Archive for September, 2012


Unfortunately, not in a teapot.

It appeared that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV worked famously well with each other especially during the impeachment proceedings against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona earlier this year.    In the afternoon of September 19, however, they turn their big guns on each other.

Enrile-Trillanes face-off at the Senate

Prior to this exchange, the grapevine was rife with talk of a coup against Enrile’s leadership in the Senate.  The complaint against Enrile?  Tightfistedness over budget releases.

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her son, Dato, who are both members of the House of Representatives

Trillanes fired the first shot accusing Enrile of railroading a bill that will create a new province–Nueva Camarines–to favor Rep. Dato Arroyo, a son of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Trillanes accused Enrile of being GMA’s lackey.  Enrile was accused of being eager to serve GMA’s preferences and at the same sitting of bills he did not favor such as the controversial Reproductive Health bill.  Trillanes capped his speech by saying that he lost confidence in Enrile’s leadership and that he was leaving the Senate majority.

In a skillful re-framing (this point I owe to my younger colleague at the UP Department of Political Science, Jalton Taguibao) of the debate, Enrile cast doubts on the “quiet, secret and clandestine” meetings Trillanes had with Chinese officials regarding the country’s territorial disputes with China.

Parrying Trillanes’ answer that he was authorized by President Noynoy to act as back-channel negotiator, Enrile insisted that Trillanes should have sought his permission as Senate chief to leave the country and should have submitted proper reports to the Senate.

Ambassador Sonia Brady

Further on, Enrile insinuated that a study of the notes made by former Ambassador Sonia Brady, who met with Trillanes on August 17, would show that the senator was “protecting” the Chinese.  This is obviously convenient wording as Enrile could not yet brand Trillanes a traitor.  That will happen days after when both senators continued their word war.

The attack continued.  Enrile fired from another weapon and asked Trillanes: are you against me now because I disapproved your budget request for your oversight committee?  The latter can only say that was not the case.

So the possible reason came from Enrile himself.  The question: why did Enrile disapprove Trillanes’ budget request?

When Enrile started to read further from the Brady notes, Trillanes countered that the reading was irrelevant to the original matter of creating the new province of Nueva Camarines and walked out.  The ever-ready Enrile quipped: “He’s a coward; he cannot take the heat.”

It is desirable that domestic differences be transcended in relation to the conduct of a country’s foreign policy.  However, professors of international relations know that there is no great wall between domestic and international politics.

I am offering this reconstruction of the events based solely on open sources.  A reconstruction is a reading, my reading of what happened.  I could be right, I could be wrong.  It is up to the reader to judge the plausibility of this reconstruction.

Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr.

Trillanes was tasked by President Noynoy Aquino through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to do some back-channeling with the China with respect to the Scarborough Shoal issue.  With respect to the Enrile-Trillanes dispute, it does not matter if President Aquino asked Trillanes first or if Trillanes volunteered himself.  At the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility is with President Aquino.  I do no think Trillanes went to China on his own.

President Noynoy Aquino

What is the domestic political angle here?  Trillanes is due for re-election in the May 2013.  Some pogi (brownie) points will not hurt his re-election bid.  If he can claim some success in resolving the dispute with China, then his political stock gets boosted.  Why would President Noynoy entrust Trillanes, who is obviously an amateur on foreign policy notwithstanding his claimed contacts in China, with such task?  Given the small number of senators, a senator is a member of almost all standing committees of the Senate.  Logically, a senator cannot be an expert of the subject matter of all these committees.  He may be considered an expert on the matters covered by the committee(s) he chairs.  Trillanes chairs three committees–civil service and government reorganization, amateur sports competitiveness, and the oversight committee on government procurement.  He is a member of the foreign relations and national defense and security committees.

The reason for the assignment?  Simple.  Trillanes is slated to join the administration’s senatorial slate for May 2013.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto del Rosario

Trillanes’ appointment as back-channel negotiator to China apparently irked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario especially since the former reportedly bad-mouthed him in Trillanes’ talk with our ambassador to China Sonia Brady.  He complains about Trillanes’ role in a Philippine Daily Inquirer headline article published on September 19, 2012.  In the same article, Trillanes typically hit back (remember his dressing down of Secretary Angelo Reyes during a Senate hearing on corruption within the military) saying if del Rosario did his work right, there would not be a need for a back-door negotiator.

