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I Saw Them Aim and Fire! (more excerpts)

January 29, 2010

By Hermie Rotea

These five chapters in the book, I Saw Them Aim and Fire: Story of the Jan. 26 & 30, 1970 Student Revolt in the Philippines (The Daily News, 1970) by journalist Hermie Rotea, came out in April 1970.  The book provides one othe earliest, if not the earliest, eyewitness account of the First Quarter Storm. “Here in this book is the complete and unexpurgated story of what really happened  before, during, and after Jan. 26 and 30,” writes the author. “It is my story, your story, our story!” At the time of publication, Rotea was editor, publisher, and printer of  The Daily News. A director of the National Press Club of the Philippines in 1960, he studied journalism at FEU and at the Newspaper Institute of America in New York.

Chapter 9: The Siege of Malacañang

If what had happened on Jan. 26 in front of Congress was bad, what took place on Jan. 30 in front of Malacañang was worst.

Like on Jan. 26, I was up early on that day not so much because I smelled trouble but just a matter of daily routine. The day before five groups had staged separate demonstrations and they all turned out to be peaceful. So there was nothing to be alarmed now – or so I thought.

As planned, two separate groups of demonstrators were scheduled to rally in front of Congress and Malacañang simultaneously. Later in the afternoon the one in Congress would march to the presidential palace and join the other force there.

Practically the same big throng of 40 organizations – 50,000 strong – involved in that bloody Jan. 26 Congress riot, was now participating in the Jan. 30 massive demonstration, in a new gigantic and dramatic display of unity of purpose.

But despite the same big number of demonstrators, everything progressed peacefully as of 5:30 p.m. of that day. Just like on Jan. 26.

Nevertheless President Marcos and the law enforcers as usual took no chances. Just like on Jan. 26, security measures had earlier been mapped out.

To get the cooperation of Mayor Villegas, Mr. Marcos, instead of suspending him as he had threatened for withdrawing his policemen from the duty of policing future demonstrations unless officially requested to help, even bowed to his condition.

In his SOS letter to the mayor, President Marcos directed Villegas to “maintain peace and order with all police personnel at your disposal as well as other agencies of the city government jointly with the Philippine Constabulary if necessary.”

Scoring a victory in his dispute with Malacañang on the city peace and order issue, Mayor Villegas took the Marcos letter to mean that he would have over-all supervision over all local and national police agencies which would be fielded to secure rally sites.

(Such was not the case, however, for as usual it was the Metrocom, and later the generals in the armed forces, who called the shots.)

Security measures were discussed among Mayor Villegas, Col. Gerardo Tamayo, Manila police chief; Col. Mariano Ordoñez, Metrocom chief; and chiefs of other police agencies.

Aside from their operations plan, other steps were taken. Students participating in the demonstrations must display nameplates identifying themselves and their schools. Likewise, policemen must have their nameplates sewed on their uniforms for easy identification in case they commit abuses.

Only a handful of traffic policemen in their blue and white uniforms without firearms would be around. A police prowl car would be stationed on Mendiola St. and another on San Rafael St. as communication relays. But reserved riot squads would remain on red alert at City Hall and police precinct No. 8 to move only when violence erupted.

At Malacañang the presidential guards reinforced by Metrocom troopers, would stay inside the compound about three meters from the fence. All gates would be closed, and wooden barricades would be placed at the gutter outside to clear the sidewalk beside the fence of demonstrators.

On the part of the student rebels, they had their own security men wearing red armbands responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in the demonstration areas. They used walkie-talkies and brought with them snack provisions. The marchers were more organized this time.

The first sign of trouble popped up just before sundown during the march from Congress to Malacañang. Angered by the sight of a police symbol of authority, a group of demonstrators burned a traffic stand at the corner of Ayala and …. De Cornillas Sts.

Later what sounded like firecrackers exploded on the palace grounds – caused by whom, nobody knew.

Then at about 6 o’clock, when President Marcos and the student rebel leaders headed by Edgar Jopson and Portia Ilagan were still locked in a no-holds-barred showdown inside Malacañang, restless demonstrators waiting outside demanded that palace gate lights be put on as it was already getting dark.

Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!” (“Open the lights! Open the lights!”) some shouted.

The presidential guards obliged. But no sooner had the lights been put on, the young rebels became more unruly. Somebody threw a rock at a vapor lamp and smashed it. Others followed with stones and sticks until al the gate bulbs were blasted out one by one, darkening the place again.

As this developed, presidential guards and Metrocom troopers maintained their distance inside the palace grounds, standing by and waiting for orders.

A commotion was now going on at Gate 4 facing Mendiola St. A fire truck inside the palace grounds advanced and trained its hoses on the rioters. They retreated.

A brief lull followed. Then at about 7 o’clock another fire truck coming from the direction of Sta. Mesa passed through Jose P. Laurel St. and rushed to the riot scene. It was MFD fire engine No. 10, which responded to an alarm.

Upon reaching St. Jude Church the fire truck slowed down. The firemen apparently tried to train their water canons on the young rebels. Unluckily for them their hoses failed to operate.

Seeing that only an ineffectual sputtering came out of their water canons, the students charged. Like commandoes they leaped at the fire truck which was now trying to back out and escape.

But it was too late. By now the young rebels were swarming all over the beleaguered vehicle. They mauled the firemen who were not quick enough to flee.

Now in full control, the insurgents commandeered the fire truck and drove it toward Gate 4 of Malacañang facing Mendiola St. Upon reaching the gate the students rammed the fire truck against it until the locks gave way, the chains broke, and the gate clanked open.

Once the breach was made, the more daring demonstrators stampeded into the palace grounds. They planted an inverted Filipino flag with the red color up symbolizing their being “at war,” on the fire truck.

When the fire engine reached about ten meters from the broken gate, the rioters quickly poured gasoline on it and ignited it into flames.

The unruly demonstrators likewise burned two other cars parked inside the palace grounds. As smokes thickened inside the beleaguered presidential palace, other insurgents lobbed Molotov bombs, rocks, stones, and pillboxes at nearby buildings.

In the process, glasses and windows of the new Budget Commission building and the clinic building were smashed. Fire almost engulfed the infirmary but was quickly extinguished.

As the braver rioters rained Malacañang with Molotov bombs and rocks and stones, outside other demonstrators were also busy causing damage.

Back at Gate 4, the young rebels set fire on a waiting shed. Others dragged the guardhouse up to Arlegui St. and burned it there. At the main palace gate, the young rebels destroyed the telephone booth near the presidential guard battalion outpost with Molotov bombs.

From the outside, it seemed that the young rebels had taken over Malacañang already.

Further in downtown Manila, along the wide Quezon Blvd. in busy Quiapo and other crowded areas where detour signs were posted, rerouted bus and jeepney commuters on their way home from work were wondering what was happening down there in Malacañang.

Rumors flew thick and fast among passengers that fierce fighting between demonstrators and soldiers had broken out inside the presidential palace. The news broadcast by mouth and through the radio electrified the people.

Back at the beleaguered Malacañang, the student rebels were still causing havoc inside the compound. They rampaged through the palace grounds as if it were nobody’s business.

The militant youths filtered gasoline from the station across the street and filled up empty bottles for their Molotov bombs. They practically had a field day throwing them and other crude weapons, setting fire and breaking glasses.

President Marcos had just broken up his fruitless conference with student rebel leaders headed by Jopson and Ilagan when the unruly demonstrators started rioting.

As the Jopson-Ilagan delegation stepped out of the executive building, they were advised not to exit through the front entrance because the gates were already closed and that it was dangerous.

So presidential aides led by Lino Illera, a palace assistant on student affairs, escorted the group through the backdoor and across the Pasig River to safety.

Back at the palace, President Marcos – no stranger to fighting and violence – put on his helmet and succumbed to the irresistible urge to view the trouble now raging inside the palace compound.

As the Commander–in–Chief, reputedly a sharp-shooter and the nation’s most decorated soldier, watched the fighting, a helicopter stood by for possible evacuation.

All along the elite Presidential Guard Battalion, reinforced by Metrocom troopers in full battle-gear, held their fire and waited for orders.

Finally the Commander-in-Chief called Metrocom chief, Col. Mariano Ordoñez, to his side and gave the order: “Disperse the mob!”

At President Marcos’ command, the crack Presidential Guard Battalion and about 400 Metrocom soldiers in their white helmets now came out in full force.

They fired warning shots into the air as they advanced. But the young rebels held their ground. Seeing that the rioters were calling the bluff, the state troopers this time fired tear gas bombs at them.

As the deadly gas hit their side, many demonstrators were blinded. This forced them to retreat, but many fell into government hands.

The soldiers charged, and during their advance they beat up rioters they had just caught with rifle butts and billy clubs. Some applied the good old-fashioned fists and feet.

In the fierce fighting that broke out, both sides suffered injuries. Several media men who covered the clashes behind the soldier’s line, were also wounded.

When the palace grounds were finally cleared of demonstrators, Metrocom troopers rushed out of Malacañang in hot pursuit of fleeing students, still hurling tear gas bombs at them.

Now in full control of the situation, state troopers sealed off the executive building and deployed inside and outside the presidential palace, ready for any counter-attack.

They also blockaded the areas around Malacañang to make the palace secure and out of the range of attacking forces.

It was now past nine o’clock in the evening, and the City Hall permit issued the demonstrators had already expired. Using this as reason, the authorities pleaded to the students to go home.

But instead of heeding their advice and warning, the young rebels answered by continuing their rampage throwing at the government side Molotov bombs and pillboxes.

On Mendiola St. leading to Palace Gate No. 4, they burned six vehicles – three private jeeps, a passenger bus, a passenger jeepney, and a motorcycle to demonstrate their defiance of the authorities.

The areas surrounding Malacañang now looked like a battle zone, reminiscence of the last world war. Worried by the deteriorating situation, and fearing a massive counter attack, authorities called for reinforcements.

In due time, truckloads after truckloads of soldiers in full battle-gear from Camp Aguinaldo, Camp Crame, Fort Bonifacio, Nichols Field, Philippine Navy headquarters, and from far-off Camp Olivas, Pampanga, rushed to Malacañang.

As smokes of initial clashes still blanketed the vicinity, even AFP generals were drawn to the battle scene.

No less than Gen. Manuel Yan, chief of staff; Brig. Gen. Vicente Raval, constabulary chief; arrived at the palace.

They rushed to Malacañang together with crack units from the army, navy, air force, and constabulary to reinforce the out numbered but fully-armed Presidential Guard Battalion and Metrocom troopers.

Spearheading the reinforcements were contingents from the First Tabak Division, the only battle-ready and fully-equipped armed forces unit; and the Task Force Lawin, the veteran anti-Huk outfit in Central Luzon, the hotbed of dissidence, whose commander, Brig. Gen. Rosso Saballones, himself led the dash to Manila.

State troopers in their assorted uniforms, armed with armalites, garands, carbines, sub-machineguns and side pistols now massed in front of Malacañang’s Gate 4 facing Mendiola St., the main line of retreat of the student rebels. Other units deployed up to San Miguel Brewery plant.

Further down the wide thoroughfare up to Mendiola Bridge and across Legarda St. and Claro M. Recto Ave., the head and tail of the Jan. 30 Movement – 50,000 strong – still occupied the areas.

Between the government forces and the young rebels was a deserted portion of Mendiola St. in front of La Consolacion College up to Mapa High School, which was now transformed into a veritable no-man’s land.

This was how the situation stood on that Friday night of Jan.30, as the Battle of Mendiola was about to begin.#

Chapter 10: The Battle of Mendiola

My personal eye-witness account of the Battle of Mendiola was published in The Manila Times and Taliba, the most-widely circulated English and Pilipino dailies, respectively, on Feb. 2 entitled “Behind the Barricades: I SAW THEM AIM AND FIRE!” and “Gabi ng Riot.”

It follows:

I was behind the student lines on that bloody Friday night, and with my own eyes saw the young demonstrators being shot down like dogs.

The claim that the soldiers merely fired warning shots in the air is only partly true. I saw them aim and fire at the demonstrators.

I marched, advanced, and retreated with the young rebels – from Congress, Malacañang along Mendiola St., and finally down to C. M. Recto Ave. And in the one-sided pitch battles that broke out, I saw and heard the cries and groans of those who fell.

I saw last Friday the dreaded face of revolution, as the young demonstrators, armed only with stones and iron bars, clashed with government soldiers in full battle gear, only to be overrun, killed, dispersed, or caught like trapped animals.

From storming Malacañang, where they had waved an inverted Philippine flag to symbolize their being “at war,” they retreated and regrouped on Mendiola St., filling the wide thoroughfare from the Mapa High School to the corner of Legarda, across Mendiola bridge.

There must have been about 50,000 of those young people who converged on that area spilling to C. M. Recto Ave., in front of University of the East. Although those on Mendiola St. were prepared for the arrest, there was curiously a festive mood in the air as many groups chatted happily, obviously not anticipating the danger ahead.

The more militant, however, were shouting and burning or smashing vehicles and police outposts. Mercury vapor lamps were stoned. The iron fence on the island of Recto Ave. was torn down and the grills rooted out.

From where I stood, behind the student lines, I saw the anti-riot squads and troopers mass at the corner of J. P. Laurel Ave. and Mendiola St., in front of Malacañang’s Gate 4.

The government attack came at about 10 p.m. I saw two fire trucks with blinding headlights, advance slowly on the demonstrators; while troops trotted behind.

Upon reaching the front of Holy Spirit College, the two fire trucks turned on their hoses and trained these on the vanguard of the demonstrators deployed in front of the Mapa high School, drenching some and forcing them to retreat.

Huwag kayong tatakbo!” (“Don’t run!”) the leaders ordered, as the troops continued to inch toward them.

The youths stood their ground, with only stones and iron bars in their hands.

When the two forces were less than a hundred yards of each other in front of Mapa High School, the youths started pelting the advancing soldiers with stones. At the same time, they hurled invectives and taunts at the helmeted anti-riot squads and soldiers. The latter were calm at this state of provocations.

When they saw the demonstrators refuse to budge although they were now just a few meters from each other, the soldiers stopped. They fired shots in the air apparently to scare the youths.

Walang bala yan! Huwag kayong tatakbo!” (“They’re only using blanks. Stay where you are!”), the demonstration leaders said. The demonstrators nervously held their ground.

It must have been then that the troops realized that they could not disperse the demonstrators by merely dousing them with water or firing warning shots in the air.

Another volley rang out. This time the demonstrators scattered up and scampered toward the bridge. While they retreated I saw some fall, then rise and limo away under new bursts of gunfire.

Upon seeing their companions fall, some demonstrators rushed back to lift the casualties. Those whom they could not retrieve fell into the hands of the troops and anti-riot squads.

As the youths ran for their lives toward Mendiola bridge, they would stop and throw stones at their charging troops.

I then saw anti-riot squad men club some of the wounded demonstrators they had just caught although they were obviously helpless and could not resist, and drag the back like slaughtered animals.

May bala pala! May tinamaan sa atin!” (“They are using live bullets! Some of us were hit!”) I heard fleeing demonstrators warning their companions waiting on Mendiola bridge.

Baril! Baril! Kumuha tayo ng baril! Revolution na ito!” (“Guns! Guns! Let’s get guns! This is revolution already!”), I heard others shout.

Bumaba na sana ngayon ang mga Huks. I don’t care anymore!” I heard this from another young man.

The demonstrators must have realized then that the government meant business.

By this time they had been pushed back to Mendiola bridge. The see-saw battle was an hour old.

I retreated to the bridge myself and turned right on Legarda toward Gastambide. The other students fled to Recto Ave. and to Legarda.

During the retreat, I saw scores of apparently dead or wounded demonstrators being carried by their companions to safety.

I shuddered seeing one young man with a bullet wound on the forehead being carried away by four youths down Recto Ave. toward the UE.

I found myself with a big crowd at Gastambide. On reaching the front of the Mary Chiles hospital, I saw two injured youths being carried inside.

Because I could still hear shots, I continued running with the crowd. Upon reaching Lepanto, I paused to catch my breath. Then I walked towards España where I came upon two young men directing traffic. I looked around. There was not a single policeman in sight.

I proceeded to FEU hospital where another big crowd was massed. There I saw half-a-dozen wounded demonstrators being rushed in by two taxicabs.

I heard more shots or what sounded like explosion. I gathered enough courage and proceeded to Recto Ave. in front of UE, where I presumed the action must be, and there I found the demonstrators busy lighting bonfires in the middle of the street.

Other groups were busy at the gasoline pumps of the gas station in front of UE, filling bottles with gasoline to fashion Molotov cocktails.

A few meters away, an army 6 x 6 truck and a private car smoldered nearby. People were running and shouting all over the place; others merely watched from the sidewalks.

The houses and the stores in the vicinity were closed and dark although I could felt their occupants peering through half-closed windows and doors.

It was almost midnight and things had quieted down a bit. I sensed, however, that the ominous silence was the calm before the final storm. Although I could not clearly see them in the dark, the government forces had already taken position on Mendiola bridge preparatory to the final assault.

I left the “battlefield” feeling tired, and sad.

*  *  *

Before The Manila Times and Taliba published this exclusive report of mine in English and Tagalog versions on Feb. 2, no less than Publisher “Chino” Roces read it first and then cross-examined me.

He had just been called to Malacañang together with other publishers of metropolitan dailies for a conference with President Marcos who appealed to them for cooperation in toning down news of student unrest in order not to fan the fires of revolution.

Later, when Mr. Marcos saw Rep. Joaquin Roces in Malcañang, he asked the former Manila Times columnist why he had allowed my eye-witness report to come out in his family’s newspaper.

