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Cory’s “Army”: Organizing People Power
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 10, 1987–AS SOON as Cory Aquino let it be known that she was not against the formation of a political party, her true-blue leaders began regrouping, reorganizing, consolidating and coalescing their political forces. With the political realignment, the battle lines between the pro-Cory and anti-Cory parties were drawn.
As of the latest count, no fewer than 14 political parties , aggrupations and organizations have come out for Cory. Many regional and local political entities have also committed their support to the lady President. Their first political task is to campaign for the approval of the draft constitution.
Ratification = Cory!
Before Cory left for Tokyo, three massive organizations had already sprung up in support of her call for the ratification of the proposed charter. These are the Lakas ng Bansa, a powerful political movement, led by Cory’s cabinet ministers; the Conglomerate of Business Groups, composed of business and industrial leaders; and the Coalition for Constitutional Approval, a five-party entity, whose initials, CCA, correspond with those of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
The original plan was to put up a single, all-encompassing administration party that would provide Cory with strong political support in the task of normalizing and rebuilding the country. It was obvious that Unido, the party under which Cory ran for and won the Presidency, was more of an enemy than a friend of Cory’s, an obstacle rather than a help in the realization of Cory’s vision.
Again and again, no less than Unido’s top guns, “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, attacked Cory’s stand. Unido’s dubious allegiance to the President was intolerable. Then came “Doy’s” open flirtations with Cory’s No. 1 challenger, Enrile.
Like Enrile, Laurel battled for presidential election in case the electorate turned down the draft constitution. He also subscribed to Enrile’s belief that the repudiation of the proposed charter would constitute a repudiation of the Cory government. Worse, “Doy” even agreed with the Marcos “loyalists” that there was no documentary proof of a Cory-Doy victory in the last election, ignoring the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of such a victory.
“Doy’s” liaison with the Marcos-Enrile gang and the muscle-flexing of the Marcos political tail, the KBL, and the so-called NP wings of Palmares and Cayetano prompted Cory’s supporters to do some seducing and muscle-flexing of their own. Lakas ng Bansa attracted to its fold political parties while the five-party coalition of the CCA underscored the political clout behind Cory. The lady President is clearly far from helpless as she sometimes appears to be.
The CCA’s lead party is the PDP-Laban, founded by the late Ninoy Aquino, now headed by Cory’s brother, “Peping” Cojuangco. Cory’s brother-in-law, “Butz” Aquino, with his militant Bandila, is also there. So is Salonga’s wing of the Liberal Party. Ramon Pedrosa’s Pilipino Democratic Socialist Party and Raul Manglapus’s Union of Christian Democrats complete the five-party coalition.
Another organization that has thrown its weight behind Cory is the Conglomerate of Business Groups, which draws individual members from different business and industrial organizations, like the Lions, the Rotary and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, among others.
Committed to Cory’s economic recovery program, the CBG counts with great influence in the world of business and industry, both here and abroad. Its support has given Cory a stronger moral authority to carry out her program of government.
But the grandest alliance of all is, perhaps, the Lakas ng Bansa, organized by Cory’s closest supporters, many of whom are members of the Cabinet. Although identified only as a political movement, it is considered as Cory Aquino’s “party of the future”. Right now, its top leaders are about the most visible, audible and credible spokesmen of the Cory government. Its president and seven of its 13 vice-presidents are all cabinet ministers.
The Lakas ng Bansa roster of officials reads like a Who’s Who in the government. Justice Secretary Neptali Gonzales, who bolted the Unido, is the movement’s president, Budget Minister Alberto Romulo, who threatened to leave Unido, is vice-president of the National Capital Region.
Other ministers who occupy vice-presidential positions in the Lakas ng Bansa are Heherson Alvarez of Agrarian Reform, Region II; Ramon Mitra Jr., of Agriculture, Region VI; Luis Villafuerte of Reorganization, Region V; and Antonio Cuenco of Political Affairs, Region VII. The remaining vice presidential positions were vacated by Ernesto Maceda and Rogaciano Mercado but will be filled up by top political leaders of their respective regions who also hold high positions in the new dispensation.
Judging from its composition, the Lakas ng Bansa, also known as Laban, is virtually the political movement of the administration. No other single political entity is more conversant with the over-all thrust of the Cory government than Laban, whose principal organizers are also some of Cory’s most trusted advisers. It has the blessings of “Peping” Cojuangco and its day-to-day affairs are run by its secretary-general, “Ding” Tanjuatco, Cory’s cousin.
Laban looks like a stronger version of the Unido, although the latter is a duly-registered political party while the former is not. Its membership comes from a much-wider political spectrum than Unido can ever hope to have. It expects to absorb all the pro-Aquino political forces and groups, like the Cory Aquino for President Movement, Cory Crusaders, Bisig, Bayan, Lakas ng Pilipino, Bansa, Kaiba, and many others.
Its founding fathers come from different political parties, like the Liberal, Nacionalista, PDP-Laban and even Unido itself. Not a few KBL leaders have already expressed their willingness to join. Its membership, according to Tanjuatco, is open to “all Filipinos, here and abroad, young and old, rich and poor of whatever sector, religion or affiliation.”
“Lakas ng Bansa is People Power continued, institutionalized nationwide, and reinforced with a driving vision to emancipate the Filipino people from all forms of poverty and tyranny. The movement will not stand aside ad watch democratic gains eroded. It will not only rally to defend these gains but it will also mobilize to consolidate them.
“We must realize that although we have driven the former president away, he has left behind his destructive and dismal legacy. In many areas of our country, his clones and heirs apparent — but more seriously his distorted values — remain firmly entrenched. A great movement of People Power is needed to expose and bury once and for all these vestiges from a recent and unlimited past.”
Many of Laban’s organizers hope to convert their movement into a duly-registered political party. If they haven’t taken positive steps towards that end yet, it is in deference to Cory’s wishes not to disturb the present so-called “rainbow coalition”. But they are ready. At a moment’s notice, when the movement’s directorate so wishes, Laban will be registered with the Commission on Elections as a full-fledged political party.
Its organizational set-up is virtually complete, including the draft of its constitution and by-laws. It has already adopted the slogan — “Lakas ng Pagkakaisa, Lakas ng Bayan” — a red dove in flight with a broken chain attached to its leg. The red dove, according to Laban officials, symbolizes a courageous and gentle people in their journey towards liberation as represented by the broken chain.
About 2,500 delegates attended the launching of Lakas ng Bansa at the Valle Verde Auditorium in Pasig, Metro Manila. PDP-Laban’s “Peping” Cojuangco and Jose Yap were there. So were Villafuerte and Cuenco of Unido. But “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, Unido’s “dynamic duo”, were conspicuously absent. All the delegates were one in their stand to protect Cory from what they called “remnants” of a horrible regime and other “adversaries.”
Lakas ng Bansa was established, according to Minister Gonzales, principally to support Cory’s effort in rebuilding the nation, and its doors are open to all, even to card-carrying members of established political parties without their losing party membership. It was organized, he stressed, “not in opposition to, but in harmony with existing political parties that support President Aquino”. Its first major objective is to restore constitutional democracy “by working for the ratification of the new constitution”.
To repeat, the battle lines have already been drawn. On one side are pro-Cory parties, groups and aggrupations, numbering no fewer than 14 national entities, not counting the seven regional and local ones. On the other side are only two political parties: Enrile’s Nacionalista Party of Palmares and Cayetano and Marcos’s abominable KBL. You may add a third one, if you don’t consider Kalaw’s Liberal Party circus a mere nuisance.
As for Adaza’s Mindanao Alliance, forget it. Such an alliance is only between Homobono and Adaza, for, by and of Homobono Adaza himself. For all intents and purposes, Adaza is nothing more than an appendage of Enrile’s political gang. Kalaw and Adaza used to be “supporters” of Cory, but for one reason or another, they parted ways with her after she assumed power. Wittingly or otherwise, both have in effect aligned themselves with the Marcos-Enrile alliance while maintaining their individual political identity.
In the case of Unido, one has to play it by ear. After wagging against the draft constitution earlier, “Doy” Laurel is now wagging in favor of it. Perhaps, he is playing it by ear as he awaits the wigwag from his elder brother, “Pepito”, who calls the shot in his own wing of the Nacionalista Party. One thing is clear: “Doy” will zig when “Pepito” zigs and zag when “Pepito” zags. Expect Rene Espina to zigzag along with them.
But “Pepito’s” mind is made up. He is for the ratification o the proposed constitution, which, he believes, is an improvement on the 1973 Constitution, “designed for the one-man rule of Marcos”. While the draft charter is “an imperfect document” says “Pepito”, it can “satisfy the desires and even the demands of all the segments of our society”.
“I would never have signed the draft constitution if I believed it would be inimical to the Filipino people. On the contrary, I felt that for all its imperfections and shortcomings, it would guide and inspire us in the fashioning of a freer and richer future after the ordeal of the past despotism from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves.
“It is a worn argument, I suppose, but it is no less valid for the telling, and so I repeat the ratification of this constitution will provide our country with the stability it needs to plan more realistically and to adopt more enduring policies for the days ahead.”
Blas Ople’s Partido Nacionalista ng Pilipinas is also for the approval of the draft constitution. While some PNP members are against it, Ople and his three PNP confreres, who were ConCom members, like Pepito, are duty-bound to uphold what they helped to formulate. Ople’s closest side-kick in the PNP, Teodulo Natividad, also a ConCom member, has already put himself squarely behind the ratification of the proposed charter.
In his typically bombastic manner, Ople announced that the ratification of the new constitution “will erect the sovereign ramparts” to foil all existing conspiracies against the Republic, making all “hidden agendas” obsolescent. He also warned that those who want to seize power still hope to abort the plebiscite and “prolong the constitutional vacuum” because they know that the ratification of the new charter will “foreclose their option of mass violence for toppling the government.”
