Archive for the ‘Philippine political history’ Category


There seems to be a firewall between the Philippine economy and the political sphere such that the economy can still grow (GNP- and GDP-wise) even if the political situation is messy.

This may mean two things: there is a learning process in earnest and that previous key economic reforms have born fruit.

Despite the current non-achieving and blame-duck presidency, despite the thieving GMA and Erap administrations, our economy has grown nonetheless. Of course, OFW remittances played a great role in this spurt.

Nonetheless, pace Lord John Maynard Keynes, so-called ‘animal spirits’ also got into play.

Perceptions become material force. The impression that this non-achieving administration is seriously fighting corruption (Exhibits A–: SC Court Justice Renato Corona, hospital-arrested PGMA, Tanda, Sexy and Pogi) had induced vigorous bourse activity. After all, portfolio managers will not shun any profit possibility.

Note too that this TUWID administration is trigger-happy to clear its own ilk starting with DILG USec R Puno to ExecSec Ochoa to SecDILG and Liberal Party SecGen Joseph Abaya, SecDA Alcala, SecDoE Petilla, and last but not least, SecDBM Butch Abad) of all hints of corruption.

Perhaps this President and his rah-rah boys (Coloma, Lacierda, and Valte) must be reminded of the separation of powers; that the executive is not the judiciary.

Credit must be given to where credit is due. The Ramos-Almonte duo locked the country into difficult and relatively-unpopular economic reforms (at a conjunctural moment) in the 1992-1998 span. Key reforms were the WTO treaty accession and related trade reforms. Another is the decontamination of the new Bangko Sentral from the toxic Central Bank of the Philippines.

The GMA and Pnoy administrations should acknowledge their debts to the Ramos reforms.

Of course, no presidential administration is not without its own achievements, weakness, shortcomings, lapses, etc. Every administration after Ferdinand Marcos is hobbled not only with human weakness, foibles, and imperfections but also by the constitutionally-mandated single term.

For this reason, almost all post-Marcos administrations, save for the Ramos presidency, simply had short-term, rather than strategic, planning horizons.

Legitimacy problems prevented PGMA from making full use of an unprecedented extended term (2001-2010).

I will not say much about the short-lived Erap presidency except to assert that Erap is obviously in his element as LGU chief executive.

The current presidency has yet to step down on June 30, 2016 and it’s too early to come up with a definitive judgment of its true worth. My own words about it now and in the past are at best mere impressions, or, simply my educated personal opinion.

I promise to continue studying this administration in a comparative perspective not only with previous Philippine presidencies (Ferdinand Marcos’ included) but with those of our neighbors in Southeast Asia and East Asia (China specially).

Beyond analysis, I will also essay or propose reforms for our political economy. In this regard, the interests of our people and nation will be held paramount, superior to any political administration, party, group, personality, and vested interest.

These praxiological pieces will find their way into my several outlets (FB, Tweeter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Skype, Mixx, StumbleUpon, my WordPress blogs, speaking engagements and academic interventions, among others).

I will want to hear from you in every which way and you can reach me through ammendozajr@gmail.com

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Philippine military armor in Mindanao alongside civilians on a horse

While required, signing a peace agreement does not automatically keep the peace among combatants.  In truth, two agreements—the 1976 Tripoli Agreement (under President Ferdinand Marcos) and the 1987 Jeddah Accord (under President Corazon Aquino)—led nowhere.  True, there were occasional skirmishes and dissatisfaction amongst some MNLF fighters.  In addition, a key provision of the 1996 FPA, that the MNLF’s right of representation in the national government and in all organs of state—was never implemented.  Nonetheless, the 1996 FPA could be deemed a success.  Among the key indicators of success are the absence of large-scale warfare between the MNLF and government troops, the co-optation of the MNLF leadership into a pre-existing autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu islands, the integration of many MNLF combatants into the government’s security services, and the release of local and foreign funds for the region’s development.

Nur Misuari

However, the Asian financial crisis adversely affected the Philippine government’s capacity to provide funds and led to discontent within MNLF ranks.  To be fair to the Philippine government, MNLF leader Nur Misuari was not blameless with his profligate and biased spending.  He was continuously travelling within the country and abroad with a huge entourage and concentrated resources for his fellow-Tausogs. Ultimately, the MNLF leadership may be successful rebels but were poor administrators.

The power asymmetry against the MNLF is the bottom-line reason for the success of the peace agreement. Militarily, the MNLF had reached its peak in the 1970s and lost its fierce fighting edge.  It remained a stubborn and enduring military force (Vitug and Gloria 2000).  The MNLF cannot credibly commit to renege on the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and return to full-scale warfare since it was weakened by splits, casualties, desertions, tribal differences, etc.  Its foreign supporters and backers are not keen to support a military effort (Iribani 2006; Vitug and Gloria 2000).  In that sense, it did not have trump cards.

Even the remaining MNLF fighters were not threats credible enough for the Philippine government to offer concessions.  These combatants tried a mini-rebellion in November 2001 after Misuari lost his positions in the autonomous regional body but it was nipped in the bud.  Misuari escaped to Malaysia but was handed back to Philippine authorities by Kuala Lumpur.  Upon his return to the Philippines, he was incarcerated. In 2008, he was allowed to post bail and talks to finalize implementation of the 1996 FPA were resumed by the Arroyo and Aquino governments.

