Today is one of my once-a-week trips by bus to Quezon City Hall. I do this to feel the pulse of the people.
As I was alighting from the bus at about 3:50 p.m., Ruth Manoloto, wife of my friend Ric at Knox, was getting nervously on the bus. Upon seeing me, she yelled, “Caesar, huwag ka nang magtuloy sa Con-Con. Umuwi ka na. Binomba ang Con-Con ngayon. Umuwi ka na.”
People were starting to flee. Romy Capulong was pale. The blast was at the sala of Judge Lustre on the 6th floor, he murmured.
Trooping behind him in ruffled dignity was well-known criminal lawyer delegate Dakila Castro, murmuring that Lustre is a good man—why should this happen?
I got nearer the building. Many people were screaming that it was the session hall that was bombed. Two thoroughly frightened City Hall employees passed me by shrieking that the canteen was damaged; there were splinters all over the place. Rebeck later appeared. “I last saw Tonypet Araneta crawling like a cat under the desks,” he quipped.
Apparently, this was what happened: At the precise time that Jess Matas was being interpellated, a big noise was heard. The soft-spoken Jess then politely said, “Excuse me, but could you please speak louder because there is so much noise outside?” He had hardly finished his sentence when there was a sudden explosion at the comfort room of the 14th floor. The delegates docked and flew to the other side of the session hall to the stairway. The women screamed. And pandemonium ensued.
I saw two people, one male and one female, being carried out in stretchers. Tonypet appeared later and gave us his version of what happened: The 4th, 6th and 14th floors were bombed!
Panic was in everybody’s face. The venerable Justice Jose Ma. Paredes came out scampering like a frightened rabbit. His eyes popping out, the gentle old man blurted, “This is the justification of your resolution for a recess. We have reason for a recess.”
This bombing incident made martyrs, to some extent, of the delegates. And at this stage, some martyrdom may be necessary to gain sympathy from a public that is fast losing its patience. The people are losing confidence in the Convention. After more than a year, it has not yet finished its task.
The time bombs were planted on three floors and they exploded almost simultaneously within seconds of each other. The question is—were they really meant to kill—or only to terrorize?
The corollary question is—who could have done it? To me, no moderate—whether of the right or of the left—would have done this. I am inclined to believe that not even the radical left would want to sow terrorism; this would alienate them from the population. The only group, to my mind, that would have some motive for bombing Quezon City is the Marcos group itself. The motive? To sow fear among the population and to find an excuse for imposing martial law or suspending the writ of habeas corpus. The executioners could be some paid pigeons of Marcos.
Come to think of it: who burned the Reichstag in 1933 anyway? Surely not that unfortunate Dutchman who was immediately arrested. Wasn’t the joke in Berlin at that time, that Goebbels loved to play dangerously with matches?
The Constitutional Convention would never be the same again. Fear has been sown into the hearts of delegates. Nevertheless, it would be difficult, at this stage, to suspend or adjourn the Convention. The proper thing would have been for the Convention to decide on a recess before the bombing incident. But now, it is too late to call for a recess; it would look cowardly for the delegates to do so.