Upon receiving the medical verdict of Dr. Robert Collins that the prevailing condition of his health does not warrant, again, absenting himself from the already re-set schedule of his appearance before Judge Keenan in New York City, all of Marcos’ plotted legal maneuvers were rendered unable to evade the inevitable. That is the inevitability of his day in court. His most dreaded appointment with destiny, his indictment for a quarter-billion dollar racketeering charge, a mere four days away.
For twenty years, here was the leader-dictator of a country he had ruthlessly ruled and mercilessly pillaged, now a potential felon already exposed to the verdict of public opinion and awaiting the confirming gallows of history! It must have been nerve wracking and emotionally painful but not to the point of mindlessness for a known master schemer of political tactics!
The devilishly brilliant mind of Ferdinand E. Marcos must have known by that same afternoon that the American judicial system no longer afforded him wiggle room to vindicate himself, despite repeated rhetoric to the contrary.
My skeptical mind and precisely because of the verifiedly unimpeachable information I was to acquire led me to conclude that only a resort to a risky gamble is now left available to a mind that might have already been disturbed and frustrated. Ferdie has not been accustomed to not being in control! No more wiggle room! It is, indeed, such depths of desperation that demanded a vehement, albeit foolhardy, last ditch non-legal subterfuge. Was Marcos, perhaps, communing with his Mephistopheles?
That Faustian bargain could only have taken the shape and form of self- induced incapacity. If he could only calculatingly make himself really seriously ill, Dr. Weld and Dr. Collins be damned! Marcos may have deemed such gamble was the fastest and most effective strategy to once more evade his arraignment. And so he implemented an action plan he was never ever been known to have done before!
Marcos resorted to overloading his digestive system, clogging his trachea, and ultimately, expediently priming himself for hospitalization. Innocently and unknowingly? I have my reasonable doubts. Already a sick man, he was gambling with his life. A risk he deemed worth taking. Medical brinkmanship! Up to that moment, the gamble paid off. In fact, his January 19 appointment in Judge Keenan’ courthouse was put off, one more time.
The following day, January 15, a day after Dr. Collins’ visit, Marcos was admitted to the St. Francis Medical Center. This, for the last time. He was never again to leave his sickroom alive.
Within hours of Dr. Collins' departure in the afternoon of January 14, Ferdie fed himself with an unfamiliar meal, most unusual for a man known for his spartan diet! ‘Pospas,’ ‘Tinola,’ and ‘Pinakbet,’ remember? Marcos feasted on “two Big Macs, two large fries and milkshakes!” He supped alone in his Makiki Heights residence.
I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve my source of information. He is journalist Tim Ryan, then reporting for the now defunct Honolulu Star-Bulletin, an afternoon daily. Tim Ryan had entry to the Makiki residence of the Marcoses, having gained the friendship of the former First Lady. In fact, it was through Tim Ryan that Meldy sent me a confidential invitation, many weeks later when the patient was already in a precarious condition, to come and see for myself the condition of Ferdie, “even at three o’clock in the morning” so that nobody would know! Meldy’s objective was presumably that I would report to President Cory what I was to behold--a very sick man that “ought be allowed to die in his own country.” I did not respond to the invitation but somebody else did. That, for another episode.
I was privileged to have come across this eye-witness ‘burger and fries’ account through Tim Ryan who shared it with me. His eye-witness source is a local Hawaiian-Portuguese security detail in the service of the Marcoses. According to Tim, he was a neighbor. I never came to know his name. He told Tim Ryan, a day after -- as I remember, that it was the ex-President Marcos himself who sent him on an errand to buy the hamburgers, fries and milkshakes. And he saw Ferdie gobble up the goodies! So Tim Ryan recounted to me.
Neither Tim Ryan, much less the Portagee security detail (that’s how Hawaiian-Portuguese mestizos are teasingly referred to) may have been aware of the import and impact of that ‘Big Mac’ errand at the time that it happened. Perhaps, days after, I may have shared my skeptical observation with Tim Ryan.
Let me digress a bit. It is a relevant sidelight of the Marcos Hawaiian exile. While they were guests at Hickham Airbase, upon fleeing the Philippines and a couple of weeks after but prior to moving into their more permanent Makiki quarters, the US government provided the exiles with requisite security personnel. Thereafter they had to hire, from their own pockets, similar personnel, should such services be deemed needed. The US Government had put a limit to the free accommodations granted earlier. In fact, Mayor Frank Fasi of Honolulu was very vocal about not expending City resources for the exiles.
At the recommendation of Gov. George Ariyoshi, who welcomed the Marcoses upon their February 26, 1986 arrival, the Hawaiian Protective Association (HPA) was hired to secure Makiki and their principals. The HPA was owned by an influential and controversial political power-broker in Hawaii. A certain Mr. Larry Mehau. I remember him to be soft spoken, impressively genial but burly and barrel-chested. I had met him years earlier through my boss in Ayala, Don Enrique Zobel. Larry Mehau was a former Police Officer and a cattle rancher on the Big Island. Larry was a close associate of the Governor and was the kind who had a private number direct line to the Governor. He was known to be able to set up an appointment with the Governor right on the spot.
Even granting the absence of malintent and subterfuge on the part of the sick Mr. Marcos, that he partook of a strange menu totally alien to what he is accustomed to, is fact. By sequence of reported and known events and activities, the fact of that “strange menu” is what led to his return to St. Francis, within hours. With reasonably credible deduction, I concluded that the proximate cause of Marcos’ final hospitalization was indeed traceable to “two Big Macs, two large fries and milkshakes.” The irreversible deterioration of his health began, sequentially, almost immediately after he reentered St. Francis.
Marcos successfully evaded the judgment of the New York Federal Court, effectively preventing Judge John F. Keenan from trying him for racketeering. That, too, is fact. Arguably, either by his own machinations or even independently, by his own ailments. However, it had become undeniable to me that if his last hospitalization was a conscious calculation, by his self-crafted malevolent guile, Marcos then had unwittingly sentenced himself to the life hereafter, ahead of the Lord’s timetable!
It was medical brinkmanship that fatally backfired!
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.