Secretary Angelo Reyes in a Senate hearing on corruption
within the Philippine military

Ambassador Brady took notes of her conversation with Trillanes notwithstanding the latter’s instruction against taking notes.  The soon-to-be called Brady notes will find their way to Enrile.  No need to ‘agonize’ about the “how” here since del Rosario is Brady’s boss.

Enrile is not the old wily fox for nothing; he has absolutely so much experience to get caught with his pants down.  So when Trillanes fires his Nueva Camarines broadside, Enrile refused to be pinned down defensively.  He counter attacked using the Brady notes; he even called Trillanes a fifth-columnist, an elegant euphemism for traitor.  Even if the China issue was irrelevant, Enrile not only parried Trillanes’ thrust.  The younger senator was now put on the defensive.

Juan ‘Jackie’ Enrile Jr.

One last point.  Enrile is not running for re-election in 2013 and will retire from politics next year.  However, his son, Juan ‘Jackie’ Enrile, Jr. is aspiring to be senator in May 2013.  Since Enrile pere is one of the three leaders (with Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada) of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Enrile fils will join the UNA slate.  Under the country’s electoral system, only the 12 candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be declared as senators.  Under this system, all candidates are competing with each other.  If Trillanes joins the administration slate, he will be competing not only with UNA candidates but with administration slate-mates.  The same is true with Jackie Enrile.

One can say that the Trillanes-Enrile pere tussle is the opening salvo of the 2013 senatorial election campaign.


The Baltazar Aquino Papers (BAP) are documents generated by the ‘perpetuation of testimony’ proceedings (Special Proceedings No. 002) conducted by the Sandiganbayan from September 1988 to November 1989.  The Sandiganbayan is a special court created by the Philippine government to try corruption cases filed against government officials.

After the ouster of President Marcos in February 1986, the government of President Cory Aquino initiated several  moves for the general purpose of recovering so-called ‘ill-gotten wealth’ from the Marcoses and their cronies and to prosecute them for ‘grave crimes against the Filipino people.’  Among these moves included the creation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the subsequent filing of several suits (civil and criminal) in various courts in the Philippines and in other countries.

The Sandiganbayan ‘perpetuation of testimony’ proceedings were conducted for the purpose of recording for posterity and future use the testimony of an ailing Baltazar A. Aquino (who was 78 years old in 1989), former Secretary (or Minister when the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government in 1978) of Public Highways during the Marcos highways.  The proceedings were actually done in conjunction with the hearing of several civil suits against Marcos, his family, and friends where Baltazar Aquino himself was a prosecution witness.  At the time, the government of President Cory Aquino had decided, based on national security considerations, against allowing the Marcoses to return to the country.  For this reason, only civil suits were filed against the Marcoses in Philippine courts.  Under existing Philippine laws, when a criminal case is filed, the defendant must be physically present in the court and face his accuser.

 

The perpetuation of Balatazar Aquino’s testimony was done before the 2nd division of the Sandiganbayan.  Meanwhile, the civil suit against Marcos, his family, and friends (Civil Case No. 0002) was heard at the graft court’s 3rd division up to November 1989.  Ferdinand Marcos died while in exile in Hawaii on 28 September 1989.  In the light of Marcos’ death, the perpetuation of Aquino’s testimony was terminated in early 1990.  Solicitor General Francisco I. Chavez withdrew the petition for the perpetuation of Aquino’s testimony on 2 February 1990.

 

A general picture of Marcos’ irregular relationships with Japanese firms and suppliers vying for Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines emerges from the Aquino testimony, the papers supplied by Oscar Rodriguez, and documents pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation headed by Marcos crony and former parliamentarian Andres Genito Jr.  The Marcos-Japanese relationship started with the Japanese Reparations Program, administered by the Reparations Commission headed by Marcos war buddy Gen. Eulogio Balao.  It continued up to the last years of the Marcos presidency when the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) became the main conduit of Japanese public funds into the country following the end of the Reparations Program.

 

In general, the Japanese government-provided funds are to be used to finance several general infrastructure and development contracts in the Philippines.  The equipment requirements of these projects were to procured from Japanese manufacturers or suppliers in the usual manner of so-called ‘tied aid.’  Ostensibly, the Japanese contractors must compete with each other in a bidding process where the qualified bidder submitting the lowest bid was awarded the contract.

 

However, Marcos and his associates perfected a system wherein no Japanese firm could win a contract unless a 15 percent (of the total contract price) ‘commission’ was paid.  This ‘commission’ would be included in the total contract price to be paid by the Philippine government out of Japanese government-provided funds.

