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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.”

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The politicalization of the Constitutional Convention, January 22, 1972

The Politicalization of the Constitutional Convention

By Edward R. Kiunisala



January 22, 1972–MANY considered it the “last hope” of the impoverished masses—the “magic key” to peace and progress. In an atmosphere of deepening national crisis, it would be called upon to rewrite the fundamental law of the land and provide the blueprint for a better, more meaningful life for the Filipino people. The faith of nearly 40 million Filipinos was pinned on the Constitutional Convention.

The delegates to the Convention were to be men of honor, courage, dedication, wisdom and vision. Certainly, men of less stern stuff have no place in such a body, charged as it is with the sacred duty of charting the national destiny. When the time came to choose them, some 10 million electors voted in a remarkably free and fair election.

A good number of “independent” candidates were elected, including priests, journalists, technocrats, professors, economists, political scientists, youth activists, labor leaders and retired high government officials. It was a “promising start” for the Constitutional Convention, said one political observer. Although many party-backed candidates won, it was believed that these delegates would assert their independence upon assumption of their exalted office.

But, alas, as the opening date of the Convention drew closer, more and more delegates were invited or crawled to Malacañang. The public did not know what transpired there, but could guess. The Malacañang meeting marked the politicalization, that is, the tutaization, of delegates. Reports spread that President Marcos wanted the Constitutional Convention to extend his term by two more years or, failing that, to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary to enable him to become the first Prime Minister.

True or not, Marcos became the first big issue in the Convention. Many independent delegates denounced Malacañang for interfering with the work of the Convention. The denunciation rose to fever pitch some three days before the start of the Convention, prompting Marcos to change his mind about addressing the opening rites of the Convention.

When, in a pre-Convention pow-wow, the majority of the delegates opted to invite Marcos to be the guest speaker at the Convention’s opening ceremonies, the move angered, if not scandalized, many independent-minded delegates. Seventeen of them staged a walk-out on the opening day of the Convention. It was just as well for on that day, the politicians stole the show. At the rostrum was Marcos, flanked by Senate President Gil J. Puyat and Speaker Cornelio Villareal, a guest, acted as if he were the host. He controlled the proceedings as if the charter body were the House of Representatives.

That “circus” led to yet another circus when the Convention tackled the problem of leadership. Five delegates sought the Convention presidency, namely, former Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos P. Garcia, former Sen. Raul Manglapus, former Supreme Court Justice Jesus Barrera and Teopisto Guingona, Jr. Macapagal was allegedly Marcos’s pet—and, indeed, at the outset, he appeared to act like one. But he was later to be disappointed by Malacañang. About 48 hours before the election, some delegates who were committed to back Macapagal sought release from their commitment, according to a Laguna delegate, Manuel Concordia, a supporter of Macapagal. Concordia specifically referred to four delegates who, according to him, “reminded me of a condition to their pledge, that is, it could be withdrawn when ‘orders from above’ are received.”

Continued Concordia:

“Apparently such orders ‘from above’ have been received. I could not, in conscience, hold them to their commitment.”

Later, Macapagal himself categorically stated the Marcos was supporting Garcia—a charge which, if true, substantiated the suspicion about the tutaization of the Convention. Said Macapagal:

“It is not definite and conclusive that President Garcia is the candidate of President Marcos for president of the Convention. This proves that there was no deal between Mr. Marcos and me or warrants the deduction that I must have refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos, that is why he decided to support President Garcia as Convention president.”

And what is this “deal” that Macapagal referred to?

“The previously reported deal was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life, whereas the new subject is about the extension of the presidential term. I am incapable of entering into a deal on the contents of the Constitution since that would be a disgraceful act which I will never countenance.”

On the eve of the Convention, Macapagal filed a resolution banning former Presidents and their close relatives, including Marcos and Imelda, from running for the presidency. Many considered it a gimmick for Macapagal to attract independent voters; in the past he had been evasive on such a question, saying that “a candidate for president of the Convention should not take sides on the contents of the Constitution since the primary duty of the Convention president is to impartially reconcile divisive conflicts of views among the delegates and coordinate the activities of the Convention.”

Anyway, Macapagal lost and Garcia won. The Marcosian strategy appeared to be to divert attention and confuse until the “moment of truth” came. At first Macapagal seemed to be his man—but it was Garcia who won. It was a judo tactic—feign distraction, then attack. Up to now, many delegates still become red in the face when reminded of that election.

Was there really a deal? Were there “orders from above?” Those were the questions. Now, the question is: Does Marcos really favor the parliamentary form of government over the presidential? If he does, is it because Marcos wants to be “Prime Minister for life?” Only Marcos and certain delegates are in a position to answer this. But the verifiable fact is that, after the last election, delegates who were staunchly for the presidential type now advocate parliamentary form of government.

Why?

Have “orders from above” been issued?

Curiously enough, the pattern of events during the fight for the Convention presidency is being repeated in the battle between the “parliamentarists” and the “presidentialists.” Before the issue on the form of government came to a head in the Convention, many delegates had reportedly been seen in conference with Marcos. Sometime later, the committee on legislative powers surprisingly changed its stand and voted for the adoption of the parliamentary form of government.

The committee on executive powers, too, which originally favored the retention of the presidential type, as of this writing, is veering towards the adoption of the parliamentary form. Even the Rama-Liwag resolution seeking to ban President Marcos and the First Lady from running for the presidency or premiership seems destined to lose in the committee on transitory provisions.

Worse, talk of presidential favors being granted to some delegates is now widespread. Whether true or not, this talk seems to gather credibility in the face of reports that Lualhati, a government cottage in Baguio City, was occupied by a delegate during the Christmas vacation. The Baguio case certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in the context of what Macapagal had earlier referred to as a “reported deal” which would pave the way for Marcos to become the first Prime Minister of this country.

Editorialized the Manila Chronicle:

“Incidents like the Lualhati case have generated suspicions whenever there are sudden changes of hearts especially when the new Convention decision would favor the President. It is in this light that the public has viewed the change in the committee votes—from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government—with valid misgivings though hoping that the modification was impelled by desires for constructive reforms and not an abdication of conviction for political accommodation.”

Close on the heels of the Lualhati case came the recent change of delegate Jorge Kintanar of Cebu to the effect that 10 delegates recently went to Malacañang and were each given “10,000 reasons” to shift from the presidential to the parliamentary system. Some Convention delegates understood Fr. Kintanar’s statement to mean that some delegates had been bribed P10,000 by Malacañang in consideration for their support of the parliamentary system.

Last week, some 20 delegates demanded the investigation of the Kintanar charge, challenging the priest-delegate to name names. Fr. Kintanar promptly accepted the challenge and promised to name names in a proper committee hearing. The investigation of the Kintanar charge may yet lead to the investigation of still another rumor that certain delegates are on the regular payroll of Malacañang.

Said Delegate Antonio Alano of Batangas:

“While I do not believe that any delegate would succumb to any outside pressure in deciding what form of government our country should adopt, it is proper that we should look into the matter of alleged lobby.”

Delegates Anacleto Badoy, Jr., and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., urged Convention President Macapagal to convoke the committee on privilege to look into the serious charge of bribery. If the Kintanar charge is found to be true, said the two, the Convention should impose “appropriate sanctions.” And Delegate Bren Z. Guiao sought the release of the list of names of delegates who went to Malacañang on January 6 “to clear the names of those delegates who have nothing to do with the so-called Malacañang lobby.”

The persistent talk of Malacañang’s intervention in the conduct of the charter body has to be thoroughly investigated if the Convention is to win the support of the people. Such talk started when delegates started trooping to Malacañang even before the charter body was convened. It gained momentum when Macapagal categorically charged that Marcos had backed Garcia, followed later by the withdrawal of Delegate Felixberto Serrano from the contest for the position of President Pro Tempore of the Convention.

Said Serrano then:

“My heart bleeds to announce to you today that agreeably with my personal knowledge of the events that have transpired in the last few days, the will of this Convention will be subverted by outside political control beyond the power of well-intended and well-meaning delegates to resist and material enough to determine the final outcome of the election.

“I am prepared to announce to you that Speaker Cornelio Villareal of the House of Representatives is the instrumentality of this over-powering, subversive force in our Convention intended to override its free will and better judgment.”

Villareal immediately denied everything. What then, made Serrano’s heart bleed? At any rate, it was an open secret that on the eve of the Convention election a top tuta of Marcos entertained delegates in a hotel suite. The Marcos dog gave to the delegates from “1,000 to 10,000 reasons” in consideration of their canine support for Marcos’s candidates for Convention posts, went reports.

No one in the Convention, except Serrano, whose charges were vague and general, demanded an investigation. But it’s different this time. Fr. Kintanar is reportedly ready to “tell all.” But in all these charges, starting with those of Macapagal to those of Serrano and now those of Kintanar, the common denominator is the alleged move of Malacañang to control the Convention.

If the charges are true, why does Malacañang want to control the Convention? The answer depends on the truthfulness or otherwise of what Macapagal earlier said concerning the “previously reported deal” which “was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life….”

Although Macapagal’s statement was intended to prove that no such deal was consummated between him and Marcos, it did not say, however, whether or not Marcos presented Macapagal with such a deal. In fact, Macapagal said that Garcia being conclusively “the candidate of President Marcos” proved that there was no deal between him and Marcos or that he must have “refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos.” That is why, went on Macapagal, Marcos decided to “support President Garcia as Convention president.”

If it is true that Marcos did not support Macapagal because the latter would not agree to the Marcos deal, which was for Macapagal to work for the parliamentary form of government, then Marcos must have been, from the very beginning, against the presidential system. The vociferous advocacy for the retention of the presidential system by some of his allegedly close supporters in the Convention must have been only a ruse to confuse the “presidentialists.”

Or perhaps, Marcos, sensing that the prevalent sentiment of the Convention was for the retention of the presidential system, agreed to go along with the idea on the assumption that the First Lady, if she ran for the presidency, would win. But the results of the last national elections must have jolted Marcos. He must have realized then that he could not make it any more to Malacañang, directly or indirectly through the First Lady. But if he cannot stay on Malacañang as President under the presidential system, he may still go back there as Prime Minister under a parliamentary system.

If these assumptions are correct, then the sudden change of heart of many delegates vis-à-vis their stand on which form of government the Constitution is to adopt is no mystery. They would simply be heeding their master’s voice.

Certainly, the issue on which form of government this country is to adopt should be decided on merit, not on personal considerations. But the fact that, after extensive deliberations on the subject, two key committees in the Convention had earlier decided to retain the presidential system shows that the present form of government is still workable, that there is no necessity to junk it. That some delegates during the present system to be bad, prompting them to reverse themselves and come out for the parliamentary one, is certainly mysterious. What’s the reason or reasons for the sudden change of mind?

That “mystery” is reason enough to look into the personal consideration in the deliberation on the form of government. The question of whether or not Marcos wants the Convention to adopt the parliamentary form should not be ignored. This issue strikes at the fundamental principle of an independent Convention freely exercising its disinterested judgment. If the will of Marcos is to prevail in the Convention, then we should not have held a Convention at all. We should have simply allowed Marcos to rewrite the Constitution by himself. It would be faster and cheaper that way.

But let it not be forgotten that the new charter will be adopted only after the people have ratified it in a national referendum. If the new Constitution is tainted with the corrupt influence of Malacañang, the people are likely judging from the results of the last elections, to junk it. The Convention will have wasted its efforts and time, not to mention the people’s money, drafting a Marcos Constitution. And the people would lose all hope for a better tomorrow.

Said the Free Press in its editorial of June 19, 1971:

“The challenge to the Constitutional Convention is to rise above the level of the professional politicians, which should not be too difficult since nothing can be lower than that, but if professional politicians were to run, directly or indirectly, the Convention, then, as water seeks its own level, the Constitutional Convention will fall to the level of the lowest form of political life in this country.”

If the Convention finally decides to adopt the parliamentary system to favor Marcos, the referendum will turn into a political election. The pro-Marcos forces will certainly campaign in favor of the new charter while the anti-Marcos faction will campaign against it. The charter body will have achieved one thing: divide the country, instead of uniting it. It would have rendered a monstrous disservice to the nation and its place in history would be a shameful one.

Dissenting opinion: Don’t go to war! March 12, 1966

March 12, 1966

 

LAST week, Teodoro M. Locsin, president and editor of the Philippines Free Press, was invited to appear before the congressional committees on foreign affairs, national defense and appropriations, and give his views on President Marcos’ proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The following account is based on a transcript of Locsin’s testimony and cross-examination by the committee members which lasted for more than three hours. Editing has been necessary for lack of space and love of English and in the interest of clarity. Some inaccuracies in Locsin’s extemporaneous (except for a few quotations) speech have been corrected (and comments inserted) in the final version.

LOCSIN: I would like to make it clear at the very start that I appear here not in representation of the Free Press but as just another citizen. A Filipino. I was not too eager about coming here because my views had already been published and I did not want to be repetitious, but one of you was quite insistent and so I must be repetitious. I must repeat what I said in a series of articles and editorials last year on exactly the same thing: the Macapagal proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The opposition presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos, led the opposition to the Macapagal proposal. The Free Press opposed it then as it opposes it now, unlike Marcos who, having won and being now president, has made a complete turnabout.

Only fools, we are told, do not change their minds. What kind of an argument is that? Does it mean that if you change your mind, you are not a fool? Is changing one’s mind the test of wisdom? That would make the man who changes his mind every day the wisest man in the world. Only a fool does not change his mind no matter how circumstances change, that may be argued, but to change your mind when there has been no change of circumstances calls for an explanation. You must give reasons for changing your mind, and where the reasons you give are diametrically opposite to the reasons previously given by you, your motives for changing your mind are certainly subject to question. Revising history is not an acceptable reason for a change of mind but monetary consideration is an understandable reason. Black can be called white if the price is right. Only fools are fooled by the glib argument that only fools never change their minds.

I wish to call your attention to a Manila Daily Bulletin headline: “Marcos certifies Vietnam aid bill in return for $$, etc.,” by Jesus Bigornia. “President Marcos gave Congress leaders yesterday a peek into American package commitments to….” And so on.

PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin…

LOCSIN: Just a minute…

PELAEZ: I should like to say for Mr. Bigornia before he gets into trouble that he said he did not write the heading of that article.

LOCSIN: Correct. Very good. Perhaps, then, Mr. Menzi wrote it. (Laughter from the committees and the audience.) Now, let me call your attention to the interesting relationship between Mr. Menzi, the publisher of the Bulletin, and Mr. Marcos. Mr. Marcos is his commander-in-chief. Mr. Menzi is Mr. Marcos’ military aide, the alter ego, in a sense, of Mr. Marcos. I have a dirty mind and I believe that this was a deliberate leak to the press—which Mr. Marcos would afterward deny. Not only that, it has not been denied by the Manila Bulletin which is certainly very close to, if it is not the organ of, Malacañang.

And let me recall: Congressman Pendatun was with me early last month when the Free Press was given an award by the Confederation of Filipino Veterans for militant journalism and its contribution to Philippine progress. I was at the same table with Speaker Villareal and Congressman Pendatun. Mr. Villareal made a very impassioned speech about going to Vietnam to save democracy, then he sat down beside me and said to me, pointing in the direction of an American admiral and the American minister, Richard Service, who were at the same table with us: “Let them pay for it, Teddy.” Now, what the devil was he trying to tell me?

I came here to speak to you as a Filipino who refuses, who would oppose the sake of his country’s honor. If we must take up prostitution, however, let us take it up cold-bloodedly and collect first and afterwards bow our heads in shame. If we are going to war for a stabilization fund, let us not be suckers. Let us consider the economic cost. The P35 million we appropriate for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would be the annual interest we would pay for the stabilization fund. (Not to mention, of course, the Filipino lives that would be lost.)

I came here in the belief that Congress would pass the Marcos bill. I came in resignation, in despair. I think that you will pass the bill although not as quickly as the previous Congress did—in a couple of days or almost as short a time as it takes to sign a voucher for unconstitutional allowances.

PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin, we have invited you because we want to deal with this question in an dispassionate a manner as possible. We have invited you knowing your stand on this. Now you tell us that the members of Congress will pass the bill. I don’t think there is anybody who can presume what each congressman will do. You may have reasons to believe that they will pass the bill but to assert that they will, I think that is not quite fair to all of us.

LOCSIN: I take it back. I hope you won’t.

PELAEZ: That’s better.

LOCSIN: I apologize.

PELAEZ: Each of us will try to decide on this, as far as I know, according to the best lights God has given us, regardless of the prostitution of other people. I myself am resolved to view this solely from the standpoint of national interest, of what’s good for our people. Whatever may be the feelings of anyone else will not and should not influence us.

LOCSIN: Thank you for reprimanding me. I have a terrible weakness—one of losing control over my feelings. I shall speak more dispassionately, gentlemen. If I have hurt anybody’s feelings, I am sorry. I let my feelings run away with me. Which is a very bad thing to do in a fight.

Now, let me begin. Why are Filipino troops being sent to the Vietnam war? Is it in fulfillment of a treaty obligation? You have heard Dr. Salvador Araneta on the subject. SEATO members that are closer to the battle have not sent troops. Nor is an act of war dictated by any defense commitment with the United States. The United States has not been attacked but is the one attacking. What can the Philippines do in Vietnam? Sending 2,000 Filipino troops there would not make any difference in the outcome of the war. The cost would be P35 million this year which could best be spent here for the building of roads and bridges which are so badly needed to bring agricultural produce to market and make the economy work. The United States has spent billions of dollars in Vietnam to little effect, I wrote last year. The communist-led Viet Cong control more and more of the country despite American money and military intervention. Nor has the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had any noticeable effect on the South Vietnamese rebel will to fight. What can the Philippines really do in Vietnam? Why should Filipino troops be sent there? The South Vietnamese government has received all the necessary money from the United States to build all the roads and bridges and schoolhouses and hospitals required. The Philippine contribution would be insignificant.

There are two possible reasons for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. One is monetary, the other, fear. I have spoken on the possible monetary consideration. Let me speak now on the matter of fear. If Vietnam falls, the United States, it is feared, may withdraw from the Philippines, leaving it defenseless against the Chinese Communists. Will the United States withdraw from Asia if Vietnam falls, leaving the Philippines—and Formosa, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, India and the rest of Asia—to face the Chinese Communists? Will the United States then withdraw into fortress, solitary fortress, America? (The New Republic observes: “However the war in Vietnam ends, this country plainly isn’t getting ready to pull out of the Far East, but intends spending billions more dollars on air bases and ports, in Vietnam itself, in Thailand, on Formosa and Okinawa, and in the Philippines.”) The fall of Vietnam would make the American position in the Philippines and the rest of Asia more essential than ever to American security. The United States is not in Asia for our health, you know.

