Creeping amnesia


Today is the 41st anniversary of the imposition of martial law. There were 22 Manila-based journalists arrested by military teams that shoved “assos” into our faces. “What’s an ‘asso?’” asked our grandson, a University of California Irvine freshman.

Few remember the “arrest and seizure orders” issued under Ferdinand Marcos’ rule-by-bayonet. “Journalists must remind people of what they prefer to forget,” columnist Simeon Dumdum wrote in “Speak Memory.”

“Soldiers are here, asking for you,” then National Press Club president Eddie Monteclaro said over the phone. “OK if I give them your address?” Gifted with backbone, Monteclaro later lodged a habeas corpus petition (GR No. 36142) for arrested journalists. “Sure, Ed. I’m not going on the lam,” we told him.

Honolulu Star Bulletin’s Carl Zimmerman hitched a ride in the car that ferried us to Camp Crame. “Here it is, Carl,” we said on being shown the order. “We’re being nailed under something called Proclamation 1081.” The colonel snatched it and bristled: “Foreign correspondent? You are not allowed to see this.”

What cuts is detention’s open-ended nature. It is harder on families. A lawyer, my daughter now lives in California with her physician-husband and two kids. She remembers the late Fr. James Reuter. The Jesuit waited until her St. Paul third grade class was dismissed. “Not everyone in prison is bad,” he reassured her. “Your father and other newsmen are not criminals.”

“Could all the journalists please follow me,” Col. Generoso Alejo told the detainees. “You have a visitor.” It was almost midnight, at the tail end of martial law’s first week. Outside, silence blanketed the streets emptied by the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In the lower bunk, Evening News’ Luis Beltran groaned and rose. From the upper bed, I shimmied down. We followed Daily Mirror’s Amando Doronila, Philippine News Service’s Manuel Almario and Taliba’s Benny Esquivel. Ben David, Celso Carunungan and Luis Mauricio (now all deceased) preceded us into the barred reception room.

Our “midnight visitor” turned out to be our jailor, the then PC commander Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. “Nothing personal, gentlemen,” he said after amenities. “I was ordered to neutralize you. Please cooperate. We’ll try to make things easier for you.”

Have we cooperated by forgetting? “The brain has corridors surpassing material place,” Emily Dickinson wrote.

We recall the first—and only—Mass the detainees were allowed to offer. An imprisoned SVD priest, Fr. Constante Floresca, officiated. “Don’t you feel offended for being arrested for illegal assembly?” his fellow detainees  joshed him. “Your Master was nabbed for subversion.”

Through gritted teeth, Amando Doronila read the gospel of his choice: “Those who take by the sword will perish by the sword.” Within an hour, the order came down: “Until further notice, Mass will not be permitted.”

Detention offered a window on how people react under pressure. Some crumble. A number withdraw into cocoons. Those locked gates burnish the steel in others.

Some mornings, women political detainees were allowed an hour to chat with us and detained Constitutional Convention delegates like Alejandro Lichauco. Among them were Haydee Yorac, Manila Times’ Roz Galang, and painter Veronica Yuyitung (wife of Chinese Commercial News editor Rizal Yuyitung, shanghaied by Marcos agents to a Taipei military jail). We’d swap stories—and smuggled foreign news clips.

After the dictatorship’s collapse, Yorac went on to win the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service. Under her watch, the Presidential Commission on Good Government recovered a looted $683 million stashed in Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos’ Swiss bank accounts. She secured court decisions clobbering the notorious coconut levy. The same burnished steel showed in her work, from peace negotiator to elections commissioner.

“Yorac knows she will not complete the task herself,” the RM Foundation wrote before her death in September 2005. “Others will rise to it. No one is indispensable, she reminds us all. Making a difference is enough.”

Early evenings, detainees would swap jokes that dictatorships everywhere spawn. The late Graphic editor Luis Mauricio told about two Filipino dogs who lined up for US visas. “Martial law has been good to you,” the scrawny mutt tells the plump mongrel. “Why do you want to leave?” The reply: “I want to bark.” Was it Constitutional Convention delegate (and later Vice President) Teofisto Guingona who spun the yarn about a Pinoy who is taken ill while passing Imelda Marcos’ Film Center? As the Pinoy vomits, a passerby whispers into his ear: “Pare, I share your opinion.”

Editor Celso Carunungan  had us in stitches about martial law enforcer Juan Ponce Enrile buried to his waist in hell. He grouses because Ferdinand Marcos has fire lapping only at his feet. Marcos shushes Enrile: “I’m standing on Imelda’s shoulders.”

