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The military repeating history

/ 05:25 AM January 29, 2021

Isn’t it déjà vu when current “military intelligence” points to the University of the Philippines as a breeding ground for the communist insurgency? Marcos said that 51 years ago today, when then University of the Philippines president Salvador P. Lopez, accompanied by UP officials, marched to Malacañang from Agrifina Circle (between the present National Museum Natural Science and Fine Arts buildings), and presented Ferdinand Marcos with a manifesto blaming him, and his administration, for the “pattern of repression” that had met the wave of student protests that has since gone down in Philippine history as the “First Quarter Storm.”

There is no record of the President’s day in the Official Gazette, leaving us with newspaper accounts of the event, like a front-page report in the Chronicle that said Marcos scolded the UP professors for the manifesto, which he thought vague and confusing. Marcos tried to diffuse the tense meeting with a wisecrack that fell flat, telling the professors their manifesto was badly written. Part of his diary entry for Jan. 29, 1970, reads:

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“Dean [Cesar] Majul claimed they were referring to the government in general and that he who heads a house is responsible for happenings in the house. Dean [Salvador] Escudero of Business Adm. says [illegible] was a Marcos Liberal and that it is a matter of faith. Dean [Dolores] Feria (apparently an American lady) of English says there was brutality, that her 17-year-old daughter was near our car and did not see any stone thrown (she must need glasses, otherwise where did the wound of Agent Tuson in the forehead come from?).

“Dr. Francisco Nemenzo arrogantly proclaimed he was not content with the manifesto but after ‘seeing my reaction to it,’ he was happy. I had said that I was disappointed in the faculty of my alma mater; that the UP was charged as the spawning ground of communism and that the manifesto was full of ambiguous generalities that had a familiar ring to them. Then I read a report that he had said he wanted the members of the faculty to be hurt by the police and that he had given directions to the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation to prepare gasoline (apparently for Molotov cocktails, stones and other missiles to be used in the Friday [Jan. 30th] rally), and that in the charge of communism in the UP, his name was mentioned.”

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When pandemic research restrictions are lifted, I will visit Diliman to get Nemenzo’s version of events or ask his son, who is the current UP Diliman chancellor. While we have the handwritten Marcos version of events from copies held by the Presidential Commission on Good Government and Malacañang, there is another, more detailed, version that Nick Joaquin copied out or paraphrased from the diaries shown him by Marcos during an interview in 1970. On Nemenzo, the Joaquin transcript reads differently from the above:

“He was saying he was not happy about the manifesto. He said: ‘I did not write this alone; it was written by a committee; but now that I see your reaction to it, Mr. President, I am very happy about it.’ I told him: ‘I am glad you are happy about something anyway.’ And I asked if it was true he was encouraging the students to use violence. He said no. I told him: ‘I would like to be frank with you. There is a report that you have directed a certain organization to prepare Molotov cocktails to be used on January 30.’ He said: ‘No, I have no control over that organization; I am no longer an officer there.’ Then he said: ‘But I question the statement that the UP is a breeding ground for communism.’ I said: ‘All I’m asking is that there should be an open debate, because there are requests to even close the UP and reports that it’s a spawning ground for communism and complaints that I have not done anything about it.’ He kept insisting: ‘What are these reports?’ So I said: ‘That you are one of those reported supposedly participating in discussions about communism.’

“That was all. I did not call him a communist or anything like that. I just said that there were reports that the UP was a spawning ground and suggestions that it be either investigated or closed. Which would be ridiculous. That was why I had not taken any steps about it.“

The Marcos diaries are biased, self-referential, and an oftentimes lying account of events. These diaries should be used with extreme caution, each page weighed against other primary sources to squeeze out or refract the ounce of truth it contains.

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TAGS: Armed Forces of the Philippines, communism, Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Ferdinand Marcos, First quarter storm, marcos diaries, University of the Philippines
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