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Escape from Corregidor, December 8, 2001

Escape from Corregidor

by Manuel L. Quezon Jr.

(Fom the late author’s unpublished memoirs.

December 8, 2001–THE last public occasion I attended with my father (I was then 15) was when my father told the UP audience on Taft Avenue that if bombs started to drop and people was killed because there were no shelters, it would be because of the Civil Liberties Union. My father had planned to build air raid shelters all over for the safety of the people but Roosevelt had asked him not to use the special powers given him by the National Assembly because of the Civil Liberties Union.  I have never liked the CLU since.  If widespread bombing had occured in Manila, people would have died because of the CLU. In their self-righteous so-called defense of rights, they sometimes block higher rights —and those people should have been hanged from the lamp posts.

During the speech, my father was shouting.  I never remembered any of the subject matter of my father’s speeches — what 15 years old wants to sit through hour-long public speeches — at least they seemed hours long — but that speech I do recall.  The smart-alec UP students laughed.

In 1941 — December 8— the war came. The day World War II started in the Philippines, my mother, my sister Baby, Jovita Fuentes and I were at our (then) hacienda in Arayat, Pampanga, just about half an hour from the Buencamino hacienda in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.  As it was the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patroness of the Philippines and also of Cabiao, we went to Cabiao; we had the usual enormous breakfast of adobo, tinapa, eggs and God knows what else.  I suppose Jovita Fuentes had to sing at Mass.  Then we went back to Arayat,  where we soon saw the smoke rising above Fort Stotsenberg, as the Japanese that had bombed it flew right over us.  Jovita Fuentes fell into a ditch from fright.  My mother signalled me to join her under a shrub or trees lower than her (she was only five feet tall).  My sister Baby did not join us in hiding.  She was one of those enviable individuals who was inmune of from fear, and bent over double with laughter at my mother and myself, hiding under the little shrub. My father was in Baguio resting at the outbreak of war — apparently he was having  a resurgence of his TB, although I did not know.

That evening my father picked us all up and we we moved back to our country house in Marikina for safety.  Marikina had a very well designed air raid shelter.

Government people kept coming and going. There were lots of meetings, and finally what turned out to be my father’s last cabinet meeting before evacuating to Corregidor. It was held under the shade of a large mango tree in our Marikina house, where PSBA is now.

What I was doing in the open-air Cabinet meeting I do not know but I do recall that my father got telephone reconfirmation of MacArthur’s approval of my father’s instructions — the cabinet members were to do everything to protect the Filipino people, short of swearing allegiance to Japan and the rule was followed by the Filipinos.  It did them little good, as they were all tried for collaboration.  Only Pres. Roxas’s amnesty saved them.

Except for our departure for Corregidor — perhaps not that — I was never told what my father intended — I was just told to move whenever we were to move.

On December 24, 1941, when we were brought to  the Presidential landing to board the Mayon, the largest interisland steamer at the time, painted all white — it was obvious we were going to Corregidor. We were given life jackets.  An air raid started and the ship could not move — I think the ship’s engineer was missing.  But the Japanese did not know who were on board — the Philippine government.  Perhaps they did not care.  It was especially frightening for a terrible scary-cat like me — a terrible experience, being marooned in the bay not far from the Manila Hotel.  Fortunately, no bombs were dropped on the ships.  Perhaps the Japanese intended to use the ships later.

Finally,  the all clear was sounded and finally we got underway.  As I recall it, we reached Corregidor towards evening.  The previous time my father had brought me to Corregidor, months or a year before, we were received with a 19 gun salute, in broad daylight.  Now it was a humble arrival.  We were brought to the hospital side-tunnel of the Malinta tunnel.  At midnight Father Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., our Chaplain, said mass for us and the soldiers, in Latin of course.  It was either at that mass or the New Year’s Mass that he preached to comfort us,  speaking in our Lord’s words “Put your hand in mine,” referring to the darkness of the war.

Corregidor became our home from Dec. 24, 1941 to Feb. 20, 1942.  If the  war had not come, we should have been hearing Midnight Mass in the richly carved wooden chapel in our home in Pasay.  Noche Buena was meant to be the re-inauguration of our own house in Pasay, where we were to live instead of in Malacañan.  We never saw our home again, except in ruins, as was the case with our Marikina house — the Japanese or the Makapilis, or in the case of Pasay, perhaps the Americans had destroyed them.

Manuel L. Quezon Jr., Aurora A. Quezon, Manuel L. Quezon, Maria Aurora Quezon, on Corregidor.

As our Corregidor stay was prolonged, things became worse.  At first we had some minutes’ air raid warning, then Cavite fell and there was no warning — shells from Maragondon would just come over, my eldest sister, Baby with her mission in life (as Nini said) of perpetually making puns, punned — May Aragon doon.  The lovely presidential yacht, the Casiana had been sunk of Corregidor and US soldiers used to dive underwater to bring up bottles of liquor, champagne, etc.

I recall one air-raid that was terrifying.  We were sitting outside the hospital tunnel on the small platform under a tent, where my father used to spend the day.  Suddenly, siren! How we got my father inside, I don’t remember, but obviously he could still walk.  But I recall my mother starting to run but with just a half-step she stopped dead and looked around for her children.  Baby who was one of those irritating people who literally never experienced fear, was bent over in laughter.  She had spotted Carlos P. Romulo running down the hills towards the tunnel as fast as he could, which anyone in his right mind would do.  But when he saw Baby laughing, bent over, he suddenly stopped and walked.  His rather foolish male pride came  into operation, even though he and Baby could both have been killed.  My mother shouted “Baby!” I still remember her voice and we all made it safely to the tunnel.  Then the bombs started to drop closer and closer until an absolutely deafening explosion came.  I thought a bomb had entered the tunnel and the lights went out.  We were already in the sub-lateral we occupied, with the only light being the sanctuary lamp of the curtained-off little chapel.  How long we continued sitting in the dark I do not recall.

During the raids, my father made no sound at all that I recall. He used to say that the brave man was not the one who had no fear — but the one who felt fear and still did his duty.

In the tunnel my mother prayed of course and we were comforted by the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I imagine my father prayed too, but he must have prayed in silence.

As the days went on, the shelling became more and more frequent, though I think never at night.

When my father and Don Sergio Osmeña were reinaugurated, on December 30, 1941, the ceremony was held outside one main entrance of the Malinta Tunnel.  All I remember is that High Commissioner Sayre addressed Vice-President Osmeña as “Don Serjoe Osmanyo.”

On the 19th of February, 1942, Fr. Francisco Avendaño came to Corregidor to say mass on my mother’s birthday and complained to my father about the lack of food on Bataan.  He also complained of the American treatment of the Filipino soldiers.  One Filipino who I think was too sick to stand, was kicked by an American.

At midnight that night we boarded the submarine Swordfish. During the night we traveled on the surface, where the sub could make better speed, above 20 knots per hour.  Underwater it could make only about 8 knots per hour. After a good night’s sleep, there was an alarming sound of a siren, the signal that we were submerging.  On the surface the sub had moved with the waves like any other ship. The moment we submerged the sub became almost completely motionless, as there were no waves underwater. We spent the whole day submerged until we landed at San Jose de Antique.  I must be one of the very people who ever received Communion under water.  We were given tongue sandwiches and I threw up. The reason was the heat.  Commander  Smith had decided to attack Japanese troopships in Subic before picking us up (most irresponsible really) and naturally the Japanese dropped depth charges.  As a result, half the air-conditioning system did not work and it was hot as hell.  There were a lot of red lights meaning no smoking but the sailors were merrily smoking away.

As we were passing Mindoro, we were allowed to peep through the periscope.  The sky looked a non descript color.  At one time also there seemed to be sound of propellers which was alarming —possibly an enemy war ship — but it turned out to be the movement of fish tails.  We remained submerged all day and surfaced after dark when the sea was quite rough.  Then we approached the shore,  I seem to recall there was some problem with identifying the people signaling from a boat to pick us up.  If only the people on the boat had realized how close they came to being sunk, but finally we were put ashore to drive to Iloilo.  I recall distinctly leaning my head and shoulders against my father’s dark brown leather jacket in relaxation, feeling safe.  Fortunately during reminder of our stay in the Philippines I did not realize we were in danger all the time.

When we arrived in Iloilo later that night, we went to sleep in comfortable beds and awoke to the sound of the thin horns of Iloilo streetcars the following day.  I am under the impression that we stayed at the Cacho mansion, but it may have been one of the Lopez Mansions.  We spent the day there — I do not know whether my father saw any government officials.  Of course, Iloilo at that time had not yet been occupied by the Japanese. Our nighttime ride from Antique to Iloilo was the first of a series of night time drives in the Philippines until we escaped.

That night we boarded the Princess of Negros, which must have been a slow ship.  We went to Guimaras on the way to Negros, but spent the day there, taking a lunch, up to the river to a house where Father Ortiz baptized an infant with me as sponsor.  I never saw the baby again and do not even recall his name.  We disembarked from the Princess because we might be spotted by Japanese planes.  We reembarked at night and went on to Bacolod where we arrived the following morning.

Humor is always involved with our family.  My chronology is shaky so I am not sure whether the following funny episode happened when we landed in Bacolod or later at some other part.  My father covered his face with his usual large white handkerchief and told the rest of us to do the same, which we did or did not, depending on whether or not we had suitable handkerchiefs.  Some local officials approached and greeted my father, “Good morning, Mr. President”.  He got quite angry at us for not covering our faces, which he blamed for his being recognized. He did not realize that his get-up, with his jodhpurs and large handkerchief and, I think, a soft white hat, and riding whip were instantly recognizable all over the Philippines, whereas our faces were not. We (the rest of the family) had a good secret laugh over it, not openly because he would have been even angrier.

I do not know who provided the cars, but we drove to the Lizares hacienda where Sonia and Lety Lizares were staying.  I do not recall whether  their respective husbands Peping Coroninias and Manuel del Rosario were there, but definitely Letty’s daughters and Minnie were, and became my playmates while we luxuriated there.  Luxuriated is the word, after our stay in Corrigidor and our brief stop-over in Iloilo.  Sonia and Lety had known me since I was a little boy.  I do not remember how long we stayed, but my father took advantage of our stay to confer with government officials, among them Gov. Alfredo Montelibano, who was the uncle and later apparently guerrilla commander of Teddy Locsin.  I suppose our stay there was supposed to be a secret, though how any kind of secret can be kept among Filipinos with their wagging tongues is beyond me.

One evening we drove up a zigzag to a lovely but not  large  house in an hacienda owned by the Aranetas. It was called Buenos Aires  a very appropriate name because it was so nice and  cool. I do not recall whether we went back to the Lizares hacienda or went on to our next stop on the trip which ended up in a rest house in Canlaon Volcano.  We stayed there for some time, how long I don’t recall.  It seems I felt quite safe there.  The rest of our party must have been there too. I remember that at some time Don Andres Soriano went on a reconnaissance flight.  I suppose the plane belonged to our Army Air Corps but I can’t be sure.  I think they spotted a Japanese destroyer, probably the one which finally towed away the Princess of Negros, and which ended up with the Japanese announcing on the air that my father was dead. How we learned of the broadcast I don’t know; it was very brave of Don Andres and his pilot to be scouting because they could have been shot down by the destroyer.  I do not think there were many, or any, Japanese Air Force planes in the area as yet.

Ma. Zeneida Quezon, First Lady Aurora A. Quezon, President Manuel L. Quezon, Ma. Aurora Quezon, Manuel L. Quezon Jr., on Corregidor.

After sometime, for purposes of security I suppose, or perhaps my father received a message from MacArthur that we should join him in Australia, we set off again. The move  was supposed  to be  a secret  but somehow my sister Baby knew where we were going and with her predilection  for punning , she said   “A donde Bais.”  According to my sister Nini, Baby felt her  mission  in life  was  punning.  I believe Bais was in Negros Oriental and belonged  then to Tabacalera or some other Spanish company.

Later —how much later escapes me–  we went on our usual long  caravan at night.  I was in the back seat of the car with Dr. Trepp my father’s  Swiss TB expert and Director of Quezon Institute. It seems my mother’s  driver  Pedro  Payumo (“Pedro Taba”) was driving  — how he managed to come along I don’t know — but I distinctly remember his asking us to keep talking as he was sleepy and it was dark but  we — at  least I — paid  no attention and went back to sleep even though we could easily have fallen into a ditch.

