9-1-1
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - September 17, 2020 - 12:00am

For more than two weeks Christian Anthony, my grandson, had been asking me to watch with him a television special called 9-11. It was shown on History Channel last Friday. In the days leading to the show, he had quite a number of interesting questions some of which were of the unexpected kind that I had to grope for answers. When he asked, for example, if the American emergency response system called 911, originated out of whatever happened on a September 11, I could only say “Sorry, I do not know”.

While we were having dinner that Friday, my eyes were glued to the TV. There were two news items that also carried the numbers 911. In Ilocos Norte, people celebrated the birthday of former President Ferdinand Marcos capped by a floral offering at the foot of his statue. The other news projected an entirely opposite character. It showed a gathering of people reminding the country of the atrocities committed during the Martial Law rule of Marcos. Again, Christian Anthony asked If the contrasting bits of news had anything to do with the special feature we were waiting for. I took time to explain and this is where the off tangent nature of this column becomes evident.

 Marcos was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte, in September the same birth month of the two other former Philippine Presidents Sergio Osmeña Sr and Diosdado Macapagal. Da Apo went to UP Law School. Before he took and topped the 1939 Bar exams, he was accused of murdering Nalundasan and got imprisoned although he was acquitted later. He eventually became congressman, senator and defeated Macapagal for the presidency in 1965. He was re-elected president in 1969 beating Cebu’s Sergio Osmena Jr. Before his second (and constitutionally allowable) term was to end, Marcos declared Martial Law and continued to rule until 1986 when the so-called People Power Revolution ousted him from office. The Ilocanos considered Marcos, their provincemate, a hero. That was why they had a lavish celebration last Friday, 9/11.

In the other news item, also covered by national television, people relived the horrors of the brutal Martial Law regime of Marcos. To them, Marcos was a dictator upon whose orders thousands of Filipinos got unjustly incarcerated, cruelly maimed, viciously tortured or murdered. Some others accordingly disappeared without trace and they pointed accusing fingers at Marcos’ supposed hound dogs as culprits. Additionally, the Friday marchers accused that Marcos, using martial law powers, shut down Philippine mass media, including ABS-CBN, seized them and conveyed some to alleged cronies.

These are the obvious different faces of 911. But in the number eleven there are common American-Filipino events. On a September 11, someone was born to replace, in a future time, a republican government with a dictatorship while on a September 11 America’s presidency was reportedly threatened by a terror group. Then, there was this case filed in America by lawyer Robert Swift for Martial Law victims against the Marcoses. When he obtained a damage compensation of two billion dollars, he distributed it to 11 thousand martial law Victims. Swift was quoted to have claimed that under the Duterte administration, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) "has been anything but cooperative." It is remarkable that in this Duterte administration, as in the Marcos regime, ABS-CBN was closed to cause the termination from work of 11 thousand employees. What coincidental numbers.

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