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Passing of a tradition, December 19, 1964

December 19, 1964

Passing of a tradition

By Filemon V. Tutay
Staff member

The death of Don Yoyong leaves a void none of his prospective successors can possibly fill.

THE sudden death last week of Sen. Eulogio Rodriguez, president of the Nacionalista Party for the past 18 years, marked the “passing of a great tradition,” to quote President Macapagal.

With the death of Amang—as he was popularly known—ended a colorful era which spanned more than half a century in the history of local politics. Of his almost 82 years—he would have been that old come January 21—more than 55 were spent in the public service, 12 of them as president of the Senate. A self-made man, Amang pulled himself up by the bootstraps from his humble beginnings as a zacatero in his native Montalban to what he was at the time of his death—an institution and party symbol in Philippine politics.

Death claimed the Grand Old Man of Philippine politics a few days after he had announced that he was definitely not seeking reelection to the Senate in the 1965 elections. Previously, he had indicated to his close associates that he was retiring from public life upon the expiration of his term as senator next year.

Don Yoyong, as he was fondly called by his political followers, was a victim of heart attack. Death came painlessly and unexpectedly shortly after midnight Wednesday last week. It struck without warning. Despite his advanced years, he was apparently in the best of health. In fact, the night before, he had a hearty dinner at his Pasay City residence with former Nueva Ecija Governor Juan Chioco and Dr. Pedro Rodriguez, a brother, as dinner guests.

According to Mrs. Luisa Rodriguez, her husband went to bed at about nine o’clock Tuesday night last week in high spirits. At a little past midnight he woke her up. He did not complain of anything. But she saw that her husband was restless and she advised him to sit on a couch in the bedroom. Then, she went sleepily back to bed.

Mrs. Rodriguez said that she must have been asleep for about an hour when she woke up—at about 1:30 a.m.—and saw her husband still on the couch, apparently asleep. When she looked closer, however, she found that he was dead. Drs. Jose Silva and Pedro Cruz, the Rodriguez family physicians who were hastily summoned, said that Amang had succumbed to a heart attack.

In deference to the memory of Amang, President Macapagal proclaimed a period of national mourning until Wednesday this week when his remains were scheduled to be buried in Montalban, Rizal, where he was born on January 21, 1883. According to Mrs. Baby Rodriguez-Magsaysay, her father had expressed the wish that he buried in his native town.

From his Pasay City residence on Salud Street, the mortal remains of Amang were to be transferred Friday last week to the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Jose Lontok, in Quezon City. From there, the body would be transferred to the Rizal provincial capitol at Pasig where it would lie in state for 24 hours. He would be so honored because of his having served two terms as provincial governor of Rizal, once in 1916 and again in 1922.

From Pasig, the body would be taken to the Manila City Hall. Amang served two terms as mayor of Manila, first in 1923 and again in 1938 until shortly before the outbreak of World War II in 1941.

From the Manila City Hall, Amang’s mortal remains would be moved to the Senate session hall where necrological services were scheduled for Wednesday morning. From there, the former zacatero would make his last trip to his native Montalban where, more than 70 years ago, he cut grass for the calesa horses of the town and the cavalry mounts of the United States army at Fort McKinley, now known as Fort Bonifacio.

Amang made more sacrifices than any single individual in the Nacionalista Party so that the opposition might survive. He did much to ensure the continuance of the two-party system in the Philippines.

Having done so much for his party, it was small wonder that he had almost come to regard it as his private property. When the Young Turks, whom he had derisively referred to as Young Turkeys, tried repeatedly but vainly to oust him from the party presidency, he told them scornfully: “If I ever have to quit the party presidency, it shall be my decision.” The Young Turkeys could not do anything about it.

Amang lived politics, and, when it was time to retire from politics, he died. Politics was his very life.

“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto,” November, 1963

“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto”


by Quijano de Manila

November 1963–THE cooked goose, the swung deal, the clinched victory, the mission accomplished have had rich utterance in street argot. Your ability to remember Arreglado na ang kilay will date you. Later gamier words for it are Kuarta na! and Yari na! The classic expression is Tapos na ang boksing, which will always sound unbearably sad to those who heard the great Recto saying it during the 1957 campaign.

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.

The fun began with the assault on the mestizo. Just when people were thinking the NPs should be thrashed for conducting what can only be described as a hate campaign, the LPs, who had been behaving more primly, got their nice record spoiled for them by their own chief, the President, with his unhappy remark on the “mestizo arrogance” of Vice-President Pelaez. Though efforts were made to explain away the gibe, the general reaction was: Why bring up racism at all? But if that’s the point of the fuss, then the matter doesn’t end here, and the veep, too, must be haled in and declared just as guilty as the President in this matter of racism. Or maybe guiltier. The President’s tongue slipped only once; but the veep, in his campaign, at least in Bulacan, brought up the question of race in after speech, as all those who saw him campaigning can testify.

In Bulacan, the veep invariably began his speeches by denying, apropos of nothing, that he was a mestizo, or half-white. This was before anybody accused him of “mestizo arrogance.” He seemed to feel a need to explain away his European color and appearance, and his explanation was mystical: his mother had “conceived” him after St. Anthony. But though his skin was fair, his heart was kayumanggi. In other words, though he might look like a mestizo, he really was not a mestizo. Now this is equivalent to a Harlem Negro saying that, despite his looks, he’s really a Dutchman. Fellow Negroes could accuse him of being ashamed of his race. Fellow mestizos could complain that before the President is said to have insulted their breed, Pelaez had already done son, by gratuitously denying to be what he obviously is. Dark-skinned Filipinos may feel flattered that their vice-president is trying to pass for brown; but a man who’s embarrassed by the color of his skin, and apologizes for it, ultimately heightens our awareness of racial differences. Why bring up racism at all, we justifiably cry. And Pelaez is as bound to answer that question as his adversary.

Fortunately for the nation, before barricades could be put up by the chabacanos of Cavite and Zamboanga and the entresuelistas of Manila, the potential Battle of Birmingham in reserve got kicked off center stage by another act: the unturbanned magus called Robot with his clouded crystal ball. Robot’s revelations shook the local political earth. The Liberals would win the senatorial race by 5-3, or more likely by 6-2, with either Padilla or Roxas as topnotcher, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Ziga, Climaco and Liwag. The eighth place would be contested by De la Rosa, Balao, Puyat and Cuenco, with the first two having “a slight edge over the others.”

As it turned out, the topnotcher berth was contested by Roxas and Tolentino, not Padilla and Roxas; Puyat, whom Robot placed almost outside the magic eight, landed in fifth place; De la Rosa, Balao and Cuenco ended way, way below eighth place; and the unmentioned Ganzon and Lim fought it out with Climaco for the tail end of the line.

The Robot findings, released to the press a week before election day, were published three days before the elections, and one day before the U.P. statistical center released its own poll survey, which also had the LPs leading, 6-2, with Padilla and Roxas in the first two places, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Climaco, Ziga and Liwag, and the eighth place being contested by Balao and Puyat. As Robot, aggrieved, would later point out, the U.P. poll escaped the ire of the politicians, but Robot got it from both sides.

De la Rosa and Cuenco angrily questioned the accuracy of the poll. The NPs were, of course, even angrier. They denounced the poll as “part of the Liberal scheme to cheat” in the elections, “a smoke-screen to prepare the people’s minds to accept rigged election returns.” The Robot poll results had been “doctored” to produce a “bandwagon mentality” among voters, and their “premature publication” was an LP propaganda gimmick. The NPs insisted that they would either sweep the polls or get a clear majority.