Another imbalance characterizes the relationship between the MNLF and the Philippine government.  The MNLF’s constituency expects it to produce the deliverables promised in the 1996 FPA.  If it fails to do so, the MNLF loses its political luster and its followers may gravitate to its rivals, specially the MILF.  The Philippine government is not in the same predicament.  It has already delivered a clear good–cessation of hostilities—save for a few skirmishes here and there.  That appears to be what matters most to ordinary Filipinos.  As long as hostilities do not resume, ordinary Filipinos will not normally care if the Philippine government kept its side of the bargain in the 1996 FPA.  In effect, there is greater political pressure on the MNLF than on the Philippine government.

Since 1986, both sides observed a ceasefire agreement.  So both MNLF and Philippine government troops have not fought each other for a decade before a final agreement was reached.  Agreeing to a ceasefire before a comprehensive agreement can be interpreted by the other side as a sign of weakness.

Prior to the assumption of talks to finalize implementation of the 1996 FPA, the MNLF also lost traction vis-à-vis the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) largely due to Misuari’s plummeting fortunes and splits within the organization.  With two ascendant interlocutors, Misuari’s faction played the role of heckler and spoiler.  At times, it raised bids to unify with the MILF and repair splits within the MNLF.  Heckling and spoiling are tactics of a party that feels it was being neglected by another notwithstanding an outstanding agreement.  Unification bids are attempts to enlarge the pie that will eventually be shared by Bangsamoro people.  They also used to communicate to government that it is negotiating with a stronger force.  These tactics did not help the MNLF one bit and like a chastened schoolboy, Misuari returned to talks with government.

In hindsight, it can be said that there was diminished urgency on the part of the Philippine government to fully implement the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) after it was signed in September 1996.  A good part of the MNLF leadership and fighters were incorporated into the Muslim regional bodies and government security forces.  The Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s compelled government to husband its resources carefully.  As long as Misuari and his commanders were comfortably ensconced in their offices, the MNLF will not rebel again.

President Joseph Estrada

Attention will soon be directed elsewhere–to the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF), a split from the MNLF.  In 2000, President Joseph Estrada launched several attacks on MILF camps to shore up his sagging political fortunes in Manila.  While government troops succeeded in capturing some MILF camps, Estrada was unable to win a decisive military victory over the MILF.  Furthermore, he also enraged not a few Muslims for insensitively eating pork with government troops within the ruins of a mosque.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The all-out war tack of Estrada was changed by the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  With Misuari was in prison and the MNLF weaken by further splits, Arroyo endeavored to have the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) controlled by warlords who could deliver votes in her favor (Lara 2010).  Arroyo concentrated in delivering a peace agreement with the MILF—the so-called MOA-AD.  When the MOA-AD was rejected by the Supreme Court, Arroyo’s government released Misuari from detention and started talks to for the final implementation of the 1996 final peace agreement (FPA).  These talks are being continued by the government of President Benigno Aquino III through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), headed by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles.


August 21 is a most significant day in Philippine political history.

Exactly forty one years ago, the proclamation rally (otherwise called miting de abanse) of the opposition Liberal Party in Plaza Miranda in the center of Manila was bombed with two grenades.  Fortunately, one of the grenades was a dud and nine people including a girl and Manila Times photographer Ben Roxas died and 95 were injured.  I remember a photo of the dying Roxas published the day after staring right into the camera–dazed but seemingly not in pain.  Almost all the Liberal Party’s candidates for senator and local posts in Manila were severely wounded.

Photo-montage of Plaza Miranda bombing

President Ferdinand Marcos responded to the bombing by suspending the writ of habeas corpus through Proclamation No. 889, later amended by Proclamation No. 889-A  supposedly to align the suspension with the bill of rights provision of the Constitution.  He promptly blamed the communists for the bombing and justified the writ suspension as necessary to restore peace and order.

While Marcos was the usual suspect for the Plaza Miranda bombing, several personalities including former Senator Jovito Salonga (who was seriously injured during the rally) began to believe that the communists were responsible.  Victor Corpus, the army lieutenant who carted arms from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and joined the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) in 1970, wrote in his book Silent War he was present when top communist leaders including Jose Ma. Sison, plotted the bombing.  Sison argued the bombing will be a win-win for the communists: Marcos will be put on the defensive, the ruling class will be split, and the revolutionary cause could thus advance.   Corpus will repeat this same allegation in an interview with veteran Filipino journalist Max Soliven. Sison and his followers have repeatedly denied these allegations.

Aquino in white being carried by soldiers on the airport tarmac; the other body is that of alleged gunman Rolando Galman (from Times Journal)

Ninoy Aquino in his prime

Exactly twenty nine years ago–Benigno Aquino Jr–the man believed by many to most likely have been the President of the Philippines if Marcos did not declare martial law in September 1972 was assassinated in the Manila International Airport minutes after his plane landed.  The alleged gunman, Rolando Galman, was killed by government troops supposedly after he killed Ninoy Aquino.  Marcos again blamed the communists for Aquino’s murder and alleged that Galman was acting under their orders.