The United States would rather, for its security, face a communist challenge in Vietnam, and, if Vietnam fell, in the Philippines and Formosa and Japan rather than in Hawaii, and if the Philippines fell, in Hawaii rather than in California. The farther away from the enemy, the better. But the reality of American power in Asia, the American pundit, Walter Lippmann, has noted, is not in any land force it may commit to the area but in its naval and air power. The fall of South Vietnam will not destroy U.S. naval and air domination in the Pacific. As for land power, Douglas MacArthur is quoted as saying, if I remember correctly, “It would be sheer folly for the United States to ever again commit U.S. forces in a land war on the Asian continent.” And here is former Congressman Miguel Cuenco on the proposal by then President Macapagal to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war: “I have serious doubts about the efficacy of foreign military intervention in Vietnam to contain communism and keep that unfortunate country in democratic hands. Experience has shown that civil wars or internal rebellions—and I consider the Vietnam war a civil war—are better left to the nations concerned for their own solution. The experience of Burma is in point. Burma has an internal communist problem and she has a common northern boundary with China of about 900 miles long. For the last 17 years she has fought successfully communism without any foreign aid or intervention and she succeeded in concluding treaties with Chin for the determination of boundary. It is significant that in the treaty Burma concluded with Great Britain in the year 1948, Burma refused to join the British Commonwealth and it is clearly stipulated that Burma renounces any protection from Great Britain.

The Communist challenge or threat to the Philippines does not lie in any Chinese invasion of the Philippines. (Here is Newsweek: “And up to now, China’s leaders have shown that they are essentially cautious men. In Korea, Peking assiduously avoided getting drawn into the war until Gen. Douglas MacArthur led U.S. forces across the 38th parallel in a drive toward the Chinese border. In Tibet, Peking reasserted control over territory which has traditionally been subject to China. And in the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute, Peking was staking out what it considered to be its legitimate border. Says a British Foreign Office expert: They engaged in what one can best describe as an old-type imperial punitive expedition aimed at putting the Indians in their place. The fact is that the Chinese—Korea apart—have shown a marked reluctance to fight on other people’s territories.” What the Chinese promote are “wars of national liberation,” that is, internal conflicts, insurgency, revolution.) The Communists challenge or threat lies in social instability and economic depression and the failure of our democracy to work. Filipino Communists may hope to overthrow the “democratic” regime by appealing to the people with the promise of and to the landless and jobs for the jobless and the rest of the Communist line. Philippine security lies in a social order based on social justice, in economic progress, in less disparity between the rich who are so few and the poor who are so many, in increased productivity which calls for mobilization of all our resources. We have no financial surplus contrary to what Mr. Marcos and his secretary of finance would have us believe. We need all the money we can scrape up to build factories, implement land reform, irrigate and fertilize our fields, build roads and bridges—and make our democracy really work.

What can the Philippines do to save South Vietnam from communism that the United States has not already done? What is the United States really trying to do in South Vietnam? The United States is trying to get out of the Vietnam war without losing face. That is the long and short of it. It did not know what it was getting into when it went to Vietnam to fill the power vacuum created by the defeat of French colonialism according to the prestigious New Yorker magazine. As the situation deteriorated the United States found itself deeper and deeper in the mess with no means appropriate to its great power status to get out of it. Improvisation followed improvisation but the situation continued to deteriorate. Meanwhile, American opinion began to question more and more the wisdom of American intervention in Vietnam. There were demonstrations and heart-searchings by more and more Americans, “agonizing reappraisal” of what the United States was doing in that wretched place where we would join her.

“What is the root of all this swelling anti-Americanism among the Asians?” asks Walter Lippmann. “It is that they regard our war in Vietnam as a war by a rich, powerful, white, Western nation, against a weak and poor Asian nation, a war by white men against non-white men in Asia. We can talk until the cows come home about how we are fighting for the freedom of the South Vietnamese. But to the Asian peoples it is obviously and primarily an American war against an Asian people.”

And that is why the Americans want our flag there to join the flags of white Australia and white New Zealand and an American protectorate, South Korea. It is a shameful coincidence that even as the American congress appropriates more dollars for South Korea, the South Korean government is sending more thousands of its troops to fight( and die if necessary) for those dollars.

What are the possibilities of the Vietnam war? He United States has bombed North Vietnam. Suppose it escalates the war and bombs Hanoi. If the Americans should bomb the capital, North Vietnam would have no alternative but to turn its armed forces completely loose to join the South Vietnamese rebels. It would have nothing to lose then. That is why America hesitates over bombing China. Suppose the Americans were to bomb Red China. There are very few targets of nuclear opportunity in China. It is an underdeveloped country. There are few industrialized centers. After having used its atomic force on Red China short of exterminating 700 million people and standing indicted before all the civilized world for genocide, what could America do other than sending and landing an expeditionary force? Now, if 200,000 American soldiers (plus half a million South Vietnamese government troops) are having trouble with a hundred or two hundred thousand Viet Cong rebels in pajamas, what would happen to the American expeditionary force when it actually engaged Red China’s 3 million regular troops and 10 million “people’s militia”? The Americans will wander all over China like lost souls—and must forget all about the war against poverty at home. And the American action will introduce a new element into the relationship between Soviet Russia “confronting” each other now, but if the United States should bomb China, the Russians would say to themselves, and act accordingly, “Ah, after China, we next, maybe.”

Think further what will happen in a few years when China acquires not only the atomic bomb but the H-bomb. In a few years the Chinese should be capable of delivering the nuclear missile—not necessarily to the United states but here. China won’t need an intercontinental missile; she won’t need to hit America. All China has to say to the South Vietnamese is: If America gives us the atomic works, we will give you the atomic works unless you tell the Americans to get out, unless you withdraw your invitation, leaving America with no legal justification for intervening in Vietnam. (When that time comes, we must win the war against communism not by any brandishing of the American nuclear weapon to intimidate Communist China into good behavior. We must win then, as we must win now, each of us, our people to the side of democracy, and keep them there. A Chinese invasion would be out, then as now, but “wars of liberation,” that is, insurgency, internal revolt, would be the problem. And this problem is solved at home and not abroad.)

PELAEZ: Under your theory, we should tell America to get out of her bases in the Philippines—if we were to follow the consequences of your statement. In other words, we must change our foreign policy completely.

LOCSIN: We must reexamine our foreign policy then (and at all time) and we must not give provocation. What would be in the interest of Red China in attacking the Philippines, anyway, if the Philippines were not attacking or being used to attack Red China?

PELAEZ: And in the face of the fight between the two giants, you would perhaps think it better that we should be a neutralist country and not have American bases here.

LOCSIN: If the time ever comes when Red China with nuclear missiles and the United States with nuclear missiles should find themselves on a collision course from which they could not get away, let us keep out of the collision. (Let us not die with the Americans and the Chinese as a people. That is what nuclear war between the two would mean—if it ever took place. As a matter of fact, such a war will not take place, according to American military and political authorities, if the two governments do not go nuts, if they do not believe their propaganda against each other. As a matter of fact, even a conventional land invasion of China by the United States is held so unlikely “that the Pentagon has not even bothered to draw up plans for such a contingency,” according to Newsweek. There will be no nuclear war between the United States and Communist China unless they go crazy, and if they go crazy, God help us, that’s all.) In a nuclear war between the United States and Communist China, there will be few Asians left alive, communist or anti-communist.

PELAEZ: Precisely, the argument now of those who take the administration stand is that Vietnam is the testing ground whether Chinese expansionism can be stopped and that therefore the Philippines should make its modest contribution to stopping it, while you say that the Philippines can do nothing. The reason is advanced that if we can help in any way strengthen the morale of the South Vietnamese, that would help, hence, this proposal to us by the defense department that this engineering battalion will have for its specific mission the strengthening of the morale of the South Vietnamese by helping the South Vietnamese government construct public works. And this could mean something plus, of course, the show of flags that has been mentioned to us by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ramos. And one of the previous witnesses said that Americans would also need some morale boosting to be able to continue fighting communist aggression to Vietnam.

LOCSIN: May I say that first of all, the wisdom of the American involvement in Vietnam and its extent and the nature of the American strategy there is being reexamined by Americans themselves. We must not take it for granted, because we are Filipinos, we must not accept automatically the American government line as correct. Americans themselves are raising questions. We can hardly do otherwise unless we would be less than Americans. (We must not act like “little brown Americans.” In the first place, we are not Americans.) We must think for ourselves.

PELAEZ: That is why we are here.

LOCSIN: That, I hope, is why we are here. I am glad. Meanwhile, with respect to the alleged morale-boosting effect of our troops in Vietnam, may I quote from a letter of Senator Tañada to President Marcos:

“The proponents of the Vietnam adventure claim that our engineers can be of great help to South Vietnam. The engineers of the United States Army, with all their know-how and their modern equipment, are there. After they have done their jobs what can one little Filipino engineering battalion do that would make so much difference in that unhappy land?

“They say it would raise the morale of the South Vietnamese if they saw their Filipino brothers fighting side by side with them. If South Vietnamese morale has not been sufficiently boosted by the sight of those magnificent American giants with their marvelous modern weapons and their inexhaustible supply of dollars and K-rations, then nothing and no one can lift their morale. Why then this American insistence on getting us involved in the war? The only answer is that our presence there is needed to dissipate the growing impression that this is an American war against Asians. Surely we can find better use for Filipino lives than to waste them in a vain attempt to repair the American image in the eyes of thinking men.” (Tañada went on: “We are now spending one million pesos a year for our civil action group in Vietnam. We must appropriate 34 million pesos a year if we send 2,000 Filipino soldiers, and the war may last indefinitely. Both the Viet Cong and the Americans themselves seem to expect a protracted war. Senator John Stennis, chairman of the U.S. Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee, said, ‘It is sad but true that many of the six-year-old youngsters who started going to school this year can expect some time in their lives to patrol the swamps and mountains of Vietnam.’ Can we afford to throw away hundreds of millions of pesos? Considering the state of our finances, I believe we cannot. We do not have enough money to pay on time the salaries of our government employees, to implement our land reform program, to maintain and repair our roads and bridges, to construct irrigation canals to increase our production of rice, to repair our schools and open new classes for our rapidly expanding school population.

“It would be a crime to spend money on destruction when we have so little for our own much-needed construction. Besides, for good or ill, we shall remain in Asia, having to live with Asian neighbors with whom we may or may not agree on ideologies, forms of government or economic systems. Should we not then, if for no other reason than self-interest, exercise some caution and foresight in dealing today with our fellow Asians? I sincerely believe we should.”)

Let us think, before we enter the Vietnam war, what happened to America when it did. First, the United States sent merely civilians, then military advisers, then special troops with orders if fired upon by the Viet Cong not to fire back. Meanwhile, on South Vietnamese government fell, then another, then another, then another…. You can’t help those who won’t help themselves. The various South Vietnamese governments were given all the money they needed and the most modern weapons b the Americans, the most modern weapons short of the H-bomb, and they kept on losing more and more areas to the rebels. From a few dozen Americans to a few hundred to a few thousand to 150 thousand to 200 thousand to perhaps half a million Americans this year…. We shall begin with 2,000. (With how many Filipino troops in the Vietnam war shall we end?) Our 2,000 Filipino soldiers—they won’t even be noticed among a million American and South Vietnamese troops.

Let us fight communism here.

You must be tired of my voice by now. I get excited and I can’t help it. I am pleading for sanity and I may sound slightly insane….

LOCSIN: Let me read to you from an article by Edgar Snow on the American situation in Vietnam. Snow is the only American correspondent that Chou En-lai would talk to, who would be allowed into Red China. He was formerly associate editor of The Saturday Evening Post, a conservative magazine, and is a correspondent of Look, another conservative publication. He is the author of Red Star Over China, a classic book on the Chinese Communist revolution written, if I remember correctly, while the Communists were living in caves into which they had retreated before the pursuing forces of Chiang Kai-shek and when few people outside China gave the Communists a chance of winning. That was before the Second World War.

Not only the forces of Chiang went after the Communists, noted Snow. The Japanese went after them, too.

“The result was that between 1937 and 1945 the Chinese Communists increased their forces from 40,000 to more than one million, armed with equipment captured from puppet and invading troops. At that time the Communists were blockaded in their rear by Nationalist Chinese forces. They had no foreign allies, and no bases except the villages and their population living behind nominally enemy-conquered territory.”

Snow goes on:

“How is it that American hawks never reflected upon that experience? Do they consider the Vietnamese in a worse position? The United States is a far more formidable enemy than Japan, and Vietnam is much smaller than China. But Vietnam is not a peninsula like Korea or Malaya, it is not Greece with a Tito ready to close its rear, and it is not an island like Santo Domingo. Its western flank cannot be closed, its bases are far more advanced than were those of the Chinese Communists in the earlier war, and its rear—with the support of a China militarily more powerful than the Japan of 1937—seems limitless.

“Under the favorable political conditions just described, Vietnamese revolutionary leaders can gradually unite most of the nation in a holy war for independence. For such a struggle 30 million people are their potential base. Behind them, the productive energies of 700 million Chinese can be mobilized along an open frontier. Only nuclear bombing could effectively interrupt Chinese supplies of vital materials—or men, if developments obliged that.

“South Korea is also vulnerable to anti-American political activity, as demonstrated by recent violent reactions to the American-sponsored Seoul-Tokyo rapprochement. If China is bombed into the war it would be logical to expect repercussions in Korea. There exist pro-Communist underground organizations in the South. Heavy reinforcement of the 50,000 Americans already in Korea would be required to cope with renewed civil war. Despite the Japanese government’s resignation to US policy in Vietnam, until now, popular antiwar sentiment might make American air and naval bases untenable in Japan if conflict spread to China and Korea.

“Can an adequate ‘position of strength’ be won by limiting American operations to a modest Vietnam sanctuary held inviolable by command of the air and by ground units connecting a perimeter with immensely superior fire power? That would give the People’s Liberation Front ever wider military initiative and complete their political control over the land. North and South together, Vietnam could maintain half a million regular troops and at least as many armed partisans free to roam. In a thoroughly hostile countrywide every prudent American would have to scan every peasant as his potential assassin.

“If an urban based army needs a ten-to-one superiority to prevail in a people’s war led by guerrillas alone—as we are told by experts—what will be the ratio where partisans are supported by disciplined regular armies, operating from secure bases, over an unlimited front in inconclusive battles of endless maneuver?

“Defense of occupied enclaves must require ever-expanding penetrations, ultimately reaching across all Indochina. Laos will eventually require more than bombing attacks, and effective occupation of it would likely involve Cambodia. Thailand is now providing Americans with bases used for the bombing of Laos and Vietnam, and must expect eventual retaliation. ‘Free Thai’ partisans are beginning to emerge in the North and might in time become Bangkok’s major preoccupation.

“Political advantages bestowed by the ‘American invasion’ enable Ho Chi Minh’s disciples now to permeate most of Southeast Asia, to bring maximum numbers of people under their organizational influence and party control. A patriotic war educates great numbers of natural peasant leaders, arms them, unites them, and gives them an exalted purpose. In this sense Mao Tse-tung was probably right when he predicted that ‘the American imperialists’ would become the ammunition-carriers, the teachers, and the makers of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Not if they can possibly avoid it are the Chinese likely to intervene to relieve Americans of their unhappy role as the ‘only’ foreign invader.”

LOCSIN (continuing): American operations in Vietnam are increasingly involved in contradictions and the Americans are searching for a way to get out of that mess without losing their status as a great power.

MEDALLA: Do you mean to tell the committees that there is a plan of the United States to withdraw their help from Vietnam?

LOCSIN: It is one thing to say that the United States wants to withdraw, another to say that it has a plan of withdrawal. Let me quote John Emmett Hughes, a columnist of Newsweek and speech writer of Eisenhower when the general ran for president, and a former member of the editorial staff of Life. According to Hughes, there is the official American line on the Vietnam war and there is the private opinion in Washington which would settle for a Communist Vietnam provided it would take an independent attitude toward Red China. Well, the American could have had this 10 or more years ago—a Titoist Vietnam. And they could have spared the Vietnamese people all that suffering if they had settled then for an independent Communist Vietnam. (They did not, hence, this continuing war and the continuing agony of the Vietnamese people.) What I am trying to say is that Americans, like other people, make mistakes. Let us examine everything they propose and adopt what we believe to be correct and reject what we think is mistaken.

Let us take a look at the charge of aggression against Red China. It is said that China invaded India when Chinese troops crossed the McMahon—if that is the name—line. Well, the Chinese justification is that the boundary was drawn by a former imperialist power. Great Britain, and was never accepted by China, whether Nationalist or Communist. The non-violent Indians themselves were not above using violence when they invaded the Portuguese enclave of Goa—in the Indian national interest. The United States itself invaded Cuba, using Cuban exiles as troops. The U.S. government acted on the basis of CIA information, which turned out to be wrong. The Cuban exiles, instead of being welcomed by the Cubans with open arms as expected, were repelled. Kennedy exclaimed, “How could I have been so stupid as to have relied on experts!” or words to that effect. He wept. Do not believe all that CIA agents in Manila tell you. The CIA has been wrong before. They were wrong only recently about the situation in Santo Domingo. (Because of wrong information, the U.S. government found itself in a hell of an embarrassing position in that country.) Some say that the late Adlai Stevenson died of a broken heart—because of U.S. foreign policy which he had to defend before the United Nations. (While he said something, his government would be doing the opposite, making him look and feel like an ass.) Let us not break our hearts, too. If we must make mistakes, let them be our own.

However, if we do not want an independent Philippines, if the challenge of independence is too confusing for a people like us, if we are not good enough for independence, let us apply for American statehood. Then, when America goes to war, we go to war with it—as Americans. (As second-class Americans, of course, but as Americans, anyway.) Then we can send our millions of unemployed to California where they will share in the benefits of Medicare, the war against poverty, unemployment insurance….

PELAEZ: Like the Puerto Ricans in New York.

LOCSIN: Yeah, like the Puerto Ricans in New York. Over the dead body of American organized labor let us send our unemployed to America. Assuming that the Americans are willing to further “pollute” their bloodstream with brown Filipino blood, let us become Americans. Let us die as first-class Filipinos, which we are not, anyway, not yet—let us die as theoretically first-class Filipinos and be reborn second-class Americans. Then we could join the Negroes in their civil rights struggle and we should “overcome”—in, say, a hundred years. (Laughter from a Negro in the audience.)

If not, let us think.

PELAEZ: You said in the beginning that Thailand, a member of SEATO, was not doing anything in Vietnam. Why, you argued, should the Philippines? But it is disclosed in Snow’s article that Thailand has proofs that there are Communist guerrillas in her northeastern region and that Thailand is allowing its airfields to be used by American planes attacking Vietnam. May I add that Thailand has been fighting in Laos since 1962. It has been fighting the Pathet Lao since 1962 in coordination with the Americans. Now I would like to bring that out because of the argument why are we going to Vietnam when Thailand is doing nothing there when in truth and in fact Thailand is very much involved in the war.

(Is it surprising, then, that the Communists are trying to subvert the Thai government? Who can say that Thailand is not giving provocation? Are their bases not being used to attack the Communists?—LOCSIN.)

PELAEZ (continuing): You are right when you say that fear is one of the considerations in passing the Vietnam war bill but I would not say that it is a case of fear to be concerned about the future security of our country. The dilemma is this: You say that the situation in Vietnam is hopeless, that whatever the Americans may do there will not make any difference, the other forces will triumph. We also know of the assault on Thailand. As Snow reveals, there are already Communist guerrillas in Thailand. In other words, the frontier of the Philippines is not now just the Philippines but Thailand, a member of SEATO. If Vietnam falls, the impact will be such, as the Department of National Defense people said here, there will be a resurgence of the Huk movement here and of communism in other Southeast Asian countries. On the other hand, we are told that by sending this engineering battalion we might help in a small way in trying to build up the morale of South Vietnam to resist aggression. And while you say that we cannot do anything, I am thinking of the saying that “for want of a nail, a shoe was lost, and for want of a shoe….” No matter how little our participation may be, it might lead to a chain reaction of morale building or somehow strengthen the resistance of the South Vietnamese to aggression.

