Friday, September 25, 2015

The Story of Primitivo "Tibo" Mijares (Part2)

Rendezvous with history

Mijares started off on the right foot upon his arrival in San Francisco. There, he secretly contacted the Philippine News editor Alex Esclamado and told him about his forthcoming defection from the Marcos government. In a matter of time, anti-Marcos activist Steve Psinakis joined the fray, and together they outlined a plan in preparation for Mijares’ explosive somersault. On February 20, 1975, Mijares finally made his rendezvous with history. He announced, through a press conference in San Francisco, that he was renouncing his former way of life, and that he was formally defecting from the martial law regime of the ruling duumvirate. The “conjugal dictators” got further kicking when Mijares castigated Marcos and pointedly explained how he planned the imposition of martial law because he never intended to relinquish power since day one. Naturally the American press loved such tales. And from there, Mijares’ story blew out of the water. The buck would have stopped there, but as it was, Mijares got an invitation to appear as star witness for the Congressional House International Relations subcommittee chaired by Congressman Donald Fraser (D-Minn.). This move sealed Mijares’ fate.

Malacanang was rattled. Obviously, this one-time press censor chief knew too much, and so Marcos’ thugs frantically sought to prevent his appearance before the U.S. Congress. At that time, the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP) headed by Raul Manglapus was lobbying against U.S. economic and military assistance to the Philippines. By allowing Mijares to testify on the human rights violations and other abuses would result in a reduction of American support for the dictatorship. The cover-up was now in full swing.

First bribe attempt

Based on Mijares’ affidavit, as recounted in his book Conjugal Dictatorship, a phone conversation detailing the first bribe offer allegedly took place on the night of June 16, 1975, a day before his scheduled appearance in the Fraser committee. By then, he was already in a downtown motel somewhere in Washington when he received the call from Manila. Surprisingly, on the other end of the line was his good friend Secretary Guillermo De Vega. By Mijares’ account, here’s what happened.

SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Tibo, gusto kang makausap ni Sir.”

PRESIDENT MARCOS: “Tibo, puede bang huwag ka ng sumipot sa Komiteng yan? Alam mo, marami na tayong prublema dito. Baka madagdagan mo pa. Mabuti pa at bumalik ka na agad sa San Francisco.

MIJARES: “But sir, there is no way I can back out now. I have already placed myself under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee.”

PRESIDENT MARCOS: “Here is Gimo (Secretary De Vega) and he has something to tell you.” (Then transferring the telephone to Secretary De Vega.)

SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Tibo, bumatsi ka na dyan and Trining will arrange for you ‘cinquenta’ in San Francisco.”

MIJARES: “Mogs, (a nickname I use in addressing Secretary De Vega) hindi na puede. Nasabi ko na sa Komite na nandito na ako sa Washington. I have to testify.

SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Yung figure ay libo. And you will get another Fifty when you leave the United States. Since you may not want to come home to Manila, you may want to go to Australia to be with your sister. Will send you another Fifty upon your arrival there.

MIJARES: “Salamat na lang, Mogs. Pero inde kita puedeng mapagbigyan.

SECRETARY DE VEGA: I will not accept your negative answer now. Pagaralan mong mabuti iyan, Tibo. You know very well that, if you testify that would mean a Declaration of War on your part against us here.” (Italics mine)

MIJARES: “I realize that, and you can be sure I will act accordingly, Goodbye, Doc.”

SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Sigue na, Tibo. Take care of yourself. Trining (Ambassador Trinidad Alconel) will contact you.

As the story goes, the “cinquenta” had already been deposited in a San Francisco branch of Lloyds bank of California in the names of Mijares and Ambassador Trinidad “Trining” Alconel, Philippines’ consul general in San Francisco. To ensure that Mijares could not withdraw the money on his own, Alconel instead opened a joint account in their names.

The next day, two hours before he took the witness chair, Mijares received another call from Alconel imploring him not to testify and that the money would be on hand in San Francisco. But Marcos’ former confidant stood firm, and declined the offer.

