OPINION: Marcos was still healthy for New York indictment

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at May 18 2019 01:38 AM

January 14 1989, mere days after Meldy’s soiree for the Manila visitors and just four days after that legal strategizing conference of Ferdie with his American lawyers, Dr. Robert Collins came calling.  That visit was “primarily for the purpose of determining if there are neurological diseases or conditions which would contraindicate prolonged travel between Honolulu and New York City.”  A virtual repeat of Dr. Francis Weld’s  examination.

Such purpose may likewise have been an element to the interest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation  over the Marcos affair and its seeming implications for American law. Knowledge of  nefarious Marcos activities had apparently come  to the knowledge of the FBI, after all,  it was community  common talk.

This mutual interest with the Philippines was the basis of my developing cooperative relations with America’s principal investigative arm. The assigned FBI agents were John Fulks and Hank Orzynski. A useful example of this cooperation was the debriefing breakfast with Atty. Eliseo Alampay which I arranged for the morning after the visiting lawyers’ cocktails-dinner reception cum lively banter with the ex-President, inside his sickroom.  

Ely Alampay recounted to Hank and John exactly what  his observations were, as recounted in last week’s episode.   

The FBI was a seeking confirmation supporting further the earlier finding that Marcos could indeed  travel to New York without ill-effects.  Or debunk the notion, if the basis for suspicions were untrue.   The FBI was keen on to the prevailing suspicion that  Marcos was just malingering purposely to evade Judge Keenan. The October 31 arraignment was rescheduled because of Dr. Francis Weld’s medical examination  which yielded his “affective” and “factitious” conclusions. And then loomed Dr. Collins’ visit.

It must have been because of known activities, behavior and pronouncements of the deposed dictator, a guest-in-exile enjoying official sanctuary, that led to the official cognizance by the FBI’s intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities. All the time that Marcos was claiming his ailment was sufficient justification for not appearing in New York for his racketeering arraignment, another serious infraction of  American law was developing within range of the FBI’s radar.

The reason for this case build-up? The sick ousted ex-President was caught raising funds, plotting  and mounting the violent “overthrow of the duly elected government of the Republic of the Philippines.”  And, “…..United States soil is being used to foment an invasion.” All these from his sickroom while maneuvering to evade his day in court! Incredible  but real!

There is an old American Law, almost as old as the United States. The Neutrality Act of 1794. It states  that “If any person shall within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States begin or set on foot or provide or prepare the means for any military expedition or enterprise ….. against the territory or dominions of any foreign prince or state of whom the United States was at peace, that person would be guilty of a misdemeanour.” The law has been amended and updated as circumstances demanded.  It remains in force. The law prohibits “individuals in the US from mounting military enterprise or expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.”

Being a smart lawyer, Marcos should have known all these.  He is that “person” and that “nation” is the one that just booted him out.

A US Congressional Sub-Committee whose hearing was about the ex-dictator’s Hawaiian exile, had an official comment: “The President of the United States generously and properly extended sanctuary to former President Marcos last year when Mrs. Aquino rode the tide of ‘people power’ into the Philippine Presidency.  However, it is one thing to enjoy sanctuary  and still another to abuse that privilege by using United States territory as safe haven for the plotting of illegal forays against a duly recognized government of a close friend and ally.”

(I promise to dwell upon this Congressional event at a future date. I believe that such a relation is relevant to the history of  Marcos which will be beyond guile and ken of Marcos mercenary revisionists.)

The supposed brilliant lawyer that Marcos was, as Marcos himself claimed to be, may have been unaware of the US Neutrality Law. Beyond the nuances of a very rarely applied law, the more common commentary was that the deposed dictator simply displayed bad manners.  A guest completely oblivious of a generous host’s  courtesies and sensibilities.

Had Marcos lived longer, surviving what I will eventually describe as “self-induced” “medical brinkmanship,” Ferdinand E. Marcos  not only would have been able to escape conviction for racketeering, he would also  have been found guilty  for ‘misdemeanour’ under the US Neutrality Law.

Speaking of his self-avowed prowess as a lawyer, I recall that in his ghostwritten  auto-biography, masquerading for awhile as  biography (written by his personally hired writer,  Hartzell Spence)  titled “For Every Victory a Tear  -  Marcos of the Philippines”  1964 / McGraw-Hill,  he claimed:  “Before he was thirty-five,  he was acknowledged to be the cleverest trial  lawyer in the Philippine Republic.”

Had Marcos lived longer, he would also have been meted a well-justified disbarment judgement.  Not only was he already an ousted and deposed President, he would have been well-deservedly a  ‘defrocked,’  de-licensed lawyer. Disbarred!  His death expunged “Administrative  Case No. 3003” (Martiniano P. Vivo vs. Ferdinand E. Marcos) which the Supreme Court, En Banc, resolved “to require the respondent to comment  thereon,” which Marcos failed to obey.  But I am digressing.  Let me go back to “practicing medicine without a license.”

 Marcos regarded the visit of yet another doctor  as subjecting him “once more to the humiliation…..that the prosecution in the New York case did not believe his claims of illness.”

Here are some quotes from Dr. Collins’  5-page  report on  “Neurological Consultation: Ferdinand Marcos, Honolulu, Hawaii.”:

Aside from  access to all  previous medical records,  Dr. Collins also  “interviewed three  Mr. Marcos physicians:  Dr. Juanita Zagala, personal physician to Mr. Marcos;  Dr. Azucena Ignazio, Internist Consultant; and Dr. Calvin Wong, Cardiologist Consultant.”  Also present was Mr. Robert Bunzel, Esq., legal counsel for Mr. Marcos.  It is noteworthy that before enumerating the relevant issues that he  examined, Dr. Collins states,  in reference to  “flare up of asthmatic bronchitis…..appearance of increased cough,  some production of white thick sputum and wheezing. There has been no fever”:    “The physicians stated that this condition is improving, a judgement shared by Mr. Marcos with me during interview.”

“The interview and examination of Mr. Marcos was conducted in his bedroom…….He was found to be laying quietly in his bed, propped-up on three pillows, receiving oxygen through nasal cannula, and attached to a cardiac monitor.”  (N.B. a description quite different from observations inside the same room by visiting Manila lawyers a few days earlier.) “I found Mr. Marcos to be awake, attentive, cooperative, humorous and increasingly animated as the examination proceeded. He initially had difficulty speaking for reasons of a dry mouth, but this was overcome by being allowed to moisten his lips and tongue….”

“Mr. Marcos is able to read fine print with each eye independently, and his visual fields are full.”

“ His memory and mental functions were examined……I detected no abnormality in cognition, memory, language or emotion during this conversation.”

With reference to “Head and Neck”:  “no abnormalities  of sensation in the cervical or subcipital area on either side.”

With reference to ‘neuropathy’ and ‘myopathy’ (also examined by Dr. Weld): “….there has been no progression in the peripheral neuropathy over the past several years” and “It is still confined to the lower extremities and still of mild degree,”   “stable,”  “stable,” respectively.

Of the “Cough Headache,” subject of the December 1988 hospitalizations, “I conclude ‘cough headache’  is no longer a problem.”

And then came the unwanted, dreaded “Conclusion.”

The verdict: "Mr. Marcos neurological conditions are mild, chronic and stable.  In particular, I do not find any neurological contraindications to prolonged travel such as between Honolulu to New York.”

Foiled once more! The Federal Court of New York and Judge Keenan beckoned.  What to do? What to do next, the Marcos mind presumably racing. What conjurements might he wishfully brew anew to fend off destiny? The re-set arraignment was four days away.  January 19!   

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.