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January 31, 2017

Wikileaks is proving to be a vast wealth of information and references even for Philippine history buffs. Indeed, I unexpectedly stumbled on the item below, as with the others before,  while browsing the site. (with minor edits)

Detained ex-Senator Benigno Aquino’s two recent media events, his March 10 “Face the Nation” interview and his March 11 press conference, prompted swift rebuttal from Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.  Enrile sent Aquino two letters, with copies to the press, seeking to refute Aquino’s claim that he worked, rather than for the CIA, that he never belonged to the Communist Party, and that he is innocent of subversion and murder charges.

The first Enrile letter, eight pages in length, was reproduced in the Manila dailies March 11 juxtaposed with coverage of Aquino’s TV interview.  The letter cites documents allegedly showing that as early as 1967 Aquino was claiming to be a CIA agent.  Enrile’s letter states, however, that “although Aquino offered to become a CIA agent, he was rejected…”  It alleges that in response to a  1967 inquiry initiated by Rafael M. Salas, then Executive Secretary, “the CIA Station Chief in Manila” revealed that Aquino had attempted to join the CIA but that his request was denied because he was “classified as unsuitable for anti-communist work.”

The Enrile letter disputes Aquino’s contention that his conviction for allegedly ordering the murder of barrio captain Sumat was based on the testimony of a single witness.  Similary, it disputes Aquino’s claim that the subversion charges against him were based on the testimony only of professional anti-Communist Simeon del Rosario.  Enrile argued that this would certainly shock the military, because they had patiently presented a great number of witnesses to actual subversive acts committed by Aquino.  On Aquino’s denial of Communist Party membership, Enrile noted that “you may not have been formally listed as a member but you certainly were active in its leadership.”

Enrile reacted defensively to an off hand remark made by Aquino during his interview that he (Enrile) was one of the lawyers involved in the sale of the Aquino-Cojuangco estate, Hacienda Luisita.  Enrile said he may have been a member of the law firm which handled the sale or have been referred some papers on taxation, but never handled the transaction actively.

Enrile’s second letter to Aquino appeared in the March 12 Manila dailies alongside accounts of Aquino’s Fort Bonifacio press conference.  Full text of letter follows: “I am constrained to write you another note because of the claims you made in your television interview last night.  It is now quite obvious that while you were working with the CIA, you actually were happy to be used by that agency for its purposes, even if it refused to be identified with you by rejecting your offer to train and work with the CIA.  It is also quite obvious that you not only rendered service to a foreign government which could be classified under the nature of espionage, that you actually went our of your way to offer intelligence information to that foreign government.  You likewise claim you were authorized by the late Secretary of Affairs Mauro Mendez and the late Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Carlos P. Garcia to undertake training with the CIA and participate in covering operations with the CIA.  Records of the government intelligence agencies have established that these claims of yours are untrue.  I will send you documents which show up your transparent efforts to escape responsibility for your acts by involving the names of deceased high government officials, which to say the least is unfair to the departed heads of state.  My I reiterate my previous offer to seek authority to declassify documents pertinent to matters that are now of primary concern to you and to place them at your disposal.”

I have not found any Aquino’s reply just yet.




January 23, 2017

Because opinions about the case against Ninoy Aquino have always been tainted with bias, for and against, it would be interesting to know how the then-US Ambassador to the Philippines actually viewed the matter.

The case against Ninoy Aquino according to classified US cables (with minor edit)

Summary:  Former Senator Aquino, who has been incarcerated without charges for eleven months, will be tried beginning August 27 at public sessions of Military Tribunal for illegal possession of firearms, murder and subversion.  Subversion accusations against Aquino are not new and may have some basis in fact.  While maximum penalty is death, it is doubtful that Marcos would go this far against his principal former political opponent.

Department of National Defense announced August 23 that military trial of former Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., imprisoned Secretary-General of Liberal Party (LP) and Marcos arch-rival, will begin August 27.  Aquino is charged with illegal possession of firearms, murder and four counts of violating the Anti-Subversion Act, and further charges are reportedly under study.  He will be tried by Military Tribunal No. 2 headed by respected Brig. Gen. Jose Syjuco, at National Defense College at Fort Bonifacio, of which Syjuco is president.  Local press reports that Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile said trial will be open to the public.  Aquino will be defended by widely-respected former LP Senators Roxas, Tañada, Salonga and Rodrigo among others; initial action of lawyers was to file petition before Supreme Court requesting restraining order and/or injunction against military trial.

Trial will open on August 27 with arraignment of Aquino on weapons charge and will continue on thrice-weekly schedule until completed.  Aquino is accused of illegally possessing various arms, including machine guns, high-powered rifles and hand grenades.

There are four counts of subversion.  In one, Aquino is charged with providing weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the New People’s Army (NPA) head Bernabe Buscayno (aka Commander Dante) and other NPA leaders between 1965 and 1969; giving shelter and medical assistance to ten HMB/NPA personnel in 1970 and 1971; and donating P15,000 in April 1969 to the NPA to organize demonstrations which took place same month before  Congress, Malacañang Palace and American Embassy.  Two other subversion cases also charge Aquino with providing weapons to NPA members.  Fourth subversion case charges him with giving former Philippine Constabulary Lt. Victor Corpuz P500 to rent car used in December 1970 raid on Philippine Military Academy armory.  Subversion charges are also brought against Dante, Corpuz and several other NPA personnel, in addition to Aquino in these same cases.

On murder charge, Aquino is charged with conspiring to kill a barrio captain in 1957 in his home province of Tarlac; there are reports this charge may have been dropped.

Comment: Accusations against Aquino for plotting with and assisting communist dissidents are not new. President Marcos aired similar allegations after August 1971 suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and in mid- September 1972, only a few days before declaring Martial Law; however, this is the first time that actual charges have been filed.  While Aquino consistently denied charges of subversion publicly before arrest on September 23, 1972, he made numerous statements in private, to (US) Embassy officials and others, that suggested he had close connections to the NPA.  Dante and Corpuz to be tried in absentia; strategy in involving Aquino in their trial designed to strengthen impression he is a subversive and to undercut his political popularity.

Lawyers for Aquino are highly qualified and they and the former Senator himself can be expected to make a strong defense.  It will be interesting to see how long trial remains public.

Maximum penalty under the 1957 Anti-subversion Act, which outlaws communist party in the Philippines is death.  However it is unlikely Marcos will risk making martyr of Aquino.  Marcos’ intentions appear to be tarnishing of Aquino’s political image and legalizing his continued detention.


*US Ambassador to the Philippines 1973 to 1977, William H. Sullivan



January 19, 2017

Ninoy Aquino’s reply to President Marcos

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.


January 17, 2017

Image lifted from

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.

The letter of President Marcos to Ninoy Aquino

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.

Sincerely yours,

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).




January 14, 2017

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.



January 13, 2017


January 9, 2017

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