Ninoy Aquino: Hero or miscalculating ‘throne’ gamer?

IT was renowned scholar Edward Carr who pointed out in his book that is a bible of sorts for historians, What is History?: “The facts speak only when the historian calls on them: it is he who decides to which facts to give the floor, and in what order or context.”

This is so true in the case of two sets of “facts” involving the last days of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino. One is Ninoy’s last interview with foreign correspondents inside the plane in the wee hours of August 21, 1983, a few hours before the aircraft landed, and the opposition leader was killed by a single bullet to the head.

The second set is his taped telephone conversation two days before he left the United States on the way to the Philippines, with his close friend, the late Steve Psinakis (the husband of Presentacion Lopez, the only daughter of the “Don” Eugenio Lopez, Sr.) who taped it.

I got to know about the tape only last Friday when somebody posted it in his Facebook page with the notation: “Shocking, Ninoy Aquino’s Last Recorded Phone Call Before Returning to Manila.” I initially thought it was either another Yellow Cult propaganda extolling Aquino’s martyrdom, or one of those fake news reports.

I confirmed though that it was authentic as Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Amando Doronila—a close friend of the Lopez clan—reported in August 2008 that Psinakis had released a transcript of the tape to his newspaper, and even played the actual audiotape to him.

DIFFERENT: Ninoy, left, being interviewed by the foreign press August 21, 1983; right, close friend the late Steve Psinakis, who had a telephone conversation with him a week earlier, which Psinakis taped, and released 25 years later.
DIFFERENT: Ninoy, left, being interviewed by the foreign press August 21, 1983; right, close friend the late Steve Psinakis, who had a telephone conversation with him a week earlier, which Psinakis taped, and released 25 years later.

Why the conversation—which was a scoop for the Inquirer— wasn’t put on the PDI’s front page (as it always does) and was seemingly ignored by the Yellow Cult would be obvious from the rather different, even shocking, portrait of Ninoy it presents, a transcript of which I publish below.

In Ninoy’s interview with foreign correspondents, he is the humble opposition leader who decided to return to the Philippines, as he put it, “to help the opposition rebuild its grassroots organization” for the 1984 Batasang Pambansa elections. In his talk with the press, Ninoy is the picture of a reluctant martyr: “I no longer crave for political office. I would like to reiterate: I am not out to overthrow Marcos.”

Says what heroes say
He does slip, though, and responds thus to a reporter’s question on why he was returning to the Philippines: “I don’t think a general should be ten thousand miles from his troops, even if he’s leading them from prison.” He says what heroes usually say: “I have to suffer with my people, I have to lead them because of the responsibility given to me by my people.”

It is a different Ninoy in the Psinakis tape, in which he reveals why he is rushing to return to the Philippines: Marcos is dying, he’s said his farewells to his generals, and he’s got just three weeks to settle his affairs on earth. “Marcos is a man now: Terminal,” he says. Ninoy says that Imelda is moving to grab power.

While Ninoy of course doesn’t specifically say he is in the best position to be the next president, one senses from his conversation with Psinakis that he is ” convinced 100 percent” that Marcos would allow him to be his successor. “Now that he (Marcos) is about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something,” Ninoy tells Psinakis.

Ninoy revealed to Psinakis that he has “trump cards,” which gave him confidence that Marcos would let him assume power. He said ASEAN leaders would support him to succeed Marcos and so would Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone, who he said was “willing to send a private envoy” who would use Japanese economic assistance to the country as leverage.

Listening to the Psinakis tape, one would see Ninoy as a political player with nerves of steel, very much aware of the risks of his move to take over from Marcos, even as he cannot let a big opportunity pass him by. Even his tone in the telephone conversation is so different, supremely confident in the way I remember him giving a privilege speech in the Senate.

He explained to Psinakis the three scenarios he was expecting. First, a “100 percent (chance) I will be brought directly to prison; so that I may not get a chance to talk to anybody on the ground.” Second, they will “turn back the plane” (to return to wherever it came from). And third, “and this is really iffy, they have two guys stationed to knock me out at the airport.”

I find it remarkable that in the Psinakis tape he said nothing that is in the genre of the heroic statements he made in his interview with the press, like he is willing to risk his life, and even die for the country. He is rushing back expecting that Marcos would die in weeks, and he has the support of ASEAN and Japan to assume power.

I certainly don’t mean to be facetious, but after listening to the tape, that quote from the TV series “Game of Thrones” sprang to mind: “‘When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

The tape reveals that Ninoy was rushing home believing Marcos would be dying very soon—he mentioned the time frame of three weeks—and that he could talk to the dictator who, with his trump card, would make him his successor. But he knew there was a risk he could be assassinated, and he took it.

Information so wrong
Aquino’s—or Sin’s—information, however, proved to be so wrong. Marcos was indeed hospitalized at the Kidney Center in July 1983. But according to his son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., that was when he donated his kidney to his father for a transplant. Bongbong in an interview claimed his father had recovered from the transplant, and was having lunch with them when he received the news that Ninoy was assassinated. Marcos would die not in 1983, but six years later.

What Aquino did not mention was that by early 1983, the country was already moving towards the worst economic crisis ever, to a great extent the result of the global debt crisis triggered by the Mexican default on its loans in March 1982.

Should we classify Ninoy as a hero, with his reasons for returning revealed, and at a period when the economy was already teetering, that only the slightest political trouble would push to the chasm? That’s an honest question in my mind, really, and I am willing to be enlightened on it.

Transcript of Aquino’s telephone conversation with Psinakis August 13, 1983

Ninoy Aquino: Hi Steve, I’m at the airport and I cannot leave America without saying goodbye to you and expressing to you my deepest gratitude.

Steve Psinakis: Our prayers are always with you and all I can [say]is, remember that a word from you and anything you want is in your fingertips from me, okay? There’s no limit to what I will do for you if you need some help. We are praying for you, for your safety and success and freedom of people, okay?

Aquino: Now this is the latest, Steve, that I can give you. My source is Cardinal Sin. Number one: Marcos checked in at the Kidney Center. The experts went, saw him, they did a test. He flunked all tests and the conclusion was if they operate on him, it would be fatal.

So he went back to the Palace. He is no longer responding to medication and he will have to be hooked up to the dialysis machine now more often. How he will last with that machine on, I don’t know. Apparently they are now moving to put Imelda in effective control. And they are going to revamp the Cabinet, with (Roberto) Ongpin most probably emerging as prime minister and finance minister. Danding Cojuangco or [General Fabian] Ver, defense minister. O. D. Corpus possibly foreign minister, and maybe Ayala, I mean Enrique, maybe agriculture minister, I don’t know.

But there’s a major shake-up. Marcos met with his generals and apparently said goodbye to them last Friday. He was on television in Manila 24 hours ago, commenting on the boxing fight of Navarette and Talbot to show the people he is okay. But it’s a matter of time, so he wanted three weeks to collect this thoughts, write his memoirs, complete his book and most probably craft the final stages of his administration.

He’s a man now: Terminal. He knows he’s going and that’s the background I’m coming in.

Psinakis: I [also]heard some of this yesterday. I got some reports, not of course as authoritative as yours, but pretty much the same that something was wrong and they couldn’t operate and so forth. At any rate, the thought that comes to mind is that is good and bad. Good in that he’s going and he knows it. He might show some compassion for the country and treat your return with more pragmatic thinking. The bad part may be that hardliners like Ver who are bulldogs without any political savvy, who may think that they’re next in line [of succession]. Obviously, such people would look at your return with uh… That’s what I’m worried about.

Aquino: Well, there are two reports I received along that line. Well, if they pinpoint the plane I’m coming in. The rumor in Manila is that I’m taking the private jet of Enrique (Zobel) from Hong Kong. But all planes are being guarded and they may close the airport on Sunday or turn back the plane if they would be able to pinpoint which one I’m coming in.

The third, and this is the real iffy. They have two guys stationed to know me out at the airport. And they will try them for murder, they’ll convict them, but they have assurances.

Psinakis: Ah…let’s not think about that.

Aquino: Yeah, that’s the… Those are the things that I’ve been alerted. So, I don’t know what options they will do now. But I am meeting with ASEAN leaders beginning Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Indonesia—Suharto might receive me. Malaysia is already firm and Thailand is just about firm. Now Japan has sent word that if Imelda is in place [Prime Minister] Nakasone is willing to use his economic clout.

Psinakis: Ah really, huh?

Aquino: Yes…to tell Imelda that if you treat Aquino nicely, we can dialogue.

Psinakis: Oh, that’s good news all right. That’s damn good news.

Aquino: Nakasone is willing to send a private envoy, a secret private envoy with a personal letter making a plea for me. If am still alive and in prison, that if they will treat me gently, and come up with some kind of an understanding, Japanese economic assistance will continue. Because they are very uptight that if the woman [Imelda] takes over and there will be chaos, you know, it would be bad. Now the ASEAN leaders, on the other hand, feel this way: ASEAN today is already one region. And any instability in one part of ASEAN will scare investors in the entire region.

That’s why they are very, very uptight about the possibility of chaos and instability in the Philippines with Imelda. And that is the background of my conversation with them: That I am not going to upset the apple cart but that we can harmonize our movement.

To what extent they will be able to mitigate the hardliners, I don’t know. That’s the chance we’ll have to take. If I survive Sunday, and I get to prison, I’m there in a week’s time, I can get the works going.

I’m picking up a letter from [MNLF chairman] Nur Misuari, telling them that if the government will trust me as a negotiator, then they can start talks again. But they will not talk to anybody else.