In both occasions, Marcos’ accusations against the communists were not believed.  Most thought that he ordered both the bombing of the Liberal Party proclamation rally and the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.  The logic behind the belief?  The physical elimination of the Liberal Party leadership would redound to his ruling party’s benefit.  The writ’s suspension was seen as a cover-up for the Plaza Miranda bombing.  The death of Ninoy removes the strongest opposition figure that could threaten Marcos’ lifetime rule.

Marcos and Ninoy, fraternity brothers, in happier times (from MLQ3)

The ebullient Ninoy chatting with fellow passengers in that fateful China Airlines flight

Everybody from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the communists were being blamed for Ninoy’s death.  His death likewise spawned a fever of jokes.  One of the most popular run like this:

Ninoy: Hindi ka nag-iisa (Ninoy, you’re not alone!)

Marcos: Naka-isa ka! (Marcos, you put one over all of us!)

Galman:  Naisahan ka! (Galman, you’ve been had!)

Still another:  Use Galman briefs! It will bring out the killer in you.

Ninoy’s body loaded into a military van

Ninoy led by soldier out of plane (from Facebook account of Boom Enriquez)

Kidding aside, Ninoy’s assassination was the game-changer in the political struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.  Prior to August 21, 1983, the opposition to the regime was born  by armed rebels–communists and Muslim secessionists.  The legal opposition got scattered when Marcos closed the legislature, arrested and imprisoned many, and sent scores to exile.  Some of them dabbled in violence through the Light-a-Fire and April 6 Liberation movements.

However, Ninoy’s death emboldened hitherto inert social forces such as the middle class, businessmen, professionals, clergy and like  to express their strong opposition to the authoritarian regime.   On a sustained basis.  Until February 1986 when Marcos and his immediate coterie left for Hawaii.

The armed opposition did not figure well in this end game against Marcos.  They lost what business theorists and military strategists call the ‘first mover advantage’.  The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) absorbed the brunt of Marcos’ military offensives as it fought conventional warfare in the early going.  In 1977, it signed a peace agreement with Marcos only to be outwitted by the latter in the agreement’s (non)implementation.  The MNLF resumed its military struggle but was soon weakened by a split that produced the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  The communists were sidelined when they decided to boycott the ‘snap elections’ that pitted Marcos against Ninoy’s widow, Cory Cojuangco Aquino.  EDSA 1986 was a sea of yellow–the color associated with Cory and the moderate political forces.  A lot of communists and radicals were also there; however, they could not unfurl their red banners.

Of course, the picture was not a black-and-white one.  The radicals joined the newly enervated political forces from the middle class in regular protests against Marcos.  The rallying cry was: Justice for (Ninoy) Aquino, Justice for All!  They parted ways in the 1984 parliamentary elections: Cory and her allies decided to participate and won a significant number of seats while the radicals predictably boycotted.

By 1985, the trajectory was quite clear.  The strength of the moderates had grown so much.  As a result, they spurned a coalition, BAYAN, with the radicals.  They formed their own group, BANDILA.

EDSA 1986 actually started with a failed military coup led by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) led by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his protege, Colonel Gregorio Honasan.  It soon morphed into a peaceful uprising as Jaime Cardinal Sin called on the faithful to gather en masse to protect the rebel soldiers from the loyalists.  The failure of the military coup contemplated for early 1986 and the communist boycott of the snap elections allowed non-violent forces to claim victory against Marcos in February 1986. The key figure here was the martyred Aquino – likened to the national hero, José Rizal (1861-96), or even to Jesus Christ. Neither the dictatorship nor the insurgents and the military rebels had any equivalent.

Unmadeup Ninoy in his coffin

Ninoy’s bloodied and bruised remains in an open coffin were visited by hundreds of thousands at the Santo Domingo Church.  When he was finally laid to rest in Paranaque City, the funeral march took some 11 hours to reach its final destination.  The historic event was practically ignored by the regime-controlled mass media.  I remember that the Philippine Daily Express (derisively called the Daily Suppress) chose to report the death by lightning of a person who was watching the funeral procession.

Elsewhere in Luzon, the other victim–Rolando Galman–was mourned and buried without much ado by his relatives and friends.

C’est la vie?

C’est la guerre?

Secretary Jesse Robredo

Meanwhile, this morning today, the death of Interior Secretary and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Good Governance Jesse Robredo was announced after his body was recovered in the waters off Masbate island.  The reader is enjoined to a say a prayer for this quiet and good man and public servant.

The big question


Twenty six years ago today, a failed military coup that morphed into a popular uprising finally ousted and forced the flight of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his close family members and associates to Hawaii after four days.

Ferdinand Marcos

Notwithstanding the presence of armed soldiers on both sides, the uprising was largely non-violent and introduced ‘people power’ into popular and academic discourse.  While it is understandable that some Filipinos claim we invented ‘non-violent revolution,’ perhaps we should be modest enough to acknowledge the pioneering efforts of Mahatma Gandhi and his followers.  The Indians were unable though to expel the British colonists from the sub-continent.  

