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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.”
Free Press cover story
January 13, 2002 issue
Too early the birds of prey
by Manuel L. Quezon III
MAKING an ass of one’s self should be a basic human right, if only politicians could be denied this right because of the problems it causes other politicians and most of all, the public. To put matters in historical perspective, of the past presidents of this country, two were reelected to office (Manuel L. Quezon and Ferdinand E. Marcos), and only two former presidents ran for the position of president after having served as head of state: Emilio Aguinaldo, who went down in grumpy defeat in 1935, and Jose P. Laurel in 1949, though Laurel was the nobler in at least telling his supporters, who were as angry as Aguinaldo’s had been, not to mount a revolution.
Yet in the case of Aguinaldo and Laurel, there were extenuating circumstances in the cases of their candidacies. Aguinaldo was a political enemy of Quezon from 1922 to 1941, and was pushed by his supporters to run as a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution; Laurel ran as much to vindicate his name as to achieve a mandate, never having been directly elected by the people to a position he served as a well-meaning head of a puppet government -indeed, it is interesting to note that both Aguinaldo, who ran in the first national presidential elections in 1935, and Laurel, who ran in the elections of 1949, were haunted by a desire to achieve what they never had when they were president: a genuine national mandate at the polls.
But one must consider, on the other hand, the cases of the only two presidents reelected: Quezon in 1935 and 1941, and Marcos in 1965 and 1969. Both tarnished their reputations by clinging to power beyond the terms allowed them by the Constitution under which they were elected. To this must be added the inevitability in the minds of many that had Quezon lived, he would have stepped down for a brief 2 years in order to run again in 1946 to be the first president of the independent Republic, and that Ramon Magsaysay would have run —and won— again, after his first term (and there are even those who suspect that Magsaysay, who imitated Quezon in so many ways, would have found a way to stay in office as long as possible as well). But fate decreed Quezon’s death in large part because of the strain of his final battle with Sergio Osmeña to cling to power, and fate had it in the cards that Ramon Magsaysay, like Manuel Roxas, would die before his first term ended, leaving Ferdinand Marcos to make every liberty-loving and democratic Filipinos’ nightmare come true: scrapping the Constitution, ignoring the laws, setting up a dictatorship that only fell when a country regained its dignity and courage and threw the man out of Malacañang.
Now to these negative examples add the examples of past presidents who could have run for office after the Constitutional limitations passed, and yet did not: the list is long. Sergio Osmena; Elpidio Quirino; Carlos P. Garcia; Diosdado Macapagal; Corazon Aquino. Except for Aquino, all the rest suffered defeat in their quest for reelection to a second term, yet had an opportunity (at least in the cases of Osmena, Garcia and Macapagal) to run for president again if they wished. But they never wished to. None of them ever fully retired from politics; they preferred to be consulted as elder statesmen; two of them, Garcia and Macapagal, chose to run for, be elected delegates to, and then presidents of, the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention. But the presidency, having been denied them in the past, was something they never sought again as a political prize.
The fact is that it should be enough for a former president to have had the honor and privilege of serving the country once, or in the old days twice, and end it at that. The exemplar of how a former president should conduct himself after leaving office is of course, Sergio Osmena, who represented many of the political virtues of the country, anyway; to a lesser extent, there are the examples of Aguinaldo and Laurel, the former reconciling himself to playing elder statesman, the latter choosing to serve in the senate as long as he could and even serve other presidents. There are the examples, too, of Garcia and Macapagal: the former went into quiet retirement until the ConCon and then died 24 hours after being sworn in as president of the convention; Macapagal, after a checkered experience with presiding and eventually losing control over the ConCon at least followed Aguinaldo’s path and quietly learned to enjoy the role of elder statesman; poor Elpidio Quirino lived too briefly after leaving office to accomplish much more than begin his memoirs and reach a touching reconciliation with his erstwhile protégé, Magsaysay.
Enter Fidel V. Ramos, former and, to the minds of too many, including quite possibly the mind of Mr. Ramos himself, future President of the Republic of the Philippines. Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, present president and, almost indubitably, candidate for the position in 2004. What of them?
Of Fidel Ramos, one should note immediately what has been whispered about town almost from the moment he left office -the man has never grown accustomed to not wielding the reins of power. He wanted to amend the Constitution to allow himself either two more years in the manner of Quezon, or transform the country to a parliamentary system which was the original Marcos plan to perpetuate himself in power. This grand design failed in the face of the intransigence of Corazon Aquino (former president who seems not to miss being president at all), Cardinal Sin, a multitude of Filipinos, and one Joseph Ejercito Estrada who would be damned if his sure election to the presidency would be postponed even for a minute by a man he loathed.
Result? A lost kibbitzer, which Mr. Ramos is of the first order, as proven by his most unpresidential behavior during Joseph Estrada’s inauguration at Barasoain. The man tried to steal the limelight every moment he could, and then loftily proclaimed that under Estrada, he would be pleased to play the role of Elder Statesman in an official capacity, much to the amusement of everyone who head Ramos say these things. However, neither public derision, or skepticism, or outright hostility has ever deterred Mr. Ramos from doing what he pleases, and it has pleased him to use the time in between his never-ending globetrotting to keep himself in the limelight, including first, playing a lecturing uncle to Estrada, and then supposed pillar of the opposition when Estrada grew impatient with his “advice,” and now, gadfly and thorn in the side of Mrs. Arroyo. Perhaps Mr. Ramos feels that if Cory Aquino can bring down one government after stopping the attempts at charter change of two other presidents dead in their tracks, he has similar powers.
Perhaps. Although if this is the case, then it only proves that the man has an axe to grind against the woman who broke tradition to attend his inauguration (for perfectly legitimate symbolic reasons, the inauguration of Ramos was the first democratic handover of power since 1965) and put country ahead of her having given him her previous blessings in firmly saying “no” to his obvious desire to prolong his stay in office. One is forced to wonder if Fidel Ramos is not only ungrateful when it comes to Cory Aquino, but whether he actively dislikes her now -which would make him a petty, mean, and small-minded man.
Or could it be Fidel Ramos simply is getting old and too dense to realize the reason Cory Aquino can be an influential ex-president and Fidel Ramos may be influential, but not popular, and lacks what he seems to crave: a nation, on bended knee, begging him to return to Malacanang? Were this the case, then at least one can conclude Fidel Ramos is not petty, mean and small-minded but suffering from well-intentioned delusions: of being an irreplaceable man, of believing as gospel truth the insincere flattery of the sycophants that surround any politician, and the quite human refusal to recognize his own mortality and accept being put out to political pasture, since he is by no means, ancient. The reason Cory Aquino has the influence and respect she has, and Ramos does not, is that she is the only president in our history to say one term is enough, I’ve had it, and left Malacanang without looking back and probably murmuring “good riddance” the whole time. In short, she has what Fidel Ramos has never, ever, had in his life or career: moral ascendancy.
Fidel Ramos is too fidgety, too eager the attention-seeker, too enthusiastic the opiner, too happy the meddler, to be respected or have moral ascendancy of any sort. This is not to say he does not have influence, for he does; this is not to say he does not have political supporters, for he does; but it is to say that as far as the public is concerned, Fidel Ramos is history and had better accept the fact that he belongs to the past and not the future. One need only listen to the verbal abuse he was subjected to by the great unwashed at Edsa III to recognize this; and aside from the usual businessmen who value the illusion of Fidel Ramos being “Steady Eddie,” and who crave a man who will be content to go on junkets and turn a blind eye to anything so long as he gets the perks (a bad executive habit he shared with Joseph Estrada except in comparison to Estrada’s being uncouth about corruption, even Ramos’s most vicious detractors give him credit for being suave when it came to the corruption they are convinced he was a party to during his term).
To be a president or past president is, of course, not to be divine; which means Fidel Ramos is as likely to fall prey to illusions as much as the next man. He probably thinks the can still do good for the country, that the country needs him, and if the country were only given a chance it would fall to the ground in gratitude and kiss his feet were he to have the chance to be president again. This explains the never-ending and, really, tiring controversy of the day, which is the alleged rift between President Arroyo and former president Ramos over an election two years away. Fidel Ramos already suffers from the perception too widely held that he at one point pulled all the strings in the new Arroyo administration, or tried to, which made him as much the object of the poor’s equally deluded wrath in May 2001, as President Arroyo herself. And as for President Arroyo, she suffers from two insecurities: the fact that she was elevated to the presidency by succession and not election, and under the most confused of circumstances at that; and that she is the first child of a president who seems to have a chance to break the long curse, it seems, that has afflicted the children of past presidents -none of them ever make it to Malacanang although the senate and Vice-Presidency have been proven to not be beyond their reach.
For a politician and a businessman and even a soldier, and even for certain members of our uncivilized civil society, Fidel Ramos has the virtue of exuding an aura of dynamism, of calm, of precise, methodical working habits and discipline. How close perceptions are to the truth only those truly close to him can answer; but the fact is that there are those with influence and money who believe there exists a Steady Eddie and wouldn’t mind Ramos back. For the same politicians and businessmen, the problem with President Arroyo is that even if she is equally hard working, she happens to be frugal, as hot-tempered as Ramos but far from being his peer in hiding the fact, and she is a woman who suffers from the idea she has nothing to lose by actually giving the country as honest an administration as is possible given our society’s limitations. That, and the fact there is that onus on presidential children and that they might get stuck with her for nine uninterrupted years. The ramifications of a fairly clean, competent, and hard-working government are simply too frightening for these people to contemplate.
And thus the need to at least obtain leverage on Mrs. Arroyo by way of using Fidel Ramos as a threat. After all, Mr. Ramos is willing and able to be used as such a tool, indeed he may have thought up the idea of using the bogey of a Ramos for President campaign in 2004 as a potential spoiler to exact concessions from the administration, which has enough of a problem on its hands with fulfilling its promises, neutralizing its enemies, and keeping the country together during tough times.
Fidel Ramos would never win another presidential election even if Mrs. Arroyo dropped dead and a way was found to make monkeys run against Ramos the way Marcos engineered his farcical martial law presidential elections. What can happen is Fidel Ramos could ensure that if he can’t win, neither can Mrs. Arroyo, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of either to give away the election in 2004 to the opposition, which is indeed vicious, ruthless, has many axes to grind, and much dirt to dish out against the two.
Hence the view of this writer than Mr. Ramos is either extremely delusional or out to keep himself in the political loop and be a powerbroker of sorts, if not an actual shadow president (the best of both worlds). The fact that Joe de Venecia, who has the biggest chance of being Prime Minister for life were we to go parliamentary, is as usual going out of his way to get into trouble trying to patch things up between former president Ramos and President Macapagal, is no surprise or mystery. De Venecia is simply too nice, too compleat the politician, to give the opposition ammunition when things could all be quietly smoothed out to his party’s advantage.
The spoiler of course is Mrs. Arroyo’s determination not to be anyone’s patsy; she may have, as all presidents have done, tried to pay her dues in the early part of her administration, but she can clearly see, if she has half a brain (and no one doubts she has not just half but quite a complete one), that she needs a mandate, a real mandate, and that her political destiny must be played out as her father’s was -either to a happier conclusion by way of election in 2004, or defeat, as her father endured in 1965. But she has no other option but to stay the course and fight.
That having been said, this is all, then, a testing of the waters. The West Pointer in Ramos is probing the defenses of the administration, looking for its weaknesses. His archskeptics are under the impression his real aim is to simply be done with a Constitution that he could not amend to satisfy his ambitions, and be called upon to trot out on a white horse and restore the lost era of Philippines 2000. No one with any intellectual honesty can deny that Mr. Ramos’s actions to date, down to calling a radio station to muse on the need to file a test case to figure out if he’s entitled to run legitimately in the next election, only serve to reinforce the worst perceptions that exist of the man. Nor can anyone deny the political and even personal imperatives that would drive Mrs. Arroyo to seek election in 2004 come hell or high water, if only to prove her critics wrong, and be remembered not as a woman who inherited the presidential mantle, but who earned it in her own right.
So Fidel Ramos says he is not running —period, period, period. Though the country is used to his three periods being the ellipse that leads to a pregnant pause that leads others to begin to have paranoid attacks (which Ramos surely enjoys). The President, on the other hand, truthfully says she is too busy worrying about the here and now to fuss over 2004, though even in that she is being disingenuous -but then which president entitled to reelection, with the exception of Cory Aquino- ever was anything but disingenuous about the possibility of their running again? Even Cory Aquino, who was not bound by the term limitations of the Charter approved during her term, kept her options open if only to keep from becoming a lame duck. The only president in our history who ever committed political suicide was Joseph Estrada and neither Ramos nor Arroyo are Estrada. There is no surer way to commit political hara-kiri than to say you have no intention of running for reelection when you can -and be believed.
The whole non-issue then boils down to a rift between the Lakas-NUCD people who grew fat and soft under Ramos, and who aren’t pleased that they are expected to stay relatively lean during the Arroyo New Era Part 2. The whole issue is that having abandoned the Liberals, and never having established a cohesive hard-core party of loyalists of her own, Mrs. Arroyo is not in full control of the party she is putatively the chief of, but which recalls its salad days as having been under Fidel Ramos. Ramos may be circulating offering them a chance of reliving the good old days when boys could be boys, businessmen could do business under a regime that was all light and sound, and not hard work as it is at present.
Pie in the sky, Ramos-style, versus the drudgery of the dirty kitchen, Arroyo-style. Were you a politician you would at least give pause to the thought that life would be tough under another six years of Arroyo, and positively miserable if not dangerous to life and limb under a Ping Lacson regime: so why not, indeed, a return to steady Eddie.
We shall have to see who has the last wink. Or who raises her eyebrow last in satisfaction as her opponent folds.
Raul Manglapus: Pied Piper of Democracy
By Manuel L. Quezon III
NO one sings “Blue Eagle the King” anymore, and no Atenean belonging to the martial law baby generation knows his music at all; but of the many songs he composed, one lives on: “Mambo Magsaysay,” the anthem of the Age of the Bakya and to this day, the song of those who believe that democracy can work in the Philippines.
Raul Manglapus, the composer of the Magsaysay campaign song, was born in Manila on October 20, 1918. A noted student orator, he became one of the best-known alumni of the Ateneo de Manila. He represented a generation that came of age during the War (Manglapus would suffer imprisonment at the hands of the Japanese because of his guerrilla activities) and which attempted to reinvigorate the politics of their country so as to wrest it from the clutches of the ward heelers.
After the war, Manglapus was a journalist – he was present at the Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay- and a professor. Together with Manny Manahan and other Magsaysay die-hards, Manglapus (appointed Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1957 by Magsaysay) found himself in the corridors of power – corridors from which it was hoped the tayo-tayo politics of the past had been banished. But the era of good government proved all too fleeting; the death of Magsaysay returned the control of Malacanang to the old hands that had inspired the revulsion that made people like Manglapus enter politics in the first place. He was catapulted to the Senate in 1961 as the symbol of a new generation that hoped to bring back the principles of politics a la Magsaysay. And Manglapus, together with so many others, would find himself dedicating the rest of his life to the return of honest governance to the people.
In 1965 Manglapus thought that he would be the man to do just that, as president. Instead, he helped divide the electorate between himself and Macapagal, handing the presidency to Ferdinand Marcos. He would try to do his part in the Constitutional Convention in 1971, and yet was mercifully spared arrest because he happened to be abroad when martial law was imposed.
He lived far from splendidly in exile, leading the decimated ranks of the politicians who did not succumb to the blandishments of Marcos. When so many of his peers, so many of his countrymen, avidly embraced the dictatorship, he was among the very few who opposed it from the start. And while it is true he did not starve in exile, neither did he live in luxury or dissipation. For speaking out when so many embraced Marcos, he deserves the nation’s thanks. He spent 13 years as a political refugee, lobbying in Washington against the dictatorship.
The return of Freedom brought the return of Manglapus, who, once more, was returned to the senate in 1987, only to resign his position to serve President Aquino. As Aquino’s secretary of foreign affairs he found his own words to be his biggest liability as a public servant; he played an instrumental part in the botched attempt to extend the RP-US Bases agreement which led to the expulsion of those bases.
When his President departed from office, he agreed to serve the next one.
The less said about Manglapus’s service during the Ramos administration, the better. By then, anyway, he was more of a figurehead put out to pasture.
Manglapus was a learned and polished man, one of the last of the romantics when it came to politics. He genuinely believed in reform, and yet found it too distasteful to engage in the sort of ruthless politics that is necessary to achieve the power necessary to initiate genuine reform. And so he found himself politically frustrated at every turn. In retirement, he returned to writing, and to playing music with old friends. He would not be, as he had so earnestly hoped, become the pied piper of democracy. But he tried his damndest to be just that.
What the nation must recall is the young Atenean with the golden tongue and a musical gift, who spoke out for the common tao before Word War II, and who fought the Japanese. He deserves recognition for being part of the Magsaysay revolution and for keeping lonely vigil during the dark days of martial law. Those are achievements enough for any man.
I remember three faces of Manglapus. In exile in Washington, he was a little dark man bundled up in an overcoat, hat and scarf, dignified but it seemed, so very grim: a man carrying the shame of a subjugated nation on his shoulders. As Aquino’s foreign Secretary he was cultivated and urbane, a man of many languages who dreamed of an Internationale of Newly-Restored Democracies. There was an amused twinkle in his one good eye, as if he wanted to say to all those who saw him that he had trodded the path of power once before and was not too impressed with it the second time around.
Then there was Manglapus the elder statesman, beholden to no one, free to speak his own mind, esconced in his position as titular head of the ruling party. This was the Manglapus who, apropos of constituional amendments for President Ramos, pointed out that what Ramos was trying to do had been done before, so what was the big deal? This was the Manglapus of the Malacañang-dispensed sinecure who bothered his long-time admirers to distraction: but perhaps it was because the young firebrand had mellowed with age, and now had the experience and -shall we say wisdom?- to say the truths that his followers still found hard to believe.
Raul Manglapus was a man with a formidable intellect and so many gifts, all of which he unhesitatingly offered to his country. Others have said that he was too far ahead of his time in espousing many of the dreams he cherished; or perhaps it is better to say that he will always be ahead of his time, and that his dreams belong to men who themselves are good, and connot believe that their countrymen cannot be good as well.
The First Gentleman of Cebu
By Manuel L. Quezon III
IN many respects, he was a modern-day Jose Yulo. A gentle, self-effacing and accomplished man, privileged to have served in all three branches of government, and in two of them with distinction. For like Jose Yulo, Marcelo Fernan had the distinction of not only heading a chamber of the legislature, but of becoming the Chief Justice of the land. Yulo became Speaker of the National Assembly after serving in the cabinet, and then became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Mercelo Fernan, after being in the puppet Assembly of the Marcos regime, became Chief Justice and then ended his career as a senator who had become Senate President.
Marcelo Fernan, too, was compared to the man Free Press readers used to call the “Private Citizen No. 1″ during his long retirement from active politics: Sergio Osmeña. Indeed, in his many years as the most prominent politician from Cebu, Marcelo Fernan did all he could do keep the memory of that exemplar of the gentleman-politico alive. Fernan would help establish the Sergio Osmeña memorial lectures. And like Osmeña, Fernan, while being considered an accomplished politician in his own right, was primarily considered by his peers to be something much more special: a kind, considerate gentlemen who was not too obsessed with power and privilege. And while he did not obsessively seek honors, honors sought him out. At the time of his death his walls were covered with plaques and citations and awards, both for his political achievements and for what he did as a private lawyer, educator, and loyal son of the Church.
