MY statement on NO FILTER last week, “that we have mostly the communists to thank for taking down martial law,” drew flak in social media. It got worse when I correctly added, that while it is true that singing can bring down the house, if it is spectacular, that is true only in a nightclub and not with regard to martial law on which singing doesn’t make a dent. Whereas those who fought martial law mano a mano, screaming faces against rifle butts, shouts against bullets, until they got themselves guns and answered bullets with bullets—it is they who defeated martial law. And those were the communists.
Martial law had popular support. It got repeated electoral ratification with no need to doctor the result. The only time Marcos lost was when Ninoy from his prison cell, showered with ordure by the Marcos broadcast media, nonetheless beat Imelda in the Palace when the people of Manila stepped out in the streets in a massive noise barrage that told the world the day before the elections, the vote they would not bother to cast the day after. Or so I put then.
This “electoral” feat—if we want to call it that and that is what we called it—Doy Laurel, his kids and I who were arrested by the cops and jailed for trying to repeat it the next day—yes, this electoral feat would be matched again and only by Ninoy, when he posthumously donated his shattered corpse to be the centerpiece of a funeral march that was reckoned to be bigger than Gandhi’s.
But again, impressive though these sporadic manifestations of fleeting defiance were, just the same it was the communists who paid with their blood for exacting the same toll of blood from the army of martial law—a political dispensation that was firmly ratified by the Supreme Court thereby making it all legal: the detentions and murders, the confiscations of newspapers and the thefts of their assets; and by consolidating the separate powers of government in one person, the Supreme Court exalted the robbery of a nation as “the modernization of its economy.”
It was the communists in Luzon and the Visayas—and it was Nur Misuari’s armed legions in Mindanao until they were defeated—who bled the army until it was so anemic that it would not put up a fight. And martial law is the army or it is nothing.
You could say the army could have put up a fight; but that is a counterfactual statement and therefore illogical because in fact the army did not.
Military-backed government is not weakened by speech especially unpublished speech. Soldiers only get excited when you challenge them with words. No, it was the communists that bled martial law so weak that it fell with a firm push from Cory Aquino.
In 1984 the CIA-financed and highly respected magazine, Commentary published an article by Ross Munro entitled The New Khmer Rouge. Munro convicted martial law of the worst crime in the CIA books and that is the crime of weakness—not brutality but weakness. He described the NPA as the New Khmer Rouge, and like their counterpart in Cambodia, they were on the verge of victory.
It is possible the article was wrong. But no one thought so then. (I thought it was wrong but kept my counsel because that was the sort of political misdiagnosis that served the purpose of freedom.) That article convinced the Americans to abandon Marcos when Cory said flat out to Reagan’s emissary, Philip Habib, that if Marcos was declared the winner she would go on battering the state with mass protests however long it took—and she did not care to whom the country fell. And no, she would not accept to power sharing with Marcos. By then the economy had been declared dead and yet Cory Aquino called for economic sabotage against key sectors of the economy. Whatta girl. She might be described by the erudite as the heir of Caesar: aut Caesar aut nihil—“either Caesar or nothing”—except that Caesar was Cesare and the son of the Borgia Pope.
For their armed resistance, the communists—young and most of them still in school—were rounded up, beaten up in the trucks taking them away, tortured in the cells, electrocuted, glass thermometers were inserted in their penises which were hammered so the glass broke and the crystals made urination an unspeakable ordeal. They were stripped of their skin with razors or beaten to death with a golf club by Rolando Abadilla when he practiced his swing. He never lost his membership in the various golf and country clubs. (And they call that favorite sport of crooks a gentleman’s game.) Meanwhile girls were raped with broken Coke bottles, while doctors at the Veterans Memorial Hospital kept them conscious so they would feel all the agony it was possible to feel until death took mercy on them.
The way to celebrate EDSA is not with singing and dancing on a bright colored stage nor by interviews of those who never saw the inside of a cell. It should be commemorated in utter silence, in the stone cold darkness, lit by a quarter of a million candles to be snuffed out one by one, like lives, as the sun rises on the horizon.
Soldiers of the night, hail; unsung heroes of an amnesiac nation; hail to those who went screaming into that last goodnight to which the rest of us will just go gently.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.