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Mid-term and other elections as reported by the Free Press

hhc-campaigns for rej:acc

May 2013 is a mid-term election. The classic chronicle of a mid-term, and particularly interesting as it reported trends that have become par for the course in modern campaigns, is Nick Joaquin’s Ayos na ang Buto-Buto, November, 1963:

This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.

The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!

The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.

Four elements of the present day are there: the slang of the day; questions of ethnicity, class, and race; controversies about surveys; the ole-fashioned speeches, stumping and rallies.

But other features of campaigns past are long gone: while party-switching is still there, the era of the party convention as a process that mattered, is history, consider this relict of things past in It’s Up to You Now! from 1953:

The Filipino people know that the presidential nomination was not handed to Magsaysay on a silver platter. He had to go to the provinces, campaign among the NP delegates. For one who had just joined the party, it was not an easy task to enlist the support of the men and women who were to pick the Opposition standard-bearer at the coming national convention. Magsaysay’s task became harder because he was to face a man who had done much for the party—Camilo Osias.

There was talk that Laurel, Recto and Rodriguez would double-cross Magsaysay at the convention; that certain arrangements would be made in order to create a deadlock between Osias and Magsaysay; and that once this deadlock existed, Laurel would then be railroaded by the conventionists, thereby making him the party candidate for president.

Magsaysay would then be drafted for the Senate under the NP banner. Thus, the Opposition senatorial slate would be stronger with Monching heading the list. Left no other choice, the best Cabinet member Quirino ever had would accept the senatorial nomination, whether he liked it or not.

The prophets of gloom were all wrong. Laurel, Recto, Rodriguez and Tañada had no such plans; they were motivated by good faith and the best of intentions when they invited Magsaysay to join them in a crusade for a clean and honest government under a new regime—an NP regime.

That era –when parties actually mattered, because leaders had to cultivate loyal party followers– preserved in time, so to speak, as seen in other articles, from the height of one-party rule in United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939 to Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957; but as parties withered, new-style politics would take its place. See Nick Joaquin’s In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957, for a profile of the new-type of leader; and in The Winners ’61, Nick Joaquin quoted Macapagal describing how a campaign begins a long time before the official campaign period starts:

President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.

“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”

He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”

At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.

In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”

Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”

At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”

And there is the story of how every election brings with it an innovation, a raising of the ante. There’s the rise of the celebrity candidate, exemplified by matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa. Nick Joaquin’s classic The “Untimely Withdrawal” of Roger de la Rosa from November, 1961 shows the first steps of a phenomenon that has become part of the political landscape today:

The Yabut broadcast started a run on the bank. From noon of November 3, the bakya-and-salakot crowd began storming Roger’s house, wanting to know if his slogan—“We Shall Return To Malacañang With Roger De La Rosa As President”—had indeed shrunk to a starker notice: “No Returns, No Refunds.”

His henchmen say they were afraid there would be trouble that night, so ugly was the temper of the idol’s fans. The early-evening crowd, mostly from the suburbs, eventually dispersed; but by two o-clock in the morning another crowd, from more distant hinterlands, had formed in front of the senator’s gate and was demanding to be let in. These indignant visitors were admitted and staged what practically amounted to a sit-down strike in the large nipa house on the senator’s lawn.

“Let us not move from here,” said they, “until he himself comes and tells us what he really intends to do.”

Noon came, and they were still there, squatting inside the nipa house and along the driveway, but their leader had still not appeared to them.

Only a few of them were allowed inside the senator’s residence, and there they found not Roger but his brother Jaime, who, when asked about Roger, replied with a scathing attack on the administration.

One thing must be said for Roger: he really drew the peasant crowd, for the faces one saw on his lawn that morning had the look of the Philippine earth: burned black by the sun and gnarled by misery. The men were in cheap polo shirts, the women in shapeless camisolas. It was obvious they had dressed in a hurry. One heard that this one had come all the way from Quezon, that one all the way from Cagayan; a man said he had flown in from Mindanao. All had a common complaint: why did they have to learn about this from Yabut? Why hadn’t Roger taken them into his confidence? They all claimed to be volunteer workers who had used their own money to spread Roger’s cause. If Roger backed out, they would lose face. How could they return to their barrios if they had lost face?

They all clung to the hope that all this was but more “black propaganda.” Their boy had not withdrawn; or if he was thinking of doing so, they would persuade him to continue the fight: let him but appear before them.

A cry rose up:

“Matalong lumalaban, huwag matalong umuurong (To go down fighting, not to go down retreating)!”

Had he lost heart because he had run out of funds? There was still some money they could scrape up among themselves; one man said he had already contributed P3,000 and was willing to contribute more; after all, there were only ten days left of the campaign. It didn’t matter if Roger was a sure loser.

“Let the votes we cast for him,” cried a bespectacled woman from Binangonan, “be a clear picture for 1965!”

The cheers that greeted this seemed to indicate that the Roger extravaganza would, by insistent public request, be extended for another ten days. Poor deluded rustics who did not know that the decision had already been made! They could cheer and argue and weep all they wanted; they were standing outside a closed door. Their fate was being settled, without their knowledge, in other rooms of other houses behind other doors, while they offered their very blood to the cause.

But as the day climbed toward noon and no Roger showed up, hope became feebler, the mutterings became darker. Inside the nipa house and all over the driveway, angry knots of disciples debated what to do.

Some said they would still vote for Roger, even if he had withdrawn, even if their votes should be “nulo.” Others cried that Roger could commit himself but not them to another candidate. The angriest spoke bitterly about the quality of Pampango blood and swore that they would, in protest, go over to the Garcia camp. A few still wistfully hoped that Roger would come and tell them that the show would go on.

By five that afternoon, the hope was dead. Roger had appeared on TV, with Macapagal; the withdrawal had been announced, the change of stand had been made.

That night, Roger’s house stood dark and silent. Gone were the noisy folk who had filled the lawn all day. The angry ones made good their threat and went over to the Garcia camp that very night. The undecided ones crept back to their barrios, wondering how to save face. The trip back must have been agonizing: whichever way they looked they saw that handsome face smiling from posters, from billboards, from streamers hung across roads, promising Malacañang to all these pathetic folk who had hitched their carretelas to a star.

In Winding it up, November 1, 1969, Nick Joaquin reported how the helicopter made its entry into campaigns:

The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.

It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..

Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.

Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.

“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”

The article contains as concise a summary of political strategizing –and the grueling requirements of personal stamina and organizational logistics– as has been published anywhere, concerning Philippine elections, courtesy of Nick Joaquin quoting Ferdinand E. Marcos:

“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”

So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.

“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”

And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?

“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.

“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”

The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.

“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”

It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.

From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.

“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”

But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.

“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.”

And there’s still the clutter of the tried-and-tested. In Final round, November 1, 1969, Napoleon Rama reported that the battle of the billboards was also a battle of perceptions:

As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.

One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.

Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.

The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”

All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.

The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.

While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”

And here, Nap Rama’s article leaves us at the cusp of the world we live in, today, where mass media is king; and how every candidate since then, has had to battle it out not just in terms of content, but presentation:

One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.

In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.

Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”

LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.

“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….

“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”

The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.

Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.

“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”

Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin, January 26,2002

Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin

by Manuel L. Quezon III

 

January 26,2002—ANECDOTES told by those who knew him in his prime assure me that Teodoro M. Locsin was a man who possessed a sense of humor, indeed a sense of fun, even what could be said to be an impish wit. He liked good drink and song; we all know he wrote well. But it is the elusiveness of this characteristic that has always intrigued me. If the sons of a man are any reflection of the father, then the assurances given me by my elders that Teddy Locsin, Sr. had a sense of humor must be true; one only has to see his two elder sons to know they have a sense of humor in spades. Yet Teddy Locsin, Sr., if one depends on his writings, comes across as a man of manic anger, of near-hysterical indignation. That was the public man, the crusading journalist.

He described himself, many years ago, reminiscing right after the death of a close friend and recalling the days of Liberation then merely a few years back:

“We had,” he wrote in 1949, recalling the time before the FREE PRESS reopened after being shut down by the Japanese, “with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side.”

Teddy Locsin, Sr. was famous –or infamous, depending on who was reading his editorials and articles and who was being attacked in them– for “jumping on people.” His was the the anger of the man who had fought for his country as a guerrilla; his was the highly-developed moral conscience inculcated by his love of books and the mentorship of Robert McCullough Dick; his was the mind of a poet turned to penning the philippics and jeremiads of a reformist, a man who would give and take no quarter as he was proxy for Juan de la Cruz in fighting corruption, stupidity, cupidity and avarice in and out of government.

Yet there is one instance of his writing reflecting a wit, though, since written as a journalist, the merciless kind of wit. One of my favorite pieces is one he wrote on then Senatorial Candidate Pacita M. Warns on October 22, 1955.

He began the piece self-deprecatingly, writing, that when it came to tackling controversies involving women leaders, “It is difficult to write critically about a woman. Whether you are right or wrong makes no difference; you are being hard, it will be said, on the weaker sex. At the same time, it isn’t fair that just because a woman occupies an office, it should be above reproach. Where does chivalry end and civic duty begin? One cannot always tell. A gentleman has been defined as one who never inflicts pain; a newspaperman sometimes seems to do nothing else but inflict it. It is no use arguing, with people and with oneself, that it is a job that must be done. ‘How can you be so cruel to a lady!’ is the first and last reaction. And when the official, upon meeting you, instead of scratching your eyes out, speaks of the high standard of your paper and how, in only this case, it has fallen from that high standard, how she has admired your writing and thought you a man of principles, fair and objective in your reporting, and how disappointing that you have been less than fair and objective in dealing with her, what a gentleman she always thought you were, and look at you now—as she goes on heaping compliments and reproaches on your head, what can you do but say, ‘I am a dog?’”

In the process of the interview, the self-deprecation remained even as he let his subject pillory herself:

“. . . .Last Wednesday, we had an interview with Mrs. Warns. It was arranged by an officer of the SWA, Victor Baltazar, who came to the office and asked us if we would talk things over with the former SWA head. Certainly, we said.

“We met Mrs. Warns at the Jai Alai Keg Room. With her were Baltazar and two women connected with SWA. With us was Melecio Castaños of the FREE PRESS….”

Locsin asked a question concerning the controversy of the day: “How about those pictures of yours which we saw in the SWA? They were glamour shots and were autographed. Is the SWA supposed to distribute them?”

And Mrs. Warns replied, “Oh, they are my personal property, left there when I resigned. People kept asking for my pictures while I was administrator. The poor pasted them on the wall of their huts alongside the picture of the Virgin Mary. . . .”

Locsin writes that he responded,”No.” And the interview goes on to its –to this writer, anyway– hilarious conclusion:

“Yes.” [replied Mrs. Warns] “ If you could only see how the poor greet me wherever I go! They kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.”

“’Do they really paste your picture along that of the Virgin Mary?’

“’You may find it hard to believe, but they do. If you could come with me, I would show you. . . . Ah, you do not know what it is like to be poor! If you had lived with them, eaten with them, seen how wretched they are, you would understand how they feel toward me, why they would paste my picture beside that of the Virgin Mary and kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.’

“Speechless, we listened. She went on.

“’I have always admired the FREE PRESS for its crusading spirit and I have read your articles and thought you to be fair, just, principled newspaperman and when you do not even give me a chance to explain. . . .’

“’But I did give you a chance. I called you up, you will remember, and you told me you did not know how much the SWA spent for photographic materials but you gave your salary to the poor. . . .’

“’Not only my salary, I gave my own money daily to the poor. I only wish I could go on helping the poor. . .’

“’I am sure you can afford to do that immediately.’

“She looked at us with eyes full of pity.

“’Do you know what they are saying about the FREE PRESS now? In the provinces, in the barrios, wherever I go, the people are saying, having read your story about me and the SWA, ‘The FREE PRESS has become just like of the tabloids. It has attacked our Virgin Mary.’ That is what some would say. Others would correct them: ‘Not our Virgin Mary but our goddess.’ That is what the people of this country are saying about the FREE PRESS after your article.’

“’Will you please repeat that.’

“She did.

“’Well, to show you how objective the FREE PRESS is, I am going to report what people are saying about it and about you in my next article.’

“’But do not say that I said I am the Virgin Mary and a goddess. It is the people who are saying that.’

“’I shall say that the people are saying that the FREE PRESS has become just like one of the tabloids because it has attacked their Virgin Mary or goddess. Is that correct?’

“’Yes.’”

Magnificent. And one of the few examples I’ve found of Locsin letting his sense of humor shine through any of his articles.

He was always a shrewd observer; his journalism is replete with telling details and observations that endure. A short piece he wrote on August 10, 1946, titled “The Big Scramble,” could have been written yesterday, and can be written tomorrow. Just change the names, and the scramble is still there –the only thing different is the uncompromising morality of Locsin, then and always anti-collaborator.

“The young men of Capiz,” Locsin wrote, (referring to the new administration of Manuel Roxas), “according to reports reaching the FREE PRESS, are flocking to Manila, to shake the hand of their province mate, the President of the Philippines, to congratulate him on his election—and to ask for a job.

“Thus it was in Quezon’s time, and it was no different during the Osmeña administration. When Malacañan corridors still echoed with the oaths and curses of the High-Strung One [Quezon]  as some cabinet member was called to account for some act of omission or commission, as the Church puts it, the Chosen People came from Tayabas. During the brief reign of Sergio the First and probably the Last, the Lucky Ones spoke English with a thick Cebuano accent. In the 2604th year of the reign of Showa, when Laurel was ‘President,’ Malacañan was a home away from home for Batangueños. Now, in the first year of Roxas, the Palace by the Pasig is being stormed by determined Capiceños, all animated by one single thought—a government job.

“In the palace itself, according to intelligence reports received by the Minority Camp, there are intra-mural hostilities between the De Leon side and the Acuña side of the Presidential family. The Acuñas are said to be increasingly bitter at the way the Bulakeños are getting the best jobs, and there are many dark references to blood, how it should be thicker than water.

“Meanwhile press communiqués indicate that while the Bulakeños and the Capiceños were arguing with each other who should have this job and who should have that, the Ilocanos—Quirinos—boys—have quietly infiltrated the lines and taken over the choicest offices. Determined to hold their positions at all cost, the Ilocanos were last reported to be forming suicide squadrons and building road blocks against future counter-attack by the boys from Bulacan and Capiz. In the face of a common enemy, they may even join forces and as one united army attack the Ilocano positions.

“From Capiz itself comes a report—the author keeps himself anonymous, and wisely, too, probably—that school teachers who made the simply unforgivable error of voting for Osmeña are finding themselves either dropped or assigned to distant barrios where nothing more is heard of them. Osmeña himself was given an honorary elder statesman’s job, but those who voted for him the last time are being slowly—and not so slowly — frozen out of the government, the report concludes.

“In Manila, things are not so bad. Many government employees took the precaution of voting for Roxas during the last election. If Osmeña won, they would still have their jobs, but if Roxas won—well they voted for him, didn’t they?”

And Locsin concluded with an observation that still speaks to us, today:

“Most government jobs are low paid, and one wonders  why there is such scramble for them. Then one recalls the story of the pre-war Bureau of Customs employee who had a two story house, a car, and who sent his two daughters to an expensive private school—all on a salary of less than P100 a month. Who knows, once you are in the government, when such  an opportunity will strike? The thing is, be prepared—and enter the government.”

Teddy Locsin, Sr. was not a prophet; he was a journalist, but the best kind; from his early post-war writing one is moved to jump to one of his last pre-martial law interviews, this one of his close friend Ninoy Aquino. The same Ninoy he advised, in 1983, not to return to the Philippines because, as Locsin’s middle son once recalled, “bravery achieves nothing, my father told him [Aquino], especially in a country of cowards. Yet that putdown of courage may have tipped the scale for Ninoy’s return. The worse the odds, the more inviting the challenge.”

