[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A petty dictator

Vergel O. Santos
[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A petty dictator
The significance of Cory’s book cannot be overemphasized. Her stature alone lends it the poundage of truth needed to crush the creeping conspiracy to not only distort, but flat-out falsify the history of the period to rehabilitate its villains.


Rapa Lopa has just brought out a book of memoirs by his aunt the late president. It is titled, To love another day, and subtitled, “The memoirs of Cory Aquino.”

To love another day are Lopa’s words, not Cory’s; he ends his epilogue with them, a catchy phrase, I must say. But, unable out of officious habit to let it go without something right off Cory’s lips to somehow justify it, I had to find that something, and here’s what I hit upon: A couple bound by transcendent love is parted too soon by the man’s martyrdom; meantime, the wife sets aside her orphaned love to make full space in her heart for another love, an impersonal and desperate one – for country.

Lopa himself tends to validate that. He says his aunt had in fact come to that resolve – to love another day, as it were – even before her love became orphaned. He tells me: “There were several points in their [Cory’s and Ninoy’s] lives when they had the choice to give up…and each time they chose to continue the struggle despite the uncertainties, [the dangers to] their personal and family’s safety, and the persecution.”

The book is testament, indeed, to a love as much personal as it was patriotic and to the uncomplaining acceptance of its price. It is set in 1972-1986, from the night Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law and snatched Ninoy, his archrival, until a massive, though peaceful, street revolt finally drove Marcos out of power and into exile and in his place installed Cory, who had picked up the fight on behalf of her murdered husband.

The significance of Cory’s book cannot be overemphasized. Her stature alone lends it the poundage of truth needed to crush the creeping conspiracy to not only distort, but flat-out falsify the history of the period to rehabilitate its villains.

In physical size Cory’s To love another day is only about a fifth of Juan Ponce Enrile’s Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir by Juan Ponce Enrile (2012), but in truth content, the proportion is inversely lopsided, which is no surprise. Enrile, the putative architect of Martial Law, sat at the right hand of the dictator, but, the quintessential turncoat and deft truth-bender that he is, he has managed to escape accountability and carry on nicely in post-Marcos politics. 

With impeccable timing, he had switched allegiance from Marcos to Cory, and, a senator until he lost his reelection run in 2018, he last pledged himself to President Duterte. Ninety-six years old on February 14, he may have performed his final flip-flop – but, again, with his luck and durability, one never knows.

Cory could not have avoided speaking publicly of the soul-wrenching trials she went through under Martial Law, being its premier widow, but, because of her aversion to self-revelation, history was shortchanged. Now, with her recollections collected for posterity, at a hundred-plus pages as extensive as could be extracted from a reluctant memoirist, her debt to history, I guess, is more or less paid. And, set down in her own hand or spoken to a tape recorder in her own voice after being stricken with cancer – which, even so, took a relentless effort to get her to do, says Lopa – her words would be difficult to gainsay.

As the compiler, Lopa himself confesses to a shortcoming of his own. He says he took too long because of a lingering doubt whether he was up to the task. Actually, Cory’s book, published 10 years after her death, could not have arrived better-timed: A Marcos idolater has come to power and been quick to embrace his idol’s dynastic descendants; together, they are now inventing a grand and redeeming Marcos legacy.

Cory’s recollections are here to set it right. They resound in the details, where the devil is particularly recognizable in his pettiness, a trait rarely ascribed to Marcos himself because it is easily overshadowed by many and bigger crimes.

The arrest and detention of a couple working in the Aquino household are an illustration. The husband, one of the family drivers, was made to eat a picture of Ninoy, and his pregnant wife, Cory goes on to tell, “was threatened that if she did not cooperate she would be kept in Crame [the constabulary camp] until she gave birth….They questioned her about Ninoy’s visitors to the house… [and] what they talked about. In reply, she said that there were so many people who came to visit and that, since she was only a maid, she never sat down on any of the conversations.”

Cory also recalls the enlistment of a betrayer from among Ninoy’s former security escorts. He came bearing fake news, thus raising false hopes, at one of the lowest points in her life – she had been prevented from visiting Ninoy for some time. The betrayer, she recounts, “came to see me…[and] narrated this long story…about how he had seen Ninoy in Fort Bonifacio, even describing how forlorn he looked. As it turned out, the day he told me he saw Ninoy in Fort Bonifacio Ninoy was actually already in Fort Magsaysay, in Laur, Nueva Ecija [the notorious detention camp]! And there I was, feeling grateful to this man….That was a first lesson in my life.”

There, too, was this apparently either not-too-bright or not-a-care colonel who, Cory relates, tried to incite her with a “transcription” that he had admittedly done himself of “letters purportedly written by Ninoy to his lover.”

But about murder nothing can be petty, you might say. Well, Marcos managed yet to operate on that level. Ninoy’s murder did not end where he took a bullet in the head. A prompt official report said the assassin, who himself ended up too dead to be able to tell his own tale, had managed to enter the airport terminal, come out on the tarmac, and shoot Ninoy from behind – indeed, managing all that under security measures that otherwise worked perfectly to conceal the murder from any potential eyewitnesses.

As if not enough insult had been added to mortal injury, a final, supreme one was flung the widow’s way right upon arriving from the United States to bury her husband. Cory says that one of the first questions the media asked her was whether Ninoy had taken out a contract on himself as part of a communist plot to implicate Marcos, giving his life thus not for country, but for the enemy.

That Marcos was big on things dictators are known to be – torture, murder, thievery – needs no proving in any properly working mind; that he was short on even the simplest sense of humanity, like magnanimity toward his own victims, Cory’s book proves in the most deserving case. – Rappler.com

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