As Roces later succinctly put it in a private conversation with some newsmen at the House press gallery why he had not been playing the role of a Marcos defender, he said:

“I am only a congressman.”#

Chapter 11: Chaos in Downtown Manila

The whole nation laid wake on that bloody night of Jan. 30 as student rebels stormed Malacañang, then clashed with soldiers in the Battle of Mendiola, and finally extended their hit-and-run fighting in the dark street and alleys of Manila.

As fierce street fighting ripped across the city from night till dawn, leaving in its wake dead and wounded casualties from both sides, a shocked people trembled at the thought of revolution.

At about midnight, government forces captured the Mendiola bridge. From military view point, its falling into government hands strengthened their position and turned the tide against the rebels.

Thus from this bridge, no less than Gen. Manuel Yan, armed forces chief of staff, directed the final assault on the retreating students.

Two congressmen – Reps. Ramon Bagatsing and Teodulo Natividad – showed up at the bridge to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.

Bagatsing represented the “war-torn” third district of Manila, while Natividad had just been made co-chairman of the special Senate-House committee investigating the Jan. 26 Congress riot.

While Gen. Yan directed the final assault on the remnants of the rebel movement who were still at Recto Ave. in front of the University of the East, mopping up operation was going on around the Mendiola bridge.

In the darkness, caused by the destruction earlier of the Meralco electric main transformer, soldiers rounded up youths during the chase, beat them up and dragged them back to their side.

The nearby San Beda College posed as a special problem to the troops engaged in the mopping up operation. About 200 youths had sought refuge within the safety of its tall abode walls and school buildings.

Because it was a private property, the soldiers peering through the closed gate scratched their heads figuring out what to do – whether to gate-rash it and round up the boys inside at the risk of trespassing, or simply wait for them to come out.

To be sure, those holed up in San Beda College could give the military authorities who had taken position on Mendiola bridge some trouble, because they were within striking distance.

Finally, the suspense was broken. Somebody from the inside, carrying a white flag, appeared. Then Rector Fr. Oligario came out and assured Metrocom officers that those holed up inside were San Beda students and meant no harm.

As this developed, the battle for Mendiola bridge was not yet over. Suddenly what used to be an insignificant piece of real estate became a much-coveted property.

Fierce battle still raged for the possession of Mendiola bridge. After constabulary and army troops had overrun the young rebels on this bridge and engaged them in a see-saw battle, now the rebels threatened to give them a dose of their own medicine.

In a desperate counter-offensive to recapture Mendiola bridge, young insurrectionists commandeered a Yujuico bus and drove it toward the beleaguered bridge.

Behind, students who had regrouped cheered the motorized kamikaze attack. But soldiers manning the army barricades on the bridge fired at the advancing bus and halted it.

Its rear then burst into flames just as it almost rammed the soldiers’ barricades.

It was now past midnight. Sporadic gunfire and explosions could be heard within the vicinity of Mendiola bridge from where I stood, still behind the student lines.

I decided to cross the student lines and reach the government side to see how it looks there. But instead of going straight to Mendiola bridge from UE and be mistaken for a sniper, I circled to play safe.

On Recto Ave. in front of UE I turned back to Lepanto St. Upon reaching that small street I turned left, and then left again when I reached Raon. From that corner I proceeded to San Sebastian Church. Finally I reached the corner of Legarda and San Rafael Sts.

There for the first time, I saw the soldiers at close range. Perhaps it was the same soldiers who chased and fired at us earlier that evening as I retreated with the students at the height of the Battle of Mendiola – I was not sure.

But they sure looked tired and hungry. The scars of battle were evident in their faces. Some simply slumped on the dark sidewalks, resting their rifles beside them. They seemed unperturbed by the presence of onlookers.

Finally at the crack of dawn, the final assault began.  From Mendiola bridge and behind the army barricades came out state troopers in full battle-gear.

They advanced in two-column formation, single file, and headed toward UE along Recto Ave., inching their way on both sidewalks across the darkened thoroughfare.

Upon seeing the soldiers, the young rebels – who earlier had caused havoc in the area by burning vehicles, uprooting the iron fence on the center island of Recto Ave., and dragging huge flower pots across the street to serve as barricades – fought back with Molotov bombs, rocks and other crude weapons.

But they were no match to the fully-armed soldiers. Realizing their exercise in futility, the rebels retreated down to Quezon Blvd. and into the heart of downtown Manila.

Closed on their heels came the advancing state troopers who now captured the area in front of UE along Recto Ave. In their mopping up operation there, they flushed out a big group holed up inside the university compound.

By this time, during the unholy hours of the morning, the retreating rebels rampaged through the streets of downtown Manila. Just as they had done the night before, they marched and shouted “Revolution! Revolution!”

Others chanted “Sumama kayong lahat sa rebolusyon!” (“Join the Revolution!”)

Some vowed “Ibagsak si Marcos!” (“Down with Marcos”).

Hundreds of commuters and late-movie-goers were stranded in downtown Manila. Afraid bus and jeepney drivers refused to ply their routes.

While state troopers had captured new areas and taken positions there, students and youths at the “liberated areas” were still in full control of the streets.

They stopped jeepneys, taxicabs and private cars entering the “liberated area” and ordered their drivers to turn back.

At the opposite side, soldiers with their M-14s ready, were also stopping every bus, jeepney and private vehicle in search for student rebels.

As mass arrest continued in the dark alleys of San Miguel, Sampaloc and Quiapo districts, anarchy broke loose.

Maddened by their defeat, young rebels fleeing for their lives stoned buildings, smashed window glasses, and burned vehicles they came across along their route of retreat.

In Quiapo where 24-hour coffee shops and restaurants suddenly closed, looting was rampant at the Lacson underpass. Looters also ransacked other city establishments elsewhere.

The rioters destroyed glass panes, set fire on the police outpost beside Quiapo Church, and knocked out traffic signal lights at the corner of Carriedo and Rizal Ave.

From the corner of Legarda and San Rafael Sts., I had already walked through Arlegui, Quiapo area, and was now on my way to Rizal Ave.

From the corner of Quezon Blvd. and Raon Sts., I could see a vehicle burning along Recto Ave. near Cinerama Theater.

I walked through Raon St. When I reached the corner of Rizal Ave., I saw a police traffic stand in the middle of the street burning. I approached a group and asked what happened, and was told that earlier a traffic policeman who saw a mob coming ran to Raon St. toward Florentino Torres St. The mob set it on fire.

On Rizal Ave. in front of State Theater, I saw another group rip off a bronze marker from the center island which proclaimed that this main thoroughfare was cemented through the effort of Mayor Antonio Villegas, and trampled it like a scrap of paper.

At the corner of Rizal Ave. and Bustos St., another group of rebels saw red at the sight of a police alarm installation, symbol of authority.

This they started hitting with their clubs with intent to destroy. But the red apparatus survived their beating as they got tired of hitting it.

A horrified night watch guard posted on the sidewalk of the Good Earth Emporium saw what happened, and when the same group approached him he immediately threw up his hands in surrender and cried: “Hindi ako lalaban!” (“I am not fighting you!”)

Just as some were about to gang up on him, cooler heads shouted: “Huwag! Hindi kalaban yan!” (“Don’t! He is not an enemy!”)

As I went home after that bloody night of Jan. 30, following what seemed like an eternity of terror, with the crack of gunfire and Molotov bombs still reverberating in my ears, with the smell of smokes and tear gas fumes still in my nostril, and with the dreaded face of revolution still staring at me, a sudden flashback ran across my mind.

Now I could not help but recall, as though it was only yesterday, what happened during the last world war when I was still a kid. Chaos broke out in Manila as Japanese troops pounded on its very doors.

The thought of the advancing enemy forces entering Manila, now declared an open city to spare it from further bombing, gripped the people with horror.

In the bedlam that broke loose, rampant looting followed the evacuation. Store owners fled for their lives and left their goods at the mercy of looters.

Later, at the sight of the enemy, civilians scampered to all directions and away from the advancing Japanese troops. The streets and sidewalks of downtown Manila were thus full of fleeing people.

That was sometime in 1942 during the early stage of world war two. In 1945, a similar tragic event took place. This time the once invincible conquerors, with a  touch of irony, were now preparing to make a last stand as Gen. MacArthur’s liberation forces closed in on the beleaguered city.

That afternoon chaos again broke loose in Manila, and as usual the hardest hit was business establishments. Rampant looting followed the mass confusion just before sunset.

That night advance units of the crack First U.S. Cavalry Division entered Manila and immediately captured Santo Tomas University where American prisoners of war were concentrated.

In the fierce fighting that broke out within our neighborhood, we found ourselves caught in the crossfire between the advancing American troops and the retreating Japanese soldiers.

When a mortar shell hit our neighbor’s roof and set fire on the house, we dashed out of P. Paredes St. with our push-cart full of belongings. As I pushed it across Quezon Blvd. toward Central Market, which was then only an open clearing where American troops had dug foxholes and aimed trench mortars and canons at Far Eastern University building nearby and at Intramuros across the Pasig River, bullets almost grazed me as I ran . . .

All this horrible war experience now suddenly flashed across my mind, after that bloody night of Jan. 30, following the Siege of Malacañang, next the Battle of Mendiola, and finally the chaos that broke out in downtown Manila.

Then, as on that night during the war, I found myself running with the frightened crowds in the dark streets and alleys of the city, fearful of the unknown, knowing that danger was lurking at every corner, and realizing that at that very moment, history was being written.#

Chapter 12: Martial Law

As the nation was pushed to “the trembling edge of revolution,” the big question of the moment was: “Will President Marcos impose martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus?”

Martial law is military rule. It is imposed in an area where civilian rule had collapsed or is about to collapse. Under martial law, the military has the power of life and death over the people.

Article VII, Section 11, of the Constitution vests in the President the power to impose martial law during an emergency. In such an eventuality, as Commander-in-Chief he becomes the military ruler. In effect, he becomes a dictator.

In the Philippines, the power to impose martial law is vested solely in the President, unlike in the United States where it is split between Congress and the President.

Writ of habeas corpus is of lesser degree. It protects the civil rights of the people, particularly against arrest or detention of more than six hours without a formal charge being filed.

Exception is the charge of sedition, in which case the accused may be detained for more than the statutory limitation of six hours or for as long as 18 hours.

To suspend the writ of habeas corpus, as what happened during the Quirino administration, is to deal a dangerous blow to the other freedoms; to impose martial law, is to knock out the entire Bill of Rights and establish a dictatorship.

To impose martial law or to suspend the writ of habeas corpus was thus the big question that haunted President Marcos during those agonizing moments in Malacañang because of that horrifying night of Jan. 30.

As he pondered over the painful situation, and as the smokes of battle cleared, five were confirmed dead in that bloodiest demonstration ever held in the country. They were:

  1. Fernando Tausa, 16, of Mapa High School.
  2. Fernando Catabay, 18, of Manuel L. Quezon University.
  3. Ricardo Alcantara, 19, of University of the Philippines.
  4. Felicisimo Roldan, 21, of Far Eastern University.
  5. Samuel Carreon, 28, of University of the East.

Aside from these five fatalities, over 200 persons were injured, 5 missing, 293 arrested for sedition, and about P1 million worth of property was destroyed.

All the dead victims suffered gunshot wounds, while most of those injured were also shot, others truncheoned.

Of the wounded victims, 17 were Manila policemen, 14 Metrocom troopers, and 2 newspapermen. The rest were demonstrators, while a few were bystanders.

Of those arrested for sedition, Fernando Barican, Jr., chairman of the University of the Philippines student council, led the list.

The following day the newspapers as usual screamed with big headlines and the photos, while the people reeled under the impact of the most violent youth uprising that ever exploded in the history of this republic.#

Chapter 13: Tales of Horror

The nightmare of Jan. 30 easily rivaled Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of horror or Rip Van Winkle’s believe-it-or-not items.

For the Filipinos, the battle of Manila was their baptism to the turbulent confrontation between the young rebels and the Establishment.

Now, in the aftermath of that terrifying night, came the sound and the fury of an angry Young Generation demanding justice for their dead.

For those who died on that night of Jan. 30, all martyrs to their cause, were shot and killed in cold blood, there was no denying it.

But who shot them, was the big question now. The students pointed an accusing finger at the soldiers whom they said had fired at them pointblank during their demonstration.

But their angry charges met vehement denials from military authorities who insisted that communist infiltrators had committed the murder to inflame the people against the government.

Spearheading the condemnation of military brutality was Fernando Barican Jr., chairman of the University of the Philippines student council, who was himself arrested and charged with sedition following that night of Jan. 30.

After his provisional release from PC stockade, the fiery student leader called an emergency meeting at the UP campus, cradle of national leaders, after which the entire student population there unanimously adopted a declaration against the Establishment.

Without mincing words, their manifesto branded the gory incidents of Jan. 26 and 30 as the “most criminal betrayal of the people’s clamor for change – change in the economic, social and political provinces of our national setup.”

The UP declaration continued:

“We express disgust over the growing use of force as evidenced by the mockery of elections in Batanes, Ilocos Sur, and Marinduque and the suppression of civil liberties in Central Luzon.

“No one has forgotten the Lapiang Malaya and Jabidah massacres and the Oct. 24, 1966, movement.

“The UPSC makes no denial that a few students were harsh in their methods of achieving their cause. But it believes that under no guise of law can acts of the policemen, Metrocom agents, soldiers, and the PC justify the brutal murder committed.

“The UPSC fears no Congress investigation. It expresses its most sincere desire to participate and cooperate. But it demands that the officers-in-charge of the military team detained to guard Malacañang on the night of Jan. 30 be summoned before Congress to be subjected to investigation on the death of students.

“The UPSC shall preserve the integrity of the university. It shall oppose all acts from within and without which attempt to paralyze state universities from free thinking and living up to its rule as catalyst for change.”

The inseparable team of Edgar Jopson, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, and Portia Ilagan, president of the National Students League, also denounced the authorities for the Jan. 30 tragedy.

In another joint statement, they strongly opposed any move of President Marcos to curtail civil liberties or declare martial law in the Philippines.

They condemned the use of high-powered arms like Armalites and Thompson, sub-machinegun in suppressing the students during their Jan. 30 Malacañang demonstration.

Denying that their groups were a party to the riot, Jopson and Ilagan nevertheless warned that the administration might use the present conditions as an excuse to perpetrate witch-hunts that could place student dissenters in danger.

The two student rebel leaders stressed that in the wake of all this, the only alterative left was “peaceful or violent revolution.”

Nelson Navarro, spokesman of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, viewed “with alarm the Red scare that President Marcos has just unleashed against the Filipino people.”

He continued:

“While military harassment and ideological slander are not entirely unknown to the progressive sector of our country, this latest incursion of President Marcos into the beleaguered constitutional rights of the people cannot help but mean that Fascism has indeed established to protect Marcos and his kind from the justified wrath of the people.

“The culpability of the Marcos administration is doubly condemnable for its gross hypocrisy and deception. It has consistently denied the existence of just and legitimate grievances coming from the majority of the Filipino people. It has closed its eyes to a political system distinguished for its corruption, puppetry and opportunism.”

Crispin Aranda, chairman of the Youth League Against Fascism and president of the student council of the Philippine College of Commerce, said:

“We denounce the malicious attempts of Marcos and the military to white-wash the criminal role of their agents in the Jan. 30 massacre of students.

“The soldiers and policemen who were responsible for the heinous crime against our youth may remain unpunished for they enjoy the protection of the fascistic government of Marcos.

“Unknown to them, perhaps, these trigger-happy butchers have produced martyrs whose death will further galvanize the surging mass actions of students, workers, and peasants.”

The Kabataang Makabayan and the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan squarely blamed the PC, Special Forces, Task Force Lawin, Metrocom and police for the death of five students on Jan. 30.

“They were unforgivably responsible for the death of student demonstrators who were shot in the back by well-camouflaged army snipers while fleeing from the attacking columns of soldiers.

“There is no doubt that the intention of the armed agents of the state was to physically eliminate the military demonstrators who dared to expose and fight the fascistic government of Marcos.

“Mr. Marcos will never succeed in washing off from his hands the blood of student victims no matter how he evades the issues of fascism and police brutality leveled against him.”

The National Students Association of the Philippines also charged President Marcos with “indulging in witch-hunting and McCarthyism” for claiming that the riot in Malacañang was “communist-inspired.”

“We strongly deny that the massive student demonstration in Malacañang was committed by leftist elements,” the NASP said.

The Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), through Salvador Araneta, former secretary of agriculture and president of Araneta University, also joined the outcry against the Jan. 30 tragedy. He said:

“I was greatly affected and feel sad that four young lives had to be immolated to the crusade for change. As chairman of the Philconsa committee on reforms, we join hands with NUSP leaders in their further assessment that the bitter lesson of that Friday tumult is that there is no other choice but to change society and political institutions that made possible this violence.”

As various groups angrily ganged up on the Marcos administration and demanded that it account for what happened on Jan. 30, tales of how the dead victims of military atrocities fell in the night unfolded and further shocked the nation.

A grieving father of Bernardo Tausa, 16, of Mapa High School, who was felled by a bullet, said his son was on his way to the Mercury drugstore at the corner of Recto Ave. and Legarda St. when fighting broke out.

Bernardo died from a bullet wound in the chest at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital.

Fernando Catabay, 18, of Manuel L. Quezon University, succumbed to a single bullet wound on the side of his body – according to his father Juan Catabay.

“He was never involved in any demonstration before until yesterday when invited by friends to Malacañang,” the elder Catabay recalled.

Ricardo Alcantara, 19, University of the Philippines, a first-year A.B. student and son of The Manila Times warehouse manager Jesus Alcantara, suffered mortal bullet wound in the face.

According to his aunt Dolores Alcantara, Ricardo at first hesitated to join the demonstration but since the site was along the way to their house, he joined the Malacañang rallyists.

Felicisimo Roldan, 21, of Far Eastern University, was walking along Mendiola St. that evening of Jan. 30 with his younger brother Mario.

