Editorial That Never Was

by Juan L. Mercado


The  dog-eared papers, on our computer,  dealt with Ferdinand Marcos padlocking the press. This September is the 40th anniversary when Marcos imposed batas militar in 1972.

One  is an “Asso”  or  arrest-and-seizure order.  Signed by Defense Minister Juan Ponce, raiding teams used  them  to arrest 22 Manila-based journalist.  “Here is mine,” we told Associated Press Carl Zimmerman who’d  hitched a ride to Camp Crame. “Foreign correspondent ?”,  snapped the colonel who snatched the Asso: “You’re not  to see these.”

“Assos” were served on Free Press’ Teodoro Locsin, Napoleon G. Rama, Daily Mirror Armando Doronila and others.  We’d  fractured  something called “Proclamation 1081”.

Our file has letters of  protest.  Jaime Zobel de Ayala,  then  ambassador to  London received one from Financial Times editor JDF Jones.  “I express concern at  detention by your  government of our correspondent,  Mr.  juanlmercado.” A cable from the Bulletin in Sydney  says. “Our editor  Donald  Horne cabled President Marcos today requesting  release…”

“Senator (Daniel) Inouye interceded with the Philippine Embassy in Washington”, Honolulu Star Bulletin editor A.A. Smyster wrote.  Associated Press Managing editors and other US  groups adopted resolutions on behalf of imprisoned journalists…”  late cartoonist “Corky” (Trinidad) sparked these protests.

Memory anchors  three essential elements  for healing in a post-dictatorial regime, Inquirer Randy David writes  “Truth, justice and reparation… Today’s young people hardly have an idea of what happened during 14 years of  dictatorship”. The idea of establishing is  “museum of memories”  is being floated.

Consider the Marcos Museum in Ilocos Norte.  It houses the mausoleum that displays embalmed remains of  Marcos, ala Lenin and Mao. Memorabilia  include books, the bed he was born in, even questioned  World War II  medals.

Marcos  medals were bogus, asserted a New York Times series, by Syemour Hersh in 1986.  TheTimes used US National Archives research done by  University of  South Wales  professor Alfred McCoy (His book  ”Closer Than Brothers”, compares  1940 Philippine Military Academy graduates with those of Class 1972 who provided “the mailed fist for martial law: Ping Lacson, Gringo Honasan et al. )    

Services given by Marcos and 23 others, to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1945, were “of limited military value,” Times reports  by Jeff Gerth and Joel Brminkley added. “At no time did the Army recognize that any unit, designating itself as Maharlika, ever existed as a guerrilla force in the years of Japanese occupation…”

Yet, Marcos remains a hero to  some. “Ilocos Norte has been an entire republic unto itself history-wise,”  Columnist Conrad de Quiros notes. Their version of history differs from the rest of the country. Does that upset anybody?

In 2007, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines  opened a Martial Law Memorial Wall  in Quezon City.  A year earlier,  Manila inaugurated its “Memorial Wall of the Victims of Martial law”.  Etched into the black marble are names of over 800 dictatorship victims, including Jose Diokno, student activist  Lean Alejandro.  “I die just when I see the dawn break”,  from Jose Rizal’s  poem Mi Ultimo Adios, is carved into the  plaque.

What  would go into a “Museum of Memories?”  Among other items, Senator Benigno Aquino prison diaries.  When coup rebels were poised to overrun Malacanang, in 1989,  President Corazon Aquino entrusted the Aquino diaries to Benedictine Rector Bernardo Perez.

Include the “Marcos  Diaries.”  People Power crowds discovered them in cardboard boxes, stashed  in an obscure Malacanang corner.  Ambeth  Ocampo published, in his Inquirer column, excerpts, focusing on  days that ushered in rule-by-bayonet. “The diaries  are a primary source for the historian”.

Handwritten in English, on Palace stationery, penmanship unusually neat, Marcos  diaries offer a “compelling story of a complex man who sought to document  his place among the world’s great leaders “, writes Los AngelesTimes correspondent William C. Rempel in his book: “Delusions of a Dictator”.

Instead,  they show “a deceiver who lied to his allies, to his nation, his wife, and, at times, even to his own diary.  It documents fears and fantasies that drove a paranoid, messianic leader to depths of deceit  and to the heights of authoritarian power. “

Marcos Diaries provide an answer for a puzzle that bugged journalists over:  a second pooled editorial that never was.

The first-ever pooled editorial  here  skewered “Compartmentalized Justice” of  a  decaying “New Society”.  Upon request of Chino Roces, Manila Times Alfredo Roces wrote the draft.  All dailies ran it on the same day.  President Ferdinand Marcos went ballistic.

Malacañang  phone calls  went to publishers with less grit.  When a follow-up pooled editorial was proposed, the now defunct Evening News hastily bailed out, Viewpoint recalls.  Others waffled. Thus, a second pooled editorial never materialized. Why?

In his  January  12, 1971 diary entry , Marcos wrote:  Evening News publisher  “Freddie Elizalde showed me a copy of an editorial which Chino Roces wanted to be pooled by all the newspapers castigating me and asking for my resignation  and that of the cabinet.   For good measure the editorial included the Vice-President. It was opposed by Freddie and (Philippine Herald) Sebastian Ugarte. What a ridiculous spectacle Chino Roces is making of himself.”

“Journalists must remind people of what they prefer to forget” , columnist Simeon Dumdum wrote in “Speak Memory.” Battling amnesia, in the end, is “the struggle of man against tyranny.”

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