The Anatomy of Loyalty
By Edward R. Kiunisala
August 27, 1988–WHEN word reached them that Malacañang was under attack, they both jumped out of bed, made a few quick phone calls and, assured of the President’s safety, decided to report to the besieged Palace in that unholy pre-dawn hour. Bound by a common commitment and loyalty, two different persons, acting independently of each other, came up with the identical response and decision at a time of grave national crisis.
On their separate routes, unmindful of the risks involved, each went out to check up on government facilities and to monitor what was going on. Before daybreak, they were at their respective desks in Malacañang, carrying out the orders of the President.
Beyond the Call of Duty
They could have opted to play it safe, to discharge their duties by remote control: they chose to be where their leader was. Their response to the national emergency was above and beyond the call of duty. It was no gung-ho, derring-do feat; they acted simply from an unwavering sense of duty.
Of the 24 Cabinet members, only Joker Arroyo and Teodoro Locsin, Jr., were at the side of the embattled President during the most crucial moments of the bloody August 28 Honasan mutiny. National Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto could not be reached during the early hours of the coup. Other Cabinet members, called to an emergency meeting at 5:00 a.m., could not come.
“We die at our post,” said Arroyo.
Worse, the hotline to the Armed Forces chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos, who had earlier rushed to Camp Crame, was dead. Meanwhile, rebel forces had already penetrated Camp Aguinaldo and Villamor Airbase and taken over two television stations, Channels 9 and 13, while surrounding Channels 2 and 4. Rebels were reported to have also taken over the military camps in Pampanga, Legaspi City and Cebu.
In Metro Manila CAPCOM forces simply remained in their barracks, awaiting orders from high military command which had been immobilized by Honasan forces in Camp Aguinaldo. But for the timely arrival in Malacañang of a combat-ready brigade of marines and the prompt mobilization of the Manila police under General Alfredo Lim, the situation in the capital region looked bleak. The rebel forces seemed to have the upper hand.
Although the President had gone on the air early on to assure everyone that the government was on top of the situation, the people remained worried, especially when Channels 2 and 4 suddenly went off the air. The people’s apprehension heightened when Honasan himself cockily fielded questions from media even as the rebel-held Channel 13 telecast rebels’ claims of sure victory.
Some radio broadcasters readily sided with Honasan as they painted a grim picture of the government under siege.
Crush the Coup!
Another would have already capitulated or fled. But in her 18-month-old regime, Cory had seen enough of military mutinies and coup attempts—four, to be exact,—to be easily intimidated by another one. Determined to stay in Malacañang at all cost she assumed total command with only Arroyo and Locsin serving as her adjutants. Her iron will surfaced in the decision to crush the coup at once.
It was no impulsive judgement, but she had learned from the lessons of the February Revolution. Cory wanted to avoid the two big mistakes that led to the quick downfall of Marcos: loss of will to act immediately; and desertion of his post. The so-called “most decorated Filipino soldier of World War II” lost the biggest battle of his life because of failure of nerve.
President Aquino’s nerve didn’t fail her in the bloodiest ordeal of her 18-month-old administration. She knew that protracted negotiation could touch off an avalanche of defection. Her strategy was to bring the situation to a head, knowing as she did that the main bulk of the military, by training and tradition, would remain loyal to the flag unless forced by circumstances to defect.
Thus when Locsin motored to the “battle zone” to establish a direct line between Camp Aguinaldo and Malacañang, he knew exactly what to do: convey to the Chief-of-Staff the President’s orders as clearly and emphatically as possible. The rebels, led by Colonel Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, in Camp Aguinaldo, were to be crushed pronto! The President herself, in a telephone connection arranged by Locsin, verbally confirmed the order to General Ramos.
When the execution of the Malacañang order got delayed, Locsin minced no words: time was of the essence! A professional soldier, Ramos probably didn’t want to go half-cocked, knowing he didn’t have sufficient back-up troops to sustain an all-out attack. He might have even doubted that the soldiers around him would obey his order to attack the rebels they considered their brothers-in-arms.
But Locsin was only too well aware of the consequences of inaction and delay. Time was on the side of the rebels. Inaction could be taken as weakness, a situation that could trigger mass defection to the side perceived to be winning. He feared that if the government military forces held their fire longer, Honasan would gain more adherents—even from Camp Crame itself. Smelling defection, Locsin could only shake his head, muttering aloud to himself, “Somebody is going to get demoted for this.”
There were other instances that caused Locsin’s blood pressure to shoot up. One such case concerned five Metro Manila radio stations which aired materials that, in Locsin’s view, constituted a clear case of treasonous disinformation. The presidential counsel contacted the National Telecommunications Commission to get those stations off the air. The commission immediately complied, except in the case of DZRH, which it allowed to continue operating upon the intercession allegedly of Sen. Agapito “Butz” Aquino and National Press Club president Art Borjal.
