When I returned to the States in 1982, it was good to be home. It was quite an adjustment becoming “American” again. I had just gotten used to all this when events halfway around the world once again transpired against me.
I had moved to the Philippines in July 1972. On Sept. 21, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. After declaring martial law, he jailed his political opponents. Chief among them was Senator Beningno “Ninoy” Aquino, leader of the opposition.
I took advantage of the G.I. Bill and went back to school. I studied at the Asian Institute of Management and obtained my master’s in Management degree. Half of the class of 50 were Filipino, and half of those were military, mostly field-grade. We studied and partied together.
After graduation in June 1976, I was accepted into the doctoral program at the University of the Philippines. When I turned in the proposal for my doctoral dissertation, which was about corruption, the chancellor, Dr. Noel Soriano, said that I could not write about that. I could get in trouble with the martial law regime. So I changed my proposal.
About this time, Aquino was allowed to leave the country and go to the United States for medical treatment of a heart ailment. I rewrote my dissertation and graduated in June 1981. I returned to the States in December 1982.
On Aug. 21, 1983, I was at home watching Charles Kuralt on his “Sunday Morning” television show. At the end of the show, he announced some breaking news. Senator Aquino was gunned down on the tarmac at Manila International Airport. He had decided to return to the Philippines to convince Marcos to step down. He was murdered as soon as he got off the plane.
I was sitting on my sofa taking all this in when the phone rang. It was Dr. Soriano.
“Have you heard?” I said yes.
He asked if I still had my research. I said yes; it was in two cardboard boxes under my bed. He replied, “Please return to Manila as soon as you can. We have work to do.”
That is all it took. There was no begging, cajoling or pleading. Dr. Soriano had become my friend. I returned to the Philippines.
I met with him and his friends. They called themselves the Convenors. They were a group of academics and businessmen. Their objective was the non-violent overthrow of Marcos. They had a plan.
I flew home and started writing again about corruption during the Marcos presidency. I returned to Manila a year later, in September 1984, with the first draft to show the Convenors. I was staying at the Mandarin Hotel. My room was raided and my manuscript was confiscated. I was arrested and taken to Camp Crame. The next day, I was released after promising not to publish the book. I have always wondered if my friendships with the military officers at A.I.M. had anything to do with the way I was treated.
I returned to the States and continued writing. In November 1985, although his term did not expire until 1987, Marcos announced there would be a snap election to prove the people still supported him. The Convenors met with Cory, Ninoy’s widow, and convinced her to run against Marcos.
Just before Christmas, there was a knock on my door. It was Ken Kashiwahara, popular San Francisco television journalist. He was also the husband of Lupita, Ninoy’s sister. Kashiwahara had heard about the book I was writing and that Part I was about the Marcos war medals. It proved that Marcos could not have won any of the medals. He asked if Cory could use Part I in her campaign. I agreed. Within 24 hours, Mr.&Ms. Magazine had it published and circulated all over the Philippines.
After the election in February, Marcos announced he won. The people knew he had cheated. They rose up against Marcos. He called out his military. They refused to fight them. Marcos fled the country.
At the time, I was in Hong Kong working on an article about Marcos for the South China Morning Post newspaper. I had been warned in 1984 not to return to the Philippines. But when I heard Marcos had fled, I was on the second plane back in.
I was picked up and taken to President Cory Aquino’s temporary offices in Makati. All my old friends, now newly installed cabinet officials, greeted me. My book, The Marcos File, was published a few months later. The government of the Philippines initiated its first lawsuit against Marcos. Exhibit 0001 was The Marcos File.
A year later, the president appointed Dr. Soriano to be the National Security director, to find Marcos’ hidden wealth. I was asked to help him. I wrote a second book about that experience, entitled Asian Loot.
Chuck McDougald headed the Veterans Coalition, first for California, then for the Western Region, when Sen. John McCain ran for president in 2008. In 2010, he served as Statewide Volunteer Chair for Carly Fiorina’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. He is currently the Western Region director for ConcernedVeteransforAmerica.org. He lives in South San Francisco with his wife and two kids.