It turned  out that  our destination was Dumaguete , which was pitch dark.  There were  a lot of people on the side of the road with bundles or cardboard boxes on their heads and also the  church bells were ringing.  It turned out that the people were alarmed by the sound of the PT  boat’s engines which sounded like airplane  engines. The PT boat had been sent to pick us up. We drove to the  wharf and boarded the PT – boat.  How we all fitted in the PT-boat, I don’t know. My mother and I entered the cabin where I put my head on her lap.  I suppose the rest of the family were in the cabin but I remember only my mother and the cabin was pitch dark.

After sometime there was a loud conversation on the deck and sparks could be seen. I was scared to death as usual but after a short time the sparks and the commotion stopped and everything went back to normal and we continued the high  speed trip.  Later on I learned that, with the rough pitching of the PT-boat a torpedo had slipped about half way out of the deck torpedo tube, the sparks being the result of the torpedo’s motor having been started. Someone had the presence of mind to fire off the torpedo.  If the torpedo’s fuse had struck the deck, the torpedo would have exploded and that would have been the end of us.

In the early morning light, we were put ashore in Misamis Oriental in Oroquieta.  That silly episode of my father’s being recognized the moment  we went ashore may have been then.

We went to two places, one of them being Oroquieta, where we met the Ozamis sisters and, I think , Senator Jose Ozamis also, then Governor of Misamis Oriental. Perhaps it was then that my father talked to Commissioner  Teofisto Guingona, whom somehow I understood was in charge of Mindanao.  I turned over to him for safekeeping the case that contained my two .22 cal rifles and my .25 cal automatic pistol.  For some reason I remember the encounter as being at night and I usually  have a pictorial memory.

After spending the day with the Ozamis family —very mestizo looking— we set off by car for Bukidnon and the Del Monte plantation where we arrived at night.  We were put in very comfortable company houses.  I was put in a room with Dr. Trepp and fell sound asleep.

The following morning I was shaken awake by Dr. Trepp saying in a loud voice, “ Nonong wake up, wake up, it is air raid.”  There were twin engine Japanese planes which flew over the area and went on, but no air raid.

I had been to the Del Monte plantation once before with my father and it was so beautiful.  This time it was still beautiful but there  was an overpowering smell of rotting pineapples, because no one was picking the fruit. Many years later, someone wrote that, during the days we spent waiting for the Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia, we spent every day in the hills surrounding Del Monte.  I have no such recollection and when I checked with my sister Nini, she had no such recollection either.  She recalled something else, Americans in Del Monte, which I do not recall.

We knew we were waiting for Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia and after a few days we were roused in the dead of night and drive to the airfield where there  were two Fortresses waiting for us. As we drove to the Fortresses, I started to talk and my mother told me to keep quiet —I suppose my father was very pensive and my talk was out of place.

The fortresses were new models (I knew all about practically every airplane and its various models).  This model had tail turrets, the latest version. Some of us — my family and others, but I do not remember who, climbed into one Fortress and the others climbed into the other.  It  turned out that we were in one plane and Vice-President Osmeña in the other, I suppose to increase the chance of either my father or Osmeña surviving if anything went wrong — the planes being shot down or crashing, I suppose.

My father and mother sat on a mattress on the floor.  I think my father was given oxygen during the night —the cabin was not pressurized. I do not know where my sisters sat. I sat at the radio-operator’s seat, at a table. I suppose the radio transmitter could not be used or the Japanese would have spotted us.

I had always wanted to be a pilot, but as the plane picked up speed I was not excited, I was scared.  I started asking God not to allow the plane to take off, but of course it did.  As the plane climbed I fell asleep with my head on the table.  All through the night we were bouncing up and down –it was a very rough flight.  We could not really fly very high, among other reasons because of my father’s condition I suppose. Also, perhaps there were not enough oxygen masks to go around. Through the night I slept on and off.  At one point of I noticed it was raining, then I saw clouds over the ocean.   My nervousness at take off was gone.  As  day dawned the sky cleared and finally we landed at Bachelor’s Field in Northern Australia.  I did not realize from my aviation reading that touch down was a little rough, not perfectly smooth.

I remember getting  off the plane and being taken to a mess-hall for breakfast, together with the rest of the party, then were set to prepare to take off for Alice Springs.

Anyway, we were transferred at Bachelor’s Field to another plane,  a Douglas DC-5, a bit smaller than a DC-3 and intended to replace the DC-3,  but war broke out in Europe and Douglas changed to producing twin engine bombers. KLM was always up to date and the DC-5 had been delivered to KLM.  The Dutch Airline had a very reliable service from Holland to the Dutch East Indies and the DC-5 had escaped to Australia, having an auxiliary gas tank in the cabin.  Aside from the Dutch pilot and co-pilot, there was a young American US Air Forces man on board, whose presence I do not understand because I think he was a machine-gunner and there was not machine gun on the DC-5.

As we walked out to the DC-5, a smartly dressed Dutchman in a KLM uniform saluted.  My father asked him “how do we fly?” and the Dutchman answered — “About 3,000 meters” (about 10,000 feet ) which apparently disturbed my father.  He asked the next smartly dressed Dutchman the same question and the man, apparently the Captain, answered “We fly as Your Excellency wishes.”  which  pleased my father.  Apparently some agreement was arrived at and we took off.  This was in the morning and as the air started to warm up unevenly, I had one of the bumpiest flight have ever had.

My mother sat beside me and I tied a white hanky over my eyes.  Every time the plane bounced my mother called out — “Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,” or “Corazon Sagrado de mi Jesus!”—  I would lift the blindfold from my eyes to see if we were about to crash.  We were flying over the Australian desert, with rocks all over the place. I finally started to sing hymns to my mother to calm her down. All through the flight, there would be a slight increase and then decrease in the vibration of the engines and I could see that the propellers would be rotating smoothly and then slightly roughly and smoothly again.  I turned out that there was a slight nick in the propeller, how acquired I can’t guess. This went on until we landed at Alice Springs five hours later. We made a slightly rough landing in Alice Springs. When we got out of the plane, it turned out that the men were wearing sun helmets with long veils over their faces because there were large horse flies all over the place, a phenomenon I had never seen before and have never seen again.  They were what we call bangaos and would not be driven away.  If you tried to drive them away, you might squash them with your hand.

Vice-President  Osmeña’s Fortress did not land after us. As it took longer to arrive, someone —I forget who— urged my father to continue our flight but he flatly announced that we would not continue until the Vice-President arrived.  Our original Fortress had continued the flight with us and looked for the Vice-President’s Fortresses, but to no avail.  Night fell and we stayed at a small inn.  My mother and I saw a cat catch a small mouse, which disgusted us.  All through the night we could hear drunks throwing up.

The following morning we had breakfast and our Dutch plane took  off to search for the Vice-President’s plane.  In a very short time the DC-5 returned followed by the missing Fortress.   It seems the Dutchmen were better pilots than the Americans.  While our original Fortress had no trouble finding Alice Springs — possibly by following our little twin-engine DC-5, the Vice-President’s place was lost.  At least the pilot had enough sense to land in the desert before running out of fuel.  Then the Americans spent the night firing off flares and rockets.  When the Dutchman found the Fortress, it took off for Alice Springs. Finally Don Sergio was able to continue with us, to Adelaide this time.  It  was another five hours’ flight.  This time, I sat beside my sister Nini, to get away from mother’s exclamations.  I did not overcome the fear of flying then instilled by my mother for years.

When we landed in Adelaide towards evening we spent the night.  The following morning we went to a church to give thanks for our safe flight.  As we came out, my father had his first encounter with Australian English.  Perhaps we were the first non-Caucasians those Australians had ever met and they were very friendly and also curious.  They asked “Did you come today?” which they pronounced “to-die.” I am sure he was able to figure the question out right there but later on he embellished the exchange by saying that he had answered, “I came to live, not to die!”

The Commonwealth War Cabinet-in-exile: (l-r) Auditor-General Jaime Hernandez, Finance Secretary Andres Soriano, Vice-President Sergio Osmeña, President Manuel L. Quezon, Resident Commissioner Joaquin Elizalde, Defense Secretary Gen. Basilio J. Valdes

We took an overnight train to Melbourne.  During the day, I saw a plane overhead, and for the first time since Dec. 8, I was not afraid.  The following morning we arrived in Melbourne where we were met by Gen. MacArthur.

We heard of the fall of Bataan on April 9, my sister Nini’s birthday, in Australia

However, discussions started in our government over going to the States.  I do not know whose idea it was originally, but my father wanted to stay in Australia, I suppose to return more quickly to the Philippines after liberation.  Don Sergio Osmeña wanted to go to Washington and when my father disagreed he said: “Send me.” I don’t know why it was decided that our whole group should go to the States — perhaps MacArthur urged it, to pressure Roosevelt to send more aid quickly to the Philippines.   We sailed for the States on the President Coolidge.  The Coolidge had been converted into a troopship but some twin cabin had been left in their original condition and the dining room and lounge had been left untouched.  It seems there was some kind of band because there was dancing in the evenings.

At the beginning of the voyage — I had no map and thus did not realize what a long voyage it was to be — we were escorted by a New Zealand warship. Sometime later, the escort duty was taken by a US navy ship which accompanied us until we reached San Francisco.  As usual my roommate was Dr. Trepp.  We were a large number. From the Philippines we had lost one member of the party, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who had insisted on remaining in Mindanao — he was finally executed by the Japanese for refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese and for maintaining his loyalty to the United States.

However, while we were sailing to the United States, I still thought we would be going home anytime. During our voyage, we had one little exciting episode. We started to zig-zag violently; probably they had detected a submarine. But after a while, the zig-zagging stopped. It was probably a false alarm or, the submarine being under water and therefore very slow, we outran it. The rest of the voyage to the States was uneventful. Finally, we passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which was still undergoing its finishing touches of paint when we went to the States in 1937. We were safely in port.

We were taken to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, considered one of the best at the time, where we stayed for about a week.  This time my roommate was Col. Jaime Velasquez.  There were newsmen swarming outside my father’s suite and when they knew who  I was, they started  to interview me but one of our group stopped me.

After some days in San Francisco, to give us a rest from the voyage I suppose, President Roosevelt’s special railroad carriage (called the Ferdinand Magellan) was sent for us and attached to a transcontinental train. It was a four or four and a half day train ride to Washington.

The start of a journey has always excited me. We had to drive to Oakland, CA, to catch the eastward train there.  When we arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC, at the exit to the Station there was FDR standing beside his car and we were photographed in memorable poses.  I was so moved my lips were trembling.  We were driven to the White House where we had lunch and dinner.  We were entertained by President Roosevelt who was a great raconteur.  Mrs. Roosevelt kept walking in and out  and when I met her in a corridor, she smiled “The mail, always the mail.”  She seemed terribly tall, as did every one else, which is no wonder since I was only 5’2”.  We spent that night at the White House, where I was put in an enormous (to me) bedroom alone.  I had the impression it was the Lincoln Bedroom but I may very well be wrong.

The following morning we were taken to the eighth floor suite of the Shell Oil Company at the Shoreham Hotel, where we stayed for a time.  Then we moved to the Pat Hurley estate in Leesburg, Virginia, about forty minutes from Washington, where we stayed for the summer, until our permanent quarters at the Shoreham, were ready.

Before deciding to stay at the Shoreham, we took a look at a Waldorf Towers suite way up — the Waldorf is about 34 stories high.  Since my father was terribly acrophobic, the project was dropped and thereafter whenever we went to New York we stayed at an 8th floor suite at the Waldorf.

On Corregidor my father was always outdoors in a tent, away from the dust in the tunnels, but of course he had to be active when we went to the Visayas then Australia via Mindanao; and then in the United States, having settling down in Washington, he resumed a normal life, which was a mistake. His condition worsened. Dr. Edward Hayes, the doctor who had treated him in the Monrovia Sanitarium in the thirties, came to Washington and the plan was for us to go out to California.  Unfortunately, my father changed the plans.

When I graduated from high school in June of 1944, my father was already bedridden in Saranac Lake, New York.

By  the first of August, 1944, a month and a half after my eighteenth birthday, my father was dead.

What’s with Doy? October 3, 1987

What’s with Doy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reward

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

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

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

Not Made in Heaven

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

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

Chances

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

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

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

“ARROYO HITS LAUREL, 3 TOP BUSINESSMEN

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

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

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

“Irresponsibility at Its Height

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

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

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

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

Adding Fuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is Laurel Really Up To?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong with this guy Doy Laurel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Doy Laurel just felt foolish.

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

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

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

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

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

“Is Doy a thief, a crook? No . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You struck out on that one, Doy.

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

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

“What are we to do with you, Doy?”

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

“LAUREL ACCUSED OF ‘FOMENTING’ UNREST IN AFP

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

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

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

But why should Doy be doing that?

Divide the AFP — so the Communists will win?

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

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

Why?

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

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

Turning Cory into a ceremonial President if not killing her?

