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Preludes to Marcos Dictatorship in the Philippines and Assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino, Jr.

Updated on October 30, 2014

Caricature of Marcos used by a student in a skit in commemoration of martial law

Oblation at University of the Philippines at Los Baños

Benigno Aquino, Jr. just murdered at tarmac of plane that flew him home from USA. A fellow passenger snapped photo

Signs that the Marcos dictatorship was imminent

Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines on September 21, 1972.

Filipino students had anticipated this dictatorship. It was not a matter of guessing whether or not it would come, but of guessing when it would come.

I was then in my senior year as student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus where I was taking up courses leading to a degree in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

I was one of the student leaders having been president of the Entomological Society and an erstwhile loser in my candidacy as councilor in the Student Body Organization (SBO). Even if I lost in that bid, I won recognition if not a following. In this school students who are outstanding in their academics are considered as leaders and are likely to run for a position in the SBO as well.

What were the signs that imposition of dictatorship was imminent? To us students, the signs were as follows.

One. The term of Pres. Marcos as president was to end pretty soon. He was no longer qualified to run according to our 1935 constitution. Therefore, the constitution that puts that limit must be replaced or another method must be devised to put Marcos still in charge.

Two. A constitutional convention was in progress at Manila Hotel. This convention was to hammer out a draft that Marcos had designed to replace the 1935 constitution. This constitution had placed a limit to the number of terms for a president like Marcos. The reasoning was that it must be replaced with one that allows Marcos to have a longer term as president.

Three. The military was being reorganized into a more concentrated command. This would allow more efficient enforcement of commands from the top military officials. And Marcos, being president, was the commander in chief of the Philippine armed forces. Rumors had it that military squads were being formed along the model of the Gestapo of Hitler.

Four. Members of Congress, House of Representatives and Senate, were homogenous. Almost all of them belonged to the oligarchs. Most of them belonged to the political party of Marcos. Its implication was that it would be easier for Marcos to have his way with the approval of Congress.

Five. The ranks of the students were being infiltrated by the military. That is, some fellows who looked like they were military trainees were mingling with students. They had missions of looking out for student leaders and get the pulse of the studentry in response to the moves of Marcos.

Students at that time were divided into two major groups. One was identified as “radical,” that advocated the use of arms against imperialism. Another was identified as “moderate,” that advocated the use of peaceful means to restructure society, and the use of arms was only a last resort. This group targeted the local collaborators who if gotten rid off would deprive the imperialists a foothold in the Philippines. I belonged in the moderate group.

Six. A member of the constitutional convention, Miguel Cuartero, came out with a revelation that someone attempted to bribe him. There was an attempt to give him a bunch of money placed inside a brown envelop. He was identified as a filibuster, against Marcos, in the convention floor. This fueled the suspicions that a lot of delegates in the convention were being bribed to come up with a draft that favored Marcos.

Students picketed the convention. Sometimes i was able to go to the convention hall during recess because the secretary of delegate Infante Calaycay was my classmate.

Seven. The Liberal Party, a rival to the party of Marcos, had become almost frantic in giving warnings that Marcos would extend his presidency by hook or by crook. The most vocal was Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. who would be eligible to run for the presidency in the next presidential election. His insider in the camp of Marcos was identified by means of a trap. In an exclusive meeting of top generals, a memorandum was circulated detailing the take over of the government by the military. The next day Aquino divulged the plan in the Senate floor. Of course, the plan was a hoax but it succeeded in weeding out the spy.

Eight. Marcos launched a book titled “Revolution in the Philippines: Democracy.” This was designed to steal the wind from the sail of the radical group and to show that Marcos himself was to lead a revolution to liberate the Filipinos. It was launched during the anniversary celebrations of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) in the auditorium of Christ the King in Quezon City where Marcos was a guest speaker. I got my copy as I was then a student assistant at the FFF. I marveled at how Marcos had the time to write such an erudite and somewhat scholarly book with a somewhat convoluted logic. If your type is an esoteric tautology, you could be hooked by this book. It assured that the revolution would be democratic with the premise that democracy had not yet taken root in the Philippines. It was clear that it was fresh from the printing press. The glue gave way where I opened the pages.

