Paradoxes, Alarm, and Scandal

February 19, 2010

By Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil

First published in her column, Consensus of One, in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 22, 1970, p. 11.

We take demonstrations at once too seriously and not seriously enough. More than a month after the January riots which set every one on his head, that is the first paradox of the political scene.

At the first hint of a march, teach-in or picket line, Manila becomes a ghost town inhabited by blanched-faced wretches quaking in their shoes. All public life is suspended, schools and offices closed and the Manilan, once so garrulous and peripatetic, barricades himself behind a fortress of hastily-nailed plywood, armed guards and hoarded canned goods. This exaggerated fright makes a ludicrous contrast to the stolid and carefree sophistication of Tokyo, Calcutta, New York or Paris where the demonstrations are larger, fiercer and several years older. But the Manilan is nothing if not adaptable and perhaps in a few more weeks he will learn to live with student unrest and decide that despite all, life cannot just grind to a complete halt but must go on and on.

At the same time, and despite this overreaction of panic and hurt price, we are not taking demonstrations seriously enough. We refuse to see that they represent an irreversible trend towards radical reform (not to say revolution) and that they are not just a fad or youthful exuberance or a particularly nasty type of juvenile delinquency but a strong and perhaps irresistible public will to change. Many still hope to turn the tide with smiles and subsidies and perhaps a few plane tickets to the Osaka Expo, or with free clinics and bundles of old clothes distributed among the squatters, or a new set of government officials to answer complaints faster. But the handwriting on the wall is there, even if we won’t read it.

True, attendance in Congress and most other government offices has risen to a spectacular and unprecedented ideal and there are suddenly very few parties (mostly held “underground”), the society page has turned overnight into a prissy, highbrow bluestocking, and there will be thousands of housing units to go up in Tondo. But one misses a really dramatic turning over of a new leaf: for instance, a realistic living wage, confiscation of idle lands to support land reform a tax law that will make the Establishment a little less established, the prosecution of the really big grafters and warlords.

The second paradox about the quality of Filipino life these days is that public reaction to demonstrations is much more acute than it has ever been to the evils that provoked the demos in the first place. a few broken glass windows, some amateurish gasoline bombs fashioned out of whiskey bottles and a score of placards in ribald Tagalog seem to have caused much more anguished soul-searching than the millions of deprived farmers, workers and children. Why? The wrongs which the demonstrations are protesting have been with us for a long time, perhaps not writ so large as now, but it was not till a handful of student leaders (abetted or not, if you like, by mobsters and rioters) threw a few stones and taunts that people up there began to see them.

Poverty, social injustice, graft, legal inequality, the intolerable conditions under which millions of our people have lived for decades and centuries—did not appear out of the blue in January 1970. They have in fact been the mainstays of our life for as long as anyone can remember, yet our behavior would lead a stranger to believe that they did not exist till now. They did, of course, but we were determined to ignore them and have continued to ignore them if it had been possible to do so without rousing so much alarm and scandal.

A third paradox is that the very things some of our new revolutionaries want is what the rebels elsewhere would like to discard. The abuses of capitalism and freewheeling democracy are equaled only by those of existing socialist systems. The Soviet Union and the People’s China have succeeded in changing the subhuman conditions of their masses in a few years (50 in the first case and 20 in the second) and in making themselves into world powers, but they are quite as guilty as the capitalist, liberal-democratic world in committing excesses of imperialism (overseas and international dominance and exploitation) and fascism (thought control, force and police power). Indeed Moscow’s neo-capitalism and ruthless repression of young writers has turned many student activists away from Marxism-Leninism.

This leads one to believe that the change we need in the Philippines is not merely away from the sins of one established order to the sins of another established order, but towards an entirely different new system, evolved on home grounds, according to our own lights, a new kind of ism that will be partly this and partly that, completely eclectic but completely suitable to our own nature and to our own needs.

The saddest paradox, however, is that President Marcos is getting what has been coming to all of us during the last four hundred years. The sins of Spanish colonialism, with its mixture of innocence and callousness, American “manifest destiny,” with its cynical benevolence, domestic tyranny, all the sores and cankers of our tortuous history are now being visited on his head. We should be able to see the bitter inevitability of what is happening, but no less than us, President Marcos should see it too.#



February 19, 2010

By Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil

First published in her column, Consensus of One, in The Sunday Times Magazine,  March 8, 1970, p. 23

President Marcos’ use of the word insurrection in his TV talk after the riot of 30 January has set me building up parallels. It is a word that was probably last used — by the government that suppressed them—on the Sakdalistas of the Thirties, the peasants and farmers who decided to use bullets to give impact to their social accusations (sakdal). Before that it was used to designate the Philippine-American War of 1898 by those who won it and to this day, Filipino scholars still call the records of that war, the Insurrecto Papers, although they are careful to make the quotation marks audible in their voices.

Insurrection is a tricky word, to say the least. While editing historical calendars, articles and monographs, I wear out lots of blue pencil and elbow grease crossing it out and replacing it with revolutionaries or the Filipino forces.

Much of Philippine history was written during the American regime, or rather while we were still under the influence of that pupilage and the cliches of thought and word continue with an inertia of their own to inflict themselves on us today. The most pedestrian historical researcher or writer should know that, perhaps to be polite, we put up with that word insurrecto, but now that the Americans are gone (theoretically?) we should do it our way and call every Filipino revolutionary or soldier by his right name. One of the results of political change is, inevitably the rewriting of history or, at least, the adoption of a new vocabulary.

The point I am trying to make is: when the history of the youth movement of 1970 is written, what will it be called? What we call it now — the demonstrations? Or Marcos’ Insurrection? Or perhaps, the Democratic Revolution? Even more important — for history is written by the victors or by those who endure and overcome— who will be writing that history?

Already a friend has asked me, “Do you think this is the second Philippine Revolution? If so, which one is Bonifacio?”

“Dante or Amado Guerrero?” I said, playing the game. “I don’t know. Perhaps General Yan or General Garcia? Or some obscure boy in the slums who reads Lenin by lamplight and whose name we don’t even know?”

But it is not just a wry historical game. The parallels between that time and this include many items that are in dead earnest: the confrontation with social reality, for instance, the fine rage against injustice and the hidden personal struggles. Even from this vantage point Bonifacio and Commander Dante or General Yan do share a certain vulnerability and a suspicion of corruption that has been brought about by an initial success.

Then who is the modern Rizal—the pride of his people, the innocent, moral man whose vision fails in the end? Magsaysay? Recto? Or Manglapus? It depends what the outcome will be, as I said, and who will be writing history.

Is Emilio Jacinto to be Chito Sta. Romana of De La Salle, the Manila mestizo all over again, brilliant, articulate and far out? Or Edgar Jopson the Ateneo moderate, the logical and calculating organization man?

Is Apolinario Mabini, Pastelero or Barican of the University of the Philippines with their sedition charges and their carefully reasoned political-sciences stance?

Is today’s del Pilar the boy who rammed the fire truck into the Malacañang gate? Or some Metrocom hero? Are the young men who died at Mendiola going to be called Ang Anim na Martir and will future generations lay wreaths on the spot where they fell? Or will they be exorcised and forgotten as completely as the Sakdalistas?

One thing is certain, the modern “propaganda movement” will be represented by Jose Lansang, J. V. Cruz, Renato Constantino and other writers of the Left— or —Messrs. Mata, Jurado, Querol, Lachica and Melchor Aquino. But which side is still an open question.

And who will be Aguinaldo? And —how could one forget to ask — what is the role reserved for Marcos?

But enough is enough. Playing to history is like playing to the grandstands or picking the winning horse. An easy and vulgar triumph if we guess the outcome and choose the winning side. A pox on those historians who, in any case, are good only till they are superseded by the next batch.