In the crossfire that followed, Mario said he saw his brother collapse after a volley of gunfire. As Mario dragged his wounded brother who was hit in the right arm, he himself got hit in the right arm but survived.

As for the many other demonstrators who also suffered gunshot wounds and other injuries caused by truncheons but also luckily survived the Mendiola massacre, their tales of brutality were equally horrifying.

But despite strong evidence of military atrocities, armed forces authorities washed their hands off the killing of the five students at the height of the bloodiest demonstration that ever rocked the country.

Initial army findings showed that .22 caliber guns were weapons used in snuffing out the lives of the victims as evidenced by the slugs found in their bodies.

Since the soldiers were armed with higher caliber guns, it was pointed out that they could not have been the ones who shot and killed the five students.

At any rate, Gen. Manuel Yan, AFP chief of staff, ordered that the autopsy on the five slain students be thoroughly conducted and expedited to ascertain further if there were other types of guns used in their killing.

President Marcos cleared the security forces of any blame for their death, although he stressed that the riots had given them enough provocation which, from the legal point of view, could have given the soldiers an excuse to shoot them down.

“Imagine what the military would have done if I had lost my cool,” Mr. Marcos said.

As the commander-in-chief absolved the soldiers from any responsibility in the death of the five students even as Gen. Yan ordered further probe of the case, the Manila police came up with different findings.

According to Dr. Angelo Singian, medico-legal officer of the Manila Police Department, the victims were all felled by bullets fired from high-powered weapons!

Dr. Singian, who had just autopsied the bodies of the victims, thus contradicted military claims that the students were killed by bullets from .22 caliber guns.

He disclosed that on the contrary Alcantara was hit by a bullet from a high-powered weapon, while the other victims were shot with guns no lower in power than .38s.

Standard military arms were the Armalite M-14 and M-16, caliber .225, .32 caliber carbines, .30 caliber Garand rifles, and .38 and .45 caliber pistols and revolvers.

Notwithstanding the Manila police’s adverse findings, Brig. Gen. Vicente Raval, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, insisted that the fatalities of the Jan. 30 riot were shot by the students themselves to win the people’s sympathy.

The close crony of President Marcos explained that “this was then the pattern – demonstrators killing some of their members to dramatize it and gain public sympathy.” He added:

“In Rome, the demonstrators killed one of their members and carried the body along the streets during the five-day rally. This was also the pattern in other countries which I have visited.”

Raval debunked the findings of the Manila police that the five students were felled by high-caliber firearms, not by .22 caliber guns as military authorities had earlier claimed. He said:

“That’s not true! Had I ordered the shooting, you can just imagine how many students would have been killed by just one platoon aiming their guns at them.

“In fact I commended my men because they were able to control themselves and they did not fire their guns despite the fact that many of them were hurt by stoning.

“Why should I allow my men to fire at those students when I have also seven children and those demonstrators were like my sons?

“In fact, when I saw a wounded student bleeding all over his face, it seemed that I could see the face of my own son.”

Asked to comment on the Raval statement that the five dead victims of the Jan. 30 bloody riot were shot by the demonstrators themselves to arouse public sympathy, a now different Gen. Yan shouted:

“No, no, no! No demonstrator was apprehended with any high-caliber weapon. The only confiscation was a cal. .22 paltik and a 9 mm pistol. The autopsies showed that three of the victims were felled by .38 slugs and the fourth a high-caliber bullet.”

Thus to the surprise of the people, Gen. Yan contradicted President Marcos and PC Chief Raval, and supported the finding of the Manila police!#

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On the January 30-31 Demonstration

January 29, 2010

By Ang Bayan

Published in the book, First Quarter Storm of 1970 (Silangan Publishers, 1970), p. 36-45). In the book’s introduction, the book’s editors wrote: “We believe that truth can best be served by allowing the amplest opportunity for and  fullest freedom in the battle of ideas. To that goal the publication of this book is dedicated.” Ang Bayan is the official publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Brutality of the Reactionary State

Not satisfied with the brutal breaking-up of the January 26 demonstration in front of Congress, the reactionary regime of Marcos Perpetrated on January 30-31 far bloodier and more brutal crimes against more than 50,000 students, progressive intellectuals, workers and peasants who demonstrated in front of Malacañang.

Four student heroes enrolled in various large schools in the Greater Manila area were wantonly murdered with rifle fire by military troops and the police. Hundreds of other young men and women were seriously injured and maimed for life. They filled six large hospitals in the Greater Manila area. The savagery of the shooting and truncheon beating conducted by the reactionary troops and police was such that until now scores of demonstrators continue to be on the verge of death. Hundreds of militant demonstrators were arrested and wounded demonstrators were thrown into PC and Army trucks like hogs for the butcherhouse. Many of those arrested were subjected to torture and long hours of interrogation by PC investigators. Some of those apprehended are still being missed by their schoolmates and friends.

Even after the demonstration, the fascist brutes continued to kidnap and arrest students and other demonstration leaders in the futile attempt of the Marcos puppet reactionary regime to blackmail and intimidate them and forestall more and bigger mass protests against its bloody crimes against the people. Immediately after the demonstration, the reactionary government filed sedition charges against demonstration leaders and other militants, closed the schools in the Greater Manila area and turned its spies against patriotic students and leaders of mass organizations suspected of organizing more protest actions. A ban on protest demonstrations was brazenly imposed.

During and after the demonstrations, the fascist puppet chieftain Marcos called all his top henchmen in the major services of the reactionary armed forces and briefed them for more intensified suppression and intimidation of patriotic students and organizations. The U.S. A.I.D,-trained brutes of the Manila police as well as those of the suburban areas were organized to be let loose on the demonstrators.

Never has there been a more open and bloodier suppression of democratic rights in the city than the suppression of the demonstration of January 30-31.

The Revolutionary Courage of the Students and Other Demonstrators

The militant participants of the January 26 demonstration in front of Congress were never cowed by the brutality of the reactionary state. They came back with more intense patriotism and courage to join the January 30-31 demonstration against the reactionary state and the fascist puppets of U.S. imperialism.

The militant students, constituting the majority of the participants in the demonstrations, came in big numbers from 36 universities, colleges and high schools in Manila. Also participating were representatives from more than 40 universities and colleges in the provinces. Together with contingents of workers and peasants, they gave full play to the revolutionary spirit of “It is right to rebel” against U.S. imperialism and local reaction. They fought tit for tat against the reactionary troops and police with explosives made on the spot, iron bars taken from street railings and stones. They commandeered a fire truck to break the main gate of Malacañang and a bus to break the lines of the advancing hordes of Metrocom men and set fire to several army and police vehicles, including trucks, jeeps and a cop motorcycle.

The patriotic demonstrators shouted revolutionary slogans condemning the fascist brutality of the reactionary state and calling on the workers, peasants, students and progressive intellectuals to unite against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and the Marcos puppet reactionary regime.

The residents in the demonstration area were inspired by the dauntless revolutionary spirit of the demonstrators as they held their ground against the attacks of the armed brutes of the reactionary state. They took in many wounded demonstrators and even treated them.

Frightened out of his wits, the fascist puppet Marcos gave the order to shoot the patriotic demonstrators and had a helicopter ready for his immediate escape from the ire of the militant demonstrators. Apart from the 2,000 reactionary troops which unleashed the sanguinary suppression against the demonstrating masses, AFP chieftain Manuel Yan ordered the 12,000-man strong PC on “red-alert”, and the air force, navy and army on “blue alert”. He even summoned Task Force Lawin, the Marines and five companies of the Special Forces from Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to reinforce the troops in and around Manila. This has clearly shown the utter panic of the Marcos reactionary regime in confronting the militant masses of demonstrators. In mortal fear of further mass protest actions against its corrupt and brutal regime, it has kept a large number of reactionary troops in the Greater Manila area up to now.

After the demonstration of January 30-31, the patriotic students and other demonstrators have continuously fought in various forms the reactionary puppet regime and vowed to develop their struggle in scale and depth. Their dauntless revolutionary spirit has inspired and won the sympathy of the broad masses of the people throughout the country. Mass actions are sweeping the country in support of the January 30-31 demonstration and in protest against the fascist terror perpetrated by the Marcos puppet reactionary regime.

The revolutionary courage and heroism of the students have lifted the hearts of the oppressed and exploited people all over the country. They have in a big way fanned the flames of revolutionary struggle. The entire Filipino people are increasingly awakening to the need for armed revolutionary struggle in the face of armed counter-revolution.

Subsequent Tactics of the Enemy

Within 24 hours after the sanguinary suppression of the patriotic demonstrators, the fascist chieftain Marcos babbled in his “nationwide call” through the mass media that the militant mass demonstration was either “communist-inspired” and “not communist-inspired” in a desperate effort to tone down the immediate nationwide condemnation of his bloody crimes. Marcos has tried in vain to cover up the fact that the broad masses of the student demonstrators together with workers and peasants, are united in their common feeling of indignation against and in their resistance to his puppet reactionary regime and his U.S. imperialist masters. He cannot hope to split the ranks of patriotic students, workers and peasants who will always rise up inasmuch as they have reached a new and higher level of consciousness against the enemies of national democracy.

Marcos has tried to wash his hands of the blood of the patriotic demonstrators brutally murdered and maimed by his henchmen – the reactionary military troops and police. He even has the impudence to demand gratitude from the people because he has exercised “tolerance” and restrained himself from murdering more students or formally suspending the privilege of habeas corpus. But his hypocritical speech cannot erase the fact of the unprecedented murder of four student youth and maiming and mass arrests of hundreds of patriotic demonstrators under his regime nor can it hide the truth that all this is but a preparation for further bloody suppressions of patriotic militants and organizations and the national democratic movement in general.

Marcos’ January 31st red-baiting statement has set the line for the subsequent bicameral hearings being conducted by Congress. It is evident from the pattern of interrogation in the hearings that militant and patriotic organizations are the object of this witch-hunt. This again is a dirty scheme to divert the attention of the people from the bloody crimes of the Marcos reactionary regime and to stifle the growing mass movement of the Filipino people against U.S. imperialism and its local reactionary allies. It is not surprising fur such a politically bankrupt regime to concentrate its attack on those who truly speak and act for the national democratic interests of the people. Not a single one of its henchmen who brutally attacked the patriotic demonstrators has been apprehended and tried.

Far from putting the blame on the reactionary troops and police, Marcos even lauded their “exemplary” conduct in the murder, maiming and mass arrests of the patriotic militant demonstrators. Together with his gang of fascist brutes, Marcos led a field mass at Malacañang Park where he took the opportunity to exhort the troops of the reactionary armed forces to prepare for more sanguinary suppression of the people’s struggle for national liberation and democratic rights.

Marcos callously manipulates the Catholic Church through Cardinal Santos, the bishops and the priests to chasten the demonstrators for having militantly acted in defense of their democratic rights. True to his role as an apologist of the counter-revolutionary state which exploits and oppresses the Filipino people, Cardinal Santos is first of all “concerned” about the “destruction” of “private property” than about the wanton killing of four student demonstrators and the serious injury of hundreds of demonstrators by the Marcos fascist gang. He clamours for a “dialogue” only after a monologue of bullets burst out from the guns of the reactionary troops and police to repress the indignant voices of the patriotic demonstrators who gathered on that historic day of January 30 and fought back for more than six hours till the early hours of January 31. in more cleverly couched terms so as not to appear “political”, he has also warned against “ideologies” which “sow disunity” among the people. This is a vicious attempt to hide the truth that never in the history of our country have the Filipino people forged such a militant unity against such a hopelessly corrupt regime which has extremely isolated itself from the overwhelming majority of the people because of its virulent opposition to their national democratic aspirations.

After the murder, maiming and mass arrests of patriotic demonstrators, the Marcos puppet regime would now dangle before the students monetary and other material bribes such as the promise of a $0.6 million trust fund for so-called “student welfare programs and projects” and the creation of a “national student commission”. But the students know better. They are very much aware that this is but one ace of the counter-revolutionary dual tactic of the fascist puppet regime to soften up their struggle against the reactionary state. They are more vigilant than ever about the dirty trick of buying off scabs in the student and youth movement.

In order to attack the surging patriotic student and youth movement, the Marcos reactionary regime is resorting to the use of fascist gangs and even the “Monkees”. It has also sent infiltrators and agents into youth meetings and conferences in the foolish hope of splitting the ranks of patriotic and militant organizations of youth and students.

The Marcos reactionary regime continues to mobilize thousands of military troops for guarding the Greater Manila area. It has ordered the PC authorities of various zones to organize their own “anti-riot” squads to suppress the rapidly spreading wave if indignation rallies and demonstrations against the brutal suppression of the patriotic demonstrators in Manila.

The puppet regime of Marcos in its role as the chief hatchetman of U.S. imperialism and feudalism has been so discredited before the eyes of the broad masses of the Filipino people that only the most rabid counter-revolutionaries will ever try to save it from its inevitable doom as the local revisionist renegades are vainly attempting to do by crying in dismay about the “purely anti-Marcos” line of the recent militant mass demonstrations. Evidently, this is for the sole purpose of begging political capital from the Marcos reactionary regime in the form of allowing them to participate in bourgeois parliamentary politics.

Evaluation of the January 26 and January 30-31 Demonstrations

The demonstrations of January 26 and January 30-31 came close on the heels of the student and worker demonstrations against the visit of U.S. Vice-President Agnew last December 29. They signify the new awakening of the Filipino people against U.S. imperialism and the local reactionary puppets. They are a bugle call for more militant mass actions in the city for this year as well as the current decade.

These demonstrations have served to raise the consciousness of the masses of the Filipino people against the reactionary state which serves U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The broad masses of the people have increasingly understood the need for revolutionary armed struggle against the armed counter-revolution and for overthrowing the present reactionary state.

The demonstrations have served as a rich source of activists for the national democratic revolution and, therefore, of prospective members and fighters of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The revolutionary mass actions in the city are bound to develop in coordination with the surging agrarian revolution in the countryside. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, ideological, political and organizational preparations are continuously being made for intensified revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside and bigger mass actions in the city against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The entire reactionary system in the Philippines is rotting daily and the objective conditions for waging armed struggle are getting better daily.

Internationally, U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism are plunging speedily into insoluble political and economic crises while the invincible forces of socialism and national liberation are surging in ever-victorious waves.

The revolutionary situation has never been so excellent!

The students and progressive intellectuals who participated in the demonstrations of January 26 and January 30-31 have proven their revolutionary courage and militance. By constantly studying and implementing Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought in a living way and by integrating themselves firmly with the masses of workers and peasants, learning from as well as teaching them, they will certainly not fall back but march forward along the road of the struggle for national democracy.

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The January 30 Insurrection

January 29, 2010

By Jose F. Lacaba

This article was first published on February 7, 1970 in the Philippines Free Press, pages 16-B, 16-C  and has been included in the author’s book Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage (New edition: Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2003. First edition: Salinlahi Publishing House, Manila 1982. Second printing: Asphodel Books, Manila, 1986.)

January 26 seemed explosive—but it was a whimper compared with the horrendous bang of January 30. The papers called January 26 a riot. January 30 was something else. “This is no longer a riot,” said a police officer. “This is an insurrection.” And the President called it a revolt—“a revolt by local Maoist Communists.”

January 26 was a Monday. On Tuesday, about 120 student leaders, representing thirty-six schools and at least a dozen national youth organizations, gathered at the Far Eastern University. NUSP President Edgar Jopson, of the Ateneo, presided over the three-hour meeting, during which a resolution was passed demanding the resignation of certain officials of law enforcement agencies, and Friday was set as the starting date of a series of rallies. While the students were conferring at the FEU, the President was in a huddle with law enforcement officials in Malacañang. He told them to be “more tolerant to the future leaders of the country,” and ordered them to drop the charges against the students arrested on January 26.

On Wednesday, Mayor Villegas announced that the Manila police would stay away from future demonstrations to avoid trouble, but that they would stand by, “within beck and call if violence erupts.” The NUSP and the National Students League rejected an invitation to meet with the President in Malacañang, saying they preferred to have the talks on Friday. Another group of student leaders went there anyway and heard the President say: “I personally do not want to have anything to do with the Constitutional Convention.” The Senate and the House of Representatives created a committee to investigate the “root causes of demonstrations in general.” The Manila police filed complaints of alarm and scandal against eighteen students caught in the battle of Burgos Drive. “The whole world is in ferment and youth is on the march,” said Brigadier General Vicente Raval of the Philippine Constabulary. “It is essential that, in our country, we take the greatest care in dealing with the problem.” He proposed the immediate acquisition of “nonlethal equipment” for the police and urged that they be re-trained in “the highly sensitive science of dealing with demonstrators.”

On Thursday, there were four groups of demonstrators. Students from the Philippine Normal College and members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines held separate rallies. Students from the University of the East gathered first at Malacañang, then moved on to Maharnilad, where trouble was avoided when a policeman whose jeep was stoned simply drove away without a fight. When the UE students left Malacañang, UP professors led by S. P. Lopez arrived and were angrily reprimanded by the President: “You yourselves are vague and confused about the issues you have raised against the government.” The President challenged any Communist in the group to a debate, and when a student leader accused him of using the army and the Special Forces in the elections, he asked: “Are you a Liberal?” Meanwhile, police reporters agreed to wear distinctive uniforms when covering demonstrations, to avoid being stoned by students and clobbered by cops.

And then it was Friday, January 30.

Again, there were simultaneous demonstrations. To Congress went members of the KM, the SDK, the MPKP, and other militant groups. The NUSP and the NSL marched on Malacañang.

At about three in the afternoon, Jopson, Portia Ilagan of the NSL, and other student leaders went into Malacañang for a meeting with the President.

Sometime past five, the rally at Congress came to an end, and the demonstrators marched on to Malacañang, arriving there at about six.

