Now it can be told

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    ‘My share of “now it can be told” stories include those I witnessed personally, especially during the EDSA 1986 events and the run-up to the firing of then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.’

    THE spate of books coming out of Washington DC detailing the goings-on in the Trump White House (and the Trump family) are always a welcome addition to scholarly and less-than-scholarly work that historians and history buffs can pore over to better understand this special period in US history.

    I recently began reading Bob Woodward’s Rage after almost completing Dr. Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, which I picked up after finishing John Bolton’s The Room Where It happened. There were others that came before these and there will be others to follow and if only I could read like my classmate Gibo Teodoro I would happily digest them all.

    This is not the first Presidency to be subjected to “now it can be told” tales from insiders. In the 1980s I loved reading “The Best And The Brightest” of David Halberstam, which detailed how some of the smartest minds in Washington led America down the path towards the Vietnam imbroglio. Well, disaster, actually. After the Nixon presidency ended in the first and only resignation from office of a President, his inner circle (John Dean, John Erlichman, etc) came out with books to tell their side of the story – and cash in on the “fame.” Of course, there are presidential memoirs, but these do not produce the type of exposes you’d find in a Bolton or Woodward book. Still they remain valuable as they provide insights (with the benefit of hindsight) into the thoughts of the leader during significant moments of his term in office. Or of a losing campaign, such as Hillary’s What Happened. Which was painful to read and, I am sure, even more painful to write.

    In a country like the Philippines where scholarly work on presidencies is so rare it is books like these that we lock. Heck, we lack autobiographies as it is, what more well-researched biographies, independently written? Commissioned works are naturally heavily edited with even tough writers wearing kid gloves in their treatment of the subject – what if they’re not paid? But imagine what we are missing – stories of what happens behind closed doors, in “smoke filled rooms,” when power brokers and power players get together and decide the fate of the rest of us?

    My share of “now it can be told” stories include those I witnessed personally, especially during the EDSA 1986 events and the run-up to the firing of then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. I had a front-row seat during some interesting moments, thanks to my then-boss, Assemblyman Renato Cayetano, who at that time was JPE’s right hand and to whom I was legislative assistant. So I would accompany RLC (our nickname for the elder Cayetano) to sessions in the Enrile house in Dasmariñas where NP (Enrile wing) leaders would gather to discuss the next steps and from where we would fan out in the country with a slogan “Harani na” (which I think meant “coming very soon.”) The “strategy” sessions were usually held in a room that was kept dark, while fully-armed soldiers were in the basement ready at any moment to spring into action.

    For someone just in his late 20s, I found those very exciting times indeed.

    I got second hand “now it can be told” stories from Enrique Zobel, who of course was friend to almost every major political player in history from the 1960s to the 1990s. These included “Ninoy and Macoy,” as he called them, who would meet at Zobel’s house in Forbes Park in the late 1960s to argue over politics and discuss matters that Zobel said made him excuse himself often, only to be told to sit and listen as an observer. He used to tell me that at that time, FM’s security aide would sit in the kitchen waiting for his boss; the aide’s name was Fabian Ver.

    In the late 1980s EZ was close to the RAM officers, especially the late Capt. Rex Robles and those conversations were more “now it can be told” tales. In the 1990s there was the Marcos gold issue which added other “now it can be told” chapters in my head.

    Even at Coke I was able to collect “now it can be told” stories, from why Royal Tru Orange once had real pulp bits (no more) inside, to why a Coke plant at Silangan right along the SLEX has no company or brand markings at all (which was so un-Coke). Now closed, that facility used to be the heart of the Coca-Cola business in the Philippines, where the “secret formula” was put together and distributed to all the bottling plants of the local bottler. And that’s why it remained unmarked – because it was the single most critical facility of the business in the Philippines; damage it and you cripple the whole multi-million dollar operation.

    Speaking of Coke, those who have followed the political career of now-Speaker Alan Cayetano know that in the late 1990s he adopted the “Always Cayetano” tag line when he first ran in Taguig-Pateros. Do you think it was a coincidence that I was working for Coke at that time?