The day after the elections, people were quipping that there was one sure loser: Robot. Its forecast had flopped.

Says Vice-President Francisco Lopez of Robot Statistics: “What we published was an estimate of the situation as of a given period of time: from late October to early November. It was not a forecast, it was not a prediction. If we had wanted to make a real forecast, we would have continued polling up to the eve of the elections.”

The trouble with this disclaimer is that Robot was using that very word, forecast, during the days it was frantically trying to decide whether or not to publish its poll findings ahead of the balloting, or wait, as it did in 1959, until the last ballot had been cast. One-upmanship finally prompted the “premature publication.” Robot feared to be one-upped by another poll organization, and decided to release its findings to the press a week before election day.

Robot Magi

The other poll organization was Index, which had, in late October, begun publishing a series of reports on voter attitudes based on a survey. Robot felt sure that the series would be climaxed by a forecast of election results. The fear was unfounded; but Robot not only didn’t want to be beaten to a forecast but was afraid the poll figures it had been gathering month after month since the campaign started might be stolen and used.

On November 2, Robot invited three distinguished citizens—Father Francisco Araneta, Professor Ariston Estrada and Judge Pastor Endencia—to read its latest survey on poll trends. Copies of the survey were read and signed by the three men, and then locked up in a vault, as proof that Robot already had those figures at that time. One-upmanship is a nervous way of life in every branch of Madison Avenue.

This was on a Saturday. The following Monday, November 4, Robot, apparently still jittery about being beaten to the draw, assembled representatives of the four leading Manila newspapers and provided them with copies of the latest Robot poll results.

Explains Robot’s Armando Baltazar: “That was for their guidance only. We wanted them to know the real score. Their columnists were making predictions and might go off on a wild tangent. The publishers could keep their columnists from going out on a limb if they knew what the figures were. But we made it clear that we did not want any publication.”

Robot’s George Cohen modifies this: the poll figures were released to the press; it was up to the press to decide whether to publish them or not, and when. On November 8, Cohen dispatched a letter to the publishers:

“You will recall last Monday that Robot wished to impose an embargo on the release of its election estimates until the closing of the polls on election day when survey results could not possibly be accused of influencing events. Robot in fact does not believe that at this stage of the election campaign a release of its survey results now would significantly affect its outcome—if at all. However, Robot does not wish to be the first polling group to be releasing pre-election forecasts—but as a public opinion/marketing research organization it feels obliged researchers do. Thus please feel free to publish the results enclosed within red quotation marks if other polling organizations or research groups (exclude informal newspaper or magazine surveys) such as the University of the Philippines, Index, et al. have or are in the act of publishing national senatorial election forecasts. If not, Robot respectfully requests that you withhold publication until the polls have closed on election day.

“Finally we wish to remind that some 15% of the voters still do not know whom they will select for their senatorial choices on November 12. This figure constitutes a 4% increase over the ‘don’t know’ers’ since September, thus indicating considerable uncertainty on the part of the voters. Thus last minute shifts of preferences are possible even on election day—which could upset the above forecast. What the forecast represents is the best estimate of the state of the public opinion at a given point of time, 26 October to 6 November.”

Through the tangle of language, the publishers presumably saw permission to publish, since the U.P. was “in the act of publishing” its own forecast. But why did Robot’s “best estimate of the state of public opinion” fail to tally with actual public opinion as expressed in the elections?

Cohen and his colleagues say that they went by trends. When they began polling in July, Puyat, for instance, was in fourth place but kept slipping, slipping, until he was in seventh or eighth place. The Puyat trend was, therefore, downward: “But he didn’t slip as much as we expected him to. He caught it in time, arrested his decline.” Robot failed to catch that stoppage and went by the general Puyat trend—which is why the forecast had him still slipping off the tail end.

Another candidate whose trend was a downward slide. De la Rosa, was popularly believed to be a sure winner. Robot was a bit more accurate here, and surprised everybody by having De la Rosa just hovering over the edge of the eighth place: “If we had surveyed more, up to a few days before the elections, we might have caught him on his way out.” The U.P. poll did find De la Rosa already out.

The three fastest risers, according to Robot, were Roxas, Diokno and Liwag. Diokno started at 13th or 14th place, rose steadily, suddenly shot straight up during the last phase of the campaign. If graphed, his progress would be a long slanting line that ends in a steep curve. Liwag started at 16th, worked his way up to 7th in a more even manner. Most spectacular of all was Roxas, who started below the eighth place and rocketed to the top. Robot’s data indicate how effective propaganda can be when skillfully used, for Roxas, Diokno and Liwag had the smartest publicity machines in this campaign.

The candidates that really got Robot into trouble were Climaco and Ganzon. Robot estimated that Climaco would outpoll Ganzon in Mindanao, 2-1. The elections proved they had about even strength there—which, says Cohen, is inexplicable, since Climaco, after all, is from Mindanao. Cohen hazards the guess that Climaco’s drive against smuggling while in Customs turned the Moro vote against him.

To people who say that Robot took a beating in these elections, Cohen points out that his organization had a near-perfect score in the gubernatorial races, pinpointing the winners in 21 out of the 22 provinces it polled. (Robot, like everybody else, guessed wrong in Bulacan.) Cohen also claims that Robot scored almost 100% in its forecast of election results in the Manila area; it missed only one winner: the vice-mayor of Quezon City. But Robot saw the Manila vote as 4-4 in the senatorial election (the actual ratio was 6-2 in favor of the NPs) and 4-1 in the mayoralty contest (Villegas actually had only about a 2-1 lead over Oca). Cohen has two explanations for the increased figures in favor of the NPs: their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda was a major event of the campaign, giving the NP senatorial candidates, and Oca along with them, the benefit of maximum public exposure, and exerting a terrific influence on the undecided vote. Cohen’s other explanation is that Manila has a large floating vote: the squatters but still vote in the city. Because it polled only actual residents, Robot failed to get a picture of the total Manila vote.

Just how much do these forecasts affect voters’ decisions? In the U.S. not at all—or so they say. In the Philippines, such forecasts, Cohen admits, may sway votes, but only if published, say, ten days or two weeks before the elections. But a forecast published practically on the eve of the polls can have little effect on them. Cohen cites an instance. In 1961, just two days before the elections, Mayor Lacson, against Robot’s wishes, published the Robot poll survey that showed Garcia was losing. The forecast, according to Cohen, did not appreciably alter voting trends. But it did have one unexpected result that has passed into political legend. The story goes that money given to the leaders to distribute on election day was not handed out because, the leaders told themselves, Garcia was going to lose anyway. Failure to flood the polls with handouts may have helped Garcia lose.

The NPs, who are usually so zealous for freedom of expression, are currently up in arms against public opinion polls. Senator Primicias threatened to sue Robot for multimillion-peso damages and to have it investigated as a foreign agency interfering with Philippine elections. Robot says its capital is 90% Filipino, that the company is run by Filipinos, and that it is in no way subsidized by World Gallup Polls. One NP who doesn’t believe the Robot forecast was “rigged to please its client” (Robot says it had clients from both parties in this campaign) is Diokno. Robot tried to assess the situation as best it could, but, says Diokno, it failed to take into account an important “x-factor”: people’s fear of the administration. As Robot was not really undecided, was already for the NP, but preferred to keep mum and express itself only at the polling booths, for fear of reprisals.