Psinakis: It sounds to me like you have an awful lot of pluses on your side.

Aquino: Those are the trump cards I’m bringing home, which of course can be negated if one character gets to throw me out.

If I get into prison, there is no doubt, like 100 percent, I will be brought directly to prison. I may not even get a chance to talk to anybody there on the ground. But it’s okay. A long as I’m alive and in prison, I can start using my trump cards.

I will try to hold out for a meeting with Marcos. Now that’s he’s about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something. Although the Cardinal told me that “if you think you can sell Marcos a bill of goods like return to democracy and electoral processes, forget it. You’re dreaming.”

“He’s no longer in that state.” This is the Cardinal’s idea. I don’t buy it. Because I don’t think that a man who is about to die will be, you know, too hard-headed.

SP: I hope you are right, but I think the Cardinal is right. I think Marcos…not only because he doesn’t want to, that’s academic at this point in time. But I think he has just…he’s so deep and he has no choice but to stay where he is and leave things as they are. And I certainly hope that that’s wrong because we don’t want that.

Aquino: Okay. So, goodbye Steve.

Psinakis: One last question…

Aquino: Yes?

Psinakis: Any whatsoever…any indication from the US side that there might be some help on the cooperative or absolutely nothing?

Aquino: No. No indication. Except that they are watching me. They are following all my steps. But I am still hopeful that sanity will prevail and they will know that eventually, they’ll have to come to talk. Because I don’t think they’re very happy with the woman [Imelda] running the show.

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The ideological bankruptcy of the Communist Party and its fronts

THE mobilization by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its organizations against the burial of strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani highlights the utter ideological and intellectual bankruptcy of what was once the vanguard of radical thought and social movements in the Philippines.

Aren’t there any other urgent issues in Philippine class society—especially since the working class have become more impoverished in the last 20 years, as almost elsewhere in the world—more important for the Left to devote itself to, other than the place of burial of a man who fell from power 30 years ago, and died 27 years ago?

US socialist leader Bernie Sanders—who lost to Hillary Clinton in the nomination for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate—is even more radical than the CPP, campaigning for free college education. By contrast, the CPP through the National Democratic Front has demanded in the peace talks only for free education at ”the primary and secondary levels,” with free college education only “eventually.”

The demonization of Marcos by the communists since the party’s establishment in 1969, to the extent of undertaking the Plaza Miranda carnage of 1971 and blaming it on him, was of course a necessary strategy that was extremely successful. Filipinos have been deeply anti-communist because of the Catholic Church that was outraged at its atheism (the Lady of Fatima’s “Third Secret” was the conversion of godless Russia!) and of course because of US cultural hegemony during the Cold War.

By portraying itself as the vanguard against, and even the only armed opposition to the “fascist dictator,” the CPP recruited thousands of educated, idealistic youth and even clerics, who saw themselves as fighting an Asian reincarnation of Hitler. Jose Ma.Sison, the CPP founder and diabolical propagandist, wisely chose to shift the student uprising’s most dominant slogan from his pre-marital law, more Marxist “Down with the US-Marcos regime” to “Marcos, Hitler, Dictator, Tuta”, which our comrades from the slums of Tondo formulated and popularized. Its vitriolic anti-Marcos stance convinced elites whom he had called “oligarchs” and suppressed, to pour massive financial resources to the CPP and is NPA.

But that was 40 years ago.

UNIFORM OR COSTUME? Left, NPA “Melito Glor Command” spokesman “Ka Diego”. Right, model in website selling “Revolutionary Guard” costumes.
UNIFORM OR COSTUME? Left, NPA “Melito Glor Command” spokesman “Ka Diego”. Right, model in website selling “Revolutionary Guard” costumes.

What value?
What tactical and strategic value is it for the CPP and the NPA to mobilize resources and personnel—even its veteran cadres like Bonifacio Ilagan and SaturOcampo—to oppose Marcos’ burial at the Libingan? If it is to prevent the dictator’s son Ferdinand, Jr., from running for president in 2022, wouldn’t another Marcos be better to rouse the masses for revolution?

Shouldn’t they just let the Yellow Cultists expend their anger, since they think it was Marcos who killed the husband of their saint Cory? The anti-Marcos elites have been back in power and have expanded their wealth: They wouldn’t give the time of day now to the CPP and NPA leaders to whom they had given funds in the 1970s. Do they naively think that they can recruit into armed revolution millennials who have suddenly found it retro chic to join anti-Marcos demonstrators?

Is it because the communists have been doing the same thing, and ranting against Marcos for nearly five decades, that they can’t stop? But isn’t that one definition of mental illness?

Why, the CPP and NPA might even expand its ranks among the huge (nine million) Ilokano speakers in the country who undoubtedly continue to see Marcos as the Great Ilokano. Ilokanos may even prove vital to the Revolution, as many of them inhabit the northern mountain ranges, so ideal for establishing revolutionary bases.

Doesn’t Ocampo and Ilagan have better things to do, such as campaign for the total end to the big Filipino capitalists’ practice of denying the working class benefits due them by employing them only on a contract basis (the so-called “endo” system)?

Rather than ranting against Marcos’ burial, shouldn’t Ocampo use his popularity and devote himself to leading the labor movement, which has been totally co-opted by capitalists ever since the firebrand PopoyLagman was assassinated in 2001, allegedly by another communist faction? Other than anti-Marcos rants, have you ever heard Ocampo champion causes dear to the poor and workingmen’s hearts?

From my experience in the 1970s overseeing demonstrations, it costs (adjusted for today’s prices) at least P300,000 to organize a respectable street rally, including the placards and the now ubiquitous dump truck used as a stage and the public address system. Shouldn’t the urban-based communists use this kind of money to organize soup kitchens in our vast slum areas, as American and European Marxists do?

An Associated Press photo for a recent article on the NPA, of Southern Luzon “MelitoGlor Command” spokesman “Ka Diego,” says a thousand words. For a moment I thought the photo was the wrong one, a colorized picture of a People’s Liberation Army officer, that a sloppy editor had used.

Very serious-looking, the NPA spokesman wears a uniform—without a speck of mud and neatly ironed—of Mao’s Red Guard in the 1960s, complete with the Mao cap and red patch on his collar. You see this in China now: young Chinese making fun of that era. There are even restaurants in Beijing with their waiters and waitresses dressed in Red Guard suits.

“Ka Diego” believing he is a Red Guard or a PLA solder perfectly personifies the CPP and the NPA: time-warped in the 1970s, believing the Revolution will be next month.

The CPP’s bankruptcy is due partly to the fact that our society has achieved many of what the CPP/NPA had fought for since the 1970s, not necessarily through its army though: The fall of Marcos, the kicking out of the US military base, agrarian reform, and (but not because of them) the exodus of US firms out of the country—and into Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It has even succeeded in making Mao’s “masses” a part of the Filipino language: masa.

Land reform—an issue that has prodded peasants to the communist cause here and in China in the 1930s and 1940s—had seemed impossible in this country where landlords have controlled the state apparatus for two centuries.

Yet as of 2013, the latest year for which the agrarian reform department has data, out of 7.8 million hectares of land that is to be “land-reformed,” government had distributed 88 percent, or 6.9 million hectares. The quintessence of landlord resistance,Hacienda Luisita’s fake corporatization scheme, was demolished by the Supreme Court, even as the Aquino clan retaliated by removing Chief Justice Renato Corona form his post.

And if the agrarian reform program falters and collapses, who should be blamed? The communist cadre and former Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano, whom President Duterte appointed as agrarian reform secretary. Has Mariano uttered a single word that the agrarian reform program is designed to fail, has he complained about landlord interference? No.

Sison in 1970 in his Philippine Society and Revolution, the CPP/NPA bible, plagiarized Mao and claimed that he would capture power through his peasant army encircling the cities one by one, just as the Chinese Great Leader did.

Nearly half a century after the NPA was established, and after thousands of urban-raised students tried to be guerrillas and died in some forgotten jungles, the NPA hasn’t captured a single municipality, not even the remotest one in the country. The NPA doesn’t have a single Red Base. The guerilla bases it boasts about are merely areas where they camp for months, but which are abandoned as soon as an Army platoon undertakes search-and-destroy operations.

DID KA DIEGO ORDER FROM HERE? E-store announcing discounts for Red Guard costume.
DID KA DIEGO ORDER FROM HERE? E-store announcing discounts for Red Guard costume.

Out of touch
Many of the CPP’s leadership such as Sison have lived for three decades in the Netherlands enjoying the comforts of a once-colonial power. Others like chairman Benito Tiamzon have been living in some remote jungle distant from mainstream society. Urban cadres have lived 7/24 in urban safehouses for decades, movingwithin their own leftwing subcultures in which they talk only to their own kind. The CPP has failed to keep in touch with the times, to innovate new forms of struggle for the proletariat. Because of these, they are virtual ideological hermits out of touch with modern society.

It wasn’t even the CPP that led the campaign against endo.It has been nowhere in urban poor struggles, and labor militancy has been at its lowest point ever.

A glaring case of the CPP’s bankruptcy involves one of its purported demands for socio-economic reforms it claims government has to agree to for a peace settlement.

The CPP’s draft for a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms states: “The Parties agree to break the dominance of foreign monopoly capitalists …over the means of production and the economy, mainly through expropriation of foreign-monopoly and big-comprador assets…The Parties agree to undertake the expropriation and nationalization of the direct investments and other profit-making assets of US, Japanese and other foreign monopoly capitalists in vital and strategic industries.”

