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That Marcos Foundation
By Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
A Free Press reader, the sportsman “Dindo” Gonzales, recently asked the editor why the magazine had not gone thoroughly into President Marcos’ declaration that he would give away all his worldly possessions to the Filipino people. The editor called the reader’s attention to the Free Press article, “Second Mandate,” in the January 10 issue, in which the writer gave a satirical account of the Marcos inauguration as reelected President and the presidential renunciation of material wealth. But “Dindo” wanted more, and so, perhaps, do other Free Press readers.
Has the Free Press been remiss in the fulfillment of its journalistic duty? The editor himself has not given anything worth mentioning to the poor, hence his initial reluctance to look the Marcos gift horse too closely in the mouth, but the customer is always right, so here goes:
January 31, 1970—ON THE eve of his second inauguration as President of the Philippine Republic some Catholic bishops addressed a letter to Ferdinand Marcos:
“We are at a moment of our nation’s history when we crucially need a charismatic leader, a deeply moral person whose honesty and integrity are beyond reproach, a President who will inspire us to be really one in action and national consciousness.
“We need a leader who will not tolerate graft and corruption, self-enrichment, vote-buying and goon-hiring which make a mockery of democracy, almost unlimited over-spending for campaigns, a real social crime especially in a country like ours.
“We need a deeply Christian leader who will be the moral conscience of our other political and economic leaders. And we ask you in the name of God to be such a leader.”
They asked for the impossible—for an elected president who did not overspend for his election into office. Such a man, like the perennial candidate, Racuyal, will never make it because organizations like the Church do not support what they regards as crackpots.
Reacting to the bishops’ letter, which is an indirect indictment of his first administration, President Marcos declared that he would give up all his wealth as an example that he hoped the affluent would try to emulate.
Soon thereafter The Manila Chronicle published interviews with persons from different sections of Philippine society on the presidential renunciation of wealth. The well-off were naturally skeptical. Like all people they projected their own selfishness and inability to conceive of their ever performing a generous deed onto the image of a man, who like them is also rich.
Speaker Laurel, whose political fate at that time was uncertain and depended on the President’s whim, praised him. The President, he said, by his statement had set a standard of behavior which he hoped the nation would try to follow. Congress, he added, had already lived up to this standard in the past years, presumably the years of his leadership, and he hoped that it would continue to do so for many years to come. (That’s a joke, son.)
Setting aside the hogwash, the representative from Cagayan, Benjamin Ligot said, “It would be hypocritical for a congressman who is not a millionaire to say that he is willing to give (his) allowances. We in Congress who are poor need the allowances.” That, after all, is why people run for Congress: to alter for the better their financial condition.
How far the common people are from political cynicism is shown by the fact that, as the Chronicle interviews show, they do not dismiss the gesture out of hand.
The President’s gesture may have no substance, they say; the future will show whether he means what he says or not. For the present, what is important is the gesture. That, they say, is better than nothing.
The President’s renunciation of wealth is an indictment of the rich. It implies that to be rich in this society is to occupy an immoral position. No effort is made to correct anything unless it is thought to be wrong. The President’s promise to give up all his riches reads like a resolution on rectification. The resolve to correct presupposes that one acknowledges an imperfection somewhere.
That the rich should finally begin to lose their complacency, their self-righteousness is some kind of improvement on the past. The gesture is what is important now; it is something that has happened. The substance of the gesture is for the future to praise or criticize.
A minority of those interviewed by the Chronicle dismissed the President’s promise as “baloney.” This society, one man said, is incapable of generating the liberal impulse in the breast of anyone living in it. It is ridiculous to compare Marcos to Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Gandhi. Their kind of selfless dedication is possible only among the new races that have been formed in the crucible of revolution and war.
The most cynical response came, of course, from the rich and their hired spokesmen in the press. If President Marcos is a rich man, then he is one of them. The rich know what they are. Being rich, it is not in them to give up any of their riches. And besides, how much of his riches will he give? Certainly, he cannot give away the hidden riches they attribute to him. That would be self-incriminating.
He can do it, of course. It’s been done before. But he will have to retire to a monastery or go to jail. St. Francis and St. Agustine did it. One gave up a life of idleness and luxury, the other a life of profligacy. Both retired from society, from this world, to the city or to live simply and poorly he must live in a world where poverty is exalted at an ideal, otherwise he will be degrading himself. Monks, mystics and saints who lived in poverty did not in reality live in this world. Their bodies inhabited this world, but their egos lived in a transcendent realm. It is only in that other world—and China—that one who gives up all his material possessions can feel at home.
It is stupid to compare Marcos to St. Francis, as a Manila Chronicle columnist did. Marcos cannot give up all his wealth and live amongst us. He will be despised for his stupidity and for the alms he will have to beg for. If a man incapable of religious transport, an ordinary man, in short, gives up all he has and continues to live among those who place the highest value on material possessions, and thus brings on himself their contempt and mockery, he will even be greater than St. Francis.
