Martial Law and Sports Governance

SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico - The Philippine Star

Two Fridays ago, on September 21, 2012, the 40th anniversary of declaration of Martial Law by former President Ferdinand Marcos (on September 21, 1972 through Proclamation 1081, although it’s actual implementation started late Friday evening of September 22 and onto the early morning of Saturday, September 23), I was invited by the University of the Philippines (UP) Circle of Administrators (an association of UP student leaders), through Miera Calicdan, at the Assembly Hall of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG). The occasion was the Sports Governance Forum and I was asked to speak on “The Role of the State in Sports Development”.

The forum was attended by student leaders, sports administrators and master’s students in public administration and physical education at the State University.

I stressed that the day coincided with the 40th anniversary of Martial Rule which, during the Marcos dictatorship was the prime and sole instrument of governance marked by fear, repression and human rights abuses. I asked for the privilege to recall the events of that infamous Friday afternoon if only to give greater justice to the topic assigned to me.

The first, among the thousands to be arrested late Friday evening and early Saturday morning, was Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr at the Hilton Hotel on U.N. Avenue by a composite group of elements of the military and the Philippine Constabulary or PC, the forerunner of the Philippine National Police or the PNP, led by then Col Romeo Gatan.

Friday afternoon, around 3 P.M., I had invited Senator Aquino to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to speak before a big crowd of AIM students and guests to on “Oplan (Operations Plan) Sagittarius”, a sinister plan that would justify and trigger the declaration of Martial Law. “Oplan Sagittarius included, for maximum impact, bombings of national offices, the ongoing Constitutional Convention, water and power utilities and other high-profile targets. As Senator Aquino would remark in the AIM forum, the bombings were indeed happening as if “there was some check list that was being ticked off as each bombing occurred.”

I had met Senator Aquino sometime in mid-1971 in his Senate office when I was doing a political marketing term paper entitled, “Image Management in a Senatorial Campaign” to chronicle the phenomenal rise of Senator Aquino from mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac; to Vice Governor; to Governor of his home province and eventually to the second slot in the 1967 senatorial elections. Senator Aquino was the only Liberal Party (LP) candidate to survive the Marcos onslaught. Independent candidate Gaudencio Antonino Sr was the only other candidate to win through his wife, Magnolia, who took over from him when Antonino Sr died from a helicopter crash a few days before the November elections.

Senator Aquino had started out with an awareness rating of two percent at the start of the senatorial campaign although Mrs. Corazon Aquino would insist on several occasions I would narrate this anecdote that Ninoy started out a little higher at five or seven percent when the starting gates opened.

By the time Ninoy was arrested, I had therefore recorded more than 100 hours of interviews with him. After the AIM speech, Ninoy proceeded around 5 p.m. to the then Channel 5 studios in Pasong Tamo Extension and he told me over the phone, around 6 p.m., that he was proceeding to the Hilton to meet with some legislators from both Houses of Congress. They were to discuss new tariff measures since the Marcos administration was in dire financial straits and new revenue laws had to be passed and implemented. He added that it would be better for us to meet the next day, Saturday, September 23, 10 a.m. at Channel 5 where he would tape his weekly television program, “Insight”. That meeting never transpired since he was arrested and incarcerated for the next seven years and seven months.

After Ninoy’s arrest, I would visit him during those rare occasions (Christmas holidays, wedding anniversary, etc) he was given furlough by his jailors in his home in Times St. I would also get a chance to talk to him by phone from 1979 to 1983 when I was travelling overseas and he was in exile in Boston. Actually, he would do most of the talking as he narrated to me his own intelligence reports about the state of Marcos’s health and he would ask what I thought of his coming back to the Philippines.

Why, I asked the audience, am I going down memory lane, so to speak, by talking about events that transpired 40 years ago when almost everyone in the room was not yet even born. In fact, their parents probably had not met! My answer: the use of power or its abuse is at the heart of governance, which is the topic of the forum. More, on Sports Governance next week.

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