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Letters from Davao: Amnesia By Jun Ledesma

THE SEPTEMBER 21st rallies denouncing Marcos decreed Martial Law showed a hodgepodge of recollections from those who played central roles from various ideological persuasions, commentaries, reactions and demonstrations from millennials from vicarious experience drawn from stories from the opposite political poles many of which are laced with distortions, outright lies richly condimented with self-proclaimed heroism and more.

Many of the accounts we hear today are replete with exaggerations and not a few are totally blurred and twisted it can pass of a comedy of errors.

Take the case of canned televised exchanges of Bongbong Marcos and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. The aging JPE challenges televiewers to come up with names of people who were jailed and tortured during the span of martial law regime. The decree was actually signed on 21st but was implemented nationwide only dawn of the 23rd September. However, many political oppositions among them Ninoy Aquino and journalists like Max Soliven were quietly arrested and detained in Camp Crame immediately after the edict was signed. The entire country was totally placed under martial law on the 23rd.

How can Enrile negate all these? All media establishments were closed and what followed were arrests and detentions of many more personalities on the basis of ASSOs (Arrest, Search and Seizure Orders) implemented by the Philippine Constabulary under the PC Chief Fidel Ramos. Eddie, how could you? The leap you did at EDSA does not erase memories.

On a personal note, I was working with RMN-IBC Davao as program and news director when ML was declared. On the side, I was publishing a weekly community paper – the Davao Chronicle to augment a meager salary from the network. Nearly a week after the closure of dxDC and TV13, these stations were allowed to resume broadcast. A new code of conduct was issued. Wear your ID, appear neat and necktie was to be worn. We marched to the PC barracks for finger-printing and to fill up a brief résumé. I got a permit to resume publication of my newspaper. We all thought that was it.

About 15 days later eight personnel from RMN-IBC were given their walking papers on what Henry Canoy said was an order coming from Camp Crame. The eight included me, our Cebuano newscaster Tinong Alfornon (who cannot even swat a fly) and Bonifacio dela Cruz, an innocent radio technician some disc jockeys and announcers. Sir Henry was crying when he handed us our termination papers. Later, my only source of livelihood, the Davao Chronicle, was also padlocked on orders of Hans Menzi, the Chairman of the Philippine Council for Print Media. Seven months later while I was contemplating of going farming or going to the hills I received a telegram directing me to report back to my work at RMN-IBC. But that was short-lived because the famed crony Roberto Benedicto took over IBC and had us replaced.

That tête-à-tête between Bongbong and Enrile revealed that Manong Johnny is suffering from a serious case of amnesia. From out of the blue, former Sen. Nene Pimentel, who was among the Marcos critics who were incarcerated, took time out from his Federalism campaign and chided Enrile saying the chief enforcer of ML is already aging he had forgotten the events that happened when he lorded it all.

Indeed Nene is correct. In Davao three prominent lawyers were placed behind bar not by the Regional PC but by the Regional Unified Command which was directly under PSG head Gen. Fabian Ver. The three, Antonio Arellano (now member of the ConCom), Marcos “Boy” Risonar who was appointed USec of DAR and Larry Ilagan.

But Senator Nene cannot stop giving counsel to the nation by warning them against the imposition of a revolutionary government which he attributed to Marcos. He (conveniently?) forgot that it was Cory Aquino who established a revolutionary government that led to the closure of the Batasan Pambansa and the declaration of all elective positions nationwide vacant. The revgov led to the withdrawal of support of Doy Laurel from Cory and Nene himself became the fulcrum of power shift in local governments as he held the sole mandate to name who was to be appointed as governor, mayor, councilor, barangay captain and barangay councilman.

What happened to Doy and Cory was the first grand deception among the anti-Marcos cabal. Doy was to be the Prime Minister and Cory the President under the then parliamentary government. The modus vivendi was arrived at because Cory, who knew virtually nothing of governance, even asserted that she is only a transition president. But as the popular saying in those days go: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. That defined the era of Marcos and Aquino.

It has been nearly half a century, five Presidents had served and the 6th being Rodrigo R. Duterte. Duterte was the first Tanodbayan investigator assigned in Mindanao before becoming Asst. City Fiscal of Davao. While his mother, Soledad (“Nanay Soleng”) was among the pillars of the “Yellow Friday Movement” in Davao that denounced the murder of Ninoy Aquino and the dictatorship regime, Fiscal Duterte was investigating murders committed by the police, NPAs, military, CAFGUs and later by the creeping drug and kidnapping syndicates. Fiscal Duterte never ever dreamed of becoming mayor and not by any tint of his imagination be President but Destiny placed him there.

The Marcos regime elicits different perspective from different places and peoples and political agenda. Now take it from the Mindanao perspective. While personally I was a victim of martial rule, I cannot negate the fact that it was Marcos who build 95% of the irrigation systems in Mindanao, build and upgraded a network of concrete roads in the region, energized 80% of the island and liberated the farmers from the stranglehold of unscrupulous Chinese rice and corn traders. He built the Maharlika Highway and San Juanico Bridge that bridged in part Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. As the American press would describe it in an essay: The golden era of Marcos regime.

You cannot take it away from President Duterte if he sees some positive gains and absorbs lessons in the Marcos government. Unlike other leaders who abhor the idea of having to continue with programs of his or her predecessors, Duterte pursues these with fervor and enthusiasm.

It is unfortunate that some quarters would rather engage in destructive activism like partnering with criminal and terrorist elements to achieve their goals. We have seen how the political opposition were in cahoots with various destabilizing forces to denounce Duterte who was busy inspecting Ompong-ravaged communities, extending assistance and sympathy to the victims. One day he is in the Ilocos, the next day in the abandoned Itogon Mining area in Benguet and the next day in Naga City in Cebu. He braved the inclement weather, the rigors of travel, the scene of devastation and tragedy while his malefactors, among them Riza Hontivirus, Teddy Casino, Edcel Lagman, detained Leila De Lima, self-detained Antonio Trillanes, (now out on bail) some satanic men in priestly habits, Jose Ma. Sison and Renato Reyes took turns in denouncing President Duterte in local and domestic forums.

Do not forget the atrocities committed by the dictatorship! And yes, we too must not forget the slaughter of prostesting farmers in Plaza Mendiola and those who died in the gates of Hacienda Luisita.

Isn’t it odd that not one group or individual who delivered incendiary speeches in UP and in Luneta ever remembered the manslaughter that happened in Mendiola and Luisita? Amnesia? (Jun Ledesma)


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