Lonely at the top; on moral stamina

A FRIEND who attended last weekend’s Philippine Military Academy (PMA) rites where Digong spoke, found it weird that he would talk on a solemn occasion about his two wives (violative of the laws of God and man here) and his nostalgia for the quiet life qua mayor.

As a fellow septuagenarian (I am 77, he, 71), I discern a sense of loneliness, particularly at the top. And since the cold spell began, I have been under the weather. I have had dizzy spells since last week. One of them came last Saturday, when I had to get up early to catch the tailend of the Luneta Walk for Life activity. I got there at past six for the 4 a.m. to 7 a. m. affair, but could not even get off my vehicle. Dizzy. I had to leave at 7:45 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. class at San Beda’s law grad school which I handle every few weeks.

The night before I spoke at an Arellano Law (on Taft Ave.) symposium where I was told that some of the attendees planned to be at the People Power Monument tomorrow. Same thing I hear all over, like in the launch last Tuesday of an Ateneo re-issue of Tibo Mijares’ Conjugal Dictatorship at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, where desaparecido Tibo belongs. Along with Digong’s Ma who I marched with in Davao, where he himself never figured in any anti-dictatorship activity I came to know of.

It is to Digong’s credit that he has let us deplorable whiners alone, to air our grievances.

No harassment. Also, looking back, I find myself thanking him for his moving Macoy’s remains, furtively and disingenuously, to the Libingan, spawning questions from, and movements by, millennials.

Anyway, what follows are:

My EDSA war stories of 1986
February 22
Lunch with Philip Kaplan, the US charged’ affaires, at the US Ambassador’s Forbes residence. Philip Habib (Reagan’s special envoy) had just flown home. I was spokesman of Prez-elect Cory Aquino, who had told Habib, “I won, and I will take power.” Nyet to power-sharing which Habib suggested, on Reagan’s instructions.

I went to the Cojuangco Bldg., our HQ. Eggie Apostol had called, worried for Manong Johnny, et al.(FVR was to follow later).

Teddy Benigno called to tell me about the unexpected event unfolding at EDSA (Camp Aguinaldo).

Cory was in Cebu. Media in Manila and from abroad asked me: “What’s going on?” Was it what the Reform the Armed Forces Movement told us the year before? That night, my wife, Dulce, and I drove around the EDSA camps. We saw little activity. We heard Manongs JPE and FVR, and later, Cardinal Sin and Butz Aquino. I did not get in, on the advice that the Cory spokesman’s presence could be mischaracterized. The appeal for help over Radio Veritas sounded genuine enough. Roy Golez and Justice Alampay had their electrifying defection announcements. I called Cebu. Miguel Perez Rubio said: all hands were safe.

February 23
We went to Sunday Mass early and shopped for the possible long haul ahead. I went back to HQ. Everyone I asked—Joker Arroyo, Raul Contreras, Ed Zialcita, et al—said: “Thou shalt not go to EDSA.”

“Possible zarzuela: you-never-know. Just remain at HQ as Cory, Jr. and not risk compromising her.”

Later, I could stand it no longer. Cory had earlier planed back to Manila. I prevailed on Joker, to let me accompany him to EDSA. So off we went, along with my Dulce, and his Fely Aquino, to Camp Crame. Butz was dozing off in a VW along EDSA. Mario Raymundo, my Pasig townsman, had the mic at the camp gate. Gen. Ed Ermita told me the Cory-Doy civilian component should move in. Power abhors a vacuum. Towards dusk, the tanks and APCs turned around, to the relief of the cheering throng. I saw Rod Reyes at eventide; he said, for Marcos, it was all over, echoed by foreign correspondents. Providence and the People had rescued the doomed putschists from being barbecued.

June Keithley was a terrific bandida on Radyo Bandido. There was a very early morning cheering at the Cojuangco Bldg. The confetti canyons of Makati were agog at word that the Marcoses had fled, a false alarm, but, there was no stopping the tide of history. I joined Cory about mid-morning in the Wack Wack residence of a sister of hers. Over the objections of her security, Cory stubbornly insisted on speaking at EDSA, POEA Bldg., and had her way. Dulce joined Sid Hildawa in speaking there that afternoon.

