I am pleased to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated June 27, 1977, which was delivered to me in my isolation quarters in the evening of that date. I also wish to raise certain basic points connected with your denial of my basic human right to a fair trial. Allow me, above all, to thank you for the very frank and cordial exchange of views that we had last June 21, shortly after I was taken out of my quarters and brought to your study room in Malacañang by my custodial officer, General Josephus Ramas. I shall be equally frank and forthright in this letter. In your letter, you adverted to the presence of Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of Information Francisco Tatad, and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza. This is correct. Being a prisoner and stripped of any liberty, I did not have any friend or relative with me to bear witness to our conversation. Likewise, I do not have any access to the local mass media which you control.
Unfortunately, you forgot to mention that in the meeting of June 21, 1977 we reached agreement on two main points: 1. our conversation was to be treated with “maximum confidentiality”; 2. Solicitor-General Mendoza and Secretary Ponce Enrile would study all the legal angles of my simple request that, in the interest of justice, the cases pending against me before Military Commission No. 2 be transferred to the civil courts, under such conditions “as prescribed by the laws of the land, and under such rules of common decency so that I may be assured a fair and impartial trial (my letter to you dated June 7, 1977).” If there are any legal difficulties they were supposed to get in touch and confer with my chief legal counsel, Senator Jovito R. Salonga, in order to thresh out those difficulties. In my presence, you directed them to meet with my counsel. It now pains me to say that this agreement was disregarded on both counts. Without my previous knowledge or consent, Secretary Tatad called a press conference where some aspects of our conversation were divulged. He made you look good— at my expense. Words were taken our of context to make me appear like a beggar. But after almost five years of solitary confinement in an army prison camp, this is of little consequence to me. What is important to me is that neither Solicitor General Mendoza nor Secretary Enrile made any effort to contact, much less confer with, Senator Salonga on the “complex procedural and legal constraints” you pointed out in your letter of June 27. I was reliably informed that, in fact, Solicitor General Mendoza left the country last June 24 shortly after our meeting in your study room. In your letter, you spoke of equal protection of laws and your desire “to act in an even-handed manner concerning all persons involved, irrespective of my (your) own personal inclinations.” This is a noble wish indeed, couched in beautiful language. But this is what your office should have done right at the start. Let the record speak. Since your election as President in 1965 and your unforgettable reelection in 1969, I was and have been your consistent critic. Rightly or wrongly, my language on occasions was sharp and stinging. On August 24, 1971, three days after the Plaza Miranda bombing when top leaders of my party, the Liberal Party were seriously injured, you called a nationwide TV-radio press conference in the midst of widespread indignation against your administration. Before the whole nation, you publicly indicted me and linked me with illegal and subversive activities, which are virtually the same charges pending before the Military Tribunal. Whether out of anger or pique you declared that the evidence against me “is not only strong, but overwhelming” (Manila Times, August 30, 1971).
I then expected you to have me prosecuted before the civil courts, just like any other alleged offender. But you did not. Martial law was declared more than one year later, on September 21, 1972. You had me arrested and thrown into an army prison camp. Then you created this Military Tribunal, composed of your direct subordinates, to sit in judgement of me. Its members are all dependent on you– for their stay in service and for their promotion. Under the law, you can dissolve, disband, or revamp this tribunal at any time. It is my humble view that anywhere in the civilized world, no independent-minded observer can possibly say that I can obtain “equal justice under the law” from a military tribunal of your own creation, considering your public prejudgment of my guilt and your own personal interest. For your military subordinates to acquit me is to declare you– their commander-in-chief– guilty. But for them to condemn me is to affirm their loyalty to you. For your military tribunal to acquit me is to hold you out as ruthless tyrant who had me detained without any lawful cause for five long years. But for them to convict me, as they must, is to justify this long period of solitary confinement. I believe that in your mind and heart, you have always known that my trial before such a military tribunal would be an unmitigated sham and a mockery. Your issuance of PD 1165, in which you provided for appeal to the Supreme Court in case of conviction by the Military Tribunal, does not remedy this fatal defect. For in my case the possibility of acquittal at the first and most crucial stage is not only remote but impossible. How can there be due process of law or equal protection of the laws, under these circumstances? My lawyers have assured me that it is an established legal doctrine that when a defendant is denied due process at the very outset, the entire proceeding against him becomes incurably tainted. That is why I am pressing this appeal for a reconsideration of your denial of my basic human right to a fair trial, which, in as large sense, also involves the right of all Filipinos to due process of law.
