The so-called Mosquito Press was a journalistic name coined during the Marcos martial law. It emerged during the early 1980s to counter the Marcos propaganda that was a daily fare of the very tightly controlled private media, some of them actually owned by the dictator’s family (until this day, some are). On Jan. 6, 1973, the dictator issued Presidential Decree 90 which would punish by imprisonment those who spread “rumors, false news and gossip,” actually euphemisms that criticism against the Marcoses was unlawful.
Despite the danger to criticize the conjugal dictators, some did in heroic valiance. Among them were the WE Forum, Ang Pahayagang Malaya, Mr&Ms Magazine and even student publications such as UP Diliman’s The Philippine Collegian, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila’s Ang Hasik, and many others. The Philippine Press History of WordPress.com explains why it was so-called: “These publications were likened to mosquitoes, small but have a stinging bite.”
Writer Ronalyn V. Olea, writing for Bulatlat in “How the mosquito press fought disinformation under Marcos,” begins by referencing the Greek dramatist Aeschylus: “In war, truth is the first casualty.” And that exactly was what the dictator first attacked by silencing media and apportioning ownership to his family and cronies to ensure they will not write critically of his despotism.
Today the Marcoses will be hard-pressed to revise the history of their dictator parents. Publications of the Mosquito Press have been scanned and digitized. In fact, a telling photo of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo surfaced recently on social media. Published in the Aug. 9-15, 1985 issue of Mr&Ms Magazine, it shows her joining an anti-Marcos rally with the huge sign IMPEACH MARCOS emblazoned on a poster hanging from her shoulders.
Netizens were simply digging into the paradoxical twist of her own history she is now writing. Photos have surfaced of her joining the presidential trip to the Asean forum in Cambodia and the APEC summit in Thailand as Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s “adviser.” Political turncoatism, like dynasties, is one of the ills acutely ailing our political system. Macapagal Arroyo is the poster girl for that. Take note: she has filed House Bill 488 that penalizes political turncoatism because, as she says, “it distorts the concept of word of honor and dignity of a leader.” And those were exactly what had typified her political opportunism.
It is time to contrast Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with the norm against the Marcos dictatorship that her father had left us. As Marcos Jr.’s adviser, senior majority floor leader, and his coalition party mate in the last elections, GMA cannot erase one historical truth: she betrays her own father.
Diosdado Macapagal denounced the Marcos martial law as a lawless dictatorship. The New York Times blared: Ex-President Calls Marcos a Dictator. In April 1976, Macapagal spent some 10 hours inside the US ambassador’s residence in Manila in his quest for political asylum, saying he was prompted by reliable information that he was about to be arrested. The US State Department, acting on an intelligence tip, assured him he was not yet in danger of being arrested.
But that same year, he also wrote “Democracy in the Philippines,” the first anti-Marcos book for which Macapagal was indeed arrested on charges of inciting to sedition and rumormongering. Marcos avoided jailing an ex-president and the controversy it will cost his regime, but three colleagues of Macapagal in the book project were indeed placed under house arrest – Abraham Sarmiento, Rogaciano Mercado, and Manuel Concordia.
Macapagal’s arrest came a week after he had attended the birthday party of former senate president Gil Puyat. Macapagal and the political leaders present severely criticized martial law. The problem was, Imelda Marcos was also present in the party and sat at Macapagal’s table. Humiliated and incensed, she had a hand in the arrest of Macapagal.
The Macapagal-Marcos dynamics extended even after the former won the 1965 Liberal Party presidential nomination for which reason Marcos bolted the party to turncoat to the Nacionalista Party. Macapagal was later elected as president of the 1971 constitutional convention. In 1973, he questioned the Marcos dictated ratification of the draft of the 1973 Constitution which Marcos had modified to insert the guarantee that he will continue to rule for life.
“The martial law regime of Marcos was nothing but an eerily disguised plot to perpetuate himself in power and his wife and son by consolidating all the economic resources of the country under his control,” Macapagal said in a public speech. He bared how public works projects under Marcos were sources of corruption by his relatives and friends.
In May 1978, when US Vice President Walter Mondale visited Manila and insisted on meeting with the leading opponents of the Marcos martial law government, the US embassy secretly invited two former senators, a Roman Catholic bishop, an activist nun, former UP president Salvador P. Lopez (who had called the UP community to resist Marcos’s plan to militarize the UP campus), and Diosdado Macapagal. They asked Mondale to press Marcos to release jailed opposition leaders and on the state of human rights in the country.
In 1979, Macapagal founded the National Union for Liberation as a political party to oppose the Marcos dictatorship.
In February 1986, as the People Power revolt was raging at Edsa, Macapagal was one of those who went on air in Radio Veritas to urge people to join the burgeoning street protest. “I felt that I could not rest even to enjoy the privileges of my family until we put Marcos down.” The Chicago Tribune announced: Marcos’ Predecessor Remains Unbowed.
The struggle against Marcos fascism is a defining standard for many of our democracy’s icons of civil liberty: Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno, Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, Ninoy Aquino et al. Add Diosdado Macapagal.
But not — and never — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.