“All claimants to power, therefore, increasingly realize that the period for an unconventional challenge to the government is definitely capped by the cabinet deadline. Beyond that date, they will have to recast their plans to be able to stay in the game, by preparing for constitutional and peaceful elections.”
The Tried and Tested
But Cory will have to bank on her tried-and-tested supporters to hurdle one of the severest tests of her political career: the approval of the draft charter, whose repudiation could be perceived as a public rejection of her young administration. Such a perception, however, could only come from a distorted sense of logic. Cory had nothing to do with the formulation of the proposed charter, except to appoint the people who drafted it. Whatever flaws it has should not be blamed on Cory but on the people who produced it.
Unlike the 1973 Constitution, which was written for and in behalf of Marcos, the 1986 draft charter is the product of the free interplay of ideas among 47 commissioners insulated from Malacañang influence. Nobody can accuse Cory of doing to the 1986 proposed charter what Marcos did to the 1973 Constitution. In other words, if the people rejected it in the plebiscite, they would do so not because they had withdrawn their support from Cory but because they disapproved of the proposed constitution. So, let Cory call for an elected — this time — constitutional convention!
But the Marcos-Enrile political gangs do not see it that way. They had been peddling the idea that rejection of the new charter would mean the withdrawal of public support from Cory, and therefore, Cory must get a fresh mandate from the electorate to continue in office. And yet, they don’t want Cory to campaign for the ratification of the new charter. Where’s the logic there?
Logical or not, Cory has accepted the challenge — and she is campaigning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, partly because she wants to settle, once and for all, the fake issue of the legitimacy of her government, principally because she really believes that the approval of the draft charter is a giant step towards normalcy and national stability. What the means is that Cory is willing and ready to give up her vast powers under the Freedom Constitution in favor of the 1986 constitution, which establishes limitations on the powers of the Presidency. She’s not power-hungry.
If Cory were like Marcos, she wouldn’t give a hoot for the draft charter. Its rejection would be sufficient justification for her to continue wielding her plenary powers under the Freedom Constitution and call for an elective ConCom to draft another Constitution. Until the electorate approved a new charter, she could go on ruling under the mantle of a revolutionary government. She would be an all-powerful Chief Executive for as long as she continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of her people — which she does.
But Cory is not Marcos—and she is infinitely more perceptive than Marcos, who viewed things only in the light of his insatiable greed for power and self. Precisely because of that, she is working hard for the approval of the new constitution although it means the diminution of the powers that she currently enjoys. Cory’s support for the ratification of the new charter is proof to all that she is no power-hungry politician.
When Marcos “lifted” martial law, he did it only on paper. He retained his vast powers, even the power over the lives and fortunes of his critics and enemies. This is not the case with Cory. If the proposed charter is approved by the people, Cory will have much less power than she would have under the 1935 Constitution. Hers will be a republican government answerable to the people, from whom government powers should emanate.
On this score, a large segment of the people are behind Cory all the way. Besides the Lakas ng Bansa, the Coalition for Constitutional Approval and the Conglomerate of Business groups, other large movements have recently organized themselves in support of Cory’s campaign for the ratification of the proposed constitution. Noteworthy are Bansa, composed of some 20 large farmer organizations, led by former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, and Kaiba, the biggest women political party of the country today, led by Princess Tarhata Lucman.
Lakas ng Pilipino, headed by Charito Planas, is also campaigning for the approval of the new constitution. So are Partido ng Bayan of the late Rolando Olalia and the Lapiang Manggagawa of Jose Villegas. The Philippine Islamic Democratic Party has also come out openly in favor of the approval of the proposed charter. Even militant organizations , like Gabriela, Bisig and Bayan are behind Cory.
Cory’s Unarmed Forces
All these political parties, aggrupations, civic organizations and militant groups now constitute Cory’s unarmed army, which is committed to preserve the gains of the People Power Revolution. They are behind Cory in her quest for a stable and prosperous nation, as they stood by her in her struggle to oust the Dictator. Whether they will eventually fuse into a single political party for Cory or not, the fact remains that they are now solidly one behind her.
Their militant interest in the country’s welfare should serve as a warning to all those, particularly Enrile’s military coup-koos and the Marcos Mafia. These would kill the Filipino people’s newly-recovered rights and liberties — again! Having organized on its own free will, Cory’s “army” is out to prove that People Power remains a tower of strength for a people who loves justice and peace. How strong that Power is will be shown in the outcome of the plebiscite on the proposed constitution.
Triumph of the Will
By Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.
There was a time, remarkably, when Filipinos thought Marcos to be a genius. It was like a man’s admiring the agility of his wife’s lover in getting in and out of their bed while he was brushing his teeth. Cory dismissed this proposition contemptuously.
February 7, 1986—THE stage was like the whitecap of a giant wave. Cory walked from one side of the stage to the other, as Doy asked her to check the crowd’s responses to his questions: Were they for the Opposition? Were they tired of Marcos? Were they determined to rid themselves of his dictatorship, whatever the price? Where they going to vote for Cory-Doy? Arms and voices rose in unison.
Doy was like the heavy blade to the fine, sharp edge of Cory. With his hoarse but powerful voice, he defined the issues of the election and channeled the passions and thoughts of the crowd to the single direction of a resounding “No” to more of Marcos and a thunderous “Yes” to a future under the Opposition. But it was not spellbinding demagoguery on his part.
One got the feeling, looking down at that mass, that it held the two of them in the thrall of a collective determination to end the Marcos regime and give themselves, through Cory and Doy, a chance to control again their destinies. Cory was the edge of that determination, Doy was the blade but the people were the spear shaft and theirs was the force that would propel it forward. The same feeling came to you even in the rallies in smaller cities and in the towns. It was, as Art Borjal, the Inquirer columnist said, the people campaigning for president against Marcos.
Cory walked back and forth, smiling, occasionally raising her hand in the “laban” sign. But she exuded, one felt, even from that height and distance, not so much the self-confidence of a seasoned politician as the feeling that she was at home. When it was her turn to speak, her voice came across with the given authority of the one you most respect in a household. No nonsense, clear, and coming at you from a set of moral assumptions you could question only at the risk of feeling like a pariah, of inviting her disdain. She was reversing the values of the Filipino under 20 years of Marcos.
Marcos’s whole life was dedicated to the proposition that nothing succeeds like success, and that the attainment of your personal ends justifies any means whatever at the expense of others. There was a time, remarkably, when Filipinos would say admiringly that Marcos was a genius as he got away with one constitutional, legal, moral and fiscal travesty after another. It was like a man admiring the agility of his wife’s lover in getting in and out of their bedroom while he was brushing his teeth.
Cory did not refute this proposition. She just dismissed it contemptuously. Twenty years of despoiling a nation with impunity, and not infrequent popular acclaim, ceased to be a ringing testimonial of what one Filipino can do to an entire nation if he sets his mind to it, by golly, but a simple and contemptible betrayal of trust. Marcos had said, “This nation can be great again.” (Referring, it turned out, to himself and a greed of national proportions.) Cory, walking up and down the stage, in a yellow dress with simple lines, was showing that it can be clean again. And that this mattered more.
Darkness had fallen when she came to the end of her speech. Only the stage was lighted. There was a signboard, she said, in one of the towns where she campaigned, and it read: “Cory, isang bala ka lang.” If this was Marcos’s message to her, she said, her answer was, raising her arm with the forefinger sticking out, “Marcos, isang balota ka lang.” In the darkness that had closed in like a threat, one felt the vulnerability of this response to the irrefutable argument of a bullet. One also felt a wave of protectiveness rise form the crowd and enfold her.
Afterwards someone remarked, “She’s certainly grown in her role.” I thought, “No, she simply stepped into it.” It was the same Cory I had first met in 1971.
It was the night of the Plaza Miranda bombing. Marcos had immediately blamed the communists for it and declared he was suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and ordering everyone to turn in his guns. Ninoy fetched me in his blue LTD and thrust into my hands what looked like a piece of artillery. He was in a dramatic mood again. “That’s a BAR,” he said, “a Browning automatic riffle. Surrender guns, Marcos says, let’s see about that. This guy’s out to kill us all and he wants us to go like sheep to the slaughter.”
We were going, he said, to confront the secretary of defense, Enrile, before the TV cameras, and “let’s see them try to disarm us.”
I don’t recall what passed between them, except that, after the show, Enrile told us that he had gotten the pair of boots we had complimented him on in a shop in San Francisco and wrote the name on a piece of paper.
I don’t know if Ninoy’s bravado had arrested a plan for martial law after the suspension of the writ if the people showed that they were cowed. But it looked like that because the Administration was on the defensive thereafter as Ninoy barnstormed the country for the hospitalized Opposition senatorial slate. And when the Opposition won by a landslide, Marcos went on the air and said that he was accepting the victory as a rebuke from the people.
Later that evening, well past midnight, we went to Times Street for dinner. We sat down to pork chops and fried rice. Cory moved around the sala, occasionally stopping to listen to what we were talking about. Other people had dropped in and Ninoy regaled them with a slightly embellished account of how he had challenged the government that evening. He turned to me to confirm every detail he gave until Cory fixed a no-nonsense, it’s late gaze on both of us and we all just ate quietly after that. I remember this when I noticed Cory at the Makati rally lean toward Doy and motioned him to tone down his theatrics. But Doy was beyond reproof even from her. And, anyway, he didn’t have to go home to Times Street.
If you study the picture of Cory looking at a weary-faced Ninoy in the prisoner’s dock in the Supreme Court, you will see a woman whose loyalty, support, admiration and affection are total givens, but who remains very much her own person with her own thoughts about the situation.
She hasn’t changed. The circumstances around her have changed. Her role has changed and she has suffered much in the process. But she hasn’t changed. The integrity and individuality remain the same. It is this constancy, this sureness about how people should behave, this steadiness one might call indomitability were it not for the refinement with which it is manifested, that explains how she was able to forge unity among the proud chieftains of the Opposition.
