Heroes and villains
To celebrate the death anniversary of Katipunan supremo Andres Bonifacio, the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) honored 14 persons who died during the dark days of the Marcos martial law regime.
Except for two, I have no quarrel with the organizers of “Bantayog” on the rest of the honorees.
The deaths of the two supposed honorees, Norberto Acebedo Jr. (1958-1985) and Amada Alvarez (1950-1989), cannot be considered martyrdom.
Acebedo was a student activist who died in a military encounter in Compostela Valley, according to Bantayog.
Alvarez, who graduated cum laude in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas, died in a firefight with the military, also according to Bantayog.
From the looks of it, Acebedo and Alvarez joined the New People’s Army (NPA), whose aim is to topple the government.
To make Acebedo and Alvarez heroes or martyrs would be to make villains of the military troops who killed them in the legitimate encounters.
That would be very unfair to the soldiers who were defending the government they thought stood for freedom and democracy.
Why would Bantayog honor persons who were members of the NPA, an outlaw group in the eyes of the government?
It’s just like making a martyr of Abu Sabaya, one of the flamboyant leaders of the Abu Sayyaf who was killed by government troops.
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I do not mean to desecrate the memory of Alvarez and Acebedo, who were apparently idealistic young people.
They were swayed by the NPA’s offer of a utopian society.
I understand them because, to tell the truth, I also wanted to join the NPA in the early 1970s as a young man.
Only my being the son of my father, a retired colonel of the defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), whom I admired and adored so much, prevented me from doing so.
I would not be here today writing this column had I joined the NPA.
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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Metro Manila was wracked by bombings perpetrated by US-based Filipinos who wanted to topple the Marcos regime.
Would the Bantayog ng mga Bayani also honor those Filipinos who placed bombs in public places to scare the wits out of the dictator Marcos?
Those bombs killed at least one foreigner (from my recollection as a police reporter at that time) and injured many others, including singer Nonoy Zuñiga.
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I was at Philippine Plaza Hotel (now Hotel Sofitel) minutes after a bomb exploded inside the restroom at the hotel’s ground floor.
I was a police reporter for the then Bulletin Today (now the Manila Daily Bulletin).
I saw how the bomb wrought mayhem on innocent people.
I was able to get inside the bombed restroom and found a wallet that belonged to Zuñiga which I returned to him at his hospital bed. But that’s another story.
Although I hated Marcos like other journalists for taking away our freedom of expression, I could not understand why his enemies would harm innocent people in order to send him a message.
Most of Marcos’ enemies who took part in the plot to sow terror in Metro Manila at the time became prominent during the administration of President Cory.
If you ask me, I would not consider them heroes even if their intention was to topple a dictatorship.
A terrorist by any other name—such as freedom fighter—is still a terrorist if they harm innocent people.
The means certainly does not justify the end.