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

BUT SURE AS HELL, NOT DOY!

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

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

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

The President accepted it.

“Good!” many sighed in relief.

C’est la vie — political wise.

The Long Week, February 7, 1970

The Long Week

By Kerima Polotan

Bombs, Guns, Stones—Violence, Hate, Death.

1.

February 7, 1970WHEN THE WEEK began, it seemed to hold no surprises. The country had seen how many Congresses open before and except for a mugginess in the afternoon, rare in January, the Seventh held no special portents. The young had, of course, taken over the streets and were on Ayala Street, thrusting leaflets at passerby: An Appeal for a Non-Partisan Constitutional Convention. All week the week before, they’d been pretty busy, demonstrating in front of Malacañang. A particularly “militant” group had roughed up an army sergeant moonlighting as a photographer; they had peppered the air with elegant language, the accepted idiom of student activism, amplified many decibels with the aid of loudspeakers, language like: Putang ina mo! Ikaw Marcos, bumaba ka rito, napakayabang mo, 27 ang medalya mo, halika nga dito at tignan natin ang galing mo! I am from Cabiao, kung talagang matapang ka, bumaba ka rito at papatayin ka namin! x x x

Bukas, ang aabutin mo rito kung akala mo ay minura ka na, ay hindi pa namin naaabot ang pagmumura sa iyo. Mumurahin ka namin ng gabi. Putang ina mo x x x Putang ina ninyong mga Americans kayo, sino ang pupuntahan ninyo diyan, ang demonyong Presidente namin? ‘Yang gagong Pangulo namin diyan, bakit ninyo pupuntahan, gago naman iyan?

True to their word, they had frothed umaga, tanghali, at gabi, heroically cursing Mr. Marcos to his face, in the house where he lived, shocking even the hardened veterans of the Presidential Guard Battalion, but now in the afternoon sun, their young, clear faces turned Congressward, they seemed indeed, ten deep, and miles and miles of them, the hope of the fatherland.

Inside Congress, however, the familiar peremptoriness of security guards greeted guests—even the most inoffensive looking specimen got thoroughly sniffed at from head to foot and if you didn’t smell at all as if you had legitimate business on the premises, you were quickly waved off to a side door where khaki’d arms blocked the way. You thrust a press card and the guard’s sangfroid remained undented—one prepared, therefore, to offer a fistful of identification papers: credit card, driver’s license, insurance bill, plumber’s reminder, grocery list, beauty parlor receipt, but remembering from somewhere that occasionally a double whammy worked, one fixed the fellow with a look: left eye shut, right eye open, and then a whisper: Tsip, puede ba?

It worked, and one was suddenly inside, to one’s utter disappointment. One had not fought one’s way through to stand guard over a half empty hall, along with half a hundred TV cameras, and the minor functionaries of this Republic, the second officials, the junior assistants, who strutted and poked and pointed—“Mahina ang audio!”—but there were compensations. Eduardo Cojuangco, the husband of Gretchen Oppen, was there, in expensive barong; and so was Joe Aspiras, the ex-press secretary, in barong; and also Joe de Venecia, whom the papers called a Marcos Liberal, who had just shed (again according to the papers) an old love and acquired a new one, in coat and tie; a dear friend from Dumaguete: Herminio (Minion) Teves, the younger twin of Lorence, in coat and tie; Rafael Aquino, the Sorsogueño from Butuan City, in coat and tie. All brand new diputados, eager to be of service to the country, but already practised in the art (and craft) of winning people and influencing friends. You could tell—they strode as though they belonged (and did they not?), crossed their legs, scratched their colleagues’ back, held languid cigarettes, laughed their rich solid laugh. But no Rufino Antonio, poor man, with all his troubles—he should have stuck to selling motorcycles. However, with Antonio not there, was Roquito far behind? One glimpsed through a clump of faces, the Northern congressman, short, dark, chubby, smiling a genuine Ilocano smile, winning, irresistible, the kind where the charm comes straight from the solar plexus. You could see where Special Forces was written all over him.

The old-timers were drifting in—Pablo Roman, who owns Bataan; Fermin Caram, who owns Filipinas; Ramon Mitra, who doesn’t own Palawan (yet), but does have a pair of sideburns reaching down to his knees and the start of a gross look; Carmelo Barbero, Carlos Imperial, Floring Crisologo, Constantino Navarro. On this side, the Supreme Court Justices, in black robes; across the floor from them, the cabinet: Carlos P. Romulo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Franciso Tatad, Gregorio Feliciano, Leonides Virata, and Manang Pacita, wearing her hair shoulder-length, dressed in a bright Bonnie frock. Beside the cabinet, the lady justices of the court of Appeals; Cecilia Muñoz Palma, in a green terno, and that stalwart of the legal profession, Lourdes San Diego, who is said to know her law like some women know their beauty ritual, in a wine colored terno.

Where one sat, craning behind the backs of security, one was hemmed in, on the right, by TV announcers—“our very own Henry Halasan” in an off-white suit, demure and dimpled—and, on the left, by the military (the navy, the army, the air force) all in white duck. An attractive woman in a brief checkered dress desired to hurdle the railing that separated her from the military and one gallant junior aide extended a strong arm. She stood on a chair and lifted a leg and one could hear the military gasp in delight; my, my! If only all the subversives in the country had thighs like those—but after a while, the lady began to prove a nuisance, because she desired once more to return to the floor, and so executed that Open Sesame exercise and then once more, back with the military; and so on, three or four times, like a see-saw, and by then, the TV announcers’ Adam’s apples were bobbing up and down, and the junior aides were beginning to weary of her dance.

Then the Senators—Roy, Sumulong, Pelaez, Aytona, Tañada, Laurel, Padilla, Puyat, Eva Kalaw, feminine every inch of her, who walked in like Isadora Duncan, in a blue terno, but instead of wearing the panuelo across her shoulders, she’d wrapped it around her neck, and, voila! it was a scarf. However, the most beautiful neck on the floor that afternoon belonged to the Senadora from Laguna, Mme. Helena Benitez, the great and good friend of the Filipinescas dance troupe, who works very hard to get them their dollars and their accreditation; such a good sport, every chance she gets, she puts in a good word for them, they ought to make her muse or something.

One neck that looked different was Father Ortiz’s, buttoned high like a proper cleric’s, and if one hadn’t known him from previous invocations, you’d mistake him for chairman of the board of some multi-million peso mining corporation. All that eloquent talk of revolution has not affected the good and comfortable lives that many priests live. One remembered Father Ortiz from the NP convention of ‘67—he wasn’t Rector then—when he had also read a stirring invocation. He was to repeat his warning here, this afternoon, but in stronger words: “Our unsafe streets,” he said, prompting a Church non-lover to ask: if our streets are unsafe, how’d he get here? A people awaited redress, the young wanted change, the Rector said, an entire country trembled on the edge of revolution, the priest went on, but one thought, skeptic as usual, there were many voices today telling Government what was wrong with it, how many were telling the Church what was wrong with her?

Lift your seat, Mother, and look beneath the holy ass with which you’ve sat heavily on Property and Privilege for centuries, your banks, your estates, your tax-free schools—in the town where one comes from, the bishop owns a department store, a printing press, a tailoring shop, a pawnshop that preys especially on students, but daily, like the Pharisee, he bestows the blessings of Rome on a populace that sniggers behind his back because ten years ago, his family could barely eat in the province where he was born, but when he became bishop, he transported his entire clan to his diocese, and now each is propertied and privileged. Dialogue and keeping one’s cool being the fashion these days, one confesses an instinctive distrust of many fashions, including the fashion of thinking the Church can ever be revolutionary; confesses, further, to a habit of equating all the Church says with what one knows about it, personally; knows with one’s blood and mind: the Church flashes a shibboleth and you think you can grasp it and fight the evils of the world with it? The Irish father who talks endlessly of social justice likes to eat and drink well, and rides only with the rich of his town. That luckless priest who led a strike two years ago in the South is out of a job and out of a reputation, and is teaching in a diploma mill in Manila because his superiors chased him out of the province: what sayeth the Church to this?

The leaders of the Christian Social Movement live in low cost housing villages like Bel Air and Urdaneta; they speak to their servants in Tagalog; to their children in English, among themselves in Spanish—when their wives go to market, they say Espera to the fish vendor: these will lead a revolution? The Church reminds one of a greedy old whore, and like a greedy old whore, she won’t get off her back, even with the house next door already afire, because a couple of visitors are still in the parlor jingling their money, and she must have that too before she takes off.

THE HOUR WAS late, Father Ortiz said, and how right he was, for here came now the ladies of the congressmen and their senators. Most favored was the terno, no one was in pantsuit, and muted colors predominated. Was that a diamond that sparkled on a breast? Impossible to tell from the distance, but by their chins and their humps your could identify them: Mesdames Lopez, Puyat, Aldeguer, Roy—and Virginia Veloso who sat in the last seat, front row, two arm’s lengths away from Imelda Marcos, exactly as they had sat together in class 20 years ago in Tacloban, when Mrs. Veloso had been the darling of the social swirl and Mrs. Marcos had partly paid her way through school working in the library.

Flanked by Senator Puyat and Speaker Laurel, both suited, Mr. Marcos stood on the rostrum, in a barong. He looked rested. He bowed to the Supreme Court, he looked up at the klieg lights, he glanced at his watch. He’d worked his way from the front door to the rostrum, shaking hands, murmuring greetings—the amenities. One after the other, the two gavels banged: “For my part, I declare the House open for the session,” said Speaker Laurel, an old sad man with long white hair who must now live with the memory of a Bicol hill and a dead son. “For my part,” rasped Senate President Puyat, “I declare the Senate open for the session,” then the invocation that would have the editorial writers the next day tripping over each other, praising it, but meaningless to this one citizen until the Church gives up its pawnshops. And finally, Mr. Marcos’s quick descent to the microphones three steps below and the State-of-the-Nation address that would all but be forgotten in the terror with which that long week ended…

Thirty-five minutes he spoke, forty, if you counted the applause before and after, to a hall that had been fuller in previous years. But the persistent talk of assassination had finally worked its poison, and the overzealous guards had kept out more people than they should have. Some nuns there were in the mezzanine, their arms folded, looking quietly at Mr. Marcos; a row of impassive-faced diplomats sat below, among them the Honorable Mr. Addis whose garage the students had burned down a couple of years ago; and no more than half a hundred citizens—non-military, non-political, non-official—brown, sober, thoughtful, scattered through the hall.

While Mr. Marcos and his retinue walked out of the hall, to their fateful encounter with the papier mache crocodile and the cardboard coffin, the reporters on the floor swarmed all over the Opposition, cornering Senators Salonga, Aquino, and Roxas, who dutifully cleared their throats and gave their verdicts. Aquino said it for the trio—“Mr. Marcos should have addressed his speech to his cronies.” One watched them, holding the reporters at bay, recoiling every now and then from a too obtrusive microphone—Senators Salonga is a fine man and a good Christian; he has a sharp mind, people think; is a legal luminary, and if all that means, does he offer you a cup of coffee when you call on him, he certainly does. In the privacy of his office, he sounds almost like an old friend and you can put your guard down, but not quite all the way down, because the warning bell in the back of your mind doesn’t quite stop ringing. Why is that? It’s probably the smile. Most people smile with eyes and lips together, and so, indeed, does the senator from Rizal, but not all the time. Often, he smiles only with his lips, and his eyes take on a waiting, wary look, and when that happens, it leaves the onlooker disquieted.

As for Ninoy Aquino, he looked as if he’d recovered completely from Caroline Kennedy’s devastating character sketch of him—walkie-talkie in the swimming pool. Now he shifted his roly-poly body from one foot to the other; he scratched his ear, he inclined his head, he tucked his hands beneath his armpits. Such a checkered, meteoric career Ninoy’s has been—at 17, youngest correspondent in the Korean War; at 19, Southeast Asian expert, even if much of what he turned out was, according to some, a rehash of other experts’ books. And then in rapid succession, mayor, governor, senator, and, who knows? In ’73, if the stars are kind and the cards are gentle, President? Some people are appalled at the possibility of a boy President, but why not? If the children have taken over the streets with their stones and their clubs and their gasoline-soaked rags, why not Ninoy in the study room, whittling a slingshot? Perhaps, it’s because there will always be something underdone about Ninoy—ambition or insight or judgment—something that skipped the slow, natural process of ripening (Kung baga sa mangga, kinarburo).