The Robot forecast appeared the Saturday before election day. The NPs had their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda that Monday night; and Robot, the second favorite target, suffered the slings and arrows for outrageous fortune-telling. The crowd the NPs drew that night was unquestionably the hugest to assemble on Plaza Miranda since the time of Magsaysay.

Holiday throngs

Manileños who attended both the LP and the NP miting de avance could not but note the “visayanization” of their city, its utter conquest by the seafolk of the South. The LP crowd was still recognizable Manileño (Villegas’s yeba urbanites) though it’s significant that the speaker who made the greatest hit with the audience that Sunday night was Climaco of Zamboanga. The other “Star of the South,” Gerry Roxas, didn’t shine so bright that night, through no fault of his own. He was rising to speak when word came that the President had not yet arrived. It turned out that the President had not yet arrived; so Roxas preceeded to the mike. As he started to speak the stage and plaza buzzed again with he rumor that the President was already there. “I rushed through my speech,” recalls Roxas, “like a locomotive.” Had he been allowed to speak at his leisure he might have proved that the witching powers associated with his province now work as well on Plaza Miranda.

The following night, at the NP miting de avance, there was again no doubt that the crowd responded most fraternally to another Southerner, Senator Roseller Lim of Zamboanga—and this on the testimony of a Pampango-Manileño, Senator Puyat. A forecaster could indeed have read in the size and temper of that multitude on Plaza Miranda the great swing of the South to the Opposition that the next day’s polls would reveal. If the politicos want a new rule on Manila, here’s a possible one: As Manila goes, the South goes. Because Manila is now the biggest Southern city in the Philippines.

Puyat says he felt rather scared when the atmosphere became so charged with passion the miting turned into a mighty dialogue between speaker on stage and the crowd below.

SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
CROWD: Palakolin!
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
CROWD: Martilyuhin!

“I felt,” says Puyat, “that if the speaker had shouted On to Malacañang! that mob would have followed—and I fear to think what would have happened there. We politicians carry a big responsibility.”

As one listened to Puyat’s account, one had the creepy feeling, too, that our political campaigns have gotten out of hand and are becoming sick.

But during those two pre-poll days, Sunday and Monday, it felt like fiesta, like New Year’s Eve, especially since the firecracker ban had apparently been lifted and the savage things crackled underfoot, along with the watusi, as massed marchers, as torrents of torches, surged up every street toward the town plazas and the mitings de avance. As the people marched shouting, fireworks lit up the skies to the thunder of rockets. The candidates held open house all day and all night; arroz caldo and pancit perpetually simmered in caldrons in the yards. Bus rides got pelted with showers of leaflets as if it was carnival time and this was the confetti. A blaze of electric bulbs framed the portraits of the candidates, full length, in full color, in action, in the style started by Lacson: the giant figures jutting right out of the frames, waving a hand, or pointing at the beholder, or striding forward into the air. Some billboards carried multiple portraits and a title: The Four Aces, The Magnificent 7. One rode through one gorgeous arch after another and pondered the thought that politicians are the only people in the world who build triumphal arches before they have triumphed. Ah, but it seemed so right then; everybody would win; we all shared in the excitement; the very air was festive. We were having a cold wave then, and the campaigners turned out in hats and jackets, in sweaters and mufflers. The country was supposed to have gone dry, but you could get a drink in almost any restaurant along the way. They served it in pitchers and you drank it from cups or colored plastic glasses.

After all that, election day itself was anticlimactic, very quiet in Manila. Mayor Villegas began the day with a mass, breakfasted at a leader’s house, had a haircut and a mud pack, holed up at the Army and Navy. Oca voted in San Nicholas, slept out the day at a friend’s house in Lavezares. Senator Puyat and his wife voted at the precinct on Mayon in Quezon City. Voting at the same time in the same place were Senator Padilla and his wife. Contrapartidos but good friends, Puyat and Padilla hailed each other, their wives merrily chatted. Right after the LP miting de avance, which ended at dawn, Roxas gave a thank-you breakfast for his campaign staff, then flew to Roxas City, where he stayed through election day. “That was,” he says, “the first time I went to Capiz in this campaign.” Diokno, too, departed for his home province, Batangas, right after the NP miting de avance, which ended only a couple of hours before the polls opened. He and his wife were among the first to vote in Taal. Riding back to Manila, they were stopped by so many well-wishers along the way it was noon when they reached home. Diokno fled to bed and slept till evening.

In Manila, few people stayed up all night to follow the counting; but the surrounding towns kept vigil and the winners started celebrating at dawn. In one suburban town, victory was proclaimed at four a.m. by a fire engine racing up and down the streets, siren a-wailing and bell a-ringing, while the people on it yelled: “Nanalo si Mayor!” For the losers, that was a bleak day, the caldrons in the yard now cold and empty, and out on the street, in front of their gates, the mocking music of the brass bands hired by the winners to serenade the defeated with the Marcha Funebre, a cute rite of Philippine elections.

The NPs were leading in the Senate race by 6-2, then by 5-3; and there was a rumor that Terry Adevoso was sneaking out of the country: someone had seen him getting a passport. Then the tide turned: the LPs briefly led by 5-3, then dropped to a tie with the Opposition; and the talk now was that Adevoso had changed his mind about leaving. Adevoso himself says, laughing, that he had really been scheduled to leave the day after the polls, to visit shipyards in Japan; but the trip was postponed for a few days so he could make a stop first in Hong Kong to attend the opening of the PNB branch there.

The Thursday after the elections, the NPs began muttering about the slow-down in election returns reportage. They assembled for an angry conference that night at Amang Rodriguez’s office in Congress, behind closed doors, but there are guesses as to what they decided to do. The LPs were suspected of withholding returns from the provinces they controlled so they would know if they had a big enough backload of votes to cover the NP lead. If they didn’t have enough, they would know just how many more votes they must conjure up to win. Or so the NPs suspected. So, the NPs replied to the LP slow-down with a slow-down of their own, according to observers, who say that returns from such NP bailiwicks as Rizal, Quezon, Batangas and Negros Occidental suddenly dwindled to a trickle, because the NPs were withholding their returns too, so the LPs wouldn’t know just how far ahead the Opposition was. Whether this battle of slow-downs is true or not, there was certainly a freezing of the 4-4 position through the weekend.

While the NPs were conferring that Thursday night, word was going around that Gerry Roxas was protesting Tolentino’s position as topnotcher. The next day, Roxas issued a denial that he had lodged any protest: “I have not even seen Johnny Bora (Comelec chairman), much less talked with him. I’m happy enough that I’m included in the win group.” But in private Roxas said that there was an already admitted mistake in the figures credited to Tolentino. The error amounted to over 70,000 votes, which, if cancelled, would erase Tolentino’s 20,000-vote lead over Roxas and put Roxas in first place. However, Roxas’s attitude was: “Comelec made the mistake, it’s up to Comelec to correct.” Gerry said he didn’t want people to think he was so greedy for glory that just winning was not enough for him, he had to be topnotcher too.

Comelec had made no revision of the senatorial standings when election week ended. Tolentino stayed in first, Roxas in second. The Senate race was still tied at 4-4. Adevoso was still waiting for the pieces of his jigsaw puzzle to fall into place, but now said that a “4-4 result would be satisfactory enough for us.” He stressed one point: when the campaign began back in July, a poll survey showed that only two of the LP candidates were among the top eight. By October, surveys were showing that five LPs had shot up to winning positions. The party machine had been tested, had acquitted itself. The final results might not come up to expectations. “But,” shrugs Adevoso, “1963 is just a laboratory year.”

