospels report: Before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, “Jesus wept.”

Nonsense, Imelda Marcos insists. The “New Society” ushered in the most democratic regime the Philippines ever knew. Move over, Imelda. There’s a new kid on the block. The Net is awash with uploads of 21-year-old Jeane Napoles’ bash at Beverly Hills. They display multiple Porsche cars, million-peso watches, a clutch bag costing roughly P400,000 and—how did you guess?—nine pairs of shoes costing P360,000 each.

Another showed shopping sprees in other countries. Imelda has no franchise on foreign homes. The Napoles admit they “co-own” a $7-million hotel near Disneyland in Los Angeles, California. The photos were hastily scrubbed from the Net. But not before Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue said they were asking some questions. No problem if the right tax is paid.

See those mindsets in the context of the letter that Diokno wrote from his prison cell in 1972: “True, there is little that men of goodwill can do now to end the madness that holds our nation in its grip. But we can, even now, scrutinize our past; try to pinpoint where we went wrong; determine what led to this madness and what nurtured it; and how, when it ends, we can make sure that it need never happen again. For this madness must end—if not in my lifetime, at least in yours.”

The Manila airport murder of Ninoy triggered the revolt against the Marcos dictatorship. People Power installed Aquino’s widow as president. Equally hesitant about seeking election, her son is now the 15th Philippine president. These events blur memories of Diokno’s towering role in governance. Thus, it is right that P-Noy remind our children of this IOU for Diokno.

Martial law in September 1972, aborted Diokno’s second term as senator. After two years of detention, he was released without charges being filed. He passed away a year after the Marcos regime collapsed.

Our grandchildren have no memories of Diokno. In future history classes, we hope they’ll glimpse what this Filipino did for them. For now, their lolo tries to bridge the gaps with stories culled from experience.

One was of Press Foundation of Asia chats among journalists that Diokno often joined. What about martial law? fretted publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces. “Marcos can create a throne of bayonets,” Diokno said. “But how long can he sit on it?”

Fourteen years, it turned out. Those years included a 1972 Supreme Court hearing for a petition for habeas corpus by detained officials, including Diokno, and journalists, like us. We don’t recall now the question posed by the pro-Marcos justice. But Diokno’s answer is seared into our minds: “We beg leave to submit a memorandum of reply since our answer now would be unprintable.”

That was unvarnished Diokno. And our children need that spirit more today. Despite being tarred by the dictatorship’s abuses and today’s pork scam, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. jostles to make a bid for the presidency come 2016. What would a Jose Diokno say?

In Monday’s rallies against those who pigged out on the pork barrel, we hear Diokno’s blunt comments re-echo, from prison and that 1972 Supreme Court hearing: “This madness must end—if not in my lifetime, at least in yours…” (And) “we beg leave to submit a memorandum of reply since our answer right now is unprintable.”

(E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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  • 1GeorgeTolentino2

    What a rebuttal ! Thank you for these gems.

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