Michael Mastura was going to discuss the Christian-Muslim conflict in Cotabato at our ALDEC religious gathering. We were frantically asking Pastor Jun Lagunsad and Louise Palm to fetch Michael. I knew that he has become very reluctant about his speaking engagements because he, also, is afraid. He confided his apprehensions to me yesterday: he could be in the dreaded “list” (of those to be arrested by the military) because he has been critical of the government. There was an item in the Daily Mirror in which he was reported to be blaming President Marcos for the Christian-Muslim conflict.
I calmed his fears. There would be no problem because this was a group of earnest Christians trying to find out the truth in order to understand our realities—that’s all. They were young Christian leaders from some 12 countries who were caught by martial law and could not fly over to Cotabato for an actual look into the deteriorating relations between Christians and Muslims there.
Finally, Michael arrived at 11:00. By then, I had sacrificed my attendance at the Sponsorship Council meeting of the Con-Con.
Two hours later, at the Con-Con session hall, Ding Lichauco looked at me with gratitude for my concern. He seemed quite tense. He said that he was not sure whether he would be arrested or not. He has been half expecting to be taken since last Saturday.
I told him that if he was going to be taken into custody at all, he might as well give up and not entertain any thought of hiding because his chances of survival would be greater by giving up.
I felt sorry for Ding. Ding is not guilty of subversion.
“I am peeved at the straitjacket methods of some of our activist students. I think they have a pretty shallow analysis of the situation,” I comforted him. “Of course, I believe in their struggle for human liberation, but I work for liberation from a Christian perspective not in terms of a violent revolution.”
Ding was emphatic that he did not believe in Maoism either. In fact, he said, these “radical” students are guilty of adventurism. He said that his article on imperialism, precisely, was not Marxist in analysis or approach. He said he has done more to arouse nationalism among our people with his paper on imperialism than the activists have done with their Maoist slogans.
We felt that many Maoists in our country are both adventurists and romanticists who actually are far more dogmatic with their doctrines than we had supposed them to be.
“How long would the detention last, if it should come?” There was a faint note of desperation in Ding’s voice. “Tito Guingona has told me that martial law would last forever.”
Ding, in his agitated state of mind, was losing his rationality.
“Don’t believe Tito. After the government shall have caught the people it would like to catch, martial law would probably be lifted. And you could always read and write in the stockade,” I comforted him.
“But what if it should last for a year?” His voice trailed off.
“No, I don’t think it would last that long. Besides, you are not guilty of any crime.”
After about 30 minutes of our conversation, I said as a parting remark: “In the remote possibility that you are taken, Ding, send an SOS. I may be able to help you in some way.”
“Yes,” he replied sadly.
I left Ding and went to Bobbit Sanchez and Caling Lobregat.
Ten tense minutes passed. Suddenly Caling came to me and bent towards me.
“Ding has just been taken by the military.”
“What?” Unnerved, I slumped on my seat.
Sig Siguion-Reyna came to me and whispered that he was with Defense Minister Johnny Enrile, his brother-in-law, last night. These people mean business, he said. While he was with Enrile, they talked about a news item that Roquito Ablan was seen at Forbes Park. Sig said that Enrile himself ordered his soldiers: “Well, let’s put him immediately in the stockade, otherwise the people might say we are playing favorites with these people. We must get him in immediately.”
Likewise, when he was with Enrile, there was a phone call from President Marcos asking Enrile whether Mrs. Gordon, the mother of delegate Dick Gordon, was in the list. Enrile answered that she was in the first list but that he had already taken out her name. Enrile told Marcos he didn’t know why she was arrested by the military in spite of the fact that her name had already been taken out of the list.
But who prepared the list of politicians, student leaders, newsmen and dissenters to be arrested? It could not be Enrile because he knows me quite well. He knows I’m neither a Communist nor a man of violence; simply a practicing Christian who believes in the need for democratizing wealth and economic power in a society whose hallmark is that of distressing social and economic inequalities. Indeed, if we should really want to achieve development, we have to institute radical changes in our social structures, even as we should work for far-reaching changes in the structures of the world economy.
Sig warned us that there are many people in the list, and that the arrests have only started. He has also heard over the radio that according to President Marcos, mere speculations and rumors are punishable.
“In other words, do not speculate, do not spread rumors, do not think.”
Pabling Trillana interrupted our talk. He told me in a subdued tone that he had just signed a manifesto passed on to him by Tito Guingona.
“What was it about?” I asked.
“The manifesto opposing martial law, similar to the Diokno manifesto I signed and passed around four days ago.”
“You must be careful,” I advised him like an elder brother.
He became visibly afraid. He pleaded with me to talk with Tito Guingona and persuade him to try to “hold” the document that he had signed.
I continued advising Pabling Trillana. This is not the time for these things. We are now under difficult conditions.
He repeated his plea for me to talk with Tito.
I went to Tito. He was tense. He showed me the manifesto. He asked me to sign it, but I demurred.
“In fact, for your own safety, you should not release that,” I chided Tito. “Mrs. Trono has just told me she was worried about you because you are in the ‘list.'”
Mrs. Trono, although a Marcos supporter, showed genuine concern. “Guingona is innocent and is a good man. To all of you, young people who are innocent, please keep quiet. What can you do?”
Here was a rabid Marcos partisan—a political enemy—now showing sympathy for us. The springs of human compassion are indeed inexhaustible!
“Ninoy Aquino is so powerful but where is he now? What can you do? And you, Caesar, please don’t get involved. You with your transparent idealism, you should be serving your people, not be languishing in jail. And please tell Guingona not to get involved.”
I related all these to Tito, but he seemed ready for martyrdom. “We might as well express our last words before being taken in.” There was a note of bravado in his tone of voice.
“But there is no sense trying to be a martyr by courting detention. And what do we achieve? If we have to speak out, and risk our lives, let us do so. But let us be sure of our objective. Let us act at the right moment.”
“After all, we would just insert it in the records. He would not read it before the Convention.”
“Tito, you are a patriot. You and I are about to be arrested. Should we also get our friends involved?”
Could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Is it not better to be a live coward than a dead hero? I salute Tito. Indeed, there are moments in our lives when we are compelled to certify what we think and what we believe.