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Mid-term and other elections as reported by the Free Press

hhc-campaigns for rej:acc

May 2013 is a mid-term election. The classic chronicle of a mid-term, and particularly interesting as it reported trends that have become par for the course in modern campaigns, is Nick Joaquin’s Ayos na ang Buto-Buto, November, 1963:

This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.

The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!

The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.

Four elements of the present day are there: the slang of the day; questions of ethnicity, class, and race; controversies about surveys; the ole-fashioned speeches, stumping and rallies.

But other features of campaigns past are long gone: while party-switching is still there, the era of the party convention as a process that mattered, is history, consider this relict of things past in It’s Up to You Now! from 1953:

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

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

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

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

That era –when parties actually mattered, because leaders had to cultivate loyal party followers– preserved in time, so to speak, as seen in other articles, from the height of one-party rule in United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939 to Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957; but as parties withered, new-style politics would take its place. See Nick Joaquin’s In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957, for a profile of the new-type of leader; and in The Winners ’61, Nick Joaquin quoted Macapagal describing how a campaign begins a long time before the official campaign period starts:

President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.

“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”

He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”

At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.

In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”

Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”

At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”

And there is the story of how every election brings with it an innovation, a raising of the ante. There’s the rise of the celebrity candidate, exemplified by matinee idol Rogelio de la Rosa. Nick Joaquin’s classic The “Untimely Withdrawal” of Roger de la Rosa from November, 1961 shows the first steps of a phenomenon that has become part of the political landscape today:

The Yabut broadcast started a run on the bank. From noon of November 3, the bakya-and-salakot crowd began storming Roger’s house, wanting to know if his slogan—“We Shall Return To Malacañang With Roger De La Rosa As President”—had indeed shrunk to a starker notice: “No Returns, No Refunds.”

His henchmen say they were afraid there would be trouble that night, so ugly was the temper of the idol’s fans. The early-evening crowd, mostly from the suburbs, eventually dispersed; but by two o-clock in the morning another crowd, from more distant hinterlands, had formed in front of the senator’s gate and was demanding to be let in. These indignant visitors were admitted and staged what practically amounted to a sit-down strike in the large nipa house on the senator’s lawn.

“Let us not move from here,” said they, “until he himself comes and tells us what he really intends to do.”

Noon came, and they were still there, squatting inside the nipa house and along the driveway, but their leader had still not appeared to them.

Only a few of them were allowed inside the senator’s residence, and there they found not Roger but his brother Jaime, who, when asked about Roger, replied with a scathing attack on the administration.

One thing must be said for Roger: he really drew the peasant crowd, for the faces one saw on his lawn that morning had the look of the Philippine earth: burned black by the sun and gnarled by misery. The men were in cheap polo shirts, the women in shapeless camisolas. It was obvious they had dressed in a hurry. One heard that this one had come all the way from Quezon, that one all the way from Cagayan; a man said he had flown in from Mindanao. All had a common complaint: why did they have to learn about this from Yabut? Why hadn’t Roger taken them into his confidence? They all claimed to be volunteer workers who had used their own money to spread Roger’s cause. If Roger backed out, they would lose face. How could they return to their barrios if they had lost face?

They all clung to the hope that all this was but more “black propaganda.” Their boy had not withdrawn; or if he was thinking of doing so, they would persuade him to continue the fight: let him but appear before them.

A cry rose up:

“Matalong lumalaban, huwag matalong umuurong (To go down fighting, not to go down retreating)!”

Had he lost heart because he had run out of funds? There was still some money they could scrape up among themselves; one man said he had already contributed P3,000 and was willing to contribute more; after all, there were only ten days left of the campaign. It didn’t matter if Roger was a sure loser.

“Let the votes we cast for him,” cried a bespectacled woman from Binangonan, “be a clear picture for 1965!”

The cheers that greeted this seemed to indicate that the Roger extravaganza would, by insistent public request, be extended for another ten days. Poor deluded rustics who did not know that the decision had already been made! They could cheer and argue and weep all they wanted; they were standing outside a closed door. Their fate was being settled, without their knowledge, in other rooms of other houses behind other doors, while they offered their very blood to the cause.

But as the day climbed toward noon and no Roger showed up, hope became feebler, the mutterings became darker. Inside the nipa house and all over the driveway, angry knots of disciples debated what to do.

Some said they would still vote for Roger, even if he had withdrawn, even if their votes should be “nulo.” Others cried that Roger could commit himself but not them to another candidate. The angriest spoke bitterly about the quality of Pampango blood and swore that they would, in protest, go over to the Garcia camp. A few still wistfully hoped that Roger would come and tell them that the show would go on.

By five that afternoon, the hope was dead. Roger had appeared on TV, with Macapagal; the withdrawal had been announced, the change of stand had been made.

That night, Roger’s house stood dark and silent. Gone were the noisy folk who had filled the lawn all day. The angry ones made good their threat and went over to the Garcia camp that very night. The undecided ones crept back to their barrios, wondering how to save face. The trip back must have been agonizing: whichever way they looked they saw that handsome face smiling from posters, from billboards, from streamers hung across roads, promising Malacañang to all these pathetic folk who had hitched their carretelas to a star.

In Winding it up, November 1, 1969, Nick Joaquin reported how the helicopter made its entry into campaigns:

The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.

It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..

Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.

Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.

“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”

The article contains as concise a summary of political strategizing –and the grueling requirements of personal stamina and organizational logistics– as has been published anywhere, concerning Philippine elections, courtesy of Nick Joaquin quoting Ferdinand E. Marcos:

“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”

So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.

“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”

And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?

“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.

“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”

The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.

“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”

It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.

From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.

“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”

But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.

“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.”

And there’s still the clutter of the tried-and-tested. In Final round, November 1, 1969, Napoleon Rama reported that the battle of the billboards was also a battle of perceptions:

As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.

One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.

Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.

The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”

All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.

The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.

While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”

And here, Nap Rama’s article leaves us at the cusp of the world we live in, today, where mass media is king; and how every candidate since then, has had to battle it out not just in terms of content, but presentation:

One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.

In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.

Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”

LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.

“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….

“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”

The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.

Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.

“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”

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Red flags and raised fists

Red flags and raised fists

By Dan Mariano

Special to the Century Book

DURING the 1950s and early 1960s, nationalism was equated with communism. Filipinos were, in general, perfectly content to be regarded as the Americans’ “little brown brothers.”

Yet, in this sea of colonial mentality emerged islands of nationalism that invoked the unresolved conflict between Philippine Independence and America’s Manifest Destiny at the turn of the century.

These nationalist pockets were initially manned by politicians such as Claro M. Recto, Jose P. Laurel and Lorenzo Tañada, who gave inspiration t o associations like the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). By the mid-l960s, nationalism began to attract a younger crop of Filipinos.

In l964, a group of university students founded the Kabataang Makabayan. By l968, the KM’s patriotic platform was reinforced by Mao Zedong Thought. Later, that same year, its leading members—who had previously been associated with MAN—and several Huk commanders disenchanted with the old PKP declared the “re–establishment” of the Communist Party of Philippines along Maoist lines on December 26.

On March 29 of the following year, the New People’s Army (NPA) was organized, announcing the CPP’s determination to capture state power through armed struggle.

IN 1969, with the relaxation of sexual standards came the proliferation of pornography. Local movie producers made a killing out of films that titillated previously conservative Filipinos with frontal nudity and graphic bed scenes. A mere decade was all it took for the local film industry to take a licentious leap from wholesome, family-oriented movies like “Ibiang, Mahal Kita” to the salacious “Ang Saging ni Pacing,” which left little to the imagination.

Adding to the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere of 1969 were the lavish parties that the elite threw, giving currency to the phrase “ostentatious display of wealth.” The grandest of these was a banquet staged by the Lopezes—kingpins of the sugar bloc and owners of the country’s biggest broadcasting network and electric utility—where champagne flowed, literally, from a fountain.

IF 1969 was Fat Tuesday, 1970 became the nation’s Good Friday when popular passions reached boiling point.

Ferdinand Marcos had just won an unprecedented second term in an election that his political rivals and independent observers alike claimed were the dirtiest in the nation’s political history. Nevertheless, Marcos felt that his reelection vindicated the “record of performance” of his first term, which witnessed an explosion of public works construction that, for the most part, was financed with Japanese war reparations.

Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent 100-percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2:$1 to P4:$1, then P8:$1. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.

When he delivered his State of the Nation Address on the afternoon January 26, 1970 before a joint session of Congress, the popularity that allowed him to win reelection the year before was already badly eroded.

Outside the legislative building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention. As Marcos stepped out of the building and onto the driveway, a papier-mâché crocodile (representing government corruption) and a make shift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew in his direction. Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped off away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft drink bottle, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.

The first encounter of what would later be called the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 ran for several hours with either side gaining, losing and retaking ground on. J. Burgos Street in front of what was then the congress building. Another phrase would gain currency that evening: “police brutality.”

