Interrogated by the military
Since Sept. 21 (the 42nd anniversary of the imposition of Marcos’ deadly martial rule) the Inquirer has been running stories about that terrifying era (1972-1986) that saw the death of democracy and the killing, disappearance, detention and suffering of tens of thousands of Filipinos. Unrestrained evil, I call it, and today’s young Filipinos ought to know about it.
I wrote damning stories during those dangerous times and suffered the consequences, but they were nothing compared to what others went through.
An assigned piece I wrote last week might come out in this paper in a day or so, but I want to share another one in this column space. This is about my second interrogation in Fort Bonifacio on Dec. 11, 1982, by the National Intelligence Board Special Committee No. 2 led by Gen. Wilfredo Estrada. Human rights lawyer and former senator Jose W. Diokno asked lawyer Alex Padilla to be with me.
The summons said I was “to shed light on confidential matters,” and that my failure to appear “shall be considered as a waiver on [my] part and the Committee will be constrained to proceed in accordance with law.” There were about seven military officers-interrogators. After I was asked for my name, I dared ask them for theirs, which they gave. A couple of weeks later we, the individually interrogated women journalists and our media colleagues, named each one of them and haled them to the Supreme Court (petition for prohibition with preliminary injunction). We had a battery of Mabini lawyers led by former senator Lorenzo Tañada and UP law professor Perfecto Fernandez. The military backed off.
While being interrogated, I took down notes. I asked if the “dialogue” was being taped and if I could have a copy. No, I was told, but there was a stenographer who took notes.
Here are excerpts from my account, which was included in “The Philippine Press Under Siege, 2.”
As I did in a previous encounter with the military in a similar interrogation, I prayed for courage in facing the Sanhedrin. The interrogation lasted from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Col. Balbino Diego commented that I was very nationalistic (because of my ethnic necklace and attaché case). Col. Vicente Tigas said I wrote very well, and would I like to work for them at the Ministry of Information? He and Maj. Eleanor Bernardino said my style of writing could really move the heart, and NBI Assistant Director Ponciano Fernando warned that I might be going out of bounds. Col. Galileo Kintanar raised the possibility that I might be used by subversive elements without my knowing it.
Among the points they made clear: that I should show them my articles (pertaining to the military) before these saw print; that national security was paramount and that my writing should not arouse people to turn against the government; that I must realize that aside from that “dialogue,” I could be called again for a legal procedure. (I was slapped a P10-million libel suit later.) Col. Renato Ecarma warned that I may not write about the interrogation.
Some of the questions: What is your name? Address, school, degrees and date of graduation? What did you do in Singapore and India? What is Asian spirituality? Why these interests? (They dwelled on this for quite a time.)
Why did you write about Fr. Zacarias Agatep? (He was killed in an encounter with the military.) Why did you portray him as a hero? Does [the magazine] reimburse your expenses? How much are you paid per article? Where else do you write? Where did you work before? What subjects did you teach? What are your motives and intentions when you write? Who tells you what to write?
Why do you write articles that make the government appear so evil? This article on Bataan, how could you give this the title “Forty Years After the Fall, Bataan is Again Under Siege”? How can you speak of Bataan like that? Who is this old woman from Abucay?
How do you define national security? What are the threats to national security? What other groups (besides the ones they mentioned) are considered threats? Do you think the oligarchs are threats to national security—like Dewey Dee, for example?
Do you realize that there are certain bounds in the law as regards writing which can pose a threat to national security? We are trying to establish links between subversive groups and the media; we did intent analysis, content analysis and effect analysis on your articles. Do you realize that your articles can really move people into believing that the government is against the people?
Do you know that when we read your article on Bataan, we were going to pull out the Marines from there, but do you realize how much it entails to pull out troops? Do you know that you might be used wittingly or unwittingly by the subversives? Our records show that your name was linked with Kabataan Makabayan. Oh, maybe it was just a mistake. (They were bluffing, because I was never with KM.) Do you know that your article on Macli-ing Dulag and Letty J. Magsanoc (my magazine editor then) were included/mentioned in “Repression and Resistance”?
Do you want to work for us? (Tigas): Do you know that my wife and I had an opinion clash after she read your article on Agatep? Weren’t you the one who wrote on Macli-ing? Weren’t you interrogated after that? Did you go to Kalinga? Do you know that the [magazine] is must-reading for the NDF-CPP and that in the houses that have been raided there were always copies, some sentences even underlined?
Do you use your background in clinical psychology to influence people through your writings? And so forth and so on.
The questions and my answers during my first interrogation (1980) are also in the “The Philippine Press Under Siege, 2.” We are working on an updated version of Volumes 1 and 2, which are now out of print.
Say “Never again!” to tyranny.
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