It is well to remember that the unity she forged was not among dependent and undistinguished clones, like the KBL that Marcos holds in his hand. Doy Laurel, Pepito Laurel, Tañada, Mitra, Pimentel, Adaza, Diokno, Salonga and the handful of others who kept the democratic faith, each in his own fashion, through the long years of martial law, are powerful political leaders in their own right. Each has kept or developed, by sagacity and guts, a wide personal following. Not one thinks himself subordinate to another in what he has contributed to keep alive the democratic faith. As far as Doy is concerned, his compromises had enabled him to kept at least one portion, Batangas, of a misguided country as a territorial example of viable opposition. An example to keep alive the hope that the rest of the country could follow suit and become free in time.
We have forgotten how much strength and hope we derived from the stories of Batangueños guarding the ballot boxes with their lives and Doy’s people keeping, at gunpoint, the Administration’s flying—or was it sailing?—voters from disembarking from the barges in which they had been ferried by the Administration. This is the language Marcos understands, the Laurels seemed to be saying, and we speak it.
We have forgotten the sage advice of Pepito Laurel which stopped the endless discussion about how to welcome Ninoy. Every arrangement was objected to because, someone would remark, Marcos can foil that plan by doing this or that. Pepito Laurel said, “Huwag mo nang problemahin ang problema ni Marcos. His problem is how to stop us from giving Ninoy the reception he deserves. Our problem is to give Ninoy that reception. Too much talk going on here!” that broke the paralysis of the meeting.
This is the caliber of men who were approached with a project of unification that entailed the suspension, perhaps forever, of their own ambitions. Cory would be the presidential candidate, and Doy who had spent substance and energy to create ex nihilo a political organization to challenge the Marcos machine must subordinate himself as her running mate. In exchange, the chieftains would get nothing but more work, worse sacrifices and greater perils. Certainly, no promises.
After two attempts, she emerged, largely through her own persuasive power and in spite of some stupid interference, as the presidential candidate of the Opposition, with Doy as her running mate. She had not yielded an inch of her position that all who would join the campaign must do so for no other consideration than the distinction of being in the forefront of the struggle. This should be enough. She had exercised the power of her disdain.
Cory calls on people for advice, but she has no advisers in the sense of a tight circle whose ideas dominate her thinking and invariably decide her actions. She is repelled by importunate offers of counsel and shows it. Even that circle of ardent support called the Council of Trent, because admission is based on holiness, wholesomeness, and the ability to endure and relish interminable discussions, know better than to push its ideas on her. The closest it can come to influencing her is to present draft encyclicals for her consideration and frequent, but gentle, rejection. And, as the campaign has progressed, she has found a wider door to an understanding of the country she might rule in the multitudes that have flocked to her yellow standard.
Cory Aquino returned to the Philippines dressed in black, with a will to justice, but with the paramount aim of presiding over the last honors to be given to her martyred husband. She would have limited herself to this and to a solitary struggle for justice, if the people had not reacted with outrage. She had learned, as Ninoy never did, not to be hurt by indifference or misunderstanding. Not to depend on anyone.
She did not try to whip up further the fury of the people. She announced, with quiet dignity, that another injustice had added itself to the long list of injustices under Marcos. As far as she was concerned, she would dedicate herself to seeing justice done for Ninoy, for others like him, for the country. If others would join her, so be it. There was a deliberate disregard for passion as a force for change, unless it was combined with a clear conviction and a firm and deliberate commitment to go all the way. Absent that, she’d just as well go it alone. Ninoy had done it and she was prepared to pay the price. She does not seem to want people to follower so much as to be with her in what she is doing. She may have read the people right for they appear to rally to her so that she will lead them in the direction they have already decided on.
Marcos has grown so great—in his possessions, power and prerogatives—that he has to be carried and can barely hold himself together. He is starting to come apart in places. Cory, on the other hand, looks slight but she’s all there, held together by an unquestioned set of values, a disturbing ability to embarrass you into self-sacrifice, and a will to triumph with the people.
WILL THERE BE MARTIAL LAW?
By Napoleon G. Rama
January 30, 1971—His theme was sobriety and unity in the hour of crisis; his delivery, cool and slow; his tone, soft and supplicating. But the words were intimidating.
“If violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if there should be terrorism, if there is assassination, I will have no other alternative but to utilize the extraordinary powers granted me by our Constitution. These powers are the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus under which [suspension] any man can be arrested and detained any length of time; and the power to declare any part or the whole of the Philippines under martial law. These powers I do not wish to utilize and it is for this reason I appeal to our people tonight.”
With just this one paragraph President Marcos spoiled what could have been one of his best speeches, certainly the most impressive TV performance since he spoke before the US Congress.
All throughout the first 20 minutes of his speech—a persuasive plea for restraint and understanding—he displayed style and coolness under fire, until he struck the jarring chords. Thus, the newspaper headlines the next day couldn’t help but scream the frightening words: “martial law.” Instead of calm, the speech succeeded in spreading alarm throughout the breadth and width of the nation.
Weeks after he made the speech and after the jeepney drivers ended their strike, political quarters, campuses, coffee shops and wherever people gathered were still abuzz with the dreaded words—articulated sometimes in anger but mostly in fear.
School tots come home asking their mommies what’s this “martial law” their teachers were talking about in grave and fearful tones.
Opposition leaders bristle with counter-warnings and charges of goon mentality against the President.
Student leaders answered him with threats of larger and more violent demonstrations.
Religious leaders chide the President and invite him to look into what ails the nation, at the rampant social injustice that spawns social unrest.
Constitutional Convention delegates feverishly hold emergency meetings to plot out their moves in case martial law is declared.
For all the efforts of the President (buried in the inside pages of the dailies) to quiet the anxieties and allay fears, the nervous talk goes on. There has been, said the President, a misreading of his statement. He had stressed certain conditions before he would declare martial law. The present drift of events, he now said, does not lead to those conditions.
The reason he mentioned martial law in his speech, he explained, was to warn radicals about the consequences of their acts, to stop further violence which, he said, was about to crop up.
He branded as irresponsible the threat of LP Congress leaders to boycott the sessions of Congress if Marcos declared military rule in the country or any part of it.
“Ridiculous” was the word he used to describe speculations that he would manipulate the present situation to bring about the conditions which would justify the imposition of martial law.
What probably upset the President more than anything else was the damning reaction of leaders of his own party.
The proclamation of martial law, declared the top NP leader in the House of Representatives, Speaker Jose B. Laurel, would be “an admission of weakness” on the part of the government.
“It would seem that the situation has become uncontrollable and unless martial law is proclaimed the government cannot function,” he said.
The Speaker pointed out that although under the Constitution the President may proclaim martial law without first getting the consent of Congress, he has to meet certain constitutional requirements.
“Legally, the issuance of a proclamation on martial law may be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Laurel said.
In harsher tones, he called President Marcos’s “veiled threats” untimely and uncalled for.
He said that there are many “fence-sitters” now merely critical of the Administration.
“The moment martial law is declared,” he said, “and they suspect that they are on the list of people to be picked up by the military, they will go to the hills.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Arturo Tolentino commented:
“Definitely, there is no justification yet to impose martial law.”
In a meeting with his Congress leaders in the Palace, the President’s talk of martial law drew a similar reaction from NP solons: no good! Several NP congressmen and senators warned the President that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus might only worsen the already critical situation.
Sen. Leonardo Perez, one of the Marcos stalwarts in the Senate, said that military rule would be ill-advised for the moment.
In a hurriedly convened caucus, the LPs came up with a plan to boycott the session of Congress if President Marcos declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus. They elaborated that even if they went on leave, they will continue to discharge their duties and responsibilities….
In the mountains?
Sen. Gerry Roxas, LP president, said that the LP solons will continue to fiscalize the government outside the halls of Congress and will resume attending the session only upon restoration of the normal process of civil government. They will refuse to be identified with the government the moment it declares martial law.
Read the LP manifesto:
“WE BELIEVE THAT A DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW OR THE SUSPENSION OF THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS INTENDED TO ELIMINATE ALL OPPOSITIONS; TO SUPPRESS DISSENT; FREE SPEECH, AND FREE PRESS, ALL CIVIL LIBERTIES, AND INSTALL A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP THROUGHOUT THE LAND.”
On the other hand, several delegates to the Constitutional Convention voiced their determination to continue holding pre-convention meetings and convention sessions, once opened formally, and risk life and limb in defense of the Constitutional Convention.
The most interesting comment came from churchmen. Isabelo de los Reyes, supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, said that the President must have gotten the wrong advice, hence, his gross indiscretion.
He warned that the imposition of military rule would only “boomerang” on the President.
Fr. Horacio de la Costa, historian and former provincial of the Society of Jesus, said that the establishment of military rule would subvert the Constitutional Convention and only invite the very perils that the President would want to avoid—anarchy and communism.
Bishop de los Reyes suggested that the President unbend and mix with the people without displaying military force, to “show that he trusts his own people and that his own people trust him.”
The bishop was for attacking the disease and not the symptoms. He said that no democratic nation could subsist without social justice.
“Lack of social justice causes social unrest,” he argued.
“While President Marcos exalts the duties of the people towards the Republic,” he added, “young students and jeepney drivers exalt human rights and believe that social victory, permanent social victory, will come only through loyalty towards principles, justice, truth, sacrifice—and constancy in sacrifice.”
He went on:
“While the police and the army are ready to kill but not to die for a salary, our students and jeepney drivers, with a common devotion to social justice, are ready to fight and die side by side for their principles.
“This is no time for mediocrity anywhere in the government.
“Let our President show his grandeur not by words but by deeds; by showing himself a statesman who believes, speaks, and acts without anger to help the people recover from a long and somber period of economic desperation.”