Yet with such radical statements, has any CPP representative said anything remotely pointing out and protesting the control by the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim and Singtel of our telecom industry? Of Salim’s monopoly of electricity distribution in 36 cities and 75 municipalities, including Metro Manila? Of this Suharto crony’s monopoly of water distribution in 17 cities and municipalities that comprise the West Zone of the Metropolitan Manila area? Are they so out of touch with reality that they haven’t heard that Salim is now the biggest infrastructure-based magnate in the country?

For the CPP/NPA not to know these facts is just one of the many indications of the thecommunists ideological and intellectual bankruptcy.

Or maybe they’re just smarter and more pragmatic. Is there basis to the rumor that thetelcos,like most big businesses operating in remote areas, have been paying “revolutionary taxes” so their cell-sites which are spread all over the country in remote areas won’t be scorched by the NPA, as several had been in the 1990s?

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If the Marcos economy was so bad, why is his economic tsar Virata so respected?

IN its vitriolic anti-Marcos manifesto, the Ateneo de Manila pontificated: “The Marcos regime’s economics of debt-driven growth was disastrous for the Philippines.” An earlier column–but reposted in some Facebook pages recently–by UP economist Noel de Dios, an Oscar M. Lopez professor at the School of Economics, makes the same point, that the economy had a “dismal performance under martial law.”

What is astonishing in the condemnation of the Marcos years by the Ateneo and the UP professor is that both pretend—considering they are supposed to be academics—that they are unaware that it was one Cesar Virata who was almost totally in charge of the martial law regime’s economic management.

Of course, the buck stopped with Marcos, and he had command responsibility. But to blame Marcos solely for martial law is to misunderstand our history, that we will be condemned to repeat it, as we indeed have been.

Just as Marcos gave full authority to Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos to deal with the insurgency and with those pesky leftist student activists, he gave Cesar E. A Virata, whom he plucked in 1967 from the UP School of Business and groomed to be his top technocrat, as much authority over economic management.

Virata was indisputably Marcos’ economic tsar, occupying the crucial post of finance secretary from 1972 to the day the strongman fell on Feb. 25, 1986.  Never before and after has there been such a powerful finance secretary as Virata, since Marcos, after Alejandro Melchor left in 1974, had weak executive secretaries. Virata reported to no one else but Marcos.

Cesar E. A. Virata during Marcos years and today
Cesar E. A. Virata during Marcos years and today

Virata didn’t work alone, he was the big boss of the powerful bloc of Marcos technocrats who ran the economy. This included NEDA Director-General Gerardo Sicat, Trade Secretary Roberto Ongpin, central bank governor Jaime Laya, Budget Secretary Manuel Alba, PNB chairman Placido Mapa, finance undersecretaries Ernest Leung and (treasurer) Victor Macalincag, Agriculture Secretary Arturo Tanco, and Energy Secretary Geronimo Velasco.

Virata was to economic management during martial law what Ramos was to the regime’s police apparatus, and Enrile to the armed forces and his legal infrastructure. Marcos ruled as strongman through a troika: Enrile, Ramos and Virata. Without this troika, Marcos’ strongman regime would not have lasted a year.

Marcos even made Virata his Prime Minister in 1981, with “Prime” the title we reporters covering him at the time were told to address him by, and which his former subordinates call him to this day. Marcos chose him to be Prime Minister as his message to the country and the world that his economic manager was his political heir.

Another reason was that without Virata, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would have stopped its loans to the government. It was the “Seal of Good Housekeeping” for the regime’s economic management, without which foreign banks would have also stopped their lendings to the country.

Ninoy Aquino
And if the banks had done so, the economy would have collapsed in 1980 and not 1983, and Marcos most likely would have been ousted by Enrile and his RAM earlier. It was in March 1980 that Ninoy Aquino had a heart attack, with Marcos agreeing to send him to the US for his bypass surgery. In this alternative universe therefore, Ninoy would not have been assassinated, as he was in 1983.

Just as the Ateneo condemned “Marcos economics” as “debt-driven growth,” UP economist De Dios claimed that the “economy suffered its worst post-war recession under the Marcos regime because of the huge debt hole it had dug… collapsing completely in 1984-1985 when the country could no longer pay its obligations..”

But was it Marcos who was poring over the central bank’s balance of payments reports, and its external-debt reports? No.

It was Virata who had that responsibility, as finance secretary, chairman of the Monetary Board of the central bank and the head as well of the National Economic Development Authority, during martial law.

As finance secretary it was Virata who asked, negotiated, and even signed for most of our government’s foreign debt. The Monetary Board he chaired was the policy-making body of the central bank that had the sole authority to approve even a dollar of foreign debt.

In 1983 when we defaulted on our loans, the country’s total debt stood at $24.8 billion. Some $16.7 billion, or two-thirds of this, were incurred by, or guaranteed by the national government, mostly from the World Bank, the IMF, and the governments of the US and Japan, or more than half of our total debt.

Was there a single foreign loan Virata didn’t want government to incur, yet was forced to get, on orders from Marcos? None. Or if there were, he owes it to the country to disclose what loan this was.

Virata was chairman or board member of 22 government firms (Imelda had 23), many of which incurred foreign debts, or which on-lent the foreign loans they got to private firms. One case was a $200 million loan from the World Bank purportedly to modernize the country’s textile industry. It was the Development Bank of the Philippines that incurred the loan and the Board of Investments that determined to what firm it would be on-lent to. Virata was chairman of the DBP and a member of the Board of Investments. The program was a disaster, with evidence unearthed years later that the textile firms channeled their funds to other sectors, even real estate and hotels.

A favorite example of “Marcos’ mismanagement” was the $1.2 billion loan incurred by the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, never commissioned. But Virata was a member of the board of the National Power Corp. that had the plant as its project, and chairman of the Monetary Board of the central bank that approved the loan. Did he ever, then and now, object to the nuclear plant project? No.

Virata School of Business
Yet despite this crucial role in Marcos’ strongman rule, Virata has been very much respected, and has enjoyed a lucrative post-Marcos career as a consultant here and abroad, and as a member of the boards of several huge corporations.

I found it weird that on the same screen of my computer monitor which had Facebook posts demanding that Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who was in his teens during martial law, apologize for his father’s alleged sins, there was a post about Virata, the dictator’s economic tsar, being honored by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun, with his former subordinates in government in proud attendance, beaming in a group photo.

HE MUST BE GOOD? Virata in group picture at honoring ceremony by the Japanese embassy Nov. 25, 2016. With officials from different administrations: clockwise from extreme left: Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA head under Benigno Aquino III; Jaime Laya, Marcos’ central bank governor; Ernest Leung and Victor Macalincag, Marcos’ finance undersecretaries; Romeo Bernardo, President Ramos’ finance undersecretary and Globe Telecoms board member. To Virata’s left is Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Ramos’ Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs and an avid supporter of Aquino III’s peace pact with the MILF.
HE MUST BE GOOD? Virata in group picture at honoring ceremony by the Japanese embassy Nov. 25, 2016. With officials from different administrations: clockwise from extreme left: Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA head under Benigno Aquino III; Jaime Laya, Marcos’ central bank governor; Ernest Leung and Victor Macalincag, Marcos’ finance undersecretaries; Romeo Bernardo, President Ramos’ finance undersecretary and Globe Telecoms board member. To Virata’s left is Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Ramos’ Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs and an avid supporter of Aquino III’s peace pact with the MILF.

The UP, a bastion of anti-Marcos sentiment, even renamed its College of Business Administration as the “Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business,” the only building or institution in the country’s premier educational institution ever to be named after a living person. The UP Press even published (i.e., paid for) a 900-page hagiography by Virata’s protégé Gerardo P. Sicat entitled Cesar Virata, Life and Times: Through Four Decades of Philippine Economic History. (To Sicat’s credit though, the book is a well-researched account of the economy during martial law, that’s far from the Yellow narrative.)

Why has the Yellow and Red Cults blamed Marcos solely for martial law, that they even seem afraid to mention the role of Ramos, Enrile and Virata in this crucial period of our history?

The reason is that the Yellow and Red Cults’ demonization of Marcos is intended–wittingly for the Cory Aquino followers and unwittingly for the intellectually bankrupt Communist Party forces–to hide from the nation one very important thing: the hegemony of the ruling class before, during, and after martial law.

Authoritarian rule wasn’t just a project of a diabolical Marcos, wanting to be dictator. Martial law was supported by the ruling class after it concluded that Marcos was targeting solely one of its power-hungry factions, the Eugenio Lopez faction and its allies.

As the ruling classes in most countries in the region did at the time, the Filipino elite had concluded that democracy under conditions in which oligarchs controlled its tools—parliament and the press mainly—would result in chaos which risked not only their wealth and capital, but even their very existence, if in the turmoil the Communist Party would capture power.

When the economy succumbed to the world debt crisis in 1983, the elite was more than willing to junk Marcos, and replace him with a more authentic representative of the ruling class, Cory Aquino of the centuries-old Filipino landlord class.

For Filipinos to realize the crucial roles of Enrile and Ramos, and Virata during martial law would shatter drastically the Yellow fairy tale of an Evil Dictator defeated by the avenging Widow.

Virata is an excellent representative, as corporate executives are, of the capitalist ruling class. UP may just have been naively honest to name its business school as the Virata Business School, since this is the only institution in the entire university devoted to training the corporate servants of the ruling class.

To hide Virata’s role during martial law is to hide the crucial role of the ruling class and its oligarchs in the country’s 13-year authoritarian rule.

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Congress should summon De Lima’s other alleged lovers

ONE of the most disgusting revelations made by Senator Leila de Lima’s lover, her former driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, in the explosive hearing yesterday by the House of Representatives’ committee on justice was that the former justice secretary cheated on him, and had two other lovers, both of whom were also her security men.