What specific event precipitated the battle that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J.P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacañang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacañang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of “Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!” Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! a rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.

A commotion was now going on at the Mendiola gate of the Palace. A firetruck inside the Palace grounds advanced and trained its hoses on the student rebels. The students retreated, and a brief period of lull followed. At about seven, a truck from the Manila Fire Department, responding to an alarm, came up from Sta. Mesa, its sirens dead, and slowed down in front of St. Jude Church. The firemen probably intended to blast away at the students, but water must really be scarce. Nothing but an ineffectual sputtering spurt came out of their water cannon. The students charged, the truck backed off—but not fast enough. The firemen who were not quick to flee got beaten up.

The rebels now had a captured firetruck at their disposal. They drove it toward the Mendiola gate and used it as a battering ram of sorts until the locks gave way, the chains broke, and the gate clanked open. Into the breach surged the more daring demonstrators. They had apparently come prepared for the assault. They lobbed molotovs and pillboxes into the Palace grounds; the flames spread down the road when the molotovs crashed to the ground, the nails and broken pieces of glass scattered when the pillboxes exploded.

Once inside the gate, the rebels stoned the buildings and set fire to the truck and to a government car that happened to be parked nearby. Before they could wreak more havoc, however, the Presidential Guard Battalion came out in full force. They fired into the air and, when the rebs held their ground, fired tear gas bombs at them. The rebs retreated; the few who were slow on their feet, or were blinded by the tear gas, got caught on the Palace grounds and were beaten up with rifle butts and billy clubs and good old-fashioned fists and feet.

About this time, reinforcements from the constabulary arrived, later to be joined by the army, the navy, and the Metrocom. The pattern of the January 26 battle was repeated: the military would attack, the students would retreat; the students would counterattack, the military would draw back. At about nine, the soldiers had gained control of Mendiola and J.P. Laurel. The students were holding M. Aguila, Legarda, and Claro M. Recto; some had retreated down Arlegui and into Quiapo, where looters took advantage of the situation in the Lacson Underpass, breaking display windows and grabbing jewelry and shoes.

On M. Aguila, when I got there at about nine o’clock, the students were turning away all vehicles. The soldiers were at the corner of M. Aguila and Mendiola, and steadily advancing. The students held their ground, hurling rocks, until they heard the sound of rifles being cocked. Then they scattered, some jumping over high walls into the yards of houses, others being voluntarily let in by apartment dwellers. I fell in with a small group that took shelter at the mouth of a dark alley. A boy of about twelve, in slippers, obviously a resident of the place, said there was a way out if we wanted to take a chance. He guided us down the long dark winding alley, down narrow catwalks, past walls smelling of urine, past accesorias with crumbling facades, until we came out, to our surprise, on Claro M. Recto.

At the end of Recto, where it hits Legarda, the students were massed, tense, turbulent, flinging rocks and insults at the men in uniform—they looked like constabulary troopers—guarding the bridge that leads to Mendiola. In the center of the cross formed by Recto, Mendiola, and Legarda was a burning jeep, its flames a bright yellow curtain separating the combatants. From the left side of Legarda came more shouts; there were other demonstrators there, and the troopers had to guard the bridge against two armies of students, one attacking from the front, the other attacking from the side.

It was at this point, with the students closing in from Recto and Legarda, that the troopers started firing—rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, the sound of a Thompson submachine gun—into the ground. Dust and tiny pebbles exploded from the cement. Where I stood, two rows behind the front lines, I felt a sudden sharp stinging pain in my chest. I’m hit, I thought, when I saw spots of blood on my shirt front; but since I didn’t fall, I gingerly unbuttoned my shirt. Embedded right below my right nipple was an itty-bitty piece of cement. I carefully pulled it out and was examining it like a jeweler scrutinizing some precious gem from the moon when, before my eyes, there passed a student, supported by his comrades, one of his hands—the right, I think—now nothing more than a mess of blood and burning flesh, the fingers dangling like dead worms attached to his wrist only by a few threads of broken bones.

I was standing there in horror when another student, limping, fell into my arms. I recognized him to be one of the students who had come with us through the alley from M. Aguila. He had one wound on his right leg, below the knee, and another on the outer ankle bone. A bystander watching from the sidewalk helped me carry him up Claro M. Recto, where we found a white car—a Taunus, I think—whose owner was good enough to take us to the UE Memorial Hospital. There they treated my very minor wound, but they could do nothing, they said, for the boy who had been shot in the leg. We then took a taxi—the owner of the car had gone back to the battle scene, looking for some fraternity brods—and brought our ward to the Orthopedic Hospital. At that very moment, as bad luck would have it, a small fire was raging on one of the upper floors. The fire did something to the X-rays, and the interns had to put the wounded boy’s leg in a cast, unable to check if a bullet was in his system.

The doctors at the Orthopedic Hospital agreed to let the wounded student stay for the night, until his friends or relatives could be contacted; and the bystander who had helped me carry the boy now invited me to his apartment house in Sampaloc for coffee and conversation. It was about midnight. When we were near his place, we saw that Legarda was still in tumult. So we forgot all about the coffee, and off to the battlefield we went again.

The demonstrators had captured an army truck near the market, near a PNB branch, and a noisy debate on what to do with it was going on. Some wanted to push the truck into the line of Metrocom and army men down the road, but its wheels had been punctured, and this proved to be a difficult task. Others wanted to burn the truck down, and indeed someone threw a lighted match into the sheets of paper that had been dumped inside the truck. Another demonstrator, however, quickly jumped onto the truck and stomped out the fire; the houses were too close, he said, “huwag na nating idamay ’yong mga tao.”

While the debate continued, two more army trucks beamed their headlights on the demonstrators and started moving forward, followed by the soldiers. The students started throwing stones. Some toughies in the area who had come out to join the demonstrators used slingshots, but kept swearing under their breath because they had no stock of homemade arrows. “Metrocom!” went the shout. “Sumuko na kamo! Bato ini!” The soldiers kept advancing, and then they started firing with Thompsons into the ground. We all scattered, except for one boy who did not even flinch, and called on everybody to return. “Balik kayo, balik!” he cried. “Hindi magpapaputok nang deretso ’yan!” I don’t know what happened to him, because when another round of firing started, I found myself in another dark alley, with a new group of companions.

When I got out again, the army truck was gone, and the soldiers were back at the corner of Recto and Legarda. A long lull followed, about thirty minutes. Then the soldiers started to advance again, someone hurled a molotov cocktail at them, they charged, cocking their guns and following their quarries into dark alleys where, as before, demonstrators found doors being opened to them, or people at second-floor windows warning them with gestures about the presence of soldiers in alleys the demonstrators would enter. I somehow got separated from all my companions and found myself all alone under a kulahan, sitting on damp cement. The resident of an apartment house across the alley saw me and discreetly turned off his lights.

Quiet once more. I emerged from my hiding place and walked out into a street from which I could see the church on Earnshaw. There was a small group of students clustered at the door of an accesoria, talking animatedly, and I joined them. I was listening to them relate their experiences when, at the corner of Earnshaw and this street we were on, a squad of Metrocom men appeared. Everybody fled, except myself, two students, and the occupants of the accesoria, who worriedly told us to get in if we didn’t want to get hurt. In that dark, dingy, cramped accesoria, the two students and I stayed for a whole hour, seated on the steps of very narrow stairs, gulping down glasses and glasses of water, smoking, talking in whispers—“Rebolusyon na ito, brod,” they said—until the coast was clear.

It was three o’clock in the morning when we came out. Later that morning the papers said that four students, some of them nondemonstrators, had been killed: Feliciano Roldan of FEU, Ricardo Alcantara of UP, Fernando Catabay of MLQ, and Bernardo Tausa of Mapa High School. Almost 300 demonstrators and bystanders were arrested; most of them were detained at Camp Crame.

That night, the President appeared on television to inform the nation of the “premeditated attack on the government, an act of rebellion and subversion,” which the military had successfully repulsed. “The mob that attempted to burn Malacañang,” he said, “was not a mob of students, nor were they simply arsonists.” They waved red banners, carried the flag with the red field up, called the streets they occupied “liberated areas,” and shouted “Dante for President!” Therefore, said the President, “these were men dedicated to an evil purpose, and that is to destroy Malacañang Palace and/or take it over.” The plan to take over Malacañang, he went on, was hatched by either one or both of two groups—“one of them Communist-inspired and the other one not Communist-inspired.” Both groups were under surveillance.

To his nation, the President had a message: “Rest assured that the situation is under control. Rest assured that we will maintain peace and order. Malacañang Palace is well guarded, but more than this, the country and our government [are] well guarded. There is no takeover by any group of the military or of the civilian government. In the matter of the preparation of the plans of reaction against any attempt to take over this government, the action that will be taken will be well-studied, deliberate, cautious, and legal, and there will be no attempt to curtail constitutional freedom.”

To the “insurrectionary elements,” he gave warning: “Any attempt at the forcible overthrow of the government will be put down immediately. I will not tolerate nor will I allow Communists to take over.”

The same day, the nation learned that the retirement date of General Raval of the PC, which was supposed to be on February 1, had been postponed to April 1. The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines were on red alert.

The author also wrote the following notes in his blog, http://kapetesapatalim.blogspot.com/search?q=January+30

I am posting this on a Friday, and I have just rediscovered, while re-reading my old article, that January 30, 1970, was also a Friday. Which means, of course, that January 26, 1970, was also a Monday.

The following piece, and my previous post on the January 26 confrontation, first appeared in the same issue of the Philippines Free Press (February 7, 1970). January 26, 1970, was a Monday, and my deadline was the following Monday, February 3. As usual, I was procrastinating and waiting for deadline day itself to finish my article. I therefore saw Friday, January 30, as a TGIF night, and I went with an officemate to a drinking session with his neighborhood barkada in Sta. Ana, Manila, where our drink of choice was probably the then-popular lethal concoction known as beergincoke—San Miguel Beer, Ginebra San Miguel, and Coca-Cola mixed in a plastic pitcher, drunk in tagay-tagay fashion.

Fortunately, I was not yet plastered when we heard over the radio that something was going on in the vicinity of Mendiola and Malacañang. Duty calls, I told my drinking mates, and stood up to go, but they insisted on coming along. We all piled into a taxicab that was willing to take us as close to the action as possible. We got off together, but when the military started its dispersal operation, we somehow found ourselves scampering off in different directions, and it wasn’t until several days later that we saw each other again for another drinking session.

That’s the crazy part that I decided not to include in my reportage. I didn’t think my editors would approve.

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Photo Gallery (January 26)

January 26, 2010

Some photographs of the  January 26, 1970 rally, collected from various sources

Students from NUSP-affiliated schools along P. Burgos

The rally platform, edited photo spread of Sunday Times Magazine

An aerial view of the rally, taken from a newspaper

Edgar Jopson addressing the crowd (Taliba photo by Jess Mendoza)

The cardboard coffin signifying the "death of democracy"

Government forces at the Congress driveway

Streamers block police in pursuit of demonstrators

A demonstrator caught and photographed

Jerry Barican, UP Studen Council president, prevents police from arresting a demonstrator

Down but bravely holding on to the streamer

Who is this Caucasian-looking man?

NUSP's Mervyn Encanto

Senator Emmanuel Pelaez comes to the rescue

Various shots of a UP Ikot jeepney where several students took refuge:

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I Saw Them Aim and Fire! (excerpts)

January 25, 2010

By Hermie Rotea

These accounts are chapters  in the book, I Saw Them Aim and Fire: Story of the Jan. 26 & 30, 1970 Student Revolt in the Philippines (The Daily News, 1970) by journalist Hermie Rotea, published in April 1970.  The book provides one of the earliest, if not the earliest, eyewitness accounts of the First Quarter Storm. “Here in this book is the complete and unexpurgated story of what really happened  before, during, and after Jan. 26 and 30,” writes the author. “It is my story, your story, our story!” At the time of publication, Rotea was editor, publisher, and printer of The Daily News. A director of the National Press Club of the Philippines in 1960, he studied journalism at FEU and at the Newspaper Institute of America in New York.

Chapter 4:  State of the Nation

I saw and heard President Marcos deliver his State-of-the-Nation address on Jan. 26 before a joint session of the Seventh Congress.

But before I could enter the session hall of the House of Representatives where the traditional ceremony was held, I had a hard time trying to get in.

The main lobby of the legislative building was swarming with people, including many presidential security agents, anti-riot policemen, soldiers, and plainclothes operatives.

Outside, the biggest throng of youth demonstrators ever to assemble in front of Congress jampacked every inch of the area, chanting and demanding reforms.

It was about 4:45 p.m. already and I knew that President Marcos must now be on his way to Congress.

Earlier that morning of the same day, I also witnessed the formal reelection of Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr. when the House formally opened its session. Simultaneously, the Senate likewise reelected Senator Gil Puyat as its chief according to the prepared script.

After their revamps, the two legislative bodies passed their respective resolutions formally informing each other of their partial reorganizations, and another informing the President that Congress was now ready to receive him in 6 joint sessions.

And following the usual formalities, the House and the Senate, meeting separately, adjourned until 5 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day to hear the State-of-the-Nation address of the President of the Philippines.

I am no stranger to Congress doings, but on Jan. 26 I met new experience that had never happened there before.

For instance, the crowds inside and outside the legislative building were unusually big, the likes of which I had never seen there previously.

About the only event that could probably rival the size of those crowds and the presence of so many security agents, policemen, and soldiers was the seven-nation Summit Conference in October 1966.

But that was because the seven chiefs of state who attended the meeting at the same House session hall had to bring along their own security forces. Aside from that, foreign correspondents all over the world went there also to cover the affair.

I waded through the crowd on the main lobby in an effort to reach the door of the House session hall. Before I could do so I saw five reporters who were stopped by the guards at the main entrance.

They were Isagani Yambot of The Manila Times; Feliciano Magno, Daily Mirror; Ernesto Singson, Manila Daily Bulletin; Jose Umali, Philippines Herald; and Ric Baliao, Evening News, veteran Congress reporters all.

The guards demanded that the newsmen show their invitation cards, but when they explained they had none because the arrangement earlier made with House Secretary Inocencio Pareja was just for them to identify themselves at the main entrance and somebody with a list would be there. They were told to try the backdoor.

But it was the same story there. The backdoor was locked, and the guards inside told the now angry reporters to try the front door. It was like a basketball affair.

“What is this? Has Malacañang taken over Congress already?” one of them griped.

Disgusted, the five newsmen trooped to the nearby office of neophyte Rep. Jose Aspiras, former press secretary of the President Marcos and an ex-colleague in the press, but he was not there.

Baliao was about to telephone the authorities inside the session hall when Rep. Floro Crisologo passed by and saw them there.

“What are you people doing here? You should be there inside,” the congressman said.

“But we could not enter,” the reporters complained.

The surprised solon, knowing that they were all veteran Congress reporters, interceded for them at the backdoor. That was how they finally managed to enter the session hall.

Curious to know for myself what was the real score, I returned to the main lobby to try the front door. After some difficulty with the crowd, I finally reached the side entrance where an outside sign said: “Publishers, Editors, Reporters.”

I tried to enter it, but it was already closed and locked from the inside. The guards who knew me apologized but explained that it was already filled inside and there was no more room for anybody else, I pointed to the sign.

“Sorry, we are just following orders. Try the other side,” one of them said.

I must say again that this incident never happened before to me or to any other legitimate newspapermen with official mission in Congress. I had covered doings of past congresses and they were never like this.

Anyway I tried the other side door but a human cordon of security agents and uniformed men blocked my way. They formed a middle aisle on the main lobby from the driveway to the main entrance of the House session hall, obviously in anticipation of the arrival of President Marcos.

When I tried to cross the line a security man brushed me aside and said in Pilipino: “Tabi! Tabi lang!” (“Side! Side please!”)

People behind the human cordon were pushing each other in an effort to get a good view, practically elbowing me out of the front line.

I saw a group of women showing their formal invitations to the guards but they were refused entry.

“Sorry, no more space,” I heard one guard explained.

One of the women retorted: “Then why did they have to issue invitations if they are not honored just the same?”

I inched my way back to the front of the unruly crowd. After some deliberate pushing I managed to reach the front. I tapped the back of a uniformed man, identified myself, and requested that I be allowed to cross the line because I was going to enter the other side door.

“Okay. But hurry up!” he snapped, and then asked his other companions to let me through.

Outside I could hear the crowds shouting and I wondered if President Marcos had already arrived.

Upon reaching the other side door I flashed my press card. Two House guards who recognized me said they would first consult the Malacañang men. One of them got my ID and brought it inside.

A man in barong Tagalog showed up at the door from the inside holding my press card, eyed from head to foot, and then returned inside to probably consult his Malacañang superior.

After what seemed an eternity of waiting, he finally returned, gave me back my ID, and then ordered the two House guards: “All right. Let him in!”

Thereupon the two guards who knew me felt my pockets and sides for any firearm. I felt like a suspect.

“Sorry, this is just formality. You know, just following orders,” they apologized.

As I entered the public gallery of the House session hall I expected a jampacked hall just like before, but to my surprise it was not really full of people because there were actually much space for standing room.

Hardly had I settled myself at a corner, standing, when I heard a voiced boom: “The President of the Philippines!”

Everybody stood up and looked at the direction of the main entrance, and in came President Marcos, looking handsome as ever with his barong Tagalog, followed by his beautiful First Lady dressed in her simple but pretty terno, shaking hands as they inched their ways to their respective places before clicking cameras and booming lights.

“There was a close call!” I sighed to myself, knowing that if I had been late for one or two more minutes all the doors of the session hall would have been really locked and nobody would be allowed to enter it.

Upon reaching the rostrum President Marcos shook hands with Senate President Puyat and Speaker Laurel, then took his seat between them, with Puyat as his right and Laurel at his left. The two presiding officers remained standing.