Father de la Costa expressed concern over the coming Constitutional Convention. If the President, he said, opted for military rule, it could nullify all chances of the Constitutional Convention drawing up the radical but peaceful reforms that are needed and instead invite anarchy.
The Jesuit scholar, speaking before a seminar for newsmen, said that one of the immediate national objectives should be to ensure the holding of the Constitutional Convention, scheduled to open June 1 if not earlier. The imposition of martial law at this time is not necessary and will make the attainment of this objective impossible.
“The Convention must open under conditions that will permit it, in freedom, to at least initiate the radical structural changes in our government and society which will permit rapid progress towards both social justice and socioeconomic development,” he said.
Should martial law be imposed, the Convention could fall by the wayside, he warned, and another avenue for peaceful dialogue, for reaching a national consensus for reforms, would thereby be closed.
The press and other media and citizen groups should move together to impress on President Marcos the disastrous consequences of military government, the Jesuit priest added.
He forecast that if martial law came, it would polarize the people and could lead to anarchy, authoritarian rule, or even, possibly, a communist takeover. The repression implicit in martial law will effectively block the kind of national dialogue that is needed, he said.
The principal student organizations and adult citizen groups should be invited by the press, radio and TV to clarify both their thinking and their public statements and the meaning, the objectives, the advisability or the necessity of revolution, he suggested.
President Marcos’s opponent in the last elections, Sen. Sergio Osmeña Jr., warned that martial law might be “the trigger that could spark a bloody revolution.” The threat of martial law would make a bigger mess of the national economy already in a shambles. Martial law “would make more unfavorable the climate for business and capital, thereby aggravating the serious economic difficulties now confronting the country.”
Osmeña damned the brutal action taken by government troops against the demonstrating students. Granting, he said, that the explosions were caused by infiltrators, did they constitute sufficient provocation for the government troops to act as they did?
“It would have been enough for them to use tear gas to disperse the crowd,” he said. “But they went much further than that, as if their being in uniform and having guns gave them the license to kill at the slightest excuse.”
Indeed, the most intriguing feature of the Plaza Miranda incident where four were killed during the jeepney driver-student demonstration was the use of Armalites by rampaging government troops—not just to disperse but to gun down student demonstrators who were already on the run.
It was a ruthless departure from the agreed and civilized formula of employing truncheons or tear gas which proved so effective in the demonstrations middle of last year. This time, it seems, there was a deliberate plan to crush demonstrations by brutal force and terrorism—to give the demonstrators a lesson and a preview of what would happen in future demonstrations?
It was a peaceful demonstration until late in the afternoon when a pillbox was exploded somewhere in Plaza Miranda. This was followed by shots fired into the sky. At this stage, everyone was scampering out of Plaza Miranda, seeking cover. In a jiffy, national government troops, replacing the Manila policemen, invaded the plaza. In five minutes, or just before the troops armed with Armalites poured into Plaza Miranda, both the students and the on-lookers had emptied the plaza and spilled into Quezon Boulevard and the side streets. TV cameras showed that the troops were not there just to disperse the crowd but to give chase to demonstrators running for their lives away from the plaza.
A TV replay showed a soldier aiming and shooting at demonstrators who were no longer in Plaza Miranda. On the streets nearby the soldiers were engaging in mopping up operations, not to scatter a defiant crowd but, it seems, to hunt and shoot down those running away from the demonstration site. The scene was undistinguishable from a war operation in Vietnam: soldiers in single file, in crouching position, ears and eyes alert, trigger-happy fingers ready to shoot at the slightest noise or motion of the enemy.
But there is a difference. In Vietnam, government and American soldiers carry Armalites only in battle or mopping up operations. They don’t use the terrible weapon for police work—as did our troopers at Plaza Miranda.
Foreigners were shocked to see Armalite-carrying soldiers employed by the national government to break demonstrations by students who were not even armed. Why did the government abandon the civilized manner of controlling demonstrators in favor of the monstrous method? Why were truncheon-bearing soldiers conspicuously absent in that Plaza Miranda demonstration?
What is Malacañang up to?
It’s now evident that the net result of the President’s veiled threat of imposing martial law has alienated many of his political allies, if not the whole nation. None of his top lieutenants in the party has come up endorsing the presidential statement. Everyone of them thought the President made a costly tactical blunder in making such a threat, despite his cushioning conditions for suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law. Worse, even the moderates who frown upon violent demonstrations are having second thoughts. Many of them are gravitating toward the radical group, the extremists.
The impression conveyed is that the President will resist reforms, hence the idea of martial law to defend the status quo— Marcos style. In political quarters, the martial law idea is seen as a Marcos formula for perpetuating himself in office—at all costs! All are agreed that, as things are, neither the President nor the First Lady can hope to stay in Malacañang after 1973, even if they succeeded in rigging the Constitutional Convention into drawing up a constitution permitting an expansion of his term or succession by the First Lady to his office. If they can’t stay in Malacañang beyond 1973 by popular election, then the only remedy is to place the whole country under a military dictatorship, with Marcos the dictator, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
That is, to stay in power not by ballot but by bullet.
If the President entertained such a notion, he would be smart to drop it. Military rule would need the support of some segment of the population to maintain itself. As things stand now, almost everyone is against the idea of martial law. You can’t just defy the whole nation and survive. The armed forces would carry out orders to fight certain segments of the population but not the whole population. When ordered to terrorize the nation and repress the rights of all on flimsy grounds, the armed forces would surely think twice before obeying such orders. It is doubtful that the majority of the military brass warms up to the idea of martial law.
The loyalty of the military men to the President is still to be tested. The defection of a Philippine Military Academy instructor, Lieutenant Corpus, should give an inkling of the shaky hold of the Establishment on the military brass. It’s significant that after Lieutenant Corpus defected, the President felt compelled to order a loyalty check in the armed forces, including a cloak-and-dagger once-over of the headquarters of the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary.
A government by martial law must be premised on indubitable loyalty of the military to the ruler decreeing the martial law and substantial popular support. Hitler and Mussolini had such loyalty and support. And the fact is, the President himself is not quite sure of the loyalty of the armed forces when the chips are down—and certainly not the support of the people.
That Marcos Foundation
By Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
A Free Press reader, the sportsman “Dindo” Gonzales, recently asked the editor why the magazine had not gone thoroughly into President Marcos’ declaration that he would give away all his worldly possessions to the Filipino people. The editor called the reader’s attention to the Free Press article, “Second Mandate,” in the January 10 issue, in which the writer gave a satirical account of the Marcos inauguration as reelected President and the presidential renunciation of material wealth. But “Dindo” wanted more, and so, perhaps, do other Free Press readers.
Has the Free Press been remiss in the fulfillment of its journalistic duty? The editor himself has not given anything worth mentioning to the poor, hence his initial reluctance to look the Marcos gift horse too closely in the mouth, but the customer is always right, so here goes:
January 31, 1970—ON THE eve of his second inauguration as President of the Philippine Republic some Catholic bishops addressed a letter to Ferdinand Marcos:
“We are at a moment of our nation’s history when we crucially need a charismatic leader, a deeply moral person whose honesty and integrity are beyond reproach, a President who will inspire us to be really one in action and national consciousness.
“We need a leader who will not tolerate graft and corruption, self-enrichment, vote-buying and goon-hiring which make a mockery of democracy, almost unlimited over-spending for campaigns, a real social crime especially in a country like ours.
“We need a deeply Christian leader who will be the moral conscience of our other political and economic leaders. And we ask you in the name of God to be such a leader.”
They asked for the impossible—for an elected president who did not overspend for his election into office. Such a man, like the perennial candidate, Racuyal, will never make it because organizations like the Church do not support what they regards as crackpots.
Reacting to the bishops’ letter, which is an indirect indictment of his first administration, President Marcos declared that he would give up all his wealth as an example that he hoped the affluent would try to emulate.
Soon thereafter The Manila Chronicle published interviews with persons from different sections of Philippine society on the presidential renunciation of wealth. The well-off were naturally skeptical. Like all people they projected their own selfishness and inability to conceive of their ever performing a generous deed onto the image of a man, who like them is also rich.
Speaker Laurel, whose political fate at that time was uncertain and depended on the President’s whim, praised him. The President, he said, by his statement had set a standard of behavior which he hoped the nation would try to follow. Congress, he added, had already lived up to this standard in the past years, presumably the years of his leadership, and he hoped that it would continue to do so for many years to come. (That’s a joke, son.)
Setting aside the hogwash, the representative from Cagayan, Benjamin Ligot said, “It would be hypocritical for a congressman who is not a millionaire to say that he is willing to give (his) allowances. We in Congress who are poor need the allowances.” That, after all, is why people run for Congress: to alter for the better their financial condition.
How far the common people are from political cynicism is shown by the fact that, as the Chronicle interviews show, they do not dismiss the gesture out of hand.
The President’s gesture may have no substance, they say; the future will show whether he means what he says or not. For the present, what is important is the gesture. That, they say, is better than nothing.
The President’s renunciation of wealth is an indictment of the rich. It implies that to be rich in this society is to occupy an immoral position. No effort is made to correct anything unless it is thought to be wrong. The President’s promise to give up all his riches reads like a resolution on rectification. The resolve to correct presupposes that one acknowledges an imperfection somewhere.
That the rich should finally begin to lose their complacency, their self-righteousness is some kind of improvement on the past. The gesture is what is important now; it is something that has happened. The substance of the gesture is for the future to praise or criticize.
A minority of those interviewed by the Chronicle dismissed the President’s promise as “baloney.” This society, one man said, is incapable of generating the liberal impulse in the breast of anyone living in it. It is ridiculous to compare Marcos to Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Gandhi. Their kind of selfless dedication is possible only among the new races that have been formed in the crucible of revolution and war.
