Last year on her 93rd birthday on July 2, Imelda Marcos was feted to a birthday party at the presidential palace where she once spun fairy tales for twenty years. It was a mere two days after her son had formally re-conquered their royal address Malacañang. When it comes to organizing parties, the Marcoses are truly quick.
But on her 55th birthday on July 2, 1984, the Minister of Human Settlements and Governor of Metropolitan Manila spent her birthday being cross-examined by the members of the Agrava Board at the SSS boardroom in Quezon City. She was invited to shed light on what she knew about the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
Instead, light was not what she shed but tears and more darkness for the Agrava Board.
The gist of her testimony was that Malacañang knew little about Ninoy’s return. The Board’s Chief Counsel Andres Narvasa (later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) doubted that. Evidence showed, Narvasa pressed Imelda, that all in the Aquino family applied for the renewal of their passports. In fact, the matter was referred to the Office of the President as early as January or February 1983.
“Did you know anything about this?” Narvasa asked the star witness. “No,” she replied. “There are so many things happening at the palace that I know only a fraction of.”
Narvasa followed up: Was Aquino’s return and the threats against his life ever discussed in Cabinet meetings?
“I don’t usually attend Cabinet meetings,” said the member of the Cabinet Executive Committee, the body the dictator had tasked to run the country and which he decreed was headed by her should he die in office.
And so the cross-examination proceeded for two hours without extracting any useful information from her. She said she learned only of Ninoy’s impending arrival from Salvador Laurel at the Batasang Pambansa. Testifying earlier in January 1984, Laurel told the Board that he informed her on August 2, 1983 of Aquino’s impending arrival. Laurel said her reaction was within earshot of cabinet ministers, assemblymen and foreign journalists. She said of Ninoy’s arrival: “That’s impossible! If he comes home, he’s dead.”
She said she was misquoted and that what she said was “That’s impossible! He won’t come home because we have an agreement.” Two weeks later, Laurel had informed her again, that Ninoy had reset his arrival to August 21. She said her reply was “Impossible! If he comes home and he is dead, we will all be in trouble – including you (Laurel).”
On September 19, 1983, Newsweek had reported Imelda’s three-hour meeting with Ninoy at the Philippine Center in New York City, which took place on May 21. It said that Imelda had warned Ninoy of an assassination plot against him “by some people loyal to us (the conjugal dictators) who cannot be controlled.”
That was a “pure fabrication,” she said. “I am not that stupid to even think that we could not control people to do something bad . . . I’ll never do or say such a thing.” She then pointed out that her meeting with Ninoy was “cordial.” She said she was struck by Ninoy’s jovial mood and that she thought, “Only happy people produce beauty.”
Narvasa asked if she talked Ninoy into postponing his return. “Yes. I impressed on Ninoy the seriousness of the threats against his life.” Beyond the demure and the coy façade of the woman in bouffant coiffure, it was a tacit admission that Malacañang had known there were indeed threats against Ninoy. Her lie was caught.
Board member Ernesto Herrera asked her: “Were you or President Marcos informed of the security plans for Aquino’s arrival?” Herrera pointed out that General Luther Custodio, the chief of the airport security command AVSECOM, planned Oplan Balikbayan on August 19, 1983. She replied she was not privy to security plans. As for her husband, “On security matters, the president keeps his cards close to his chest.”
On that day, her 55th birthday, Imelda Marcos passed her husband’s test. She lied well for him.
Outside the SSS building, some 50 government employees rolled out a streamer that said “Happy Birthday Mrs. Marcos, We Love You.” Today 39 years later, Ninoy Aquino is a national hero and Imelda Marcos is a convicted plunderer who is still the laughing stock of the world.
This information was taken from the July 13, 1984 issue of the defunct Mr. & Ms. Magazine, from the article of Jose Ma. Nolasco. Publications such as these that flourished as the so-called “mosquito press” to keep truth alive during the Marcos dictatorship have been digitized under PROJECT GUNITA, created by young human rights advocates who were not even born during martial law. Their goal is to help turn the tide against historical distortionism under the present regime of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. This writer thanks PROJECT GUNITA for keeping the flames alive of a Philippines free from tyranny like the Marcos Conjugal Dictatorship.