The First Quarter Storm: Setting the stage for Martial Law

The First Quarter Storm happened around 46 years ago and people hardly talk about it anymore. In fact, hardly anyone knows what it was.

What triggered it? Some say it was the massive cheating that happened in the 1969 Presidential elections that saw Ferdinand Marcos win handsomely against a rather pitiful showing by Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Those elections were widely believed to be the dirtiest in Philippine history—money was flowing freely to the electoral powers that be, and intimidation through violence became more commonplace.

If you think about it, dito na nga ang simula.

It was on January 26, 1970 when President Marcos gave his State of the Nation address after he won the 1969 elections. This event coincided with student demonstrations by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and University of the Philippines Student Council. These students, as fate would have it, were obviously quite passionate about their beliefs (regardless of how they eventually turned out years later). They spoke of the election cheating, the rumored bankruptcy of the nation’s coffers to fund the Marcos campaign, the rise in oil prices, and the sagging economy.

What was supposed to be a moderate rally quickly turned into a radical one with people like Jose Maria Sison quickly fanning the flames.

As a result, things quickly turned violent, the police forces reacted, and the students were dispersed. Stones were thrown, guns were fired, and placards hurled at government forces. Around 300 students were injured along with 72 members of the police.

It was soon after that things got even worse. fqsphoto2Just four days later, on January 30, another rally claimed the lives of four students and injured 162. Damage to property was estimated to be between Php 500, 000 to Php 1 million in what was, so far, the most violent student rally in Philippine history.

With the government seemingly doing nothing, less than two weeks later, no less than 100,000 students gathered at the famed Plaza Miranda with rallies also being held at other areas. Aside from the original grievances, they now had to deal with the fact that four students had just recently died and the threat of police brutality was a veritable sword of Damocles over their heads. Fortunately and rather surprisingly, no violence happened at this point.

The heated atmosphere hardly changed however, that less than a week later even more students got involved. This time people from 10 different provinces also held their own rallies. They spoke of United States imperialism, feudalism, and even fascism (perhaps a comment on Hitler and Gestapo-like practices). Admittedly, things got ugly very quickly with the US embassy being one of the victims of student unrest.

The next few weeks were of the same refrain – student rallies with fiery words and flaring passions. Not being granted a permit to demonstrate didn’t deter any of them. The police for their part responded as expected – beating demonstrators and even bystanders. The US embassy was again paid a visit as was Plaza Miranda. There was a march called the Poor People’s March which lamented the nation’s poverty while lambasting the lack of concern from the government.

suko-na-2

Ano na tayo ngayon?

The First Quarter Storm was a time of heated passions and violent actions. While it can be said that the students taunted police authorities, both the police authorities and government had the chance to reach out to these demonstrators and be more proactive in keeping the peace. Some demonstrators who went to the Mendiola area had to seek refuge within the walls of San Beda College when the police personnel started swinging their truncheons. Where were the supposed parents of the nation while their children were outside crying and begging for justice?

Wala.

It seemed like the government was not only not listening, it was also acting against the interests of the public.

This is not an exercise in picking at the scabs of the Philippine past. This is an exercise of what may just be again. The Marcoses want us to forget those days and how our nation’s youth were not listened to by their own leaders. As early as the First Quarter Storm, people were already dying, people were already being hurt, and no one with power did anything to change anything. While it is true that the Marcos children were quite young at that time, they weren’t all that young either. One earlier post here did make mention of the eldest child, Imee, and her episode with Archie Trajano (see that here).

A true leader is one who can bring people together. Unlike Marcos, who treats his own people as enemies of the state. More than that, a leader of our people, especially one aspiring to take the second highest post in the land with a possibility of taking over the reins of power like Ferdinand Marcos Jr wants to do, cannot just tell people to “move on” and forget about the hurtful past especially since his family is part of it.

It all boils down to this: When the country was in trouble and its youth were demanding solutions from its leaders, the response was to silence them using force and to blame them completely saying they were disturbing the peace and were communist lackeys. The truth of the matter was that the country’s leader did not listen and instead endeavored to silence all who opposed him. That hammer fell just two years later with the proclamation of Martial Law.

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Secrets of a Forgotten Keeper

Photo: Boyet Mijares (left) and his father Primitivo Mijares. Screenshot from the documentary ‘Batas Militar’

Secrets are really meant to be found–a reason why it is often difficult to keep one or many just to yourself. Every man needs to be able to vent out his guilt (or sadistic joy, depending on who’s talking) over his deepest and most vile secrets to a confidant. Even the cold and calculating dictator Ferdinand Marcos needed such a friend whom he could pour his heart and soul into. And that person was Primitivo Mijares.