Born in 1927, he belonged to the generation that found its childhood cut short by the war; he was even detained by the Japanese. Returning to school after peace was restored, he would tell his friends he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Manuel Briones, one time senator, failed candidate for vice-president, and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In one sense the ambition he confessed to his friends would find fruition: he would be all that his uncle was, and more. He became Senate President.
Fernan succesfully took the bar (he graduated from the University of the Philippines and yet bring more honor to his alma mater than that other famous Upean, Ferdinand Marcos),and became a succesful lawyer, making himself an honest and comfortable living. He began to teach; he married; he became a father and life was prosperous.
In 1959, Fernan’s political career began with his succesful candidacy for for membership in the Cebu City Planning Board. In 1962 he would run succesfully for membership in the Cebu Provincial Board. In 1971, he declared his candidacy for the position of delegate to the Constitutional Convention and won.
It was as a member of the ill-fated Con-Con that he would achieve greatness.
When, in 1973, cowed, bribed or deluded delegates meekly voted to approve the Marcos charter, Marcelo Fernan became one of only 16 delegates who did not succumb to the temptation to sell out, in the hope of preferment from the dictator or the pious hope that having voted for the charter, they would be in a position to convert Marcos back to the ways of democracy. Fernan voted “no” to the Charter; so many others voted yes. Years later, when delegates led by Diosdado Macapagal would try to undo what they had gamely acceded to previously by reconvening a rump Convention and declaring the 1973 Constitution null and void, Fernan could repeat what he said of the Marcos charter: “I did not sire it; it’s not even my bastard.” That dubious distinction would haunt the other delegates to their graves. He was not greedy, and so he could not be bribed; he was not that ambitious, and so he did not sell his vote for the chimerical expectation of a seat in the Interim National Assembly. He was not so short-sighted as to think that his countrymen would forget which way he voted when the roll call was called.
The greatness Fernan achieved in the moment he voted against the Marcos Constitution was never sullied by his eventually joining the ranks of the dictator’s party machine. He participated in the elections of 1982 and became a member of the rubber-stamp Batasang Pambansa â‚¬â€œbut as a member of the opposition, becoming minority floor leader. His good friends the Osmenas reduced to political impotence, he alone at time represented the old guard of the anti-Marcos opposition in Cebu. And when the time came for him to do his part to add to the final push that toppled the dictatorship, he did so. It was as a member of that dubious assembly that Fernan participated in the efforts to expose Marcos’s attempts to rig the 1986 snap elections. And unlike so many members of the Batasan, when it was quietly dissolved, Fernan went quietly. He was never one to hold on to a position at the expense of his dignity.
A grateful President Aquino elevated him to the Supreme Court. In three short years he found himself the 19th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. And under his watch the Supreme Court maintained its newly-restored independence. He did not leave elective office in order to become a toady. Indeed, the Fernan Court handed down decisions that irked the Aquino administration; and yet it gained the respect of that administration precisely because of the Fernan Court refusing to succumb to any political pressure, real or imagined. And when, in 1989, Fernan was offered the titular leadership of a Junta to be established by the putschists, Fernan turned them down just as he had turned down an offer by Ferdinand Marcos to put him in the Supreme Court. Fernan would be loyal to his Republic: he did not fight Marcos, he declared on national television, only to be a party to the destruction of consitutional government by the military.
As Chief Justice, Fernan was proud of having established the system of having continuous trials which, if it did not radically improve the quality of justice that was dispensed, at least caused the wheels of justice to grind less slowly.
But in 1991 Fernan relinquished the supreme magistracy of the land in order to porsue an altogether different ambition: to be president, or, if he would not be president, to be vice-president. He would, in the end, become neither. He had agonized too long over the question of resigning from the Supreme Court; he had been too slow to answer the call of ambition. And when he did, he found himself outspent and outfoxed, even when he decided to accept the nomination for the vice-presidency instead. There he found himself pitted against the unbeatable Joseph Estrada. He lost.
Like Sergio Osmena, he accepted the will of the people and returned to the practice of law, focusing on giving legal assistance to those who needed it most: the poor.
1995 and the senatorial election in that year found him given a new breath of political life, this time as a member of the Philippine Senate. He was elected on the Lakas-Laban ticket. It would turn out to be the last position of public trust to be given him by an admiring people. In the Senate, he became Assistant Majority Leader and sponsored his share of legislation. Three years later, on July 27, 1998, he was elected Senate President, succeeding Neptali Gonzalez.
As senator and Senate President, Marcelo Fernan would again achieve greatness, but not because of any particular political act on his part, but because of who he was. While his very elevation to the position of Senate President had less to do with his clout as a senator and more to do with his seniority and lack of ambition making him a soothing paterfamilias for the fractuous Senate- as Senate President he demonstrated what his life was all about: courage, dignity, duty.
Shortly after becoming Senate President, Fernan was diagnosed as having a lesion in the lung; he went to the United States to have it removed. But the cancer was metastizing too fast. This was one battle he could not win; but like other battles he fought, Fernan decided that it was not winning that mattered; it was how one fought. He decided he would stick to his post as long as he was able, and do the job the people had elected him to do. But he would do little to disguise the toll the cancer was taking on his health and appearance.
Always a dapper man, he caused a stir when he acknowledged in public what his nemesis Marcos had so earnestly tried to hide from his people: Marcelo Fernan admitted he was ill and showed the signs of his ailment, although he and his family would remain mum on the subject of what his illness actually was.
But the public knew, and the public sympathized with the sight of a chemotherapy-ravaged Senate President being wheeled to the podium to preside over tedious sessions.
Under his watch, the Senate found its debates reach a low point during the deliberations on the Visiting Forces Agreement; but what would be of consequence was not the actual vote on the VFA, but the quiet courage of the man who almost single-handedly tried to maintain the dignity of the chamber he presided over. Indeed the Senate passed no distinguished legislation while Fernan was Senate President, save for the VFA and one law that will go down in history as significant: the decision, by the Senate, to relinquish its pork barrel, a bold move that the lower house did not approve of.
And then it was time to go. And Marcelo Fernan did go, not stubbornly holding on to the position he had achieved to the bitter end as others might have done and so many expected. His battle with cancer lost, the time had come to make peace with his maker, and this he did. He resigned the Senate presidency, though not his position as senator, and the next thing the public knew, he was gone.
With his passing the country paused to take stock of the career of a man who represented something that will not be seen again: the seasoned politician who never forgot what it meant to be a gentleman. He was good, kind, studious and refined; most of all, he had principles.
He was like Sergio Osmeña, he was like Jose Yulo; and like the peers of those two men, his contemporaries were found by the public to be wanting in the characteristics that evoke the gratitude of a people. Even as Fernan faced death, his fellow senators began the bruising and humiliating battle for the Senate that resulted in a Solomonic solution that made no one happy, and which necessitated the intervention of the President: something against the most cherished traditions of the chamber Fernan once headed. Fernan did not bow to Marcos when in the Con-con, he did not bow to Marcos when he was in the Batasan, he did not bow to Aquino in the Supreme Court and he did not bow to Ramos and Estrada when he was in the Senate. But as he lay dying, it was not to his fellow senators that those fighting over his mantle as Senate chief ran to; it was to the President. And it was the President, as the Free Press suggested, who weighed in and decreed the new leadership in contravention of conventional wisdom: Old Marcos hand Blas Ople got the Senate presidency, while Franklin Drilon, who did so much to foster the impression he was Fernan’s anointed, was told to cool his heels until his time would come. And all the while, as Fernan lay dying, the Senate too was giving up the ghost on whatever pretentions to independence it still had. When Blas Ople and Franklin Drilon took turns orating before Fernan’s bier, paying him the unprecedented honor of holding his necrological service during the session, they were bidding farewell not only to a rare individual, but to one of the most cherished —and most often lost, if not often regained— pretentions of the chamber they belonged to: its independence from the Palace.
How quickly can the meaning of a life be forgotten by those who claim to have admired it.
Marcelo Fernan, near the end of his life, mused to a writer that his final illness had taught him that political power and official positions were as nothing in the larger scheme of things. He saw what too few of his fellow politicians have come to realize; the pity is that with his death there will be no more like him, capable of realizing such humbling truths.
The Politicalization of the Constitutional Convention
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 22, 1972–MANY considered it the “last hope” of the impoverished masses—the “magic key” to peace and progress. In an atmosphere of deepening national crisis, it would be called upon to rewrite the fundamental law of the land and provide the blueprint for a better, more meaningful life for the Filipino people. The faith of nearly 40 million Filipinos was pinned on the Constitutional Convention.
The delegates to the Convention were to be men of honor, courage, dedication, wisdom and vision. Certainly, men of less stern stuff have no place in such a body, charged as it is with the sacred duty of charting the national destiny. When the time came to choose them, some 10 million electors voted in a remarkably free and fair election.
A good number of “independent” candidates were elected, including priests, journalists, technocrats, professors, economists, political scientists, youth activists, labor leaders and retired high government officials. It was a “promising start” for the Constitutional Convention, said one political observer. Although many party-backed candidates won, it was believed that these delegates would assert their independence upon assumption of their exalted office.
But, alas, as the opening date of the Convention drew closer, more and more delegates were invited or crawled to Malacañang. The public did not know what transpired there, but could guess. The Malacañang meeting marked the politicalization, that is, the tutaization, of delegates. Reports spread that President Marcos wanted the Constitutional Convention to extend his term by two more years or, failing that, to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary to enable him to become the first Prime Minister.
True or not, Marcos became the first big issue in the Convention. Many independent delegates denounced Malacañang for interfering with the work of the Convention. The denunciation rose to fever pitch some three days before the start of the Convention, prompting Marcos to change his mind about addressing the opening rites of the Convention.
When, in a pre-Convention pow-wow, the majority of the delegates opted to invite Marcos to be the guest speaker at the Convention’s opening ceremonies, the move angered, if not scandalized, many independent-minded delegates. Seventeen of them staged a walk-out on the opening day of the Convention. It was just as well for on that day, the politicians stole the show. At the rostrum was Marcos, flanked by Senate President Gil J. Puyat and Speaker Cornelio Villareal, a guest, acted as if he were the host. He controlled the proceedings as if the charter body were the House of Representatives.
That “circus” led to yet another circus when the Convention tackled the problem of leadership. Five delegates sought the Convention presidency, namely, former Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos P. Garcia, former Sen. Raul Manglapus, former Supreme Court Justice Jesus Barrera and Teopisto Guingona, Jr. Macapagal was allegedly Marcos’s pet—and, indeed, at the outset, he appeared to act like one. But he was later to be disappointed by Malacañang. About 48 hours before the election, some delegates who were committed to back Macapagal sought release from their commitment, according to a Laguna delegate, Manuel Concordia, a supporter of Macapagal. Concordia specifically referred to four delegates who, according to him, “reminded me of a condition to their pledge, that is, it could be withdrawn when ‘orders from above’ are received.”
“Apparently such orders ‘from above’ have been received. I could not, in conscience, hold them to their commitment.”
Later, Macapagal himself categorically stated the Marcos was supporting Garcia—a charge which, if true, substantiated the suspicion about the tutaization of the Convention. Said Macapagal:
“It is not definite and conclusive that President Garcia is the candidate of President Marcos for president of the Convention. This proves that there was no deal between Mr. Marcos and me or warrants the deduction that I must have refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos, that is why he decided to support President Garcia as Convention president.”
And what is this “deal” that Macapagal referred to?
“The previously reported deal was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life, whereas the new subject is about the extension of the presidential term. I am incapable of entering into a deal on the contents of the Constitution since that would be a disgraceful act which I will never countenance.”
On the eve of the Convention, Macapagal filed a resolution banning former Presidents and their close relatives, including Marcos and Imelda, from running for the presidency. Many considered it a gimmick for Macapagal to attract independent voters; in the past he had been evasive on such a question, saying that “a candidate for president of the Convention should not take sides on the contents of the Constitution since the primary duty of the Convention president is to impartially reconcile divisive conflicts of views among the delegates and coordinate the activities of the Convention.”
Anyway, Macapagal lost and Garcia won. The Marcosian strategy appeared to be to divert attention and confuse until the “moment of truth” came. At first Macapagal seemed to be his man—but it was Garcia who won. It was a judo tactic—feign distraction, then attack. Up to now, many delegates still become red in the face when reminded of that election.
Was there really a deal? Were there “orders from above?” Those were the questions. Now, the question is: Does Marcos really favor the parliamentary form of government over the presidential? If he does, is it because Marcos wants to be “Prime Minister for life?” Only Marcos and certain delegates are in a position to answer this. But the verifiable fact is that, after the last election, delegates who were staunchly for the presidential type now advocate parliamentary form of government.
Have “orders from above” been issued?
Curiously enough, the pattern of events during the fight for the Convention presidency is being repeated in the battle between the “parliamentarists” and the “presidentialists.” Before the issue on the form of government came to a head in the Convention, many delegates had reportedly been seen in conference with Marcos. Sometime later, the committee on legislative powers surprisingly changed its stand and voted for the adoption of the parliamentary form of government.
The committee on executive powers, too, which originally favored the retention of the presidential type, as of this writing, is veering towards the adoption of the parliamentary form. Even the Rama-Liwag resolution seeking to ban President Marcos and the First Lady from running for the presidency or premiership seems destined to lose in the committee on transitory provisions.
Worse, talk of presidential favors being granted to some delegates is now widespread. Whether true or not, this talk seems to gather credibility in the face of reports that Lualhati, a government cottage in Baguio City, was occupied by a delegate during the Christmas vacation. The Baguio case certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in the context of what Macapagal had earlier referred to as a “reported deal” which would pave the way for Marcos to become the first Prime Minister of this country.
Editorialized the Manila Chronicle:
“Incidents like the Lualhati case have generated suspicions whenever there are sudden changes of hearts especially when the new Convention decision would favor the President. It is in this light that the public has viewed the change in the committee votes—from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government—with valid misgivings though hoping that the modification was impelled by desires for constructive reforms and not an abdication of conviction for political accommodation.”
Close on the heels of the Lualhati case came the recent change of delegate Jorge Kintanar of Cebu to the effect that 10 delegates recently went to Malacañang and were each given “10,000 reasons” to shift from the presidential to the parliamentary system. Some Convention delegates understood Fr. Kintanar’s statement to mean that some delegates had been bribed P10,000 by Malacañang in consideration for their support of the parliamentary system.
Last week, some 20 delegates demanded the investigation of the Kintanar charge, challenging the priest-delegate to name names. Fr. Kintanar promptly accepted the challenge and promised to name names in a proper committee hearing. The investigation of the Kintanar charge may yet lead to the investigation of still another rumor that certain delegates are on the regular payroll of Malacañang.
Said Delegate Antonio Alano of Batangas:
“While I do not believe that any delegate would succumb to any outside pressure in deciding what form of government our country should adopt, it is proper that we should look into the matter of alleged lobby.”
Delegates Anacleto Badoy, Jr., and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., urged Convention President Macapagal to convoke the committee on privilege to look into the serious charge of bribery. If the Kintanar charge is found to be true, said the two, the Convention should impose “appropriate sanctions.” And Delegate Bren Z. Guiao sought the release of the list of names of delegates who went to Malacañang on January 6 “to clear the names of those delegates who have nothing to do with the so-called Malacañang lobby.”
The persistent talk of Malacañang’s intervention in the conduct of the charter body has to be thoroughly investigated if the Convention is to win the support of the people. Such talk started when delegates started trooping to Malacañang even before the charter body was convened. It gained momentum when Macapagal categorically charged that Marcos had backed Garcia, followed later by the withdrawal of Delegate Felixberto Serrano from the contest for the position of President Pro Tempore of the Convention.
Said Serrano then:
“My heart bleeds to announce to you today that agreeably with my personal knowledge of the events that have transpired in the last few days, the will of this Convention will be subverted by outside political control beyond the power of well-intended and well-meaning delegates to resist and material enough to determine the final outcome of the election.
“I am prepared to announce to you that Speaker Cornelio Villareal of the House of Representatives is the instrumentality of this over-powering, subversive force in our Convention intended to override its free will and better judgment.”
Villareal immediately denied everything. What then, made Serrano’s heart bleed? At any rate, it was an open secret that on the eve of the Convention election a top tuta of Marcos entertained delegates in a hotel suite. The Marcos dog gave to the delegates from “1,000 to 10,000 reasons” in consideration of their canine support for Marcos’s candidates for Convention posts, went reports.
No one in the Convention, except Serrano, whose charges were vague and general, demanded an investigation. But it’s different this time. Fr. Kintanar is reportedly ready to “tell all.” But in all these charges, starting with those of Macapagal to those of Serrano and now those of Kintanar, the common denominator is the alleged move of Malacañang to control the Convention.
If the charges are true, why does Malacañang want to control the Convention? The answer depends on the truthfulness or otherwise of what Macapagal earlier said concerning the “previously reported deal” which “was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life….”
Although Macapagal’s statement was intended to prove that no such deal was consummated between him and Marcos, it did not say, however, whether or not Marcos presented Macapagal with such a deal. In fact, Macapagal said that Garcia being conclusively “the candidate of President Marcos” proved that there was no deal between him and Marcos or that he must have “refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos.” That is why, went on Macapagal, Marcos decided to “support President Garcia as Convention president.”
If it is true that Marcos did not support Macapagal because the latter would not agree to the Marcos deal, which was for Macapagal to work for the parliamentary form of government, then Marcos must have been, from the very beginning, against the presidential system. The vociferous advocacy for the retention of the presidential system by some of his allegedly close supporters in the Convention must have been only a ruse to confuse the “presidentialists.”
Or perhaps, Marcos, sensing that the prevalent sentiment of the Convention was for the retention of the presidential system, agreed to go along with the idea on the assumption that the First Lady, if she ran for the presidency, would win. But the results of the last national elections must have jolted Marcos. He must have realized then that he could not make it any more to Malacañang, directly or indirectly through the First Lady. But if he cannot stay on Malacañang as President under the presidential system, he may still go back there as Prime Minister under a parliamentary system.
If these assumptions are correct, then the sudden change of heart of many delegates vis-à-vis their stand on which form of government the Constitution is to adopt is no mystery. They would simply be heeding their master’s voice.
Certainly, the issue on which form of government this country is to adopt should be decided on merit, not on personal considerations. But the fact that, after extensive deliberations on the subject, two key committees in the Convention had earlier decided to retain the presidential system shows that the present form of government is still workable, that there is no necessity to junk it. That some delegates during the present system to be bad, prompting them to reverse themselves and come out for the parliamentary one, is certainly mysterious. What’s the reason or reasons for the sudden change of mind?
That “mystery” is reason enough to look into the personal consideration in the deliberation on the form of government. The question of whether or not Marcos wants the Convention to adopt the parliamentary form should not be ignored. This issue strikes at the fundamental principle of an independent Convention freely exercising its disinterested judgment. If the will of Marcos is to prevail in the Convention, then we should not have held a Convention at all. We should have simply allowed Marcos to rewrite the Constitution by himself. It would be faster and cheaper that way.
But let it not be forgotten that the new charter will be adopted only after the people have ratified it in a national referendum. If the new Constitution is tainted with the corrupt influence of Malacañang, the people are likely judging from the results of the last elections, to junk it. The Convention will have wasted its efforts and time, not to mention the people’s money, drafting a Marcos Constitution. And the people would lose all hope for a better tomorrow.