It was because of these other relationships of De Lima, Dayan claimed, that their seven-year torrid affair cooled off and eventually ended in 2015. Dayan claimed that De Lima’s new lover was one Warren Cristobal, a motorcycle-riding security escort assigned to her by the Metro Manila Development Authority. This was actually the same “Warren” that President Rodrigo Duterte himself disclosed last August as the senator’s other lover.

While Dayan didn’t directly name him, the other security man who allegedly also become De Lima’s lover was Joenel Sanchez, a soldier assigned to her by the Presidential Security Group during the previous Aquino administration, according to the prison gang leader and convict Jaybee Sebastian’s testimony last month.

Sebastian even claimed that he saw the two holding hands during a visit to the Bilibid National Penitentiary and that De Lima supposedly called her security aide “sweetie.”

 DE LIMA’S LOVERS: Left, Dayan confirmed; middle, PSG soldier Joenel Sanchez, and right, MMDA security escort Warren Cristobal doing the justice secretary’s “ice bucket challenge.”
DE LIMA’S LOVERS: Left, Dayan confirmed; middle, PSG soldier Joenel Sanchez, and right, MMDA security escort Warren Cristobal doing the justice secretary’s “ice bucket challenge.”

Dayan had indirectly confirmed Sanchez as De Lima’s lover when he claimed that he confronted De Lima for cheating on him, and in anger slapped the justice secretary after he blurted out “Uubusin mo yata kaming mga security mo a.” (A non-literal translation: “Looks like you’ll make all of us your security men your lovers.”)
I am raising this point not for any salacious, tabloidish motive, but to point out that De Lima most probably got money from other drug lords in exchange for her protection, and not only from Kerwin Espinosa.

The other drug lords that have inflicted so much damage to our nation could be uncovered by Congress’ grilling the two other security men, who allegedly became De Lima’s lovers after Dayan.

It is illogical, even impossible, that De Lima extracted money only from Espinosa, who Dayan claimed under oath gave De Lima P8 million in 2014.

I suspect that Dayan fingered only Espinosa, because after all, the drug lord himself had already confessed to being such, either in fear of being liquidated like his father or to avenge him, and had already named him as De Lima’s bagman. He probably was also De Lima’s bagman or collector of her bribe money from other drug lords, not only from Espinosa.

But why would he volunteer that kind of information and finger other drug lords, if nobody else had done so? Why would he increase the number of criminals who want him dead?

When De Lima’s affair with Dayan ended sometime in 2015, according to the security man, who acted as her bagman? It would have been her success in getting her former lover to be her bagman, with Dayan being mum about it, which De Lima logically used as her template for her succeeding collectors.

She most probably thought that a lover could be trusted, because of their sexual and romantic entanglement, to be her bagman. In her mind, perhaps De Lima saw herself as a beautiful alpha-female with whom men—especially those from the lower classes—are putty in her hands, whose emotions she can manipulate that she could trust them to be her collector of dirty money.

Dayan’s replacement as bagman after their falling-out would have been logically either or both of her new lovers cum security men—Joenel Sanchez and Warren Cristobal.

This could be the explanation for the seeming contradiction in the testimonies of Dayan and Espinosa.

Dayan testified that he got the money for De Lima from Espinosa mostly in 2014. Espinosa however testified that he gave the money through “Dayan” to De Lima in 2015, which the justice secretary said she needed for her senatorial election campaign. Dayan said this could not have happened as he and De Lima ended their relationship by 2015, and had already resigned from the justice department.

The explanation would be that while Espinosa did give money for De Lima, through Dayan in 2014, he also gave her funds for her electoral campaign in 2015 through another bagman, who would have been logically Dayan’s replacement not only as collector but as lover. Either Espinosa couldn’t distinguish one bagman from another, a burly dark-skinned man from another. Or maybe he concluded, why would he risk implicating a PSG man nobody has actually accused of being a bagman, another gunman that might go after him in revenge?

Senate has a duty

With all the allegations on De Lima’s immorality, her protection of illegal drug lords, and her corruption in accepting bribe money, the Senate is duty bound to investigate these allegations.

The allegation alone that she told Ronnie Dayan, her former driver-security and lover, to defy a subpoena issued by Congress for him to appear in a hearing is ground enough for her removal, as this constitutes obstructing a legal order from no less than the Congress.

That there isn’t a clear procedure for this is no excuse for not doing anything to penalize a senator who has disgraced the office of the justice secretary and the Senate. A senator can be removed from office by a two-thirds vote of the chamber’s members.

This Senate will be a disgrace to our rule of law and our democracy if it doesn’t move to investigate the mounting evidence of crime by one of its members.

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FVR: The Yellow Cult’s hidden High Priest?

In opposing the burial of Marcos remains at the Libingan ng mg Bayani, fomer President Fidel Ramos said things that are so absurd that these border on the surreal.

Ramos’ First Claim. “I felt very bad especially for the veterans, as well as the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as members of the PNP which I commanded then,” Ramos said in the press conference. “It was an insult, [a]trivialization of the sacrifices of our Armed Forces, PNP, Coast Guard, veterans – retired and active.”

How could Marcos’ burial insult men in uniform, alive or dead, when the strongman’s rule for 13 years had been based on the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Constabulary, with so many soldiers and police killed in firefights (or by assassination) by the communist New People’s Army and the Moro insurgents? It wasn’t called “martial law” for nothing.

Cleverly demonized by the Yellow Cult when it was dubbed the “Rolex 12” who planned and executed martial law, the group’s members were the top brass of the military and police, including Ramos who commanded the Philippine Constabulary, AFP Chief of Staff Romeo Espino, and all the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. (“Rolex,” as they were reportedly given Rolex watches on their last meeting before martial law was declared. Gen. Espino was later to claim that they were nothing but the cheapest Rados.)

The alleged human rights abuses during martial law—the issue that has roused melodramatic millennials at elite colleges against Marcos’ burial—were not committed by vigilantes, or by the civilian National Intelligence Security Authority, but by the military and mostly by the police, such as the dreaded Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit and the 5th Constabulary Security Unit that were all under Ramos.

Isn’t the burial of their commander in chief for 20 years  (1965-1985) in the official military cemetery a way of honoring those buried there, as well as living veterans?

Man for all seasons? Left, photo from Presidential Museum with caption: “In January 1972 at the height of the First Quarter Storm of the angry Filipino youth, Brigadier General Ramos was appointed Chief of the Philippine Constabulary -- his first, last and only assignment with the PC, having spent his first 20 years in the Army.” Right, with his second boss, February 1986.
Man for all seasons? Left, photo from Presidential Museum with caption: “In January 1972 at the height of the First Quarter Storm of the angry Filipino youth, Brigadier General Ramos was appointed Chief of the Philippine Constabulary — his first, last and only assignment with the PC, having spent his first 20 years in the Army.” Right, with his second boss, February 1986.

Of course, a faction of the military led by Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramos rebelled in 1986 against Marcos to oust him with the help of the US. But it’s certainly very inaccurate to say that the entire AFP and PC were against Marcos even at that time. From the highest-ranking general to the lowest ranking soldier, the military were ecstatic over martial law. Hasn’t Ramos noticed that not a single retired general, or military or police of any rank has protested Marcos’ burial at the Libingan?

Second Claim. Responding to Marcos’ eldest daughter Imee’s exhortation that he should also apologize for the human rights abuses during martial law because he headed the PC all those years, Ramos said: “My atonement was leading the military and the police during the EDSA People Power Revolution. From the 22nd to the 25th of February 1986 and I stand by that record. It’s there in history books.”

For that of course, Ramos demonstrated heroism of the highest order. But just as valid though would be a claim that he abandoned his cousin whom he supported for 13 years, after realizing—perhaps even through leaks from his West Point classmates in the Pentagon—that the US, the world’s superpower had made a decision to remove Marcos, and would in fact be intervening to oust him, as it in fact did.

For whatever reason though, the real point is that he has not really bothered to explain to the nation whether the accusations of human rights abuses mostly undertaken by the PC, were true or not.

His refusal to do so of course was because of his political opportunism: Cory Aquino and her Yellow Cult would not have supported him to become president in 1992, if even just a hint came from his mouth that much of alleged human rights allegations are exaggerated or were the usual expected casualties of war. The network of secret police during martial law— if we may call it that —was the PC’s Constabulary Security Units (CSU) which had units in all regions of the country, under the command of Ramos.

Pick any instance of horrific alleged human rights abuses, those that the Left have been presenting as their exhibits, and the chances are that it was PC units that were involved.

A few examples: Liliosa Hilao raped and murdered by the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit; anti-burial coalition leader Bonifacio Ilagan’s sister Rizalina’s killing, by the 2nd Constabulary Unit; congressman Edsel Lagman’s brother Hermon’s kidnapping and killing, by the PC’s Metropolitan Command; and congressman Neri Colmenares arrest and torture, by a PC unit he hasn’t identified. These horrific abuses all happened when Ramos was head of the PC: Did he ever bother to investigate these cases? If he did, what did he do about it?

There hasn’t been a single case of human rights abuses filed against Gen. Romeo Espino, who was AFP Chief of Staff for almost the whole duration of martial law.

In order to bolster his accusation that the military and police had not received orders from their superiors to allow the burial, Ramos blurted out in his press conference:

“‘Di ganyan ang Armed Forces noong panahon namin. Meron kaming chain of command, di langpara sa military at police, pati intelligence service,” he said. “Higher ups knew everything their subordinates were doing.” (The Armed Forces during our time was nothing like that. We had a chain of command, not just for the military and the police, but also for the intelligence service.)