Since he cannot really give up all his possessions, why then did Marcos promise to? His closest friends are rich. If he gives up all his wealth, he loses their respect and affection. Not because they are false friends, but because his life will then be incompatible with theirs. He will, in giving up his wealth, execute an act that is foreign to the nature of a rich man. Possessions are what make a man rich or poor. The rich have more of them, the poor have less. Take riches away from the rich and they are no longer rich but poor. Does Marcos want to alienate himself from the only circle of friends he really knows and with whom he feels most at home?
It was an unwise statement to make. No matter how much he gives up, it will never be enough to satisfy the skeptical, until he is actually seen wearing rags. If he had only said that he would start a foundation, what could be said against it?
Still something is better than nothing. It does put the rich on the spot. Will they also give? All? What if Marcos gives and they do not? And if Marcos does not give, what right will they have to criticize him? He will have proven himself to be no better and no worse than they are.
At any rate, the Free Press asked the President to make a clarification of his controversial statement if he cared to, and he did. Here it is:
“STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS ON THE DECISION TO CREATE THE FERDINAND E. MARCOS FOUNDATION, INC. TO ENABLE THE PRESIDENT TO TRANSFER HIS MATERIAL POSSESSIONS TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE.
“(This is intended as an answer to a query from the Philippines Free Press on the circumstances leading to the President’s New Year’s eve announcement which has met with high enthusiasm in many parts of the world, but with some skepticism among local critics. Authenticated by the Press Secretary, Mr. Francisco S. Tatad, Malacañang Press Office.)
“The decision to create the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc. was taken early in 1969. It was not an altogether easy decision to make, but once made, my wife and I agreed that whether I won or lost the election, the Foundation should be formed, to help in the advancement of education, science, technology and the arts.
“I asked a group of five men to study the plan. This was composed of Messrs. Juan Ponce Enrile, Geronimo Velasco, Cesar Virata, Cesar Zalamea, and Onofre D. Corpuz. They will now act as trustees of the Foundation on the basis of official papers filed today, 22 January 1970, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, incorporating the Foundation.
“The corporation will take over the assets that I will transfer, and these assets will constitute the actual Foundation for educational, scientific, cultural and charitable purposes. As soon as the corporation is finally organized, and the assets to be transferred have been completely inventoried, the actual transfer shall be made through a deed of trust to be executed by me, with the conformity of the First Lady, my wife. The Foundation will hold title to the property, administer it and utilize its income according to its stated purposes.
“Announcement of the Foundation could have been made any time during the previous year; but it was a political year, and that mere fact alone could have been made the basis of much skepticism, questioning and ridicule. The Foundation would have been dismissed as pure political gimmickry, an attempt to buy votes. So I urged complete discretion on the part of the prospective trustees, and on my part, avoided the slightest reference to it.
“It was not until New Year’s eve that I thought the announcement could be made. I felt then that it was opportune to make the announcement, having earlier, in my second Inaugural Address, called for new measures of self-sacrifice, and having glimpsed some kind of eagerness on the part of the public to respond to that appeal. I, therefore, issued the following statement:
“ ‘Moved by the strongest desire and the purest will to set the example of self-denial and self-sacrifice for all our people. I have today (31 December 1969) decided to give away all my worldly possessions so that they may serve the greater needs of the greater number of our people.
“ ‘I have therefore decided to give away, by a general instrument of transfer, all my material possessions to the Filipino people through a Foundation to be organized and to be known as the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc.
“ ‘It is my wish that these properties will be used in advancing the cause of education, science, technology and the arts.
“ ‘This act I undertake of my own free will, knowing that, having always been a simple man, my needs will always be lesser than the needs of many of our people, who have given me the highest honor within their gift, an honor shared by no other Filipino leader.
“ ‘Since about a year ago, I have asked some of my closest confidantes to study the mechanics of this decision. Today studies have been completed, and a Foundation will now be formed to administer these properties and all funds that may be generated therefrom.
“ ‘For the moment, my most sincere hope is that this humble act shall set the example, and move to greater deeds of unselfishness and compassion, many of our countrymen whose position in society gives them a stronger duty to minister to the needs of our less fortunate brothers and countrymen.’” (End of statement.)
“Since that announcement all sorts of questions have been asked, and many seem more concerned with the question of the Foundation’s actual worth than with the fact that there is a foundation, and that through it the President will be able to transfer his material possessions to the Filipino people.
“Whereas, the law must determine what exact description of property I should be able to transfer to the Foundation, the transfer to the Foundation, the transfer contemplates ‘all worldly possessions’ which the law will allow. In time, the Foundation itself should be able to present an evaluation of its assets. But in the meantime, I believe it sufficient to say that the Foundation is there, or is going to be there, and that is really what matters.”
What is one to believe?
After he had risen from the grave, Jesus appeared to his disciples. But Thomas, “called the Twin…was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
“‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’”
Thus speaks the Gospel according to John, to which one can add no comment.
* * * *
The question is, obviously, centered on the meaning of “all.” Did the President really mean what he said about giving up ALL his worldly possessions? Under the law, he cannot give away his wife’s half of the conjugal property. Half of all that is acquired with earnings during the marriage belongs to each of the spouses for him on her to give away or keep.
And what is the “all” of the man whom the Liberals like to describe as “the richest man in Asia?”