Postmortems

Adevoso sees the administration in mid-term as “a sala in which the furniture is being rearranged.” Everything is helter-skelter. A visitor who walked in might get an impression of disorder, not knowing what was going on: “In the same way, a reform administration like this one is shakes up things. People who have been hurt, or think they have been hurt, are bound to be antagonistic. We cannot expect, in mid-term that everybody will understand that what has to be done is now what’s popular but what’s right.”

The LP “rearrangement of the furniture” has certainly shaken up the country’s political sala. If the 1963 elections are regarded purely as local elections, which is what they are supposed to be anyway, then the Liberals scored a sensational success, by winning some 70% of the provinces, including such NP domains as Bulacan and Iloilo. Adevoso says that of the country’s 12 biggest provinces only two were in Liberals hands before the polls. The elections gave them six more of the topnotch provinces: Pangasinan, Bulacan, Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Iloilo.

But if the LPs think a victory on the local level presages victory in 1965, they should ponder the recent history of the NPs, who likewise scored an overwhelming victory in the local elections of 1959 but found that their control of the provinces didn’t help them any in the presidential elections of 1961.

If, on the other hand, this year’s elections are regarded as a national contest between the President and the Opposition, which is how the campaign projected the fight, then the most that can be said, if the score says at 4-4, is that the NPs didn’t win it. Their basic argument was that the people should not, for their own good, give the President a majority in the Senate. It is, therefore, immaterial whether the LPs win by a sweep or by 5-2 or only end up in a tie. As long as the LPs get a Senate majority, even if only by one vote, then the NPs have lost, because the people will have given the President what he asked for and rejected the arguments of the Opposition.

Since all the other issues, from high prices to rice queues, got tied up with this question of whether or not it was safe to give Macapagal a Senate majority, the people, if they give it to him, can be said to have rejected all the other issues too, by giving the President a vote of confidence. For though 4-4 is hardly an impressive score, it must still be regarded as a vote of confidence, since it will mean that the people do not believe that an LP Senate, which they decree with a 4-4 score, will bring on the death of democracy, the horrors of dictatorship, harder times, higher prices, more rice queues and more ax murders—which is how the NP campaign line went.

But a mid-term election is also an assessment of the administration. The vote of confidence only means that the people do not believe the President will use the Senate to make himself a dictator; it does not necessarily imply approval of his performance so far. To gauge the people’s judgment of the New Era, this year’s score will have to be compared with the mid-term scores of previous administrations. Under Quirino, it was 8-0 against Quirino’s regime, a clear condemnation. Under Magsaysay, it was 7-1 for the administration, an accolade. Under Garcia, it was 5-3, a passing mark. A score of 4-4 for the New Era would mean that, at mid-term, the people assessed the New Era as much better than Quirino’s administration, far below Magsaysay’s, not as good as Garcia’s. The grade would thus be, not excellent, not good, and not bad, but merely fair. It amounts to a repetition of what’s becoming a cliché pronouncement on the New Era: suspended judgment.

Still another way of interpreting the senatorial election results is to disregard party tags and consider the winners as having bee elected for their individual qualities and attitudes. Diokno says that the top five winners—Tolentino, Roxas, Diokno, Puyat and himself—all have one thing in common: a reputation for being “uncontrollable” by Macapagal. The people, according to Diokno, expressed their disapproval of Macapagal by voting most heavily for men who are, in one way or another, anti-Macapagal.

There’s something to Diokno’s theory, but it collapses when we consider that he and Tolentino had heir most dramatic encounters with Macapagal last year. If the people were really voting against Macapagal, it would have been more logical for them to vote for the men whose battle against the President are still fresh in the mind, being recently in the headlines: Lim, for instance, because of his filibuster in the Senate; Cabangbang, especially, because of his defiance of the Palace; and Oca, too, because of his anti-administration strikes. Since all these much-headlined foes of the President lost, anti-Macapagalism can hardly be said to have been a strong factor in the elections.

The Stonehill case, on the other hand, which was being written off as an issue, now appears to have been a factor after all, since it can now be said to have helped Diokno and Liwag win, and to have killed off Lim, Balao and De la Rosa.

Whether the campaign of Pelaez was an important factor is still in question. The vice-president probably got a score of 4-4. The massing of the South behind the Opposition is undoubtedly partly due to him; but he failed to show a similar ability to sway the voters in Luzon. The test province here is Bulacan, which was a Nacionalista stronghold to begin with. Pelaez personally campaigned there, personally proclaimed and endorsed the local NP candidates. They mostly lost. Bulacan turned Liberal.

A main factor is party organization—but it, too, must be given a 4-4 rating. The Liberals placed utmost confidence in the value of a strong organization, a smooth party machine, a rigidly disciplined team—but the results don’t justify their faith. The Nacionalistas, with a creakier machine that lacked the oil of finance, did just as well, though hindsight now exposes their grave errors. They made Ziga a sure winner by not putting up a woman candidate to divide the feminine vote; and they chose as campaign manager a man who, it turns out, could not make his personal candidates win in his own province. Puyat thinks the NP machine will have to be completely overhauled. Politics, he says, is not just an election every two years. It’s not a sometime thing but an all-the-time thing. A party machine shouldn’t be left to rust in storage until just a few months before an election; it should be kept running all the time. “Right after one campaign is over,” says Puyat, “we should immediately start preparing for the next one.” Somebody has already been putting that idea to practice, in case the NPs haven’t noticed.

Puyat still had, last week, for campaign souvenir, the hoarseness of the candidate. The two “wonder boys” of these elections, Roxas and Diokno, were still vigorously audible. Both gallantly said that the big factor in their wins were their wives, who attended to campaign minutiae. Diokno added that his children (he has eight) were a big help too: “They didn’t fall sick!”

As for the country, it looked as if a skyful of trash had been dumped on it: collapsed arches, tattered streamers, rusting tin plates, and an autumn litter of brown leaflets scattering in the wind. Walls and posts looked leprous with the rot of stickers. Worse than teen-age naughtiness were the gross splotches with which politics defaced the land. No public surface, not even the paving of the streets, escaped the tar or paint of propaganda. The gaudy billboards still stood, no longer lit up; but whatever the words on them, they all now sadly or gladly said the same thing:

“Tapos na, pare, ang butó-butó!”

The answer to communism, March 23, 1963

March 23, 1963

The answer to communism

By Teodoro M. Locsin

 

Land for the landless, capital for industry, social stability

President Macapagal asks Congress to rise to challenge of greatness and dare end poverty with no loss of liberty.

 

COMMUNISM promises land to the landless, hence its attraction to the millions who till land not their own and are condemned to poverty thereby. It is idle to argue that communism does not fulfill its promise, that collective farms or communes are state-owned, that communism merely replaces the landlords with the biggest one of all. So great is the despair of the landless that any promise of land is taken as better than none at all.

The democratic answer to communism is land for the landless—without loss of liberty.

This week, President Diosdado Macapagal called on Congress to give this answer to communism, to meet its challenge the democratic way.

The need for land reform was pressing and obvious when independence came and the Republic was proclaimed. The tenancy system perpetuated poverty and bred dissidence. The official answer to communism, however, was not land reform but force. The result was discouraging. The mere use of force did not stop the Huks.