But what really raised Locsin’s hackles was the case of Channel 13, which had been seized by rebel forces, along with Channel 9. Locsin wanted the military to retake both stations or knock off their transmitters to prevent the rebels from telecasting anti-government stuff. What the military did was cut off the Meralco power supply of those two channels—forgetting that they had back-up generators.
What Locsin feared, happened. Channel 13 went on the air, showing in portrait fashion a group of rebels in full battle gear, with their spokesman, a certain Lieutenant Mendoza, claiming widespread military support and predicting final victory before the end of that day. Worse, Channel 7, left unmolested by the rebels, took it upon itself to tape the rebel telecast and to replay it immediately, giving the impression that the Honasan forces were in control.
The presidential counsel hit the roof. He picked up a telephone and asked for the Presidential Security Group. Within earshot of General Ramos and other high-ranking military officers, he told the other end of the line to get “some of your people” to bomb Channel 13 “because nothing is moving from this end.” That form of reverse psychology worked. The military eventually managed to put Channel 13 off the air—without having to bomb it.
If Channel 13 remained in rebel hands and continued to air pro-Honasan propaganda, the government would have found itself in great trouble. It would have caused more confusion not only in the military but also among the public, and created a bandwagon effect in favor of the Honasan mutiny. During the February Revolution, control of television stations by the anti-Marcos forces was vital in demoralizing the Marcos camp, loosening his grip on power.
Key Word: Action
In this light, Locsin’s publicly perceived impetuosity vis-à-vis the Channel 13 case was only a logical reaction to a clear and present danger to the Republic. Although it meant sailing too close to the wind, it helped preserve the integrity of the State. It would be plain stupid just to wait and be clobbered by one’s enemies without hitting back.
If the nation is to survive, it must be ready to use all means available to protect itself. It cannot afford to be negligent, squeamish or wishy-washy. That is the natural law of survival and those who ignore it will live to regret it, if they live at all. The iron rule in emergency situations, according to Henry Kissinger, is: “Whatever must happen ultimately should happen immediately.” The key word is action.
That is the message of the Locsin behavior, which some media practitioners and professional critics completely missed. It is the message that Arroyo wanted to underscore when he wondered aloud why it took the military about 16 hours to quell the mutiny of a small band of rebels. Like Locsin, Arroyo was bothered by the military’s hesitation to obey the Commander-in-Chief’s order to attack.
The roles that Arroyo and Locsin played that August 28 became Metro Manila’s liveliest conversation piece for quite some time. While they eventually reaped more praise than criticism, their detractors obtained more mileage, coming as they did from the more influential and vociferous gentry, which included prelates, politicians, press people, businessmen and some members of the military. It was a masterfully orchestrated propaganda blitz to discredit the two whose no-nonsense, abrasive style had kept the hyenas, jackals and wolves away from the doors of Malacañang.
Arroyo and Locsin, who had stuck it out with the President, were being made to appear like heels, while the rebels who wanted to grab power, killing and wounding hundreds, were hailed as heroes. For obeying the President, they were charged with interfering in military operations, as if the Commander-in-Chief had no right to tell the military what to do.
Lamented Arroyo: “We should have rejoiced after winning, but suddenly, Teddyboy and myself were being treated like Gringo, as if we did the damage.”
In an appearance before a jampacked Congress, Arroyo brilliantly defended his and Locsin’s action during the Honasan coup as he put his critics to shame for wanting “to make decisions for us.” Then he started dropping bombs. To an overwhelmingly appreciative gallery, Arroyo and Locsin were heroes of the hour. It was Arroyo’s finest hour as he scored the greatest political performance of his life.
The first targets were three businessmen linked with the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference. Arroyo charged the trio with “treason of the highest order,” as he damned businessmen who wanted to take advantage of the country’s financial conditions to gain more economic power.
Arroyo then went on to deal with Vice President Salvador Laurel, Finance Secretary Jaime Ongpin and AFP spokesman Col. Honesto Isleta. He accused Laurel of “fomenting” trouble in the military, blamed Ongpin for the Planters Products fiasco, and dubbed Isleta as the Goebbels of the military establishment. Arroyo minced no words.
During interpellation, Arroyo took on a number of congressmen who wanted to test his mettle. One by one they fell as he demolished them by sheer force of logic. But that was to be Arroyo’s valedictory. The President accepted his resignation, along with Locsin’s, Ongpin’s and Laurel’s. Like a good soldier, Arroyo was ready to go.
But while the President accepted the resignations of Laurel and Ongpin with no more than a courtesy “regret,” she praised Arroyo to the skies and retained the services of Locsin as consultant, not to mention chief speechwriter. To let go of a long-time friend and defender must have been extremely difficult decision for the President to make but it had to be made in the interest of unity of the Cabinet.
The Green-eyed Monster
The enemies of Arroyo and Locsin did not surface all at one time. Some had been friends and allies in the struggle against the dictatorship. But somehow things changed right after Cory Aquino assumed power, especially after Arroyo and Locsin emerged as her closest advisers. But what really got some people angry with Arroyo and Locsin was that they were beyond manipulation or corruption.