This is only part of an interview, titled “Mission Impossible?” Locsin wrote on March 21, 1971. The issue of the day was the Jabidah massacre; there was an officer whose wife was looking for her husband. Locsin wrote,

“Captain Titong’s wife wonders, not only where her family’s next meal will come from, but where the hell her husband is.

“What happened to Captain Titong?

“’Five possibilities,’ said Aquino:

“’First, he could be absent without leave. The law demands that if he is AWOL, he should be court-martialed. But, thus far, no charge has been filed against him.’

“’Second, he could have been killed in action.’

“’Third, he could be missing in action.’

“’If the second or the third, then his dependents must receive a decent compensation, but this has been denied them.’

“Fourth, he could have deserted. But before one can prove desertion, one must first prove that the accused has no intention of returning or that he has joined the enemy. If he has deserted, then the officer who sent him on this last mission, even while he was facing charges before a General Court-Martial, has a lot to answer for.’

“’The fifth possibility is that he could be on a mission. This is the army position. But who would be so stupid as to send an exposed agent on a mission? Even the foreign press knew of Captain Titong.’”

Having allowed his readers to see Ninoy’s mind at work, now came Locsin’s turn to reach his own sinister conclusions:

“To send an exposed agent into the field of espionage,” Locsin continued, surely speaking from experience during the War, “again is like leading a sheep to slaughter. In October 1970 a Filipino secret agent identified as Capt. Solferiano Titong was reported to have been apprehended by Malaysian security forces. Some sources say that he has already been executed; others that he is still a prisoner in Kota Kinabalu.

“Where is Captain Titong and what is his fate? If he has been killed while on a mission his dependents should be supported. It is not only the humane, but also the legal thing to do. But if he is on a mission—or was, if he has been captured or killed—why was he sent on a mission while he still faced charges before a General Court-Martial? If he is a deserter or AWOL it could only be because he was given more freedom of movement than he was entitled to. He should have been closely watched. Why was he not?”

Locsin steps back to let Ninoy pose a question that Locsin then answers:

“’I will continue blocking General Ramos’s appointment until he satisfactorily explains what happened to Captain Titong,’ Aquino told the press. It is not true that he is blocking it because General Ramos is President Marcos’s second cousin or because he is ‘an anti-Huk fighter,’ as Malacañang has alleged…

“’Who is more responsible,’ Aquino retorted, ‘I or the man who put the lives of our young men in danger and most probably pushed this country to the brink of conflict?’

“Suddenly Senator Aquino realized that there was something odd about Malacañang’s reaction to his questions about Captain Titong’s fate. Why its deep concern? At the same time he heard from Moslem leaders about a certain individual who stood to profit greatly if the Sabah claim was pressed.

“Malacañang called Aquino, ‘unpatriotic.’

“Unpatriotic?

“Against whom? Aquino asked. President Marcos is not the Filipino nation. Or is he? …” Locsin goes on to go into the details on the claim on Sabah and the claim by Ferdinand Marcos that he had a power of attorney from the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu –a complicated question, but which, in the end, boils down to a question pregnant with foreboding:

“Either President Marcos does not envision anyone ever succeeding him as President or it is legal for a private individual to deal with himself as the highest official of the government.”

And so it came to pass. Locsin could see it coming. When the knock came on September 23 he was ready; he went into capitivity willingly. A country unwilling to resist tyranny might as well have examples of those willing to suffer imprisonment for principles upheld. Released, he kept silent –he would not dignify the dictatorship with his journalism. He took up his pen and wrote poetry, his true love; he wrote short stories, he brooded in his library and advised his friend Ninoy that a nation of cowards deserved what it was getting.

But when Ninoy died –the time had come for Locsin’s last crusade. In a sense, it was his Indian Summer, the last hoorah of a mind rejuvenated; he would praise Ninoy and exalt his widow; he would nod at the way a nation redeemed itself –only to keep pounding away at his typewriter as his country degenerated into the same sort of scrambling he had so trenchantly written about as a young man.

The mind of Teodoro M. Locsin, Sr. is best understood as the mind of a romantic; and like any lover of romance, he had his paramour –his country. He had the heart of a minstrel poet yet set it aside in order to be the guardian of the country he loved, betray her though she might, dissapoint her as often she may have done; still –to the end, the would be the man of the days of Liberation who would jump on anyone should they try to take advantage of the country he loved.

There is no other way to make sense of a man who seemed to be so violent in his prose and so forbiddingly distant when it came to his public persona, and yet who was the doting father and loving husband who would sing and drink his scotch and later, wine. The man who, in the twilight of his life said so little, even as he decided to write no more, is the man we see all over. The man who loved, and loved true; and yet refused all recognition for his long arduous hours of guardianship.

Too early the birds of prey, January 13, 2002

Free Press cover story

January 13, 2002 issue

Too early the birds of prey

by Manuel L. Quezon III

 

MAKING an ass of one’s self should be a basic human right, if only politicians could be denied this right because of the problems it causes other politicians and most of all, the public. To put matters in historical perspective, of the past presidents of this country, two were reelected to office (Manuel L. Quezon and Ferdinand E. Marcos), and only two former presidents ran for the position of president after having served as head of state: Emilio Aguinaldo, who went down in grumpy defeat in 1935, and Jose P. Laurel in 1949, though Laurel was the nobler in at least telling his supporters, who were as angry as Aguinaldo’s had been, not to mount a revolution.

Yet in the case of Aguinaldo and Laurel, there were extenuating circumstances in the cases of their candidacies. Aguinaldo was a political enemy of Quezon from 1922 to 1941, and was pushed by his supporters to run as a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution; Laurel ran as much to vindicate his name as to achieve a mandate, never having been directly elected by the people to a position he served as a well-meaning head of a puppet government -indeed, it is interesting to note that both Aguinaldo, who ran in the first national presidential elections in 1935, and Laurel, who ran in the elections of 1949, were haunted by a desire to achieve what they never had when they were president: a genuine national mandate at the polls.

But one must consider, on the other hand, the cases of the only two presidents reelected: Quezon in 1935 and 1941, and Marcos in 1965 and 1969. Both tarnished their reputations by clinging to power beyond the terms allowed them by the Constitution under which they were elected. To this must be added the inevitability in the minds of many that had Quezon lived, he would have stepped down for a brief 2 years in order to run again in 1946 to be the first president of the independent Republic, and that Ramon Magsaysay would have run —and won— again, after his first term (and there are even those who suspect that Magsaysay, who imitated Quezon in so many ways, would have found a way to stay in office as long as possible as well). But fate decreed Quezon’s death in large part because of the strain of his final battle with Sergio Osmeña to cling to power, and fate had it in the cards that Ramon Magsaysay, like Manuel Roxas, would die before his first term ended, leaving Ferdinand Marcos to make every liberty-loving and democratic Filipinos’ nightmare come true: scrapping the Constitution, ignoring the laws, setting up a dictatorship that only fell when a country regained its dignity and courage and threw the man out of Malacañang.

Now to these negative examples add the examples of past presidents who could have run for office after the Constitutional limitations passed, and yet did not: the list is long. Sergio Osmena; Elpidio Quirino; Carlos P. Garcia; Diosdado Macapagal; Corazon Aquino. Except for Aquino, all the rest suffered defeat in their quest for reelection to a second term, yet had an opportunity (at least in the cases of Osmena, Garcia and Macapagal) to run for president again if they wished. But they never wished to. None of them ever fully retired from politics; they preferred to be consulted as elder statesmen; two of them, Garcia and Macapagal, chose to run for, be elected delegates to, and then presidents of, the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention. But the presidency, having been denied them in the past, was something they never sought again as a political prize.

The fact is that it should be enough for a former president to have had the honor and privilege of serving the country once, or in the old days twice, and end it at that. The exemplar of how a former president should conduct himself after leaving office is of course, Sergio Osmena, who represented many of the political virtues of the country, anyway; to a lesser extent, there are the examples of Aguinaldo and Laurel, the former reconciling himself to playing elder statesman, the latter choosing to serve in the senate as long as he could and even serve other presidents. There are the examples, too, of Garcia and Macapagal: the former went into quiet retirement until the ConCon and then died 24 hours after being sworn in as president of the convention; Macapagal, after a checkered experience with presiding and eventually losing control over the ConCon at least followed Aguinaldo’s path and quietly learned to enjoy the role of elder statesman; poor Elpidio Quirino lived too briefly after leaving office to accomplish much more than begin his memoirs and reach a touching reconciliation with his erstwhile protégé, Magsaysay.

Enter Fidel V. Ramos, former and, to the minds of too many, including quite possibly the mind of Mr. Ramos himself, future President of the Republic of the Philippines. Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, present president and, almost indubitably, candidate for the position in 2004. What of them?

Of Fidel Ramos, one should note immediately what has been whispered about town almost from the moment he left office -the man has never grown accustomed to not wielding the reins of power. He wanted to amend the Constitution to allow himself either two more years in the manner of Quezon, or transform the country to a parliamentary system which was the original Marcos plan to perpetuate himself in power. This grand design failed in the face of the intransigence of Corazon Aquino (former president who seems not to miss being president at all), Cardinal Sin, a multitude of Filipinos, and one Joseph Ejercito Estrada who would be damned if his sure election to the presidency would be postponed even for a minute by a man he loathed.

Result? A lost kibbitzer, which Mr. Ramos is of the first order, as proven by his most unpresidential behavior during Joseph Estrada’s inauguration at Barasoain. The man tried to steal the limelight every moment he could, and then loftily proclaimed that under Estrada, he would be pleased to play the role of Elder Statesman in an official capacity, much to the amusement of everyone who head Ramos say these things. However, neither public derision, or skepticism, or outright hostility has ever deterred Mr. Ramos from doing what he pleases, and it has pleased him to use the time in between his never-ending globetrotting to keep himself in the limelight, including first, playing a lecturing uncle to Estrada, and then supposed pillar of the opposition when Estrada grew impatient with his “advice,” and now, gadfly and thorn in the side of Mrs. Arroyo. Perhaps Mr. Ramos feels that if Cory Aquino can bring down one government after stopping the attempts at charter change of two other presidents dead in their tracks, he has similar powers.

Perhaps. Although if this is the case, then it only proves that the man has an axe to grind against the woman who broke tradition to attend his inauguration (for perfectly legitimate symbolic reasons, the inauguration of Ramos was the first democratic handover of power since 1965) and put country ahead of her having given him her previous blessings in firmly saying “no” to his obvious desire to prolong his stay in office. One is forced to wonder if Fidel Ramos is not only ungrateful when it comes to Cory Aquino, but whether he actively dislikes her now -which would make him a petty, mean, and small-minded man.

Or could it be Fidel Ramos simply is getting old and too dense to realize the reason Cory Aquino can be an influential ex-president and Fidel Ramos may be influential, but not popular, and lacks what he seems to crave: a nation, on bended knee, begging him to return to Malacanang? Were this the case, then at least one can conclude Fidel Ramos is not petty, mean and small-minded but suffering from well-intentioned delusions: of being an irreplaceable man, of believing as gospel truth the insincere flattery of the sycophants that surround any politician, and the quite human refusal to recognize his own mortality and accept being put out to political pasture, since he is by no means, ancient. The reason Cory Aquino has the influence and respect she has, and Ramos does not, is that she is the only president in our history to say one term is enough, I’ve had it, and left Malacanang without looking back and probably murmuring “good riddance” the whole time. In short, she has what Fidel Ramos has never, ever, had in his life or career: moral ascendancy.

Fidel Ramos is too fidgety, too eager the attention-seeker, too enthusiastic the opiner, too happy the meddler, to be respected or have moral ascendancy of any sort. This is not to say he does not have influence, for he does; this is not to say he does not have political supporters, for he does; but it is to say that as far as the public is concerned, Fidel Ramos is history and had better accept the fact that he belongs to the past and not the future. One need only listen to the verbal abuse he was subjected to by the great unwashed at Edsa III to recognize this; and aside from the usual businessmen who value the illusion of Fidel Ramos being “Steady Eddie,” and who crave a man who will be content to go on junkets and turn a blind eye to anything so long as he gets the perks (a bad executive habit he shared with Joseph Estrada except in comparison to Estrada’s being uncouth about corruption, even Ramos’s most vicious detractors give him credit for being suave when it came to the corruption they are convinced he was a party to  during his term).

To be a president or past president is, of course, not to be divine; which means Fidel Ramos is as likely to fall prey to illusions as much as the next man. He probably thinks the can still do good for the country, that the country needs him, and if the country were only given a chance it would fall to the ground in gratitude and kiss his feet were he to have the chance to be president again. This explains the never-ending and, really, tiring controversy of the day, which is the alleged rift between President Arroyo and former president Ramos over an election two years away. Fidel Ramos already suffers from the perception too widely held that he at one point pulled all the strings in the new Arroyo administration, or tried to, which made him as much the object of the poor’s equally deluded wrath in May 2001, as President Arroyo herself. And as for President Arroyo, she suffers from two insecurities: the fact that she was elevated to the presidency by succession and not election, and under the most confused of circumstances at that; and that she is the first child of a president who seems to have a chance to break the long curse, it seems, that has afflicted the children of past presidents -none of them ever make it to Malacanang although the senate and Vice-Presidency have been proven to not be beyond their reach.

For a politician and a businessman and even a soldier, and even for certain members of our uncivilized civil society, Fidel Ramos has the virtue of exuding an aura of dynamism, of calm, of precise, methodical working habits and discipline. How close perceptions are to the truth only those truly close to him can answer; but the fact is that there are those with influence and money who believe there exists a Steady Eddie and wouldn’t mind Ramos back. For the same politicians and businessmen, the problem with President Arroyo is that even if she is equally hard working, she happens to be frugal, as hot-tempered as Ramos but far from being his peer in hiding the fact, and she is a woman who suffers from the idea she has nothing to lose by actually giving the country as honest an administration as is possible given our society’s limitations. That, and the fact there is that onus on presidential children and that they might get stuck with her for nine uninterrupted years. The ramifications of a fairly clean, competent, and hard-working government are simply too frightening for these people to contemplate.

And thus the need to at least obtain leverage on Mrs. Arroyo by way of using Fidel Ramos as a threat. After all, Mr. Ramos is willing and able to be used as such a tool, indeed he may have thought up the idea of using the bogey of a Ramos for President campaign in 2004 as a potential spoiler to exact concessions from the administration, which has enough of a problem on its hands with fulfilling its promises, neutralizing its enemies, and keeping the country together during tough times.

Fidel Ramos would never win another presidential election even if Mrs. Arroyo dropped dead and a way was found to make monkeys run against Ramos the way Marcos engineered his farcical martial law presidential elections. What can happen is Fidel Ramos could ensure that if he can’t win, neither can Mrs. Arroyo, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of either to give away the election in 2004 to the opposition, which is indeed vicious, ruthless, has many axes to grind, and much dirt to dish out against the two.

Hence the view of this writer than Mr. Ramos is either extremely delusional or out to keep himself in the political loop and be a powerbroker of sorts, if not an actual shadow president (the best of both worlds). The fact that Joe de Venecia, who has the biggest chance of being Prime Minister for life were we to go parliamentary, is as usual going out of his way to get into trouble trying to patch things up between former president Ramos and President Macapagal, is no surprise or mystery. De Venecia is simply too nice, too compleat the politician, to give the opposition ammunition when things could all be quietly smoothed out to his party’s advantage.