 

Except for a specific instance (i.e., the Cagayan Valley Electrification Project) where they attempted to win contracts without paying any ‘commission’ to Marcos, the Japanese firms generally acceded to the ‘commission’ system.  All qualified bidders, therefore, knew that they were expected to pay the ‘commission’ if they wanted to win a contract.  They would still ‘compete’ in the bidding process.  One cannot be blamed however for thinking that since all were willing players anyway, the contracts were judiciously assigned to individual contractors in some sort of a queueing system.  This meant that if a firm was unable to win a contract for a particular project, it was sure to get one for another project in the future.

 

The key Marcos aides involved in the operations were Gen Eulogio Balao, Secretary Baltazar Aquino, Deputy Secretary Oscar Rodriguez, and Andres Genito Jr.  Balao collected ‘commissions’ on projects financed under the Reparations Program; most of these projects were administered by Philippine government agencies other than the Department of Public Highways.  Genito took Balao’s place when the latter had a stroke and eventually died in 1977.  In a kind of division of labor, Aquino collected commissions on projects administered by the Department of Public Highways and financed by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF).  Rodriguez, who was accountable only to Marcos, though technically Aquino’s subordinate, took care of the technical function of accepting and evaluating bids and recommending (to Marcos) the award of contracts to specific Japanese suppliers.  He could have been in charge of the ‘queueing’ system alluded to earlier.

 

The Japanese firms that paid regular contributions to Marcos through Balatazar Aquino included Sakai Heavy Industries, Sumitomo Corporation, Toyo Corporation, Nissho-Iwai, and Mitsui & Company.  Four representatives of Japanese firms–Susumu Makino of Sakai, Yoshio Kotake and Mr. Hara of Toyo Corporation, and Mr. Sato of Sumitomo–alternatively handed over these payoffs to Baltazar Aquino in Hongkong.

 

Among the key revelations of the Sandiganbayan proceedings include the following:

 

  1. On several occasions from July 1975 to July 1976, Secretary Aquino travelled to Hongkong to receive monies from Japanese firm representatives, particularly Susumu Makino of Sakai Heavy Industries.  Aquino would then deposit the money to a numbered account (No. 51960) with the Hongkong office of the Swiss Bank Corporation.  A Swiss Bank Corporation official in Hongkong, a Mr. Barasoni issued deposit receipts which Aquino will turn over to Marcos upon his return to Manila.
  2. Baltazar Aquino testified that Marcos instructed him to keep his Hongkong activities secret and unknown even to Aquino’s wife.  Aquino wrote Marcos a letter dated 25 May 1977 promising to keep his mouth shut.
  3. After Gen. Balao’s death, Marcos expressed some worry that Genito was not giving a proper accounting of ‘commissions’ received through Angenit Investment Corporation.  Rodriguez was asked to perform an audit and he was able to prepare a schedule of collections made by Balao and Genito.  Genito was found, in one instance, to be short of a hundred thousand dollars (US$100,000.00).  For his part, Genito tried to persuade Rodriguez to withhold his deficiency from Marcos.
  4. Yoshiko Kotake of Toyo Corporation wrote Genito to advise President Marcos not to use Baltazar Aquino to collect ‘commissions’ from Japanese firms.  Kotake warned of a possible scandal (similar to the Lockheed affair which led to the imprisonment of former Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka) since Aquino was a high government official.  Aquino was himself in charge of Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines.

 


The papers collectively known as the Oscar Rodriguez Papers (ORP) are documents given to a parliamentary mission sent by the Japanese Socialist Party (that later changed its English name to Social Democratic Party of Japan in 1991) to the Philippines in March 1986.  The parliamentary mission was dispatched to Manila following the release of the Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) by the US government.  Media coverage of the MHP in Japan was extensive since the papers strongly hinted at corrupt business practices and other irregularities of several prominent Japanese business firms awarded contracts in connection with Japanese-government funded projects in the Philippines.

In Manila, the parliamentary mission was able to meet Oscar Rodriguez, who allowed the visiting parliamentarians to copy the almost 1,400-page document set he had in his possession.  Rodriguez, undersecretary of the Department (or Ministry) of Public Highways, was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos as the implementing officer of the Philippine-Japan Project Loan Assistance Program (PJLAP).  The PJLAP was a special government agency organized by President Marcos to oversee to oversee all Japanese government-funded yen credit projects in the Philippines after the imposition of martial law in September 1972.

