CHICAGO (JGL) – The claim by detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in his memoir, Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir (2012) that the ambush of his car on Sept. 22, 1972 as the last straw that broke the camel’s back and forced President Marcos to declare martial law was hogwash.
The planning of martial law was months in the making, long before Enrile’s staged ambush on the eve of the implementation of martial law. Although Marcos dated Proclamation 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972, his forces implemented it only two days later, or a day after the ambush, 42 years ago on Sept. 23.
I was covering a movie press conference at that time, when someone, whom I did not know from Adam, tapped my shoulder and told me “Garra” (my byline at that time in my entertainment stories was “J. Garra Lariosa” in the Pilipino Star and Daily Star tabloids), “can I talk to you?
He introduced himself to me as Romy Arceo. I later learned he was Atty. Romeo Arceo, an official of Manila City Hall. Arceo said, “months from now, I am going to be the entertainment editor of the Philippine Daily Express, and I am going to appoint you as my assistant entertainment editor.”
Since he was a complete a stranger to me, why would I trade a secure two-year-old job for a months-to-be publication? I humbly turned down Arceo’s mouth-watering offer and forgot all about it.
STAR DID NOT LEAVE THE BUILDING
When martial law was proclaimed and my Pilipino/Daily Star offices building, which now houses the current daily, Philippine Star, at Port Area, Manila, was padlocked by martial law soldiers, it was only then that it dawned on me that Arceo’s entreaties to me months before had just happened.
Because I was so engrossed in my job interviewing the likes of Joseph Estrada, Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Susan Roces, etc., I did not notice that right behind our Star offices building by Bonifacio Drive was a beehive of soon-to-be newspaper office, which had been churning out dry run newspaper copies for weeks and maybe months but with guarded and limited circulation.
It turned out to be the Philippine Daily Express, which would become the only newspaper in town when martial law was proclaimed! I scratched my head, “Who would have thought about it?”
Aside from the Pilipino/Daily Star, the other daily publications, which were shut down were the hard-hitting Manila Times and its sister publications Daily Mirror and Taliba; the Manila Daily Bulletin, the Manila Chronicle, the Philippines Herald, the Elizalde publications’ (our competition) The Philippine Sun and the Evening News and others, including radio and television stations.
When I tried to reach back to Arceo and asked him if his offer for me as assistant entertainment editor was still available, he said, “No more. I gave it to my assistant, Ms. Connie Eugenio.”
The loss of my Star job was so traumatic for me. And it became even more traumatic when I was detained at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City although my articles were confined to show business.
When I asked my jailers, “Why me?” They told me it should prevent me from writing bad things about the Marcos government.
When I pleaded that I was no longer in a position to write anything bad about the government because my publication was closed, they told me they were willing to set me free if I signed a waiver that I would not write anything bad about the government.
That was the only time that they released me when they forced me to sign that piece of paper. I wonder what they had done with it?
Jobless, I re-enrolled at Lyceum of the Philippines to pursue a journalism program (called “course,” in the Philippine lingo) although I really did not know if martial law would ever be lifted.
While in school, I contributed entertainment stories to Philippine Daily Express. Because some of the staff of the Express were my colleagues from the Star, I could submit my contributions and have them typeset inside the Express’ cozy and air-conditioned typesetting section.
In school, we had a mock newspaper project. I tried to have some of my school project typeset at dawn at the Express when every one must be very sleepy. But, alas, the typesetting supervisor, my former colleague in the Star, Larry Agcaoili, was so wide-awake that he got hold of my typesetting submissions, which were subversive in nature.
Larry reported my submissions to Enrique “Pocholo” Romualdez, then, the Express’ Executive Editor, who informed me that the Express would no longer use my contributions. “It’s too bad,” Pocholo told me, “I was considering you to join the Express staff. You can now go down and collect your last (contribution’s) paycheck.”
I felt bad but I did not regret what I did because I was just expressing my frustrations over the martial law government. It may at the expense of the Express but the Express was the instrument of martial law that caused the loss of my Star job. The Express was meant to prolong the grasp of power of Marcos, who was not allowed by the 1935 Constitution to seek a third term in 1973.
Nor would I blame Larry Agcaoili or Pocholo Romualdez for no longer accepting my contributions, which was a source of my income to pay off my tuition fees. They were just doing their jobs. But they propped up the regime.
Because I really loved the “smell” of the hard copy of the newspapers, which are the lifeblood of the print industry, I still gravitated to it and even supported it by hawking the Philippine Daily Express in Makati streets.
Imagine from being a “newsboy” to being news writer to be downgraded as a “newsboy” again? That’s martial law for me. You had to grasp at straws to survive!
Before joining the Pilipino/Daily Star at the age of 19, I was a staff of some community newspapers as Makati Mirror and Makati Trade Times, where I had a baptism of fire as a police reporter. I had befriended some Makati police officers in the process.
At one point, when I was hawking the Daily Express in a Makati street, I think, along Ayala Avenue, a Makati police officer, who recognized me, was trying to buy from me a newspaper. Instead of selling him the Daily Express , I covered my face with the newspaper and I ran away from him like a thief because I did not want to be recognized. I was so ashamed that a newspaper reporter would resort to being a hawker of a newspaper again!
I had already requested the archives of the Philippine National Library, which assured me they have retrieved enough of my news clips of my pre-martial law Pilipino/Daily Star articles as evidence that I was employed with the pre-martial law Pilipino/Daily Star.
“REMOTE INTAKE AREAS” OVERSEAS OR EXTEND BY A YEAR THE DEADLINE?
I will submit the clips to the Human Rights Claims’ Board and make a case that the martial law Marcos government not only violated my human rights but also my labor rights. They violated my human rights when they detained me at Camp Aguinaldo. They violated my labor rights when they closed the Star that resulted in my loss of job and security of tenure to my two-year-old job.
I told my colleagues at the Pilipino/Daily Star and other publications, who similarly suffered job separations, that they have until Nov. 10, 2014 to submit their applications for reparation and/or recognition by accessing this link, http://tinyurl.com/lxtm4vv.
I emailed the Secretariat of the Human Rights Claims Board Chair Lina Sarmiento on Sen. Ninoy Aquino’s August 21 death anniversary to allow overseas Filipino victims of human rights violations to file their applications with Philippine embassies/consulates as “remote intake areas.” And/or extend the deadline for another year. I told the Board the legal notice of the publication of the deadline is not accessible to overseas Filipino human rights victims.
And ignoring my request will just be another form of human rights violations against Filipinos, who were forced by martial law to flee overseas.