The President, of course, did not have to give anything away at all. But if he did not mean what he said, why did he say it? From sheer demagoguery? Rashly—in panicky answer to the seven bishops’ challenge to give the Filipino people a Christian government, something they never had?
If the President gave all his worldly possessions to the poor, he would be more Christian than the Catholic Church itself, which is holding on to its worldly possessions like nobody’s business. Christ told the rich young man to give what he had to the poor and follow Him, but the Church charges interest when it lends. That’s business. Why must Marcos do more?
The mocking judgment on the Marcos statement about giving up all he had to the Filipino people is a form of self-judgment. Catch anyone doing that! Who would give, not all but a substantial portion of his wealth to the poor? A certain amount, why not? It would be tax deductible and there is the publicity, but certainly not so much that it would hurt. And, of course, not all. That would be Christian, not to say communistic. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, Christ said, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Well, if one were rich, one would damn well rather go to hell. Right?
To be poor, let’s face it, is awful. Only the rich romanticize about poverty.
Why did the President say he would give ALL his worldly possessions to the Filipino people? If he had said he would give some, nobody could have made an issue or a joke of it. Now, no matter how much he gives, it will not be enough.
“Is that all”? the question will be asked by those who do not give or hardly give anything at all.
Yet, something is better than nothing, indeed. If only he had not said “all”!
THE CHURCH UNDER ATTACK
May 5, 1956
There is a new outburst of anti-clericalism as Catholic politicians denounce the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to the bill requiring Filipino students to read the two controversial novels of Rizal
By Teodoro M. Locsin
NOT for a long time has the Catholic Church, or, at any rate, the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines, been subjected to such attacks as it has for the last two weeks. Archbishops, accustomed to having high government officials kiss the ring of their office, were mocked and ridiculed, were called enemies of freedom, to great applause. Catholic political leaders led the attack….
Did the hierarchy expect the attacks when it issued the pastoral letter objecting to the Senate bill which would make the two novels of Rizal required reading in all public schools—novels the hierarchy considered impious and heretical? If it did, and went ahead just the same and registered its objection, it could only be because of an overriding concern for the safety of the Faith; to read Rizal is to endanger it. A temporary embarrassment is nothing in the light of eternity; the Church is 2,000 years old; it will still be standing when the supporters of the bill are no longer around. The Senate, as it is presently composed, will not prevail against it. Thus, perhaps, wen the thought of the churchmen. It was a calculated risk.
It was all very surprising. A month ago, one could not have imagined a Filipino politician speaking in any but the most respectful terms of the prelates of the Church; he would have considered it political suicide to express himself critically of them. Now all caution seems to have been thrown to the wind. Anything goes. There is a new freedom, or, to put it another way, license.
The Church has grown in power and influence since the days immediately following the Revolution. Then every other Filipino leader seemed to be the critic if not the enemy of the Church. Many had lost their faith; even among those who retained it, there were not a few who were, in some degree, anti-clerical. The women were pious but the men were something else. During Mass, when the priest turned around to deliver a sermon, the men would walk out of the church; when the priest was done, they would come back. “Do what I say, but don’t do what I do,” the men would say, referring to the man of God.
In time, many Filipino leaders returned to the Church, abjuring Masonry as in the case of the late President Quezon; they became quite devout. It no longer seemed queer to be a priest or to listen to one. The Church grew in prestige. When a Protestant, Camilo Osias, made known his intention to run for president, he was told he couldn’t win; he was not a Catholic. He could be a senator; he was. He could never be president. He must face the facts of political life. When he wouldn’t, and bolted to the other side, he couldn’t even get elected as senator.
If Ramon Magsaysay is president of the Philippines today, it is due not a little to the help of the Church. The hierarchy, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the perpetuation of the Quirino administration through electoral fraud and terrorism would eventually drive the people into Communism, urged the faithful to keep the elections free. Free elections would mean the defeat of the Quirino administration. The Church couldn’t help that. The elections were free, and there was a new administration.
Quezon and the church
By Frederic S. Marquardt
The Bible was near his bed.
JOSE Rizal and Manuel L. Quezon were both born into the Catholic religion. Both were educated in church schools. Both spend many of their adult years outside the church. But that’s the end of the parallel religious experiences of the two leading Philippine heroes. While historians differ as to whether Rizal reasserted his faith in the church, there is no doubt that Manuel Quezon died a Catholic.
There was an altar in the room in which death came to Quezon at Saranac Lake on August 1, 1944. A frequently read Bible was near his bed. Quezon took almost daily communion from his personal chaplain, the Rev. Pacifico J. Ortiz, S.J., during his long illness. He and the members of his family said the rosary together every night.
Quezon’s was no death bed conversion, or more accurately reconversion. For the last 14 years of his life he was a practicing Catholic. But for the previous 25 years he had nothing to do with the church. It was during this earlier period that he was married in a civil ceremony in Hong Kong, later repeating the vows before a priest almost an afterthought. During his break with the church he was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, an order generally regarded as anti-clerical. The Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Masons in Washington, D.C., elected him to the 33rd degree, highest honor in Masonry. Caballero and Concepcion, in their biography on Quezon, date this event as October 23, 1929.
