The article saw instant reprints in some Filipino papers in Canada and the United States, went viral online, and drew intense partisan reactions here and abroad.
Some found it “unthinkable” that one could write about President B. S. Aquino III’s inability to respond to pressing national concerns in words which no one of any official standing has dared to use. They thought it “an offense against the King,” which should never have been permitted and should therefore be censured.
They couldn’t show that false conclusions were drawn from false premises, so they tried instead to drown the writer in a torrent of verbal abuse. That is a risk all serious writers are forced to accept.
The stronger reaction, however, came from those who agreed that Aquino has done nothing to protect the national interest, but criticized the writer anyway for treating him with “kid gloves.”
“It isn’t quite true the Sabah madness is just because of official ignorance, ineptitude, and incompetence,” they said. “It is the result of a deliberate sellout to the Malaysian government, and nothing less than ‘treasonable conduct’ is involved,” they said.
They repeated an allegation made earlier by Hermes Dorado, a retired Filipino foreign service officer who used to handle territorial issues at the Department of Foreign Affairs, at a university forum, that the sellout was initiated not by B.S. Aquino III, but rather by his celebrated parents—the late former senator Benigno S. “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the late former president Corazon C. Aquino as early as 30 years ago.
Dorado claims that on Ninoy’s fateful journey from his three years of self-exile in the U.S., which ended in his assassination upon his arrival at the Manila International Airport on Aug. 21, 1983, he stopped by Singapore, then motored to Kuala Lumpur in order to speak to then-Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad about Sabah. Ninoy reportedly sought Mahathir’s help in bringing down then-President Ferdinand Marcos from power in exchange for dropping the Philippine Sabah claim once Marcos was ousted.
This allegation is not supported by any documentary evidence. But Dorado says he was at the Philippine embassy in Bangkok at the time, in the company of then-Ambassador Rafael Ileto, the Philippine ambassador to Thailand, who had been tasked to monitor Ninoy’s movement as soon as he landed in Singapore. He says he got his information directly from Ileto.
No question about Ileto’s credibility or competence. Ileto was one of the most distinguished and honorable men to come from the military and the foreign service in maybe 50 years. Educated at West Point, he rose to become a major general and vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He founded the Scout Rangers, and was the only member of the high command who refused to endorse Marcos’s proclamation of martial law in 1972.
Impressed by his integrity and spunk but unable to name him chief of staff, Marcos named him ambassador to Iran and Turkey instead. That was in 1975. In 1980, he was posted to Thailand. He died in 2003 without revealing anything about his supposed monitoring of Ninoy’s alleged activities in Kuala Lumpur.
Outside of Dorado’s assertion, there is nothing to prove that Ileto made the statement attributed to him. Neither is there any independent confirmation of the alleged meeting between Ninoy and Mahathir, much less of the reported deal to bring down Marcos in exchange for the dropping of the Sabah claim. But Dorado’s allegation continues to play onYouTube, without a word from Malacañang.
It is no secret that for years, Malaysia provided training and logistical support to the Moro National Liberation Front. It has also been expecting the Philippines to drop its territorial claim, in keeping with Marcos’s statement that he would “take steps” to remove the Sabah claim as a source of continued misunderstanding between Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
I was present at the 1977 summit conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations hosted by Malaysia’s third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn, in Kuala Lumpur when Marcos dropped that bombshell. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who was the next speaker, was so taken aback that he said Marcos had just captured the world headlines, and there was nothing left for him to do but to tear up his prepared statement. Nevertheless, Marcos never followed through on his statement.
It is equally well known that Ninoy had close personal contacts in Malaysia, whose sentiments he apparently read well. While in detention during martial law, he offered to serve as Marcos’s special emissary to the MNLF and the Islamic countries supporting the MNLF rebellion. However, Marcos never seriously considered the offer.
Ninoy was also no stranger to the idea of foreign governments and operatives interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. In 1957, as a 25-year-old hotshot mayor of his hometown Concepcion, Tarlac, Ninoy undertook secret operations for the CIA during the so-called Permesta rebellion in Indonesia. The rebellion was supported by the CIA and had its center in Manado. It was led by a group of colonels, including one who had resigned his position as Indonesian military attaché in Washington, D.C. to become a general in the Permesta army.
A book written by the American couple Audrey Kahin and George Mc T Kahin, and quoting the late Senator Jose Wright Diokno as its source (Subversion as Foreign Policy: The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia), says Ninoy set up a clandestine radio station in Indonesia for the rebels, shipped them guns from a third country, and opened up his wife’s family’s sugar plantation, Hacienda Luisita, in Tarlac, as a training ground for the Indonesian rebel pilots.