And that shaggy-maned Capiz senator, Gerardo Roxas, who has stopped at last talking of his illustrious father—now, he shook his head, and his thick crop of graying hair threatened to fall, but didn’t. “No controls?” said he, who had miraculously escaped an “assassination” attempt in Capiz last November. “Ask the travellers, the students abroad, or the banks.” He would take to the air later that night, at 9, in this continuing comedy skit of Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, to deplore with much tongue-clacking, the violence outside Congress—“…The first President,” intoned Senator Roxas with ill-concealed glee, “to be stoned in the history of this country.” Well, better that, Senator Sir, than to be spoken of now as “…the first President in the history of this country to sign away Philippine patrimony,” or to be known as the son of such a President; better a stone on the head than the memory of such a treachery, and then to revel in that singular betrayal and make political capital out of it.

ONE EMERGED TO find confusion outside. The President and his wife had sped away—“Binato si Marcos!” and the crowd milled in the lobby. A Congress employee manfully paged cars through the loudspeaker, but the system was not working, and no cars came. The sky was dark; there was the smell of smoke, the ominous ascent of embers; the Congress flag flew at half-mast for Salud Pareño of Leyte. Who was the enemy and who, the friend, was not clear at all. Below, the students hooted. Upstairs, the helmeted police waved and pushed. All stood in the lobby, milling around like so many aging cattle: come and go, duck and dart. One crossed the driveway to the embankment overlooking the fray, there was some running, some stoning, some swinging of clubs, and then a flurry behind us, and we turned to follow two policemen, one of them with a profusely bleeding mouth, dragging a pale and frightened boy in a brown T-shirt. The police would bring them all up, those they’d caught, seat them briefly in the corridor, and then disappear with their catch somewhere, while one alternated between lobby and embankment, driven from one to the other by confusion, and then curiosity. The approach to the driveway was guarded by soldiers (you could tell by their long guns and their silence), but the center was a melee of cop, Metrocom, congressman, and onlooker.

“Do you have a child below?” asked a cop from the shadows. “Because if you don’t have any,” he said, “go home.” No, was one’s certainly reply, and felt a vague, grateful stirring where one had nourished ten of them.

Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof. They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books—altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passe, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.

2.

AT FIVE P.M. the following Thursday, one sat in a roomful of police officers, listening to them recount their own version of Monday’s affray. There were colonels, majors, captains; police, PC, Metrocom—aging men with thinning hair and heavy paunches, looking (for a change) like what they (perhaps) really were: fathers.

“I have a son at Araneta U and I was afraid he was there,” said someone. Senator Pelaez’s name came up and another snorted audibly: “That guy,” he said. “He stood there, waving his hands, pacifying the crowd, saying ‘Stop it! Stop it! We’re here to protect you! Go ahead and demonstrate!’ Binato ikamo, pati siya nag-cover.

The force that secured Congress January 26 was called Task Force Payapa and was under the command of Colonel Jasmin, assisted by Major Izon. It consisted of an indeterminate number of PC soldiers, Metrocom troops, a Marine complement, and firemen, but on the shoulders principally of MPD’s Colonel Gerardo Tamayo fell the job of policing the rally. “I fielded only 270 men, 30 of them anti-riot,” Tamayo said, and everything was going on peacefully, until the Kabataang Makabayan ng Makati, arrived. They marched in singing, driving a wedge through the crowd and moved up to where the convent girls were, right up front. Earlier, the police had given the students two concessions they’d asked for, according to one colonel—the demonstrators had resented the two loudspeakers broadcasting the proceedings from inside Congress and now desired that the offending amplifiers be turned off. “This was done.” They also asked permission to use what one PC officer, reconstructing the evening, kept calling the “foyer” but was probably the elevated platform just below the flagpole, beneath the embankment, but whatever it was, permission was given and the students moved nearer the driveway.

Luis Taruc spoke and was, thank God, booed. Roger Arrienda, the only “revolutionist” who wears diamonds on his fingers and holds rather noisy court at Front Page Restaurant, spoke, and was booed. There was a squabble over the demonstrator’s microphone. Edgar Jopson of the NUSP was sending his rallyists home but Gary Olivar of the U.P. wanted to speak, and then—Colonel James Barbers picks up the story—“at exactly 5:55 p.m., the President came out, with the First Lady.” They booed him, but Mr. Marcos reportedly smiled: “Kumaway pa,” says Barbers.

You could feel the restless current up front—hands tossed (that’s the word the police use) this cardboard coffin, “but you know how the security is, there could have been a bomb inside, and so we tossed it right back. It returned; we tossed it back, like volleyball, you know. Then, the crocodile.” When Barbers heard the first stones, he pushed the President inside the car so hard Mr. Marcos hit his head and came up with a bump (“Police brutality! Someone laughs), but the President pushed his way out again because “we had forgotten Imelda” who stood outside protected by now by someone called Big Boy. (Big Boy would get a pop bottle in the face.) Colonel Fabian Ver’s men gave the Marcoses “body cover” and the car rolled away.

Did Tamayo, at this point, order his men to charge the youngsters? A Manila Times employee insists he did—“Rush them!” or words to that effect, Tamayo’s supposed to have said—but Tamayo says he didn’t. What he ordered his cops to do was to arrest those who had breached the peace. “Look,” Tamayo explains, “they were throwing stones, bottles, and clubs—would you like a picture of one cop who lost four teeth, and a picture of another cop who had to have ten stitches in the head, and a picture of another cop who got a nail in his knee?” The police say the troublemakers—“extremists”—came prepared; they had brought stones, the kind you buy at rock gardens; and clubs, dos por cuatro, nailed together. When the melee started, the police say, the boys ripped the clubs apart, and they had a lethal weapon, a sturdy dos por dos topped by a vicious nail. “On the other hand, our truncheons are made of rattan.” All right, but did they beat up even the girls? Not true, the police say, those girls are trained to be hysterical at the approach of a policeman, to drop to the ground and scream “Brutality!” at the top of their voices. And the missing nameplates? “Torn off by the students themselves,” someone declares with a very, very straight face. “Those extremists moved according to plan,” says Barbers who opens a book, Riots, Revolts, and Insurrections by Raymond Momboisse, and proceeds to read aloud a few pertinent quotes: The professional agitators use children, women, and old people (in Monday’s affray, two old veterans) to embarrass the police. Their aim is to cause bloodshed, it doesn’t matter whose; “to manufacture martyrs,” to gain a cause celebre, to precondition the public mind about police brutality. If there are police horses, they stick them with pins, or roll marbles under their feet, or slash away with razors.

How about police brutality? The TV showed them clearly beating up the fallen… A police officer says, “The trouble with these TV people is they like to position themselves behind police lines—they run when we run. Why don’t they station themselves behind the KM and shoot their footage from there?”

“Did you notice the demonstrators had more cameras on their side than the legitimate press had?” asks a police officer. “How quickly they spread the rumor that three students had been killed, and one body was at the NBI, being autopsied!” When someone raised a clenched fist, the stoning began. “Their technique is getting better and better. Even that tight romantic embrace the girls give the boys when they’re about to be arrested is part of their technique.” Some rookies “perhaps” got carried away, admitted an officer, but this was no tea party, as the long bloody hours of Friday subsequently proved.

Meanwhile, as the police reviewed their “facts” Salvador P. Lopez was being roundly scolded by Mr. Marcos in the Palace. Tuesday, he had called his faculty together to pass a resolution condemning police brutality; holding the Administration responsible for Monday’s labo-labo; and decrying the growing pattern of Fascist oppression in the country. Then, he decreed a certain per cent of their month’s salary be put into a common fund to help the students—totally unnecessary, according to a later clarification, because the University has a regular fund that provides for this—and after telling his faculty “I want a 100% attendance tomorrow,” adjourned the meeting. Wednesday’s papers carried pictures of Lopez being cheered on the steps of the U.P. for joining the students’ noble cause, but as anyone who has heard of Lopez from his Herald days could have foretold, the denouement of this episode was quite a surprise.

Putting together everything that columnists and U.P. activists themselves said afterwards, Lopez didn’t exactly approach the altar of student militancy with, beg pardon, clean hands. He saw in Monday’s mauling a chance to throw a smokescreen over his own not-so-little troubles at the U.P., among them, a brewing rebellion of some faculty who thought his policies oppressive and wanted “democratization”—whatever that means in Diliman; his pay had also just been raised to P48,000 (he says without his intervention) amidst loud yelps from his underpaid employees; and—this is a beaut—Lopez wasn’t exactly the favorite anito of the campus radicals. They distrusted him, in fact, and as one student leader, speaking over the radio hours after Friday’s terror, put it: “He was like a Pontius Pilate (in the Palace), washing his hands of us when Marcos began berating him! Of those who went to see Marcos, we know who are really for us, and who aren’t.”

So Lopez and his safari went to the Palace, Thursday afternoon, hiring buses which they left at Agrifina Circle, walking from there to Malacañang, in buri hats, umbrellas, and scarves, taking care to give their better side to the camera—Lopez was always getting snapped doing something momentous, his broad face turned symbolically somewhere, that mouth open, his large hands spread, but, you see, he’d been taught all the tricks of success by a master, the great CPR himself, whose ashtrays he had probably fetched in his Herald and UN days, and he’d learned the fine art of accommodation. He was against whoever had just turned his back, and was for whoever faced him at the moment, and when he walked into Mr. Marcos who asked, first, if the resolution was the best the U.P., known for its proficiency in English, could master (“This reads like a student resolution!”); second, if in condemning police brutality, Lopez had all the facts?); and third, in “holding the Administration responsible for the pattern of repression and the violation of rights,” wasn’t Lopez making “a general gunshot accusation”?

If Lopez had been sincerely convinced about the justice of his cause, he would have stayed firm, wouldn’t he, now, but having patently espoused the students’ cause out of convenience, Lopez, again out of convenience, began to backtrack. He apologized to Mr. Marcos for the wording of the resolution and said it was not possible to “include all the specific issues”; moreover, it was not a resolution of accusation, Lopez now said, but “a declaration of concern.”

Lopez would have only one ally among the columnists in the next few days. Amando Doronila—who is not really as churlish as he sounds. If you took his column away, Mr. Doronila could still earn a living, assisting at Mass or lecturing on The Verities or chopping off the hands of those who pick their noses in public. The fact that Mr. Doronila alone saw in Lopez’s embarrassing docility the equivalent of an intellectual Tirad Pass or Custer’s Last Stand is not enough basis for concluding they’re two of a kind. Lopez, like a man who has worked hard all his life, looks forward only to retirement and a regular paycheck in the sunset of his life. Mr. Doronila, however, desires, above all, to die at the stake, sunset or sunrise, it doesn’t matter, for a belief he holds dear: the Doronila Monomania, part of the messianic syndrome, — a self-righteousness that makes you want to puke; the conviction that he alone is right all the time (isn’t Mrs. D. — ever?).

One recalls that curve one threw him about the word media, and the flurry with which he tried to hit it. Dr. Doronila, who likes to make these very important pronouncements above government, foreign affairs, economics, juvenile delinquency, the stock exchange, the penal system, democracy and similar topics, obviously didn’t know what hole media had crawled out of; probably thought it was Greek, as in Jason and Media (sic), and most Greeks may wear skirts but they’re not plural beneath, if you know what we mean. One’s concern for Dr. Doronila is such that one must warn him about bad grammar: it’s like bad breath, no one tells you about it, not even your best friend.

3.

THE CLIMAX of that long week came Friday, January 30, the inevitable finis to endless days of obscenity, ranting, and clubbing, but this time, the Putang ina mos came out of the barrels of guns, crackled above the sound of fire and breaking glass, exploded in the thud of truncheon against flesh.

The trouble erupted at 6:15 p.m., just as Edgar Jopson of the NUSP, and Portia Ilagan of the NSL, were leaving the Palace front door. Since 3:30 that afternoon, they had been closeted with Mr. Marcos in a dialogue, during which they had repeatedly demanded that Mr. Marcos put down in writing his pledge not to seek a third term. According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Jopson was particularly insolent, elementary courtesy obviously not being part of the standard equipment in the activist’s kit.

(In one’s youth, when you used obscenity, you washed your mouth with soap and water afterwards, but you can see how liberated the take-over generation is today: “All right ‘yan, brod, basta’t for the country, putang ina nating lahat!”)

Jopson and Ilagan had promised Mr. Marcos there would be no violence because the demonstrators had marshals to police the students, they said (they had demanded that the police—a few traffic cops—and the PGB be withdrawn), but in the lobby of the Palace what should greet the two but—irony, irony—the sound of bulbs breaking; and above the ominous rumble of running feet, the noise of exploding glass, rose the familiar obscenity of their fellow revolutionaries: Hoy, Jopson, putang ina mo, lumabas ka rito at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari sa iyo!

