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!