There were other reasons that fueled the antagonism of their enemies: 1) envy; 2) differences in political perceptions; 3) variance in ethical principles; 4) contrast in styles. While some of the causes were peripheral, others were too fundamental to be glossed over. They touched the very basic issue of quality in the public service.
But first, let’s discuss cause number one: envy, the most common wrecker of human relations. Envy is the resentment one feels because someone else possesses or has achieved what one wishes to possess to have achieved.
In the case of Arroyo and Locsin, they were perceived to posses, or to have achieved, something enviable: the President’s respect and admiration and the distinction of being considered her closest advisers. No other Cabinet member enjoyed such rapport with the President.
More than rapport, Arroyo and Locsin also had the full trust and confidence of the President, who reportedly gave more weight to their counsel than to that of others. What’s more, they wielded not only the powers inherent in their offices but also those delegated by the President. In her foreign travels, she would bring Locsin along with her to top-level conferences not accessible to other Cabinet members, while leaving Arroyo behind to take charge of the government in her absence.
One of the saddest things about envy, says Karl Olsson, a noted thinker, is its smallness. To be envious, he points out, is to turn eternally like a caged rat within the tight radius of malice, an evil intent to injure others. Olsson believes that the biggest obstruction to a successful team effort is envy.
Now to the basic differences in political perceptions. Arroyo and Locsin, though highly politicized, are non-politicians. They owed no allegiance to any political party and entertained no ambitions to any elective office. They seemed obsessed with the idea of restoring politics as the science of good government, not as an art of plotting and scheming and wheeling and dealing for personal power, glory and fortune.
While Arroyo, a human rights lawyer, is considered a leftist, and Locsin, a corporate lawyer, is believed to be a rightist, they are really both within the centrist fold.
They are intense believers in republicanism, while harboring deep-seated distrust of militarism, a condition that led many to suspect that they were anti-military. As technocrats, they were drawn to problems and issues rather than to rankings and personalities. They belonged to that rare breed of public servants who go about their tasks without fear, favor or fanfare. Playing ball with power brokers, influence peddlers and get-rich-quick schemers violated their sense of honor.
They were, therefore, both an enigma and an obstruction to traditional politicians.
Then there is the variance of ethical principles. The norms of political conduct of Arroyo and Locsin vary from those of traditional politicians. The duo embrace an ethic founded on the Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not steal. With emphasis on the value of honesty, probity and integrity, they eschew the politics of accommodation as demonstrated in the common practice of scratching one another’s back.
Despite tremendous temptations that came with their territory, they remained upright and incorruptible in office. No one could accuse them of hanky-panky in the 18 months that they held power. While graft and corruption continued to bedevil the Aquino administration, they succeeded in keeping their noses clean. Honesty is the best policy; it is also, a dangerous policy. It is discouraging to think, says Noel Coward, how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit. So rare a commodity is honesty that people don’t easily believe it even if it’s staring them in the face.
At work, such people as Arroyo and Locsin are not usually fun to be with. They look for perfection in others as they demand it from themselves. Worse, they are not likely to hide their feelings or sweeten their language. Popularity means little to them. Consequently, they are often perceived as arrogant, discourteous, belligerent.
Thus, when Senator Ernesto Maceda and Congressman Emigdio Tanjuatco took the Cabinet to task, making a dig at Arroyo and Locsin, the latter promptly countered by telling the two solons “to keep their sticky fingers to themselves.” Arroyo hit back by describing some congressmen as “the best argument for birth control.”
To demagogues, such a style is outrageous because it leaves very little room for bargaining, the principal source of political power. The politician is powerful because of his role as patron of his bailiwick, the dispenser of largesse, like contracts, jobs, franchises, permits, grants, etc. If he loses his bargaining power, he loses his hold on his followers.
Honest officials are naturally on a collision course with some traditional politicians. Honesty, sincerity and uprightness in public service pose a real threat to demagoguery. But honest public officials, of course, constitute only a small minority in the government.
Said Shakespeare: “To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one picked out of ten thousand.”
Although they had done their duty as best they could, Arroyo and Locsin knew that “as this world goes,” their services were expendable, that in the business of running a government, choices are not limited to black and white, but include many shades of color in-between. Their loyalty to the President was unequivocal: They trusted her as much as she trusted them. When the President finally made her decision, Arroyo and Locsin understood.
80 years of the Free Press
After 80 years, the commitment to people and country lives on
Free Press, August 13, 1988
By Gigi Galang
FOR a publication that’s a byword in Philippine magazine publishing, the Philippines FREE PRESS ironically began life as a newspaper during the first decade of the American occupation of the Philippines. Its maiden issue came out on January 20, 1907 and contained both English and Spanish sections. Owned by Judge W. A. Kincaid and edited first by Percy Warner Tinan and then by Pat Gallagher, the first FREE PRESS was set up as an organ of the Moral Progress League, a group engaged in a crusade against vice in Manila.
