Ermin braved Martial law’s guns
“The highest reward to a man’s toil is not what he gets from it, but what he becomes by it.” — John Ruskin
WE recall on Friday, September 21 – albeit grudgingly – the terror of Proclamation 1081 declaring in l972 the entire archipelago under Martial Law.
We recall, too, its” smiling face,” as its author, the late Bung Ferdinand, crafted it to be. It’s a play on words, of course, in fact a contradiction in terms, for how can a military rule smile?
Unfortunately, this columnist was one of the victims of Martial Law, having been clamped for 30 days in detention, first at the Pangasinan Command barracks and later in Camp Aquino, Tarlac.
What those 30 excruciatingly uncertain days impressed upon us was that after all, one man, assisted by his cohorts, could plot to destroy lives and institutions with one stroke.
Freedom, as we all know, is our very life. Martial Law killed it.
On our first day of detention, we heard about youthful publisher then, our Ermin Garcia Jr, braved martial law’s guns when he put out a special issue of the Sunday Punch secretly and distributed these with the help of some friends under the noses of the soldiers sent to stand guard at the Punch office. He was the last community journalist standing in Pangasinan.
Well, Ermin was not shot by a military bullet; he was merely “invited” as a ”guest” in Lingayen and slapped with a stern warning against doing any more “mis-steps.” He was eventually sent on “exile”, out of Pangasinan, by the PC commander who harbored a deep resentment towards him, as a condition to allow the Punch to continue publishing.
When we were released, thanks to God to whom we’d unceasingly prayed the hardest and to Ministers Jake Clave, Kit Tatad, PC Chief Fidel V. Ramos and then greenhorn Congressman Joe de Venecia for their efforts.
No, we didn’t hate Marcos. We pitied him for usurping God’s power to take away our freedom, our individual freedom and the nation’s freedom.
Before September 21, 1972, the country was practically in shambles. All the elements of collapse were ripe. The left, the right, the opposition – and ironically, the callous administration combined forces to push the country down. It was obvious the administration was doing a hara kiri to justify its imposition of Martial Law and continue to rule without elections.
How come Bung Ferdinand was able to do it against the Filipino millions? Because he had the dissenters, the leaders of the opposition and all the “contras” detained so that he could do his thing at will. He made Martial Law a smiling one, giving it a new name “ The New Society” and with it, have every sitio, every barangay throughout the archipelago looking lush with vegetation and sparklingly clean under Imelda’s Green Revolution and Beautification program.
To top it, being a brilliant student of history and mass psychology, he had the minds of Filipinos brainwashed thru the Department of Public Information and the National Media Production Center.
We remember – together with Rod Rivera – we, upon our release, were hired by the late Greg Cendana’s NMPC as a “ feature writer” (we begged off to do political writing).
It’s true, to a certain extent, Marcos scored a “breakthrough,” a certain success – but it didn’t last.
In 1986, he was deposed. His dream to carve a niche as the greatest Filipino that ever lived turned out to be a nightmare.
But members of his family, Sen. Bongbong, Rep. Imelda, Gov. Imee are still in the saddle but sans the imperial air they once had! This appearance of “success” is, to us, a grim reminder of the Filipinos’ unique pliant character. We, Pinoys, are a forgiving and forgetful lot.
Also, sadly, we, Filipinos, can be bought! Which is why in spite of our vast wealth, the Philippines is still in the doldrums!
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Local publishers headed by Manny Celso held a seminar last Friday to work things out to be true to their mandate.
We (because he named us adviser) advised him to make first his paper, the Country Mail, a model, to be followed by the rest.
We urged him and his officers to work things and erase the tag that provincial newspapers are politicians’ mouthpieces. A tough job, Manny. We could already hear him pleading, “give us a chance.” Good luck.
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NOTES: We felicitate our kin Melandrew T. Velasco on Martial law Day Sept. 21, his 48th birthday. Success driven, Mel is a well-known biographer of FVR’s family. He was a nationally recognized outstanding Rotarian. Congrats!