Rarely did the protesters number more than 10,000 at any given demonstration, but the impression they left was of a whole generation rising up in rebellion.

THE main focus of 1971 was the election for eight seats in the Senate. The bloody events leading up to the voting would exert a marked influence on the outcome.

Emboldened by the phenomenal growth of the youth movement, UP students occupied the Diliman campus and barricaded its main roads. In this, they won the support of the faculty, non-academic personnel and virtually the entire UP community.

The campus remained under the students’ control for several days until the university radio station began broadcasting a tape recording purportedly of Marcos making love to an American starlet, Dovie Beams. That proved to be the last straw. The President ordered the PC Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) to retake the campus. The first thing the troops did after dispersing the protesters was to smash the transmission equipment of DZUP, which was never heard from again.

On the eve of the by-election, the opposition Liberal Party was holding its final rally at Plaza Miranda when all of a sudden the stage was rocked with an explosion that was soon followed by another. The grenade attack killed about a dozen people and injured scores of others, including LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, Ramon Mitra, Eddie Ilarde and Eva Estrada Kalaw.

The blame quickly fell on Marcos, who merely encouraged the popular suspicion by suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus that same evening.

BY 1972, the feeling of dread that Marcos was up to no good had become so palpable that even sections of the press that had once given him favorable coverage began to turn critical and pro-opposition. Thus, when Senator Aquino delivered a privileged speech exposing an alleged plot to justify the declaration of martial law, the media painted the town red with the explosive disclosure.

The plot, codenamed Oplan Sagittarius, contained all the incidents that had already taken place that would lead the public to conclude that the situation was getting out of hand, the communists were running berserk, the political opposition was encouraging civil unrest and, therefore, the government had to step in to regain control.

All that needed to be carried out, according to the plot, was an attempt on the life of a high-ranking official of the Marcos administration.

That scenario unfolded one night in September 1972. The following day, the newspapers ran pictures of a car assigned to Enrile that bore so many bullet holes only a miracle could have made the defense secretary come out of it alive. Years later, after leading a coup against Marcos, Enrile would confess that the ambush had been staged.

Days later, Filipinos woke up to find their radios eerily silent. No newsboy came around to deliver the papers. Later in the afternoon, the television station owned by Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto went on the air and asked viewers to stand by for a very important announcement direct from Malacañang.

The talking head that eventually came into view belonged to Francisco Tatad. With all the solemnity that he could muster, the press secretary announced that Marcos had issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.

The nightmare had begun.

Corazon Aquino: Person of the Century, December 30, 1999

Philippines Free Press Person of the Century:
Corazon C. Aquino

By Manuel L. Quezon III

December 30, 1999–YEAR after year, for nearly three generations, the Philippines FREE PRESS has bestowed the distinction of Man or Woman of the Year on the Filipino who has had the most influence on the country for the year in question. Over the past 91 years of its existence, this magazine has seen leaders come and go; it has seen them rise and fall; and it knows, as no other institution can, which leaders have made a positive difference in the destiny of the Philippines and its people. Having covered leaders, having seen them up close -faults, foibles, virtues and all- the FREE PRESS knows that the leaders (and the leadership) that counts is what the American writer Garry Wills defined as “Trinitarian”: not just the push and pull between a leader and his followers, not merely the stories of people who have had great numbers either pushing them forward or being hectored onward by them, but rather the leaders who mobilized “others toward a goal shared by leader and followers.” As Wills points out, “one-legged and two-legged chairs do not, of themselves, stand. A third leg is needed. Leaders, followers, and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.”

Of the leaders entitled to consideration as the Philippines Free Press’s Person of the Century a short list of six comes to mind: Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Ramon Magsaysay, Claro M. Recto, Ninoy Aquino and Corazon Aquino. All of them were leaders, successful in their political careers and admired by their contemporaries; they had followers and they had goals which their followers shared. All of them have been both hailed and lambasted in the pages of this magazine over the years. And yet, time and again throughout its long history, the FREE PRESS has always returned to these leaders as exemplars of positive leadership –in contrast to that other Filipino, Ferdinand E. Marcos, who affected our lives and our history completely negatively: he was, after all, a leader, and had followers; but his goals, many of them achieved only at gunpoint, were rejected by the majority of his people.
(more…)

Our Centennial diplomacy, editorial September 21, 1996

September 21, 1996

Editorial

Our Centennial diplomacy

THIS, the first year of our Centennial celebrations, has served to highlight the gravity of our collective historical amnesia. This loss of memory would be pardonable—because, after all, amnesia is often reversible—if it weren’t exacerbated by the selective amnesia of our officials. They seem to think that making a lot of noise about Rizal will distract the public from pondering on the gruesome legacy of the Revolution he condemned.

Mercifully, this attempt to blot out the disquieting aspects of our past has been noticed by enough journalists and academics to ensure that instead of the bland Centennial festivals hoped for by the government, a sort of guerrilla war on the cultural front is taking place. And so we are content with the fact that our commemoration of the Filipino struggle for freedom will benefit from the nation’s conscience in the schools.

But the government’s efforts on the diplomatic front seem to have escaped serious criticism. This is lamentable in that the Centennial face presented by our Republic’s leaders will often be the only aspect of our country to be noticed by the rest of the world in the next few years. And that face is one of bumbling confusion, which would be pitiful if it didn’t smack so much of the mendicant foreign policy we’ve had since it was criticized by Claro M. Recto almost two generations ago.

Our diplomatic tradition is one of subservience, and while we have ceased to expend our energies on reaming Uncle Sam, apparently we have gotten to enjoy the habit so much that we just had to start reaming someone else: if not Singapore for its authoritarian method, then Indonesia for its spectacular graft-ridden progress, of which, you would think, we had had enough under Marcos. And now it is Malaysia.

Indeed in the case of Malaysia, our diplomatic tack has tended toward finding choice morsels to praise.

The Centennial is supposed to be the commemoration of our country’s struggle for freedom, a struggle that, as Jesuit priest Jose Arcilla pointed out, was the culmination of one great historical cycle and the beginning of another.

Our Propaganda Movement and Revolution were the last of the great upheavals generated by the European Enlightenment, which gave birth to the American, French and South American revolutions and came to end with ours. On the other hand, our Revolution and the Filipino campaigns for autonomy that followed it were the beginning of a worldwide movement to bring an end to Western colonialism—a struggle that had its parallels in the great Indian struggle under Gandhi.

This is a commemoration that obviously calls for the highest dignity, independence of mind and seriousness by our people and our leaders. And it should be marked with greater resolve by everyone to demonstrate pride in our past and present achievements. Instead of this, all we have seen is the usual sycophantic and maladroit behavior on the part of the people entrusted with planning the Centennial celebrations.

Characteristically, to celebrate our Centennial we spotlight on Malaysia: a country that has had the chutzpah to lecture us on democracy while almost every critic of Mahathir is in jail, and that had the nerve to preempt the Philippines in commemorating Rizal, to the extent that it hosted an international conference on our national hero, which humiliated the Philippine government. And yet Malaysia was not even conceivable as a separate country at the time of the freedom struggle in which Rizal figured with glory. A man who has been mistaken as the Great Malaysian—when, at worst, he might be called the Great Malayan; although, the best superlative for him might be the First Filipino.

At any rate, the Malaysian Rizal conference was splendidly organized, serious discussions were held, and it took place a full year before anything concrete was scheduled to take place here (our Centennial energies being wasted, at the time, on Centennial Tower stupidities).

And what did our government do to make up for this slap on its face? Why, it organized an International Conference on the 1896 Philippine Revolution. This may have been international, but it was hardly a conference—and, worst of all, it essentially failed to take up the 1896 Revolution.

The conference took place over three hectic days, the end of which was marked by a speech by Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia who had organized the Malaysian Rizal conference the year before. But the high point of the conference was the signing of a resolution that criticized the utter (actually merciful) lack of media attention on the conference.

From the start, it struck some observers as strange that on August 23, the centenary of the Katipuneros’ tearing up of their cedulas, Ibrahim was being honored with the distinctions pertaining to the Knights of Rizal in a ceremony that marked the conclusion of one full day of lectures on Rizal, during a three-day affair meant to commemorate the Revolution he had, at best, bewailed for the loss of lives its threatened, and, at worst, condemned as counterproductive of higher national aims.

The reason for this strange event was simple. The Philippine government had to find a way—any way—to quid Malaysia’s quo, and the conference on the Revolution was the most convenient way.

Never mind the true purpose of the conference—never mind the incongruity of honoring Rizal to the extent of overshadowing Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Malaysia had to be fawned on, and if some people wrinkled their noses at the brown noses of our officials, tough. Pride and nationalism—simple self-respect and dignity—do not build Proton Wiras. And besides, Rizal has been so often honored in the past, a commemoration honoring him yet again would be easier to pull off than one honoring the less celebrated and real heroes of the 1896 Revolution.