The spoiler of course is Mrs. Arroyo’s determination not to be anyone’s patsy; she may have, as all presidents have done, tried to pay her dues in the early part of her administration, but she can clearly see, if she has half a brain (and no one doubts she has not just half but quite a complete one), that she needs a mandate, a real mandate, and that her political destiny must be played out as her father’s was -either to a happier conclusion by way of election in 2004, or defeat, as her father endured in 1965. But she has no other option but to stay the course and fight.

That having been said, this is all, then, a testing of the waters. The West Pointer in Ramos is probing the defenses of the administration, looking for its weaknesses. His archskeptics are under the impression his real aim is to simply be done with a Constitution that he could not amend to satisfy his ambitions, and be called upon to trot out on a white horse and restore the lost era of Philippines 2000. No one with any intellectual honesty can deny that Mr. Ramos’s actions to date, down to calling a radio station to muse on the need to file a test case to figure out if he’s entitled to run legitimately in the next election, only serve to reinforce the worst perceptions that exist of the man. Nor can anyone deny the political and even personal imperatives that would drive Mrs. Arroyo to seek election in 2004 come hell or high water, if only to prove her critics wrong, and be remembered not as a woman who inherited the presidential mantle, but who earned it in her own right.

So Fidel Ramos says he is not running —period, period, period. Though the country is used to his three periods being the ellipse that leads to a pregnant pause that leads others to begin to have paranoid attacks (which Ramos surely enjoys). The President, on the other hand, truthfully says she is too busy worrying about the here and now to fuss over 2004, though even in that she is being disingenuous -but then which president entitled to reelection, with the exception of Cory Aquino- ever was anything but disingenuous about the possibility of their running again? Even Cory Aquino, who was not bound by the term limitations of the Charter approved during her term, kept her options open if only to keep from becoming a lame duck. The only president in our history who ever committed political suicide was Joseph Estrada and neither Ramos nor Arroyo are Estrada. There is no surer way to commit political hara-kiri than to say you have no intention of running for reelection when you can -and be believed.

The whole non-issue then boils down to a rift between the Lakas-NUCD people who grew fat and soft under Ramos, and who aren’t pleased that they are expected to stay relatively lean during the Arroyo New Era Part 2. The whole issue is that having abandoned the Liberals, and never having established a cohesive hard-core party of loyalists of her own, Mrs. Arroyo is not in full control of the party she is putatively the chief of, but which recalls its salad days as having been under Fidel Ramos. Ramos may be circulating offering them a chance of reliving the good old days when boys could be boys, businessmen could do business under a regime that was all light and sound, and not hard work as it is at present.

Pie in the sky, Ramos-style, versus the drudgery of the dirty kitchen, Arroyo-style. Were you a politician you would at least give pause to the thought that life would be tough under another six years of Arroyo, and positively miserable if not dangerous to life and limb under a Ping Lacson regime: so why not, indeed, a return to steady Eddie.

We shall have to see who has the last wink. Or who raises her eyebrow last in satisfaction as her opponent folds.

Red flags and raised fists

Red flags and raised fists

By Dan Mariano

Special to the Century Book

DURING the 1950s and early 1960s, nationalism was equated with communism. Filipinos were, in general, perfectly content to be regarded as the Americans’ “little brown brothers.”

Yet, in this sea of colonial mentality emerged islands of nationalism that invoked the unresolved conflict between Philippine Independence and America’s Manifest Destiny at the turn of the century.

These nationalist pockets were initially manned by politicians such as Claro M. Recto, Jose P. Laurel and Lorenzo Tañada, who gave inspiration t o associations like the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). By the mid-l960s, nationalism began to attract a younger crop of Filipinos.

In l964, a group of university students founded the Kabataang Makabayan. By l968, the KM’s patriotic platform was reinforced by Mao Zedong Thought. Later, that same year, its leading members—who had previously been associated with MAN—and several Huk commanders disenchanted with the old PKP declared the “re–establishment” of the Communist Party of Philippines along Maoist lines on December 26.

On March 29 of the following year, the New People’s Army (NPA) was organized, announcing the CPP’s determination to capture state power through armed struggle.

IN 1969, with the relaxation of sexual standards came the proliferation of pornography. Local movie producers made a killing out of films that titillated previously conservative Filipinos with frontal nudity and graphic bed scenes. A mere decade was all it took for the local film industry to take a licentious leap from wholesome, family-oriented movies like “Ibiang, Mahal Kita” to the salacious “Ang Saging ni Pacing,” which left little to the imagination.

Adding to the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere of 1969 were the lavish parties that the elite threw, giving currency to the phrase “ostentatious display of wealth.” The grandest of these was a banquet staged by the Lopezes—kingpins of the sugar bloc and owners of the country’s biggest broadcasting network and electric utility—where champagne flowed, literally, from a fountain.

IF 1969 was Fat Tuesday, 1970 became the nation’s Good Friday when popular passions reached boiling point.

Ferdinand Marcos had just won an unprecedented second term in an election that his political rivals and independent observers alike claimed were the dirtiest in the nation’s political history. Nevertheless, Marcos felt that his reelection vindicated the “record of performance” of his first term, which witnessed an explosion of public works construction that, for the most part, was financed with Japanese war reparations.

Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent 100-percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2:$1 to P4:$1, then P8:$1. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.

When he delivered his State of the Nation Address on the afternoon January 26, 1970 before a joint session of Congress, the popularity that allowed him to win reelection the year before was already badly eroded.

Outside the legislative building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention. As Marcos stepped out of the building and onto the driveway, a papier-mâché crocodile (representing government corruption) and a make shift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew in his direction. Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped off away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft drink bottle, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.

The first encounter of what would later be called the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 ran for several hours with either side gaining, losing and retaking ground on. J. Burgos Street in front of what was then the congress building. Another phrase would gain currency that evening: “police brutality.”

Rarely did the protesters number more than 10,000 at any given demonstration, but the impression they left was of a whole generation rising up in rebellion.

THE main focus of 1971 was the election for eight seats in the Senate. The bloody events leading up to the voting would exert a marked influence on the outcome.

Emboldened by the phenomenal growth of the youth movement, UP students occupied the Diliman campus and barricaded its main roads. In this, they won the support of the faculty, non-academic personnel and virtually the entire UP community.

The campus remained under the students’ control for several days until the university radio station began broadcasting a tape recording purportedly of Marcos making love to an American starlet, Dovie Beams. That proved to be the last straw. The President ordered the PC Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) to retake the campus. The first thing the troops did after dispersing the protesters was to smash the transmission equipment of DZUP, which was never heard from again.

On the eve of the by-election, the opposition Liberal Party was holding its final rally at Plaza Miranda when all of a sudden the stage was rocked with an explosion that was soon followed by another. The grenade attack killed about a dozen people and injured scores of others, including LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, Ramon Mitra, Eddie Ilarde and Eva Estrada Kalaw.

The blame quickly fell on Marcos, who merely encouraged the popular suspicion by suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus that same evening.

BY 1972, the feeling of dread that Marcos was up to no good had become so palpable that even sections of the press that had once given him favorable coverage began to turn critical and pro-opposition. Thus, when Senator Aquino delivered a privileged speech exposing an alleged plot to justify the declaration of martial law, the media painted the town red with the explosive disclosure.

The plot, codenamed Oplan Sagittarius, contained all the incidents that had already taken place that would lead the public to conclude that the situation was getting out of hand, the communists were running berserk, the political opposition was encouraging civil unrest and, therefore, the government had to step in to regain control.

All that needed to be carried out, according to the plot, was an attempt on the life of a high-ranking official of the Marcos administration.

That scenario unfolded one night in September 1972. The following day, the newspapers ran pictures of a car assigned to Enrile that bore so many bullet holes only a miracle could have made the defense secretary come out of it alive. Years later, after leading a coup against Marcos, Enrile would confess that the ambush had been staged.

Days later, Filipinos woke up to find their radios eerily silent. No newsboy came around to deliver the papers. Later in the afternoon, the television station owned by Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto went on the air and asked viewers to stand by for a very important announcement direct from Malacañang.

The talking head that eventually came into view belonged to Francisco Tatad. With all the solemnity that he could muster, the press secretary announced that Marcos had issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.

The nightmare had begun.

What’s with Doy? October 3, 1987

What’s with Doy?

Only a heartbeat away from the Presidency, the Vice-President is disliked if not despised by the press which either damns him outright or damns itself by silence over his questionable acts. Worse, even his friends . . .

October 3, 1987–YET he had yielded in favor of Cory as presidential candidate of the opposition then and agreed to be second to her. The Presidency had been Doy’s life ambition. His father was President, albeit only by appointment by the Japanese invaders in World War II, and faced trial for treasonable collaboration with the enemy after the war. (Together with Claro M. Recto, who had served as secretary of foreign affairs, and Benigno Aquino, Sr., who was Speaker in the made-in-Japan government.) Lorenzo Tañada headed the People’s Court that would have tried them — but for the grant of amnesty by then Pres. Manuel Roxas. Laurel Sr. went on to run for President against then Pres. Elpidio Quirino and would have won and been a truly elected President of the Republic if he had not been so grossly cheated in that 1949 election by the First Great Ilocano’s political gang.

What his father was cheated of, Doy would win and be President — despite the predictable resort by the Worst Ilocano to mass vote-buying (with billions from the Jobo-headed Central Bank) plus fraud (with his Commission on Fake Elections) and, of course, plain terrorism — as events bloodily proved. He, Doy, should be the opposition’s presidential candidate, not Cory, a “mere housewife”. Didn’t his UNIDO pit candidates for the Batasan against the Dictator’s candidates and win — yes, not many seats but at least some? Pit a politician against a politician.

But all but Doy — at least initially—could see that he could not win against Marcos. He was the “ideal” candidate of the opposition as far as the Dictator was concerned. He could lick Doy—even in a clean election, he was assured — by his cohorts and himself. In the end, sense prevailed and Doy agreed to run for Vice-President to Cory’s President. And won with her.

Or, to be precise, lost with her. Marcos was proclaimed duly reelected President and his runningmate, Arturo Tolentino, elected Vice President, after a scandalously false count of votes by his Commission on Fake Elections, by the bats (political birds that flew in the night) in his Batasan. Marcos was still President — under his fake Constitution. (One never approved by the people in a plebiscite as it provides before it could become The Law.) Under that charter — under which Cory and Doy had run — they had both lost.

But they won just the same after the People Revolution of Cory’s faithful proclaimed her the truly elected President of the Philippines — and Doy the Vice-President. It was not by virtue of Marcos’s Constitution that Cory assumed the Presidency and Doy the Vice-Presidency but by the Will of the People. As expressed in an unprecedented revolution — one not stained by blood.

And that Will was expressed again in the February plebiscite that ratified her Constitution—replacing the Freedom Constitution which was also hers. More than two-thirds of the electorate voted for the charter, not because they had read it — most did not bother — but because it was hers. And the Will was reaffirmed in the May congressional election in which 22 out of 24 senatorial candidates came out as winners — mainly because they were her candidates. Most of the voters did not know most of the winning senatorial candidates administration from Adam. One won despite what people knew or thought of him — because he was Cory’s candidate.

Corazon C. Aquino is the elected President of the Philippines and Salvador Laurel the Vice President — by the Will of the Filipino People, not by virtue of the Marcos fake Constitution but by the People Power revolution and the overwhelming reaffirmation of confidence in her presidency in the February plebiscite and May election this year.

Reward

For his political collaboration with Cory, Doy was rewarded with the position of premier, which went out of existence with the Batasan under the Freedom Constitution, and secretary of foreign affairs. Under the American system, the Vice-President is just a spare tire. He’s nobody until the President dies, naturally or by assassination, or becomes incompetent to discharge the duties of his office—or impeached, as Nixon nearly was because of Watergate, saving himself from that shameful rejection through resignation. Leaving with his tail between his hind legs, as then American President Johnson said the United States would never do in Vietnam. A terrific musical comedy of Pre-World War II vintage, Of Thee I Sing, with words and music by George and Ira Gershwin, had a bewildered man as Vice-President of the United States or candidate for that position. He didn’t want it. Maybe he was a nobody, but he did not want it to be made official. As it was, nobody could remember his name.

Of thee I sing, baby . . .” went the song, but how could anybody sing the Vice-Presidential bet’s name if nobody knew it? Who he?

To compensate the American Vice-President for his sorry but expectant position in political life, he is designated presiding officer of the Senate, rescuing him from total anonymity. Such is George Bush, who has proven his fitness for removal from public memory by hailing Marcos’s “devotion to democratic principles” or such bull as that.

Not Made in Heaven

In the case of Doy, what now? That his political union with Cory was not made in heaven — of political ideas and principles — was made clear soon enough with his demand to be “parallel” President with her. He was elected as substitute if she died or was incapacitated, not co-equal. But Doy wanted to be President, of only on a half-and-half basis. Nothing doing, Cory soon made it clear to Doy.

Must Doy then wait for five years, until the 1992 presidential election, before he could be President? Sure, Cory has said she did not want reelection, and the new Constitution appears to ban that, but what if a million or more signatures were gathered calling for amendment of the charter to allow her to run for reelection? Even if she retired wearily into private life, could Doy be certain he would have her support in the presidential election? Would he be her candidate? How about the other presidential hopefuls in the ruling party she might like more than Doy? Does she like him more than any of the others? Why like him — after all the trouble or problem he has been causing her.

Chances

If Doy ran for President five years from now, how many would vote for him? The political field would be divided how many ways? Doy’s UNIDO would just be “one of those things” — those political things. And if Cory were to come out in support of a candidate other than Doy . . .

Cory has said nothing in the least derogatory to Doy. But the press has been giving him hell, not only righteously but with enjoyment, one gets the feeling. It is having fun with him — as he goes on making, in its opinion, a fool of himself.

When Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo was invited to speak before the House of Representatives on the political situation after the August 28 attack by AFP renegades on the government — a nearly successful one — Malaya headlined the Arroyo address thus:

“ARROYO HITS LAUREL, 3 TOP BUSINESSMEN

“Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo yesterday accused Vice-President Salvador H. Laurel and three prominent businessmen of destabilizing the Aquino government as he denied charges that he and Presidential Counsel Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. meddled in military operations during the failed Aug. 28 coup.”

How was Doy destabilizing, or trying to destabilize, the Aquino government? What would he have gained by it if he had succeeded?

Business World’s Ninez Cacho-Olivares, whose Cup of Tea has never been Doy, not even before the 1986 presidential and vice-presidential election, recalling then the long past services to Marcos of Doy and his brother Pepito and his father who got Marcos off the hook when he was tried for murder of his father’s political rival — Doy’s most dedicated nemesis in the press had this to say about Doy’s latest act:

“Irresponsibility at Its Height

“Vice-President Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel has belly-ached many a time to the media that he is being bypassed or that he is being ignored by Malacañang. The general perception is that he is ‘out’ of the decision-making process in the Guest House.

“And, indeed, in many instances, it does seem — as far as media reports go — that the President generally ignores her Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“But I know of no one who disapproves of the attitude the Palace officials have displayed towards Mr. Laurel. One even appreciates that Palace attitude, for Mr. Laurel has proven, through his recent actuations, to be an utterly irresponsible public official.

“Mr. Laurel was highly visible after the aborted coup, and has engaged in dialogs with officers and men of the AFP. He told all and sundry that he has been authorized by the President to hold dealings with the military to assess the soldiers’ grievances and complaints. Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo confirmed this, however, he pointed out that Mr. Laurel has not been authorized by the President to create a wedge between the military and the civilian government.