The most cynical response came, of course, from the rich and their hired spokesmen in the press. If President Marcos is a rich man, then he is one of them. The rich know what they are. Being rich, it is not in them to give up any of their riches. And besides, how much of his riches will he give? Certainly, he cannot give away the hidden riches they attribute to him. That would be self-incriminating.
He can do it, of course. It’s been done before. But he will have to retire to a monastery or go to jail. St. Francis and St. Agustine did it. One gave up a life of idleness and luxury, the other a life of profligacy. Both retired from society, from this world, to the city or to live simply and poorly he must live in a world where poverty is exalted at an ideal, otherwise he will be degrading himself. Monks, mystics and saints who lived in poverty did not in reality live in this world. Their bodies inhabited this world, but their egos lived in a transcendent realm. It is only in that other world—and China—that one who gives up all his material possessions can feel at home.
It is stupid to compare Marcos to St. Francis, as a Manila Chronicle columnist did. Marcos cannot give up all his wealth and live amongst us. He will be despised for his stupidity and for the alms he will have to beg for. If a man incapable of religious transport, an ordinary man, in short, gives up all he has and continues to live among those who place the highest value on material possessions, and thus brings on himself their contempt and mockery, he will even be greater than St. Francis.
Since he cannot really give up all his possessions, why then did Marcos promise to? His closest friends are rich. If he gives up all his wealth, he loses their respect and affection. Not because they are false friends, but because his life will then be incompatible with theirs. He will, in giving up his wealth, execute an act that is foreign to the nature of a rich man. Possessions are what make a man rich or poor. The rich have more of them, the poor have less. Take riches away from the rich and they are no longer rich but poor. Does Marcos want to alienate himself from the only circle of friends he really knows and with whom he feels most at home?
It was an unwise statement to make. No matter how much he gives up, it will never be enough to satisfy the skeptical, until he is actually seen wearing rags. If he had only said that he would start a foundation, what could be said against it?
Still something is better than nothing. It does put the rich on the spot. Will they also give? All? What if Marcos gives and they do not? And if Marcos does not give, what right will they have to criticize him? He will have proven himself to be no better and no worse than they are.
At any rate, the Free Press asked the President to make a clarification of his controversial statement if he cared to, and he did. Here it is:
“STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS ON THE DECISION TO CREATE THE FERDINAND E. MARCOS FOUNDATION, INC. TO ENABLE THE PRESIDENT TO TRANSFER HIS MATERIAL POSSESSIONS TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE.
“(This is intended as an answer to a query from the Philippines Free Press on the circumstances leading to the President’s New Year’s eve announcement which has met with high enthusiasm in many parts of the world, but with some skepticism among local critics. Authenticated by the Press Secretary, Mr. Francisco S. Tatad, Malacañang Press Office.)
“The decision to create the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc. was taken early in 1969. It was not an altogether easy decision to make, but once made, my wife and I agreed that whether I won or lost the election, the Foundation should be formed, to help in the advancement of education, science, technology and the arts.
“I asked a group of five men to study the plan. This was composed of Messrs. Juan Ponce Enrile, Geronimo Velasco, Cesar Virata, Cesar Zalamea, and Onofre D. Corpuz. They will now act as trustees of the Foundation on the basis of official papers filed today, 22 January 1970, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, incorporating the Foundation.
“The corporation will take over the assets that I will transfer, and these assets will constitute the actual Foundation for educational, scientific, cultural and charitable purposes. As soon as the corporation is finally organized, and the assets to be transferred have been completely inventoried, the actual transfer shall be made through a deed of trust to be executed by me, with the conformity of the First Lady, my wife. The Foundation will hold title to the property, administer it and utilize its income according to its stated purposes.
“Announcement of the Foundation could have been made any time during the previous year; but it was a political year, and that mere fact alone could have been made the basis of much skepticism, questioning and ridicule. The Foundation would have been dismissed as pure political gimmickry, an attempt to buy votes. So I urged complete discretion on the part of the prospective trustees, and on my part, avoided the slightest reference to it.
“It was not until New Year’s eve that I thought the announcement could be made. I felt then that it was opportune to make the announcement, having earlier, in my second Inaugural Address, called for new measures of self-sacrifice, and having glimpsed some kind of eagerness on the part of the public to respond to that appeal. I, therefore, issued the following statement:
“ ‘Moved by the strongest desire and the purest will to set the example of self-denial and self-sacrifice for all our people. I have today (31 December 1969) decided to give away all my worldly possessions so that they may serve the greater needs of the greater number of our people.
“ ‘I have therefore decided to give away, by a general instrument of transfer, all my material possessions to the Filipino people through a Foundation to be organized and to be known as the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation, Inc.
“ ‘It is my wish that these properties will be used in advancing the cause of education, science, technology and the arts.
“ ‘This act I undertake of my own free will, knowing that, having always been a simple man, my needs will always be lesser than the needs of many of our people, who have given me the highest honor within their gift, an honor shared by no other Filipino leader.
“ ‘Since about a year ago, I have asked some of my closest confidantes to study the mechanics of this decision. Today studies have been completed, and a Foundation will now be formed to administer these properties and all funds that may be generated therefrom.
“ ‘For the moment, my most sincere hope is that this humble act shall set the example, and move to greater deeds of unselfishness and compassion, many of our countrymen whose position in society gives them a stronger duty to minister to the needs of our less fortunate brothers and countrymen.’” (End of statement.)
“Since that announcement all sorts of questions have been asked, and many seem more concerned with the question of the Foundation’s actual worth than with the fact that there is a foundation, and that through it the President will be able to transfer his material possessions to the Filipino people.
“Whereas, the law must determine what exact description of property I should be able to transfer to the Foundation, the transfer to the Foundation, the transfer contemplates ‘all worldly possessions’ which the law will allow. In time, the Foundation itself should be able to present an evaluation of its assets. But in the meantime, I believe it sufficient to say that the Foundation is there, or is going to be there, and that is really what matters.”
What is one to believe?
After he had risen from the grave, Jesus appeared to his disciples. But Thomas, “called the Twin…was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
“‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’”
Thus speaks the Gospel according to John, to which one can add no comment.
* * * *
The question is, obviously, centered on the meaning of “all.” Did the President really mean what he said about giving up ALL his worldly possessions? Under the law, he cannot give away his wife’s half of the conjugal property. Half of all that is acquired with earnings during the marriage belongs to each of the spouses for him on her to give away or keep.
And what is the “all” of the man whom the Liberals like to describe as “the richest man in Asia?”
The President, of course, did not have to give anything away at all. But if he did not mean what he said, why did he say it? From sheer demagoguery? Rashly—in panicky answer to the seven bishops’ challenge to give the Filipino people a Christian government, something they never had?
If the President gave all his worldly possessions to the poor, he would be more Christian than the Catholic Church itself, which is holding on to its worldly possessions like nobody’s business. Christ told the rich young man to give what he had to the poor and follow Him, but the Church charges interest when it lends. That’s business. Why must Marcos do more?
The mocking judgment on the Marcos statement about giving up all he had to the Filipino people is a form of self-judgment. Catch anyone doing that! Who would give, not all but a substantial portion of his wealth to the poor? A certain amount, why not? It would be tax deductible and there is the publicity, but certainly not so much that it would hurt. And, of course, not all. That would be Christian, not to say communistic. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, Christ said, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Well, if one were rich, one would damn well rather go to hell. Right?
To be poor, let’s face it, is awful. Only the rich romanticize about poverty.
Why did the President say he would give ALL his worldly possessions to the Filipino people? If he had said he would give some, nobody could have made an issue or a joke of it. Now, no matter how much he gives, it will not be enough.
“Is that all”? the question will be asked by those who do not give or hardly give anything at all.
Yet, something is better than nothing, indeed. If only he had not said “all”!
by Jose F. Lacaba
Or, Can Spiro Agnew Forget The Marcos Inauguration And Find His Way Back To The Affluent Society?
January 10, 1970–AUSTERITY was the order of the day, but assassination was the talk of the town.
The advance ballyhoo promised that, for once, the program for Inauguration Day would be “brief and austere.” The parade would be a worm compared with the snakes of previous inaugurations; civic participation had been scrapped and military display, normally lasting a full two hours, had been cut down to 40 minutes. Even words and saliva were affected by the general parsimony: reelected President Ferdinand Marcos would deliver “possibly the shortest inaugural address in the Republic’s history.” Afterwards, there would be the traditional dinner for the guests from across the seas, headed by no less than Spiro T. Agnew, household word and Vice President of the United States of America; but there was to be no expense for Spiro in a waste of shame, the dinner would be not as before — lavish, extravagant, ostentatious — but simple and frugal. Probably limited to two courses: salabat for soup and pinakbet for viand. After the most expensive elections in Philippine history, the Ilocano in Marcos had come out.
Though austerity dictated the veto on custom and ceremony, the fear of assassination demanded that there be no skimping on security. Astrologers and soothsayers are said to have warned the President that he would be killed during his second term, and there was a great deal of talk about Oswalds and Sirhans before Inauguration Day, talk that Malacañang encouraged with its disclosure that a Huk liquidation squad was out to get Marcos. No expense was spared, therefore, to secure the President from suicidal assassins. A helicopter hovered over the Luneta to the end, the navy patrolled the bay, machine guns were perched atop the Independence Grandstand (what where they there for? would they have fired at the crowd if one crackpot had drawn a pistol?), walkie-talkies were everywhere, and the fuzz was a thick as flies in mango season. Uniformed policemen of Manila and suburbs lined the streets, Malacañang guards in barong Tagalog were deployed on the grandstand, constabulary troopers lolled behind it. Special Forces men crouched on the roof, NBI agents skulked around motorcycle cops raced up and down the boulevard, Metrocom cars were parked at street corners, helmeted members of riots squads gripped their rattan sticks, four of five rows of soldiers in civvies manned the front lines of the sparse crowd, “a modest crowd on unenthusiastic spectators” (Chronicle), “smaller than the usual crowd that packs the park during national holidays” (Times), perhaps the smallest crowd since the Philippines became independent” (Bulletin) — everybody was there, including , of course, Spiro’s Secret Service complement, on the lookout for an effete corps of impudent snobs brandishing molotov cocktails.