Then Speaker Laurel banged his gavel and said: “On the part of te House the session is now open!”

Likewise Senate President Puyat banged his own gavel and declared: “On the part of the Senate the session is now open!”

And so the “greatest circus on earth,” as some naughty observers put it, was now starting!

Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., president of Ateneo de Manila University, then delivered the traditional invocation. Entitled “Justice and Freedom,” the prayer for the nation began:

“Humbly we stand in Your presence, O God, around the President of our republic and the highest architects of the laws and policies of this land. With them and through them we pray You preserve us as one people bound together, despite all party rivalries and class interests, into one indivisible nation, with justice and freedom for all.

“With us into this hall, O God, we bring the growing fears, the dying hopes, the perished longings and expectations of a people who have lost their political innocence; a people who now know, as they walk through unsafe streets of their cities and roam through the Huk-infested barrio lanes of Central Luzon, or stare at the dwindling goods and rising prices in the market stalls – who now know that salvation, political or economic, does not come from above, from any one man or party or foreign ally; that, in the last analysis, salvation can only come from below – from the people themselves, firmly united under Your divine providence to stand for their rights whether at the polls, in the market place or at the barricades; willing to pledge, against all goons or gold-rich bribers, what they have pledged mutually to one another at the birth of this nation – their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor.”

At this juncture, above the heads of seated VIPs and lawmakers, I glanced at President Marcos to capture his mood or reaction, but if this portion of Fr. Ortiz’ startling invocation jolted him, his face did not show it.

I shifted my glance to the First Lady who was sitting at the front right corner of the Ladies’ Section at my right nearer to where I was standing at a corner, and I saw her beautiful face lift and turn sour upon hearing what she had just heard.

Now a light reflector boomed as a TV camera posted on the upper right gallery aimed at her. A few other news photographers and TV zoom cameramen took turns in capturing her reaction or facial expressions during those particular moments, and I could swear that she was trying hard to regain her composure.

She steadied herself, sometimes forcing a faint smile, but most of the time looking straight ahead, almost blankly or secretly annoyed.

Fr. Ortiz’ prayer continued:

“To have lost our political innocence and to know this, and yet not to despair, is for us, O God, to touch and know Your healing hands; but also, for a free people, it is to stand on the trembling edge of revolution. It is a point of no return, it is a moment of truth what can either remake us as a people or unmake us into a mob. Grant us, O God, on the eve of this moment of truth – of our constitutional convention, the humility to understand the signs of the times, and the light to know the true state of the nation.”

Again I stole a glance at President Marcos, and his time I caught him looking impatient, if not embarrassed, for indeed there seemed to be no immediate end to the invocation, the tenor of which was really different from all other past prayers said in that same august body on such similar occasions.

Fr. Ortiz finally closed his prayer:

“And understanding this, grant us, O God, that we may have the courage of wisdom to forget the past with all its partisan bickerings and recriminations – knowing as we do that each one of us, if not by design or malice, certainly by apathy, cowardice or desire of gain, has been responsible for the ugly things of the past. But above the courage of wisdom, give us the wisdom of courage, which is the willingness to pay the price whatever it may be for the rebirth of this nation: truthfulness, hard work, integrity, competence and compassion.

“Give us therefore to understand that this and no less than this is the irreducible demand or our people on us – of the youth of the land clamoring in massive thousands outside this building for a non-partisan constitutional convention, for a chance to shape the future that belongs to them; of the impoverished masses of our people to whom the President and his administration, this Congress, and all of us who are better blessed with worldly possessions, must through a palpable sense of justice, concern and compassion, bring a new gospel of hope, of brotherhood, of a brighter tomorrow that will be shaded by a constitution moving to the measure of that philosophy that they who have less in life must have more in law, of that philosophy of love enshrined in the heart of the Good Samaritan which for men as well as for nations is the only way to deserve Your promise of immortality – ‘Do this and thou shalt live,’ AMEN.”

There was a stir in the hall, and at the usual introduction of the chair, President Marcos stood up, walked down the rostrum, and faced a battery of microphones at the back of the Congress secretariat amidst applauses, light reflectors and clicking cameras.

His face looking grave, President Marcos opened his beautifully book-bound 93-page State of the Nation Message entitled: “National Discipline: The Key to Our Future,” and in his usual oratorical style, began:

“This is for me a historic privilege. No man can be exalted higher than to be chosen twice by his own people to lead them; this, at a time of great anxieties and great expectations for the nation and for the world.

“Permit me, then, to begin this report by thanking our people for their new mandate.

“But the honor of this mandate pales beside its gravity. I interpret this mandate not just as a call to continue in office, but as a summons to supreme self-exertion in the service of the nation.

“Our country summons us all to exert ourselves to the limit of our God-given powers, endurance and wisdom to raise the nation to a bold, new future.

“The situation in the world, as well as in the Philippines, is marked by sweeping change.

“Progress demands that the barriers of centuries be broken.”

Then President Marcos made a sweeping review of the national economy, shifted to social reform and human resources development, political reforms, admitted that the nation was in crisis, submitted 35 legislative proposals to Congress, and issued a challenge to the lawmakers and the people.

At this point I looked around and saw the legislators solemnly listening, some appearing bored, others yawning.

The same could be said of Vice President Fernando Lopez, the justices of the Supreme Court in their traditional robe attires, Cabinet secretaries, members of the diplomatic corps, armed forces officials in their military uniforms, congressional ladies in their beautiful ternos, other government officials and VIPs – in short, the elite of the Philippine society if not practically the whole government itself.

As I studied their faces, I shuddered at the thought of what would happen if a suicidal assassin had managed to break into the session hall and started firing a gun or throwing a hand grenade.

Then I felt I was being watched, although I was properly dressed in my best coat and tie suit and looking harmless, if I may add.

When I looked up, true enough I saw at least two men in barong Tagalog stationed on the opposite upper public gallery staring occasionally at me, sometimes at other people across the hall. Again, I felt like a suspect.

Finally, President Marcos ended his State-of-the-Nation speech:

“I look upon Congress as a true partner in all our urgent efforts to build and change the nation. I specially look to it to remain a partner that will provide the energy and direction to those particular endeavors that require the highest priority by the government . . .

“I am confident that our people, to the last man, have it to themselves to meet the challenges, the duties and perils that we face. But we must together, citizen and leader at the same time, expert a conscious effort to increase and perfect the Filipino potential into a powerful force in active confrontation with life.

“We have indeed begun. We must persevere.

“I thank you.”

Another applause, the second and last, shook the session hall as President Marcos, tired from the 40 minutes of speaking, returned to his seat at the rostrum where both Senate President Puyat and Speaker Laurel congratulated him.

After the usual closing formalities ended, Congress immediately adjourned its joint session until the next day when the Senate and the House would resume meeting separately.

Everybody stood up now, and as President Marcos again inched his way back to the middle aisle towards the main entrance of the session hall, he shook hands along the way, smiling, stopping for a while, then inching towards the door again, and out into the main lobby.

Apparently, President Marcos did not have any premonition of what was about to happen to him outside.#

Chapter 5:  The Jan 26 Incident

I first saw the face of revolution in front of Congress on that night of Jan. 26.

The irony of it is that what started peacefully like a fiesta, suddenly erupted into a night of horror.

I arrived at Congress as early as 10 o’clock in the morning to attend the opening session of the House, and I never left the place until about nine that evening.

Groups of demonstrators began converging in front of the legislative building when I arrived. The crowd swelled as the hours went by. By 4 p.m. the entire area from the main lobby down to the driveway and across P. Burgos Ave. up to Muni Golf Links was filled with people.

No doubt it was the biggest crowd, about 50,000 strong, ever to assemble there. Young men and women, many in their school uniforms, were demonstrating for sweeping reforms.

Some carried placards denouncing and calling the Establishment all sorts of names like “Tongressmen” and “Senatongs” symbolizing its greed, and also “Down with Imperialism!” and “Marcos U.S. Puppet!” symbolizing American control of the Philippines.

Others held up signs identifying their groups. Not a few sported arm bands. Surprisingly, some demonstrators were using walkie-talkies.

School girls earlier even sat down right on the street in orderly manner to dramatize how peaceful their rally was. The boys stood by all around in the front, sides and back. The demonstrators appeared well-organized – and peaceful all right.

But the law enforcers took no chances. As early as Jan. 19 they started mapping out security measures for the Jan. 26 public appearance of President Marcos in Congress. They met right in Malacañang. The red alert signal was on.

Col. Cezar C. Jasmin of the Metrocom served as the over-all task force commander. In effect, Manila was placed under Metrocom control. The city police merely provided the sub-task force. But it was the Metrocom which called the shots.

Metrocom adopted Operations Plan “Payapa” while the MPD coordinated with its own Operations Plan “Bagong Buhay” under the personal direction of Col. Gerardo Tamayo, police chief, and his deputy Col. James Barbers. But Maj. Alfredo Yson headed the MPD subtask force attached to the task force under the over-all command of the Metrocom chief.

The security script all prepared, the combined Metrocom and MPD forces numbering about 3,000 started deploying in Congress as early as eight in the morning. By noon time the whole place, inside and outside, was bristling with policemen, soldiers, security agents, and plainclothesmen.

Traffic was rerouted, causing vehicular jams at nearby San Luis St., Taft Ave., Roxas Blvd., Plaza Lawton, and Juan Luna St.

By two o’clock in the afternoon the law enforcers started blockading Congress. Police and soldiers were stationed at both ends of the long driveway. They stopped people going up to the building.

The sight of helmeted anti-riot squads with long clubs and shields, and the presence of soldiers armed with rifles and side pistols, added tension and caused apprehensions.

Before President Marcos arrived in Congress the demonstration had progressed smoothly. Organizers and leaders had a field day denouncing the Establishment.

Managing the joint big rally were Edgar Jopson, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines; and Roger Arienda, president of the Ang Magigiting – the only two organizations issued mayor’s permits to demonstrate in front of congress on Jan. 26.

However, they were joined in by other youth leaders who were issued permits to demonstrate at other places in Manila like Portia Ilagan, president of the National Students’ League, and Angel Gargaritano, Jr., president of the student government of the Philippine College of Criminology.

Also issued mayor’s permits to demonstrate on Jan. 26 at other places in the city were the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Filipino, which was to hold a rally at the back of Congress, and the AFP Retired Veterans Association, Inc. headed by Brig. Gen. Dionisio Ojeda, at Freedom Park in front of Malacañang.

Actually there were 40 groups in all which joined the Jan. 26 Movement in front of Congress. This explained the estimated crowd of about 50,000 demonstrators that converged there, the biggest so far.

The elevated area under the flagpole served as the rostrum for the speakers. A problem with the sound system at first cropped up between Jopson and Arienda, the two rally organizers. Their groups brought their own sound systems and feared that their separate panels of speakers might just drown out each other and confuse the crowd.

They agreed to use only the sound system of the Jopson group on condition that their separate panels of speakers would share the same microphone.

Another problem was the paging system of the House of Representatives used also for broadcasting speeches in Congress, particularly the State-of-the-Nation address of the President.

As early as noon time Lito Abelarde, former NUSP president, protested the loudspeakers being set up in front of Congress by Malacañang as they would disturb the rally proceedings.

He ran to opposition Senator Benigno Aquino and asked: “Can’t you help us, Mr. Senator?” Aquino tried but could not do anything.

As the demonstration progressed, the group of Arienda placed a black mock coffin symbolizing the “death of Democracy” at the base of the flagpole supported by blackboards.

Another group said to be from the University of the Philippines put on top of the mock coffin the papier-mache replica of a crocodile symbolizing the greed of the Establishment.

A giant calendar portrait of President Marcos which was altered to portray the likeness of Hitler symbolizing dictatorship, was likewise tied to the flagpole above the coffin and the crocodile replica in full view of the crowd.

At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon the Philippine National Anthem was played. This was followed by the opening speech of Jopson, NUSP president. After him those who also addressed the rally were:

Portia Ilagan, NSL acting president; Crispin Aranda, president of the student council of the Philippine College of Commerce; former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc; Benjamin Abao, FEU; Nestor Ponce, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila; Garry Gargaritano, Jr., Philippine College of Criminology;

Benjamin Maniego, San Beda College; Renato Constantino, a student leader; Roger Arienda, president of Ang Magigiting; Fr. Navarro, a seminarian of San Carlos Seminary; a certain Mr. Espino of Lyceum of the Philippines; and Gary Olivar, University of the Philippines.

All the speakers to a man advocated drastic government reforms and demanded immediate action “before it is too late.” They warned against serious consequences unless the voices of the people were heeded. They pinned their last hope on the Constitution. They pressed that the election of its delegates must strictly be non-partisan or non-political. They warned the politicians to lay off the constitutional election and convention.

This, they strongly emphasized, was their final and irrevocable demand to insure an honest-to-goodness charter revision that will rekindle the dying hopes, the blasted inspirations, and the long cherished dream of a young republic now being pushed to the “trembling edge of revolution.”

The big throng responded widely. They applauded and cheered every speaker. The only speaker who seemed out of place in what was generally billed as a “student demonstration” was the aging Taruc, former Huk chief, whom some students booed.

A large group shouted at Taruc with clenched fists: “We want Dante! We want Dante!”

Dante was the new commander of the New Peoples Army, one of the two rival wings of the ideological Huk movement in Central Luzon, the other being headed by Commander Sumulong. But both believed in the violent out-throw of the government.

What added apprehension to the crowd especially the authorities, was the arrival of a group bearing the big red banner of the Kabataang Makabayan, the known militant youth organization, at a little past 4 o’clock.

The KM members carried their huge red streamer with the aid of two big wooden poles, shouting as they marched.

Their dramatic appearance was reminiscence of the Cultural Revolution in Communist China where students turned Red Guards carrying red banners and streamers rampaged on the streets of Peking and throughout the mainland in quest for heads of old fogies who had lost the good graces of Mao Tse Tung.

The KM members surged forward through the crowd in a diamond formation until they positioned themselves in the forefront of the demonstration site, their huge red streamer very noticeable and overshadowing all the other placards.

At about 4:45 p.m. President Marcos and his party arrived at the south side of the Congress building. The presidential limousine curved to the driveway and stopped in front of the doorsteps of the edifice.

When the President stepped out of his car under heavy escorts the demonstrators booed him. The booing stopped after he entered the building. Then the rally continued.

Soon after the voice of President Marcos delivering his State-of-the-Nation address before the first joint session of the Seventh Congress could be heard from well-placed loudspeakers outside the building.

The rally leaders in front of the legislative building were also delivering speeches, their own State of the Nation, which sharply contradicted that of the president.

Some youths headed by Garry Gargaritano, Jr. later complained to Maj. Alfredo Yson, the MPD sub-task force commander, that the loudspeakers connected to the House session hall and broadcasting the president’s address were drowning out the speeches of the rally speakers.

They huddled with Simeon Salonga, House sergeant-at-arms, who pleaded that the demonstrators should listen to the presidential message. When the youths rejected this, Salonga, Yson and one Lt. Pena, Metrocom signal corps officer, reluctantly agreed to have the loudspeakers disconnected to avoid trouble.

Shortly before 6 o’clock, Jopson took the microphone again and announced that the NUSP rally was “officially” ended, although his permit limit was until 12 midnight. Then the demonstrators sang the National Anthem, after which many of them, especially the coeds, started leaving. Others regrouped within the vicinity of Congress.

The Arienda group, whose permit limit was 8 p.m., took over from Jopson and used the same sound system.

At about this time, UP student leader Gary Olivar was speaking, using forceful language like “Ibagsak natin ang Imperialismo!” (“Down with Imperialism!”)

At this point President Marcos emerged from the Congress building, accompanied by the First Lady and the vanguard of the presidential entourage, protected by a tight cordon of Malacañang security agents, anti-riot police squads, Metrocom troopers, and other law enforcement units.

No less than Col. Fabian Ver, chief of the presidential security force, and Col. James Barbers, Manila deputy chief of police, personally led the heavy escort, Brig. Gen. Hans Manzi, the inseparable chief presidential aide, trotted behind.

As President Marcos waved at the crowd, some demonstrators started booing him. Others chanted “Marcos Puppet!” The boos and catcalls grew louder and louder as practically all the demonstrators joined in.

Somebody started to sing the National anthem again, evidently to quiet the crowd. Many demonstrators participated in the singing. Another group in the forefront also began singing, but what they sang was the Tagalog version of the Leftist’s Song “Internationale.”

Then it happened.

After the singing, and as President Marcos and the First Lady were being escorted by security aides to their waiting limousine, stones, empty bottles, sticks, placards and other projectiles were thrown at their direction.

Alert security men immediately formed a human cover to protect the First Couple from the “flying missiles.” Fearing an assassination, Col. Ver pushed them into the car. His men covered the limousine from top to the sides and practically hid it from sight.

Almost simultaneously, the black-painted mock coffin ad the papier-mache replica of a crocodile passed from hand to hand and were hurled at the presidential car, but they fell short of the target.

As pandemonium broke loose in front of Congress, the anti-riot police squads formed a phalanx between the First Couple and the rioters to protect not only them but also the other members of the presidential entourage.

MPD elements cordoning the presidential car caught the flying mock coffin and hurled it back at the crowd. But the object came flying back and this time it landed on the driveway beside the limousine, followed by the papier-mache crocodile replica which an intelligence agent caught in midair.

Security men this time tossed back the mock coffin at the crowd as stones, pieces of wood and other objects continued hurtling in the direction of the moving presidential car.

Another group down on the street sidewalk was burning the effigy of President Marcos like Indians.

Units of the Metrocom and MPD screened the driveway on the right front of Congress to enable the presidential party and other ranking government officials to leave the premises safely.

When flying objects kept coming, a Metrocom platoon pushed back the crowd so that the driveway and the entrance of the legislative building would be out of range of the missiles.