Isn’t that a confirmation from Ramos himself, that he knew about the human rights abuses committed by the PC during martial law, and that he had command responsibility over the PC units accused of these crimes?

Cheats
Third Claim. Ramos painted the Marcos family as cheats when he distributed copies in his press briefing of the signed agreement between him and the Marcos family in 1993, in which they agreed that the strongman’s remains be buried in his home province. But Ramos seems to believe, as Louis XIV of France did (“L’Etat, c’est moi”, “I am the State”) that he is the Philippine state. The agreement though was between the Marcos family and him, when he was president at the time. Obviously, as it is their right to do, the Marcoses got another agreement from the present president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Ramos may believe that he is opposing what he claims is an insult to the military that the Marcos burial at the Libingan is.

But as I argued in my column on Monday, Marcos’ burial at the Libingan where three other presidents of the Republic lie, shatters the narrative of an evil, ruthless dictator that ruled the country who killed “thousands of Filipinos.” And with that fiction unraveled, thrown to the garbage are the self-righteousness of the Yellow Cult, the mythology of Cory Aquino as Philippine democracy’s saint, and the legitimacy of the Communist Party as the vanguard party that fought a ruthless dictator.

That is the reason why the Yellows and the Reds have been apoplectic over the burial. If Marcos’ demonization ends, which will happen if his remains are buried at the Libingan, who would be blamed for the human rights abuses during martial law?

How could we have missed that Ramos, after all, has been a pillar, the hidden High Priest of the Yellow Cult?

How could we have missed the reason why Cory junked Ramon Mitra, the candidate of the ruling party that supported her regime, and instead chose Marcos’ cousin Ramos? How could we have missed the fact that if not for the “Black Swan” that was Joseph Estrada,Ramos’ candidate in 1998 would have won the presidency, starting an unending era of Yellow Rule? Was Ramos’ support of Duterte the Yellow Cult’s Plan B?

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Why the Yellows and Reds are deliriously livid over Marcos’ burial

THERE is one hidden yet indubitable reason why the Aquinos’ Yellow Cult and the Communist Party with its fronts are apoplepctic over the burial of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

With Marcos’ remains now buried where three other presidents of the Republic lie, he becomes just one of the presidents, and this shatters their narrative of an evil, ruthless dictator that ruled the country with an iron fist. And with that fiction unraveled, the legitimacy of the Yellow Cult, the mythology of Cory Aquino as Philippine democracy’s saint collapses.

The Cory Aquino regime’s incompetence, its total reliance for its rise and survival in the 1980s on the US imperial power, and its restoration of elite rule become so transparent. People realize how much more incompetent and petty Benigno 3rd was, so much so that Filipinos are even suspecting that he did coddle drug lords which has made it such a colossal problem today.

The Communist Party and its New People’s Army wouldn’t have grown into such a powerful force in the 1980s without the narrative of Marcos as a ruthless fascist dictator. After all, after its nearly 50 years of existence and propaganda work, who knows what it is fighting for, what the “national democracy” that it says is its vision for the Philippines is?

The wily communist chief Jose Ma. Sison during his sojourn in 1964-1965 in Indonesia witnessed the US-backed General Suharto seize power and order the massacre of 500,000 Indonesians to ensure that the Indonesian Communist Party was totally wiped out. The rest of the population acquiesced to the pogrom, with Suharto ruling Indonesia for 33 years.

Of course they’re very angry: Ateneo president Villarin told them they’re following God’s orders and are just like the Israelites fighting the Pharaoh.
Of course they’re very angry: Ateneo president Villarin told them they’re following God’s orders and are just like the Israelites fighting the Pharaoh.

The realization was etched in Sison’s mind that with the Americans’ Cold-War propaganda against communism, and without an outright US aggression, as in Vietnam, that would arouse nationalist fervor, Filipinos will never rally around his party that wanted to install its own dictatorship.

Only if the Communist Party was portrayed as the vanguard of a democratic movement against a fascist, cruel dictator could it recruit members, get the masses’ sympathy, and use a so-called National Democratic Front as its political shield—or mask.

Sison therefore engineered in August 1971 the Plaza Miranda bombing of a Liberal Party miting de avance both to provoke Marcos into declaring martial law and to portray him as a ruthless fascist who even attacks the legitimate opposition.

In 1971, Sison convinced the Chinese Communist leaders to ship in July 1972, 5,000 M-14 rifles (made by the Chinese themselves) in such a way—the shipment was landed in a busy fishing village in Digoyo Point, Isabela—that the authorities easily discovered it and sent two Army platoons to intercept it, to become front-page news.

Arms landing
The arms landing convinced Marcos and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that China was aiding the New People’s Army in a major way. Just two months after the July landing of arms, Marcos with his generals imposed martial law, with no opposition at all from the Philippine ruling class, except for the few oligarchs behind the Liberal Party such as the Lopezes and the Osmenas.

With the opposition’s leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. coddling the fledgling guerillas (even making his wife’s Hacienda Luisita their refuge), Marcos and the AFP top brass were convinced that the only way to stop a communist take-over was to declare martial law. Marcos and his generals felt they were just being patriots who would save the country: Aquino and the opposition Liberal Party had committed treason when they exposed to the Malaysians their plan to infiltrate and claim Sabah, indubitably a part of the Philippines.

For the first several years of martial law, however, Sison’s plan didn’t work out. Because of Marcos’ economic programs such as land reform (even if flawed), his massive infrastructure projects (such as the South and North Expressways), and especially the ruling class’ support for the dictator, there was broad support for martial law. GDP grew at a record average annual rate of 7 percent from 1972 to 1976, a pace that drew the support of the massses and the ruling class for Marcos and his dictatorship. The opposition proved to be so weak and spineless to fight Marcos. The communist leaders were captured one by one, including Sison and his top military man Kumander Dante in 1976.

In all countries and at any point in their history though, even up to this day (even in America with the police brutality against blacks), and because of human nature, human rights abuses are always committed by sadist, sociopath elements of the police and military, especially when there is no other institutional check on the men in uniform, whether it be the press, a functioning legal system, and a parliament.

For instance, because of Cory’s immense popularity, her image as a saint of democracy, and a subservient press and Congress, human rights abuses—according to one count by a writer very critical of Marcos—even quadrupled in 1987 to 7,444 cases from just 1,712 in 1986. (See table.) It was even during the Cory regime that the worst-ever police killings of demonstrators occurred, the Mendiola Massacre in January 1987.

Source: Kessler, Richard J. (1989), Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines
Source: Kessler, Richard J. (1989), Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines

Even just in the past several months, at least half, or 2,000, of the 4,000 drug pushers killed by the police in fire-fights (or when they were trying to grab policemen’s pistols while in custody) were human rights violations—extra-judicial killings.

I don’t think that Cory had—nor has President Duterte—a state policy of executing those who opposed her regime or those involved in the illegal drug trade. In a similar vein, there hasn’t been an iota of proof that Marcos had undertaken a policy of human rights abuses against the opposition, in the same manner as Indonesian strongman Suharto or Chilean dictator Pinochet.

What has hardly been mentioned in anti-Marcos accounts is that the two martial-law administrators, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos, had reported to Marcos in 1975 that some 6,000 men in uniform were dismissed after an investigation of their alleged participation in human rights violations.

Nevertheless, it was the human rights violations during martial law that the Communist Party and its organizations used as its main propaganda thrust against the dictatorship.

Conveniently not mentioned by anti-Marcos critics is the fact that as much as 80 percent of those detained and human rights victims during martial law were Communist Party or New People’s Army members, and those killed were mostly in fire-fights not only with the military or police, but with village militias, who were rabidly anti-communist or who thought they were fighting bandits. For example, I was imprisoned during martial law for two years. But I was a ranking communist party cadre at that time, and I was even organizing urban guerillas. The state didn’t have the right to defend itself by imprisoning me?

It has been the success of the Communist Party’s propaganda to portray Marcos as a ruthless violator of human rights, responsible for extra-judicial killings that explains why most of the demonstrators last Friday when the strongman was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani were from the Catholic schools of the rich, who don’t care a hoot about class exploitation but are livid because of their Christian dogma over human rights violations.

It is however sickening how these students’ superiors used such biblical imagery and invoked God in order to rouse gullible young people to join the anti-Marcos rallies.

For instance, in a way that reminds me of movie scenes of medieval monks exhorting teenage Crusaders to go to Jerusalem and kill Muslims, Ateneo University President Jose Ramon Villarin in his exhortation to Ateneans to join the demonstrations against Marcos’ burial wrote:

“Patuloy natin kilatisin kung saan tayo inaakay ng Diyos sa panahong ito ng kasaysayan. Ang Diyos ang siyang nagpalaya sa atin noong tayo’y mga alipin ng Ehipto. (“Let us continue to discern where God is leading us to at this stage of history. It was God after all who freed us when we were slaves in Egypt.”)

One follows God’s will as Israelites did in fighting the pharaoh of Egypt 3,000 years ago if he or she joins the demonstrations against Marcos burial? Something is terribly wrong with this cleric’s mind.

What kind of religious leaders, and more importantly leaders of the academe, has this country produced?

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It is Ramos who should apologize over Martial Law ‘abuses’

IT is hypocritical, and plainly wrong, for former President Fidel Ramos to ask the Marcos family to apologize over martial law and its abuses—on three dimensions.