The early venture proved to be a dismal failure. Unable to generate enough revenue, the paper, after only a year in circulation, stopped publication in 1908. Before the year was over, however, the FREE PRESS would experience a quick revival at the hands of a Scotsman and this time to stay and become an institution in the Philippine scene.
R. McCulloch Dick had worked on newspapers in the United States and Hong Kong before coming to the Philippines in 1900. Shortly after arriving in Manila, he found employment with the Manila Times, first as reporter and later as editor. It was during his eight year with the Times that Dick thought of reviving Kincaid’s Philippines FREE PRESS.
In 1908, Dick asked Martin Egan, then correspondent of Associated Press in Manila and managing editor of the Manila Times, to allow him to take the two-week vacation leave due him. He explained that he was going to sound out some businessmen on his idea of a new publication. Granted his leave, Dick set out on his project.
Of the 12 businessmen he approached to help bankroll the project, two came out in favor; three or four were lukewarm; the rest predicted doom. Despite lack of financial support, Dick went ahead and put his lifetime savings of P8,000 as capital for the venture.
Meanwhile, Kincaid had departed for the United States, but he had left behind a power of attorney with Charles A. McDonough. It did not take long for ownership of the defunct paper to change hands. With Kincaid’s approval, Dick paid the token amount of one peso for the newspaper’s list of subscriptions, name and goodwill.
A magazine for harmony
On August 29, 1908, a new Philippines FREE PRESS reappeared with Dick as reporter, editor and publisher rolled into one. Now in magazine format, the FREE PRESS was printed on 16 pages of cheap paper and newsprint. As before, it contained English and Spanish sections. The new edition was priced at five centavos per copy.
In the maiden issue of the new magazine, Dick spelled out the policy that his publication would adopt:
The FREE PRESS will be conducted as an independent journal. It’s chief aim will be to promote, in its humble way and in so far as it may, a friendly feeling between Filipinos and Americans think they are, and the Americans are much better than some Filipinos think they are. In any case it holds that more is to be gained by harmony and mutual forbearance than by suspicion, irritation and discord.
The new FREE PRESS offices were located at No. 44 Escolta, on the second floor of the same building which housed Manuel Pellicer, Manila Shirt Factory and Dry Goods Store, and another fledgling publication—the Daily Bulletin, which had offices and printing plant in the building. By arrangement with Daily Bulletin owner Carson Taylor, the FREE PRESS was printed by the Bulletin press.
Joining Dick on the staff were Don Alberto Campos who stood as first assistant and later editor of the Spanish section, Percy Warner Tinan who took charge of the advertising, and F. Theo Rogers who helped solicit ads and refused to be paid for his services. Rogers was later to become the magazine’s general manager.
Years of hardship
The early years were a struggle for the magazine. After just seven months of publication, Dick original investment had been exhausted and he was compelled to borrow P2,000 at 8 per cent interest per annum to continue publishing.
It was during this touch-and-go period for the FREE PRESS that dick displayed a strict sense of frugality. One of the off-cited accounts of his parsimony related to the time when the Spanish section editor left his light on overnight. When Dick discovered the deed the next morning, he called the electric company to find out how much it cost for a bulb to burn all night, then ordered the business department to deduct the amount from the Spanish editor’s salary.
After another six to seven months following the P2,000 loan, Dick had borrowed another P1,000 to keep the FREE PRESS going. The fresh capital infusion proved sufficient to sustain the project. Shortly after, the FREE PRESS began to turn a profit.
When the Bulletin transferred offices to the Cosmopolitan Building the FREE PRESS went along because of the printing services. The magazine continued to be printed on the Bulletin press until 1921 when the FREE PRESS finally erected its own building on Rizal Avenue and installed its own printing plant.
By 1925, with the publication doing good business and established as a regular reading fare, the FREE PRESS began publishing short stories, a new feature then in journalism. Not long after, it launched its annual short story contest.
In 1929, the P1,000 prize in the short story contest was won by Jose Garcia Villa for his story “Mir-i-nisa.” In 1936, the first prize was bagged by Manuel Arguilla for his “Epilogue to Reconciliation.”
The Free Press Staff
Aside from the handful of people who joined Dick in the early years of the FREE PRESS, the pre-war staff members of the magazine included composing room foreman Domingo Magsarili, writers Leon Guerrero, Frederic Marquardt, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay, Juan Collas, Alfonso Torres, D.L. Francisco, Ramon Navas, Roberto Anselmo, Federico Calero, Jose Joven, Jose G, Reyes and Teodoro Locsin, Sr. Artist Esmeraldo Izon drew the satirical cartoons that appeared on the magazine’s first page.