Later on rumors had it that this book was ghost written by a journalist protégé of Marcos.

Nine. Ambush of Juan Ponce Enrile. At that time Enrile was the secretary of National Defense. His car he was riding was fired upon while negotiating a street in Manila. Of course, Enrile emerged unscathed. The ambush was attributed to the radical group.

[In a book written by Enrile published recently, Enrile says he did not know then that the ambush was masterminded by Marcos.]

Proclamation 1081. Then on September 21, 1972 on all television channels in the country, Marcos announced the imposition of martial law, to save the republic and reform society. It turned out that he and Enrile had already drafted the proclamation far ahead, kept in a vault in the Malacañang Palace, and Marcos copied it out in his own handwriting to add to his legend in history.

Assassination of former senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.

He was assassinated by a military squad that escorted him down the tarmac of the plane that flew him from the USA on August 21,1984.

Marcos could not allow Aquino, Jr. to die while he was in the Philippines under hospital arrest at the Philippine Heart Center for Asia. He was confined there for heart disease. He and Aquino, Jr. belonged to the same fraternity, Upsilon. A lot of Upsilonians were manning the dictatorship. Besides, Aquino, Jr. had the support of some quarters in the American officialdom. Remember, he was a journalist who covered the Korean war for a Philippine daily.

Aquino, Jr. was allowed by the dictator to go the USA to have his heart by-pass surgery. One of the conditions was that he would not speak against the Marcos dictatorship while in the USA. Aquino, Jr. did not keep that promise; he was invited to lecture at the Harvard University upon his convalescence from heart surgery. His lecture was recorded for all the world to see.

When he was preparing for his trip back home, there were warnings of threats on his life.

In a pre-flight interview, he said he wanted to come home to help remedy the worsening conditions of the country. His brother-in-law, a Japanese, who accompanied him had in hand a movie camera. (As if being recorded on camera would deter an assassin). He said he told him to act fast with his camera because things could happen very quickly.

He boarded the plane under the name Andres Bonifacio, name of our national hero.He was dressed in all white, a sign of peace.As soon as the plane had settled in the Manila International Airport (MIA), five soldiers boarded it and went straight to Aquino.

Video before and after murder

Still seated, Aquino looked up to his captors. His eyes momentarily glanced straight to camera. Expressions of doubt then determination, not fear, could be read in his eyes. The cameraman was blocked out and Aquino was walked to the tarmac. Aquino did not resist. There was a camera black out on him. Then one gunfire rang out. On audio, came reports of automatic high power gunfire. The next camera footage showed Aquino lying prostrate on the pavement face down. (Please see photo above). Afterwards, two uniformed man carried his cadaver and loaded him to a waiting van as if he were a pig carcass. Another man in black was shown lying nearby in the pavement.

Investigations revealed that the first gunshot was fired from a pistol by a soldier at Aquino's back; the bullet directed at his nape, the medula of longata. That ensured death for Aquino. The cameraman having been blocked out failed to record the shooting. As to the second man in black, when interrogated, the soldiers said he was the assassin of Aquino, who had broken through security barriers, came close to Aquino and shot him. Soldiers said they shot at the assassin in rapid fire. It turned out that he (Rolando Galman) had been killed shortly before Aquino's assassination; he was kidnapped a few days before this fatal event.

The five soldiers who murdered Aquino were captured, tried in court, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, they never revealed the mastermind of the murder. The conspirators had been pardoned and are now all free. Gen. Fabian Ver, who was former army chief of staff of Marcos (close associate of Imelda Romualdez Marcos) and the suspected mastermind, went into hiding in Thailand. He surfaced when he was about to die of disease; he died without revealing the mastermind who is unknown up until now..