There’d be talk on what one planned to do when released. My wish was simple, I joked: “To write the arrest orders for the next government.”

Telling jokes against “Big Brother” are “tiny revolutions,” author George Orwell noted. “Political humor is a response to dictatorial regimes,” says University of Massachusetts’ Oriol Pi-Sunyer. The danger surges when the wisecracks are stomped out.

We recall walking out of detention with Free Press editor Teodoro Locsin Sr. He refused to publish under Marcos. What would this towering editor, who died in January 2000, have written about Ferdinand Jr.’s “joke” to run for president in 2016?

* * *


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  • cogito728sum

    Teddy Locsin, Sr. would have been justified writing the following:

    Epitaph for the Sr.:

    “Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
    where wealth accumulates and men decay.” …Oliver Goldsmith

    Epithet for the Jr.:

    “Man has more to fear from the passions of his fellow creatures than

    from the convulsions of the elements.”… Edward Gibbons

    The second line of the epitaph, which now literally applies to the Sr., includes a reminder to the Enriles, the Jenggoys, the Revillas, and all the predators in government, that if, as Manong Johnny wishes, you want to bequeath a decent name and honour to family, better heed its call. Even as morally decayed you are now, the infamy of your names in the minds of future generations may be mitigated though may not be totally erased.

    To Bongbong, the epithet aptly applies. Don’t push your luck “hijo” too hard. Further sowing the seemingly simmered down ill winds your father left behind may
    intensify past beyond category V typhoon that, combined with the raging ferocious wrath of the awakened people, will be a formidable force for you to overcome. Heed the call of the times Bongbong, read the writings on the wall. You’d accomplish much for yourself by atoning for the sins of your father and by forgetting the lures of power. Only true service to country and people will save your soul. Merci beaucoup!

    • bertrand

      Behold Sir, I am already a senator ! How can I forget the lures
      of power ?

      • cogito728sum

        Sonny boy, the word “lures” refer to the appeal of powers. Just because you’re now a senator does not mean that power has ceased its appeal on you, just as our spouses’ appeal never cease on us, if we truly love them. That is the reality of the Marcoses, they are obsessed with power, to preserve their political and economic interests. This is the same motivation that keep the Enriles anchored to where they now stand never knowing when to bow out. This mental disorder, and disorder it is, believe you me, has been transmitted to the present crop of politicos, a sad reality that affects our national psyche.

        But I’m glad to receive your sensible one-liner which suggests that you’re a thinking reader. And as long as there are young Filipinos like you, it’s not, as tarikan has suggested above, too late yet for the Filipino. It indicates that he can still cull the grain from the chaff, a must condition in three years time when he’ll be threshing again to separate the worthless from the deserving candidates. But how many are there of your kind? You’re badly outnumbered. You must increase your number or the kinds of the Marcoses will be in your midst for a long time yet. Merci beaucoup!

    • tarikan

      You are a few elections too late cogito. Mama, Junior and Ate are back in power and by the looks of the wide-eyed electorate the Marcoses will be in the highest echelons of power yet. Those righteous people be damned. No mercy!

      • cogito728sum

        I realize they are back in power. But it is never too late for a people to rectify their errors, to mend their ways. But those who understand must do their utmost responsibility to society for its common good, to help educate the less fortunate who keep the kinds of the Marcoses in their pedestal. Merci!

  • cry_freedom

    Famous quotes on the conjugal dictators’ martial law:

    With regards to the atrocities committed by the so many “Josef Mengeles” of martial law…

    “They extinguished the butts on my face, lips, body”.
    “When the camp dentist learned I was a detainee, he wouldn’t use anesthesia”.
    “Needles under my nails”.
    “At 12, he watched his parents die and was made a slave to soldiers”.
    “Unbearable torture pushed my brother to try to drown himself”.

    And BongBong Marcos wants to become President?

    • nes911

      No way for any marcos to be precy. Sa panaginip na lang nila iyan.

      • Antenor F Cevallos

        He, he, he. Mga Pinoy, walang memorya.

      • alfie

        OO nga walang memorya, biro mo tinanggal si Ferdie after few years na elect muli yung asawa at mga anak, masyadong ,malilimutin talaga.
        At eto pa si Benigno Sr. Tried with treason in WW2 few years na elect pang Governor si JR. di pa nasiyahan may CPP NPA pa, after few years naelect pa asawa then parang hero pa nasa pera pa mukha at after few years pa ulit si III nagging congressman , senador ngayon president pa, inallow pa ang backdoor negotiation sa china, sabi kuyari lang to wala naming papansin sa inyo dyan later (we lost scarborough shoal).
        Really ang mga pinoy nga naman walang memorya at walang kadala dala.