Mijares was Marcos’s right-hand aide. He was a journalist but he was working closely with Marcos. He was pretty much his executive assistant, ready to answer to the President’s needs as soon as he was summoned. As a columnist for the Manila Chronicle, he had some influence in the and was the regime’s media relations go-to-guy.

In 1975, Mijares defected from the administration and became a key whistle-blower against the regime, testifying to the U.S. Congress about the abuses of the Marcos family during Martial Law. He then detailed all of the secrets he was privy to through his book The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, published on April 27, 1976. One of the most famous entries from the book was the staged ambush of then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile on September 22, 1972, which was what Marcos used justify Proclamation 1081, more popularly known as Martial Law, the next day. Below is as written by Mijares himself:

“Marcos pressed a button in his intercom, and when an ever ready aide responded to say “yes, sir,” he commanded: “Get me Secretary Enrile.”  And then with his line to the communications room aide still open, Marcos muttered to himself: “Masyadong mabagal ng mga taong ‘yan Kung kailan pa naman kailangan magmadali. Within few minutes, he determined that his secretary of national defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, had left his office at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo rather early in the day.  He was located by Sgt. Arturo Boquiren, agent on duty at the communications room near the President’s Study Room, in the house of a “friend.”  Somewhat irritated, Marcos ordered Enrile in the following manner:  “Secretary Enrile?  Where are you?  You have to do it now.. ya, ya,  the one we discussed this noon. We cannot postpone it any longer.  Another day of delay may be too late.”  Continuing his orders obviously after being interrupted with some remarks by Enrile, Marcos went on:  “Make it look good. Kailangan seguro ay may masaktan o kung mayroon mapatay ay mas mabuti. (May be it would be better if somebody got hurt or killed). … O hala, sigue, Johnny and be sure the story catches the ‘Big News’ and ‘Newswatch’… and call me as soon as it is over.”

 

– The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda, by Primitivo Mijares, p. 49

Mijares also wrote of how Marcos confirmed his involvement in the death of Ilocos Norte Congressman Julio Nalundasan in 1935, through conversations with his friend Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson, who was also part of Marcos’s defense team for Nalundasan’s murder:

It was on an early morning in later March 1957, hardly had a shocked and grieving nation buried its most beloved of all Presidents, Ramon F. Magsaysay, when Ferdinand E. Marcos paid a visit to Lacson at the latter’s residence on M. Earnshaw Street in Sampaloc, Manila. Marcos then completing his second term as congressman for the second district of Ilocos Norte said he was advised by “Papa Laurel” to propose to Lacson the formation of a “dream presidential ticket” which would have the support of the politically-powerful Laurel clan.

 

“Yes, padre, I will subordinate myself to you. I will be your vice presidential running mate – on condition, that you will pledge not seek reelection, if our team wins.” Lacson quoted Marcos.

 

“Oh no, wait a minute Ferdinand, I really would want to serve this country as President one of these days. But if the condition is that you will be my Vice President, forget it. I love life, too, and I want to live a little longer, while serving my people. Don’t ever think that I have forgotten the sharp aim of that man who felled Nalundasan with a single rifle shot. I may hardly have the time to take my oath as President before my own Vice President guns me down with that deadly aim of yours. Oh, no Ferdinand, forget it.”

 

Padre, puro ka biro, eh. Kalimutan mo na iyan kalokohan natin, nakaraan na iyon.” Marcos cut in.

 

– ibid, p. 234-236

Eight months after publishing the book, Mijares mysteriously disappeared.

The last recorded contact with him was discovered in 2012 when Filipino-American blogger Jason Bruce found an interesting note on a secondhand copy of Mijares’s book that he bought from Amazon.

In 1977, Primitivo’s son, Boyet, received a phone call that his father was still alive. Boyet, then 16 years old and excited to see his father again, told his mom, Judge Priscilla Mijares, and insisted to go and see his father. Unfortunately for the boy, what seemed like hope for a reunion was a mere ruse. Boyet’s body was later found with multiple stab wounds to his body, a bashed skull, mangled genitals, and protruding eyeballs–telltale signs of torture methods that were employed by the military during that time.

To this day, there has been no trace of Primitivo Mijares. His memory lives on through his book, but copies of the book have been lost due to efforts of the administration to buy (or steal) any copies. Very few copies survived (this writer personally had a copy but was lost in a major house move). We hope that there’s enough to keep him from getting completely forgotten.