Four years earlier, the Japanese Reparations Program ended.  A provision of the peace treaty between Japan and the victorious powers provided that Japan must pay indemnify the nations it conquered and occupied during the Second World War.  Under this program, the Philippines organized the Reparations Commission to receive the Japanese indemnifications used to finance infrastructure and other development projects.  The Commission was headed by Marcos’ friend, war-buddy, and fellow Ilocano, Senator (formerly General and Secretary of National Defense) Eulogio Balao of Cagayan province.

It could be discerned from the perpetuation of testimony proceedings of former Marcos cabinet member Baltazar Aquino (subject of another blog post), and documents pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation in the Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) that Balao ensured that percentages of Japanese reparation payments found their way into President Marcos’ bank accounts.  Since these Japanese public funds were used to purchase Japanese equipment and services (in the manner of ‘tied aid’), Japanese suppliers had to pay ‘commissions’ to Marcos through Balao so they can be awarded the suppliers’ contracts.

For his part, Baltazar Aquino said he collected ‘commissions’ arising from contracts with Japanese suppliers.  He also revealed that Balao collected these ‘commissions’ for Marcos when Balao headed the Reparations Commission Mission in Japan.  Andres Genito Jr., president of Angenit Investment Corporation and former Batasang Pambansa assemblyman took over Balao’s duties when the former general and senator died in 1977.

It appears that Rodriguez was on the technical, ‘clean’ side of the Marcos ‘squeeze’ operations on Japanese contractors.  His office coordinated, among others, the preparation of pre-bidding requirements and qualifications, and the acceptance and evaluation of bids from competing Japanese and (sometimes, Filipino) suppliers and contractors vying for Japanese government-funded projects.  This coordination function was needed because particular projects were handled by distinct public agencies.  For example, projects in the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) were handled by the Export Processing Zone Authority (EZPA) while the National Power Corporation (NPC) had oversight over the Cagayan Valley Electrification Project.

In the ORP collection, one could find several letters of recommendation from the heads of such agencies and evaluation reports of these agencies’ technical committees and/or boards all addressed to Rodriguez.  He would then recommend to President Marcos the award of particular contracts to specific suppliers.  President Marcos would approve or disapprove Rodriguez’ recommendation through marginal notes on the same recommendation-memoranda.  Most of the documents in the ORP set are of this nature.  In a few instances, presidential approval was communicated by aides Jacobo Clave or Joaquin Venus Jr.

Rodrigues sometimes recommended the amendment of existing contracts.  Requests and recommendations for the purchase of additional equipment received by Rodriguez from various government agencies served as bases for these contractual changes.  The changes were then relayed by Rodriguez to the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF), the new Japanese new aid agency, that had first to approve the changes before the new contracts can be implemented.

 

In the evaluation of bids submitted by Japanese contractors for a particular project, the administering public agency solicited the technical opinion of hired project consultants.  These consultants included Filipino and Japanese experts and firms.  Some of these evaluation reports are included in the ORP set.  Also included in the collection are several offer/bid letters of Japanese suppliers addressed to Rodriguez as well as his letters to the latter.  In his replies, Rodriguez asked for improvements in the offers such as the shortening of delivery periods, assumption of supervisory expenses, and the like.

 

The ORP included summary reports that provide a macro-picture of Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines during the Marcos years.  These documents include the following:

 

  1. The set of papers entitled “Approval of Awards of Contracts” lists the pertinent papers for several project contracts entered into by the governments of Japan and the Philippines from 1977 to 1986;
  2. A status report as of February 28, 1986 on Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) project loans.  The status report covered a total of 54 projects organized in 10 loan packages involving some 180.75 billion yen.  Of this total, 36 projects were completed while the rest were ongoing; and
  3. An untitled set of papers offer detailed information on loan use including the list of contracts concluded, description of contracts, name of contractor, contract identity number, and contracted amount.

 

[Subject of next blog post: Baltazar Aquino Papers (BAP)]


On the night of 25 February 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos and their children plus their closest associates (like Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco) were whisked off Malakanyang Palace by USAF helicopters.  They spent the night at Clark Air Base and were subsequently flown to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, headquarters of the US Pacific Command.

The Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) were documents seized by the US Customs Service from the Marcos party upon arrival at Hickam.  After being catalogued, the entire document set was turned over to the US State Department and Rep. Stephen Solarz, chairman of the House sub-committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Solarz then released copies of the MHP, except for at least a hundred pages which were supposed to be personal in nature, to the mass media and academics.  The Philippine government under President Cory Aquino then received its copy through the New York office of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency established by President Aquino to recover ill-gotten Marcos wealth.  The PCGG was subsequently able to obtain copies of the Solarz-withheld pages.

