January 6, 1968
Man of the Year
WHO is the man of the year?
THE politician of the Year is, undoubtedly, President Ferdinand Marcos. He dominated the Nacionalista convention and six of his senatorial candidates for the Senate won in the elections. The overwhelming majority of the Nacionalista candidates for governor won, and the same is true of the Nacionalista candidates for city mayor. Since Marcos made his administration the principal issue in the elections, it may be said that, of all the winners, he is the greatest winner.
Why is Marcos not the Man of the Year? He has scored a tremendous political victory, but he has not solved any of the big problems that have beset the country since it gained political independence. Corruption is rampant in the government, and nepotism is more flagrant than ever. He has built roads, more roads than any of his predecessors, but it is only a beginning. Thousands of kilometers more of road must be built before the Philippines can be said to have an adequate road system. There is the “miracle rice,” but it was developed not under him but under previous administrations, and with American funds. Marcos was the Man of the Year two years ago, when he won against Diosdado Macapagal, who used all the power and money at his command to crush his rival—in vain. Marcos showed it was not enough to have money and power to remain in Malacañang. One must deserve to be there. But under Marcos as president… Here is a letter from a reader to The Manila Times which expresses much of what most people feel today:
“Life is so difficult nowadays. One ganta of rice costs over P2; movie prices have gone up; one small calamansi is worth 5 centavos. Even a trip to Baguio is now more costly; toll fees have been jacked up from P2 to P4.
“The Marcos administration is to be congratulated for its success in making the people believe that the situation is not as difficult as it really is. The President’s bright boys talk of ‘miracle rice’; but has the price of rice gone down? They build a Cultural Center; but, does this alleviate the plight of the poor? They plan grandiose state visits; but, will these visits make life a little more bearable? What the people need are bread and butter, not circuses fit for kings!”
If the candidates of Marcos won in the last elections, it was because the opposition had nothing better in the way of principles or candidates to offer the electorate. The voters were sick and tired of the old political vicious circle. If the candidates of the two major parties were interchangeable, why bother to vote or, if one must vote, why vote for the opposition—which was really no opposition at all, being no different from the party in power?
This is not to say that Marcos has not done some good as president, but so much more must be done that to name him Man of the Year is to lull him into complacency; it is not to drive him to do better. And he must do better if his administration is not to be, in the end, just another administration, no worse, no better, and not good enough.
Benigno Aquino, it has been suggested, should be the Man of the Year, for did he not win in spite of all the Marcos administration did to stop him? Aquino certainly came out well—second—in the senatorial election, but a lot of the credit must go to Malacañang, which did all it could to make a political martyr of Aquino. The stupidity of the Palace should not make anyone Man of the Year. Political Beneficiary of the Year, perhaps, but to be Man of the Year, one must have done something extraordinarily good for the people—or bad. One must be the cause of great social, economic, political, moral, scientific or some other kind of change. The victory of Aquino has changed nothing.
The Man of the Year is the late Senator Gaudencio Antonino.
Rejected by the Nacionalista convention because of his unrelenting campaign against the shameless and criminal allowances congressmen were giving themselves, Antonino ran as an independent candidate, died in a helicopter crash the day before Election Day—and the name “Antonino” was written on more ballots than the names of 14 living candidates of the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party. “Antonino” came out third in the senatorial race.
“I don’t have to win,” he said to the Free Press. “If I get a million and a half votes running on the issue of congressional allowances and running alone, congressmen will know how strong is the sentiment against congressional allowances. Imagine if I got more than two million votes—how would they dare vote themselves their old allowances? But if I don’t run, then the congressional allowances issue will be dead and they will vote themselves all kinds of allowances, in the Senate as well as in the House, without fear of the people’s anger. The issue will be politically dead with me.”
“You have a heart condition, I understand. You know what it will mean running alone. You will have to cover the entire country by yourself or try to. How can you stand it? Don’t you think of your family?”
“I have talked it over with my family and they agree I should run. If I have four years to live and I lose two, that will be all right by me. When I filibustered against congressional allowances in the Senate, there was a nurse with an oxygen tank standing by in case I had an attack.”
“I will not be a Nacionalista candidate nor a Liberal candidate but the candidate of the people, I will tell them. All they have to do is drop one and put me in his place if they want the fight against congressional allowances to go on. If I lose, they lose with me.”
Millions not only voted “Antonino” but also voted against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve as delegates to the constitutional convention without forfeiting their congressional office. Both the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party were for the proposed constitutional amendments; their sample ballots had “Yes” under each of the amendments, but millions disregarded the instruction. More congressmen would mean more congressional allowances, and with congressmen dominating the constitutional convention, it would be no different from Congress. Why hold a constitutional convention at all?
How much Antonino’s campaign against congressional allowances contributed to the overwhelming vote against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve at the same time as delegates to the constitutional convention, one cannot exactly tell, but it must have been a great deal. The nation owed Antonino much while he was alive and should remember him now that he is gone. He fought to reduce congressional allowances, ran as an independent and “won.” There will be the same number of congressmen, not more, and the constitutional convention will not be just another Congress—thanks, not a little, to him!
Gaudencio Antonino is the Man of the Year 1967.