In the event, they didn’t even honor Rizal, because the Philippine representative just compared himself to the national hero and confined his speech to drawing parallels between Rizal’s life and his own failures. The Malaysians again ran off with the prize with a well-prepared, if not entirely credible, interpretation of the national hero.

End

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 Conscience of the Filipino: The Exemplar

The Conscience of the Filipino

The Exemplar

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

February 2, 1986–DEFEAT is usually termed ignominious unless one fights to the end, against overwhelming odds, then it is called honorable. Thus, Spartan mothers told their sons setting forth to war to return with their shields or on them. But there is another kind of defeat, and it’s a rare one. Rare in history, and most rare in political history, for politics seems to bring out the worst, the meanest in men. It’s more than just honorable, it’s glorious, and that is defeat from self-denial: to lose when one might have won, out of a sense of high purpose. Such was the defeat of Pres. Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 presidential election. He lost in his presidential reelection bid because he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. He would not stretch the meaning of the word “promise” to cover mere attempt. Surely, one may not be expected to do more than one can, but he would not equate mere attempt with performance and what he was not sure he could do, he would not promise. Presidential candidates promise to balance the budget and get elected only to unbalance the budget even more, and people do not hold it too much against them. Failure to fulfill a political promise is taken as just one of those things, like death and taxes. One learns to live with it. Not to promise what one is not sure one can do is, surely, naive. After all, one might be able to do it. Things might improve. To hold promise under so strict a definition is not, well, not common. But Sergio Osmeña was not a common man.

He might have been President earlier if he had not yielded his right to a sick man who would cling on to the office. Too long had he played a secondary role to the flamboyant Quezon, now he would be first at last! Quezon’s term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth expired in 1943 and Osmeña was to succeed him in the office under the Constitution. But Quezon argued that the war had suspended the Constitution and he should be allowed to serve as President indefinitely. For life, if the war went on. Well, he did, remaining President until death took him. Though convinced that he should be President, with every legal reason supporting his position, Osmeña acceded to Quezon’s plea. The Filipino people had come to think of him, Quezon, as the symbol of the Philippine government-in-exile and Osmeña’s taking over might create confusion, the ailing man argued. Osmeña listened and gave way. Let his old political rival have his way since he wanted the office so much! He himself suffered from no such obsession. And if it was good for the Filipino people that he should step aside, that is the way it should be. Told after Quezon’s death that he was now President, all Osmeña said was: “Am I?”

Asked when he would take the oath of office, Osmeña said he would first attend to the funeral arrangements, then asked to be left alone so he could compose a tribute to his dead associate. Later, he offered Quezon’s widow and children the continued use of their elegant quarters at the Shoreham Hotel and a pension, the law being silent then on such provision for the widows of past presidents.

When the U.S. government ordered the prosecution of Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese during the war, Osmeña asked General MacArthur to release them on his personal guarantee. He thought they had served in the Japanese puppet government to act as buffers between the people and the brute force of the invaders. But MacArthur could not go against Washington and so herded them all in the Iwahig penal colony.

But while understanding toward collaborators — the political ones like Roxas, who would afterward take the Presidency away from him, Laurel and Recto — Osmeña would show no favor to two of his sons who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese for money, and when one of them tried to see him in Leyte, wearing a guerrilla outfit, he refused to see him. The son stayed under a tree all morning waiting for his father to change his mind, but the old man was unrelenting. The other son, whom we visited in prison, cursed him. But the law, as Osmeña held it to be, is impersonal, whatever heartbreak that might mean to the enforcer. When, during the trial of that son, he had to be confined at the Quezon Institute for the tubercular, and asked for “better facilities,” the father said his son should be given the same facilities the others had, not more, not less.

When Roxas split from the Nacionalista Party and created the Liberal Party to run for president, Osmeña, in the interest of national unity, prepared to retire and let Roxas have the field to himself. But those who wanted to hold on to their government positions argued with Osmeña that he should run to demonstrate that the Philippines was capable of holding a true election, a democratic electoral contest even amidst the ruins of war, that an orderly succession was possible — the ultimate test of political maturity. National unity would be served and Americans who held that Filipinos were incapable of self-rule and therefore unworthy of independence would be confounded.

So, Osmeña decided to run. But run in his own fashion.

Under the law then, the Nacionalista Party, as the majority party, was entitled to two election inspectors and the Commission on Elections to one, with none for the splinter party. Osmeña had the law amended so that the Roxas party would be entitled to one inspector in each precinct and would not be cheated without detection.

An act of political madness, the usual practitioners of politics would say. Well, Osmeña was mad — mad for fairness. Before the election, Osmeña was scheduled to leave for Washington with Roxas and Jose Zulueta, then Speaker of the House. When their names were forwarded to Washington for the necessary clearance, Roxas was not “cleared” for the trip. A newspaperman heard of the Washington message and asked for a copy so it could be published, demoralizing the Roxas camp. Osmeña would have nothing to do with it.

“Let me keep that in my safe,” said the President then of the Philippines (How such a President made a Filipino feel clean!) He would not hit the man who sought to remove him from his position “below the belt.”

When it was suggested that he use the Philippine Air Force for an island-hopping election campaign, he ordered all units grounded. Then, when told that Eulogio Rodriguez — “Mr. Nacionalista” — had used an Air Force plane in campaigning for the party’s ticket outside Luzon, to deliver campaign material, Osmeña ordered his secretary of defense, Alfredo Montelibano, to call up Roxas and offer the use of an Air Force plane to equalize advantages. The offer was made twice.

“The fight is over,” said Rodriguez. “Roxas is really fortunate. His campaign manager is Osmeña.”

When an appointment of a Roxas supporter to provincial fiscal was up for approval by Osmeña, he was advised to turn it down because of the man’s political affiliation. That was one of the few times Osmeña showed anger.

“Tell them,” he said, “a man is appointed to an office because his qualifications call for it, not because of his political sympathies.”

Government employees held a rally before Malacañan demanding backpay for services to the government under the Japanese and Osmeña was urged to promise them backpay if elected, even though Washington had not yet set aside the money as it had promised.

“I can’t do that.”

“You need their votes.”

“No, I have to tell them the truth.”

So, he told the rallyists who represented a multitude of government employees all over the country that he would not fool them, he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. And they shouted, “Long live Roxas!”

He would not campaign for election as he would not lie. He had the duties of his office to do, work to do for a ruined country.

“I will just stand before the electorate on the basis of my record and what I have done for the country all these years.”

He did make an election-eve speech — on the state of the nation.

He had served the Filipino people well. If they were not satisfied with his service, if they believed another would serve them better, he was happy to go. He lost by 200,000 votes. If he had lied to that howling mob before Malacañan, he might have gained their votes and those of their families and friends, and won. But he would not lie.

He lost — and felt no rancor toward the winner. Not one word could be extracted from him by a journalist in derogation of Roxas. He was a gentleman to the end.

Why did he refuse to campaign?

“Those were abnormal times,” he said later, “those days after the liberation. There were tens of thousands of loose firearms in the hands of private citizens. The peace and order situation was uncertain. If I had gone out to denounce my political opponents and urged my leaders in the provinces to win the election at all costs, perhaps I could have won, but there would have been bloodshed. Political wrangles might have aggravated the prevailing situation. So, I told my leaders to allow the opposition to say anything its spokesmen wanted to say in their meetings and in the newspapers. I believed then as I do now, that as President it was my highest duty to set an example to the rest of the candidates, to avoid trouble that might endanger the nation and cause our people to lose faith in the government and its officials.”

His old rival and beneficiary, Quezon, said, after defeating him—yet not defeating him in the disgraceful sense of the word:

“It is useless to try to defeat him; he is in alliance with God.”

He set an example for his people and those who led them after him — in vain. The motivation behind the degradation of democracy that came after was best expressed in the words of a high government official:

“What are we in power for?”

Osmeña set an example. He set a standard for those who would govern a people, and it was not enough. He had done his best. I visited him in retirement and found a man—a gentleman—at rest.

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.

Calle Azcarraga, March 4, 1961

Calle Azcarraga

by Quijano de Manila

 

A current controversy is whether Manila’s old circumferential road should be renamed after Recto.

 

March 4, 1961—MANILA’S present city fathers should go down in its history as the most patriotic bunch of baptists ever to nurse a signpost. In the last year or so, they have subjected half a dozen streets with colonial names to a nationalistic rechristening. Trabajo became Manuel de la Fuente; Tuberías became Dra. Concepción A. Aguila; Morayta became Nicanor Reyes Sr., and Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

These changes drew only a disheartened protest from a citizenry inured to the shock of going to sleep on one street and waking up on another. But there was spirited resistance when Sta. Mesa Boulevard was turned into Ramón Magsaysay Boulevard and dear old Aviles, the street of Malacañang, became Dr. José P. Laurel Sr. Street.

Now, still another name-change that, in other circumstances, would have been welcomed as proper and fitting has met with opposition, chiefly because it comes as the last straw to a public exasperated by so much name-changing.