The wisdom of historians cannot be our own since we do not have their advantages. We can have only the courage to continue to propel ourselves towards the unknown.#


Marcos and the Jesuit ‘Subversives’

February 19, 2010

By Amadis Ma. Guerrero

First published in Graphic, March 18, 1970, p. 6-7.

“Absolute obedience” was the command on which Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus more than four centuries ago. Today the word “obedience” is rarely uttered when young Jesuits get together. Their ranks include protest marchers, draft-card burners, bishop-baiters and jailbirds. The community of 8,000 American Jesuits is caught in profound internal ferment …

— from the Atlantic Magazine, November, 1969

THE HEADLINE in the afternoon daily caught one’s startled eye: Marcos Tags Jesuits on Revolt, and the reader’s instinctive reaction was that the President was giving the SJs more credit than they deserved.

“President Marcos today accused the Jesuits of inciting revolution in the Philippines,” the report began, bylined by a veteran Malacañang reporter. “Mr. Marcos hurled the accusation during a conference with newsmen this morning (March 2), adding that he will not countenance the ‘continued acts of rebellion’ by the religious order.’ The story was substantially duplicated in the other afternoon paper, and its lead was even more dramatic: Marcos declared today an open war against the Jesuits…

The Malacañang ploy however backfired, and reaction set in favor of the Jesuits. The following morning the Palace issued a blanket denial of the reports. Its tone was typically self-serving and innocucus:

“The President believes that the Jesuits in the Philippines are fully aware of the separation between the church and the state and will not risk being publicly condemned for interference in the affairs of government.”

Two leading Jesuit officials immediately took up the cudgels for their order. The reaction of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, provincial superior of the Society, was a model of understatement: “If the President has been correctly reported as saying what he did, I would like to state, with all due respect, that he must have been misinformed …

“As for interfering with the affairs of the state, I would simply say that those of us who are Filipinos believe that, as citizens of a free country, we have the right, and occasionally the duty, to speak our minds on what we believe to be the state of the nation, and how we believe that state can be improved to provide justice and a better life for all.”

The rejoinder of Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, Ateneo president, was more blunt: “It would be a tragedy which could bring us even nearer to revolution if no persons or institutions in this land could speak the truth about the state of the nation as he sees it without being branded as inciters of revolution.

“If we have come to such a pass, as indeed this accusation of the President might lead us to believe, then thought-control and fascism are just around the corner.”

An original impression of newsmen was that the President’s remarks had been printed in one of those “onion skin press releases.” In the trade, this means that a reporter’s contacts give him some “background” material, printed on onion-skin paper, “not for attribution.” The real story, however, subsequently filtered out to the press. Marcos had let down his guard, and revealed his feelings during an informal afternoon chat with newsmen while playing golf at the Palace greens.

The radicals were understandably annoyed, feeling that the President had conferred on the Jesuits a badge of honor reserved exclusively for their own militant groups. Those who know the Jesuits well were amused: very flattering really, but we haven’t reached that stage yet and we probably never will, unless we’re driven to it.

There may be one or two far-out radicals among the SJs, but the truth is that most of them have come out for peaceful reforms. And if only for this reason, they constitute no immediate, violent threat to men like Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Why FM Dislikes the Jesuits

The Jesuits for years now have been crying out for reforms, warning that the alternative would be a bloody revolution. This call naturally has not endeared them to the One in Power (and we do not mean the other world), it being a reflection on his Administration.

The Presidential distaste surfaced for all to see during the opening of the Seventh Congress, when Marcos openly seewled while Fr. Ortiz was delivering his invocation, causing newsmen present to exchange meaningful glances. Fr. Ortiz’s phrase — “trembling on the brink of revolution” — may sound a bit poetic, but his invocation also contained the following passage:

“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 … 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 …”

There are other reasons for the Presidential distaste for Jesuits and Jesuit-influenced laymen. Let us cite them here:

—Mr. Raul S. Manglapus, whom Mr. Marcos tried to win over to his side, unsuccessfully, not too long ago, and whose ideas he does not share. Item: Manglapus’ Decentralization bill, which sought to clip the powers of the Presidency, was opposed by Mr. Marcos. Item: the nationalistic Congressional Economic Planning Office (CEPO), which Mr. Manglapus staunchly supported, was suppressed by Mr. Marcos;

—the National Union of Students (NUSP), headed by an Atenean, Edgar Jopson, and the Young Christian Socialists (YCSP), headed by a Manglapus-influenced Bedan, Ben Maynigo, have been breathing down the Olympian neck of the President;

—A pamphlet by Fr. Vitaliano Gorospe, SJ, entitled “The Morality of Violence and Demonstrations,” which stated that violence on the part of the exploited masses is justifiable as a last resort. Now this may cause concern to those in the Establishment (particularly to those who may have been warned by their seeresses that they will be assassinated by a young man in the guise of a priest), but it is old hat really. It is inscribed in the Catechism books, and even Pope Paul — hardly a revolutionary — is not against it.

—The mysterious figure of one Fr. Jose Blanco, SJ, alleged to have unseated Mr. Sukarno with one fell swoop of his slender arms, and alleged further to have told a CSM seminar: the people better “rise up in arms before others will do it for them.”

In an interview with the Chronicle, Fr. Blanco said he had been misquoted, and that what he had actually stated was “what we need is a revolution of a change of heart… to convert someone to a real Christian, that is the revolution I sell.”

As for the allegations that he had been involved in the student uprising in Indonesia, Fr. Blanco said he had stayed in that country for six years as an English instructor, then had to leave when summoned to be near his ailing father. This slim and tall (for a Filipino) Jesuit is no stranger to controversy. Last year his remarks before another seminar — that Christ is not in the Sacrament but in the heart — were distorted and made to sound “heretical” and “communistic,” leading to a confrontation with the Archbishop of Manila which still has to be resolved satisfactorily.

Jesena and the Sacadas

—The report by Fr. Arsenio C. Jesena, of the Loyola House of Studies, which exposed the miserable conditions of the sacadas in Negros and which alienated President Marcos because his closest political allies belong to the Sugar Bloc.

The exposé opened with this sentence, almost Hemingway-like in its simplicity: “In April 1969 I went down to Negros to live as a sacada among the sacadas.” But as it began to describe in graphic detail the exploitation of the migrant workers under the hands of the hacenderos and the contratistas, the report took on a tone of bitter indictment:

“I saw the injustice of it all, and I began to understand why the Communists are Communists.”

The Jesena disclosures were an outstanding piece of Jesuit enterprise which capped the last year of the decade just over. In its wake came a challenge from the Christian Social Movement to the sugar planters to submit to an investigation. The planters agreed, then resorted to all sorts of delaying tactics. Early last month, impatient NUSP students took to the streets, and one of their demands was the immediate prosecution of sugar planters found violating labor laws.

This time a new task force team was formed, headed by Undersecretary of Labor Raoul Innocentes, and its findings substantially confirmed the Jesena report. From all indications a better deal is in store for the sacadas, thanks to Fr. Jesena and to others like him who in the past tried to secure justice in sugarland. May their tribe increase.

Through the Pages of History

The Society of Jesus was founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola, the soldier-saint — a symbol, to all Ateneans, of manliness and virtue. Under his unwavering tutelage, the vow of obedience became an asset rather than a liability. Jesuit influence spread, and by 1650, 500 colleges had been established on the European continent. “This was the great baroque period when Jesuit drama, ballet, art and music flourished,” notes the contemporary Jesuit poet and writer, John L’Heureux.

It was also the period, he adds, “when the accusations of ‘Jesuit price’ began, the political machinations of court favorites that would finally lead to the suppression of the Jesuit order.” The Jesuits had become a threat to the absolutist monarchs of France, Spain and the two Sicilies. The autocrats banded together and applied pressure on Pope Clement XIV. Accordingly, in 1773 a papal decree outlawed the Society. The reasons have never been clarified to the present day, and the Pontiff’s statement at the time, since then often quoted by historians, said his move was “suggested to Us by the principles of prudence and which We retain concealed in Our breast.”

