The bizarre reality is that fast food in the form of ‘burgers and fries’ have never ever figured in, or ever been utilized as an extralegal tactical artifice to evade and avoid a criminal indictment. Stranger than fiction, might you not say?
Perhaps, in the histories of political notorieties, this “Big Mac” Marcosian feat, in its guile and gall, may never be emulated. In hindsight, the protagonist in our series was indeed able to establish a “do-it-yourself” condition of “incapacity to be arraigned” indefinitely, up to this point in our narrative. Reasonably, permanent disablement may not have been in his calculations. Marcos did intone, at one time ”I do not intend to die!”
Notably, as gleaned from medical information publicly available, none of the previously reported and diagnosed ailments (heart and kidneys in the earlier two December 1988 hospitalizations) were the same cause for the January 15 return to St Francis. This time, the throat and windpipe were cited. In the days following, bronchoscopy was called for and administered to alleviate the patient’s condition. This procedure involves the throat and the windpipe. (“a hollow, flexible tube is inserted through the throat allowing the physician to visually examine the larynx and trachea …. also used to collect specimen for bacteriological culture.”) Food, but of course, can only pass through the mouth and throat on its way down to the stomach. Unless, blocked, clogged and congested, intentionally or not, by not masticating solid food but simply gulping it down.
A few days after returning to the hospital, complications did begin to set in. Sequentially, what would eventually become the irreversible deterioration in Marcos’ health is definitely traceable to this last hospitalization. And, that confinement, to “Big Mac!”
On the basis of information I had gathered, I opined in my March 9, 1989 communication to Malacanang: “…..had Marcos died during the week of 19-25 January 1989, such would have been a genuine mishap brought about by calculated medical brinkmanship that……. backfired. Forensic medicine may have been enriched with the occurrence of what could be termed as “accidental suicide.” But of course, Marcos did not die. Yet.
At about the time when the proceedings in Judge Keenan’s courtroom in New York City were in progress, as previously scheduled, that was a Thursday - January 19, Imelda announced that her ailing husband had suffered a “collapsed lung!”
Never to miss an opportunity for dramatic hyperbole, Meldy claimed on local TV that “a shrapnel was found in Marcos’ collapsed lung…… a relic of Bataan….when he fought defending America!”
However, information from the St. Francis hospital’s Pathology laboratory indicated that by way of bronchoscopy, the physicians were able to fish out “a non-metallic foreign object from Marcos’ windpipe.”
(This calls for a reiteration of my previously recorded report: a documented memorial written by a Bataan Death March survivor, Dr. J.C. Duque who was Marcos’ Capas concentration camp bunk/cellmate. Dr. Duque attested that Marcos never sustained a single wound in Bataan! Furthermore, I was also able to personally verify from the U.S. Military Order of the Purple Heart that the name “Ferdinand E. Marcos” does not appear in their roster of the war wounded Purple Heart recipients. Marcos famously claimed he had two such awards among his fraudulent medals, claims of war heroism.)
This bronchoscopy was performed in the early morning of January 22, according to Ms. Norma Kop, the hospital spokesperson. This can only mean that when Meldy was wailing about a shrapnel in her husband’s collapsed lung, “defending America!” she still, really, did not know precisely why her husband was supposedly gasping for dear life!
The laboratory finding did not indicate nor reveal how “a non-metallic foreign object” got stuck in Marcos’ throat, nor when he swallowed it. Swallowing is the only way that such object would have reached where it got stuck! It is very likely that the hospital’s attending physicians may never have been told of the ‘Big Mac burgers and fries’ incident having taken place a mere hours immediately prior to the reentry to St. Francis. Who knows? I cannot be certain but perhaps even Imelda may not have known about that incident. For sure, only Tim Ryan and his eye-witness informant, the ‘Portagee’ security man, doubtlessly knew.
I must point out and emphasize that all through the hospital episodes of the deposed President up to this last confinement, Marcos was neither terminal nor incurable. Of course, the whole world already knew he was ailing and sick. However, contrary to the “dying” or the “near death” scenarios that Imelda was weaving, beaming her dispatches to their waiting crowds in Manila, none of the physicians directly attending Marcos (Drs. Livingston Wong, Calvin Wong and Azucena Ignacio) categorically stated that their patient was terminal or incurable…or even simply dying. This is a factual observation.
Attending physicians, as we know and expect, are committed by Hippocratic oath to healing the patient, enhancing the patient’s survival, prolonging his life and eventually discharging him from the hospital. It just might be possible that none of them were willing to be dragged over to New York to testify attesting professionally that Marcos is too sick to be physically present for his arraignment. That would frontally deny the assessment and conclusion arrived at by both Dr. Weld and Dr. Collins who, after all, had consulted with these same attending physicians. Besides, that would have gone against ethical standards.
This could have been the reason, therefore, why another, independent set of doctors were engaged purposely to argue before Judge Keenan Marcos’ physical inability to participate in his by now oft-rescheduled arraignment.
To enhance the political aspects of Marcos’ medical condition, a battery of other doctors was hired evidently to expound upon the near-death severity of Marcos’ illness. Gleaned from published quotations spoken by these doctors, it appeared to me that their would-be testimonies before Judge Keenan were apparently conclusions not based on actual medical examination and data drawn therefrom. Definitely, such testimony would not have been of the same quality and verity that could have been supplied only by the St. Francis attending physicians. It appeared that none of these specialists, hired to perform as expert witnesses to establish Marcos’ incapacity for arraignment, ever proffered hard medical evidence.
These are their published statements:
Dr. Elliot: “I was shocked when I saw him. I thought this was a dying man. Therefore I did not conduct a stress test.”
Dr. Raskin: “He complained to me of intensely painful headaches and of extreme pain. I believed him.”
Dr. Kogan: “His current pneumonia is life-threatening.”
It will be recalled that in concert with the foregoing statements, during those days, there was much stirring of noise generated between Imelda in Makiki and Marcos’ lawyers and sympathetic politicians in Manila. All were espousing ‘dying’ and near death’ scenarios, predicting imminent demise. All possessed a common thread, a pressure agenda. A return of Marcos to the Philippines, “to let the man die in his own country,” stoking political emotions. All boil down to avoiding indictment for criminal racketeering.
I ended my March 9, 1969 memorandum to President Cory Aquino thus:
“While Marcos remains in medical confinement, he will be able to avoid due process. Ironic, indeed, that as Marcos is able to toy with the US judicial system, Marcos has unwittingly already begun his prison sentence even without a trial and evidently without need to vindicate himself as he had vowed to do when first indicted.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.