(MIA was renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport).

Postscript. It turned out that Jeremias Montemayor, the leader of FFF that advocated land reform, favored Marcos. He allied with Marcos and during the dictatorship he was appointed deputy minister of agrarian reform. When elections under the Marcos constitution was allowed he ran for a seat in the Batasang Pambansa (Congress) under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the Marcos party. In his memoir of his journey in life, "How Beautiful Is My Journey," Montemayor did not explain why he allied with Marcos.

But my fervor was not dashed. I was recruited into the FFF by so-called young Turks in the organization. They were truly opposed to Marcos. Shortly after the imposition of martial law, this group was confronted by Montemayor. The young Turks (including Noel Mondejar, Jerry Bulatao, Fr. Edicio de la Torre and Fr. Conrado Balweg) lead by Charlie Avila, who was a vice president at FFF, broke up with the Montemayor group. I kept tab of the results of confrontations while I was away recruiting assistants toward the implementation of true land reform. I thought we could proceed with land reform even when the Marcos dictatorship was on. Earlier, I translated the Land Reform Code into Ilocano from its original English text. Ilocano is one of the five major languages of Filipinos. Marcos was an Ilocano.

[Fr. Ed de la Torre joined Horacio Morales and Jose Ma Sison at the Communist Party of the Philippines, were captured along with Dante Buscayno, commander of the New People's Army. Bulatao was also jailed by Marcos. Pres. Aquino released Fr. Ed, Bulatao, Commander Dante, Morales and Joma who is now in exile at the Netherlands. Morales was appointed Secretary of Agrarian Reform and Fr. Ed director of TESDA by Pres. Estrada. Fr. Balweg joined the CPP then formed his own group comprised of tribes of the Cordilleras (CPLA, forerunner of the Cordillera Administrative Region); he was later on assassinated. During the administration of Pres. Corazon C. Aquino, Mondejar became head of a non-government organization, Bulatao was appointed assistant secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and Avila ran for and won as mayor in Palo, a town of Leyte province, later on was appointed chairman of the Philippine Coconut Authority. Dante is now head of a big cooperative in Tarlac.]

Then in November of the same year, Montemayor himself confronted me, alone. It took that long to identify me as a pain in their neck. The leaders of the young Turks were already gone. He wanted me to file my resignation from the FFF, post dated. I did. There was no point staying with FFF even if I knew that a lot of its members did not favor Marcos.

Charlie Avila escaped to the United States to join the Filipino exiles that included former senator Raul Manglapus and former senator Ernesto Maceda. Later on, they were joined by former senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, widow of Aquino, Jr. was ensconced by People Power of EDSA to the presidency in place of Marcos in 1986. The moderate group spearheaded the EDSA revolution.

The son of former senator Aguino, Jr. and former president Corazon C. Aquino, Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III is now president of the Philippines.


Submit a Comment

  • conradofontanilla profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Philippines

    grand old lady,

    I have not read Juan Ponce Enrile's book on EDSA. However, in one TV show he said that his ambush was masterminded by Marcos which he did not know. I don't take him for his word. In the recent election there was a news report, I saw it flashed on TV, that Jackie was ambushed. It is doubtful if it is for real, or vintage Enrile for the Marcos dictatorship.

    Such history book as you mentioned should be purged. I wonder why and how textbook reviewers for our schools missed that piece of Philippine history.

    Plenty even among the educated and professionals are fans of Marcos. They consider him a brilliant lawyer. Being brilliant is different from being immoral and a dictator. One can be a brilliant thief.

    Thank you for commenting.

  • grand old lady profile image

    Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

    5 years ago from Philippines

    It is very good that you've taken time to document this, because history is often changed -- in the history books! I was shocked to see a fourth grade history book say that Marcos was a good president.

    One point I would like to add -- during the EDSA Revolution Enrile admitted that the ambush was faked. Then, in his recent book, he said it was real. Enrile's son Jackie was running for congress at the time.


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