Thursday, August 21, 2008

25 years ago


Found this on Wikipedia and thought I'd put it up. (Post antedated as I was down with a virus yesterday.)

In related news, Ricky Carandang's interview with Steve Psinakis was quite insightful, both in terms of the Ninoy Aquino the Man and Ninoy Aquino the Political Strategist.

The real kicker was the tape-recorded last conversation between Aquino and Psinakis: apparently, Aquino had already lined up the ducks, so to speak, with the other leaders of ASEAN prior to his return to the Philippines. The motivation was the poor health of Ferdinand Marcos (who would actually live on for another three years) and the possibility of takeover by Imelda, a prospect not welcomed by other ASEAN leaders.

Take it for what it's worth: all references to Imelda Marcos were under "The Woman."

The interview is also a reminder of why Marcos lasted as long as he did. For all his nationalist rhetoric, he was America's golden boy. As per Psinakis, it was in the United States' interest to keep him in power in order to maintain the US bases. Ninoy Aquino, a more independent thinker, was less controllable. This is something to think about in light of recent US interference in Mindanao.

Ninoy Aquino did have an inkling that he would be assassinated as soon as he landed. He mentioned that explicitly in the taped conversation. That was one of the three possibilities he considered. He was aware of the risk; hence, the bulletproof vest.

His hope, though, was that he would merely be sent to prison. Even incommunicado, his arrangements with the Nakasone, Suharto, and other ASEAN leaders would eventually lead to negotiations. Aquino was quite optimistic that Marcos would be more pliant since the dictator was already at death's door. What he was less sure of were the parties around Marcos, who might take a more hardline stance.

Here is an excerpt of the last conversation, taken from an article by Amando Doronila in the Asia News Network.

Aquino: Now this is the latest Steve that I can give you, my source is Cardinal (Jaime) Sin. Number one: Marcos checked in at the Kidney Centre... He flunked all the tests and the conclusion was, if they operate on him, it would be fatal. So he went back to the palace. He is no longer responding to medication and he will have to be hooked up on the dialysis machine now more often.

How he will last with that machine on, I don’t know. Apparently, they are now moving to put Imelda in effective control. And they are going to revamp the Cabinet, with most probably Bobby Ongpin as prime minister and finance minister; Ayala, agriculture minister; Danding Cojuangco, defence minister; O.D. Corpuz, foreign minister.

I don’t know. But there is a major shakeup. Marcos met with his generals and apparently said goodbye to them last Friday. He was on television in Manila 24 hours ago, commenting on the boxing of Navarette and Talbot to show the people he is OK.

But it’s a matter of time, so he wanted three weeks to collect his thoughts, write his memoirs, complete his book and most probably craft the final stages of his administration. He is now on terminal. He knows he’s going and that’s the background that I’m coming in.

Psinakis: If he is going and he knows it, he might show some compassion for the country, and treat your return with more pragmatic...

Aquino: Yes.

Psinakis: That’s the good part. The bad part maybe is that the hardliners like (Gen Fabian) Ver who are without any political savvy, who may think they’re next in line. Obviously such people will look at your return without too much kindness...

Aquino: Well, there are two reports I received along that line. If they pinpoint the plane I am coming in, the rumour in Manila is that I am taking the private jet of Enrique Zobel from Hong Kong, but all planes have been guarded and they may close the airport on Sunday or turn back the plane if they will be able to pinpoint on which plane I am coming in. The third one, and this is really iffy, they have two guys stationed to knock me out at the airport and they will try them for murder, they will convict them but they have assurances.

Those are the things that I have been alerted to. I don’t know what options they will do now but I am meeting with Asean leaders beginning Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday... Now, Japan has sent word that if Imelda is in place, (prime minister) Nakasone is willing to use his economic clout ... to tell Imelda that if you treat Aquino nicely, we can dialogue.

Nakasone is willing to send a private envoy... with a personal letter making a plea for, if I am still alive and in prison, that if they will treat me gently and come up with some kind of an understanding, Japanese economic assistance will continue because they are very uptight and if the woman takes over and there will be chaos, you know, that will be chaos.

Asean today is already one region and any instability in one part of Asean will scare investors. That’s why they are very uptight about the possibility of chaos and instability in the Philippines with Imelda. Now to what extent they will be able to mitigate the hardliners, I don’t know. That’s the chance we have to take. If I survive and I get to prison and I am there in a week’s time, I can start the works going.

Those are the trump card I am bringing home, which of course, can be negated if one character can blow me out. There’s no doubt now. If I get into my prison, there’s no doubt how like 100 per cent I will be brought directly to prison, I may not even get a chance to talk to anybody on the ground.

But that’s okay. As long as I am alive and in prison, I can start using my trump cards. I will try to hold out for a meeting with Marcos. Now that he is about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something, although the cardinal now tells me that if you think you can sell Marcos a bill of goods, forget it, you’re dreaming.

Psinakis: Any indication from the US side that they might be somewhat helpful or cooperative or absolutely nothing?

Aquino: No indication except that they are watching me and they are following all my steps.