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The Winners ’61, November, 1961

The Winners ’61

By Quijano de Manila

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A cry has rent the political jungle.

The leopard has sprung.

 

The incredible

 

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

Magsaysay was expected to win; Macapagal was not.

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

Actually, Macapagal polled a bigger popular vote than Magsaysay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The inevitable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, in Pototan, Iloilo, came the revelation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The improbable

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

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

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

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

“What are your chances?” she asked.

“And what will you do afterwards?”

“I’ll teach and practise law.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The invisible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The impossible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Victory, November 23, 1957

Strange Victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political jungle, April 6, 1957

April 6, 1957

The political jungle

The political calendar

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

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

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

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

Now he is dead.

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

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

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

Anybody could be president.

The Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political forces

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

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

The feeling however, may pass…

What about Laurel?

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

But how would Garcia feel about it?

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

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

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

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

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

The position of Garcia

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

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

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

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

Garcia, as president, has the following advantages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackals and Hyenas

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

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

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

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

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

He has only a little time to do it.

It’s Up to You Now!, November 7, 1953

It’s Up to You Now!

 By Leon O. Ty

Many say that Quirino and his allies have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eights years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

November 7, 1953—One evening, while Ramon Magsaysay was still a member of President Quirino’s Cabinet, he called up a newspaperman on the telephone.

“Can I have a talk with you some place tonight?” he said, with a note of anxiety in his voice. “It’s something important.”

“Sure,” replied the newsman. “Where shall we meet?”

“Suppose we take supper together?”

“Okay,” said the reporter.

Magsaysay mentioned the name of the restaurant where he and the reporter were to meet. After about an hour, the then secretary of national defense and the newsman were seated together at a table.

“I called you up because I have a problem,” Magsaysay began the intimate conversation.

“What problem?” inquired the newspaperman curiously.

“I guess you know something about it already,” he said. “It’s the way the Apo (referring to President Quirino) is doing things these days. It’ that ‘C’ sugar which he wants to ship to Japan at any cost, regardless of what the law and public opinion say. You know who owns that sugar.”

“Yes, I know, the President’s compadre,” the newspaperman cut in.

“That’s what makes it scandalous. I’m against it and because the Apo knows my stand on the ‘C’ sugar issue, he has become indifferent to me. I don’t think I still enjoy his confidence.”

The newspaperman told Magsaysay that there was nothing he could do. Could he possibly defy the man who had made him a member of his official family?

“Take it easy, Monching,” the reporter suggested. “After a week or so, the Apo will have forgotten the matter and you two will again be the best of friends, as you have always been.”

“I have my doubts,” Magsaysay answered rather gloomily. “The Apo seems to dislike me now.”

“But why should he dislike you?” the newsman queried. “Didn’t you restore peace and order for him? You gave him prestige when you kept the 1951 elections clean. The President has repeatedly said he is proud of you.”

Magsaysay said Quirino began to be indifferent to him when articles about his success in combating the Huks were published in leading American magazines like Time, Life, Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek and Collier’s.

“What do you plan to do now?” Magsaysay was asked toward the end of the conversation.

“Resign from the Cabinet and join a third party. I can’t join the Opposition. I don’t think the Nacionalistas will accept me, knowing I’m a Liberal.”

“But what will you do in a third party?” inquired the newsman.

“I’ll run for senator,” he said.

“Useless for you to join a third party and run for a Senate post. You can’t win. Not as a third party candidate. Even Tañada, with all his popularity and outstanding achievements as a lawmaker, is not taking any chances. I think Tani will run on the Nacionalista Party ticket because he knows he cannot hope to win as a Citizen’s Party candidate.”

“Suppose you tell Tañada that I’ll join the Citizen’s Party and he and I will run for senator under that party’s banner?” Monching suggested.

“It’s a good idea but you can’t win. Third party candidates in this country never win.”

The conversation ended with Magsaysay saying he had made up his mind, he would quit President Quirino’s Cabinet and join a third party or get a job in some commercial firm.

“I’m fed up with the way things are being done in Malacañan, in the Cabinet, and in other offices. There’s so much graft, so much corruption. Pressure is being exerted upon me. The Huk problem is almost solved but the rehabilitation of the surrendered dissidents is another problem. I’m doing my best to restore them to normal living through the EDCOR. But you know that some Liberals, like Speaker Perez and a few others, have been criticizing it and calling it a waste of public funds. I have no alternative but to quit.”

