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Explosions Of Truth

Explosions Of Truth
Ronald Roy  — August 27, 2008

        When Salvador H. Laurel (Doy) was not yet a senator, we often recreated over Wack Wack’s golf courses and the waters off theLaurelbeach house in Matabungkay, Batangas.  We also passed hours at his billiard and poker tables.  A great guy, for whom I played a pivotal role in his becoming a senator! A close friend, with whom I shared almost identical observations about the bombing on Aug. 21, 1971 of the Liberal Party (LP) miting de avance at Plaza Miranda!  And an ambitious man, who confided to me his obsession for the presidency right after he won a senatorial seat in 1967!  Well, Doy never became President, but he did become Vice President during the Cory years.

       I include him in this narration, given a need to enhance its verity.  A baptismal godfather of one of my sons, Doy told me once what I already knew: “Macoy (President Marcos) has these words about Ninoy Aquino – ‘He has the charisma, wit and glibness to replace me in Malacanang.  But he is a dangerous man with links to the communists, and he cannot wait to return from abroad, thinking I’m terminally ill.  So he continues to ignore intelligence information he would be liquidated on his return.  He’ll surely  be back to lay a claim for Malacanang.  Well, let him write his own destiny!’ ”

       On Doy’s invitation, I was supposed to be at his Mandaluyong residence for his daughter’s (Suzie) despedida de soltera.  But I stayed home instead to watch the TV coverage of the opposition Liberal Party’s (LP) miting de avance.  It was 9:15 already, well over two hours after it started at seven, and Ninoy, the party’s Secretary General who would emcee the event, had not yet arrived!  I phoned Doy. Ninoy was in his house drinking red wine. Doy said, “I don’t know why he’s still here.  He is glued to the television and he appears fidgety. He’s always staring at his watch!”

       Indeed, it was puzzling that Ninoy, the master emcee and showman who was expected to regale his radio listeners and live and TV audiences spewing vitriol at Marcos, preferred to drink red wine at a social event.  He would be, after all, in his element in Plaza Miranda.  At close to 10 pm. Ninoy was on the road to Plaza Miranda when two grenades exploded on the wooden dais bearing his party’s bigwigs.  Miraculously, only two off-stage bystanders were killed.  Senators Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga, the opposition’s top challengers to re-relectionist Marcos, were only seriously injured.  Eventually, Ninoy was arrested as he ignored his friend’s and my father’s advice to leave the country before Martial Law would be declared.

       A political ally of Marcos, my father was tired and pensive one evening.  He had just seen Marcos to persuade him, on the request of Ninoy, to put the latter under house arrest.  The stifling conditions in Ninoy’s cell at FortBonifaciowere getting the better of him.  The poor fellow had been complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties. Dad did visit him in his cell where an attending physician diagnosed him as probably suffering from a congested heart. “I promised Ninoy I’d see the President a second time in his behalf. He’s sending his regards to you, Ronnie.”  Yes, during those trying days, Cory and Ninoy’s mother, Dona Aurora, were often at Dad’s house seeking his advice and assistance, and he was their ever-obliging friend from Tarlac.  But Dad’s second try was a failure like the first.

       Marcos was adamant.  “Manong Joe, please tell him I know what’s best for him and myself.  If I put him under house arrest, a hitman, probably a commie, will get him just to produce a martyr at my expense.  We cannot afford a full-blown communist uprising. For now, he is safe in his cell with doctors monitoring him round the clock.  Please tell him I’ll send him abroad where he can get the best medical attention. Then when he’s fit and well, he can come back for the elections.”  Hmm, I’m not sure if the Apo meant that, because he had always regarded the exceedingly popular Ninoy as a dangerous communist ally, much to the discomforts of the national security as well as that of his own.

       A single shot, treacherously fired at Ninoy’s head while or after he descended from the airplane’s staircase, changed the course of our history — one way or the other. When I saw Nostradamus’ man in white sprawled lifeless on the tarmac, I could not help but recoil at the pitiful sight of his being killed like a rabid dog.

       Behind any explosion lies a truth of such evil as merits termination, or a truth of such patriotism as provokes the enemies of democracy.  The greatest explosions in history – such as those from the French revolution, the American civil war, our own against Spain and America over a century ago, and the atomic holocaust overJapan, and many more – have charted history’s course to bring about the present scattered threats to world peace.  The explosions at Plaza Miranda and the Manila International Airport were surely related, especially as we consider the significant irony of their occurrences exactly 12 years apart to the day – Aug. 21, 1971 and Aug. 21, 1983.  To this day, people debate over the Ninoy-Macoy rivalry.  To those who hold Ninoy was a selfless and willing martyr, Marcos was a curse.  To those who remember Marcos as an anti-communist hero, Ninoy was an ambitious communist heel.

       Between the two, Marcos was the more brilliant, the more scholarly and by far the greater achiever in the public service.  And I agree with some political analysts that the Americans did him in because he had grown too big for his breeches.  No, he wasn’t toeing their line anymore. At the same time, I prefer to think Ninoy clutched his rosary in the plane as an act of contrition and an affirmation that the Filipino was worth dying for. 

       I think we should remember both men from unifying perspectives, in pretty much the same manner we honor Aguinaldo and Bonifacio.  This way, we can draw their noblest ideals and apply them in our search for truths.  Some truths lie behind the current explosions overMindanao.  In the search for them, I’m glad, for once, to stand on the same side with the greatest liar of all time.

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