LOCSIN: Speaking of nails, there are nails that save and there are coffin nails.

PELAEZ: There are.

LOCSIN: Let the nails not be used to close our coffin.

PELAEZ: What should we do in the face of this impending, let us say, triumph of Communist ideology here and China’s domination of Southeast Asia?

LOCSIN: That is a very difficult question to answer and we must answer as carefully as possible. Let us think, every step we take. First of all, China is there. Just as the United States cannot tolerate a Cuba that is hostile to it, no matter how small Cuba is, and we believe that America, or Americans would have us believe that what the United States did to Cuba was justified—well, put yourselves in China’s place. If there were Chinese Communist troops in Mexico, what would the United States do? Now, put yourselves in China’s place….

PELAEZ: Following that line, the presence of American bases in the Philippines is a provocation to China.

LOCSIN: It is a calculated risk as far as we are concerned, good only if there is no nuclear war, fatal if nuclear war comes.

PELAEZ: Would you then recommend that our policy be reexamined toward removing American bases here?

LOCSIN: I would recommend that we reexamine the conduct of those bases since everything done involving the bases affects us. As potential casualties we should be allowed to put in our two-cents’ worth. We must not let those bases be operated by the Americans unilaterally, as they please, without consulting us, because we might get hit.

PELAEZ: You would go so far as to advocate the removal of those bases?

LOCSIN: Not this year, not next year, but who knows—in 10 years. Only fools do not change their minds, they say.

PELAEZ: You are quoting that now.

LOCSIN: That is right, because conditions may change in 10 years.

PELAEZ: The terms of the lease have been shortened to 25 years.

AGBAYANI: I would like to raise one point….

PELAEZ: You said the United States is fighting on the mainland of Asia because it is defending itself, that the farther away the fight is, the better for it. The proponents of the troops-to-Vietnam bill are using precisely the same argument, that the farther away the fight is, the better. Why wait until the fight is on our shore?

LOCSIN: American thinks it can effectively stop the Viet Cong there. I happen to think the opposite. Certainly, our participation will not help significantly stop the Viet Cong. Of course, if America is fighting to lose, that’s another matter. It would be crazy, however.

PELAEZ: The United States is fighting to win.

LOCSIN: It believes it is fighting to win. Therefore, it has reason for fighting there—from the military point of view. But we know that our 2,000 troops would be lost among half a million South Vietnamese troops and, eventually, half a million American troops, so what would we be doing there? The expedition would cost P35 million this year and we need every centavo we have to make our democracy work here. Let us make no enemies where we can make no friends, to quote Recto. There is no doubt that Red China is there and that we, unfortunately, are here, in the position of Cuba with respect to the United States. Let us buttress our independence here. The Cubans are not sending an expeditionary force to Florida to fight an anti-American war there; they are fighting their anti-American war, their war of independence, in Cuba itself. Let us fight our anti-Communist war here. But you know very well why we are sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. Is it not for a stabilization fund?

PELAEZ: I think I speak for the members of these committees when I tell you that we don’t have any definite information as to that. Do you have any? Because we don’t.

LOCSIN: First of all, what is the secret reason that the President will not tell the people for sending us to war?

PELAEZ: The way the problem has been presented to us by the defense department, we are not going to be involved in any combat operations. The Philippine contingent will not be employed in combat or combat support activities. It will undertake engineering construction, rehabilitation and development activities, render assistance to government and civic enterprises engaged in public health, community work and other related socio-economic activities, undertake interior security and defense of installations, facilities and construction sites. The defense people have agreed to a proposal by committee members that if we should report out this bill, it would carry an express provision that these engineers and their security support would not be involved in combat operations. The question is whether such a Philippine contingent would constitute a provocation or an act of war and be against our national interest or whether it would enhance our national interest as the defense people and the administration tell us.

LOCSIN: Let us, therefore, ask ourselves the question and not beg it. Why are we sending those troops there and what good would they do and what harm? Why? What for?

PELAEZ: We have been trying to find the answer to that question and yesterday there was a hint of why. We were told that seven engineer battalions would be constituted here and properly equipped. Congress was asked to appropriate money. It was assumed that the United States would give the equipment and that all those seven engineer battalions, plus the three engineer battalions in existence, or a total of 10, would be sent to the rural areas to do rural development work.

LOCSIN: In the Philippines?

PELAEZ: In the Philippines.

LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war for American economic aid here.

PELAEZ: I don’t know. I say it may be a hint.

LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to war for American money. All right, let us not fool the people. We are so poor that—what do they say? Beggars can’t be choosers. We are poor, so w send our soldiers to war for American economic aid. If that is it, that may be a practical proposition.

PELAEZ: That is why we are holding these hearings. We want the people to know that we are trying to reveal to them as much information as possible consistent with reasons of security.

LOCSIN: What will happen to us once our troops are there? The American congress appropriates a hundred million dollars or more for a Philippine stabilization fund—and everybody will know why we went to war: We were bought! And if the American congress does not appropriate any money, then we will be suckers! (Laughter.)

PELAEZ: If you will recall, in 1961, under the Nacionalista administration, the United States under Kennedy decided to withdraw military support from Laos and agree to the coalition government in which the Pathet Lao would be represented. Then President Garcia and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Serrano protested and said that there was evidence, expert testimony, that Laos could be held, and that if the United States allowed a coalition government to take the place of American support, infiltration and subversion in Vietnam would increase because Laos would be mostly under the control of the Pathet Lao. And the administration under Macapagal under which I was foreign secretary took the same line and we warned the United States that the setting up of this neutralist coalition government in Laos would make our situation in Vietnam more difficult. And it seems that we have been borne out by the facts. And so we are being told by the Americans: “You told us before to commit ourselves more firmly in Laos while we were being criticized that we were not committed enough in Vietnam, now that we are committed to stay in Vietnam and we ask a little help from you, you say, ‘Well, you do the fighting and you do all the job and we will not help you in any way.’”

LOCSIN: I never criticized America for not committing itself more in Vietnam. In fact, some years ago, I had a conversation with an American and he asked me what I thought the United States should do in Vietnam. I replied: “Go home. More precisely, go home or tell Diem (or whoever was in power then) to win over the people by immediate social reforms or you Americans would walk out. You would have a perfectly good reason for walking out. You would not lose any face.” If the war was to be converted into a popular war against the Communist, give the people something to fight for instead of putting all oppositionists as Diem did in concentration camps. Well, that was not done. And America, instead of walking out of the war, got in deeper and deeper in support of more and more unpopular regimes. Now they are sorry for acquiescing in the assassination of Diem. For the present setup is worse, we are told, than the one eliminated.

PELAEZ: Precisely, we are told that since the Honolulu Declaration this other aspect of the fight against communism has been emphasized, that is, to win the hearts of the people. And we are being asked, according to the proponent of the Vietnam measure to participate in this.

LOCSIN: In winning the hearts of the people?

PELAEZ: In winning the hearts of the people by helping the Vietnamese government undertake these tasks which would strengthen their morale and give them reason to trust the government, to have some concern for the present government, plus the promise of future democratization. Too late, perhaps, but at least we are being told now that there are two phases to this war. The Americans will take care of the military aspect and we are being asked to help the government of South Vietnam win the hearts of the people.

LOCSIN: It is certainly late in the game trying after all these years to win the hearts of the people. And this promise of the military government that it would be more democratic—it is like a cigarette addict that swears off smoking, I would not rely on it. The first thing the military government should do to show some sign that it means what it says is to institute land reform on a massive scale. That is what John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby preached all over South America. Be with the democratic revolutionary forces. Suppose we build 10 hospitals in Vietnam—will that influence the outcome of the war in any way? But institute land reform, implement it as we are not implementing our land reform. (Instead, we are subsidizing rice production under tenancy.) Implement land reform in Vietnam and the government will begin to win the hearts of the people with no help from Filipino troops. They won’t need us. They only need reform and only they can reform themselves. Nobody can reform you except yourself—short of beating you on the head or shooting you. Then there would be no need of reform.

Let the South Vietnamese military government institute democratic reform to win the hearts of the people and we shall know they are really serious about winning the war and we can begin to feel there is hope there. But don’t let us be sucked in. If we send troops this year, we cannot withdraw them next year, they will be there until the war is over. We will look like a bunch of cowards if we quit and they will say that the Filipinos want money from the Americans and the Americans are not coming across, that is why the mercenary Filipinos are leaving.

If we go to the Vietnam war, we shall be stuck in that war; if the war lasts for 10 years, we shall be stuck in the war for 10 years. We should make up our minds if we send troops to that war that they are going to be in the war for 10 years if not more and we must be prepared to pay the cost of a 10-year war—or let us send no troops at all. We have no draft here because there are enough jobless enlisting voluntarily in the armed forces, but what if the war goes on and on? I hope my sons and yours will not be drafted for the Philippine war in Vietnam 10 years from now. In America they are saying that six-year-old American boys will wind up in the jungles of Vietnam if there is no negotiated peace. You want our country to go to the war in Vietnam? Then, may God help you and me. Thank you, gentlemen.

PELAEZ: You have been testifying for over an hour. We do not want to impose upon you but would you care to continue this dialogue this afternoon?

LOCSIN: If you wish. But I am utterly exhausted and my blood pressure has gone up lately and I may well die before the Vietnam war is over.

PELAEZ: Could you possibly come over at 3 in the afternoon? Would it be too much of an imposition?

LOCSIN: Your wish, gentlemen, is my command.

PELAEZ: It is not a command at all.

LOCSIN: I shall be here.

Conclusion

PELAEZ: Gentlemen, the session is resumed. Before the questions, would Mr. Locsin care to make a further statement?

LOCSIN: Yes…. Once we have committed troops to the Vietnam war and they are fired at and fire back, once we are not only in but also at war, if I were to speak out and criticize the government’s position, I could very well be accused of treason. I could be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Once we are at war, civil liberties may well be suspended. We should all shut up, lest we be accused of demoralizing our forces.

When we go to the Vietnam war, let me repeat, we will be committing the Philippines to stay in the war until it ends. We cannot recall our forces until the war is over. And we shall commit more and more troops as the war goes on. The Americans began with a few civilian advisers, then sent special forces with orders not to fire back when fired upon, and now there are 200,000 American troops in the war and their number may be increased to half a million. How many troops will we wind up sending to the Vietnam war once we are in it?

And now, I shall be glad to answer your questions—while I may still speak freely without being accused of treason.

PELAEZ: Thank you, Mr. Locsin. I want to say that if anyone else of treason or try to curtail the liberty of any citizen on the technical ground that we are at war, I will be the first to offer my services to defend you—as I had in the past. But I don’t think we will arrive at that extreme. But if we do, you can be sure that all the members of these committees will be at your side.

LOCSIN: And yet, Mr. Congressman, it will be recalled that President Marcos when only a candidate for president accused then President Macapagal of trying to create a situation by sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war to declare a state of emergency here and curtail all civil liberties. (The sending of Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would give Macapagal an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime, Marcos argued then. Won’t the sending of Filipino troops now give Marcos an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime?)

But I should not be the one here testifying against sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. The best witness should be Marcos himself. Now, you will say that he was a candidate when he declared himself against the proposition and everybody knows how candidates are, that’s politics, but once elected president, a man must consider all the angles in meeting the awesome responsibilities of the office. All right, let us just consider the words of Candidate Marcos by themselves, whether they are true or not, regardless of who said them.

“History shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institution.”

If this was true in 195, is it no longer true in 1966?

“The sending of combat troops will commit our country to war without regard for the provision of our Constitution for a declaration of war, and in the face of the express mandate in which we renounce war as an instrument of national policy.”

Was this true in 1965 but is no longer true in 1966?

“The worst part of it is that our troops can hardly do anything to influence the tide of war.”

True in 1965 but no longer true in 1966?

“What South Vietnam needs is the will to fight, which cannot be exported.”

Was this true in 1965 but no longer true in 1966? How explain the desertion of one hundred thousand soldiers from the South Vietnamese army?

“It (Philippine-American friendship) will be served today and in the future by Filipino leaders who act with becoming dignity and maturity as well as true good will toward America, rather than those who miss no chance to yelp their loyalty and manifest a canine devotion which only results in embarrassing American no less than the Philippines before the whole world.”

What was “canine devotion” or the act of a dog in 1965 is now the act of free men in 1966?

Let us forget that Candidate Marcos said these words. Let us just consider the words by themselves. Are they not still true? Are we not stuck with them as Filipinos—if we would act as men and not as dogs?

Now, your questions, please.

PELAEZ: The gentleman from Pangasinan, Congressman Reyes.

REYES: Mr. Locsin, you read to us excerpts from a speech of then Candidate Marcos. I am not defending him, I am speaking objectively, but is it not possible that Candidate Marcos did not have all the facts then at his command while now, as president, he has, hence, his change of position, an understandable one?

LOCSIN: It is possible he has now new facts at his command, in which case we, the people, are entitled to be told those new facts, on the basis of which he would send the Philippines to war. As a matter of fact, his statements referred not to immediate facts but to history, which has not changed. At any rate, if there are new facts which would justify his change of position, let us have them.

REYES: But can we not say that history is capable of various interpretations? May one not change one’s interpretation?

LOCSIN: In which case, he should cite facts and figures to support his new interpretation of history.

Just in case you think that I am opposing the bill to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war because I do not like President Marcos, I would like to make it a matter of record that last year then President Macapagal invited the Free Press staff members to dinner in Malacañang and kept them there until midnight in the vain attempt to convince me to change my position on the proposition. Among those who argued in favor of it were then Defense Secretary Peralta, Senator Rodrigo, an intelligence officer, a Colonel Hernandez, if I recall correctly, and, of course, the President himself. Letters sent from Washington by Ambassador Ledesma were read to make me change our minds. Finally, I said, “All right, Mr. President, have a brief prepared for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war and the Free Press will publish it in full—and I will answer it. Is that a fair deal?” “Yes,” Mr. Macapagal said. And the chief of staff, General Santos, was commissioned to do the brief and we published it and I answered it. So, you see, there is nothing personal in my opposition to the bill. My position has not changed. Only presidents have changed. (Laughter.)

PELAEZ: That may be the most important fact that caused the change of heart of the President.

LOCSIN: What’s that?

PELAEZ: The fact that he is president now and he believes there will be no deterioration of the local situation because under his leadership he can hold this country together.

LOCSIN: I hope he is right.

REYES: Mr. Locsin, I was not present this morning but I take it that you are against sending troops to Vietnam.

LOCSIN: That is right.

REYES: Do you agree with me that the war in Vietnam is an ideological one?

LOCSIN: It is “a war of national liberation” by communist-led rebels. If you call it an ideological war, all right. It is a civil war. The fact that there are intervening foreign troops does not make it less of  civil war. (Are the North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam foreign troops? Are they not Vietnamese, too? But the American troops, Australian troops, New Zealand troops, South Korean troops—these are certainly foreign troops.) There were American, Russian, Italian and German troops in the Spanish civil war but that did not make it not a civil war. When the two principal belligerents are one people, the war is a civil war.

REYES: That is true. But, perhaps, the cause for which the Spanish civil war was fought was not as pronounced as it is today?

LOCSIN: What are we supposed to fight for in Vietnam? Democracy?

REYES: Among other things.

LOCSIN: Yet, according to former U.S. President Eisenhower, America could not affords self-determination, that is, democracy, in Vietnam, under the Geneva Agreements, because the Viet Cong would win. Why don’t you read Senator Salonga on the Vietnam war dilemma?

REYES: That is right, we are agreed on that. We are agreed that there is a civil war there, but over and above the civil war, don’t you agree with me that the fight there is one between two ideological forces—communism and democracy?

LOCSIN: Granting that, what then?

REYES: During the Crusades, almost every nation contributed to the cause it believed in. Don’t you think that now a nation should contribute its bit to the cause it believes in?

LOCSIN: In other words, should we send troops to Vietnam? I say we can’t afford to, and let us have democracy at home.

REYES: When we fought the Huks, was that not an ideological war?

LOCSIN: All right.

REYES: In the ideological war here against the Huks, the government spent billions of pesos. Should we not help in the war against the Communists over there? It is merely an extension of the war we fought here.

LOCSIN: No.

REYES: Why do you say that?

LOCSIN: Because if we are going to fight the Communists wherever they take to arms, we will be fighting them all over the world.

REYES: Did not foreign Communists give aid and arms to the Huks?

LOCSIN: The Huks got their arms by capturing them from the government troops, not from foreign sources. During the war, the Huks got American arms, of course, that were not taken by the Japanese.

REYES: I think the rural areas would know more about that.

LOCSIN: No Chinese arms have been discovered, nor Russian arms.

REYES: They have been discovered, according to Camp Crame, that is, the army authorities.

LOCSIN: I have not heard of it.

REYES: There were newspaper reports to the effect that landings were made during the fight against the Huks. Submarine landings were made to deliver foreign aid to the Huks—don’t you agree with me?

LOCSIN: All I can say is, “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” (Laughter.)

REYES: I know, but in some papers….

LOCSIN: …including the Free Press. (More laughter.)

REYES: If we fought against communism here, don’t you think we should fight against communism abroad rather than here where our families would suffer?

LOCSIN: Unfortunately, the war in Vietnam is not a war between democracy and communism but between feudalism and communism. The South Vietnamese authorities have never heard of democracy. They would shoot you if you put democracy in practice there. They had one election under Diem and one opposition leader got elected and they put him in prison.

REYES: Don’t you think we should help in informing them about democratic government because they know so little about it, then?

LOCSIN: Let us send them books on democracy (Laughter.)

REYES: Among other things. I may agree with you there.

LOCSIN: But you cannot help those who won’t help themselves. They have kept their country at war for how many years now because of their stupid refusal to reform, to give the people the beginning of democracy. And now, I think, it is too late. I may be wrong.

REYES: I may be wrong, too. That is why we are here to gather information the best way we can.

PENDATUN: I told Mr. Locsin this morning that I did not intend to ask him any question because it was very difficult for me to separate Citizen Locsin from Editor Locsin—to me he is Mr. Free Press Locsin—and I thought that newspapermen always have the last say. I did not want to place myself in a position where I would not be able to have the last say.

LOCSIN: If you like, we can keep your questions anonymous. I can just refer to you as “A Congressman.”

PENDATUN: But I don’t want him to have the impression that I do not respect the views he expressed here. Now, I would like to ask questions on the stand of Mr. Marcos during the election and his stand after he became president. When Mr. Marcos was a candidate and he opposed Mr. Macapagal’s proposal to send troops to Vietnam, Mr. Locsin agreed with Mr. Marcos.

LOCSIN: He led the opposition and I was one of the oppositionists.

PENDATUN: In other words, Mr. Marcos agreed with Mr. Locsin. (Laughter.) But after the election, Mr. Marcos found himself in the shoes of Mr. Macapagal and he found out the soundness, the urgency, the necessity to send this engineering battalion in answer to a request from a friendly country, a protocol state under SEATO. When he became president, Mr. Marcos realized that the position of Mr. Macapagal was the correct position for a president of the Philippines. Cannot Mr. Locsin appreciate the frankness of Mr. Marcos when he said on television that he would subordinate his personal prestige to the cause of national security….

LOCSIN: As I said, a man is entitled to change his mind, but he should explain why he changed his mind.