And Magsaysay did quit his Cabinet position.

The foregoing story is related to show that Ramon Magsaysay at that time never dreamed of becoming a candidate for president of the Liberal Party, much less of the Opposition. He knew he couldn’t hope to win his party’s nomination, unless Quirino gave him the necessary backing. With such LP bigwigs as Eugenio Perez, Quintin Paredes, Fernando Lopez (who was still a Liberal at that time) and several other LP stalwarts in the Senate, how could Magsaysay possibly come out on top at an LP convention? In those days, the presidential hopefuls were Lopez, Paredes and Perez. Magsaysay was never considered a presidential possibility. For although he was one of the best influences in the Quirino regime, as a matter of fact one of its few redeeming features, he was not in the good graces of the top Liberals.

Magsaysay’s case is unique in the political history of this country.

At no other time was a member of one party invited to join another and be that group’s leading candidate in a presidential election. When rumors began to circulate, sometime last year, that the leading political figures in the Opposition were seriously considering the idea of inviting Magsaysay to join them and later drafting him for the presidency to fight Quirino, some people exclaimed:

“That’s fantastic! Why would the Nacionalistas get a Liberal to be their presidential candidate? No, it can’t happen. It has never been done before. The Opposition is not in dire need of presidential material. It has Laurel, Recto, Osias and Rodriguez. Why would the Nacionalistas pick a Liberal of all people?”

But it did happen.

After a series of negotiations, on the initiative of Senator Tañada, Monching was finally persuaded to quit his Cabinet position, resign from the Liberal Party and join the Nacionalistas.

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

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

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

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

Laurel declared that Magsaysay was, to him, the ideal candidate for president because of his youth, his energy, his patriotism, and unimpeachable integrity. Laurel compared the Zambaleño to Bonifacio—a hero who sprang from the masses.

By inviting Magsaysay to join the Nacionalistas and then supporting him as the NP presidential nominee, Opposition leaders, especially Laurel, exhibited a spirit of patriotism never before seen among politicians in this country. Laurel would have won the NP nomination last April unanimously had he but expressed the slightest desire to run. But he had made up his mind to boost Magsaysay and at the convention made good his promise to give the latter his whole-hearted backing.

Many people are still wondering why Dr. Laurel was willing to sacrifice his personal ambition in favor of the former LP defense secretary. They still believe that in a clean election, Laurel could win against any Liberal as shown in 1951. With victory practically in sight, why did Dr. Laurel decide to invite Magsaysay to be the NP standard-bearer?

Senator Laurel had his reasons for this action.

“If I run and lose through frauds and violence as in 1949,” he is said to have told close friends, “I will surely be driven to desperation. I may even have to resort to drastic measures. In which case, I might have to go to the mountains and lead a band of rebels, guerrillas. That I cannot do now on account of my age. I’m tired.

“And if I win, could I get as much aid from the United States as Magsaysay could? I don’t think so. I know pretty well how I stand in the eyes of the American people. Because of my collaboration record during the Occupation, many Americans who still don’t know what actually happened here during the war will stand in the way of material aid to our country. I have no choice. The welfare of our people is more important to me than my personal ambition. But if Magsaysay wins, I think America will go out of her way to help us because he is a friend, a great friend. To the American people, and for that matter, to the people of the world, Magsaysay is the physical embodiment of Democracy’s courageous stand against Communism in the Far East….”

The Nacionalistas knew that if they succeeded in winning Magsaysay to their side, the Liberals would be demoralized. Magsaysay easily stood out as the strongest pillar in the LP edifice, so to say. He was “the great exception,” in an administration that had earned notoriety mainly due to the dishonesty and inefficiency of many of its important constituents.

Magsaysay did not belong to the Liberal Party, but to the Filipino nation, the Nacionalistas believed. And they had proof to support this belief. Didn’t Magsaysay give the Filipino people the cleanest election held during the Liberal Party regime? He had thereby earned the hatred of many of his fellow Liberals who blamed him for their humiliating defeat at the polls. Some Liberals who have never been genuinely in favor of a democratic election in this country went to the extent of suggesting his ouster from the Cabinet but that plan was not carried out for fear that it would boomerang on them.