Gandhi leading the Salt March in defiance of British law

Gandhi leading the Salt March in defiance of British authorities

However, a military-civilian uprising peacefully ousted the 50-year old regime of President Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal–an event now known in history as the Carnation Revolution–in 1975, some 11 years before EDSA I.

A military rebel during Portugal’s Carnation Revolution

Perhaps, Filipino pride in EDSA People Power is justified because it was the first of its kind in Asia and is said to have inspired the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies through similar peaceful popular uprisings–events which completed the end of the Cold War.

Not a few Filipinos may consider today’s celebrations as ‘just one of those things.’  I suspect that this attitude is true among many of our youth.  An appreciation of EDSA 1986 requires some historical knowledge of martial law and the upsurge of the anti-dictatorship movement after the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. as well as the four days of EDSA 1986.  History textbooks at the secondary level are relatively blank on these periods.  It is almost as if martial law is still in place.

It is this blind spot that invites historical revisionism.  It is expected that the Marcos family, led by its current spokesperson, Senator Bongbong Marcos, will deny any wrong-doing on the part of the family patriarch during martial law.  In today’s papers, Senator Marcos is reported to have demanded a stop to blaming his father for the country’s problems.

Senator Bongbong Marcos at the firing range

Senator Bongbong Marcos at the firing range

To be fair to Senator Marcos, he has a point.  It is indeed not right to censure his father for all of the nation’s woes.  Post-Marcos presidents share part of the failures.

However, none of the nation’s chief executives, save Ferdinand Marcos, concentrated political power in himself and a narrow coterie of family members and associates.  Such concentration of political power gave rise  to imprisonment of political opponents, human rights violations (including disappearances and torture), and conspicuous consumption.

I recently learned of a story written by Ed Lingao (http://pcij.org/stories/a-different-edsa-story/) at the website of the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that reported a rather intriguing take on EDSA 1986.  It  is about a video-ala-Powerpoint presentation authored by somebody who calls himself Baron Buchocoy.   I actually saw this production before but ignored it until Lingao’s story.  

Among other things, Buchocoy alleges that the only reason why EDSA 1986 was peaceful and non-violent was because Marcos himself ordered his men not to fire upon the rebel  soldiers and assembled crowds of civilians.  Perhaps, he will offer as proof the TV footage of Marcos admonishing a trigger-happy AFP chief of staff Fabian Ver before Malacanang was cut off the air.

Marcos ordering Ver not to fire on EDSA crowds

Let’s examine Buchocoy’s allegations.  If indeed there was no order to attack, why was a column of Philippine Marines tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) sent to EDSA?  According to Buchocoy, the Marines were sent to arrest the rebel officers and soldiers holed out in Camp Aguinaldo.  The idea apparently is to convince the rebels not to resist arrest given the overwhelming superiority of the Marines force.

What happens if the military rebels resist arrest?

What if they make a last stand?

These are hanging questions but I guess the Marine commander will have to consult with higher authority.

As  things happened, hundreds of thousands of non-threatening civilians inserted themselves between the Marines and the military rebels.  As a result, the Marines never got near Camp Aguinaldo to accomplish their mission, whatever that was.

Marine with civilian women in front of armored personnel carriers

To accomplish their mission, the Marines will have to plow through the crowd with their armored vehicles. But every time they move, they were stymied by the crowd.  The most effective ‘anti-tank weapons’ were kneeling nuns praying the rosary.

Tank-stopping nuns

In many non-violent people power revolutions, we hear of orders for soldiers to fire upon or bomb the crowds of peaceful protesters.  These revolutions remained non-violent because officers and soldiers refuse to obey such orders.  Those who offered testimony after the fact answered that a key reason for hesitation and defiance is the probability that family members, friends, and neighbors might be in the crowd.

A professional military unit may hesitate, may be puzzled or flummoxed, when confronted by non-aggressive and unarmed civilians that stand in its way to accomplish a mission.

Also, in a situation where the military is divided and the fate of the country’s leader is on the balance, military units may hedge and decide to wait and see or dissemble as if following orders.

In a March 2007 international conference on people power held in Oxford where I presented a paper on EDSA 1986, one of my discussants, former US ambassador to the Philippines (1984-87) Stephen Bosworth revealed that Marcos was warned by his government not to attack the military rebels and unarmed civilians.

US ambassador Stephen Bosworth

Thus, the nonviolent character of EDSA 1986 does not lie on an alleged Marcos decision not to attack.  

What intrigues me to this day is Marcos’ failure to attack when he still had the upper hand.  He got an early warning of the attempted coup the failure of which sent the rebels scurrying to Camp Aguinaldo at the first day of EDSA 1986.   This was when the rebels were most vulnerable.  Their estimated strength was 400-600 and they were yet to be cocooned by a crowd.  

Was Marcos still gathering information?  Was he conducting a loyalty check within the military and consolidating his loyalists first? Or was he caught between a rock and a hard place because of the US pressure?    

Now to my last point.  I mentioned earlier that many Filipinos think February 25 is just one of those commemorations.  While some would invoke a so-called ‘spirit of EDSA’ to carry out deep reforms, others (Senator Bongbong Marcos included) complain that EDSA has not meant a better life for Filipinos.