First, Ramos was one of the main pillars, even the strongest pillar, of the Marcos dictatorship, since he headed the national police, called the Philippine Constabulary from 1972 to 1981, that enforced martial law. Shouldn’t he apologize for that, instead of asking Marcos’ widow (what wife would testify against her husband?) or his children who were in their teens at that time to do so?

Second, if he wasn’t really in control of the PC, and wasn’t responsible for its alleged human rights abuses, then why didn’t he resign early during the dictatorship, which would have sent the message to the world that Marcos was bad? That could have hastened Marcos’ fall and spared the country the political-economic crisis of 1983 to 1985 which is the real cause of our underdevelopment for a decade. Shouldn’t he apologize for that?

Thirdly, if the extent of alleged human rights abuses were actually exaggerated, the product of communist propaganda that demonized Marcos as a fascist in order to ally the people behind their hidden goal to establish a one-party dictatorship, then why hasn’t Ramos—the best living witness of the martial law years—told us what really happened? He has published perhaps two dozen books containing his speeches, and yet has not written a single article on alleged human rights abuses during martial law, what he witnessed in that era.

Shouldn’t he apologize for our difficulty in having an accurate, balanced picture of that crucial period of our history, and even worse, for supporting the communist narrative versus Marcos? If Ramos just revealed what he knows, we would be able to decide conclusively whether or not the alleged human rights victims were, in reality, casualties of a war that the communist party chief Jose Ma. Sison himself declared as the “people’s war” to topple what he called then the US-Marcos regime.

Guess who? In these rare photo are the two living people who should apologize, if really needed, for Marcos’ strongman rule and its alleged human rights abuses.
Guess who? In these rare photo are the two living people who should apologize, if really needed, for Marcos’ strongman rule and its alleged human rights abuses.

Of course, Ramos had kept silent on this as it would have made him appear sympathetic to the strongman, so that Corazon Aquino wouldn’t have anointed him as her successor to the presidency in 1992. If he had talked about martial law, the anti-Marcos activist candidate Ramon Mitra or the fiery Miriam Defensor-Santiago would have roundly defeated him by labelling him with the Marcos camp, along with Eduardo Cojuangco and Imelda Marcos. Shouldn’t Ramos apologize for his political opportunism?

It was the PC, and not the other four services of the armed forces, that was Marcos’ network for enforcing martial law. Not only was the armed forces legally banned from dealing with civilians, but it was tied down during martial law fighting the Malaysian- and Libyan-supported Moro National Liberation Front in Mindanao.

Nearly all of the human rights abuses Marcos has been accused of were undertaken by PC units, especially through its national network of “Constabulary Security Units,” whose heads reported directly to Ramos. The most dreaded (or successful) of these was the Manila-based 5th CSU, credited with capturing most of the Communist Party leaders, including Jose Ma. Sison and the Manila-Rizal Regional Committee which I headed.

Cruelest case

The cruelest case of human rights abuses during martial law that the Left always presents to media as its Exhibit A against Marcos was student activist Liliosa Hilao’s torture, rape and murder, with her sister Marie also sexually abused while in detention. But the unit Hilao’s sister Marie herself said was responsible for this was the PC’s dreaded Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit, the CANU, which was even worse than the death squads killing drug pushers all over the metropolis now.

Were the CANU officers, and Ramos who had command responsibility over the crime, charged? No, the American lawyers cleverly indicted Marcos, as hundreds of millions of pesos compensation could be extracted from him because a Swiss bank account he allegedly owned had been confiscated, and was in government hands already. I doubt if they could have extracted a centavo from Ramos or the CANU offices.

I find it astonishing that two top communist cadres almost every year on the anniversary of martial law’s declaration seem to relish giving media details of their torture (one that his penis was electrocuted, the other that a tingting was inserted), and then condemning Marcos for their fate. Yet they seem to be afraid to mention that it was PC units, over which Ramos had command responsibility, that were responsible for their torture.

Take my case. I was arrested together with my wife Raquel and most of the party’s Manila-Rizal Regional Committee, and we spent two years in Marcos’ prisons. Who arrested us, and beat up many of my comrades? The PC’s 5th CSU. I was sent to the 5th Military Intelligence Group only for a few days, for interrogation aided by an injection of sodium pentothal.

That was it though from the military intelligence guys—no beatings at all, no psychological torture. I was also sent to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, headed by Gen. Fabian Ver, where I was interviewed by bored-looking civilian bureaucrats, who looked more frightened of me than I was of them.

I don’t think Marcos ever heard of me. After Sison, Kumander Dante, and renegade Army lieutenant Victor Corpus,   I don’t think he even knew of the names of other communist leaders. But I’m sure Ramos knew me by name. My father, a lawyer, after he was told I was arrested by the PC, wrote probably a dozen letters to the PC chief Ramos asking for my release, pointing out that I had not been charged in court. Ramos didn’t bother to reply.

All in the family: How Marcos and Ramos are cousins.
All in the family: How Marcos and Ramos are cousins.

Only when my exasperated father decided to write Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile did he get a reply from Enrile himself (or maybe he just signed a pro-forma letter) explaining that Proclamation 1081 had given the state the authority to arrest anybody without charges.

It was only when we were released two years later that I learned that it was Ramos who issued the so-called ASSOs (Arrest, Search, and Seizure Order) against me and for all political detainees.

Shouldn’t Ramos apologize for that?

Those who didn’t participate in the anti-dictatorship movement, or didn’t care what was happening at the time, are unaware of Ramos’ crucial role for Marcos to rule as a strongman for 13 years.

His hold on the PC was as strong and indisputable as his loyalty to Marcos for one major reason: He was Marcos’ cousin. His grandmother,Crispina Marcos, was the sister of Fabian Marcos, the strongman’s grandfather. While that may seem a distant link, it is nearly being brothers among the clannish Ilokanos. Did that embolden the PC to commit human rights abuses?

Ramos’ father was also one of Marcos’ most trusted diplomats, whom the strongman appointed as his foreign secretary when he won the presidency in 1965.

Marcos trusted Narciso Ramos so much that he was his representative in negotiating with the Americans the reduction in the tenure of military bases from 99 years to 25. Nationalists should applaud that Marcos-Ramos feat, as the new treaty, called the Ramos-Rusk Agreement, shortened the lease that originally was to expire in 2046, so it would end in 1991 —when the Senate voted to junk it. Narciso was also Marcos’ representative in the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Bangkok in 1967. Ramos’ sister, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, followed in their father’s footsteps, and was appointed ambassador to Australia in 1981.

Because of his blood relationship to Marcos and his never-contested hold on the PC, Ramos was perceived during martial law as the regime’s most powerful man, next only to Marcos.  Defense Secretary Enrile was Marcos’ official Martial Law Administrator only since the strongman wanted his dictatorship  to be portrayed as built on solid legal grounds.  But Enrile was just the legal justifier; it was Ramos who was the muscle, his PC the organization that made the country follow the dictatorship.

The myth Ramos probably deliberately disseminated was that it was Gen. Fabian Ver, the commander of the Marcos Presidential Guards and head of the National Intelligence Security Authority, who was the storngman’s cousin, who ran his security apparatus.  

But Ver wasn’t related at all to Marcos but was just a Sarrat townmate, and from an unimportant clan. Ver was just Marcos’ chief bodyguard who had no business outside of securing Marcos.  Even Ver’s sons, PMA graduates Irwin and Rexor were limited in their roles as commanders in the PSG, assigned nowhere else. The NICA was, as it has been through the years until today, a weak agency run by  civilians with hardly any muscle nor brains. Ver or his NISA hasn’t been accused of any human rights abuses by even the most vitriolic critic of martial law.

Other than his being Marcos’ cousin, Ramos had another strength. He was perceived to be the closest to the US military establishment, having studied at West Point, with many of his classmates becoming the top brass of the American armed forces.

Was it coincidental that he abandoned Marcos when the US military establishment and President  Ronald Reagan  as well—who had been firm supporters of the strongman — bowed to the  State Department’s lobbying to jettison the dictator in February 1986?  Was it coincidental that Cory Aquino, who was backed by the US and even saved by US Phantom jets in the 1989 coup, unexpectedly picked Ramos as her successor, instead of Ramon Mitra who was her party’s choice?  Was it coincidental that Ramos became so critical of President Duterte after he announced a policy of separating from the US?

All this tells us of our sad penchant for condemning somebody out of power— preferably dead— and praising those who are in power one way or another,  no matter how they got there, and alive to fight back.

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Duterte backs rogue killer cops

And that’s very wrong, and should deeply worry us.

Even the top brass and officers of the Philippine National Police were shocked that President Duterte has come out defending the killer cops of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Eastern Visayas (CIDG-8), when they acted entirely on their own in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, and in such a clumsy manner that it would be stupid to believe it was not a rubout.

Duterte’s stance means we no longer have a rule of law in this country but the rule of a President and his police who can execute anybody they want, and claim that their target had fought it out and the police didn’t have any choice but to defend themselves.

The CIDG-8 demonstrated how the police can undertake such execution with total impunity and brazenness that we should all be outraged, not only at such trampling of our rule of law, but at such ruthless, merciless murder carried out by supposed agents of the law.

In the wee hours of November 5, nineteen officers and policemen of the CIDG-8 motored from their Tacloban City headquarters to the subprovincial jail at Baybay City, disarmed the jail guards whom they ordered to kneel facing the wall so they wouldn’t witness their dastardly deed, forcibly opened the cells, and shot dead the detained Mayor Rolando Espinosa. (The CIDG-8 had absolutely no business dealing with Espinosa. It was other units, especially the Albuera city police, who had been investigating and eventually arrested Espinosa.)