Less than a year later Quezon was back in the Catholic fold. Time, the American newsmagazine, reported in its issue of December 9, 1935: “Catholic-born Manuel Quezon retracted Masonry on his 52nd birthday, 1930, aboard the s.s. Empress of Japan, in the presence of Most Rev. Michael J. O’Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. Two years later he demitted (i.e. resigned) from his lodge.”
In his autobiography, The Good Fight, Quezon was amazingly sketchy about his religious experiences. It should be noted, of course, that the book was unfinished at the time of Quezon’s death, and was published posthumously after his friends and relatives had done some work on the manuscript. He was a sick man when he dictated the book, and he had no opportunity to put it in final shape. As the head of a government in exile, he was taking a high-level part in the struggle that would leave scars on his country for years to come. There was little time for reflection or research. Still, Quezon did indicate in his book one of the events that may have led him away from the church.
Describing his part in the Philippine Revolution, Quezon told how he came down with a bad case of malaria while serving on General Mascardo’s staff. The illness probably occurred in 1900, although the date is not definitely established. “I spent a month in the house of Cabesang Doro’s friend in Navotas”, wrote Quezon, undoubtedly referring to the town in Rizal province. “This old man had amassed so much money from the fishing business that he had been able to send his son to be educated in Europe. While convalescing at his house, I read books which left in my mind some doubt as to the certainty of the existence of hell as taught by my friar teachers—doubts which in after years contributed to my leaving for a long time the Catholic faith and joining the Masonic Order. I returned to the old church after my children had grown up.”
The foregoing pithy reference doesn’t throw much light on Quezon’s religious experience, but it is all he chose to include in his autobiography.
I have been able to find no published record of Quezon’s beliefs during the years when he was outside the church. However, I once examined an unpublished autobiography of the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, who had a distinguished career in Philippine politics during the first half of the American regime. In the manuscript (Chapter X) was a letter from Quezon to Kalaw. As nearly as I could ascertain, it must have bee written about 1915, when Quezon was representing the Philippines as resident commissioner in Washington. In the letter, written in Spanish, Quezon said:
“You know that I am a free thinker. I do not believe matrimony is an indissoluble tie, just as I do not see the necessity of any religion for any people and nation. Science should be, and has to be, the Religion of the future. This Religion will make the man of tomorrow more perfect, morally speaking, than the religious man of today, because the believer of our day is synonymous with the ignorant. To believe is ‘to see what we have not seen’; in other words to have faith in whatever hoaxes some people, who consider themselves semi-divine, preach and practice. Nevertheless, even when such are my honest convictions regarding divorce and religion, I still consider it very inopportune to pass the Divorce Law now.
“Because of the trouble between (Archbishop of Manila) Harty and the YMCA, Harty has written to American Catholics attacking our Government. For the first time the Catholics here are (word indecipherable) if it is good for Catholicism to have the American government in the Philippines. It is very convenient for us to let them ponder over this, while at the same time we show them what good Catholics we are. The Catholic vote may yet give us our independence.”
There seems to be an inconsistency in Quezon’s referring to himself as a “free thinker,” and then suggesting “we show them what good Catholics we are”. One can only surmise that Quezon was speaking ironically in the latter instance. As a matter of fact, Quezon was wrong if he thought the Catholic vote in the United States would bring about independence. Only a few years after this letter to Kalaw was written, the same Archbishop Harty sent a cablegram to the predominantly Catholic New York delegation in the House of Representatives urging he delegates to vote against immediate independence.
If Quezon didn’t write much about his experiences with the Catholic Church, he showed no reluctance in discussing them. On October 21, 1937, I made extensive notes of a press conference President Quezon had held the preceding Sunday in his study in Malacañan Palace. The conference lasted two hours. Originally called because the President wanted to discuss a forthcoming legislative message, the conference soon branched out into discussion of nearly everything under the sun, including religion. Other correspondents present were Walter Robb of the Chicago Daily News, Ray Cronin of The Associated Press, Dick Wilson of the United Press, Dave Boguslav, then editor of the Manila Tribune, now The Manila Times. I was associated editor of the Philippines Free Press, and correspondent for the International News Service.
I had always been curious about Quezon’s return to the church, and I kept the conversation on this subject as long as I could. The President was speaking “off the record”, so his statements were not published at the time. His story went like this, according to the notes made at the time and still in my possession.
“I first considered re-entering the church for the sake of my children. My wife was a very devout Catholic, and as the children grew older I knew they would wonder why she was so religious when I was apparently lacking in religion. And I was afraid they might, believing me to be more intelligent than their mother, follow in my footsteps without giving the question of religion serious thought.
“So I asked Father Villalonga, former head of the Jesuit Order in the Philippines, if he would give me some instruction in the Catholic religion.
“Father Villalonga, whom I had known for years, came out to see me and the first thing he wanted to do was say mass, I said to him, ‘Never mind the mass. Tell me why I should re-enter my faith.’
“He talked to me for a while, and then he sent me a book, saying it would instruct me in the Catholic religion. Well, I read the book, and one of the portions in it told about a good-for-nothing Spaniard who sailed from Spain for the Philippines. Before he left his home his mother gave him a Medal, bearing the likeness of the Virgin of the Rosary, and once a day this fellow would say a ‘Hail Mary’ to the Medal. The rest of the time he was the worst possible sort of a rake, committing all the crimes imaginable.