By then, their brothers in militancy were ramming Gate 4 open with a commandeered fire truck whose driver they had first mauled. They set fire to another parked car inside the gate. They threw Molotov cocktails, pillbox bombs, and stoned the windows of the Malacañang clinic.

Back at the Palace front door, continues this eyewitness, “Jopson and Ilagan looked suddenly sick, like two kids who’d bitten off more than they could chew. The Palace grounds were dark, and at first, we thought they didn’t want to walk back to their friends because of the darkness. Colonel Ver offered to light their way with the headlights of his jeep. Jopson nervously refused.” This boy who, for hours, had ranted in the study room, talking to Mr. Marcos as though Mr. Marcos were his houseboy; who’d gestured floridly like some latter-day Napoleon dictating surrender terms to a beaten foe at Austerlitz-on-thePasig, would not walk, alone, in the dark, to his friends. His courage stopped short of that one simple act.

Hadn’t they, Wednesday that week, flaunted a sign outside Gate 3: “We too can suffer, we too can die”? Ah, yes, but not in the dark, and not alone, and not without the cameras. They clung like children to the very people their group had cursed without letup—accompanied by one PGB captain and a security man, Jopson and Ilagan were ferried across the river and seen safely out of Malacañang Park.

Before the wild night was ended, four students lay dead, innocent bystanders all, and four mothers weep today. Over a hundred were in hospitals, injured; and three hundred more, detained at the MPD and in Camp Crame. Most of the casualties fell in the see-sawing battled for Mendiola bridge. Driven from there, the demonstrators had retreated to old Azcarraga, in front of a Nawasa branch office. There, they set a Yujuico bus on fire and sent it rolling towards Mendiola bridge. They set fire to parked jeeps and cars, Meralco posts; upturning Yeba’s iron railings; Yeba who had said Thursday, his great big beautiful eyes mesmerizing his audience, that woman’s mouth of his pouting now and then, that he would lead the police, and the strategy they would employ would be one of “containment.”

Hours and hours later, the radio broadcast an appeal of two U.P. student leaders for food, for money, for help. They’d been set upon, one said, clubbed and shot and arrested. The Metrocom had blocked all exits in Sampaloc, in Quiapo, in España, and picked up, willy-nilly, all those they fancied, but kind people, people who sympathized with the revolution, had put up many students in their own houses, fed and bedded them—one reproduces here, as well as one can remember, that appeal, because two things about it disquieted the listeners: the U.P. student sounded too much like a parrot, sticking to just one jargon, and for one who would bring about a better world, he reasoned with a child’s petulance: Mga kababayan, kami po ay nangangailangan ng tulong n’yo, no, pagkain, o pera, no, pakidala lang ninyo sa U.P. Student Council, Diliman, no, at matatanggap namin iyan, no. Kailangan po natin ibagsak ‘yang Pascistang si Marcos, no, kami mga anak ninyo na binugbog, binaril, no, ng mga kawal ng Pascistang si Marcos, no. Magsamasama tayong lahat, no, magkaisaisa tayo, no, para sa bayan, para sa demokrasya, no.

And the violence?

Papano, sa ganyang demonstration talagang mayroong mga maiinit ang ulo, no, pagod na pagod na kami sa mga broken promises ni Marcos, no, totoo nga, namato ang ilan sa amin, no, nagsusunog ng kaunti, nagpaputok ng rebentador, no, ngunit ang lahat ba namang iyan ay sapat na upang kami ay bugbugin, sipain, barilin, at arestohin?

They’d stoned a little, burned a little.

Sow a little anarchy—reap a little death, and death (big or little or medium-sized) is always, alas, for real.

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.”

Quezon and his fights, August 1, 1961

Quezon and his fights

by Rodrigo C. Lim

 

Everything he did, he did with style and elegance, which is why even his political feuds seem so dramatic and glamorous, especially when compared to the sordid political squabbles of today.

 

THE CURRENT POWER STRUGGLE among the country’s top political leaders, particularly that between President Garcia and NP and Senate President “Amang” Rodriguez, reminds us of the fights the late President Quezon had in in his over 30 years of public life.

 

In one respect Quezon’s political career was unique, singular. It could be perhaps duplicated but surely not surpassed by that of any other Filipino leader, or any other country for that matter. For not once in his incessant political strifes did he suffer a single defeat – and in many of them he was pitted against the most formidable opponents of his time.

Foremost of these battles was his historic fight for political supremacy in the early 20s against then Speaker Osmeña on the issue of collective versus unipersonal leadership. For over 15 years the two leaders had been disinterestingly and unselfishly collaborating in the common effort of nation building, forming a political partnership without parallel anywhere else then or today. Times there were when, because of conflict of opinion on vital national questions and of diametrically opposed characters and temperaments, a clash appeared imminent and inevitable. Each time, however, one or the other sacrificed personal prid and ambition for the good of the country, particularly the cause for which both had fought in war and in peace – Philippine independence.

But even the sweetest of honeymoons cannot last forever and in due time, the Quezon-Osmeña combine ended as any such political alliance is bound to end somehow, sometime. The formal parting of the ways came in the evening of February 17, 1922 when, before a mammoth crowd that overflowed the pre-war Manila Grand Opera House, Quezon declared war against his life-long friend and partner.

“When one is convinced that the conduct of a party is no longer in consonance with the will of the people and does not respect the demands of public opinion”, he told the teeming thousands that jammed that huge theater, “then no member is under any obligation to remain in that party.” It was then that he pronounced his classic now off-quoted dogma: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”

Talking of the conflict, which some wiseacres of the time called a fight between autocracy as represented by Osmeña and democracy as typified by Quezon, the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, then secretary of interior and one of the geatest minds the Philippins has ever produced, said:

“The split came as a result of the disagreement over the leadership which question. Our faction stood for the so-called collective leadership which puts responsibilty in each department of the government. In other wotds the unipersonalists supported the introduction of the parliamentary form of government in the Philippines and the collectivitists the presidential form.”

While a good many people sincerely believed that Quezon only wanted to establish “a government by the people by means of a voluntary expression of sovereign will of the people” and “not the people’s rule without the expression of the popular will”, there were others who accused him of provoking the split to take control of the party and pertpetuate himself in power.

To those critics he retorted:

“Can I find a position in the Philippine government and in the gift of the Filipino people higher than that of president of the Senate, the highest position to which a Filipino could be sent by his countrymen? If I wanted to perpetuate myself in power, is there anything better for me than to remain in the Nacionalista Party?”

From the thundeous ovation the greeted his memorable pronouncements that evening at the Opera House, could be foreseen the outcome of the first clash between the two Filipino titans. In the subsequent election, in June, 1922, during which both were in the United States as joint chiefs of an independence mission, Quezon’s Collectivistas won with such a convincing majority that he thereafter became the acknowledged leader of Filipino participation in the government.

The Quezon-Osmeña divorce did not last long however. Quezon did not have a sufficient majority in the Lower House to elect the speaker of his choice, the then rising political star from Capiz, Manuel Roxas, and as between his former partner and the Democratas, he chose to coalesce with former. Neither did the Cebuano leader want any coalition with the oppositionists. Thus was formed the Nacionalista Consolidado Party with Quezon as head.

No sooner had Quezon and Osmeña kissed and made up when MLQ had to face a greater fight with no less than the representative of American sovereignty in his country – Governor-General Wood.

OPEN BREAK

An arch-enemy of Philippine Independence, Wood was set on undoing all that his predecessor, Francis Burton Harrison, ahd done to give the Filipinos ample powers and responsibilities in preparation for self-government. Among other things, he turned his cabinet secretaries into glorified office clerks, solely responsible to him and under his absolute control, although their appointments were subject to control and approval of the Philippine legislature. To advise him in matters that were purely the concern of the Filipinos, he insteaf formed what then Editor Carlos P. Romulo called the “Kitchen Cabinet” or “Cavalry Cabinet” as others dubbed it, composed of U.S. Army officers including his playboy son, Lt. Osborne C. Wood.

Quezon was not one to take such affront to Filipino dignity lying down. The open break was precipitated by Governor Wood’s reinstatement of an American police detective who had been suspended by the city mayor with the approval of the interior. Quezon considered this act a clear violation of the fundamental law of the land and “a backward step and a curtailment of Filipino autonomy guaranteed by the organic act and enjoyed by the Filipino people continously since the operation of the Jones Law”. Shortly before midnight of July 17, 1922, the department secretaries led by Quezon and Speaker Roxas marched to Malacañan and presented their resignations from the cabinet and the council of state.

Wood accepted the resignations which he considered “a challenge and a threat which cannot ignore”. He likewise accepted the resignation of City Mayor Ramon J. Fernandez which was simultaneously presented with those of the cabinet men.

Quezon had so presented the issue that the people readily rallied around him. Only dissenters who saw in the crisis a chance to assume the powers formerly enjoyed by Quezon and company, were the Democratas led by Judge Juan Sumulong who branded the resignations as “fictitious, artificial, ridiculous and frivilous”. The case was later submitted to the people when a special election was held in the fourth senatorila district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Pedro Guevara who was chosen resident commissioner to Washington.

BATTLE ROYAL

Never had the people witnessed such a battle royal in which all available instruments of political warfare were utilized. Quezon went to the people to the people in behalf of his man, Ex-Mayor Fernandez, with no other issue but “A vote for Fernandez is a vote for the people; a vote for Sumulong is a vote for Wood”. The result was an overwhelming majority for Fernandez and once again, Quezon scored one of the biggest victories in his political career.

A consequence of his rift with Wood which ended with the latter’s death on August 7, 1927, was Quezon’s equally acrimonious controversy with his former revolutionary chief, General Aguinaldo, whom he had served as an aide with the rank of major. Aguinaldo did not only express support for Wood but tried to strengthen the latter’s position here and in America by expelling Quezon from his Veterans of the Revolution Association. The bomb that was expected to discredit the Filipino leader in the eyes of both Filipinos and Americans proved a dud however. It turned out that Quezon had never been a member of the association and he could not therefore be expelled therefrom.

“While I am a veteran I have never affiliated with the association”. Quezon pointed out, “and from the time General Aguinaldo, for purely personal motives, came out in support of General Wood I have considered any association with it not only an inconsistency but a betrayal of public trust on my part.”

Offshoot of that controversy which lasted for quite a time was the withdrawal by the legislature of Aguinaldo’s P12,000 annual pension.

SECOND BREAK

Last but not least of Quezon’s major political battles was his second break with Osmeña on the question of the H-H-C (Hare-Hawes-Cutting) Law. As everyone failiar with Philippine history knows, that law which provided for independence after a transition period of ten years, was passed by the U.S. Congress through the efforts of the so-called OSROX mission headed by Senator Osmeña and Speaker Roxas. Quezon objected however to the economic provisions of the law and caused the legislature to reject it.

With the OSROX group, aside from Osmeña and Roxas, were such political stalwarts as Rep. Benigno Aquino, Sen. Jose O. Vera, Commissioner Osias and U.P. President Palma. On Quezon’s side were his righthand men Senator Jose Ma. Clarin, Senator Elpidio Quirino and Reps. Quintin Paredes and Jose Zulueta. A tribute to Quezon’s political sagacity, he won to his side such former enemies as Aguinaldo, Sumulong, Recto and other lesser oppositionists.

The bitter fight had its first repercussions in the legislature when Osmeña men or “pros” were eliminated from key positions. Foremost of those “decapitated” was Speaker Roxas who was replaced by Rep. Paredes. The senate re-elected Quezon as president; Clarin, president-protempore, and Quirino, floor leader. There was then no question that Quezon and his “antis” were masters of the situation.

Quezon’s stock rose to greater heights when, despite dark predictions of failure voiced by the “pros”, he went to America and came back with another law – the Tydings-McDuffie Act – which was admittedly a much better law in so far as the Filipinos were concerned. Without a dissenting vote the legislature later accepted the law which became the foundation of the present Republic.

ELOQUENT EVIDENCE

Once more, the people gave eloquent evidence of their confidence in Quezon when, in the election held barely a month after the acceptance of the T-M law, his men swept to victory throughout the country.

The foregoing are but a few of the fights that made Quezon’s political career colorful and dramatic. As has been already said, is not one of them did he ever taste the bitter pill of defeat. This, many of those who knew him attributed to his great and winning personality, his deep insight into human nature and his fighting spirit. To this the writer would add: if Quezon never lost a fight, it was because before he plunged into a battle he made sure of his backing, political or otherwise. I still remember that on the eve of his declaration of war against Osmeña and Roxas on the H-H-C law, he gathered at his home in Pasay the biggest men in business, finance and industry to ask for their support.

“Somos or no somos” he asked them, and when everyone chorused “Somos,” he fired the following day the first salvo against the OSROX.