Logo of PCGG

In connection with a book project with Japanese colleagues on the corrupt collaboration between Marcos and private Japanese companies , I annotated every page of the almost 2,000 page MHP set.  [Unfortunately, I lost the electronic file of these annotations due to defective hard drives and floppy disks.)  An initial examination of the documents suggests two possible hypotheses about their nature.  The first and more plausible one avers that the MHP is composed both of papers kept personally and carefully by Marcos over the years and documents which were randomly picked up and packed in the confusion of his last days in Malakanyang Palace.  If this is the case, future analysts of the MHP must attempt to segregate one set from the other.

The second, and apparently less tenable thesis, holds that all of the papers were indeed carefully-kept personal files of Marcos.  If this interpretation was true, then seemingly innocuous papers, like the curriculum vitae of an assistant provincial fiscal or an obscure community nurse, must be studied for possible connections with the man himself.  Or could they simply indicate the broad range of concerns that occupied Marcos during his twenty-year rule.

As it is, the document set is a formidable collection of papers of diverse nature, including financial reports, stock certificates, letters, handwritten notes, business cards, and then some.  Instead of trying vainly to devise a scheme to tie all the papers into a unified, comprehensible lot,  it is better to highlight which ones are most interesting or useful in understanding what Marcos did during those years.

For those who are interested in the business activities of Marcos, his immediate family, and his close friends and cronies–the papers relating to the Herdis Group, Inc (HGI), Prime Holdings, Universal Holdings, financial reports prepared by Carlos J. Valdez, bank transaction reports, Roberto Benedicto, Rolando Gapud, Jose Y. Campos, Rodolfo Cuenca, and the Bataan Shipyard & Engineering Co., Inc. (BASECO) could be examined.  Included in this group are papers pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation, headed by Marcos crony and former Batasang Pambansa (National Parliament) assemblyman Andres Genito Jr.  The Genito papers are useful to investigators of transactions entered into between Japanese companies and Filipino firms concerning Philippine projects financed by Japanese official development assistance (ODA) funds. (I know that most of the names and firms mentioned here are relatively unknown to a contemporary audience.  I will discuss them in greater detail in a future blog post.)

The overpriced and never used Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

With the Herdis papers is a detailed accounting of the $60 million commission received by Herdis on Marcos’ behalf received from Westinghouse, the supplier of the Bataan nuclear power plant.  The Philippine government under Tita Cory submitted this report as evidence in the case it filed in a US court against Westinghouse for fraud.

The papers about the dissolution of the marriage and divorce of Ms. Aurora Pijuan (former Ms. International) and Mr. Tomas Manotoc (who later married Imee Marcos), the letter of Marcos’ nephew Michael Keon providing for the “settlement of all outstanding matters” between Keon and “the family of H. E. Ferdinand E. Marcos,” and the file on the American actress Dovie Beams, believed to have carried on a scandalous affair with Marcos in late 1970–will certainly appeal to those interested in the personal lives of the Marcoses.

Most of the papers initially withheld by the US authorities were secret or confidential Philippine government intelligence reports on various corrupt activities, including bribery, malversation, nepotism, and rape, of a high official of the Department of Local Government and Community Development (DLGCD) and the Metro Manila Commission, where Imelda Marcos served as chairperson.

Jimmy Carter, 1980 presidential candidate of Democratic Party

Gen. Fabian Ver, chief of Marcos’ praetorian guard

The collection includes pieces of evidence of how Marcos employed governmental power and resources for various ends.  Among them are reports on various ‘intelligence’ funds, and the apparent distribution of large sums of money during the February 7, 1986 snap elections.  Of particular interest is a statement of expenses of the Mabuhay Corporation which made several political contributions to American politicians and political parties, including $50,000 apiece to 1980 presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  These contributions were cleared through Gen. Fabian Ver, commander of the Presidential Security Command.

Ronald Reagan, 1980 presidential candidate, Republican party

Ferdinand Marcos sent Imelda to meet with Mao Zedong, China’s leader, to establish diplomatic relations and end China’s support of Philippine communists

Several papers allude to the growing power and political role of Imelda Marcos.  An outstanding example is a handwritten presidential decree (numbered 731 and dated 7 June 1975) that provided for the creation of an executive committee to be headed by Imelda that would assume the powers and responsibilities of the President in the event of Marcos’ death or permanent disability.