Col. Tamayo, Manila police chief, ordered his men to close ranks to prevent the crowd from surging towards the presidential party.

Demonstrators in the street continued pelting away with flying objects and when some of the missiles fell short of their target and instead landed on their companions in the forefront, the affected crowd scampered for safety in different directions.

When the unruly youths continued raining their objective with stones, empty bottles and other objects, Col. Tamayo ordered Lt. Santiago Dabu whose group was stationed nearby to arrest those causing the trouble.

This signaled the MPD anti-riot squads under Lt. Dabu and Lt. Esguerra who were in the forefront to jump down into the street to nab the trouble-makers.

Finally the presidential car bearing the First Couple with security men on top of it and with others alongside, sneaked out of the demonstration area to safety.

What happened next, was really terrible.

As I stood on the doorsteps of Congress, I saw with my horrified eyes anti-riot fighters charging at the retreating demonstrators. The helmeted squads whacked their way through the crowd with their long truncheons, basting heads, bodies and limbs without regard to sex.

They continued hitting demonstrators they had just caught even if they were not resisting at all, or were pleading for mercy, or were already down.

The situation was now out of control, and in the see-saw battles that broke out I saw many demonstrators fall, others scampering for safety, only to regroup and attack again and again.

As the clashes continued in the night, I also saw flashing lights in the street, and I knew that the news photographers were busy taking their great pictures for posterity at great risk of their lives.

I also saw Edward Tipton of the Herald and Channel 13, with his barong Tagalog reddened by blood, describing the fighting through his inseparable transistorized tape-recorder for the benefit of radio and TV listeners.

At times we who watched the fierce street fighting from the driveway and doorsteps of Congress had to run for cover inside the building as stones and other flying objects threatened to hit us. Actually many were struck, including Col. Barbers.

And when advancing rioters pounded the very doors of the Congress building with stones and other deadly flying missiles, it now looked like a barricaded camp as guards locked them and refused to let anybody out.

For a time I was even stranded inside the building along with many people, including several senators, congressmen and their guests, while the most tumultuous youth riot ever to rock the Philippines raged outside.

As the riot worsened, I saw a coatless Senator Emmanuel Pelaez surrounded by some youths enter the beleaguered capitol building, grab the Congress paging system, and then broadcast his appeal to the police to withdraw, saying that their continued presence was unduly provoking the students.

But his plea fell on deaf ears as the sound system failed to function.

Earlier the former vice president had a heated argument with Col. Tamayo outside. Pelaez asked the police chief to withdraw his men to avoid further bloodshed but the latter refused saying that he was just doing his duty and following orders.

I also saw Maj. Yson enter the beleaguered Congress building and use one of the telephones inside the House session hall. I went near him and overheard him request the Manila Fire Department to rush fire trucks to the riot site because the trouble was getting worse. He described the riot as similar to those in Indonesia.

At this point I rushed out again to see more action. This time I saw blood, as anti-riot fighters dragged in wounded demonstrators whom they just caught, some limping, others semi-conscious or unconscious.

One victim whose skull seemed broken as blood oozed down his face fell on the pavement in front of Senator Magnolia Antonio who had just stepped down from the building.

Fearing that the man might die, arrangement was made to rush him to the hospital. Later a No. 6 car came up the driveway. Helping hands carried the body into the car which immediately sped away.

I saw Press Secretary Francisco Tatad appear at the riot scene. Media men, including Daily Mirror columnist Amando Doronila, surrounded and interviewed him. In his statement, he minimized the riot as merely an emotional outburst of youth and assured there was nothing to be alarmed.

It was now about 9 o’clock in the evening, two and a half hours after President Marcos had left Congress, and still I could see some action.

By this time I saw anti-riot fighters chasing remnants of the about 20,000 demonstrators who had stayed for action to as far as the Muni Golf Links, the City Hall area, and down to distant Plaza Lawton.

In the middle of P. Burgos Ave. in front of Congress near the center island, I saw a few youths who stayed behind throwing stones and rocks at an abandoned car, its glass windows smashed and its signal light still blinking.

I heard it belonged to Senator Jose Roy, but not wanting to accept hearsay I went down and saw for myself that its plate was No. 7.

I noticed that some police jeeps parked nearby were also smashed.

I walked to the north side of Congress, where I saw groups of persons across Taft Ave. lingering. I proceeded to the City Hall area and saw a team of anti-riot policemen. They blockaded the underpass and eyed passersby suspiciously. One of them stopped me and started searching my pockets and sides. I said it was all right because I was from the press.

I walked down as far as Plaza Lawton. There I saw groups of persons huddling right in the middle of the wider portion of Taft Ave. where the traffic was re-routed.

I approached one group and listened to the conversation. A lone elderly woman was telling her young male companions that they should not have retreated because with their big number they could have easily overrun the out-numbered law enforcers.

I approached another group of young males and I heard them exchange stories of their individual experience in front of Congress earlier that night.

When the talk veered to casualties I asked the group if there were demonstrators killed, and one of them swore he saw one dead victim, a girl from the University of the Philippines, and heard that another also died.

My watch said 9:30 p.m. and suddenly I felt hungry and thirsty. I decided to take a quick bite at the nearby National Press Club where I found fellow newsmen hotly discussing the biggest news of the day and exchanging stories of their own experience earlier that evening in front of Congress.

Later I learned that the First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Marcos, after the presidential car had sneaked out of Congress to safety, exclaimed in Pilipino:

“O God, what happened?”#

Chapter 6: The Morning After

Youth rebels and law enforcement authorities spent a sleepless night as they hurled charges and counter-charges at each other.

The irate demonstrators condemned police brutality inflicted upon them, while the Manila police countered them with a charge of communist infiltration.

As they exchanged barbs, initial official reports showed that about 300 youths were injured while 72 law enforcers were wounded in the Congress riot.

Damage to properties included two cars of Senator Jose Roy, one fire truck, two police jeeps, an undetermined number of several other private vehicles, the iron fence in front of Congress, and 15 electric post bulbs.

Hundreds of stones and rocks, 200 pieces of woods with nails, many destroyed placards, copies of manifesto, and other debris littered the riot area.

Emergency wards of the nearby Philippine General Hospital, the Manila Doctor’s Hospital, Medical Center, Marian Hospital, and Ospital ng Maynila were full of riot victims.

Arrested demonstrators were thrown into and packed like sardines at the city detention jail. Senators Emmanuel Pelaez, Salvador Laurael, and Eva Estrada Kalaw, Rep. John Osmeña, and Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda personally spent the night there and helped expedite their release.

Nineteen of the arrested demonstrators were subsequently charged with violation of Articles 148 and 153 of the Revised Penal Code and of Section 844 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Manila, but were released without bail.

Specifically, the charges against them were direct assault upon an agent of a person in authority, creating tumultuous public disturbance, and non-compliance with the mayor’s permit and the anti-littering ordinance.

The newspapers played up the Congress riot with screaming headlines and big photos. A shocked nation woke up the following morning feeling bad upon reading the gory accounts of what happened.

Actually, residents living in the Greater Manila area had already seen and heard the live coverage of the Congress riot through their television screens and radio sets the night before.

Now the battle of the press releases began. Organizers and leaders of the Jan. 26 Movement in front of Congress officially condemned police brutality as the cause of the riot.

Edgar Jopson, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, said:

“The NUSP is filing charges against the superiors of the Metrocom, MPD and the anti-riot squad for the irresponsible behavior of their men.”

Jopson observed that while there were obviously a small group of provocateurs behind the riot, he denounced the policemen for hitting even the peaceful bystanders.

Dr. Nemesio Prudente, president of the Philippine College of Commerce, disclosed that he himself was truncheoned in the stomach.

“I will support a nationwide revolutionary movement of students to protest the brutalities of the state.

“I denounce President Marcos, the PC Special Forces, the Metrocom and the Manila Police for their brutalities committed on the students.”

Angel Gargaritano Jr., chairman of the security committee of the NUSP’s Jan. 26 Movement and president of the student council of the Philippine College of Criminology, joined the outcry against police abuses.

He charged the police anti-riot squad with “non-coordination, gross violation of the executive order of Mayor Villegas, and stupidity of some members of the squad.”

Ruben D. Torres, president of the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino, assailed the “fascist methods” of the authorities “to suppress the democratic rights of the Jan. 26 demonstrations.” He added:

“The truncheon blows that smashed the heads of the demonstrators were striking proof of the utter bankruptcy of the political system. A state that is dominated by American imperialism and its local allies could assure its continued existence only by brutal suppression of mass action.”

“The use of naked force” was likewise criticized by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation (Philippine Council) which warned that “the power holders will increasingly resort to violence in order to preserve the strangle-hold of American imperialism and its native conspirators in the country.”

The Christian Social Movement of former Senator Raul Manglapus, speaking through its secretary-general, Manuel Valdehuesa, said:

“That the riot happened on the heels of a peaceful demonstration to bring about a just social order through Constitutional reforms is especially despicable.”

At the University of the Philippines, Fernando Barican, Jr., president of the UP student council, announced closure of classes and the holding of an emergency meeting in Diliman to assess the situation and plot counter-moves against abuses by the Establishment.

In answer to the outcry against police brutality, Mayor Antonio Villegas congratulated Col. Gerardo Tamayo, police chief, and Col. James Barbers, deputy police chief, for their “courageous stand” and for conducting themselves properly under pressure.

Col. Tamayo said that the Jan. 26 Movement in front of Congress was infiltrated by communist provocateurs. He singled out the Kabataang Makabayan as the group that had provoked the riot.

The Manila police chief disclosed that a son of a top Filipino communist was spotted among the demonstrators in the company of three unidentified persons.

Col. Barbers said: “We do not only welcome a congressional probe. We demand it, if only to enable our lawmakers to file remedial legislation that will prevent the reoccurrence of similar incidents.

“We only did our duty as we saw fit and in the light of the prevailing circumstances. If it can be shown that we did not perform our duties in a manner consistent with law and the demands of the situation, we are willing to face the consequences.”

Defending the law enforcers, Chairman Crispin de Castro of the Police Commission declared:

“The action taken by the police yesterday was in line with their duty to preserving peace and order, particularly with strict emphasis in protecting the safety of the chief magistrate of the land who was menaced by demonstrators . . .

“It is impossible to use kid gloves in controlling a situation where violence was fast turning a demonstration into a mob.”

At Malacañang, President Marcos said:

“Reports received by me on the demonstration tend to show that the students were not responsible for the riot that ensued during the demonstration.

“I accept the veracity of these reports and I accept the statement of responsible student leaders present at the demonstration that they were not responsible for the riots.

“Initial reports from police and intelligence indicate that the riot was instigated by non-student provocateurs who had infiltrated the ranks of the legitimate demonstrators. This is being investigated.

“I ask our people to view this unfortunate incident with calm and sobriety. I also ask the students to cooperate with the appropriate government authorities in trying to identify these elements responsible for the outbreak of violence. Eyewitnesses have stated that the police and security elements are not to be blamed for the cause.

“I wish to reiterate the position that the students have a legitimate right to manifest their grievances in public and we shall support their just demands.

“But we do not consider violence as a legitimate instrument of democratic dissent, and we expect the students to cooperate with government in making sure that their demonstrations are not marred by violence.”

President Marcos then ordered the Manila police to drop the charges filed with the city fiscal’s office against student demonstrators arrested during the Congress riot, but without prejudice to pursuing the cases against non-students who had instigated it.

But despite the presidential declaration supporting the police report of communist infiltration and at the same the time clearing the student rebels of any responsibility for the riot, the outcry against police brutality reverberated in the halls of Congress.

Senators Salvador Laurel, Benigno Aquino, Emmanual Pelaez, Eva Estrada Kalaw, and Magnolia Antonio took the floor and denounced police brutality inflicted on the demonstrators during the bloody incident.

Laurel said: “Helpless women fell prey to their truncheons. I saw with my own eyes four students who were standing fast, holding the streamers of their organization, and without provocation on their part, being attacked and beaten up by the police.

The Nacionalista lawmaker also decried the ignorance of city jail authorities regarding a law (Republic Act 6036), which dispenses with the bail requirement in minor offenses, and their lack of ink for fingerprinting, thereby causing great delay in the release of the students arrested.

Senator Aquino, in his privileged speech entitled “When Law and Order Went Amok,” said:

“I rise in outrage at the way our police mishandled and manhandled the student demonstration, at the way law and order went amok in front of this very Congress.

“I rise in outrage at the way authority went loose with brutality – at the no-quarters-asked-and-no-quarters-given way they joined battle with the students and viciously, wrathfully, joyfully, clubbed them and felled them.’ ”

The opposition stalwart then reviewed what happened on Jan. 26, after which he shifted his attack on President Marcos. He ended:

“Mr. President, the handwriting is on the wall. See it, read it, heed it!

“What happened last night should not be repeated, because if students armed only with their idealism should have their heads cracked or worse, fell victims to police bullets, we may be pushed to the precipice of revolution!”

“Last night the President of this Republic spoke on the state of the nation. Last night we saw for ourselves what state this country is in. The truth hurts because it is there – and you cannot dismiss it smugly or lightly or shut it off like the radio,” Sen. Pelaez said. He added:

“As I stood in front of this building, an awful sense of shame came over me – and like the truth, it has not gone away. The pity of it all is that what happened last night might have been avoided. It takes two sides to stage a riot . . .

“Force begets force, and violence can only lead to further violence. Losing control of the situation, the police panicked and over-acted . . .

“The police caused the disruption of peace and order by their violent response to the crisis.”

Pealez added drama to his privileged speech on the Senate floor when he produced a victim of police brutality, one Vicente Ocaya, a student of the Lyceum of the Philippines. He took off his shirt in the session hall and showed the eight red marks left by police truncheons on his back.

The former vice president denounced Col. Gerardo Tamayo, Manila police chief, and Col. James Barbers, his police deputy chief, and demanded their investigation by Congress.

Woman Senator Kalaw said in her speech that the police forces sent to Congress to maintain peace and order, instead of doing a good job, succeeded only in setting up a “dividing wall” between the law enforcers and the students demonstrators.

Senator Antonio, another lady lawmaker, narrated how a victim of police brutality fell right on her feet during the bloody riot and how she helped him into the hospital.

As a result of the floor speeches of Senators Laurel, Aquino, Pelaez, Kalaw, and Antonio, the Senate created a special committee headed by Senator Lorenzo Tañada to look into the Jan. 26 incident in front of Congress.

In the House of Representatives, two congressmen – Rep. John Osmeña, a Liberal, and Rep. Teodulo Natividad, a Nacionalista – took turns in condemning police brutality.

Osmeña, who could be mistaken for one of the demonstrators although he was already 35 years old, championed the cause of the student rebels, and supported a move to investigate police brutality.

Since he entered public service, first as a councilor and then as vice mayor of Cebu City, and now as congressman, Rep. Osmeña had been consistently financing scholarship grants to poor but intelligent students through his allowance as a public official.

Rep. Natividad, dubbed as the “James Bond” of the House of Representatives because of his thorough knowledge of police matters, assailed the assignment of police rookies as members of the anti-riot squads. He demanded a congressional investigation of the case.

In view of the bipartisan move in Congress to probe the Jan. 26 demonstration, particularly on the aspect of police brutality, the Senate and the House created a special joint committee to look into the bloody riot.

From Congress, the outcry against police brutality now shifted to the press row where newspapers and columnists generally condemned police brutality.

The Manila Times editorial said: “The policemen (or rookies) who figured prominently in Monday’s riot were supposed to have been specially trained to handle demonstrations. They were supposed to have learned from previous demonstrations, particularly tat which accompanied the Asian Summit in 1966. Their behavior last Monday proved that they either had not learned their lesson well or that they were just blatant examples of the wrong men being on the wrong job.”

The Manila Chronicle editorial said: “The police are now shouting at the top of their voices that it was the students who started the riot. Witnesses have come out testifying to the contrary. But what is worse is that if any evidence is needed to prove police brutality, the pictures published in the papers yesterday, pictures showing helmeted police beating up students, are full of that evidence.”

Daily Mirror columnist Feliciano Magno said: “I saw Metrocom troopers and Manila policemen charging the students at the slightest shouted provocation bringing down their truncheons on heads of girl and boy students even if the latter already had their arms up in surrender or pleading for mercy.”

Manila Daily Bulletin columnist Willie Ng said: “Looking at the matter impartially, one cannot say that the students were blameless. They, more or less, started the fight by hurling things at the police.

“But the police was more to blame because it should not have lost its cool. You don’t control a riot by cordoning of the crowd and beating all mercilessly over the head. Cops are only supposed to strike back in self-defense, not to go out attacking all within reach as if dealing out punishment. Even innocent bystanders were not spared from police truncheons. The cops really rioted.”

Maximo Soliven, Manila Times columnist, said: “What turned the affair into a real tragedy was the fact that the ‘riot police’ literally rioted. They charged into the mass of students, flaying right and left with their clubs – savagely hitting the guilty and the innocent alike.

“The ‘agitators’ could not have planned it better. The police, by losing their heads, played right into their hands. The term ‘police brutality’ has now become a reality in this republic.”

Practically all the other newspapers and columnists saw it the same way, and thus took the side of the students. In that sense, the student rebels scored a victory against the Establishment.#

h1

The Night of the Truncheons

January 25, 2010

These two articles by Nancy T. Lu and Ernesto Macatuno, appeared in Sunday Times Magazine, February 15, 1970, p. 15

1 – By Nancy T. Lu

Hell broke loose Monday, January 26, 1970.

As the First Couple were coming out of Congress the restive placard-carrying students surged forward. All of a sudden a cardboard coffin and a crocodile were hurled in the direction of the presidential limousine. The anti-riot squad strategically situated pushed back the crowd. At the same time the coffin was thrown back at the students. Before anybody could duck, placard handles, bottles, and stones started flying in the air.

