I saw history in the making (5)

THE principal beneficiary of Edsa 1 was President Cory Aquino, although she was never there. In fact, she only made it as far as the corner of Ortigas and Edsa before hiding at the Pink Sisters' Convent in Quezon City during those turbulent days. She was made president after Marcos and his family were taken into a helicopter to Clark, and then to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Those were the days when the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement) tried to topple the revolutionary government of Cory Aquino nine times. It was also a time when no less than 300 corporations, where the First Couple was suspected to have interest, were sequestered by rapacious "fiscal agents" appointed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government headed by the late Senate President Jovito Salonga. It was also a time when President Cory appointed heads of local governments.

In 1987, President Cory named her own delegates to a Constitutional Convention to amend the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. The result was a charter that was reactionary to the 17 years of the Marcos regime, 14 years of which were under Martial Law.

Cory tried to erase everything that reminded the people of Marcos and Imelda, mothballing the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan that could have prevented the "dark ages" after her regime. At that time, residents of Luzon, principally in Metro Manila, suffered 10 to 12 hours of blackouts every day.

Just to show the communist insurgents that she was their friend, Mrs. Aquino granted amnesty to all of them. They surfaced as left-leaning party-list candidates for Congress under the Cory Constitution.

Santa Banana, Cory even sent the late Butch Aquino and former Senate President Nene Pimentel to Egypt to ferry Nur Misuari back home. This eventually led to the resurgence of the separatist Muslim movement, led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which broke away from the MNLF. My gulay, those were the years of recrimination and vindictiveness. These seem to be trademarks of the Aquino presidencies.

There was an attempt to recover the alleged hidden wealth of the Marcoses in an operation called "Operation Big Bird," conceived by investment banker Michael de Guzman and then-Brig. Gen. Jose Almonte. Some $7 billion were identified in some Swiss banks and in other hidden wealth havens, but the operation was aborted by Salonga and Solicitor General Sedfrey OrdoAez because they were afraid that the recovered wealth would be stolen. This had no basis in fact and the late Vice President Salvador Laurel called it the "biggest failure" of Mrs. Aquino.

Space constraints prevent me from citing more instances of Cory's failure, which disappointed the large segment of the nation that expected much from her.

When President Fidel V. Ramos came to power, he had to use emergency powers to end the blackouts by securing electric barges from abroad.

If Ramos must be remembered for his presidency, he was instrumental in the privatization of the American-owned PLDT, the privatization of Philippine National Bank and the government-controlled Philippine Airlines, the entry of foreign banks and foreign insurance corporations, the privatization of Nawasa and Meralco and the mass transit system. Ramos was also instrumental in the Jakarta Peace Agreement of 1996 with Nur Misuari's MNLF.

I recall that during the campaign period of Ramos, I was a member of the so-called "Wednesday Club," with Rosemarie "Baby" Arenas as the congenial hostess. My fellow regulars were former Chief Justice Art Panganiban, Tony Carpio, Joe Almonte, Pancho Villaraza, Avelino "Nonong" Cruz and others I can no longer remember.

Soon after Ramos became President, this "Wednesday Club" became some kind of a power club outside MalacaAang. Santa Banana, would you believe that soon after Ramos became president, he asked me to become his press secretary? I declined, and I pointed to veteran newsman Rod Reyes. It was the second time I was offered that position. The first time was during the Marcos regime and the third time was during the presidency of Joseph Estrada.

I also recall that during the state visit of Ramos to Moscow, I had an idea of make the business delegation (of which I was a member) relevant. The group would accompany Ramos and other presidents after him to attract foreign investments. Ramos caught on the idea and called it "Team Philippines," which has been renamed Philippine Inc. now headed by Tonyboy Cojuangco as chairman and Tony Lopa as president. Both are cousins of President Aquino.

After Edsa 1, there was a falling out between President Ramos and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. I must now say I was instrumental in having the two meet at Mandarin Hotel to smooth things out. Now, they are the best of friends.

When my former Ateneo High School student, Estrada, became President in 1998, he also asked me to be press secretary. Again, I declined. My gulay, I cannot imagine myself in government kowtowing to the whims and caprices of a president. But I was glad that my former student, whom I taught while he was still in his short pants, became chief executive.

To some extent, I contributed to the victory of Erap against then-Speaker Joe de Venecia. Jointly also with my former student, Reli German, a former classmate of Erap, we compiled all the Erap jokes in one book called "Eraption." It became an instant hit.

Estrada's presidency, however, lasted only for two and a half years. He was impeached and tried. The Sandiganbayan Special Court later convicted him of plunder, but he was pardoned by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Estrada was vindicated when his wife, Loi Estrada, and his sons JV and Jinggoy also became senators. Erap himself became mayor of Manila and is now running for reelection.

When President Gloria came to power, I recall being approached by former presidential legal counsel Nonong Cruz, who later on became secretary of national defense, that Gloria wanted to see me. When I had that one-on-one meeting with Gloria, she asked me if I could also support her. I told her that when I thought she was doing right, I would, but when I consider her doing wrong, I would not. That was good enough for her.

Among all the presidents I have known, Gloria was the most hardworking of them all. I knew for a fact that members of her Cabinet would not go to sleep until after past midnight because she would call them in wee hours. When I asked her how she could visit three places nationwide in one day, she told me: "time management."

When the so-called Hyatt 10 broke away, triggered by the "Hello Garci" call of Gloria, I supported her. All the Hyatt 10 wanted was to remain in power with a president they could manipulate. Fortunately, De Castro declined the offer. Well, they are still in power under BS Aquino. I think they are opportunists and hypocrites.

In 2010 when BS Aquino was catapulted to power, vindictiveness ruled the land. Aquino used Gloria as the poster child for his "Daang Matuwid" and his "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap" slogans. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was made the same.

Arroyo was accused of plunder and economic sabotage and has spent almost three years under hospital detention. Corona, on the other hand, was impeached, convicted and ousted for not stating in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities Net Worth his peso and dollar accounts. This is not an impeachable offense-but that's BS Aquino for you.

Having walked the corridors of power since the early fifties, I would consider BS Aquino the worst President, and his administration the worst one. It has the highest number of incompetent and insensitive officials. Aquino refuses to fire them despite everything. I can name them-Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Naia general manager Jose Angel Honrado, an Aquino relative, Proceso Alcala, and Butch Abad.

BS Aquino's abuse and misuse of people's money is already history. His mishandling of, ultimate liability and culpability for the Mamasapano massacre is the ultimate testament to his incompetence, lack of compassion and insensitivity to the plight of the poor.

Daang Matuwid, which Mar Roxas intones nationwide in his campaign for the presidency, is hypocritical. It applies only to Aquino's political enemies, but not to his KKK-"kaklase, kabarilan and kapartido."

Now, we have starving farmers killed by the police when BS Aquino could just have had the National Food Authority Warehouse opened for them. Both Cory and BS Aquino are known for shooting innocent protesters-the Mendiola massacre, the Hacienda Luisita massacre, and now the Kidapawan massacre.

Source: The Standard

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