Sept. 21 a lie; a tale of 3 Mrs. Saguisags | Inquirer News

Sept. 21 a lie; a tale of 3 Mrs. Saguisags

/ 03:19 AM September 28, 2014

Freedom-LOGO21The Marcosian super mumbo-jumbo that Proclamation No. 1081 descended upon the land on Sept. 21, 1972, has roped in many believers. In fact, it was on Sept. 23.

Sept. 21 was in fact just another day in the office, which to me was partly at San Beda College. There I headed its Free Legal Aid Clinic, which I had co-founded with the college rector, Fr. Bobby Perez, and law dean, Constitutional Convention delegate Feliciano Jover Ledesma, who was kept so busy in that body, I was virtually running the law school as prefect.

I had signed a contract with Ayala Corp. in January 1971, having been recruited in California by Joe McMicking, the architect and visionary of Makati, and Mario Camacho (who as an alumnus later headed the San Beda College board of trustees).


My kind of people


From my Ayala Avenue office, I hitched a ride with Bedan lawyer Jose “Danny” Ong (who would become the internal revenue chief of President Cory Aquino) to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) office in Manila.

When we got to Taft Avenue and Padre Faura Street, I saw Roger Rayala, an Ateneo Law alum and party animal, leading a march of the masa. I said “Danny, I am getting off here, to join my kind of people.”

The week before Sept. 23, Sonia and Raul Roco, and my Dulce [The author’s late wife —Ed.] and me, were in Camp Crame, to attend to the needs of newly arrested detained activists. My Dulce was eight months preggy with our firstborn. Rene (after me) Andrei (after a Soviet dissident) came on Oct. 20 and was promptly nicknamed Rebo!

First case

My first case after martial law involved the son of a military officer. The father came to see me at my apartment in Sandejas, Pasay, pleading that I help his son who had been charged with a national security offense. In late November, I had him plead guilty but asked that sentencing be done between Christmas and New Year (when people’s hearts are warm and gentle).

Puzzled by the sentence meted out by the judge, I asked permission for the fiscal and I to approach the bench, which was granted. “Your Honor, tila po mababa pa sa lowest permissible penalty ang iginawad ninyo (it looks like you are imposing an even lower sentence than the lowest possible penalty).” He asked dismissively: “Bakit, a-appeal ka ba? (Why, do you intend to appeal?)” That was the human side of Judge Victorino Savellano.


Then I got to meet Jojo Binay, my San Beda classmate Boy Ella, et al., who were then teaching at the progressive Dr. Nemesio Prudente’s Philippine College of Commerce. They had formed Lupon ng Manananggol ng Bansa (Lumaban). Nang umiral ang walang habag na batas militar (when the pitiless martial law came into force), it became more like Lumabo (uncertain). Its members later resurfaced in the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity & Nationalism Inc. (Mabini). FLAG remains active with younger blood while Mabini has only two young recruits (Jojobama’s Abby and my Rebo) and is now seen as Ma-Binay.

Resist! Resist!

Seriously, we followed our honorary chair Tanny Tañada’s counsel, “Resist! Resist! Resist!” And we did, from the mountain fastnesses of Isabela to Kidapawan, where I assisted FLAG’s Greg Andolana and the late Sol Jubillan, in prosecuting the Manero brothers who killed Fr. Tullio Favali.

Our star lead prosecutor was the Department of Justice’s able Tirso Velasco, who also prosecuted the killers of Evelio Javier. Judge Tirso later became my ballroom-dancing mate, along with Col. Marciano Bacalla, the law member of the military commission which tried the Light-A-Fire accused, led by Ed Olaguer.

REUNION of women writers andMabini lawyers: (Standing, from left) Jo-Anne Maglipon, Fulgencio Factoran, Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag, Marites Vitug; (seated from left) Neni SR Cruz,Marra Lanot, Sylvia Mayuga, Ceres Doyo and Rochit Tañedo. PHOTOCOURTESY OF CERESDOYO

REUNION of women writers andMabini lawyers: (Standing, from left) Jo-Anne Maglipon, Fulgencio Factoran, Joker Arroyo, Rene Saguisag, Marites Vitug; (seated from left) Neni SR Cruz,Marra Lanot, Sylvia Mayuga, Ceres Doyo and Rochit Tañedo. PHOTO COURTESY OF CERESDOYO

Asked to enter a plea at the Camp Aguinaldo hearing of the case, Ed said: “Gentlemen of this tribunal, I have taken up arms against this corrupt and illegitimate dictatorship!” The members of commission nearly fell off their chairs.

I recall that only Sister Christine Tan and Barbara Paredes would attend the Aguinaldo hearings.

With legal advisers like Tanny Tañada, Pepe Diokno, Jun Factoran, Jojo Binay, Rene Sarmiento, Bobby Tañada and Joker Arroyo, nothing would surprise me about Light-A-Fire.


Although I had met Joker in 1978 in the Laban campaign in Metro Manila, when he, along with Tanny, Tito Guingona, Soc Rodrigo, Ernie Rondon and hundreds of others were arrested, we were not really close. It was only after I used “transmogrify” in a Light-A-Fire hearing that he became a fan.

The case is known as Olaguer v. Military Commission No. 34, 150 SCRA 144 (1987). Bing Padilla defended Otto Jimenez, and Jake Misa defended sister Ester, so there were at least two attorneys whose heads were properly and tightly screwed on.