At the risk of demeaning EDSA 1986, I submit that it is not a revolution in the full sense of the word.  It was participated in by millions of Filipinos who were united on a single issue: Marcos and his cohorts must go so political power can be freely contested.  No unity exists among the many Filipinos massed in EDSA beyond this issue: workers want wage hikes while capitalists would not be in favor of that; some wanted the ouster of the US military bases while others do not. And so on.

The legacy of EDSA 1986 is concretized in the 1987 Constitution.  Through the Constitution, we can carry on and frame our struggles for needed change.  If we deem it necessary, we can amend the charter.  To the extent that we can do all these things, we owe them to EDSA 1986.

(Footnote on Buchocoy: He sees EDSA 1986 in a negative way that one cannot be faulted from thinking that he would have wanted Marcos to issue orders to fire upon the military rebels and civilian crowds to prevent his ouster and the ascent to power of Cory Aquino.)


 

From: Jeffrey Winters winters@northwestern.edu

To: Bong Mendoza amado.mendozajr@gmail.com

date Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 9:31 PM

 

Dear Bong et. al.,

First, the Philippines allowed Imelda back in, as well as the wretched daughter Imee (remember Archie Trojano anyone?).

Then Marcos’s body was let back into the country.

That was the error of errors. At that point they might as well just given him the hero’s burial, because the battle was lost.

Imelda and all the kids were allowed to run for office and they have won repeatedly at the congressional, governor, and now even senator level.

Don’t be surprised if the next stop for Bong Bong is a reasonably successful run for the presidency.

Rather than debating whether to bury Marcos as a hero, it would be much more fun to switch the terms of the conversation to whether his crimes are so heinous as to deserve a second exile.

Push Bong Bong, Imelda, and the rest of the crony oligarchs back on their heels by asserting that it was an error to allow him back in the first place.

Start the campaign now.

Gather signatures to eject him a second time.

Get it in the headlines that the now-dead Marcos has two weeks to leave voluntarily or he will be placed in the cargo bay of a FedEx transport plane.

Send Imelda the shipping bill.

This is a matter of framing now.

Rather than debate whether he is a hero or not (as if that’s even a remotely reasonable discussion), switch it to “is he wicked enough to merit a second exile?”

Cheers,

Jeffrey Winters

Dept of Politics

Northwestern University

 

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Note from Bong Mendoza:

 

I sent an electronic of the previous blog written by Ed Maranan on the burial-of-Ferdinand Marcos-issue to Prof. Jeffrey Winters of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois (near Chicago), among many others.  This was his response cc-ed all the others. 

I asked if I could post his “elegant riposte” and he responded:

“Certainly.  It is a national tragedy that FM and his clan are even on Philippine soil”.

 

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Who is Achie Trajano?

From Wikipedia:

In a university open forum conducted by Ms. Imee Marcos on August 1977, Archimedes Trajano was forcibly taken by Imee Marcos’ personal guards after he posed a question which embarrassed Ms. Marcos. Archimedes Trajano’s body was found several days later, tortured and beaten to death.[10]

Trajano’s family was among those awarded by the U.S. Federal Court in Hawaii, for damages for human rights violation covering torture, disappearances, and murder attributed to the military or the Marcos family during the Marcos dictatorship.

The Trajano family meanwhile (as of 25 September 2006) has yet to see a penny of this compensation.

 

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The Wiki source numbered [10] above reports thus:

http://www.melonwater.com/malia/trajano.htm

Although a United States judge has ruled that the Marcos estate owes billions of dollars to victims and families of victims who suffered torture, death and other Trajano-archieatrocities during the rule of the Ferdinand Marcos’ regime, the victims have yet to see a penny of what’s believed to be the largest award for human rights violations anywhere in the world.

A U.S. court ruled that in August, 1977, two months before his 22nd birthday, Archimedes Trajano was beaten, tortured and killed for asking a question in a public forum of Imee Marcos, eldest daughter of the late Ferdinand Marcos. Trajano was one of thousands of Filipinos who lost their lives under the Marcos dictatorship.

“My son just asked a question in an open forum. Open forum you can ask a question, yeah? And they should answer. But I think that Imee didn’t Trajano-bloodlike the question. Right then and there he was forcibly taken by the security guards,” said Agapita Trajano, Archimedes´ mother.

At the time of his death, Archie’s mother was told he had been in a dormitory fight and Philippine newspapers reported he had “run amok.” But witnesses came forward later to testify that her son had been forcibly removed from the university forum by Imee Marcos’ security guards and that was the last they had seen of him.

“He was covered in a white sheet, laying on a table. And when I opened the sheet…I saw him blue-black….I could not talk… nothing… but I think my heart hardened. I said, my God, why him?” Agapita Trajano said.

Trajano-deadIn 1993, A U-S Federal Court in Honolulu awarded Agapita Trajano and ten thousand other Filipinos two billion U.S. dollars in damages for human rights violations covering torture, disappearance and murder under the Marcos regime. Despite a federal court decision to award the victims compensation, they’re not likely to see any money soon. The Phiippines government has its own idea about what to do with the Marcos assets.

