Doy on Macoy / Yorac in this corner!

HERE'S THE SCORE - Teodoro C. Benigno () - December 5, 2001 - 12:00am
It was sometime early August 1989, Doy Laurel relates, when he was told by an emissary that Ferdinand Marcos urgently wanted to see him. The former president was then close to death in Makiki, Honolulu, at the St. Francis hospital, if I remember right. Although we did not know that at the time. Then vice president Doy Laurel told President Corazon Aquino about the "strange call" from Honolulu. Doy, including the whole Laurel clan, hadn’t seen Marcos in years since they broke off in the late 70s. The rupture was quite bitter, as the Laurels led by Pepito, the hot-tempered former House Speaker, stomped out of Malacañang.

The Laurels wanted the Nacionalista Party back in business. After declaring martial law in 1972, the dictator, as all dictators do, set up just one monolithic political party, the KBL (Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan), smiting the two-party system of the Liberal and Nacionalista parties. For the Laurels, that was political heresy, betrayal. The historical swath of the NP rode the waves of the independence from America movement. And not only that. It was the NP, largely through the intercession of the formidable Laurel clan, that helped open the way for the entry of Marcos to their party. Macoy had turned his back on the LP where Diosdado Macapagal held sway. Dadong blocked Macoy’s path to the LP’s presidential nomination in 1961.

Without the Laurels, without the Grand Old Man of the NP, the inimitable Eulogio Rodriguez Sr. who handled the English language like Popeye handling a Ming vase, Ferdinand Marcos could never have become president. Emmanuel (Manny) Pelaez had to be sacrificed and give way to Marcos.

Doy picked up the story anew during our recent meeting in his Mandaluyong residence. Cory Aquino, he said, was not exactly hot about his meeting with Marcos in Honolulu. "But if you want to go, I will not stop you," she said. And so Doy, who was then her vice president and foreign affairs secretary, enplaned for Honolulu. "I immediately proceeded to the hospital suite of the president," he said. "There I saw Imelda, Bongbong, Imee, Irene and a few others. Whispered instructions from Marcos waved them out of the room although Imelda remained in an anteroom where she could see what was happening." Listen in possibly.

Covered by a thick blanket up to the lower part of his face, Marcos bared his features as Doy approached. "I was shocked," Doy narrated, "the face had shrunk. It was hardly bigger than a peeled coconut. The eyes were slits. All that remained of his once physically cultured body was flesh and bone. His lips moved but I could not hear him. There was a tube stuck to a hole in his throat and that had to be removed. Now I could hear him although the voice came slow and in spasms. Still, I had to come closer to his face."

"Why me?" Doy gently asked. "Why of all people did you call for me? I fought you. I united the opposition against you. I set up the UNIDO. My life had just one overriding objective, get you out of Malacañang by any means." The flicker of a smile was on Marcos’ lips. The fallen dictator replied: "Doy, I can never forget what your family did for me. You came to my rescue three times and I remain very grateful. Now I am about to die. And I want to make amends, to you, to the Filipino people." The words sounded portentous, were portentous, for there was no doubt life was ebbing fast from Marcos. Once the most powerful, the most feared man in the Philippines, certainly still the most wealthy, there he was now, shrunken like a mummy, beaten, devastated and now being driven to his death not by his political enemies, but a deadly and fatal disease.

I heard the name of that disease – lupus erythematosus – first from Ninoy Aquino during his Christmas furlough from jail in 1979. I was probably the first to call on him at the Aquino residence in Times St., Quezon City. How Ninoy came to know that, lupus, ahead of us in the foreign press is one of the small nuggets in his well-wired intelligence network that functioned well even when he was in solo imprisonment in Fort Bonifacio. He said he got the information from the CIA – A-1 information, he exclaimed – and that was that.

Anyway. Doy Laurel was approaching the core of his conversation with Ferdinand Marcos. The dying ex-president chose his words carefully: "I have decided to donate to the Philippine government and the Filipino people 90 percent of the Marcos wealth. We the Marcos family will get only 10 percent and no more. I want that to be very clear. I want you to communicate that to President Aquino. We will take care of the details later." Laurel was dumbfounded. The amount of wealth was not mentioned but the estimate at that time was about 10 to 15 billion US dollars. In any language – fantabulous!

