Thoughts on a Friday the 13th




The Manila Times


IS America sending, too, the Seventh Fleet and the international media? If it is, then we had better brace ourselves for real trouble. The last time I remember the US making a lot of fuss about the Philippine presidential elections was in 1986 when America’s biggest naval fleet for Asia Pacific suddenly dropped anchor at Manila Bay in time for the conduct of the snap elections in February that year. The military move was coupled by US mobilization of Western media, billeting them at the Manila Hotel, from where they were to cover the electoral process. It was interesting to note how the US had taken pains to send a US congressional delegation to “monitor the conduct of the snap elections,” and in the ensuing developments it was this congressional team that did the yeoman’s job of ventilating to the world the alleged “Marcos cheat” as revealed by the Namfrel lady canvassers who, evidently at the compass of a single conductor, walked out from the canvass, exposing the “cheat” that in time led to the EDSA People Power Revolt. “We had better change our policy,” rather, in panic, I told Kumander Bilog, who was the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman and head of the party military commission. I saw how the party’s stand to boycott the election was isolating the revolutionary movement from the main current of the political struggle. Early on, the party had adopted the boycott policy as a protest of the election, believing that it was a US move to continue propping President Ferdinand E. Marcos in power. I could see things differently. A Marcos win in the snap election was no extraordinary event, a run of the mill that did not deserve the presence of American armed might and international media attention. That these two delicate elements were present indicated that what was about to transpire was a phenomenon much bigger than a Marcos electoral win: the dictator was on the verge of being ousted. Why need the Seventh Fleet? Remember, I told Bilog, Marcos had already struck up “friendship” with Russia, and in the event of hostilities between Marcos and Cory forces, the Seventh Fleet was a necessary neutralizing factor to prevent the prevalence of a Russian ally. In fact, of all the foreign legations in the Philippines at the time, only the Russian ambassador early on extended congratulations to Marcos for winning the elections. So, now I come upon this editorial cartoon in yesterday’s Manila Times headlined thus: “US sends observers to monitor PH elections.” I suddenly grow goosebumps. There have been a number of Philippine presidential elections since 1986, but it is only now that the US has seen fit to once again send an observation team. It is a pity that the editorial cartoon makes no mention about the composition of the observation team, say, does it resemble at all the one headed by Rep. Richard Lugar in 1986? If it does, then what is about to transpire in tomorrow’s election so that it should deserve US close scrutiny. And if the team’s observation should merit a US reaction, what would such reaction possibly be? For this reason, I had to ask right at the start of this piece if the US is sending, too, its naval might and the Western press as it did in 1986. But first things first, this article was meant to be for the Sunday preceding the elections on May 9. Some changes in the editorial direction had prevented me from submitting it as originally intended. But the premises I had clung to right from the start of the election period — that the American factor from the very beginning had been the most decisive in electing Philippine presidents — had stuck in me such that I could give Bongbong Marcos a slim chance of winning, no matter his evident ever increasing huge following as election day drew near. I had not detested Comelec as a grand cheat machine for nothing, and if it could be swayed by any corrupting power at all, then it could not say no to whosoever would America wish to win president. And so I asked: Whom would Bongbong Marcos lose to? Leni? But would America support a presidential candidate who has been widely recognized as the protégée of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) which in fact had been declared by the US as terrorists? For this reason, I even considered Sen. Manny Pacquiao as the probable American Boy whom America would wish to become Philippine president. Well, for this column, I would have just treated the above assumptions as too much water under the bridge, what with the election results almost completely out now, with Bongbong having garnered 31 million votes as against Leni’s 14 million. Have I not gone grossly wrong in my assessment of the May 9 elections insofar as America’s perennial intervention in the choice of Philippine presidents is concerned? So, why harp on it still? But nothing is over until it is over. Bongbong himself has been very careful in not making any final statement on the matter. Just a day after the elections, supporters of Leni, in their huge numbers, demonstrated in front of the Palacio del Gobernador, accusing Comelec of committing “massive irregularities” in the conduct of the elections. This took place at about the same time that Leni called on her followers not to abandon the fight. The next day, the old familiar ogre that is the Catholic Church which mobilized the participants in the 1986 EDSA People’s Power revolt again surfaced in the person of the Running Priest Robert Reyes, who complained why “the worst candidate” would be elected president. A similar message was in the homily by the Naga archbishop during a mass where Leni was privileged to deliver her continuing call to protest Bongbong’s election. Here and there in the country, protests sprout, challenging the results of the elections. It is little comfort that world leaders have expressed their congratulations to Bongbong, like Queen Elizabeth 2nd of England, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden. In 1986, President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ victory in the snap election was immediately recognized with congratulations from the Russian ambassador. Did it matter? No, EDSA People Power negated it in one fell swoop. Unless there is a decisive move to quell the Leni troublemakers, then a specter of terror remains hanging in the air. I am writing all the above thoughts on a Friday the 13th.