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Eerily, it was a vow fulfilled! Ferdinand E. Marcos never submitted himself to the American judicial system.
It was known to a few intimates in Makiki that he had expressed such wishful commitment. In fact, such was the bottom-line thrust of his legal team throughout his defense against the racketeering charges he faced. Uncannily, by the deterioration of his illness and his eventual death, he succeeded.
Might that have been, exclusively, because he willed it? Not necessarily by his death, yet, I would reckon. But certainly by his illness, as he behaved to be in possession of the confidence and ability to fend off and evade the American court’s reach.
The fallen strongman nursed “…..two deep fears---his illness and the impending indictment “….. “and wondered which of the two would kill him first,” he confided to his constant companion and long time aide-de-camp Col. Arturo C. Aruiza. Telltales indicated to me that he resorted to a Faustian gamble: his illness against his indictment. In the end, it was a gamble that could not be won, whichever way. Human life, after all, is finite. Ultimately, both illness and indictment did him in, a confluence humanly assisted and prodded!
As the official ‘eyes and ears’ of the Philippine government over the exiled Marcoses in Hawaii, it was known to Manila media that I had expressed my doubts as to the severity of Marcos’ ailment. That was my way of countering Imelda’s continuing “near death” and “dying” calculating prognostications. My stated stance was intended to allay and correct potentially harmful reactions from the “Marcos pa rin” loyalist horde in Manila. But this was to change soon.
Although, I believed in the efficacy of medical science’s support systems to prolong life and the expert care being provided at St. Francis Medical Center, I had become convinced that the deposed President was indeed dying. But, I clung to the hope that he would hold out until after the year 1989!
Weeks after the last hospital confinement, as the onset of what turned out to be the patient’s irreversible deterioration, Imelda Marcos sent me an invitation. The message came through Tim Ryan, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin journalist. It was for me to come to St. Francis and witness with my own eyes that the former President was indeed dying. The invitation further indicated that if I so wished, I could come at two or three in the morning, beyond public notice avoiding nosy reporters who have kept vigil in the hospital premises. I politely declined. I assured Tim Ryan that I could better appreciate the patient’s condition from my documentary sources than what my untrained eyes could simply guess visually.
I did interpret Meldy’s invitation, however, as an indication of her husband’s deterioration. Again, I suppose she was calculating that if I reported to President Cory that Marcos was already really in a very bad shape, there might bring about a change in the “no return” policy.
My personal confirmation came shortly after Easter Week, which was late March in 1989. It would change my mind. Marcos was indeed dying although I still entertained the belief that he would hang on and survive the year. After all, no one was predicting imminent demise. My change of opinion was based upon information provided by Dr. Rolando M. Solis, Ninoy’s cardiologist and an Aquino family friend. He was passing through Honolulu at the time.
Dr. Solis is a Cardiovascular Disease Specialist with “more than 56 years of diverse experiences,” according to a Texas Medical journal. Although now in semi-retirement, he is still affiliated with the Baylor Scott and White Heat and Vascular Hospital in Dallas. He is credited as the founder of the Pacemaker Clinic Program at the Baylor University Medical Center. He is a graduate of the Far Eastern University Institute of Medicine.
I first met Dr. Solis (Rolly) in May of 1980 during Ninoy’s heart by-pass at the Baylor Medical Center in Dallas Texas. I was then residing in Honolulu on an Ayala Group work posting when I was informed that Ninoy had suffered a heart attack and was to be flown to Dallas for heart surgery. I followed and stayed on until a few days after when the heart by-pass was declared successful.
While in Honolulu, Rolly confided to me, that one of Marcos’ physicians, Dr. Claver Ramos, requested him to take a peek at his patient. Dr.Solis asked me if it was OK for him to do so without prior clearance from the President. Of course it would be, I assured him. I would take care of informing the President after the fact. Besides, he was himself going to report his observation to President Cory Aquino.
Dr. Solis was aware that a national security policy of ‘no return’ for Marcos was in place, whether the former strongman was dead or alive. And so, I accompanied Dr. Solis to the hospital that evening. I stayed inside the Consulate vehicle, just waiting in the parking lot. After thirty minutes, Dr. Solis came down bearing the somber news. It was the now looming likelihood that Marcos will never recover from his condition. This was based on what he had observed plus the confirmed information shared by Dr. Ramos.
For me, the death watch over Marcos had began.
Following the events of January 19, the lawyers of Marcos filed a motion for “medical severance” from the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) indictment before Judge Keenan’s court. The argument presented, I surmised, was that there was no longer any point in indicting an ailing defendant who claimed to be terminally ill. The U.S. Attorney, the Government prosecutors, on the other hand, had filed its opposition to the motion for medical severance.
With judicial due course being granted by the Federal court, Dr. Francis Weld was once more commissioned and dispatched to visit the indictee-patient in Honolulu. This time, Dr. Weld’s examination was to resolve the impasse once and for all. That was whether to still proceed with the prosecution or not. It was April 1, 1989. After conferring with the attending physicians and specialists at St. Francis, Dr. Weld returned to New York and reported his findings to the prosecutors.
Dr Weld’s conclusion, briefly, stated that “Marcos’ recurrent infections since his latest hospitalization have resulted in a deterioration in his overall health status so that Marcos cannot, at present, assist in the preparation of his defense or stand trial.”
Forthwith, the U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York, on April 5, 1989 wrote Judge John F. Keenan officially withdrawing “its opposition to the defendant Ferdinand E. Marcos’ motion for medical severance.” It added, however, that the severance be “without prejudice“ to a possible later motion “seeking to rejoin the defendant if medically appropriate.” But recuperation proved to be no longer in sight. Ferdie’s last hospital confinement stretched some nine and a half months more.
It was after midnight in Honolulu and early evening in Manila. Thursday, September 28 1989 at 12:40 pm Honolulu and 6:40 pm in Manila, Ferdinand E. Marcos was dead.
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.