First of a series on Imelda’s persecution
THERE is something perverse, uncivilized and sadistic in the hysterical shrieks of the Yellows and the Reds demanding the immediate incarceration of an 89-year old grandmother, Imelda Marcos.
These screams to lynch Imelda have nothing to do with justice.
Those who demand that Imelda be immediately thrown in jail are those who have never been in prison, and do not have the slightest idea of the mental and physical torture of incarceration. Or they have never cared for or lived with a mother or a grandmother in her 80s to witness how an elderly person’s body and mind deteriorates each day, and her memories fade so fast that she becomes somebody so totally separated from her past.
For chrissakes, Imelda will be 90 by July next year, eight years more than the 72 years average life span of Filipino women. Has she committed a crime so horrible that she should be barred from spending her twilight years in peace?
Why are people like Red Representative Neri Colmenares and the Communist Party itself (in an official statement) gloating that a near-octogenarian suffer in jail for an alleged crime, and not even a heinous one, committed four decades ago?
The glee over Imelda’s conviction is a psychotic bloodlust that is the result of the total success of the Yellows and the Reds in demonizing the Marcos couple. After all, the Metropolitan Manila and Cebu uprising called EDSA I would not have succeeded, and its Yellow victors could not have held on to power, if Marcos had not been painted—with the help of the best Washington-based PR firms and the US deep state—as both a brutal, ruthless dictator and a colossal thief.
Marcos and his wife of course weren’t saints that they didn’t accumulate their own huge retirement stash and secretly acquired substantial shares of the companies—such as PLDT, Benguet Corp., United Laboratories, and Manila Bulletin— that were owned oligarchs they crushed or who became their allies. But in varying degrees and modus operandi, all Philippine presidents—except perhaps Ramon Magsaysay—also did so.
But the claim they plundered the nation’s coffers or committed horrific human rights violations on a mass scale has been a Yellow fiction. They did have major, incontrovertible contributions that advanced the welfare of Filipinos. As a nation, we need a balanced objective assessment of our past, or we will not learn from it.
The Communist Party has been at the head of the lynch mob against the Marcoses since its legitimacy has been almost totally based on its propaganda that has been an immense lie: That it led Filipinos to fight a ruthless fascist. It is struggling to maintain that narrative, claiming that all succeeding administrations have been simply versions of the Marcos “fascist dictatorship.”
I am biased for Imelda for very personal reasons, although I have never met her in person. I became so only in 2004. That was when my heart arteries became so blocked that I had to have a heart bypass surgery. I owe my life to my cardiac surgeon Chuck Chuachiaco, my cardiologist Lito Atabug who very quickly diagnosed that I was on the brink of a heart attack, and to an old friend Rho Clemente who, because her husband owned the hospital, had me jump the queues at the clinics and laboratories.
But I also indirectly owe my life to Imelda. The hospital where I had my surgery was the Philippine Heart Center. While I was diagnosed in a very reputable private hospital where my cardiologist was based, he insisted I have my open-heart surgery at the Heart Center, which he said is a world-class institution for that kind of operation.
The Heart Center was totally Imelda’s pet project. It wouldn’t exist if she had not pushed for its establishment in 1974 and asked the country’s elites to help finance it. It was then called the Philippine Heart Center for Asia, which wasn’t at all a misnomer as it was the first such center for heart diseases, at least in Southeast Asia.
It was Imelda’s prestige that got world-class heart specialists like Christiaan Barnard (who performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant), Denton Cooley (the first implantation of a total artificial heart), as well as cardiac surgery pioneers Donald Effler and Charles Bailey to be consultants at the center. They passed on their skills and insight at the Heart Center to Filipino doctors who became the core of the country’s now world-class generation of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. (Ninoy Aquino spurned the Filipino cardiologists at the Center, claiming they would kill him while he was under the knife under Marcos’ orders and demanded in 1980 that he have his heart surgery in a Texas hospital. It was Imelda who lobbied her husband that he be permitted to do so.)
I’m sure that if my father’s doctors had asked him to be brought to the Heart Center, he would not have died in 1977 of the heart disease I would later have. By that year, heart bypass surgery had become routine at the center, but not done in other hospitals because the procedure required then sophisticated and expensive equipment such as the heart-lung machine.
How many Filipinos with heart disease has the Heart Center served? Using a low estimate of 10,000 in- and out-patients annually served: half a million Filipinos. How many Filipinos like me whose lives were saved through open heart surgeries? With 3,000 such surgeries every year (or about 10 daily): 129,000. How much was the cost of the center’s medical services for heart diseases that were given free, officially or de facto, to the lower classes? Using the Commission on Audit’s figure: P1 billion.
In sharp contrast, the Communist Party and its NPA that direct Colmenares, who has been livid that Imelda hasn’t jailed, have killed by one estimate over 100,000 soldiers, policemen and civilians in its 50 years trying to violently overthrow our democratic system.
With heart disease becoming the leading cause of mortality in the Philippines, we owe Imelda big-time. Visit the Heart Center, it’s become so crowded, as it remains the hospital of preference of cardiac surgeons and doctors around the country. It is practically the only hospital where the poor with heart diseases go to: at 4 a.m., there is already a queue for its free medical consultation. Communist cadre Colmenares should pray hard to whatever god he believes in that he doesn’t contract a heart disease or he’ll have to endure being treated at Imelda’s “edifice.”
If only for her role in establishing the Heart Center, Imelda should be left alone in peace, and dignity.
But not only the Heart Center. Besides that hospital, the Philippines has three other specialty hospitals, all government operated, all renowned in their respective fields: the Lung Center of the Philippines, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. (NKTI has been performing 300 kidney transplants each year, and its 43 dialysis machines serve the poor daily from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
Guess what? All of these were Imelda’s projects. The first hospital Imelda actually lobbied her husband to build, in 1969, is one of the health department’s biggest tertiary hospital today, the East Avenue Medical Center. Why such unimaginative name for a huge hospital?
Months after she grabbed power, President Cory Aquino ordered to change the name of every hospital in the country that would remind people that these were built during Marcos’ watch. So, under her Memorandum Order No. 48 issued in 1986, the name “Bagong Lipunan Hospital” was changed to refer simply to its location in East Avenue. Mariano Marcos Medical Center was changed to Batac General Hospital; Marcos Maternity and Children’s Hospital to Northern Ilocos Norte District Hospital; and Doña Josefa E. Marcos General Hospital to Lasam District Hospital. The names of five other state-owned hospitals in the provinces with a “Marcos” or “Romualdez” in its name were similarly changed.
In the three decades since the Marcoses fell from power, has there been any hospital of any kind built by succeeding administrations? None.
Corazon Aquino died of colorectal cancer, a disease that has become the country’s number one cancer. It is preventable with early diagnosis through colonoscopy. The procedure though, costing P10,000, is beyond the reach of the masses.
President Aquino 3rd had absolute discretion from 2011 to 2012 over P175 billion in funds under the so-called “Disbursement Acceleration Program” he invented. But it didn’t even cross his mind to establish a Philippine Center for Cancer that would provide free colonoscopy, endoscopy and other cancer-treatment services to the masses, to honor his mother.
The Yellow Cult, indeed, has managed to cast a spell on our nation that Imelda’s contributions to the country have been nearly totally forgotten. What kind of sorry nation have we become?
In subsequent installments of these series, I will show that the Sandiganbayan decision itself is so terribly flawed, and that contrary to what the Yellow commentators have been spewing out, it doesn’t at all conclude that Imelda stole “$200 million” from the nation.
(To be continued on Wednesday)