By the time World War II broke out, the FREE PRESS had become the most popular weekly publication in English and Spanish. Before the conquering Japanese closed the magazine in 1941, FREE PRESS circulation had gone past 80,000 copies per week.
Besides the paper’s becoming a journalistic casualty during the Japanese occupation, both Dick and Rogers were incarcerated at Fort Bonifacio. There, the Japanese attempted but failed to destroy the formidable Dick who kept his sanity by lecturing on Shakespeare before his fellow prisoners.
After the liberation and on the eve of the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946, Dick resumed publication of the FREE PRESS. In its post-war issue which came out on February 23, 1946, Dick explained the reasons for resuming publication of the FREE PRESS in an editorial entitled, “A Word to our Readers”:
After four years of “Blackout,” the FREE PRESS resumes publication. It is not the old Free Press as our readers know it. But we trust they will make allowances. We had really intended to postpone publication to a “more convenient season,” when conditions would be normal, but demand became so insistent with so many people asking “When is the FREE PRESS coming out?” that we finally capitulated—whether wisely or not, time will show.
Besides Dick and Rogers, of the pre-war staff members of the FREE PRESS only the triumvirate of Locsin, Ty and Tutay, plus artist Izon and composing room foreman Magsarili remained. But the magazine was joined by new talents, among them writers Nick Joaquin and Napoleon Rama, Artist Gene Cabrera, and Robert Hendry who was associate editor from 1947 to 1955, and who was later succeeded by Dick Kennewick.
Locsin, aside from writing two or three feature articles each issue, wrote almost all the editorials and was for some time the short story editor. (Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. would join the editorial staff in the sixties when he was barely 20. Later, Supreme Court justices would candidly tell Locsin Senior that they preferred his son’s pieces to his.)
The nation’s premier magazine
The years following the liberation of the Philippines from Japan were exciting, eventful and glorious for the FREE PRESS. Shortly after its revival, it won more and more readers and advertisers. By the time it reached circulation of 100,000, the vigor that marked the FREE PRESS’ style of journalism had made it the most successful magazine venture in the country.
The FREE PRESS came to be known as the publication that explored every significant event and issue without regard for the influence of people involved. During the American administration of the country, the magazine vigorously campaigned for an early independence of the Philippines from the United States. It also did not waver in its expose of venalities even in the highest office of the government.
For the FREE PRESS, exposing graft and abuse of public office was nothing less than a crusade. The commitment brought unrivalled influence on public opinion. It was said that no public official could afford to overlook the publication.
Nor was recognition limited to just inside the country.
In its August 26, 1955 issue, the New York Times paid tribute to the influence of FREE PRESS on Philippine life:
“Philippine elders have laboriously learned to read English so they could spell out for themselves the printed words of the FREE PRESS.
There’s many an argument in the barrios, a long-time American resident of the Islands said recently, that is settled for good at exactly the moment when someone remarks, “Well, the FREE PRESS said…”
“One reason for is that readers write more than half of the FREE PRESS. Subscribers report on a gay village fiesta; on an energetic mayor who gives medical injections and legal advices, teaches the catechism class and ghost writes all the letters of the community; on the successful mechanization of a small farm; the problems of a little barrio where all the water has to be carried by a cart a distance of three miles; a wedding of tribespeople in Zamboanga; a community ruined by hot feelings over politics; the only Filipino woman in Congress.”
One more significant fact that might be pointed out—the FREE PRESS was a newsmagazine long before Hadden and Luce developed Time. To this may be added that the many exclusives, explosive and otherwise, written by Locsin, Ty and Tutay came from tips furnished by people who had complaints against the government, other people or articles printed in the magazine.
A touch of libel
Proof of the courage that made the FREE PRESS a standout in the industry were the many libel cases brought against Dick (for an editorial written by then staffer Teodoro Locsin) by former governor Eliseo Quirino. The court acquitted the accused with commendation for service to the cause of good government. Governor Quirino gave a lechonada for Dick and Locsin. There was also the libel case filed at the behest of then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon. Dick himself was once ordered deported by Governor General Francis Burton Harrison. The case even reached the Supreme Court of the United States. It was later dropped when Harrison left the Philippines and placed administration of the country in the hands of Vice-Governor General Charles Emmet Yeater.
In August 1958, during the celebration of the FREE PRESS’ 50th anniversary, Dick and Rogers were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor by the Philippine government for their service to the cause of Philippine freedom. The same year, Dick received the Ramon Magsaysay award for literature and journalism.
On June 16, 1965, the FREE PRESS came out with a weekly Pilipino edition. Called the Philippine FREE PRESS Sa Wikang Pilipino, it had the same format and content as the original FREE PRESS. It reached a circulation of 40,000 quickly, largely the provincial school system which used it as reading material. Then it experimented with radical articles and “sexy” stories by avant garde writers. Circulation took a nose-dive. In December 1970, the Pilipino edition was closed; it was a flop.