It’s Up to You Now!, November 7, 1953

It’s Up to You Now!

 By Leon O. Ty

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

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

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

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

“Suppose we take supper together?”

“Okay,” said the reporter.

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

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

“What problem?” inquired the newspaperman curiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll run for senator,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

And Magsaysay did quit his Cabinet position.

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

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

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

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

But it did happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Laurel had his reasons for this action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s up to you now!

Roxas and the Press, February 22, 1947

ROXAS AND THE PRESS

News giants of pre-war days now in government service

By Inocencio V. Ferrer

President, Negros Press Club

February 22, 1947–NOWADAYS when newspapermen meet, they usually talk with nostalgia about Malacañan press conferences when Manuel L. Quezon was the “Big Chief”; others of the days when Sergio Osmeña hardly gave press conferences and reporters depended mainly on Malacañan press releases to satisfy the hunger for news of the then newly liberated readers of the Philippines; but their tete-a-tete often ends with a wise-crack at the expense of the so-called liberal administration! But whether or not one looks back at those days with longing and remembrance,—those days will never come back, and President Manuel A. Roxas is at Malacañan to stay and to perform the acts and deliver the sttements which are the daily headlines of the newspapers of the nation.

It is worthy of note that many newspapermen do not seem to see eye to eye with the President on matters of national concern. Many a post-liberation columnist has made and continues to make a name for himself and circulation for his paper by discoursing on the alleged sins of the present administration, or the frailties of the New Leader. Nevertheless the cold, naked truth is that, under the Roxas administration, members of the press are winning recognition and honors never before accorded them under any other president of the Philippines.

Consider the following facts, for instance. Recently a leading political commentator in the United States hailed the Philippines as the recognized leader of dependent nations and oppressed peoples of the world and as ranking sixth among more than fifty signatory nations of the United Nations. These honors came to the Republic largely because of General Carlos P. Romulo, permanent Philippine delegate to the UN, who is one of the most versatile editors the Philippines has ever produced and, in pre-Pearl-Harbor days, was publisher and editor-in-chief of the now defunct DMHM newspapers of Manila. Another DMHM newsman who has been the recipient of the bounty of our Liberal administration is former Press Secretary Modesto Farolan, the first Philippine Consul-General to Hawaii. Farolan was formerly general manager of the DMHM.

Diplomatic Service

A check-up of the roster of diplomatic and consular offices established by the Republic reveals the amazing but gratifying fact that, as a general rule, a former Manila newspaperman is on the payroll. The Philippine press is ably represented on the staff of the Philippine Embassy at Washington, D.C. by former Pangasinan Congressman Narciso Ramos, a former Manila reporters; A. L. Valencia, president of the potent Manila Press Club and former Bulletin star reporter; and Pilar N. Ravelo-Guerrero, also formerly of the pre-Tojo Bulletin. Newsman Ramos is minister-counsellor, while Associated Press Correspondent Valencia is Ambassador Elizalde’s public relations spokesman.

And who does not remember Salvador P. Lopez who used to preach to newspaper readers via the Herald’s “So It Seems” column? Well, if you do not know, Lopez is in New York City now; a member of Ambassador Romulo’s staff. Also with Romulo in America is former Manila reporter Renato Constantino.

Felixberto G. Bustos, free lance journalist and author of the book that helped Roxas to the presidency, is on the staff of the Philippine consulate in New York City and his boss is former Justice Jose P. Melencio, himself a writer of some distinction.

With Other Bureaus

When the Philippines sent Senator Salipada K. Pendatun and others to the UNESCO conference at paris, a newspaperman was in the entourage in the person of United Press correspondent Rodolfo L. Nazareno. J. C. Dionisio, short story writer and West Coast journalist, is at present with Consul-General Roberto Regala in San Francisco.

Not all writers and reporters are as gifted as Carlos Peña Romulo or as lucky as those who have landed sinecures abroad. Other have to stay at home and keep the printing presses rolling. There are, however, some who are doling praiseworthy work in the government service. Outstanding among them is personable, veteran Bulletin reporter Johnny C. Orendain, who, as President Roxas’ Press Secretary, is the official Malacañan spokesman. Private secretary to the President is Federico Mangahas, he who wrote the perfect prose of the “Maybe” column of the Tribune of yesteryears. Then there is D. L. Francisco, ace FREE PRESS feature writer, whose exposes and “unsolved mystery” articles were arresting the attention of the nation when FREE PRESS Staffman Leon O. Ty and I were still trying to find our journalistic souls by writing poetic trash for campus magazines. Francisco is the PRO (public relations officer, to you) of the Manila police department. Another writer with the police department is Delfin Flandez Batacan who, before his promotion as technical assistant to Malacañan Police Adviser Angel Tuazon, was in the legal section of the Manila police.

I am sure many FREE PRESS readers have been wondering what has happened to Leon Ma. Guerrero, Jr., who, as Totoy, used to thrill them with “Times in Rhymes” and, as himself, gave them those spicy and meaty stories and articles of the pre-war FREE PRESS. I have been told that Leonie is alive but he is busy with protocols and diplomacy now at the department of foreign affairs. Also at the foreign affairs office is former newsman Carlos Quirino; while Manila columnist Teodoro L. Valencia is the secretary of the Philippine board of censorship for motion pictures.

Provincial Journalists

I understand Ligaya Victorio Reyes and Leopoldo Y. Yabes are now members of the present bureaucracy; and that Poet Fred Ruiz Castro is now a colonel and head of the judge advocate general service of the Philippine army, while his chum and co-worker on the Collegian staff, Macario Peralta, Jr., is now a retired one-star general and the chairman of the Philippine veterans’ board. Writer Nicolas V. Villaruz is now special prosecutor of the People’s Court; while former College Editors’ Guild vice-president Arturo M. Olarga is justice of the peace of Manapla, Negros Occidental.

Even provincial journalists and editors have not been overlooked, so it seems, by the President. Publisher Fernando Lopez of the Times of Iloilo is the present mayor of Iloilo City, while former Commoner editor Vicente T. Remitio is the mayor of Bacolod City. Former News Clipper editor Melanio O. Lalisan, of Bacolod City, is assistant provincial fiscal of Negros Occidental and with him are assistant provincial fiscal Jose. T. Libo-on and Special Counsel Joaquin Sola who have been active in Negros journalism and still are as members of the Negros Press Club, an association of editors and writers of Negros Occidental.

Roman Holiday

But the highest honor ever paid by President Roxas to a reporter was that given to the late Benito M. Sakdalan, veteran metropolitan newspaperman who figured in a sensational case a year ago. The President personally and officially lamented his death and Executive Secretary Emilio Abello and Press Secretary Johnny C. Orendain paid him tribute and joined in his final rites.

And when one calls to mind that everytime the President goes on a junket trip he inevitably takes with him a retinue of reporters and newsphotographers, verily it can be said that under Roxas the press and the writing fraternity are having a Roman holiday.

The strangest dictator, 1942

The strangest dictator
by Fritz Marquardt

Taken from his book, Before Bataan and After (1942)

FOR Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, small, explosive, tubercular President of the Philippines, life came full cycle during the Battle of Bataan. From the rocky eminences of Corregidor, when there were no air raids or artillery bombardments going on, he could look out onto the blood-drenched peninsula where he himself had been a sick, battle-weary soldier fighting against impossible odds. That had been forty years earlier, and he had finally surrendered to an American soldier named Roy Squires and Bingham. But the fight never went out of Quezon, in 1901 or in 1942. After the first defeat he rose to be the undisputed leader of his people in their struggle for independence, and after the second defeat to see his country given all the honors and prerogatives of an independent nation.

When his doctors finally told him that his health could not bear up much longer under the strain of living in the foul air of Corregidor’s tunnels, he went down to Cebu and finally slipped through the Japs’ hands and reached Mindanao, after a fearsome night ride in one of Lieutenant John Bulkeley’s P-T boats. From Mindanao he flew to Australia, and then went on to the United States to establish something utterly new under the sun, an American-sponsored government in exile.

The war robbed Quezon of his home and made him a president without a country, but it gave him the one thing he had fought for all his life—recognition of the Philippines as an independent nation. All possible military honors were bestowed upon him when he landed in San Francisco, and a special train carried him across the country.

In Washington he was the object of reception that must have thrilled him to the core, for down at the station to meet him were President Roosevelt and every former Governor General and High Commissioner available, including Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Major General Dwight F. Davis, Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, Manpower Administrator Paul V. McNutt, and High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre. It was a splendid tribute to Don Manuel, and an even finer one to the Filipinos who had fought so well on Bataan.

Perhaps an even greater day for Quezon and the Filipinos occurred a few weeks later, for the independence of the Philippines as a political entity was virtually recognized when Quezon signed the United Nations agreement and became a member of the Pacific War Council.

Terrible as the war had been, it had given him one pledge which he could never have secured without it. As Manila was about to die, President Roosevelt broadcast a speech to the Philippines in which he said, “I give to the freedom will be redeemed and their independence established and protected. The entire resources in men and materials of the United States stand behind that pledge.” Other presidents had promised that the Philippines would eventually be given their independence, but never before had a responsible American official gone so far as to promise that independence would be “protected.” This pledge was the capstone of a life which Quezon had dedicated to fighting for Philippine independence—and to having a swell time.

Before the war Quezon never had a good press in the United States. Most American reporters looked at his loud neckties and colored shirts, counted up the size of the retinue with which he invariably traveled, heard him issue some peremptory orders to his attendant, and concluded he was a petty dictator on the Latin American plan. John Gunther helped build up the dictatorship tradition by a magazine article for which Quezon was determined to sue for libel, until Roy Howard pointed out how futile that would be.

I watched Quezon at work for thirteen years, and if he was a dictator, then certainly he was the world’s strangest.

In the Philippine elections held a month before Pearl Harbor, Quezon was re-elected President of the Philippines without having delivered a single campaign speech in his own behalf. Four out of every five votes were cast for him, and the elections were honestly run. Ballot-box stuffing was something beneath his dignity—and something which he never had any need to resort to, which can’t be said for most dictators.

The press of the Philippines was at least ninety-five percent pro-Quezon in the years before the Japanese invasion. And it was all a voluntary support of the President. There was no censorship, direct or indirect, and I can testify that far less pressure on the press was brought by “the interests” than is the case in the United States. The editor of a Philippine newspaper could say what he liked, subject only to the customary laws of libel.

Even when the biggest Manila broadcasting company was supported by the government Quezon’s political foes were given free time to air their views. For Quezon was one dictator who wanted an enlightened public opinion. He had no false modesty about his ability. He was so sure of himself that he used to think he would get all the votes, instead of a mere eighty percent, if the electorate had all the facts.

There was complete freedom of speech in the Philippines. Quezon’s critics attacked his personal honesty, his private morals and his government record with absolute impunity. There was no Gestapo in his government, and “protective custody” was unheard of. Arrests were made by the police or Constabulary, and trials were held in the regular courts. The Philippine Supreme Court always had the power to declare any of Quezon’s pet laws unconstitutional.

Why, then, did most Americans consider him a dictator? If there were honest elections, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, how could it reasonably be charged that the Commonwealth government was dictatorship?

The answer is to be found in the complex character of Manuel Quezon, a political genius who knew what sort of government would work best in his own country, a practical politician who never allowed visionary theories to interfere with the immediate task of ruling sixteen million people in one of the world’s most critical danger spots. No matter how much he believed in democratic principles, he would never allow them to tie hands in dealing with a specific problem.

Like almost everything else about the man, Quezon’s belief in the necessity of a strongly centralized government was not consistent. When Leonard Wood was governor general of the Philippines, and attempted to concentrate power in the hands of the executive, Quezon fought him bitterly all the way down the line on the theory that the legislative leaders—including Quezon—should be supreme over the executive. However, when Quezon became the chief executive, it didn’t take him long to reduce the legislative branch to a completely subordinate position. “I shall not be so remiss in my duties to the nation,” he said at a press conference, “as to admit that a Filipino President is as unworthy of great power as an American Governor General was.”

In 1922 Quezon fought his great and good friend Sergio Osmeña on the sole issue of whether the Nationalist Party would have “unipersonalista,” or single leadership. Quezon insisted that it shouldn’t, and won the fight. But he later assumed the single leadership of the party himself, apparently without the slightest idea that he was being inconsistent. Or possibly he had read Emerson, and agreed that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Quezon bossed the Filipinos with an iron hand. After his election as President he brought all the important politicians into his own party, offering them good jobs if they joined up with him, threatening them with a political Siberia if they refused. So powerful was his party in the last elections that it elected all of the Senators and ninety percent of the Representatives to the new Congress, the one which never had a chance to meet because its inaugural was scheduled for the day before Manila fell.