An ordinance renaming Calle Azcárraga after the late Claro M. Recto was twice passed by the municipal board, was twice vetoed by Mayor Lacson, is at this writing in the hands of President Garcia, who must decide which is the truer nationalist; the Manila municipal board, because it wants to replace the name of a Spanish premier with that of a Filipino patriot, or Mayor Lacson, because he wants to preserve one of the most famous place-names in the country.

One view is that nobody cares who the hell Azcárraga was; when Manileños say Azcárraga they don’t mean the street—and they don’t want the names of such important streets as Azcárraga, Sta. Mesa and Aviles to be tampered with. Indeed, even the names of unimportant streets, if they are old enough, should be respected, since many of these old place-names which seem merely capricious turn out to have, apart from the associations they have accumulated through the years, an original pertinence—like, for instance, the now-vanished Alejandro VI, named after the Borgia pope who fathered Cesar and Lucretia. Many have wondered why this evil man was honored with a street in Sampaloc. The fact is, Alexander Borgia had a very decisive finger in our fate; he authored the demarcation line which divide the new worlds beyond the Atlantic between Portugal and Spain—the demarcation line which, by a hair’s breadth (some say not even by that), included the Philippines in the Spanish sphere and thus decreed that our colonial history should be Spanish, not Portuguese. Borgia is no name to delight a nationalist, but it’s a pity the name has vanished from the landscape. The more gaudy-minded among us feel that it lent to that dingy alley in Sampaloc a touch of the color, the glamour of the Italian Renaissance, possibly prompting people, whenever they passed that alley, to realize that the history of this land goes far beyond the horizons that confine it and involves any number of unlikely people, from Renaissance popes to Elizabethan pirates. Anyway, a bit of racy atmosphere vanished from the city when Alejandro VI became Dr. Mariano de los Santos.

In this matter, the various conquerors of the land, with the exception of the Japs, have shown more piety than we do. The Spaniards kept the name of Soliman’s town and maintained the place-names around it: Tondo, Binondo, Pasig, Pasay. They gave Spanish names only to the new communities they founded and to the new streets they laid out. (We, on the other hand, have been vandal enough to obliterate such an old historic Malay place-name as Bangkusay.) The Americans, too, respected the place-names they found here and gave American names only to new sites: Dewey to a boulevard wrested from the sea; Lawton to a plaza formed by the opening of the Sta. Cruz Bridge; California, Colorado, Kansas, etc., to streets built in what was once the swampy interior of Malate.

The argument is that Filipinos are at last in possession of their land and should wipe out the vestiges of a painful colonial past. But Manila has been a Malay city, a Spanish city, an American city, and is now a Filipino city. It could be a Spanish city without any pulling out of its Malay roots, and an American city without any burying of its Malay or Spanish past; so why should its present keepers be so anxious to hide what this tough old town has been? A people as old as the Romans or the English may be able to afford to skip a few hundred years of history, abolish a few hundred monuments, in the name of progress; but a people as young as we have surely need of every bit of memory that can make us feel more intensely us.

If the Manileño seems, of all Filipinos, the most developed, it is because he is informed by a city soaked and drenched in history, a city where every spot of ground is encrusted with memories, where every place-name has emotional value, and where people consequently feel and think and live more intensely than anywhere else in the country. When a Manileño speaks, he speaks—whether he knows it or not—with all his past behind him, which is why his voice rings with such authority and pride. He is no cultural parvenu—or was not, anyway, in the days when every sign post, every street, every annual public ritual assured him of the antiquity of the traditions to which he was heir. The rest of the country may be willing to shed the dark past and start clean, but the Manileño is a creation of the baroque and should not be content with anything less than the totality of his city’s experience—Malay, Spanish, American, and whatever else there may be, including the latest invaders.

Alas, Manileños who have conveniently been blaming every postwar desecration of their city on the “outsiders” who have captured and are now running it may be dismayed to learn that the latest renovation—the proposal to rename Azcárraga after Recto—was authored by one of their own, by an authentic Manileño: Councilor Pablo V. Ocampo, who belongs to the Ocampos of Quiapo, a very distinguished Manila clan. In this ironic instance, it’s an “outsider,” Lacson of Negros, who is defending, against a true son of Manila, the heritage of the city.

 

Nationalist

Councilor Ocampo is a chubby young man who seems to be always abrim with mirth and energy. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was the first resident commissioner to Washington and the first Filipino to demand independence for the Philippines in the halls of the American congress. The Ocampo house on R. Hidalgo is one of the oldest and largest on that street, where once dwelt Quiapo’s most splendid families: the Paternos, the Legardas and the Aranetas. An uncle of the councilor built that fantastic Japanese palace in an alley off R. Hidalgo.

Though the councilor’s roots are in Quiapo, he himself was born and grew up in the more modern district of Malate and he knew R. Hidalgo only during the 1930s, when its days of glory were over and it was already turning into a shabby semi-commercial street. Viewed from the sleek newness of Malate, all that old part of Quiapo, from Azcárraga to Arlegui, must have seemed indeed little more than a dump of dusty relics that should be cleared away. But it should be said that Councilor Ocampo is not always for abolishing the old; he has proposed that the pantheon in Paco be made a national cemetery, so it may be saved from ruin.

It was in October 3 last year, a few days after the death of Senator Recto, that Councilor Ocampo first proposed to the municipal board that Calle Azcárraga be renamed after Recto, “as an insignificant memorial to perpetrate [sic] the name and memory of this great man.”

The proposal was referred to the Philippine Historical Committee, which not only approved it but suggested that all Azcárraga plus Mendiola be turned into a single thoroughfare called Recto Boulevard. The name-change was also recommended by the Knights of Rizal, the national directorate of the Spirit of 1896 and the Palihan ng Bayan.

The Ocampo ordinance was passed by the board on January 17, was vetoed by Mayor Lacson nine days later.

Said Lacson: “We can give honor to Don Claro without obliterating important symbolic landmarks. General Azcárraga could probably be associated with many unpleasant things that happened during the Spanish regime. But the street named after him has already become deeply embedded in the history and culture of the city of Manila and has achieved such meaning that, if it is dropped and traded for another, the city may lose a landmark together with its historical associations.”

The mayor quoted the protest of the Manila Realty Board.

Said the realtors: “Whenever the name of a street is changed, property owners are confused, since they find their land suddenly situated on a street they never heard of. The Cadastral Plans are fast being outdated and confused by so many changes.” The realtors drily added that “we believe the purpose in naming streets is to help people find their way around.” And they suggested that the proposed new bridge at Nagtahan, instead of Azcárraga, be renamed after Recto. The mayor himself favored some streets like Colorado, Nebraska or Kansas.

To this, Councilor Alfredo Gómez retorted that to rename “an insignificant street to perpetrate [sic, again] the memory of a truly great Filipino patriot and nationalist may be considered an insult.” And he reproved the Manila Realty Board with a baffling non-sequitur: “Our is a changing world, so that we have continually to march forward with the progress of time. To subscribe to the contention of the Manila Realty Board that the frequent changes in the names of street lead to confusion is certainly not in keeping with the trend of progress.”

The Manila Times had come out with an editorial against the change, on the ground that historical traditions should be preserved and that Calle Azcárraga, an unsightly, traffic-jammed, commercial street, was hardly the proper one to bear the name of so august a statesman as Recto.

To this, historian Domingo Abella replied with two questions. What street in Manila has no tangled traffic? And what tradition could be invoked in the name of a street that had borne that name for only about 50 years? Dr. Abella warned that the defeat of the Ocampo ordinance would mean “victory for a certain element in our community which still maintains that the days of Spain in the Philippines were the ideal ones in our history, and which feels deeply nostalgic about that era.”

Stung, Lacson called Dr. Abella’s logic “a little shaky.” Following Dr. Abella’s reasoning, we would have to obliterate all things Spanish in the Philippines because they constitute a symbol of our servitude under the Spaniards. “This would be tragic,” said Lacson, “because even Dr. Abella’s name, Domingo, is Spanish.”

But Dr. Gumersindo García of the Knights of Rizal pointed out two special reasons why the name of Azcárraga should not be preserved by Filipinos: as Spanish minister of war in the 1890s, Azcárraga had sent reinforcements to the Philippines to suppress the Revolution, and he had ignored a petition of clemency that could have averted the execution of Rizal.

Lacson replied that Mexico City has preserved a colonial-era monument to Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the rape and pillage of Mexico: “And yet no one can accuse the Mexicans of being less patriotic or less conscious of their national dignity than we Filipinos.”

Cries Lacson: “They’re calling me colonial-minded now! This country is suffering from ultra-nationalism. And yet, down in Mactan, there’s a magnificent monument to Magellan, only a shabby marker for Lapu-Lapu. Why don’t the nationalists do something about that? And all this name-changing! They changed the names of Trabajo and Morayta—and that’s illegal. Those streets were donated to the city by the Sulucan Subdivision with the stipulation that the names were not to be changed.”

