I was taken aback and still cannot believe what I heard. The chief enforcer of martial law during the Marcos dictatorial regime, then Major. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, has issued a warning against abuses of the military under incumbent Pres. Rodrigo Duterte!
More than 40 years had elapsed since Marcos placed the entire country under martial law. FVR redeemed himself with that iconic leap in a makeup stage at EDSA. The nation put all the blame on the sick and debilitated Ferdinand Marcos, forgot and forgave the chief centurions of the martial law regime and proceeded to even elect FVR President.
How can I ever forget that era. I was in my prime with many simple dreams. Eight of us in RMN-IBC 13 Davao were terminated to include a radio technician who cannot even swat a fly. Three months later, I got reinstated for reason I was as ignorant as when I was given my walking paper. But it was like a sick joke because when crony Roberto Benedicto took control of TV-13 I was among those who were terminated for good.
I laughed it off even as some of my friends wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole because I was terminated on orders of Camp Crame. I had a weekly newspaper, the Davao Chronicle, which gave me a modest income. Because I concentrated on the weekly publication and getting help from cousin Joe Ledesma and a jobless friend Romy Torres (both have gone to the great beyond) we decided to increase our publication to twice weekly and shift from letterpress to offset printing.
I took another job, managing a telecom firm, to augment my income while Joe and Romy were minding the paper.
But our little success was brief. Four months after increasing the frequency of our publication then Davao City Police Chief Col. Isidro Gatmaitan, who is a friend actually, knocked on my door to serve me an order from Gen. Hans Menzi directing me to cease publication. He pleaded to me to comply because he warned me of consequences that would happen to both of us. My world collapsed but not my spirit. I survived the martial law under Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos. Our fault? Failure to inform the authority that we increased the frequency of our publication. Ridiculous isn’t it?
But that is my story. So what is it that others had suffered during the aegis of martial rule when FVR was the chief centurions? Our history is replete with gory accounts I need not repeat them here. The morbid narratives must still be haunting FVR he warned that Duterte’s decision to place Mindanao under martial law is more harmful…than when he was the chief enforcer? The morbidities still stuck in him as his unlit cigar and lensless spectacles do to date. He just cannot do away with the fact that we now have a President, a Defense Secretary, a Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Chief of the Philippine National Police that are of different molds from those when they ran the country 40 years ago. Sadly, the aging ex-President and former soldier failed to realize that the world today is facing a new hostile enemy, the terrorists, who use different methods of warfare that were never discussed in West Point and so different from his glory days at PEFTOK in Korea and Philcag in South Vietnam.
Forty years ago, Mindanaoans, just like the rest of Visayas and Luzon, cowered in fear during the length of martial law regime. Today, we celebrate. The beastly Maute terrorists attacked Marawi decapitating Muslims and Christians alike, burning schools and hospitals. The Mautes had made successful test missions in many places in Mindanao including Davao City, home of President Duterte.
Martial Law had to be imposed in Mindanao because they proved to be furtive and mercilessly cruel in carrying out their missions. The Davao night market bombing on September 2, 2016, 14 innocent people many of them vendors, were killed. For those who oppose martial law in Mindanao, we are sorry for you. This is for our security.
The political opposition, the usual garrulous street parliamentarians and ignoramuses in the UP Campus quickly denounced President Duterte’s decision to impose martial law. Some of them, as if in kneejerk reaction, asked snidely where is Duterte while Marawi is burning? They didn’t know that while the President was in Russia he already declared martial law, cut his trip and before the din of condemnation settled, Duterte had come home and was personally on top of the situation.
It sickens me to listen to FVR quickly denouncing the man he thought he made President. He even branded the state visit of Duterte to Russia as plain “junket”. He forgot that during his term he toured all the beautiful cities of the West so often we stopped counting. His was a classic example of what junket is for what he had achieved in those journeys is not even a tenth of what Duterte had achieved in less than 100 days. But Metro Manilans were kind to him they spared him of their spite. After all he restored power in the National Capital Region,(never mind if it was and still is one of the most expensive in Asia) which had suffered 8-hour power blackout towards the end of the reign of his predecessor, the one the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines wants sainted.
FVR must have tutored his protégé well. And Digong, aside from his rape joke, would refer to him as the man who made him President. Duterte even made him a special envoy to Beijing to establish a new beachhead of diplomacy in the strained relationship between China and the Philippines courtesy of slapdash and sophomoric governance of Noynoy Aquino. But FVR went home empty handed. Instead of going to Beijing he took the shorter route and talk to officials in the special region of Hong Kong instead. So what can one expect?
With these as a background, how can FVR and the rest of the incurable critics of Duterte, be in the forefront of those who peddle fear and despair in the midst of this challenging time? Just asking.
(Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)