In 1952, an exhaustive study of land tenure problems was prepared by Robert S. Hardie, land reform specialist of the Mutual Security Agency and formerly attached to the office of General Douglas MacArthur in Japan. Land reform made true democracy possible in Japan and contained the forces of communism; it should have the same effect here, it was thought. The Hardie Report, however, was met with denunciation by the Liberal regime then. Then President Quirino called the report exaggerated and then Speaker Perez described it as “communist-inspired.”

Ramon Magsaysay crushed the Huk movement but did not think  that communism could be permanently checked without land reform; while the tenancy system kept the people poor, dissidence was inevitable. When he became president, he struck at the root of the evil with a land reform program—which Congress promptly emasculated. Landlords and their tools in Congress tried everything to block passage of the measure. Eventually, with it seemed that nothing could stop Magsaysay from making available land to the landless, death intervened.

Now, it is Diosdado Macapagal’s turn to effect land reform, to get the government to face the reality of the basic Philippine problem. There is poverty. There is mass unemployment. There are constant shortages of food and other necessities. Prices are high and keep going higher. There is insufficient capital for investment in industry. The population is exploding. More and more money must be appropriated for the armed forces to maintain an obsolete system which condemns millions to poverty and the nation as a whole to low productivity. Now, it is Diosdado Macapagal’s turn to strike at the evil of tenancy.

A sentimental approach will not do; hearts bleeding for the poor are not enough. Too many congressmen are landlords or tools of landlords—from whom they get campaign funds, retainers, etc.—for emotion to prevail in the Senate and the House. And the Mexican experience has shown that it is not enough to give land to the landless if they do not know what to do with it, if they are not provided with the necessary credit facilities for increasing production. A poor landowner is still a poor man.

Just the same, “the exploiter is no longer sole master, the sole established force,” writes an observer of the Mexican scene. “Against him, however poor, however inexpert it may still be, even though burdened with deceits and dreams, a peasantry has won its social liberty. Badly organized, bristling with obstacles, even ‘sabotaged,’ a bad agrarian reform is better than no reform at all.”

It may be the start of a true, an effective one.

And the time to start one is now.

“The National Economic Council recently disclosed that the Philippine production of palay decreased from 3,739,500 tons in 1960 to 3,704,800 tons in 1962,” according to the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

At the same time, the population keeps increasing at a record rate and the “revolution of rising expectations” goes on; more and more is expected of democracy by those whose allegiance it would keep.

If the opposition to land reform has been formidable, it may be diminished by a general realization of the cost of that which should be reformed, if the nation could be made to see plainly the evils of tenancy.

Let us list them:

  1. Low Productivity. Tenant farming means primitive farming. The tenant makes so little he is perpetually in debt; he is usually the victim of usury. This makes impossible the use of fertilizer. He can’t afford an irrigation system. He hardly feels the need of one, poverty keeping him ignorant of modern technology. Low productivity means food shortages and the need to import food, to pay for whose importation foreign exchange must be used that should otherwise go into the establishment of new industries.
  2. Low Purchasing Power. Having so little money, the millions condemned by tenancy to poverty cannot afford to buy the products of industry. Why establish new ones when the market is so limited? At the same time, we look to the establishment of new industries to provide jobs for the increasing army of the unemployed. From tenancy result both unemployment and poverty.
  3. Lack of Capital for Industry. The Philippines cannot look to foreign sources for the bulk of the capital needed for industrialization; most of the capital must come from domestic sources. But most domestic capital is frozen in land. Without land reform, that capital would remain frozen there. While tenancy remains profitable for the landlord though not for the tenants, where would the country get the capital for the new industries? Industrialization must wait or proceed at a pitifully slow pace while the population explodes and the number of the jobless increases.
  4. High Prices. With production so low and so much of what the people need having to be imported, prices must remain high and, as population increases, go higher. Those who complain of high prices should blame tenancy.
  5. Social Instability. With millions so poor, how can the social order have any stability? It’s like living on top of a volcano. Those who like to live dangerously may enjoy it; for the rest, there is only the haunting sense of total insecurity.
  6. Too Big Army. Some P2,000,000,000 have been spent on the armed forces since Liberation—from the Japanese but not from tenancy. If the Republic has had to maintain so big a military establishment, it is in order to contain dissidence, which is bred by tenancy. It is ironical that owners of tenant-operated farms are among the worst tax-evaders in the country; at any rate, they are among the lowest taxpayers, yet the Republic has had to spend so much on an army principally to maintain tenancy.

What use is there for so big an army? To protect us from communist attack? We have American bases here; these would be targets in case of nuclear war; meanwhile, they serve as shields. What good would they be if they did not stop the Chinese communists from attacking the Philippines? We risk the presence of U.S. bases here to enjoy what if not security from such attack? And there is the China Sea.

No, we have such a big army—because of tenancy. It is significant that even as the President calls on Congress to pass his land reform measure, a Liberal leader envisions a smaller professional army—supported by a citizen one. Such a citizen force cannot be depended upon to fight for tenancy.

  1. Political Immaturity. You cannot distil political independence out of economic misery. Why do people sell their votes? Because they need money. Poverty is the great enemy of democracy; it makes democracy meaningless to the people and keeps democracy weak against its enemies.

These are the evils of tenancy. While tenancy persists, there will be poverty. The rise of Communist China poses a constant challenge to our democracy. How are we to meet the challenge? By perpetuating poverty? This is the counsel of the suicide, not of one who would keep his rights and defend his liberty.

Land reform is clearly a necessity. Its problems are, however, many. Our government is a constitutional one. The right of the landlords to just compensation for their lands must be assured. The tenants, when they become landowners, or before they could get title to the land, must pay for it. Payment will be possible only if their income is raised, through increased productivity. And this will be possible only through extension of the necessary credit for fertilizer, irrigation and other means of increasing the yield of the land.

Expropriation should be the last resort. It may mean having to pay for the land in cash, and the government simply does not have enough money. Persuasion should be mainly relied upon to get landlords to turn in their lands for government bonds and stocks in private industry. A realistic reassessment of land values should make tenancy less profitable to the landlord while exemption from the payment of capital gains tax plus tax-free interest-bearing bonds plus stocks in private industry should make expropriation unnecessary.

With land titles purchased from landlords added to its original capitalization, a land bank may generate additional capital for investment in new industries. Thus, not only may he abolition of tenancy be speeded up but also the industrialization of the country—and the end of its present poverty.

Those who opposed land reform have the burden of proposing an alternative to it as a solution to our problem of poverty, mass unemployment and social instability in the face of the communist challenge.

This is not to say that the land reform measure, if made into law, would be properly implemented. That is another problem. But before there could be proper implementation of so necessary a law, there must first be a law.

In his message to Congress, President Macapagal stressed this necessity:

“A nation that flies from realities succeeds merely in postponing its own progress. The realities remain. The future belongs to those courageous enough to confront the necessary but disagreeable tasks of today.

“For decades, our leaders have temporized with the problem of land reform. They have found all kinds of reasons for not daring to go forward. Somehow they always fell shy of the truth that the great stumbling block to our national progress, though certainly not the only one, was the antiquated land tenure system. We know, in our hearts, that any further steps forward would be possible, for this nation, only if this block were removed.

“In our confrontation of this problem, the moment of truth has arrived for all. Suddenly a challenge of greatness is thrust upon the leaders of this nation, but especially upon the representatives of our people in this Congress.