The Society was restored in 1814, but the old militancy was gone. “Tradition,” says Fr. L’Heureux, “with its safety and its aura of respectability, embalmed the restored Society of Jesus … The spirit was crushed beneath mountains of legislation, and the Jesuits became a group of dedicated and harmless schoolteachers for the sons of the upper middle class.

“When a few years ago change finally came to the Jesuits, it came with a rapidity and a violence which neither they nor the Church was prepared.”

The history of the Jesuits in the Philippines is divided into two, the period of 1581 to 1768 and that of 1859 to the present. The first period is more colorful, and Fr. De la Costa in his voluminous work on the subject, tells of how a Jesuit secured the allegiance of Portuguese Macao to the Spanish crown, and of how a Jesuit represented the conquistadores of the Philippines.

Jesuits were also accredited ambassadors to the sultanates of Mindanao and the Moluccas. They sailed as chaplains in the Spanish ships that fought the Dutch for the sea lanes of Eastern Asia. The epoch of the Jesuits unfolds before a panorama of “sea battles, native customs, Portuguese rivalry, court intrigue, the opening of China, martyrdom and hard work.”

Although the Society was restored in 1814, the Jesuits did not return to the Philippines until 1859 and they, like their colleagues around the world, confined themselves to the schools, to missionary work and scientific study.

The SJs in the ’50s, ’80s

A Jesuit product acquires an extreme consciousness about his background. The feeling can be an ambivalent (accept-reject), one, and perhaps one could quote here the words of an American correspondent, a hardened newsman, to a young Filipino friend: “A Jesuit education is something to be thankful for, but it is also something to be suspicious about.”

Those fortunate (or, in the view of others, unfortunate) enough to receive an Ateneo education are immediately tagged as “Jesuit boys” — in derision or in envy. But you seldom hear the label applied to the products of the Christian Brothers, the Benedictines and the Dominicans. For when an Ateneo boy goes out into the world, he identifies himself with his Jesuit mentors — or rejects them altogether.

—The author studied for seven years under the Jesuits, during the ’50s, and the pleasant memories of that seemingly distant period go hand in hand with the unpleasant ones. Academic standards were maintained at all costs, and often at a heartbreaking cost. One student was not allowed to graduate because he had a grade of 74 in Social Science, and a 71 in Latin. This youth — an orphan whose mother toiled as a teacher so he could get a good education — was only 14 years old, and so the good fathers decided he was not fit to graduate from High School. He was told to repeat the year. His mother refused, and sent him to another college.

Discipline was exerted most during High School because this is the period when the student’s character is being formed. Punishment was swift, and, depending on the gravity of the offense, could come in the form of expulsion, suspension or the Saturday morning “post.” The latter consisted of strenuous calisthenics, forced marches around the campus, the “gripping” session, during which the student gripped his fingers unrelenting, and other devices worthy of the Inquisition. The atmosphere of the school was rigid, spartan.

But in the ’60s, the winds of change blowing throughout the Jesuit world reached our shores, and what a welcome breeze it was. Student dissent was now tolerated, even encouraged. Ateneans began to expand their horizons, and to involve themselves more extensively than before in social and political issues. A more aggressive nationalism reared its head, and the American Rector — “liked as a friend but disliked as a symbol” — resigned. The torch has been passed on to Fr. Ortiz, the second Filipino to become President of the Ateneo.

Extent of Jesuit Involvement in Social Action

The Jesuits run an Institute of Social Order, whose members conduct courses on credit unions, training programs, agricultural projects, family development and research. Complementing the Institute are the smaller like-minded organizations, like the Corps Youth Group of Fr. Blanco and the Mindanao Community Development Center.

In addition there are individual Jesuits who fan out to the barrios, to the slum districts and other underprivileged areas to improve conditions. You will find a Jesuit working with the parish priest of Sapang Palay, coordinating with Maryknoll students in Pansol, a small barrio behind that school, and with Ateneo students in Barranca another small barrio, in Marikina.

The Jesuits have a common ideology calles SPES, which stands for the Social, Political, Economic and Spiritual aspects of Filipino life. Within his field of competence, a Jesuit is expected to promote the common good in these four spheres.

In their drive to give the people a better life, the Jesuits are armed only with their ideas. Perhaps they provoke so much irritation among those in power because to the totalitarian mind, an idea can be just as dangerous as a Molotov cocktail hurled by an agent provocateur.#


The Visages of Violence

February 19, 2010

By Mercedes A.B. Tira

First published in the Graphic, February 11, 1970, p. 4-9, 52-53

IN FIVE DAYS, students, workers and peasants were able to tear off from the face of government the deceptive mask that has made it sufferably respectable in more than five decades. By a series of mass demonstrations which saw a representative populace grown tired of false hopes and promises pitted against the ill-tempered guardians of the status quo, the Marcos government as a perpetuation of iniquitous politics was shown up as no more than a timocratic combine gorged in privilege and awash in pomp.

For the Marcos government to be condemned as the immediate author of so gigantic a fraud, perhaps because of its oftenly grandiloquent claim to an ability to make this nation great again, is dictated by the march of events of which it happens to be the latest step. The axe has fallen on the Administration because it continues to represent mass oppression of the sort that has sadistically relished an otherwise unconscionable concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and of power in the hands of the unjust.

This year in Philippine politics would have been launched in traditional fashion; that is, a joint session of Congress lorded over by a somnorific rehash of the Marcos saga in the last four years — were it not for the massive turnout in front of the legislative building of the discontented and dissenters on January 26.

President Marcos, the first time he faced the nation as top leader, saw his people in the grip of a terrible crisis. He vowed not only to scuttle the siege but from there to lift his people and “make this nation great again.”

Four years later, President Marcos would face his people again, the first man to occupy the Presidency for the second time. His bombast and baritone would miserably fail to din out the fact of the very same crisis still abuilding. It has in fact grown more serious and has sickened society so much that the cities, towns and barrios vomited wave after wave of indignant humanity on the streets.

The spectacle that followed was one of invectives hurled from the very guts of the poor and oppressed, of curses that can be uttered only by those suddenly divested of their political innocence by the unmitigated excesses of those expected to lead. The January 26 people were evidently tired of false hopes and promises but they would manage to muster enough patience to hope that a violent tongue, being of the masses, could move the government out of its slothful arrogance.

Official reaction to the demonstrations staged by the students, workers and peasants during the last week of January was one marked with unprecedented hostility. Government club and hose ripped the air in Fascist abandon, exacting a minimum toll of broken arms and skulls but an extremely provocative maximum destruction of intelligent rapport between the government and the governed.

Death to uphold the ideals of the Parliament of the Streets has found an altar in the midst of the student activists. The waterfront murder of laborers at the picket line, on the other hand, has left an ineffaceable mark on the union movement here. Which is not to mention the bloodletting that has been going on in the fields of Central Luzon. Revolution, here and now, appears to have finally harnessed the troika that had carried it to heights of glory upon the gory, elsewhere.

The Storm Gathers

JANUARY 30, 1970. The National Union of Students of the Philippines and the National Student League appealed for a totally non-partisan Constitutional Convention and for the mass concern for the real state of the nation; they denounced fascism and militarism, particularly righteous dissent.

There were 30,000 students before the steps of Congress but no violence erupted. There were no cops in crash helmets and with truncheons around. Except for the traffic men in white and blue uniforms and for some mobile patrol cars the only policemen inside the ranks of the demonstrators were the student marshals themselves — some were helmeted, but the rest wore white armbands and headbands.