In Babst v. National Intelligence Board, 132 SCRA 316 (1984), we weirdos represented Arlene Babst, Odette Alcantara, Ceres Doyo, Jo-Ann Maglipon, Domini Torrevillas, Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, Cielo Buenaventura, Sylvia Mayuga and Sheila Coronel.

Gutsy Eggie

Eggie Apostol has written here (PDI, Sept. 23, 2014) about her experience of being called by the NIB. She attended the Supreme Court hearing. I was then writing for her Mr. & Ms. magazine. One tough, gutsy Eggie.

Early on, I had signed Uncle Jovy’s (Salonga) Message of Hope, which Dean Raul Pangalangan, then a University of the Philippines (UP) law stude, would write about from time to time. In Pasig, I edited the IBP-Rizal chapter newsletter. The chapter head was the late super-lawyer bar topnotcher Joe Balajadia, who told me that our newsletter had been described by retired Justice JBL (for Jose Benedicto Luna) Reyes as the country’s only free paper during that early dangerous time.

During the Laban free press period, I edited Malayang Pilipinas, on which Ninoy Aquino would advise, through Uncle Jovy, and also the Mabini newsletter.

Tanny described the 1978 Laban effort, when he was general campaign manager, as a “mad adventure.” The 7-year-old Kris, the Ninoy among the kids, starred in the hustings then.

No one is safe

After Ninoy was salvaged on Aug. 21, 1983, the people felt that if the regime could do it to Ninoy, no one was safe. So the regular rallies became a commonplace all over the land. In Davao, I would march with gutsy Tita Chuling Duterte, the amazing mother of Bedan alum Rudy, perceived to have his own private population program, on which, if true, we are simply fated never to understand each other. Martial law did not believe in due process either.

Mayor Fred Lim was on the other side during martial law but changed just in time during Edsa 1986 to side with the people. In 1989, we were dining at Arlegui (the presidential residence) and Prez Cory very mildly complained about someone. “Is he really bothering you, Ma’m?” the then NBI head honcho Fred Lim asked. Said she quickly: “No, Fred, no, no!” We could not ourselves be doing what we complained about during the pre-Edsa ’86 years.

No, I wasn’t ABC’ed (thrown into Aguinaldo, Bonifacio or Crame). I did call Macoy a “super-subversive” in open court during the We Forum trial. I refused to apologize, telling the court I was so advised by my colleagues, but “two, three days in jail? A very low price to pay, Your Honor, for the high privilege of sharing the suffering of our unhappy Motherland.” So I became a Batang City Jail candidate-member in Quezon City.

RENE SAGUISAG: Only the tip to the tip of the iceberg. CERES DOYO

RENE SAGUISAG: Only the tip to the tip of the iceberg. CERES DOYO

Women with balls

Earlier, in the same case, I commented that the court was getting militarized, given the presence of so many soldiers led by General Dimaya. “I hereby fine you, Attorney Saguisag, P50!” I pulled out a hundred-peso bill and said: “I’d gladly pay it, Your Honor, can I say something more for another P50?” He changed the subject.

We can laugh now but not then. My ever-loving wife, Dulce, at work at the social welfare department where she had started as a teenager (No. 3 in the board), could only visit me in jail that night but had a hard time getting in. “Ma’m, dalawa na pong Mrs. Saguisag ang pinayagan namin (We already allowed in two Mrs. Saguisags.)” Enterprising Arlene Babst and Ninez Cacho-Olivares, who could not have been my wives even were I a Muslim. Along with Ka Celing Muñoz Palma and Letty Magsanoc, they had balls.

At one meeting in Eva Kalaw’s house, we machos talked. Impatiently, she and Tecla San Andres-Ziga berated us, “Kayong mga lalaki, wala nang ginawa kundi dada ng dada. (Men, all you do is talk.)”

Aray! The way one lawyer on nationwide TV should have pronounced awry. (Panginoong Joker, take note.)

Spirit of Edsa

I am grateful to martial law for making me prominent enough to be able to win a senatorial election without spending a single centavo of my own in 1987 when the people were still asking what they could do for the country and not the other way around. Diwa ng Edsa ’86. (The spirit of Edsa ’86.)

And Joker owes me for filling in a gap in his Ateneo and UP English education.

For the record, we human rights lawyers did not lose a single case where we really fought. Many of us got jailed. Not a good recommendation when we got convicted or detained ahead of our clients. Utakan lang (a matter of cunning or ingenuity). Indeed, a lawyer charged in the We Forum case was able to avoid arrest by claiming that he was in the hospital for minor surgery, something done at birth or in one’s early teenage years: circumcision.

When Raul Daza was arraigned, straight from the airport, he was asked how he would plead, “guilty or not guilty.” He said: “Guilty.” We had to ask Judge Ortiz to allow us to change the plea of the Dazed Daza. A lie? A case of Churchillian terminological inexactitude? But, it was our patriotic duty to subvert.

Here, I narrate only the tip to the tip of the iceberg.


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How much do we know about martial law? You’ll be surprised

TAGS: Ayala Corp., Boy Ella, Camp Crame, Flag, jojo binay, Lumaban, Mabini, Marcos, Martial law, Raul Roco, Rene Saguisag, San Beda, Sonia Roco, Sylvia Mayuga

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