Said the Free Press in its editorial of June 19, 1971:
“The challenge to the Constitutional Convention is to rise above the level of the professional politicians, which should not be too difficult since nothing can be lower than that, but if professional politicians were to run, directly or indirectly, the Convention, then, as water seeks its own level, the Constitutional Convention will fall to the level of the lowest form of political life in this country.”
If the Convention finally decides to adopt the parliamentary system to favor Marcos, the referendum will turn into a political election. The pro-Marcos forces will certainly campaign in favor of the new charter while the anti-Marcos faction will campaign against it. The charter body will have achieved one thing: divide the country, instead of uniting it. It would have rendered a monstrous disservice to the nation and its place in history would be a shameful one.
November 29, 1969
How Lopez Won
by Edward R. Kiunisala
A YEAR AGO, he was probably the most underrated among the administration’s high elective officials. Not a few considered him a political jalopy, if not electoral junk. ready to be mothballed or fit only to be jettisoned. Some well-meaningPalace advisers thought that he was too old, too weak and colorless for the rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred political game.
Earlier, rumors had it tha President Marcos was casting about for a younger and charismatic running mate. There was Rafael Salas, the new darling of Western Visayas, and Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, the political charmer from Minadanao. Either of the two, it was argued, would make a good Vice-President and would bolster the administration’s chances for another mandate.
It seemed then that Fernando Lopez’s political stock was at its lowest ebb. A possible reason was his lackluster performance in the 1965 elections when he beat his opponent, Gerardo Roxas, by an uncomfortably slim margin of only 26,500 votes. Added to this was his celebrated friction with the President on forestry matters, which almost led to an open break.
One thing about Lopez — he is no yes man. He may not have the eloquence of a Jovito Salonga, but he has the temper of a Manuel L. Quezon and the single-mindedness of an Elpidio Quirino. When he believe he is right, he will defy anyone except, perhaps, God and his brother, Eugenio. But there’s nothing personal about Lopez’s defiance. Prove him wrong and your alternative right — and he will cooperate with you to the limit.
It is this particular trait that made Lopez vulnerable to intra-party intrigues. And the intrigues almost succeeded in splitting the Marcos-Lopez partnership. What saved it was Marcos’s sense of fairness and Lopez’s political bahala na attitude. He knew he had served the people well. Not a taint of scandal marred his name. Even his bitterest critics believed in his honesty and integrity in public service.
Long before the party convention in June, Lopez was ready to give up politics if that was will of the party. After all, unlike most politicians, public office, to him, meant a life of dedication and sacrifice. Few high elective officials in the country today can honestly say that they are, like Lopez, in politics to serve. Rare is the politician who, like Lopez, has remained a gentleman.
But if Lopez was ready to hang up his political gloves, his close friends were dead set against it. When the chips were down, they including President Marcos, rallied behind him, and the Nacionalista Party finally chose him as the vice-presidential standard-bearer. But despite the party’s unanimous choice, only a handful gave Lopez a chinaman’s chance against his youthful opponent, Genaro Magsaysay, an indefatigable campaigner and reportedly the idol of the masses. For one, Magsaysay was many things that Lopez was not – he was much younger, he was a better speaker, more energetic and charismatic than Lopez. He was full of political tricks and had in fact been campaigning for years. He had been to practically every barrio in the country. He certainly had more exposure than Lopez and, what’s more, he had the 600,000 Iglesia votes in his pocket.
In the matter of logistics, it was a tossup between the two, though many believed Lopez had the edge. Some, however, swore Magsaysay could match Lopez’s campaign fund peso for peso. During the LP convention, Magsaysay surprised everyone with his ready cash. His delegates were billeted in first-class hotels. In fact, it was bruited around that he was financially ready for a presidential contest.
But Lopez had what Magsaysay didn’t have — an efficient machine, performance, sincerity and good taste. While “Carry On” Gene overacted, Toto Nanading simply acted himself. Soon, the electorate saw through Gene’s overacting and recognized him for what he was. The Magsaysay cult lost much of its appeal and the Iglesia Ni Cristo was shown to be less potent politically than it was billed to be.
As of the last OQC count, with only about 500 precints left unreported, Magsaysay was trailing behind Lopez by almost 2,000,000 votes. If the Iglesia had not helped Magsaysay, Magsaysay would have been worse off. But what is more significant is that even if the Iglesia votes for Magsaysay were doubled, Lopez would still emerge the decisive winner.
Lopez’s victory over Magsaysay has blasted the myth of Iglesia political power. Bishop Eraño Manalo may still receive the homage of political jellyfish, but no longer will he be taken seriously by responsible politicians. What Joseph Estrada started in the local elections of San Juan, Rizal, Manalo’s own homegrounds, Lopez completed in the last national elections.
We sought out Lopez again last week for an interview. He was relaxed, smiling and, as usual, garrulous. He had just been to church and a group of well-wishers had gathered to congratulate him. It was the same Lopez we had seen three weeks before the elections. He had not chnaged. One had expected his well-earned victory to cause him to puff up a bit.
“Well, I made it,” he said rather shyly.
“What made you in, Mr. Vice-President?”
“I believe my performance. Yes, it is my performance, I think so. Gene’s public record is practically zero. And I repeat, he has no personal friends worked for me even without my knowledge. Frienship is an investment, yes. It pays dividends.”
“But Mr. Vice- President, Gene has a powerful personal friends – Bishop Manalo….”
Lopez perked up. We had never heard him so eloquent and grammatical before. On the subject of Iglesia Ni Cristo, he was the expert, the master coversationalist. he has debunked Iglesia political power, he said, adding that he did so with the help of responsible voters. The recent elections meant two things to him: first, the Iglesia political balloon was deflated and second, dedicated public service is still highly valued by the people.
The best politics, according to the Vice-President, is still good public service. A politician who wants sincerely to serve the people does not have to kowtow to any vested political group to win. All he has to do to get reelected is to discharge his duties as best he can. In the past, candidates for national office paid homage to the Iglesia to win. He has proved, he said, that the so-called solid Iglesia vote cannot frustrate the will of the intelligent electorate.
“Do you know that the Iglesia had been abusing? It wanted to have so many public postions for its members – it even wanted to dictate as to who should occupy this or that cabinet position. Not only that. It even wanted to have say on what kind of laws we are going to have. Sobra naman sila. i would rather lose than surrender to them. Ti, abi, I still won.”
But Lopez admitted that he won because of President Marcos. The President, he said, carried him in Northern Luzon and in many other areas of the country. Marcos really worked hard for him, said Lopez, and he, too, spared no effort to get the President reelected. It was a team effort — there was no double-crossing, no junking.
“You saw how I campaigned in Western Visayas. You were with me. You can testify. I campaigned mainly for the President. An that was what the President did in Ilocos. He campaigned hard for me. The votes he got in Ilocos, I got, too. In the Western Visayas, he did not get the votes I got — because, you know, for one thing, Serging’s wife is from there. But another thing. They are really matigas ang ulo. They didn’t even vote for Jose Yulo against Macapagal.
“That’s why you see, i promised not to take my oath of office if I won in Western Visayas and the President lost there. Now, I can still take my oath of office. The President won in Western Visayas. Of course, I have helped the President also. But I am not ashamed to say that he has helped me more. I do not know how I can thank the President for it.”
The Vice-President reserved his “most hearfelt gratitude” to the First Lady. “I owe a lot to her — ay, she really campaigned for me. She won a lot of votes for me. I do not know how to repay her. You know that it was the First Lady who told me to work hard because I was behind. She showed us the survey and she told us that i was not doing so well. If she did not want me to win, she would have remained silent.”
Indeed, early last July, Lopez was running a poor second to Magsaysay, though Marcos was already ahead of Osmeña, according to an administration survey. Informed of it, Mrs. Marcos called Lopez’s key leaders to Malacanang. Alfredo Montelibano, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Undersecretary Raul Inocentes and a communications expert met with the First Lady in the music room. The First Lady gave Montelibano and Company the lowdown on the Vice-President’s chances.
It was a lonf talk – the First Lady wanted Lopez to put up his own political machinery. Though Lopez was nagging behind, the large number of uncommitted votes could turn the tide in Lopez’s favor. The First Lady wanted a Marcos-Lopez victory, not just a Marcos triumph. Mrs. Marcos pointed out to the Montelibano group where Lopez was weak and what should be done to boost the Vice-President’s campaign.
The Montelibano group immediately got in touch with the Vice-President. If Lopez was discouraged, he did not show it. After all, he had had 24 years of political experience. He was no political tyro. If another campaign organization was needed, it would be put up. At the time, the Vice-President’s brother, Eugenio, was in his U.S. residence in Seacliff, San Francisco. The Vice-President rang up his brother by overseas phone.
Eugenio Lopez, Sr., apparently gave the green light for the setting up of a campaign machine for the Veep. For in less than 30 minutes, the political mobilazation of the Lopez business empire was under way. In an hour, top communications experts, political analysts, researchers, idea men, statisticians, had been tapped for the Lopez machine.
Alfredo Montelibano, Sr., became top strategic aviser. All policies had to be cleared with him. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., was in charge of logistics. Ike Inocentes served as liaison between the Vice-President and the new political machine manned by top communications experts. Antonio Bareiro handled radio-TV while Ernesto Granada supervised the print medium.
The first thing the Lopez organization did was conduct a survey. The results showed that Lopez, although more popular than his opponenet in urban centers, was weak in many rural areas. In the overall, however, the survey showed Lopez leading Magsaysay by about 3%. However, it was noted that the uncommitted votes – 17% of the voting population – were mostly in the rural areas.
So the Lopez machine concentrated on the rural areas. The communications media came out with a lot of materials depicting Lopez as the friend of the farmer, the worker and the common man. His leaflets carried the picture of the vice-President holding up rice stalks. The Lopez machine worked to buikd up the Vice-President’s image as Marcos’s top performance man in rice production.
Meanwhile, radio and television commentators all over the country were supplied with Magsaysay’ record as a public servant. The idea was to debunk Magsaysay’s claim that he was the idol of the masses and to portray him as a demagogue with no solid achivements to his name. On the other hand, the communications experts in the Lopez’s performance as an executive and a legislator.
It was at this time that political candidates went out of their way to win the Iglesia support. Some pragmatic Lopez advisers suggested the Veep take a crack at the Iglesia votes. And he got mad, spewing yawa and sonamagun. He would not pay homage to Manalo merely to win the Iglesia support. If the sect voted for him, they were welcome, but he wouldn’t go out of his way to woo the INC.
Manalo reportedly got wind of Lopez’s reactions and he decided to teach Lopez a lesson or two in practical politics. The INC boss directed his followers to go all out for Magsaysay. Some NP congressional bets were told to junk Lopez in exchange for Iglesia suppor. Others were even asked to surrender their sample ballots, it was reported, to the Iglesia so that Lopez’s name could be replaced with Magsaysay’s.
Ateneo priests and Catholic lay leaders who heards of the Iglesia political ploy to down Lopez were scandalized and angered. They decided to band together behind Lopez. They put up two headquarters silently worked behind the scenes. They got in touch with no fewer than 30,000 Catholic leaders all over the country and pleaded with them to vote for the Marcos-Lopez team.
Other religious setc, too, didn’t like the way Manalo was wielding political power – and they, too, got into the act. Two Aglipayan bishops and one Protestant sect came out openly for Lopez. It was a silent religious-political war. The Îglesia versus the Catholics and other religious sects. In a sense, Manalo’s support of Magsaysay proved to be a kiss of death – it served to unite other religious elelments against him.
Early in October, the Lopez machine made another survey – and the result was encouraging. lopez was leading by about 400,000 votes over Magsaysay. When informed about it, Lopez could hardly believe it. But instead of being complacent, Lopez worked even harder. Working closely with the NP machine, the Lopez machine proved effective. A few of its key people were able to infiltrate the opposite camp and discover Magsaysay’s political sttrategems, some of which were below the belt.
Lopez’s technopols wanted the Veep to pay back Magsaysay in kind, but Lopez put his foot down. He did not believe that Gene would resort to foul trickery. Perhaps Gene strategists, but not Gene, said Lopez. Even when news broke that Gene allegedly tried to finance a student organization to demonstrate against the Lopez interests, the Veep still gave Gene the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, the entire Lopez clan fanned out to rural areas to help Toto Nanding. Mrs. Mariquit Lopez, fondly called Inday Mariquit by her friends, campaigned with the Blue Ladies. Even Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., went to the hustings to plug for her brother-in-law. Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., too, joined Mrs. Marcos’s Blue Ladies.
All the Veep’s children, except who is abroad, campaigned for their father, Albertito usually went along with his father in Luzon. Mila also accompanied her father throughout Western Visayas. Fernando, Jr., and Bobby helped entertain political leaders in the Veep’s Iloilo mansion.
Even the sons of the Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., joined their uncle’s campaign trail. Eugenio Jr., took charge of finances while Manolo and Oscar put up the Friends of Lopez Kami (FOLK) organization. Manolo, too, organized his own version of Blue Ladies and Blue Boys, with the latter composed mainly of junior executives in their 20’s.
Meanwhile, the Lopez machine suceeded in putting up an organization which reached down to the town level and, in sesitive areas, down to the precint level. All these served as nerve cells of the vast Lopez political machine. Information was sent to the Lopez coordinating center in Quezon City where it was compiled, analyzed and acted upon. A group of creative writers made up the Lopez Machine Think Tank.
Lopez expressly directed his technopols to stress the performance theme. Not once was it ever a Lopez machine for Lopez alone. It was a Marcos-Lopez team campaign all the way, though the bulk of the campaign was directed at the areas where Lopez was supposedly weak. In Cebu and Iloilo, Osmeña-Lopez groups for some mushroomed. But Lopez ordered his men to plead with these groups to disband. It was found that these groups were LPs who could not stomach Magsaysay.
In Iloilo, one NP congressional bet reportedly campaigned lukewarmly for Marcos and the congressional candidate got a tongue-lashing from the Veep in front of the many people. In Sulu, despite the advice of some Muslim leaders not to campaign for Marcos, Lopez batted for Marcos all the way. At one time, he even asked the Muslims not to vote for him if they would not vote for Marcos, too.
By the first week of November, another survey showed that Lopez was ahead by about 700,000 votes. he couldn’t believe it. He had thought he would win over Magsaysay by only about 200,000 0r 300,000 votes. But he assumed that even if the survey had mistakenly counted 500,000 votes in his favor, he would still win th balloting by a comfortable margin.
But when the votes were counted, Lopez was the most surprised of them all in many precints, even in so-called Magsaysay stronghlds, Lopez got twice more votes than Magsaysay did. Lopez bested Magsaysay even in rural areas. In about 67 provinces, Lopez lost only in Zambales and Pampanga Greater Manila went all out for Lopez. Despite the Iglesia’s support of Marcos, Lopez got almost as many voted as the President..
Lopez was in Manila Tuesday night. He slept all night in his Forbes Park residence. Early Wednesday morning, he received reports that the NP won in the Western Visayas. After a dip in the pool and a mass in the San Antonio Church, Lopez motored to Malacañang. The President was asleep and Lopez exchanged pleasantries with other top NP leaders in the Palace.
When Mrs. Marcos emerged, the Veep kissed her hand and gave her a big buss. He owed much of his recent political success to Mrs. Marcos, he openly said. He would have been happy if he had won even by only 200,000, but a margin of 2,000,000 votes was beyond his wildest dreams. He promised to work harder to merit the people’s trust.
From Malacañang, Lopez went to his office in the Bureau of Lands Building. There, he received congratulatory messages from his friends and symphatizers. When the Lopez victory trend reached irreversible proportions, Lopez thanked all his supporters for their labor. He hastened to add, however, that he had not solicited any political financiers and was, therefore, not beholden to anyone but the electorate for his political victory.
His political fund, he said, came only from his brother and relatives. As Vice-President, he continued, he had granted many favors to many businessmen, industrialists and millionaire-agriculturists. But he did not ask any favor from any of them. This was because he did not want compromise national interests with the private interests of the political financiers.
In an interview, Lopez left to President Marcos what role the Veep should play in the next four years. But if he were to have his way, he would prefer to remain the concurrent Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I know this job very well. I don’t have to study anymore. Besides, there are still many things that I have to do here.”
Lopez obsession now is to achieve self-sufficiency in meat and fish and to conserve the antional forests. His plan is to seed the country’s lakes and rivers with bangus and carps. He also wants to increase animal breeding stations throughout the country. The Veep believes that massive reforestations is necessary, if Philippine civilization is to be preserved.
The Vice-President started his public life when then President Sergio Osmeña, Sr., appointed him mayor of Iloilo. At that time, Iloilo City was no-man’s land. Criminality was rampant; nobody was safe after six in the evening. He accepted Osmeña’s challenge to clean Iloilo on condition that he be free to resign after three months. But public service got into his blood and three months became a lifetime.
Lopez’s honesty is almost legendary. While manager of his family’s bus company, he caught the conductress cheating by five centavos. Lopez sued the girl who was sentenced to 25 days in jail. But while the girl was in jail, Lopez supported her family and got her another job after she had served her sentence. in later years, this was to be the Veep’s code of conduct.
His employees still remembered how Lopez, some years ago, fulminated at one of his political supporters who asked him to help him with his customs duties. A call to the customs disclosed that this man was one of those blacklisted by customs. Lopez shouted at him, saying: “What? You want me to help you cheat the government? “You, sonamagan, I don’t want to see you anymore.”
And when the son of another political supporter asked the Veep to get him a job in the onternal revenue bureau even without pay, Lopez reddened: “Why you want to work without pay? Because you will steal? You want me to help you so you can steal? Get out! Get out!”
Lopez is an apolitical politician. he both loves and hates politics. His father, he said, a former Iloilo governor, was assassinated. To Lopez, politics summed up all that he disliked in htis world: dishonesty, double-dealing, and back-stabbing. Paradoxically, it was the only way by which he could help so many people he has helped while a politician has sustained his political career.
The Vice-President is married to the former Mariquit Javellana by whom he has six children, Yolanda Benito, Fernando Jr., Albert, Milagros and Manuel. In addition, they have 12 proteges, now all married, whom they have informally adopted as children. Every Friday, in the Lopez mansion in LaPaz, Iloilo, is a day for the poor to whom the Lopezes distribute cash and goods.
Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Lopez are devout Catholics. Wherever Lopez goes, his first stop is the church. He makes the sign of the cross every time he goes out of the car, helicopter or plane. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lopez are music lovers; she loves to play the piano and the Hammand organ; he loves to listen to Mendelssohn or Chopin.
Many have asked him where he will go from here. Will he run for presidency? To this, he displays shock. “Please, please, don’t ask me that. Thatis farthest from my mind now. All I want to do is work to be worthy of the people’s trust. you know, I am already old.”
But when reminded of his campaign slogan, “Matigas pa ito —ang tuhod ko,” Lopez would break into loud, unrestrained, plebeian laughter that endears him to his supporters. Just the same, he entertains no questions about his political future. This is no time to talk politics, he insists.
But whether Lopez likes it or not, he has to think about his political future. by national mandate, he is now, for the third time, only a heartbeat away from the presidency. His decisive political victory in the last elections has catapulted him to the forefront of his party’s presidential possiblitis. Next to Marcos, he is the people’s choice. If he doubted that in the 1965 elections, he doesn’t doubt it now.
