POSTSCRIPT / August 20, 2015 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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What were Ninoy’s 18 last instructions?

TOMORROW, we remember again August 21, 1983 — that dark Sunday when the devil snatched Ninoy Aquino from us as he was about to set foot again on his native soil carrying a message of peace for the dictator.

Before his return, Ninoy gave his final 18 instructions to his sister Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara who was to arrive in Manila ahead to coordinate preparations for his homecoming after three years of exile in the United States.

In an email to me, Atching Lupita recalled Ninoy’s last instructions. Part of her message reads:

“I dug Ninoy’s two-page instructions for his arrival dated July 18, 1983.

“In #7 – ‘I understand a news blackout has been ordered. Contact Bren Guiao and ask him to inquire from Jun Icban of the Bulletin. See if you can circumvent the blackout order. Contact Dick Pascual. He is a loyal friend but be very discreet. I’ll write him a note but give it to him secretly….’

“The instructions (18 in all) were in preparation for the August 7th arrival. I arrived in Manila a week ahead. He postponed the trip to Aug. 21 as a nego point with JPE who declared in the newspapers that there was ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ there was a plot to assassinate him.

“JPE said they needed a month to neutralize the threat. Ninoy agreed to two weeks as a compromise. Ergo Aug. 21. By that time, most of all his instructions were in place except for the local media. I was very much in touch with FOCAP.

“Yes, you were mentioned in his last instructions. He was thinking of you.”

Those days of yellow ribbons of welcome

AMONG the preparations coordinated by Lupita for Ninoy’s return was the tying of yellow ribbons on trees, posts and other street protrusions that could carry a welcome sign for somebody who has been away against his will.

The ribbons were a takeoff from the pop song that caught on in the 1970s with its lyrics: “Tie a yellow ribbon ‘round the old oak tree/ It’s been three long years/ Do you still want me?….”

The yellow ribbons, or fair facsimiles thereof, hanging along Ninoy’s route were to be a warm wave of welcome for the exiled hero who was widely awaited as the upcoming replacement of the ailing Ferdinand E. Marcos.

But it was not meant to be. Arrogance of power took over that August 21.

With JPE (Juan Ponce Enrile who was defense secretary at the time) having just been ordered released from detention, he should be asked to disclose the details of the alleged assassination plot against Ninoy that he used as an excuse to stop or delay his return.

Liberated by old age and with the nation having safely distanced itself from the MIA tarmac, it should be easy for JPE to talk now — unless he just concocted that assassination plot or now wants to protect those involved in it.

Where were you on Aug. 21, 1983?

THAT Aug. 21, 1983, I was in our old house in Pasay cleaning the car when the radio said Ninoy had just been shot upon his arrival from Taipei, his last stop in a multi-leg journey whose details were hardly a secret to the Marcos network.

After years of waiting for his return, the news came like a bullet piercing my brain!

The yellow ribbons suddenly seemed to hang limp and ashen. The welcome crowd outside the Manila International Airport was thrown into confusion. I wanted to consult Lupita for bearings, but there was no way of contacting her.

The scene of Ninoy probably being dead on the spot flashed in my mind, knowing the signature shot in the back of the head that government assassins had been employing with a 100-percent success rate.

I rushed to our Daily Express office on Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, intent on dashing out a four-page Extra edition. As assistant managing editor, my main chore was putting together the front page.

Our business editor Ernie Tolentino, who was in the office before noon, had started assembling the materials. Just when we had completed the signature of four pages at 2 p.m., I got a call from Information Minister Greg Cendaña asking if it was true we were putting out an Extra.

“Yes, we are,” I replied. “Haven’t you heard? Ninoy has been shot at the airport at baka patay na siya!

He told me to stop it. Running an Extra, he said, might just alarm the public. I argued that even without our Extra, people here and abroad would have heard of the big news anyway. Our target was to have 20,000 copies in the streets by 4 p.m.

We were still arguing when Greg said, “O sige, kung ayaw mo!” and banged the phone. He must have been under severe stress. Soon, one of our executives rushed to the office and aborted that Extra.

Brooding over Ninoy’s murder, I recalled one of his notes smuggled to me earlier about his decision to finally come home. He remarked lightly, among other things, that he would now be able to pay his “utang” to my twin sons Peter and Paul who are his godsons.

Courier of those notes was our friend Bren Z. Guiao, the late father of Rep. Yeng Guiao (1st Dist., Pampanga). For more on Bren’s risky errands and other personal stories on Ninoy, please go to my www.manilamail.com.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 20, 2015)

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