Adding Fuel

“And that is precisely what Mr. Laurel has done through the set of questions he posed before the soldiers. He added fuel to the fire when he asked the soldiers whether they wanted Arroyo and Locsin out of the Cabinet. He displays the height of irresponsibility when he, as the second highest official in the land, asks soldiers the question, ‘Should we remove the Communists in the government?’

“And for all his outrageous actuation, he reportedly said, ‘It is better to allow them to shout than to shoot,’ adding his dealings are very positive steps in addressing the grievances of soldiers. ‘It has helped to defuse an otherwise tense situation. This is because our soldiers have been made to feel that the Government is willing to listen to their grievances and to act on those that are legitimate and reasonable.’

“With a Vice-President like that, I dread the thought of his ever succeeding the President. What he had done, in my opinion, was to allow the soldiers who have been fed the disinformation that there are Communists in the Aquino Government to call the shots on the matter. The question presupposes that there are Communists in the Aquino Government and this smacks not only of irresponsibility but of malice. He has done the Aquino Government a disservice and really should be shown the door for his misdeed. It is evident that he wants certain Cabinet officials out, and he used that opportunity to boost the demand to oust these Cabinet officials and in the process, he succeeded in driving a deeper wedge between the military and the civilian government.

“Obviously, Vice-President  Laurel was playing up to the soldiers and engaging in the same game Juan Ponce-Enrile played. He wanted to add fire to the anti-Communist hysteria being fanned by the mutineers and, at the same time, be identified as the soldiers’ defender and ally. But at whose expense? The President’s? The Government’s?

“The Vice-President was given a job to do by the President. He botched it, and he deserves to be out.”

And here is a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial — with cartoon yet:

“What is Laurel Really Up To?

“On Aug. 27 ranking officials of the so-called defense establishment and Vice-President Laurel met behind closed doors for two hours at the latter’s office. When they emerged out from that gathering, Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto, AFP chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, vice-chief of staff Lt. Gen. Renato de Villa and an official of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, refused to answer questions raised by reporters at the scene. For his part, the Vice-President said that he had merely been given a briefing on the peace and order situation.

“The day before that closed-door meeting, a widely successful protest against raised fuel prices had been staged. On that Thursday itself, the mass arrest of leaders of militant union and transport workers was underway. Conservative politicians and their reactionary spokesmen in media were agitating for even more draconian measures and a more thorough crackdown on ‘leftists.’ Reporters who caught the defense officials emerging out of Mr. Laurel’s office could not help suspect that something was afoot. Several hours later, Gregorio Honasan launched his bloody venture to unseat, if not actually murder, President Aquino.

“As the mutiny was in progress, nothing was heard from Mr. Laurel — highly uncharacteristic of a public figure who almost always has something to say about anything. Throughout that Friday morning foreigners, presumably Americans, were seen going in and out of his house. It was only in the afternoon, when the tide had turned clearly in the favor of the government, that the Vice-President became accessible and joined the indignant chorus of ruling-coalition politicians condemning the military rebellion. In the days that followed, Mr. Laurel would also join other conservatives both in and out of government in pressing Malacañang to look into the ‘causes’ of the rebellion. And as far as they were concerned these causes were the low pay of the soldiery and allegedly Communist advisers surrounding Mrs. Aquino. Strangely few of them demanded justice for the innocent victims of the rebellion. What in effect these conservatives were demanding was for the Aquino administration to give in to the mutineers’ demands — the very same demands that were delivered through the barrel of the gun.

“Over the past few days, Mr. Laurel has been making the rounds of military camps throughout the islands on a purported mission of ‘dialog’ (a much abused term, which as currently used, has no exact definition) with AFP servicemen. But from what we have been able to gather, the Vice-President has in fact only succeeded in agitating further the already restive soldiers. So what is Mr. Laurel really up to?

“Evidently, the Vice-President has some serious explaining to do, not only to his immediate superior, the President, but also to the people. His puzzling behavior immediately before, during and after the Aug. 28 mutiny has led observers to suspect that he is more involved in recent developments than he would care to make the public believe. Moreover, Mr. Laurel’s much-publicized links to an ultra-rightist international organization of modern-day witch hunters has not allayed the growing misgivings about him.”

And here is Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Hilarion M. Henares, Jr., who claims to be a friend of Doy’s, with the most searing indictment of his “friend”, making the enemies almost friendly:

“Sadly, Sadly . . . What Are We to Do With You, Doy?

“What’s wrong with this guy Doy Laurel?

“Volunteering to ‘survey’ the feelings of the Armed Forces, he harangues them with pointed leading questions—Do you want Cory to fire Joker? Teddyboy? Noel Soriano? Do you favor amnesty for Honasan?

“He never asked: Do you want Cory to fire Doy?

“He did this once before, you know, riding in on people’s pent-up emotions to promote his obvious ambitions for the presidency.

“Last year, in the reconciliation meeting between President Cory and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Doy Laurel spoke out of turn, saying that the only way to achieve reconciliation is to acquiesce in a ‘previous top level meeting’ — get rid of three Cabinet members, Aquilino Pimentel, Bobbit Sanchez and Joker Arroyo.

“Cardinal Sin denied he ever made such demands, and went into his chapel to pray for the soul of a fool.

“Ambassador Bosworth maintained a pained and stony silence, and wished he could stuff his shoes into the mouth of a fool.

“Doy Laurel just felt foolish.

“These days, the fool is ever the fool, a louse as he ever was.

“I have mutual friends with Doy than most people I know. I genuinely respect his father and brothers. In La Salle, he was the classmate of Ronnie Velasco, my brother, and many others—a class of machos where Doy is acknowledged to be the fastest with the mostest.

“If brother Teddy, the meanest cock in the Henares coop, takes his hat off to Doy, then Doy is IT, better than that high-spending tourist Tony Gonzalez.

“I asked our mutual friends, most of whom grew up with Doy, Will you vote for Doy? Silence and a vigorous shaking of the head.

“Why not? Silence and a shrug of the shoulder.

“Is Doy a thief, a crook? No . . .

“Is he ugly, repugnant, abominable? No . . .

“Is Doy an unmitigated liar? Not really . . .

“Is Doy a hypocrite, a scoundrel, a con-man? No . . .

“His smile that looks halfway between a snarl and a smirk? No, that’s the problem of his dentures . . .

“Then why wouldn’t you vote for him? I do not know . . . but I will be damned if I will vote for him.

“Now that is the eternal dilemma of Doy. If he only knew why his friends won’t vote for him, then perhaps he can do something about it.

“But he does not know, nobody knows, and that’s his problem.

“Well, I know the reason why, Doy. You have been a special study of mine for the last two years, and I know. And being your friend, I will tell you.

“I ran for the Senate at the same time you and Ninoy Aquino did. I lost while you and Ninoy won. Our mutual friends voted for you then, even if you were on the side of Marcos. You were terrific in the Senate, Doy, you were nationalistic . . . you exposed the secret protocols Carlos Romulo signed with the American ambassador.

“When I was chairman of the National Economic Council, I was approving all proposals of American firms for US guarantees against political risk in the Philippines. Imagine my chagrin when you exposed a secret  agreement that bound the Philippine government to compensate the US government for losses arising from political risk! That Romulo!

“I admired you for that, Doy. You were okay, just like your papa and cuyas.

“Even during martial law, still allied with Marcos, at least you and your brothers maintained an independent posture, and in the end severed your connection with the dictator.

“You were still OK then, especially during the time of troubles after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.

“I think you started to change when you entertained the notion of being nominated for president. That’s no sin, but when you began to kowtow to embassy officials and make pro-American noises in order to get the support of the CIA and neanderthal Americans, you took the fatal step to perdition.

“But you gloried in it — you hired an American Steve Thomas as security guard, and our friend Roger Davis as your publicity man, so people would think you were favored by the CIA.

“The change from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde occurred I believe when you announced during the crucial time we expected to be presented a Cory-Doy ticket, that the deal was off, and that come what may, you’d be a candidate for the presidency.

“You were never a viable candidate. You were being used by the Americans to extract a commitment from Cory on the American Bases, so Cory had to backtrack from ‘Bases out in 1992!’ to ‘I want to keep my options open.’ You were the cat’s paw, Doy, and you knew it.

“After the revolution, Doy, you became not only vice-president, but also prime minister and minister of foreign affairs—three powerful positions, Doy—while your colleagues in the Unido got nothing, except Orly Mercado who was appointed Rizal Park attendant. Your faithful Rene Espina gritted his teeth, acquired a couple more bags under his eyes, and bolted to the opposition.

“Then you came up with the idea of a Parallel Presidency, to have your own official line organization all the way down to the barangay level, that will allow you to exercise the powers of the presidency. Admit it, that was the idea of Bosworth and Kaplan, right?

“In effect you and your American friends implied that Cory as a housewife is not competent to be president, that you Salvador Laurel should take over the reins of government and assure the Americans of their bases and business monopolies.

“Fortunately, Cory Aquino is no fool, and her advisers no pushovers for the neanderthals.

“You struck out on that one, Doy.

“Poor Doy, even the lowest embassy employees do not respect you as foreign secretary. They totally bypass your office and directly deal with  our highest officials, against all rules of protocol.

“Sadly, sadly, we ask Cory to relieve you of the foreign affairs portfolio.

“What are we to do with you, Doy?”

Even the Communists, whom one might think consider him a good argument for communism, don’t like Doy. Here goes a Malaya report:

“LAUREL ACCUSED OF ‘FOMENTING’ UNREST IN AFP

“Former rebel peace negotiator Satur Ocampo accused Vice-President Salvador Laurel of political grandstanding and fanning unrest within the already divided military . . .

“Commenting on Laurel’s visits to military camps last week, Ocampo, who went into hiding early this year following the collapse of peace negotiations with the Aquino government, said the Vice-President has been more concerned with projecting his political image than looking into the causes of unrest within the military.

“’What he is doing now is projecting himself, but at the same time creating unrest within the military.’”

But why should Doy be doing that?

Divide the AFP — so the Communists will win?

Make more AFP rebels against the Aquino government if their demands, as proclaimed by Doy, are not granted?

Among the demands of the officers and soldiers with whom Doy cuddled up during his military camp visits, is amnesty for Gringo Honasan and his followers in the attack against the government. This demand the government has made clear is totally unacceptable. Not only to the government but to the AFP top command. But Doy played it up — for all it was worth to him.

Why?

So, if the impossible demand and others of the same category are rejected, more of the AFP would defect to the rebel camp?

And help mount another attempt at a coup to overthrow the Aquino government?

Turning Cory into a ceremonial President if not killing her?

But who will head that government? That military junta? Enrile? If not Enrile, then Gringo? Why not Gringo — who laid his life on the line to seize power?

BUT SURE AS HELL, NOT DOY!

He just has to wait until Cory drops dead or becomes incompetent to discharge her duties as President. In which latter case, there might well be another attempt at a military coup and the next head of state would be anybody but Doy.

Doy will just have to wait until Cory dies—of natural death.

Last week, Doy tendered his irrevocable resignation as secretary of foreign affairs from the Aquino cabinet.

The President accepted it.

“Good!” many sighed in relief.

C’est la vie — political wise.

The Conscience of the Filipino: The Exemplar

The Conscience of the Filipino

The Exemplar

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

February 2, 1986–DEFEAT is usually termed ignominious unless one fights to the end, against overwhelming odds, then it is called honorable. Thus, Spartan mothers told their sons setting forth to war to return with their shields or on them. But there is another kind of defeat, and it’s a rare one. Rare in history, and most rare in political history, for politics seems to bring out the worst, the meanest in men. It’s more than just honorable, it’s glorious, and that is defeat from self-denial: to lose when one might have won, out of a sense of high purpose. Such was the defeat of Pres. Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 presidential election. He lost in his presidential reelection bid because he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. He would not stretch the meaning of the word “promise” to cover mere attempt. Surely, one may not be expected to do more than one can, but he would not equate mere attempt with performance and what he was not sure he could do, he would not promise. Presidential candidates promise to balance the budget and get elected only to unbalance the budget even more, and people do not hold it too much against them. Failure to fulfill a political promise is taken as just one of those things, like death and taxes. One learns to live with it. Not to promise what one is not sure one can do is, surely, naive. After all, one might be able to do it. Things might improve. To hold promise under so strict a definition is not, well, not common. But Sergio Osmeña was not a common man.

He might have been President earlier if he had not yielded his right to a sick man who would cling on to the office. Too long had he played a secondary role to the flamboyant Quezon, now he would be first at last! Quezon’s term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth expired in 1943 and Osmeña was to succeed him in the office under the Constitution. But Quezon argued that the war had suspended the Constitution and he should be allowed to serve as President indefinitely. For life, if the war went on. Well, he did, remaining President until death took him. Though convinced that he should be President, with every legal reason supporting his position, Osmeña acceded to Quezon’s plea. The Filipino people had come to think of him, Quezon, as the symbol of the Philippine government-in-exile and Osmeña’s taking over might create confusion, the ailing man argued. Osmeña listened and gave way. Let his old political rival have his way since he wanted the office so much! He himself suffered from no such obsession. And if it was good for the Filipino people that he should step aside, that is the way it should be. Told after Quezon’s death that he was now President, all Osmeña said was: “Am I?”

Asked when he would take the oath of office, Osmeña said he would first attend to the funeral arrangements, then asked to be left alone so he could compose a tribute to his dead associate. Later, he offered Quezon’s widow and children the continued use of their elegant quarters at the Shoreham Hotel and a pension, the law being silent then on such provision for the widows of past presidents.

When the U.S. government ordered the prosecution of Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese during the war, Osmeña asked General MacArthur to release them on his personal guarantee. He thought they had served in the Japanese puppet government to act as buffers between the people and the brute force of the invaders. But MacArthur could not go against Washington and so herded them all in the Iwahig penal colony.

But while understanding toward collaborators — the political ones like Roxas, who would afterward take the Presidency away from him, Laurel and Recto — Osmeña would show no favor to two of his sons who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese for money, and when one of them tried to see him in Leyte, wearing a guerrilla outfit, he refused to see him. The son stayed under a tree all morning waiting for his father to change his mind, but the old man was unrelenting. The other son, whom we visited in prison, cursed him. But the law, as Osmeña held it to be, is impersonal, whatever heartbreak that might mean to the enforcer. When, during the trial of that son, he had to be confined at the Quezon Institute for the tubercular, and asked for “better facilities,” the father said his son should be given the same facilities the others had, not more, not less.

When Roxas split from the Nacionalista Party and created the Liberal Party to run for president, Osmeña, in the interest of national unity, prepared to retire and let Roxas have the field to himself. But those who wanted to hold on to their government positions argued with Osmeña that he should run to demonstrate that the Philippines was capable of holding a true election, a democratic electoral contest even amidst the ruins of war, that an orderly succession was possible — the ultimate test of political maturity. National unity would be served and Americans who held that Filipinos were incapable of self-rule and therefore unworthy of independence would be confounded.

So, Osmeña decided to run. But run in his own fashion.

Under the law then, the Nacionalista Party, as the majority party, was entitled to two election inspectors and the Commission on Elections to one, with none for the splinter party. Osmeña had the law amended so that the Roxas party would be entitled to one inspector in each precinct and would not be cheated without detection.

An act of political madness, the usual practitioners of politics would say. Well, Osmeña was mad — mad for fairness. Before the election, Osmeña was scheduled to leave for Washington with Roxas and Jose Zulueta, then Speaker of the House. When their names were forwarded to Washington for the necessary clearance, Roxas was not “cleared” for the trip. A newspaperman heard of the Washington message and asked for a copy so it could be published, demoralizing the Roxas camp. Osmeña would have nothing to do with it.