The pioneer passes away
In September 1960, R. McCulloch Dick passed away. His death marked the end of his more than 50 years of influence on Philippine Journalism. At the time of his demise, Dick owned 99 percent of FREE PRESS stocks, which he bequeathed to Rogers and his own employees under certain conditions. The corporation eventually bought the stocks of Rogers who had returned to the United States and lost interest in the magazine. Rogers died in the United States in late 1963.
In the hands of Teodoro Locsin Sr. as publisher and editor, the FREE PRESS remained the fightingest publication in the country.
Twenty months before Marcos imposed martial law, the FREE PRESS painted the scenario of life under military rule:
With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be polarized. The Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded misguided elements (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.
Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from the life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would forever be?
On September 21, 1972, martial law was declared. The following day, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction No. 1 ordering the Press and Defense Secretaries to “take over and control or cause the taking over and control of the mass media for the duration of the national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by the President or his duly designated representative.”
Newspapers and magazines, including the FREE PRESS, were closed down, Leading media men, including Manila Times’ Chino Roces and the FREE PRESS’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon Rama, were arrested and imprisoned—without charges.
With the government clampdown, the FREE PRESS ended its many years as the country’s premier weekly magazine. It was not until 1986, 14 years after it was closed down, that the FREE PRESS reappeared in the country.
The magazine came out shortly before the February 7, 1986 snap elections to join the candidate Corazon Aquino’s campaign for the presidency.
After the EDSA revolution and the accession of a new regime, the FREE PRESS was relaunched as a fortnightly publication. But if the frequency was altered, the commitment to good government and the public interest never wavered.
That commitment—from the very birth of the magazine in 1908 to the present—in a sense explains the return in August 1988 of the FREE PRESS as a weekly journal of news and opinion.
Eighty years now lie behind the FREE PRESS. Unless catastrophe once more descends on the Philippines, it is certain to complete its first century of publication and offer more years of service to the life of the Filipino nation.
August 13, 1988
By Teodoro M. Locsin
OF the dead we should speak only good, we are told, which makes it difficult—for how are people to tell whether we are doing only what is proper or telling the truth?
In the case of Mr. Dick, it is doubly difficult, for he distrusted praise, or, to be precise, he was wary of its insidious effect. He liked it, I suppose, as much as any man, but with this difference: he felt it was weakening; it made you pleased with yourself. When things are going well, he would say, that is the time to be worried. A most canny Scot!
And there is this further point: To praise a man with whom one was so closely associated is, somehow, to praise oneself, and as he would say, self-praise is no praise. Yet, I must say it, now or never, the earth having received its “honored guest.” He was the one great man I knew.
A difficult man to work with, for he demanded, it sometimes seemed, too much from you. You forgave him only because it was obvious that he demanded even more from himself. To see him in terrible pain with every movement an agony, still doing his work, day after day, year after year—it was impossible to find excuses for any failure to do the best you could.
“Do not grow old,” he would say, and, sometimes, when the pain was unbearable, he would cry: “Let me die.” But the next morning he would be at his desk as usual—though he had to be half-carried there—working for the FREE PRESS. He never spared himself. He would not be a burden; he must earn his keep! What was important to him was not how he felt, but the magazine, which had for him a kind of transcendent existence apart from the people who composed it.
He had the quality of disinterestedness that marks the man one could call great. His temper was explosive, but his anger was never spiteful; it was impersonal; he did not know hate. We nurse our wrath to keep it warm, as the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, would put it, but the anger of Mr. Dick, provoked by some mistake, did not last long. “I have a vile temper,” he would apologize. His anger could pierce like a sword, sharp and cold, but it left a clean wound; nothing festered. He was never mad at the man but the act.
He made of the public interest a kind of mystique, which he would have his magazine solely serve. The general good was his own particular creed, and he equated it with truth and justice. It seemed to him the mark of a noble man that he should concern himself not merely with his interest but with the interests of others. It is the peculiar purpose of the press, he thought, to seek out such a man and give him praise—and go after his vicious opposite.
A lot of people talk about serving the public interest these days, of course, but what made Mr. Dick different was the fact that he meant it. Tired expressions and mere common-places, which one would avoid because so many had made use of them to deceive, regained authority on his lips. Shopworn phrases seemed newly made; old saws turned into “modern instances” through the force of example and belief. He was what he said.
“What’s his racket?” one thinks when somebody speaks of the “general welfare” and the “common good.” But words were, to Mr. Dick, meant to express thought, not hide it. He pretended to nothing he was not. He would not even think of doing it. Having known him, it was an almost painful experience listening to some public figure invoke the public interest while promoting his own; you are embarrassed by the transparent attempt to impress, by the obvious lies.
“Damn it,” he said impatiently once to an acquaintance who was trying to convince him that he was not guilty when he quite plainly was, “Damn it, can’t you tell the truth?”
He was a measure for other men. In most of them one found something contemptible, something not quite straight. Though the years bent his body until he walked, or shuffled, with his face to the ground, nothing else in Mr. Dick bowed.
