Atienza claims Marcos not to blame for Plaza Miranda bombing

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Buhay Representative Lito Atienza said the mastermind behind the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing was Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, not the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Atienza, who is the House Senior Deputy Minority Leader, says this is why he is now supporting the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to give Marcos a hero’s burial in September. 

And that’s the reason why I’m in favor of giving him the corresponding burial that he is truly deserving as former president of the country. ‘Wag na nating gamitin si Mr Marcos sa mga katiwalian at mga kasamaan. Gunitain naman natin siya sa mga nagawa niya para sa ating lahat sapagkat marami rin naman po siyang nagawang kabutihan,” said Atienza in a privilege speech on Monday, August 22. 

Atienza in 1971 was a member of the Liberal Party (LP).

Top LP officials and their bets in the Manila city elections were holding a rally in the historic plaza when a bomb hit. Atienza was among those who were injured.

"I have fought Marcos. Pagtapos nung pagsabog, pinupulot ko 'yung mga piraso ng katawan ng mga kasama ko. Minumura ko si Marcos. Ang alam natin all these years, si Marcos ang may kasalanan. Siya ang sinisisi natin pero iba pala," said Atienza.

(The explosion was over and I was picking up the body parts of my colleagues. I was cursing Marcos. All these years, we believed Marcos was behind it. He was being blamed but it turns out, someone else was behind it.)

Suspicions initially fell on Marcos, but prominent personalities associated with the Plaza Miranda bombing later pinned the blame on Sison.

Sison’s involvement was mentioned in the autobiographies of ex-New People’s Army commander and retired Armed Forces of the Philippines Brigadier General Victor Corpus and former LP member and Senator Jovito Salonga, whose left eye was permanently damaged by the bombing. 

Over the years, Sison had repeatedly denied playing a role in the grenade-throwing at the LP’s freedom rally, which was used by Marcos to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and later, the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

Sison, along with other top communist leaders, are currently in Oslo, Norway for the peace negotiations with the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ngayon alam na natin sino ang nagplano at nagpabato ng granada sa Plaza Miranda.... Sino ang nagpaplano na Plaza Miranda bombing, sino ang nagtangkang alisan ng tinig ang malayang mamamayan? Walang iba kung hindi si Joma Sison na ngayon ay kinakausap ng gobyerno natin sa Europa,” said Atienza.

(We now know who planned the throwing of grenades at Plaza Miranda.... Who was behind the suppression of the people’s voice? None other than Joma Sison, who is now in talks with our government in Europe.)

He earlier compared the summary killings happening in relation to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs to the human rights abuses committed during Martial Law.

Hero's burial for Marcos

Added Atienza of the plan to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani: "This issue has divided the nation for almost 3 decades. Bawat palit ng administrasyon, nauungkat at nananariwa ang mga sugat (The wounds are reopened and relived)."

Marcos lorded over the Philippines for nearly two decades. He declared Martial Law just as his last term as president was about to expire. He was eventually overthrown in 1986 through the EDSA Revolution.

The Marcos years were marred by human rights violations and the pilferage of the country's coffers.

Almost 30 years after the Marcoses fled from Malacañang, Duterte is set to grant a long-standing but contentious issue: the late dictator's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Preparations are underway but the Supreme Court is set to hold oral arguments on the issue next week.

Atienza also called on Left-leaning members of the Duterte Cabinet to rally behind the President. "They should throw their support behind him... hindi magandang tingnan otherwise (it won't look good if they won't)," he said.

Several of Duterte’s Cabinet members, particularly those with ties to the Left, were themselves dissidents during the Marcos era. One of Duterte's most trusted men, former Maribojoc town mayor Jun Evasco, was among the thousands tortured back then.

Still, Atienza insisted that the Cabinet should toe the line.

"Hindi natin puwedeng pangunahan kung ano ang magiging desisyon nila. Pero alam na nila ang dapat nilang gawin. Kung ayaw nila sumunod sa Chief Executive sa paglilibing kay Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, ano pang ginagawa nila riyan?" he said.

(We can't get ahead the Cabinet members' decisions. But they know what they need to do. If they do not want to follow the Chief Executive in his decision to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, then what are they still doing there?)

At least two Cabinet officials – Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano – have expressed reservations over the plan. – With reports from Mara Cepeda / Rappler.com