Enrile’s memoir gives me sleepless nights
For the last two weeks, I’ve had sleepless nights. It was two weeks ago that I saw a front-page newspaper photo of the book launch of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s memoir. The picture showed President Aquino shaking hands with Senator Enrile, while Imelda Marcos looked on. A chill went down my spine. Just a couple of days before, I sat at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial listening to President Aquino addressing the families of the Martial Law dead.
To us he said:
"May kasabihang 'ang mga nakakalimot sa mga kamalian ng nakaraan ay laging nasa bingit na ulitin ito.' Huwag na nating pahintulutan na maulit pang mailagay sa alanganin ang ating karapatan at kalayaan. Hindi ako makakapayag na maipasang muli sa susunod na henerasyon ang mga pagkakamali ng kasaysayan. Pahalagahan natin ang pamana’t aral ng Batas Militar. Tungkulin ng bawat isa sa ating alagaan ito, gamit ang tiwala sa isa’t isa, pagmamahal sa katotohanan, at higit sa lahat, sa pagkilala’t pagbibigay-halaga sa sakripisyo ng ating mga bayani. Huwag nating sayangin ang kanilang ipinaglaban."
Behind President Aquino was the Bantayog memorial, a granite wall with some two hundred names, a small fraction of the tens of thousands who died fighting the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, who was dubbed Marcos’ “Martial Law administrator.” And on that wall are the names of my brothers – Ishmael F. Quimpo, Jr., and Ronald Jan F. Qumpo. Some say that it was a magnanimous gesture that PNoy graced Enrile’s book launch and shook his hand.
I am not as magnanimous.
The video "Batas Militar," produced by the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (available for viewing on YouTube), shows footage of Enrile and then General Fidel V. Ramos during the first day of what-would-be the People Power insurrection. On February 22, 1986, both radio and television media covered Enrile admitting that the 1972 ambush and assassination attempt on his life was staged. The masses outside the gates of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame all heard this on their transistor radios. Millions of other Manileños and millions more outside Metro Manila witnessed or heard Enrile’s confession on TV and radio. With multitudes as witnesses, how can the truth be denied?
Good people risked their lives to tell the truth. One of them was journalist Primitivo Mijares. The video "Batas Militar" describes Mijares as a “Malacañang confidante,” a favored member of the press corps. On page 49 of his book, Conjugal Dictatorship, Mijares writes that Marcos called Enrile before the staged ambush and ordered Enrile to implement the plan, saying:
“Secretary Enrile? Where are you? You have to do it now... ya, ya, the one we discussed this noon. We cannot postpone it any longer. Another day of delay may be too late.... Make it look good. Kailangan siguro ay may masaktan o kung mayroon mapatay ay mas mabuti. (May be it would be better if somebody got hurt or killed)… O hala, sige, Johnny and be sure the story catches the ‘Big News’ and ‘Newswatch’… and call me as soon as it is over.”
Little did Mijares know that the price of the truth would be very high indeed. After a rift with Imelda’s brother, Kokoy Romualdez, Mijares left for the US and published his book, a full-throated expose on the Marcos family. Soon after the book’s publication in 1976, Mijares joined the ranks of the desaparacidos and was never seen again. A year later, his ten-year-old (other accounts say he was sixteen) son Boyet received a phone call; the caller said his father was alive and wanted to see him.
Boyet excitedly left home to meet him. Two weeks later, the boy’s body was found with a bashed head, his nails ripped out, his eyes protruding from their sockets, and his torso punctured with 32 ice-pick wounds.
It is surreal how Enrile fondly says that the typewriter he used to type out the implementing orders of martial law is still in his study. In his memoir, he writes: “I was faced with the problem of how or where to start. There was no model to begin with. I had to literally start from scratch. I had to improvise everything.”
Was he referring to the typewriter he used to craft the blueprint of Martial Law, dish out general orders and the letters of instruction? Did these include the order to arrest 70,000 political prisoners, and to hold them indefinitely in Marcos jails without charge or bail, to torture 34,000, and kill 3,240 as reported by Amnesty International? Whether or not Enrile foresaw these atrocities when he crafted the Martial Law decrees and administered Martial Law itself, cannot be proved, but it cannot be denied that such horrific acts were the practical result of his work. It would have been good to have heard even a few words of regret from him.
Enrile is not alone in wanting to recast history. In interviews, Senator Bongbong Marcos, son of the dictator, characterizes the reports of human rights abuses under Martial Law as “self-serving statements by politicians, self-aggrandizement narratives, pompous declarations, and political posturing and propaganda.”
Statements like these leave me sleepless at night. In the Martial Law prisons, my brother Ronald Jan was stripped naked, his feet doused with water while a live wire was tied to his penis. His skin became as taut as lechon from the heat of two par lamps positioned an inch or two from his face for days. My brother Nathan was stripped naked, blindfolded and clubbed by his military interrogators until nearly unconscious. Did the letters of instruction typed on Enrile’s typewriter include orders to sexually molest women like my sister Lil and sister-in-law Tina?
Bongbong feigns innocence by saying he was fifteen when his father proclaimed Martial Law. At age twelve I was robbed of innocence when I made the rounds of the Marcos prisons cramped with political prisoners, to visit five siblings and bring them food, clothing and hear accounts of torture again and again.
I am not a politician so I have no need to make self-serving statements, self-aggrandizement narratives, pompous declarations, and engage in political posturing. And it pains me deeply to think that my life, that of my family, that of Primitivo Mijares and his son Boyet, and the lives and experiences of 70,000 political prisoners are dismissed as mere “propaganda.”
Truthfulness is a virtue taught to virtually every Filipino child. No one is exempt from the moral imperative to bear witness and speak the truth. It does not matter if one grew up poor and barefoot in Cagayan or in a palace by the Pasig.
Susan F. Quimpo is the co-editor/author of "Subversive Lives : A family memoir of the Marcos years." The book is about the story of the Quimpos, a family of activists, and their experiences under Martial Law.
Note: The author used the following sources for this article:
- Batas Militar (1999) A video documentary on Martial Law, produced and directed by Kara Magsanoc Alikpala from an original script by Lito Tiongson, and edited by
Jose “Pete” Lacaba.
- Viewpoint Neutral – Essays, Law and Politics; Detroit, 06.07.08 (see jcc34.wordpress.com)
- 1986 – Chronology of a Revolution by Angela Stuart Santiago, Foundation for Worldwide People Power. Inc. 1995