By Buddy Gomez
Posted at 08/06/2015 1:21 AM
Gullibility has consequences! The Marcoses are its most eloquent example. August and September are the times to remember. And thus, by remembering, we avoid a painful reprise.
It is in the interest of historical fidelity and precision that we engage, during the forthcoming weeks, in a look-back series of samples for the edification of those too young to have lived through the Marcos years. I also hope that this becomes “a shot across the bow,” a warning for those whose mercenary “loyalist” preferences might be tempted to tinker with history, “truth when attacked by lies.”
“Foxhole” becomes a memory jogger, convenient and useful for the subject of the current blog, as promised last week. Its utilization is inspired by the now celebrated blogger, Joe America, when he used it as a metaphor in his appreciation of President PNoy’s leadership. (“If the President were in my foxhole, I’d watch his back. That’s because I trust he is watching mine.” Remember?)
There is an ever-present risk when solely sheer popularity or the enticements of predatory populism, always an alluring siren song, ensnare the undiscerning electorate. Responsible community leadership must conquer both the gullibility of the undiscerning poor and the apathy of the comfortably secure. Today, we are faced with a similar circumstance. “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!” The liar is brother to the thief! Let it not be a redux.
I have always thought that had there been timely discoveries followed by immediate and vigorous ripostes to and exposés of Marcos’s outlandish lies, Diosdado Macapagal may have been reelected in 1965. Philippine society’s “influentials” who knew what Ferdinand Marcos was all about from day one, never having lifted a finger to expose, even abetted, the stealth of evil that Marcos was already in adept practice of, are themselves complicit in the emergence and triumph of malevolence in the land. On the other hand, reality dictates that permutations of “what might have been” will never boil a pot of rice! Hindsight is of course almost always right. But alas, also always too late! Nonetheless, hindsight provides guidance for the present and the future. It is hoped that this series contribute to the service of that objective.
Ferdinand E. Marcos is very well known for his penchant for numerology. Because his very much trumpeted lucky number was seven (or any number divisible by seven), let me amuse and attempt to edify you with a litany limited to seven instances of falsehoods. I must pause to say, however, that were this exposition written and published in the years of martial law, the consequence is inevitable. Arrest, jail time, torture and disappearance!
Lie Number One
Having been declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson as his “right hand man in Asia” during the Vietnam War, Ferdinand E. Marcos, then recently elected as President of the Philippines, was invited to address the Joint Meeting of the US Congress. (Joint Session is an occasion reserved for US Presidents) It was September 15, 1966. It is an event most probably remembered and celebrated by himself, while he lived and breathed, as the acme of Marcosian triumphalism over America. “Boy, have I got them in the palm of my hands,” Marcos may have devilishly snickered to himself. Old farts like me do remember that his political existence was tolerated, even enhanced by a series of American presidencies, who were either simply hoodwinked, did not know any better or pragmatically acceded to the need of a Marcos as useful to US foreign policy in Asia.
With dramatic stentorian delivery, as described by a historian niece of Imelda – the late Betsy Romualdez Francia – standing before the US Congress, “… Ferdinand related how he had shared a foxhole with a frightened American soldier in the last days of Bataan. The fellow who had been wounded by a sniper’s bullet, died in his arms …” So claimed and declamed Marcos.
That speech was met with bursts of applause 22 times, with Imelda up in the gallery given a three-minute standing ovation. (Pretty heady stuff, huh?) So reported a pampered and compliant Manila media, later recorded by historian Betsy. The US Congress was enraptured and upon President Johnson’s prodding, consented to additional foreign aid. Funding for the Cultural Center of Imelda was assured and in the bag. The Philippines went into deeper involvement with the war in Vietnam.
That speech was the most unrestrained concoction of a lie ever delivered shamelessly and with apparent well-studied ersatz conviction before a gathering of such an august body. The foxhole event recounted by Marcos simply did not happen! It was a fabrication. It could not have happened. It was an unparalleled sleight of tongue pulled off before the very eyes and ears of the Congress of the United States of America. And we all ate it up! Gullibility!
The records of Bataan indicate that Marcos served in an all-Filipino contingent, the 21st Infantry Division of the Philippine Commonwealth Army, under the command of Brig. Gen. Mateo Capinpin, occupying a specifically delineated area of combat operations exclusively reserved for Filipino soldiers. As a provisional 3rd lieutenant, Marcos reported directly to a Captain Ismael D. Lapus. The historical records of World War II on Bataan and Corregidor do not contain an instance whatsoever where an American troop was mixed up or intermingled with an all-Filipino unit or vice versa, in foxholes. Nor did the actual plans, placement and deployment of troops allow it, much less would US military protocol create an opportunity for the event of Marcos’s hallucination to have occurred.
Dramatic as it was in Marcos’s narration, that imagined scenario becomes very strangely odd. Why would Marcos fail to include that poignant act of compassion and heroism when he was dictating the writing of his once celebrated pseudo-biography, “For Every Tear a Victory.”
Evidently, that foxhole incident was an afterthought especially designed for use in that US Congress engagement. “For Every Tear a Victory” had already been published and used as his political biographical blockbuster (and its movie version, “Iginuhit ng Tadhana”), successfully parlayed in the elections a year before.
This correspondent is unable to produce a more succinctly encompassing description beyond calling Marcos’ performance before the US Congress that day as brazen. Please permit me this reasoned and justified vulgarity expressed in Sampaloc sidewalk patois: “Ang kapal ng apog!” The best that I can conjure in polite English is “unmitigated effrontery” or “industrial-strength chutzpah.”