The Philippine government has passed legislation mandating use of the Marcos’ “ill-gotten wealth” for the country’s agrarian reform program. But Philippine government officials say the law could be ammended to allow for some compensation to human rights victims.

Trajano-bonesThe Marcos’ amassed more than one billion U.S. dollars during Ferdinand Marcos’ 14-year rule. Three hundred fifty-six million dollars of that is frozen in Swiss bank accounts.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government drew up a contract with the Marcos family that allows the Marcos to keep 25 percent of the money. Seventy-five percent would go to the Philippine government. No action to carry out the agreement has yet been taken, but in the eyes of many of the victims and their families, this deal is seen as underhanded cooperation between the Philippines government and the Marcoses.

Trajano-archcoffin“I think it’s troubling that they would enter into an agreement, the intent of which would be to deny citizens of their own country, who are the victims of torture, summary execution and disappearance under the Marcos dictatorship; that they would enter into an agreement to deliberately deny those people compensation,” Sherry Broder, Plaintiff’s attorney.

“These agreements were being negotiated but they never materialized – they were never concluded. And the President of the Philippines, was, never, he did not give authority for those agreements. So, um, while there may have been attempts to negotiate, the Marcos’ set up impossible conditionalities, that are probably not even worth negotiating about,” said Solita M. Aguirre, Philippines Consul General – Honolulu.

While nearly everyone agrees that those who suffered under Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship should be compensated, the attorneys, Philippines government and Marcos family continue their maneuverings — and lengthy court proceedings — for their piece of the money. With these competing interests the victims may not see anywhere near the two billion dollars they were awarded… if they see any compensation at all.

“The judgment in itself is already a victory for the victims So, I think on a more realistic attitude, we have to see what is a real attainable amount,” said Solita M. Aguirre, Philippines Consul General – Honolulu.

“I wish they would have it in their hearts to think of all these people that suffered. They have money. They [should] share it with these unfortunate people who lose their children… son, daughter or whatever. They have the money, they can afford it,” said Agapita Trajano.

“Marcos fled the Philippines in 1986 and this is already almost 10 years later. And I think that it’s really time the families of people who were executed and who disappeared and who are living without their breadwinner or without their mother, that those people should be entitled to compensation now. Time is really running out for compensating them,” said Sherry Broder, Plaintiff’s Attorney.

In a hearing on June 29, 1995, U.S. Federal Judge Manuel Real ordered that Mrs. Marcos and Bongbong Marcos sign papers that would give the victims access to deposits in Swiss bank accounts. He also ordered that if the Marcoses fail to take this action, a federal court clerk will sign for them.

He further fined the Oklahoma law firm representing the Marcos estate $114,000 for accepting deposits and making payment for the estate, in violation of court order.


Ed Maranan

to bcc amado.mendozajr@gmail.com

date Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM

subject: Lest we forget: Kleptocracy 101

mailed-by gmail.com signed-by gmail.com hide details 12:03 PM (1 hour ago)

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Dear folks,

More than 200 congressmen recently signed a petition passed around by Marcos loyalist Rep. Salvador Escudero for the remains of the late dictator to be interred at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Nothing unusual about that. These so-called representatives of the people are elected mainly on the basis of political patronage and the crumbs that they allow to trickle down to the masses, on the false hopes that they feed to people whose poverty in material life often leads to acceptance of the status quo. Some of these representatives are also known to have won through chicanery and occasional terrorism. But the bottom line is that these privileged creatures who fatten up at the feeding trough of Congress are very likely Marcosian wannabes at heart.

They may already have their Imeldas and mistresses, but not the Marcos billions. So no conscience at all to be bothered in blithely signing the petition. (As the late former Speaker Monching Mitra was supposed to have quipped, pass around a roll of toilet paper and ask the honorables to put their signatures on it, and sign they will…)

However, it is disturbing to note that in a recent SWS survey of 1,200 respondents on the issue of whether to allow burying Marcos at the Libingan, the result was 51% yes and 49% no, which flies in the face of standard wisdom that the excesses of martial law, the assassination of Aquino, and the triumph of EDSA I would have buried forever whatever mystique the Strongman possessed.

Any of several conclusions, serious or otherwise, could be arrived at: a) the survey by the otherwise competent SWS was flawed or skewed (did they perhaps interview mostly young respondents with no memories of martial law? or, did many of the respondents happen to be unrepentants who had benefited from the reign of Marcos?); b) Filipinos do have very short memories, c) Filipinos are flawed Christians who have a complete misunderstanding of what forgiveness really is all about; d) Filipinos, contrary to what Ninoy believed, are not worth dying for; in fact they’re worth abandoning and immigrating from, or e) the twin problem of having a divided country which is also overpopulated could probably be solved by an asteroid wiping out the loyalist half, but truly I jest with this last one.

These are unhappy and even unkind conclusions.

But the issue of burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is very real to many of us.

So let’s go back to basics, and no better illustration of what kind of ‘leader’ the loyalists want to be remembered as a hero can be made than this comparative chart of the five worst kleptocrats in recent history:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-top-five-kleptocrats-and-what-they-stole/article1926084/

As far as I am concerned, it is rather moot or contestable whether the Libingan ng mga Bayani is really hallowed ground.