Besides, Lopez cannot be running for Vice-President all the time. If he chooses to continue serving the people after his third term as the No. 2 public official, he deserves, by equity of the electorate, a promotion. Who knows, with the help of God and his brother, Eugenio, the three-time Veep, once an underrated administration high official, may pull another surprise and run away with the highest position a people whom he has served long and well can give him.
January 6, 1968
Man of the Year
WHO is the man of the year?
THE politician of the Year is, undoubtedly, President Ferdinand Marcos. He dominated the Nacionalista convention and six of his senatorial candidates for the Senate won in the elections. The overwhelming majority of the Nacionalista candidates for governor won, and the same is true of the Nacionalista candidates for city mayor. Since Marcos made his administration the principal issue in the elections, it may be said that, of all the winners, he is the greatest winner.
Why is Marcos not the Man of the Year? He has scored a tremendous political victory, but he has not solved any of the big problems that have beset the country since it gained political independence. Corruption is rampant in the government, and nepotism is more flagrant than ever. He has built roads, more roads than any of his predecessors, but it is only a beginning. Thousands of kilometers more of road must be built before the Philippines can be said to have an adequate road system. There is the “miracle rice,” but it was developed not under him but under previous administrations, and with American funds. Marcos was the Man of the Year two years ago, when he won against Diosdado Macapagal, who used all the power and money at his command to crush his rival—in vain. Marcos showed it was not enough to have money and power to remain in Malacañang. One must deserve to be there. But under Marcos as president… Here is a letter from a reader to The Manila Times which expresses much of what most people feel today:
“Life is so difficult nowadays. One ganta of rice costs over P2; movie prices have gone up; one small calamansi is worth 5 centavos. Even a trip to Baguio is now more costly; toll fees have been jacked up from P2 to P4.
“The Marcos administration is to be congratulated for its success in making the people believe that the situation is not as difficult as it really is. The President’s bright boys talk of ‘miracle rice’; but has the price of rice gone down? They build a Cultural Center; but, does this alleviate the plight of the poor? They plan grandiose state visits; but, will these visits make life a little more bearable? What the people need are bread and butter, not circuses fit for kings!”
If the candidates of Marcos won in the last elections, it was because the opposition had nothing better in the way of principles or candidates to offer the electorate. The voters were sick and tired of the old political vicious circle. If the candidates of the two major parties were interchangeable, why bother to vote or, if one must vote, why vote for the opposition—which was really no opposition at all, being no different from the party in power?
This is not to say that Marcos has not done some good as president, but so much more must be done that to name him Man of the Year is to lull him into complacency; it is not to drive him to do better. And he must do better if his administration is not to be, in the end, just another administration, no worse, no better, and not good enough.
Benigno Aquino, it has been suggested, should be the Man of the Year, for did he not win in spite of all the Marcos administration did to stop him? Aquino certainly came out well—second—in the senatorial election, but a lot of the credit must go to Malacañang, which did all it could to make a political martyr of Aquino. The stupidity of the Palace should not make anyone Man of the Year. Political Beneficiary of the Year, perhaps, but to be Man of the Year, one must have done something extraordinarily good for the people—or bad. One must be the cause of great social, economic, political, moral, scientific or some other kind of change. The victory of Aquino has changed nothing.
The Man of the Year is the late Senator Gaudencio Antonino.
Rejected by the Nacionalista convention because of his unrelenting campaign against the shameless and criminal allowances congressmen were giving themselves, Antonino ran as an independent candidate, died in a helicopter crash the day before Election Day—and the name “Antonino” was written on more ballots than the names of 14 living candidates of the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party. “Antonino” came out third in the senatorial race.
“I don’t have to win,” he said to the Free Press. “If I get a million and a half votes running on the issue of congressional allowances and running alone, congressmen will know how strong is the sentiment against congressional allowances. Imagine if I got more than two million votes—how would they dare vote themselves their old allowances? But if I don’t run, then the congressional allowances issue will be dead and they will vote themselves all kinds of allowances, in the Senate as well as in the House, without fear of the people’s anger. The issue will be politically dead with me.”
“You have a heart condition, I understand. You know what it will mean running alone. You will have to cover the entire country by yourself or try to. How can you stand it? Don’t you think of your family?”
“I have talked it over with my family and they agree I should run. If I have four years to live and I lose two, that will be all right by me. When I filibustered against congressional allowances in the Senate, there was a nurse with an oxygen tank standing by in case I had an attack.”
“I will not be a Nacionalista candidate nor a Liberal candidate but the candidate of the people, I will tell them. All they have to do is drop one and put me in his place if they want the fight against congressional allowances to go on. If I lose, they lose with me.”
Millions not only voted “Antonino” but also voted against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve as delegates to the constitutional convention without forfeiting their congressional office. Both the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party were for the proposed constitutional amendments; their sample ballots had “Yes” under each of the amendments, but millions disregarded the instruction. More congressmen would mean more congressional allowances, and with congressmen dominating the constitutional convention, it would be no different from Congress. Why hold a constitutional convention at all?
How much Antonino’s campaign against congressional allowances contributed to the overwhelming vote against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve at the same time as delegates to the constitutional convention, one cannot exactly tell, but it must have been a great deal. The nation owed Antonino much while he was alive and should remember him now that he is gone. He fought to reduce congressional allowances, ran as an independent and “won.” There will be the same number of congressmen, not more, and the constitutional convention will not be just another Congress—thanks, not a little, to him!
Gaudencio Antonino is the Man of the Year 1967.
March 12, 1966
LAST week, Teodoro M. Locsin, president and editor of the Philippines Free Press, was invited to appear before the congressional committees on foreign affairs, national defense and appropriations, and give his views on President Marcos’ proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The following account is based on a transcript of Locsin’s testimony and cross-examination by the committee members which lasted for more than three hours. Editing has been necessary for lack of space and love of English and in the interest of clarity. Some inaccuracies in Locsin’s extemporaneous (except for a few quotations) speech have been corrected (and comments inserted) in the final version.
LOCSIN: I would like to make it clear at the very start that I appear here not in representation of the Free Press but as just another citizen. A Filipino. I was not too eager about coming here because my views had already been published and I did not want to be repetitious, but one of you was quite insistent and so I must be repetitious. I must repeat what I said in a series of articles and editorials last year on exactly the same thing: the Macapagal proposal to send an engineering battalion with combat security to the Vietnam war. The opposition presidential candidate, Ferdinand Marcos, led the opposition to the Macapagal proposal. The Free Press opposed it then as it opposes it now, unlike Marcos who, having won and being now president, has made a complete turnabout.
Only fools, we are told, do not change their minds. What kind of an argument is that? Does it mean that if you change your mind, you are not a fool? Is changing one’s mind the test of wisdom? That would make the man who changes his mind every day the wisest man in the world. Only a fool does not change his mind no matter how circumstances change, that may be argued, but to change your mind when there has been no change of circumstances calls for an explanation. You must give reasons for changing your mind, and where the reasons you give are diametrically opposite to the reasons previously given by you, your motives for changing your mind are certainly subject to question. Revising history is not an acceptable reason for a change of mind but monetary consideration is an understandable reason. Black can be called white if the price is right. Only fools are fooled by the glib argument that only fools never change their minds.
I wish to call your attention to a Manila Daily Bulletin headline: “Marcos certifies Vietnam aid bill in return for $$, etc.,” by Jesus Bigornia. “President Marcos gave Congress leaders yesterday a peek into American package commitments to….” And so on.
PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin…
LOCSIN: Just a minute…
PELAEZ: I should like to say for Mr. Bigornia before he gets into trouble that he said he did not write the heading of that article.
LOCSIN: Correct. Very good. Perhaps, then, Mr. Menzi wrote it. (Laughter from the committees and the audience.) Now, let me call your attention to the interesting relationship between Mr. Menzi, the publisher of the Bulletin, and Mr. Marcos. Mr. Marcos is his commander-in-chief. Mr. Menzi is Mr. Marcos’ military aide, the alter ego, in a sense, of Mr. Marcos. I have a dirty mind and I believe that this was a deliberate leak to the press—which Mr. Marcos would afterward deny. Not only that, it has not been denied by the Manila Bulletin which is certainly very close to, if it is not the organ of, Malacañang.
And let me recall: Congressman Pendatun was with me early last month when the Free Press was given an award by the Confederation of Filipino Veterans for militant journalism and its contribution to Philippine progress. I was at the same table with Speaker Villareal and Congressman Pendatun. Mr. Villareal made a very impassioned speech about going to Vietnam to save democracy, then he sat down beside me and said to me, pointing in the direction of an American admiral and the American minister, Richard Service, who were at the same table with us: “Let them pay for it, Teddy.” Now, what the devil was he trying to tell me?
I came here to speak to you as a Filipino who refuses, who would oppose the sake of his country’s honor. If we must take up prostitution, however, let us take it up cold-bloodedly and collect first and afterwards bow our heads in shame. If we are going to war for a stabilization fund, let us not be suckers. Let us consider the economic cost. The P35 million we appropriate for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would be the annual interest we would pay for the stabilization fund. (Not to mention, of course, the Filipino lives that would be lost.)
I came here in the belief that Congress would pass the Marcos bill. I came in resignation, in despair. I think that you will pass the bill although not as quickly as the previous Congress did—in a couple of days or almost as short a time as it takes to sign a voucher for unconstitutional allowances.
PELAEZ: Mr. Locsin, we have invited you because we want to deal with this question in an dispassionate a manner as possible. We have invited you knowing your stand on this. Now you tell us that the members of Congress will pass the bill. I don’t think there is anybody who can presume what each congressman will do. You may have reasons to believe that they will pass the bill but to assert that they will, I think that is not quite fair to all of us.
LOCSIN: I take it back. I hope you won’t.
PELAEZ: That’s better.
LOCSIN: I apologize.
PELAEZ: Each of us will try to decide on this, as far as I know, according to the best lights God has given us, regardless of the prostitution of other people. I myself am resolved to view this solely from the standpoint of national interest, of what’s good for our people. Whatever may be the feelings of anyone else will not and should not influence us.
LOCSIN: Thank you for reprimanding me. I have a terrible weakness—one of losing control over my feelings. I shall speak more dispassionately, gentlemen. If I have hurt anybody’s feelings, I am sorry. I let my feelings run away with me. Which is a very bad thing to do in a fight.
Now, let me begin. Why are Filipino troops being sent to the Vietnam war? Is it in fulfillment of a treaty obligation? You have heard Dr. Salvador Araneta on the subject. SEATO members that are closer to the battle have not sent troops. Nor is an act of war dictated by any defense commitment with the United States. The United States has not been attacked but is the one attacking. What can the Philippines do in Vietnam? Sending 2,000 Filipino troops there would not make any difference in the outcome of the war. The cost would be P35 million this year which could best be spent here for the building of roads and bridges which are so badly needed to bring agricultural produce to market and make the economy work. The United States has spent billions of dollars in Vietnam to little effect, I wrote last year. The communist-led Viet Cong control more and more of the country despite American money and military intervention. Nor has the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam had any noticeable effect on the South Vietnamese rebel will to fight. What can the Philippines really do in Vietnam? Why should Filipino troops be sent there? The South Vietnamese government has received all the necessary money from the United States to build all the roads and bridges and schoolhouses and hospitals required. The Philippine contribution would be insignificant.
There are two possible reasons for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. One is monetary, the other, fear. I have spoken on the possible monetary consideration. Let me speak now on the matter of fear. If Vietnam falls, the United States, it is feared, may withdraw from the Philippines, leaving it defenseless against the Chinese Communists. Will the United States withdraw from Asia if Vietnam falls, leaving the Philippines—and Formosa, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, India and the rest of Asia—to face the Chinese Communists? Will the United States then withdraw into fortress, solitary fortress, America? (The New Republic observes: “However the war in Vietnam ends, this country plainly isn’t getting ready to pull out of the Far East, but intends spending billions more dollars on air bases and ports, in Vietnam itself, in Thailand, on Formosa and Okinawa, and in the Philippines.”) The fall of Vietnam would make the American position in the Philippines and the rest of Asia more essential than ever to American security. The United States is not in Asia for our health, you know.
The United States would rather, for its security, face a communist challenge in Vietnam, and, if Vietnam fell, in the Philippines and Formosa and Japan rather than in Hawaii, and if the Philippines fell, in Hawaii rather than in California. The farther away from the enemy, the better. But the reality of American power in Asia, the American pundit, Walter Lippmann, has noted, is not in any land force it may commit to the area but in its naval and air power. The fall of South Vietnam will not destroy U.S. naval and air domination in the Pacific. As for land power, Douglas MacArthur is quoted as saying, if I remember correctly, “It would be sheer folly for the United States to ever again commit U.S. forces in a land war on the Asian continent.” And here is former Congressman Miguel Cuenco on the proposal by then President Macapagal to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war: “I have serious doubts about the efficacy of foreign military intervention in Vietnam to contain communism and keep that unfortunate country in democratic hands. Experience has shown that civil wars or internal rebellions—and I consider the Vietnam war a civil war—are better left to the nations concerned for their own solution. The experience of Burma is in point. Burma has an internal communist problem and she has a common northern boundary with China of about 900 miles long. For the last 17 years she has fought successfully communism without any foreign aid or intervention and she succeeded in concluding treaties with Chin for the determination of boundary. It is significant that in the treaty Burma concluded with Great Britain in the year 1948, Burma refused to join the British Commonwealth and it is clearly stipulated that Burma renounces any protection from Great Britain.
The Communist challenge or threat to the Philippines does not lie in any Chinese invasion of the Philippines. (Here is Newsweek: “And up to now, China’s leaders have shown that they are essentially cautious men. In Korea, Peking assiduously avoided getting drawn into the war until Gen. Douglas MacArthur led U.S. forces across the 38th parallel in a drive toward the Chinese border. In Tibet, Peking reasserted control over territory which has traditionally been subject to China. And in the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute, Peking was staking out what it considered to be its legitimate border. Says a British Foreign Office expert: They engaged in what one can best describe as an old-type imperial punitive expedition aimed at putting the Indians in their place. The fact is that the Chinese—Korea apart—have shown a marked reluctance to fight on other people’s territories.” What the Chinese promote are “wars of national liberation,” that is, internal conflicts, insurgency, revolution.) The Communists challenge or threat lies in social instability and economic depression and the failure of our democracy to work. Filipino Communists may hope to overthrow the “democratic” regime by appealing to the people with the promise of and to the landless and jobs for the jobless and the rest of the Communist line. Philippine security lies in a social order based on social justice, in economic progress, in less disparity between the rich who are so few and the poor who are so many, in increased productivity which calls for mobilization of all our resources. We have no financial surplus contrary to what Mr. Marcos and his secretary of finance would have us believe. We need all the money we can scrape up to build factories, implement land reform, irrigate and fertilize our fields, build roads and bridges—and make our democracy really work.
What can the Philippines do to save South Vietnam from communism that the United States has not already done? What is the United States really trying to do in South Vietnam? The United States is trying to get out of the Vietnam war without losing face. That is the long and short of it. It did not know what it was getting into when it went to Vietnam to fill the power vacuum created by the defeat of French colonialism according to the prestigious New Yorker magazine. As the situation deteriorated the United States found itself deeper and deeper in the mess with no means appropriate to its great power status to get out of it. Improvisation followed improvisation but the situation continued to deteriorate. Meanwhile, American opinion began to question more and more the wisdom of American intervention in Vietnam. There were demonstrations and heart-searchings by more and more Americans, “agonizing reappraisal” of what the United States was doing in that wretched place where we would join her.
“What is the root of all this swelling anti-Americanism among the Asians?” asks Walter Lippmann. “It is that they regard our war in Vietnam as a war by a rich, powerful, white, Western nation, against a weak and poor Asian nation, a war by white men against non-white men in Asia. We can talk until the cows come home about how we are fighting for the freedom of the South Vietnamese. But to the Asian peoples it is obviously and primarily an American war against an Asian people.”
And that is why the Americans want our flag there to join the flags of white Australia and white New Zealand and an American protectorate, South Korea. It is a shameful coincidence that even as the American congress appropriates more dollars for South Korea, the South Korean government is sending more thousands of its troops to fight( and die if necessary) for those dollars.
What are the possibilities of the Vietnam war? He United States has bombed North Vietnam. Suppose it escalates the war and bombs Hanoi. If the Americans should bomb the capital, North Vietnam would have no alternative but to turn its armed forces completely loose to join the South Vietnamese rebels. It would have nothing to lose then. That is why America hesitates over bombing China. Suppose the Americans were to bomb Red China. There are very few targets of nuclear opportunity in China. It is an underdeveloped country. There are few industrialized centers. After having used its atomic force on Red China short of exterminating 700 million people and standing indicted before all the civilized world for genocide, what could America do other than sending and landing an expeditionary force? Now, if 200,000 American soldiers (plus half a million South Vietnamese government troops) are having trouble with a hundred or two hundred thousand Viet Cong rebels in pajamas, what would happen to the American expeditionary force when it actually engaged Red China’s 3 million regular troops and 10 million “people’s militia”? The Americans will wander all over China like lost souls—and must forget all about the war against poverty at home. And the American action will introduce a new element into the relationship between Soviet Russia “confronting” each other now, but if the United States should bomb China, the Russians would say to themselves, and act accordingly, “Ah, after China, we next, maybe.”
Think further what will happen in a few years when China acquires not only the atomic bomb but the H-bomb. In a few years the Chinese should be capable of delivering the nuclear missile—not necessarily to the United states but here. China won’t need an intercontinental missile; she won’t need to hit America. All China has to say to the South Vietnamese is: If America gives us the atomic works, we will give you the atomic works unless you tell the Americans to get out, unless you withdraw your invitation, leaving America with no legal justification for intervening in Vietnam. (When that time comes, we must win the war against communism not by any brandishing of the American nuclear weapon to intimidate Communist China into good behavior. We must win then, as we must win now, each of us, our people to the side of democracy, and keep them there. A Chinese invasion would be out, then as now, but “wars of liberation,” that is, insurgency, internal revolt, would be the problem. And this problem is solved at home and not abroad.)
PELAEZ: Under your theory, we should tell America to get out of her bases in the Philippines—if we were to follow the consequences of your statement. In other words, we must change our foreign policy completely.
LOCSIN: We must reexamine our foreign policy then (and at all time) and we must not give provocation. What would be in the interest of Red China in attacking the Philippines, anyway, if the Philippines were not attacking or being used to attack Red China?
PELAEZ: And in the face of the fight between the two giants, you would perhaps think it better that we should be a neutralist country and not have American bases here.
LOCSIN: If the time ever comes when Red China with nuclear missiles and the United States with nuclear missiles should find themselves on a collision course from which they could not get away, let us keep out of the collision. (Let us not die with the Americans and the Chinese as a people. That is what nuclear war between the two would mean—if it ever took place. As a matter of fact, such a war will not take place, according to American military and political authorities, if the two governments do not go nuts, if they do not believe their propaganda against each other. As a matter of fact, even a conventional land invasion of China by the United States is held so unlikely “that the Pentagon has not even bothered to draw up plans for such a contingency,” according to Newsweek. There will be no nuclear war between the United States and Communist China unless they go crazy, and if they go crazy, God help us, that’s all.) In a nuclear war between the United States and Communist China, there will be few Asians left alive, communist or anti-communist.