While the controversy raged, the mayor happened to run into the author of the disputed ordinance. Councilor Ocampo asked what Lacson had against the ordinance. The mayor reiterated his wish to preserve the city’s historic landmarks. Ocampo replied that his ordinance had the approval of the nation’s leading historical societies, which, after all, should know better than the mayor what landmarks should be preserved. Then he told the mayor that the municipal board was going to override his veto and re-pass the ordinance. “That is your right,” said Lacson, “but my stand on the matter has not changed.”

On February 7, the board, declaring that public opinion pointed to “an overwhelming endorsement of the proposal,” reenacted the ordinance, with two-thirds of the councilors voting in its favor. Mayor Lacson vetoed it again and sent it back to the board the very next day, February 8, the 70th birthday of Don Claro.

“It’s now up to President García,” says Councilor Ocampo, “to uphold the autonomy of the municipal board of Manila.” He says he expects the President to sign it and does not doubt that the citizens of Manila are as keen over the measure as he is: “Oh, there will be confusion at first, yes, but the young will quickly get used to the new name.”

Far from being daunted by Mayor Lacson’s vetos, Manila’s city fathers seem to have been goaded to fresh feats of rechristening, becoming, indeed, even more avid to perpetrate, not to perpetuate. Right after the first veto, Councilor Herminio Astorga proposed that Dewey Boulevard be renamed Rizal Boulevard and that Rizal Avenue be renamed Bonifacio Avenue. One wonders how soon the Luneta, the Escolta and Plaza Miranda will suffer the fate that now threatens Calle Azcárraga.

Imperialist

The man whose name has provoked such bitter debate was a local boy who made good, though one would bring down the nationalists on one’s head if one were to call Marcelo de Azcárraga a Filipino simply because he was born in the Philippines, as were his immediate forbears on both sides. Azcárraga is a Basque name and the general was of practically pure Spanish blood. On his mother’s side, he was related to the Palmeros and Versosas of Cagayan; on his father’s side, to the Ugartes of Manila. An uncle of his was a Filipino delegate to the Spanish Cortes in 1820.

Azcárraga was born in Manila in 1836. His father had a bookstore on the Escolta; his mother ran a shop on the other side of the Pasig. In spite of their eminent relatives, the parents seem to have been poor and Azcárraga was able to study at Letrán only as a working student: he did kitchen chores in the school in exchange for his education. But he was a brilliant student and, while still very young, already spoke of someday becoming a famous general.

From Letrán, he went to a preparatory military school that had just been opened in Manila, completed his military training in Spain, and was sent to Cuba. He was a lieutenant at 18, a captain at 20, a major at 22. During the Carlist revolt in Spain, he fought on the side of the crown and is said never to have lost a battle. In 1871, at 35, he fulfilled his childhood dream and became a brigadier-general.

Eight years later, he retired from the army and entered politics. He started as a senator, rose to become minister of war, was prime minister of Spain in 1897, when the Philippines was on the brink of revolt.

Azcárraga’s attitude toward his native country has been hotly debated. He is said to have advocated reforms in the Philippines and to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Filipino propagandists in Madrid. But there is against him the sending of troops to quell the Philippine revolt and his refusal to grant clemency to Rizal. Don Francisco Pi y Margal claimed that he made the petition and that Azcárraga rejected it. In justice to the man, however, we should bear in mind that, in those times, all Spaniards as well as some Filipinos regarded the Philippines as an integral part of Spain. Their attitude toward the Revolution was, therefore, what our attitude would be if, say, the island of Palawan should try to secede from the Philippines.

Most quoted against Azcárraga are three lines that Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote in a letter to Rizal: “Azcárraga has written me about the defense of your Noli. I did not know he is a Filipino, but it seems he is that only by birth.”

Yet we know that Azcárraga attended Filipino gatherings in Madrid, that he was present and gave a speech (being then already the top man in the Spanish government) when Juan Luna won a prize for the Spoliarium, and that he referred to the Filipinos in Spain as his “paisanos,” bidding the government to take special effort in serving them because “they are separated from their country and far from their loved ones.”

In his home in Madrid was a painting by Luna of a woman in Philippine attire with a child. Azcárraga himself had sat for the child, and he told visitors that the woman represented Filipinas and the child the breed of the land.

Can Azcárraga be considered a Filipino? In the present advanced meaning of the word, definitely not, not only because he was of Spanish blood but because he could not see the interests of the Philippines apart from those of Spain. He was an imperialist, not a pioneer nationalist. Yet it can be said that he helped advance the idea of the Filipino simply by being born in this country and bringing prestige to it by rising to the highest government position in Spain.

The idea of the Filipino did not suddenly emerge full-blown in the 1890s; it was the result of an evolution that’s still in progress, like all other nationalisms. Athenian in the days of Pericles did not mean every native of Athens but only a small minority on top. Roman did not mean all the people of the empire or even of Rome but only the elite who were citizens. France, England and Spain, in feudal times, chiefly meant, first the barons, then the king—and a French monarch who had brought the nobles to heel could say that all France was gathered in his bedroom. It took a long process to develop the idea that nationhood resided not in the nobility, though they may have been the first to be conscious of it, but in the masses. Of the Congo today, its present premier says that it is not a people but many peoples, not a nation but many tribes. There is as yet not even a minority to start the idea of the Congolese. As another Congo official says: “The people here have no memories.”

Filipino, too, once meant only a minority on top: the Philippine-born Spaniards or Creoles. The name might have stopped there but for an event in our history. In the early 1800s, the Philippines sent its first representatives to the Spanish Cortes. The representatives may have been of pure Spanish blood, but they went to the Cortes not as Spaniards but as Filipinos; they represented not Spain but the Philippines. For the first time the world was made aware that there was such a thing as the Filipino, the native of a land called the Philippines. Once the idea had formed, the Creoles were powerless to keep it to themselves any longer. It was bound to grow and develop, to reach down to the Indios, to spread roots throughout the land till it meant, not the minority on top, but the masses below.

If regarded as a step in this development, Azcárraga, too, might be included in the term Filipino. He was born on our soil, he grew up under our skies, and many of our forbears must have felt the thrill of nascent nationalism when they heard that the poor little boy who had trod the streets of Manila had become the prime minister of that faraway Reina Regente in Spain.

The Street

Indeed the Ayuntamiento of Manila had already expressed its pride in the local boy who made good by naming a street after him, long before he became minister of war or premier. By 1872, Calle Azcárraga was already on the map of Manila. It was probably given that name the year before, to celebrate Azcárraga’s promotion to brigadier-general and his victories in the Cuban war. Contrary, therefore, to Dr. Domingo Abella’s assertion, Calle Azcárraga—or the Tondo-Binondo portion of it, anyway—has borne the general’s name for about 90, not merely 50, years.

The original street was known as the Paseo de Felipe II and did not extend beyond the Tondo boundary. Shortly after it was renamed Paseo de Azcárraga, the authorities saw the need for a circumferential road linking the western to the eastern side of north Manila, which was then a jigsaw puzzle of islands: Isla de Meisic, Isla de Binondo, Isla de Tanduay.

A street, called Nueva, was opened across the island of Meisic and connected to Azcárraga by a bridge across the Canal de la Reyna. At the other end, Nueva was joined by a bridge across the Estero de Magdalena to the Calle del Gen. Izquierdo in barrio Trozo. Another new street, later called Paz, was cut to link Gen. Izquierdo to the Calle de San Bernardo in Sta. Cruz. San Bernardo stopped at the present junction of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. There was an estero there—the Estero de Bilibid—and across the bridge that spanned it was Calle Yriz, which ended where the Mendiola bridge now begins, and where once stood the Plaza de Sta. Ana.

The old circumferential road was, therefore, a wide winding thoroughfare beginning on Manila Bay and ending at the Estero de San Miguel, and was composed of six different sections divided from each other by esteros: Azcárraga, Nueva, Gen. Izquierdo, Paz, San Bernardo and Yriz. By late Spanish times, the name Calle Azcárraga already covered about half of the circumferential road, up to the Magdalena estero. The portion called San Bernardo was later renamed Bilibid.

In early American times, the circumferential road was further widened and straightened until it gained its present semblance of a single continuous thoroughfare. The Americans decided that four or five names were too many for one street and the name Azcárraga was extended to the entire road from Manila Bay to Bilibid. A few years later, the remaining portion, Yriz, was annexed to Azcárraga too. The downtown portion of Azcárraga has, therefore, borne the name for only some 50 years.

The old Paseo de Azcárraga was open to the sea at its Tondo end and what old folks most vividly remember of that seaside paseo is that it was where the gallows was set up for public hangings—not a very pretty “historical tradition” and an argument against this “landmark” the pro-Rectos have missed. The gallows rose where, very appropriately, the matadero now stands; and one wishes that slaughterhouse could be removed so the street, whatever its name will be, could again run right down to the sea, as in the days when it was a paseo.