Appointment with history

Mijares didn’t have to spell it out: he had the ammunitions to destroy Marcos. “Let me trace the origin and pattern of this new tyranny in Asia,” Mijares told the panel in his opening remarks on the day of his appearance before the Fraser committee. In Sterling Seagrave’s well-documented book titled, “The Marcos Dynasty,” (1988), Mijares was said to have emitted a torrent of scorching words against Mr. Marcos and his New Society during the hearing, to wit:

…the reasons used by Marcos in imposing martial law were deliberately manufactured…with a series of deliberately contrived crises…Marcos made the people lapse into a state of paralysis…Then he wove a labored tale of national horror which eventually enshrined as a gospel of truth in the martial law proclamation…Marcos plotted to place his country under martial law as early as 1966, having decided then that he would win a reelection in 1969 “at all cost.”

…Having proclaimed martial law, he proceeded to bribe, coerce, and/or intimidate the Constitutional Convention members into drafting a new charter dictated by him.
A dictatorial regime as it is, the martial law government of Marcos has become all the more oppressive and corrupt in view of the meddling of his wife who has turned martial regime into a conjugal dictatorship.

Aside from plundering an entire nation, the conjugal dictatorship is likewise misappropriating the various items of U.S. assistance (military, economic, cultural, etc.) to the Philippines to entrench itself in power and for personal glorification.

Second bribe attempt

Reaching the point of no return after hitting the spotlight, Mijares filed a formal request with the U.S. government for political asylum. With all this going on, Mijares kept his lines ostensibly open for more negotiations with Malacanang. Just hours after he testified in the Fraser committee, another call came in: the hush money had just been doubled. He then placed a call to Malacanang to confirm about it— directly from the horse’s mouth. Gimo de Vega confirmed the $100,000 bribe only if Mijares would recant his testimony and not to publish the book he was writing. “Look Gimo,” Mijares said after the usual pleasantries, “I am willing to leave the United States and stop publication of the book, but the $100,000 offer is not worth it. I expect to make more than that just from the publication of my book. I am willing to accept $250, 000.” Unknown to De Vega, the whole thing was a set up. Much earlier, Mijares and Psinakis sought the help of a journalist from Washington and told him that they wanted someone, a credible independent party, to witness the conversation. And so a California lawyer was sent in to join them. Unfortunately, Marcos was “indisposed” at that time, and it was De Vega who dealt with them. “I am sorry, Tibo. I am not authorized to go above $100, 00. I must take this up again with the President. Only he can authorize a higher payment,” De Vega ruefully replied. (By way of postscript, Secretary Guillermo De Vega would later end up dead right in his Malacanang office under some mysterious circumstances.)

The second bribe attempt was exposed by famed Washington reporter Jack Anderson in an article that was released on July 14, 1975 in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Marcos came out with guns blazing. He denied the charge. Discrediting Mijares’ reputation, of course, was easy. It was no secret that Mijares left a trail of petty extortions, bounced checks and bad debts wherever he went. And so to limit the damage, rumors began to circulate, among others, that he absconded with government funds (which he did by the way) and that he was paid $150, 000 by the Lopezes to join the anti-Marcos exiles.
Meanwhile on April 27, 1976, the much-awaited book “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos” was released in the United States. But the book, according to Seagrave, never saw the light of day as it was systematically plundered on every bookstore and public institution in the United States, including the Library of Congress. Nonetheless, apart from Mijares’ damaging testimony, Conjugal Dictatorship spawned another great deal of embarrassment to the Marcos regime. This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Eight months later Primitivo Mijares disappeared —never to be heard from again.


Mijares was reportedly last seen at the San Francisco Airport on January 7, 1977, in the company of a certain Querubin Macalintal, a confirmed intelligence agent of the Philippine government. A story is oft-told that he had boarded a plane in San Francisco and was probably thrown into the Pacific Ocean since no witnesses could attest that he disembarked in Honolulu. But for Reuben Canoy, author of “The Counterfeit Revolution: Martial Law in the Philippines” (1990), such rumors are unfounded, for disposing a man aboard a jet liner mid-air, he said, cannot possibly be done without being noticed by crew or passengers. And so what happened to Primitivo “Tibo” Mijares? It is widely believed, however, that he landed in the Philippines and was subsequently murdered by Marcos agents to prevent the conclusion of the investigation.