“Let me keep that in my safe,” said the President then of the Philippines (How such a President made a Filipino feel clean!) He would not hit the man who sought to remove him from his position “below the belt.”

When it was suggested that he use the Philippine Air Force for an island-hopping election campaign, he ordered all units grounded. Then, when told that Eulogio Rodriguez — “Mr. Nacionalista” — had used an Air Force plane in campaigning for the party’s ticket outside Luzon, to deliver campaign material, Osmeña ordered his secretary of defense, Alfredo Montelibano, to call up Roxas and offer the use of an Air Force plane to equalize advantages. The offer was made twice.

“The fight is over,” said Rodriguez. “Roxas is really fortunate. His campaign manager is Osmeña.”

When an appointment of a Roxas supporter to provincial fiscal was up for approval by Osmeña, he was advised to turn it down because of the man’s political affiliation. That was one of the few times Osmeña showed anger.

“Tell them,” he said, “a man is appointed to an office because his qualifications call for it, not because of his political sympathies.”

Government employees held a rally before Malacañan demanding backpay for services to the government under the Japanese and Osmeña was urged to promise them backpay if elected, even though Washington had not yet set aside the money as it had promised.

“I can’t do that.”

“You need their votes.”

“No, I have to tell them the truth.”

So, he told the rallyists who represented a multitude of government employees all over the country that he would not fool them, he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. And they shouted, “Long live Roxas!”

He would not campaign for election as he would not lie. He had the duties of his office to do, work to do for a ruined country.

“I will just stand before the electorate on the basis of my record and what I have done for the country all these years.”

He did make an election-eve speech — on the state of the nation.

He had served the Filipino people well. If they were not satisfied with his service, if they believed another would serve them better, he was happy to go. He lost by 200,000 votes. If he had lied to that howling mob before Malacañan, he might have gained their votes and those of their families and friends, and won. But he would not lie.

He lost — and felt no rancor toward the winner. Not one word could be extracted from him by a journalist in derogation of Roxas. He was a gentleman to the end.

Why did he refuse to campaign?

“Those were abnormal times,” he said later, “those days after the liberation. There were tens of thousands of loose firearms in the hands of private citizens. The peace and order situation was uncertain. If I had gone out to denounce my political opponents and urged my leaders in the provinces to win the election at all costs, perhaps I could have won, but there would have been bloodshed. Political wrangles might have aggravated the prevailing situation. So, I told my leaders to allow the opposition to say anything its spokesmen wanted to say in their meetings and in the newspapers. I believed then as I do now, that as President it was my highest duty to set an example to the rest of the candidates, to avoid trouble that might endanger the nation and cause our people to lose faith in the government and its officials.”

His old rival and beneficiary, Quezon, said, after defeating him—yet not defeating him in the disgraceful sense of the word:

“It is useless to try to defeat him; he is in alliance with God.”

He set an example for his people and those who led them after him — in vain. The motivation behind the degradation of democracy that came after was best expressed in the words of a high government official:

“What are we in power for?”

Osmeña set an example. He set a standard for those who would govern a people, and it was not enough. He had done his best. I visited him in retirement and found a man—a gentleman—at rest.

Calle Azcarraga, March 4, 1961

Calle Azcarraga

by Quijano de Manila

 

A current controversy is whether Manila’s old circumferential road should be renamed after Recto.

 

March 4, 1961—MANILA’S present city fathers should go down in its history as the most patriotic bunch of baptists ever to nurse a signpost. In the last year or so, they have subjected half a dozen streets with colonial names to a nationalistic rechristening. Trabajo became Manuel de la Fuente; Tuberías became Dra. Concepción A. Aguila; Morayta became Nicanor Reyes Sr., and Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

These changes drew only a disheartened protest from a citizenry inured to the shock of going to sleep on one street and waking up on another. But there was spirited resistance when Sta. Mesa Boulevard was turned into Ramón Magsaysay Boulevard and dear old Aviles, the street of Malacañang, became Dr. José P. Laurel Sr. Street.

Now, still another name-change that, in other circumstances, would have been welcomed as proper and fitting has met with opposition, chiefly because it comes as the last straw to a public exasperated by so much name-changing.

An ordinance renaming Calle Azcárraga after the late Claro M. Recto was twice passed by the municipal board, was twice vetoed by Mayor Lacson, is at this writing in the hands of President Garcia, who must decide which is the truer nationalist; the Manila municipal board, because it wants to replace the name of a Spanish premier with that of a Filipino patriot, or Mayor Lacson, because he wants to preserve one of the most famous place-names in the country.

One view is that nobody cares who the hell Azcárraga was; when Manileños say Azcárraga they don’t mean the street—and they don’t want the names of such important streets as Azcárraga, Sta. Mesa and Aviles to be tampered with. Indeed, even the names of unimportant streets, if they are old enough, should be respected, since many of these old place-names which seem merely capricious turn out to have, apart from the associations they have accumulated through the years, an original pertinence—like, for instance, the now-vanished Alejandro VI, named after the Borgia pope who fathered Cesar and Lucretia. Many have wondered why this evil man was honored with a street in Sampaloc. The fact is, Alexander Borgia had a very decisive finger in our fate; he authored the demarcation line which divide the new worlds beyond the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain—the demarcation line which, by a hair’s breadth (some say not even by that), included the Philippines in the Spanish sphere and thus decreed that our colonial history should be Spanish, not Portuguese. Borgia is no name to delight a nationalist, but it’s a pity the name has vanished from the landscape. The more gaudy-minded among us feel that it lent to that dingy alley in Sampaloc a touch of the color, the glamour of the Italian Renaissance, possibly prompting people, whenever they passed that alley, to realize that the history of this land goes far beyond the horizons that confine it and involves any number of unlikely people, from Renaissance popes to Elizabethan pirates. Anyway, a bit of racy atmosphere vanished from the city when Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

In this matter, the various conquerors of the land, with the exception of the Japs, have shown more piety than we do. The Spaniards kept the name of Soliman’s town and maintained the place-names around it: Tondo, Binondo, Pasig, Pasay. They gave Spanish names only to the new communities they founded and to the new streets they laid out. (We, on the other hand, have been vandal enough to obliterate such an old historic Malay place-name as Bangkusay.) The Americans, too, respected the place-names they found here and gave American names only to new sites: Dewey to a boulevard wrested from the sea; Lawton to a plaza formed by the opening of the Sta. Cruz Bridge; California, Colorado, Kansas, etc., to streets built in what was once the swampy interior of Malate.

The argument is that Filipinos are at last in possession of their land and should wipe out the vestiges of a painful colonial past. But Manila has been a Malay city, a Spanish city, an American city, and is now a Filipino city. It could be a Spanish city without any pulling out of its Malay roots, and an American city without any burying of its Malay or Spanish past; so why should its present keepers be so anxious to hide what this tough old town has been? A people as old as the Romans or the English may be able to afford to skip a few hundred years of history, abolish a few hundred monuments, in the name of progress; but a people as young as we have surely need of every bit of memory that can make us feel more intensely us.

If the Manileño seems, of all Filipinos, the most developed, it is because he is informed by a city soaked and drenched in history, a city where every spot of ground is encrusted with memories, where every place-name has emotional value, and where people consequently feel and think and live more intensely than anywhere else in the country. When a Manileño speaks, he speaks—whether he knows it or not—with all his past behind him, which is why his voice rings with such authority and pride. He is no cultural parvenu—or was not, anyway, in the days when every sign post, every street, every annual public ritual assured him of the antiquity of the traditions to which he was heir. The rest of the country may be willing to shed the dark past and start clean, but the Manileño is a creation of the baroque and should not be content with anything less than the totality of his city’s experience—Malay, Spanish, American, and whatever else there may be, including the latest invaders.

Alas, Manileños who have conveniently been blaming every postwar desecration of their city on the “outsiders” who have captured and are now running it may be dismayed to learn that the latest renovation—the proposal to rename Azcárraga after Recto—was authored by one of their own, by an authentic Manileño: Councilor Pablo V. Ocampo, who belongs to the Ocampos of Quiapo, a very distinguished Manila clan. In this ironic instance, it’s an “outsider,” Lacson of Negros, who is defending, against a true son of Manila, the heritage of the city.

 

Nationalist

Councilor Ocampo is a chubby young man who seems to be always abrim with mirth and energy. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the first resident commissioner to Washington and the first Filipino to demand independence for the Philippines in the halls of the American congress. The Ocampo house on R. Hidalgo is one of the oldest and largest on that street, where once dwelt Quiapo’s most splendid families: the Paternos, the Legardas and the Aranetas. An uncle of the councilor built that fantastic Japanese palace in an alley off R. Hidalgo.

Though the councilor’s roots are in Quiapo, he himself was born and grew up in the more modern district of Malate and he knew R. Hidalgo only during the 1930s, when its days of glory were over and it was already turning into a shabby semi-commercial street. Viewed from the sleek newness of Malate, all that old part of Quiapo, from Azcárraga to Arlegui, must have seemed indeed little more than a dump of dusty relics that should be cleared away. But it should be said that Councilor Ocampo is not always for abolishing the old; he has proposed that the pantheon in Paco be made a national cemetery, so it may be saved from ruin.

It was in October 3 last year, a few days after the death of Senator Recto, that Councilor Ocampo first proposed to the municipal board that Calle Azcárraga be renamed after Recto, “as an insignificant memorial to perpetrate [sic] the name and memory of this great man.”

The proposal was referred to the Philippine Historical Committee, which not only approved it but suggested that all Azcárraga plus Mendiola be turned into a single thoroughfare called Recto Boulevard. The name-change was also recommended by the Knights of Rizal, the national directorate of the Spirit of 1896 and the Palihan ng Bayan.

The Ocampo ordinance was passed by the board on January 17, was vetoed by Mayor Lacson nine days later.

Said Lacson: “We can give honor to Don Claro without obliterating important symbolic landmarks. General Azcárraga could probably be associated with many unpleasant things that happened during the Spanish regime. But the street named after him has already become deeply embedded in the history and culture of the city of Manila and has achieved such meaning that, if it is dropped and traded for another, the city may lose a landmark together with its historical associations.”

The mayor quoted the protest of the Manila Realty Board.

Said the realtors: “Whenever the name of a street is changed, property owners are confused, since they find their land suddenly situated on a street they never heard of. The Cadastral Plans are fast being outdated and confused by so many changes.” The realtors drily added that “we believe the purpose in naming streets is to help people find their way around.” And they suggested that the proposed new bridge at Nagtahan, instead of Azcárraga, be renamed after Recto. The mayor himself favored some streets like Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas.

To this, Councilor Alfredo Gómez retorted that to rename “an insignificant street to perpetrate [sic, again] the memory of a truly great Filipino patriot and nationalist may be considered an insult.” And he reproved the Manila Realty Board with a baffling non-sequitur: “Our is a changing world, so that we have continually to march forward with the progress of time. To subscribe to the contention of the Manila Realty Board that the frequent changes in the names of street lead to confusion is certainly not in keeping with the trend of progress.”

The Manila Times had come out with an editorial against the change, on the ground that historical traditions should be preserved and that Calle Azcárraga, an unsightly, traffic-jammed, commercial street, was hardly the proper one to bear the name of so august a statesman as Recto.

To this, historian Domingo Abella replied with two questions. What street in Manila has no tangled traffic? And what tradition could be invoked in the name of a street that had borne that name for only about 50 years? Dr. Abella warned that the defeat of the Ocampo ordinance would mean “victory for a certain element in our community which still maintains that the days of Spain in the Philippines were the ideal ones in our history, and which feels deeply nostalgic about that era.”

Stung, Lacson called Dr. Abella’s logic “a little shaky.” Following Dr. Abella’s reasoning, we would have to obliterate all things Spanish in the Philippines because they constitute a symbol of our servitude under the Spaniards. “This would be tragic,” said Lacson, “because even Dr. Abella’s name, Domingo, is Spanish.”

But Dr. Gumersindo García of the Knights of Rizal pointed out two special reasons why the name of Azcárraga should not be preserved by Filipinos: as Spanish minister of war in the 1890s, Azcárraga had sent reinforcements to the Philippines to suppress the Revolution, and he had ignored a petition of clemency that could have averted the execution of Rizal.

Lacson replied that Mexico City has preserved a colonial-era monument to Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the rape and pillage of Mexico: “And yet no one can accuse the Mexicans of being less patriotic or less conscious of their national dignity than we Filipinos.”

Cries Lacson: “They’re calling me colonial-minded now! This country is suffering from ultra-nationalism. And yet, down in Mactan, there’s a magnificent monument to Magellan, only a shabby marker for Lapu-Lapu. Why don’t the nationalists do something about that? And all this name-changing! They changed the names of Trabajo and Morayta—and that’s illegal. Those streets were donated to the city by the Sulucan Subdivision with the stipulation that the names were not to be changed.”

While the controversy raged, the mayor happened to run into the author of the disputed ordinance. Councilor Ocampo asked what Lacson had against the ordinance. The mayor reiterated his wish to preserve the city’s historic landmarks. Ocampo replied that his ordinance had the approval of the nation’s leading historical societies, which, after all, should know better than the mayor what landmarks should be preserved. Then he told the mayor that the municipal board was going to override his veto and re-pass the ordinance. “That is your right,” said Lacson, “but my stand on the matter has not changed.”

On February 7, the board, declaring that public opinion pointed to “an overwhelming endorsement of the proposal,” reenacted the ordinance, with two-thirds of the councilors voting in its favor. Mayor Lacson vetoed it again and sent it back to the board the very next day, February 8, the 70th birthday of Don Claro.

“It’s now up to President García,” says Councilor Ocampo, “to uphold the autonomy of the municipal board of Manila.” He says he expects the President to sign it and does not doubt that the citizens of Manila are as keen over the measure as he is: “Oh, there will be confusion at first, yes, but the young will quickly get used to the new name.”

Far from being daunted by Mayor Lacson’s vetos, Manila’s city fathers seem to have been goaded to fresh feats of rechristening, becoming, indeed, even more avid to perpetrate, not to perpetuate. Right after the first veto, Councilor Herminio Astorga proposed that Dewey Boulevard be renamed Rizal Boulevard and that Rizal Avenue be renamed Bonifacio Avenue. One wonders how soon the Luneta, the Escolta and Plaza Miranda will suffer the fate that now threatens Calle Azcárraga.

Imperialist

The man whose name has provoked such bitter debate was a local boy who made good, though one would bring down the nationalists on one’s head if one were to call Marcelo de Azcárraga a Filipino simply because he was born in the Philippines, as were his immediate forbears on both sides. Azcárraga is a Basque name and the general was of practically pure Spanish blood. On his mother’s side, he was related to the Palmeros and Versosas of Cagayan; on his father’s side, to the Ugartes of Manila. An uncle of his was a Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortes in 1820.

Azcárraga was born in Manila in 1836. His father had a bookstore on the Escolta; his mother ran a shop on the other side of the Pasig. In spite of their eminent relatives, the parents seem to have been poor and Azcárraga was able to study at Letrán only as a working student: he did kitchen chores in the school in exchange for his education. But he was a brilliant student and, while still very young, already spoke of someday becoming a famous general.

From Letrán, he went to a preparatory military school that had just been opened in Manila, completed his military training in Spain, and was sent to Cuba. He was a lieutenant at 18, a captain at 20, a major at 22. During the Carlist revolt in Spain, he fought on the side of the crown and is said never to have lost a battle. In 1871, at 35, he fulfilled his childhood dream and became a brigadier-general.

Eight years later, he retired from the army and entered politics. He started as a senator, rose to become minister of war, was prime minister of Spain in 1897, when the Philippines was on the brink of revolt.

