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Subversion from Left and Right

February 19, 2010

To Topple the Government

By Ernesto M. Macatuno

First published in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 1, 1970, p. 18-19

Hours after the bloody January 30 demonstration, President Marcos was reported to ponder in his study in Malacañang the explosive situation in the schools and streets. One would presume that in assessing the situation, the President could have asked: “Who are our enemies?”

For it was quite obvious that whoever fomented the violence that turned the demonstration into a riot, was no friend of the President and the government. whatever the group, as it could only be presumed to be the working of not one, not a few but quite a number of inciting persons, the students into violence and later into frontal clash with the police and military, highlighted by an actual assault on Malacañang itself, was, call it by any name, a pure act subversion.

Viewing thus the damage wrought on Malacañang after it had been cleared of the student demonstrators, the President, had he said this to be an act of the enemy of the state, had ample reason to say so. So that President Marcos, going on TV the day after the January 30 demo, told the people that the demo was “a revolt by local Maoist communists whose immediate objective was the takeover or destruction of Malacañang.”

So there it was: The Maoists, as usual, caused it all.

But did they? Or were they alone?

Had this been the case, the problem of the government could have been greatly simplified. The cause or root of the problem—the so-called Maoists— having been pinpointed, it was but a matter of small recourse to have them isolated.

Tension mounts

But, as days went by and tension mounted, the government found out that the cause of the violence that attended the January demos was not, could not be, the sole handiwork of the homegrown Maoist communists.

As it was, everybody wanted to get into the act, so to speak. Not only the homegrown Maoists, but also other sectors, other groups used, exploited, rode on the wave of student unrest so that their aims which are noble and otherwise, could be heard and listened to and acted on by Malacañang.

On one side was a demand from the government that it take measures for a non-partisan (which eventually had to include a non-sectarian) Constitutional Convention. This product of exasperation over the excessive politicking in the government, by itself, could not have caused the conflagration that were the demos. But such a demand, using the student demonstrations as forum, had, taken at such a time when other groups, for reasons of their own, were also exploiting these student demonstrations, added fuel to the fire that almost gobbled up Malacañang.

On another side were the Americans and their vested interests in the country that have to be protected from the onslaughts of Philippine nationalism. By adding fuel to the student unrest with its resultant tension, anxiety and probable anarchy, these interests could weaken the position of the government and, among other things, parley concessions from it. Although this has not been officially confirmed and probably will never be officially confirmed by the government, such American participation in the student demos was alluded to by President Marcos himself when he said that, aside from the usual scapegoats — the Maoists— there also were “noncommunist” groups exploiting this explosive situation.

The student groups were quick to follow the President’s statement on this “non-communist threat” to the government. They even went further. As one student leader, Fernando T. Barican, president of the UP Student Council, said in effect, “the Americans want to use the student unrest to topple down Marcos and institute a military junta government similar to the juntas in Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Latin American and elsewhere.”

Military role

With the exposure of the Rightist involvement in the demos, the role of the military in the country became of great concern. Whatever it would do in this period was more worrisome than the threat from the Left.

The military was unhesitating on where its loyalty lay. The sentiment of the military was voiced out by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Manual Yan who said, “We are sworn to uphold the constitution. We shall resist every move to subvert the government — whether that move would come from the Right or the Left.”

As far as the military is concerned, Gen. Yan said, “it is immaterial where the threat of subversion comes from—whether from Left or Right— the military will check it.”

Having been assured that he could count on this strong counterrevolutionary force to defend the government, President Marcos declared that things since the January 30 demo “had gone back to normal.” But again, rumors floated that the military itself is not that solid, that it is permeated with officers of dubious loyalty because of their reported attachment to foreign groups like the CIA. Again, it was Gen. Yan who, although professing no knowledge of this, made assurances that “any officer found to be working for any Rightist subversive group shall be severely dealt with.”

On the other front, reports continue to mount that the military arm of the Left has been gathering forces, and that the Huks in Tarlac and Pampanga were ready to go down to Manila and agitate the student demonstrators to commit widespread violence.

“The military is taking a close look at the Huk activities,” Gen Yan said. “The subversive elements have been identified…” but will not be publicly known for reasons of security.

Assuring further the populace that all is under control and that the rumors on subversion probably result from merely a bad case of jitters, Gen. Yan said: “Rest assured that (as of this writing) the government is prepared to cope with these sorts of crises and national emergencies like the student unrest and Red infiltration, all cropping up at the same time…”

So be it. #

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