After so many years, Steve Psinakis, one of the witnesses of the second bribe attempt, and author of “A Country Not Even His Own” (2008) painstakingly pieced the puzzle on Mijares’ eventual disappearance. Although he was cock sure that Marcos masterminded the cover-up, Psinakis did not discount the possibility that all along Mijares was playing both sides against the middle. In his memoirs, Psinakis wrote: “The investigation (referring to the U.S. Justice Department investigation) also revealed that after his February 1975 defection, Mijares did, in fact extort money from Marcos by feeding him imaginary information for which Marcos was ignorant enough to pay considerable sums. While Mijares was still receiving money from Marcos, he was at the same time lambasting Marcos in the U.S. press, causing the Marcos regime irreparable damage. It is no wonder the only natural conclusion is that Marcos had his vengeance and did Mijares in.”

All told, was Primitivo Mijares a credible whistleblower? “The point that should be grasped is not whether I am a good or bad man, but whether I tell the truth about the martial law regime in the Philippines.” Those are the precocious words of Tibo Mijares, not mine. Warts and all, the book Conjugal Dictatorship has left us too many gaps to be compelling. Maybe—just maybe— all the details that Mijares recounts are true but there is a larger truth left unsaid somewhere in the pages of Conjugal Dictatorship and that, we have to unfold.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Story of Primitivo "Tibo" Mijares(Part 1)

Primitivo Mijares will always be known for his opus “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” a magnum that delivered a serious blow to the strongman rule. The book, published under strenuous circumstances in the United States on April 27, 1976, chronicled in great detail the truth about martial rule in the Philippines. In it, Mijares gave his readers what they wanted, an insider’s view of the shenanigans and corruption of the Marcos regime to which he claimed he was privy about—the fabrication of the 1973 referenda results, the faking of the Marcos war record, the systematic full scale seizure of government and some of the largest businesses, all this and many more. But the juiciest parts of Conjugal Dictatorship, of course, are the gossips. With obvious exaggeration and bitterness of a disillusioned journalist, Mijares wielded his trenchant pen with gustatory relish, and consequently opened up the Pandora’s Box of rumors on the private lives and loves of both Marcos and his wife, including the president’s amorous escapades every inch of the way. Needless to say, Marcos’ enemies have had their field day merchandising Mijares’ “political pornography” as solemn truth.

Just exactly who was Primitivo Mijares in the inner igloos of power? Before his defection from the Marcos regime in 1975, which he did while on a special mission to the United States to invite “steak commandos” home, Mijares was Marcos’ chief propagandist and press censor. Once upon a time, Mijares was said to be among the chosen few who could walk in and out of Marcos’ office almost any time even without an appointment. But by some mysterious act of fate, Mijares vanished from the face of the earth just eight months after the release of Conjugal Dictatorship— he has not been seen since.

“Dark ages” of Philippine press

In any kind of revolution—whether from the left or from the right—free press becomes the primary victim of control. In the experience of the world, a free press cannot survive a dictatorship; both cannot co-exist, and the reason for this startling contradiction is that “truth” cannot co-exist with dictatorship. That everyone knows. And so it was in the Marcos “revolution from the center.”

Prior to martial law in 1972, the Philippine press was looked upon— nay envied— by journalists of neighboring countries as the “liveliest and freest in all of Asia.” Free indeed, but it was also free-wheeling like a runaway dervish. Things changed dramatically on the night of September 22, 1972. Along with the subversives and anti-Marcos politicians, prominent journalists too were herded by teams of military men to the stockades. Simultaneously, “sequestration notices” were tacked on the doors of publishing houses, radios, and TV stations. By nightfall, the next day, then Press Secretary Francisco “Kit” Tatad rang the death knell of democracy as he appeared through government-controlled TV and radio stations announcing that martial law had just been declared. They never flinched— the eyes of President Marcos— when he assured his countrymen not to worry because democracy would be restored in a year or two. But for writers and journalists of that period, Proclamation No. 1081 sounded like a slow and solemn drumroll beating out as in a funeral dirge the gradual demise of press freedom. Then began what historian Charles McDougald described as the “dark ages” of the Philippine media.

