Tuesday, November 16, 2004

chapter 4, part 2

Father Constantino turned to him as they were watching the President announce on TV that the government had crushed earlier this morning an attempt by a terrorist group to lead an armed assault on Malacañang. The terrorist group was responsible for destroying the Plaza Miranda monument and inciting misguided elements among the poor masses of Quiapo to take up arms against the government, she said in her televised speech.

"So, do you think she will finally have the guts to finally go through with it?" Father Constantino asked him.

"I’m sorry -- to go through with what, Father?"

"Why, what she has always wanted to become. A great and strong leader like your grandfather." He chuckled. "Not that she could ever really be one, but doesn’t she enjoy playing the role of Iron Butterfly?"

"We will not be merciful to those who have not shown compassion to the poor vendors that these terrorists have led to their deaths for their own selfish ends. And we will not hesitate to punish with the full force of the law those who would take advantage of fear and uncertainty in pushing their own agenda and seeking to destabilize the duly-elected government and trample upon our sacred Constitution. We call on those who are planning mass actions against the government to examine their motives and consider the consequences of their acts," the President proclaimed in her speech that was being broadcast live across the nation and to Filipino communities in different parts of the world.

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gma 2 dclare martial law 2nyt. tel evry1 join rally @ edsa shrine. lets dfnd dmocracy agn w ppl pwr pls pas

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Throughout the meeting, Felice Andion had kept a smile in place on her face, trying her best to soothe the rattled nerves of the President and the other high and mighty of the land. The scenario she and Intellectual Property Council Director General David Harris had previously discussed had been laid down carefully. She had created the scenario and run several rigorous checks on it, weaving a consistent version of events that they were now masterfully leading the President and her Cabinet to accept as the true one.

When all this is over, I want to take a long vacation. Maybe in New Zealand.

At the same time, she was trying to figure out the lone hand that Harris was playing. She knew that the murder of Roman had stunned him. She knew that he had long wanted to lay siege on the underground network of Quiapo, but she was not certain what role this supposed terrorist group played in his plans. Part of her wondered if this new KKK was a brainchild of Harris, or of the acting director of the Anti-Piracy Agency, who may have used it to kill off his superior, Director Gener Roman.

Wheels within wheels. Whose game are we playing now?

When the meeting was over, Felice made a call on her mobile phone.

"Yes. So the meeting will push through tomorrow? I’ll tell her. I know, Father. I’ll be praying myself tonight."

She sighed as she sat on the bed, lit a cigarette and considered what she would tell Arianna. On many occasions in the past few years that they had known each other, Felice had asked herself what she really thought of the beautiful young online journalist. She was fond of Arianna and genuinely enjoyed her company, and Felice had wondered how important that friendship was to her, because she knew that in this line of work, sometimes you would need to sacrifice even your loved ones and your dearest friends. She supposed that time was coming soon, and Arianna would hate her and never forgive her.

I’m a bitch. But I’m the one who can save you all. You can hate me, but you still need me.

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The attack came without warning, as the masked figures suddenly materialized behind the squad of Philippine Marines guarding the ruins of the Plaza Miranda monument, which had been cordoned off by the police.

One Marine screamed as the sinuous blade of the kris sliced through flesh and bone, chopping off his right hand. His buddy was able to fire his Armalite at the attacker, but he gasped in horror as the masked swordsman remained unfazed and impaled him with the blade.

Then, as suddenly as the attack had begun, the masked figures disappeared. Some of the squad members were still firing at the area where they had been standing scant moments ago.

The squad leader took out his walkie talkie.

"Man down! Our attackers are gone, but we have one dead and several injured here."

A strange silence had filled the air. The Marines, the riot police and the operatives of the Anti-Piracy Agency looked up at the sky, which had turned darker and now threatened the coming of heavy rain. The law enforcers looked at each other. Some of the younger operatives made the sign of the cross.

Shots were fired. Screams filled the air, as the masked figures once appeared, this time attacking the squad of anti-riot police guarding the fire trucks. Someone yelled.

"Granada!"

One fire truck blew up, and people screamed as the fireball engulfed them and shrapnel flew everywhere.

APA operatives rushed to the area to assist the riot police. Someone lobbed a grenade at them, forcing them to scatter and hit the dirt.