“When the boat he was on passed Mariveles, a storm came up and the man was shipwrecked. By dint of great effort, he managed to swim ashore to Cavite but he was so exhausted by the time he reached there that he fell down on the beach and died.
“The next day the people in Manila noticed that the Virgin of the Rosary in the chapel of the Dominican Church had dust on it. And do you know what the conclusion of the story was? That the Virgin in Manila, made of wood, had walked all the way to Cavite to help this sinful man into Heaven, merely because he had said one ‘Hail Mary’ a day!
“When I read that story, and considered that the Catholic Church expected grown-up, intelligent men to believe it, I decided that I had better stay outside the church.
“So I did nothing until once, when I was returning to Manila from the United States, I found myself on board the same boat with Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty. I was chatting with the Archbishop one day when he asked me why I did not return to the church, pointing out that my children were growing up and that I owed it to them, if for no other reason, to again become a practicing Catholic.
“I said to the Archbishop, ‘I personally would like to return to the church. But I can’t join an organization which expects me to believe that a wooden image walked all the way from Manila to Cavite to help a sinner get into Heaven.’ Then I told him the entire story which I had read in the book.
“The Archbishop laughed and said, ‘Well, I don’t believe that story either, but I’m still a member of the church. It wasn’t long before he convinced me that I could rejoin the church without insulting my own intelligence. As I recall it, he said a mass on that occasion.”
I was anxious to find out Quezon’s attitude toward Masonry. So I pressed him on this subject. His statement, also taken from my notes of October 21, 1937, follows:
“I didn’t actually resign from the Masonic order until several months later, and I never denounced Masonry. There is a formal form which those returning to the church from the Masonic lodge are supposed to sign, but I refused to sign it. Instead, I wrote the Archbishop a personal note saying that I understood that I could not be readmitted to the Catholic Church so long as I remained a Mason for that reason I was resigning from Masonry.”
The “personal note” from Quezon to Archbishop O’Doherty is included in Sol Gwekoh’s Quezon, His Life and Career. The original was in Spanish, says Gwekoh, and was witnessed by Mrs. Quezon. It was dated August 18, 1930, which is one day off from the 52nd birthday mentioned in Times’s account. Since he was crossing the Pacific at the time, it is possible that Quezon was confused by the International Date Line.
In the document cited by Gwekoh, this statement is attributed to Quezon: “I abandon Masonry and I abandon it forever, not only because this is a condition sine qua non for a Catholic, but because the religious beliefs that I now sincerely profess, are in direct opposition to certain Masonic theories. I shall never again belong to any society condemned by the church. I deplore with all my heart having spent the best years of my life in complete forgetfulness of my God and outside His church.”
Not long after the press conference at which President Quezon spoke so freely of his religious experiences, I asked him if he would authorize publication of the facts that led to his readmission to the church. I pointed out the doubts that always arose regarding Rizal’s religious beliefs, and suggested that Quezon prevent all speculation in his own case by writing an article for the 1937 Christmas issue of the FREE PRESS, repeating what he had told us at the press conference.
The President thought about my request, then turned it down. It is only now, 10 years after his death, that I fell free to publish this personal version of Manuel Quezon’s religious beliefs. In his note to me, dated November 18, 1937, President Quezon said:
“I have been thinking over the question you submitted to me yesterday and I have come to the conclusion that it would not be proper for me at this time to write such an article. It is of no concern to the public what my religion is and why I belong to that church. The separation of church and state is fundamental constitutional mandate and people may suspect some ulterior motive in my writing such article.
‘Therefore I will not write the article you’ve suggested.”
The important thing about President Quezon’s letter, it seems to me, was his concern over the separation of church and state. The issue of religious education in the public schools was a live one. Only a veto by President Quezon prevented the enactment of a law that would have permitted religious education in the schools during regular time.
Despite the President’s veto, the bishops of Cebu announced their intention to continue the fight for religious education in the public schools. President Quezon then made a blistering statement ending all speculation as to where he stood on the question of separation of church and state.
“It should be unnecessary to remind the ecclesiastical authorities in the Philippines”, said Quezon, “that the separation of Church and State in this country is a reality and not a mere theory, and that as far as our people are concerned, it is forever settled that this separation will be maintained as one of the cardinal tenets of our government. They should realize, therefore, that any attempts on their part to interfere with matters that are within the province of government will not be tolerated. If the said ecclesiastical authorities desire to have the government respect their rights and afford them every kind of protection in the free exercise of their religion, they must not only abide by the laws and lawful orders of the government, but they must also acknowledge and respect the principle of the separation of church and state.”
If President Quezon’s message to the bishops was the highlight of his intensely religious period, his letter to Teodoro Kalaw was a similar highlight of his years as a free-thinker. When he was almost literally at war with the church, he advised Kalaw against any breakdown in the sanctity of marriage. And when he had again become a practicing Catholic, he warned a congregation of bishops to keep their hands off political affairs. Both events illustrate the essential balance that is a requisite of true statesmanship.
No More Divorce?