      • tarikan

        No way for any Marcos to be precy, yeah but they shouldn’t be back to power at all, don’t you think? But I guess we couldn’t control those Ilokaok votes, could we? But really I’ll say it straight to the Ilokaok faces…shame on you people for voting them back to power. Wala na bang iba?

      • kolambogan

        It’s not only the Ilokaok, I don’t know the actual number of the Ilokaoks in relation to the total voters in the Philippines, but I’m sure they are not even 10 percent, Assuming Bongbong Marcos was elected as a senator for more than that ratio, even by five percent, there are therefore more non-Ilokaoks that should be blamed and shamed also, and consider not all Ilokaoks could be blamed and shamed for the Marcosses, there were Ilokaoks from Tarlac that did not vote for him.

  • buninay1

    Martial Law Redux

    In place of galunggong, tilapia.
    In place of kangkong, malunggay,
    In place of BLISS housing, resettlements.
    In place of KKK, Conditional Cash Transfer.

    In place of Imelda, GMA and Napoles
    In place of Imee, Imee.
    In place of Ferdie, Sen. Bongbong.
    In place of dictatorship, chicharonship.

    In place of UNIDO, none.
    In place of NPAs, fewer.
    In place of MNLF, MILF and BIFF.
    In place of Mosquito Press, netizens/bloggers.

    In place of Parliament, Partihanment.
    In place of rubberstamp, porkstamp.
    In place of cronies, BFFs.
    In place of New Society, Tuwid na Daan.

    In place of Tuwid na Daan, U-Turn.
    In place of BFFs, cronies.
    In place of porkstamp, rubberstamp
    In place of Partihanment, Parliament.

    In place of Sen. Bongbong, Pres. Bongbong
    In place of chicharonship, dictatorship.
    In place of fewer NPAs, more NPAs,
    In place of dream, nightmare.

    • AllaMo

      In the Philippines: The more things change, the worse they remain the same.

  • M C

    Well, jailing newspapermen is an imperative when one needs to impose martial rule. A newspaperman just have to accept that as part of a day’s work. Surely, they were collateral damage in the fight between the Leftists and the Rightists. Although most will dispute that martial law was a historical necessity during those times, it can never be denied that it somehow imposed discipline on all sectors of society within the early part of its imposition. When one makes a stand, one needs to accept the price that stand entails.

    • AllaMo

      Having and being able to use a brain and soul is (also) imperative to being human. Find yours. And, maybe you can speak of discipline that was imbibed by the marcos-enrile cabal during their conjugal dictatorship (meldy was only a ménage-a-trois bittch. Still is).

  • nilphil

    Magagalit sayo si Amando Doronilla dahil isinama mo sya sa mga deceased. Nagkamali ka, mayroon lang syang disease hindi pa sya deceased, hehehe!

    • tarikan

      Pre, read it “We followed Daily Mirror’s Amando Doronila, Philippine News Service’s Manuel Almario and Taliba’s Benny Esquivel. Ben David, Celso Carunungan and Luis Mauricio (now all deceased) preceded us into the barred reception room”. Of the deceased, Ka Doro was not included. Two separate sentences, pre.

      • nilphil

        Oo nga, sorry, my mistake! Salamat!

  • basilionisisa

    another beautiful piece! Mr Mercado: I wish you’d consider compiling your Viewpoint columns into a book. so nice to read and re-read.

  • Sandouk

    Kayong mga Journalists…d naman kayo pagda2mputin kong malinis ang sinusulat o pinara2ting nyo…eh ang nangyari puro kadungisan ang pinagga2wa nyo…
    Magsulat kayo ng malinis na wlang ta2maan na individual o grupo.
    Pu2rihin pa kayo…

    • AllaMo


  • tarikan

    Pero bilib ako sa mga kababayan natin. Sila Imelda, BongGong, Imee ay back to power despite the fact that they are members of KAWATAN family. Ganun ba kadali magpatawad ang mga PFilipino, dahilan ba yan sa pagiging Katoliko? Now I know why all forms of thievery thrives in the Philippines. Top ranked dishonest people. Hey, I am a PFilipino…also dishonest at unih-ihi sa pader.

    • PinoyPower1

      The ilocanos are the only rabid marcos supporters. their governor and congressman are imelda and imee. they made bongbong win too.

  • captainramius





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