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The Kitchen Knife

The Kitchen Knife
Ronald Roy — 2013 May 14

Let’s take a respite from the lingering post-election tensions by revisiting election year 1965. Contending then were the Liberal Party’s candidate for president, re-electionist Diosdado Macapagal, and Sen. Gerardo Roxas, the father of today’s DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas, for vice president, as against the Nacionalista Party’s tandem of Senate President Ferdinand E. Marcos for president and Fernando Lopez for vice president.
It was a smashing landslide victory for the Nacionalistas that year. Marcos posted a huge lead on the first day of counting, then progressively augmented it by leaps and bounds as the days wore on. When he finally reached the official count that had him statistically unreachable, his running mate had Roxas eating his dust as both dashed towards the finish line.
But then, Roxas needed a miracle to surge past the dust, with vote-rich Cotabato province yet to fly its ballot boxes to Manila. The province’s vote would clinch a resounding win for Lopez.
Convened at Sen. Jose J. Roy’s New Manila residence were Marcos and his top strategists who had confirmed an intelligence report that the Liberals’ reputed head of the dirty tricks department, DND Sec. Macario Peralta, would be flying to Cotabato to dump manufactured ballots to enable Roxas to pull off that miracle. [ Peralta was then widely remembered as the below-the-belt mastermind behind the power outage that had prevented the premier showing of “Iginuhit ng Tadhana”, the story of Marcos’ fateful rise to political prominence ].
A worried Marcos gazed out the dining room’s window and, his hand superstitiously rested on a grenade fragment embedded in his shoulder — an act he was wont to do whenever pondering over conundrums — asked his “manong Joe” (Roy) to fly to Cotabato in order to request the latter’s close friend, LP Cotabato Governor Salipada Pendatun, to stop Peralta from carrying out his unlawful mission.
In an hour, Roy, Roquito Ablan, and a Visayan businessman named David Ghent were at the Manila Domestic Airport taking off on board a chartered plane. My father had opted not to take me along.
Within minutes after the aircraft touched ground at the Cotabato airport, the three were having a chat with Pendatun in the latter’s mansion. But the governor was resistant to their entreaties. He said he was “powerless to interfere with the Defense Secretary’s functions.”
Dejected, they left the mansion and contacted leading members of the Ilocano community for a bull session. They would certainly be glad to listen to Roy, their favorite “senator-son”. [ Incidentally, my father placed first in Cotabato in the only two senatorial elections he participated in. ] After an hour, the three returned to the airport with a contingent of 24 able-bodied Ilocano compatriots. It was 2:30 in the morning.
Peralta’s plane landed, circled around, then parked on the tarmac. Roy and Ablan walked towards the plane as Peralta and a military aide descended the stairs. It was with awkward civility that the four shook hands exchanging greetings in Ilocano.
When Peralta denied the aircraft was carrying boxes of fake ballots, Roy’s retort was straight to the point: “It’s useless to argue with you, Mac. I’ll tell you what: Roquito and I will now leave the tarmac. Then you’ll have two minutes to re-start the engine and fly that plane out of sight. If you refuse, we will blow it up!”
Peralta froze, then slowly smirked with mock panache. After waving a hand at a shadowed edge of the tarmac some 50 yards away, Roy then walked away, followed closely behind by Ablan.
Two parallel flanks of rifle-bearing figures then stepped onto the dimly lighted portion of the tarmac. With the front flank in kneeling position, the riflemen froze their aim at the plane as Ghent held his hand high, as if poised to execute a quick drop that would give the order to fire.
Peralta knew that only a moron would force the issue at hand, and he was no moron. He hurriedly re-entered the aircraft with his aide, and the aircraft was gone within a minute.
What Peralta and his party didn’t know was that the rifles were wooden sticks wrapped in newspaper sheets! Vintage Roquito Ablan brinkmanship!
The foregoing story is not intended to cast aspersions on the late Gerry Roxas, who in fact graciously conceded to Lopez a few days after Peralta flew back to Manila. Likewise, the triumphant Nacionalistas of 1965 may be remembered for having magnanimously hushed down this bit of electoral high drama.
However, apart from the comic relief the story gives to assuage prevailing stresses, the 48 year old Cotabato airport incident may be appreciated by those wondering if Peralta would have succeeded with the aid of today’s PCOS machines.
Hmmm… who knows if PCOS machines might have been what the Liberals needed then for a landslide, including a win for Diosdado Macapagal who actually lost in his re-election bid. Since we’re at it, were those machines manipulated in this year’s elections in a way that did not reflect the electoral will?
Digital machines are wonderful inventions, as they make for quick transmissions of election returns and accurate counts. But they become evil instruments, whenever placed in the wrong hands. Witness to this great misfortune is the series of global heists where countless millions of dollars are lost with nary a forewarning as to where and when they will occur.
It blows the mind that a foreign country in this digital age can control our elections, nay, our democracy. Do we then ban these PCOS machines? Heck, do we ban the kitchen knife just because it has featured in countless murders?!
ADDENDUM: I voted for Ejercito, Legarda, Honasan, Pimentel, Escudero, Poe, Gordon, Hontiveros, Casino, Hagedorn, Maceda, and Mitos Magsaysay. Risa and Casino lost because of the “commie” tag, and that’s a pity because although they are leftists, they are not communists.

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