PELAEZ: Precisely, the argument now of those who take the administration stand is that Vietnam is the testing ground whether Chinese expansionism can be stopped and that therefore the Philippines should make its modest contribution to stopping it, while you say that the Philippines can do nothing. The reason is advanced that if we can help in any way strengthen the morale of the South Vietnamese, that would help, hence, this proposal to us by the defense department that this engineering battalion will have for its specific mission the strengthening of the morale of the South Vietnamese by helping the South Vietnamese government construct public works. And this could mean something plus, of course, the show of flags that has been mentioned to us by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ramos. And one of the previous witnesses said that Americans would also need some morale boosting to be able to continue fighting communist aggression to Vietnam.
LOCSIN: May I say that first of all, the wisdom of the American involvement in Vietnam and its extent and the nature of the American strategy there is being reexamined by Americans themselves. We must not take it for granted, because we are Filipinos, we must not accept automatically the American government line as correct. Americans themselves are raising questions. We can hardly do otherwise unless we would be less than Americans. (We must not act like “little brown Americans.” In the first place, we are not Americans.) We must think for ourselves.
PELAEZ: That is why we are here.
LOCSIN: That, I hope, is why we are here. I am glad. Meanwhile, with respect to the alleged morale-boosting effect of our troops in Vietnam, may I quote from a letter of Senator Tañada to President Marcos:
“The proponents of the Vietnam adventure claim that our engineers can be of great help to South Vietnam. The engineers of the United States Army, with all their know-how and their modern equipment, are there. After they have done their jobs what can one little Filipino engineering battalion do that would make so much difference in that unhappy land?
“They say it would raise the morale of the South Vietnamese if they saw their Filipino brothers fighting side by side with them. If South Vietnamese morale has not been sufficiently boosted by the sight of those magnificent American giants with their marvelous modern weapons and their inexhaustible supply of dollars and K-rations, then nothing and no one can lift their morale. Why then this American insistence on getting us involved in the war? The only answer is that our presence there is needed to dissipate the growing impression that this is an American war against Asians. Surely we can find better use for Filipino lives than to waste them in a vain attempt to repair the American image in the eyes of thinking men.” (Tañada went on: “We are now spending one million pesos a year for our civil action group in Vietnam. We must appropriate 34 million pesos a year if we send 2,000 Filipino soldiers, and the war may last indefinitely. Both the Viet Cong and the Americans themselves seem to expect a protracted war. Senator John Stennis, chairman of the U.S. Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee, said, ‘It is sad but true that many of the six-year-old youngsters who started going to school this year can expect some time in their lives to patrol the swamps and mountains of Vietnam.’ Can we afford to throw away hundreds of millions of pesos? Considering the state of our finances, I believe we cannot. We do not have enough money to pay on time the salaries of our government employees, to implement our land reform program, to maintain and repair our roads and bridges, to construct irrigation canals to increase our production of rice, to repair our schools and open new classes for our rapidly expanding school population.
“It would be a crime to spend money on destruction when we have so little for our own much-needed construction. Besides, for good or ill, we shall remain in Asia, having to live with Asian neighbors with whom we may or may not agree on ideologies, forms of government or economic systems. Should we not then, if for no other reason than self-interest, exercise some caution and foresight in dealing today with our fellow Asians? I sincerely believe we should.”)
Let us think, before we enter the Vietnam war, what happened to America when it did. First, the United States sent merely civilians, then military advisers, then special troops with orders if fired upon by the Viet Cong not to fire back. Meanwhile, on South Vietnamese government fell, then another, then another, then another…. You can’t help those who won’t help themselves. The various South Vietnamese governments were given all the money they needed and the most modern weapons b the Americans, the most modern weapons short of the H-bomb, and they kept on losing more and more areas to the rebels. From a few dozen Americans to a few hundred to a few thousand to 150 thousand to 200 thousand to perhaps half a million Americans this year…. We shall begin with 2,000. (With how many Filipino troops in the Vietnam war shall we end?) Our 2,000 Filipino soldiers—they won’t even be noticed among a million American and South Vietnamese troops.
Let us fight communism here.
You must be tired of my voice by now. I get excited and I can’t help it. I am pleading for sanity and I may sound slightly insane….
LOCSIN: Let me read to you from an article by Edgar Snow on the American situation in Vietnam. Snow is the only American correspondent that Chou En-lai would talk to, who would be allowed into Red China. He was formerly associate editor of The Saturday Evening Post, a conservative magazine, and is a correspondent of Look, another conservative publication. He is the author of Red Star Over China, a classic book on the Chinese Communist revolution written, if I remember correctly, while the Communists were living in caves into which they had retreated before the pursuing forces of Chiang Kai-shek and when few people outside China gave the Communists a chance of winning. That was before the Second World War.
Not only the forces of Chiang went after the Communists, noted Snow. The Japanese went after them, too.
“The result was that between 1937 and 1945 the Chinese Communists increased their forces from 40,000 to more than one million, armed with equipment captured from puppet and invading troops. At that time the Communists were blockaded in their rear by Nationalist Chinese forces. They had no foreign allies, and no bases except the villages and their population living behind nominally enemy-conquered territory.”
Snow goes on:
“How is it that American hawks never reflected upon that experience? Do they consider the Vietnamese in a worse position? The United States is a far more formidable enemy than Japan, and Vietnam is much smaller than China. But Vietnam is not a peninsula like Korea or Malaya, it is not Greece with a Tito ready to close its rear, and it is not an island like Santo Domingo. Its western flank cannot be closed, its bases are far more advanced than were those of the Chinese Communists in the earlier war, and its rear—with the support of a China militarily more powerful than the Japan of 1937—seems limitless.
“Under the favorable political conditions just described, Vietnamese revolutionary leaders can gradually unite most of the nation in a holy war for independence. For such a struggle 30 million people are their potential base. Behind them, the productive energies of 700 million Chinese can be mobilized along an open frontier. Only nuclear bombing could effectively interrupt Chinese supplies of vital materials—or men, if developments obliged that.
“South Korea is also vulnerable to anti-American political activity, as demonstrated by recent violent reactions to the American-sponsored Seoul-Tokyo rapprochement. If China is bombed into the war it would be logical to expect repercussions in Korea. There exist pro-Communist underground organizations in the South. Heavy reinforcement of the 50,000 Americans already in Korea would be required to cope with renewed civil war. Despite the Japanese government’s resignation to US policy in Vietnam, until now, popular antiwar sentiment might make American air and naval bases untenable in Japan if conflict spread to China and Korea.
“Can an adequate ‘position of strength’ be won by limiting American operations to a modest Vietnam sanctuary held inviolable by command of the air and by ground units connecting a perimeter with immensely superior fire power? That would give the People’s Liberation Front ever wider military initiative and complete their political control over the land. North and South together, Vietnam could maintain half a million regular troops and at least as many armed partisans free to roam. In a thoroughly hostile countrywide every prudent American would have to scan every peasant as his potential assassin.
“If an urban based army needs a ten-to-one superiority to prevail in a people’s war led by guerrillas alone—as we are told by experts—what will be the ratio where partisans are supported by disciplined regular armies, operating from secure bases, over an unlimited front in inconclusive battles of endless maneuver?
“Defense of occupied enclaves must require ever-expanding penetrations, ultimately reaching across all Indochina. Laos will eventually require more than bombing attacks, and effective occupation of it would likely involve Cambodia. Thailand is now providing Americans with bases used for the bombing of Laos and Vietnam, and must expect eventual retaliation. ‘Free Thai’ partisans are beginning to emerge in the North and might in time become Bangkok’s major preoccupation.
“Political advantages bestowed by the ‘American invasion’ enable Ho Chi Minh’s disciples now to permeate most of Southeast Asia, to bring maximum numbers of people under their organizational influence and party control. A patriotic war educates great numbers of natural peasant leaders, arms them, unites them, and gives them an exalted purpose. In this sense Mao Tse-tung was probably right when he predicted that ‘the American imperialists’ would become the ammunition-carriers, the teachers, and the makers of Vietnamese revolutionaries. Not if they can possibly avoid it are the Chinese likely to intervene to relieve Americans of their unhappy role as the ‘only’ foreign invader.”
LOCSIN (continuing): American operations in Vietnam are increasingly involved in contradictions and the Americans are searching for a way to get out of that mess without losing their status as a great power.
MEDALLA: Do you mean to tell the committees that there is a plan of the United States to withdraw their help from Vietnam?
LOCSIN: It is one thing to say that the United States wants to withdraw, another to say that it has a plan of withdrawal. Let me quote John Emmett Hughes, a columnist of Newsweek and speech writer of Eisenhower when the general ran for president, and a former member of the editorial staff of Life. According to Hughes, there is the official American line on the Vietnam war and there is the private opinion in Washington which would settle for a Communist Vietnam provided it would take an independent attitude toward Red China. Well, the American could have had this 10 or more years ago—a Titoist Vietnam. And they could have spared the Vietnamese people all that suffering if they had settled then for an independent Communist Vietnam. (They did not, hence, this continuing war and the continuing agony of the Vietnamese people.) What I am trying to say is that Americans, like other people, make mistakes. Let us examine everything they propose and adopt what we believe to be correct and reject what we think is mistaken.
Let us take a look at the charge of aggression against Red China. It is said that China invaded India when Chinese troops crossed the McMahon—if that is the name—line. Well, the Chinese justification is that the boundary was drawn by a former imperialist power. Great Britain, and was never accepted by China, whether Nationalist or Communist. The non-violent Indians themselves were not above using violence when they invaded the Portuguese enclave of Goa—in the Indian national interest. The United States itself invaded Cuba, using Cuban exiles as troops. The U.S. government acted on the basis of CIA information, which turned out to be wrong. The Cuban exiles, instead of being welcomed by the Cubans with open arms as expected, were repelled. Kennedy exclaimed, “How could I have been so stupid as to have relied on experts!” or words to that effect. He wept. Do not believe all that CIA agents in Manila tell you. The CIA has been wrong before. They were wrong only recently about the situation in Santo Domingo. (Because of wrong information, the U.S. government found itself in a hell of an embarrassing position in that country.) Some say that the late Adlai Stevenson died of a broken heart—because of U.S. foreign policy which he had to defend before the United Nations. (While he said something, his government would be doing the opposite, making him look and feel like an ass.) Let us not break our hearts, too. If we must make mistakes, let them be our own.
However, if we do not want an independent Philippines, if the challenge of independence is too confusing for a people like us, if we are not good enough for independence, let us apply for American statehood. Then, when America goes to war, we go to war with it—as Americans. (As second-class Americans, of course, but as Americans, anyway.) Then we can send our millions of unemployed to California where they will share in the benefits of Medicare, the war against poverty, unemployment insurance….
PELAEZ: Like the Puerto Ricans in New York.
LOCSIN: Yeah, like the Puerto Ricans in New York. Over the dead body of American organized labor let us send our unemployed to America. Assuming that the Americans are willing to further “pollute” their bloodstream with brown Filipino blood, let us become Americans. Let us die as first-class Filipinos, which we are not, anyway, not yet—let us die as theoretically first-class Filipinos and be reborn second-class Americans. Then we could join the Negroes in their civil rights struggle and we should “overcome”—in, say, a hundred years. (Laughter from a Negro in the audience.)
If not, let us think.
PELAEZ: You said in the beginning that Thailand, a member of SEATO, was not doing anything in Vietnam. Why, you argued, should the Philippines? But it is disclosed in Snow’s article that Thailand has proofs that there are Communist guerrillas in her northeastern region and that Thailand is allowing its airfields to be used by American planes attacking Vietnam. May I add that Thailand has been fighting in Laos since 1962. It has been fighting the Pathet Lao since 1962 in coordination with the Americans. Now I would like to bring that out because of the argument why are we going to Vietnam when Thailand is doing nothing there when in truth and in fact Thailand is very much involved in the war.
(Is it surprising, then, that the Communists are trying to subvert the Thai government? Who can say that Thailand is not giving provocation? Are their bases not being used to attack the Communists?—LOCSIN.)
PELAEZ (continuing): You are right when you say that fear is one of the considerations in passing the Vietnam war bill but I would not say that it is a case of fear to be concerned about the future security of our country. The dilemma is this: You say that the situation in Vietnam is hopeless, that whatever the Americans may do there will not make any difference, the other forces will triumph. We also know of the assault on Thailand. As Snow reveals, there are already Communist guerrillas in Thailand. In other words, the frontier of the Philippines is not now just the Philippines but Thailand, a member of SEATO. If Vietnam falls, the impact will be such, as the Department of National Defense people said here, there will be a resurgence of the Huk movement here and of communism in other Southeast Asian countries. On the other hand, we are told that by sending this engineering battalion we might help in a small way in trying to build up the morale of South Vietnam to resist aggression. And while you say that we cannot do anything, I am thinking of the saying that “for want of a nail, a shoe was lost, and for want of a shoe….” No matter how little our participation may be, it might lead to a chain reaction of morale building or somehow strengthen the resistance of the South Vietnamese to aggression.
LOCSIN: Speaking of nails, there are nails that save and there are coffin nails.
PELAEZ: There are.
LOCSIN: Let the nails not be used to close our coffin.
PELAEZ: What should we do in the face of this impending, let us say, triumph of Communist ideology here and China’s domination of Southeast Asia?
LOCSIN: That is a very difficult question to answer and we must answer as carefully as possible. Let us think, every step we take. First of all, China is there. Just as the United States cannot tolerate a Cuba that is hostile to it, no matter how small Cuba is, and we believe that America, or Americans would have us believe that what the United States did to Cuba was justified—well, put yourselves in China’s place. If there were Chinese Communist troops in Mexico, what would the United States do? Now, put yourselves in China’s place….
PELAEZ: Following that line, the presence of American bases in the Philippines is a provocation to China.
LOCSIN: It is a calculated risk as far as we are concerned, good only if there is no nuclear war, fatal if nuclear war comes.
PELAEZ: Would you then recommend that our policy be reexamined toward removing American bases here?
LOCSIN: I would recommend that we reexamine the conduct of those bases since everything done involving the bases affects us. As potential casualties we should be allowed to put in our two-cents’ worth. We must not let those bases be operated by the Americans unilaterally, as they please, without consulting us, because we might get hit.
PELAEZ: You would go so far as to advocate the removal of those bases?
LOCSIN: Not this year, not next year, but who knows—in 10 years. Only fools do not change their minds, they say.
PELAEZ: You are quoting that now.
LOCSIN: That is right, because conditions may change in 10 years.
PELAEZ: The terms of the lease have been shortened to 25 years.
AGBAYANI: I would like to raise one point….
PELAEZ: You said the United States is fighting on the mainland of Asia because it is defending itself, that the farther away the fight is, the better for it. The proponents of the troops-to-Vietnam bill are using precisely the same argument, that the farther away the fight is, the better. Why wait until the fight is on our shore?
LOCSIN: American thinks it can effectively stop the Viet Cong there. I happen to think the opposite. Certainly, our participation will not help significantly stop the Viet Cong. Of course, if America is fighting to lose, that’s another matter. It would be crazy, however.
PELAEZ: The United States is fighting to win.
LOCSIN: It believes it is fighting to win. Therefore, it has reason for fighting there—from the military point of view. But we know that our 2,000 troops would be lost among half a million South Vietnamese troops and, eventually, half a million American troops, so what would we be doing there? The expedition would cost P35 million this year and we need every centavo we have to make our democracy work here. Let us make no enemies where we can make no friends, to quote Recto. There is no doubt that Red China is there and that we, unfortunately, are here, in the position of Cuba with respect to the United States. Let us buttress our independence here. The Cubans are not sending an expeditionary force to Florida to fight an anti-American war there; they are fighting their anti-American war, their war of independence, in Cuba itself. Let us fight our anti-Communist war here. But you know very well why we are sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. Is it not for a stabilization fund?
PELAEZ: I think I speak for the members of these committees when I tell you that we don’t have any definite information as to that. Do you have any? Because we don’t.
LOCSIN: First of all, what is the secret reason that the President will not tell the people for sending us to war?
PELAEZ: The way the problem has been presented to us by the defense department, we are not going to be involved in any combat operations. The Philippine contingent will not be employed in combat or combat support activities. It will undertake engineering construction, rehabilitation and development activities, render assistance to government and civic enterprises engaged in public health, community work and other related socio-economic activities, undertake interior security and defense of installations, facilities and construction sites. The defense people have agreed to a proposal by committee members that if we should report out this bill, it would carry an express provision that these engineers and their security support would not be involved in combat operations. The question is whether such a Philippine contingent would constitute a provocation or an act of war and be against our national interest or whether it would enhance our national interest as the defense people and the administration tell us.
LOCSIN: Let us, therefore, ask ourselves the question and not beg it. Why are we sending those troops there and what good would they do and what harm? Why? What for?
PELAEZ: We have been trying to find the answer to that question and yesterday there was a hint of why. We were told that seven engineer battalions would be constituted here and properly equipped. Congress was asked to appropriate money. It was assumed that the United States would give the equipment and that all those seven engineer battalions, plus the three engineer battalions in existence, or a total of 10, would be sent to the rural areas to do rural development work.
LOCSIN: In the Philippines?
PELAEZ: In the Philippines.
LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war for American economic aid here.
PELAEZ: I don’t know. I say it may be a hint.
LOCSIN: In other words, we are going to war for American money. All right, let us not fool the people. We are so poor that—what do they say? Beggars can’t be choosers. We are poor, so w send our soldiers to war for American economic aid. If that is it, that may be a practical proposition.
PELAEZ: That is why we are holding these hearings. We want the people to know that we are trying to reveal to them as much information as possible consistent with reasons of security.
LOCSIN: What will happen to us once our troops are there? The American congress appropriates a hundred million dollars or more for a Philippine stabilization fund—and everybody will know why we went to war: We were bought! And if the American congress does not appropriate any money, then we will be suckers! (Laughter.)
PELAEZ: If you will recall, in 1961, under the Nacionalista administration, the United States under Kennedy decided to withdraw military support from Laos and agree to the coalition government in which the Pathet Lao would be represented. Then President Garcia and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Serrano protested and said that there was evidence, expert testimony, that Laos could be held, and that if the United States allowed a coalition government to take the place of American support, infiltration and subversion in Vietnam would increase because Laos would be mostly under the control of the Pathet Lao. And the administration under Macapagal under which I was foreign secretary took the same line and we warned the United States that the setting up of this neutralist coalition government in Laos would make our situation in Vietnam more difficult. And it seems that we have been borne out by the facts. And so we are being told by the Americans: “You told us before to commit ourselves more firmly in Laos while we were being criticized that we were not committed enough in Vietnam, now that we are committed to stay in Vietnam and we ask a little help from you, you say, ‘Well, you do the fighting and you do all the job and we will not help you in any way.’”
LOCSIN: I never criticized America for not committing itself more in Vietnam. In fact, some years ago, I had a conversation with an American and he asked me what I thought the United States should do in Vietnam. I replied: “Go home. More precisely, go home or tell Diem (or whoever was in power then) to win over the people by immediate social reforms or you Americans would walk out. You would have a perfectly good reason for walking out. You would not lose any face.” If the war was to be converted into a popular war against the Communist, give the people something to fight for instead of putting all oppositionists as Diem did in concentration camps. Well, that was not done. And America, instead of walking out of the war, got in deeper and deeper in support of more and more unpopular regimes. Now they are sorry for acquiescing in the assassination of Diem. For the present setup is worse, we are told, than the one eliminated.