As I said during our June 21 conversation, I have faith that you cannot, if you wish to be just, deny me this basic right. The reasons are clear and unassailable: a. the “complex procedural and legal constraints” of which you speak were not of my own making; b. the fact that at this point in our history as a people, your word happens to be the supreme law, and all departments and agencies of the government are under your direction and control (General Order No. 1); c. you cannot now ignore your solemn assurances before the whole world that our commitment to the cause of human rights is an “irrevocable one” (Memorial Day speech of May 30, 1977) and if I may quote you in your June 3, 1977 speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines: “Any violation of human rights is one too many that may not be tolerated by the New Society… our commitment to law and order will not be impaired by any lack of regard for human right… we shall try to match the efforts of the big nations in securing for human dignity the highest place in the hierarchy of values among our people.”
Thank you very much for your desire to extend to me “as much help and understanding as may be legally possible.” All I ask is for you to give me the justice that I believe I deserve, as a fellow human being and as a Filipino.
While browsing Wikileaks, I chanced upon this letter of President Ferdinand Marcos to Senator Ninoy Aquino sometime mid-1977. Five years into Martial law and five years a prisoner, Ninoy apparently had just had an audience with Marcos in Malacañang regarding his case then pending at a military tribunal, prompting this letter to the opposition leader.
Dear Mr. Aquino,
I refer to your letter dated June 7, 1977 wherein you sought to meet me personally and discuss your formal request for the transfer of the trial of your cases to the Civil Court from the Military Commission where they are now being tried.
Favorably acting upon your appeal to meet with me, I directed Brig. Gen. Josephus Ramas (Chief of Staff, Philippine Army) to bring you to Malacañang Palace which he did, on June 21, 1977 at 11:00 AM. Our meeting took place at my study room for two and a half hours in the presence of Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of Public Information Francisco Tatad and Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
At that point of conversation when you reiterated among others, your plea to have your cases transferred to the Civil Courts, I recalled to you that I have always indicated my willingness to have your cases tried before the Civil Courts, but you strongly and repeatedly expressed your unwillingness then to submit yourself to the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts because of your claim that the presiding judges of those courts could be removed by me anytime.
I wish to assure you that I have given your request serious and fullest study. In the process, I have consulted with legal experts of the government on whatever may be the constitutional and legal implications involved. It is their consensus that your request, if granted at this stage of the trial of your case, is attended by complex procedural and legal constraints, such as the principle of double jeopardy, the question of jurisdiction and the denial of equal protection of the law to those who have already been tried and are being tried by the Military Tribunals involving cases similar to those against you. It is, therefore, unfortunate that your request has come at an inauspicious time, considering that the prosecution has already completed the presentation of its evidence in all the cases against you and, in fact, has rested its case.
However, be that as it may and in order to give you and other accused similarly situated an opportunity to legally ventilate further your claim of innocence before another judicial forum and in order to serve the ends of justice more fully, I have accordingly promulgated Presidential Decree No. 1165 dated 24 June 1977, giving you and others so circumstanced the right to appeal directly to the Supreme Court in the event judgments in your cases should result in conviction. I am herewith attaching a copy of P.D. No. 1165 for your information and reference.
As I said to you during our meeting, it is my desire to extend to you as much help and understanding as may be legally possible and in my earnest effort to demonstrate this, I have exhausted all available options. However, both the Constitution and our laws which I am sworn to uphold and execute compel me to act in an evenhanded manner concerning all persons involved, irrespective of my personal inclinations.
It is, nevertheless, my hope that should the opportunity present itself, I could be of some assistance to you.
Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Philippines
Browsing further, I found out Ninoy composed an immediate and long reply. (But it needs re-typing as the whole thing is encoded in all-caps).
