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‘Mementos of Excess’

  •   4 min reads
‘Mementos of Excess’

Former Vice President Jojo Binay, then a human rights lawyer, recalls the two days he spent in Malacañang as caretaker after the Marcoses left.

Senator Imee Marcos, who is credited as creative consultant for “Maid in Malacañang,” has brushed aside criticisms about the movie’s truth distortions.

The senator told a TV talk show host: “For me the truth is that I’m not in EDSA. That’s why the truth is that I don’t have the right to talk about EDSA. I have the right (to talk about what happened) in Malacañang. They are not in Malacañang. I was in Malacañang.”

Yet based on initial reviews, the movie glosses over the mayhem that attended those last 72 hours before the Marcoses fled Malacañang. It was a far different scene recounted by Col. Arturo Aruiza, the former dictator’s long-time aide who joined his principal in exile. In his book “Ferdinand E. Marcos: From Malacañang to Makiki,” Aruiza describes Palace staff frantically carrying luggages, packing the Marcoses’ personal belongings, and burning or shredding documents.

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, then a human rights lawyer, arrived at the Palace hours after the Marcoses fled. He had been asked by a fellow lawyer, Joker Arroyo, who would later be appointed Executive Secretary by President Cory Aquino, to act as Palace caretaker and put order to the place. His account, published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, is included in the book “Dignity and Compassion: The Jojo Binay Story.” Excerpts below:

The day after Marcos fled the country, (Jojo Binay) got an early morning call from Joker asking to be accompanied to Malacañang. Crowds had broken into the Palace grounds as soon as the Marcoses fled. There were reports of looting, and government property were being destroyed. Someone had to put order and prepare the Palace for Cory.

Jojo’s stint as Palace caretaker was reported in the February 25, 2009 issue of the Inquirer, bylined by Volt Contreras:

“Binay, then a human rights lawyer and election campaign manager for Aquino, said he first arrived at the Palace on the morning of Feb. 26, and inspected it in his capacity as aide to newly appointed Executive Secretary Joker  Arroyo.

Then Atty. Jojo Binay as Palace caretaker, February 26, 1986.

“By that time, a team from the victorious military faction — led by Col. Gringo Honasan — had already secured the building and was sweeping the premises for bombs, he added.

“‘There, it was the occupants who made the big mess as they hurriedly left,’ Binay recalled in an interview last week.

“By established accounts, Marcos gave the order for his family to start packing as early as 5:30 a.m. of Feb. 25, shortly after U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, in a phone call from Washington, advised the beleaguered leader that he ‘should cut, and cut cleanly.’

“That gave his household just about 15 hours to stuff 20 years of Marcos rule — or, at least, the portable bits of its fabled, ill-gotten riches — into boxes and suitcase. The Marcoses were airborne, en route to Clark Field (and later on to Hawaii ) by 9 p.m. that day.

“Binay noted many signs that the Marcos residence was largely spared from the looting.

“In one of the rooms, he recalled seeing ‘a rack of long firearms, six or eight in all’ and ‘a sheepskin holster,’ probably items received by Marcos as gifts. In the prayer room, there was a resplendent Sto. Nino statue with what appeared to be ‘a diamond embedded on its forehead.’

“There was a basement, and in it not only Imelda’s but also Ferdinand’s side of the racks included ‘elevator shoes,’ which were custom-made (pasadya), probably so they could make up for his difference (in height) with Imelda,” Binay said.

“The basement was where the power couple also kept freshly minted ‘souvenir coins’ issued by the Central Bank. Another room served as storage for giveaways, such as bags and small radios.

“Out of a closet, Binay picked a ‘brown fatigue jacket’ and tried it on for size: A perfect fit. ‘Actually brought it home, my one and only souvenir. But I don’t know where it is now.’

“In what was assumed to be Imelda’s dressing room, Binay said he saw for the first time in his life expensive perfume bottled by the liter.

“Inside the bedroom was ‘an electric toy car’ with the Mercedes Benz emblem, probably for the Marcos grandkids.

“But among these mementos of excess were the more disturbing remnants of an ailing dictator in his last hours in power.

“Binay said it initially puzzled him to see the surface of the ‘toilet seat used by Marcos in his bedroom wrapped in cloth’ as though for cushion. The arm-rest of his chairs also bore similar wrappings.

“Only later would Binay connect this to Marcos’ medical condition at the time: Then aged 68, Marcos had contacted lupus, a disease in which antibodies attack the body’s own tissues, such as the skin, muscles, tendons, as well as the internal organs.

“‘I think they wrapped it that way because coming into contract with hard surfaces may have been very painful for him,’ Binay said.

“The bedroom also had at  least ‘two extra mattresses’ left on the floor. The bed itself was unmade. On a table nearby were bottles of expensive mineral water — at a time when such products were not yet marketed in the Philippines.

“Back in Imelda’s dresser, clothes were strewn about, some stuffed hastily underneath mattresses.

“One item particularly intrigued Binay: On the wall of Marcos’ bedroom hung a framed, handwritten letter. The signatory: Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr., Marcos’ political nemesis.

“In the letter, Ninoy, then writing from a martial law prison, requested he be allowed to seek medical treatment in the United States. Ninoy got his request, and his assassination upon his return to the Philippines in 1983 marked the beginning of the end for Marcos.

“Below the panel where Ninoy’s letter hung, Binay recalled, was a cabinet that kept thick folders of confidential documents that Marcos never got to destroy or spirit away.

“Among them were reports from regional military commanders telling Marcos there was no way he could win the February 1986 snap election over Ninoy’s widow, Cory.”

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