PELAEZ: Precisely, we are told that since the Honolulu Declaration this other aspect of the fight against communism has been emphasized, that is, to win the hearts of the people. And we are being asked, according to the proponent of the Vietnam measure to participate in this.
LOCSIN: In winning the hearts of the people?
PELAEZ: In winning the hearts of the people by helping the Vietnamese government undertake these tasks which would strengthen their morale and give them reason to trust the government, to have some concern for the present government, plus the promise of future democratization. Too late, perhaps, but at least we are being told now that there are two phases to this war. The Americans will take care of the military aspect and we are being asked to help the government of South Vietnam win the hearts of the people.
LOCSIN: It is certainly late in the game trying after all these years to win the hearts of the people. And this promise of the military government that it would be more democratic—it is like a cigarette addict that swears off smoking, I would not rely on it. The first thing the military government should do to show some sign that it means what it says is to institute land reform on a massive scale. That is what John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby preached all over South America. Be with the democratic revolutionary forces. Suppose we build 10 hospitals in Vietnam—will that influence the outcome of the war in any way? But institute land reform, implement it as we are not implementing our land reform. (Instead, we are subsidizing rice production under tenancy.) Implement land reform in Vietnam and the government will begin to win the hearts of the people with no help from Filipino troops. They won’t need us. They only need reform and only they can reform themselves. Nobody can reform you except yourself—short of beating you on the head or shooting you. Then there would be no need of reform.
Let the South Vietnamese military government institute democratic reform to win the hearts of the people and we shall know they are really serious about winning the war and we can begin to feel there is hope there. But don’t let us be sucked in. If we send troops this year, we cannot withdraw them next year, they will be there until the war is over. We will look like a bunch of cowards if we quit and they will say that the Filipinos want money from the Americans and the Americans are not coming across, that is why the mercenary Filipinos are leaving.
If we go to the Vietnam war, we shall be stuck in that war; if the war lasts for 10 years, we shall be stuck in the war for 10 years. We should make up our minds if we send troops to that war that they are going to be in the war for 10 years if not more and we must be prepared to pay the cost of a 10-year war—or let us send no troops at all. We have no draft here because there are enough jobless enlisting voluntarily in the armed forces, but what if the war goes on and on? I hope my sons and yours will not be drafted for the Philippine war in Vietnam 10 years from now. In America they are saying that six-year-old American boys will wind up in the jungles of Vietnam if there is no negotiated peace. You want our country to go to the war in Vietnam? Then, may God help you and me. Thank you, gentlemen.
PELAEZ: You have been testifying for over an hour. We do not want to impose upon you but would you care to continue this dialogue this afternoon?
LOCSIN: If you wish. But I am utterly exhausted and my blood pressure has gone up lately and I may well die before the Vietnam war is over.
PELAEZ: Could you possibly come over at 3 in the afternoon? Would it be too much of an imposition?
LOCSIN: Your wish, gentlemen, is my command.
PELAEZ: It is not a command at all.
LOCSIN: I shall be here.
PELAEZ: Gentlemen, the session is resumed. Before the questions, would Mr. Locsin care to make a further statement?
LOCSIN: Yes…. Once we have committed troops to the Vietnam war and they are fired at and fire back, once we are not only in but also at war, if I were to speak out and criticize the government’s position, I could very well be accused of treason. I could be accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Once we are at war, civil liberties may well be suspended. We should all shut up, lest we be accused of demoralizing our forces.
When we go to the Vietnam war, let me repeat, we will be committing the Philippines to stay in the war until it ends. We cannot recall our forces until the war is over. And we shall commit more and more troops as the war goes on. The Americans began with a few civilian advisers, then sent special forces with orders not to fire back when fired upon, and now there are 200,000 American troops in the war and their number may be increased to half a million. How many troops will we wind up sending to the Vietnam war once we are in it?
And now, I shall be glad to answer your questions—while I may still speak freely without being accused of treason.
PELAEZ: Thank you, Mr. Locsin. I want to say that if anyone else of treason or try to curtail the liberty of any citizen on the technical ground that we are at war, I will be the first to offer my services to defend you—as I had in the past. But I don’t think we will arrive at that extreme. But if we do, you can be sure that all the members of these committees will be at your side.
LOCSIN: And yet, Mr. Congressman, it will be recalled that President Marcos when only a candidate for president accused then President Macapagal of trying to create a situation by sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war to declare a state of emergency here and curtail all civil liberties. (The sending of Filipino troops to the Vietnam war would give Macapagal an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime, Marcos argued then. Won’t the sending of Filipino troops now give Marcos an excuse to stop all criticism of his regime?)
But I should not be the one here testifying against sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war. The best witness should be Marcos himself. Now, you will say that he was a candidate when he declared himself against the proposition and everybody knows how candidates are, that’s politics, but once elected president, a man must consider all the angles in meeting the awesome responsibilities of the office. All right, let us just consider the words of Candidate Marcos by themselves, whether they are true or not, regardless of who said them.
“History shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institution.”
If this was true in 195, is it no longer true in 1966?
“The sending of combat troops will commit our country to war without regard for the provision of our Constitution for a declaration of war, and in the face of the express mandate in which we renounce war as an instrument of national policy.”
Was this true in 1965 but is no longer true in 1966?
“The worst part of it is that our troops can hardly do anything to influence the tide of war.”
True in 1965 but no longer true in 1966?
“What South Vietnam needs is the will to fight, which cannot be exported.”
Was this true in 1965 but no longer true in 1966? How explain the desertion of one hundred thousand soldiers from the South Vietnamese army?
“It (Philippine-American friendship) will be served today and in the future by Filipino leaders who act with becoming dignity and maturity as well as true good will toward America, rather than those who miss no chance to yelp their loyalty and manifest a canine devotion which only results in embarrassing American no less than the Philippines before the whole world.”
What was “canine devotion” or the act of a dog in 1965 is now the act of free men in 1966?
Let us forget that Candidate Marcos said these words. Let us just consider the words by themselves. Are they not still true? Are we not stuck with them as Filipinos—if we would act as men and not as dogs?
Now, your questions, please.
PELAEZ: The gentleman from Pangasinan, Congressman Reyes.
REYES: Mr. Locsin, you read to us excerpts from a speech of then Candidate Marcos. I am not defending him, I am speaking objectively, but is it not possible that Candidate Marcos did not have all the facts then at his command while now, as president, he has, hence, his change of position, an understandable one?
LOCSIN: It is possible he has now new facts at his command, in which case we, the people, are entitled to be told those new facts, on the basis of which he would send the Philippines to war. As a matter of fact, his statements referred not to immediate facts but to history, which has not changed. At any rate, if there are new facts which would justify his change of position, let us have them.
REYES: But can we not say that history is capable of various interpretations? May one not change one’s interpretation?
LOCSIN: In which case, he should cite facts and figures to support his new interpretation of history.
Just in case you think that I am opposing the bill to send Filipino troops to the Vietnam war because I do not like President Marcos, I would like to make it a matter of record that last year then President Macapagal invited the Free Press staff members to dinner in Malacañang and kept them there until midnight in the vain attempt to convince me to change my position on the proposition. Among those who argued in favor of it were then Defense Secretary Peralta, Senator Rodrigo, an intelligence officer, a Colonel Hernandez, if I recall correctly, and, of course, the President himself. Letters sent from Washington by Ambassador Ledesma were read to make me change our minds. Finally, I said, “All right, Mr. President, have a brief prepared for sending Filipino troops to the Vietnam war and the Free Press will publish it in full—and I will answer it. Is that a fair deal?” “Yes,” Mr. Macapagal said. And the chief of staff, General Santos, was commissioned to do the brief and we published it and I answered it. So, you see, there is nothing personal in my opposition to the bill. My position has not changed. Only presidents have changed. (Laughter.)
PELAEZ: That may be the most important fact that caused the change of heart of the President.
LOCSIN: What’s that?
PELAEZ: The fact that he is president now and he believes there will be no deterioration of the local situation because under his leadership he can hold this country together.
LOCSIN: I hope he is right.
REYES: Mr. Locsin, I was not present this morning but I take it that you are against sending troops to Vietnam.
LOCSIN: That is right.
REYES: Do you agree with me that the war in Vietnam is an ideological one?
LOCSIN: It is “a war of national liberation” by communist-led rebels. If you call it an ideological war, all right. It is a civil war. The fact that there are intervening foreign troops does not make it less of civil war. (Are the North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam foreign troops? Are they not Vietnamese, too? But the American troops, Australian troops, New Zealand troops, South Korean troops—these are certainly foreign troops.) There were American, Russian, Italian and German troops in the Spanish civil war but that did not make it not a civil war. When the two principal belligerents are one people, the war is a civil war.
REYES: That is true. But, perhaps, the cause for which the Spanish civil war was fought was not as pronounced as it is today?
LOCSIN: What are we supposed to fight for in Vietnam? Democracy?
REYES: Among other things.
LOCSIN: Yet, according to former U.S. President Eisenhower, America could not affords self-determination, that is, democracy, in Vietnam, under the Geneva Agreements, because the Viet Cong would win. Why don’t you read Senator Salonga on the Vietnam war dilemma?
REYES: That is right, we are agreed on that. We are agreed that there is a civil war there, but over and above the civil war, don’t you agree with me that the fight there is one between two ideological forces—communism and democracy?
LOCSIN: Granting that, what then?
REYES: During the Crusades, almost every nation contributed to the cause it believed in. Don’t you think that now a nation should contribute its bit to the cause it believes in?
LOCSIN: In other words, should we send troops to Vietnam? I say we can’t afford to, and let us have democracy at home.
REYES: When we fought the Huks, was that not an ideological war?
LOCSIN: All right.
REYES: In the ideological war here against the Huks, the government spent billions of pesos. Should we not help in the war against the Communists over there? It is merely an extension of the war we fought here.
REYES: Why do you say that?
LOCSIN: Because if we are going to fight the Communists wherever they take to arms, we will be fighting them all over the world.
REYES: Did not foreign Communists give aid and arms to the Huks?
LOCSIN: The Huks got their arms by capturing them from the government troops, not from foreign sources. During the war, the Huks got American arms, of course, that were not taken by the Japanese.
REYES: I think the rural areas would know more about that.
LOCSIN: No Chinese arms have been discovered, nor Russian arms.
REYES: They have been discovered, according to Camp Crame, that is, the army authorities.
LOCSIN: I have not heard of it.
REYES: There were newspaper reports to the effect that landings were made during the fight against the Huks. Submarine landings were made to deliver foreign aid to the Huks—don’t you agree with me?
LOCSIN: All I can say is, “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” (Laughter.)
REYES: I know, but in some papers….
LOCSIN: …including the Free Press. (More laughter.)
REYES: If we fought against communism here, don’t you think we should fight against communism abroad rather than here where our families would suffer?
LOCSIN: Unfortunately, the war in Vietnam is not a war between democracy and communism but between feudalism and communism. The South Vietnamese authorities have never heard of democracy. They would shoot you if you put democracy in practice there. They had one election under Diem and one opposition leader got elected and they put him in prison.
REYES: Don’t you think we should help in informing them about democratic government because they know so little about it, then?
LOCSIN: Let us send them books on democracy (Laughter.)
REYES: Among other things. I may agree with you there.
LOCSIN: But you cannot help those who won’t help themselves. They have kept their country at war for how many years now because of their stupid refusal to reform, to give the people the beginning of democracy. And now, I think, it is too late. I may be wrong.
REYES: I may be wrong, too. That is why we are here to gather information the best way we can.
PENDATUN: I told Mr. Locsin this morning that I did not intend to ask him any question because it was very difficult for me to separate Citizen Locsin from Editor Locsin—to me he is Mr. Free Press Locsin—and I thought that newspapermen always have the last say. I did not want to place myself in a position where I would not be able to have the last say.
LOCSIN: If you like, we can keep your questions anonymous. I can just refer to you as “A Congressman.”
PENDATUN: But I don’t want him to have the impression that I do not respect the views he expressed here. Now, I would like to ask questions on the stand of Mr. Marcos during the election and his stand after he became president. When Mr. Marcos was a candidate and he opposed Mr. Macapagal’s proposal to send troops to Vietnam, Mr. Locsin agreed with Mr. Marcos.
LOCSIN: He led the opposition and I was one of the oppositionists.
PENDATUN: In other words, Mr. Marcos agreed with Mr. Locsin. (Laughter.) But after the election, Mr. Marcos found himself in the shoes of Mr. Macapagal and he found out the soundness, the urgency, the necessity to send this engineering battalion in answer to a request from a friendly country, a protocol state under SEATO. When he became president, Mr. Marcos realized that the position of Mr. Macapagal was the correct position for a president of the Philippines. Cannot Mr. Locsin appreciate the frankness of Mr. Marcos when he said on television that he would subordinate his personal prestige to the cause of national security….
LOCSIN: As I said, a man is entitled to change his mind, but he should explain why he changed his mind.
PENDTUN: And the explanation Mr. Marcos made on TV was not sufficient?
LOCSIN: I refer you to an editorial of the Free Press this week in which a citizen takes that television speech of Mr. Marcos and tears it to pieces sentence by sentence. If you still believe that the explanation of Mr. Marcos is satisfactory, if it is satisfactory to you, I hope it is also satisfactory to Mr. Marcos himself, and there is nothing more I can say.
PENDATUN: Frankly speaking, if I have to base my belief that Mr. Marcos is justified in changing his stand on that TV statement, that statement is really not sufficient to justify his stand. But unfortunately there are other important factors for changing his stand. And probably for reasons of his own he cannot reveal them now. But I would like to grant that history would prove Mr. Marcos right.
LOCSIN: I hope history will prove Mr. Marcos right because I have to live here. As for his secret reasons for sending us to war, I think the people are entitled to know what they are. Whether they are creditable reasons or not, that remains to be seen, but I think there is only one new reason and that reason is money. I hope I am wrong.
PENDATUN: I do not agree that sending an engineering battalion to Vietnam is sending the country to war. We are merely going to help a beleaguered country which is a protocol state under SEATO and it is our moral and legal obligation to do so.
LOCSIN: Do you believe there is a war going on there?
LOCSIN: Are you going there?
LOCSIN: Then are we not going to war.
LOCSIN: It is a war on an international scale, according to President Marcos.
PENDATUN: With due respect to President Marcos, I disagree with him when he says that because it is wrong.
LOCSIN: You know what modern war is. It is not just shooting at each other. Modern war is propaganda war. Modern war is building roads and blowing up roads and rebuilding the roads. Modern war is putting up hospitals for the wounded. Modern war is bombing cities and killing civilians and children. Modern war is total war and civil war is more total than most wars. That is what war is. And if we are going to war, let us not say that we are not going to war. Let us not go to war and pretend we are not going to war because we will kid nobody. If we believe we must fight (President Marcos was afterward to declare on board an American aircraft carrier: “WE WILL FIGHT” after saying that the mission of the engineering battalion with combat security he would send to the Vietnam war was non-combat), let us be candid, let Congress face the problem squarely and vote as required by the Constitution. I bet you can get the two-thirds vote required in the House anyway.
PENDATUN: Well, while we are constructing roads and buildings there and our people are attacked, it is our duty to fight.
LOCSIN: So, we are going to war, then. All right. But let us go to war with our eyes open—if we must go to war.
PENDATUN: How can you say we are going to war?
LOCSIN: Are we not sending troops to the Vietnam war?
PENDATUN: How can we be said to be going to war when we cannot declare war against anyone because we don’t know against whom to declare war?
LOCSIN: We can declare war against China, Hanoi and the National Liberation Front.
PENDATUN: China and Hanoi have found it very convenient to commit infiltration, subversion, aggression without declaring war.
LOCSIN: All right, let us declare war or let us not, but let us know what we are getting into, and what we are getting into is war. We are sending men in uniform, with guns. That is a show of force. Even if our men were merely draining swamps or building roads and schoolhouses, they would be relieving South Vietnamese who could then be sent to the front to fight. So, we would be in the war. We would be part of the war against the Viet Cong.
PENDATUN: The Communists have not declared war yet they are committing aggression against the democracies, and we would be helpless if we did nothing unless we declared war. We cannot declare war because that would be aggression.
LOCSIN: All right. Let us not declare war but let us know we are going to war. Is that all right?
TEVES: Mr. Locsin, I must admit that even if I had been in favor of this bill since last year, your argument this morning was quite telling and I am now in doubt as to the position I should take. But certain things disturb me. Among them is the fact that the United States and South Vietnam are asking our help in the form of a battalion of combat engineers. We are faced with a dilemma. If we don’t send, we might be accused of not being sympathetic to their cause, to the cause of democracy, while back in the United States there is a hue and cry for the American forces to pull out of Vietnam, and our action may give Americans further incentive to pull out. And should this happen, should the U.S. forces in South Vietnam pull out and should the 7th Fleet pull out, don’t you think we will be very vulnerable to the Communists, to communist ideology and communist aggression without the U.S. 7th Fleet helping us block communist movements?
LOCSIN: It is precisely the position of such men as Walter Lippmann that the United States should make a stand where they would not be involved in a land war on the mainland of Asia—a war against which such American generals as Eisenhower and MacArthur warned. The United States should make a stand where their naval and air superiority is unquestioned—in Japan, Formosa, the Philippines, Australia. If they lose Vietnam, they will hold on to the Philippines even more, in the same way that if they lose the Philippines, they will hold on even more to Hawaii. They will not think, in either case, of retreating into solitary Fortress American—that would be militarily stupid.
TEVES: Precisely, by our refusal to help the United States in the mess it got itself into, the United States may feel that if we do not join them in their hour of need they should not join us in our hour of need.
LOCSIN: The point I am trying to make is that, as many American political writers believe, the American war in Vietnam is the wrong war, it is the wrong place to fight….
TEVES: But even granting it is the wrong war….
LOCSIN: You mean, let us show them we love them so much that even if they are making fools of themselves in Vietnam, we shall make fools of ourselves there, too? That may be a point to be considered.
TEVES: It is a fact that they are committed….
LOCSIN: And we can tell the American people that against our better judgment we will join them in the war in Vietnam, we will be there with them through thick and thin, and we hope they won’t make us wait for 20 years to collect war damage if we are ever hit again.
MITRA: May I interrupt the gentleman on that point? I think there is an American writer who said that the situation of America in the Vietnam war is like a person who went into the water to fight the sharks. Mr. Locsin, I think, raises the question whether, if America wants to make a fool of itself by jumping into the water to fight the sharks, we should jump into the water and join the Americans in fighting the sharks.
LOCSIN: Maybe, to show them that we love them more than they have ever been loved by anyone before.
TEVES: It is not a question of love, it is a question of self-preservation.
LOCSIN: There is no question of self-preservation here because America will stay in the Philippines if it suits its interests and not because of anything we do. America has been nicer to its former enemies than to the Philippines. If we had bombed America, if we had bombed Pearl Harbor, we would have gotten more economic aid than we did, and with no strings attached.
TEVES: I have made mention of that, Mr. Locsin.
LOCSIN: That is the whole point. Why is America in Japan? Because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that is why America is in Japan. (Laughing) America is maintaining bases in Japan and will defend Japan against attack by Red China—why? Because the Japanese showed that they were with the Americans in their hour of need? No! The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and killed Americans and treated their American prisoners of war like animals. And that is how the Japanese gained the respect of America. Not with “canine devotion” but with a show of realistic appreciation of what are their interests.
TEVES: You say this is a fight among giants and we are such small fry we should not get involved in it because we have nothing to do with this fight between communism and democracy in South Vietnam. Do you want us just to fold our hands and let South Vietnam fall and if communism wins it is immaterial?
