Thursday, February 25, 2016

'Ang mamamtay ng dahil sa 'yo'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

This is the complete title of the book that contains the biographical profiles of persons who fought and lost their lives during the martial law years: “Ang Mamatay Nang Dahil Sa ’Yo: Heroes and Martyrs of the Filipino People in the Struggle Against the Dictatorship, 1972-1986, Volume 1.” Many of these persons were killed while in the promising chapter of their youth. Their names are etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani compound in Quezon City.
The book was published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) upon the initiative of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.
The title comes from the last line of the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang,” whose march-like tune was composed by Julian Felipe in the late 1800s. Thank goodness that in the early 1950s President Ramon Magsaysay had the Spanish and English lyrics translated into Filipino. Julian Cruz Balmaceda and Ildefonso Santos did the job.

“Aming ligaya na ’pag may mang-aapi/ Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ’yo.” My biased translation: “To vanquish the oppressors, we will joyfully offer our lives and die for you.”  For you, the motherland. Tierra adorada, land of the morning, bayang magiliw.

And so they did, 227 of them included in the book. They are those whose names were etched on The Wall from 1992 to 2000.

There are now a total of 268 names on The Wall, and more could be added. There are others whose names are already on The Wall (and not yet in the book) who died of causes other than bloody martyrdom, but their lives were nonetheless dedicated to freeing the country from the Marcos dictatorship. Their stories will be in the succeeding volumes.

I quickly go over the table of contents and I realize that I had written about a good number of those in this first volume, either as individuals or as part of a group, in long features and news stories for national publications.

Among those I had come to know either in life or because of the manner of their deaths, and, yes, by writing their stories: Zacarias Agatep, Benigno Aquino Jr., Ferdinand Arceo, Macli-ing Dulag, Jose W. Diokno, Tulio Favali, Mary Virginia Gonzaga, Hermon Lagman, Mary Catherine Loreto, Raul Manglapus, Jose JBL Reyes,  Mary Concepcion Conti, Mary Consuelo Chuidian, Lorenzo Tañada, Emmanuel Lacaba, and more. I wrote lengthily about two of them—how they lived and died—and found myself in big trouble with the Marcos military.

A good number whose names are on The Wall, among them Sr. Christine Tan, RGS and Sr. Mariani Dimaranan, SFIC, will surely be in Volume 2. I have written about these two heroines, whom I knew very closely when they were alive.

This first volume and the next would indeed be handy resource books on heroism for the young, especially those who know little or nothing about the tyranny of the Marcos military dictatorship, its destructive effects, the scars and unhealed wounds that remain. Who is the parent who has not stopped hoping that a disappeared son or daughter will one day turn up alive, or that their remains will be found? Who is the survivor of the martial law years who does not remember with pain the comrades who fell in the night, friends who fought with them and suffered with them in prison? Who does not weep when remembering loved ones whose lives were cut short because they cried “Freedom”?

In the book’s preface, NHCP Chair Maria Serena I. Diokno tells us: “Nothing brings the past to life better than stories about those who lived in it. This book tells such stories. The past spoken of, however, is no ordinary past, but the most trying of times in our national postwar history. This book speaks about martial law, not from the standpoint of the dictatorship and neither from that of historians who study it, but from the perspective of Filipinos who challenged the denial of their rights and paid the price for their love of freedom and of our people.
“These women and men, from all walks of life, of different ages, and from different parts of the country, shared a singular purpose: to assert their liberties in the face of a regime that unlawfully arrested and tortured Filipinos perceived as enemies, causing some of them to disappear from the face of the earth, never to be found.”

The brief biographical profiles were drawn from materials in Bantayog’s archives, consisting mainly of interviews with relatives, friends and colleagues, testimonials, published accounts and other secondary sources. Websites such as those maintained by the Jose W. Diokno Foundation and the Lorenzo M. Tañada Foundation were great sources of information.

If I were a history teacher, I would encourage my students to pick particular names and stories in the book and dig deeper into the life and times of these subjects in the archives. What a learning experience it would be. While at it, they could learn about the Never Again, Never Forget project.

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial shrine (corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue) is a great starting point for a history walk. There one will see a 45-foot bronze monument created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. The monument depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son. Some meters away is the commemorative wall with the names of heroes and martyrs who fought and died to restore freedom, justice and truth that were lost during the dark days of martial rule.

