Thursday, September 1, 2016

Marcos 'war medals' exposed, questioned (3)

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

Because of the outcry of tens of thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship over President Duterte’s plan to bury in the Libingan ng mga Bayani the corpse of former president-dictator Ferdinand Marcos who died in Hawaii in 1989, I am serializing the piece “The Other Version of FM’s War Exploits” by Bonifacio Gillego published in WE Forum in November 1982. It was written for a major US newspaper but publication was withheld because of Marcos’ state visit. The long piece caused the raid and closure of WE Forum and the arrest of editor Jose Burgos Jr. and staff. Gillego, a former soldier and member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, was in exile in the United States and working with the Movement for a Free Philippines when he researched his piece. He became a congressman after 1986 People Power toppled the Marcos dictatorship. Gillego died in 2002. His name is etched on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.

Capt. Vicente L. Rivera, a lawyer who has also a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, is now a respected leader of the Filipino-American community in Detroit. He served the 14th Infantry in various positions as S-1, S-2 and S-4, and subsequently as Executive Officer of the 2nd Battalion. When the USAFIP NL incorporated itself as a veterans organization to assist the widows and orphans of the members of the unit, he served as its National Adjutant (1961-1964). As chairman of the Awards and Decorations Committee of the USAFIP NL Inc., he said he had not come across any item or citation recommending Marcos for awards. Captain Rivera, a recipient of American and Philippine awards truly deserved, has written his memoirs and from there he culled the events relevant to this writer’s request regarding the Marcos awards. ADVERTISEMENT On March 17, 1945, the day Marcos allegedly held at bay singlehandedly an enemy patrol that attacked the RCP for which he received a Distinguished Conduct Star (per G.O. No. 157, GHQ, AFP, December 20, 1963), Rivera was S-4 of the 14th Infantry. As S-4, he was also the commanding officer of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, hence he was in charge of the security of regimental headquarters. There was no attack against the RCP on that day. What happened on that day as recorded in his memoirs was this: Marcos was designated OD (Officer of the Day). Before he left for duty around the perimeter of the RCP, he asked for food. Sgt. Sofronio La Rosa killed a small chicken, roasted it and gave half to Marcos. At about three in the morning, they were awakened by bursts of fire obviously from a Thompson submachine gun. Personnel headquarters took cover in a nearby creek while Maj. Arturo Dingcong, Executive Officer of the 14th Infantry, was sent to investigate the firing. Upon his return, Dingcong reported that it was Marcos who did the firing. Marcos fired at the rustling leaves thinking that Japanese snipers were lurking behind them! The only other incident, Rivera recalled, when Marcos fired his gun was when he was issued his Thompson submachine gun to test it. As S-4, Rivera received 300 guns from the Americans (Dec. 28, 1944 to Jan. 4, 1945) in Toyak, Mountain Province. As to the Gold Cross Medal received by Marcos for allegedly sighting Japanese troops in well-camouflaged trucks a kilometer away from the RCP and engaging them in a firefight that forced them to withdraw, Rivera said that geography is the best evidence against this preposterous claim of Marcos. Panupdupan is very far from the road, he said. It takes half a day by foot to reach it. As to the Silver Star Marcos received for the Battle of Hapid, Rivera said that Marcos never participated in this battle nor in any battle for that matter in Kiangan. In the first place, he said, the 14th Infantry did not have an engineering company which Marcos allegedly commanded together with a combat company that reinforced the beleaguered 2nd Battalion at the Hapid airfield. Rivera said that he should know because at that time he was already the Executive Officer of the 2nd Battalion under the command of Maj. Zosimo Paredes. To his recollection, the Battle of Hapid lasted 11 days from March 25 to April 4, 1945. They had all together 268 officers and men who fought courageously against the Japanese forces driven from the Balite Pass by General Swift of the 25th Division of the US Army. The 2nd Battalion had to withdraw eventually for lack of food and ammunition after sustaining a number of casualties. Marcos was nowhere in the vicinity of Hapid all the days that he was supposed to have engaged the Japanese in hand-to-hand combat. Neither was Marcos in or near the vicinity of Bessang Pass as the battle there was fought from May 22 to June 15, 1945. At that time Marcos was already in the relative safety of USAFIP NL headquarters in Camp Spencer, Luna, La Union. The companies of the 14th Infantry that participated in the Battle of Bessang Pass with other units of the USAFIP NL were Company E under Lt. Benito Miranda, Company I under Lt. Panfilo P. Fernandez and Company M under Lt. Teofilo Allas. Rivera remembered some of their casualties, among others: Ismael Reyes, Felix Solon and a certain Francisco. On the circumstances that led to Marcos joining the 14th infantry, Rivera had this to say: They knew of the presence of Marcos in the vicinity of Burgos, Natividad, Pangasinan. With Narciso Ramos, who became Secretary of Foreign Affairs under Marcos, and former Congressman Cipriano S. Allas, Marcos organized his Maharlika unit with but a few members, not the 8,300 he claimed for backpay purposes. Marcos was on his way to La Union to inquire into circumstances surrounding the death of his father, Mariano Marcos. (Concluded next week)