The students hurled invectives at absent city officials — Mayor Villegas, Chief Gerardo Tamayo, Colonel James Barbers and Major Alfredo Yson — and asked for the disbandment of the Special Forces and Home Defense Forces of the Marcos government. At some instances, before the Malacañang gates, they demanded “Buksan ang pinto, buksan ang pinto;” cordoned their crowd with ropes to avoid “uninvited demonstrators;” carried upon their shoulders a black coffin complete with flowers symbolizing the death of democracy; and chanted “Marcos, puppet, Marcos puppet!” vigorously while brandishing frameless placards screaming blunt truths about the Administration, its military establishment and American imperialism.

Some placards were worded thus: MPD-PC — kalaban ng bayan, Marcos-Fascist: Bayaning Huwad; Tamayo — nagwala ang iyong mga kabayo; “Politicians — keep out of the Constitutional Convention;” “Anti-Riot Squad—RP’s Gestapo.” The daylight rally lasted up to six in the evening with no skull cracked, no limb broken, no public property destroyed. There were no policemen in sight. The previous day’s rallied held by the University of the Philippines and University of the East faculty-student groups were also relatively peaceful.

Violence threatened to mar the twin-rallies, however, when several student members of an allegedly extreme-leftist group began to boo Rep. John Osmeña of Cebu, one of the congressmen who spoke their minds to the students. The sober majority were quick to ward off the violence tactics. Unable to stir up a mob, these students walked out in the middle of the speech of a student leader.

Preface to Insurrection

AT SIX o’clock in the evening the leaders, together with the rest of the students, of the January 30 demo marched to the Palace for confrontation with the President. These leaders — NUSP and NSL heads; including those of La Salle, UP, Lyceum, UE, PCC, MLQU, and FEU — previously declined a presidential invitation. They stressed that talks at the Palace could only take place after the January 30 indignation rally.

Thus, while the student leaders conferred with the President on a non-partisan Constitutional Convention and his ineligibility for a third term, as well as the resignation of MPD top brass and disbandment of para-military units in Central Luzon — the whole mass of 30,000 students waited tensely outside the gates. They milled there and were later joined by thousands of other students who came from the provinces, and who poured through JP Laurel st., like an inevitable flood.

The Palace — prepared to the teeth for the last battle of Armageddon, as a daily columnist put it — was excessively guarded by anti-riot squads of the Metrocom, the PC and the Philippine Marines. Very few MPD anti-riot men were around but several fire trucks of the Manila Fire Department were in sight. Ten minutes after the student leaders concluded their conference with President Marcos, angry demonstrators began the siege of Malacañang — a continuous nine-hour war with the anti-riot squads of the government. The first in the history of the country.

Shouting “Kunin natin si Marcos! Ibagsak si Marcos! Patayin si Marcos! Patayin!” and hoisting aloft the national flag with the red side up indicating they were on the war-path, students, midway in their ’20s and late teens, in massive hordes stoned the Palace, destroyed all the mercury lamps lining the Palace fence and managed to force open Gate 4 with a fire truck they commandeered from some MFD men. They poured gasoline at the gates, partially burning a waiting shed and the Palace guardhouse. They threw molotov bombs and bottles and stones at the Palace Guards who ran for cover inside the inner parts of the Palace premises.

With the gates opened, the demonstrators surged in, burned a truck, a parked car and the Malacañang clinic. They dumped their placards in the Palace lawn and set them on fire. They were all set to burn the Palace. Alarmed by the unusual ferocity of the student-demonstrators, the President immediately ordered Metrocom Chief Mariano Ordoñez to disperse the students by force. Open skirmish ensued, and in an hour later, the situation deteriorated into a virtual insurrection. The demonstrators lost themselves into the dark alleys of Arlegui, Mendiola and Aguado.

The Metrocom, having rid JP Laurel St., of demonstrators, proceeded to seal off all the streets leading to the Palace.

At nine o’clock a massive reinforcement from the Army and the PC came with Gen. Manuel Yan, AFP chief of Staff, Gen. Rafael Ileto, Philippine Army chief and Gen. Vicente Raval, PC chief. Somehow the students were able to beleaguer Col. Ordoñez’s men and the Palace guards. The demo rampage continued, an atras-avante situation set in among the demonstrators, who incredibly seemed to have mastered the brutal art of rioting overnight.

The demonstrators — in more ways than one were no longer students — but were older men, bigger people who seemed to be experts in spreading violence, arson and hijacking. The anti-riot squads from the MPD, PA, PC, Malacañang and the Marines used hammer and tongs in restoring the waning peace and order of the old streets of Azcarraga, Legarda, Mendiola and C. M. Recto Avenue. They fired high-powered Garand rifled in the air, they clubbed, they machinegunned — but the students still managed to hijack passenger buses, army vehicles and more fire trucks and set them on torch. A Yujuico bus was hijacked and hurled at the troopers. They burned lampposts, so that Meralco had to put off the power in the trouble areas.

A brownout occurred while the demonstrators assaulted the troopers. Eyewitnesses claimed they saw a red Mercury car cruising several times near the demonstrators’ areas — firearms were seen inside the car which carried six well-dressed men. Scores of students and troopers sustained serious injuries — to date, five were announced dead on arrival at various hospitals near the battle area.

The Wages of Violence

RICARDO Alcantara, an AB student at UP was the first to fall. He was seen to have been shot pointblank by a man in khaki wielding a wicker shield. Students bringing him DOA to the Far Eastern University Hospital at Morayta st., cried out passionately: Babalik tayo, walang uurong. Incredibly, all demonstrators were bound together with this pledge: ang uurong, bibirahin — apparently a Zengakuren principle.

The others to fall were Felicisimo Roldan, a 21-year-old FEU student who was shot in the chest when the lights went off, Bernardo Tausa a 17-year-old senior of the Mapa High School and Fernando Catabay of the Manuel Luis Quezon University who was shot in the heart by a mysterious man. Witnesses said that Catabay, already downed by clubbinggs, was shot three times by a man in fatigue who hid himself in the darkness of Centro Escolar University.

During all these hours gunshots were sporadically heard as the demonstrators were chased by the squads. Looters and vanda’s began to take over at the unguarded Quezon Bridge and Lacson Underpass. At Carriedo and as far as the Central Market, belligerent persons stoned stones and residential houses. Police outposts were burned and street islands were stripped off their sprouting palms and greens.

Iron rails were mangled and used as beating clubs by the demonstrators, some women including an eight-year-old tot were gory victims of stones hurled toward the advancing hounding troopers.

Mass arrests were made, and many students were temporarily junked like garbage inside the notorious City jail and later whisked off to Camp Crame even as the pitch skirmishes raged. Expectations of martial law were high but up to the last fires, President Marcos declared nothing about it. (During all the time the pitch battles raged the Marcoses were ready to leave the Palace through a reserved helicopter.)

At three o’clock of January 31st morning, gunshots faded out of hearing a relative peace and quiet enveloped the whole battle area which overnight became a ghost town. No more shouts of “Patayin si Marcos, Ibagsak ang Pasismo!” were heard, no more cries of pain and vendetta rang in the air — the early dawn was bleak like a silent grieving over the violence that spent the night and the young blood that colored the streets.

The streets were a pathetic sight — it must have been all a nightmare, a boy of 12 said.

Root of Student Mutiny

FOUR days before the storming of the Palace, about 20,000 students from all Greater Manila schools, together with some of their priests and faculty members, gathered at the foot of the Congress building to appeal to the legislators for a clean and honest Constitutional Convention. Other corollary activities ran the gamut of condemnations — from the First Couple as “Bonnie and Clyde” to the Special Forces and the PC as tools of a fascist nation and as running dogs of American imperialism. The massive rally was announced long before the opening of the Seventh Congress on January 26. It was started noontime of Monday and was supposed to wind up before six in the evening. A battery of speakers, representing a fair cross-section of Manila’s protesting society took turns in haranguing the administration and its excesses. The most applauded speaker (because she was eloquent and sensible) was Portia Ilagan, head of the NSL, a petite, dark beauty from Baguio and the Philippine Normal College. Luis Taruc spoke; he got booed. Chito Sta. Romana, head of the La Salle Student Government claimed that he was a “miseducated” Filipino having been under the tutelage of foreigners since his primary grades; he was greeted with “Revolution! Revolution!”. A priest spoke about the necessity for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention — the crows resented his speech. Roger Arrienda of radio and tv fame with his most libelous tirade — “si Marcos and pinakasinungaling sa lahat ng president natin” got the longest applause.