Azcárraga’s attitude toward his native country has been hotly debated. He is said to have advocated reforms in the Philippines and to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Filipino propagandists in Madrid. But there is against him the sending of troops to quell the Philippine revolt and his refusal to grant clemency to Rizal. Don Francisco Pi y Margal claimed that he made the petition and that Azcárraga rejected it. In justice to the man, however, we should bear in mind that, in those times, all Spaniards as well as some Filipinos regarded the Philippines as an integral part of Spain. Their attitude toward the Revolution was, therefore, what our attitude would be if, say, the island of Palawan should try to secede from the Philippines.

Most quoted against Azcárraga are three lines that Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote in a letter to Rizal: “Azcárraga has written me about the defense of your Noli. I did not know he is a Filipino, but it seems he is that only by birth.”

Yet we know that Azcárraga attended Filipino gatherings in Madrid, that he was present and gave a speech (being then already the top man in the Spanish government) when Juan Luna won a prize for the Spoliarium, and that he referred to the Filipinos in Spain as his “paisanos,” bidding the government to take special effort in serving them because “they are separated from their country and far from their loved ones.”

In his home in Madrid was a painting by Luna of a woman in Philippine attire with a child. Azcárraga himself had sat for the child, and he told visitors that the woman represented Filipinas and the child the breed of the land.

Can Azcárraga be considered a Filipino? In the present advanced meaning of the word, definitely not, not only because he was of Spanish blood but because he could not see the interests of the Philippines apart from those of Spain. He was an imperialist, not a pioneer nationalist. Yet it can be said that he helped advance the idea of the Filipino simply by being born in this country and bringing prestige to it by rising to the highest government position in Spain.

The idea of the Filipino did not suddenly emerge full-blown in the 1890s; it was the result of an evolution that’s still in progress, like all other nationalisms. Athenian in the days of Pericles did not mean every native of Athens but only a small minority on top. Roman did not mean all the people of the empire or even of Rome but only the elite who were citizens. France, England and Spain, in feudal times, chiefly meant, first the barons, then the king—and a French monarch who had brought the nobles to heel could say that all France was gathered in his bedroom. It took a long process to develop the idea that nationhood resided not in the nobility, though they may have been the first to be conscious of it, but in the masses. Of the Congo today, its present premier says that it is not a people but many peoples, not a nation but many tribes. There is as yet not even a minority to start the idea of the Congolese. As another Congo official says: “The people here have no memories.”

Filipino, too, once meant only a minority on top: the Philippine-born Spaniards or Creoles. The name might have stopped there but for an event in our history. In the early 1800s, the Philippines sent its first representatives to the Spanish Cortes. The representatives may have been of pure Spanish blood, but they went to the Cortes not as Spaniards but as Filipinos; they represented not Spain but the Philippines. For the first time the world was made aware that there was such a thing as the Filipino, the native of a land called the Philippines. Once the idea had formed, the Creoles were powerless to keep it to themselves any longer. It was bound to grow and develop, to reach down to the Indios, to spread roots throughout the land till it meant, not the minority on top, but the masses below.

If regarded as a step in this development, Azcárraga, too, might be included in the term Filipino. He was born on our soil, he grew up under our skies, and many of our forbears must have felt the thrill of nascent nationalism when they heard that the poor little boy who had trod the streets of Manila had become the prime minister of that faraway Reina Regente in Spain.

The Street

Indeed the Ayuntamiento of Manila had already expressed its pride in the local boy who made good by naming a street after him, long before he became minister of war or premier. By 1872, Calle Azcárraga was already on the map of Manila. It was probably given that name the year before, to celebrate Azcárraga’s promotion to brigadier-general and his victories in the Cuban war. Contrary, therefore, to Dr. Domingo Abella’s assertion, Calle Azcárraga—or the Tondo-Binondo portion of it, anyway—has borne the general’s name for about 90, not merely 50, years.

The original street was known as the Paseo de Felipe II and did not extend beyond the Tondo boundary. Shortly after it was renamed Paseo de Azcárraga, the authorities saw the need for a circumferential road linking the western to the eastern side of north Manila, which was then a jigsaw puzzle of islands: Isla de Meisic, Isla de Binondo, Isla de Tanduay.

A street, called Nueva, was opened across the island of Meisic and connected to Azcárraga by a bridge across the Canal de la Reyna. At the other end, Nueva was joined by a bridge across the Estero de Magdalena to the Calle del Gen. Izquierdo in barrio Trozo. Another new street, later called Paz, was cut to link Gen. Izquierdo to the Calle de San Bernardo in Sta. Cruz. San Bernardo stopped at the present junction of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. There was an estero there—the Estero de Bilibid—and across the bridge that spanned it was Calle Yriz, which ended where the Mendiola bridge now begins, and where once stood the Plaza de Sta. Ana.

The old circumferential road was, therefore, a wide winding thoroughfare beginning on Manila Bay and ending at the Estero de San Miguel, and was composed of six different sections divided from each other by esteros: Azcárraga, Nueva, Gen. Izquierdo, Paz, San Bernardo and Yriz. By late Spanish times, the name Calle Azcárraga already covered about half of the circumferential road, up to the Magdalena estero. The portion called San Bernardo was later renamed Bilibid.

In early American times, the circumferential road was further widened and straightened until it gained its present semblance of a single continuous thoroughfare. The Americans decided that four or five names were too many for one street and the name Azcárraga was extended to the entire road from Manila Bay to Bilibid. A few years later, the remaining portion, Yriz, was annexed to Azcárraga too. The downtown portion of Azcárraga has, therefore, borne the name for only some 50 years.

The old Paseo de Azcárraga was open to the sea at its Tondo end and what old folks most vividly remember of that seaside paseo is that it was where the gallows was set up for public hangings—not a very pretty “historical tradition” and an argument against this “landmark” the pro-Rectos have missed. The gallows rose where, very appropriately, the matadero now stands; and one wishes that slaughterhouse could be removed so the street, whatever its name will be, could again run right down to the sea, as in the days when it was a paseo.

Today, the Divisoria, Tutuban Station and the various bus depots have turned this part of Azcárraga into Babel town and its uproar, stinks and turmoil are, for provincial newcomers, their first taste of Manila life.

Around Tutuban used to be a nipa village. Here, Bonifacio was born; here, the Katipuneros held their first meetings. Just past Tutuban, near the corner of Reina Regente, was a bibingka stall that was the most famous in the city during the 1920s. Renaults and Studebakers succeeded each other at night in front of that humble shop, where a couple of old women took what seemed hours to cook one perfect bibingka.

Farther on, beside the estero, was the Meisic police station, which controlled the turbulence of Tondo and which was to gain a sinister fame during the Occupation as one of the Japs’ torture chambers. Also in this neighborhood stood the house of a sister of Rizal, Lucía Herbosa, where the hero’s family stayed during city visits.  Next door to it was the house of Maximo Viola, who helped finance Rizal’s books. Both houses—large rococo edifices dating back to the mid-1800s—were destroyed during the war.

Across the estero was Calle Magdalena, at the Azcárraga corner of which lived the Lunas. The brothers Juan and Antonio introduced the bicycle to this country and in a coliseum just off Azcárraga they sponsored weekly bicycle races. A few blocks away, on the other side of the street, was the residence of Don Florentino Torres, one of the first Filipinos to be named to the Supreme Court. The old alley beside his house now bears his name. In front of his house stood the Star Theater, a poor man’s vaudeville house, where, however, some very bright stars (Pugo, for instance) had their start. This part of Azcárraga has now become Manila’s funeraria row.

Rizal Avenue used to be Dulumbayan and near its present intersection with Azcárraga was the Teatro Libertad, one of the most famous zarzuela houses of the 1900s. When the zarzuela declined, it changed its name to Majestic and became a cine. It was pulled down when Calle Oroquieta was given an outlet to Azcárraga. A block away was the Bilibid, which, in the old days, was a circular building within a quadrangle of stonewall, surrounded by open meadows. Opposite the Bilibid was the Teatro Zorilla, the number-one zarzuela theater of early American days. It, too, was a circular building with tiers of windows all around. Inside were a horse shoe of boxes, an upper gallery and the largest stage in the city. It, too, later became a cine, ended up as a bodega. A school building is now being built on this site, which had been occupied by the Naric since the Occupation.

Next door to the Zorilla was the Oriente cigar factory, standing right smack on what is now the intersection of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. On the same site, in the late 1920s, the FEU was born. Across the Estero de Bilibid was an open field where the circus set up its big tent in October. This field was bordered by thick bamboo groves, which, according to legend, were haunted by cafres. The field is now the FEU campus. The estero was buried when Quezon Boulevard was built but a foul vile remnant of it is still visible in Bilibid Viejo and Arlegui.

Calle Yriz, now the final section of Azcárraga, was a lovely street shaded by giant acacias and rivaling R. Hidalgo in the splendor of its houses. Here stood the homes of the Carmelos, the De los Reyeses, the Padillas and the Arces. The Arce house is now the old Selecta; the other mansions have become squalid boarding houses.

At the end of the street was the Plaza de Sta. Ana, now Legarda, which was alongside a stream so clear you could see the pebbles at the bottom but which is now so black and stinking it’s one of the most repulsive sights in the city. At the Azcárraga corner of the plaza was the Club Carambola, where young blades played billiards in the front rooms, card games in the back rooms. Beside it was the old Centro Escolar de Señoritas, whose girls were famous for their good looks, their brains and the elegance of their Spanish. The old Centro was a squat three-story building laced with fire escapes and so many Lotharios tried to climb those fire escapes Doña Librada Avelino had to ask for a special police detail to guard her internas from naughty males.

Opposite the Centro was the rear patio of San Sebastian Church, where charity fairs used to be held. The gayest season of this east end of Azcárraga was toward the end of January, when San Sebastian and the Centro celebrated their respective fiestas at the same time and the Centro señoritas, in pink ternos, marched in the procession of La Virgen del Carmen.

The old Azcárraga began with the slums of Tondo and ended in the fashionable world of San Sebastian and was throughout a sedate residential street. Even the Bilibid was so quiet a lot of people grew up in its vicinity without realizing it was a prison. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the street came to life as carriages full of dressed-up folk converged on the Zorilla and the Libertad. A friskier note was added when a streetcar line to San Juan was opened on Azcárraga. On Saturday nights, one saw the streetcars crowded with wild young men on their way to the San Juan Cabaret.

The present Calle Azcárraga begins with the transportation jungle of Divisoria and ends with the educational jungle between Quezon Boulevard and Legarda. Now a center of commerce, it has lost its acacias, its streetcars, and its fine old houses—except one. Across the street from Carmelo and Bauerman’s is a very long, colonial-style building that has kept its old appurtenances: its azotea, its shell windows and carved rajas, even its original sidewalk. Here dwell two spinsters—the Del Rosario sisters—who have watched their neighborhood invaded by commerce but have, through the years, stubbornly refused to sell or lease their house or have it altered in any way. Inside are some two-dozen bedrooms, ancient furniture and life-size images of saints.

The sisters are the last of their line; they have no heirs, but have three adopted children. They have become a legend. Stories are told about the fabulous sums they have been offered for their house and lot. Once there was a rumor they had adopted some Negritoes. Few people have been able to enter their old house. All around them, their street, the city, the people have been changing; but the years pass and their house remains unchanged, save that during Holy Week, the withered blessed palm branches at the always-closed windows turn into green ones.

There it stands, a monstrous monument against progress, on a street where all the other town houses have either vanished or decayed. This house has survived Calle Yriz and it looks as if it will survive Calle Azcárraga too.

 

 

Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957

November 23, 1957

Why Garcia won

 

THE victory of President Garcia should have come as no surprise to Free Press readers. In a series of articles before the elections the outline of that victory was more or less clearly discernible. Not that President Garcia did not face formidable opposition. At one time, he was not even sure of nomination by his own party. To be precise, his nomination was contested by powerful, or apparently powerful, Nacionalista leaders; the President himself never doubted that he would get the nomination—and win in the election.

Two months before the Nacionalista convention, we went to interview the President. He had been fasting. Once a year Garcia would go on a two-week fast.

“After going practically without food for two weeks, I feel better physically—my blood pressure is very good, you know—better spiritually, too, I hope. A man who has voluntarily denied himself food for fourteen days should not be afraid of anything. If hunger has no fears for him, what has? It is a test of character. Look at me. Would you say, if you had not known about it, that I had been fasting for six days now?”

“You look good,” we said.

“I feel good,” said Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.

“You may feel good,” we said, “but should you? How certain are you of nomination by your party for the presidency? Laurel, Rodriguez, and nobody knows how many others would like to get the presidency. Not so long ago, you were, as far as your party was concerned, a political zero. The forgotten man. President Magsaysay had his own boys, and the Old Guard had Laurel, Rodriguez, etc. What were you? Nothing. How can you be so calm? The convention is only about 60 days away.”

Garcia should be worried. He was supremely confident:

“A president has to be pretty stupid not to get his party’s nomination in the convention. And I’m not stupid!”

Laurel the rival

Was he not afraid of Laurel, Sr.?  The Batangueño would not run for president when Magsaysay was alive, but he was only too willing to run for the office now that Magsaysay was gone.

“All I can say about Laurel is that he has been telling me, these many, many years, how old, how sick, how tired he was,” said Garcia. “I’m old, I’m sick, I’m tired,’ Laurel kept on saying. Now he says he is available. It’s up to the convention to decide.”

Who fought Garcia for the Nacionalista nomination?

Laurel, Sr., at one time, Garcia’s strongest rival. But Laurel eventually made it clear that he would withdraw from the race—if his son, Laurel, Jr., were nominated for vice-president. Garcia did not think very much of the proposition.

“The Batangueños will vote for Recto for president and Speaker Laurel for vice-president if the Nacionalista convention nominates young Laurel for my running mate,” said the Boholano.

The Free Press article, “Lord of the Jungle,” noted:

“The followers of Laurel, Jr., would have no alternative but to support Garcia for president in the convention if they would have Laurel, Jr., nominated for vice-president. If the convention nominated Laurel, Sr., for president, young Laurel could hardly be made his running mate; that would be too much for Philippine democracy, such, even, as it is, to stomach. If the convention nominated Paredes or Puyat or Rodriguez for president, that would rule young Laurel out, too, for they all come from Luzon. Those who wanted Laurel, Jr., for vice-president must support Garcia, if only because Garcia comes from the south.

“The nomination would take up the nomination for president first, then the nomination for vice-president. In the fight for the presidential nomination, the followers of Laurel, Jr. would just have to vote for Garcia if they were to hope for the nomination of Laurel, Jr., for vice-president. Once Garcia had won the presidential nomination, however, he would no longer need Laurel, Jr. But young Laurel would need Garcia more than ever if he would be the vice-presidential candidate of the party.

“Garcia’s position, then, with respect to the Laurels, Senior and Junior, was a commanding one. He had them completely at his mercy. As it became clearer and clearer that all Laurel, Sr., was really interested in was the vice-presidential nomination for his son, Garcia would be reported favoring Laurel, Jr. for his running mate one day, then declaring himself neutral the next day. Laurel, Sr., would withdraw from the presidential race, then enter the race again. Garcia had him coming and going….

“How about Garcia’s other rivals for the presidential nomination?

“Paredes was too new a Nacionalista to seriously hope to get the nomination, and he was soon persuaded to withdraw from the race.

“As for Puyat, not very many took his bid for the presidency seriously. It was just a stunt, many believed—to get the vice-presidential nomination. He would shoot for the No. 1 post, and settle for the No. 2. When Puyat insisted that he was after the presidency, and only the presidency, that he was not interested at all in the vice-presidency, well—who was Puyat, anyway? What could he give the delegates to the convention that Garcia could not give them—and more?