By Teodoro M. Locsin
“ABSOLUTELY AGAINST LIBERALIZATION PRESENT DIVORCE LAW.”
“VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE LIBERALIZATION OF DIVORCE LAW.”
“WE URGE ABOLITION OF DIVORCE DISHONORS GOD DESTROYS FAMILY NATION.”
April 9, 1949—BECAUSE of a flood of such telegrams, and letters and petitions from Catholics all over the Philippines, Nacionalista and Liberal members of the House of Representatives decided in caucus last week, not only to vote against the proposed “liberalization” of the present Divorce Act, but to abolish absolute divorce.
Henceforth, only legal separation would be authorized, on the ground of adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Re-marriage would be impossible. That is, if the bill sponsored by Congressman Lorenzo Sumulong of Rizal is passed, as it is expected to be passed, by the House, and if the Senate should act favorably on the measure and the President does not veto it.
One congressman was quoted thus, by the Evening News Saturday Magazine:
“I have daughters. For their sake, I’d like to liberalize the Divorce Law. I don’t intend to divorce my wife, but I would give my daughters a chance to mend their lives if they should happen to marry impossible husbands. I believe Catholics should exercise strict discipline among their flock instead of imposing their religious prejudice on other people, who are non-Catholics. It’s on the same principle of human rights that we would object if Mohammedans, whose religion forbids the eating of pork, should try to influence legislation so Catholics, like Mohammedans, would be prevented from eating pork. There such things as minority rights. Granted that Catholics are preponderant in this country, it should not mean that their religious prejudices should be visited on non-Catholics, or that non-Catholics should be bound by the limitations inherently religious, rather than civil, of Catholics. If Catholics don’t want divorce, let them restrain themselves, within the church, but not within the law. But don’t quote me,” laughed the congressman, “I want to get reelected.”
The congressman had good cause to fear electoral defeat if he should be identified with those who favor liberalization of the Divorce Law. “Catholic bishops,” reports the Manila Times, “from all over the country broadly hinted in their urgent wires that unless their pleas were heeded, reelectionists would encounter their Nemesis in November. The prelates also stated that they had no objection to passage of the proposed code provided its divorce provisions were eliminated, inferentially consenting to [the continuance of] the present law on absolute divorce.”
But the congressmen, Nacionalistas as well as Liberals, decided to outdo the bishops, to be more Popish than the Pope, to impose the Catholic religion, at least in the matter of divorce, on all Filipinos, Catholics and non-Catholics, and agreed not only not to liberalize the Divorce Law but to abolish absolute divorce. These members of Congress decided to sacrifice the rights of a substantial minority, the non-Catholic population of the country, on the altar of reelection.
Non-Catholics believe that divorce should be granted on certain grounds, such as, for instance, adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Non-Catholics believe that after the marriage tie has been cut, the former spouses are free to remarry. But the Catholic Church holds that while there may be separation of the spouses, remarriage is not to be allowed. To remarry, while the other spouse, no matter how erring, is still alive, would be a heinous, a mortal sin.
So that non-Catholics as well as Catholics may not commit that “mortal” sin, members of Congress have decided to make the commission of the “sin” impossible by making remarriage legally impossible, a crime: bigamy.
Under the present law, a man may secure a divorce from his wife only after sending her to prison for adultery. He must send her to prison; he must feel no pity, grant no mercy, if he is to be free of her, and free to marry again. In the case of the woman, she must send her husband to prison for concubinage if she would be free to remarry.
Under the proposed law, abolishing absolute divorce, a man must not only be without pity and send his adulterous wife to prison if he would be rid of her and be able to remarry. He must harden his heart, plot and plan; lay a trap for his wife, catch her in the act of adultery and shoot her to death. He must kill.
If the husband of an adulterous woman hesitates to kill, then he must condemn himself to a life of perfect celibacy for the next 20, 30, 40 years. He must suppress all natural desires, he must be perfectly chaste. He is expected to be, under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce. For the alternative would be to get himself a querida, which it is certain neither the Catholic Church nor our congressmen would countenance, or to take his faithless wife to himself again, to be, in short, as the Spaniards put it, a pendejo consentido.
It was St. Paul who said, “Better to marry than to burn.” Under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce, a man who is the husband of an unfaithful woman must kill, or remain a cuckold.
Those who would abolish absolute divorce argue that the rights of a minority, that is, in this case, of the non-Catholic population of the country, may be overridden in the interest of the welfare of the state. In a time of revolutionary change, of political disorder and economic chaos, a state that would endure must be built on solid rock. That solid rock is the family; only on such a rock may a nation stand firmly and unafraid, etc.
Family relations must be strengthened and reinforced; the family must be placed beyond danger of dissolution. “Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The words vary, the sentiment is the same. The family, at all cost, must be saved. The law must see to it that the family is not, for whatever reason, broken up.
But, it is enough to point out, when a wife becomes adulterous, or making of her marriage vows a joke, or when a man takes a mistress and openly lives with her and keeps her under circumstances “scandalous,” the family may continue to exist, but in name only. Its foundations are gone, it is an empty temple, a mockery and a sham. Nothing remains of the ties that had once bound a man and a woman together. There is only a festering sore.