“I must impress upon you the importance of a decision vital to the development of the agricultural potentials of this nation. I find it my duty to rouse you into a new awareness of the problem, to appeal to you for support of a program designed to promote the general welfare, to ask you to take the bold but realistic steps which our economic situation demands. We cannot hope to build a strong and self-sufficient nation without strengthening its foundations.

“Land is our most valuable resource; agriculture, the most important means of converting its potentials into the necessities of life. For all its national importance, agriculture in the Philippines has progressed so slowly that we must constantly race against population growth. Our production is slow; it takes three families in the agricultural section to produce the necessary food and fiber for themselves and one family in other sectors of our economy. Compare this rate with that of the American farmer who produces food for 23 Americans and three foreigners. Our production is hindered by the very structure that should support it—the social struc- ??? Although many of our people are engaged in agriculture, they fail to produce sufficient raw materials to develop our industries. This is not their failure, really, but ours, for we have not provided them greater opportunities.

“Agricultural production in the Philippines is largely dependent on the efforts of small farmers. Forty percent of our farmers do not own the land on which they were born and the land on which they will spend ??? ducing our staple crops of rice and corn and one of our most important export crops—sugar—is predominantly operated by tenants.

“The poverty of our rural areas tends to increase in direct proportion to the incidence of sharecrop tenancy and its concomitant, absentee landlordism. In failing to change the status of tenant farmers, we set narrow limits to our own agricultural productivity; we abet poverty; we abet grave social injustices.

“[Some] have taken some halting and half-hearted steps to mitigate the tenancy problem. But such reluctant, stop-gap solutions no longer suffice. We have reached a stage in our national growth which makes genuine land reforms imperative. To go forward in social and economic development, we have first to recast the structure of agriculture to enable it to grow in productivity and give momentum to industrial progress.

“Unfortunately, the common opinion of land reform is that it is for the benefit of the poor and at the expense of the rich. On the contrary, land reform, by increasing production and income and by giving dignity to a large portion of our people, can be instrumental in the promotion of general social and economic progress.

“In our small farmers lies a great potential of energy for growth. Let us unleash these tremendous productive energies. Tied up in our land is the greatest of our capital resources. Let us release these resources so that our business and industry may go forward. In the end, we can all look back to this day and recall with satisfaction that we had the courage to face the demands of reality and to take this challenging step for the delivery of our people from economic and social bondage.”

This is a call to greatness. Dare we not answer it? This is a call to the confrontation of reality. Dare we ignore it? There is no fool’s paradise; there are only fools, and they soon pay the penalty. There is no substitute for or avoidance of reality.

End

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

MAN OF THE YEAR

January 6, 1962

by  NAPOLEON G. RAMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Big Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brightest Virtue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new President once told the FREE PRESS:

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

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

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

 

 

No. 2 Man, December 2, 1961

December 2, 1961

No. 2 Man

by N.G.Rama

Pelaez is the first Mindanao politician to occupy the vice-presidency. He fought Magsaysay’s battles in congress. Together they minted the political credo: “What is good for the common man is good for the country.”

UP TO early December, 1960, Diosdado Macapagal was still in the throes of hunting for a running mate. On the political horizon there were only two outstanding anti-administration politicos who fitted the geographical requirement—a southerner with sufficient political charm and following. These were Serging Osmeña, Jr., and Emmanuel Pelaez. But both had turned down Macapagal’s offer.

Serging cast himself in the role of a political prima donna—noisily spurning the advances of Macapagal. Flushed with triumphal trips to the provinces soon after his sensational suspension from Congress, Osmeña disputed Macapagal’s right to wear the mantle of the opposition standard-bearer.

He would send away Macapagal’s emissaries with irreverent messages for the LP boss. “Tell your master,” he once told a Macapagal errand boy, “that his offer is ridiculous. It is I who should ask him to run as my vice-presidential candidate. It is unthinkable for me to run under him.”

Without funds and discredited by the NP vilification squad, Macapagal, in Serging’s estimate, would make a very shabby presidential candidate—a sure loser to the lord-almighty of the party-in-power. For Macapagal to fight the money and machine of the administration with a weak and impoverished Liberal Party was to Serging a quixotic venture. He let it be known that he had no intention to play Sancho Panza to the Pampango politico. He expected the LP leaders to see the light soon and come crawling to him to offer him the LP presidential nomination. Among the presidential possibilities outside of the party-in-power, he alone was reputed to have the financial capacity and the ready-made broad political base—the Cebuano and the Iglesia ni Cristo vote—needed to combat the administration candidates.

Pelaez, for his part, had other reasons for declining the vice-presidential offer. Still bearing the scars of the 1959 elections, when he ran on a third party ticket and lost, Pelaez was not ready to take any more chances. His wife, Edith, had asked him to swear off politics and wept when she learned that he was again involved in political conferences. Financially and politically, he couldn’t afford to lose again. he figured that if he ran for the Senate, he would be a sure winner. There would be eight positions at stake and he would be vying with 15 other candidates—some of them disreputable or amateur politicians.

It would be a more difficult feat to win the vice-presidential election as an opposition candidate. The fight would be much rougher. Along with the presidential candidate, he would be a target of the concentrated campaign of the party-in-power.

He frankly told Macapagal about his predicament and misgivings—and his decision to run for the Senate. He even went out of his way to persuade Serging to take the vice-presidential offer.

In the middle of December, 1960, Macapagal, chafing over Serging’s irritating rebuffs, decided to forget Serging and assert his leadership as bossed the aid of the Grand Alliance colleagues of Pelaez to pressure Pelaez into accepting the vice-presidential candidacy. In an emergency meeting the Grand Alliance leaders bluntly reminded Pelaez of their pact to abide by the decision of the group. There was not going to be a one-man decision. Raul Manglapus, Francisco Rodrigo, Manuel Manahan and Rodrigo Perez informed Pelaez that the group decision was that he should run for vice-president under the United Opposition. Pelaez was left no choice.

Serging Osmeña, in the meantime, had changed his mind. He sent word to Macapagal that he was after all amendable to his vice-presidential offer. it was too late. Macapagal, a shrewd politician, made no move to rebuff Serging’s belated bid. He told Serging to submit his name to the LP convention—largely to humor the Cebuano kingpin and consolidate the United Opposition.

Before the convention Macapagal lent Pelaez his full support. Despite this, Pelaez up to a week before the LP convention was still ready to yield the nomination to Serging, if his GA group would allow him. The rest is now history—the most reluctant vice-presidential candidate in our political history got elected and, because of his election, he may be on his way to become president of the Republic.

Pelaez’s reluctance had nothing to do with his personal qualifications for the post. He has stood in the national limelight since he got into the political big-time as a Mindanao congressman in 1949. He has elected etched out an attractive, alert and intelligent public image—a politician preoccupied with principles and possessed of a social conscience.

He was at the top of the political ladder during Ramon Magsaysay’s regime. The late President considered Pelaez his most trusted adviser and confidant; in fact, he had groomed him as his heir apparent. He had asked Pelaez to run for vice-president in 1957–precisely to set the presidential stage for Pelaez.

But for one of those inscrutable twists of fate, Pelaez might have been Macapagal’s opponent in the last election, instead of his running mate, and might now have been the President-Elect, instead of Macapagal–if Magsaysay had lived. Remember that RM’s term would have ended this year, assuming that he would have been re-elected in 1957.