Let us honor if we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.
Because he meant what he said, Mr. Dick had a reality most people do not have. The outline of the man was sharp and clear, that of others shifty and vague. He had the definition of rectitude. The dishonest continually change shape. Thus, thieves, who convert what does not belong to them into their own, assuming the substance of others, take, in Dante’s vision of hell, reptilian forms, becoming lizards and snakes. But the honest do not change; they are always themselves.
Rectitude, it should be noted, is not the same as being righteous, which is repulsive. To be straight is not to be smug. Mr. Dick was the most humble of men as he was the most upright. And if he seemed the embodiment of the decorous and correct, he was also, when his work was done and dinner was waiting and the company good, the mellowest of human beings. A drink or two would set him reminiscing. (The iron grew soft in the warmth of a Martini.) The sentimentalist had the upper hand.
Let the record be set straight. Mr. Dick enjoyed a good drink. He never pretended he did not. For some 50 years he did not touch a drop—having promised his mother he would not, but with middle age he felt he could handle a cocktail as well as the next man. He drank in moderation, but the legend would have him totally abstemious. Advertising liquor, however, was something else, and the FREE PRESS gave up a small fortune each year of its life turning down liquor ads. It served to buttress its independence. Advertisers who would dictate to the paper were rendered impotent, for how could they really hurt the FREE PRESS? If it could turn down legitimate liquor advertisement, why should it “play ball” with them just to get their business? Mr. Dick made principle somehow work. This is not easy.
“Let your spear know no brother,” he would quote from an upstanding man in public affairs early in the century. If you must fight, fight for a cause—impartially. Not that he loved a fight, for its own sake. He would neither run away from nor be rushed into a fight. “Everybody loves a dogfight,” he would say, while he debated whether a battle was necessary. Fighting for the sake of fighting is silly!
A man fought for a cause; to fight for any other reason was to be not a fighter but a bruiser.
He loved a clean blow. Say it if you must, in the public interest. If in doubt, cut it out. Never insinuate.
When a writer allowed his political feelings to get the better of him and damned a president by calling a previous one “not a swine,” Mr. Dick was furious.
“Would you have said he was not a swine if you did not mean to suggest that the other was?”
He was, indeed, a man to reckon with. If, for your own purposes, you tried to get around him, you would find it was useless. Sooner or later, you would be confronted with the truth and have to face, after him—yourself.
He thought of you as a man, not as a subordinate, and if you acted as you should, there could be no issue between the two of you. Sometimes, when he seemed too demanding, you would ask yourself what his game was? What was behind that formidable front? In the end, you would realize he had no game at all. It is impossible to see through most men, to see through the virtuous show, to see the man himself. In the case of Mr. Dick, one could not see through him because he was all there right in front of you. He believed in being true to certain things, and that, perhaps, was what made him seem incredible. How could he possibly mean it? But he did.
He believed in fairness, and carried his belief to what may seem to others fantastic lengths. When he was already ailing, he had to make a long trip by car to face trial on a libel charge. There were three of us on the back seat: Mr. Dick, our lawyer, then Rep. Emmanuel Pelaez, and myself. I was in the middle, Mr. Pelaez at my left, Mr. Dick at my right. We started early in the morning. The congressman had the sun on his face but did not mind. Mr. Dick, however, did, and half-way between Manila and Baguio told the driver to stop the car.
“You have had the sun on you half the way,” he said to Mr. Pelaez, showing his watch. “Now it is my turn. It is not right that you should be inconvenienced all the way. I can’t allow it.”
“But Mr. Dick,” the congressman protested, “I don’t mind the sun at all.”
“I can’t have you as you are all the way from Manila. I would not feel right.”
“Mr. Dick, you are an older man, and not well…”
“Please, humor this old man then.”
And slowly, painfully, the change in places was effected half-way between Manila and Baguio.
When he was not hard at work, or exploding over some mistake, his manners could be courtly and elaborate. Praise did not come casually from him. A note of appreciation would be as carefully composed as an essay, with words stricken out for others more precisely to the point; you knew exactly for what you were being praised. (You also knew exactly what you were getting hell for.) There was nothing lax about the man.
One never presumed on anything with him.
“That’s not the way I do business!” he once said, and the man he said it to never forget it.
“Order is heaven’s first law,” he would say. And order would reign on the desk of the man the note was sent to.
He had no use for servility; it could not be trusted. He would tell his staff with relish the story of the Englishman who went to America to look for work and, having found a place in a factory, immediately asked: “Who’s the management here? Whoever it is, I’m against it!”
He had a difficult life. He would speak of the bitter poverty of his childhood and of his father’s untimely death, leaving his mother as the family’s sole support. (She was known, among an honest people, as “the honest widow Dick.”) He would recall the early days of FREE PRESS, how he had a table in the office for a bed. His only indulgence was a single bottle of soft-drink at the end of the week. (How he looked forward to it!) It was hard going, indeed.