Demonstrators continuously trooped in small delegations to join the demo, as far as late afternoon. The last group to come before the infamous January 26 riot erupted was that of the NATU laborers. The President was through with his address and was almost ready for his car when boos and anti-Marcos chants filled the air. There was an attempt on the President’s part to greet the audience but already violence has begun: the black coffin with the hideous crocodile symbolizing Marcos as a dollar-eater was hurled toward his group. Before he was hurt though, he was already sped away to safety.

His departure marked the first bloodshed — the hundreds of MPD anti-riot rookies gushed into the crows with their truncheons and tried, with all force they could muster — to disperse the students. Many were hurt — men and women in the crowd were indiscriminately clubbed down; policemen without nameplates went berserk as they chased students right and left while some students braved with several megaphones the stampede as they pointed at rookies without the proper identifications ruled by Mayor Villegas. For the first 15 minutes of the riot, the demonstrators were able to control the police who, mostly greenhorns, and thus unprepared with the herculean task of pacifying a mob turned for shelter to the walls of Congress. And then the rocks and flying sticks of fire began to rain — a pine tree caught fire in the process, hundreds of placards were ripped and burned, while chants of “wala kang budhi” were hurled at Police Chief Tamayo and Major Yson who were there but did nothing to stop the sadism of their men.

The chasing of the demonstrators advanced around the vicinity of Congress — civilians were caught in the clubbing spree, while several vehicles of politicians received serious damages. Senator Pelaez, concerned over human safety and not material property tried to intervene but it was of no use; the students and the police were already engaged in a running war that ceased only after 10 o’clock in the evening. The remarks of civilians were various reactions. One said — “Sapak manood — pero nakakatakot;” a student shouted at a police rookie “Putangina mo araw-araw at sampung taon pa!;” a coed asked a rookie — “Bakit kayo ganito, kasama rin kayo sa aming mga ipinagtatanggol,” the rookie answered with a growl “Marami ka pang ngalngal diyan” and then gave her a sound beating at the rear. It was an orgy of brute force torn out from the scenes of Goethe’s “Walpurgis Nacht” or from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies where violence is shown as a delicious force.

After the Tempest, An Augury

THE PHYSICAL tempest calmed down, the streets deserted yet littered with the debris of protest and the troopers all accounted for — a group of concerned students pleaded to the law enforcers to aid them search for those missing and wounded and have thus remained suffering alone in the dark outside of Intramuros’s walls. The policemen seemed selfish having their own brothers-in-arms wounded and suffering from minor injuries — but the students persisted in their appeal. A few tried to held the helpless demonstrators while the rest vacillated and cursed. The bulk of the students, protesting the inhumanity of the law enforcers, vowed to come back in full force. Warned one:

“Makikita ng mga hayup na pulis na ito, malapit na ang araw nila”#


The Mourning of Protest

February 19, 2010

By Mercedes A.B. Tira

First published in the Graphic, February 18, 1970, p. 10-11, 54-55

Fear no more the frown o’ the great,
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke.
Care no more to clothe and eat

To thee the reed is as the oak:

The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

— William Shakespeare

THE CACOPHONIES of January 30, for a while, died down to make way for the tacit tones of mourning and loss. Grief that cannot be gauged with tears intermingled with expressions of protest even as thousands of students and sympathizers led to the graveyard the mute remains of their fallen comrades: Ricardo Alcantara, Fernando Catabay, Felicisimo Roldan and Bernardo Tausa. They were the victims of the incensed tumult that battered the old cobbled streets of Legarda and Mendiola on the Friday night of January 30th.

The massive crowd of rallyists that previously sat before the portals of Congress and later raged before the Malacañang fortress remained undiminished in the funeral corteges of the slain youths. The processions of mourners were unlike the brisk protest marches that welled from the academe to the streets; the florid wreaths, a far cry from the angry placards; the immovable tombs a contrast to the loci of protest. The final rites for each of the four street parliamentarians were simple and brief. No post-mortem panegyrics, no manifestoes of protest. Only the orisons of the priests for the “eternal repose” of their souls were said amidst the unsaid parting words of parents and friends. If the students bore any symbols reminiscent of their January 30 ordeal in the hands of the armed guardians of the law, these were the red and black cloth of mourning they wore as armbands, headbands and ribbons pinned near the heart.

Somewhere in the parting notes attached to the wreaths were consoling words. From a militant student group a wreath bore this inscription:

“Saan man may pakikibaka ay may pagpapakasakit, at ang kamatayan ay isa lamang karaniwang pangyayari. Ngunit taglay natin ang kapakanan ng mga mamamayan at ang paghihirap ng higit na nakararami ay nasa ating mga puso. At kung tayo ay mamamatay para sa mga mamamayan ito ay isang marangal na kamatayan.” And from the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan this:

“The January 30 mass action will I’ve as the beginning of the real revolutionary experience and spirit of the students. It shall not be forgotten and the courageous memory of our fellow comrades for our brother students who were killed will forever inspire us to the long and arduous struggle ahead.”

Drizzle for the Grave

RICARDO Alcantara, Dick to his loved ones and friends, found his little acre at the Loyola Memorial Park, four days after his demise. The interdenomination necrological service for him at the UP Chapel of the Holy Sacrifice and the long march that bore his casket through Katipunan Road to the Marikina valley saw how some friends and professors of his openly wept while thousands of students endured the heat of the three o’clock sun. A little drizzle poured, perhaps to wash away the dust of the road that leads to his final resting place.

At the chapel, the UP faculty issued a moving statement of sympathy to the Jesus Alcanta family and the grieving UP studentry “in this moment of grief and loss over our own Ricardo Alcantara.”

“We take this occasion to express our sympathy with the support for legitimate student demands in their sincere efforts to remake our society and help chart a better future for our people. As the peace of the graveyard claims our comrade may it also sober our minds and heart for the coming tasks which his death and of those who have sacrificed as much, has claimed for all of us.”

Waiting at the gate of Loyola Park were some Marikina policemen. They were there to “maintain peace and order” because according to them they have received “intelligence reports” that the students would convert the funeral into another paroxysm of protest. Nothing of the sort happened, however.

As the heavy casket passed before the uniformed men, they took off their crash helmets and stood in awed attention: death touches all.

Softly, like a lullabye for the babe in the cradle, the tune of “We Shall Overcome,” a universally accepted protest song, was hummed. The streets of the valley that used to be indifferent were lined with little kids who with unwashed faces and hungry eyes reverently whispered around the word of the day, estudyante.

Dick, according to his mother, came home from his class in Diliman before he joined the violent demonstration. His family thought he would attend a party at the St. Theresa’s College. Witnesses of the last rally claimed Dick was a demonstrator. Before he was fatally shot he was seen defending a fellow demonstrator from the blows of a gun-wielding anti-riot man.

The Only Hope

AS DICK’s casket touched the ground, so did Bernardo Tausa’s, an hour later, in another graveyard, the manila North Cemetery. Seventeen-year-old Bernardo’s ash-gray coffin was carried from his parent’s house at Robina st., in Project 7 to the Christ the King Chapel, also in the same district. There a weeping thousand, most of them his classmates and teachers at the Mapa High, joined his family to hear the final promise of the Gospel:

I am Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me though he were dead will live on. And whoever has life and has faith in Me to all eternity cannot die.”