LOCSIN: History will take its course in Vietnam regardless of any intervention by us. What will happen there will happen there and there is nothing 2,000 Filipino troops, among half a million South Vietnamese government troops and eventually half a million American troops, can do to influence the course of events. Let us instead set our house in order for the day of reckoning, the moment of truth. Let us make our democracy work so that if there should ever be a confrontation with the Communists, we shall know what we are confronting them for. You cannot tell the people just to be against something. Let us do positive things for democracy here, and that would require our full attention. Once we are at war in Vietnam or in that war in a really significant fashion—if we would be in the war in an insignificant fashion, that would be stupid; why be in the war at all?—it will consume more and more of our national energy. Going to war is the last resort of bankrupt nations, you know. That is why Mussolini sent Italy to war in Ethiopia, because the Italian economy was bankrupt. The Germans took up fascism and war because German democracy did not work.
TEVES: But should South Vietnam fall under communist control, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos will follow. We will be the only democracy left and it will be very hard for us to stand, we will be vulnerable to aggression and subversion and infiltration. We had a taste of these before and we might have them again.
LOCSIN: And do you think that India and Pakistan and Burma and Cambodia are not considering these things, too? And yet they are not sending any troops to the Vietnam war. You know what the British are doing? The British pound depends on American financial support. Without it, the pound would collapse. But all that Johnson is getting from Wilson after twisting Wilson’s arm is words to this effect: “You are doing great. We are with you.” But the British are not sending any troops. The Chinese Nationalists have offered to send troops but the Americans have turned down the offer. The Americans don’t want Chinese Nationalist troops in the Vietnam war. They would create a dangerous situation. It appears that what is bad for the Chinese Nationalists is good for the Filipinos.
TEVES: The reason is the Vietnamese resentment of the Chinese, I understand.
LOCSIN: That is a possible reason. But the real reason, I think, is that the Americans don’t want the Chinese Nationalists to provoke Red China. Instead, let the Filipinos do the provoking—that’s the American policy. What are we? Children? Why does not Japan send troops to the Vietnam war? Japan sends only doctors. Japan can manufacture the atomic bomb, an absolute deterrent to communist invasion because any naval fleet the Chinese Communists might assemble against Japan would evaporate in an instant. Why has Japan (which could be so secure against Chinese Communist invasion) refused to send troops to Vietnam? But we—we will be so brave, we will send soldiers! We will be more militaristic than the Japanese. We, with our resources!
And think, if we provoke the Chinese Communists sufficiently, they will have the H-bomb in a few years, we are told, and they will not have to fire it at us from the mainland, they can load it in a torpedo and shoot it into Manila Bay. How would you like that? Those of us who don’t die from the blast will die from the fall-out….
AGBAYANI: Mr. Chairman, with your permission. First of all, I would like to establish some areas of agreement with Mr. Locsin and clarify some points. Would you agree with me when I say that that the issue here is not one of neutralism and that the opponents of the bill are not neutralists?
LOCSIN: Some may be neutralists but others are not. Neutralism is not an issue in the sense that some nations are allied wit the United States, yet they do not join the United States in all its wars. The British are allied with the United States, so are the Japanese, and France has an alliance with the United States, and so has Pakistan, and none of them has sent troops to join the Americans in Vietnam. India is neutralist.
AGBAYANI: I agree with you. Precisely, Great Britain, a signatory of the SEATO pact, has sent six advisory men and one professor in English in Quay University.
LOCSIN: I think we can send two professors and outdo the British. (Laughter.)
AGBAYANI: Are we all agreed that North Vietnam is communist-oriented?
LOCSIN: Its government is communist.
AGBAYANI: And the Viet Cong are communist led?
AGBAYANI: And that is why even the opponents of the bill sending troops to the Vietnam war who are not neutralists are in favor of giving aid in one form or another to Vietnam?
LOCSIN: I suppose you might say that.
AGBAYANI: Would you agree that under the SEATO pact we have a flexible commitment and sending medical aid would be a compliance with the commitment and we are not legally obligated to send troops or an engineering battalion?
LOCSIN: I believe we are free to do what we believe is wise. With or without the SEATO pact, we can send troops, if we want to, not only to Vietnam but to Africa. But we are not bound, under the SEATO pact, to send troops to Vietnam.
AGBAYANI: Would you not say that under the SEATO pact while we are not required to send troops or an engineering battalion, we are committed to increase our assistance to South Vietnam within our capabilities and consistent with our commitment elsewhere?
LOCSIN: I am not an expert on the pact but don’t you think the whole thing begs the question? We can say we are broke and whatever aid we are sending is consistent with our bankruptcy. We can say we cannot afford to send troops with an appropriation of P35 million this year. (The Philippines can increase its medical aid to South Vietnam, a Free Press editorial afterward observed, and fulfill its alleged commitment to increase aid.) There are commitments and commitments.
AGBAYANI: I have been saying all the time that we must know exactly what “commitment” means, especially what the U.S. commitment to us means. Is it your proposition that actually the United States, in signing the SEATO pact with us as well as the Mutual Defense Treaty, has a wide discretion in the kind of action it will take to help us?
LOCSIN: Whatever the United States does will be dictated by the military situation. The United States fought in Bataan and lost and took three years to return. Had it failed to come back, it could always have said, “Well, we did our best.” Suppose American cities are bombed in a future war—the United States would not have to send aid here and it would have a perfectly good reason for not doing so.
AGBAYANI: To say that an armed attack against the territory of one will be recognized as a threat to the safety and security of the other is to say actually what? I asked Undersecretary of Justice Teehankee whether he agreed with me that should he be attacked and I should consider the attack a threat to my safety and security, I should be justified in running away. Our people should not go into anything with their eyes closed.
LOCSIN: I would like to know if America has requested us to send troops to the Vietnam war.
PELAEZ: As far as the request is concerned, the request came from South Vietnam.
LOCSIN: So, there has been no American request?
PELAEZ: As far as we know, there has been no official evidence submitted to us that this has been requested by the United States.
AGBAYANI: I want to go into the issue of constitutionality. It is argued by the proponents of the bill to send troops to Vietnam that while it is true that the Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy, sending the engineering battalion would be a defensive war measure. What do you think?
LOCSIN: I suppose they can argue like that. The question is, “Is that a wise act of defense?” If the measure is unconstitutional, we should be against it, of course….
AGBAYANI: They can always argue that our Constitution is a dynamic one and may adjust its meaning to changing circumstances or situations. So, the question is, indeed, whether the measure is a wise act of defense or not.
LOCSIN: If the act is an act of war, whether wise or not, it would require a two-thirds vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate—of all the members.
AGBAYANI: We agree that the United States is our friend, but even as a friend it cannot love the Filipinos more than it loves itself and the best friends of the Filipinos are the Filipinos themselves.
LOCSIN: I would certainly agree with you on that.
AGBAYANI: According to the proponents of this measure, being friends of ourselves we must go to the defense of our country by fighting in South Vietnam.
LOCSIN: I would say that we can help our friend America not by encouraging it in a questionable if not downright foolish venture but precisely by setting our house in order and thus provide its bases here with greater security. I had a conversation with an official of the U.S. State Department some time ago and we talked about Philippine economic development. I said that if our economy were improved, there would be no anti-American threat here. As our economic problems multiply—we are producing so many babies and not enough goods—there will be a great outcry from the have-nots. Eventually, they will blame the Americans and create insecurity for American bases. “If you help us develop the Philippine economy for the Filipinos, you will be helping yourselves,” I said, “for your bases will be secure.” The United States will not need to fight, as it must in Vietnam, in defense of its bases in the Philippines.
At any rate, we have given the United States sites for its bases, rent-free. We have given it parity, free trade—until we went broke when all the dollars were gone, spent on American goods. What more do we have to give the United States?
AGBAYANI: Our friend the United States gives us aid but, as you have said, with many strings attached. As a matter of fact, I have sponsored a resolution in the House to investigate the NWSA deal involving about P79 million loaned to the Philippines through NWSA with about P18 million to be paid to American consultants. But, of course, we must not begrudge the Americans that for they love their own people—as they should.
But to go to another point, I say that with American forces in South Vietnam and the more than half a million South Vietnamese government soldiers, there is no danger of South Vietnam’s falling into communist hands.
LOCSIN: It may well be that they will have “permanent pockets” which they can defend militarily. But these pockets will leave the Viet Cong free, as Edgar Snow has pointed out, to roam all over the countryside as they please. Incidentally, part of the price of saving non-existent South Vietnamese democracy is about a million refugees from bombed-out villages. The question may well be raised: Is the liberation of Vietnam worth the price? Suppose we have a civil war here. Then some foreign power comes in, prolonging the war, and we have 20 years of civil war in the name of saving democracy (and we do have some democracy while they have none at all in South Vietnam) and our barrios are set on fire and our children burned alive, how would we like that? But that would occur only if there were insurgency and that is why the big thing is to prevent the possibility of insurgency. Once it starts, we will be in hell. It may last 10 years. And so, let us set our house in order first of all and we shall be safe.
AGBAYANI: If the United States can cope with the military situation in South Vietnam, why send a Filipino engineering battalion there? It may be argued. Do you believe the United States would have to bow down in defeat in South Vietnam eventually?
LOCSIN: If they can cope with the situation there, then there is no need for our troops. If they cannot cope with the situation, then we should not send troops. What can our troops do?
AGBAYANI: But the United States will probably triumph in South Vietnam. According to them, all they want is to preserve South Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. They have no military ambition, they are not going to cross the 17th parallel, they will withdraw afterward.
LOCSIN: What I know is that Eisenhower said in his memoirs that they could not afford a free election in South Vietnam because the Viet Cong would win. When can they afford a free election in South Vietnam in which the Viet Cong will not win?
AGBAYANI: Why are we sending troops to Vietnam? To save democracy when actually the South Vietnam government is not democratic? However, whether South Vietnam is a democracy or not is immaterial from the point of view of our own security. If the South Vietnamese government is with us, that makes it one more bastion of democracy, that is, it serves as a buffer state.
LOCSIN: The point is, the Americans have taken over the war. What are we trying to do? We are trying to help the hopeless?
AGBAYANI: You do not agree that America will most probably win the war?
LOCSIN: I don’t think Americans themselves are prepared to say that. They are hoping for a negotiated peace. If they prolong the war and keep on sending troops, the result will be a massive slaughter-house. That is what happened in Verdun in the First World War. The Germans would send more troops to the front and the French would send more troops while the casualties mounted. You know how many were killed. Rather than send troops to the Vietnam war, we should offer our services to bring about a settlement of the conflict and tell the Americans as some of their own people are telling them that they cannot bring about a settlement if they exclude their main antagonists from the conference table. How can they negotiate with the Viet Cong without talking things over with them?
AGBAYANI: But the negotiation is supposed to be with North Vietnam.
LOCSIN: That is the whole trouble. Why should North Vietnam tell the Viet Cong to stop fighting (The North Vietnamese government can apparently take American bombing of North Vietnam and how can it hit back at the Americans except through the Viet Cong?) As for Red China, it wants the United States to remain in the war. The greater the American concentration on the Vietnam war, the greater the dissipation of American resources.
AGBAYANI: But is it not a fact that the Viet Cong derive a large part of their strength from North Vietnam?
LOCSIN: Not as much as South Vietnam derives its strength from the United States. North Vietnam has not taken over the Viet Cong war effort in South Vietnam but the United States, let us face it, is doing most of the fighting now for South Vietnam. The Americans rely so little on the South Vietnamese that they withhold intelligence from them, resulting in a big foul-up on at least one occasion. The Americans believe that if they tell the South Vietnamese army everything, it will leak to the Viet Cong. As a matter of fact, without the Americans telling the South Vietnamese army everything, vital information leaks to the Viet Cong anyway, I have read.
AGBAYANI: I agree with Mr. Locsin that America will not go to the defense of the Philippines if it is not to the American interest to do so, and it does not matter whether we send troops to Vietnam or not. By the same token, the Chinese Communists will not attack the Philippines unless it is to their interest to do so, and it will make no difference whether we send troops to Vietnam or not.
LOCSIN: I suppose that is so. Since our troops will not determine in any way the outcome of the war in Vietnam, the Chinese Communists will not attack us just because we sent troops. You have a point there.
AGBAYANI: Thank you. Now, do we not agree that the Chinese Communists have a plan to conquer the Philippines, if not through external aggression, certainly through subversion, and we must therefore be on guard against the same within our country?
LOCSIN: To quote Mr. Marcos again, “history shows that every nation that fell to communism owed its defeat not to foreign invasion but to disintegration from within through the failure of its leadership and its institutions.”
AGBAYANI: Now there is a move among the committee members to amend the bill so as to limit the activity of the engineering battalion to construction and rehabilitation work and other civic action. It can then be argued that although they are Filipino troops wearing the uniform of our armed forces, they will not be going to war and our action will not be provocative of the Communists. Besides, it makes no difference because if it is in their time-table to conquer the Philippines, they will come in anyway.
LOCSIN: There is no evidence of any time-table for the conquest of the Philippines. But there are distortions of quotations, of statements of Chinese Communist officials by the Western press. I refer you to a book, A Curtain of Ignorance, by Felix Greene.
AGBAYANI: I cannot really say whether there is such a time-table or not but we do have proof that the Communists, whether Chinese or Russian, would try to take over the Philippines by subversion, so whether there is a time-table or not….
LOCSIN: Filipino Communists desire to gain power, of course, and take over the government of the country. So do the Liberals. So did the Nacionalistas last year. Our problem is to prevent communist insurgence here.
AGBAYANI: Going back to the bill to send troops to Vietnam, it is argued that they will not do battle but just participate in construction.
LOCSIN: How can we know what will happen once they are there? I beg you to remember that the commitment will not be for 1966 only. Once we are in the war, we will remain in Vietnam until the war is over. If there are casualties, they will be replaced. We will spend P35 million this year, P50 million next year…. Where will we get the money? From the stabilization fund? From the Americans?
AGBAYANI: Do you have any knowledge of a stabilization fund offer?
LOCSIN: There was talk of it even under Macapagal. Don’t tell me we are going to send our men there at the cost of P35 million this year, at least P350 million in 10 years if the war lasts that long, without expectation of monetary reward. That may be democratic but it is certainly expensive.
AGBAYANI: You mean to say we might as well know what we are getting for the blood of our soldiers?
LOCSIN: We should know what we are getting into and what we are selling our soldiers’ lives for.
AGBAYANI: What about the amendment to insert the word “voluntary” so as to have only volunteer troops to go to Vietnam?
LOCSIN: Volunteer soldiers or non-volunteer, they will still be Philippine government troops. I don’t see why we have to send an engineering battalion with combat security when South Vietnam needs doctors so badly. Why this insistence on troops? Because the United States wants the Philippines to be in the war, to make its Vietnam war a Filipino war, too. It does not really matter what Filipinos do in Vietnam so long as the Americans can tell the world that the war is not just an American war but an Asian one in which Filipinos are involved. What can we really do there? After so many years, we have not even been able to complete the Nagtahan Bridge and the Guadalupe Bridge…. What the Americans want is our military presence in the Vietnam war, that’s all.
AGBAYANI: For psychological purposes.
LOCSIN: That’s what they will pay us for.
PELAEZ: It is now five o’clock and under our rules we cannot hold committee hearings once the session starts. So we wish to thank you, Mr. Locsin, for the very helpful statements you have made and I am sorry if we have inconvenienced you. But I wish to assure you that everyone in the committees appreciates your active participation in the hearings.
LOCSIN: And I must thank the members of the committees, in spite of my initial reluctance to speak here, for listening to me as they have. If I spoke too passionately, blame it on my temperament but do not hold it against my arguments.
PELAEZ: Thank you very much.
January 1, 1966
Man of the Year
The Man Who Always Wanted To Be First Now Occupies the Highest Post In the Land. Will He Be “First” Among Our Country’s Presidents?
By Napoleon G. Rama
TO BE on top and to stay at the top has been Ferdinand Edralin Marcos’ lifetime dream. In school, he was always at the head of his class; in the bar examinations, he was top-notcher; during the war years, he was, according to army records, the bravest among the brave, the most be-medaled soldier; in the House of Representatives, he was minority floor leader; in the Senate, he was the Senate President; in the Liberal Party, he was party president; in the Nacionalista Party, he was standard-bearer; in Ilocandia, of course, he is the supreme political leader.
Today he occupies the highest post in the nation. He is President of the Republic of the Philippines.
Since boyhood, he has been striving for the top with the soaring ambition and nerve of a pole-vault champion.
It was not merely the natural gift of a superior intellect that made him Numero Uno wherever he went. Nor was Lady Luck the primary factor. In Philippine politics, there are other politicos brighter and on the whole luckier than he.
But Ferdinand E. Marcos has other attributes more effective and rewarding than just brains—a will of steel, unflinching resolve and a passion for planning, planning, planning. It seems nothing ever happens to Ferdinand E. Marcos without his knowledge and consent. In politics at least, everything that has happened to him he knew beforehand: he had planned and prepared for it. (His biographer, Hartzell Spence, would dramatize the point by suggesting, albeit half-seriously, that Marcos had something to do with the timing of his entry into the world. “Ferdinand Edralin Marcos,” wrote Spence in the opening sentence of his worshipful book, For Every Tear A Victory, “was in such a hurry to be born that his father, who was only eighteen years old himself, had to act as midwife. In fact, young Ferdinand scarcely waited for his parents to graduate from normal school before he put in his appearance, thus bringing to light a secret marriage.”)
But to separate fable from fact, no politician has assiduously made a fetish of preparing for his political career years in advance. Marcos charted his political course from the House of Representatives to the Senate, to the presidency of the LP and, finally, to the presidency of the Republic. Every political move by Marcos has been a conscious, calculated maneuver, executed according to a meticulous, carefully-studied plan.
Regarding the presidency, he didn’t only draw up a master plan, he also had a timetable with such specifics as when he would become president. Ilocanos now recall how, years back, Marcos, without batting an eyelash, would assure them in the town plazas that he would give them a president in 1965. He did.
Few presidents can boast of a perfect score on their entire political careers. President Marcos is one of them. Never has he suffered anything that might amount to a political setback. He has never lost an election. From the start his career has been one continuous climb, at turns smooth or rough, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always upward.
Not once in his entire career as parliamentarian in both chambers of Congress, one now recalls, was Marcos ever caught unprepared in a debate or in a floor maneuver during the periodic power struggles. In a TV debate with the country’s sharpest debater, Arturo Tolentino, on Harry Stonehill’s deportation—a topic heavily loaded in favor of the opposition then—Marcos, as president of the LP, ably held his ground, turned expected disaster into a creditable defense of the LP’s precarious position—thanks to a cool intellect, eloquence, and intensive research and preparation.
When President Macapagal started to hem and haw on his promise to let him take over as party standard-bearer in the 1965 elections, the Ilocano politico had already drafted a plan to deal with DM’s turnabout. His strategy was to capture the Senate presidency and make common cause with the opposition, thus checkmating Macapagal.
With the armor of the Senate presidency, he was able to blunt Macapagal’s deadly thrusts and escape a political beheading at the height of LP power. He waited until it was safe to tangle with the President. When the tide turned against Macapagal in the last two years of the New Era, Marcos charged and took on the party in power.
