MANILA, February 12, 2004 (STAR)
BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - For weeks there’s been a buzz, from interesting sources as well as our usual "underground" contacts (Alikabok included), about a plan to assassinate one of the leading Presidential candidates.
I don’t want to sow alarmist talk, but one contender – the one at whom the conspiracy seems directed – has taken these "tips" seriously enough to take evasive action. One time he was scheduled to make an appearance, but his staff and handlers, aghast that his specific schedule had been aired on the radio and TV and in two newspapers, had to adopt "squid tactics". They spread the word that he wouldn’t be able to make that appointment, since he was stuck down south and had to meet some "very important people".
As it happened, he arrived right on the dot. His plane landed at the Manila airport, he changed right in the hangar, and beat the traffic to his promised rendezvous.
It would be easy to blame his rivals, including the Administration, for anything violent happening to this popular contender, but the indications are that the New People’s Army (the Communist NPA) is the malign group fielding the hit-men – or the Amazons. Joma, Louie, Ka Roger, can this be true? Who would be "blamed" if anything as bizarre as that happened? Not Jolly Roger, or "Peace Talking" Joma (waltzing with Government Peacenik Silvestre "Bebot" Bello in the snows of Oslo), or, heavens to Betsy, the former cleric Father Louie "The Dutchman" Jalandoni.
What if this dastardly deed provokes an explosion of fury and . . . yep, "revolution" by an angry masa and the disgusted, disheartened populace in general? Voila, the "People’s Army", dyed in the Red, gallops, fully armed, to the "rescue". Riding the tide of people’s uprising to power is a Leninist-Maoist (dare I say Jomaist?) specialty.
Beware the Ides of March, as the old soothsayer warned Julius Caesar – reminding him of that prophecy as Caesar strode, toga-a-tilt, confidently towards the Senate where the knives of Brutus, Cassius, and their confederates (noble Senators all) awaited him.
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I recall that when Maj. General Victor Corpus, now Malacañang Civil Relations Chief in charge of the Palace "war room", came to see me in my home in 1976, just before he went in to "surrender" to one of his Philippine Military Academy classmates (he was ordered "arrested" instead and slapped into military prison), Corpus revealed that it had been Joma Sison who had ordered the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1970 – not the Marcos government.
Mind you, Corpus had fought alongside Joma as an NPA Commander for almost six years, following his raid on the PMA armory in Baguio in 1970, when he (1st Lt. Corpus) defected to the Communist rebels, bringing PMA Browning automatic rifles, machineguns, and other weapons with him. Corpus told me he was heartsick and disillusioned with the movement, and the "executions" ordered of high-ranking and loyal NPAs by their own leadership, including Joma himself.
When I met Corpus (before his "political prostitute" statement against a lady Senator) at the National Defense College of the Philippines "Roundtable Discussion", last January 27, I asked Vic – in the presence of Commodore Carlos L. Agustin, AFP (retired), President of the Defense College; Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Rodolfo Diaz, Commodore Mariano S. Sontillanosa, AFP (ret.); Rear Admiral Ariston V. de los Reyes, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and dozens of officers and Defense College participants, whether he stood by his charge that Joma Sison had dispatched the cadre who attacked the Liberal Party’s miting de avance with hand-grenade.
General Corpus replied: "I do."
Corpus – mind you, still an NPA Commander at the time – had asserted that Joma believed an attack on the opposition rally – which resulted in some killed including our Manila Times cameraman, and others like Senator Jovito Salonga, Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr., Senator Sergio Osmeña Jr., Manila Mayoral candidate (subsequently Mayor) Ramon D. Bagatsing, grievously wounded, indeed, some like Jovy maimed for life and near to death – would be blamed on then President Ferdinand Marcos and the Government. Hence, Corpus disclosed, that bold attack. Fortunately, one of the grenades thrown that night proved a dud and failed to explode, otherwise the carnage would have been inestimable.
True enough, Marcos was blamed. And even then Senator Ninoy Aquino who hadn’t arrived at the Plaza Miranda entablado because he was attending a party as ninong (godfather) in the Jai Alai "Keg Room" on Taft Avenue.
After Corpus "came in from the cold", a heroic movie had been made about him – which, by the way, I tho-roughly enjoyed – starring "Daboy", Rudy Fernandez.