Only a “fanatical fool” would have dared “penetrate the security cordon,” Brigadier General Vicente Raval of the FC was quoted as saying, and he explained why: “He would never get past the security line; he would nevertheless emerge alive.” (Figure that out, if you can, and if you can’t put it down as one of the best and most cryptic non sequiturs of the past decade.”)
It was cold in the morning of Inauguration Day, hot towards noon, an uncertain weather all the way. Sun alternated with clouds and shadows, and even while the sun shone brief showers fell, brief and austere. Umuulan, umaaraw, nanganganak ang bakulaw. Umaaraw, umuulang, nanganganak ang tikbalang. Out in the park the little children played, called by their parents when they wandered too far afield, calling after the balloon man, far and whee; and were utterly oblivious of the occasion, unmindful of Rizal, whose day it was, and even more unaware that at that very moment another hero, the country’s most decorative war hero, was on his way to his second inauguration.
There was earlier a question about the proper way for Ferdinand Marcos to go to his inauguration. No postwar Philippine President had ever been reelected, as the press daily reminded us, and so a thing like this had never happened before. Usually, there was an incoming President and outgoing President to receive him and then accompany him to the Independence Grandstand, like a father giving away the bride. When the bride is without a father, what must be done? Ferdinand Marcos came accompanied by his son.
And of course, by his senior aide, Brigadier General Hans Menzi, resplendent in a white uniform with all braids, badges, and accoutrements in place. Ferdinand Marcos, his hair slick-and-span as usual, was in a barong Tagalog, and so was Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., better known as Bongbong, who had gotten rid of his crewcut and now sported a mod hairstyle, hair down low over his forehead, a la early-Beatles. Together, the father, the son, and Hans Menzi set forth from Malacañang, surrounded by scads of security men, to receive, in formal ceremony, what had been bestowed in November: a second mandate.
When they arrived at the grandstand, everybody else was there. Vice-President Fernando Lopez was there, grinning happily and now slouching towards the President to be the first to shake hands; he had himself, when he arrived, shaken hands with all the foreign and local dignitaries within reach, except Rufino Cardinal Santos, whose hand he kissed. Spiro Agnew, whose seat was right behind the President’s was there, looking like a slim, squint-eyed panda. Eugene Cernan was inconspicuous but the dailies swear he was there (when you come to think of it, do you have a district picture in your mind of the face of any astronaut, cosmonaut, or space explorer besides Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Even John Glenn is difficult to visualize; astronauts all look alike, and they are the faceless heroes of the age). Gil J. Puyat, Senate President as of this writing, was there, and so was Jose B. Laurel, Jr., Speaker as of this writing, his white hair absent from the dome but becomingly long at the nape. Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion wore the black robes of his office, Secretary General Carlos P. Romulo acted as master of ceremonies, Executive Secretary Ernesto Maceda beamed in the background, Congressman Floro Crisologo was in a white (ramie?) suit, the kind austerity-conscious grandfathers used to wear when they had their pictures taken. A host of lesser known VIPs was there, too, and there was even a small group of whites in top hat and tails, looking like fugitives from a Broadway musical.
Never forget the women. Mrs. Imelda Marcos was there, and the Misses Imee and Irene, dressed in what, from a distance, look like identical ternos. (“Signs of austere times?” went a society page item “. . .Mrs. Marcos wore a strikingly simple terno and single pearl earring. No jewelry.” The terno “had a wide front panel of rich hand embroidery reportedly taken from a gown she had worn at the first inauguration of the President in 1965.”) Mrs. Mariquit Lopez was only a little less austere. (She “also picked a jusi terno, slightly embroidered more than that of the First Lady. She also wore a gold bracelet, a single pearl pendant and a pearl ring in addition to pearl earrings.”) And the Blue Ladies were conspicuously in attendance — the bakya crowd among them down on the ground, in a corner behind the platform crammed with TV cameras and technicians, and therefore unable to see a thing; and the blue bloods among them up on the grandstand, occupying the space reserved for, but disdained as too distant by, the press. You could tell they were the blue-blooded Blue Meanies by the lift of their eyebrows, the color of their skins, and the austerity of their hairdos. The bakya crowd Blues, meanwhile, had to be resourceful; every now and then a couple of them would slip past the snarling policemen and get closer to the action, mingling with the press photographers, all the while giggling and chattering like schoolgirls on a holiday.
“Ang ganda talaga ni Imelda, ano?”
“Naku, si Ramil O, ‘ando’n pala si Ramil Rodriguez!”
“Alin ba d’yan ‘yung astro. . . ‘yung nagpunta sa buwan?”
“Si Agno, hindi ko makita si Agno.”
“Sabi ko na sa ‘yo mag-high heels ka, ayaw mong makinig.”
After the solemn preliminaries — 21 gun salute, national anthem, invocation — came the small parade. No need to bore you with the gaudy details. Suffice it to say that the parade boldly gave the lie to the charge that the country has fallen victim to a creeping militarism. Militarism isn’t creeping in this country, it’s marching proudly, head held high, chest out, stomach in, and a finger on the trigger. The Special Forces and the Philcag contingent weren’t cringing nor hiding their heads in shame because of the controversy that swirled about them; they even got more applause than the PMA cadets, and it is reported that when the Philcag passed by, Agnew stood up as a gesture of respect. Note also that whoever prepared the program, when they decided that austerity call for a shortened parade, kept the soldiers and kicked out the civilians. Civic participation’s would have been a bore, of course, but the choice of what to exhibit on Inauguration Day sent tiny chills down the spine as one watched the parade of men and armaments unreel. Garrison state, anyone?
Throughout the parade, Ferdinand Marcos and Fernando Lopez stood on the proscenium (or whatever they call it) of the grandstand stage, each in his fashion. Marcos was ramrod straight, a true military man, saluting smartly when the colors passed by. Lopez had the sick look of a man who has been forced to forego his morning ablutions, if you know what I mean, and when the colors passed by he had his hand over his heart as if his heart was itchy. Obviously, the Vice President was bored by the whole affair. While Marcos struck a heroic pose from the beginning and struck to it to the end, squinting into the sun like Clint Eastwood without the slim cigar, a premature monument if ever there was one, Lopez couldn’t keep still. He scratched his nape, scratched his crotch, scratched his ears, picked his nose, rubbed his fingernails, folded his arms, dropped them to his sides, held his hands together before him, dropped them to his sides, held his hands together behind him, dropped them to his sides, stared morosely around, scowled, tried to hide his scowl by puckering his lips, and probably wished he were splashing around in his swimming pool. He was at least very human, which made him rather endearing. Besides, this was his third time to review a parade as Vice-President; he expected no surprises.
Happily for Mr. Lopez, it was all over in about the time it would have taken Barbra Streisand to finish singing Don’t Rain on My Parade and When the Parade passes By. As a matter of fact, it was over so soon that the program committee found itself with time on its hands. Things had gone so smoothly the program had rushed ahead of schedule. A little time had to be killed before the Vice-President could take his oath of office at 11:55 a.m. This — not para magpalad ng papel, as it seemed at the time — was the reason why the mixed choir and the Manila Symphony Orchestra that had already sung Bayang Magiliw and the Marcos March or something, now burst into an unscheduled singing of Dahil Sa Iyo. Naturally the First Lady, delighted, joined in the singing.
When the singing stopped, it was time for the swearing in. The oaths of office, administered by the chief Justice, were in Pilipino. Lopez and his Ilongo accent struggled manfully, but charmingly, through his oath. The President, as if to reinforce his heroic image, recited his from memory. Ako, si Ferdinand Marcos ay nanunumpa, etc., etc. patnubayan nawa ako ng Panginoon. Historical footnote: it was the first time the two highest officials in the land said their oaths of office in Pilipino.
Like the bright grade-school kid who knows the capital of every province in the country and can recite Psalm of Life at the drop of a hint, Ferdinand Marcos is something of a show-off, and he showed off superbly in his inaugural address, which again he delivered from memory. His memory is terrific but, as even so loyal a partisan as J.V. Cruz noted, ‘the President looked far more concerned with making sure that his memory did not fail him than with the substance of what he is saying.” I used to be a school orator myself and I know that, after the rigorous rehearsals, once you get on stage you’re no longer aware of what you are saying, and you won’t even care, so long as you enunciate the practiced syllables clearly and remember when to raise your voice, when to lower it, when to pause, when to make a gesture, when to take a few steps forward, and when to give the audience a long piercing look (when you can’t remember the next word that will cue you on the next sentence and the rest of the speech). Marcos delivering his inaugural address reminded me of my high school days; he looked like an earnest Voice of Democracy contestant in the elimination rounds, taking great care not to muff his lines. In fact, he ended his speech like a VOD contestant: “The wave of the future is not totalitarianism but democracy.”
The inaugural address itself sounded like a high school declamation piece. It was entitled “To Transform the Nation — Transform Ourselves” (even granting the titles need not be complete sentences, isn’t there something grammatically fishy here? We Must Transform Ourselves? Let Us Transform Ourselves?) , and it contained such gems of sophomore oratory as “. . .in the inexorable march of history no tears are shed for the fallen, no sympathies wasted on the weak. . . .” Besides being studded with high-sounding clichés (“billowing fields of green,” “faint of heart,” “in this spot of the universe, a people strong and free”) and pious platitudes (“we labored to transform this nations”), it sounded like a parody of the John F. Kennedy speeches, especially in passages such as: “, , ,cross the frontier of the new decade. . .”, “Now in all humility we inform all Asia that we know the nature and quality of our tenuous peace; and that it is also a demanding piece. . .”, “I ask not sacrifice from the self-sacrificing. . .”‘ “Let not this generation pass without seeking to learn anew that in this great meeting place of eastern wisdom and western advance . . . “, “. . .seek not from government what you cannot find in yourself. . . .”