Today, the Divisoria, Tutuban Station and the various bus depots have turned this part of Azcárraga into Babel town and its uproar, stinks and turmoil are, for provincial newcomers, their first taste of Manila life.

Around Tutuban used to be a nipa village. Here, Bonifacio was born; here, the Katipuneros held their first meetings. Just past Tutuban, near the corner of Reina Regente, was a bibingka stall that was the most famous in the city during the 1920s. Renaults and Studebakers succeeded each other at night in front of that humble shop, where a couple of old women took what seemed hours to cook one perfect bibingka.

Farther on, beside the estero, was the Meisic police station, which controlled the turbulence of Tondo and which was to gain a sinister fame during the Occupation as one of the Japs’ torture chambers. Also in this neighborhood stood the house of a sister of Rizal, Lucía Herbosa, where the hero’s family stayed during city visits.  Next door to it was the house of Maximo Viola, who helped finance Rizal’s books. Both houses—large rococo edifices dating back to the mid-1800s—were destroyed during the war.

Across the estero was Calle Magdalena, at the Azcárraga corner of which lived the Lunas. The brothers Juan and Antonio introduced the bicycle to this country and in a coliseum just off Azcárraga they sponsored weekly bicycle races. A few blocks away, on the other side of the street, was the residence of Don Florentino Torres, one of the first Filipinos to be named to the Supreme Court. The old alley beside his house now bears his name. In front of his house stood the Star Theater, a poor man’s vaudeville house, where, however, some very bright stars (Pugo, for instance) had their start. This part of Azcárraga has now become Manila’s funeraria row.

Rizal Avenue used to be Dulumbayan and near its present intersection with Azcárraga was the Teatro Libertad, one of the most famous zarzuela houses of the 1900s. When the zarzuela declined, it changed its name to Majestic and became a cine. It was pulled down when Calle Oroquieta was given an outlet to Azcárraga. A block away was the Bilibid, which, in the old days, was a circular building within a quadrangle of stonewall, surrounded by open meadows. Opposite the Bilibid was the Teatro Zorilla, the number-one zarzuela theater of early American days. It, too, was a circular building with tiers of windows all around. Inside were a horse shoe of boxes, an upper gallery and the largest stage in the city. It, too, later became a cine, ended up as a bodega. A school building is now being built on this site, which had been occupied by the Naric since the Occupation.

Next door to the Zorilla was the Oriente cigar factory, standing right smack on what is now the intersection of Azcárraga and Quezon Boulevard. On the same site, in the late 1920s, the FEU was born. Across the Estero de Bilibid was an open field where the circus set up its big tent in October. This field was bordered by thick bamboo groves, which, according to legend, were haunted by cafres. The field is now the FEU campus. The estero was buried when Quezon Boulevard was built but a foul vile remnant of it is still visible in Bilibid Viejo and Arlegui.

Calle Yriz, now the final section of Azcárraga, was a lovely street shaded by giant acacias and rivaling R. Hidalgo in the splendor of its houses. Here stood the homes of the Carmelos, the De los Reyeses, the Padillas and the Arces. The Arce house is now the old Selecta; the other mansions have become squalid boarding houses.

At the end of the street was the Plaza de Sta. Ana, now Legarda, which was alongside a stream so clear you could see the pebbles at the bottom but which is now so black and stinking it’s one of the most repulsive sights in the city. At the Azcárraga corner of the plaza was the Club Carambola, where young blades played billiards in the front rooms, card games in the back rooms. Beside it was the old Centro Escolar de Señoritas, whose girls were famous for their good looks, their brains and the elegance of their Spanish. The old Centro was a squat three-story building laced with fire escapes and so many Lotharios tried to climb those fire escapes Doña Librada Avelino had to ask for a special police detail to guard her internas from naughty males.

Opposite the Centro was the rear patio of San Sebastian Church, where charity fairs used to be held. The gayest season of this east end of Azcárraga was toward the end of January, when San Sebastian and the Centro celebrated their respective fiestas at the same time and the Centro señoritas, in pink ternos, marched in the procession of La Virgen del Carmen.

The old Azcárraga began with the slums of Tondo and ended in the fashionable world of San Sebastian and was throughout a sedate residential street. Even the Bilibid was so quiet a lot of people grew up in its vicinity without realizing it was a prison. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the street came to life as carriages full of dressed-up folk converged on the Zorilla and the Libertad. A friskier note was added when a streetcar line to San Juan was opened on Azcárraga. On Saturday nights, one saw the streetcars crowded with wild young men on their way to the San Juan Cabaret.

The present Calle Azcárraga begins with the transportation jungle of Divisoria and ends with the educational jungle between Quezon Boulevard and Legarda. Now a center of commerce, it has lost its acacias, its streetcars, and its fine old houses—except one. Across the street from Carmelo and Bauerman’s is a very long, colonial-style building that has kept its old appurtenances: its azotea, its shell windows and carved rajas, even its original sidewalk. Here dwell two spinsters—the Del Rosario sisters—who have watched their neighborhood invaded by commerce but have, through the years, stubbornly refused to sell or lease their house or have it altered in any way. Inside are some two-dozen bedrooms, ancient furniture and life-size images of saints.

The sisters are the last of their line; they have no heirs, but have three adopted children. They have become a legend. Stories are told about the fabulous sums they have been offered for their house and lot. Once there was a rumor they had adopted some Negritoes. Few people have been able to enter their old house. All around them, their street, the city, the people have been changing; but the years pass and their house remains unchanged, save that during Holy Week, the withered blessed palm branches at the always-closed windows turn into green ones.

There it stands, a monstrous monument against progress, on a street where all the other town houses have either vanished or decayed. This house has survived Calle Yriz and it looks as if it will survive Calle Azcárraga too.

 

 

Why Garcia won, November 23, 1957

November 23, 1957

Why Garcia won

 

THE victory of President Garcia should have come as no surprise to Free Press readers. In a series of articles before the elections the outline of that victory was more or less clearly discernible. Not that President Garcia did not face formidable opposition. At one time, he was not even sure of nomination by his own party. To be precise, his nomination was contested by powerful, or apparently powerful, Nacionalista leaders; the President himself never doubted that he would get the nomination—and win in the election.

Two months before the Nacionalista convention, we went to interview the President. He had been fasting. Once a year Garcia would go on a two-week fast.

“After going practically without food for two weeks, I feel better physically—my blood pressure is very good, you know—better spiritually, too, I hope. A man who has voluntarily denied himself food for fourteen days should not be afraid of anything. If hunger has no fears for him, what has? It is a test of character. Look at me. Would you say, if you had not known about it, that I had been fasting for six days now?”

“You look good,” we said.

“I feel good,” said Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.

“You may feel good,” we said, “but should you? How certain are you of nomination by your party for the presidency? Laurel, Rodriguez, and nobody knows how many others would like to get the presidency. Not so long ago, you were, as far as your party was concerned, a political zero. The forgotten man. President Magsaysay had his own boys, and the Old Guard had Laurel, Rodriguez, etc. What were you? Nothing. How can you be so calm? The convention is only about 60 days away.”

Garcia should be worried. He was supremely confident:

“A president has to be pretty stupid not to get his party’s nomination in the convention. And I’m not stupid!”

Laurel the rival

Was he not afraid of Laurel, Sr.?  The Batangueño would not run for president when Magsaysay was alive, but he was only too willing to run for the office now that Magsaysay was gone.

“All I can say about Laurel is that he has been telling me, these many, many years, how old, how sick, how tired he was,” said Garcia. “I’m old, I’m sick, I’m tired,’ Laurel kept on saying. Now he says he is available. It’s up to the convention to decide.”

Who fought Garcia for the Nacionalista nomination?

Laurel, Sr., at one time, Garcia’s strongest rival. But Laurel eventually made it clear that he would withdraw from the race—if his son, Laurel, Jr., were nominated for vice-president. Garcia did not think very much of the proposition.

“The Batangueños will vote for Recto for president and Speaker Laurel for vice-president if the Nacionalista convention nominates young Laurel for my running mate,” said the Boholano.

The Free Press article, “Lord of the Jungle,” noted:

“The followers of Laurel, Jr., would have no alternative but to support Garcia for president in the convention if they would have Laurel, Jr., nominated for vice-president. If the convention nominated Laurel, Sr., for president, young Laurel could hardly be made his running mate; that would be too much for Philippine democracy, such, even, as it is, to stomach. If the convention nominated Paredes or Puyat or Rodriguez for president, that would rule young Laurel out, too, for they all come from Luzon. Those who wanted Laurel, Jr., for vice-president must support Garcia, if only because Garcia comes from the south.

