Imelda survives assassination attempt
Fifty years ago this week, Imelda Marcos survived an assassination attempt while handing out prizes for her beautification projects at Nayong Pilipino. Recounting this incident years later, Mrs. Marcos said the “ugly weapon” could be improved with a yellow ribbon. That incident is my most vivid memory of martial law because the footage was looped on TV on the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1972. Carlito Dimahilig pulled a bolo hidden from his left coat sleeve, lunged at Mrs. Marcos twice, and hacked away at everyone before he was shot and killed by security. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. left a detailed account in his diary:
“We are all still in a state of benumbed shock and dismay. The nightmare is still in our minds and hearts.
“I was at the 5th hole of [Bahay] Pangarap Golf Course at about 4:50 p.m. playing with Francis (Pat) Parker of [Ge]nesco, Frankie Teodoro, Ricky Cu Unjieng and Rudy Cuenca; I had reached the Pergola after my second shot with a 3 wood when Fortuna and her children came running out of the Pangarap crying out in sobs that ‘Imelda had been stabbed in Nayon[g] Pilipino’ and that it had been clearly shown over TV which she had been watching. Our communications confirmed it. I always have a hand carried PT-400 (Motorola) beside me, even on the golf course, with a five mile range in open terrain given us by the American OSI (Office of Special Investigations, US Air Force) in 1966 after the training of my security.
“After ordering the place at the Nayon[g] Pllipino where the attack occurred to be sequestered and to apprehend all the participants (in the attack), I ran (golf shoes and all) to the garage with the security to take my car (the armored Buick) rushed to Makati Medical Center where they had brought Imelda by helicopter.
“We were delayed by the afternoon traffic jams but with the Metrocom (Metropolitan Command) car ahead we managed to get to the operating room of the hospital in ten minutes. She was on the operating table with ugly lacerations in both arms still oozing blood, and her right hand, cut, on the second joint of the fingers, so deep that I could see the bone and the cartilage of the middle finger severed. The tendon of the right forearm was obviously cut. It was a white protrusion in the bloody muscles that were being cleaned.
“My feeling was that I had felt in battle during the war—cold, deep, unabating fury. My mind was clear as I ticked off the things I had to do, the man who could be responsible.
“At the back of my mind I kept blaming myself for not having gone with her as I had jokingly told her when I woke up from my nap at 3:30 p.m. that I should go along even if I am not in the program—for I woke up to her dressing up for the occasion. But she had in equal levity observed that she could take care of herself. Little did I know that she would bravely take care of herself in the next several hours and thus save her life.
“For that is the verdict of everybody who saw the attack on her directly or on TV. The video tape was shown almost every five minutes over K[anlaon] B[roadcasting] S[ystem]. The capitals of the world asked for a replay over satellite which I agreed to provided that the background of previous threats as well as the fact that the First Lady is safe be given.
“For the first question I asked over our communications while in my car on the way to the hospital was what wounds she had suffered. The only answer we could get was there was blood in the front part of her terno. But I knew by sixth sense she was not fatally stabbed.
“But in the hospital I was assured that she had no body wounds.”
Marcos listed the names of 17 Filipino attending physicians, including a specialist, sent by US President Richard Nixon to assist. He noted that:
“Imelda saved herself as there were no security men or aide-de-camp on the front of the stage beside her by kicking at her assailant, stepping backwards and parrying the bolo—thrusts with her hands, thus her wounds in the arms and hands … But Imelda parried the first stab with her hands as she fell down. This must have been the stab that cut her dress in front of the sternum and her left arm … And Imelda fell, kicking at the assassin. On TV replay you could see her yellow shoes, which were lost when she ran to the back of the stage and to the helicopter, kicking at the assassin as he kept hacking at Imelda … It was miraculous how Imelda escaped a body wound. The stabs (two to three times) were all aimed at her chest. And the two slashes from overhead were strong enough to have cut her neck or slashed her abdomen.”
Everything was over in less than a minute: “… the assailant was actually stopped by a running jump kick over the First Lady who was on the floor, by TSgt. Julio Jaymalin, Marines, who was knocked down losing balance after hitting the assassin and while he (Jaymalin) was sprawled on the floor, he turned to lie on his back and as the assassin slashed four times at the people around him, Jaymalin shot him twice which knocked him down.
“TSgt. Clemente Tadena, (Philippine Army), shot him first before that did not seem to hurt him seriously. After Jaymalin had knocked him down with two shots, PO2 Bagnos Magno, Phil. Navy … gave him the coup de grace with a shot in the head as he (the assassin) tried to grab his bolo and rise.”
We will never know Dimahilig’s motivation. Did he act alone? Marcos saw a conspiracy. Critics claimed the assassination was staged to gain sympathy for Marcos and martial law.
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