Rumor has it that Mr. Marcos discarded all the drafts submitted by his speech-writers and labored over a draft of his own. It is not hard to believe the rumor.
This speech begins with the kind of high-flown literary Tagalog even the serialized novels and the movie tearjerkers are beginning to abandon: “Ang aking dinatnan ay isang pamahalaang nasa bingit ng kapahamakan at pagkariwara, isang pamahalaang nag-udyok ng takot bago ito nagbigay ng pag-asa; sakbibi ng pag-aatubili, hinamak ng kawalang-tiwala sa sarili, lugami ang kanyang kabuhayan, hungkag ang kanyang kaban,” etc., etc. That isn’t even constructed the way a Tagalog sentence should be constructed, and the reason is that it is a transliteration of what follows next in English: “We found a government on the brink of disaster and collapse, a government that prompted fear before it inspired hope; plagued by indecision, scorned by self-doubt, its economy despoiled, its treasury plundered,” etc., etc. If the same thing was going to be said in English all over again, what was the point of saying it in Pilipino? To impress Spiro Agnew?
He may have been impressed by what Mr. Marcos said next.
The President demanded “sacrifice” and “self-discipline” from the powerful and the privileged, demanded of society that it “chastise the profligate rich who waste the nation’s substance — including its foreign exchange reserves — in personal comforts and luxuries,” and made it clear that under his administration “wealth, position or power will not purchase privilege; wealth and power shall not outrage the conscience of our people.”
The beginning of a new decade, said the President, called for a lot of new things: “new national habits, nothing less than a new social and official morality”; “a new ethic” with which “we will surmount most of the grave problems we are confronting now; “a new heart, a new spirit that springs out of the belief that while our dangers are many, and our resources few, there is no problem that cannot be surmounted given but the will and courage.” Under this new morality, “any act of extravagance in government will be considered not only as an offense to good morals but an act punishable with dismissal from office.”
The President promised to set the example.
“I pledge a leadership of the severest quality in integrity, morality and discipline.”
(The day after his inauguration, “moved,” he said, “by the strongest desire and the purest will to set the example of self-denial and self-sacrifice for all our people,” the President decided to give away “all my worldly possession so that they may serve the greater needs of the greater number of our people.” All his properties, “by a general instrument of transfer,” were to go “to the Filipino people through a foundation to be organized and to be known as the Ferdinand E. Marcos Foundation,” the purpose of which was to advance “the cause of education, science, technology, and the arts.” As Gene Magsaysay would say, no comment — not yet.)
After the inaugural address, the President and his family went back home to Malacañang, where they signed the registry book again, as they had done the first time they moved into the place.
“Glad to be back,” Ferdinand Marcos reportedly wrote:
And Bongbong: “Me next, I hope.”
Nobody got assassinated, but Metrocom men, according to report, arrested two men they said were loitering near the grandstand on suspicion they were on an assassination mission.” One man was said to have a tear-gas gun; the other wore a PC lieutenant-colonel’s uniform and brown civilian shoes. They were taken to Camp Crame.
That was 1967
By Quijano de Manila
DEHIN GOLI was 1967 and it wasn’t pogi either.
This year of disgrace stank with the lousiest polls in memory, a colossal snafu of an election composed in equal parts of villainy and ineptitude. Then Comelec had the gall to blame the mess on “lazy voters.” If the people are to blame it’s because they have too long suffered the insults of their “servants.”
The amok campaign that preceded the messy polls did good in revealing why ours is a violent society. The moral crusaders have been barking up the wrong tree, straining at the gnat of mass media while swallowing the rampaging elephant of politics. What James Bond movie can beat a Philippine poll campaign in ruthlessness? And 007 is but fiction while bloody politics is the world in which we live, move and have our being, besides spawning models for pragmatic behavior. The lesson dinned by these models, year after election year, is that one has to be ruthless, but ruthless, to get anywhere at all; and our young can now argue that, if they run wild enough, they, too, may be able to run for public office and maybe even win an election, like certain notorious ’67 exemplars. Their elders certainly weren’t slow this year in proving all over again that politicians form the largest criminal class in the Philippines.
If told that certain people in this country are allowed, every two years, to litter streets with waste paper, deface walls with propaganda, disturb the peace of the night with loudspeakers, terrorize the land with armed goods, corrupt the citizenry with bribes, and disrupt public order with their quarrels, feuds, gunfights and blood baths, we would surely say that so criminal a group belongs behind bars. What we actually say, on election day, is that this group belongs in public office; and any misgivings we may have are silenced by the admonition to be grateful that, at least, we are free to have this people to litter, deface, disturb, terrorize, corrupt and disrupt the land. Just think of all the slave states that don’t enjoy our good fortune!
Even so, Campaign ’67 was the limit. From the Gordon killing to the Alberto killing to the Ilocos Sur carnage, the campaign moved to a glut point beyond which the public might have thrown up in sheer nausea. Apparently the danger point was not reached; but the nausea could explain the resounding NO to the plebiscite proposals to increase the number of congressmen and to allow them to sit in the constitutional convention. The people have spoken, they don’t want more politicians, may their tribe not increase.
And who can blame the long-suffering public? One would have thought that, with the elections over, the politicians would be merciful enough to give us some respite from their wranglings and wearily did we applaud the ritual post-poll call to forget the animosities of the campaign and restore peace to the land. But, not surprisingly, the smoke of the savage campaign continues to darken the post-election battlefield, for violence breeds violence. The triumphant suburban mayor who warned his town’s teachers that they would feel the weight of his wrath because they didn’t support him would have been just as vindictive if he had lost; Philippine political tradition justifies vindictiveness in both winner and loser. If you win, you have been authorized a course of violence; if you lose, your only recourse is violence. And we, the hapless electorate, the supposed masters of the land, are free to vote only for winners.
Compared to political violence, civic violence, this year was pathetic, especially that “rebellion” of Tata Valentin’s fanatic peasants. In the other top crime cases – Lucila Lalu’s and Maggie de la Riva’s – the chief suspect was the Philippine press, which offered an alibi: it was conducting a crusade at the time. Detective work by the U.P. Institute of Mass Communication indicated that the press was indeed conducting a crusade, a circulation crusade. The Philippine Press Council, the watchdog of a watchdog press, may never recover from that expose of the U.P. For the local press, 1967 is the year when Lucila Lalu (for noble crusading reasons, of course) outranked the Arab-Israeli War on the front pages.
But if the press was hysterical so were other crusaders. Unpermissive though it is, Philippine society seems to see itself as a wide-open a go-go where anything goes. Actually, it’s one of the most inhibited in the world – timid, fearful, square, censor-ridden, reactionary and, therefore, hysterical, ever ready to make a mountain out of a molehill. But it imagines itself as being right there with the Now Generation, as being a with-it culture as hippie as the mod world of London and New York.
The gap between what our society thinks it is and what it really is produced comedy in 1967. A prize example is the to-do over the mini skirt. Churchmen fulminated against it, legislators threatened to outlaw it, moralists blamed the crime wave on it, and the literati debated its pros and cons. But visitors from abroad could only wonder why Filipinos were arguing so heatedly over something that just wasn’t there. One expatriate from New York complained that he had been in Manila a month already and still had to see a true mini. What passes for mini among us – a skirt barely baring the kneecaps – would be a crinoline abroad; and outside Manila even this timid mini is hardly what you might call standard. Yet we spent spirit denouncing or defending what was never more than a showpiece on local fashion ramps. Our line of reasoning seems to have gone this way: mini is mod; we are mod; therefore, the mini must be the mode among us. And those who know the true mini watched in bewilderment as we bade the little skirt that wasn’t there to go away.
Such exorcisms were in the spirit of a culture which, in the same year its haute couture dazzled Europe in the creations of Pitoy Moreno saw a band of folk mystics turn Taft Avenue into Armageddon, armed with amulets and their faith in a father anito, a mother anito, a son anito, a tribe anito and any number of hero and ancestor anitos. Avenue and amulet paired no more oddly this year than did sophisticated beach resort and witch doctors, as in the celebrated shocker of faith healer Tony Agpaoa ministering to American pilgrims in search of miracles on Bauang’s cote d’azur. We blushed to think that, because of doctor Tony, the world might think us still a primitive tribe, when here we were already able to pronounce psychedelic and maybe even understand it. But tribal we were in ’67, more curious about a woman cut up into serving pieces than in a war abroad that had the rest of world on edge; more concerned about the tribal feuds, killings and vendettas that we miscall elections than in the event of the year that may prove to be of more concern to us: the fall of the pound. Shut up in our little settlement, we hardly heard the rumblings next-door in China and scolded those who showed interest – though ’67 did hear the first serous proposals to start communicating with the Red half of the world.
The proposals stemmed from a threat early in the year of another rice shortage and the possibility that we might have to buy rice from China. (That country, incidentally, was so often rumored this year as about to collapse it began to lock as marvelous as Pisa’s leaning tower.) Happily for our souls, our bellies were spared the contagion of Red rice, saved from the outrage by what has aptly became known as miracle rice though there are those who aver that miracle rice makes for good reaping but poor eating. On a level with amulet and faith healing was the attempt to exercise the bad spirits of indolence and ineptitude from the rice fields by transforming the immemorial planting incantation, Magtanim hindi biro, into a “happy song.” The Revised Version is awful; the original was at least honest in seeing planting as back-breaking drudgery; but we cling, like Tata Valentin and doctor Tony, to the tenets of magic: you make a thing so by saying it is so. Alas, saying that planting rice is fun doesn’t remove the back – breaking drudgery from it; only machines and technical skill can do that. Another act of magic this year was the Rural Development Congress sponsored by the Catholic hierarchy. ‘The Church Goes To The Barrio,’ announced that congress. But having said so, the Church seems to believe it already is in the barrio – though the peasants have yet to feel the august presence in their midst.