“The nomination would take up the nomination for president first, then the nomination for vice-president. In the fight for the presidential nomination, the followers of Laurel, Jr. would just have to vote for Garcia if they were to hope for the nomination of Laurel, Jr., for vice-president. Once Garcia had won the presidential nomination, however, he would no longer need Laurel, Jr. But young Laurel would need Garcia more than ever if he would be the vice-presidential candidate of the party.

“Garcia’s position, then, with respect to the Laurels, Senior and Junior, was a commanding one. He had them completely at his mercy. As it became clearer and clearer that all Laurel, Sr., was really interested in was the vice-presidential nomination for his son, Garcia would be reported favoring Laurel, Jr. for his running mate one day, then declaring himself neutral the next day. Laurel, Sr., would withdraw from the presidential race, then enter the race again. Garcia had him coming and going….

“How about Garcia’s other rivals for the presidential nomination?

“Paredes was too new a Nacionalista to seriously hope to get the nomination, and he was soon persuaded to withdraw from the race.

“As for Puyat, not very many took his bid for the presidency seriously. It was just a stunt, many believed—to get the vice-presidential nomination. He would shoot for the No. 1 post, and settle for the No. 2. When Puyat insisted that he was after the presidency, and only the presidency, that he was not interested at all in the vice-presidency, well—who was Puyat, anyway? What could he give the delegates to the convention that Garcia could not give them—and more?

“Rodriguez was the most popular man in the Nacionalista Party, it was believed, and when Lacson withdrew from the presidential race to support ‘Amang,’ the man from Rizal seemed a real threat to Garcia in the convention. Rodriguez and Puyat could take away from Garcia enough votes to prevent his nomination. There would be a deadlock and Rodriguez might well be nominated for president by the convention in the interest of party unity. If Garcia could not get the 60 percent of the votes necessary for nomination, why not give the nomination to the popular ‘Amang’?

“But the question remained: What could Rodriguez give the delegates or the Nacionalista Party that Garcia could not give, and more—much more?”

Garcia, we thought, could very well say to the Nacionalistas who would take away the nomination from him:

“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you. If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”

Garcia got 888 votes in the Nacionalista convention, Puyat 165, Rodriguez 69. Lacson was booed.

“We will win!”

The convention nominated Garcia for president, but failed to select a running mate for him. That was left to the executive committee of the Nacionalista Party, which picked Laurel, Jr. Garcia abided by the decision of the executive committee. He ran with Laurel, Jr., winning with him Garcia said, candidly, that he would have to get a majority of more than 700,000 if Laurel, Jr., was to win with him. He, Garcia, remained confident of winning.

“We will win!” said Eleuterio Adevoso, Manahan’s campaign manager. The people were for Manahan. Magsaysay was their guy; Magsaysay was gone; Manahan was their man.

“Tapus na ang boksing!” said the Nationalist-Citizens presidential bet, Claro M. Recto. He had no machine, no inspectors, like Manahan, but—

“We will win because the people are behind us and they now understand the issues clearly, the resolution of which will uplift them from their age-old problems.”

The Liberal candidate, Yulo, was also sure of winning.

“I have faith and confidence in the people and in their sense of values and their capacity to judge wisely,” Yulo said. “Otherwise I would not be in this fight now…. General misery and economic difficulties are gripping the nation.”

The suffering of the people would mean the defeat of the administration. The people would vote for the opposition.

Split opposition

But the opposition was divided. How could it hope to lick the administration, with all its powers and advantages? Osmeña had lost to Roxas in 1946, and the Nacionalistas claimed it was only the use of force as well as mass frauds that made possible the “victory” of Quirino over Laurel in 1949, but the opposition triumphed over the administration in the 1951 senatorial election when not one of the administration candidates won, and, of course, the opposition won in 1953. The administration could be beaten, indeed. But, by a united opposition.

Yulo’s man, Crisol, however, took a different view of the situation.

“It is the party in power that is badly split,” said Crisol. “The Recto group is composed mostly of Nacionalistas. Remember, Recto used to be an NP. When he bolted that group to organize his own party, his supporters and sympathizers joined him. Tañada’s backers used to be sympathetic to the NP cause, largely because of the late President Magsaysay. But when Tañada severed his connection with the NP’s, his loyal supporters went with him.

Then there is the group of Manahan, and the rest of the MPM that bolstered the Nacionalista Party in 1953. The bulk of PPP is composed of men and women who helped the NP win the presidency for RM in 1953. Garcia cannot count on the support of one MPM because it has its own candidate, Manahan.”

The fact remained that the opposition was divided. Said the article, “The Political Chances of the Candidates,” in the October 12 Free Press:

“Instead of concentrating on the administration, opposition parties are fighting each other and the administration. If the administration wins, it will be from lack of effective opposition. Divide and rule—that was a tried and proven imperialist policy. While the opposition is divided, how can Yulo and Recto or Manahan hope to put an end to the Nacionalista rule?

“If Recto, Manahan and Yulo were to get together, the victory of the opposition should be certain. But they can’t get together. Instead of fighting Garcia, they are fighting him and each other. If Recto, Manahan or Yulo wins, it would be almost a miracle.

“Miracles do happen, we are told. They are the exception rather than the rule, however. Hence the calmness with which President Garcia faces the elections. While the opposition is divided, victory seems to him pretty certain.

“If the opposition were ever to get together… But the President is banking on the individual ambitions of the opposition candidates to keep them apart. He is depending on Recto, Yulo and Manahan to knock each other out for him.”

That was exactly what Recto, Yulo and Manahan did.

End

The political jungle, April 6, 1957

April 6, 1957

The political jungle

The political calendar

It is now 1961 as far as the politicians are concerned. The death of President Magsaysay has speeded up political time. The old calendar restrained ambition; those who would be president must bide their time; they must wait until it was not possible, constitutioanlly, for Ramon Magsaysay to run again. They must wait until 1961, when his second term would come to an end; his reelection would be prohibited by the supreme law of the land. They would be free, then, to run for president; they would have chance.

So  absolute was Magsaysay’s domination of the political scene that men who should have fought him did not dare. The sugar bloc, which hated his economic policies, placed discretion above valor; better a live coward than a dead lion. The hacenderos of Negros cried that they were being ruined by the no-barter policy of the government, but Magsaysay was their “Guy.” They hated his guts, but they played ball. They had to be practical. They could not afford to fight a sure winner.

Recto, who had the courage – if that is the word for it – to run against Magsaysay, could not find a running mate. Nobody would be his vice-presidential candidate. The politicos would have nothing to do with Recto. Not while RM was around.

The Liberals, who were supposed to constitute the official opposition, betrayed the cause of the two-party system, so essential to democracy, by crawling to Malacañang and pledging the President their abject support. So a Liberal, Primitivo Lovina, viewed the action of his colleagues; another Liberal, Tony Quirino, called it “prostitution.” Anyway, the Liberals, too, were being realistic. If you couldn’t fight RM, join him – if he would have you.

Now he is dead.

Before that fatal Sunday when Ramon Magsaysay boarded an army plane at about one in the morning with 26 others – against every rule of presidential security – his reelection was held as certain as – as death and taxes. Sen. Jose P. Laurel, who had run for president in 1949 and was cheated of victory and who steeped aside for Magsaysay in 1953 because he would have been cheated again if he had insisted on running, because it was the practical thign to do, was asked by Recto if he, Laurel, was interested in running for the presidency in 1957. If Laurel was running, Recto would give way and give him support, like a good Batangueno. If Laurel was not running, well, he, Recto, was, and he expected Laurel to support him, again like a good Batangueño…. Laurel was not running; at the same time, he would not come out in support of Recto; instead, he called for “unity,” whatever that meant.

Besides, Laurel was reportedly a sick man; he had high-blood pressure. If he were to run, even if he won, the presidency would be too much for him. He was bent on retiring, for his own good and the good of the nation. A sick president is something the nation could not afford – assuming Laurel could win.

Laurel would not fight RM; the Liberals pledged RM their support; Recto could not find a reputable political figure to run wih him; the opposition, official and otherwise, had only one thought: to play ball. Everybody must wait until 1961. Then came “Sunday.” There was a new political calendar: 1957 became 1961.

Anybody could be president.

The Bridge

As a matter of fact, the President is not just anybody; he has a anme and a good political record; he is Carlos P. Garcia. Only a hearbeat separated him from the presidency, we wrote a month ago. “…the president may wake up one morning and find himself the chief excutive. All men are mortal…. Anything can happen.” Now, Garcia is president.

Yet, a month ago, he was not even sure of his party’s renomination for the vice-presidency. Sergio Osmeña, Jr., a new Nacionalista, had been elected head of the league of governors and city mayors; this gentleman was being mentioned as the man most likely to wrest the vice-presidential nomination from Garcia in the Nacionalista convention. Garcia was “good old Charlie” to his fellow-Nacionalistas, nothing more. Even President Magsaysay was reported not too enthusiastic about him.