Pelaez’s spectacular political career was no accident. From his father, the late Governor Gregorio Pelaez, who for years was the undisputed political boss of Misamis Oriental, he got his first schooling in the art of politics. he inherited the Pelaez charm–the easy grin winsome gestures, the soft, persuasive voice.

The young Pelaez, however, was not content with resting on the family laurels. In 1938 he topped the bar exams—a remarkable feat for a student who had worked himself through college. His father, a wealthy coconut planter, was hard hit by the economic crisis in the 1930’s. He let his son strike out on his own in the country’s capital. Soon after passing the bar, Pelaez became one of the youngest and best-known law professors in Manila.

In 1934, while in college, he worked as a P36-a-month clerk in the journal division of the old Philippine Senate. A year later he was a reporter of El Debate, an influential Spanish daily. Just before he finished college, he did a stint as a translator in the Court of Appeals.

He will be the second authentic former newspaperman to have occupied the No. 2 post of the country. The first was the late Sergio Osmeña, Sr., who was publisher and editor of a Cebu newspaper near the turn of the century. Pelaez, however, is the first son of Mindanao to have been elected to the vice-presidency, the highest position that a Mindanao politician has ever attained.

Pelaez won national recognition as a lawyer in 1949 when he was commissioned to prosecute them Senate President Jose Avelino, the respondent in a case involving the sale of surplus beer. Pitted against top lawyers in Manila, Pelaez displayed brilliant legal strategy and resourcefulness. Sprung to fame as the hard-driving prosecutor in the well-publicized probe, Pelaez was tapped to run for Congress in his home province in 1949 on the Liberal ticket.

His performance in the House of Representatives as a freshman solon was outstanding. his most memorable fight in the House was in defense of the Constitution and against his party bosses. President Quirino, anxious for more power, had demanded more and more from Congress—invoking the wartime emergency powers. The congressman from Mindanao refused to toe the party line and, worse, urged the repeal of existing presidential power statutes. His campaign against the bill forced the House to revise the original draft and settle for an emasculated version. In the end Pelaez scored a moral victory when the Supreme Court stripped the President of his emergency powers.

The party bosses could not forget the misbehavior of the upstart solon from Mindanao. To teach him a lesson, they plotted his expulsion from Congress. His comeuppance came in the form of a House Electoral Tribunal decision which ruled that the Mindanao solon for lack of residence was unfit to hold his congressional office. His own party colleagues were browbeaten by the big bosses into voting against him.

Pelaez refused to accept defeat, asked for a reconsideration of the verdict and carried his fight to the floor of Congress. He argued his case with such eloquence that he rallied the minority solons behind him, stirred up press indignation and even won the motion for reconsideration; and the majority party lost to the opposition the most popular congressman at that time.

Out of his fight to retain his seat in Congress Pelaez emerged as the undisputed leader of the ever-swelling “Progressive Bloc” in the House—composed of majority solons who took it upon themselves to fiscalize the graft-ridden Quirino administration.

When the 1953 elections drew near, it was Pelaez’s turn to work against the big boss of the LP. He was the chief architect of the political strategy that brought Ramon Magsaysay into the Nacionalista Party and paved the way for RM’s presidential nomination.

In their days in Congress together, Magsaysay and Pelaez were great friends. They were drawn to each other by a strong sense of idealism–a public philosophy that both shared. Both believed that the common tao in the rural areas was the forgotten in the man in our age; that the government’s first obligation was to better the lot of the rural tao; that social reform was the answer to Communist subversion; that a dishonest administration could not solve the social and economic ills of the country; that the rule of vested interests, landlords and the caciques had to go; and that a square deal must be inaugurated for the rural folk who composed three-fourths of the population.

Throughout RM’s term as president, Pelaez handled the delicate policy-making task of drafting his state-of-the-nation messages. RM trusted no one else. In one of the best-written messages to the nation, Pelaez summed up in one simple, succinct and memorable sentence the RM doctrine:

“What is good for the common man is good for the country.”

When Congressman Ramon Magsaysay was recruited for the Department of National Defense secretaryship at a time when the Huks were knocking at the gates of Manila, it was his good friend Pelaez who lined up votes for his request for funds with which to finance his anti-Huk campaign and program.

In RM’s bid for the presidential nomination under the Nacionalista banner, Pelaez was his adviser, campaign manager and spokesman. In RM’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with the NP old Guard, Amang Rodriguez, Claro M. Recto and Jose Laurel, Sr., all shrewd and seasoned politicos, he named Pelaez as his spokesman. Until the death of President Magsaysay, the NP Old Guard nursed secret resentment against Pelaez for spoiling their plans during those negotiations.

Having second thoughts about an “outsider” taking over the reins of the party, the NP Old Guard wanted to be sure that when he became president he would follow their signals. One of their moves to keep RM beholden to them was to get him to give the NP Old Guard a free hand in picking his Cabinet members. On the advice of Pelaez, Magsaysay put his foot down on the proposal. The Old Guard were outraged. But Pelaez’s estimate of the situation proved correct: The old bosses would finally knuckle down because they needed Magsaysay more than he needed them.

The same fateful elections of 1953 that swept Magsaysay into power also Pelaez in the Senate. Their bonds grew stronger, their teamwork smoother. Having more prestige in the Senate than he had in the House, Pelaez enjoyed new power. It was he who whipped up support for RM’s pet projects. It was not an easy task. Most of RM’s social reforms were strong medicine for the landlord-dominated Congress.

There was bitter resistance to RM’s land reform bill. It took a special session and threats of political reprisals for RM to get the measure through Congress.

The Anti-Subversion La which Pelaez valiantly sponsored on the Senate floor was almost derailed on the last days of session. A motion was sprung to send the bill back to its committee of origin for further study. Sensing the main strategy of the bill’s opponents, Pelaez maneuvered to meet the counter-thrust. He threw away the kid gloves. “Let’s face it,” he told them, “to remand the bill to the committee at this late hour would mean its death.” He dared the opponents to kill the measure on the senate floor so that the people would know those who did not want it to pass.

The opponents fidgeted and stalled, but finally retreated. The bill passed and is now a major deterrent to the spread of communism in the country.

When it was fashionable among congressmen to laugh off RM’s rural improvement program as a re-election gimmick of “a product of rural mentality,” Pelaez was among the few who took it seriously and fought for it right down the line.

Take, for instance, the budget for the PACD which ran RM’s community development program. During its first years of existence the PACD budget was cut or scrapped altogether by pork-barrel-minded solons. Invariably, it was Pelaez who would take up the fight for the PACD and get its budget restored.

Pelaez’s fondness for community development stems not only from a conviction that it is a good program but also from more sentimental roots. It was he who midwifed the birth of the program. At a time when “community development” was a vague term and “self-help” little more than a sonorous platitude, Ramon P. Binamira, now PACD chief, presented to Magsaysay his draft of the PACD program. RM was thoroughly skeptical. A man in a great hurry, he wanted a more drastic, more immediate aid program for the rural people.

Binamira, convinced of his program’s worth, sought the aid of Manny Pelaez. He carefully explained to Pelaez the mechanics and principles of the PACD. Pelaez took time out to study the draft and assess its merits. On the same day, late in the evening, Pelaez accompanied Binamira back to Malacañang to persuade Magsaysay to accept the program This time the President listened. The meeting lasted until midnight and ended with Magsaysay signing an executive order creating the PACD and sending away Binamira with his benediction.