The plain and true reason, of course, for the bill abolishing absolute divorce is no great concern on the part of the congressmen to save the Filipino family form rack and ruin. The purpose of the bill is political—reelection. The congressmen think that by giving the Catholic bishops, priests and laymen what they want, the non-liberalization of the Divorce Law, and more than they has asked for, the abolition of absolute divorce, they (the congressmen) have assured their reelection. That’s the only reason why they would abolish absolute divorce, and they will admit it, if they be honest. If they be honest!
As it is, these members of Congress have placed the Catholic Church in a dubious position. Catholics are always ready to cry out and complain when their rights as Catholics are trampled upon, when others would impose upon them a non-Catholic way of life. Now congressmen are making it appear that Catholics, when they are in the majority, have no compunction in imposing their way of life on non-Catholics. That Catholics are for freedom and tolerance—only when it suits them.
As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church need not fear that the present law permitting absolute divorce, or even a liberalization of it, would send true Catholics on a divorce spree. Remarriage, while the other spouse is still alive, is, the church teaches, a mortal sin, and, on this score alone, the sinner faces the threat of eternal punishment. That should be enough to keep any husband in the straight and narrow path.
If, despite threat of hell, a Catholic insists on getting a divorce and remarrying, why, he is no Catholic. And if he is not afraid of hell, no mere legal prohibition against remarriage will prevent him from leaving his wife for another woman, and breaking up the family. As a matter of fact, the proposed abolition of absolute divorce, ostensibly to buttress the Filipino family, allows legal separation of the spouses, which means the breakup of the family.
July 23, 1938
WHEN President Manuel Quezon left recently for a vacation in Japan, he left in the dead of night, aboard a Japanese freighter, without fuss or fanfare.
But when he returned this week, board the Empress of Japan, tugboats whistled and puffed around the graceful white luxury liner, the flags were out at dawn, the city’s bay boulevards are bright with sunshine and posters, jammed with cheering thousands. The President might have been returning from the United States, with a new economic pact or another bankful of coconut millions, instead of from a quiet uneventful Japanese holiday.
It was true, however, that the quiet holiday had aroused a Japanese-teapot-storm of comment. The President had been reported seeking unofficial assurances from Japan that the independent republic of the Philippines would be left alone. In Japan, Visitor Quezon had called the report “ridiculous bunkum.” Two days after his arrival in Manila he was to expand that impulsive phrase into an involved 15-minute explanation.
But on the Luneta, a chain of sampaguitas around his neck, he had nothing new to offer. Instead, talking in Tagalog, he took up where he had left off on his departure, sailed with both fists into the Catholic Church.
“If they want showdown, they can have it,” he shouted, evidently still sore at the pastoral letter which had criticized his veto of the religious instruction bill, shortly before he left. He challenged the Church to a fight in the coming elections for the Assembly. He said the church could present its own candidates against those of the administration, to put the whole question up to the people.
Since most of the Church’s candidates would necessarily be the Assemblymen who voted for the bill in the Assembly, and since all of these Assemblymen are administration men too, the challenge was scarcely fair, and the proposed battle, scarcely possible.
Such a battle, moreover, and such a challenge would bring little good to good a country which needed every ounce of unity it had, in the face of freedom. The President himself had recognized this danger in previous declarations. He repeated it on the Luneta: “We should not sacrifice our national life, our national harmony and unity on matters of religion, which we should not even discuss because it is unnecessary to do so. We have freedom of worship and of conscience.”
The vigorous impromptu challenge was later toned down in the official text of the speech, released in English to the press. The President proposed that the National Assembly reconsider the bill. If it was not repassed despite his veto, he would reveto it. If it was not repassed, “the country may consider the matter settled, unless the people in the coming election should decide to elect a majority of members of the National Assembly who would commit themselves in their electoral campaign to enact a measure on religious instruction.”
Confident Mr. Quezon entertained no fears in that respect. The crowd that had jammed the Luneta to hear him was primarily a labor crowd, grateful for favors past and present. But he adroitly interpreted their presence: “It can have only one meaning and that is, that you have come here to assure me that both my veto… and my stand on the question of the separation of Church and State, have met and continue to meet with your entire approval…. You make me very happy.”
The President also tossed aside hurt Catholic arguments that even Catholic bishops, as citizens of the Philippines, had a right to criticize the President’s actions. “I shall not deny any bishop, priest, or minister, of any church, his right as a citizen to express his opinion on any public question, but I do emphatically deny the right of the constituted authorities of any religious organization, or of any Church or Faith, not in their capacity as citizens but as authorities of that religious organization… and speaking therefor, to try to influence the government or any of its branches.”
It was clear warning that there would be no mutual understanding between Church and State in the Philippines.
Two days later the President was almost as clear on another mutual understanding, this time between the Philippines and Japan. The U.S. press had commented widely on the Quezon trip to Japan, had insinuated that Quezon was courting Japan and Japan courting Quezon. Correspondent Wilfrid Fleisher had telephoned the New York Herald Tribune that the President had been invited to the Empire by Japanese friends, that his trip had been arranged by these friends, that the Japanese government was glad of the chance to show the President that Japan had no designs on the Philippines.
