The unforgettable Filipino political history

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - August 25, 2020 - 12:00am

Not many people realize that the last days of August are very rich in Filipino political history. Few people, except those who are already senior citizens like me, still remember that 49 years ago, there was the infamous Plaza Miranda bombing (it was held in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila) during a political campaign rally of the Liberal Party on August 21, 1971. It killed nine people and injured 95 others, including many prominent Liberal Party politicians, like Sen. Serging Osmeña and Sonny Osmeña.

The Liberal Party’s campaign rally was held to proclaim the candidacies of eight senatorial bids, as well as the candidate for the mayoralty race in Manila. As a crowd of about 4,000 gathered to hear the speeches of the politicians, two grenades were tossed on stage. Among those killed instantly were a five-year-old child and The Manila Times photographer Ben Roxas.

Almost everyone on stage was injured, including incumbent congressman for Palawan and future senator Ramon V. Mitra Jr., then incumbent senator Jovito Salonga, senator Eddie Ilarde, senator  Eva Estrada-Kalaw, Liberal Party president Gerardo Roxas, Sergio Osmeña Jr., Atty. Martin B. Isidro, who served as councilor, vice mayor and congressman for the City of Manila, Ambrosio “King” Lorenzo Jr., who served as the 2nd district councilor of Manila, and Ramon Bagatsing, the party’s mayoral bet for the City of Manila.

That candidate Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was not around when the grenades exploded brought a lot of questions and suspicion why he was spared. But I won’t be talking about this because it would take my entire column to do so. So next we move on to Aug. 21, 1983 or 37 years ago, when Sen. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated as he deplaned at the Manila International Airport. Of course, Ninoy was killed because those belonging to the Marcos dictatorship didn’t want anyone from the opposition to take over the presidency in case of the death of Pres. Marcos. He was very sick then.

As to who killed Ninoy? Most Filipinos had an idea. But mind you, his wife Tita Cory became president after the Marcos dictatorship. But she did not use the powers of the presidency to find out who really killed her husband. Then later, her son, Benigno “PNoy” Aquino, became president and he also didn’t use the powers of the presidency to find who killed his father. So while we all had the Avsecom guards incarcerated and imprisoned, the mastermind behind Ninoy’s killings was never known by the public.

Because of this, the Filipino people got disappointed by the Aquino leadership with two presidents lasting 12 years. This is why the annual EDSA Revolution celebrations where hundreds of thousands attended no longer joined the celebrations for this year. Less than a thousand people went to EDSA and the Aquino political fortunes began to wane.

Lastly, last Sunday was the 10th anniversary of the so-called Hong Kong hostage massacre, just when then Pres. PNoy Aquino just took office from Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and suddenly the Filipino people was instantly shown that this Aquino Presidency would eventually be known for its incompetence like how he handled the Super Typhoon Yolanda or Haian. This was officially known as the Rizal Park hostage-taking incident that took place when a disgruntled former police officer named Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus in Rizal Park, Manila on August 23, 2010. The bus carried 25 people: 20 tourists, a tour guide from Hong Kong, and four local Filipinos. Mendoza claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed from his job, and demanded a fair hearing to defend himself.

Whatever negotiations were done, this incident was featured live on TV. The whole world knew what Filipino cops were made of. The standoff took at least 10 full hours and people wanted to know where then president PNoy Aquino was. If the president only showed up and promised Mendoza for a fair hearing, this incident would have been over in just a few hours.

Unfortunately, the president didn’t seem to care and in the end, a 90-minute gun battle ensued and Mendoza and eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and investigators from Hong Kong and local authorities blamed the incompetence of the Manila police for bungling their job. We became the laughing stock of the whole world.

So on April 12, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte publicly apologized for the incident on behalf of his country. This is Filipino political history we cannot forget!

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com  or vsbobita@gmail.com . His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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