Bernie’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Juan Tausa, were inconsolable in their sorrow; and as the comforting lines were read, they embraced with their tears the fragile casket that bore their son. From the altar to the grave, Bernie was borne on the shoulders of his male classmates. Closely following the cortege were his female classmates who carried the wreaths sent by family friends, the First Family, Mayor and Mrs. Villegas and several politicians.

Through the busy Andres Bonifacio Avenue, the procession silently passed while traffic paused for sometime. A good distance ahead of the mourners was a band of policemen and Metrocom troopers who radioed to their respective headquarters the scenes of the funeral. They have constantly shadowed, these men in uniform, the post-mortem activities of the students. They were detailed at the funerals to keep security intact. Earlier they received reports that Bernie’s body would be seized and taken to the UP chapel where Dick Alcantara’s body remained in state.

Again, no such incident occurred.

Mute Rally Leads Home

THE DAY after, Fernando “Ong” Catabay also went to his earthly home. MLQU students, more than a thousand of them, and fellow cursillistas joined the young student’s grieving relatives in the last trek from the Holy Family Church at San Andres Bukid through Rizal Avenue to the northside of the La Loma Cemetery.

A mute rally before Congress and Malacañang was earlier planned for the four slain students by the student leaders but the idea was dropped when the parents expressed their desire to make their sons’ interments as private as possible. “We do not want to fan the fires of hatred,” they unanimously declared.

Before he was finally interred, Ong’s fellow ROTC cadets at MLQU gave a brief salute over his white bier which was draped with the banner of his alma mater. As he went into the darkness of the grave the National Anthem was sung. The last words said for him were from a brother cursillista: Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return. Ong a 19-year-old engineering finished his cursillo December 16 of last year at the St. Eymard Laymen’s Apostolate.

“He was not keen on demonstrations, as far as I know,” Mrs. Neny Catabay tearfully said. “Before he went to join the Malacañang demo on the invitation of some friends, he was singing to me a current ballad. I saw him go to the gate when his friends came — that was the last glimpse I had of him — he was in a checkered polo, brown pants and white shoes. About nine in the evening, I heard over the radio some gun shots. We knew there was a riot going on but we never expected Ong to be there. Several hours later some cursillistas called on us. I heard Mr. Catabay taking with them and leaving finally.” May nangyari raw sa anak namin. After some waiting, I finally saw my son at a morgue — a pair of his shoes missing. His fellow cursillistas gave me his cursillo guide book. I just could not believe he died.”

The Catabays, who now have six children left strongly met the misfortune of their son, with profound sorrow, yes but not with any hint of bitterness.

“We are not blaming anyone for this unfortunate accident. We leave everything to the will of God. We hope no motivated person or group of persons would use the death of our son as an excuse to foment further disorder or discontent.”

The Long Wait

THE LAST to go was Felicisimo Singh Roldan, a tall, handsome student from FEU whose remains waited for the arrival of his father, Mr. Napoleon Roldan, a technical employee of a construction firm based in Saigon.

Lying in state at the Roldan residence at Galas, Quezon City, the remains of Simong as he used to be called, were surrounded with tokens from almost all quarters: from fellow students, government officials, labor unions, athletes and a fifth grade girlfriend.

In between tears that would not flow, Mrs. Roldan, an Indian mestiza related to us how Felicisimo a commerce sophomore her eldest son bade his final goodbye.

“He left the house shortly before nine o’clock of January 30 for the basketball practice at FEU. Nagmamadali pa nga siya at mahuhuli raw sa laro. He went with his brother Mario. That was the last time I saw him. Several hours later may dumating na mga ahente ng punerarya. I couldn’t talk as they broke the bad news. I wanted to cry, and shout but no words would come through my lips.”

Mario, a seventeen-year-old high school student related how he saw his brother fall. “His last words were, Bimbo, tulungan mo ako. I thought he was kidding me as he slumped down the dirty sidewalks. In fact I answered huwag kang magbiro ng ganyan — ang laki-laki mong tao, mamamatay ka? But he was already dying, I saw it, although he was not drenched with blood. As I picked him up, a uniformed man rained bullets on us, almost pointblank yes, that’s why I caught a bullet in my left arm. I heard the sound of bullets pass my ears. And then there were shouts of people intervening — if not for them, I too were a dead man.

“Together with some students and a neighbor I brought my brother to the JRRMH hospital. I thought he was not dying because I even asked if he brought some money with him — you see we have to pay the cab — he was heavily gasping so we rushed him inside. I saw the taxi cab sped away — Naawa siguro. Inside, some doctors massaged his chest and face. I prayed. Nagdasal ako.” At this point, young Mario paused for some minutes.

Recollection was unbearable it seemed, for the young boy fought the threat of tears; but he continued — “Tapos iniwan na siya ng doctor. I didn’t know what to do. Akala ko may kinuha lang silang gamot — but I noticed nobody seemed to attend to him anymore. I went to the doctor and asked but he just moved his head so I went to a nurse and asked her what happened. Sabi niya patay na raw. I didn’t cry. I only cried when my uncles came.”

The experience was indeed deeply pathetic and shattering, for Mario. “Umiiyak ako kasi he was not only my brother — he was also my friend.” He used to bring me to his games — Inaalagaan siya ng FEU para sa Varsity team at saka he wanted to become a policeman.” Simong had a good build — he was considered a promising potential of the cage ball team of FEU’s Institute of Accounts, Banking and Finance.

“No, I never noticed him joining demonstrations. He was a plain student, besides how could he go to those gatherings when he had to look after us? His father is away, you know,” Mrs. Roldan said.

“There is a possibility that he sympathized with the cause of the students though,” asserted an aunt.

As we left their unpretentious home, Mrs. Roldan said — “We do not ask for help from any government official — much more from the President. If he really wants to help, buhayin niya ang anak ko.”

Fatal Bullets

WHETHER ricocheting or directly fired it is now clear that bullets killed the four youths. According to autopsy reports from Dr. Angel Singian of the MPD, Catabay was directly shot, while the three others were felled by ricocheting bullets. Alcantara sustained a fatal wound in his cheek from a .22 caliber high-powered firearm while the rest were killed by firearms of the caliber not any lower than .38.

(High-caliber firearms from caliber .38 include caliber .45, .30 carbine and .30 Garand rifles. Organic military firearms used at the January 30 affray were Armalite M.14 and M.16 caliber .225; 32 caliber carbines, .30 Garand rifles, .38 and .45 pistols and revolvers. A Garand rifle’s bullet is armor-piercing and is still deadly up to 750 yards.)

Not a Useless Uproar

IT IS superfluous to say that these four students, not quite budding, were martyred by the armed powers. But it is not difficult to consider them as tangible heroes of the activists. The activists did not in any way ask for their death but somehow their dying followed an innate human trend: the need for a sacrifice, one that would consummate the greatest cause that is being pursued.

Whether demonstrators or not, the four youths were inevitably members of the impatient generation, the conscience of the nation, the credible Opposition and the proletariat — they who continually protest and question the injustices and the violence of social exploitation in conditions that seek redress. These four who have never enjoyed the comfort and prestige bestowed by the academy nor the singular excitement of the soapbox have passed their little torches to them who by all means challenge the truth of the status quo. Their death have sealed the inchoate commitment of their fellow students to the cause of the masses. Those who remain now must indeed be responsible in giving significant substance and relevant expression to the ineffable experience of January 30, in proving that dying in the streets was not a useless uproar.#


Molotovs Vs. Teargas

February 19, 2010

By Nancy T. Lu

First published in The Sunday Times Magazine, March 8, 1970, p. 14-19

Since the violent January 26 and January 30 outbreaks the public has been kept in tenterhooks by threats of disorder posed by mammoth rallies that continue to be staged by youth groups.

While student activists have proven themselves responsible by trying to secure all massive gatherings the mounting tension finally erupted into anarchistic showdowns last February 18.