"Sir, we’re being attacked here! The attackers are using hit-and-run tactics and you won’t believe it but they seem to be materializing and disappearing into thin air. They’ve blown up some of the fire trucks. We are…" the APA ground commander was telling the acting APA director on his walkie talkie when he stopped at a sight that chilled his heart.

It was the head of the late APA Director Gener Roman being held by the hair on the left hand of a masked figure who had suddenly appeared in front of the shocked APA ground commander. Before he could even cry out, the masked attacker had sliced off his right arm with cold precision using his kris.

The APA leader screamed in agony as the blood gushed out. He fell to his knees.

"You will live. Tell them what you have seen. And pray tonight to whichever gods you worship, for many of you will no longer see the dawn."

And then he disappeared.

#

Thousands of demonstrators had already gathered at the EDSA Shrine, snarling traffic as the rallyists chanted, waved placards and carried streamers condemning the government’s plan to once more declare Martial Law.

They came from all over the metropolis: students, teachers, office workers, youth leaders, NGOs, labor groups, militants, cause-oriented groups, people’s organizations, businessmen, temps, secretaries, salesmen and employees of every stripe.

Civil society leaders had also arrived, some of them already on stage. Many of them were familiar faces, among them the same members of civil society that helped oust the President’s predecessor and install her in his place over seven years ago.

In the financial district of Makati, another big group of demonstrators had occupied the stretch of Ayala in front of the Anti-Piracy Agency headquarters, demanding the dismantling of the APA for rampant violation of human rights and the massacre of the vendors in Quiapo.

From España, E. Rodriguez and Quezon Boulevard, rallyists had already converged at the Welcome Rotonda, led by the militant groups representing laborers, farmers and fisherfolk. The militants had announced that they would proceed to Mendiola and attempt to march to Malacañang tonight, to prevent the President from declaring Martial Law and demand her resignation.

"Hanggang kailan tayo magbubulag-bulagan sa mga katiwalian ng pamahalaang ito?" one of the militant leaders shouted over the megaphone, as the rallyists cheered and clapped their hands.

Meanwhile, along Quezon Memorial Circle, the students that had gathered at the University and who were now marching to EDSA were enthusiastically calling on stranded motorists to join the rally.

"Sumama na kayo! Sumama na kayo!"

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"At ‘yan po ang kasalukuyang tanawin ngayon sa kahabaan ng Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. Makikita ninyo kasamang Albert na dumarami na ang mga nagpi-People Power sa EDSA Shrine. May nasagap din tayong balita na ilang mga senador at kongresista na kasapi ng oposisyon ang dadalo maya-maya ditto sa EDSA," the voice-over announced as the camera showed the long line of marchers and the traffic that had crawled to a halt along EDSA.

The solon was on the phone, arguing with her public relations officer.

"I know, I know. But I’m still weighing my options. Of course, I know that this might all fizzle out and then there would be consequences. And I’m not stupid; I know if I throw my support to this so-called People Power, I would just alienate some of its supporters and put its success in jeopardy. Many of these rallyists hate me more than her -- God knows why."

It’s good I’m here in Laoag, she thought to herself when she put the phone down, though who would have thought this would happen so soon? Whatever happens, we have to secure Ilocos.

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"Tonight, my brothers and sisters, we pray for the Philippine president and the future of our country," Father Constantino said to his congregation. "We pray that we shall have a peaceful solution to this crisis, and that the President and will be enlightened, that she shall choose the right path and think of the good of the country.

"The Maharlika taught us that there is no victory without sacrifice, that we must be willing to look beyond ourselves and think of the good of the many. Individually, we can do nothing. Even he, the greatest leader this country and the world has ever known, recognized that without the people, there is precious little any hero can do to change a nation.

"Now, in this time of great uncertainty, we pray that the country will be united, and that every Filipino will listen to our words and see the wisdom of the teacher that they unjustly accused and rejected, just as every great prophet is a stranger in his own country.

"All these things shall pass, and we shall emerge a stronger nation, committed to the salvation of every Filipino, and the restoration of the greatness that is our birthright

"We ask this in the name of God the Father, who brought the Cross to this land, and the Apo his son, who is the Father of us all."

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