Secrets of a Forgotten Keeper

Batas Militar
Photo: Boyet Mijares (left) and his father Primitivo Mijares. Screenshot from the documentary ‘Batas Militar’

Secrets are really meant to be found–a reason why it is often difficult to keep one or many just to yourself. Every man needs to be able to vent out his guilt (or sadistic joy, depending on who’s talking) over his deepest and most vile secrets to a confidant. Even the cold and calculating dictator Ferdinand Marcos needed such a friend whom he could pour his heart and soul into. And that person was Primitivo Mijares.

Mijares was Marcos’s right-hand aide. He was a journalist but he was working closely with Marcos. He was pretty much his executive assistant, ready to answer to the President’s needs as soon as he was summoned. As a columnist for the Manila Chronicle, he had some influence in the and was the regime’s media relations go-to-guy.

In 1975, Mijares defected from the administration and became a key whistle-blower against the regime, testifying to the U.S. Congress about the abuses of the Marcos family during Martial Law. He then detailed all of the secrets he was privy to through his book The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, published on April 27, 1976. One of the most famous entries from the book was the staged ambush of then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile on September 22, 1972, which was what Marcos used justify Proclamation 1081, more popularly known as Martial Law, the next day. Below is as written by Mijares himself:

“Marcos pressed a button in his intercom, and when an ever ready aide responded to say “yes, sir,” he commanded: “Get me Secretary Enrile.” And then with his line to the communications room aide still open, Marcos muttered to himself: “Masyadong mabagal ng mga taong ‘yan Kung kailan pa naman kailangan magmadali. Within few minutes, he determined that his secretary of national defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, had left his office at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo rather early in the day. He was located by Sgt. Arturo Boquiren, agent on duty at the communications room near the President’s Study Room, in the house of a “friend.” Somewhat irritated, Marcos ordered Enrile in the following manner: “Secretary Enrile? Where are you? You have to do it now.. ya, ya, the one we discussed this noon. We cannot postpone it any longer. Another day of delay may be too late.” Continuing his orders obviously after being interrupted with some remarks by Enrile, Marcos went on: “Make it look good. Kailangan seguro ay may masaktan o kung mayroon mapatay ay mas mabuti. (May be it would be better if somebody got hurt or killed). … O hala, sigue, Johnny and be sure the story catches the ‘Big News’ and ‘Newswatch’… and call me as soon as it is over.”– The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda, by Primitivo Mijares, p. 49

Mijares also wrote of how Marcos confirmed his involvement in the death of Ilocos Norte Congressman Julio Nalundasan in 1935, through conversations with his friend Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson, who was also part of Marcos’s defense team for Nalundasan’s murder:

It was on an early morning in later March 1957, hardly had a shocked and grieving nation buried its most beloved of all Presidents, Ramon F. Magsaysay, when Ferdinand E. Marcos paid a visit to Lacson at the latter’s residence on M. Earnshaw Street in Sampaloc, Manila. Marcos then completing his second term as congressman for the second district of Ilocos Norte said he was advised by “Papa Laurel” to propose to Lacson the formation of a “dream presidential ticket” which would have the support of the politically-powerful Laurel clan.

“Yes, padre, I will subordinate myself to you. I will be your vice presidential running mate – on condition, that you will pledge not seek reelection, if our team wins.” Lacson quoted Marcos.

“Oh no, wait a minute Ferdinand, I really would want to serve this country as President one of these days. But if the condition is that you will be my Vice President, forget it. I love life, too, and I want to live a little longer, while serving my people. Don’t ever think that I have forgotten the sharp aim of that man who felled Nalundasan with a single rifle shot. I may hardly have the time to take my oath as President before my own Vice President guns me down with that deadly aim of yours. Oh, no Ferdinand, forget it.”

Padre, puro ka biro, eh. Kalimutan mo na iyan kalokohan natin, nakaraan na iyon.” Marcos cut in.– ibid, p. 234-236

Eight months after publishing the book, Mijares mysteriously disappeared.

The last recorded contact with him was discovered in 2012 when Filipino-American blogger Jason Bruce found an interesting note on a secondhand copy of Mijares’s book that he bought from Amazon.

In 1977, Primitivo’s son, Boyet, received a phone call that his father was still alive. Boyet, then 16 years old and excited to see his father again, told his mom, Judge Priscilla Mijares, and insisted to go and see his father. Unfortunately for the boy, what seemed like hope for a reunion was a mere ruse. Boyet’s body was later found with multiple stab wounds to his body, a bashed skull, mangled genitals, and protruding eyeballs–telltale signs of torture methods that were employed by the military during that time.

To this day, there has been no trace of Primitivo Mijares. His memory lives on through his book, but copies of the book have been lost due to efforts of the administration to buy (or steal) any copies. Very few copies survived (this writer personally had a copy but was lost in a major house move). We hope that there’s enough to keep him from getting completely forgotten./


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