NEXT: NINOY AQUINO’S REPLY
The following was from the notes on the conversations between US President Richard Nixon and Henry Byroade, US Ambassador to the Philippines as recorded in a Memorandum of Conversation dated January 15, 1971 ( from historical documents of Foreign Relations of the United States). It tells of a broadening political crisis in the Philippines instigated by anti-Marcos forces led by Argenio (Eugenio?) Lopez, and the foreshadows of Martial law that was to be declared more than a year later. Also, briefly of Imelda’s political ambitions and the Dovey Beams scandal.
Ambassador Byroade began by explaining to the President that there was very little he could tell the President which was good, in fact, he anticipated the President would be more concerned than ever before with what Ambassador Byroade had to tell him. (The President observed that the Philippines was indeed a “disaster area.”) However, just to show that things weren’t entirely bad, he wanted to tell the President of progress which had taken place in three areas: foodstuffs, population control, and increased influence on the part of technically-trained personnel. On food products, the Philippines now produced all the rice needed to support the population and then some. As to population control, a very effective program had been implemented by President Marcos which enjoyed the support of large segments of society including the Catholic Church, which had resulted in the establishment of birth control clinics throughout the Philippines and a downward trend in population increase. It was estimated that by 1980 the rate of increase would drop from the present 3.3 percent per annum to 1.1 percent. Ambassador Byroade described this as a revolution which was even more important than the “green revolution,” and noted that the Philippines would probably lead the rest of Asia in the field of population control.
Turning to the influence of the “technocrats,” Ambassador Byroade said that as a result of prodding by the IMF Marcos had been induced to put fiscal controls into effect and to put trained personnel in charge of these reforms. In fact, about all the trained people the Philippines possessed were now in positions of responsibility, and these young men were becoming increasingly influential in determining Philippine policies. They were capable of understanding, for example, that discrimination against American business interests might cost the Philippines a disinvestment of close to $600 million, which would be a disaster for the Philippine economy. Thanks to the technocrats, Marcos was now considering measures to ease the pressures on American business interests. The President said that he was glad to have this information.
Turning to the political situation in the Philippines, Ambassador Byroade stated that he was obliged to report that nothing good would come out of the Philippines in the next six months. Just before leaving for Washington, he had had a long conversation with Marcos, in which Marcos had warned him of the possibility of serious disturbances in the next six-month period. Political forces hostile to Marcos were stirring up tensions and were actually preparing for an attempt to take over the key installations in the city of Manila in an effort to discredit Marcos and unseat him. Marcos had information to the effect that explosives and guns were being brought into the city, so that points such as the power station and the telephone exchange could be taken over or destroyed. Marcos had received one intelligence report that $8 million worth of guns had been purchased by opposition elements in Hong Kong—perhaps this was $8 million Hong Kong rather than $8 million U.S. since the figure seemed high.
Ambassador Byroade explained that the anti-Marcos forces were led by a man named Argenio Lopez, one of the richest men in the Philippines and the worst enemy of the United States there. The President interjected to wonder if Lopez was any relation to the Philippine Vice President, and was told by Ambassador Byroade that Lopez was the brother of the Philippine Vice President. Vice President Lopez was a fairly good man although rather stupid, but Argenio was a sour, vicious, and bitter person who wanted to drive the U.S. out of the Philippines completely. The danger was that if he succeeded in unseating Marcos, he would be able to control the Philippines via his brother. Ambassador Byroade remarked at this point that there was a 60 percent chance Marcos would not survive his last three years in office. He explained to the President that by this he meant Marcos might be assassinated.
Continuing, Ambassador Byroade said that the current crisis in the Philippines was undoubtedly of Lopez’s making. The jeepney (taxi cab) drivers had gone on strike, and this strike had now gone on for nine days; unless somebody like Lopez had been supporting the drivers it would have collapsed within four days because the drivers couldn’t normally stay out of work any longer. In addition, there was unprecedented campaign of vilification against Marcos also against the U.S., in the newspapers owned by the Lopez interests, which comprised the majority of the Philippine press. All of this added up to a very nasty situation.