Yet it is doubtful if this unusual dictator followed the one-party line of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin merely for self-aggrandizement. Even in the days when there were two political parties of relatively equal strength in the Philippines, Quezon was always the Head Man. He gloried in a political fight, and liked nothing better than to tackle a tough opponent. And the creation of one dominating party made all of the prominent politicians, instead of just a majority of them, eligible for the limited patronage available.

No, I think Quezon built a monolithic party structure in the Philippines because he felt that the ten-year transition period leading to independence was no time for party rivalry. He figured—and quite rightly—that the Philippines needed all its able men in office, not half in and half out as there would have been with two parties of nearly equal strength. Quezon himself held no brief for the one-party system, he had set up, apparently considering it a temporary expedient. Once, in fact, he expressed an offhand opinion that there should be a “no party” system, in which candidates would be elected to office on their merits, not on the strength of their political affiliations or the size of their party’s campaign fund.

One of the things for which Quezon was the most bitterly criticized was the national defense plan, including the hiring of General MacArthur as his military adviser, and the inauguration in the peaceful days of 1936 of compulsory military training. Almost immediately charges of “dictator” were hurled at his head. I recall a press conference at his Pasay home, shortly before the Commonwealth was established, to which a group of visiting American newspapermen were invited. Over and over the “visiting firemen” wanted to know why Quezon needed an army, and what purpose he had in mind in instituting compulsory training. Was he interested in defending the Philippines from external aggression, or did he plan to use this great military force to put down domestic uprisings? A little later, in New York, Quezon was subjected to the same line of questioning when he was the guest of honor at a Civil Liberties banquet presided over by Oswald Garrison Villard. For years pacifists called him a warmonger, and liberals insisted he was building an army to keep himself in power after the United States forces left the Philippines. But the fact remains that there was a reservoir of one hundred fifty thousand trained men in the Philippines when war came. And no one was happier to have them there than the very elements which had criticized Quezon so vigorously a few years earlier.

Charges of dictatorship were heard again after the fall of France, when Quezon secured sweeping emergency powers from the National Assembly, including the right to take over industries and to move entire populations from one province to another. He never used the powers, as it turned out, but the fact that he had them strengthened his hand in dealing with problems of defense as they arose.

In fact, a good case can be made out against Quezon because he didn’t act more like a dictator in the months before the war started. For a long time he couldn’t bring himself to believe that Japan would dare attack the United States—a lot of other people made the same mistake—and when he finally came to the conclusion that war was certain he delivered a speech which sounded almost hysterical. Bombs might soon be falling in Manila, he shouted, and no one was prepared because the High Commissioner hadn’t allowed preparations to be made.

This was a great change in tune from the press conference which I attended in the late summer of 1940, during which Quezon had laughed off the possibility of any bombs falling on Manila. We had asked him what preparations were being made against the possibility of air attacks, pointing out that Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia and every important city in the Far East, with the exception of Manila, had been practicing blackouts and getting ready for the worst.

Laughing heartily, Quezon said he had no fear of war in the Pacific, and that anyway the Filipinos liked picnics. If Manila should be bombed the people could all go out in the country for a fiesta, or they could spend their time at the favorite picnic ground of Montalban, where there were some famous caves.

There was, undoubtedly, some friction between President Quezon and High Commissioner Sayre regarding the organization of civilian defense. Quezon apparently pointed out that, under the Tydings-McDuffie Law, the United States was responsible for the defense of the Philippines. That, obviously, included civilian defense. Sayre probably answered that the Tydings-McDuffie Act contemplated only military defense. He also had the eminently sound argument on his side that his overburdened office, with a staff of twenty men, was not physically able to organize civilian defense. If anyone was going to do it, the Commonwealth government would have to.

One thing is fairly certain. If Quezon had plunged in with a large-scale civilian defense plan fourteen or fifteen months before the war began, on the strength of his emergency powers, there would have been a cry of “Dictator!” which would have resounded through every newspaper in the United States.

When Quezon had the Constitution amended so he could be re-elected President—the original provision was for a single, six-year term—critics in the Philippines and the United States called him a “tyrant” and cynics at the University of the Philippines formed a “Quezon-for-King” club. But when January 1, 1942, rolled around and Quezon grimly took his oath of office in a Corregidor tunnel, everyone was glad that a new President was not being inducted into office.

Temperamental, mercurial, unpredictable, Quezon never bore a grudge long. I have seen him give a subordinate a tongue-lashing which would make a Chinese coolie cringe, and then throw his arm over the poor devil’s shoulders and call him “Amigo.” Some of the men who attacked him most viciously in the past were holding down responsible government positions before the Japanese came in, including a particularly irresponsible newspaper editor who had repeatedly cast reflections upon Quezon’s private life.

One reason for Quezon’s unparalleled hold on the people was his constant support of the underdog. He established minimum wages for government laborers, put an eight-hour working day into effect, soaked the rich with higher taxes. Once his advisers recommended that he veto, on the grounds of economy, a law giving public-school teachers full pay while on maternity leave. I’ll sign that bill if it bankrupts the treasury,” said Quezon, reaching for a pen.

One of his most celebrated battles for an “underprivileged” was set off by an innocent question which I asked him at a press conference. It involved a laborer whose name was Cuevas and big contractor named Barredo. The contractor was working on a bridge across the Pasig River, and one of his crews was unloading logs. The river was swollen as a result of the heavy rains, and one of the logs got away from the men and started down the river. A foreman on the job saw the log going and yelled at the laborer Cuevas, “Get that log or you’ll have to pay for it.” Cuevas, whose pay probably was seventy-five cents (American money) a day, plunged in after the log but was drowned in his unsuccessful attempt. When Cuevas’ family claimed workingman’s compensation the contractor Barredo refused to pay, on the ground that the laborer had taken a foolish risk and the employer was not to blame.

Through some stupid miscarriage of justice, a judge in the court of first instance upheld the contractor and ruled that Cuevas’ dependents were not entitled to collect. We ran a blistering editorial on the case in the Philippines Free Press, and demanded that the decision be appealed—which was permissible under Philippine law. As a matter of fact, the Attorney General’s office was as incensed over the case as the Free Press, and had already determined to push it through to the Supreme Court if need be.

In the course of a regular press interview at Malacañan I asked Quezon if he had read the judge’s decision in the Cuevas-Barredo case? Thereupon the peppery President literally exploded. “That’s seventeenth-century justice,” he yelled. “I was dumfounded to think that any judge in this day and age could hand down such a decision.” And he went on at that pace for fifteen minutes.

A little later, after the conference was over and one of his staff members pointed out that the case was pending final decision, Quezon issued a statement saying he hadn’t realized the matter was sub judice but expressing his confidence that the members of the Supreme Court would not allow his remarks to influence their decision. Needless to say, they decided in favor of Cuevas’ heirs. The judge who had made the original decision retired from the bench for good, and Barredo went out of the contracting business.

“The Quezon dictatorship,” explained the razor-minded Manila publisher Carlos P. Romulo, “is like the Roosevelt dictatorship. You call it the New Deal. We call it Social Justice.”

But Quezon knew how to crack down on labor, as well as how to help it secure its rights. Any strike called before the workers had resorted to government machinery for mediation got scant consideration. When employees of the government-owned Manila Hotel went on strike on Quezon ordered them locked out. “There will be no strike against this government,” he said.

Quezon’s relations with the Catholic Church have been as inconstant as most of the rest of his life. When his father brought him over the mountains from Baler to obtain an education in Manila he worked as a houseboy for a priest at San Juan de Letran College, in order to get food and lodging. Later, when his father’s small amount of money had given out, the Dominican fathers made it possible for him to study law at Santo Tomas University.

But as young man Quezon fell away from the church and became a Mason, thus joining an organization which archenemy in the Philippines.

In 1918, when he married his first cousin, Aurora Aragon, in Hong Kong, the ceremony was a civil one, performed at the American Legation. But three days later the vows were repeated before the Archbishop of Hong Kong.

Quezon continued his active interest in Masonry until 1928, when tuberculosis forced him to spend several months in bed at the Monrovia Sanitorium in California. “I felt that I was going to die—just like an animal, without any spiritual consolation or hope,” he recalled later. For several years after leaving Monrovia he studied Catholicism, largely at his wife’s behest, and finally on one of the Empress liners sailing from Vancouver to Manila he attended a special mass said by Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty of Manila, thus signalizing his return to his childhood faith.

He told us the story once, when he was in an expansive mood, how he had come to return to the Catholic fold. “When my wife and children kept asking me why I was not a churchgoer, I decided I had better do something about it,” he said. “So I asked Father Vilallonga, an old Spanish Jesuit friend of mine, if he would care to give me some religious instruction in the hopes that I would be reconverted.

“The father was glad to help, and after a long talk he left some books with me to read. One of these books, describing the church in the Philippines during Spanish times, told of image which disappeared from its church in Manila and was found some time later in a chapel in Cavite. Since the skirts of the saint were covered with dust, the church authorities concluded that the image had walked from Manila to Cavite.

“Well, that was too much for me. ‘For goodness’ sake,’ I said to myself, ‘how can they expect anyone to believe that the wooden image of saint could walk from Manila to Cavite?’ So I just gave up the whole idea.

“But a little while later I was talking to Archbishop O’Doherty and he asked me why I didn’t return to the church in which I had worshiped as a small boy. I told him I would be glad to get religious instruction, but I didn’t want any more of that stuff about wooden images walking thirty miles over a dusty road. The Archbishop laughed and said he didn’t believe that story himself. So I began to study with him, finally I decided to re-enter the church.”

Quezon’s return to Catholicism apparently was entirely a matter of conscience. Not even the most anti-Catholic person in the Philippines ever accused him of favoring the church. Quite to the contrary, when the Commonwealth Legislature passed a bill which would allow Catholic priests and lay teachers to give religious instruction in the public schools during regular schools hours, President Quezon promptly vetoed the bill on the ground that he believed firmly in the separation of church and state. Once, during the civil War in Spain from 1936 to 1938, Quezon was the guest of honor at a banquet given by his old friends, the Dominican fathers at the University of Santo Tomas. When he entered the hall a band struck up Franco’s National Anthem. When it came his turn to speak Quezon rebuked the Dominicans scathingly, telling them that they could take sides in the Spanish war if they wanted to, but that they could not use him even covertly to secure public sympathy for Franco.

One reason why so many people have called Quezon a dictator is because he invariably surrounds himself with a big retinue. Even on Corregidor, where he was instructed to take as few people along as possible, he had his usual complement of doctors, servants and aides. He always had a large number of advisers, but he frequently ignored their advice. He felt himself competent to decide any question personally. In legal problems, national policies, educational matters, public works—all the ramifications of government—he was the final arbiter. Even in the fields of art and architecture, which he had never seriously studied, he did not hesitate to set aside the recommendation of experts. Once he noticed that it was a long walk from one entrance of Manila’s city hall to the other entrance, and ordered that a new door be opened in the building, regardless of what it did to the architecture. He must have forgotten his order the next day, because the door was never cut. Against the recommendation of every city planner whom Quezon imported from the United States—and he had some of the best—the new government center was moved from Manila to nearby Quezon city.

Before the war tension rose to fever heat, plans were being laid to hold a great international exposition in the Philippines in November 1941, to coincide with the completion of Quezon’s first term in office. The committee appointed to make the arrangements wanted the exposition held in Manila, where it would be close to the great population centers. Quezon wanted it held in barren Quezon city, then rising out of the rice paddies ten miles northeast of Manila. Finally the committee chairman wrote a long report, listing all the reasons why the exposition should be held in Manila, and took it himself to Malacañang Palace. President Quezon received the report and read it through very carefully.

“That’s a fine report,” the President said to the chairman. “I’ll be honest with you. I can’t answer a single one of the arguments you have advanced for holding the exposition in Manila.” He thought for a moment, and his nose began to quiver as it does when he gets angry.

“No,” Quezon repeated, “I can’t answer your arguments. But there is one thing I can do. I can appoint a new committee to take charge of the exposition.” This is exactly what he did. As things turned out, the fair was never held. But if it had been, you may be sure it would have been held at Quezon City.

To all great men, sooner or later, comes the desire to see their names projected down the corridors of time. Just as Russia named towns, cities, dams, buildings and highways after Josef Stalin, so did the Philippines acquire a Quezon City, a Quezon Bridge, a Quezon Boulevard, a Quezon Avenue, a Quezon Sanitarium and a Quezon Preventorium. The object of this last-named institution was to prevent tuberculosis from developing among the children of tubercular parents. There was even a Quezon Society, dedicated to the collecting of biographical material, data and information about its namesake. Mrs. Quezon came in for her share of unsought but welcome glory, by allowing a dozen towns in different provinces to be named Aurora.

