‘NO EFFORT WAS SPARED TO DEHUMANIZE AND DESTROY ME’
To Cory, my dearly beloved wife, my patient suffering mother, my darling children, my sisters, brothers and relatives, friends, and supporters:
I have requested my lawyers to withdraw whatever cases and motions I have in the Supreme Court. I have also vowed to continue the hunger strike I began ten days ago.
You will probably ask me why I have chosen this course of action. I owe you an explanation, not only because you have stood by me all these years, but because in my mind I feel I am entitled to your steadfast, unflinching support only when I truly deserve it.
Last April 4, when the Military Commission suddenly made a complete turn-about and forced me, against my will, to be present in proceedings which are not only clearly illegal but unjust, I said I shall have no other alternative but to go on a hunger strike in protest against a procedure that is intended to humiliate and dehumanize me, considering that all they wanted was for me to be identified as a common criminal, and not only for myself but on behalf of the many other victims of today’s oppression and injustices.
I had filed in the Supreme Court a petition for prohibition against the Military Commission since August, 1973. I had asked for an injunction days before it started its hearing on August 27, 1973. No injunction was issued by the Supreme Court and in the hearing before the Military Commission on August 27, 1973, I declared that I would not participate in the proceedings of the military tribunal. I want you to recall what I said then-that my case is unique in that more than one year before Mr. Marcos proclaimed martial law, he had publicly accused me and pronounced me guilty, on the basis of evidence which he described as “not only strong but overwhelming,” that he could have filed the charges against me with the civil courts which were not then under his control, that the trial before the military tribunal would be an unconscionable mockery because its members are subordinates of the President and are completely beholden to him, that every part of my being is against one-man rule, that I fully realize the consequences of my decision, that I have chosen to follow my conscience and accept the tyrant’s verdict. These sentiments are even more valid today than on that day when they were first uttered.
I had expected the Supreme Court in 1974 to issue a temporary injunction or even a restraining order against the Military Commission, especially after my lawyers called its attention to two press statements of Mr. Marcos before the world saying he had actually removed martial law, and that legally martial law no longer existed in the Philippines. The Government lawyers, I understand, admitted the fact that he had made those statements.
Then, last March 10, 1975, the Military Commission granted, without my knowledge and without first hearing me, a petition filed by the Prosecution to perpetuate the testimonies of unidentified witnesses against me, and scheduled the hearings on March 31 up to April 4.
As soon as I god hold of the papers, my lawyers filed with the Supreme Court an Urgent Motion dated March 24, 1975, for the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the Military Commission, on the main ground that to hear the testimonies of these witnesses would render the prohibition suit in the Supreme Court moot, and academic, since the perpetuation of testimony proceedings would actually be a part of the trial-the very question at issue in the high court.
No restraining order was issued. The Military Commission held its first hearing, as scheduled, last March 31. At the very start, I questioned the legal authority of the Military Commission to perpetuate the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, and estoppel. I pointed out that to proceed would be to let our people know that Mr. Marcos, who is my accuser, is also the prosecutor and final judge of his own charges against me. The Prosecution replied that the proceedings were merely for perpetuation of testimony and were not a part of the trial.
The hearing before the Military Commission was continued on April 1, on which date the Commission brushed aside my opposition, saying that the proceedings were not a part of the trial. On the question of whether I should be present or not, it rendered a well-studied ruling that in accordance with law I need not be present.
I went back to my prison cell. To my surprise, on April 2, I received a Motion for Reconsideration from the Prosecution, asking the Commission to set aside its own ruling, and to compel me to be present. I knew in my bones that Mr. Marcos would not be satisfied with my absence-he wanted me to be humiliated and demolished frontally! Hearing was resumed on April 3, and on April 4 the Military Commission ordered that I be produced bodily before it. In a ruling that shocked me, the military tribunal reversed its own decision and held that the proceedings were now part of the actual trial, and that I must be present, even against my will. I requested for a short period of 7 days, so I could prepare, in my prison cell, a formal Motion for Reconsideration, and allow my lawyers to seek relief from the Supreme Court, but this plea for a 7-day period of suspension was denied on the spot. I thereupon announced that I would go on a hunger strike. Mr. Marcos’ favorite witness, Commander Melody, was immediately called to testify against me. This confessed murderer pointed to me as having ordered Commander Dante, in the presence of so many persons, to liquidate a barrio captain in Tarlac, who had been my loyal follower through many campaigns! Thus began the process of dehumanization.
In the meanwhile, the day before, April 3, my lawyers received a Resolution from the Supreme Court, dated April 1, stating that for “lack of a necessary quorum” of 10 justices, it could not act on my Urgent Motion for a restraining order because it involved a constitutional question.
Hearing continued in the Military Commission, with Commander Melody as the star witness. Through the controlled newspapers and the tv-radio stations, vivid accounts of my supposed crimes against society were recounted. No effort was spared to dehumanize and destroy me as Mr. Marcos’ political rival. I was supposed to be nothing more than a plain criminal.
After the hearing of April 7, I was allowed to meet my lawyers. I told them that at that point I did not need anything from the Supreme Court. Mr. Marcos had already accomplished his propaganda objective. He achieved, through his pampered witness, the purpose he set out to accomplish. My lawyers showed me a draft of a Manifestation they wanted to file. I said I did not want anything from the Supreme Court, and that the whole thing had been designed, composed and orchestrated in Malacañang. My lawyers said it was necessary to call the attention of the Supreme Court to the gross injustices committed against me, so no one could validly say later than the highest court of the land did not know anything about them. I agreed that it be filed, on that understanding.
