Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nene's Martial Law Story

My boss, Senator Nene Pimentel Jr., has recently launched his book titiled "Martial Law: My Story" on June 7 at the historic Manila Hotel.

This is the kind of book that should generate a discussion and interest among Filipinos.

I attended the launching and I was amazed that the number of dignitaries who graced the ceremonies.

Notably, many ambassadors from different countries took turns to make a courtesy chat with Senator Nene while he was busy signing autographs of early readers who got their hardbound copies wrapped in specially designed paper bags.

In this book, Nene tells his story of his life and experience during the darks days of martial rule in the Philippines which was riddled with trials, tribulations, and sufferings not only to himself but to his family.

He said he wanted to tell the story of martial law from his own eyes so furture generations will realize the meaning of the phrase "never again."
What was startling was that the very top officials of the government that attended the launching were both from the administration and the opposition.

Political leaders were crossing party lines on this ocassion.

Karl Miranda, my superior in the Senate legislative work, said Nene is the man who can bring members of two opposing political forces together.

Who were there?

I saw former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Foreign Affairs Secretary Bert Romulo, colleagues in the Senate like Mar Roxas, Richard Gordon, JambyMadrigal, Congressmen Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino, professor Randy David, and many others whose faces I am struggling to recall.

I was annoyed by the comment of Senator Richard Gordon, who jokingly whispered "Magandang racket pala ito. Dapat magsulat din ako (This is a good racket. I should write my own)."

To my annoyance, I told him "Magpakulong ka muna, Senator (Have yourself jailed first, Senator)." Perhaps, it would be a book worth reading.

The Senator hastily left, pretending not to hear, because Terry Domugho let out a boisterous laugh.

Nene is one of the most prominent figures during martial law at the other side of the fence.

Because he fought Marcos to the hilt, perhaps he earned the special ire of the dictator to the extent that he was jailed four times.

I have read part of the book during its "early" release so I can make a fairly interesting preview.

In the book, Nene tells how he was transferred to the cells of hardened criminals, instead of being mixed with fellow political detainees. It was perhaps a strategy of the government to soften Nene from his recalcitrance.

What happened was the opposite. Instead of being thrown to the proverbial "lion's den" he found himself in comfortable company, because he easily gained the respect of the most notorious criminals.

The hardened inmates immediately saw that Nene was a man who never deserved jail time, and was jailed for a bizzare crime: Fighting for principles. While they were not lawyers, the inmates knew clearly that such a crime does not exist.

They found refuge in Nene in their legal troubles because Nene gave them pro bono legal advice of their cases.

Suddenly, Nene woked mornings with a ready steaming coffee and pan de sal for breakfast at his bedside, aware that it was earnestly handed to him by a generous and grateful "housemate".

Also in the book, Nene tells of his weakness. He wrote that while he was fierce in fighting Marcos, he had the hidden weakness of a father longing for the company of his family. Nene felt his heart crumpled everytime his wife, Bing and children would leave afer their jail visitations.

But Nene said he just comouflaged this soft spot becuase he didn't want the Marcos guards to discover this and might just deny him precious family visits as leverage.

Martial law is one of the bookmarked episodes of Philippine history.

It would be worth our while to flip back the pages and get a first hand account from the eyes of a significant player of that time.

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