The wealth and diversity of the papers contained in the collection make the MHP one of the “must-see” sources for serious students of the Marcos period.


In this post, I continue with the presentation I made at the UP College of Law remembering martial symposium last Friday, the 40th year anniversary of its imposition.

In previous entries, I already intimated that I was captured on September 16, 1973, tortured and interrogated for about two or three weeks, and detained until December 12, 1974.  I use the term “captured” instead of “arrested” because of the absence of arrest warrants.

How does torture feel like, look like?  I am sure a number of you in the audience are members of fraternities and you went through initiations.  I am a fratman and I went through an initiation before getting accepted.  A frat initiation is a dress rehearsal to torture but  is not its equivalent.  Take a fraternity initiation and multiply the intensity, the pain, the anxiety and what have you by a factor of 100 or a 1000 and you will have experienced tactical interrogation at the hands of intelligence operatives.

By and large, fraternity initiation masters want the neophytes to survive the initiation so the latter could graduate as brothers.  In contrast, the aim of tactical interrogators is to extract information.  If one gets maimed or killed as a result, that was the least of their concerns especially if the interrogation is done in their safe-houses.  If the captive dies, there’s deniability.

How reliable is the information extracted captives under duress?  There are two schools of the matter.  One asserts that the data extracted is useful and truthful.  A captive resists or withholds the truth but will do so to stop the pain.  The other school stresses the utility of other means like psychological warfare (sleep and food deprivation, disorientation, and humiliation)  and drug-aided (e.g. ‘truth serum’) questioning.  This approach believes that these techniques, since they are not frontal attacks on the person of the captive, are more effective since they either induce a false sense of security or disorientation.

In my own experience, there was a division of labor between those who deliver pain and those who ask questions.  The pain producers prepare you, soften you up for the inquisitors.  They are like a wrestling tag team.  Sometimes, if the interrogators do not get the info they you have, they send you back to the torturers.

You may have noticed that I am intellectualizing this part of my martial law experience.  It is not because I have forgotten.  It is because I cannot forget even if I wanted to.

After undergoing tactical interrogation, we were sent to the Ipil Rehabilitation Center (IRC), a minimum-security detention center inside Fort Bonifacio (now in the Global City area).  In comparison, Ninoy Aquino was detained in a maximum-security detention facility.  In Ipil, we had both an aboveground and underground organization.  Both were geared to organize our mass escape.  A month before the scheduled mass escape, the coordinators outside were captured.  As a result, the scale of the eventual escape was reduced but was still successful.

 

It was a propaganda coup for the anti-dictatorship movement and perhaps because of the embarrassment it caused, about 200 of us were released from detention on December 12, 1974.  Prior to our release, we were digging escape tunnels.

 

There were many more of us who were released than those who were left behind.  While I was generally happy, I also felt sad because of those still detained.

 

I went home to fully realize that  I now had  a family and that I had new responsibility.  My wife, who was also an activist, evaded capture and gave birth to our first child when I was still detained.  Upon my release, I had to work to support my family even if I did not have a bachelor’s degree.  I got employed in Makati through the help of former activists.  This new persona became the cover for my and my wife’s continued anti-dictatorship activities.

 

Of course, this continuing political activity caused anxieties within our families.  It narrowed our social circles to family and fellow activists.

 

It was a good thing that I eventually joined the UP faculty.  To my mind, it was the best cover.  It also afforded the most expansive environment for political activity, study, and reflection.  It also broadened my social circles to include students, colleagues and other professionals.  Notwithstanding martial law, I felt at home in UP.

 

If I were to sum, martial law made me, shaped me.  It may be over, but I am, together with many others, what I am because of it.

 

I do not consider myself as its victim because I think I emerged stronger.  What I believe is that the entire nation, except the Marcoses, their cronies and minions, were victimized by martial law.  Alas, a great number of them still strut around as if they have done nothing wrong.

 

 


This morning, I spoke at a symposium on martial law organized by the UP College of Law and the Alpha Sigma Fraternity together with General Victor Corpus (ret.) and Butch Dalisay, professor of English in UP.  All three of us were tortured and detained during the martial law period.  Admittedly, the most interesting story was that of then Lt. Corpus, who defected to the Communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) in December 1970 but got disillusioned and surrendered to the government, detained for 10 years, and released only after the ouster of Marcos in February 1986.  He will likewise be reinstated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines as commander of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the same unit hunting him when he was with the communists.