During the unveiling of The Wall in 1992, former Senate president and Bantayog chair emeritus Jovito Salonga stressed: “A nation is measured by the quality of men and women it honors. Because of these heroes and martyrs, we can stand up with pride and work together, with heads unbowed, knowing that we are honoring ourselves and our nation, more than we are honoring them.”#

Send feedback to cerespd@gmail.com or www.ceresdoyo.com

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Media and scandals in the church

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Call it synchronicity. Last week, while I was handling a seminar-workshop on “Media and Scandals in the Church” at the Communication Foundation for Asia (attended by priests, religious and several lay people, with Archbishop Emeritus and canon lawyer Oscar Cruz as opening speaker), the movie “Spotlight” was showing in the United States and was about to be shown in Metro Manila. I watched the movie three days ago. Catch it, please.

“Spotlight” has already bagged more than 15 awards from various film and critics groups, including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for best screenplay a few days ago. I hope it also takes home an Oscar or two. The movie was directed by Tom McCarthy and written by Josh Singer and McCarthy.

Based on a true story, “Spotlight” is about sexual abuses committed by priests against minors in the Boston diocese but, more than that, it is also about the massive cover-up that a team of journalists uncovered. For while the victims and the abusers are at the heart of the story, the movie is really about how the Boston Globe’s investigative journalists (the Spotlight Team) exposed what had been deliberately hidden for 34 years.

This is not about glamorous TV journalists, folks, but about intrepid print journalists who are best read than seen.

I was reminded of the movie “All the President’s Men,” which was about how reporters of the Washington Post blew the lid off the Watergate scandal that brought down a US president. The Boston Globe’s series of exposés led to the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who had known about the abuses, and was later (gasp!) shunted off to Rome.

If I may get ahead of the story, the Boston Globe also had some breast-beating to do: Years earlier, the abuses were brought to its attention but the newspaper either ignored it or overlooked it. No less than a lawyer whom the Spotlight Team was pinning against the wall for his hush-hush arbitration with the victims (on behalf of the diocese) stunned the team when he pointed to their paper’s sin of omission. That was an OMG (Oh, my God!) moment for the team. And for me.

But the time had come. A new editor in chief saw a story-in-the-making in a small column piece in another paper and set the Spotlight Team in motion. By the way, the series on the abuses and how they were deliberately covered up for decades came out in the Boston Globe in 2002. (You can still find it on the Internet.) It won for the Spotlight Team a Pulitzer Prize.

The investigative team was composed of reporters Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), editor Walter V. Robinson (Michael Keaton) and editor in chief Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). The first part was written by Rezendes, the second part by Pfeiffer.

In its first salvo, the Boston Globe asked a most shocking question: “Why did it take a succession of three cardinals and many bishops 34 years to place children out of Fr. John Geoghan’s reach?” Geoghan was the priest who had abused minors. Here’s a peek at that exposé:

“Since the mid-1990s, more than 130 people have come forward with horrific childhood tales about how former priest John J. Geoghan allegedly fondled or raped them during a three-decade spree through a half-dozen Greater Boston parishes. “Almost always, his victims were grammar school boys. One was just 4 years old.

“Then came last July’s disclosure that Cardinal Bernard F. Law knew about Geoghan’s problems in 1984, Law’s first year in Boston, yet approved his transfer to St. Julia’s parish in Weston. Wilson D. Rogers Jr., the cardinal’s attorney, defended the move last summer, saying the archdiocese had medical assurances that each Geoghan reassignment was ‘appropriate and safe.’

“But one of Law’s bishops thought that the 1984 assignment of Geoghan to St. Julia’s was so risky, he wrote the cardinal a letter in protest. And for good reason, the Spotlight Team found: The archdiocese already had substantial evidence of Geoghan’s predatory sexual habits. That included his assertion in 1980 that his repeated abuse of seven boys in one extended family was not a ‘serious’ problem, according to an archdiocesan record …” Read on.

Although the movie does not dwell heavily on the lurid details of the sexual abuses, the victims and the villains have their moments in the movie. Let me say that, for me, the movie’s dramatic moments were about the legwork, the chase, how the journalists tracked down the victims and their families, villains, judges, lawyers, etc. and extracted information. But not to forget the paperwork, the research they did in finding “lost” public documents.

They pored over old church directories in their newspaper archives and discovered a Pandora’s box of information—priests who kept getting transferred, shuttled from one assignment to another or were out of circulation, etc. More OMG moments. It was no longer only Geoghan. There were others. Where were they?

Speaking of harmless-looking directories, I always want to know if the Inquirer library has the latest copy of the thick and heavy Catholic Directory of the Philippines. (I have one of my own at home.)