Architect of press censorship

With the “death” of democracy in the country, from its ashes rose the New Society and the “conjugal dictators’’ were to be its rulers. Before martial law, no government permit or license was necessary as free expression was guaranteed by no less than the Constitution. Consequently, with martial law now in place, Marcos understood the importance of media to disseminate his propaganda. And so he took stock in designing measures—“thought control “measures— one after the other that would keep everybody in line.

Ever the methodical politician, Marcos virtually controlled the media industry from womb to tomb: ownership, censorship and licensing. During the first few days of the martial law regime, the task of strict censorship fell into the iron hands of the military through the Office of Civil Relation. But with the creation of the Department of Public Information (DPI), the task of censorship and licensing was later transferred to Mass Media Council and the Bureau of Standards for Media. Later on, Marcos yielded to military demands that soldiers share with DPI media control, and created the Mass Media Council (MMC), headed by DPI Secretary Francisco Tatad and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. But this was a short-lived solution as Tatad and Enrile often clashed on jurisdictional issues over their turfs. More than this, Marcos had another problem. Despite the regime’s effort to create a semblance of press independence, all is not well under the watchful eyes of the international media. Against this background, Marcos eventually came under attack by the World press on the issue of press freedom. He had to find a way to show gradual “normalization” and to restore the credibility of the Philippine press by showing that free expression was as vibrant as ever even under authoritarian rule. Martial law, Philippine style after all, as Marcos proclaimed to the whole world, was a “smiling” martial law.

Marcos then turned to his consigliere on media affairs with one pressing concern: he wanted to phase out the MMC. He wanted a different system of press gag that would make him look good to the international media. He wanted “media people themselves to police themselves.” Thus, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 191 supplanting all quondam censorship bodies and in their stead sired the notorious Media Advisory Council (MAC).

The blueprint for the creation of a self-regulatory civilian media entity came from Primitivo Mijares and presidential assistant, Guillermo “Gimo” de Vega. Tibo, as friends used to call him, was a lawyer by training and president of the National Press Club (NPC) and chief editorial writer of the Daily Express— a newspaper known to be Marcos’ mouthpiece shortly before martial law was declared. MAC, as intended by its architects, would control all political news and propaganda during the upstream of the New Society. As it was, MAC had an all-encompassing authority to regulate all forms of mass communications—from dailies and broadcasting stations to films, billboards, and signs or displays on pushcarts or store windows. Under Mijares’ chairmanship, MAC emerged as the monolithic entity of the Marcos regime in the field of censorship; expectedly, with its broad powers, MAC also became a hot bed of graft and corruption.

The fallout

But for a “highly intelligent man of ambiguous morals,” Mijares knew how to navigate the labyrinth of power with his mighty pen in tow. He could be as good or as evil as the occasion demanded. Shortly after he assumed the position as chairman of the Media Advisory Council, right off, his friends began noticing striking changes in his lifestyle and spending habits. Soon, Mijares came under fire from the media industry, especially from the influential publisher of Bulletin Today, Hanz Menzi, who personally asked Marcos to abolish MAC. Sometime in 1974, the Broadcast Media Council and the Print Media Council came into being, with Teodoro Valencia and Menzi heading the two bodies, respectively.

Previous to this, however, Mijares was about to face serious criminal charges for bad debts, rubber checks, petty extortions and misappropriation of funds belonging to the National Press Club. Those accusations though unproven in court would stick with him to the very last even if he had angels on his side. That was his first biggest blunder. This was not to be, however, the proximate cause for his virtual disappearance. It became worse when Mijares clashed with the vengeful Kokoy Romualdez, younger brother of Imelda. “You will see what will happen to you. I will tell this to my sister,” Romualdez seethed. This happened after Mijares rashly accused Romualdez of cheating the Lopez family over a business deal involving the Manila Electric Company. At this point, Mijares began to fear for his life. Right around this time, Marcos was under pressure from the U.S. Congress to release some of his high- profile political prisoners to clean up his image. Witting or unwittingly, Marcos sent Mijares and other propagandists to the United States as Imelda’s advance party to lure Filipino exiles home. More than the prospect of a criminal prosecution for the NPC-MAC fiasco, foremost in Mijares’ mind was his defection from the Marcos regime and to apply for political asylum.