It just happened. Thus, began a free-for-all that turned out to be one bloody traumatic mess many will long remember.

Even as confusion broke out the security of the First Couple was not neglected. In fact the pair was whisked away from the scene of turmoil in no time at all.

But when the presidential limousine finally made good its exit the anti-rioters descended on the defenseless students. They swung their truncheons with abandon. In the melee that ensued many scampered for cover and safety. Some enraged students fought back angrily.

What apparently infuriated the unarmed demonstrators was the sight of truncheon-swinging policemen removing their nameplates before rushing at the students. As one accusing student leader pointed out later, the mere act of removing the name tags before proceeding to carry out a presupposed function and duty by itself was fraught with malice. Many witnesses could only chorus in agreement.

At the outset the National Union of Students of the Philippines spearheaded a peaceful mammoth rally in front of Congress to urge the holding of a non-partisan Constitutional Convention in 1971. The NUSP leaders led by Edgar Jopson meant to take advantage of the fact that all the solons would be present during the joint session on that fateful Monday President Marcos was to deliver his State-of-the-Nation address.

That the rally proved to be the biggest turnout in years is not debatable. Schools which used to shy away from demonstrations showed up in overwhelming numbers. For once the issue the students were agitating for held so much meaning to the idealistic young who realized that the fate of the nation rests on the outcome of the coming Constitutional Convention.

But after Monday night’s bloodbath attention began to be directed elsewhere. Cries of police brutality were heard left and right. Some NUSP leaders expressed alarm over how the main issue could easily be drowned out by other immediate issues. Their main concern now would be to relate the issues to each other.

Even among the ranks of the NUSP student leaders no agreement could be arrived at as to who really was responsible for the riot. However, immediately after the incident NUSP president Edward Jopson made a statement to the effect that the students did not start the riot that caused scores to to be hurt. The gory rampage which involved innocent bystanders erupted minutes after Jopson announced the end of the rally. The participating student activists were asked to disband which they did. Otherwise more could have been injured in the scuffle.

Immediately after the riot the indignant public lashed out in condemnation of police brutality. At the same time, however, the news reports insinuated that the students were just as responsible.

During the initial meeting of NUSP student leaders at Far Eastern University those present decided to reassess the NUSP stand on the matter.

A number of students proposed to meet force with force. They suggested that students should arm themselves during future demonstrations so that they can defend themselves should the riot squad resort to overkill tactics.

The group gathered that Tuesday afternoon was a picture of wrath as the lambasted the Special Forces. They readily demanded the ouster of Manila Police Chief Gerardo Tamayo and his deputy James Barbers. At one point they became so emotional over what happened to their colleagues particularly the injured and the arrested that they were demanding the suspension of all high-ranking officials. But just as quickly they were checked by the level-headed few who rationalized that for effect and impact they should confine themselves to taking action against those directly responsible only.

Not all the students tried to steer clear of responsibility. Some of the students reminded the group assembled that there really were some student provocateurs who infiltrated an otherwise peaceful affair. They refused, however, to be specific as to whom they were referring to.

Amid blatant protests of insensate police violence the concerned young militants continued to threaten to stage more demonstrations. Instead of cowering in fear the student activists became even more enthusiastic in mapping out their protest strategy. Even the girls who were not spared by the indiscriminate anti-riot squad that went berserk could not be discouraged from joining future rallies.

The violent outbreak that attended the January 26th movement undoubtedly left its ugly scars although various furious sectors have started thorough investigations of the deplorable spectacle that could have been averted. In the meantime public opinion pressured the authorities into taking positive measures to prevent the occurrence of more scandalous clashes manifesting mindless anarchy. At this point the national studentry— the youth in general — is even more committed than ever in sounding out a warning to their elders that their voice, now more than ever, will not be suppressed.

***

2 – “The police acted correctly and properly” — Villegas

By Ernesto Macatuno

Not even enough, was the reaction of the police and Maharnilad officials to the charge that the police overdid their law enforcing during the Jan. 26 student and labor demo at the premises of Congress. In other words, the next time there’ll be a demo, the police would be carrying—and swinging—not only rattan truncheons, but something more hurting: tear gas.

Why so?

Scores of demo people got hurt in the “riot” that was the Jan. 26 demo. Two hours after the start, when President and Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos were pelted with rocks, glass and placard handles just when they were about to board their car, the police and demo people were still at it. The 1,000-odd police and the Metrocom detachment pushed, kicked, socked and swung clubs; the students cursed, howled and stoned back.

Looking at the ledger later showed the students, in number of victims, on the debit side. The police had some wounded. Which to the police, should not be so. This was the first Philippine demo that quite a number of police got hurt, 33 reported. That’s what got their ire. Plus the fact that it was the students, they said, who started the violence.

“We could not just stand there and take it,” Manila Police Chief Gerardo Tamayo said. “The police had not only the right but the duty to defend themselves, for in doing this, we were upholding the primacy of law and order over the students’ wants and grievances, no matter how valid these grievances are.

“On top of this, we had to protect the President and the First Lady from harm, which could only be the intention of the demonstrators when they started throwing at the First Couple stones, pop bottles and placard handles.”

From Mayor Antonio Villegas’ point of view, “the police acted correctly and properly in quelling the riot.

“I granted the students a permit to demonstrate in front of Congress so long as it was a peaceful and therefore legal assembly. But when they started stoning the police, that assembly was already illegal and therefore the demonstrators should be arrested.

“The police cannot just be sitting ducks. When the police are attacked, they can take counter-offensive steps even if these mean hurting, maiming and killing the attackers, as in the case with the student demonstrators.”

Feeling that the police were too “soft” on the demonstrators—“for after all they used only batutang yantokVillegas had ordered the use of tear gas in quelling other demons in the city.

“The police had been blamed enough for the violence that accompanied the demonstration,” Villegas said, “I was even attacked by Pelaez who said that the presence of the Manila police in the area created the tension that led to the riot. I’m thinking of pulling the police from such demonstrations and let officials like Pelaez protect themselves from these demonstrators. I will just wait for their call and, who knows, by the time we get there, tapos na rin sila (they themselves have been finished).”

Hence, the police felt just as aggrieved as the students over what they got in the demonstration. The students got socked and kicked and truncheoned. The police got clobbered days after when the press and the public hit them for “brutality.” Which, the police said, they did not deserve.

“The riot,” Tamayo said, “started when the demonstrators stoned the First Couple. Had we not formed a phalanx to contain the demonstrators, they would have been emboldened and assaulted the presidential car, overturned it and set it into flames.”

The stoning of the First Couple was followed by a brief lull, then the clash began when the police and Metrocom in formation, pushed towards the demonstrators.

Unnecessary

What is significant, therefore, in the clashes that accompanied the demonstration was that they happened after the First Couple had left. The objects of protection were no longer around. The police did not have to go after the demonstrators except to arrest those few who stoned the First Couple.

Some policemen, instead of merely arresting the erring demonstrators, made this routinary police duty just a bit more dramatic by clubbing and kicking those they were after. In fact, following the arrest orders, for some policemen, became so thrilling that they went on with it for two hours, long after the “riot” had died down. Because some of the demonstrators fought back, the police said. So the rattan truncheons went on swinging; the fire trucks forgotten, the high-pressured water that could have dispersed the demonstrators and cooled heads remained useless, cooped up in the tanks in that savage, volatile night.#

h1

The Long Week

January 25, 2010

By Kerima Polotan

This article appeared on February 7, 1970 in the Philippines Free Press, pages 2,3, 32a, 32b, 32c. The full text is also available in http://philippinesfreepress.wordpress.com/2006/03/22/the-long-week-february-7-1970

Bombs, Guns, Stones—Violence, Hate, Death.

1. When the week began, it seemed to hold no surprises. The country had seen how many Congresses open before and except for a mugginess in the afternoon, rare in January, the Seventh held no special portents. The young had, of course, taken over the streets and were on Ayala Street, thrusting leaflets at passerby: An Appeal for a Non-Partisan Constitutional Convention. All week the week before, they’d been pretty busy, demonstrating in front of Malacañang. A particularly “militant” group had roughed up an army sergeant moonlighting as a photographer; they had peppered the air with elegant language, the accepted idiom of student activism, amplified many decibels with the aid of loudspeakers, language like: Putang ina mo! Ikaw Marcos, bumaba ka rito, napakayabang mo, 27 ang medalya mo, halika nga dito at tignan natin ang galing mo! I am from Cabiao, kung talagang matapang ka, bumaba ka rito at papatayin ka namin! x x x Bukas, ang aabutin mo rito kung akala mo ay minura ka na, ay hindi pa namin naaabot ang pagmumura sa iyo. Mumurahin ka namin ng gabi. Putang ina mo x x x Putang ina ninyong mga Americans kayo, sino ang pupuntahan ninyo diyan, ang demonyong Presidente namin? ‘Yang gagong Pangulo namin diyan, bakit ninyo pupuntahan, gago naman iyan?

True to their word, they had frothed umaga, tanghali, at gabi, heroically cursing Mr. Marcos to his face, in the house where he lived, shocking even the hardened veterans of the Presidential Guard Battalion, but now in the afternoon sun, their young, clear faces turned Congressward, they seemed indeed, ten deep, and miles and miles of them, the hope of the fatherland.

Inside Congress, however, the familiar peremptoriness of security guards greeted guests—even the most inoffensive looking specimen got thoroughly sniffed at from head to foot and if you didn’t smell at all as if you had legitimate business on the premises, you were quickly waved off to a side door where khaki’d arms blocked the way. You thrust a press card and the guard’s sangfroid remained undented—one prepared, therefore, to offer a fistful of identification papers: credit card, driver’s license, insurance bill, plumber’s reminder, grocery list, beauty parlor receipt, but remembering from somewhere that occasionally a double whammy worked, one fixed the fellow with a look: left eye shut, right eye open, and then a whisper: Tsip, puede ba?

It worked, and one was suddenly inside, to one’s utter disappointment. One had not fought one’s way through to stand guard over a half empty hall, along with half a hundred TV cameras, and the minor functionaries of this Republic, the second officials, the junior assistants, who strutted and poked and pointed—“Mahina ang audio!”—but there were compensations. Eduardo Cojuangco, the husband of Gretchen Oppen, was there, in expensive barong; and so was Joe Aspiras, the ex-press secretary, in barong; and also Joe de Venecia, whom the papers called a Marcos Liberal, who had just shed (again according to the papers) an old love and acquired a new one, in coat and tie; a dear friend from Dumaguete: Herminio (Minion) Teves, the younger twin of Lorence, in coat and tie; Rafael Aquino, the Sorsogueño from Butuan City, in coat and tie. All brand new diputados, eager to be of service to the country, but already practised in the art (and craft) of winning people and influencing friends. You could tell—they strode as though they belonged (and did they not?), crossed their legs, scratched their colleagues’ back, held languid cigarettes, laughed their rich solid laugh. But no Rufino Antonio, poor man, with all his troubles—he should have stuck to selling motorcycles. However, with Antonio not there, was Roquito far behind? One glimpsed through a clump of faces, the Northern congressman, short, dark, chubby, smiling a genuine Ilocano smile, winning, irresistible, the kind where the charm comes straight from the solar plexus. You could see where Special Forces was written all over him.

The old-timers were drifting in—Pablo Roman, who owns Bataan; Fermin Caram, who owns Filipinas; Ramon Mitra, who doesn’t own Palawan (yet), but does have a pair of sideburns reaching down to his knees and the start of a gross look; Carmelo Barbero, Carlos Imperial, Floring Crisologo, Constantino Navarro. On this side, the Supreme Court Justices, in black robes; across the floor from them, the cabinet: Carlos P. Romulo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franciso Tatad, Gregorio Feliciano, Leonides Virata, and Manang Pacita, wearing her hair shoulder-length, dressed in a bright Bonnie frock. Beside the cabinet, the lady justices of the court of Appeals; Cecilia Muñoz Palma, in a green terno, and that stalwart of the legal profession, Lourdes San Diego, who is said to know her law like some women know their beauty ritual, in a wine colored terno.

Where one sat, craning behind the backs of security, one was hemmed in, on the right, by TV announcers—“our very own Henry Halasan” in an off-white suit, demure and dimpled—and, on the left, by the military (the navy, the army, the air force) all in white duck. An attractive woman in a brief checkered dress desired to hurdle the railing that separated her from the military and one gallant junior aide extended a strong arm. She stood on a chair and lifted a leg and one could hear the military gasp in delight; my, my! If only all the subversives in the country had thighs like those—but after a while, the lady began to prove a nuisance, because she desired once more to return to the floor, and so executed that Open Sesame exercise and then once more, back with the military; and so on, three or four times, like a see-saw, and by then, the TV announcers’ Adam’s apples were bobbing up and down, and the junior aides were beginning to weary of her dance.

Then the Senators—Roy, Sumulong, Pelaez, Aytona, Tañada, Laurel, Padilla, Puyat, Eva Kalaw, feminine every inch of her, who walked in like Isadora Duncan, in a blue terno, but instead of wearing the panuelo across her shoulders, she’d wrapped it around her neck, and, voila! it was a scarf. However, the most beautiful neck on the floor that afternoon belonged to the Senadora from Laguna, Mme. Helena Benitez, the great and good friend of the Filipinescas dance troupe, who works very hard to get them their dollars and their accreditation; such a good sport, every chance she gets, she puts in a good word for them, they ought to make her muse or something.

One neck that looked different was Father Ortiz’s, buttoned high like a proper cleric’s, and if one hadn’t known him from previous invocations, you’d mistake him for chairman of the board of some multi-million peso mining corporation. All that eloquent talk of revolution has not affected the good and comfortable lives that many priests live. One remembered Father Ortiz from the NP convention of ‘67—he wasn’t Rector then—when he had also read a stirring invocation. He was to repeat his warning here, this afternoon, but in stronger words: “Our unsafe streets,” he said, prompting a Church non-lover to ask: if our streets are unsafe, how’d he get here? A people awaited redress, the young wanted change, the Rector said, an entire country trembled on the edge of revolution, the priest went on, but one thought, skeptic as usual, there were many voices today telling Government what was wrong with it, how many were telling the Church what was wrong with her?

Lift your seat, Mother, and look beneath the holy ass with which you’ve sat heavily on Property and Privilege for centuries, your banks, your estates, your tax-free schools—in the town where one comes from, the bishop owns a department store, a printing press, a tailoring shop, a pawnshop that preys especially on students, but daily, like the Pharisee, he bestows the blessings of Rome on a populace that sniggers behind his back because ten years ago, his family could barely eat in the province where he was born, but when he became bishop, he transported his entire clan to his diocese, and now each is propertied and privileged. Dialogue and keeping one’s cool being the fashion these days, one confesses an instinctive distrust of many fashions, including the fashion of thinking the Church can ever be revolutionary; confesses, further, to a habit of equating all the Church says with what one knows about it, personally; knows with one’s blood and mind: the Church flashes a shibboleth and you think you can grasp it and fight the evils of the world with it? The Irish father who talks endlessly of social justice likes to eat and drink well, and rides only with the rich of his town. That luckless priest who led a strike two years ago in the South is out of a job and out of a reputation, and is teaching in a diploma mill in Manila because his superiors chased him out of the province: what sayeth the Church to this?

The leaders of the Christian Social Movement live in low cost housing villages like Bel Air and Urdaneta; they speak to their servants in Tagalog; to their children in English, among themselves in Spanish—when their wives go to market, they say Espera to the fish vendor: these will lead a revolution? The Church reminds one of a greedy old whore, and like a greedy old whore, she won’t get off her back, even with the house next door already afire, because a couple of visitors are still in the parlor jingling their money, and she must have that too before she takes off.

THE HOUR WAS late, Father Ortiz said, and how right he was, for here came now the ladies of the congressmen and their senators. Most favored was the terno, no one was in pantsuit, and muted colors predominated. Was that a diamond that sparkled on a breast? Impossible to tell from the distance, but by their chins and their humps your could identify them: Mesdames Lopez, Puyat, Aldeguer, Roy—and Virginia Veloso who sat in the last seat, front row, two arm’s lengths away from Imelda Marcos, exactly as they had sat together in class 20 years ago in Tacloban, when Mrs. Veloso had been the darling of the social swirl and Mrs. Marcos had partly paid her way through school working in the library.

Flanked by Senator Puyat and Speaker Laurel, both suited, Mr. Marcos stood on the rostrum, in a barong. He looked rested. He bowed to the Supreme Court, he looked up at the klieg lights, he glanced at his watch. He’d worked his way from the front door to the rostrum, shaking hands, murmuring greetings—the amenities. One after the other, the two gavels banged: “For my part, I declare the House open for the session,” said Speaker Laurel, an old sad man with long white hair who must now live with the memory of a Bicol hill and a dead son. “For my part,” rasped Senate President Puyat, “I declare the Senate open for the session,” then the invocation that would have the editorial writers the next day tripping over each other, praising it, but meaningless to this one citizen until the Church gives up its pawnshops. And finally, Mr. Marcos’s quick descent to the microphones three steps below and the State-of-the-Nation address that would all but be forgotten in the terror with which that long week ended…

Thirty-five minutes he spoke, forty, if you counted the applause before and after, to a hall that had been fuller in previous years. But the persistent talk of assassination had finally worked its poison, and the overzealous guards had kept out more people than they should have. Some nuns there were in the mezzanine, their arms folded, looking quietly at Mr. Marcos; a row of impassive-faced diplomats sat below, among them the Honorable Mr. Addis whose garage the students had burned down a couple of years ago; and no more than half a hundred citizens—non-military, non-political, non-official—brown, sober, thoughtful, scattered through the hall.