 

Not Just the Sin of the Father

After Ferdinand Marcos enforced Proclamation 1081, more popularly know as Martial Law, the balance of power suddenly tipped towards his (and his family’s) direction. While the patriarch is ruling the land with an iron-fist through his oppressive and violent methods of maintaining “peace and order”, his wife Imelda was drowning in the fruits of their ill-gotten wealth. His children, of course, were also beneficiaries of their father’s rule. They got to study (or so they say) in the world’s best educational institutions and to lead certain government youth initiatives, specifically, Imee Marcos, who became chairman of the Kabataang Baranggay (National Youth Council) in 1975.

The Youth Council, of course, was marred with anomaly and controversy. Authoritarian rule was enforced among the youth and militant activism was closely monitored and suppressed. Pretty soon, the council became less popular with the youth which led to many of its members into student activism.

Many also questioned the nepotism of having Imee installed as the council’s chair. In the case of Archimedes “Archie” Trajano, however, it was the last question that he ever asked.

In an open forum at the University of the Philippines in August 1977, Trajano, a student of the Mapua Institute of Technology, boldly asked, “Must (the Kabataang Barangay) be headed by the president’s daughter?”

Imee detested the question and had Archie immediately picked up and sent out of the room by her bodyguards. And that was that last that people saw him alive. The next time he was seen, he laid lifeless, beaten, battered, and covered in a white sheet.

Not too many details were available regarding the death of Trajano but according to his mother, Agapita, she was told that Archie was in a dormitory fight. The media reported that Archie “ran amok” and the assailants beat him to stop him. But, of course, it was later discovered to be a cover up as many testified that he was forcibly dragged away by Marcos’s bodyguards.

Archie’s case is one of the most popular stories of summary executions during the Martial Law years. A meaningless loss of life, due to a knee-jerk reaction of a spoiled brat who was drunk with her father’s power.

To this day the Marcos scions still continue to downplay the oppression that many Filipinos suffered during their father’s regime. Bongbong was even quoted recently, asking, “What am I to say sorry about?” and continued with ,”Will I say sorry for the thousands and thousands of kilometers [of roads] that were built? Will I say sorry for the agricultural policy that brought us to self-sufficiency in rice? Will I say sorry for the power generation? Will I say sorry for the highest literacy rate in Asia? What am I to say sorry about?”

Bongbong maintains that all the killing and torture that happened during Martial Law were just ‘instances that have fallen through the cracks’. But thousands of victims seem to think otherwise.

 

 

Tempted by Death

Photo: Hilda Narciso stands inside a replica of the prison cell where she was detained at the Martial Law Museum at “Bantayog ng mga Bayani”. Source: Inquirer.net

Hilda Narciso was a school teacher abducted on March 24, 1983. She was held in a military intelligence “safehouse” where she was raped repeatedly as she was interrogated. She was then transferred and detained at the 431st Philippine Constabulary Barracks in Davao City.

Below is her story, as was written by Mandy Tibbey of Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace in The Philippines for an Australian Christian feminist journal called the Magdalene. The following was published in the June 1983 issue of the journal.

Subversion suspect Hilda Narciso reported that she was raped several times and subjected to other forms of sexual indignities by her military captors on the night of March 24. Narciso is at present detained at the 431st Philippine Constabulary (PC) barracks in Davao City.

 

Narciso was one of those arrested last March 24 when around thirty heavily armed military men raided a house along Bolton St in Davao City. Two other persons and German pastor Volker Schmidt were also arrested. On March 24, after searching the house, the military men decided to bring the four to their headquarters, Narciso narrated. It was around midnight. Anna Mae Morallos and Jethro Dionisio were pushed inside a sky blue car parked outside. A dark blue car arrived fifteen minutes after Morallos and Dionisio had left. A man in plainclothes, whom Narciso identified as a certain Ponce of the government intelligence unit R-2, led her to the back seat of the dark-coloured car. All in all, there were four men — the driver, another who sat next to him and two other men who flanked Narciso. She was then blindfolded and warned “Ayaw pag-eskandalo ha gusto mo pang mabuhi” (be quiet if you want to stay alive).

 

Minutes later, the men started threatening her again, and began touching the upper part of her body. When she tried to struggle she was told that they were driving along the seashore and they could just throw her out of the car. The man next to the driver then interrogated her and insisted that she was a “member of the movement and a funder from Manila”. The car stopped around twenty minutes later. After the men had sounded the horn twice, she heard two doors being opened. Several persons came towards them as the driver parked the car. She was led inside and, upon reaching the end of the room, made to sit. She was subsequently raped.