President Quezon was the sort of official who didn’t know one minute what he would be doing the next. His plans were always subject to change, and whoever was in charge of a Quezon itinerary needed infinite patience. I once collected a day-by-day series of headlines for two weeks before his departure from Manila on one of his numerous trips to the United States. It ran something like this:

Quezon Will Take President Taft Monday
President Cancels Passage
Quezon Definitely Going Wednesday on Empress Boat
Malacañang Announces Trip Off
President Sailing Saturday on Hoover
Quezon Sailing Postponed
Big Crowd To See Quezon Party Off Tuesday

And so it went, until finally, much to everyone’s amazement and relief, he got away.

On his provincial trips he used to keep thousands of his admirers waiting hours to see him visit an isolated town, and then change his itinerary at the last minute. On occasion, when he reversed his route, towns had to switch the “Welcome, Quezon” and “Good-by, Mr. President” signs, to be sure the right one would greet him when he entered the town.

Once the National Assembly passed a daylight-saving law and Quezon signed it. Not long after the law went into effect, he arose at 5:30 in the morning while it was still dark. After stumbling downstairs, because he couldn’t find the light switch, he ordered the restoration of standard time!

Judged by Wall Street standards, or compared with Oriental princes, Quezon was never rich. For a long time there were rumors that he had salted away a fortune in pounds sterling in the Bank of England. If he did, he probably regretted it when the pound skidded in value, and the government placed restrictions on the withdrawal of money. The bulk of his fortune was in land, with an assessed valuation in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But Quezon never needed millions. He lived in a palace more elaborate than the White House, and had a summer mansion in Baguio. He had a yacht and a fleet of high-powered limousines at his command. Across the Pasig River from Malacañan he had a “pleasure dome decreed,” a fairyland of beautiful gardens and sumptuous guest houses and elaborate pavilions.

But for all his imperious and regal habits Quezon was always essentially human, with a charm of manner that instantly won friends. Years ago, when he lived in Washington as Resident Commissioner, his fellow Congressmen insisted that he was an Irishman, because of his wit and his love of a fight, and they called him Casey, which they said was the proper translation of the Tagalog word “Quezon.”

I believe that it was at his first press conference after assuming the presidency that Quezon told us, “I’m going to have a human government here. We may make mistakes, but our hearts will be in the right place.”

One of his ways of being human was to go to Bilibid prison and walk down a line of prisoners asking them what they were in for.

“How long do you still have to serve?” he once asked a cochero, or rig driver, he found in the line-up.

“A month,” answered the cochero.

“What for?” asked Quezon.

Somewhat sheepishly the rig driver answered, “Well, sir, I had to answer the call of nature and I didn’t dare go back in the bushes because my horse would run away. So I relieved myself in public.”

“Get that man out of here,” Quezon roared. “Turn him free. What kind of government are we running here anyway? That man should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to jail.”

The apologetic prison warden mumbled something about releasing the prisoner just as soon as the pardon papers were signed and delivered to him.

“Never mind about the pardon papers. I’ll sign them tomorrow. But you get that fellow out of here right now. I never heard of such a thing.”

The cochero was immediately turned loose, and the legal niceties were attended to later.

Mrs. Quezon also had a way of deciding moot questions of law without any nonsense.

When the eight-hour law went into effect a delegation of private nurses visited her and said they would prefer to work the same twelve-hour shifts they had been working, since a sick person would obviously not want to pay any more for three nurses working eight hours a day than he was already paying for two nurses working twelve hours a day. And the nurses didn’t want to take a cut in pay.

“All right,” said Mr. Quezon. “You go ahead working as you have been, and don’t say anything about it. It will be all right.”

Quezon’s people loved him for his impulsive humanity. It used to be seriously argued that half of the people in Manila would walk out to the end of Pier 7 and jump into the bay, if Quezon told them to.

That is why Quezon was, and continues to be, of such vital importance to the United States and to the United Nations. Not only does he keep the spirit of opposition to Japan alive in the Philippines, but his voice carries weight among all the enslaved peoples of Asia.

Before the war started he said, “We owe loyalty to America and we are bound to her, placing at her disposal all our man power and material resources to help her in achieving victory, for the cause for which America fights is our cause.”

Why should a dictator call America’s cause his cause, and throw his country’s weight into the struggle on the side of democracy? Simply because Manuel Quezon was not a dictator by choice. That was proved by his refusal to tamper with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary and other basic rights guaranteed by a democratic constitution. No one doubts that he ruled the Philippines with an iron hand. But that was necessity. The Filipinos had had less than fifty years of firsthand experience with democratic institutions, as against centuries of acquaintance with despotism.

Yet even then it was only by Anglo-Saxon standards that Philippine democracy could be weighed and found wanting. To hundreds of millions of politically disenfranchised Asiatics, the Philippines was an oasis of freedom in a desert of oppression. Nowhere in the Far East did the beacon light of political liberty glow so brightly as in the Philippines. Quezon was a symbol of democracy at work.

Quezon attacks the law’s delay, September 30, 1939

Quezon attacks the law’s delay


By Juan Collas

September 30, 1939–WHAT is wrong with the administration of justice in the Philippines? Why is there so much delay, mostly unnecessary, in terminating cases, even those of a criminal nature? Why is a poor man accused of a crime quickly sentenced, generally convicted, while it takes a mighty long time to try and convict a rich man? Is there one law for the rich and another for the poor in spite of the insistent claims of social justice and the oft-repeated maxim, now derided by many, that there is equality before the law?

Guest of honor and principal speakers at a banquet given at the Manila Hotel by those who passed the bar examination in 1914, President Quezon propounded some of these disturbing questions last week. He has been outspoken, sometimes explosive, in his criticism of antiquated court rules and “sixteenth century” judges. As the fitting subject of an impressive impoverished address, he expatriated on the law’s delay.

Among those present were distinguished members of the bench and bar, including Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña and former Associate Justice Claro M. Recto. The President criticized a few recent decisions in which justice seems to have been “wrecked on the rocks of technicalism” and the court’s inability or unwillingness to divorce itself from lavish adherence to the letter of the law.

Legal Technicalities

Dr. Carlos P. Romulo, publisher of the DMHM string of newspapers, described the speech as “one of the most thought-provoking addresses ever made by the Filipino national leader.”

It is high time, President Quezon is quoted as having remarked, that legal tradition be infused with the breath of life, the life of today, that the courts be guided by a living and not a dead legal philosophy, and that laws be interpreted not with the rigidity of dogma but with the force of the spirit.

Statutory construction or interpretation, he held, should be made in accordance with modern social progress. The interest of the nation, the welfare of the people, is or should be paramount to all the technicalities of the law.

He said he was speaking not as President of the Philippines, but as a mere Juan de la Cruz, and as a mere Juan de la Cruz he had noticed that despite the high standard of the present administration of justice in the Islands, still there are certain legal technicalities that leave the ordinary man puzzled and confused. The average citizens does not understand, for instance, why some crimes cannot be decided by the courts of justice for months; why a person who is known to have been committed a felony can have his trial postponed time and again until weeks lengthen into months, simply because of technicalities adroitly taken advantage of by legal luminaries. Another thing that bewilders the common tao is: How does it happen that rich defendants, who can employ astute lawyers, can circumvent the law while those who cannot afford to hire expensive counsel go to jail without much ado?

The philosophy of the times, the Chief Executive was reported as saying, demands that the courts of justice taken into consideration present-day conditions, the prevailing social doctrines. In this he is ably supported by a jurist who declared that “the law is dead unless ‘it works,’ and it will not work unless and until it is adjusted to the material and psychical conditions of society in which it is to operate.”

“Move With the Times”

President Quezon took occasion to remind his audience that the world is in constant flux; that, although justice is eternal, yet laws are mutable and even one’s sense of justice changes; and that, if they are to continue to deserve the confidence of the people, the courts must move onward with the times, must adjust themselves to the changing social order.

In other words, they must not allow themselves to be shackled by tradition, by inflexible rules that impede the course of progress. It does not necessarily follow, he said, that what was sacrosanct formerly is sacrosanct today. For instance, he cited, the sanctity of contracts is no longer respected when such contracts violate human rights, since human rights are and should always be above property rights.

To the President the remedy lies in substantially altering and improving the present rules of procedure and in impressing upon members of the bar the fact that they are officers of the court and that as such it is their duty to help the court in the speedy administration of justice. Judges and auxiliary judges of first instance, judges of municipal courts, and justices of the peace are required under the Revised Administrative Code to certify before they can draw their salaries “that all…civil and criminal cases which have been under submission for decision…for a period of 90 days have been…decided on or before the making of the certificate…”

Largely blamed for court delays are practising attorneys who, sometimes in the mistaken idea of protecting their clients by prolonging the agony of suspense and incidentally squeezing a fatter fee, resort to dilatory tactics, demurrers, continuances and postponements, in short, all schemes and contrivances that the law permits. Thus cases of murder which ordinarily take a few days to hear and decide in England and at most a few weeks in the United States, are permitted here to drag on for months and sometimes years because of technicalities which lawyers invariably invoke.

Root Causes of Delay

So many are the causes of delay, in the opinion of an authority on legal matters, that he could write “volumes on them.” Some much causes he attributes to the ignorance of some practitioners, to the laziness or indulgence of certain judges who allow counsel to do as they please.

Another recognized authority says almost in confirmation that the root causes or “main factors” making for delay are the judge, the lawyer and the procedural law. Speaking of the law, he mentioned the demurrer one big source of delay. An attorney, for instance, may interpose a demurrer even if he has no valid grounds at all, just to gain time. The rules of court grant 10 days for an answer or demurrer, after the accused has made his appearance, which takes from 20 to 40 days depending on whether he is in Manila or in the provinces. After that he has five days within which to answer, in case he demurred unsuccessfully.

One of the worst causes of delay is the so-called summary examination, as provided for in Philippine criminal procedure, together with the preliminary investigation prescribed by Acts 194, 1450, and 1627. No doubt the object of the law is good—but like many other good things, it has been spoiled by constant abuse. Explains Justice Mariano A. Albert, of the court of appeals, an authority on criminal law and procedure in the Philippines:

“The right not to be forced to trial for a felony on the complaint of a private citizen without conducting a sort of preliminary inquiry…is one of those fundamental rights which the Anglo-Saxon system of jurisprudence has always recognized. To this end a preliminary investigation has been provided by law, the object of which is to ascertain if a crime has been committed, and if so, whether there is sufficient evidence to give probable cause for believing that the person accused is guilty of the crime… Its purpose is not only to determine the amount of bail to be given by the accused in case he is held for trial, but also to secure the innocent against hasty, malicious, and oppressive prosecutions, and to protect him from an open and public accusation of crime, from the trouble, expense, and anxiety of a public trial, and also to protect the government from useless and expensive trials.”

Preliminary Hearings

How this law hampers or is made to hamper and delay prosecution is explained by Solicitor General Roman Ozaeta, who says that even in case of murder, homicide, and other serious crimes, to investigate which is one of the principal duties of the provincial fiscal, the justice of the peace must conduct his preliminary hearing or inquiry. In Manila the preliminary hearing is conducted by the fiscal, who can afterward take the case right to court. The situation in the provinces is different.

“Even after the fiscal has conducted a thorough investigation and is satisfied that he has a fool-proof case,” comments Solicitor General Ozaeta, “still he has to undergo the formality of having the justice of the peace of the municipality where the case arose, conduct a preliminary investigation, make an express finding that there is a prima facie case against the accused, and certify this to the court of first instance where the fiscal has to renew his information or querella.”

The supreme absurdity of the preliminary investigation is that the findings of the investigating justice of the peace do not bind the fiscal. In other words, if the accused or prisoner is discharged by the justice of the peace he may again be arrested and examined, because the fiscal can brush aside the judgment of the investigator as was painfully shown in the recent case of Consorcia de los Reyes.

Resenting the “censure” upon the bar, a lawyer charged that not only are the lawyers to blame, but also the executive department which wields the appointing power. Men of mediocre ability, he pointed out, are being named to the bench. Their knowledge of English or Spanish is so limited that sometimes they are unable to give the law a clear and reasonable interpretation. As a result, cases are appealed.

One of the most sacred duties any man can be given to discharge is that of providing justice in the courts. It requires a high standard of mental and moral attributes. How then, when such are lacking, can it be expected that justice will be served?

What is most interesting to note is that, due in large measure to the aforecited causes of delay, by the end of December, 1938, the courts of first instance of the Philippines had 22,141 pending cases, while the court of appeals had 2,433. Only the supreme court has succeeded in cleaning its docket.