But Garcia was a bridge. A bridge is something on which everybody walks to get to other side. Garcia was a bridge between the Nacionalista Old Guard and President Magsaysay. Garcia had his uses. His renomination would symbolize the unity of the party; there was no break between the Old Guard and the Young Turks, it would proclaim. The Old Guard had run the party pretty much as they pleased; every Nacionalista senator was interested in reelection; they all needed the President’s help to insure it. but the President had his own men. These were called, somewhat irreverently, one must say, the “rah-rah boys.” Whatever the President did, they cheered. The President was grateful and some of them hoped that he would show his gratitude by getting them nominated for senator. Election was certain.

On the one hand, there was the desire of old Nacionalistas to hold on to office, to run for reelection, and on the other the desire of “rah-rah boys” to replace some of the old Nacionalistas, who always felt superior, intellectually and otherwise, to the chief executive. If there was to be no break in the party, it was obvious that one set of ambitions must be sacrificed at the altar of the other set.

The Old Guard must hang together or hang separately. Hence, the proclamation of the principle of priority for reelectionists: Nacionalista senators and congressmen would like to remain in office should be nominated by the party instead of others; they had a prior claim! The President’s endorsement of Garcia as the party’s candidate for vice-president again would be an endorsement of the Old Guard’s general position. Every relectionist should be encouraged to run.

Hence the importance of being – Garcia. That is, of Garcia’s renomination for the vice-presidency. That would be the test of whether the President was prepared to break with his party or not. The Old Guard would sink or swim with garcia. If the President did not want Garcia, he could not want any of the Old guard. If he was not for him, he was against them.

The renomination of Garcia, then, was the bridge that would make political communication possible, or continue it, between the Old Guard and the President, between the Senate, which the Old Guard dominated, and Malacanang, the habitat of the “rah-rah boys” or Young Turks. If the President would be certain of congressional cooperation for his program the next four years, he had ho alternative but to give in to the Old Guard, and endorse old Nacionalista reelectionists, including Garcia.

Now, Garcia does not need the support of the President. He is the President.

The political forces

Recto once dismissed the size of the crowds that greeted President Magsaysay wherever he went as sheer illusion. The people did not go to meet RM because they really wanted to; they went because they were forced to; he was the President. The whole welcome was a rigged-up affair. Actually, they were angry with him; they lived better under the previous regime.

The general sense of irreparable loss at the death of Ramon Magsaysay, the tears of millions, the national feeling that the best was gone – even recto must admit that he was wrong. He was wrong about the “unpopularity” of the late President. The people, foolishly or not, loved him. Now, Recto is the heir of their grief over the passing of the man in whom they believed; he had attacked and attacked Magsaysay.

The feeling however, may pass…

What about Laurel?

If Laurel was a sick man before Magsaysay died, that does not mean that he is sick permanently. He may recover sufficiently to answer the call of duty. Already, there is a clamor, by Batanguenos and others, for drafting him for the highest office in the land. If the Nacionalista Party should nominate Laurel, how could he turn his back on the nomination? Laurel probably knows as much about economics as any man in public life; he has written a book on the subject. The main problem of the country is economic; Laurel, believe it or not, is an economist. He would cure the country’s ills! The sick man, assuming he is sick, would bring the republic economic health.

But how would Garcia feel about it?

In the struggle for power, the race for the presidency, a Nacionalista whom most Nacionalistas like – some because they owe him money – the head of the party, the president of the Senate, Eulogio Rodriguez, may come out as a dark horse. If Laurel should decide to run for prsident and Garcia insist on remaining as one, well, how better to preserve party unity than by nominating Rodriguez? Laurel might not like it, and Garcia would, of course, be furious, but what could “Amang” do? He must keep the party together, and the only way to do that would seem to be to run in place of Garcia or Laurel. A compromise is always better then a break. Truce is preferable to war.

Who would be “Amang’s” running-mate? Why not Sen. Emmanuel Pelaez, President Magsaysay’s fair-haired boy? More than once, the late idol of his people had expressed the hope that Pelaez, or a man like Pelaez, would succeed him. An “Amang” – Pelaez ticket would represent the greatest compromise of all; it would mean the wedding of the practical and the idealistic, people would say. The old and the young would be together; the Old Guard and the Young Turks would no longer be at war.

But a Rodriguez-Pelaez team must expect the bitterest opposition from Garcia. Who do they think he is: vice-president? For the information of all Philippines. Why should he stop being one? Why should he step aside for anybody? If he did not watch out, they would be proposing a Rodriguez-Garcia team as a compromise, with the President running for vice-president. Can anything be more painful, not to say ridiculous?

The Mayor of Manila, Arsenio H. Lacson, has indicated his availability for the presidency. He will run – if he can get anybody to nominate him, that is.

The Liberals have, doubtless, their own plans, or are cooking up one. The name of Jose Yulo, Quirino’s running-mate in the last presidential election, comes up now and then. He has money; election campaigns are expensive things. The Liberals need him, financially. Who else could pay their bills? But he is enjoying his retirement. Why take a chance?

The position of Garcia

Carlos Garcia is the President of the Philippines. Why should he let anybody else be? He became president because of an accident. The unexpected death of Roxas made Quirino president; when Avelino, who was much more popular in the Liberal Party than Ilocano, thought that Quirino should step aside for him—well, we know what happened to Avelino.

It is true that Garcia has only a few months to consolidate his new power, while Quirino had two years. But the opposition today is weak. Quirino faced the Nacionalists, whom the people thought the champions of good government; the Nacionalistas would save them from Quirino! Yet, Quirino won – no matter in what fashion – against Avelino and against the Nacionalistas. Quirino won, with a divided party, in spite of being probably the most unpopular man in the Philippines. He was the President, and the President has, behind him, all the power  of the government.

Today, the opposition is confused, opportunistic, and nominal. The position of the Prsident remains what it was: a position of overwhelming strength. His party needs Garcia as muchas if not more than Garcia needs his party. The necessity is mutual. Who is the Nacionalista who will volunteer to tell Garcia not to run for president, to be a good boy and let Laurel, or “Amang,” be president in his place?

Garcia may be a poet; he isn’t crazy. Or, to put it another way, he wasn’t born yesterday. To ask Garcia to step aside for Laurel or Rodriguez or what-have-you would be equivalent to the attempt to get the late President Magsaysay to agree to six-year term without reelection when he was certain of two full terms, or a total pf eight years as president. It would be to insult the intelligence.

Garcia, as president, has the following advantages:

  1. The powers of the office.
  2. The venality of politicians.
  3. The need of the party.
  4. The weakness of the opposition.

Nacionalista reelectionists need the help of the President to feel sure of reelection. The Constitution has mane the President too powerful, constitutionalist like to complain. Well, the President is indeed powerful, and his party needs his cooperation if it would be certain of winning.

Pork barrel funds are released – upon order of the President. Who would vote for a Nacionalista if he had no pork barrel? Who would vote for a Liberal, for that matter? The pork barrel – that is decisive. And the President is sitting on it.

The opposition is weak. There is no need for an extraordinary political team to defeat it. if Garcia is a”non-descript” politician, as the magazine Time called him, he will do; what is decisive is not his personality but his position. He is sufficient unto the day, politically speaking. Nobody can beat him. If his own collegues in the party, that is, do not start rocking the boat. Even then….

“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you, Garcia could very well tell too-ambitious Nacionalistas. “If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”

If the Nacionalista Party does not nominate Garcia for president, what is to prevent Garcia from using the full strength of the government to make a non-Nacionalista candidate win? He could go over to Recto, in desperation. A deal could be made with the Liberals and Democrats. Having lost his party’s nomination for president, President Garcia would have nothing to lose, whatever he might do. He would be a dead duck, politically, if he stayed a good, because obedient, Nacionalista. But he could make trouble for his party – and perhaps, come out ahead.

Whatever happened, Garcia would have what the world of the duel would call “satisfaction.”

Jackals and Hyenas

Mayor Lacson of Manila, recovering from an operation for sinusitis, observed, on the death of Magsaysay:

“The jackals and hyenas will now fight and snap at each other for the privilege of devouring the country’s entrails.”

We do not know whether the Mayor was referring to all those who would be president of the Philippines, but we do know politics is a jungle. Anybody is fair game. There may be honor among thieves, but anything goes with politicians. Present company, of course, always excepted. There are men of honor in politics, we have no doubt. The fact remains that the rule in politics is: Each man for himself, and the Devil may take the hindmost. He who does not think of himself first will find himself subordinate to another. One man’s loss is another man’s gain, one man’s demotion another man’s promotion. There is no morality, only expediency, no friends, only followers.

It is better to be loved than to be feared, if all men were good, as Machiavelli once said. In the jungle of politics, it is better to be feared than loved – as one walks among the tigers and lions, if not jackals and hyenas, of that world.

Today, Garcia walks alone. It is better, if he would stay where he is, if he would not get hurt, to be feared by those who would take his place; meanwhile, it would do no harm if, while being feared by the ambitious, he manages to win the love of the people.

He has only a little time to do it.