“Rodriguez was the most popular man in the Nacionalista Party, it was believed, and when Lacson withdrew from the presidential race to support ‘Amang,’ the man from Rizal seemed a real threat to Garcia in the convention. Rodriguez and Puyat could take away from Garcia enough votes to prevent his nomination. There would be a deadlock and Rodriguez might well be nominated for president by the convention in the interest of party unity. If Garcia could not get the 60 percent of the votes necessary for nomination, why not give the nomination to the popular ‘Amang’?

“But the question remained: What could Rodriguez give the delegates or the Nacionalista Party that Garcia could not give, and more—much more?”

Garcia, we thought, could very well say to the Nacionalistas who would take away the nomination from him:

“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you. If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”

Garcia got 888 votes in the Nacionalista convention, Puyat 165, Rodriguez 69. Lacson was booed.

“We will win!”

The convention nominated Garcia for president, but failed to select a running mate for him. That was left to the executive committee of the Nacionalista Party, which picked Laurel, Jr. Garcia abided by the decision of the executive committee. He ran with Laurel, Jr., winning with him Garcia said, candidly, that he would have to get a majority of more than 700,000 if Laurel, Jr., was to win with him. He, Garcia, remained confident of winning.

“We will win!” said Eleuterio Adevoso, Manahan’s campaign manager. The people were for Manahan. Magsaysay was their guy; Magsaysay was gone; Manahan was their man.

“Tapus na ang boksing!” said the Nationalist-Citizens presidential bet, Claro M. Recto. He had no machine, no inspectors, like Manahan, but—

“We will win because the people are behind us and they now understand the issues clearly, the resolution of which will uplift them from their age-old problems.”

The Liberal candidate, Yulo, was also sure of winning.

“I have faith and confidence in the people and in their sense of values and their capacity to judge wisely,” Yulo said. “Otherwise I would not be in this fight now…. General misery and economic difficulties are gripping the nation.”

The suffering of the people would mean the defeat of the administration. The people would vote for the opposition.

Split opposition

But the opposition was divided. How could it hope to lick the administration, with all its powers and advantages? Osmeña had lost to Roxas in 1946, and the Nacionalistas claimed it was only the use of force as well as mass frauds that made possible the “victory” of Quirino over Laurel in 1949, but the opposition triumphed over the administration in the 1951 senatorial election when not one of the administration candidates won, and, of course, the opposition won in 1953. The administration could be beaten, indeed. But, by a united opposition.

Yulo’s man, Crisol, however, took a different view of the situation.

“It is the party in power that is badly split,” said Crisol. “The Recto group is composed mostly of Nacionalistas. Remember, Recto used to be an NP. When he bolted that group to organize his own party, his supporters and sympathizers joined him. Tañada’s backers used to be sympathetic to the NP cause, largely because of the late President Magsaysay. But when Tañada severed his connection with the NP’s, his loyal supporters went with him.

Then there is the group of Manahan, and the rest of the MPM that bolstered the Nacionalista Party in 1953. The bulk of PPP is composed of men and women who helped the NP win the presidency for RM in 1953. Garcia cannot count on the support of one MPM because it has its own candidate, Manahan.”

The fact remained that the opposition was divided. Said the article, “The Political Chances of the Candidates,” in the October 12 Free Press:

“Instead of concentrating on the administration, opposition parties are fighting each other and the administration. If the administration wins, it will be from lack of effective opposition. Divide and rule—that was a tried and proven imperialist policy. While the opposition is divided, how can Yulo and Recto or Manahan hope to put an end to the Nacionalista rule?

“If Recto, Manahan and Yulo were to get together, the victory of the opposition should be certain. But they can’t get together. Instead of fighting Garcia, they are fighting him and each other. If Recto, Manahan or Yulo wins, it would be almost a miracle.

“Miracles do happen, we are told. They are the exception rather than the rule, however. Hence the calmness with which President Garcia faces the elections. While the opposition is divided, victory seems to him pretty certain.

“If the opposition were ever to get together… But the President is banking on the individual ambitions of the opposition candidates to keep them apart. He is depending on Recto, Yulo and Manahan to knock each other out for him.”

That was exactly what Recto, Yulo and Manahan did.

End

It’s Up to You Now!, November 7, 1953

It’s Up to You Now!

 By Leon O. Ty

Many say that Quirino and his allies have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eights years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

November 7, 1953—One evening, while Ramon Magsaysay was still a member of President Quirino’s Cabinet, he called up a newspaperman on the telephone.

“Can I have a talk with you some place tonight?” he said, with a note of anxiety in his voice. “It’s something important.”

“Sure,” replied the newsman. “Where shall we meet?”

“Suppose we take supper together?”

“Okay,” said the reporter.

Magsaysay mentioned the name of the restaurant where he and the reporter were to meet. After about an hour, the then secretary of national defense and the newsman were seated together at a table.

“I called you up because I have a problem,” Magsaysay began the intimate conversation.

“What problem?” inquired the newspaperman curiously.

“I guess you know something about it already,” he said. “It’s the way the Apo (referring to President Quirino) is doing things these days. It’ that ‘C’ sugar which he wants to ship to Japan at any cost, regardless of what the law and public opinion say. You know who owns that sugar.”

“Yes, I know, the President’s compadre,” the newspaperman cut in.

“That’s what makes it scandalous. I’m against it and because the Apo knows my stand on the ‘C’ sugar issue, he has become indifferent to me. I don’t think I still enjoy his confidence.”

The newspaperman told Magsaysay that there was nothing he could do. Could he possibly defy the man who had made him a member of his official family?

“Take it easy, Monching,” the reporter suggested. “After a week or so, the Apo will have forgotten the matter and you two will again be the best of friends, as you have always been.”

“I have my doubts,” Magsaysay answered rather gloomily. “The Apo seems to dislike me now.”

“But why should he dislike you?” the newsman queried. “Didn’t you restore peace and order for him? You gave him prestige when you kept the 1951 elections clean. The President has repeatedly said he is proud of you.”

Magsaysay said Quirino began to be indifferent to him when articles about his success in combating the Huks were published in leading American magazines like Time, Life, Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek and Collier’s.

“What do you plan to do now?” Magsaysay was asked toward the end of the conversation.

“Resign from the Cabinet and join a third party. I can’t join the Opposition. I don’t think the Nacionalistas will accept me, knowing I’m a Liberal.”

“But what will you do in a third party?” inquired the newsman.

“I’ll run for senator,” he said.

“Useless for you to join a third party and run for a Senate post. You can’t win. Not as a third party candidate. Even Tañada, with all his popularity and outstanding achievements as a lawmaker, is not taking any chances. I think Tani will run on the Nacionalista Party ticket because he knows he cannot hope to win as a Citizen’s Party candidate.”

“Suppose you tell Tañada that I’ll join the Citizen’s Party and he and I will run for senator under that party’s banner?” Monching suggested.

“It’s a good idea but you can’t win. Third party candidates in this country never win.”

The conversation ended with Magsaysay saying he had made up his mind, he would quit President Quirino’s Cabinet and join a third party or get a job in some commercial firm.

“I’m fed up with the way things are being done in Malacañan, in the Cabinet, and in other offices. There’s so much graft, so much corruption. Pressure is being exerted upon me. The Huk problem is almost solved but the rehabilitation of the surrendered dissidents is another problem. I’m doing my best to restore them to normal living through the EDCOR. But you know that some Liberals, like Speaker Perez and a few others, have been criticizing it and calling it a waste of public funds. I have no alternative but to quit.”

And Magsaysay did quit his Cabinet position.

The foregoing story is related to show that Ramon Magsaysay at that time never dreamed of becoming a candidate for president of the Liberal Party, much less of the Opposition. He knew he couldn’t hope to win his party’s nomination, unless Quirino gave him the necessary backing. With such LP bigwigs as Eugenio Perez, Quintin Paredes, Fernando Lopez (who was still a Liberal at that time) and several other LP stalwarts in the Senate, how could Magsaysay possibly come out on top at an LP convention? In those days, the presidential hopefuls were Lopez, Paredes and Perez. Magsaysay was never considered a presidential possibility. For although he was one of the best influences in the Quirino regime, as a matter of fact one of its few redeeming features, he was not in the good graces of the top Liberals.

Magsaysay’s case is unique in the political history of this country.

At no other time was a member of one party invited to join another and be that group’s leading candidate in a presidential election. When rumors began to circulate, sometime last year, that the leading political figures in the Opposition were seriously considering the idea of inviting Magsaysay to join them and later drafting him for the presidency to fight Quirino, some people exclaimed:

“That’s fantastic! Why would the Nacionalistas get a Liberal to be their presidential candidate? No, it can’t happen. It has never been done before. The Opposition is not in dire need of presidential material. It has Laurel, Recto, Osias and Rodriguez. Why would the Nacionalistas pick a Liberal of all people?”

But it did happen.

After a series of negotiations, on the initiative of Senator Tañada, Monching was finally persuaded to quit his Cabinet position, resign from the Liberal Party and join the Nacionalistas.

The Filipino people know that the presidential nomination was not handed to Magsaysay on a silver platter. He had to go to the provinces, campaign among the NP delegates. For one who had just joined the party, it was not an easy task to enlist the support of the men and women who were to pick the Opposition standard-bearer at the coming national convention. Magsaysay’s task became harder because he was to face a man who had done much for the party—Camilo Osias.

There was talk that Laurel, Recto and Rodriguez would double-cross Magsaysay at the convention; that certain arrangements would be made in order to create a deadlock between Osias and Magsaysay; and that once this deadlock existed, Laurel would then be railroaded by the conventionists, thereby making him the party candidate for president.

Magsaysay would then be drafted for the Senate under the NP banner. Thus, the Opposition senatorial slate would be stronger with Monching heading the list. Left no other choice, the best Cabinet member Quirino ever had would accept the senatorial nomination, whether he liked it or not.

The prophets of gloom were all wrong. Laurel, Recto, Rodriguez and Tañada had no such plans; they were motivated by good faith and the best of intentions when they invited Magsaysay to join them in a crusade for a clean and honest government under a new regime—an NP regime.

Laurel declared that Magsaysay was, to him, the ideal candidate for president because of his youth, his energy, his patriotism, and unimpeachable integrity. Laurel compared the Zambaleño to Bonifacio—a hero who sprang from the masses.

By inviting Magsaysay to join the Nacionalistas and then supporting him as the NP presidential nominee, Opposition leaders, especially Laurel, exhibited a spirit of patriotism never before seen among politicians in this country. Laurel would have won the NP nomination last April unanimously had he but expressed the slightest desire to run. But he had made up his mind to boost Magsaysay and at the convention made good his promise to give the latter his whole-hearted backing.

Many people are still wondering why Dr. Laurel was willing to sacrifice his personal ambition in favor of the former LP defense secretary. They still believe that in a clean election, Laurel could win against any Liberal as shown in 1951. With victory practically in sight, why did Dr. Laurel decide to invite Magsaysay to be the NP standard-bearer?

Senator Laurel had his reasons for this action.

“If I run and lose through frauds and violence as in 1949,” he is said to have told close friends, “I will surely be driven to desperation. I may even have to resort to drastic measures. In which case, I might have to go to the mountains and lead a band of rebels, guerrillas. That I cannot do now on account of my age. I’m tired.

“And if I win, could I get as much aid from the United States as Magsaysay could? I don’t think so. I know pretty well how I stand in the eyes of the American people. Because of my collaboration record during the Occupation, many Americans who still don’t know what actually happened here during the war will stand in the way of material aid to our country. I have no choice. The welfare of our people is more important to me than my personal ambition. But if Magsaysay wins, I think America will go out of her way to help us because he is a friend, a great friend. To the American people, and for that matter, to the people of the world, Magsaysay is the physical embodiment of Democracy’s courageous stand against Communism in the Far East….”

The Nacionalistas knew that if they succeeded in winning Magsaysay to their side, the Liberals would be demoralized. Magsaysay easily stood out as the strongest pillar in the LP edifice, so to say. He was “the great exception,” in an administration that had earned notoriety mainly due to the dishonesty and inefficiency of many of its important constituents.

Magsaysay did not belong to the Liberal Party, but to the Filipino nation, the Nacionalistas believed. And they had proof to support this belief. Didn’t Magsaysay give the Filipino people the cleanest election held during the Liberal Party regime? He had thereby earned the hatred of many of his fellow Liberals who blamed him for their humiliating defeat at the polls. Some Liberals who have never been genuinely in favor of a democratic election in this country went to the extent of suggesting his ouster from the Cabinet but that plan was not carried out for fear that it would boomerang on them.

Didn’t Magsaysay upset the Huk timetable? The dissidents had definitely set 1951 as the year when they would stage a nationwide revolt and seize the government, but the “man of action” from Zambales upset their plans as soon as he took over the affairs of the defense department in September, 1950. Hardly one month after his assumption of office, Magsaysay struck a mortal blow against the local Reds which dazed them and sent them running for cover. He smashed the Politburo, rounded up its members, had them indicted in court, prosecuted and sent to jail. Thus was the back of local Communism broken.

The Nacionalistas also saw the excellent results of Magsaysay’s experiment in human rehabilitation in Kapatagan Valley (Lanao) where the EDCOR, the army agricultural colony for surrendered Huks, was opened.

Here, therefore, was a man who seemed to possess the magic touch, as it were. Everything he undertook was a success, in sharp contrast to other Liberals who made a sorry mess of the Quirino administration. Here was a young man who had a brilliant record as a guerrilla chieftain during the war; a former governor of his province who allowed no one under him to pollute his administration; an ex-member of Congress who obtained more benefits for Filipino war veterans and guerrillas than any other lawmaker who made official representations in Washington.

After Magsaysay resigned, some Liberals who appreciated what the man meant to the party were reportedly panicked. Desperate efforts were made by friends of Magsaysay to get him to change his mind and return to the LP fold. “All will be forgotten and forgiven,” said they. But Magsaysay had seen too much of the LP to modify or alter his decision.

On one occasion, while still a Cabinet member, he confided his fears to a newspaperman.

“If nothing is done to stop certain men from influencing the Apo, I’m afraid this country will eventually fall into the hands of a few scheming, unscrupulous businessmen,” he said in a dejected tone. “I don’t know why the President allows certain men to influence his decisions on official matters, matters affecting the people’s welfare. I’m beginning to lose faith in the President….”

Subsequent events were to justify Magsaysay’s decision to quit his job. The Filipino people were to witness another political schism in the Liberal Party. This came unexpectedly: General Carlos P. Romulo decided to fight Quirino in the party convention for the presidential nomination. When the former ambassador and head of the PI delegation to the United Nations said he was making a bid for the presidency, most of the best elements of the party publicly announced their intention to rally behind him. And they did.

These outstanding Liberals left the Quirino bandwagon and openly declared themselves for General Romulo: Senators Esteban Abada, Tomas Cabili, Lorenzo Sumulong and Justiniano Montano. In the Lower House, a number of prominent LP lawmakers headed by Congressmen Jose Roy, Domingo Veloso, Cipriano Allas and Raul Leuterio also bolted the Quirino group to support Romulo.

All of these leaders would have remained Liberals had a fair convention been held to choose the party standard-bearers for president and vice president, had not the convention been “a rigged-up affair,” to quote Romulo himself. All that the Romulo backers had asked was that there be secret balloting among the delegates in order to give them complete freedom to vote for the candidate of their choice. But Quirino and his leaders adamantly refused, for obvious reasons, of course. They insisted on an open vote, so they would know which delegates were not backing the Apo and be able to punish them later.

That was Quirino’s undoing, another telling blow to the Liberal Party.

