CHICAGO – It is hogwash. That is how I see a claim by detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in his memoir, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir” (2012), that the ambush of his car on Sept. 22, 1972 was the last incident that forced President Marcos to declare martial law.
The martial law plan was months in the making, and it started long before Enrile’s staged ambush on the eve of the declaration of martial law. Although Marcos dated Proclamation 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972, his forces implemented it two days later or a day after the ambush. That was some 42 years ago.
I was covering a movie press conference when someone, whom I did not know from Adam, tapped my shoulder and told me “Garra” (my byline at that time in my entertainment stories was “J. Garra Lariosa” in the Pilipino Star and Daily Star tabloids), “can I talk to you?”
He introduced himself as Romy Arceo. I later learned he was Atty. Romeo Arceo, an official of Manila City Hall. Arceo said, “months from now, I am going to be the entertainment editor of the “Philippine Daily Express” and I am going to appoint you as my assistant entertainment editor.”
Because he was a complete a stranger to me, why would I trade my secure two-year-old job for a job at a new publication? I humbly turned down Arceo’s mouth-watering offer and forgot all about it.
When martial law was proclaimed and my Pilipino/Daily Star offices building, which now houses the Philippine Star, at Port Area, Manila, was padlocked by soldiers, it was only then that I realized what Arceo meant when he talked to me months.
Because I was so engrossed in my job interviewing the likes of Joseph Estrada, Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Susan Roces, etc., I did not notice that right behind our Star offices, a building on Bonifacio Drive was a for a newspaper office, which had been churning out dry-run newspaper copies for weeks and maybe months but with limited circulation.
It turned out later to be the Philippine Daily Express, which would become the only newspaper in town when martial law was proclaimed.
Aside from the Pilipino/Daily Star, the other daily newspapers, which were shut down as soon as martial law was declared, were the hard-hitting Manila Times and its sister publications Daily Mirror and Taliba; Manila Daily Bulletin, Manila Chronicle, Philippines Herald, Philippine Sun and Evening News of the Elizalde Publications and others as well as radio and television stations.
When I called Attorney Arceo and asked him if his offer to me as assistant entertainment editor was still available, he said, “No more. It’s now taken. I gave it to my assistant, Ms. Connie Eugenio.”
The loss of my Star job was traumatic to me. And it became even more traumatic when I was detained at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City although my articles were about the show business.
When I asked my jailers, “Why me?” They told me it would prevent me from writing bad things about the Marcos government.
When I pleaded that I was no longer in a position to write anything bad because my publication was closed, they told me they were willing to set me free if I signed a pledge that I would not write anything bad about the government. They freed me after they forced me to sign that piece of paper.
Jobless, I re-enrolled at Lyceum of the Philippines to pursue a journalism program (called “course,” in the Philippine lingo) although at that I really didn’t know if martial law would ever be lifted.
In school, I contributed entertainment stories to Philippine Daily Express. Because some of the staff of the Express were my colleagues at the Star, I could submit my stories.
In school, we had a mock newspaper. I tried to have some of my school project typeset at dawn at the Express when every one was asleep. But, alas, the typesetting supervisor, my former colleague in the Star, Larry Agcaoili, was so wide-awake that he got hold of my typeset submissions, which were subversive in nature.
Larry reported my submissions to Enrique “Pocholo” Romualdez, then Express’ Executive Editor, who informed me that he would no longer use my stories. “It’s too bad,” Pocholo told me, “I was considering you to join the Express staff. You can now go down and collect your last paycheck.”
I felt bad but I did not regret what I had done because I was just expressing my outrage over the martial law government. The Express was an instrument of martial law that caused the loss of my Star job. The Express was meant to prolong the hold on power by Marcos.
Nor would I blame Larry Agcaoili or Pocholo Romualdez for no longer accepting my stories. Larry and Pocholo were just doing their jobs although at the same time they propped up the martial law regime.
Because I really loved the scent of the hard copies of the newspapers, I still gravitated to it and even supported it by selling copies of the Philippine Daily Express on Makati streets.
Imagine from being a newsboy to a news writer and back to a newsboy again? That’s martial law for me. I had to hold onto straws to survive.