‘Imelda, you shall die!’

By Alex P. Vidal

“Assassination has never changed the history of the world.”–BENJAMIN DISRAELI

THE 51st year since the failed assassination attempt on former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, now 94, was on December 7, 2023.

The date coincided with the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing and the bolo attack occurred less than three months after the declaration of Martial Law.

“Everybody was still adjusting to the new life under authoritarian rule, which somewhat resembled the Japanese Occupation at least in terms of a curfew that restrained the population’s taste for boulevard alcoholism and nightclub psychedelia,” Manuel F. Martinez, a 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate, narrates in Assassinations and Conspiracies.

In spite of the civil tension, Mrs. Marcos braced for another day of public functions.

In connection with the nationwide campaign for cleanliness and beautification, an awarding ceremony was scheduled on that day at Nayong Pilipino in Pasay City.

“The rites at Nayong Pilipino proceeded smoothly, with Mrs. Marcos onstage receiving one by one the awardees and shaking hands with them,” recalls Martinez.

“Her guards, naturally, were not on the stage but a short distance away, for who would think any attempt on her life would be made in that most friendly environment.”


In terms of parks and plazas, South Cotabato bagged the grand prize for being the model province.

The municipality of Kiamba won the cleanest award.

Among those who went up the stage in the group that would receive the award was a man in all-black suit and pants who pretended to be part of the delegation.

“When his turn came before the First Lady, he whipped out a bolo and made two determined thrusts at her. A split second before the attack, as photographs later showed, she was looking sideways and did not see the bolo already leveled horizontally a few inches away from her abdominal region,” observes Martinez, former copy editor of Honh Kong-based Asiaweek.

According to Martinez, Mrs. Marcos “was quick enough to parry with her arms and fingers the first blow.”

She incurred lacerations at the back of her right hand, on the right forearm, across the index finger and the ring finger of the right hand, according to hospital report.

“In short, without help from anyone, she defended herself. She fell down from the second thrust,” Martinez stresses.

This was how Martinez completed his narration of facts on that fateful day:

Quickly, 22-year-old Linda Amor Robles of the Department of Education, who was secretary of the cleanliness committee, covered Mrs. Marcos with her own body and suffered a huge three-inch wound on her back.

The First Family a week later, when Imelda could walk around with a sling around her arm, visited her in the hospital.


Tourism Secretary Jose Aspiras also shielded Mrs. Marcos by taking some of the blows.

He sustained a head wound that took nine stitches. Others who tried to cover her were Social Welfare Secretary Aldaba Lim and Josefa Aquino, the wife of Highways Commissioner Baltazar Aquino.

The would-be assassin, diverted from the fallen First Lady, continued to hack wildly until he was shot dead by guards who had jumped upstage.

The whole scenario happened before a shocked, unbelieving television audience around the country who were watching the awarding ceremonies.

Mrs. Marcos was immediately flown by helicopter to the 9th floor of the Makati Medical Center.

Shortly afterwards, President Marcos speedily came to her side, grim and unsmiling, and soon he ordered the scene replayed again and again.

Because they had no equipment or tape at the hospital, a television station replayed it for him on the air, and Filipinos saw the many replays themselves for hours.

Marcos’ anger mounted as he watched them, sometimes banging his fist with tremendous force on a tabletop.

He asked why the assailant was killed—he should have been captured alive to tell the whole story, since it was possible someone ordered him to do the job, which may have been a conspiracy.


In Stalin’s regime, the would-be assassin would have been used as witness to incriminate innocent people and send them to death.

It was said Marcos interrogated the guards who shot down the bolo wielder, for it was not impossible that one of them was part of the plan and shot the assassin to silence him.

Later on, Marcos told reporters he was satisfied that the guards could not be blamed for immediately killing the man.

On television, the President assured the nation that the First Lady was safe and recovering.

He said he wished he were there when the incident happened.

He added that when he declared Martial Law “we knew we would pay the price, but I cannot forgive myself that she herself had to pay it.”

But instead of being daunted, he said, he would even more resolutely proceed with his program “to eradicate and eliminate all threats against the stability of our society and to push through the (martial law) reformist program.”

(The author, who us now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)