PENDTUN: And the explanation Mr. Marcos made on TV was not sufficient?

LOCSIN: I refer you to an editorial of the Free Press this week in which a citizen takes that television speech of Mr. Marcos and tears it to pieces sentence by sentence. If you still believe that the explanation of Mr. Marcos is satisfactory, if it is satisfactory to you, I hope it is also satisfactory to Mr. Marcos himself, and there is nothing more I can say.

PENDATUN: Frankly speaking, if I have to base my belief that Mr. Marcos is justified in changing his stand on that TV statement, that statement is really not sufficient to justify his stand. But unfortunately there are other important factors for changing his stand. And probably for reasons of his own he cannot reveal them now. But I would like to grant that history would prove Mr. Marcos right.

LOCSIN: I hope history will prove Mr. Marcos right because I have to live here. As for his secret reasons for sending us to war, I think the people are entitled to know what they are. Whether they are creditable reasons or not, that remains to be seen, but I think there is only one new reason and that reason is money. I hope I am wrong.

PENDATUN: I do not agree that sending an engineering battalion to Vietnam is sending the country to war. We are merely going to help a beleaguered country which is a protocol state under SEATO and it is our moral and legal obligation to do so.

LOCSIN: Do you believe there is a war going on there?

PENDATUN: Yes.

LOCSIN: Are you going there?

PENDATUN: Yes.

LOCSIN: Then are we not going to war.

PENDATUN: No.

LOCSIN: It is a war on an international scale, according to President Marcos.

PENDATUN: With due respect to President Marcos, I disagree with him when he says that because it is wrong.

LOCSIN: You know what modern war is. It is not just shooting at each other. Modern war is propaganda war. Modern war is building roads and blowing up roads and rebuilding the roads. Modern war is putting up hospitals for the wounded. Modern war is bombing cities and killing civilians and children. Modern war is total war and civil war is more total than most wars. That is what war is. And if we are going to war, let us not say that we are not going to war. Let us not go to war and pretend we are not going to war because we will kid nobody. If we believe we must fight (President Marcos was afterward to declare on board an American aircraft carrier: “WE WILL FIGHT” after saying that the mission of the engineering battalion with combat security he would send to the Vietnam war was non-combat), let us be candid, let Congress face the problem squarely and vote as required by the Constitution. I bet you can get the two-thirds vote required in the House anyway.

PENDATUN: Well, while we are constructing roads and buildings there and our people are attacked, it is our duty to fight.

LOCSIN: So, we are going to war, then. All right. But let us go to war with our eyes open—if we must go to war.

PENDATUN: How can you say we are going to war?

LOCSIN: Are we not sending troops to the Vietnam war?

PENDATUN: How can we be said to be going to war when we cannot declare war against anyone because we don’t know against whom to declare war?

LOCSIN: We can declare war against China, Hanoi and the National Liberation Front.

PENDATUN: China and Hanoi have found it very convenient to commit infiltration, subversion, aggression without declaring war.

LOCSIN: All right, let us declare war or let us not, but let us know what we are getting into, and what we are getting into is war. We are sending men in uniform, with guns. That is a show of force. Even if our men were merely draining swamps or building roads and schoolhouses, they would be relieving South Vietnamese who could then be sent to the front to fight. So, we would be in the war. We would be part of the war against the Viet Cong.

PENDATUN: The Communists have not declared war yet they are committing aggression against the democracies, and we would be helpless if we did nothing unless we declared war. We cannot declare war because that would be aggression.

LOCSIN: All right. Let us not declare war but let us know we are going to war. Is that all right?

TEVES: Mr. Locsin, I must admit that even if I had been in favor of this bill since last year, your argument this morning was quite telling and I am now in doubt as to the position I should take. But certain things disturb me. Among them is the fact that the United States and South Vietnam are asking our help in the form of a battalion of combat engineers. We are faced with a dilemma. If we don’t send, we might be accused of not being sympathetic to their cause, to the cause of democracy, while back in the United States there is a hue and cry for the American forces to pull out of Vietnam, and our action may give Americans further incentive to pull out. And should this happen, should the U.S. forces in South Vietnam pull out and should the 7th Fleet pull out, don’t you think we will be very vulnerable to the Communists, to communist ideology and communist aggression without the U.S. 7th Fleet helping us block communist movements?

LOCSIN: It is precisely the position of such men as Walter Lippmann that the United States should make a stand where they would not be involved in a land war on the mainland of Asia—a war against which such American generals as Eisenhower and MacArthur warned. The United States should make a stand where their naval and air superiority is unquestioned—in Japan, Formosa, the Philippines, Australia. If they lose Vietnam, they will hold on to the Philippines even more, in the same way that if they lose the Philippines, they will hold on even more to Hawaii. They will not think, in either case, of retreating into solitary Fortress American—that would be militarily stupid.

TEVES: Precisely, by our refusal to help the United States in the mess it got itself into, the United States may feel that if we do not join them in their hour of need they should not join us in our hour of need.

LOCSIN: The point I am trying to make is that, as many American political writers believe, the American war in Vietnam is the wrong war, it is the wrong place to fight….

TEVES: But even granting it is the wrong war….

LOCSIN: You mean, let us show them we love them so much that even if they are making fools of themselves in Vietnam, we shall make fools of ourselves there, too? That may be a point to be considered.

TEVES: It is a fact that they are committed….

LOCSIN: And we can tell the American people that against our better judgment we will join them in the war in Vietnam, we will be there with them through thick and thin, and we hope they won’t make us wait for 20 years to collect war damage if we are ever hit again.

MITRA: May I interrupt the gentleman on that point? I think there is an American writer who said that the situation of America in the Vietnam war is like a person who went into the water to fight the sharks. Mr. Locsin, I think, raises the question whether, if America wants to make a fool of itself by jumping into the water to fight the sharks, we should jump into the water and join the Americans in fighting the sharks.

LOCSIN: Maybe, to show them that we love them more than they have ever been loved by anyone before.

TEVES: It is not a question of love, it is a question of self-preservation.

LOCSIN: There is no question of self-preservation here because America will stay in the Philippines if it suits its interests and not because of anything we do. America has been nicer to its former enemies than to the Philippines. If we had bombed America, if we had bombed Pearl Harbor, we would have gotten more economic aid than we did, and with no strings attached.

TEVES: I have made mention of that, Mr. Locsin.

LOCSIN: That is the whole point. Why is America in Japan? Because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that is why America is in Japan. (Laughing) America is maintaining bases in Japan and will defend Japan against attack by Red China—why? Because the Japanese showed that they were with the Americans in their hour of need? No!  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and killed Americans and treated their American prisoners of war like animals. And that is how the Japanese gained the respect of America. Not with “canine devotion” but with a show of realistic appreciation of what are their interests.

TEVES: You say this is a fight among giants and we are such small fry we should not get involved in it because we have nothing to do with this fight between communism and democracy in South Vietnam. Do you want us just to fold our hands and let South Vietnam fall and if communism wins it is immaterial?

LOCSIN: History will take its course in Vietnam regardless of any intervention by us. What will happen there will happen there and there is nothing 2,000 Filipino troops, among half a million South Vietnamese government troops and eventually half a million American troops, can do to influence the course of events. Let us instead set our house in order for the day of reckoning, the moment of truth. Let us make our democracy work so that if there should ever be a confrontation with the Communists, we shall know what we are confronting them for. You cannot tell the people just to be against something. Let us do positive things for democracy here, and that would require our full attention. Once we are at war in Vietnam or in that war in a really significant fashion—if we would be in the war in an insignificant fashion, that would be stupid; why be in the war at all?—it will consume more and more of our national energy. Going to war is the last resort of bankrupt nations, you know. That is why Mussolini sent Italy to war in Ethiopia, because the Italian economy was bankrupt. The Germans took up fascism and war because German democracy did not work.

TEVES: But should South Vietnam fall under communist control, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos will follow. We will be the only democracy left and it will be very hard for us to stand, we will be vulnerable to aggression and subversion and infiltration. We had a taste of these before and we might have them again.

LOCSIN: And do you think that India and Pakistan and Burma and Cambodia are not considering these things, too? And yet they are not sending any troops to the Vietnam war. You know what the British are doing? The British pound depends on American financial support. Without it, the pound would collapse. But all that Johnson is getting from Wilson after twisting Wilson’s arm is words to this effect: “You are doing great. We are with you.” But the British are not sending any troops. The Chinese Nationalists have offered to send troops but the Americans have turned down the offer. The Americans don’t want Chinese Nationalist troops in the Vietnam war. They would create a dangerous situation. It appears that what is bad for the Chinese Nationalists is good for the Filipinos.

TEVES: The reason is the Vietnamese resentment of the Chinese, I understand.

LOCSIN: That is a possible reason. But the real reason, I think, is that the Americans don’t want the Chinese Nationalists to provoke Red China. Instead, let the Filipinos do the provoking—that’s the American policy. What are we? Children? Why does not Japan send troops to the Vietnam war? Japan sends only doctors. Japan can manufacture the atomic bomb, an absolute deterrent to communist invasion because any naval fleet the Chinese Communists might assemble against Japan would evaporate in an instant. Why has Japan (which could be so secure against Chinese Communist invasion) refused to send troops to Vietnam? But we—we will be so brave, we will send soldiers! We will be more militaristic than the Japanese. We, with our resources!

And think, if we provoke the Chinese Communists sufficiently, they will have the H-bomb in a few years, we are told, and they will not have to fire it at us from the mainland, they can load it in a torpedo and shoot it into Manila Bay. How would you like that? Those of us who don’t die from the blast will die from the fall-out….

AGBAYANI: Mr. Chairman, with your permission. First of all, I would like to establish some areas of agreement with Mr. Locsin and clarify some points. Would you agree with me when I say that that the issue here is not one of neutralism and that the opponents of the bill are not neutralists?

LOCSIN: Some may be neutralists but others are not. Neutralism is not an issue in the sense that some nations are allied wit the United States, yet they do not join the United States in all its wars. The British are allied with the United States, so are the Japanese, and France has an alliance with the United States, and so has Pakistan, and none of them has sent troops to join the Americans in Vietnam. India is neutralist.

AGBAYANI: I agree with you. Precisely, Great Britain, a signatory of the SEATO pact, has sent six advisory men and one professor in English in Quay University.

LOCSIN: I think we can send two professors and outdo the British. (Laughter.)

AGBAYANI: Are we all agreed that North Vietnam is communist-oriented?

LOCSIN: Its government is communist.

AGBAYANI: And the Viet Cong are communist led?

LOCSIN: Communist-led.

AGBAYANI: And that is why even the opponents of the bill sending troops to the Vietnam war who are not neutralists are in favor of giving aid in one form or another to Vietnam?

LOCSIN: I suppose you might say that.

AGBAYANI: Would you agree that under the SEATO pact we have a flexible commitment and sending medical aid would be a compliance with the commitment and we are not legally obligated to send troops or an engineering battalion?

LOCSIN: I believe we are free to do what we believe is wise. With or without the SEATO pact, we can send troops, if we want to, not only to Vietnam but to Africa. But we are not bound, under the SEATO pact, to send troops to Vietnam.

AGBAYANI: Would you not say that under the SEATO pact while we are not required to send troops or an engineering battalion, we are committed to increase our assistance to South Vietnam within our capabilities and consistent with our commitment elsewhere?

LOCSIN: I am not an expert on the pact but don’t you think the whole thing begs the question? We can say we are broke and whatever aid we are sending is consistent with our bankruptcy. We can say we cannot afford to send troops with an appropriation of P35 million this year. (The Philippines can increase its medical aid to South Vietnam, a Free Press editorial afterward observed, and fulfill its alleged commitment to increase aid.) There are commitments and commitments.

AGBAYANI: I have been saying all the time that we must know exactly what “commitment” means, especially what the U.S. commitment to us means. Is it your proposition that actually the United States, in signing the SEATO pact with us as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty, has a wide discretion in the kind of action it will take to help us?

LOCSIN: Whatever the United States does will be dictated by the military situation. The United States fought in Bataan and lost and took three years to return. Had it failed to come back, it could always have said, “Well, we did our best.” Suppose American cities are bombed in a future war—the United States would not have to send aid here and it would have a perfectly good reason for not doing so.

AGBAYANI: To say that an armed attack against the territory of one will be recognized as a threat to the safety and security of the other is to say actually what? I asked Undersecretary of Justice Teehankee whether he agreed with me that should he be attacked and I should consider the attack a threat to my safety and security, I should be justified in running away. Our people should not go into anything with their eyes closed.

LOCSIN: I would like to know if America has requested us to send troops to the Vietnam war.

PELAEZ: As far as the request is concerned, the request came from South Vietnam.

LOCSIN: So, there has been no American request?

PELAEZ: As far as we know, there has been no official evidence submitted to us that this has been requested by the United States.

AGBAYANI: I want to go into the issue of constitutionality. It is argued by the proponents of the bill to send troops to Vietnam that while it is true that the Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy, sending the engineering battalion would be a defensive war measure. What do you think?

LOCSIN: I suppose they can argue like that. The question is, “Is that a wise act of defense?” If the measure is unconstitutional, we should be against it, of course….

AGBAYANI: They can always argue that our Constitution is a dynamic one and may adjust its meaning to changing circumstances or situations. So, the question is, indeed, whether the measure is a wise act of defense or not.

LOCSIN: If the act is an act of war, whether wise or not, it would require a two-thirds vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate—of all the members.

AGBAYANI: We agree that the United States is our friend, but even as a friend it cannot love the Filipinos more than it loves itself and the best friends of the Filipinos are the Filipinos themselves.

LOCSIN: I would certainly agree with you on that.

AGBAYANI: According to the proponents of this measure, being friends of ourselves we must go to the defense of our country by fighting in South Vietnam.

LOCSIN: I would say that we can help our friend America not by encouraging it in a questionable if not downright foolish venture but precisely by setting our house in order and thus provide its bases here with greater security. I had a conversation with an official of the U.S. State Department some time ago and we talked about Philippine economic development. I said that if our economy were improved, there would be no anti-American threat here. As our economic problems multiply—we are producing so many babies and not enough goods—there will be a great outcry from the have-nots. Eventually, they will blame the Americans and create insecurity for American bases. “If you help us develop the Philippine economy for the Filipinos, you will be helping yourselves,” I said, “for your bases will be secure.” The United States will not need to fight, as it must in Vietnam, in defense of its bases in the Philippines.

At any rate, we have given the United States sites for its bases, rent-free. We have given it parity, free trade—until we went broke when all the dollars were gone, spent on American goods. What more do we have to give the United States?

AGBAYANI: Our friend the United States gives us aid but, as you have said, with many strings attached. As a matter of fact, I have sponsored a resolution in the House to investigate the NWSA deal involving about P79 million loaned to the Philippines through NWSA with about P18 million to be paid to American consultants. But, of course, we must not begrudge the Americans that for they love their own people—as they should.

But to go to another point, I say that with American forces in South Vietnam and the more than half a million South Vietnamese government soldiers, there is no danger of South Vietnam’s falling into communist hands.

LOCSIN: It may well be that they will have “permanent pockets” which they can defend militarily. But these pockets will leave the Viet Cong free, as Edgar Snow has pointed out, to roam all over the countryside as they please. Incidentally, part of the price of saving non-existent South Vietnamese democracy is about a million refugees from bombed-out villages. The question may well be raised: Is the liberation of Vietnam worth the price? Suppose we have a civil war here. Then some foreign power comes in, prolonging the war, and we have 20 years of civil war in the name of saving democracy (and we do have some democracy while they have none at all in South Vietnam) and our barrios are set on fire and our children burned alive, how would we like that? But that would occur only if there were insurgency and that is why the big thing is to prevent the possibility of insurgency. Once it starts, we will be in hell. It may last 10 years. And so, let us set our house in order first of all and we shall be safe.

AGBAYANI: If the United States can cope with the military situation in South Vietnam, why send a Filipino engineering battalion there? It may be argued. Do you believe the United States would have to bow down in defeat in South Vietnam eventually?

LOCSIN: If they can cope with the situation there, then there is no need for our troops. If they cannot cope with the situation, then we should not send troops. What can our troops do?

AGBAYANI: But the United States will probably triumph in South Vietnam. According to them, all they want is to preserve South Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. They have no military ambition, they are not going to cross the 17th parallel, they will withdraw afterward.

LOCSIN: What I know is that Eisenhower said in his memoirs that they could not afford a free election in South Vietnam because the Viet Cong would win. When can they afford a free election in South Vietnam in which the Viet Cong will not win?

AGBAYANI: Why are we sending troops to Vietnam? To save democracy when actually the South Vietnam government is not democratic? However, whether South Vietnam is a democracy or not is immaterial from the point of view of our own security. If the South Vietnamese government is with us, that makes it one more bastion of democracy, that is, it serves as a buffer state.

LOCSIN: The point is, the Americans have taken over the war. What are we trying to do? We are trying to help the hopeless?

AGBAYANI: You do not agree that America will most probably win the war?

LOCSIN: I don’t think Americans themselves are prepared to say that. They are hoping for a negotiated peace. If they prolong the war and keep on sending troops, the result will be a massive slaughter-house. That is what happened in Verdun in the First World War. The Germans would send more troops to the front and the French would send more troops while the casualties mounted. You know how many were killed. Rather than send troops to the Vietnam war, we should offer our services to bring about a settlement of the conflict and tell the Americans as some of their own people are telling them that they cannot bring about a settlement if they exclude their main antagonists from the conference table. How can they negotiate with the Viet Cong without talking things over with them?

AGBAYANI: But the negotiation is supposed to be with North Vietnam.

LOCSIN: That is the whole trouble. Why should North Vietnam tell the Viet Cong to stop fighting (The North Vietnamese government can apparently take American bombing of North Vietnam and how can it hit back at the Americans except through the Viet Cong?) As for Red China, it wants the United States to remain in the war. The greater the American concentration on the Vietnam war, the greater the dissipation of American resources.

AGBAYANI: But is it not a fact that the Viet Cong derive a large part of their strength from North Vietnam?

LOCSIN: Not as much as South Vietnam derives its strength from the United States. North Vietnam has not taken over the Viet Cong war effort in South Vietnam but the United States, let us face it, is doing most of the fighting now for South Vietnam. The Americans rely so little on the South Vietnamese that they withhold intelligence from them, resulting in a big foul-up on at least one occasion. The Americans believe that if they tell the South Vietnamese army everything, it will leak to the Viet Cong. As a matter of fact, without the Americans telling the South Vietnamese army everything, vital information leaks to the Viet Cong anyway, I have read.

AGBAYANI: I agree with Mr. Locsin that America will not go to the defense of the Philippines if it is not to the American interest to do so, and it does not matter whether we send troops to Vietnam or not. By the same token, the Chinese Communists will not attack the Philippines unless it is to their interest to do so, and it will make no difference whether we send troops to Vietnam or not.

LOCSIN: I suppose that is so. Since our troops will not determine in any way the outcome of the war in Vietnam, the Chinese Communists will not attack us just because we sent troops. You have a point there.

AGBAYANI: Thank you. Now, do we not agree that the Chinese Communists have a plan to conquer the Philippines, if not through external aggression, certainly through subversion, and we must therefore be on guard against the same within our country?

LOCSIN: To quote Mr. Marcos again, “history shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institutions.”