He resolved to hold on to the Senate presidency at all costs until the end of the session in 1965. “In case our plan to win over Senator (Alejandro) Almendras failed,” said a Marcos lieutenant, “our boss had two other emergency plans ready for implementation, which would have kept him in the top Senate post just the same.”
Marcos had it all figured out. He knew that the NPs would be disposed to deal with him only as long as he remained head of the powerful Senate. He knew only too well that only as Senate President would he be able to crash the NP national convention and elbow aside the NP’s homegrown presidential aspirants. All through the tumultuous years of his incumbency as Senate President, Marcos turned down the most tempting offers, ignored all threats endured all sorts of political buffetings just so he could remain Senate boss until the end of the 1965 session. His ability to plan and think ahead paid off.
Three years ago we asked his favorite brother-in-law why Marcos, unlike his colleagues in Congress, shunned the social circuit, preferring to stay home curled up with a book or immersed in his papers in his library.
“He is preparing himself for the presidency,” replied Kokoy Romualdez with disarming candor. “He has a timetable and it’s already due. He also plays golf every day,” Romualdez volunteered the information. “He wants to keep fit for the rigorous presidential campaign.”
Three years ago all speculation about the president of the majority party running as standard-bearer of the minority party would have been branded wild and wishful thinking. The prospects for Marcos in the LP were quite bleak—the incumbent President then had let it be known that early that he had preempted the LP presidential nomination.
On November 9, 1965, Marcos defeated the reelectionist candidate of the party in power.
Marcos’ favorite reading fare is politics and economics. He has read and re-read all the books about the “making” of presidents in the United States. On the average he finishes two books a day. “He still does it,” said his Press Secretary Jose Aspiras, “despite his heavy schedule as President-elect.”
“Politics,” Marcos once said, “is my life.” He has been boning up on economics, “because the country’s main problems are economic in nature.”
For all the experts’ intricate analyses of what makes Marcos tick, his formula for success is nothing complicated or tricky. He simply made the Boy Scout motto his own: Be prepared. He saw and prepared, came and conquered. He planned and fought his way to the top. He is the FREE PRESS’ Man of the Year, the man who dominated the news in 1965.
In the 1965 presidential elections he demonstrated beyond any doubt that he had more political savvy than all the political pros in both parties put together. Of course, he had in his favor some pre-fabricated votes—the Ilocano Vote, the Iglesia ni Cristo vote, the protest vote. Any opposition presidential candidate who is also an Ilocano, it may be argued, would have little trouble corralling these bloc votes.
But his winning the presidential elections was certainly not the most astounding or the most difficult of his political feats. Far more awe-inspiring than this achievement was his maneuver that transported him from the top echelon of the party in power to the top of the ladder of the opposition party—from president of the LP to presidential standard bearer of the NP. It is doubtful if this feat has been duplicated in any democracy anywhere else in the world.
To win the NP presidential nomination, Marcos had to face and fight a formidable galaxy of NP political giants, joust with them in their own home grounds, under their own terms and rules of the game—and using their own men and votes.
To beat them in the NP convention, he had to woo strangers and old, embittered political foes. For two decades, Marcos had been an aggressive and ardent Liberal leader tangling in every election with the NPs and, in his own political bastion in the North, making life for the NP leaders miserable during all these years.
These were the conventionists that he had to woo and win in the last NP national convention. He won them over, and after that singular feat at the Manila Hotel Fiesta Pavilion, his followers felt certain that he would surmount whatever political obstacles still lay in his path. Even his victory in the presidential elections was an anti-climax.
A politician’s political skill can be measured not only by the enemies he has licked but also by the enemies he has won over. During his early days in the Nacionalista Party and even after the convention and during the campaign, Marcos had to deal with formidable foes in the NP hierarchy.
At the lowest ebb of his campaign a number of top NPs refused to endorse him publicly. In private, they actively opposed his candidacy. He was fighting the elections on two fronts—within the party and without. He succeeded in winning over his NP detractors toward the end. That he succeeded in doing so revealed the quality of the man. He had what it takes to win the presidency—leadership.
To the known factors that propelled him to the summit—the protest vote against the administration, the Iglesia Ni Cristo vote, the Ilocano vote, and Imelda, his wife, who, more than any one individual (except Eraño Manalo), earned more votes for Marcos in the last campaign—one more element might be added. . . Marcos’ political leadership, which welded all these factors together and set them in motion.
What kind of president will Marcos make?
His friends are quick to point out that more than anything else, the popular appeal that Marcos inspired in the last polls would ensure his success as president of the nation. The post-election picture of Marcos himself is one aglow with confidence. Didn’t he lick the party in power? Didn’t he rally the Nacionalistas around him? Hasn’t he proved his ability and determination to conquer tremendous odds, hurdle all kinds of obstacles?
But this analysis is but half of the picture. A president faces not just the problems of his party, the problems of certain sectors of the population, the problems of an election campaign, the problem of winning votes. A president carries the burden of the nation—all the national problems, including those inherited from past centuries and those to come in the next four years.
No past president knew what he was up against until he found himself in the chair of power in Malacañang. True, Marcos as president has tremendous powers. He is now the most powerful man in the country. At his disposal are the prerogatives and authority bestowed on him by the Constitution and the laws.
But soon he will discover, as all presidents before him discovered, that these tremendous presidential powers have built-in restraints. Too late President Macapagal, by his own admission, came to grief with this truth. For one, the great powers of the president carry greater responsibilities. Presidential responsibilities tend to abridge presidential authority.
It was easy for Marcos, as opposition candidate, to damn the administration for trying to raise taxes and promise not to increase them or create new ones. He will soon find out that, as a president responsible for providing the people with essential services, for keeping the government and its programs in operation, his pre-election promises are not so easy to keep.
How does one keep prices down under the decontrol program, with a million new mouths to feed every year? How does one begin employing the four million or more unemployed? Where does one get the homes for the legions of homeless?
There is the unfortunate notion, held by the mass of our people, that a presidential election or rather its results will solve most, if not all, of the problems of the nation. Some of the friends of Marcos seem to have this belief. It is time the minds of the people were disabused of this notion. There’s no telling how the people would react to another let-down, another disenchantment with the president of their choice.
Things are going to be worse before they are going to be better, said the late John F. Kennedy when he assumed the U.S. presidency.
To start off on the right foot, a president must at least try to learn from the mistakes of past presidents. To promise happy days ahead as the New Era had promised the electorate is the surest way to erode public confidence in the new administration.
This is not to say that Marcos is bound to fail as president. He has one quality, it must be admitted, that might turn the trick, bring about the miracle—leadership. But even the most dynamic and heroic leader will not be able to provide instant happiness for the country under present conditions. Not in the next two years, anyway. Marcos is no superman. He can only do so much. The sooner we faced up to this fact, the better for the country.
But the friends of Marcos have one comforting thought to offer. The new President, says a Marcos confidant, was “the most maligned” presidential candidate ever—“He was charged with all kinds of crimes during the campaign. As a result, he will try his best to become the best President the country has ever had. He is out to prove to our people that he is not what he has been painted to be.”
The motive may not be exactly orthodox. But in an age of cynicism and disenchantment, in a country grown weary with politicians’ promises, motives and intentions are of secondary importance. Results, concrete achievements are what count. Whatever his motives, if President Marcos performs well, a grateful people will thank him and future historians will reserve him a permanent niche in the annals of our country.
The new President seems to be obsessed with the word “great.” His battle cry in the last campaign was: “This country can be great again!” The title of his inaugural speech, he told this writer, is “Challenge to Greatness.” His intimates say that his burning ambition now is to go down in history as a “great president.”
Now that the elections are over, the big task is nation-building. What his foes and critics said of him before the election should not matter now that the people have spoken. He has been given the mandate. If he performs well, soon everybody will forget what has been said of him. But if he falls down on the job—then he will have to worry about what his critics said of him. The people will remember him as he had been painted by his enemies. Thus, what is important for him and the country is that he do an excellent job in Malacañang.
The Man of the Year faces his biggest test in the next four years. In essence, the challenge the new President confronts is not new at all: more good government and less politics.
Will he pass the test? Time, a philosopher has remarked, is the fastest thing in the world. The Macapagal era is over. The Marcos regime has begun. Soon the history of this administration will be written—a record of futility and ignominious shame, or a testament to Filipino pride and greatness.
November 20, 1965
It’s The Same Old Story – A New Hero’s Rise to Power On the Wave Of The People’s Will,Whose Name Is Fickleness; The Downfall Of Yesterday’s Idol Who Was Blamed For All The Country’s Ills.
By Napoleon G. Rama
It was like 1961 all over again. The play had the same ending. The lonely vigil in the Palace. Laughter and lights in the hideout of the winner. The stunned disbelief. The threats and tension. Controversy over the count. The flight of “migratory birds.” The warm embrace of the few faithful left – warm like the coming of tears.
Turn back the clock of history . . . An era was ending; a new one was about to begin. The rock of Sisyphus had rolled down – and now to begin again at the foot of the hopeless hill.
One passed by the Palace on that night of defeat and noted the stillness and the sadness, the silence drenching the park and the passersby. And the lamps, once lovely and luminous among the trees, announcing with their incandescence the gay rituals in the Palace premises, now burned dully, somberly, casting more shadows than light.
A new hero was hailed; the old one was mocked and derided. Such was the will of the people, whose name is fickleness. It seemed as if politics had been invented to punish the powerful, and the cycle of presidential elections, to confirm the loneliness of the office of the president.
Now, the same old story. . . . glory and defeat in the batting of an eye, in a dot of time – reminder to the vanquished and a warning to the victor that power passes and the contract with the electorate is good only for four years.
Let the winner never forget – no president of the Republic has eve been reelected. There was President Elpidio Quirino, then President Carlos P. Garcia, and now President Diosdado Macapagal. It is doubtful if President Manuel Roxas could have avoided their fate even if he had lived long enough to face the electorate again. Before him, President Sergio Osmeña, the greatest statesman the country has ever produced, was not spared the rebuff reserved for all re-electionist presidents.
Only President Ramon Magsaysay could have survived a reelection bid, but only because he was endowed with that rarest of gifts – political charisma. But he was phenomenon hard to come by. In the last half century only two Philippine politicians possessed this gift – Quezon and Magsaysay. They inspired not merely admiration but also adulation. Worshippers overlooked their idols’ faults, remembered only their virtues.
The political pattern of presidential rise and fall favored President Macapagal in 1961. In 1965 it was President-elect Marcos’ turn to profit from it.
The cards are always stacked against the incumbent.
The reason is not hard to find. No president, no matter how well-meaning and hard-driving, how wise and competent, is capable of solving the problems of the country in four years. So tremendous are the problems, many of them centuries-old, that four years is too short and a human president too limited to cope with them.
It is here that a president comes to grief at the hands of his own people. More than just an occupant of the loftiest post of the land, he is in the eyes of the electorate (thanks to campaign speeches and promises) the Moses who will deliver his people from bondage and want.
Every election season the them dinned into the ears of the electorate is that the presidential aspirant can do what the incumbent president did not accomplish. The companion theme is that for all the evils buffeting the country the President is to blame. Alas for President Macapagal, there were even those who blamed him for the eruption of Taal Volcano.
Thus, in every election campaign the people’s mind is conditioned to fixing responsibility for the unsolved problems of the nation on the incumbent president. They expect the in-coming president to perform miracles. The clamor for change becomes the opposition’s most resonant was cry. Every opposition party since Roxas’ Liberal Party has adopted the battle cry. It has never failed. No theme, the politicos have discovered, more effectively establishes identification with the electorate. For it echoes the popular sentiment. It was the issue that licked President Garcia, the theme that beat President Macapagal.
For all the expert analyses on the factors that swept President-elect Marcos into power, the obvious reason is a simple one, a needy people demanded a change – any change. This demand was stronger than all other factors put together in the last campaign.
Hence, the biggest most powerful vote in the country is not the Ilocano vote, the Cebuano vote, the Iglesia Ni Cristo vote, the NP or LP vote, but the protest vote, the poverty vote. There is no other way of explaining why President Macapagal lost or scored so poorly in almost all undisputed LP bailiwicks.
For as long as the country is afflicted with the ancient problems of food, housing, unemployment, high prices, law and order, so long will the protest vote be the most potent force in a presidential election.. The rising expectations, the unreasoning demand that the president solve all the country’s major problems, the predisposition to blame him for every ill, the predilection of candidates to make wild promises, the general poverty – all help create the protest vote.
Next to the protest vote – from which every opposition party has profited – the most powerful factor behind the Marcos victory was the solid Ilocano vote. It marked off the l965 election from all other presidential elections in the past.
The Ilocano vote was a tremendous political asset for Mr. Marcos, not only because the Ilocanos are clannish and numerous but also because they furnished the President-elect with a tremendous political machine to match or blunt the operations of the powerful administration one. Even more vital to the Marcos victory than the votes in Ilocandia was the national machine assembled and oiled by Ilocano immigrants in all parts of the country. The most footloose group in the country, they are in every nook of the Republic. There is no single big town in the country that doesnot harbor an Ilocano community.
Now it can be told. Mr. Marcos’ secret weapon in the last elections was not the Ilocanos in Ilocandia, but the Ilocanos out of it.
The Ilocanos away from home”, explains Jose Aspiras, Mr.Marcos’s genuine Ilocano spokesman “are more Ilocano than those in Ilocandia.”
What keeps the Ilocanos away from Ilocandia fervent Ilocanos is their minority complex, the instinct of self-preservation and constant nostalgia, said Aspiras. Always a meek minority and keenly aware of the national joke about their thriftiness (“The Scots of the Philippines”), they stay close to one another, make common cause and form a well-knit, solidly-welded community, not so much out of fondness for one another as for purposes ofself-protection.
In Ilocandia where the climate is harsh and the soil niggardly, the Ilocanos have to fight for survival. Hardship and poverty at home,said Aspiras, have made the Ilocanos away from home a self-conscious, hardy, industrious group, better-equipped than any other group to meet the challenge of life and to survive a crisis. Such hardiness and industry have paid off in their quest for a place under the sun in other provinces. In many provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, the Ilocano communities are well-off and well-heeled, some of them dominating the business fields.
It was these immigrant Ilocanos spread all over the country that provided Mr. Marcos with what the political pros regard as the most necessary election equipment – a “personal” campaign apparatus. In many places the party machine, because of factional fights, cannot be relied upon. It is here where the “personal” machine comes in.
According to the Marcos boys, the immigrant Ilocanos proved their clanish allegiance to their region and fellow-Ilocano candidate for president.
“As far as they were concerned,” said Aspiras, “it was no longer just an election fight between President Macapagal and Mr. Marcos. They regarded it also as their own personal fight which had at stake regional pride and fortune.”
They conducted their own campaigns in the towns and barrios where they resided; they got organized; they gathered information, they printed their own sample ballots; they took care of herding the voters to the polls; they raised campaign funds; they stood watchers inside the polling places. They were Mr. Marcos’ Fifth Column in Mindanao, the vaunted LP bastion.
The NP standard-bearer could not have had a more devoted, more hard-driving political machine. What made it a perfect political machine was that it was self-winding so to speak. It was a volunteer organization, fired with missionary ardor and zeal.
Next to the Ilocano vote, in Ilocandia and elsewhere, Mr. Marcos’ msot devastating election “weapon” was Mrs. Imelda Marcos whose success as a vote-getter was described by most political writers covering the NP campaign as “phenomenal.”
She managed a campaign of her own. She certainly was the most beautiful campaigner in the l965 elections. Everywhere she went she drew bigger crowds than any of the senatorial teams. On the surface, the voters wsent for her bewitching campaign tactics – her little sob stories, her glorious dresses, her tea parties, and her kundimans sung with professional style and skill.
But it was not her tear–jerkers, her dresses, her parties and kunkimans that made up her greatest contribution to the Marcos campaign. It was her remarkable defense of her husband’s questioned integrity that countred most.
NP tacticians were agreed that in the electoral battle the LP’s most lethal weapon was the integrity issue against the NP standard-bearer. At the start of the campaign some NP leaders threws their hands up and kept out of the fight because they were convinced that the integrity charges against the NP standar-bearer were simply unanswerable.
In the integrity issue the LP’s found Mr. Marcos’ softest spot. NP strategists were at their wits’ end trying to blunt the LP attack on Marcos’ personal character and record in office. It was Imelda who provided the NPs with the armor that shielded Marcos from political destruction.
And Imelda’s defense was classic in simplicity and conciseness. She offered herself as the star character witness for her husband. And her punch line was:
“They say that my husband is a forger, a murderer, a land-grabber. Look at me. Do you think I would have married this man if he was that bad? Do you think I would have stayed with him and campaigned for him if the charges were true? I should have been the first to know about the character of my husband. He is the best, the tenderest husband in the world. . .”
A beautiful woman, with the “voice of a nightingale” and the “charms of a movie queen,” as an AmericAn newsman described her, testifying in behalf of her husband, is the most effective, the most appealing star witness in the world.
That her defense was largely addressed to the emotions and, in the realm of logic and legal procedure, a little irrelevant was of no moment. A town plaza is not a courtroom. What might be an effective brief before a court of justice is a “dud” as far as the crowds are concerned. Thus, the NPs solved what they considered their biggest problem in the battle of propaganda – the integrity issue against “President-elect Marcos. It was Imelda who “de-fused” the LP propaganda bombs.
And, of course, there was the Iglesia ni Cristo vote. The fact is Mr. Marcos, despite the confident predictions of his strategists, did not get 90 per cent of all the votes in Ilocandia. But INC insiders will swear that Marcos got at least 99 per cent of all the INC votes.
The INC vote has proved to be more monolithic than the Ilocano vote. The reason is simple. The Ilocanos voted as Ilocanos devoted to a fellow-Ilocano and a “favorite son.” The Iglesia ni Cristo members voted as a religious sect, bound by a religious dogma and by church injunction to vote for INC candidates under pain of mortal sin and expulsion from the sect.
The INC makes no bones about it. Its spokesman in an official statement confirmed that the policy of the INC to vote as one man is “scripturally-supported.” The injunction is part of the INC catechism. As a religio-political organization, the Iglesia Ni Cristo has a totalitarian force.
Apart from the effects of an absolutely solid vote, variously estimated at from 300,000 to 400,000 in number, the INC, although a religious minority, increases its political sway and power by expert political horse-trading in towns and barrios. In many places, the INC’s small but solid group holds the balance of power. Where the contending candidates are evenly matched and engaged in a nip-and-tuck fight, the INC vote determines the result of the elections. Here is where the INC strategists come in. The politicos knws that the INC can deliver on its promise. That is why they go out of their way to woo the INC ministers in their districts and jump at the opportunity to make a deal with the INC. Under this setup, the INC usually winds up controlling the town or the province.
It is this situation that makes the INC even more powerful than it is thought to be. With its solid vote, it holds the sword of Damocles over the heads of politicians, big or small. It is not the number, but the monolithic character, of the Iglesia Ni Cristo that makes it a very potent and dangerous political force.
The INC knows the uses of religion for political purposes, understands Philippine politics and is aware of its political power. There’s no telling how far the INC will go to influence national elections. INC insiders are already predicting an INC president in a not so distant future. All this INC political sway is further abetted by the lack of a Catholic vote, as the last elections clearly demonstrated. Catholics vote as independent men.
Summing up, the President-elect’s victory in the last elections was made possible by the protest vote or guts issue, the Ilocano vote, the campaign charms of Imelda and the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s politico-religious vote.