 

“Alam namin ‘yang arte mo!” (we know that play-acting of yours!) several men shouted while Narciso recited prayers. About four men took turns raping her, while others pressed on with the interrogation. She was repeatedly threatened, at the same time that she was being sexually abused. A little later, she heard the loud scream of Dionisio from another room in the place; she recognised Morallos’ voice from the distance, answering the questions of an interrogator.

 

It must have been early in the morning of March 25, Narciso wrote, when two men led her to the stairs — about fourteen steps away from where she previously sat. They turned left at the landing and entered another room. Only one of them was left behind. He warned that she would be salvaged if she did not tell the truth. Narciso was again raped in that room. The man finally led her downstairs. Still blindfolded, they tied her hands at the back with a belt. The questions started coming again while the men freely touched the private parts of her body. About an hour later, she was again brought upstairs. One man was in the act of raping her when he was stopped by two others. She was then dragged out of the room, only to be subjected to more sexual abuse by two men.

 

It was daylight when Narciso was finally allowed rest. She was given a glass of milk and biscuits upon the admonition of one of them that she must be taken care of as she would be useful later. At around 9 a.m. on March 25, Narciso was permitted to take a bath. Wearing the same clothes, she was led upstairs and interrogated. She was transferred to Camp Catitipan in Davao City on March 26 and was later brought to the 431st PC barracks.

Hilda’s case was the first to be brought to the military for sexual abuse and rape. Sadly, no military personnel were charged and justice remained out of reach for her.

After her release in 1983, Hilda was reportedly suicidal and has attempted multiple times to end her life — to make the painful memories go way.

When the pain is too much, sometimes, the sweet release of death can be very tempting. Thankfully, Hilda held on. She fought the temptation of suicide and she lived to tell her tale.

 

 

Lt. Batac – The Tormentor

One of the more popular Martial Law oppression and torture stories was the experience of Maria Elena Ang, a UP Journalism student who was abducted on August 5, 1976. Her captor, was none other than Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’s most trusted elite anti-subversion torturer, Lt. Victor Batac.

She recounts her story as published in A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred McCoy:

I am Maria Elena Ang, 23 years old, a senior journalism student and research aide at the University of the Philippines. On the morning of August 5, 1976, I was on my way to Lourdes Church in Quezon City when unidentified military authorities pounced on me… and dumped me into the car…

 

It was about a five-minute trip from my place of arrest to the secret headquarters of the ISAFP [Intelligence Service, AFP]… Immediately, I was subjected to a most degrading, inhuman and humiliating experience I would never want to relive again. But the memories keep coming back. Up to now, in detention, I still have recurrent nightmares.

 

I remember that while being restrained in a high-backed chair, several men, about 10 to 20, swelled the ranks of those already in the room. Immediately, they swamped me with a battery of questions and psywar tactics. They threatened to kill me, get my relatives and friends and torture them in front of me. They kept telling me that nobody saw them taking me in.

 

Failing to answer one of their questions, I immediately received a slap in the face and a blow in the thighs.

 

By this time, I was able to remove my blindfold and identify two of the officers in the rooms as Lazaro Castillo of the National Intelligence Security Authority and Lt. Victor Batac of the 5th CSU or Constabulary Security Unit…

 

Then, several agents began clamoring I be given what they called the MERALCO treatment–MERALCO being the supplier of electricity in Manila.

 

An agent then forcibly removed my blouse and bra and unzipped my fly. Another brought a hand-cranked electric generator used in the military telephone…

 

Two exposed wires were then tied around… my right hand foot. Castillo, with a sneer on his face, started cranking the generator and fired another barrage of questions. Suddenly the current shot painfully through my body. I could do nothing but scream and plead and scream but he only turned the crank until I was screaming continuously… The electric shock lasted for nearly two hours and was repeated i the evening…

 

After the electric-shock session, the military authorities still were not satisfied… This time I was stripped naked and forced to lie on a short table.

 

At this instance, Major Arsenio Esguerra of the 5th MIG ISAFP entered and signaled the start of the water cure, which they laughingly called the NAWASA session–NAWASA being the supplier of water in Manila… This time, besides four men restraining my hands and feet, another formed my hair into a bun and pulled my head down so that I kept hanging [in] the air until I felt that the water was racing through my brains. I passed out twice but they kept pouring water until I thought I would die.

 

Besides pouring water, several agents mashed my breasts while another contented himself by inserting his fingers in my vagina after failing to make me masturbate.

Lt. Batac was more popularly known as “the brains of RAM”. According to accounts, he was not hands-on during many of the tortures he carried out in his career as he has gone too obese to be physically aggressive. But he oversaw most of the sessions and would prefer sexual humiliation and threatrical torment.

Ang was just one of Batac’s victims. More have suffered under the hands of the Tormentor.