AGBAYANI: Now there is a move among the committee members to amend the bill so as to limit the activity of the engineering battalion to construction and rehabilitation work and other civic action. It can then be argued that although they are Filipino troops wearing the uniform of our armed forces, they will not be going to war and our action will not be provocative of the Communists. Besides, it makes no difference because if it is in their time-table to conquer the Philippines, they will come in anyway.

LOCSIN: There is no evidence of any time-table for the conquest of the Philippines. But there are distortions of quotations, of statements of Chinese Communist officials by the Western press. I refer you to a book, A Curtain of Ignorance, by Felix Greene.

AGBAYANI: I cannot really say whether there is such a time-table or not but we do have proof that the Communists, whether Chinese or Russian, would try to take over the Philippines by subversion, so whether there is a time-table or not….

LOCSIN: Filipino Communists desire to gain power, of course, and take over the government of the country. So do the Liberals. So did the Nacionalistas last year. Our problem is to prevent communist insurgence here.

AGBAYANI: Going back to the bill to send troops to Vietnam, it is argued that they will not do battle but just participate in construction.

LOCSIN: How can we know what will happen once they are there? I beg you to remember that the commitment will not be for 1966 only. Once we are in the war, we will remain in Vietnam until the war is over. If there are casualties, they will be replaced. We will spend P35 million this year, P50 million next year…. Where will we get the money? From the stabilization fund? From the Americans?

AGBAYANI: Do you have any knowledge of a stabilization fund offer?

LOCSIN: There was talk of it even under Macapagal. Don’t tell me we are going to send our men there at the cost of P35 million this year, at least P350 million in 10 years if the war lasts that long, without expectation of monetary reward. That may be democratic but it is certainly expensive.

AGBAYANI: You mean to say we might as well know what we are getting for the blood of our soldiers?

LOCSIN: We should know what we are getting into and what we are selling our soldiers’ lives for.

AGBAYANI: What about the amendment to insert the word  “voluntary” so as to have only volunteer troops to go to Vietnam?

LOCSIN: Volunteer soldiers or non-volunteer, they will still be Philippine government troops. I don’t see why we have to send an engineering battalion with combat security when South Vietnam needs doctors so badly. Why this insistence on troops? Because the United States wants the Philippines to be in the war, to make its Vietnam war a Filipino war, too. It does not really matter what Filipinos do in Vietnam so long as the Americans can tell the world that the war is not just an American war but an Asian one in which Filipinos are involved. What can we really do there? After so many years, we have not even been able to complete the Nagtahan Bridge and the Guadalupe Bridge…. What the Americans want is our military presence in the Vietnam war, that’s all.

AGBAYANI: For psychological purposes.

LOCSIN: That’s what they will pay us for.

PELAEZ: It is now five o’clock and under our rules we cannot hold committee hearings once the session starts. So we wish to thank you, Mr. Locsin, for the very helpful statements you have made and I am sorry if we have inconvenienced you. But I wish to assure you that everyone in the committees appreciates your active participation in the hearings.

LOCSIN: And I must thank the members of the committees, in spite of my initial reluctance to speak here, for listening to me as they have. If I spoke too passionately, blame it on my temperament but do not hold it against my arguments.

PELAEZ: Thank you very much.

END

 

The Winner! November 20, 1965

November 20, 1965

The Winner!

It’s The Same Old Story – A New Hero’s Rise to Power On the Wave Of The People’s Will,Whose Name Is Fickleness; The Downfall Of Yesterday’s Idol Who Was Blamed For All The Country’s Ills.

By Napoleon G. Rama

It was like 1961 all over again. The play had the same ending. The lonely vigil in the Palace. Laughter and lights in the hideout of the winner. The stunned disbelief. The threats and tension. Controversy over the count. The flight of “migratory birds.” The warm embrace of the few faithful left – warm like the coming of tears.

Turn back the clock of history . . . An era was ending; a new one was about to begin. The rock of Sisyphus had rolled down – and now to begin again at the foot of the hopeless hill.

One passed by the Palace on that night of defeat and noted the stillness and the sadness, the silence drenching the park and the passersby. And the lamps, once lovely and luminous among the trees, announcing with their incandescence the gay rituals in the Palace premises, now burned dully, somberly, casting more shadows than light.

A new hero was hailed; the old one was mocked and derided. Such was the will of the people, whose name is fickleness. It seemed as if politics had been invented to punish the powerful, and the cycle of presidential elections, to confirm the loneliness of the office of the president.

Now, the same old story. . . . glory and defeat in the batting of an eye, in a dot of time – reminder to the vanquished and a warning to the victor that power passes and the contract with the electorate is good only for four years.

Let the winner never forget – no president of the Republic has eve been reelected. There was President Elpidio Quirino, then President Carlos P. Garcia, and now President Diosdado Macapagal. It is doubtful if President Manuel Roxas could have avoided their fate even if he had lived long enough to face the electorate again. Before him, President Sergio Osmeña, the greatest statesman the country has ever produced, was not spared the rebuff reserved for all re-electionist presidents.

Only President Ramon Magsaysay could have survived a reelection bid, but only because he was endowed with that rarest of gifts – political charisma. But he was phenomenon hard to come by. In the last half century only two Philippine politicians possessed this gift – Quezon and Magsaysay. They inspired not merely admiration but also adulation. Worshippers overlooked their idols’ faults, remembered only their virtues.

The political pattern of presidential rise and fall favored President Macapagal in 1961. In 1965 it was President-elect Marcos’ turn to profit from it.

The cards are always stacked against the incumbent.

The reason is not hard to find. No president, no matter how well-meaning and hard-driving, how wise and competent, is capable of solving the problems of the country in four years. So tremendous are the problems, many of them centuries-old, that four years is too short and a human president too limited to cope with them.

It is here that a president comes to grief at the hands of his own people. More than just an occupant of the loftiest post of the land, he is in the eyes of the electorate (thanks to campaign speeches and promises) the Moses who will deliver his people from bondage and want.

Every election season the them dinned into the ears of the electorate is that the presidential aspirant can do what the incumbent president did not accomplish. The companion theme is that for all the evils buffeting the country the President is to blame. Alas for President Macapagal, there were even those who blamed him for the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Thus, in every election campaign the people’s mind is conditioned to fixing responsibility for the unsolved problems of the nation on the incumbent president. They expect the in-coming president to perform miracles. The clamor for change becomes the opposition’s most resonant was cry. Every opposition party since Roxas’ Liberal Party has adopted the battle cry. It has never failed. No theme, the politicos have discovered, more effectively establishes identification with the electorate. For it echoes the popular sentiment. It was the issue that licked President Garcia, the theme that beat President Macapagal.

For all the expert analyses on the factors that swept President-elect Marcos into power, the obvious reason is a simple one, a needy people demanded a change – any change. This demand was stronger than all other factors put together in the last campaign.

Hence, the biggest most powerful vote in the country is not the Ilocano vote, the Cebuano vote, the Iglesia Ni Cristo vote, the NP or LP vote, but the protest vote, the poverty vote. There is no other way of explaining why President Macapagal lost or scored so poorly in almost all undisputed LP bailiwicks.

For as long as the country is afflicted with the ancient problems of food, housing, unemployment, high prices, law and order, so long will the protest vote be the most potent force in a presidential election.. The rising expectations, the unreasoning demand that the president solve all the country’s major problems, the predisposition to blame him for every ill, the predilection of candidates to make wild promises, the general poverty – all help create the protest vote.

Next to the protest vote – from which every opposition party has profited – the most powerful factor behind the Marcos victory was the solid Ilocano vote. It marked off the l965 election from all other presidential elections in the past.

The Ilocano vote was a tremendous political asset for Mr. Marcos, not only because the Ilocanos are clannish and numerous but also because they furnished the President-elect with a tremendous political machine to match or blunt the operations of the powerful administration one. Even more vital to the Marcos victory than the votes in Ilocandia was the national machine assembled and oiled by Ilocano immigrants in all parts of the country. The most footloose group in the country, they are in every nook of the Republic. There is no single big town in the country that doesnot harbor an Ilocano community.

Now it can be told. Mr. Marcos’ secret weapon in the last elections was not the Ilocanos in Ilocandia, but the Ilocanos out of it.

The Ilocanos away from home”, explains Jose Aspiras, Mr.Marcos’s genuine Ilocano spokesman “are more Ilocano than those in Ilocandia.”

What keeps the Ilocanos away from Ilocandia fervent Ilocanos is their minority complex, the instinct of self-preservation and constant nostalgia, said Aspiras. Always a meek minority and keenly aware of the national joke about their thriftiness (“The Scots of the Philippines”), they stay close to one another, make common cause and form a well-knit, solidly-welded community, not so much out of fondness for one another as for purposes ofself-protection.

In Ilocandia where the climate is harsh and the soil niggardly, the Ilocanos have to fight for survival. Hardship and poverty at home,said Aspiras, have made the Ilocanos away from home a self-conscious, hardy, industrious group, better-equipped than any other group to meet the challenge of life and to survive a crisis. Such hardiness and industry have paid off in their quest for a place under the sun in other provinces. In many provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, the Ilocano communities are well-off and well-heeled, some of them dominating the business fields.

It was these immigrant Ilocanos spread all over the country that provided Mr. Marcos with what the political pros regard as the most necessary election equipment – a “personal” campaign apparatus. In many places the party machine, because of factional fights, cannot be relied upon. It is here where the “personal” machine comes in.

According to the Marcos boys, the immigrant Ilocanos proved their clanish allegiance to their region and fellow-Ilocano candidate for president.

“As far as they were concerned,” said Aspiras, “it was no longer just an election fight between President Macapagal and Mr. Marcos. They regarded it also as their own personal fight which had at stake regional pride and fortune.”

They conducted their own campaigns in the towns and barrios where they resided; they got organized; they gathered information, they printed their own sample ballots; they took care of herding the voters to the polls; they raised campaign funds; they stood watchers inside the polling places. They were Mr. Marcos’ Fifth Column in Mindanao, the vaunted LP bastion.

The NP standard-bearer could not have had a more devoted, more hard-driving political machine. What made it a perfect political machine was that it was self-winding so to speak. It was a volunteer organization, fired with missionary ardor and zeal.

Next to the Ilocano vote, in Ilocandia and elsewhere, Mr. Marcos’ msot devastating election “weapon” was Mrs. Imelda Marcos whose success as a vote-getter was described by most political writers covering the NP campaign as “phenomenal.”

She managed a campaign of her own. She certainly was the most beautiful campaigner in the l965 elections. Everywhere she went she drew bigger crowds than any of the senatorial teams. On the surface, the voters wsent for her bewitching campaign tactics – her little sob stories, her glorious dresses, her tea parties, and her kundimans sung with professional style and skill.

But it was not her tear–jerkers, her dresses, her parties and kunkimans that made up her greatest contribution to the Marcos campaign. It was her remarkable defense of her husband’s questioned integrity that countred most.

NP tacticians were agreed that in the electoral battle the LP’s most lethal weapon was the integrity issue against the NP standard-bearer. At the start of the campaign some NP leaders threws their hands up and kept out of the fight because they were convinced that the integrity charges against the NP standar-bearer were simply unanswerable.

In the integrity issue the LP’s found Mr. Marcos’ softest spot. NP strategists were at their wits’ end trying to blunt the LP attack on Marcos’ personal character and record in office. It was Imelda who provided the NPs with the armor that shielded Marcos from political destruction.

And Imelda’s defense was classic in simplicity and conciseness. She offered herself as the star character witness for her husband. And her punch line was:

“They say that my husband is a forger, a murderer, a land-grabber. Look at me. Do you think I would have married this man if he was that bad? Do you think I would have stayed with him and campaigned for him if the charges were true? I should have been the first to know about the character of my husband. He is the best, the tenderest husband in the world. . .”

A beautiful woman, with the “voice of a nightingale” and the “charms of a movie queen,” as an AmericAn newsman described her, testifying in behalf of her husband, is the most effective, the most appealing star witness in the world.

That her defense was largely addressed to the emotions and, in the realm of logic and legal procedure, a little irrelevant was of no moment. A town plaza is not a courtroom. What might be an effective brief before a court of justice is a “dud” as far as the crowds are concerned. Thus, the NPs solved what they considered their biggest problem in the battle of propaganda – the integrity issue against “President-elect Marcos. It was Imelda who “de-fused” the LP propaganda bombs.

And, of course, there was the Iglesia ni Cristo vote. The fact is Mr. Marcos, despite the confident predictions of his strategists, did not get 90 per cent of all the votes in Ilocandia. But INC insiders will swear that Marcos got at least 99 per cent of all the INC votes.

The INC vote has proved to be more monolithic than the Ilocano vote. The reason is simple. The Ilocanos voted as Ilocanos devoted to a fellow-Ilocano and a “favorite son.” The Iglesia ni Cristo members voted as a religious sect, bound by a religious dogma and by church injunction to vote for INC candidates under pain of mortal sin and expulsion from the sect.

The INC makes no bones about it. Its spokesman in an official statement confirmed that the policy of the INC to vote as one man is “scripturally-supported.” The injunction is part of the INC catechism. As a religio-political organization, the Iglesia Ni Cristo has a totalitarian force.

Apart from the effects of an absolutely solid vote, variously estimated at from 300,000 to 400,000 in number, the INC, although a religious minority, increases its political sway and power by expert political horse-trading in towns and barrios. In many places, the INC’s small but solid group holds the balance of power. Where the contending candidates are evenly matched and engaged in a nip-and-tuck fight, the INC vote determines the result of the elections. Here is where the INC strategists come in. The politicos knws that the INC can deliver on its promise. That is why they go out of their way to woo the INC ministers in their districts and jump at the opportunity to make a deal with the INC. Under this setup, the INC usually winds up controlling the town or the province.

It is this situation that makes the INC even more powerful than it is thought to be. With its solid vote, it holds the sword of Damocles over the heads of politicians, big or small. It is not the number, but the monolithic character, of the Iglesia Ni Cristo that makes it a very potent and dangerous political force.

The INC knows the uses of religion for political purposes, understands Philippine politics and is aware of its political power. There’s no telling how far the INC will go to influence national elections. INC insiders are already predicting an INC president in a not so distant future. All this INC political sway is further abetted by the lack of a Catholic vote, as the last elections clearly demonstrated. Catholics vote as independent men.

Summing up, the President-elect’s victory in the last elections was made possible by the protest vote or guts issue, the Ilocano vote, the campaign charms of Imelda and the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s politico-religious vote.

Diosdado Macapagal: Man of the Year, January 6, 1962

MAN OF THE YEAR

January 6, 1962

by  NAPOLEON G. RAMA

MACAPAGAL’S “LOVE AFFAIR’ WITH THE POOR ENDS IN MALACAÑANG

HE has been called a colorless politician and a vote-getter, a weakling and a dictator, a demagogue and a crusader, a poor man and a snob, a compulsive puppet and a patriot, simple-minded and shrewd.

That so many so actively disagree on what manner of a man is Diosdado Pangan Macapagal points up the fact that the new President is little known and widely misunderstood. Despite his long years of public service, he cares little for publicity and public relations. He is as old-fashioned as the way his hair is parted — in the middle — which was a fad in the 1930s.

Whether or not President Macapagal possesses the conflicting characteristics attributed to him by friend and foe, he is admittedly an unorthodox politician.

Many times he was a bore on the campaign platform, mouthing all the cliches in the book, except “Friends, Roman, countrymen. . . .” And yet on election day he dismantled one of the mightiest political machines in the postwar era. If he didn’t capture his audiences on the town plaza, he corralled the votes at the polling places.

In Congress he sometimes failed to display moral courage or take a clear cut stand on some controversial and politically explosive bills. But within the confines of his own party, he is Big Daddy; he alone makes all the big decisions. He would not allow his  to choose for him his candidates for senator — or recently his appointees to the Cabinet. This right he reserved for himself.

His main and monotonous theme during the campaign was that he was a poor man. He knew abysmal poverty, he said, and therefore understood the plight of the common man. He was the common tao’s authentic champion. His use of the poor-man theme verged on demagoguery. And yet, none had crusaded as fervently as he for a change of moral and political values. There is a ring of sincerity in his campaign for a better life for the people and a better government for the country.

No one in our history has risen so high in the government service from so humble beginning. His father, a poet and a peasant who lived in a leaky shack on a lot that didn’t belong to him, could hardly feed him. To this day he does not own a house or a lot. He has stuck to simple living. The fare on the Macapagal dinning table is frugal. His polo shirts  (short sleeved) are at least one year old; his long-sleeved polos are of 1957 vintage. It is not hard to catch his wife, Evangeline, puttering about the house in faded duster. His San Juan residence belongs to his wife’s family.

And yet Spanish is the language in his household and often during the campaign he entertained at his friends plush homes in Forbes Park. he is a poor man, say his friends; he is only a status-seeker, say his critics.

He has a strong admiration for America and welcomes American aid and protection against Communist aggression. Oftentimes he was overly fervent in stating his stand for Free Worldism. He wanted the Filipinos to stand up and be counted when it was fashionable to be neutral and safe. On foreign affairs, some say, he sounds like a puppet. Others say he is for what is best for the country.

He can be both naive and shrewd. Some of his utterances while abroad made even his ardent admirers wince and left his political leaders wretched with embarrassment. After Macapagal’s performance abroad, as reported by the press, President Garcia thought him a silly man.

His insistence on stressing the poor-boy campaign theme even before the sophisticated voters of Manila was regarded by many as the height of naiveté and simple-mindedness.

Up to the day before the LP convention, President Garcia, bothered by the 1959 election reverses, harassed by widespread criticism against his administration and worried over his recent heart attack, was still vacillating on whether he should seek re-election or not. But when the LP convention declared Macapagal the LP standard-bearer instead of Senator Marcos. President Garcia decided to run for re-election. He thought Macapagal was a pushover, and Marcos a much stronger and shrewder candidate. If Marcos had won the LP nomination, said one of Garcia’s closest lieutenants, the President would have chosen to retire from politics.

But there, too, are a great number of people who regard Macapagal as one of the shrewdest politicos of our time. Almost single-handed and without funds he resembled a despised party that had been discredited and dismembered. He wooed and won the opposition groups — the Grand Alliance men, Mayor Arsenio Lacson and on election eve, Rogelio de la Rosa—all political prima donnas. By sheer political craftsmanship, he forced his strongest rival within the party, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, to capitulate and endorse him at the start of the LP convention. And throughout the campaign, he tool all these political virtuosos in tow without any one of them giving him any trouble or disputing his leadership. By campaigning for four years in almost every town and barrio of the known NP bailiwicks, he pulled the rug from under President Garcia on election day.

Outside of those who have been in contact with Macapagal, few really know the man. Until now he is still a nebulous public figure who, despite his years in public life, has left no clear-cut imprint of his personality. For sure, he does not have the effervescence of President Quezon nor the charisma of President Magsaysay.

So uncertain were the people of his true image that when the black propagandists mounted their operations, they came close to spoiling his four years of campaigning and personal appearances. In the first of months of Operation Torpedo, Macapagal himself fretfully admitted that it was the biggest threat to his candidacy. He had to rely on Mayor Lacson and step up his campaign tempo to counteract the black propaganda which held him up as a bungler, a murderer, a puppet, an enemy of the common man and a status-seeker disguised as a peasant’s son.

Indeed, even many intellectuals, believing they had uncovered his true nature, scornfully denounced him during the campaign as a demagogue, a simpleton, or, at best, a fake. The pundits, for all their sensitive political antennae, declared him a weak candidate and a sure loser. “Macapagal let the pundits down by winning,” quipped a columnist in an election postmortem.

