Scholars of Philippine history and those who have read a lot of materials about the Marcos regime would easily recognize Primitivo Mijares as one of the close confidants of the Marcos family and the author of the widely celebrated book “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.”
Take note that the aforementioned book remains as one of the most popular primers on the Martial Law period. Written in 1976, within a decade after former president Ferdinand Marcos announced martial law under Proclamation No. 1081, the book provides an insider account to the lives of the First Couple, as well as a tell-all reporting of the inner doings of the Marcos regime.
For those unfamiliar of him but curious about understanding further one the pivotal moments in Philippine history, it cannot be helped but to ask the following questions: Who was Primitivo Mijares? Was he an important historical figure? Why did he write a book that betrayed the confidence of the Marcoses? What happened to him?
The Early Years
In a brief biography by Cris D. Cabasares that appeared as one of the introductory portions of “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” Mijares was described as a man who experienced the tragedy and horror of the world at a young age.
When he was 12, the young Mijares, nicknamed as Tibo, witnessed the mutilated and lifeless body of his mother while his father struggled to survive from bayonet and bullet wounds. The retreating Japanese soldiers sacked and attacked his hometown in Santo Tomas, Batangas.
Tibo was left orphaned together with his three other siblings. After the Second World War, they were distributed among their maternal relatives. His sisters moved to Sabah with their uncle while he and his brother stayed in the Philippines.
Start of Journalistic Career
It is important to highlight the fact that Mijares was a journalist by profession. His foray into the world of journalism began when he became an editor of the campus paper at his high school in Baguio. He eventually became the youngest editor of the Baguio Midland Courier in 1950 and was also a reporter for the Manila Chronicle beginning in 1951.
The budding journalist pursued his undergraduate and further studies at the Lyceum of the Philippines, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1956 and completing his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1960. He passed the Philippine bar examination in 1960.
With his credentials, he eventually entered the Philippine government; first as a reporter for the Daily Express, a Marcos-controlled newspaper, and close confidant of the Marcoses and member of the inner circle of the Marcos regime.
As a Marcos Propagandist
Mijares worked for Marcos beginning in 1963. He was eventually appointed as the chairperson of the National Press Club and the spearhead of the Media Advisory Council. His task was to control and censor media organizations, particularly at the onset of martial law in 1972.
In his book, he explained that one of his jobs was to convince the public that martial law was necessary to eliminate the communist insurgency in the Philippines and promote the New Society program of the Marcos administration.
Note that Mijares was also a propagandist. He wrote media releases and headed the production of propaganda materials all aimed at bolstering the public image of the Marcoses and the Marcos regime during the Martial Law period.
Defection and Publication
Mijares claimed that he was privy of what was happening inside the Marcos regime. He was a close aide of the former president and was part of his group of advisors and cronies. He had firsthand access to both Ferdinand and Imelda too.
However, the pressman decided to turn his back from his boss and defected in 1974 in the United States while on an official government function. By June 1975, he was set to testify before a U.S. congressional inquiry, bringing with him damning information about the Marcos regime.
Marcos allegedly called Mijares to deter him from appearing in the hearing. Another aide, Secretary Guillermo De Vega, purportedly offered him one hundred thousand USD in exchange for his silence. The former Marcos ally went on to testify before the U.S. Congress, providing details about election fraud, corruption, human rights violence, and unethical business practices under the regime.
In 1976, Mijares published “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.” As noted above, the book is a tell-all and firsthand account of the inner undertakings of the Marcos regime, as well as the lives of the Marcoses.
Disappearance and Family Tragedy
An annotated section of a book written by American investigative journalists and historians Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Sawyer Seagrave mentioned that Mijares told an international group of journalists that he would be turning back to the Philippines.
The man disappeared eight months after the publication of his book. Some sources noted that General Fabian Ver, the commanding officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Marcos regime, escorted him back to his home country. However, they allegedly went to Guam where he was taken to an isolated beach and murdered.
What really happened to Primitivo Mijares remains unknown. Back home, his family was devastated both at his disappearance and the tragic fate of his 16-year-old son, Luis. According to his widow, Judge Priscilla Mijares, their son had been receiving numerous phone calls telling him that his father was still alive.
The anonymous caller invited Luis to see him. The young Mijares, eager to see his father again, insisted on going against the will of his mom. His body was later found outside Manila City with eyeballs gouged out, head whacked, and genitals mingled.
A comparative analysis of another book by Seagrave, “The Marcos Dynasty,” and the memoir by Steve Psinakis, a Greek-American anti-Marcos critic revealed that while in the U.S., Mijares extorted money from Marcos while at the same time, criticizing him and his regime in the international press, thus causing irreparable damage. Psinakis concluded that what happened to the man and his family was an act of vengeance.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Cabasares, C. D. 1976. “About the Author.” In P. Mijares, The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. 2016 Reprinted Edition.
- Psinakis, S. 2008. A Country Not Even His Own. Manila: Anvil Publishing
- Seagrave, S. 1988. The Marcos Dynasty: The Corruption of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ballantine Books
- Seagrave, S. and Seagrave, P. S. 2003. “Annotations.” Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold. London: Verso