Three of the four bullet wounds, including one in the head, had upward trajectories, PNP Chief Medio-Legal Officer Benjamin Lara testified in the Senate—meaning that mostly likely, he was shot while he was lying down, his feet nearest the shooters. The CIDG ripped out and took away the hard disc of the CCTV that recorded the horrible deed.

In an extraordinary move, the Supreme Court in full session ordered an investigation into why the judge of Basey, Samar issued a search warrant on Espinosa’s jail — which was obviously under government control, and therefore, didn’t need one.

Only real use
Its only real use was to give the CIDG-8 killers the legal excuse that they were “merely” implementing a search warrant ordered by a Court.

The CIDG-8 officers were so caught lying through their teeth in their testimonies that even allies of President Duterte involved in the investigation—Senators Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon and even Manny Pacquiao—all concluded that the killing was a brazen, “premeditated murder,” as Lacson, who was a former PNP chief, put it. For instance, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, head of the CIDG team that killed Espinosa, claimed that a media man they brought with them in the raid saw Espinosa with a gun. The media man denied this, saying he was told to stay outside the jail.

The CIDG-8 police think we’re stupid: Two photos right after Espinosa’s execution, one with a edition with Hillary on its gun, one without. (From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.)
The CIDG-8 police think we’re stupid: Two photos right after Espinosa’s execution, one with a gun, one without. (From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.)

I describe the CIDG killers as “rogue” cops, as they acted without getting approval for their murderous raid, without even informing—as strictly required by police protocol – their superiors, especially as it involved a high value target. Both PNP Deputy Director for Operations Benjamin Magalong and CIDG Director Chief Superintendent Roel Obusan testified in the Senate that they were not informed by the CIDG-8 head, Marvin Marcos, of the operation.

Despite all these proofs of their guilt, though, Duterte has defended these rogue killer cops.

After three days of strange silence on the rubout, he said he believed “in the version of the police,” obviously referring to the CIDG-8 killers’ version and not of those of PNP chief Ronald de la Rosa (who claimed he ordered his officials to investigate the matter) or of deputy director Magalong, who said the CIDG-8 violated procedures by not coordinating with their superiors.

Duterte also demonstrated a shocking mentality over the slaying when he said, “I will obey what the police will tell me kasi kasama kami sa gobyerno.” (“I will believe what the police tell me since we are together in government.”)

Isn’t he aware that especially, since he is the nation’s chief executive, he has to go after killers and grafters who are with him in government?

Deserved to be killed
Worse, Duterte practically said Espinosa deserved to be killed: “You have a guy (Espinosa), a government employee using his office and money, cooking shabu and destroying the lives of so many millions of Filipinos. So what is there for me to say about it?” he said.

That’s almost exactly what the highest-ranking official responsible for the killing, CIDG-8 head Marcos said: “All that they see is that the mayor surrendered, pretending to be kind, pleading, telling the truth. But he’s a criminal who has killed so many. He basically terrorized the whole town to win as mayor.”

Duterte’s more recent statements on the rubout are more shocking, though. “I would insist that the version of the police in the killing of Mayor Espinosa is the correct version insofar as I am concerned. And I will not, I will not abandon them,” he said Friday.

Duterte, as has been his irritating penchant, was even melodramatic about his stance: “If they go to prison, so will I.” This is not a declaration that he is willing to sacrifice himself for what he believes in. Rather, it is such a sickening demonstration of hubris.

A lawyer, Duterte knows full well that a President can’t be charged for any crime while he is in office. He has to be removed from office first through an impeachment trial, and only after that can he be asked to face the courts of law.

Why wouldn’t Duterte outrightly say that he’s willing to be impeached for defending rogue killer cops?

While many Filipinos, including myself, support what could be Duterte’s earth-shaking reform program for Philippine society to end the rule of the oligarchs, we cannot simply throw to the dustbin our nation’s rule of law and respect for the value of human life, the bedrock of our very humanity and civilization. We will be like, or be even worse, than the drug lords if we condone the murders of suspected criminals apparently ordered, or at least given the nod by, the President of the Republic.

Even our loathing for an immoral and obnoxious person as Senator Leila de Lima cannot be an excuse for sanctioning the blatant murders of helpless persons, even if they are suspects.

How can Duterte claim that he is merely upholding the rule of law in allowing Marcos’ corpse to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani while publicly defending the murder of a star witness against illegal drug protectors? Isn’t that such an obvious mentality of invoking the rule of law selectively, and only when it suits him?

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Why Trump is like Duterte, and why he’s not

Global superpower America and our poor, pathetic Philippines are obviously so different in economic status, political maturity and culture. Yet how uncanny that in the same year, basically the same political phenomenon has enabled two persons of vastly diverse social and economic standings — Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte — to win the most powerful post in their respective nations, shocking both countries’ elites.

This phenomenon, which some say has become global in scale, is a product of the masses’ outrage against the elites and the political establishment, which they decided to express not through endless street demonstrations but by their votes. The communist dogma that the ruling class has and will always control “bourgeois” elections had been shattered to smithereens.

The electoral system is “finally responding to the rise of inequality and the economic stagnation experienced by most of the population.”

Those words aren’t mine, although they perfectly describe how the Dirty Harry-type foul-mouthed mayor from the South buried in the May elections Manuel Roxas 2nd, the quintessence of the Philippine ruling class both past and present; Grace Poe, the exemplar of celebrity-politics as exploited by Chinese-Filipino magnates; and Jejomar Binay, the embodiment of the rise of the Philippine professional political class.

Those words are those of the brilliant political scientist Francis Fukuyama in an August 2016 Foreign Policy article (yes, before the elections) referring to Donald Trump’s trumping of the Republican Party elite’s wish to make Jeb Bush its presidential candidate, and the unknown Bernie Sanders’ strong showing versus Hillary Clinton, who was the choice of the two-termer President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party elite.

Despite the disdain against him by almost the entire American political elite (including most Republican leaders and the mainstream media), Trump handily won the US presidency because the biggest chunk of the American “masses,” the white working class, saw HIS RIVAL Clinton as another sweet-talking representative of the American ruling class. They saw her Democratic Party no longer as the old party of the American common man but of the elite that merely exploits minority groups such as the blacks, immigrants, especially from Mexico (the biggest such émigré bloc there, with Filipinos being the fourth) and the LGBT community, to serve their political goals.

It was, indeed, ironic that it was a wheeler dealer property magnate born with a silver spoon in his mouth who championed the plight of the American working class, and articulated the view that “globalization” and the technological revolution – espoused by US Presidents since the 1980s, Republican or Democratic – emptied their towns of the factories that had enabled them for decades to live the “American dream.”

A product of a netizen with too much time on his hands
A product of a netizen with too much time on his hands

10Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” sounded idiotic to America’s coastal, cosmopolitan citizens living in states like Washington and California, where tech giants Apple and Microsoft are based, or New York, where the world’s largest banks have their headquarters.

However, that slogan struck a chord among American white workers, who read it as Trump’s vision to restore the era of America’s great industrial backbone with the factory towns that they ran and which made them in the 1950s and 1960s the middle class that the rest of the world envied.

These had been dismantled by globalization, with Trump in the first presidential debate pointing out how the American Carrier firm fired 1,400 workers who lived in its Indianapolis site and moved to Mexico. How could those workers back Hillary, whose husband Bill, and her supporter President Obama, were the biggest proponents of globalization? Why, Obama was even pushing for a new track for globalization called The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which they thought would encourage American factories to move eastward across the ocean to 12 Pacific Rim countries! Would a 55 year-old welder in an American factory be calmed by the promise of being retrained to learn how to make software programs?

Noam Chomsky
It is also ironic that Trump, A wheeler-dealer capitalist who banned Blacks from his property projects to ensure their market value, would partly get his view — or his rhetoric — of America from a Marxist, Noam Chomsky. This was the man, who six years ago told about the death of the American dream, and because of that, warned of the success of a “charismatic figure” who would run for office promising to cure society’s ills: Trump.

We didn’t have a Chomksy in our case, a testament to the total control of Filipino minds by the ruling elite. Our communists have been fossilized in the 1950s and can mouth only the ancient Leninist mantra of the “eventual collapse of capitalism.” Our professional economists all sing about the virtues of globalization that they have even closed their eyes to the blatant violation of the Constitution by an Indonesian magnate who built a conglomerate on telecom and other public utilities — sectors our Charter categorically prohibited foreigners from dominating.

Many Filipinos even believe that President Fidel Ramos (who supervised the military and police accused, wrongly or rightly, of massive human rights violations during Martial Law) was a great President, when it was he who dragged the country into believing globalization would uplift the country’s masses from poverty.

Instead, the past 18 years under globalization policies saw the lowering of our tariffs, so much that the US manufacturers of shampoo and powdered milk that had been here since the 1950s had moved their factories to Indonesia and Vietnam. Such globalization process also saw the rise of foreign monopolists such as the Indonesian Anthoni Salim and Singapore’s Singtel to total dominance of our public utilities, and big business abandoning their manufacturing enterprises such as chip-assembly to go into the lucrative malls and condominiums business. Last May, the Filipino masses revolted to elect somebody whom they saw as having the least link to the economic elite and the political establishment.

The masses felt that Duterte’s distance from the establishment was more important than his vulgar language, his ribald sex jokes, and his disdain for human life. Similarly, the US white working class felt that Trump’s condemnation of globalization to the point of promising to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, was more important than his fondness for groping vaginas, his penchant for lying, his bullying of his rivals, even of his Republican colleagues, his racism and misogyny.