The rebellion ended after the Indonesian air force destroyed most of the rebel B-26 planes on Manado, and one B-26 plane was shot down and its pilot captured by Sukarno’s forces. The pilot turned out to be an American CIA agent named Allen Pope. Upon interrogation, he exposed the CIA’s deep involvement in the rebellion, forcing the US to abandon its operations, and leaving Ninoy and other foreign agents holding the proverbial empty bag.
Given that early personal experience, Ninoy may have had no aversion in asking Mahathir to interfere in Philippine affairs just to help him bring down Marcos.
Whether or not Mahathir took the bait is not known, but given Malaysia’s desire to see the Philippine claim to Sabah dropped, it is not unreasonable to suspect he did. At that time the usual international actors already appeared inclined to support a regime change in the Philippines.
Ninoy’s untimely death rendered any agreement with Mahatir—assuming there was, in fact, one—unimplementable. But Dorado makes bold to claim that in 1986, the late Corazon Aquino, Ninoy’s widow, made good her husband’s end of the bargain after the EDSA uprising installed her as revolutionary president.
Proof of this, he says, is the deletion of a long phrase in the 1987 Constitution that made Sabah part of the “national territory” of the Philippines.
Under the 1973 Constitution, the national territory “comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all the other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title, including the territorial sea, the air space, the subsoil, the sea-bed, the insular shelves, and the other submarine areas over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction. The waters around, between and connecting the islands of the archipelago, irrespective of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.”
The phrase “all the other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title” is deemed to include Sabah, the sovereign title to which had been ceded to the Philippine government in 1973 by the Sultan of Sulu, its original owner and sovereign. However, this phrase was deleted in the 1987 Constitution drafted by Cory’s appointive constitutional commission.
Under this Constitution, the national territory “comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its territorial, fluvial, and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas.
The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.”
The two texts are nearly identical, except for the deleted portion of Article I of the 1973 Constitution, which has been replaced in Article I of the 1987 Constitution with the words, “all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction.”
Critics of the “Cory Constitution” argue that the deletion of the phrase in the “Marcos Constitution” effectively removes Sabah as part of the national territory, while defenders of the same argue that the phrase “all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction” in fact affirms Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the territory.
Malaysian legal analysts, however, favor the wording of the “Cory Constitution” as against that of the “Marcos Constitution.” To what extent was Cory Aquino involved in that rewording? This is not known.
Although the commission that drafted the Constitution was supposed to have been independent, it seems inconceivable that the commissioners could have embarked on such a major change without briefing the President or securing her consent.
But whether in fact she may have been completely innocent, the accusation of “treasonable conduct” is now leveled against her and her late husband and their bachelor president-son, rather than at her handpicked commissioners. The burden of clearing their names now lies with B.S. III. And so far he has responded with silence.
Outside of an impeachment process, where treason may be alleged as a ground for seeking the President’s removal, there is no legal forum in which the charge of “treasonable conduct” may be heard at this point. The Senate, which is tasked to look after the conduct of foreign policy, may not be non-partisan or competent enough to conduct the necessary inquiry.
Thus Dorado’s charge, propagated and enlarged by continued repetition, will remain in the public domain.
This is not the first time the Aquino name will be tainted with the charge of treason. Ninoy’s father and B.S. III’s grandfather, Benigno Aquino, Sr., alias Igno, was charged with treason for collaborating with the enemy during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
As Speaker of the National Assembly, and vice-president and director-general of the infamous Kalibapi (Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas— Association for Service to the New Philippines) in the Japanese-controlled government, Igno delivered speeches praising Japan, criticizing the US, and denouncing Filipinos who refused to collaborate with the Japanese.
After the war, Igno was arrested and jailed by the U.S. military in Japan, then extradited to the Philippines to stand trial before the People’s Court for treason. But he died of a heart attack before his trial could begin.
This part of Philippine history is unremembered by the generation that survived the last war, and unknown to, and unread by the young who have been mesmerized by the political myths and fables spun by the oversize English-language tabloids and celebrity-oriented television.
But the questions being raised about the Aquinos’ (father, mother and son) real position on Sabah could finally shatter the veil of generational indifference that has long covered the naked truths of our history from the young, and finally expose to the light of day the quislings, charlatans, opportunists, and frauds who have been posturing as patriots, heroes and champions of our people.