Romulo and his leaders walked out of the convention in anger, saying they could not stand the dictatorial tactics of the Quirino bullyboys.

Romulo and his leaders were not the only ones who bolted the Quirino faction. Vice President Fernando Lopez also quit the group and with Romulo and many LP members of Congress formed the nucleus of the Democratic Party.

More breaks were in store for Ramon Magsaysay as the preelection campaign progressed. President Quirino fell ill and had to make a trip to America to recover. And later, the Democratic Party leaders—declaring that the common objective of the Opposition was to oust the Liberals from power—decided to coalesce with the Nacionalistas. This meant the withdrawal of the DP presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Romulo and Lopez, who threw their support behind Magsaysay and Garcia.

Quirino’s absence from the country during this crucial period demoralized many Liberals who later decided to quit the party or just remain politically inactive. This state of demoralization was made evident by a public statement attributed to Sen. Quintin Paredes in which he said that, since Quirino was not well enough to carry on a nationwide and vigorous political campaign, the best thing he could do for the party was to quit the political race and give way to another candidate.

That Don Quintin meant what he said has been borne out by the general lack of interest he has shown in the campaign. This master political strategist could have bolstered the chances of the Apo had he exerted himself to urge his admirers to support Mr. Quirino.

In this article, we feel there is no need to enumerate what President Quirino has done for the country during the years he has been in office. The Filipino people know what he has accomplished. They also know what he has failed to do.

If elected again, the Apo says he will complete his total economic mobilization program which is embodied in the Quirino-Foster Agreement. Two more years is all he asks, and after that the Philippines would be ushered into an era of unprecedented progress, contentment and peace. And if he does not finish his task, he says that his vice president, Jose Yulo, will complete it. Yulo is the only man in the Liberal Party, Quirino has stressed, who can carry out the unfinished job.

But many people are saying that Quirino and his Liberals have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eight years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

The popular clamor is for a change in administration. The people unmistakably demonstrated that in 1951 when they endorsed the entire Nacionalista senatorial ticket. That the majority of the Filipinos have grown tired of the LP regime can, therefore, hardly be successfully disputed.

It’s a complete change of crew for our ship of state that most of our people are crying for these days. The decent elements among our population are fed up with the seemingly endless cases of graft, corruption and all kinds of shady deals that have made the Liberal administration more notorious than any other political regime this country has had.

Right-thinking, independent-minded people are by now more than convinced that unless a new leader takes charge, peace and order will never be completely restored in this land; our Constitution will continue to be violated; reckless extravagance in government spending will continue; abuses  by certain powerful officials will never come to an end; civil service rules and regulations will continue to be ignored and violated for political expediency; elections will never be free, clean and orderly; gangsterism, abetted by certain highly placed individuals, will flourish; the worst forms of nepotism and favoritism will not stop; misappropriation of public funds and public property will go on indefinitely; and favorites in the administration will continue enjoying their regular junkets abroad at the people’s expense.

Liberal Party spokesmen talk about the prosperity that they have allegedly brought to this island. If this is true, why are millions of our countrymen without work? Without enough food? Without sufficient clothing?

Millions are unable to enjoy the blessings of modern medical  care and hospitalization. Liberals continually din into the ears of our people talk about their campaign to rid the government of crooks. But has a single big shot in the administration ever been sent to jail even for a day?

Who are getting rich under the LP regime? Who have been most benefited by the Apo’s so-called “total economic mobilization program”?

Of course, our people well know who the beneficiaries are. The people are not asleep and they aren’t stupid either. They have been fooled, once, twice, nay, thrice; but they won’t allow themselves to be fooled all the time. They were terrorized once at the polls, and thereby prevented from choosing the candidates of their choice. This time, they won’t allow hoodlums to scare them away from the polls. The time for a change has come. The need for a new, for a dynamic leader is desperate. Given the chance to express their minds, some 5,540,000 Filipino voters will choose the right man to lead them the next four years.

The hectic political campaign is over. You, fellow voters, have heard the pros and cons of the issues involved in this election. The candidates have made them clear to you in political rallies and meetings and the various newspapers and radio stations have helped in explaining the merits of those who seek election on November 10. By now you should know the records of the different candidates, both as private citizens and as public officials. Also known to you are the programs of the opposing parties and the men who compose them. With this background you are expected to vote intelligently.

It’s up to you now!

Constitution Day, February 7, 1953

Constitution Day
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

Claro M. Recto and Manuel Roxas, returning from the United States after the approval of the Constitution, were met the Legaspi landing by the Sen. Elpidio Quirino, Secretary of the Interior Teofilo Sison, Speaker Quintin Paredes.

 

February 7, 1953–ON Feb. 8, 1935, the Constitutional Convention approved, with one dissenting vote, a new constitution. The one dissenting voter was Delegate Tomas Cabili from Lanao; he was of the unshakable opinion that Lanao was sufficiently enlightened and knew enough of democracy’s ways to be given the vote. The delegate from Ilocos Sur, Elpidio Quirino, agreed was Cabili: Lanao should be given to vote. Absolutely. The Cabili motion was defeated, but Lanao was to reward handsomely the man who stood up in support of it 14 years later, in 1949.

The convention vote was 201-to-one for the Constitution.

The near-unanimity was surprising when one considers the composition of the assembly. Among the delegates there were, as one writer pointed out, “blue-blooded nobles from the Moroland, trained intellectuals from world-famous colleges and universities, religious leaders and moral crusaders, political moguls and parliamentary luminaries, eminent educators and outstanding jurists, revolutionary generals and World War veterans, business entrepreneurs and banking magnates, opulent hacenderos and small planters, noted writers and famous orators, wealthy landowners and indigent professionals, and former school teachers and actual university professors.”

The old, familiar figures come back as one goes over the record of the convention. Manuel L. Quezon, then senate president, who welcomed the delegates assembled for the first time in the session hall of the House of Representatives and declared the existence of a quorum: One hundred ninety-nine of the 202 elected delegates showed up the first day, some as early as eight o’clock in the morning, although the session was to begin at 10:30. The American governor general, Frank Murphy, who was expected to make a brief speech but stayed away, as a matter of delicadeza: the Filipinos were about to prepare the fundamental law of their future independent state; he did to want anything he might say to influence in the least the deliberations of the body. Manuel A. Roxas, the delegate from Capiz, seconding the nomination of Jose P. Laurel of Batangas by Manuel Cuenco of Cebu as the temporary chairman of the convention, then discharging “the very pleasant duty of presenting…the distinguished jurist, able lawyer and successful statesman who will preside over your convention, the gentleman from Batangas, the Honorable Senator Recto.” Tomas Confesor of Iloilo, raising a tempest in a teapot and being ignored. Gen. Teodoro Sandiko administering the oath of office to Recto as president of the convention. Gregorio Perfecto being ruled out of order by Recto. Ruperto Montinola of Iloilo and Teodoro Sandiko of Bulacan being elected as first and second vice-president, respectively.

Quezon addressed the convention:

“In the name of the Filipino people and the Philippine Legislature, as well as in my own, I bid you welcome and extend to you the warmest congratulations for your election to this august body.”

He was dressed in a white silk suit with a gray necktie and grayish-striped shirt: trim and erect and engaging—a dandy. He enumerated the steps that led to the holding of the convention:

“On March 24,1934, the Congress of the United States approved Public Act No, 127, 73rd Congress, entitled ‘An Act to provide for the independence of the Philippine Islands, to provide for the adoption of a constitution and form of government for the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes.’ As a condition ‘sine qua non’ for the enforcement of this Act, it was provided that it be accepted either by the Philippine Legislature or by a convention called for the purpose of passing upon that question. On May 1, 1934, the Philippine Legislature, at a special session called by His Excellency the Governor-General, accepted the aforesaid Act and ordered the election of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and fixed this date, the 30th of July, 1934, as the date for the delegates to convene in this Hall of the House of Representatives.”

The man who seemed mainly composed of fire, charm and political cunning, whose nature and American justice tried to explain by saying that in him there were two elements, the white and the brown, with the white despising the brown and the brown hating the white, who had made himself the leader of a similarly confused people, whom it was impossible—many said of him—not to love, paused. An eyebrow twitched. The half-shrill, compelling voice went on:

“You have met here in pursuance to the call of the Philippine Legislature to organize yourself as a constitutional convention and to frame and adopt the constitution for the Government of the Commonwealth, as well as for the Government of the Philippine Republic, until such constitution is amended or abrogated by the sovereign will of the people of the Philippine Islands. It is my fervent wish and prayer that your task upon prosperity of the Filipino people will greatly depend be crowned with complete success.”

Genesis

After a quorum had been declared, Bishop Alfredo Versoza of Lipa, Batangas, rose and prayed God to guide the convention. Dr. Laurel was voted temporary chairman by acclamation. He appointed House Secretary Eulogio Benitez as temporary secretary of the convention. Delegate Manuel Briones of Cebu then nominated Claro M. Recto as permanent president of the convention, was seconded by Delegate Cuenco. Recto was elected by acclamation. Then came the election of the two vice-presidents.

It was a time of hope, of blithe optimism. The United States had elected a man president that it was to reelect three times; the American people were recovering from a terrible depression, although millions remained unemployed until war-orders provided them with work. Dictatorship had raised its head in Europe, with millions coming—many of them enthusiastically—under the rule of hysterical or pompous or falsely benign men. The Japanese had taken Manchuria. But the Filipinos, as parochial then in their world view as most Americans, thought that what happened to the rest of the world could not happen to them and happily framed a constitution republican in form and outlawing war as an instrument of national policy. There would be no war, no Bataan and Corregidor, no occupation.

Just in case, however, that there should be—but the possibility was remote—a provision in the charter authorized the government to require the services of every citizen in both war and peace.

Every delegate contributed something to the Constitution—some a little, others more. Jose Lansang, writing in the Philippines Herald, tried to assess the contributions of the various members:

“The provisions on the Executive Power were prepared by Delegate Roxas, using the American constitution and the Jones Law and several contemporary constitutions as guide. President Recto, Delegate Briones, Delegate Roxas and others worked together in the drafting of the article on the Legislative Power.

“The article on the Judicial Power was prepared by Delegate Romualdez after a conference with Chief Justice Ramon Avaceña of the Supreme Court, and…was based on the report of the committee on judiciary, headed by Delegate Vicente J. Francisco….

“The bill of rights…was the one prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Laurel and is based on the English bill of rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man of France, the American constitution and the Jones Law, with two or three provisions later on inserted by some delegates, the provision against retroactive taxation by Delegate Salvador Araneta and the prohibition of imprisonment for poll-tax delinquents by Delegate Jesus Y. Perez.

“The general provisions…referring to the nationalization of lands were from the report of the committee headed by Delegate Jose C. Locsin, and were based largely on a report of an technical committee headed by Professor Vicente Sinco of the University of the Philippines.”

Delegates Singson-Encarnacion and Cuaderno drafted the provisions on the budget, aided by an experienced auditor, Delegate Domingo Dikit. Delegates Conrado Benitez and Ricardo Nepomuceno had much to do with the provisions on education and citizenship training. The provisions on public contracts and the electoral commission were prepared by Recto, Briones, Cuenco, Roxas, Laurel and Francisco. Delegate Locsin was “identified throughout the history of the convention with movements to secure social justice through the constitution.” State universities were guaranteed academic freedom by amendment of Delegates Conrado Benitez, Manuel Lim, Ricardo Nepomuceno, Rafael Palma, Camilo Osias and others. Delegate Vicente Francisco introduced the amendment on double jeopardy.

The committee responsible for the final phraseology of the Constitution was headed by President Recto, composed of the two vice-presidents, Montinola and Sandiko, and the seven subcommitteemen of the sponsorship committee as ex-officio members (Delegates Filemon Sotto, Manuel Roxas, Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, Manuel Briones, Miguel Cuaderno, Norberto Romualdez and Conrado Benitez). The following also had something to say on the final wording of the supreme law: Delegates Francisco, Hontiveros, Romero, Laurel, Nepomuceno, Palma, Arellano, Lim, Osias, Orense, Reyes, Aruego, Delgado, Perfecto, Conejero, Caram….

Accomplishment

The preamble to the Constitution was drafted by Recto who contributed most, it was generally held, to the Constitution. At the close of the convention, the senate president and future president of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, said of the president of the convention:

“It has indeed been a great honor, that which you have conferred upon the Honorable Claro M. Recto, when you elected him as your President. You have given him the opportunity either to make or unmake himself. He was of course preceded by a great reputation as a scholar, as a man of letters, as a jurist, and as a statesman. But we all know that sometimes precisely those with the same qualifications, however well deserved, when faced by the realities of actually dealing with men, are the ones who do not always rise to the demands of the occasion. It is not necessary for me to say whether President Recto has been equal to his task or not. Soon every member of this convention will affix his signature to the Constitution, a document which is historical not only because to frame the fundamental law of the land is in itself historical, but because I confidently hope that this charter will guide our ship of state not only for many generations but for all generations to come. It has been your privilege to make history; and President Recto should be credited with the able leadership of this convention and the golden opportunity to place his talent and his patriotism at the service of his country.”

The president of the convention made his closing speech in Spanish. In substance, in English paraphrase, he said:

The years will pass into nothing; new generations will succeed ours; Time in its course will change our world if not destroy it; humanity, weary of itself and prey to new follies, will again and again throw the treasures of civilization into the flames of new and terrifying wars; but when those who come after us turn their faces to the past and consider what we have done in this convention, I am confident that they will say that we have done nobly, that we have done greatly. And they will not fail to note that the solicitude and the zeal which attended our efforts were not due to any desire for the praise of the present or the plaudits of the future, any wish to see our names in the bronze or marble of perishable glory, but to the desire to realize for our people, through this Constitution, to make that for which an illustrious prelate, pride of the native clergy, prayed God on the day of our inauguration: “A nation of happy people within Thy Kingdom.”

That was 18 years ago.

Confirmation

A mission headed by Quezon and including Recto and Roxas was sent to the United States to secure then President Roosevelt’s approval of the Constitution. The presentation of the draft was made to the American president on March 18. A Quezon joke made the presentation at the time and on the date set possible. Recto thought Roxas had the copy of the Constitution with him when they left for the White House and Roxas thought Quezon had it. “Don’t forget to bring the official copy of the Constitution with you,” President Quezon told Recto jokingly in Quezon’s room in the Shoreham Hotel where the members of the mission had gathered. The official copy was found in the briefcase of Private Secretary Guillermo Cabrera; it would have been left behind but for Quezon’s little joke.

Recto presented the copy to Roosevelt. On March 23, in the presence of Filipino and American officials, President Roosevelt approved the Constitution, congratulated those responsible for it. He called it a “great constitution.” Quezon told the Filipino people about the approval of the law by radiophone, at 1:02 a.m.

“The Constitution is signed!”

That was the signal to start the sirens going. Bells rang, firecrackers exploded, fireworks were lighted. All Manila was awake and cheering.

It was a great and happy day.

It was a great and noble work. The members of the convention had not worked alone, of course. Inspiration, as has been pointed out—from the minds of England, the United States, France. Among the presiding spirits at the convention were those of St. Thomas More, who had envisioned a “Utopia” in which all men would be free and reasonable—this, under the despotism of Henry VIII; the blind Milton, who wrote of earth, heaven and hell, and the reasons for a free press; Thomas Paine, who called it “Common Sense” to be independent and fought for “The Rights of Man” against the “divine right” of kings; Thomas Jefferson.

The Greeks and the Romans were there, and the Jews, the wedding of whose culture with the cultures of Greece and Rome produced the Western World and its concern for the rights of the individual, the soul of man.

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