While Mr. Marcos and his retinue walked out of the hall, to their fateful encounter with the papier mache crocodile and the cardboard coffin, the reporters on the floor swarmed all over the Opposition, cornering Senators Salonga, Aquino, and Roxas, who dutifully cleared their throats and gave their verdicts. Aquino said it for the trio—“Mr. Marcos should have addressed his speech to his cronies.” One watched them, holding the reporters at bay, recoiling every now and then from a too obtrusive microphone—Senators Salonga is a fine man and a good Christian; he has a sharp mind, people think; is a legal luminary, and if all that means, does he offer you a cup of coffee when you call on him, he certainly does. In the privacy of his office, he sounds almost like an old friend and you can put your guard down, but not quite all the way down, because the warning bell in the back of your mind doesn’t quite stop ringing. Why is that? It’s probably the smile. Most people smile with eyes and lips together, and so, indeed, does the senator from Rizal, but not all the time. Often, he smiles only with his lips, and his eyes take on a waiting, wary look, and when that happens, it leaves the onlooker disquieted.

As for Ninoy Aquino, he looked as if he’d recovered completely from Caroline Kennedy’s devastating character sketch of him—walkie-talkie in the swimming pool. Now he shifted his roly-poly body from one foot to the other; he scratched his ear, he inclined his head, he tucked his hands beneath his armpits. Such a checkered, meteoric career Ninoy’s has been—at 17, youngest correspondent in the Korean War; at 19, Southeast Asian expert, even if much of what he turned out was, according to some, a rehash of other experts’ books. And then in rapid succession, mayor, governor, senator, and, who knows? In ’73, if the stars are kind and the cards are gentle, President? Some people are appalled at the possibility of a boy President, but why not? If the children have taken over the streets with their stones and their clubs and their gasoline-soaked rags, why not Ninoy in the study room, whittling a slingshot? Perhaps, it’s because there will always be something underdone about Ninoy—ambition or insight or judgment—something that skipped the slow, natural process of ripening (Kung baga sa mangga, kinarburo).

And that shaggy-maned Capiz senator, Gerardo Roxas, who has stopped at last talking of his illustrious father—now, he shook his head, and his thick crop of graying hair threatened to fall, but didn’t. “No controls?” said he, who had miraculously escaped an “assassination” attempt in Capiz last November. “Ask the travellers, the students abroad, or the banks.” He would take to the air later that night, at 9, in this continuing comedy skit of Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, to deplore with much tongue-clacking, the violence outside Congress—“…The first President,” intoned Senator Roxas with ill-concealed glee, “to be stoned in the history of this country.” Well, better that, Senator Sir, than to be spoken of now as “…the first President in the history of this country to sign away Philippine patrimony,” or to be known as the son of such a President; better a stone on the head than the memory of such a treachery, and then to revel in that singular betrayal and make political capital out of it.

ONE EMERGED TO find confusion outside. The President and his wife had sped away—“Binato si Marcos!” and the crowd milled in the lobby. A Congress employee manfully paged cars through the loudspeaker, but the system was not working, and no cars came. The sky was dark; there was the smell of smoke, the ominous ascent of embers; the Congress flag flew at half-mast for Salud Pareño of Leyte. Who was the enemy and who, the friend, was not clear at all. Below, the students hooted. Upstairs, the helmeted police waved and pushed. All stood in the lobby, milling around like so many aging cattle: come and go, duck and dart. One crossed the driveway to the embankment overlooking the fray, there was some running, some stoning, some swinging of clubs, and then a flurry behind us, and we turned to follow two policemen, one of them with a profusely bleeding mouth, dragging a pale and frightened boy in a brown T-shirt. The police would bring them all up, those they’d caught, seat them briefly in the corridor, and then disappear with their catch somewhere, while one alternated between lobby and embankment, driven from one to the other by confusion, and then curiosity. The approach to the driveway was guarded by soldiers (you could tell by their long guns and their silence), but the center was a melee of cop, Metrocom, congressman, and onlooker.

“Do you have a child below?” asked a cop from the shadows. “Because if you don’t have any,” he said, “go home.” No, was one’s certainly reply, and felt a vague, grateful stirring where one had nourished ten of them.

Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof. They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books—altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passe, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.

2. AT FIVE P.M. the following Thursday, one sat in a roomful of police officers, listening to them recount their own version of Monday’s affray. There were colonels, majors, captains; police, PC, Metrocom—aging men with thinning hair and heavy paunches, looking (for a change) like what they (perhaps) really were: fathers.

“I have a son at Araneta U and I was afraid he was there,” said someone. Senator Pelaez’s name came up and another snorted audibly: “That guy,” he said. “He stood there, waving his hands, pacifying the crowd, saying ‘Stop it! Stop it! We’re here to protect you! Go ahead and demonstrate!’ Binato ikamo, pati siya nag-cover.

The force that secured Congress January 26 was called Task Force Payapa and was under the command of Colonel Jasmin, assisted by Major Izon. It consisted of an indeterminate number of PC soldiers, Metrocom troops, a Marine complement, and firemen, but on the shoulders principally of MPD’s Colonel Gerardo Tamayo fell the job of policing the rally. “I fielded only 270 men, 30 of them anti-riot,” Tamayo said, and everything was going on peacefully, until the Kabataang Makabayan ng Makati, arrived. They marched in singing, driving a wedge through the crowd and moved up to where the convent girls were, right up front. Earlier, the police had given the students two concessions they’d asked for, according to one colonel—the demonstrators had resented the two loudspeakers broadcasting the proceedings from inside Congress and now desired that the offending amplifiers be turned off. “This was done.” They also asked permission to use what one PC officer, reconstructing the evening, kept calling the “foyer” but was probably the elevated platform just below the flagpole, beneath the embankment, but whatever it was, permission was given and the students moved nearer the driveway.

Luis Taruc spoke and was, thank God, booed. Roger Arrienda, the only “revolutionist” who wears diamonds on his fingers and holds rather noisy court at Front Page Restaurant, spoke, and was booed. There was a squabble over the demonstrator’s microphone. Edgar Jopson of the NUSP was sending his rallyists home but Gary Olivar of the U.P. wanted to speak, and then—Colonel James Barbers picks up the story—“at exactly 5:55 p.m., the President came out, with the First Lady.” They booed him, but Mr. Marcos reportedly smiled: “Kumaway pa,” says Barbers.

You could feel the restless current up front—hands tossed (that’s the word the police use) this cardboard coffin, “but you know how the security is, there could have been a bomb inside, and so we tossed it right back. It returned; we tossed it back, like volleyball, you know. Then, the crocodile.” When Barbers heard the first stones, he pushed the President inside the car so hard Mr. Marcos hit his head and came up with a bump (“Police brutality! Someone laughs), but the President pushed his way out again because “we had forgotten Imelda” who stood outside protected by now by someone called Big Boy. (Big Boy would get a pop bottle in the face.) Colonel Fabian Ver’s men gave the Marcoses “body cover” and the car rolled away.

Did Tamayo, at this point, order his men to charge the youngsters? A Manila Times employee insists he did—“Rush them!” or words to that effect, Tamayo’s supposed to have said—but Tamayo says he didn’t. What he ordered his cops to do was to arrest those who had breached the peace. “Look,” Tamayo explains, “they were throwing stones, bottles, and clubs—would you like a picture of one cop who lost four teeth, and a picture of another cop who had to have ten stitches in the head, and a picture of another cop who got a nail in his knee?” The police say the troublemakers—“extremists”—came prepared; they had brought stones, the kind you buy at rock gardens; and clubs, dos por cuatro, nailed together. When the melee started, the police say, the boys ripped the clubs apart, and they had a lethal weapon, a sturdy dos por dos topped by a vicious nail. “On the other hand, our truncheons are made of rattan.” All right, but did they beat up even the girls? Not true, the police say, those girls are trained to be hysterical at the approach of a policeman, to drop to the ground and scream “Brutality!” at the top of their voices. And the missing nameplates? “Torn off by the students themselves,” someone declares with a very, very straight face. “Those extremists moved according to plan,” says Barbers who opens a book, Riots, Revolts, and Insurrections by Raymond Momboisse, and proceeds to read aloud a few pertinent quotes: The professional agitators use children, women, and old people (in Monday’s affray, two old veterans) to embarrass the police. Their aim is to cause bloodshed, it doesn’t matter whose; “to manufacture martyrs,” to gain a cause celebre, to precondition the public mind about police brutality. If there are police horses, they stick them with pins, or roll marbles under their feet, or slash away with razors.

How about police brutality? The TV showed them clearly beating up the fallen… A police officer says, “The trouble with these TV people is they like to position themselves behind police lines—they run when we run. Why don’t they station themselves behind the KM and shoot their footage from there?”

“Did you notice the demonstrators had more cameras on their side than the legitimate press had?” asks a police officer. “How quickly they spread the rumor that three students had been killed, and one body was at the NBI, being autopsied!” When someone raised a clenched fist, the stoning began. “Their technique is getting better and better. Even that tight romantic embrace the girls give the boys when they’re about to be arrested is part of their technique.” Some rookies “perhaps” got carried away, admitted an officer, but this was no tea party, as the long bloody hours of Friday subsequently proved.

Meanwhile, as the police reviewed their “facts” Salvador P. Lopez was being roundly scolded by Mr. Marcos in the Palace. Tuesday, he had called his faculty together to pass a resolution condemning police brutality; holding the Administration responsible for Monday’s labo-labo; and decrying the growing pattern of Fascist oppression in the country. Then, he decreed a certain per cent of their month’s salary be put into a common fund to help the students—totally unnecessary, according to a later clarification, because the University has a regular fund that provides for this—and after telling his faculty “I want a 100% attendance tomorrow,” adjourned the meeting. Wednesday’s papers carried pictures of Lopez being cheered on the steps of the U.P. for joining the students’ noble cause, but as anyone who has heard of Lopez from his Herald days could have foretold, the denouement of this episode was quite a surprise.

Putting together everything that columnists and U.P. activists themselves said afterwards, Lopez didn’t exactly approach the altar of student militancy with, beg pardon, clean hands. He saw in Monday’s mauling a chance to throw a smokescreen over his own not-so-little troubles at the U.P., among them, a brewing rebellion of some faculty who thought his policies oppressive and wanted “democratization”—whatever that means in Diliman; his pay had also just been raised to P48,000 (he says without his intervention) amidst loud yelps from his underpaid employees; and—this is a beaut—Lopez wasn’t exactly the favorite anito of the campus radicals. They distrusted him, in fact, and as one student leader, speaking over the radio hours after Friday’s terror, put it: “He was like a Pontius Pilate (in the Palace), washing his hands of us when Marcos began berating him! Of those who went to see Marcos, we know who are really for us, and who aren’t.”

So Lopez and his safari went to the Palace, Thursday afternoon, hiring buses which they left at Agrifina Circle, walking from there to Malacañang, in buri hats, umbrellas, and scarves, taking care to give their better side to the camera—Lopez was always getting snapped doing something momentous, his broad face turned symbolically somewhere, that mouth open, his large hands spread, but, you see, he’d been taught all the tricks of success by a master, the great CPR himself, whose ashtrays he had probably fetched in his Herald and UN days, and he’d learned the fine art of accommodation. He was against whoever had just turned his back, and was for whoever faced him at the moment, and when he walked into Mr. Marcos who asked, first, if the resolution was the best the U.P., known for its proficiency in English, could master (“This reads like a student resolution!”); second, if in condemning police brutality, Lopez had all the facts?); and third, in “holding the Administration responsible for the pattern of repression and the violation of rights,” wasn’t Lopez making “a general gunshot accusation”?

If Lopez had been sincerely convinced about the justice of his cause, he would have stayed firm, wouldn’t he, now, but having patently espoused the students’ cause out of convenience, Lopez, again out of convenience, began to backtrack. He apologized to Mr. Marcos for the wording of the resolution and said it was not possible to “include all the specific issues”; moreover, it was not a resolution of accusation, Lopez now said, but “a declaration of concern.”

Lopez would have only one ally among the columnists in the next few days. Amando Doronila—who is not really as churlish as he sounds. If you took his column away, Mr. Doronila could still earn a living, assisting at Mass or lecturing on The Verities or chopping off the hands of those who pick their noses in public. The fact that Mr. Doronila alone saw in Lopez’s embarrassing docility the equivalent of an intellectual Tirad Pass or Custer’s Last Stand is not enough basis for concluding they’re two of a kind. Lopez, like a man who has worked hard all his life, looks forward only to retirement and a regular paycheck in the sunset of his life. Mr. Doronila, however, desires, above all, to die at the stake, sunset or sunrise, it doesn’t matter, for a belief he holds dear: the Doronila Monomania, part of the messianic syndrome, — a self-righteousness that makes you want to puke; the conviction that he alone is right all the time (isn’t Mrs. D. — ever?).

One recalls that curve one threw him about the word media, and the flurry with which he tried to hit it. Dr. Doronila, who likes to make these very important pronouncements above government, foreign affairs, economics, juvenile delinquency, the stock exchange, the penal system, democracy and similar topics, obviously didn’t know what hole media had crawled out of; probably thought it was Greek, as in Jason and Media (sic), and most Greeks may wear skirts but they’re not plural beneath, if you know what we mean. One’s concern for Dr. Doronila is such that one must warn him about bad grammar: it’s like bad breath, no one tells you about it, not even your best friend.

3. THE CLIMAX of that long week came Friday, January 30, the inevitable finis to endless days of obscenity, ranting, and clubbing, but this time, the Putang ina mos came out of the barrels of guns, crackled above the sound of fire and breaking glass, exploded in the thud of truncheon against flesh.

The trouble erupted at 6:15 p.m., just as Edgar Jopson of the NUSP, and Portia Ilagan of the NSL, were leaving the Palace front door. Since 3:30 that afternoon, they had been closeted with Mr. Marcos in a dialogue, during which they had repeatedly demanded that Mr. Marcos put down in writing his pledge not to seek a third term. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Jopson was particularly insolent, elementary courtesy obviously not being part of the standard equipment in the activist’s kit.

(In one’s youth, when you used obscenity, you washed your mouth with soap and water afterwards, but you can see how liberated the take-over generation is today: “All right ‘yan, brod, basta’t for the country, putang ina nating lahat!”)

Jopson and Ilagan had promised Mr. Marcos there would be no violence because the demonstrators had marshals to police the students, they said (they had demanded that the police—a few traffic cops—and the PGB be withdrawn), but in the lobby of the Palace what should greet the two but—irony, irony—the sound of bulbs breaking; and above the ominous rumble of running feet, the noise of exploding glass, rose the familiar obscenity of their fellow revolutionaries: Hoy, Jopson, putang ina mo, lumabas ka rito at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari sa iyo!

By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.

Back at the Palace front door, continues this eyewitness, “Jopson and Ilagan looked suddenly sick, like two kids who’d bitten off more than they could chew. The Palace grounds were dark, and at first, we thought they didn’t want to walk back to their friends because of the darkness. Colonel Ver offered to light their way with the headlights of his jeep. Jopson nervously refused.” This boy who, for hours, had ranted in the study room, talking to Mr. Marcos as though Mr. Marcos were his houseboy; who’d gestured floridly like some latter-day Napoleon dictating surrender terms to a beaten foe at Austerlitz-on-thePasig, would not walk, alone, in the dark, to his friends. His courage stopped short of that one simple act.

Hadn’t they, Wednesday that week, flaunted a sign outside Gate 3: “We too can suffer, we too can die”? Ah, yes, but not in the dark, and not alone, and not without the cameras. They clung like children to the very people their group had cursed without letup—accompanied by one PGB captain and a security man, Jopson and Ilagan were ferried across the river and seen safely out of Malacañang Park.

Before the wild night was ended, four students lay dead, innocent bystanders all, and four mothers weep today. Over a hundred were in hospitals, injured; and three hundred more, detained at the MPD and in Camp Crame. Most of the casualties fell in the see-sawing battled for Mendiola bridge. Driven from there, the demonstrators had retreated to old Azcarraga, in front of a Nawasa branch office. There, they set a Yujuico bus on fire and sent it rolling towards Mendiola bridge. They set fire to parked jeeps and cars, Meralco posts; upturning Yeba’s iron railings; Yeba who had said Thursday, his great big beautiful eyes mesmerizing his audience, that woman’s mouth of his pouting now and then, that he would lead the police, and the strategy they would employ would be one of “containment.”

Hours and hours later, the radio broadcast an appeal of two U.P. student leaders for food, for money, for help. They’d been set upon, one said, clubbed and shot and arrested. The Metrocom had blocked all exits in Sampaloc, in Quiapo, in España, and picked up, willy-nilly, all those they pancied, but kind people, people who sympathized with the revolution, had put up many students in their own houses, fed and bedded them—one reproduces here, as well as one can remember, that appeal, because two things about it disquieted the listeners: the U.P. student sounded too much like a parrot, sticking to just one jargon, and for one who would bring about a better world, he reasoned with a child’s petulance: Mga kababayan, kami po ay nangangailangan ng tulong n’yo, no, pagkain, o pera, no, pakidala lang ninyo sa U.P. Student Council, Diliman, no, at matatanggap namin iyan, no. Kailangan po natin ibagsak ‘yang Pascistang si Marcos, no, kami mga anak ninyo na binugbog, binaril, no, ng mga kawal ng Pascistang si Marcos, no. Magsamasama tayong lahat, no, magkaisaisa tayo, no, para sa bayan, para sa demokrasya, no.

And the violence?

Papano, sa ganyang demonstration talagang mayroong mga maiinit ang ulo, no, pagod na pagod na kami sa mga broken promises ni Marcos, no, totoo nga, namato ang ilan sa amin, no, nagsusunog ng kaunti, nagpaputok ng rebentador, no, ngunit ang lahat ba namang iyan ay sapat na upang kami ay bugbugin, sipain, barilin, at arestohin?

They’d stoned a little, burned a little.

Sow a little anarchy—reap a little death, and death (big or little or medium-sized) is always, alas, for real.

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