Carmen Diokno : Remembering an unsung heroine
“So I decided to write to you, because it gives me the sensation that you and the children are still here with me, and I am still talking with you and listening to your voice, your laughter, and your singing.”It frightened Carmen to see from her bathroom window the soldiers approaching the gates. She wanted to seek help, but all their telephones lines had been cut weeks ago. The soldiers moved in and invited Diokno to join them for questioning to a military camp. They had no warrant. He challenged it. But they refused to leave without him.
The morning after, Carmen, with probably less than four hours of sleep, rose early to look for her husband in Crame, only to find out that he had been moved later in solitary confinement to the Army headquarters on Fort Bonifacio. There she also found Roces, Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Ramon Mitra, and several other Marcos critics and opposition leaders in separate, nearby cells.
“She made sure that we understood that he was leaving us, not because he did something wrong. We were told we should be proud of him because he did something right,’’ said Pat, the third child, in an interview with this newsman one Sunday in Quezon City.
Carmen didn’t cry, but she began smoking more cigarettes than usual, two other children remembered.“Today, you made me feel the spirit of giving that is the very essence of Christmas, as I have never felt it before; and I am sorry that I have so little to give you in return. Now more than ever before, I am determined to do what lies within me to see to it that you and the children and our people need never again spend another Christmas in the shadow of injustice and oppression cast by one man’s unreasoning fear, and his insatiable lust for power and wealth.
She came escorted by an American colonel. He arrived with his date, Baby Quezon, a sister of Manuel Quezon. They all sat at the same, assigned table. She looked pretty, he sounded brilliant. It might have been love at first sight: The moment they were introduced, they looked at each other, they talked to each other, and most of the times only to each other, as if nothing else mattered, but everybody else quizzically took notice.
But his stint didn’t last long. Diokno ordered an investigation and a raid in March 1962 on a firm owned by American businessman Harry Stonehill for alleged tax evasion and for bribing public officials. Macapagal intervened, allowing Stonehill to leave the country. He asked Diokno to resign.
“There I think is the secret of your mother’s strength—her fierce instinct as a wife and mother; and she has been the source of fortitude that has sustained us all during these eleven months of my detention.“I am sure that these months have been harder on her than on me. For I have always been confident that God would not abandon our family, and that your mother would be more than capable of making things work out. The events have justified my faith; in fact, sometimes I think that the family has done better than it would have had I been with them.
“I still don’t know if any charges have been filed against me or, if so, for what; or if I am to be released or when. Either way, as soon I know, I shall try to tell your mother, so she can let you know right away.”Carmen moved to live with one of her children inside UP campus. She didn’t marry again. But neither did she fall for another man.
Read more: ABS-CBN News
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