Who can blame the Filipino and American masses? The ruling class, with all their culture and etiquette, have been screwing the masses.

There is one important dimension, though, in which Trump and Duterte differ.

Trump’s rhetoric resonated with the American white working class’ economic aspirations, and provided a way out of it — stop globalization and undertake measures to force American industries to return to the homeland to restore the jobs they had lost.

On the other hand, Duterte got the masses’ support by his promise to kill the vermin of our poor communities – drug lords and pushers, whose shabu our poor has been so vulnerable in getting addicted to because of their need to forget their misery, even for just an hour.

So far, Duterte hasn’t given us an idea how he thinks he can solve poverty in the Philippines. What he and his officials have said is merely the thinking of the past five administrations — reducing corruption and opening up the country to foreign investments will bring us to the Promised Land.

The barrenness of the thinking of his economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia was demonstrated recently when he claimed that it would be good for the country to open media to foreign investments. Will that solve poverty, or even increase employment? Isn’t he aware at all that the media, in almost all countries in the world, limit foreign investments in that sector as this risks giving foreigners control of the very soul of a nation?

Duterte should learn from Trump, who seems to believe that there is something deeply wrong in his nation’s economic policies — in his view, globalization — that needs to be changed. If Trump’s thinking was like Duterte, he would have also claimed that ending the US drug epidemic is the key to growth.

Loida Nicolas defanged?
If there’s one thing going for Duterte with Trump’s victory, he can be sure Filipino-American magnate Loida Nicolas, the shadowy specter he thinks has been conspiring to depose him, won’t be in any position in the American halls of power to lobby against him.

Nicolas is known to have been a long-time supporter, not only of the Democratic Party, but a personal friend of the Clintons, especially Hillary. I remember that during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s trip to the US in 2001, Nicolas hosted a cocktail party at her New York mansion, in which the guest of honor was Hillary.

What’s going for the country is that Trump and Duterte would hit it off, not just because they both like ‘green’ jokes and, as Trump describes it, “locker-room talk.” They would recognize each other as birds of the same feather, outsiders who hate the establishment and maestros in appealing to the masses’ basest instincts. Both also have expressed admiration for the Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Trump wouldn’t care at all about Duterte’s pivot away from the US —he himself wants the US to pivot away from the world.

Trump also wouldn’t care at all about the State Department’s bleeding-heart concerns over allegations of human rights violations by the Duterte regime. He himself has said he has no qualms having US intelligence torture suspected terrorists if that would save American lives.

There is also the property magnate, Jose Antonio, who has been paying a Trump company $2 million a year for the use of his name in his $150 million, 57-story condominium project. Antonio would of course be, using our Filipino term, the effective “tulay” (bridge) between the two presidents. Antonio, even before his Trump Towers had been hobnobbing with Trump given that he has had property projects in Manhattan undertaken and managed by his son, Robbie Antonio.

It seemed prescient for Duterte to have appointed Antonio as his “special envoy for trade and investment” (read: special envoy to Trump) to the US a few days before the elections. However, Duterte, or Antonio, or both were just smart. Antonio actually had also been close to Hillary, introduced to him years ago by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had been the tycoon’s and his wife’s closest friend even before she entered politics. If Hillary had won, he would be the “special envoy” not to Trump but to Clinton.

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Espinosa’s death in jail a blow to Duterte’s credibility and capability

The killing the other day of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was willing to pinpoint powerful personalities who had protected the illegal-drug trade in the last administration, is a major blow to both President Duterte’s credibility and his capability to fight the criminal syndicates.

Espinosa was killed by agents of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Eastern Visayas right inside the PNP’s sub-provincial jail. He was allegedly resisting a search warrant the CIDG wanted to serve — at 4:00 in the morning.

I bet the police would be claiming there were only a few of their men available at that time – the wee hours of the morning. The CIDG claimed that Espinosa refused the search and fought the police so they had no choice but to shoot him dead.

Espinosa was behind bars, and he shot it out with police, maybe with his table or bed mattress as his shield?

The police are taking us for fools. They have become arrogantly mad that because of their boss President Duterte’s popularity, and hundreds of recent incidents of suspects getting killed purportedly because they grabbed their police captors’ guns, that we’d believe them and there wouldn’t be outrage against their nefarious deed.

Espinosa’s alleged affidavit posted on several Facebook accounts.
Espinosa’s alleged affidavit posted on several Facebook accounts.

Well, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who has been very supportive of Duterte, and a police officer all his working life, knowledgeable about these kinds of killings, was quick to condemn it, saying it was a “clear case of extrajudicial killing.”

Why on earth did another inmate, Raul Yap, who had no connection at all to Espinosa, all of sudden decide to fight the CIDG agents too, and therefore, got shot to death, too?

“Obviously to silence a witness,” Lacson very logically argued. And as the police always claims after every deadly shoot-out with hundreds of illegal-drug suspects in the past few months, they found where Espinosa lay a .38 pistol with live ammunition, and of course, the ubiquitous sachet of shabu.

C’mon guys, this didn’t’ happen in some dark alley or slum, but in sub-provincial jail, for chrissake! Couldn’t they have waited until Espinosa, perhaps, ran out of bullets, or got too sleepy or hungry for breakfast and just surrendered?

Espinosa was the first drug lord Duterte named when he launched his war against illegal drugs. Duterte in August even announced that he gave Espinosa 24 hours to surrender. His home was later raided, and six of his bodyguards were killed in August.

PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa himself dealt with Espinosa, even having him as his “guest” at his official residence called the White House in August, apparently to convince him that he would be given full protection if he revealed his entire drug network. Espinosa, however, for two months was adamant to admit his involvement, claiming that it was his son Kerwin who dealt with illegal drugs.

De la Rosa later announced that Espinosa had spilled the beans on Kerwin, and that he had submitted a list of his son’s protectors and those of the illegal-drug syndicates. Because of his refusal to admit to his own involvement in illegal drugs, however, he was arrested only on October 5 for illegal possession of dangerous drugs and firearms, and jailed in the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City.

PNP officials in September told media that Espinosa had submitted a notebook that contained a list of his son’s protectors. While this had not been made public, media questions directed at Espinosa on one occasion on whether the list contained the name of a former justice secretary and now a senator elicited nods from him. It was an obvious reference to Senator Leila de Lima, although some would argue that it could also apply to Senator Franklin Drilon, who had been for three years President Ramos’ justice secretary.

Yesterday, after the morning papers all had Espinosa’s killing as their banner-headlines, a photo of the first page of Espinosa’s alleged affidavit was posted on several Facebook accounts, among them by a pro-Duterte dutertenews.com. This had a list of people his alleged affidavit claimed were his son Kerwin’s protectors. Neither the PNP nor the Department of Justice, which had its “received” stamp on the alleged affidavit, has confirmed the authenticity of the affidavit.

First on the list was Senator Leila de Lima — who was shown in subsequent Facebook posts posing with Kerwin and his wife in Baguio City several years back. Included in the list were several police and Army generals, three local government leaders including a governor, and even three media men, including one from the Philippine Star.

The intention of the Facebook posts is obviously to claim that if not de Lima, one or a group of those Espinosa included in his “protectors” list was responsible for his murder.

This episode, though, leads to two contrasting conclusions, important to Duterte’s presidency.

First, Duterte and his main operator, PNP chief de la Rosa, are incapable of protecting a whistleblower, one of whom they convinced to serve as such after much effort, and only over the dead bodies of his six bodyguard.

How can they now convince others to come out and reveal what they know if the authorities could not even protect their prized whistleblower, Espinosa?

Espinosa’s killing could be interpreted as a slap especially on de la Rosa’s face, as it was undertaken when he was in Las Vegas to watch Manny Pacquiao’s boxing championship fight. But then, it’s been an old trick for devious criminals to claim they were out of the country when an evil deed was done.

A second explanation is that, it was Duterte’s own camp that liquidated Espinosa, after he refused to sign the affidavit he had allegedly made, pinning down de Lima and others to the illegal drug trade.

Whichever explanation is correct, Duterte has to come clean, and prove that he has the credibility and capability to lead the nation in its war against illegal drugs. It would be pure hubris for him to think that because of his enormous popularity, this shame on our police force and our justice system will just be forgotten after different headlines appeared they way they did.

Who does he think he is?

A worried Espinosa with PNP chief de la Rosa.
A worried Espinosa with PNP chief de la Rosa.

PNP chief dela Rosa, who, in effect, had put Espinosa under his protective wing, soured Manny Pacquiao’s sweet victory yesterday by appearing with an ear-to-ear smile behind the boxer senator right on the ring after his victory — as if nothing of importance under his responsibility had occurred in Manila.

He should have rushed home right after he was informed of Espinosa’s murder, even if only to send the message he would get to the bottom of it.

After a few months being in the limelight, does de la Rosa think he’s now a celebrity or is as rich as political barons Chavit Singson or Rodolfo Farinas that he could burn money to watch Pacquiao’s prize fight in Las Vegas? With his salary and savings as a very honest police official, could he have afforded the plane fare, the Las Vegas hotel, and the ringside tickets for the fight? If not, who or what group paid for it? I hope he didn’t spend the PNP’s unaudited intelligence fund.

I don’t remember any police official, or any Cabinet member, ever appearing with Pacquiao in his fights. They knew that unlike politicians, who became rich partly through their posts, they’d be validly called to task how they could afford to be there.

It’s gone to his head. Bato thinks he is as popular as Duterte, and can do whatever he wants to do. For the head of our police force, that’s dangerous.

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