Macapagal, the man and the politician, is clearly as complex as the latest IBM machine. There are many facets to his character and only those who are close to him or who have had the patience and opportunity to study his private and public life can assess him with some degree of fairness and accuracy.

There are, however, three facts about which there is little dispute: One, Macapagal has been a scrupulously honest government official; two, his was one of the poorest families in Pampanga; and three, he has not enriched himself while in public office, despite the fact that he was a bigwig in the old LP administration at the apogee of its power.

These facts should give us an insight into the nature of the man. They testify to his strength of character.

During the entire campaign, the high-paid professional researchers of the NP turned upside down all records of his public life but they couldn’t find so much as a breath of scandal linked to his name. Neither could they find a piece of land nor house owned by him. He is the first president of the Philippines who is homeless and landless.

It was the poverty of his parents and the suffering that he endured during his youth that endowed him with a sense of mission, tremendous drive and a consuming ambition to be president.

This is the little-known fact about Macapagal: he had made a career of preparing himself for the presidency. Few men in our generation have set their sights on the presidency as intently as had Macapagal — and did something about it.

No president had schooled and disciplined himself for the big job as deliberately and conscientiously. He didn’t mind telling his friends that he forced himself, even after he became a congressman, to go back to school to earn doctorates in economics and in law precisely to prepare himself for the presidential task. To fill the job with competence, he believed, one must be highly skilled in economics as well as law, for the big problems of the country are economic in nature.

Since his school days, recalled a classmate, Macapagal acted as if one day he would be the chief of state. “I will be president some day,” he confided to a close friend, “I can feel it in my bones.”

To his friends his ardent ambition was a fantastic dream. To his enemies this unbridled aspiration made him a dangerous man. His close associates swear that Macapagal’s relentless drive to the presidency was free from the taint of greed for naked power or money. His upright public life and his frugal living, they point out, are ample evidence that he is not saddled with such debauching motives. Back of his presidential ambition is his sense of mission, if you will, a messianic ardor to give the millions of poor in the country a better life, to chart the country’s path to progress and greatness, Because he knew abject poverty, he feels very strongly about redeeming those in the grip of want. He feels that in the presidency he will find such power and authority. This ambition drove him as a young man to Manila to take up law, to excel in his classes, to top the bar examinations.

First Big Break

In pursuit of his big dream, no odds appeared unconquerable to him, even his own wretched poverty. He took all kinds of jobs, including that of writing letters for the unlettered for a paltry compensation, to enable him to finance his studies. After two years in college, his health broke—from under nourishment! He was too poor to support himself and his education at the same time. For two long, disconsolate years he was out of school trying to mend his health and save up for the next school year.

Then his first big break in life came. Don Honorio Ventura, then secretary of the interior, an authentic patriot and philanthropist, took him along with other promising young men, under his wing. He financed his law studies. Now dead, Don Honorio belonged to the noble breed of wealthy Filipino ilustrado of prewar days, now an almost extinct tribe that has been, alas, replaced by a new group of insensitive Filipino multimillionaires who would sooner exploit than help their fellow Filipinos.

There is no way of knowing or understanding Macapagal — his outlook in life, motivation, ideals and political doctrine — without knowing exactly what kind of poverty he endured in youth. His own personal combat with poverty was to color his philosophy in later years and shape his behavior in life.

This seems to be the explanation why, against the advice of his closest friends, he never tires of telling the story of the poor boy from Lubao at the drop of a hat. His experience with poverty has become the source from which he draws inspiration, courage, determination.

He is apt to grow sentimental when he recalls his youth. “I belonged to one of the poorest and most wretched families in Pampanga,” he told an audience in Iloilo. “In my boyhood, I often knew hunger. I remember when we children would ask mother for food at noontime. Instead of feeding us, she would make us go to sleep so that we would make us go to sleep so that we would not feel our hunger while she went out from neighbor to neighbor, from relative to relative, asking for a handful of rice. Many times we would have our lunch at four or five in the afternoon, after mother had gathered rice for us.

“I remember when as a boy I used to play by myself along the rugged road of our barrio, wearing torn and shabby clothes, so pauperish in appearance that I could not play with the sons of the rich in the neighborhood. I didn’t even dare to approach the fences of their tall and big houses.

“As a boy and a young man I knew what it was to live in a nipa shack. When a heavy rain fell at night, the roof leaked. We moved our tattered mat from one sot to another for a dry place on the bamboo floor. But soon there was no dry spot left and we could not sleep the rest of the night.

“I remember as a young student in Manila when I walked daily three kilometers back and forth from the slums of Tondo where I lived to the state university. When it rained at the close of classes in the evening, I would wait for the rain to stop, because I didn’t have money for fare. Many times I had to wait until midnight and walk home, starved and sleepy. I dreamed of a better life for me and for all the poor children of countless miserable families in our country.

“I plead the cause of the common man because I am a common man. I suffered to acquire an education in the manner of a man bearing a heavy cross up a hill. . .with eyes riveted on an ideal radiant on the hilltop. Having acquired an education I could have escaped the rugged life of the poor, leaving it behind me forever like a nightmare, but I chose the status of a common man where I could continue to struggle. . . .

“Deep in my heart I know that for me there can never be a sense of redemption from poverty while countless countrymen live in the misery that was my lot as a child and as a youth. I shall feel released from the shackles of the poor man’s life only when the masses of our people shall have cast aside the chains of poverty and found a decent living for themselves and their children.”

This was the main burden of his message to the people during the entire campaign.

To many the message was much too melodramatic, too mushy, to be taken seriously. It was said during a campaign by a politician seeking a public office. Both his motive and sincerity were suspect. But he is a breed apart — all who know him intimately swear to this. He apparently meant every word he said in that message.

Thus, it was no surprise that soon after he won the election he announced that his top priority program would be a crash project designed to push down and stabilize the price of rice and create job opportunities for many.

Brightest Virtue

Sincerity, according to Senator Raul Manglapus, is the brightest of Macapagal’s virtues. Take, for instance, his promise to the Batanes people—that he would visit them. There are only a few thousand voters in Batanes. On the scheduled day of his visit, the sea was rough. The motorboat captain told him it would be a dangerous voyage. His lieutenants pleaded with him not to take the risk. Macapagal was unmoved. He had promised the Batanes people and he would make good his word. Half way to Batanes, the motorboat was getting out of control; the captain ordered it back.

Undaunted, Macapagal wired some friends in Manila to send a plane. He took off for Batanes the very next day. He fulfilled his promise. But it almost cost him his life for the plane, buffeted by rough winds, developed engine trouble. It limped back to an airport in northern Luzon.

Those who didn’t know Macapagal were baffled by his behavior. Those who have been close to Macapagal were not surprised.

Many dismiss Macapagal’s pledge to renounce a second term as empty political talk. But the men who know him — and some of them are seasoned politicos—entertain no doubt that Macapagal will keep his pledge.

In an interview with Macapagal, the FREE PRESS pointed out the dilemma he would have to face just before his four-year term is up: The problems of the country are tremendous. A four-year term is too short for his administration to solve the problems or complete his program. Thus, wouldn’t he be forced to seek another term to enable him to finish his program? On the other hand, if his administration achieved a great deal during his term or completed its program, wouldn’t the people themselves insist that he serve another term in office?

Macapagal replied that he realized that his administration’s program would not be fully implemented in four years. He would not solve all the problems in so short a period.

It would be achievement enough for him, he said, if he could divert the ship of state from its present disastrous direction and put it on the right path toward progress and greatness.” I am concerned with moral and political values in not seeking re-election. I would like to set an example for those who come after me. I don’t believe in re-election for a president. It is a curse on the presidency. I would like to show everyone that a Filipino president has enough self-abnegation to refuse a second term.”

The new President believes that it is hard for a president who seeks second term to keep faith with the people and the public…

… He has pulled many surprises in the last elections. But the biggest surprise that he has in store for his critics is yet to come. He intends to give the country the best administration it has ever had. he aims to be the best president the Philippines has ever had. He has the courage, vision and patriotism to fulfill his plans.

The new President once told the FREE PRESS:

“I will work myself to the bone to give the country a good government and the people a new life and new values. I will fulfill my promises. I don’t care if I have to work 24 hours a day. I don’t care if at the end of my term I leave the presidency a broken man, an invalid. My only happiness will be the thought that I have done what I could to make my country great and my fellow countrymen prosperous and happy.”

Diosdado Pangan Macapagal, the new President, has a book entitled The Common Man, a compilation of his speeches, his program of government and his philosophy in life. He picked the title himself. He hopes to be remembered as the common man who became president.

The FREE PRESS’ Man of the Year —he had previously earned the title in 1957 — proved himself a dedicated and resourceful campaigner in giving the entrenched and corrupt NP administration the licking of its life. He may or may not prove a great president, but one thing is certain: He was the most uncommon man of the year 1961.

 

 

The Winners ’61, November, 1961

The Winners ’61

By Quijano de Manila

November 1961–VICTORY, the poll victors found out after the polls, is chiefly an overpowering, devouring drowsiness.

Happy eyes glaze over, the eyelids droop; ecstatic smiles freeze, the head nods. Hands held out to congratulators grope and falter; and the words of joy fatten into a yawn.

Making the rounds of victors’ houses three days after the polls, one found doorbells and telephones ringing in vain, crowds of visitors collecting and dispersing unreceived, blue telegrams piling up on doorside tables, while the winners hungrily slept, slept, slept.

Not applause, nor congratulations, nor the latest poll returns widening the margin of victory, could be sweeter than bed and darkness, pillow and sheet.

Maria Kalaw Katigbak stayed home only long enough to make sure she was among the select senatorial eight, then reportedly fled to Lipa—“to get some sleep.” Her husband, an immense man, winces when congratulated on his victory, is resigned to being introduced as “the senator’s husband.”

Soc Rodrigo’s wife Medy says she’s glad it’s all over: “Now we can get some sleep.”

Dragged up from bed in the late afternoon, her eyes still swollen from drowse, Edith Pelaez groaned: “I haven’t had a good sleep in a long time!” Manny Pelaez came home from Mindanao three days after the polls, stayed just to bathe and change clothes, then rushed off again. About all his wife can remember him saying (she was too sleepy to ask about Mindanao) was that he was sleepy too.

Like a somnambulist was Manuel Manahan’s wife Connie, barely awake as she moved around her workshop, finally giving up and crawling home to bed, muttering that she felt she was coming down with the flu. For the Manahans, this victory is more poignant than previous defeats. Mrs. Manahan lost a baby (her eleventh child, eighth boy) two months before the elections, was up and campaigning for Manny two weeks after her confinement. “I’ve had disappointments,” she told friends, “but this is the one that hurt most.” Her baby lived only two days; she never even saw it.

Connie Manahan says she felt surer this time her Manny would win but never dreamed he would get the second place in the tabulation: “We had no funds at all for propaganda materials. I saw other candidates spending money right and left and I told Manny, ‘We just can’t compete.’ “All they had were stickers and sample ballots. Six weeks before the polls, friends of Manny put up a billboard for him in Quiapo: it was his biggest single publicity display. But he had learned to speak Tagalog fluently, and that helped.

For Raul and Pacita Manglapus, this triumph is, of course, the Victory of the Voice—of both their voices. Whenever Raul ran out of words, or of breath, wife Pacita stepped forward and sang. Her friends say her singing was as big a hit with voters as her husband’s gift of tongues. Not even sleeplessness could dull his oratorical, her lyrical, magic.

Also sleepless during the tense days before and after the balloting was the grande dame of the Liberal Party, Doña Trining Roxas, who sought bed only when victory was certain. The sleeping dowager was thus unable to attend the first public expression of Liberal triumph: the rites in honor of Elpidio Quirino on November 16, his 71st birthday.

The rites began with mass at the San Marcelino church, where Vicky Quirino Gonzalez found the Old Guard massed around her but nary a sign of the United Opposition. The Macapagals could not come, Manny Pelaez was still in Mindanao, the erstwhile rah-rah boys who had caused Mr. Quirino so much pain were at Comelec or Camp Crame, exultantly counting, or in bed, hungrily sleeping.

Nevertheless, the Old Guard Liberals were in festive mood. After mass, the gay hubbub on the patio seemed a single refrain: “We’re back! We’re back! We’re back!” Sunshine glinted from faces once so current in Malacañang, notably of the ladies who were the Apo’s favorite partners at Palace balls: Nila Syquia Mendoza, Chedeng Araneta, Angela Butte, Carmen Planas. Ever the holy terror, Mameng Planas mockingly distributed cabinet portfolios among the Old Guard: this one was to be finance secretary, that one secretary of foreign affairs. Moving from one merry group to another, causing astonished pauses, like a ghost at a party, was Ambassador Romulo, come to attend this reunion of old friend. His offer to resign before the elections had, say the Liberals been a good omen for them: it had meant Mr. Romulo smelled a change coming.

From the church the Old Guard repaired to the South Cemetery, where the Man of the Hour, Macapagal, laid a wreath on the grave of the Apo. That noon, there was a banquet at a restaurant in Quezon City, and gathered for this happiest hour of the Liberals in a decade were more of the old familiar faces; Vicente Albano Pacis, Johnny Collas, Fred Mangahas. But when a speaker addressed the gathering as “Fellow Liberals,” there were objections: this was a gathering of the Friends of Quirino, not all of whom were Liberals. Unspoken was a parallel thought: that not all of today’s Liberals, especially the very new ones, had been Friends of Quirino.

While yesterday’s Liberals reminisced on the past and the Apo, today’s Liberals were already plotting the future. Slumber had not felled all the victors; still wide awake were Diosdado and Eva Macapagal. Drowsiness showed in her only in narrower eyes, in him only in paler cheeks and a tic in one eye. He said he could go without sleep for a month; she said she had been dozing on and off during the long wait. Whenever she awoke she would ask: “Well, how is it going now?” And her unsleeping husband would cry: “We’re winning!”

For Eva Macapagal, this triumph vindicates feminine intuition. “I am,” she says, “a person of strong presentiments.” She had had a presentiment of victory, had told her husband before the elections: “I think you’re going to win. I feel again as I felt in 1957.”

Macapagal himself had never had any doubts. His campaign to win the presidency was, he says, “methodical and scientific.” There could be only one outcome. In the light of his victory, his campaign, which we all regarded as an aimless wandering from barrio to barrio and a futile shaking of hands, does assume the look of a great design, of carefully planned military strategy. Nothing had been aimless; everything adds up. Each sortie into the wilds had made straighter route to Malacañang. And we now wonder why we failed to see what now seems so clear.

Invisible in the speckled forest because of its spots, the leopard stalks its prey, weaving round and round on velvet paws, in ever narrowing circles. Only when it closes in for the kill is it suddenly beheld in all its might and majesty: this sleek sly creature that blends into the light and dark of the forest, that had seemed to be wandering around in aimless circles.

Macapagal had been invisible to many, a nondescript personality (“negative” was how the NPs loved to describe him), a compulsive hand-shaker, a mousy little man going round and round in circles. Alas for those who could not spot the leopard for its spots! The coloring was protective, the circlings followed a route.

A cry has rent the political jungle.

The leopard has sprung.

 

The incredible

 

The hackneyed thing to say is that Macapagal’s triumph is like Magsaysay’s. Both men undertook a barrio-to-barrio campaign; both toppled an unpopular regime accused of being graft-ridden—but here the resemblance stops.

Magsaysay was expected to win; Macapagal was not.

Nobody was really surprised when the Magsaysay vote began to assume the proportions of an avalanche; the surprise would have been if it didn’t. But the day after this month’s elections, astonishment that Macapagal should be leading at all was so great everybody felt the lead couldn’t last. What one heard on all sides was: “Yes, of course he’s leading, but only on the Manila vote. Just wait till the NP votes start pouring in.” When the lead was maintained the chorus became: “Oh, that’s only the Manila and Luzon vote. Wait till the votes from the South come in.” Finally, when the nationwide trend became unmistakable, those who cautiously conceded that Macapagal might win quickly added that his margin of victory would be slim.

Actually, Macapagal polled a bigger popular vote than Magsaysay.

President Garcia can hardly be blamed for not conceding defeat at once; he, too, just couldn’t believe that Macapagal was winning and, but not conceding, was merely expressing a general astonishment and incredulity. It seems now that everyone who voted for Macapagal did so with no great hope that he would win. Each pro-Macapagal voter must have felt solitary, one in a hundred. So many people who had expressed disgust of the Garcia regime had followed denunciation with despair: “But how can one vote for Macapagal?”

This is in sharp contrast to the atmosphere in 1953, when everyone who voted for Magsaysay felt quite sure that everybody else was doing the same.

The doubts about a Macapagal triumph were indicated by all the pre-election forecasts, even those that had him leading. The pollsters in general detected a trend in his favor but apparently questioned the strength of the trend. Those who gave him the lead carefully stressed that the lead was very small. In fact, the last poll survey to be made public just before the elections, the U.P poll, flatly declared that Garcia and Macapagal were running even, any edge in favor of the latter being so slight as to be “insignificant.”

When the returns started coming in, the public literally couldn’t believe its eyes.

Why was Macapagal, even when given the edge to win, so underrated?

The prime reason is that there was no visible evidence of his popularity, save those reports from the field of the large crowds he was attracting—and we have learned to be cynical about large crowds. And the belief that he was a “colorless” figured seemed to have been proved by his inability, even during the climactic period of the campaign, to arouse fervor where fervor would show. Unlike Magsaysay, he had failed to inflame the imagination or capture the sympathies of those elements of society which create glamour figures.

Into his Great Crusade, Magsaysay had drawn the press, the intelligentsia, the businessmen, the Church, and a lot of people previously indifferent to politics—a motley mass that ranged from college boys and society girls to writers and movie actors, each group forming a movement that helped swell the following, not to mention the finances, of the crusade.

But Macapagal had been unable to make a similar crusade of his campaign. The intelligentsia was actively hostile; the press was cool; the businessmen were wary; the Church was, happily, more mute than during the Magsaysay crusade; and the political dilettantes who had cooed over the Guy found Mac a sad sack. The most influential foreign group in the Philippines, the Americans, had made no bones of being behind Magsaysay; but in this year’s campaign, rumors of American support for the LPs were popularly believed to have been circulated, not by their nationalist rivals, but by the LPs themselves, and that they should feel the need to do so implied American unwillingness to do it for them. One eminent columnist assured his readers that the Americans—the thoughtful ones, that is—would rather have the NPs remain in power. Finally, when that bogey of Philippine politics, the Iglesia ni Kristo, also declared itself against Macapagal, his cause seemed lost indeed.

Yet he took his cause to the common folk and won.

His victory is more impressive than Magsaysay’s, having been achieved against greater odds and without the fancy trimmings of the Great Crusade. Far more than Magsaysay, he can be said to have been carried to triumph by the masses, and only by the masses. And since there were none to glamorize him, since his very foes deny he had any of the Magsaysay charm and magic, since no fringe movements helped swell his finances or the tide of his popularity, he can now claim to have won on sheer skill, intelligence, industry, and the faith in him of he people. He could not become a glamour figure, so he became a folk hero.

And such has been the success of his solitary campaigning that every Philippine politician will, from now on, have to ponder the methods of Macapagal the campaigner.