Even while eloquent speakers were still delivering their impassioned speeches rumors that some restive groups would proceed elsewhere upon the termination of the demonstration at the Plaza Miranda were being spread. But every attempt at provoking the crowd to march to Malacañang was quickly suppressed by alert student leaders.

Shortly after the organizers of the Movement for Democratic Philippines—coordinated rally ended, the thus far peaceful affair speculations ran high that it was unlikely that the crowd of students, peasants, and laborers would disperse quietly and head for home.

The night was young and the first invitation to join the mass trek to the U.S. embassy reaped quick response.

For the first time in weeks the imperialism issue took the front seat. This was presaged by the picketing of different embassies a few days before. As succeeding events would bear out, feudalism, capitalism and rising fascism in the government became major issues quickly overshadowed as anti-American sentiment reached an all-time high that Wednesday night. The storming of the American embassy premises followed attacks against “an unholy alliance among the few rich politicians and feudal landlords all under the control of American imperialism.”

Less than an hour after members of what had been billed as “the first people’s congress” at Plaza Miranda left the demonstration site, molotov explosions rocked the U.S. embassy, drowning out instantly the sounds of stones crashing the embassy’s glass windows. In an hour-long siege, waves of demonstrators surged to the dim gate, throwing molotovs through every visible crack of security and concrete, but scampered back to their zone before the bombs would explode.

As their fellow rioters hurled bombs, stones and invectives at the embassy in their fiery denunciation of “U.S. imperialism”, other demonstrators, in guilt or not, stuck to their role of preventing news reporters and photographers from going on with their usual task of recording the evening event, threatening the media men with bodily harm if they wouldn’t oblige.

But the rioters’ siege of the American embassy was to end in time for the warnings to be cried out that the anti-riot squads were coming: “ayan na ang  riot squad; lumulusob na ang Metrocom!” Soon, the encounter between the demonstrators and the unusually cool government troopers would turn the evening of February 18 into a most tearful night along the usually gay Roxas Boulevard. Unsuccessful with their truncheons, the troopers were able to disperse the rioters with tear gas.

The troops’ entry into the riot area could be reminiscent of great field wars of the past. The government men, more organized now than in previous encounters with demonstrators, came in droves from five strategic entry points in a virtual aim at dispersing the rioters. The main drove, and the first to be noticed by the rioters, walked in from the boulevard area along the Army and Navy Club. The demonstrators at first tried charging in the direction of the riot squads, hurling big chunks of stone and molotov bombs, but spread out and dispersed after seeing the riot squad members close in on them from four other points: from inside the U.S. embassy itself moved in helmeted and truncheon-wielding Metrocom troopers; from the other north end of the boulevard rushed in members of the MPD special squad; and from two exit points— United Nations avenue and Padre Faura— poured in the main faction of the riot squad. The students left the riot area, the government troops held formation and ended the first part of what could have been another bloody head-on clash between demonstrators and government troops. The government men asked the demonstrators to go home, leave the site.

But, outwitted in the first part, the students had other plans. And they executed it in a violent replay of the destructive part of the January 30th riot along Malacañang. The students regrouped along a “liberated” area of Padre Faura,—at one point declaring a corner “a Red Cross relief area,” to the polices contempt—walked in droves, hurling stones, crashing windows of big stores and other establishments they would chance upon. Two cars were burned. Molotov bombs rocked the Philamlife building, disturbed the guests at the Hilton Hotel. A home-made bomb hurled at the lightless hotel extinguished itself at mid-air, but the demonstrators did not leave it at that. They hurled stones and burned a wooden portion of the hotel lobby; and the violence went on. At the usually serene Rizal Park, troopers were soon running after vandals who tried to set fire to stalls and other portions of the park.

By midnight, all was quiet at the embassy front, but not in the C. M. Recto-Legarda-Mendiola vicinity where splinter groups from the Plaza Miranda teach-in had headed for. Tension prevailed over the area as though it was night of January 30 again, as around bonfires, a phalanx of demonstrators kept vigil face to face with three truckloads of army troopers, the students earlier having taken command of Recto by barricading the street with logs, drums and other materials which closed it to vehicular traffic.

To the few who watched the bonfires die down at about 2 a.m. February 19, the tense moments in the area appeared ended as the police finally dispersed the student flanks. #


Siege at Congress: A Sidelight

February 19, 2010

By Amadis Ma. Guerrero

First published in the Graphic, February 11, 1970, p. 10-11, 50-51

No hay tiramos donde no hay esclavos.

There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.

—A paraphrase from Rizal scrawled on a placard during the January 26 demonstration, and borne beside the Kabataang Makabayan streamer.

“FILIPINO STUDENTS are among the gentlest in Asia,” a foreign correspondent wrote not too long ago. He made the statement in his dispatch shortly after witnessing a demonstration before the American Embassy, during which some students, after forcibly opening the gates, advanced several meters into the chancery’s compound and then voluntarily retreated to the outside premises.

Then came the student rebellion early last year, during which the youths turned on their own schools, broke windows, set fire to cars and committed other comparatively minor acts of violence. Our correspondent, perhaps embarrassed, reversed himself. This time he stated in his report that “Filipino students seem to be abdicating their role as Asia’s gentlest students.”

This newsman unfortunately went on home leave a few months ago, and so he was not around to cover the January 26 siege of Congress. had he done so, he would perhaps have added that the abdication was now complete. And, diligent reporter that he is, he no doubt would have noted the excesses of the police. (The man who temporarily replaced him, however, was on the spot, and later he told an acquaintance that the police action was “bad, very bad” — this, from a seasoned journalist who covered the tumultuous anti-Sukarno demonstrations in Indonesia and saw a student bayoneted to death by police.)

Unlike the students, the police have never been gentle to start with; they have always been the mongrels of the scavenging Establishment. And on January 26 the full fury of their barbarism was unleashed, displayed for all the world to see, and it exploded into the ugliest riot the Philippines has ever seen. The series of clashes which followed were headlined all over Asia, and played up in many other countries.

On January 30 the students, at least the radical ones, retaliated in kind and went on an orgy of destruction in front of Malacañang and its vicinity. Fire trucks were commandeered, cars were burned and one gate was stormed. Several deaths occurred (whereas before there were only injuries, now there already are fatalities). The pattern of violence gives rise to sober thought.

STUDENT ACTIVISM is a new phenomenon on the Philippine scene. The image of the Filipino student has always been that of one more embroiled in parties, puppy love, pop music, and the like than in national issues. The Filipino student was looked upon by sociologists as conservative, lazy, apolitical and what not. In the early ’60s however, this image changed with one blow.

In December 1964, students and labor unionists protesting the Laurel-Langley Agreement marched before Malacañang and besieged the Palace gates — and were met with blows from the rifle butts of nervous guards. The demonstration was tame by foreign standards, but it was the most violent one in local memory, and it signified an awakening, a change in temper among the studentry.

Other rallies followed, culminating in the October 1966 riot, when police battled with students expressing their opposition to the Vietnam war and the Allied Summit convening then. Today demonstrations are part and parcel of our everyday life, a prerogative not only of the youth and the laborers but also of schoolteachers, priests, farmers, and even lepers.

Surpassing them all in intensity were the January 26 demonstration and the January 30 Malacañang riot, wherein students by the thousands played the role of the matadors to Ferdinand the Bull. No other President in our history has generated so much opprobrium and contempt among the youth and the exploited elements. Demonstrating students and farmers seeking social justice have broken into one of his official rooms, and unspeakable names have been hurled at him during rallies. A makeshift coffin, a papermache crocodile with the legend “Marcos$,” rocks and placards have been hurled at his car, his pictures have been defaced and made to look like Hitler and Bonnie and Clyde (and we all know who Bonnie is supposed to represent).