However, the Church continues to be very active indeed in crusading against short sleeves, the mini, naughty movies and Sex. That, with the nation in crisis, is the Church’s idea of Catholic Action. For a typical champion of that kind of action, Manila Vice-Mayor Astorga, 1967 was a year of both triumph and frustration – triumph, because his crusade against the motels was upheld by the Supreme Court; and frustration, because, at this writing, he seems to have been rejected by the city he accused of too much fornication. Also rejected by this unregenerate city was the Iglesia Ni Cristo, which couldn’t fly Mr. Ocampo to City Hall even with Malacañang as the other engine.
For Yeba of Maharnilad, ’67 was Come On, Seven; and he provided along with Ninoy Aquino, the kindly light in the gloom encircling the Liberals. Hizzoner started the year with a bang by closing down American retail establishments, in line with Judge Jarencio’s interpretation of the retail law. Forced by the Palace to let the Americans go on retailing, Yeba took his fight to the Supreme Court. For this, he was denied garbage trucks from reparations and funds that belonged to the city. His year-long fight with the Palace culminated with the poll battle that was such a disaster for Malacañang and the Iglesia. Villegas the victor is already looking forward to a larger fight with the Palace in ’69.
Yeba and Ninoy easily top the news personalities of the year, which will have to include a dead man, poor Fenny Hechanova, who excited in a blaze of headlines because of the bizarre way he died, of gas poisoning, in a French villa. Nor can there be any question about which is the Family of the Year. The Laurels win hands down, or up, what with Speaker Pepito getting shot in cheek and chest in a night club; son Banjo running for mayor of Tanuan and winning; uncle Doy running for the Senate and almost getting crippled in a campaign accident; and Uncle Dodjie getting killed in Macao in a Grand Prix race. But ’67 should also be remembered as the year Speaker Pepito had a spat with Ambassador Blair over the “balasubas dollar.” The Loser of the Year is properly Pancho Magalona, who didn’t make it to the Rizal capitol but did give professional politicos a much-needed lesson on how to be a gentleman in politics. As for Woman of the Year, it’s a toss-up between Maggie de la Riva, who made the headlines, and Helen Benitez, who made the Senate.
Though President Marcos won the elections, using all the resources of the administration, ’67 was, news-wise, an off-year for him, his one authentic headline moment being that operation of his for gallstones. It was a quiet year for Imelda Marcos, too, compared to last year’s Summit. But for Kokoy Romualdez, ’67 meant the graduation of kid brother from the short pants of special envoy to the working clothes of an elective official: governor of Leyte.
The year’s visitors ranged from a boorish Robert Vaughn and a captivating Kathryn Grayson to a reigning pop idol, Del Shannon, who epitomized the year by just lolling back towards the end of his show at the Coliseum to sing Sunny, while the house rose for a standing ovation. But the most charming showbiz visitor of the year was Trini Lopez, and too bad he had to perform at the Rizal at prohibitive prices. Trini is a taut, tense, intense singer who doesn’t horse around onstage but does get a terrific hold on his audience – and you haven’t heard Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu Paloma until you hear Trini whispering it wistfully, as he did at the Rizal, after dedicating it to “my friend Dodjie Laurel,” whose death had just been announced.
The year continues the high climb of pop music, which is becoming indistinguishable from “serious” music – or, rather, is cutstripping long-hair music in complexity and inventiveness. The Beatles have already been recognized by eminent composers as a great musical fact and the intricate music flowering under their influence explains why. The aforementioned Sunny is a bench mark in pop music, a restructuring of the pop tune. Instead of the traditional refrain, middle section, and reprise of the refrain, Sunny simply extends the refrain, but with subtle shifts in beat in each stanza and the use of off-rhymes in the lyrics. It’s as if a sonnet were written with two octaves, or more, but without losing its form. Sunny is one hell of a great song.
The wonderful thing about 1967 is that it’s chockful of great songs. These new pop tunes are longer than the standards of the past, more sustained, more complex, more literate, more witty. A song like This Day is adult in thought and feeling, far removed from the love-dove June-moon format of yesterday’s hits. The sophistication is obvious in the words and music of such ’67 hits as Bus Stop, A Kind of Hush, Runaway, Homeward Bound, and Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling, the last one being memorable for its admonition to “Take off your clothes, my love, and close the door.” Even a conventional “sweet” song of ’67 like Lorelei considerably improves on the Mona Lisa genre and a progressive melody like All I See Is You just about breaks your heart with its fresh loveliness. As the year ends the air throbs to the strains of A Man and a Woman; but the memory song of 1967 is definitely Going Out of My Head, an extension of the Cole Porter style, and more valuable than a dozen pretentious symphonies. The concert halls are in the wrong part of the world; they should transfer to the discotheques, if they really want to promote great music.
What we wore in ’67 was principally paisley and psychedelic. The paisley had a brief vogue in mid-year but the psychedelic may carry over into ’68. Stripes in shirt-jacs gave way to bold prints and plaids. The color-stripped skipper so popular in the early 1950’s is making a comeback. Ugliest male style of the year was plaid for trousers, or the male palazzo pants. Colored patterns are tolerable in shorts, repulsive in longs. The Beatle bangs are being replaced by the DC-5 haircut (something like Rizal’s) that the Dale Clark Five made popular, and the Startrek, after the style of a TV serial hero. Whether to hide or show off their long hair, boys are wearing their collars higher and higher.
For the girls, the Twiggy haircut has made inroads on the long flowing tresses worn kook-style, nakalugay, that were so popular during the first half of the year. Dresses graduated from granny to mini to tent. Local thighs are still not for public eyes but the knees are definitely cut to tease. With the twiggy and the tent, the girls wear textured stockings in pastel hues, slingback shoes (with the ankle showing), mini hand – or shoulder bags, large-strapped psychedelic watches, and costume jewelry of hoop, dangling or wooden earrings, psychedelic bracelets, “nut” rings and enameled bangles. In general, the fashion is “kicky” – bare as much as you dare – and tends to low waists, low belts, low pockets, bubble pants and wrangler jeans.
Boys and girls this year shared fishnet socks, the paisley, and the three “in” fashion colors: green, pink and yellow. But where boys’ clothes are getting tighter all the time (the male shirt is now as closely fitted as girl’s blouses used to be) feminine clothes are loosening wider and wider.
Pogi dehin goli was, of course, the expression of the year and it has bred a host of variations. Pogi nga, goli nga, pero dehin naman siopil. Which means he doesn’t use Colgate. And other objections are phrased as dehin naman bonsa and dehin naman brocha. If you’re so backward you know only the original expression, you get plastered with a hoot: “Rural na yan, pare!” Kanto boys this year saluted the sexy with a reckless sigh: “Di bale majaime-jose, makamaggie lang!” And the stylish greeting is no longer Hi! But Harken! The pogi with a limp wrist is properly a pogita; and the mature pogi is either a mamords or a spidial (ideal man). It’s rural to have a shindig; the very sophisticated now put on a soiree, where nobody dances and you just eat, drink, talk and neck to dim lights. And if you’ve got a screw missing you’re a 99 – meaning you’re only 99% there.
The twiggies and pogies started out dancing the soul in ’67 (to Bus Stop), switched to the shingaling (with Helen Gamboa doing the bebe, bebe stuff best of all) and then to the boogaloo. They slow-dragged to Sitting in the Park and did the Funky Broadway to Tabatha Twitchit. Dancing has become so spontaneous the rule is maski papano – or mash-k-pops!
Having mentioned Helen Gamboa, one should go on and nominate her as the Movie Star of the Year, because she a brought a new quality to movie heroines: crisp and piquant instead of the usual soggy or tomboy types. Her Operation Discotheque was one of the year’s best jobs, a musical-agent film that outdid Sabotage in craftsmanship. The only other film that one found memorable was Cover Girls, where everybody in the cast did the best acting of their careers. The early provinciano scenes were rather painful, as are all local take-offs on hicks, but when the film moved into fashion house and a movie studio it turned into entertaining satire, broad but hilarious, and with a deadly aim. Susan Roces and Amalia Fuentes proved they could sparkle even if given intelligent material; Tony Cayado, taking all haute couture for his province was a scream; and very special mention must be made of Tita Muñoz, who, here as in Operation Discotheque, displayed a flair for cinema that shouldn’t go to waste. She shone to far more advantage in these two commercial films than in the loftier-minded Flight of the Sparrow.
Of the films abroad, A Man For All Seasons was somewhat overrated, Chaplin’s Countess From Hong Kong was terribly underrated, but Alfie and Darling lived up to their rave reviews. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton contributed three films to the year’s top crop: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Hour of the Comedians. The box-office bonanza of the year were the Italian westerns, the best of which, like A Coffin For Django, are gothic masterpieces. The latest James Bond is the slowest in pace of the series; far more shocking was Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark, which will probably still be reshowing when we have forgotten what the other ’67 films were.
And what else of ’67 is there to remember? The original a-go-gos at the Nile, complete with girls in cages; and the Sulo Friday a-go-gos, which have proved more durable. Susan Salcedo at Victoria Peak getting the place jumping with her throaty rock and sweetly winding up the night with The Party’s Over. Mike Parsons shooting the first Philippine underground film at his Pasay house; and the night at Indios Bravos that the film was “premiered.” Elorde pitifully dancing around in the ring to the boos of the crowd, the last time he fought at the Coliseum. And the fine chill that set in early in December to make this the coldest holiday season in years.
Nothing so good in ’67 as it’s ending.
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 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.
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 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.
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!”
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.”
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.