The inevitable

Poetry got Diosdado Macapagal into politics. Before 1949, his future had seemed to lie in the foreign service. He had risen to the fourth ranking position in the foreign affairs department; President Quirino, obviously grooming the young Pampango for a diplomatic career, sent him to the United States, to broaden his outlook. Macapagal was second secretary of the embassy in Washington.

Then, in 1949, the congressman for Pampanga, Huk-elected Amado Yuson, announced his intention to run for re-election. President Quirino was then engaged in a campaign to topple all Huk-elected officials. But Yuson had a special strength: he was recognized as the poet laureate of Pampanga, a province that loves its bards. Yuson drew crowds not as a politician but as a poet; at his mitings he did not deliver speeches, he improvised verses. Quirino saw it would take a poet to lick a poet.

He had Macapagal recalled from Washington and bade him run against Yuson. The platform was practically who was the better poet. Macapagal had had no experience in politics but did have renown as a bard. In his youth he had composed about a hundred poems, and they had established him as a public figure in his native province, important enough to be invited to address school convocations and crown fiesta queens.

The 1949 campaign in Pampanga turned into a poetic joust. Macapagal trailed his rival from plaza to plaza. Had Yuson delivered a particularly lovely poem in a certain town? The very next night, or a few nights later, Macapagal was in that town, delivering an even lovelier poem. He says he finds it easier to improvise in verse than in prose.

Because he had no campaign funds to use to publicize his candidacy he was forced to adopt a person-to-person approach, to go into every nook and corner of the province to introduce himself to the populace. Thus began, long before the Great Crusade of Magsaysay, the barrio-to-barrio campaign. For Macapagal, such a campaign was inevitable because he felt surest of himself among his own kind.

“Until I ran,” he says, “politicians in Pampanga came from the propertied class. I was the first poor candidate there.”

He not only won against Yuson but topped the congressional winners, which included Magsaysay, in second place. Then came another surprise. It was the custom among Pampango politicians, because they were wealthy, to go off to Baguio or Hong Kong after an election, to rest. But a few days after the 1949 polls, the barrio folk of Pampanga were astounded to find their winning candidate again in their midst. Macapagal had no money for a Baguio or Hong Kong vacation, and he thought that elegant custom silly anyway. Instead, he traveled all over the province again, to thank in person whose who had helped him win. This, cried the Pampangos, was something new in politics.

That first campaign established the style of Macapagal the campaigner; his next major campaign—for the Senate in 1955—disclosed an ability to project himself n a nationwide scale. He was, till then, regarded as a small-time, strictly local politician. Though he regularly made the lists of top congressmen of the year, his name was unknown outside Pampanga. In 1955, he was running with name politicians: Osias, Peralta, Magalona and Geronima Pecson. He was the expendable one on that list, merely followed the others on the regular campaign routes.

Then, in Pototan, Iloilo, came the revelation.

The LPs were waging a futile fight and they themselves knew it: their campaigning was lackadaisical. Macapagal, too, had prepared only one speech, which he used over and over again. One night—that night in Pototan—he finally got so sick of his own clichés he threw the speech away and began to talk as he pleased. It was raining anyway; there were few to listen. He could think aloud, could speak from the heart. He recalled the misery of his childhood, the squalor of his youth. He had almost, though the valedictorian, not attended his grade school graduation because he had no clothes and no shoes to wear. He had almost not gone to high school because there was no money for tuition fees; his mother had raised pigs, his grandmother had worked as a midwife, to send him to high school. All his dreams were one: to end poverty, because he had known how cruel poverty could be. He could not bear the thought of other children going through what he had gone through.

He was practically speaking to himself and was hardly aware that his audience, though the rain was falling harder, had drawn closer around him instead of running to shelter. When he stopped speaking, there was tumultuous applause. Mrs. Pecson stepped forward to speak but could not do so because the crowd kept on applauding and shouting: “Macapagal! Macapagal!” The congressman from Pampanga had to leave his seat and speak to the crowd again.

The following night, in another town, he discarded his prepared speech again and spoke extemporaneously: of his life and hard times, his struggles and dreams. Again he had a rapt audience, again he got tumultuous applause. Macapagal realized he had a larger appeal than he had thought.

This year, when he campaigned in Pototan, he told the people there; “Pototan is not merely a town to me. It is a landmark. For here I discovered I had a message for the nation.”

Macapagal lost in the 1955 senatorial race but topped all the Liberal candidates, though they were better-known than he. His colleagues in the party saw that he was no longer a small-time politico and a stop-Macapagal movement started. The party hierarchy was reorganized and Macapagal was ousted as vice-president for Central Luzon. But it was too late to stop his rise: the public already knew him as “Mr. Liberal.”

After his defeat in the polls, his wife said to him: “It seems your Divine Providence failed you this time. Had you won, you would have been minority floor leader in the Senate and the undisputed leader of the Liberal Party.”

Said Macapagal: “God answers our prayers in his own way. I have faith in his own design in my defeat.”

The design, as he sees it now, was victory in 1961: “Had I won in 1955, my party would have made me run for president in 1957, and I would surely have lost. Garcia had been president only nine months and voters would be inclined to give him a full term to show what he could do. Because I lost in 1955, I was good only for vice-president in 1957, and I had time to prepare to run for president n 1961 and win.”

The improbable

The vice-presidential nomination was offered to him by a dying man: Speaker Eugenio Perez. Late one night, while the House was discussing the budget, the Speaker, pale and feeble, suddenly appeared in the chamber. Al the solons started up from their seats as if they had seen a ghost, for Perez was supposed to be on his deathbed: the doctors had given him up. Dragging his feet, he shuffled toward Macapagal. “I want to talk to you,” he said.

When they were alone together, Perez said to Macapagal: “The party is putting up Mr. Yulo for president because it has no money, but Mr. Yulo will be attacked. We need someone to run with him whose integrity cannot be questioned. The party has been good to you; not it’s your turn to help the party. If we only had money I would put you up for president. But I tell you: you will be president someday.”

Macapagal says he would have preferred to play it safe and just run for Congress again—but how could he refuse the plea of a dying man?

When he got home that night he woke up his wife to confess that he had made a decision without consulting her: he had agreed to run for vice-president.

“What are your chances?” she asked.

“And what will you do afterwards?”

“I’ll teach and practise law.”

The very next day, he went to the University of Santo Tomas to arrange a teaching contract, so sure was he that his election as vice-president was improbable. But when the NPs put up Laurel junior as their veep candidate and the NCPs selected Tañada, Macapagal began to think that he could win. Laurel junior was manifestly unpopular, and Tañada would divide the Tagalog vote.

But again there was the problem of finances. Macapagal had no money, and neither did the Liberal Party. All the funds came from Yulo and: I don’t think Mr. Yulo ever liked me,” says Macapagal.

Into the picture stepped Amelito Mutuc, an old acquaintance who had married into a wealthy family. Mutuc offered to direct Macapagal’s campaign.

“Can you raise two thousand pesos?” he asked Macapagal.

Macapagal borrowed two thousand from his wife; with the money Mutuc rented a building in Manila, bought a couple of typewriters and set up a Macapagal campaign headquarters.

Says Macapagal: “I had not a centavo for my first campaign. When I ran for the Senate I had about five hundred pesos. And I ran for vice-president on two thousand pesos.”

There were, however, the transportation expenses, which the LP candidates were apparently expected to shoulder themselves. The campaigners had been divided into teams; Macapagal noticed that he was not included in Mr. Yulo’s team. He was told to go to Mindanao and campaign there. But how could he go when he didn’t even have the fare? Instead, he looked up Yulo’s itinerary. He discovered that Yulo was in a certain Visayan town. Macapagal suddenly showed up there, during a rally, and when he spoke he praised Yulo to the skies. Delighted, Yulo told him: “You better come along with my group.”

“And that,” grins Macapagal, “was how I got through the campaigns without any funds. I just joined Mr. Yulo’s party.”

Though Macapagal polled more votes than Garcia, his victory was dismissed as a fluke. The popular view was that he had won on the strength of “negative” votes cast, not really for him, but against Laurel junior.

Macapagal was still “invisible” to many, though he had pulled up quite a feat: had won against the party in power at the height of its power.

The invisible

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.”

Then Ferdinand Marcos, who had been made to run for the Senate, got cold feet and wanted to withdraw. Marcos felt that Macapagal was courting disaster by deciding that the Liberal Party was to run alone, without any coalition with the Progressives. But Macapagal was willing to stake his political reputation and his presidential chances on that decision. He had more to lose than Marcos but was less apprehensive. He said to Marcos: “You not only will not lose but you will get first place.”

During the counting of the returns, the Progressives who had seemed at first to be winning, all dropped out, but three Liberals remained steady on the winning list, and Marcos did top it. The victory, says Macapagal, was not a random one; he had carefully engineered it. He had pinpointed the areas from where came the votes that had swamped the LPs in previous elections; during the campaign he concentrated on those areas. These were, he says, the “pockets” that had to be pushed back so that his “military line” would hold straight and steady. Having eliminated those “pockets,” Macapagal, after the balloting, sat back and waited confidently for the returns. His fellow Liberals nervously awaited the usual NP avalanche of votes to sweep them away—but Macapagal told them there would be no avalanche, and there was none.

Says Marcos: “That is why we respect Macapagal—because he makes decisions even against our will. Afterwards we find that he was right.”

Macapagal was proved right, too, about the Progressives. When Soc Rodrigo was quoted as saying, after the 1959 polls, that the Grand Alliance would continue, Macapagal said: “If there is one man who has no choice now but to join the Liberals, it is Soc Rodrigo.”

Then he sent Senator Estanislao Fernandez to ask Rodrigo if he was ready now to join the Liberals. Said Rodrigo: “What else can I do?”

“And that,” smiles Macapagal, “was what I had been saying all along.”

Again Macapagal had done the impossible: he had turned a discredited and disheartened LP into a winning party and he had united the opposition. If there be still doubts about his capacity for leadership, he points to the diverse personalities he was able, for this campaign, to bring together and organize into a team: Marcos, Manglapus, Lacson, Manahan, not to mention Roger de la Rosa.

“Each one a strong personality,” he sighs, “and all of them stars!”

The impossible

What Macapagal did in 1959 he repeated in 1961. He circled the country a third time but concentrated on the new “pockets” revealed by the 1959 polls. The very first province he stormed this year was Batangas, where the LPs had always lost heavily. He campaigned there for a week, then moved on to Quezon, and then, to everybody’s amazement, returned to Batangas and campaigned through it all over again. The Batangueños said to him: “You are the first presidential candidate to campaign here twice.” The politicos predicted a Macapagal loss in Batangas, but he carried the province.

He went wherever the LP was weak, however remote the region. Everybody thought him crazy to go to the Davao town of Manay, which is a Nacionalista stronghold and almost inaccessible. Boats dock far off; passengers must plunge into neck-deep water and wade ashore, for small boats would be dashed by the strong waves against the rocks. On reaching the shore, the Manay-bound must still climb a steep rocky slope to reach the town. Though it was past midnight when his ship reached the place, Macapagal plunged into the water, waded ashore through the darkness, climbed up over the rocks, and found the townspeople of Manay still waiting for him. The mayor told him: “This is a Nacionalista town, but because you came here you will win here.”

The intrepidity Macapagal displayed during the campaign may well turn into legend. He crossed, on a frail fishing boat, that point of the San Bernardino Strait which folk in the vicinity regard with horror, because four currents converging there create a maelstrom. The crossing was pure agony; Macapagal got across without being sucked into the maelstrom—“but,” he shudders, “I don’t think I could do it again.”

Batanes had become an obsession with him ever since his scheduled trip there, in 1957, had to be cancelled with the Ifugao was forbidden him. Three subsequent attempts to sail to Batanes were thwarted by bad weather. Then, late in the last month of the campaign, he decided he just had to get there. He hired a fishing boat and set off. Halfway across, he noticed that the boat was slapping against the water: “That’s when it’s dangerous—not when a boat is rocking but when it’s slapping.” He said to the skipper of the boat: “Puede ba? If it’s possible, let’s go on. If not, let’s return.” Said the skipper: “We had better return.”

But there was no stopping Macapagal now. He wired his wife in Manila that he needed two planes. “To think that it was I who arranged that trip!” she wails now. Macapagal finally reached Batanes by plane, but the return trip was made with one engine dead.

Why had he risked his life to reach a place that had but a handful of voters? He says? “I wanted to show that it was not the votes that mattered to me. Besides, I had covered the entire country except Batanes. And when you say except, you remove the impact.”

The Sunday before the polls, Macapagal addressed the LP miting de avance on Plaza Miranda. He had not campaigned at all in Manila but the multitude he drew was epochal. “I felt,” he says, “that the people there had already made up their minds. They had not come to be convinced but just to be there.” Manny Pelaez nudged Mrs. Macapagal and whispered: “Just watch. The crowd will applaud your husband whatever he says.” “And,” says Mrs. Macapagal, “it was true. The people applauded even in the middle of a word!”

On the eve of the elections, Macapagal conducted a “talkaton” that lasted all night, answering questions from all quarters, demonstrating, for all to see, how quickly his mind worked. The invisible man was finally emerging as quite a dynamic chap. It was dawn when he went home, but not to sleep. He and Mrs. Macapagal immediately motored to his home town of Lubao, to vote. When they got there, at seven in the morning, the streets were already full of people impatient to vote.

The Pampangos had a cardinal, now they wanted a president.

That night, the poll returns began to paint an astounding new image of Macapagal. The man described as “colorless” had turned out to be a phenomenon.

Luck is still on his side. He is fortunate to become president when people are just beginning to see him clearly. Magsaysay became an idol too soon; adulation reached a peak during his campaign: there was nowhere else to go but down. So much was expected of the Guy he could not but disappoint. Barely two years after he assumed office there was already a marked chill in the air.

But Macapagal assumes office amid general incredulity rather than expectation, amid a growing curiosity rather than love. Because he was so underrated, anything he does now will have the quality of surprise. Because nothing was expected of him, he cannot disappoint. The way for him is still up. He is not yet entangled in a myth of himself; idolatry has still to becloud his eyes with incense. He should be able to accomplish more, since he has to earn the people’s love rather than justify it.

He comes to us practically unknown: an ambiguous figure, half light and half dark, moving toward the presidency and wresting it away with a few arms, though the dragons of power and propaganda stood round about.

Of his feat he says: “It was difficult, it was impossible, but we did it. Now, the job ahead is even more difficult, ten times more difficult. But I am read for it.”

The death of The Guy, March 18, 1961

The death of The Guy

by Quijano de Manila

His Death Was Not His End But A Transfiguration –From Folk Hero To Folk Myth.

March 18, 1961–HE HAD skipped a friend’s party the night before to attend a sudden conference; and coming home from the party, to which she had gone ahead, alone, Mrs. Magsaysay found him in his bedroom looking so tired and worried she didn’t press her inquiries as to why he hadn’t followed.

But when he woke up the next morning he was his old self again, jaunty and jovial. They had breakfast together, and talked of the trip he would make to Cebu that day. He was leaving at noon. She urged him to rest all morning. When she looked for him later, he had vanished. He was nowhere in the Palace. She called up this place and that and finally located him in a house within the Palace compound. He had been visiting his in-laws, the Corpuses.

She reproved him when he came back: “I thought you promised to rest all morning?”

He said he had been rehearsing his speeches for the Cebu visit and couldn’t do so in the Palace, with people popping in and out all the time.

She watched while he had a haircut in a hall off his bedroom. Standing behind him, she could see his face in the mirror, his eyes restless as a little boy’s over this enforced moment of stillness.

“Will you see me off at the airport?” he suddenly asked, meeting her eyes in the mirror.

“If you want me to.”

“Yes, do come.”

She was rather amused at the request. A despedida for an overnight trip? In the bedroom, the two valets who were to perish with him were busy packing. He kept telling the barber to hurry up. She always paid the barber for him, had a ten-peso bill ready in a pocket.

They had lunch with a young nephew. The children were in school or in their rooms. Teresita, the eldest, just engaged, was sewing her trousseau. Jun, the the only son was at his classes. Mila, the younger daughter, had a stove in her room and liked to cook meals for her gang. Whenever she prepared a special dish, she sent a portion to the presidential table with instructions that her father was to sample the dish and give his comments on it. He always sent back word that it was delicious, whether he had found it too tough or too salty.

The family got together only on Sundays, when it was the rule that the children were to come to table for breakfast, lunch, and supper. In the evening, they gathered in his room, just the five of them. Teresita gave him a neck massage. Mila strummed a uke. Jun played the hi-fi, putting on his father’s favorite records. His father and mother had a special favorite that summer: Que Será, Será —the song to which they had danced on their last wedding anniversary. Only afterwards would she realize the significance of that song’s gaily grim lyrics. The children complained that Sunday was the only time they could have their Daddy to themselves.

So, on this March day, a Saturday, his last day in the Palace, he did not have his children with him as he lunched with his wife, his last meal with her. He told her about the movies he had ordered for showing at the Palace that night: a Tagalog picture and a Hollywood drama for her, an action movie for himself. He always asked for one, whether he was there to see it or not. He loved action pictures and before he became president, dragged his wife to small neighborhood cinemas where the audience was as rowdy as the folk on the screen and where he could stomp and shout unashamed during chases and fist fights.

“Three movies for tonight,” he told his wife now, “but don’t sit through all of them. You may be cross-eyed when I come back.”

She smiled drowsily. She had been feeling drowsy all through lunch, could hardly keep her head up, her eyes open.

He finally laughed at her: “No, you better not see me off at the airport. You’re sleepy. Go take a nap.”

But she accompanied him down the stairs to the car, her arm around his waist. She told him his waist was slimmer.

He patted his belly proudly: “Yes, no more paunch. I must keep it this way.” When they reached the car he said: “If you’re asleep when I arrive, I’ll wake you up.”

“Even if you didn’t,” she cried very sarcastically, “I would wake up!”

He had never learned to move quietly, on tiptoe, with stealth. She always knew when he was in: the floor seemed to shake with his movements. He was, she says, “pagpag,” very heavy-footed. He didn’t walk, he strode. He didn’t open a door, he burst it open. He didn’t enter a room, he stormed into it.

He laughed now at her sarcasm, kissed her and got into the car. It was about half-past noon. That was the last time she ever saw him. He was wearing slacks, one of his gaudy polo shirts and a jacket; and his brown face, after some three years of the presidency, looked almost as lean as the face of that very thin, very tall mechanic she had fallen in love with some 25 years before.

After he had gone, she had her nap. Then she drove to Tagaytay with a group of friends and spent the afternoon in a cottage on a hilltop. In the group was Chiming Hernández, whose husband, Gregorio Hernández, the education secretary, had also gone on that trip to Cebu. Mrs. Magsaysay noticed that her friend Chiming was moody, almost melancholy. She sat at a window, chin propped on hands, watching the sunset on Manila Bay.

“The sun is so red,” she kept saying. “Why is the sun so red?”

Mrs. Magsaysay said the sun didn’t look unusually red to her. Driving back to the city in the evening, she saw the skies radiant with moonlight and fleetingly thought it would be a safe night for flying.

After supper, she sat down for the picture show but did not, as her husband had advised, sit through all the movies. Before retiring, she took a spoonful of a tranquilizing liquid. Nevertheless, she could not fall asleep at once. Annoyed, she rose and, this time without bothering to use the spoon, gulped down the tranquilizer from the bottle. “Now,” she thought, “I should be able to go to sleep.” But her slumber that night was troubled, though she had not been worrying about her husband’s safety.

