Thirty Six Years Ago Part 2
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) -- Aquino’s assassination brought his widow, Corazon Aquino, into the public spotlight and having become a symbol of the people’s rage against the dictatorship, she ran for President in the snap elections of 1986.
Although Marcos was officially declared as having won the election, widespread allegations of fraud and illegal tampering on Marcos’s behalf created the circumstances that fueled rage that sparked the People Power Revolution. The Marcoses had no choice but to flee the country, and Mrs. Aquino then took over as President..
I can still vividly recall what happened within my own little world that day. It was, indeed, “little” as I was in prison with roughly 60 other political prisoners at the Davao City Metrodiscom Prison in downtown Davao City. I had been arrested barely five months earlier, briefly disappeared for a week (presumed dead already by family, relatives and friends who searched for me as soon as my whereabouts could not be traced); airlifted to Davao, subjected to psychological torture and later on made to appear before the Supreme Court Justices on the basis of the late Sen. Pepe Diokno’s demand for a habeas corpus. After that hearing, I was airlifted back to Davao and jailed to face the subversion charges filed by the military at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Davao City.
We had no access to media inside the prison, so we did not immediately hear about the assassination of Aquino. But I remember that there was a different atmosphere inside the prison that day. We could not be allowed to get out of our cells to enjoy the sun in the small yard of the prison. We were padlocked and there were all sorts of movements among the guards that suggested something was happening outside. A few of us wondered what was happening. We thought it was again because a big mobilization was taking place, as our rights to be out of cells are suspended when rallies and demonstrations take place in the streets of the city.
I had written a journal during the 22-months that I was imprisoned which later on got published. Checking out the pages of “How Long: Prison Reflections of Karl Gaspar,” I quote from page 58: “News of his assassination reached us here in prison the day after it happened. My mother came on Monday morning and told us about it. Naturally, I was shocked. Then I thought: an era is finally closed. Ninoy’s death ended dramatically. We had then pegged our dreams on the existing political structure and had expected it to live up to our ideals of democracy. These ideals we would now label as reformist or even reactionary, but when we were 16 or 18, we didn’t hear these words.
“On August 31, they will bury Ninoy’s body. Then what will happen? Perhaps Ninoy is the sacrificial lamb and his death will pay the way for national reconciliation and democratization. Like Pinochet in Chile, Marcos may really bend over backwards to bring back civil liberties and freedom. Will the non-violent third force state a big leap forward and mobilize the silent majority, or is Ninoy’s bloody death a sign that the violent confrontation between the established elite and the people will increase? Will his murder lead to an increase of repression that could result in a coup d’etat?
Reading these lines now, and having lived the years following 1983 through 1986 and today, the answers to my questions unfolded in time. Yes, the non-violent third force made a big leap and EDSA was its crowning glory, followed immediately by some kind of coup d’etat when Ramos and Enrile – along with the rest of the military abandoned Marcos. (To be continued)
[Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” two books on Davao history, and “Ordinary Lives, Lived Extraordinarily – Mindanawon Profiles” launched in February 2019. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw).]