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Today’s news brings back old school memories

By Willie Jose
January 16, 2018


Every time I read today’s news, what comes to mind are some images and other unforgettable memories I had seen and experienced while studying at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in the 60s.

The name of Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the consultant of the National Democratic Front is always a front-page item these days in newspapers back home because of the recent government’s cancellation of the peace talks with the communist rebels and the frequent skirmishes between the military and the rebels.

Every time there are news stories about the leftist rebel movement, Prof. Sison’s comments are often sought by the media men simply because he’s former founder and head of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Although he’s now based in The Netherlands, from time to time, we read him either criticizing the government or depending on the position taken by the New People’s Army.

With the opening of the PLM in 1967, we -- the first batch of students there-- would frequently see Prof. Sison idly standing at the school’s lobby waiting to fetch his wife, Julie Sison, our first librarian.

Although Mrs. Sison didn’t stay long at the PLM, she could have been instrumental in bringing some nationalist and progressive books and journals in the library; I still remember that those were the days when I would spend long hours at the library reading these Progressive Reviews journals authored by her husband, also known simply as Joma.

Occasionally, we would often to see Arthur Garcia visiting some of his former students at the school-- and I learned from some of my classmates that this guy had been their PMT commandant at the Mapa High School. And a few years later, we read in the papers that Garcia was one of the founders of the Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

For some obvious reasons, the Sisons had gone out of public view.

Every time, I read an encounter between the military and some Muslim rebels in Mindanao, what normally plays in my memory is the big story in 1968, the so-called the Jabidah Massacre. This Jabidah operation was said to be a secret operation in which some Muslims had been recruited and trained to lead the supposed Sabah’s invasion.

 For many years back, our government had been claiming that Sabah was part of the country. It was former Sen. Benigno Aquino who had exposed this massacre in the halls of the Senate.

What’s the connection of this Jabidah news with my alma mater?

Well, one of the officers linked to this operation was our ROTC commandant, Capt.Teodoro Facelo. Only after a few months of staying at the PLM as the head of the school’s military training, Facelo suddenly disappeared from the scene and nobody knew where he had gone.

After Sen. Aquino’s expose on this operation, the Senate started to conduct an investigation on the issue and surprisingly the name of Capt. Facelo came up in the news; he had been identified as the right hand of Col. Abdul Latiif, the head of the Jabidah operation-- and Congress had investigated these two military men for their alleged role in the infamous Jabidah Massacre.

A few years ago, however, there were reports that this Jabidah affair is a big hoax; some would even claim that the stories on the alleged massacre of some Muslim trainees have not been proven to be true.

These past months, the country’s leading newspapers have been reporting about President Duterte’s plans to declare either martial law or the revolutionary gov’t.

But what we’ve learned from our experience about this martial law is that the people would not welcome it with open arms; they would oppose it in whatever way they could—and probably some people would even be forced to go underground.

During the turbulent period in the early 70s, the so-called First Quarter Storm, some PLM students had also taken part in those demonstrations and rallies, protesting the country’s various political and social ills. With the era’s rebellious spirit, these young and bright students did their part in forming organizations such as the Kabataang Makabayan and the Samahang Demokratikong Kabataan in the campus. And with the imposition of martial law in 1972, a number of PLM students were arrested and served time in prison.

One prominent PLM alumna, Liliosa Hilao was arrested by the military. She was the first victim of the Martial Law; she had been tortured, raped and brutally killed while in detention. Liliosa had been a constant honor student and former editor of the PLM’s school paper “Hasik”.

These days, the front page photos of newspapers showing riot policemen dispersing demonstrators look like the 60s photo reproductions of these images: cops mercilessly beating demonstrators with their truncheons, protesters shouting invectives to cops.

The riots policemen used by the government to quell violent rallies during the First Quarter Storm era were the student-police cadets of the Manila Police Academy stationed at with the PLM campus.

One time I was reading one newspaper online when I came across an article about President Duterte signing into law a bill granting tuition-free education to over100 state universities and colleges. Thousands of students will surely benefit from this initiative considering the enormous cost of this plan:  $2B a year.

However, giving free tuition to students is not a new idea because with the creation of the PLM as early as in 1964, former Mayor Antonio Villegas had brought into fruition his vision to give free education to the poor but deserving students in the city of Manila.

With what’s going on back home, I could only say there’s really nothing new under the sun:

History simply repeats itself!

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