It has since become an in controvertible fact: The PACD program is the best rural uplift program in this part of the globe—one which many Asian countries are now studying and adopting.

All through his term in the Senate, Pelaez defended, kept alive and gave flesh and meaning to RM’s program and ideals—even after RM’s death. Pelaez went on to author and sponsor the Barrio Charter, now known as the rural people’s Magna Carta. More aptly, it should be called the rural folk’s Declaration of Independence.

The Barrio Charter places in the hands of the barrio people the management of their affairs and the tools for their economic and political redemption. It provides for a barrio government whose officials the barrio people can assert and govern themselves, determine their needs and problems, raise taxes and retain them, and decide what projects to undertake. Into their hands is thrust the responsibility of carving out their own local destiny. Apart from the taxes raised through self-taxation, the barrio people, by virtue of the Charter, retain 10 percent of all real estate taxes collected by the national government within the barrio. To get this additional income, the barrio people need not go begging to the politicians or the national government.

Barrio home rule should help do away with the hand-out mentality, the overdependence on pork barrel, the indifference and lassitude of the barrio people—which are largely responsible for the snail’s pace of rural progress.

Possibly the most important piece of legislation in the last decade, the Barrio Charter sets in motion the mechanics of democracy at the grassroots level. It is a means of bettering the lot of the forgotten man in the barrio even as it makes of him a better citizen.

Since the death of Magsaysay, no piece of legislation has done more to accelerate what he liked to call “the peaceful revolution in the barrios”—or the revolution of rising expectations, as the economists and pundits put it.

The Barrio Charter may even have contributed to the rout of the administration candidates in the rural areas. Many barrios, it appears, are no longer so vulnerable to the political machine of the party in power. They have ceased to be the private preserves of the political bosses, the caciques, the landlords and the pork-barrel artists. Many rural people, through their barrio government, can now stand on their own feet and can do without political doles. They have declared their independence from their traditional masters.

In sponsoring and fighting for the passage of a law that would bring new hope and new life to the bulk of the population, Pelaez had his finest hour in his entire political career.

But a greater task awaits him. ALL indications are that despite his being a newcomer to Macapagal’s Liberal Party he has hit it off famously with the LP boss. Macapagal, shortly after the election trends pointed to an LP win, served notice that he would saddle the Vice-President-Elect with grave responsibilities. Pelaez was his first Cabinet appointee—as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Pelaez himself originally wanted the secretaryship of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. he thought that as agriculture boss he could do more in pursuing the basic program of land reform, barrio-load building, irrigation, local autonomy, community development—all of which directly affect the lives of the rural folk. He had hoped to play a major role in unlocking the treasures of the land and providing prosperity for the nation by properly developing the country’s vast natural resources through local and foreign investments.

When he got word, however, that the President-Elect wanted him to take over the foreign affairs department in January, he had no complaint. In his first formal press interview Pelaez declared that he would mobilize the foreign office as an instrument for economic development of the country. His plans included a no non-sense foreign investment program and promotion of foreign trade.

He would request Macapagal to study the feasibility of placing the PACD–his old baby–under his department. After all, he said, the PACD is a joint P.I.-U.S. program and derives much of its fund from abroad. It would not be unseemly to put the office under him.

Pelaez says that he owes much of his election victory to the late President Magsaysay with whom he and his Grand Alliance group were closely identified. In voting for the RM men, the people voted for RM’s principles and policies. His men believe they owe it to RM to pursue these policies. Macapagal himself seems to realize the need for a peaceful economic revolution in the rural areas.

Insight into the thinking and personality of the new No. 2 man of the country may be found in his recent speeches. Here is the main theme that he has stressed.

“Our efforts to change the status quo and imbue our society with those attitudes and patterns of thinking that would promote economic progress should follow two main courses: first, by structural and institutional changes through public policy, social reforms, and decentralization of economic and political power; and secondly, by particularly of the young before they acquire traditional values and attitudes.

“We must concern ourselves with government and its procedures. For instance, the present attitude of basing almost all governmental actions on political and personal considerations must be replaced by a return to the moral concept that government exists for the satisfaction of the people’s needs. Decentralization of power must be carried out in order to promote participation of all citizens in governmental decisions and actions.

“Ability and excellence must be given the highest priority in appointments to government positions so that we may develop a corps of career men qualified to run its affairs competently and honestly.

“The second task requires radical changes in our social values and relationships. It can be done if all elements—the government, the Church, political parties, civic groups, officials and citizens—take part in the endeavor.

“The single most critical factor in meeting the responsibilities and challenges of the times is leadership of a high order—a leadership capable of understanding and integrating technical, social, economic and political forces and placing them behind the drive toward achieving the nation’s political and economic maturity…above all a leadership dedicated to the democratic faith and the dignity of the human individual. In a country like ours where the people are wont to look to the top for guidance national leadership[ of a high order is demanded if we are to transform this country into a modern democratic society.”

End

The Winners ’61, November, 1961

The Winners ’61

By Quijano de Manila

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cry has rent the political jungle.

The leopard has sprung.

 

The incredible

 

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

Magsaysay was expected to win; Macapagal was not.

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

Actually, Macapagal polled a bigger popular vote than Magsaysay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The inevitable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, in Pototan, Iloilo, came the revelation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The improbable

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

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

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

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

“What are your chances?” she asked.

“And what will you do afterwards?”

“I’ll teach and practise law.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The invisible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The impossible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Victory, November 23, 1957

Strange Victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junket Fever, editorial, July 24, 1954

Junket fever
July 24, 1954

MANY people are beginning to note with alarm the increasing frequency of so-called “official trips” by high-ranking officials. If these traveling worthies spent their own funds and not the taxpayers’ money, nobody protest. The trouble, however, is that often their gallivanting in foreign countries is at the taxpayers’ cost.

Particularly exasperating is it when they take along with them on “official trips” members of their families. And there have been, as everyone knows, a number of such instances.

Since the present administration took over, certain provincial governors, congressmen and senators—not to mention private individuals in the good graces of the powers that be—have gone abroad. In the case of a couple of governors, the public is still in the dark as to what they accomplished during their recent trip to Japan. As regards the lawmakers, Representative Diosdado Macapagal is authority for this statement (during the regular session): “12 days were declared as a recess. . . during which the House leaders went on a junket to Hong Kong. . . .They could not wait for the session to end to have their junket. What was worse was that they announced that they went to Hong Kong at their own expense when the records of the House show that their 12-day vacation was at the expense of the people.”

The Pampanga congressman went on to say that “whereas the past administration—during the Japanese peace conference in San Francisco, where the Philippines had a vital stake because of the reparations issues—the Philippine delegation consisted only of seven persons, in the recent Geneva Conference where we have no voice, the government sent a delegation of 17 members! The delegates, according to a Manila editor who covered the conference, spent most of their time sightseeing in Paris and other nearby tourist attractions at public expense because they had nothing to do in Geneva!”

There is a plan afoot to send a delegation to the United States to work for revision of the Bell Trade Act. Composed of senators and congressmen and “an unlimited number of technical assistants,” the entourage will be provided with funds amounting to no less than half a million pesos. In this case, of course, the amount is negligible, IF the delegation brings home the bacon.

But so far as the Filipino people know, most of the junketeers are empty-handed upon their return except for so-called reports which nobody cares to listen to. They also bring home vouchers and fat expense accounts. And, of course, luxury goods from the capitals of Europe, America, and Asia.