But right there and then in the hospital, Laurel realized the whole thing, the proffered donation, what seemed to be the last will of the dying ex-dictator, wouldn’t work. Imelda, according to Laurel, heard the whole conversation. And she told Doy as he left Marcos’ bed – this according to Doy – that they, the Marcoses, particularly she, Imelda, would only agree to 70 to 75 percent going to the government, while they would retain 25 to 30 percent. "Ten percent is out of the question," she said. Imelda held dominion and that was that. The empress dowager had spoken.

And so that wealth continues to be the curse hanging over this country like a black comet in suspension headed for planet earth. Where is all that wealth right now? Nobody really knows. Only recently Irene Marcos Araneta reportedly sought to transfer the amount of $13.2 billion from a Swiss bank to a German or other bank. The account was in her name. If Irene had that kind of money, how about the others? How about the story that in one bank vault alone in Switzerland, almost 10 million US dollars in gold bars belonging to the Marcoses are stored? Will the Swiss government ever release that fortune and turn it over to Filipino hands? I doubt. I wonder. Even all the way back to King Farouk of Egypt in the 50s, not one of his descendants or progeny ever got hold of the fortune the profligate potentate deposited in Swiss banks.

Whatever. The moral of the story narrated by Salvador Laurel is that whatever the turn of their fortunes, the Marcoses remain astoundingly rich, live in unexampled splendor. Unpunished. The Philippines has hardly recovered from Marcos misrule. And the majority exist in utter poverty. But does anybody really care?

The so-called "coco levy agreement" came and went like some formidable firecracker that suddenly petered out. And if it petered out, we have the blunt and feisty Haydee Yorac – chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government – to thank. Haydee, you got a lot of spunk, my friend. You virtually called businessman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat and ex-senator Juan Ponce Enrile "plunderers" of the first cut. This is the kind of billingsgate the three haven’t heard for a long time since R. M. Manapat in his best-selling Some Are Smarter Than Others identified the trio as behind the coconut levy heist. This heist was described by Emmanuel Pelaez as the "biggest scam ever" and by others as "the biggest burglary ever in broad daylight."

As a result, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s sabre-toothed sharks, specifically engaged for the purpose – Dante Ang and Norberto Gonzales Jr. – retreated all the way to Dunkirk. The two, known to be close to GMA as lips and teeth, had reportedly brokered a deal with the trip in the presence of Archbishop Fernando Capalla, an unwitting prince of the church. Under the deal, a perpetual trust fund using P50 billion in Coconut Industry Investment Fund would be set up, the farmers getting 40 percent of the interest earnings, the government 25 percent, and Cocofed (meaning the trio) 20 percent. Fifteen percent would go back to the trust fund.

When Haydee Yorac heard of it, she blew the whistle and everything dropped dead. Boyoboyoboy, they are certainly scared of this broad. She said in words dripping with the finality of a hooded hangman: "Without the PCGG, there can be no settlement of any kind."

When the deal was made public and went sour with a lot of civil society sectors, Dante Ang sought to skate to safety by saying he represented no one and was acting independently. Yorac said it appeared Bishop Capalla was made to believe that Ang was acting in behalf of the government. Well, this corner says he was, for GMA. This guy is the most swift-fingered crap dealer since Nick the Greek. Of course, he will never admit GMA had something to do with his allegedly being a "referee" in the deal. He is too smart for that and so is she. Responsibilities and assignments are now layered in Malacañang. Dante Ang reportedly has no public office but like a serpent, he moves in between layers and calls the shots.

But they reckoned without Haydee Yorac.

This tomato has the spiel of a 19th century suffragette, the tousled hair of a newly-awakened Taliban fighter, the unstoppability of a breaking dam, the forward clank of a Patton tank, and the spit of a cobra. She doesn’t scare, Dante Ang, and whoever pushed him to broker the deal forgot that Haydee Yorac was around. Now he is ruing the day GMA hired Haydee Yorac.

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