Recently, an Arroyo official who literally self-destructed was interred there despite revelations about the role he played in the financial shenanigans of the past administration (costing the Filipino people possibly billions in more stolen wealth, a legacy of what I call our Marcorroyo political culture, an elaboration perhaps of the term kleptocracy).

Some genuine heroes and noble citizens may be buried there. If Marcos’ remains finally get to be accommodated, the place gets downgraded to being simply a Libingan ng mga Patay. Jokes like this abound. We could indeed change the name of the cemetery. Libingan ng mga Bayani at Bantay-Salakay. Libingan ng mga Bayani at Diktador. Libingan ng mga Bayani at Tiwali.

The world does not end if he (Ferdinand Edralin Marcos) eventually gets buried there. Other–perhaps more painful–anomalies and injustices abound in this country, such as the unknown whereabouts, the secret graves, of the genuine heroes of the people like Jonas Burgos, James Balao, UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, and so many ‘disappeared’ Filipino patriots and idealistic youth.

Wherever their state-appointed murderers have buried them is a libingan ng mga bayani. We may never know the exact location of their remains or their bones, but forevermore shall they lie at rest, if not yet in peace, in that most hallowed ground of all–in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the hearts of the Filipino people whom they loved more than life itself.

Ed Maranan


I am currently commuting between Al Jazeera English (AJE) live stream, Twitter, Facebook, CNN, BBC, GMail, and Star Sports–monitoring the popular uprising in Egypt and the Australian Open men’s finals.

I suddenly remembered where I was and what I was doing exactly forty-one (41) years ago.

At the time, at around 7:30 pm, I was in the vicinity of the Malakanyang Palace together with about fifteen and twenty thousand youthful demonstrators.  Then, I was a college freshman myself at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

We were in the vicinity of the presidential palace angry over the violent dispersal of an earlier peaceful demonstration in front of the Congress of the Philippines building held on January 26 on the occasion of the first state of the nation address of the newly-re-elected Ferdinand Marcos.

Ferdinand Marcos in his prime

The 1969 elections which pitted a re-electionist Marcos against the lackluster Sergio Osmena, Jr., was marred by allegations of cheating and massive vote-buying to make sure Marcos wins.  In retrospect, it was not necessary since Osmena did not stand a candle to Marcos and his beautiful wife, Imelda, was as beguiling to the ordinary voter as before.

It was commonly believed that the election spending nearly bankrupted the public treasury.  It appears that Marcos converted the central bank’s forex reserves into pesos to finance his campaign chest.  What compounded the situation was the unprecedented increase of world prices of crude oil imposed by the newly-organized  Organization of Petroleum Countries (OPEC).  These developments helped depress the national economy.

Rodel Rodis, a student leader then who is now a resident in California, reminisces in the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (February 4, 2010):

Rodel Rodis

Forty years ago on January 26, 1970, I attended a massive student rally outside the Philippine Congress to protest what we believed was the true state of the nation just as Ferdinand Marcos was delivering his self-serving version inside.

I was aligned with the “moderates” then, part of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) of Edgar “Edjop” Jopson, who was the featured rally speaker. After he spoke, Edjop called on Gary Olivar, a leader of the “radicals.” A neighbor and one of my closest childhood friends, Gary was just about to speak when Edjop abruptly decided to hand over the mike to radio commentator Roger “Bomba” Arrienda.

Jopson addressing the January 26 demonstration

As Roger was delivering his speech laced with his usual bombast, the crowd kept yelling Gary! Gary! Gary! Instead of turning the mike over to Gary as we had agreed when we prepared the “united front” program of speakers, Edjop decided to end the rally by singing the national anthem. But just as the long rally was about to end at 6 p.m., a young labor leader grabbed the mike from Edjop and started delivering a fiery speech in Tagalog.

“Passions were high, exacerbated by the quarrel over the mikes;” wrote Jose F. Lacaba in his book, Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage, “and the President had the bad luck of coming out of Congress at this particular instant.”


Marcos was about to board his presidential limousine when someone hurled a crocodile papier mache in his direction. It missed him but it ignited a fury of retaliation by a phalanx of riot police who swung their rattan truncheons at the heads of helpless students, “moderates” and “radicals” alike, unifying them in their common pain, as a stunned nation watched transfixed on live TV.

In the days that followed, indignation rallies denouncing police brutality were held in many campuses throughout Metro Manila culminating in the January 30 March to Malacanang from Plaza Miranda through the Mendiola Bridge. By nightfall, thousands of students surrounded the heavily fortified palace when suddenly the lights went off. The Metrocom riot police retreated into the night, replaced with battle-hardened army soldiers armed with high-powered armalites out to quell a rebellion.


Before that long, dark bloody night was over, four students lay dead, scores paralyzed, and hundreds maimed from gunshot wounds.

As my high school friend, Mario Taguiwalo, recalled: “The death of friends, the terror of gunfire, the taste of truncheon taught a lot of ‘isms’ in one night. By the morning of January 31, 1970, a thousand chapters of student organizations had begun taking root in schools and communities nationwide.”

The next three months were filled with protest demonstrations, rallies, and “people’s marches” that all came to be called The First Quarter Storm, which another close friend, Nelson Navarro, described as “that cathartic student revolt in the first months of 1970 that shook the nation with its intense and all-encompassing life-changing experience.”

