A lifetime ago (submitted for the prompt
There’s a piece of wound-up, rusty barbed wire hanging in a corner of the laundry area, I should probably take that down and have it encased in glass and velvet and gold and put a caption on it, it’s my brother’s; he left it with me when he migrated to the States, he and his classmates and thousands of others found themselves at the gateway of Malacañang on February 25, 1986 when Marcos fell, and they tore the barbed wire; he thought that moment was something big, he kept the barbed wire. My sister was with nuns and thousands of students on Recto on February 24, 1986 surging forward at the machine guns, the soldiers had actually cocked their M16’s once; my parents were on EDSA, it was my mother’s birthday, she cooked pancit in large pans everyday during those four days and brought them to EDSA and distributed them to strangers; she likes to cook. You could say my mom cooked for the revolution.
At 7:00 am today from out of the blue I got this rather long “how-are-you-guys” text from a friend who’s still influential in government (as I think) because of friendships; we worked together during the impeachment; i thought it was a rather long and sentimental and non-business non-legal text, uncharacteristic of him, and I wondered what that was all about. He was one of the lawyers who in 1986 helped Cory Aquino and the then opposition during the snap elections. In the precinct where he was assigned, soldiers barged in to seize the ballot boxes, and he and his friends sat on those boxes and then the gun barrels were on their faces; he thought he was going to die there, but he and his lawyer-friends prayed in their heads, stared down the guns, and didn’t budge.
And so this morning, Malacañang, through the Bureau of Prisons, released, by way of pardon, one of the soldiers who had been convicted for and had admitted participation in the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. on August 21, 1983. The convict had asked for forgiveness but maintained it was Galman who shot Aquino, supposedly on orders of a relative of the Aquino’s.
Painting by Papo de Asis. In memoriam from arkibongbayan.org; right-clicked from their site.
I never looked up who the lawyers were assigned to prosecute this double murder case (murder of Aquino, Galman) 21 years ago; I suppose the regular team of government prosecutors at the Sandiganbayan were assigned then. I know that during the Marcos dictatorship there were dozens and dozens of human rights lawyers who later became active in Cory’s administration; they were probably too busy; those who went back to private practice were also probably too busy. Who was supposed to be in charge of the prosecution? The victims here, as everybody knows, were assassinated in front of the whole world, in front of witnesses, in broad daylight, in the custody of government soldiers. Weren’t there enough concerned lawyers and officials and working people then, after Marcos fell, to see through the finishing-up work? Who was supposed to take care of it, beginning to end? Who was supposed to ensure that it was finished? Was it prudent to leave a case like this to then old team of prosecutors many of whom were probably remnants of the old bureaucracy; i’m sure many of them were professionals and had no political ties; but I just wondered whether they had enough support in prosecuting the case or maybe, yes, they had some commitment but it wore down, as in all things, with time, when there was not enough asking-around, wondering, concern. Or were they were just simply let around to go about their regular business 21 years ago such that this case was never really finished. Not finished because your facts, the “facts of the case”, are not complete and made of official record; not all of the events that transpired that day August 21, 1983, were ever made of record; in an official public record that you could lay down and pass on as a reminder to generations, a message to the future.
People vs. Estrada was finished and that wasn’t for murder; [in my book there’s still a difference between murder and corruption and plunder (assuming no killings were done in the course of the plunder)]; and at least in People vs. Estrada, the buck stopped with the principal accused and convicted (then pardoned); he was the one, nobody ordered him.
I just thought some of us might probably want it stated on record: What were the mission orders given that day August 21, 1983, to those soldiers who were assigned to secure Aquino and then participated in the murder (as the pardoned convict had admitted participation)? How did they position themselves? Who took the shots? Who took care of them, the soldiers, afterwards? Who was the highest civilian officer of the military official who gave the order?
Your president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, gave the pardon without even being curious who the mastermind was.
But who lobbied for this pardon? Who continuously negotiated with Gloria for the release? Who gave and continued to give financial support to and who took care and continue to take care of the families of the convicted soldiers? Who bankrolled the expensive a lã CSI evidentiary ballistic experiments on the trajectory of bullets as a support to campaign for the motion for new trial of the convicted soldiers? Whose lavish birthday party was it that the chief government defense lawyer of the convicted soldiers attended wearing the same party color as the celebrants and exchanging beso-beso with them?
No, your president is not curious or concerned about it, about the mastermind. She knows.