The next day, April 8, I was brought back to the Military Commission for the resumption of the hearing. I felt very weak, due to hunger, but I had in my favor a clear conscience and a will that is ever stronger now than on the day I started my fast. Mr. Marcos’ star witness had just about finished the demolition job assigned to him. I felt that the case I had filed since 1973 in the Supreme Court had become meaningless. The dictator, with all the awesome powers of his office, had seen to that.
In the afternoon of April 8, after the adjournment of the hearing, my long-suffering wife arrived with the news that the Supreme Court had at last issued a temporary restraining order against the Commission and that there would be a hearing on the Motion for a Restraining Order on April 14, 1975. My reaction was quick, despite my increasing weakness: “This is too late and too little. I don’t need anything anymore from the. Let the military proceedings go on, as scheduled, so the whole world will see the meaning and essence of justice under martial law dictatorship.” The Prosecution had charged that the purpose of my hunger strike was to delay the taking of the testimony of their star witness. Let them eat their words-I want the star witness to go on and on, including all their other witnesses, so the whole world will see the difference between a half-truth and a complete falsehood.
On Bataan Day, April 9, I was brought again before the Military Commission. The Prosecution read the text of the restraining order and moved that the hearing be adjourned until further orders from the Supreme Court. Just what I thought! They wanted it stopped now-the whole thing has become embarrassing. I asked the permission of the Commission to say a few things. This was granted. I told them my path to God is more important than any oath I could take before men. I wanted my own testimony perpetuated, since I may have to meet my Maker shortly. (By the way, please get the full transcript of my statement.) In part, I said that I may perhaps be credited with a little intelligence. How could I possibly have ordered Dante, in the presence of so many persons, including Melody whom I had never seen or met before, to liquidate a barrio captain? I also told them I would request my lawyers not to file any petition before the Supreme Court, to withdraw the urgent motion for restraining order, and for the Military Commission to continue its hearings.
Despite my hunger strike, or probably because of it, I see with unmistakable clarity that my legal battles in the Supreme Court are now over. Mr. Marcos is the single genius, composing and directing all the proceedings, whether in the military tribunal or in the civil courts. This is the evil of one-man rule at its very worst. He has destroyed the independence of the civil courts, abolished the legislature, controlled the mass media, curtailed our cherished liberties-with the backing of the military, which, ironically, exist “for the good of the people.”
Without the Supreme Court as an obstacle, I have decided to go on my hunger strike and place my fate and my life squarely in the hands of my accuser, prosecutor, and judge-Mr. Marcos. Thus the plain, naked truth will be made clear to our people and to the rest of the world.
As I said, my hunger strike is not for myself alone, but for the many thousands of Filipinos who are helpless victims of the oppression and injustices of the so-called New Society. The meaning and thrust of my struggle and sacrifice transcend the limited question of absence or presence in the proceedings before the military tribunal.
I have therefore solemnly vowed to continue my hunger strike as a symbol of our people’s firm protest against:
1. the trial of civilians before military tribunals, particularly for offenses allegedly committed by them before martial law;
2. the lack of judicial independence. Trials by civil courts would still be a travesty of justice, especially in cases where those in power, their relatives or associates, are interested-for as long as our judges remain “casuals.” They should be given permanent tenure, for their own good and for the benefit of our people who have a vital stake in a sound administration of justice;
3. the absence of a genuine free press. Since martial law was proclaimed, I have been unfairly condemned and vilified by the controlled newspapers and tv-radio stations. I know there are many people who have been similarly pilloried. But a genuine free press is even more important for those who are in power. It may free them form their arrogance, their prejudices, and their pretensions, and help them see the injustices they have committed against their own people; and
4. the further continuation of martial law and its evils and repressions. After all, Mr. Marcos has already announced to the world that he had actually removed martial law since April 1974.
I know I have caused my loved ones immeasurable anguish and sorrow. But as I told the Military Commission last March 31, there comes a time in a man’s life when he must prefer a meaningful death to a meaningless life. Let Mr. Marcos realize that there are still Filipinos who are prepared to suffer and lay down their lives for a cause bigger than their own physical survival.
Others may know better ways of fighting the evils and injustices of one-man rule. But for me, a prisoner in an army camp, my only shelter is a clear conscience, my only shield my unshakeable faith that this is still a moral universe and that right and goodness will triumph in the end. Beyond the greed, the pride, the insolence, and the pretensions of those who rule us through force and fear and fraud, there is a living Almighty God who knows the dark mysteries of evil in the hearts of men. I know His justice, truth, and righteousness will reign and endure forever.
Those who have the force of arms will win in the meanwhile. But they will surely lose in the end. For to paraphrase Unamuno, the great thinker, for them to finally prevail, they must convince; to convince, they have to persuade; and in order to persuade, they need what they do not and cannot have: right and reason in the crucial struggle.
You will never know how much and how often you have been with me in the desolation of my prison cell. But be consoled in the thought that this is the least I can do for our helpless people. My only regret is that I cannot give more.
With all my love,