Led by Cory and Doy, we met at his Mandaluyong pad, with Sen. Tanny Tañada, Ka Celing Munoz Palma (a Hall was named after her in QC last Saturday), Batasan members, et al. We later moved to the home of Speaker Pepito Laurel nearby. By then, Channel 4 was ours. I drafted Proclamation 1, aided by Neptali Gonzales, Raul Gonzalez and Nick Jacob. I helped prepare EO No. 1. I also typed in a rinky-dink typewriter the unconventional Cory-Doy oaths of office, aided by Louie Villafuerte. (He earlier suggested to arm ourselves, as Marcos was capable of “one last act of madness.”) The installation was supposed to take place that evening at Club Filipino.

I had helped Mel Lopez and Monching Mitra ask Club Filipino management whether it would be willing to host the perilous affair. Everybody was gung-ho. The directors were all at EDSA, led by Dr. Ramon Suter, the Club prez, who said, through Marquitos Roces, “by all means, go ahead.” I talked with Remedios Morco, the operations manager, to tell her that Cory might hold office there. Sure, she would give up her own office for her. Someone called to say the Club would be bombed: “Make our day, baby,” we said. The personnel slept at the Club to be around for the planned inauguration early the next day.

When the idea of a February 24 oathtaking was junked, due to differences on venue—the military wanted it in a camp, but Cory insisted on a civilian facility—I went back to the Club to face the throng expecting to see Cory and Doy that night. As Cory Jr., I underwhelmed them. Some groused that they should have been consulted. But, no time. The event had assumed a life of its own. I didn’t tell the throng the reason for the cancellation (the venue debate).

Back at Wack Wack, I had a meeting with Cory, Uncle Jovy Salonga, Jimmy Ongpin and Teddyboy Locsin. We picked the first Cabinet members. I went back to Doy’s residence. MP Lito Puyat kindly lent me his driver and car. I went back to HQ. And then home to watch the pathetic Marcoses on TV. Unhinged, Macoy branded me (and one Ernie Salandanan) a Commie, seen raising a red flag in Laguna, ha, ha.

February 25
Inauguration Day at Club. Cory had resisted the idea that the oathtaking be held in a military camp. Manongs Johnny and Eddie showed up flashing the Laban sign and gamely sang Bayan Ko. The speech Teddyboy drafted the night before for Cory was missing; he rushed a new one along the lines approved and refined by her the night previous. We had lunch at Ruby Borja’s Takayama Resto nearby. We saw on TV the Marcos rites in Malacañang, which were cut off.

That afternoon, the new Prez, at Wack Wack, named Joker executive secretary and me, her spokesman, still. Joker slumped in a chair. I looked down at my shoes a looooong time. We got a lecture on public service. Had there been a transition period, Joker and I could have escaped. We had not planned to join government. But, it was no time to say No.

We “cracked” a code. Marcoses leaving! Steve Psinakis called from California to confirm they would be flown out. On TV Sec. George Shultz confirmed what the American envoy earlier relayed to Cory. Bye-bye.

As I had predicted in my presscons, there would be dancing in the streets by those asking what they could do for the country, ready to put themselves where their mouths were. That EDSA Spirit we want back. Sadly, the People who Powered, asking what they could do for the country, not long thereafter, asked what the country could do for them.

That Evil Spirit we want exorcised. Forever. But our all too Brief Shining Moment lasted only till late 1987, in my view.

And now we have as Prez one who did not take part in EDSA ‘86, to my knowledge. May we not lose our moral stamina, the Tigulangs among us, now asked by millennials what happened in those four days of February when we shocked and awed the world. Jorge Santayana said, those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat it and that a nation without a memory is a nation of mad men. And as the ancients would say, those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Queem deus vult perdere prius dementat. Mad, sad and lonely. At the top.

The President’s oath is to do justice to everyone. But the way he is personally throwing everything at Senator Leila, including the kitchen sink, seems to loom as the Mistrial of the Millennium. Given what all-powerful Digong has been recklessly saying against Leila, he has kept dishonoring his vow to do justice to every man. So does the justice secretary, who also sadly misspeaks. And the SolGen. They are joined by the PNP chief who says he is ready to be her custodian. Ang dadaldal. The Prez is not in the business of prejudging. And we cannot have a Secretary of Injustice. Or an over-eager bridegroom for a SolGen. Or a clown for PNP chief.

Yes, from where I sit, I discern or theorize the making of a Mistrial, warranting a nullification of what the administration has done to Lei. The charges she now faces should all be dismissed so that Never Again will we have a Prez who Prejudges and preempts the criminal justice system.

Digong is now the subject of SPO3 Arturo Lascañas, who may have flipped, but not flopped. Now the administration dismisses the poignant recantation of someone with intimations of mortality and it wants a probe, not of murders, but of perjury.
For crying out loud!/Rene Saguisag


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