No fear of Japan
Radiocasting from his study in Malacañang, over KZRC to the Philippines, and over an NBC coast-to-coast hookup to the United States, the President burned with sarcasm: “One of the American press correspondents, gifted with a highly fantastic imagination, sent information to his newspaper in New York to the effect that I had made that trip for the purpose of starting negotiations with the Japanese government, looking toward the neutralization of the Philippines. The absurdity of the news should have been enough to discredit it.”
The U.S., the President said, still retained control of the commonwealth’s foreign relations. “In the second place, it is a matter of common knowledge that on several occasions spokesmen from the foreign office of the Imperial government of Japan have left it be known…that Japan was ready and willing if invited, to be one of the signatories to such a treaty of neutralization…. Why then should I go to Japan to learn of something about which I had no right to inquire, and which no longer a secret to any one?”
But the President proceeded to do much to credit, if not the report on neutralization negotiations, at least its background of Philippine-Japanese mutual confidence and understanding. “I may state, said the President, “that I am not one of those who entertain any misgivings as to the attitude of Japan toward the Philippines once we shall have become independent. Our preparation for national defense is not due to our fear that any nation has untoward designs against our independence and territorial integrity…. We are not so extraordinarily rich natural resources as to make it worthwhile for any nation to conquer our territory at an enormous cost, and our trade can always be had through mutual concessions. There is, therefore, nothing to justify the belief that a wanton aggression against us may be contemplated by any foreign power.”
Gone seemed the expressed fear of most Filipino leaders that Japan will conquer the islands, or that, if it does conquer the islands much harm will come of it. Gone also the traditional uncompromising attitude toward Japan. Instead, the President hinted, the Philippines must cultivate a more tolerant, a more realistic, policy.
“We are in the world and must live with the world. We must conceive and devise, adopt and execute our national policies, with a clear vision and full consciousness of the realities of the present state of international relationships. We must above all be fair and just, tolerant and neutral, so as not to give an excuse on the part of any foreign power to interfere in our affairs or to charge us with jeopardizing the rights of other nations.”
The President then said, half with a sigh of relief: “When we are independent, our fate will be entirely in our hands.”
That fate, he hinted, was in the Far East, and in “peace and mutual understanding…permanently established among the nations of the Far East.” The face of the Philippines seems turned to Japan.
Who owns this city?
October 3, 1908, Saturday–The answer is found part in our first page cartoon. The religious corporations own a big slice of it and the irreligious corporations the rest. Between the two the common people stagger under the burden. For the pious exemption of the churches from all taxation we have to thank our dearly beloved Mr. Taft, who for some years past has been paving his way to the White House via the Vatican, and for the exemption of the soulless corporations from civic control we have to thank a renegade municipal board false to their true masters, the people, and loyal to the people’s oppressors, the street railway and light company and the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific.
It has been said that the public gets as good a government as it deserves. Here it has been a case of “the public be damned” and the presumption is the public deserves to be damned. Certainly in the United States, subjected to the same iniquitous impositions we have labored under here, something would have happened. There would have been more than muttered imprecations and weak-kneed protests. Take the case of the Escolta, for instance. How long would any city there have suffered its main thoroughfare to be trifled with the way ours has been here? How long would any people have stood the criminal scandal of Calle Azcarraga where the street railway company and the city engineer seem to have gleefully conspired to block traffic and torment the public? How long would the taxpayers have endured the godless and arbitrary impost of four pesos a month for light they never consumed? How long would they have stood those pitfalls and rotten blocks with their menace to man, cart, and beast? How long would they have remained silent under that luxurious Luneta fill outrage with a treasury beggared for funds and the poor people wading up to their thighs in mud and scum, the poor “submerged tenth” in behalf of whom El Renacimiento has been lifting up its voice and lifting it in vain?
It is high time the faithless incompetents were cleaned out, and that the city had representatives that would represent. With the exception of Alcalde Roxas, who seems to have gone to sleep lately, there is not one member on the board in whom the public has the least confidence, or who deserves the public’s confidence. It is high time the public assert itself and that we show who owns this city.
Bryan and Filipino hopes of Independence
What about Filipino independence should Mr. Bryan be elected President of the United States, as now seems not improbable? This question has doubtless been asked by not a few Filipinos, and it will no doubt be disappointing to those who desire immediate independence to be informed that even if Mr. Bryan becomes President he will not be able to give it. In the United States laws require the assent of Congress, and as, owing to the manner in which the senate of the United States is constituted, it is assured that the majority in it will continue republican during the four years of Bryan’s administration, should he be elected, it is also assured that no law providing for the immediate independence of the Philippines will be approved by the upper house. Therefore, while Bryan has expressed the opinion that the Filipino people should have their independence within five years, it would be impossible for him to give it within that length of time. The only hope of independence which the people of the Philippines can expect from Bryan must be based on the chance of his being elected this time and then four years later being elected for a second term. A second democratic victory at the polls would presumably insure both the house and the senate being democratic, which would then give Mr. Bryan an opportunity to realize his desires in regard to the Philippines and their independence. Even should Bryan be elected, therefore, the Filipinos who desire immediate independence would be almost as far from it as ever.