Diary of Augusto Caesar Espiritu

Saturday, September 23, 1972

It was strange, I thought. There were no newspapers and no radio broadcasts in the morning.

At about 8:00 a.m., the Korean, Moonkyoo Kang, and Pura Calo, a Filipino, who were jointly running the ALDEC, visited me at my house and asked me how I felt. I told them that I was quite disappointed last night with the SCM in that in trying to set a new reading of the gospel, they seemed to have given a Christian organization, the Student Christian Movement, a neo-Maoist strain. I believe in a theology of liberation, I hastened to add; but liberation in Christ, not through a forcible overthrow of government.

“Obviously, you have not heard the news,” they exclaimed. “Martial law has already been declared.”

I nearly fell off my seat!

Martial law declared? Impossible!

“Yes, it is true. That is the reason why there are no newspapers and why radio stations are not in operation.”

Forthwith, I rang up my friend, Solicitor-General Estelito Mendoza, to find out if this were true. Titong was out of the house but his wife, Rosie, said this is probably true. She added that Defense Minister Enrile was ambushed yesterday afternoon. By whom?

I told her that I was, in fact, preparing to address the meeting of the Christians Concerned for civil liberties at the St. Joseph’s College today. Rosie advised me to stay home and not attend the meeting.

I immediately tried to reach my friends—Sonny Alvarez first, but Sonny’s phone was busy. Next, I tried calling up Sonia Aldeguer but I was not successful either in contacting her.

I got Pres. Pro-Tempore Sotero (Teroy) Laurel on the phone. Teroy confirmed that the news is true. He had it from good authority: from his own brother, House of Representatives Speaker Jose Laurel. He added that two of our fellow delegates have already been arrested, namely, Nap Rama and Joe Mari Velez. Teroy suggested that we just meet more or less socially but that in the meantime, we should lie low.

I called up Raul Manglapus; we have to plan on what we should do next.

I was informed that Raul had left for the U.S. a couple of days ago.

Next, I tried calling up Raul Roco, but Raul was out of the house. Fearful for his safety, I rang up the home of his father-in-law, Congressman Malasarte. I was able to get his wife, Sonia, who said that Raul had “gone out.”

I rang up Alejandro (Ding) Lichauco, but Ding’s phone was busy.

I went to the Convention Hall. The streets were almost deserted. By late morning there were still no newspapers, no radio broadcasts. In Quezon City, I saw two cars of soldiers with one civilian on the front seat in each of the cars—obviously taken into custody.

There were some soldiers at the checkpoint near the Quezon Memorial Circle, but the soldiers didn’t molest anyone.

At the Convention Hall, there was a note of hushed excitement, frustration and resignation. Now the reality is sinking into our consciousness. Martial law has been proclaimed!

Rumors were rife that our most outspoken activist delegates, Voltaire Garcia, Joe Mari Velez, Nap Rama, Ding Lichauco and Sonny Alvarez have been arrested. I met Convention Sec. Pepe Abueva and he informed me that this was what he had also heard.

The whole day, practically, was spent by us tensely waiting for some news. All sorts of rumors were floating around.

It was repeatedly announced that President Marcos was going to give an important message at 12:00 noon. Twelve o’clock came and went, and there was no news; there was only an announcement that this was going to be made later. At 2:30 p.m., a new announcement came: this would be done at 3:30 p.m. Then it was announced that due to the fact that documents were still being looked over by the President and that TV sets were still being installed at Malacañang, the message of the President was going to be later, between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The people could hardly wait. At 7:00 p.m., over the radio, during dinner with the ALDEC seminar participants, we heard President Marcos explaining the grounds for declaring martial law as well as the general orders given to the secretary of national defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, and to Press Sec. Francisco (Kit) Tatad. Tatad’s big face popped out on TV. He read for more than an hour, in what seemed to us sinister monotone, the full text of the presidential proclamation.

“Big Brother is watching us,” exclaimed one of the participants while looking at Tatad’s face which filled the TV frame. But this is not 1984! George Orwell showed up too early in the Philippines.

Tatad was continuously pouring out words that seemed to seal the fate of our people. We sat there and listened in mingled fear and confusion.

Sadly and fearfully, we speculated on the possible fate of our militant friends who had spoken at the ALDEC seminar, yesterday and day before yesterday. They must have been taken into military custody already. Ding Lichauco must surely have been arrested, we conjectured, and Dante Simbulan, likewise. Possibly also Dodong Nemenzo, we thought. The Korean, Moonkyoo, tried to cheer us up. He has a tape of Ding Lichauco’s lecture and he said he would tell everyone that he has the last lecture of Lichauco before he was arrested.

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