In the South

He had arrived at the airport at around one in the afternoon, had changed into gray trousers and a pastel blue barong before boarding the Mount Pinatubo. At two minutes past one, his plane took off for the South. There were 27 persons aboard and he had to sit on a bunk. When his guests complained of the heat in the plane, he said he had had the air-conditioning removed from the presidential plane to avoid public criticism. “We’ll all just have to sweat it out,” he said. He added that he had named the plane after the highest peak in Zambales, where he had operated as a guerrilla during the war.

At a quarter past tree, the plane landed in Cebu City and, to the roar of guns and of a multitude burned black by the March sun, he descended and began the ten-hour tour of Cebu City that was to be his last public appearance.

His first words to the Cebuanos were about corn, for the South was then suffering from a shortage of its staple cereal. He promised them that 20,000 tons of corn were arriving from America to relieve the shortage.

Then he drove through packed streets decored with festive arches to the house of the elder Osmeña, to salute the former president and his wife. From the Osmeñas’ he went to the archbishop’s palace. After a chat with Archbishop Julio Rosales, he prayed in the chapel. The pictures taken of him there show him looking strangely pensive, though the strangeness may only be because we are so used to seeing him in action. People with him noted that he tarried, on his knees, in the chapel long after the others had risen and that there was an odd look of peace, of relief in his face when he emerged –as of “a man who had moved from darkness into light.”

At five that afternoon, he was at the University of the Visayas, to be made an honorary doctor of laws. It was dusk when the ceremonies started. Suddenly the lights went out and stayed out for a quarter of an hour. He stood in the darkness, on the platform,  and no one came to lead him away. Afterwards the superstitious would say that they had felt it as ominous: that sudden darkness at a moment of glory.

Then he went to another school, the University of Southern Philippines, to speak on parental love and against neutralism. He still looked fresh but his baro had wilted and he hurried to the residence of a labor leader to change into a suit with tie and to eat supper. He was delighted with the menu: vegetables and dried fish, and his host gave him a pabaon:  a package of the dried fish he had enjoyed so much. The dried fish would later be found scattered over the wreckage of his plane.

At eight that night, he was at the University of San Carlos, where he had the biggest audience of all during his Cebu City speaking tour. About two hours later, he was at the house of Governor Manuel Cuenco, for a brief chat. Then he proceeded to the residence of Serging Osmeña,  then mayor of the city, with whom he was to have dinner, the last one of his life. As he sat down to eat, someone noted that there were 13 at the table.

He still had two engagements: at the Patria Recreation Hall, which was being inaugurated, and at the Club Filipino, which was holding a veterans forum. It was past midnight when, escorted by the two Osmeñas, he returned to the airport to take the plane back to Manila. He declined their invitations to stay the night in the city; he said he had an important conference in Malacañang in the morning.

The Mountain

As the list of passengers was read out, it was noted that he was No. 13. He grinned, shrugged his shoulders, said goodbye to the Osmeñas and boarded the plane. At about a quarter past one, Sunday, March 17, the Mount Pinatubo took off for Manila carrying aloft 26 very tired and sleepy people, only one of whom would reach the city alive. Ahead, just ten minutes away, a dark bulk in the moonlight, soared one of the most tragic mountains in Philippine history: Mount Manúnggal.

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Manúnggal is a mountain range curving like an arm just north of Cebu City. It’s such an obscure mountain, Cebuanos themselves say they had never heard of it until the accident put its name on the front pages. Its peak rises about 3,000 feet above sea level. The lower slopes have been deforested by kaingins; the upper slopes are steep, ending not on sharp peaks but on rough plateaus. From the center of the range springs a river, the Balamban, which winds all around the mountain and its base and then flowds through the western part of Cebu island into the sea.

Ten minutes after it left Cebu, the Mount Pinatubo confronted Mount Manúnggal and was flying toward the central plateau of the range, which is the source of the Balamban. The plane had lost altitude –from “metal fatigue,” according to investigation– but could have cleared the mountain and flown safely beyond it but for a giant tree standing on the summit.

The tree, an ibalos, is about fifty feet tall. The plane must have been flying about 45 feet above the summit, high enough to clear the mountain range –if that ibalos tree had not been standing right in its path. And it was against that tree, not the mountain, the the Mount Pinatubo crashed.

As plane and tree collided, the passengers inside were hurled against or out of their seats and the tree sliced off one of the plane’s wings. This wing was found near the foot of the tree. The crippled plane itself dropped much further down, about a hundred feet down the slope, which explains survivor Nestor Mata’s sensation of “hurtling down a black bottomless pit.” When the plane hit the ground, it exploded and burst into flames.

The fire –so intense it melted metal and fused bodies into an almost solid lump of coal– raged most fiercely nearest the fuselage but spared the tail and cockpit. The passengers seated nearest the fuselage –there were apparently seven of them, including the President– were burned beyond recognition, were turned into a single mass of charred flesh. The President was identified only by a wristwatch and ring embedded in the black mass.

About 14 other bodies, also horribly burned, were thrown out of the plane by the explosion and scattered lower down the hill. A few feet away was another group of bodies that had been only partially burned.

Two of the pilots, General Benito Ebuen and Major Florencio Pobre, were apparently hurled forward, still strapped to their seats, against the engines. The first had his skull broken; the second had his head ripped off. A security officer, Major Felipe Nunag, seems to have survived the crash, though wounded in the head, and to have crawled out of the wreckage and some distance down the slope, quite a trip for a man who was dying and must have known it. His was one of the few bodies found intact.

The only survivor, reporter Nestor Mata of the Herald, may owe his luck to the fact that he was thrown out of the plane at the very instant it hit the ground. He had been dozing, was jolted awake by a flash –“like thousands of flashbulbs popping at one time” –felt himself flying, and heard the deafening boom of an explosion. He blacked out. When he came to, he found himself lying under tall trees, among twisted bits of metal. He smelled burning flesh and saw in the distance the awful conflagration and the bodies strewn around it. But it may have been his own flesh he smelled, for he had been burned from head to foot.

Several people dwelling on the mountain looked up that night and saw its peak ablaze: a splash of red in the white moonlight. Some had heard an explosion. But the hero of the rescue operation, Marcelino Nuya, who lives near the peak, only some 800 feet from the crash site, neither heard the explosion nor saw the mountain top on fire that night. All he had noticed was that the droning of a plane overhead late that night had suddenly stopped.

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The Rescue

Marcelino Nuya, in his early 40s at the time of the disaster, was born in the lowland town of Compostela but has lived most of his life on the heights of Manúnggal. He was then the teniente of the mountain’s topmost barrio, though barrio is hardly the word for settlements of bamboo and cogon huts separated from one another by long lonely stretches of hillside, only patches of which are cultivated. Nuya’s house is more substantial than the others; its roof is of cogon but it has wooden walls and flooring. The house is 2,000 feet above sea level and beside it is a mountain spring that yields cold water.

Nuya is short and stocky and,  though unschooled, has the courtesy and percipience of people who live close to nature and have studied it. That March night, he and his wife had sat up waiting for their eldest daughter, who had gone to a barrio dance. Up in the mountains, too, young people go dancing on Saturday night. When the daughter arrived, she had friends with her and they sat around a while longer chatting. It was long past midnight before Nuya and his wide got to bed. Before they fell asleep, they heard a plane roaring directly overhead. It sounded very close, as though it were flying very low. Suddenly the roaring stopped. In the stillness, Nuya and his wife wondered what had happened. “Maybe it fell,” she said. He listened but heard no crash, no explosion. So he went to sleep.

He was aroused from sleep early the next morning by a neighbor crying that the mountain top was on fire. Nuya went out to look and saw that the blaze was not a kaingin. He decided to climb at once to the peak. With him were his two sons and the neighbor. They were followed by Nuya’s white dog, whom he called Serging, after the mayor of Cebu City. The press would later discreetly change the name of the dog to Avante. It was the dog’s barking that lifted Nestor Mata from despair, giving him the strength to push himself up from the ground, lean against a tree and cry out, “Tao! Tao!”

The dog ran toward the voice, followed by Nuya and his companions, who had to hack their way through the thick foliage and the undergrowth. On an old clearing now covered with cogon, huddled against a tree, they saw something that looked hardly human, hardly alive. It was black and bloated from head to foot, with monstrous ears and denuded skull and wounds that reeked of the grave’s corruption. As they stared in horror, it limply lifted one black arm and gestured toward the burning plane and from its black mouth came sounds that seemed to them gibberish. Mata was talking in English and Tagalog, strange tongues to these mountain folk.

Yet they understood when he cried: “Help me, I’m in pain!”

Nuya spoke to the neighbor and the neighbor lifted the burned man and heaved him over his shoulder. The swollen flesh crushed like fruit and foul juices streamed out.

“Put me down! Put me down, please!” screamed the agonized Mata.

All that day they carried him down the mountain, on a hammock, to a village where passed the buses for Cebu City. In the village were newsmen who knew Mata well, but when they saw the heap of carrion in the hammock they could only gape aghast and ask, “Who are you?”

Late that night, the lone survivor reached Cebu City and the nation at last knew what had happened to the plane that left Cebu at past one that morning and seemed to have completely disappeared in the skies.

The Long Wait

Mrs. Magsaysay had risen early that morning, to prepare for mass. As she combed her hair at her dresser, she glanced at the newspaper that had been slipped under her door. On the front page she could see a large picture of her husband with garlands of flowers around his neck. She thought happily that he had had a nice welcome in Cebu and she said to herself: “The Osmeñas persuaded him to stay the night.”

She went down to the chapel with her children. During the mass, she noticed that someone had approached one of the Palace aides and was whispering in his ear. The aide rose and left the chapel. When he showed up again, she was having breakfast with the children. He said there were people who wanted to see her: the Pelaezes, the Manahans, the Manglapuses. When they were shown in they all looked so solemn she at once felt sure they were going to ask a very big favor.

“Have you people heard mass already?” She asked. “Have you had breakfast?”

She ordered more coffee for the visitors. Manny Pelaez sat down beside her and thoughtfully stirred his coffee.

“Well, what was it you wanted to see me about?” she prompted.

“It’s so hard to say,” he said.

“Nothing’s hard if you try,” she laughed. “Say it –and I’ll let Monching know.”

At last he got it out: “The President’s plane was due back at half-past three. It’s long overdue.”

Her eyes flew to the clock on the wall; it was almost nine.

“So he did leave Cebu City last night?”

“Yes, at about one.”

“Maybe he stopped off somewhere.”

“Maybe. There’s really no cause for alarm yet.”

She saw her children silently rising from the table and going off to their rooms. Raul Manglapus approached her. “Let’s go and pray,” he said. Suddenly she began to weep but allowed herself to be led to an altar in another room. But she could not concentrate. She looked around and said, “This is not my room. I want to be in my own room.”

During the next four days she would not eat or drink anything and would lose four pounds. There was a cruel rumor that afternoon that the plane had been found, that the President was safe, and she would emerge from her room looking hysterical with joy. But that night the grim news arrived from Cebu: Nestor Mata had said the plane had crashed and that, as far as he knew, there were no other survivors. By then, a great crowd had collected on the Palace grounds and the cry went up: “We want the First Lady.” Mrs. Magsaysay was told she would have to make an appearance, to instil hope in a populace that still refused to believe her husband was dead. She went out to them and told them that she, too, like them, was still waiting for him.

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And many, though four years have passed, are still waiting for him. Even as the news of his death was being flashed to the nation, the word was already going around that the Guy was not dead, that he was merely hiding himself for a while, but would eventually come down from the mountain to lead his people anew. The holocaust on the mountain top was bound to kindle the popular imagination, for mountains and folk leaders are closely associated in folklore. One thinks of Moses vanishing into the smoke and fire of Sinai until his people believed him dead; of Elias disappearing from Mount Carmel on a chariot of fire; of Bernardo Carpio, whom an earlier generation of Filipinos believed to be hiding on a mountain, too, from where, in the fullness of time, he would descend to led the people out of bondage. Today, four years after he died, the Magsaysay legend has attained the stature of myth and may in time become for us Filipinos what the Lincoln myth is for Americans.

The Bereaved

In spite of the news from Cebu, Mrs. Magsaysay and her children stubbornly clung to the hope that rescuers sent to the crash site would find survivors, the President among them. That night, Jun Magsaysay kept vigil at his mother’s bedside. She had been given one injection after another to put her to sleep until she rebelled and cried out: “I don’t want to be put to sleep! I want to be conscious! I want to know!” And, anyway, the injections eventually had no effect. They could jab her arm till it bled; no kind sleep blacked out her grief.

So she lay sleepless that night and heard her son walking back and forth, back and forth, crackling his knuckles and moaning, “Daddy, Daddy — what happened to you? What happened to you?” She called to him and bade him lie down at her side. “No, I can’t sleep,” he said. “Just lie down,” she told him, “and rest.” But the boy refused to lie down, continued to pace the floor, crackling his knuckles and groaning.

Of his sisters, the younger one, Mila, had collapsed and was being kept in bed by her friends. The elder sister, Teresita, had gathered all her young relatives and the household help in the chapel and had been leading them in prayer all day and night.

Hope died out the next day when a younger brother of the President was flown to the crash site and identified the remains. A report was wired to the Palace and Jun Magsaysay was delegated to break the news to his mother. The moment he entered the room, biting his lips and pale with shock, she knew what he was going to say.

Before he had finished speaking, she flung her hands to her head and uttered a scream that rang through the Palace and froze the blood of all who heard it.

“Monchi-i-ing!” she cried –and fell backward as her son ran to catch her.

Her daughters were summoned to her room. Mila rose from bed but had to be carried back to it before she reached her mother’s room. Teresita, an image of fortitude, came up from the chapel, rosary in hand, dark glasses shrouding her eyes. She strode into her mother’s room and closed the door behind her. When the two of them were alone together and she had been told that her father’s body had been found, she unclenched her hand before her mother’s eyes. The girl had been gripping the rosary so hard she had crushed the beads.

Suddenly her face twisted. “I have lost faith in God!” she cried, hurling the rosary at a mirror. The mirror broke. Shocked, Mrs. Magsaysay ran toward her trembling daughter, but the girl broke away from her mother’s arms and fled to her room.

Mrs. Magsaysay forgot her grief. She went out of her room to seek out a cousin of hers, a Jesuit priest, whom she sent to her daughter. When the priest returned, he told Mrs. Magsaysay there was nothing to worry about. Teresita was merely suffering from shock and was already aghast at what she had done. “The girl,” said the priest, “was expecting a miracle.”

The remains arrived and were at the Palace for three days, but the widow and her children were never alone, even for a moment, with their dead. Day and night, lying in her bed, Mrs. Magsaysay heard the tramping of feet and felt the old house shaking as the masses stampeded up the stairs to bid farewell to their Guy. “Abah, we may crash,” she thought as the Palace swayed with the weight of the people.

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She could not weep anymore. “I found out then,” she says, “that you can run out of tears too.” But not to be able to weep can be more terrible than weeping. The unshed tears hurt like stones under one’s eyelids.

During the funeral, all he could think of was that it was most uncomfortable, on such a hot day, to be wedged between two people. She was in the presidential car, seated between President and Mrs. Garcia. “Why can’t I be with my own family?” she asked herself peevishly, and herself answered the question: “Protocol! Protocol!” Then she wondered why she couldn’t be sitting in front beside the driver, instead of that aide. “It would be so much cooler there,” she thought, and idly noticed that the aide’s hair needed cutting. She glanced sideways at President Garcia sitting so still and stolid. She glanced at Inday Garcia quietly eating boiled eggs. She looked out the window at people running between cars, hurrying after the bier. “Won’t they get run over?” she wondered. Finally she concentrated on her husband’s horse, marching with such dignity just before their car, the empty saddle and boots on its back. On that hot crowded day, that horse alone looked cool and poised and whole. “It died a year later,” says Mrs. Magsaysay, “People wanted me to sell it but I said no. Then it fell sick. We had it operated on but it was no use. It died.”

At the graveyard, as the cannon boomed and the bugle sounded taps and the hot sun beat down on the multitude, what had felt like stones under her eyelids loosened at last and tears mercifully came streaming again from her eyes.

Mrs. Magsaysay says she used to dream a lot about her husband: “But since we moved to this new house of ours, I have dreamed of him only three or four times. The dreams are rather odd. He is wearing his old polo shirts. But he is never talking to me; he is always talking to somebody else, just like when he was alive.”

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About ten months after the disaster, two groups of priests climbed Mount Manúnggal to the site of the crash. They found the plane’s wreckage still there and said mass on the spot. For congregation, they had the mountain folk, who live so far from church many of them had never heard mass until that day. On the spot where the body of the Guy was found somebody had placed a makeshift marker: a round piece of paper framed in bamboo. There had been an inscription on the paper but it was illegible when the priests got there.

On the site of the crash now stands a rough-hewn chapel which the mountain folk also use as an assembly hall.

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.

 

 

Strange Victory, November 23, 1957

Strange Victory

Saturday, November 23, 1957–CONGRESSMAN Diosdado Macapagal’s clean-cut victory in last week’s elections has no precedent in our political history. In a country like ours where, in the past, the occupants of the two highest elective positions had always come from the party has people analyzing the political situation that prevailed before and during the balloting.

Why did the electorate –at least the portion that upheld the Nacionalista Party administration– choose Carlos P. Garcia for another presidential term and repudiate Jose B. Laurel, Jr., for the No. 2 position? At the same time, why didn’t the people who voted for Macapagal support his political partner, Jose Yulo?

Macapagal’s victory has evoked interesting comments from different sectors of our people. Some say that the way the country voted for the two highest officials of the land is “a happy commentary on the political maturity of our electors.” Others remark that the “block-voting mentality” among us is gone; and still others opine that “the days when our electors could be bamboozled by political bosses into voting even for candidates they didn’t like are no more.”

Pre-election events and circumstances blended together to favor Macapagal. The keen rivalry for the vice-presidential nomination among NP bigwigs did not do young Laurel any good. It is doubtful if those who lost in the VP nomination raised a finger to help him in the campaign. Long before the elections, two NP senators had made it clear to all that they would not support the Speaker in his bid for the vice-presidency. Then there was the fact that certain re-electionist NP congressmen made no mention of Laurel in their campaign speeches. Asked to explain, one of them replied: “I have noticed that the people of my district do not like him; he’s hard to ‘sell’ and if I insist on plugging him, even my own supporters might junk me.”

Shortly before the actual voting took place, Mayor Sergio Osmeña, Jr., successful candidate for congressman in the second district of Cebu, announced in a radio interview, on the morning of November 12, that he had instructed his leaders and supporters to “junk Laurel and vote for the vice-presidential candidate of your choice”.

All of this, and the fact that Macapagal is truly “man of the masses,” made it easy for him to score a resounding victory over Laurel. Incidentally, even President Garcia, himself a keen political analyst and observer, had entertained genuine pre-election fears that his running mate might fare poorly at the polls.

It’s true the Nacionalistas won the biggest prize in the last political contest; but, on the other hand, the Liberals claim –not without justification– that in Macapagal’s decisive victory over politically well-entreched opponent, they have cracked the NP fortress. In Macapagal’s overwhelming election, the LPs believe that they have gained sufficient assurance that the people are no longer mad at them.

Macapagal’s strange victory could be a harbinger of happy days ahead for the Liberal Party.

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