Ambassador Byroade then declared that he had a very sensitive matter to lay before the President at Marcos‘ request. At the end of his predeparture conversation with Marcos, Marcos had warned him that he might find it necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and establish martial law in the city of Manila—unprecedented steps which had not been taken by any Philippine President since the late 40’s during the hukbalahap movement. What Marcos wanted to know was: in the event that he found it necessary to declare martial law in Manila, would the United States back him up, or would it work against him? Ambassador Byroade noted that he had promised Marcos he would bring back the President’s personal reply.
The President declared that we would “absolutely” back Marcos up, and “to the hilt” so long as what he was doing was to preserve the system against those who would destroy it in the name of liberty. The President indicated that he had telephoned Trudeau of Canada to express this same position. We would not support anyone who was trying to set himself up as a military dictator, but we would do everything we could to back a man who was trying to make the system work and to preserve order. Of course, we understood that Marcos would not be entirely motivated by national interests, but this was something which we had come to expect from Asian leaders. The important thing was to keep the Philippines from going down the tube, since we had a major interest in the success or the failure of the Philippine system. Whatever happens, the Philippines was our baby. He, the President, was an activist and felt very strongly that it was far better to do something to try to save the situation than just to let it slip away from us. Ambassador Byroade said that he was very happy to hear the President say this. He acknowledged that if Marcos did act he would undoubtedly pick up some of his political enemies among those he arrested, but in general he would be attempting to do the right thing.
Ambassador Byroade went on to remark that in the event the worst happened, and Marcos was in some way displaced by the Lopez faction, the U.S. would need to face up to two options: whether to stay out of Philippine affairs entirely, or to intervene in some way. (The President again remarked that he believed in taking action rather than standing idly by.) If we did intervene, the question would be how? One situation which he foresaw was that in which Mrs. Marcos would come to us and ask us to back her up in calling for a special Philippine Presidential election in which she herself would run as a candidate. This would not be desirable. The President expressed surprise that Mrs. Marcos would have presidential aspirations of her own, and was interested in hearing that Mrs. Marcos very definitely had such aspirations. The other possibility which Ambassador Byroade envisaged would be for us to keep hands off until the situation got so bad that the Philippine military decided to take action and would request our support. Ambassador Byroade believed that in this event we should respond favorably. The Philippine military leaders were reliable—he pointed out they were all West Point and Annapolis graduates—and despite their tradition of not getting involved in politics could be relied upon to do their best for their country if compelled to act. The President asked if they actually had the political skill to run the country, and Ambassador Byroade replied that they didn’t but that they would find someone to do the job for them. Ambassador Byroade observed that things now were nowhere near as bad as the circumstances which he had described, and that the crisis point, if it came, was still quite a bit of time away. We would need to keep watching the course of events, though. The President agreed.
The President wanted to know how Marcos was getting along with respect to the Dovey Beams case. Ambassador Byroade said that the case hadn’t really caused Marcos all that much difficulty, since Philippine mores were quite different from our own. The only criticism of Marcos appeared to be over the fact that he got caught out. Whatever he did, he shouldn’t have let Miss Beams make tapes of his liaison. According to Ambassador Byroade, Miss Beams was still trying to keep something of a hold over Marcos.
An intriguing revelation: Benigno Aquino, Jr., contrary to popular knowledge, was not against Martial law and recognized the need for it especially because of the dangers posed by communism.
Quite inexplicably though, he also kept “open an option to lead an anti-Marcos revolution in alliance with the Communists”.
Do I hear cries of “Revisionism!”?
UPDATE: Here’s the primary source: Senator Aquino‘s Views on Martial Law and the Political Future of President Marcos
While President Rodrigo Duterte is loudly contemplating about breaking away from the United States, it is helpful to know and understand the view from the other side.
Before arriving in the PRC Philippine President Duterte declared “I am not breaking away. I just want to be friendly with everybody.” That’s actually a reasonable objective. Washington should emphasize that it has decided to update the relationship to reflect current realities, not punish Duterte. In fact, America would be following his lead by stepping back and allowing the Philippines as an independent nation to take over responsibility for its own future.