And there were his clashes with the American authorities. An American captain, or something, challenge him once to a duel. (He liked Taft. “It was at a banquet when Taft, with clenched hand and a trembling voice, said: ‘The Philippines for the Filipinos!’ F. Theo. Rogers and I were for Philippine independence and when we entered a restaurant we would hear them say, ‘There go those sons of bitches Rogers and Dick!’”) He did not know, he would say, how the FREE PRESS would have survived without the unsolicited help of Mr. Rogers…
He was always talking of his association with Mr. Rogers—and Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., of the Manila Times. Last week, at the necrological services of Mr. Dick, Joaquin Roces said of his father’s friend:
“Time is too short for us to record here the early career of his plain-speaking magazine, which in the span of a few short years gained the position of monitor for the government and the nation. But the time is never too short to omit mention of R. McCulloch Dick, the uncompromising Scot who maintained the simple creed: ‘The people can never be wrong.’
“In the spirit of tolerance that he brought to his task, there was always room for the little man who sought justice—but there was not an inch of space for the powerful in the land, the tycoons of government, the men who sat in the seats of the mighty-whether they were Filipinos or Americans—if they were not on the people’s side.
“R. McCulloch Dick was not the most tolerant of men where his most cherished ideals were concerned. There was a sign on the door of the FREE PRESS editorial rooms: ‘No crooks or grafters need apply.’ It may have been invisible, but it was there.
“R. McCulloch Dick left for us a heritage. It is not a formula for making money fast; it is not a prescription for getting close to the powers in the government. Those who accept it will be accepting a burden to carry—the burden of the journalist’s duty to the people.
“And this is a burden, indeed…
“My late father used to tell this story: It appears that Mr. Dick, toward the end of the Harrison administration, noted that the Governor General had been absenting himself from his office altogether too much. He opened an editorial campaign that shook the rafters in Malacañan. The governor, using his vast powers, ordered the deportation of the fighting editor-publisher. When the latter’s personal friends—among them my father and others whose opinion Mr. Harrison respected—intervened, the deportation order was rescinded, and Mr. Dick remained to steer of course of the FREE PRESS for the next 42 years. And never, before or since those eventful days in 1918, has the FREE PRESS ever taken a backward step from the ideas of R. McCulloch Dick—’The people can do no wrong!’
“This, then was R. McCulloch Dick: the man who had so much to give, and who gave it all to the people. He gave not because he was forced to give, but because he loved the people so much that he could not conceived being in opposition to anything that could possibly benefit them.”
Mr. Dick got in trouble, too, of course, with the Filipino authorities. Only fear of public opinion stopped the Liberal administration from deporting him. (Many of those whom his paper had hit the hardest would say, even as they hit back, “I have nothing against Mr. Dick himself.” And last week, at the necrological services, the press secretary of President Garcia was there to pay Mr. Dick tribute: “When future generations of our people ask who Mr. R. McCulloch Dick was, let it be said that he was a friend—a true friend of the Filipino people!”) But enough of his battles with the authorities.
“His many unreported deeds of kindness and generosity earned for him the love of his poor and unlettered neighbors who looked up to him not only as a man who was ever ready to champion their rights but also as one who was always there to help them meet their most pressing needs,” said Jose R. Arcangel of the National Press Club at the necrological services. “It was a touching scene, indeed, at the mortuary where he lay, to see fisherfolk from Malabon render their simple but eloquent tribute to the man who had been unsparing in his benefactions to them.”
He did what he had to do “without fanfare.” The story is told that when a correspondent of the American magazine Time was going to publish about him, Mr. Dick pleaded with the man to leave him alone. “I will pay you not to write about me.” He hated publicity, raised hell with Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., when a picture of them together during a fishing trip appeared in Don Alejandro’s paper.
He was a fighter, but a shy one. He fought—but only for what he considered the people’s good. When he spoke of their plight, it was with an urgency that came from direct contact. He lived among them, among the poor—as those discovered who saw for the first time, at his burial, the house where Mr. Dick lived. The poor were all around him. How could he disregard their need?
Many of our nationalists speak of the Filipino people and their needs most passionately, yet live in a world completely apart, a world of privilege and wealth. What can these know of the people? Mr. Dick was with the Filipino people in life and death. He is buried in the cemetery of the town of Malabon, Rizal, across thousands of miles from his native Scotland and 87 years later he came to find his final rest there.
He stood by what he said, bearing witness to his words by his deeds. Sincerity and disinterestedness marked his life, and an unqualified devotion to an ideal of the press as a force for the general good. “The truth will set you free,” he would say, believing it. He would permit no compromise. “We are no hucksters,” he would say to his staff. Thinking of him, one thinks of “those who were truly great.” Surely he is of their number—
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled
A short while toward the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
He lived long but never faltered in his journey toward the light and the air is vivid with his honor.