The symposium organizers asked us to narrate our experiences under martial law and to explain how it shaped our lives.  Corpus decided instead to explain the hows and whys of his defection to the NPA.  Butch and I were obedient to the organizers’ preferences.

When my turn came, I emphasized that the imposition of martial on September 21, 1972 was an auto golpe, a power grab of the incumbent Marcos to perpetuate himself in power.  Under the prevailing 1935 Constitution, Marcos was limited to two terms as president and his second term was to end in 1973.

Since the Third Philippine Republic started in July 1946, an unwritten rule was followed by the two factions of the ruling elites organized as two contending political parties–the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party.  The rule stipulated that no standard bearer gets re-elected so that each faction takes turns in plundering the public treasury and milking the advantages of incumbency such as percentages on contracts, overpricing, etc.  Furthermore, the property rights of elites who lost the elections must be respected.  “What we stole remains ours” seemed to be the operational principle.

The re-election of Ferdinand Marcos in 1969 through the massive use of “guns, goons and gold” was seen by the Liberals was a rule violation.  Of course, that was par for the course among the elites but it caused great bitterness among the ranks of the defeated Liberal Party that they were ready to cooperate with Marcos’ other enemies.

The first effect of martial law: I did not become an electrical engineer.  In fact, I could not imagine why I ever thought I would become an electrical engineer.  Both of my parents were civil engineers and three of my uncles were engineers.  One of my older brothers was enrolled in engineering.  Upon graduation from high school, I won a 4-year college scholarship from the then National Science Development Board (NSDB), now the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).  I thought it was a good decision at the time.

My inadequacies were revealed in my Physics 44 class.  I had for my classmates the members of the first batch of graduates of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) like Rey Vea and Mario Taguiwalo (RIP).  I had to memorize formulas to solve problems in projectile motion and the like.  In contrast, the PSHS guys used calculus to derive the formulas and solve the problem.  Memorizing formulas is dicey. If you got the formula wrong, your solution will be wrong.

I will soon join Vea, Taguiwalo, Taguiwalo’s sister Judy, and many others in the UP Chapter of the youth activist group, Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (Organization of Democratic Youth).

In the middle of 1971, I decided to drop out from UP and be an activist in my hometown.  I worked primarily with students, especially my classmates from high school (who were then in college) and senior high school students.  That was where I was when martial law was imposed.

I forgot to tell my audience that martial law also prevented me from being a lawyer.  My father never thought I would actually become an engineer.  He would tell me later that he believed I was more suited for a legal career.  After I got of prison, I went back to school to finish a bachelor’s degree.  I had to go to summer camp to make up for my ROTC (military service) deficiencies.  When a friend asked to join him in taking the UP College of Law LAE (Law Aptitude Examination), I readily agreed if only to escape the misery of the summer camp on the UP DMST grounds.

I passed the written exam while my friend failed.  I was called for an interview.  I agreed once more for a respite from summer camp.  It was a panel interview to determine who among those who passed the written exam will get accepted as incoming Law students.

The questions were routine except the last one.

A panelist decided to be cute and play games.  He asked me: “Mr. Mendoza,  what makes you think you’ll be a hotshot lawyer some day?”

My response: “What makes you think you’re one right now?”

I know I have deviated from my actual presentation last Friday morning but I cannot resist including this vignette.  I was ready to spar the interviewers because I did not have any intention to be a lawyer under martial law.  What, be a lawyer to memorize and apply his presidential decrees and general orders?   No way!

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

The problems that plagued the earlier agrarian reform program (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP) which started in 1988 also adversely affected IPRA’s implementation including identification of beneficiaries, inadequate budgets, agency capture, and the opposition of affected parties including settlers, corporate interests and armed anti-state groups.  If identification of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the lowlands proved to be difficult, the problems multiplied with respect to ancestral domains in the frontiers[1]

 

A clear understanding as to who the indigenous peoples are and where they can be found (and what lands constitute their ancestral domains) is both a technical and administrative matter.  Apart from being hobbled by meager funds, the NCIP also lacks adequate technical knowledge and skilled personnel. Padilla (2007) also relates how settlers and corporate interests together with conniving national and local officials subvert IPRA and operate business ventures within ancestral domains.  The usual device is for officials to certify that a certain area is not populated by IPs or is not part of a claimed ancestral domain.  Divide and rule tactics are also resorted to wherein scab IP leaders and communities show compliance with the ‘free and prior informed consent’ (FPIC) provision of the law. 