And so, off he went to America. Whatever happened to him here— how he tried to outwit the conjugal dictatorship of his master and how he failed and vanished are what will be revealed later.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Grace Poe’s Unnatural Citizenship

"Public office is a public trust..." —Art. XI, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution

Writing for the majority in the case of Labo v. COMELEC, Justice Isagani A. Cruz said: “Philippine citizenship is not a cheap commodity that can be easily recovered after its renunciation. It may be restored only after the returning renegade makes a formal act of re-dedication to the country he has abjured and he solemnly affirms once again his total exclusive loyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.”

Is Grace Poe a worthy returning renegade to seize the highest office of the land?


It is true that Senator Grace Poe, one of the possible frontrunners for the 2016 presidential elections, did reassume her status as a Filipino citizen by repatriation in 2006. But what most people don’t know is that after her 2006 repatriation, she deliberately played it safe and held dual citizenship until 2010, or four years thereafter. (Grace Poe, then, was both a Filipino and a U.S. citizen.) This she did when President Benigno Aquino III appointed her as chairperson of MTRCB. Under RA 9225 (otherwise known as the “Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act”) potential appointive and elective officials are not only required to take their oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines but must also expressly renounce their foreign citizenship. The rule is, to qualify for public office, they must only have one citizenship and that is Philippine citizenship, no less. And so Grace Poe brandished the coup de grace only in 2010 by executing an affidavit explicitly renouncing her allegiance to the United States of America which in effect forfeited her naturalized American citizenship too.

Natural-born citizens and repatriation

In a long line of cases decided by the Supreme Court, repatriation has been defined as the reacquisition of lost citizenship and not the acquisition of a new citizenship, one who is repatriated regains the level of his original citizenship. In the case of Grace Poe, if indeed she is a natural-born Filipino before her naturalization in the U.S., case law on the subject says that she is deemed never to have lost her “natural born” citizenship.

The rules under the Constitution are fairly simple: “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire of perfect their citizenship…” Clearly, we follow the principle of jus sanguinis (or the right of blood) wherein a person follows the citizenship of either Filipino blood parent. But what happens when a child is born in a country that adheres to jus sanguinis but whose parents are completely unknown? Grace Poe perfectly fits the bill. (Note that while she was adopted by FPJ and Susan Roces, adoption does not confer citizenship on her.)

This is a gray area in constitutional law and I have yet to do my research on whether a ‘foundling’ can be considered a natural born citizen. In fact, even the renowned former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, in his regular column with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, had to apply principles of international law to justify his thesis that Poe is a natural-born Filipino. But customary international law, while recognized as “part of the law of the land” by virtue of the doctrine of incorporation, does not, however, stand on the same level as the Constitution. In our jurisdiction, the Constitution is primus inter omnes, the supreme law of the land from which all other laws must bow.

Misplaced legal presumptions

Most legal experts and luminaries, echoing in part CJ Panganiban’s view, have added arguments holding that by default, Grace Poe is natural born citizen and thus qualified to run for president.

Relying heavily on “legal presumptions,” weight is given to the fact that she was a former MTRCB chair, and presently a senator and that no one pointed an accusing finger questioning her citizenship. Therefore, unless proven otherwise, Poe enjoys the legal presumption in her favor. “Unless proven otherwise” is of course directed to VP Binay, also an aspirant for the 2016 presidential elections. Under this view, the burden of proving that Poe is disqualified to run for the presidency lies on the shoulders of the person assailing Poe’s citizenship. But for one, this is a dangerous precedent when what is at stake is the highest position of the land. Needless to state that in the hierarchy of constitutional departments, the presidency is no ordinary public office. Because such office is infused with public interest of the highest kind, it would be foolhardy to rely mainly on “presumptions” on matters concerning qualifications—especially issues concerning indelible loyalty to the Republic.