One legislator, Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez, braved the wrath of both police and the small but radical elements who apparently ignited the violence the night of January 26. Some have expressed puzzlement at his act, giving out speculations as to his motive. Perhaps the Senator went to such lengths because he has been most active in seeking non-partisanship in the coming Constitutional Convention. Perhaps… but it may be closer to the truth to state that he intervened in the disturbances because his help was sought by student leaders from Ateneo and the UP.

At any rate here is his story:

None of the legislators (Pelaez narrated) knew what was happening outside. Some thought the demonstration was over, but left by the back gate because of the traffic problem. At about 6:30 p.m. he went down and was told the back door was closed, so he went over to the lobby. At that point some agitated leaders from the Ateneo and UP rushed over, saying, “Senator, there’s a riot outside,” and appealed to him for assistance.

Pelaez stepped outside — “and what I saw was a melee. The policemen were chasing the students, and the students were throwing stones. The policemen were indiscriminately chasing everyone, and there were so many of them (students).” One had been collared by the police (Romeo T. Acosta, about 18 or 19, from the UP College of Forestry). The anti-riot squadmen “were brandishing their sticks at the boy. They were really angry, you could see that. So I embraced the boy” to prevent him from being beaten up.

Police Chief Gerardo Tamayo came over and had a talk with the student leaders. They told him to stop his men from chasing the youths and to release those arrested. Tamayo was vague, could not tell where the students were, then said they had been taken to the precinct. He also refused to withdraw the policemen.

“So I went down and tried to separate them, but I couldn’t.” He demanded from a police official, a Major Paralejas, that his men “get out, get out. What are you (police) doing down here? If you are not here, the students won’t be throwing stones.” But Paralejas refused, saying he had no such order from Tamayo.

At one point the students cheered Pelaez and carried him over their shoulders. But he made the mistake of calling Tamayo over, and the Police Chief was roundly booed. “I tried to distract them, then the police charged again. They were the ones provoking the students.” Pelaez asserted that it was the sight of the anti-riot forces, with their white crash helmets, murderous rattan truncheons and guns, that had inflamed the students. Had they been pulled out, the violence would have subsided.

So “melee na naman. The police were hitting everybody, and the students were throwing stones, there was no question about that. I looked for Tamayo, and this time he agreed to bring them up (the legislative steps).” They still refused to leave, however, saying they feared the legislative building might be burned down. They also refused to go inside — perhaps they feared they would be burned along with the building.

“They agreed to move to the left side. But the other group, the Metrocom and the Special Forces, continued charging. There was no coordination between the police and the Metrocom. The MPD regrouped, and deployed on the stairs facing the students as if they were guarding a rampart.”

They were tempting targets, their helmets could be clearly seen. . . “di tinira na naman sila! And the police charged all over again. . . stupid . . . and all the while the melee was continuing. The students were chased all the way to the Muni Golf Links, the Sunken Gardens and Plaza Lawton. The most serious beatings took place in the dark.”

Pelaez said “even the non radical students were retaliating,” and, one might add, getting hurt. Mervyn Encanto, secretary-general of the National Union of Students, “a very responsible fellow,” was struck in the head while trying to help some victims. “The sight of the policemen was like a red flag to the students.”

The Senator believes the bloodshed could have been averted had the police and the students secured a key strategic area out in front of Congress. “Both the police and the NUSP were negligent in securing this area, allowing radicals to make their way there. The KM held the area in front of the entrance, they never moved away from there.”

He stated one radical woman leader (’tis said the KM girls are even more radical than the boys), who registered anger at him, barked at her commandos: “Tama na ang salita. Sige action. Huwag matakot.” (“Enough talk, just action. Don’t be afraid.”)

Pelaez said the police were stoned from the KM side of the building, triggering another round of clubbing, including girls, and in front of the tv cameras. The police fell for it, son-of-a-gun, I tell you, the police fell for the trap. This is the thing that the KM was looking for — club the girls in front of the cameras. The idea was to get someone injured or killed.”

Forty-two injured cases were treated at the PGH that night. At 9:30 p.m. Pelaez arrived at the city jail to help the arrested students, and he stayed on until four a.m. At this point though it would be best to turn the narrative over to Sen. Salvador Laurel, one of the few promising beacons of light in the sea of darkness that is the political life of the Philippines.

The young Batangas solon witnessed the battle from the Legislative Building, but he did not go out “because I saw the futility of Pelaez’s actions. The policemen were ignoring him, and some of the students were jeering him. So instead of copying Pelaez, I thought I could do something effective.”

The chance came that evening when some students called him up from the police station, asking that he act as their lawyer. Laurel proceeded immediately to the city jail accompanied by Sen. Eva Estrada Kalaw, newly elected Rep. John Henry Osmeña, and some aides.

He found a large group of students there, some seriously wounded. One had a long gash on his forehead, while another had fractured his fingers during an attempt to protect himself. One of the first things that the Senator did to direct police officials to order that all those arrested be brought to the MPD Headquarters (and not to some outlying precinct where they could be beaten up mercilessly).

The charge against the students was serious, that of tumultuous affray, which carried with it a penalty of six months to a year in prison as well as a provision of no bail. “I looked for Fiscal Castañeda, but he was not there although he was on duty.” Two other fiscals were summoned, but they did not arrive until an hour later.

Laurel convinced them to change the charge from tumultuous affray to breach of the peace. This carried only a maximum penalty of six months, and the accused could be released without bail provided he reappeared every two weeks while his case was pending. (It was Laurel himself who authored this amendment, one of four “Justice for the Poor” Bills of his. The second bill provides that a case involving a poor man should be heard first if a richer man’s case is also pending. The third grants free transportation, lodging and meal allowances to indigents or to persons with insufficient income. The fourth bill gives free transcript of stenographic notes for the poor man’s lawyer during the trial. A stenographer who fails to comply can be penalized.)

“For lack of ink the students were not released until three a.m. We waited from 11:30 p.m. until three a.m. for the ink pad. It was very frustrating, the fiscals did not even know the law. Here were these students, being aided by three senators and a congressman . . . you can imagine what an ordinary citizen has to go through (a sentiment echoed by Pelaez).

“I tried very hard to get the students out. Firstly, there is a law requiring them to be released. Secondly, I did not want them to be living martyrs of the law’s delay.” All but two of the detainees were released. “They could have been provocateurs, but I don’t want to prejudge them. One could not even talk straight, and police said the other was wielding a bolo.” Laurel estimates that a total of 80 or 90 persons were injured that night.

In a privileged speech the following morning, the senator told his colleagues “without wishing to prejudge the policemen nor exculpate the students, I must invite attention to the fact that the anti-riot police made unnecessary use of fore. 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 any provocation on their part, being attacked and beaten up by the police.”

Laurel, who has filed a bill that would penalize those disrupting a valid demonstration (with a heavier penalty for peace officers), noted two very important and urgent problems: that “of responsible anti-riot-control, and the problem of keeping pace with the thinking of the youth, mindful always that professional agitators may be in their midst without their knowing it.”

Waxing eloquent on the youth, the young legislator said “Yes, their spirit must not be broken but we have to temper and restrain their passions. Let them demonstrate. Let them perorate. let them denounce the evils that they see. Let them assemble peacefully in the exercise of their civil liberties. And in so doing, let them be impatient without being reckless. Aggressive without being destructive. Passionate about their causes without being bigoted about their beliefs. Let them be assertive without being insolent. Emphatic without being arrogant. Bold but not rash. Law-abiding but not docile. Humble and respectful but not servile. Patient but not insensible. Sensitive but not petty. Idealistic but not unrealistic. Realistic but not ruthless.”

The situation in our country grows more perilous by the week, it is like being sucked into the unrelenting grip of quicksand. The Right is becoming more fascistic and the Left increasingly destructive. Hanging in the balance is the fragile fabric of Philippine society. #