Why President Marcos declared martial law

Part Five

WHEN Enrile arrived home in Makati, Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda was on the telephone, informing him of the President’s wish that he should meet with the crowd at Agrifina Circle. “I told Secretary Maceda that I would not, and that should the President insist that I had to, the President would have my irrevocable resignation on his desk in the morning. President Marcos did not insist.”

Midnight of October 8, 1969, just over a month before the presidential election, 10 men were massacred on a deserted road between Capas, Tarlac, and the US naval radio station at Camp O’Donnell in Pampanga. The victims were civilian security guards of the radio station, except the driver of their transport vehicle.

The Liberal Party blamed the military for the massacre, and asked President Marcos to disband a paramilitary group called “Monkees”, who were identified with the Philippine Constabulary.

Four days later, on October 12, Alejandro Melchor, undersecretary in the Department of National Defense, asked me to join him and Chino Roces for a trip to the town of Tarlac to hear three alleged massacre survivors, who were with Max Llorente, a lawyer. Chino Roces was a part owner and publisher of the powerful and influential Manila Times, which at the time was the leading newspaper in the country.

“As I listened to the alleged survivors. I was struck by the similarities and flaws in their individual version of the event. I developed doubts in their veracity, but I kept the matter to myself. I invited them to go with me to Manila to make their sworn statements, but they declined. I assured them that the Department of Justice would protect them should they agree to become witnesses,” Enrile said.

In the afternoon of the following day, the alleged survivors with their lawyer, Llorente, arrived onboard two private planes at the Hacienda Luisita hangar in the domestic airport in Pasay City. Sen. Benigno Aquino and the media with their television cameras met them. Senator Aquino also invited me to be there.

With great fanfare in front of a big crowd at the Hacienda Luisita hangar, Aquino demanded the arrest of Geronimo Foronda—a man alleged to have flagged down the vehicle carrying the massacre victims before they were gunned down by five fatigue uniformed men. He also demanded the ouster of the Philippine Constabulary men in the province of Tarlac.

“Senator Aquino turned over to me the alleged survivors as his witnesses to the massacre. I received them and kept them onboard a Philippine Navy ship with my instruction to the naval commander never to allow anyone to see them without my written permission, except their lawyer and next of kin,” Enrile said.

Meanwhile, the NBI arrested Serafin Agustin and Jose Santos for interrogation. During a lineup at the NBI compound on Taft Avenue in Manila, the three alleged survivors—Hernandez, Lakandula and Belmes—readily identified Agustin and Santos as among the perpetrators of the massacre.

According to Enrile, he was not satisfied with the result of the investigation. “My doubt regarding the veracity of the alleged survivors still lingered. To avoid an injustice and to satisfy myself, I ordered the NBI to conduct a polygraph or lie-detector test on the alleged survivors and on the two arrested suspects, Agustin and Santos.”

The result of the lie-detector test confirmed Enrile’s suspicion. The three alleged survivors turned out to be false witnesses, while Agustin, Santos and Foronda were found innocent.

Enrile met Alejandro Melchor and Chino Roces at the Manila Yacht Club and informed them about the result of the lie-detector test. “Both were shocked and speechless with disbelief. We hurriedly called Senator Aquino who was in the Senate and informed him about the result of the polygraph test. He disclaimed knowledge of the falsity of the witnesses. He simply and curtly said, “Bahala na kayo diyan!”

To be concluded

To reach the writer, e-mail cecilio.arillo@gmail.com.

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