At that January 27th meeting in Camp Aguinaldo, after Victor reaffirmed his accusation – which I believe is true – I read aloud the unpublished transcript of a lengthy interview by our Chief European Correspondent and Paris Bureau Chief Vi Gomez Massart with Joma Sison in Utrecht last January 12.
SISON: "I formally deny that I had a hand in the bombing of Plaza Miranda!"
Joma told Massart: "That was done by Marcos. In 1994, the Manila Prosecutor’s Office made a resolution clearing me, that allegations against me were based on speculations. Ariel Armendral, a classmate of Senator Salonga’s son, fed him all these rumors and Senator Salonga ‘bought’ it". (Meaning, Senate President Salonga had believed these allegedly false rumors.)
Sison also cited "a 1998 Department of Justice certification that there are no more pending criminal cases against me."
In any event, it wasn’t Armendral who first told Jovy Salonga. It was Corpus. What happened was that when Victor came to my home and told me Sison had sent those hit-men to attack the Plaza Miranda rally, I telephoned Jovy and informed him he had, for years, been "wrongly" accusing Marcos. I had no love for Macoy, remember, but truth is truth. After all, I had been arrested along with Ninoy Aquino and hundreds of others and imprisoned in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Crame, when Marcos declared martial law.
I put Corpus on the line to explain Joma’s role to Salonga.
Jovy, when I got back the line, had said he was still a bit skeptical about the Sison angle, but he would inquire into the matter more closely.
A few days ago, former Senator Salonga rang me up on another matter. I told him of the Sison denial and the fact that in the course of his interview with Massart, Sison had even called him names. Jovy just laughed and quipped: "I still say it was Joma Sison. And you were the first to convince me!" Salonga had suffered most among the injured – with his two hands half-crippled and scores of metal shrapnel embedded in his body.
Could the NPAs have hatched a similar plot today – so widespread anger and even an uprising could be enkindled? What do you think?
Incidentally, Sison also denies he’s still Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. However, he jestingly told Massart that the CPP Chairman is "Armando Liwanag". If you’ll recall, "Armando Liwanag" was Joma’s nom de guerre (guerrilla code name).
"Are you formally denying that you are Armando Liwanag?" Our STAR correspondent asked him.
"Yes," replied Joma, "and we say so in court. I was long in prison (nine years) and have been out of the country too long." He uttered these words "grinning" as Massart recorded. Sison remarked he had been in jail from his capture in 1977 to his release by former President Corazon Aquino in 1986. He left the Philippines in 1986, after working in the University of the Philippines "for only six months".
He’s been in Holland most of his foreign "exile".
Last week, Massart – almost a phone pal by this time, it seems – rang up Sison again. This time Joma declared (February 6) that "Corpus is really crazy labeling Loren a political prostitute".
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Today, seven members of the Commission on Elections are GMA appointees.
In the Supreme Court, with the designation of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, eight of the High Court’s Justices are GMA appointees. This is more than half of the Court’s membership. Out of the 15 Justices, only seven are not the incumbent President’s appointed.
Interesting. Abangan the High Court’s decision to come.
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THE ROVING EYE . . . Driving around Manila, I notice the worst offender against the ban on sticking handbills on walls and hanging large posters from telephone and electric posts is the President’s K-4 party – with that huge portrait of La Presidenta herself dominating the posters and dikit-bills. Also, to our surprise, the handbills of candidate Senator Panfilo Lacson are on many walls. Who obeys the law these days? . . . I also drove past the US Embassy with my digital camera, but I saw the same PNP or military Humvee, armored, with its .50 caliber gun pointed at me and oncoming traffic right on Roxas boulevard, like a roadblock restricting us to one lane of the road. Why does the US Embassy need a police Tagaligtas armored car to guard it? Shouldn’t our cops be protecting the citizenry elsewhere? And why block a public highway like Roxas boulevard, one of the country’s most traffic congested thoroughfares? If we deign to "lend" them that armored Humvee and our SWAT cops in full battle-gear for their protection, let the Americans get it off our road and put the damn thing either in their driveway, or behind those black iron Embassy gates. Susmariosep. Don’t they know there’s a war on? A war against local crime, and against traffic congestion.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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