ON THE very day when Filipinos were to mark the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising that ended Ferdinand Marcos’s strongman rule, Marcos-style dictatorship sprang a surprise by making a comeback: this time, in an attempt to prevent another popular revolt. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a “state of national emergency” after preempting a group of soldiers’ plan to turn their backs on her and join thousands of protesters in the streets.
TWENTY YEARS ago, at the height of the people power revolt, Imelda Marcos, then holed up in Malacañang with her anxious family and a phalanx of remaining loyal troops, contemplated the possibility of her imminent, and vertiginous, fall. At about the same time, Cory Aquino, who had returned to Manila after taking shelter in a Carmelite convent in Cebu when the uprising broke out, was insisting to worried family and friends that she should join the throng that had gathered at Edsa despite the security problems that would pose.
WE OFTEN think of the lives of military men as nothing less than exciting, and the one led by retired Brig. Gen. Raymundo Jarque does not disappoint, although it had some unexpected and confusing twists. From a young lieutenant assigned to Mindanao to face the Muslim secessionists in the 1970s, he went on to become a military commander fighting a raging communist insurgency in his home province, then a fugitive from justice seeking sanctuary among the very rebels he fought, and later a consultant to them in their peace talks with the government. Had the local film industry not been in the doldrums, there would probably have been a movie based on his action-packed life by now.
“IT WAS a little bit eerie,” Nur Misuari says, recalling that cold early morning in January 1986 when a stranger came knocking on the door of his hotel room in Madrid. On the run from the Marcos government, the chairman of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF was then living in Tripoli, dependent on the hospitality of the Libyan leader Muammar Khadaffi. He was in Madrid for just that night, waiting for a flight to Casablanca in Morocco, where he was to attend a meeting.
HAPPINESS AND contentment radiate from Bernabe Buscayno these days, but there was a time when he would wake up thinking this day would be his last. In the mountains where he fought a guerrilla war, death was just always an illness or a bullet away. As a political detainee years later, a resigned Buscayno came to believing his isolation cell would be the very last place he would see in his life.
IF HE were an ordinary ex-military man, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan would be taking it easy, preparing for what aging soldiers are supposed to do next: fade away. After all, he is just three years short of officially turning senior citizen, his hair is a salt-and-pepper gray, and the trim physique women used to swoon over is now just a memory.
HE BEGAN the military undertaking that developed into the first Philippine People Power, but Juan Ponce Enrile has vowed never again to unseat a sitting president with the help of the military. This was what he told opponents of President Joseph Estrada when they asked him to join Edsa Dos in 2001.
TWENTY YEARS since fleeing the country in disgrace, Imelda Marcos — the glittering, partying, mesmerizing half of what has been called a conjugal dictatorship — still loves to go shopping. But alas, no longer at Tiffany’s. With dozens of pending court cases, her foreign trips have been severely curtailed. Park Avenue will have to wait, as Imelda now goes where the Pinoy hoi polloi congregate, roughing it up in all her finery (pouf hairdo, outsized jewelry, and of course the shoes, the fabulous shoes) in such down-market places as 168 Mall in Binondo and Market!Market! in Fort Bonifacio.
IT WAS the perfect formula for another uprising. Factors and forces that conspired to oust a previous president surfaced again to threaten yet another one out of power: a familiar pattern of titillating scandal and media overkill; congressional investigation and official cover-up; street protests and digital demonstrations.
WHILE CONGRESS is busy looking into allegations that jueteng lord Bong Pineda contributed P300 million to the Arroyo campaign, far less attention has so far been devoted to charges that the President’s biggest donor was actually the Filipino taxpayer.
As much as P5 billion from government coffers could have been used to promote Arroyo’s candidacy, PCIJ research shows. The Department of Agriculture (DA) was the biggest source of the funds — about P3 billion worth of DA funds was released mainly to pro-Arroyo local officials and congressmen from February to May 2004.
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