As a journalist, I noticed details in the movie that nonjournalists may not. Although “Spotlight” is a post-2000 story, the members of the investigative team in the movie did not rely solely on tape recorders and high-tech gadgets (I didn’t see any); they always had notebooks and pens—yes, notebooks and pens. I thought, gee, like I always do! Let me say that audio clips are very useful, but there is something about later reading my own handwritten notes on paper. Will tell you why and about the magic of it some other time.#

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cops, military, NBI, US narc in ’90s drug bust

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In the 1990s I did a magazine investigative series on the bloody encounter at the Magallanes Commercial Center in Makati between National Bureau of Investigation agents and suspected members of a drug syndicate. When the smoke cleared, two military officers and a civilian operative lay dead, shot by NBI agents under retired police general Alfredo Lim (later mayor of Manila), who acted on a tip about a big heroin haul. It was a shootout like no other. In Pinoyspeak, naghalo ang balat sa tinalupan.

Killed were Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) deputy commander Col. Rolando de Guzman, 52; Nolcom intelligence chief Avelino Manguera, 46; and Criminal Investigation Service civilian agent Franco Calanog, 39. A woman from a prominent family was arrested. After the shootout, the NBI team led by former police captain Reynaldo Jaylo recovered 10 kilos of heroin worth about P230 million at that time. Jaylo said the seized dope was being sold by the slain military officers to one Phil Needham, an American drug dealer who fled after the shootout.

Turned out, Needham was a US narcotics agent who, along with other US agents, orchestrated the “drug bust.” According to reports, American agents based in the Philippines had arranged the “controlled delivery” of the heroin using De Guzman as courier. Needham, who was a US Drug Enforcement Administration operative based in Bangkok, and not known to De Guzman, was to pose as the buyer. Needham then tipped off the NBI agents, who acted thinking they were on a real drug bust operation.

That encounter was a big front-page story the next day and several days after. I worked for weeks on the what, where, when, how and, most of all, the why, to come up with a magazine series much later. It was disturbing to learn about the underworld and the operatives involved. For no sooner was the 10-kilo heroin “buy bust” splashed all over the dailies than the story mutated into a complex, intriguing web involving military men, the CIA, the NBI and a woman of high social pedigree. (I interviewed the woman while she was in detention. She is now out of prison.)

Many interviews later (with law enforcers, the accused, lawyers, etc.), and with documents in my hands (some of them once classified), I was able to form a picture and write a story that, I must regrettably say, still happens today. Yes, as in the case of the recent drug raid in Sta. Cruz, Manila, where Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, a former official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, was apprehended along with a Chinese national allegedly operating as an interpreter, and several others. When the PDEA closed in, these persons were found in the shabu laboratory that contained huge amounts of drugs. They were promptly handcuffed.

An Inquirer report said Marcelino’s arrest in the raid came as “a total surprise” to his former organization, Undersecretary Arturo Cacdac Jr., PDEA director general, told a news conference at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame. For Marcelino had contributed a lot to the national antidrug campaign during the time of PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago. Unfortunately, Cacdac said, Marcelino is a suspect because he was present at the shabu lab. A Marine officer with the Philippine Navy, he denied any link to drug syndicates and insisted he was on a “legitimate intelligence operation.” (He is now on the tenth day of a hunger strike.)

The question remains: If he was on a legit intelligence operation, what exactly was the nature of his presence there? Portraying himself as an underdog, he tearfully said the handcuffs were the price of his loving his country so much. He was saying that although he was no longer with the PDEA, he continued his mission and that was the reason he was there. Doing what, we would like to know. PDEA operatives were not immediately buying his explanation. Marcelino was “not in their radar.” Just show us proof—a mission order or whatever—to justify your presence there, PDEA was saying. Marcelino couldn’t seem to produce it. So, what was the PDEA to do? Should Marcelino be simply released on his own say-so? What would that mean when a similar predicament presents itself again?

Marcelino’s full explanation about his presence in the shabu lab when he had no business being there has to be sufficient; otherwise, testimonials from his colleagues about his integrity would not be enough. We wait for the story to unfold, for the twists and turns to be presented, like the 1990s case of the bloody “buy bust” involving the NBI, military officers and a US narcotics agent that revealed the intricacies of the underworld. But even as I dug deep then, I knew I was scratching only the surface. Reading my series again just now gave me the shivers.

Journalists, like undercover agents, go to places where many people fear to tread. We have only our press cards to show when the going gets rough. Still we take risks. But I would not go into a drug den or laboratory—surreptitiously or not—to get a story unless I had the go-signal of my editor. My trips to rebel lairs and remote places always had my editor’s nod, and included travel insurance from our personnel department.

Journalists live dangerously, but we always remind ourselves that no story is worth dying for—that is, if we know that the risks are very high. We should never join military convoys in battle areas. Several colleagues had died or were wounded for doing that. Or while covering a rebel camp, we were never on our own. There would be armed men or women ready to pull us away from the line of fire in case a battle erupted. But we could always explain our presence if we survived. #