Certainly, it would be illuminating if our so-called legal luminaries could have at least reconsidered their position based on a 1967 Supreme Court decision on the subject. Any law student worth his salt would have read the case of Paa v. Chan where the Court said: “It is incumbent upon a person who claims Philippine citizenship to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that he is really a Filipino. No presumption can be indulged in favor of the claimant of Philippine citizenship, and any doubt regarding citizenship must be resolved in favor of the State.” Need I say more?

At first blush, I would have also given her the benefit of legal presumption under customary international law had she remained loyal to her motherland whatever the cost. (Here, I would have to praise Filipino exiles and “steak commandos” in the US during the martial law years.) But Poe’s former allegiance, her being a naturalized U.S. citizen, and a deliberate holder of dual citizenship for four years, changed everything.

Convenience or conviction?

Was it for convenience or conviction that Senator Grace Poe renounced her American citizenship in 2010? As they say, your guess is as good as mine. Assuming she wins the 2016 presidential elections, are we ready to accept a president, a commander-in-chief, who is a former alien, a naturalized citizen of America? It is my view that there is a real distinction between a “natural born” and a “repatriated citizen” when it comes to textually committed constitutional qualifications for all those who want to be president, vice president, senator or district representative. Our forefathers, the framers of our past and present constitutions could not have thought otherwise. This standpoint, to my end, is concretized in these words of President Manuel L. Quezon, “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” Or a former naturalized American? I also could not have thought and preferred otherwise. Indeed, in life, sometimes what is constitutional can be more dangerous than what is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Wall of Separation"

This is a hot issue that has bothered me for quite sometime. Iglesia ni Cristo's (INC) misplaced invocation of the principle of separation of church and state has been pinching at my “constitutional” nerves like the devil’s pitchfork, challenging me to write my thoughts down. Contrary to popular belief, I have said it before in my Facebook post and I say it again here, this doctrine came into being in order to protect the Church from undue intrusion by the state, NOT VICE VERSA.

The provision (Article 2, Section 6) in “The Declaration of Principles and State Policies” under the 1987 Constitution that says that the separation of church and state shall be inviolable is no more than a flagship provision for non-establishment: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”If one would carefully examine the text of the Constitution, the thrust of the principle is strictly geared towards the state and not the church. In other words, the “wall of separation” is a limitation directed upon the State and its institutions, primarily Congress. The non-establishment clause found in the Bill of Rights undoubtedly cautions the state not to pass laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” In this sense, the Church, therefore, cannot violate the separation because it cannot pass laws other than church laws or policies. The Church and its minions, of course, cannot dictate state law or policy; but this does not mean that the Church shall have nothing to say on the conduct of government. The bottom line, said a noted Filipino constitutionalist, is that “neither side may legislate for the other.” (Bernas, 1999)

This is my understanding of what separation of church and state is all about. Apparently, INC’s invocation of the principle is inapplicable in the present scenario.

When DOJ Secretary De Lima ordered an investigation on the alleged kidnapping of Samson, who has filed a serious illegal detention complaint against several INC leaders, she acted within the bounds of law and not because she favored or preferred one religion over another. If it were the other way around, she would be violating the Constitution as her actions would be construed as “state action” under the law. In simple terms, if De Lima would ignore the criminal complaint would give others- those not belonging or no longer belonging in this flock- a valid cause to raise this separation doctrine. The idea that she might have violated the “wall of separation” seemed far-fetched because what is involved is a possible violation of the Revised Penal Code, and the parties happened to be citizens of the Philippines and not as flocks of a cultish congregation.

The better view, however, is to examine the issue from a different angle: the INC’s battlecry of separation of church and state is nothing more than a short-hand expression of freedom of speech, and to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Though these fundamental rights of the people are guaranteed by no less than the Constitution, the exercise of these rights are not absolute for it may be so regulated that it shall not be injurious to the equal enjoyment of others having equal rights, nor injurious to the rights of the community or society. (Primicias v. Fugoso)

Photo credit: CNN Philippines