I was a member of the secretariat of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) that was formed to coordinate the demonstrations and rallies in 1970. A year later, my parents “exiled” me to San Francisco, fearful that I would share the same “salvaged” fate of so many student activists.

When Marcos declared martial law in September of 1972, he imprisoned thousands of activists, including many of my friends like Gary, Edjop, Mario and Jerry Barican, among the best and brightest of my generation.

Jerry Barican (in spectacles)

Living through the martial law years in the United States, I taught Philippine history and political science at San Francisco State University and at Laney College. I went to law school, passed the bar, set up my private law practice, was appointed president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and was elected to the San Francisco Community College Board.

Twenty years ago, on January 30, 1990, four years after People Power ended martial rule, I returned to Manila to attend a reunion I had organized, a gathering of friends at Freedom Park in Malacanang Palace, to mark the 20th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm.

Not present was my friend, Edjop, who became a revered people’s hero after he was beaten, tortured, jailed for his underground anti-dictatorship efforts, and later executed by the military on September 20, 1982 when he was barely 34 years old.

Jopson's remains

But Jerry Barican was there. Once the radical president of the UP Student Council, he had become a staunchly conservative lawyer who justified his sea change by paraphrasing Churchill, “If you’re not a radical by 18, you have no heart. If you’re still a radical by 30, you have no head.” Jerry went on to become a spokesman for President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

Mario Taguiwalo was there too, proudly serving as President Cory Aquino’s Undersecretary of Health. “Every time I am tempted to give up on people,” Mario said, “I am reminded of the power of ideals deeply held and I persevere again seeking to convince and not to compel.” Also there, among other friends, were Digoy Fernandez, a radical from De La Salle who had become a banker and Maan Hontiveros, an activist who was now the owner of her own communications company.

Gary Olivar couldn’t make it because he was busy in New York, working as a Sumitomo Bank executive after obtaining an MBA from Harvard University. But he sent me his message, which I read at the ceremony, about how “a singular dream moved a generation.”

“A dream so compelling in its inception, so irresistible in its sweep, that it hurled thousands of us against the walls of this palace—as if somehow through the sheer weight of our passions on that endless night, we would reclaim the palace for our own.”

“In the conceit of our youth, we believed we could repair the broken bones of a people long despoiled and fulfill a dream of human freedom, of national sovereignty, of equitable progress for every Filipino.”

Gary Olivar, the bright, articulate student leader who accidentally caused the First Quarter Storm when he wasn’t allowed to speak, is now the official spokesman of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Gary Olivar

“Reunions are beautiful,” Nelson mused at the gathering, “because the older we get, the more we cease seeing ourselves as friends or enemies. We are simply survivors sharing a common memory.”

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I was not a student leader at the time; I was an ordinary student who was ‘radicalized’ by the events of January 30-31.  I was unable to join my classmates and dorm-mates for the January 26 demonstration and several female high school classmates who were also studying in UP Diliman were trapped inside the UP-Ikot jeepney which carried the sound system the UP delegation used for the demonstration.

Incensed by the January 26 police dispersal, I joined the January 30 mass action in front of the presidential palace.  The mood was angry and the activists were obviously led by the radicals rather than by the moderates.

The radicals were led by the Kabataang Makabayan founder Jose Maria Sison as well as the leader of the New People’s Army Bernabe “Dante” Buscayno. Laborers also took part, protesting against graft andcorruption in government, and the decline in the economy caused by high oil prices. Some believed that the unrest is the plan to overthrow the government through a direct assault on the Palace.

Jose Ma. Sison

The night ended violently when the police used tear gas and arms to quell the demonstrators. Students tried to counter using Molotov cocktails and pillbox bombs while retreating. The storm extended to Divisoria district in TondoManila well into the early hours of January 31. After the failed protest, some of the surviving radical students, mostly from the University of the PhilippinesPolytechnic University of the Philippines, and the University of the East, became avowed Marxists, and took up arms, engaging in guerrilla and urban warfare.

Bernabe Buscayno aka Kumander Dante

The events of January 30-31 catalyzed the phenom known as the First Quarter Storm, which Wikipedia, describes as “a period of leftist unrest in the Philippines, composed of a series of heavy demonstrationsprotests, and marches against the government from January to March 1970, or the first quarter of 1970. It was one of the factors leading to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

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When the composite force of soldiers and riot police started their attack on our ranks later in the night, I found refuge with many others within the walls of San Beda College along Mendiola street near Malakanyang.

Metrocom riot police beating up youth demonstrators

I remember cringing in fear together with my fellow ‘refugees’ and our priest-guardians as my eyes hurt so much with the tear gas clouds swirling around us and while automatic rifles were beating their deadly staccato.  Afterwards, we hear the cries of the wounded and the defiant yells of youths who tried to fight back defensively.

The storm will eventually lead me to drop out from school, join the underground movement against the Marcos dictatorship when he declared martial law in September 1972, and my capture, torture,  and incarceration from September 1973 to December 1974.

The storm shaped me.  Without it, I believe I would have been an entirely different person than what I am.  Now.