 

The FPIC provision of the IPRA presents good opportunities for strengthening the bargaining position of indigenous communities vis-à-vis external interests such as corporations who wish to utilize the resources within ancestral domains.  As provided for by the law, FPIC means the ‘consensus of all members of the ICCs/IPs to be determined in accordance with their respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion, and obtained after fully disclosing the intent and scope of the activity, in a language and process understandable to the community” (IPRA Sec. 3).  The consensus proviso is a strong measure since the consensus of everybody in the community is required to allow the entry of external interests into the ancestral domain for extractive activities.  It also enables the indigenous community to forge the best terms with external parties.  It may also be used against the misrepresentation of scab leaders and community factions.  For the full benefit of FPIC to be realized, however, the IP community must be united and organized and indeed informed of the pros and cons of a proposed project.  This is a necessity since the FPIC consensus proviso also has a downside: a single person within the community can veto a project even if it was deemed beneficial and equitable by the rest of the community.  The assent of the veto player may have to be obtained through side-payments.[2] 

 

The opposition of armed anti-state groups like the New People’s Army and the Bangsa Moro movement to the IPRA must be explained.  Padilla (2007) avers that for the NPA, IPRA puts its natural constituency, the poor or landless peasantry, at a disadvantage in the competition of land on the frontier.  Furthermore, the titling of ancestral domains threatens to remove large areas theoretically available from the NPA’s own revolutionary land reform program.  On the ground, NPA fighters had continuously cautioned IP communities against engaging in the ancestral domain titling process.  In Mindanao, NCIP surveyors and community volunteers are warned and harassed, and their mapping equipment was confiscated.  Affiliated legal organizations have also consistently rejected and opposed ancestral domain delineation and the IPRA. To them, the only legitimate issues to be raised with respect to the frontier lands were the Philippine military’s human rights violations during anti-insurgency operations.   Consequently, they demanded the scrapping of IPRA.

 

Another political force, the Bangsa Moro armed movement for self-determination fears that indigenous land claims in Mindanao might jeopardize its own aspirations for their own ‘ancestral territory’.  One must note that indigenous minorities in Mindanao are generally composed into two groups—the Islamized peoples who call themselves Bangsa Moro and the non-Islamized IPs known collectively as the lumads.  As things currently stand, only the lumads have expressed interest in pursuing ancestral domain titling.  The Bangsa Moro groups—the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)—have resorted to peace negotiations with the government in pursuit of their aims.  The MNLF signed an agreement with the government in 1996 while the MILF’s negotiations with the government are currently at an impasse precisely on the question of ancestral territory. 

 

Cordillera Administrative Region

 

 

Other unintended developments stemmed from IPRA’s enactment.  It has engendered disunities among the indigenous peoples.  One source of dispute is how to view IPRA.  The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) for instance considers IPRA as a ‘master act’ of deception given the persistence of the Regalian doctrine.  On the other hand, IP organizations and supporting non-government organizations (NGOs) support IPRA while recognizing its imperfections. They see IPRA as a legal stepping stone towards further progress.  The negative effects of IPRA are felt most at the community level.  In the Cordillera, for example, there had been an increase in boundary disputes and conflicts over resources (e.g., water for irrigation). 

 

Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) logo

 

 

The IPRA also ‘inspired’ non-IP communities such as the Bantoanons in Romblon (migrants from Batangas) to claim imagined ethnic identities as a means to claim control over valuable land.  There is also the view that these conflicts come from the adoption of a generalizing concept of ancestral domain, that is, the notion that ancestral domain is a static or fixed concept of a communal territory, with persistence of indigenous socio-political institutions.  The concept ignores the diversity and dynamism within many indigenous communities.  It fails to recognize that many indigenous peoples have already adopted western property regimes and do not care much about domains.  Still, some experts fear the IPRA could possibly lead to the privatization of the commons.  These different views suggest that while progress had been achieved with the passage of IPRA, much needs to be done.  There is apparently a need to adopt an area- and culture-specific ancestral land and domain policy that takes local nuances, processes and tenurial systems into consideration (ADB 2002).

 


[1] The then NCIP executive director reported that the initial problem of beneficiary identification has since been resolved.  The greater problem, she intimates, is the lack of coordination between different government agencies issuing administrative titles to land.  For this reason, competing tenure and/or ownership instruments were issued over the same land area and have led to disputes between IPs and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

[2] This discussion on the implications of the FPIC provision of IPRA was suggested by Dr. Antonio de la Vina, dean of the Ateneo School of Government and member of the Empowerment of the Poor Project advisory panel.