2020-07-15

Remembering Martial Law: part 2

The “Y” generation will not know the name Primitivo Mijares but Baby Boomers like me will remember him as a brave journalist and a staunch critic of the late president Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. It was Mijares who authored the book Conjugal Dictatorship which described how the Philippines was run with an iron fist by the couple in Malacañang during the Martial Law years.

Like what happened to the October 2012 issue of Philippine Sentinel, copies of Mijares’ book were removed from the shelves of book stores in the Philippines. (The October issue of Philippine Sentinel featured Dr. Hermaneli Torrevillas who identified the name of another Filipino doctor who reported him to the Australian Medical Board.)

In the Philippines, the name Primitivo Mijares (pictured right) could hardly be found in history books because many Marcos kin still hold powerful political positions. In America, Marcos used Reagan and the U.S. intelligence to remove almost every copy of his book “The Conjugal Dictatorship” from American libraries. Second-hand copies of the book may still be available from Amazon.com.

I regard Mijares as a hero and patriot. He once served as Marcos confidant and pressman. He later became Chairman of the Media Advisory Council and President of the National Press Club but broke relationship with Marcos over ideological differences and corruption.

In 1975, he testified before the US Congress about violations of human rights in the Philippines. He was forced to return to his home country because of threats to his family. He was brought back on orders of General Fabian Ver who was at that time the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Ver was also a cousin of Marcos.

Shortly after Mijares returned to Manila, his son was kidnapped, body parts mutilated and murdered.

The book that cost him his life

Conjugal Dictatorship cost Mijares his life. He tells it as it is during the meetings that led to the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines. At that time, he was among the few that Marcos trusted. Little did Marcos know that his confidant would turn against him and testify before the US Congress about human rights violations in the Philippines.

Here’s a passage from the book:

Arsenio Lacson boomed: “I am not kidding Ferdinand, I will not do anything which would in any way help you become President of this country. As a matter of fact, I make this promise. You can become President of this country only over my dead body. (Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda, by Primitivo Mijares, p. 234-36).

Then Mayor of Manila, Lacson died suddenly of a stroke amidst talk that he was planning to run in the 1965 presidential election. There were unconfirmed reports that Marcos was responsible.

Mysterious disappearance

It was sometime in 1977 when Primitivo Mijares suddenly disappeared. He was nowhere to be found. There was no evidence that he was killed. But there were conjectures that he was murdered on orders of Ferdinand Marcos because of what he wrote in his book. There were stories that he was picked up by agents of Marcos from his hiding place in the United States. Others say that his body was dumped into the ocean but under the principle of corpus delicti, (no body, no proof of murder), nothing can ever be proven. — by Dino Crescini