Mindanao Times

Thirty Six Years Ago Part 2

- KARL M. GASPAR CSSR

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).]

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