Saturday, May 20, 2006


This particular event will always be etched in my memory, because I saw it on live television.

On the night of August 1, 1971, the Liberal Party was holding its “miting de avance” rally at Plaza Miranda in Manila. Its oppositionist senatorial line-up was seated on a raised dais or platform erected temporarily at Plaza Miranda specifically for the rally. Some of these candidates included senatorial candidates Eva Estrada Kalaw and Jovito Salonga and mayoral candidate Ramon Bagatsing.

I am very familiar with the Plaza Miranda area. I went to college at De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Manila. When I took public transportation, Plaza Miranda was where I would catch my short jeepney ride to Taft. Ave. after a bus ride from Quezon City to Quiapo. On a normal day, Plaza Miranda then was just a huge open space in front of the Quiapo church, full of people hurrying to and fro.

Tonight, the crowd just milled in front of the raised dais. From what I remember from newspaper accounts, there were several grenades thrown onto the stage. One exploded onstage, the other bounced off the stage and exploded right into the crowd. One grenade turned out to be a dud, and could have easily increased the death toll.

From what I saw on TV, you could see and hear the explosions. After the explosions, smoke swirled up on stage, and you could see those mostly at the edge of the dais scamper away. Some in the middle of the stage stood up staggering, and a few figures were slumped on their chairs or on the floor of the stage.

Pandemonium broke loose soon after that. I believe there were several television replays of the blasts. But nothing could equal the emotional shock of the first explosions.

Nine were killed and several dozens injured, including Senators Jovito Salonga and Eva Estrada Kalaw. Senator Jovito Salonga was one of the worst hit of the victims. It took three major operations in the first twelve hours after the bombing for a team of doctors to save his life. Salonga has carried the effects and scars of that bombing the rest of his life. He is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and claims to have over a hundred shrapnels in his body.

Pres. Marcos blamed the communists for the bloody crime. Speaking for the Philippine Communist Party, its founder Jose Ma. Sison denied having anything to do with it and in fact condemned the bombing. Another suspect to emerge during the subsequent investigation was General Fabian Ver, head of Marcos’s Presidential Security Unit (PSU).

Marcos took advantage of the situation to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, Hundreds of suspected subversives from the ranks of students, workers and professionals were rounded up and detained by the authorities. Many writers point to this incident as the catalyst and Marcos’ rationale for martial law eventually declared in 1972.


Who do you suspect were the perpetrators of this crime?

Do you think President Ferdinand Marcos had direct involvement?
Where were you and what do you remember about the event?


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