The pitfalls of remembering
Writing a remembrance piece is a challenge to memory. I said this much to reader Benito Valeriano, nephew of Col. Napoleon Valeriano whom I mentioned in my last column “First UP Diliman Rally after the War” as the commander of the Nenita Unit that trucked out of their camp in Diliman early that morning of March 29, 1951 headed for the anti-Huk campaign in Central Luzon. Valeriano’s nephew wrote:
“The Nenita Unit which was known for its Skull and Bones symbol was dissolved in June 1947 after he was designated Provincial Commander of Pampanga. In 1948 he organized the First PC BCT (stationed in Diliman) and also used for its emblem the Skull and Bones, hence it was nicknamed “the Skull Battalion,” having most of its men originally from the Nenita. After 1949, the use of the Skull and Bones emblem was no longer authorized due to political controversy. By early 1950, the Philippine Army was already employing the Battalion Combat Team (BCT) in the anti-Huk campaign. This development coupled by a highly efficient military intelligence organization, led to the capture of the Manila politburo headed by personalities you mentioned, Lava, Baking brothers, et al. It also paved the way for my uncle’s 7th BCT (Tapat) to conduct three major operations in Central Luzon and the Sierra Madre that resulted in the complete destruction of two dreaded Huk Recos. In the last major battle at Biak Na Bato, Bulacan on 3 December 1950 he lost his Recon company commander, the intrepid Capt. Oliveros. My uncle who was beside him leading the final assault of the caves was wounded. By 1951 the Army had the upper hand in the campaign, since Magsaysay was a hands-on SND. He remained in Central Luzon up to 1952 as Task Force commander. Therefore it could not have been his unit that figured in that incident in 1951.”
My friends from Pampanga recalled that the “Markang Bungo” unit was feared by the people for the summary punishment of any hapless civilian for just staring at the soldiers trucking by. This terror tactic apparently did not succeed in intimidating the people and outlaws led by Kamlon in Jolo. This I learned from older brother, then a scout ranger officer with the 8th BCT, whose men included survivors of the purported “Nenita Unit” assigned to defeat Kamlon. It is also common knowledge that Col. Valeriano worked closely with Col. Landsdale of the CIA in counter-insurgency projects not only in the Philippines, but also Vietnam, Panama, and the Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles in the early 60s.
On the prime ministership
Former finance minister/prime minister Cesar Virata clarified that Salvador “Doy” Laurel (whom I mentioned as the second prime minister from our Class ’52) was not elected prime minister by the Batasan Pambansa since President Cory Aquino “threw away the 1973 Constitution.” She replaced it first with a “Freedom Constitution” under a “revolutionary government.” She later convened a constitutional commission composed of 50 members who drafted the 1987 constitution which was ratified at a referendum conducted that year. Doy then may well have been designated prime minister during the euphoria following EDSA in 1986. Unfortunately for Doy, the Batasan never convened because of the abolition of the 1973 constitution.
UP alumni in the impeachment trial
Since the impeachment trial began, I have not commented on the subject beyond saying that former SC justice Serafin Cueva, a UP law alumnus of Class ’52, has figured as the brilliant defense counsel for the accused Chief Justice Renato Corona. The only other member of Class ’52 celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year is senator-judge Joker Arroyo. Contemporary with Cuevas and Arroyo are presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who belonged to Class ’53, and senator-judge Edgardo Angara, Class ’58.
UP alumni, lawyers and non-lawyers are the more visible actors in the impeachment drama – sitting as senator-judges or standing as prosecutors and as defenders of the accused. Listening to the lead players who are UP alumni, and observing their style or manner of questioning witnesses, I could not help but recall the “terrors” in the classrooms of UP Diliman not only in Malcolm Hall but in other colleges as well. A few professors were famous in the early 50s for their unorthodox ways of teaching their subject. After the war, “terrors” could be at risk. I remember a mature law student (an ex-guerrilla fighter who shared quarters in a faculty college) packing his .45 to class, “just in case,” he said, his professor, “acts up” – like heaping verbal abuse on students. In the English department, students majoring in literature waged a strike in the 60s against a few professors with sharp tongues–one of whom did not give a grade higher than “3.” With the student revolt in the late 60s, “terrors” became more careful.
The “terrors” of academe live on in the trial. But after the constant barrage of legal technicalities, pomposity, ex cathedra statements, incivility, grilling, grandstanding, ego-tripping and other antics in the trial, tedium and frustration have started to set in. I now prefer following the progress of the trial through video footages and print media reports and analyses. I miss the cool and unruffled manner of Chief Justice Hilario Davide presiding over the impeachment trial of President Estrada.