In his usual emphatic but rhythmically pleasant style he said, “You know Don, the greatest mistake of Marcos is that he let the military taste power.”

Davao Today

Whenever I‘m eye to eye with facts of abuses and or excesses committed by the State’s security forces — be they military, paramilitary or police — I’m immediately reminded of the late Senator Jose W. Diokno.

My remembrances of him always gravitate on one remarkable sentence he uttered while we were having our breakfast together at his residence in Quezon City, that one uneventful morning during the Martial Law years.

It was, I guess, the third in a row of similar moments we had together.  It so happened that during those tension-filled days I earned the enviable privilege of being close to him.  Almost like father-son relationship which had its beginnings when he invited me to be among the leading members of the Kaakbay, an acronym for Kilusan para sa Kasarinlan ng Bayan (Movement for Democracy and Sovereignty).

A cherished memory was when he summoned me to come up to his bedroom and asked me to sing the song I sang on his birthday which he celebrated along with us, the political detainees, at the Bicutan Detention Center.  His terminal lung cancer that time already forbade him to move around.

In his usual emphatic but rhythmically pleasant style he said, “You know Don, the greatest mistake of Marcos is that he let the military taste power.”

Providential words!

Nearly 30 after the so-called Edsa People Power , those remarkable words still reverberate in my memory and have invariably found their exactitude and truth in the events that followed the fall of the dictator.

We just have to bring back to mind the futile revolts landmarked by that of Gringo Honasan and the other misadventures of military persons, including Antonio Trillanes’ “Thrilla in Makati.”

But the taste of power is just like a true gourmet’s experience.  You will always crave for it, and as much as possible have a tighter hold of it the second time around.  If you cannot take a bite of it by the nozzle of a gun, bribe or trick the “master chef” — the electorate — to dish it out for you through the electoral process.

In the case of Honasan and Panfilo Lacson, it’s not just a desire for a second time around, but for an “unli time” or God willing, for eternal tenure!  Ang sarap ng kapangyarihan! Hahanap-hanapin mo hanggang kamatayan.

The unremitting acts of violent excesses of the armed forces on the ground are residual ingredients of the menu of power that has fascinated the men in uniform since the time of Marcos.  But in soldiering or in political play, in war or in peace, the military man always thinks and acts the military way.

No doubt, the ascent to the helm of power by former President Fidel Ramos, the erewhile chief hatchetman of the dictator, was spurred by such fascination.

And that great nationalist and civil libertarian, Senator Diokno, may not be remembered for his unrelenting fight against the Marcos dictatorship or for his dauntless advocacy for the victims of human rights violations by organizing the Flag (Free Legal Assistance Group).  You will miss the glitter of his wisdom and intellectual acumen as a visionary statesman.

Ms. Cory Aquino described him “as a man of sterling character.”  I built a monument of him in my heart with these versified inscriptions:

kaluhang parabola halad                              twin parables in memory
kang Ka Pepe Diokno                                        of Ka Pepe Diokno

Ang liso                           The seed

Ang liso                                        The seed
sa  talisay dunay  mga pako,                          of the talisay has wings,
makalupad kinig layo                           it can fly to far places
moturok sa bisan asang                          grows anywhere — on any space
luna o nataran.  Gani,                          or courtyard.  In fact, it grew
miturok ni sa tugkaran                       on the front yard of my house
sa akong balay sa dakong pulo,                          in the big island, has grown
mitubo nga usa ka kahoyng                        to become a strong and sturdy
lubasan,                      tree,
mibarog latas sa daghang                        withstood the assaults of
hangin, kalayo ug ulan  countless storms, fires and rains
ug gidangpan                      and has become a refuge
sa daghang mga langgam.  of many a freedombird.

Ang kahoy                          The tree

may usa ka dakong kahoy                                      there was a huge tree
sa masiot nga kasaysayan                     in the thick of history
ang alimyon sa iyang bulak                          the scent of its blossom
nanuhotsuhot sa hanging lang-og                                   suffused the stale air
ang katam-is sa iyang bunga                          the sweet of its fruit
kalipay sa kalanggaman                    the birds’ rejoicing

may pako ang iyang liso                           its seeds have wings
ug milupad sa kasilinganan                   and can fly to neighboring places
may napadpad sa tugkaran                                one strayed to the front yard
sa payag sa layong baybayon                       of a nipa hut by the seaside
miturok ug milabong nahimong                         and grew tall and lush
pasilongan sa mga maglalakbay                          and its shade provides shelter
ang landong sa iyang mga dahon                         to many a passersby

may langgam nga mitugdon there was a bird
ning kahoy nga halangdon                      came to this noble tree
mi-awit og sugilanon                      and sang a story
sa dugokan sa panahon                        at the trunk of time
mikanaw iyang tingog                         its voice resounded
sa tanang suok ug wanang                                     in all nooks and spheres
sa kasingkasing timawa:                        of the soul enchained:

“ang timgas nga pagbati                        “the purest of  feelings
wala sa tam-isong kalipay                        is not in sweet joy
nga bunga sa kadaogan,                      that is the fruit of  victory,
naa sa kahinam nga gihagdan                                 but in thrills scaled
aron makab-ot ang himaya                         to reach up at glory
nga ganti sa paninguha”                     the prize of endless strivings”

Don J. Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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