Didn’t Magsaysay upset the Huk timetable? The dissidents had definitely set 1951 as the year when they would stage a nationwide revolt and seize the government, but the “man of action” from Zambales upset their plans as soon as he took over the affairs of the defense department in September, 1950. Hardly one month after his assumption of office, Magsaysay struck a mortal blow against the local Reds which dazed them and sent them running for cover. He smashed the Politburo, rounded up its members, had them indicted in court, prosecuted and sent to jail. Thus was the back of local Communism broken.

The Nacionalistas also saw the excellent results of Magsaysay’s experiment in human rehabilitation in Kapatagan Valley (Lanao) where the EDCOR, the army agricultural colony for surrendered Huks, was opened.

Here, therefore, was a man who seemed to possess the magic touch, as it were. Everything he undertook was a success, in sharp contrast to other Liberals who made a sorry mess of the Quirino administration. Here was a young man who had a brilliant record as a guerrilla chieftain during the war; a former governor of his province who allowed no one under him to pollute his administration; an ex-member of Congress who obtained more benefits for Filipino war veterans and guerrillas than any other lawmaker who made official representations in Washington.

After Magsaysay resigned, some Liberals who appreciated what the man meant to the party were reportedly panicked. Desperate efforts were made by friends of Magsaysay to get him to change his mind and return to the LP fold. “All will be forgotten and forgiven,” said they. But Magsaysay had seen too much of the LP to modify or alter his decision.

On one occasion, while still a Cabinet member, he confided his fears to a newspaperman.

“If nothing is done to stop certain men from influencing the Apo, I’m afraid this country will eventually fall into the hands of a few scheming, unscrupulous businessmen,” he said in a dejected tone. “I don’t know why the President allows certain men to influence his decisions on official matters, matters affecting the people’s welfare. I’m beginning to lose faith in the President….”

Subsequent events were to justify Magsaysay’s decision to quit his job. The Filipino people were to witness another political schism in the Liberal Party. This came unexpectedly: General Carlos P. Romulo decided to fight Quirino in the party convention for the presidential nomination. When the former ambassador and head of the PI delegation to the United Nations said he was making a bid for the presidency, most of the best elements of the party publicly announced their intention to rally behind him. And they did.

These outstanding Liberals left the Quirino bandwagon and openly declared themselves for General Romulo: Senators Esteban Abada, Tomas Cabili, Lorenzo Sumulong and Justiniano Montano. In the Lower House, a number of prominent LP lawmakers headed by Congressmen Jose Roy, Domingo Veloso, Cipriano Allas and Raul Leuterio also bolted the Quirino group to support Romulo.

All of these leaders would have remained Liberals had a fair convention been held to choose the party standard-bearers for president and vice president, had not the convention been “a rigged-up affair,” to quote Romulo himself. All that the Romulo backers had asked was that there be secret balloting among the delegates in order to give them complete freedom to vote for the candidate of their choice. But Quirino and his leaders adamantly refused, for obvious reasons, of course. They insisted on an open vote, so they would know which delegates were not backing the Apo and be able to punish them later.

That was Quirino’s undoing, another telling blow to the Liberal Party.

Romulo and his leaders walked out of the convention in anger, saying they could not stand the dictatorial tactics of the Quirino bullyboys.

Romulo and his leaders were not the only ones who bolted the Quirino faction. Vice President Fernando Lopez also quit the group and with Romulo and many LP members of Congress formed the nucleus of the Democratic Party.

More breaks were in store for Ramon Magsaysay as the preelection campaign progressed. President Quirino fell ill and had to make a trip to America to recover. And later, the Democratic Party leaders—declaring that the common objective of the Opposition was to oust the Liberals from power—decided to coalesce with the Nacionalistas. This meant the withdrawal of the DP presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Romulo and Lopez, who threw their support behind Magsaysay and Garcia.

Quirino’s absence from the country during this crucial period demoralized many Liberals who later decided to quit the party or just remain politically inactive. This state of demoralization was made evident by a public statement attributed to Sen. Quintin Paredes in which he said that, since Quirino was not well enough to carry on a nationwide and vigorous political campaign, the best thing he could do for the party was to quit the political race and give way to another candidate.

That Don Quintin meant what he said has been borne out by the general lack of interest he has shown in the campaign. This master political strategist could have bolstered the chances of the Apo had he exerted himself to urge his admirers to support Mr. Quirino.

In this article, we feel there is no need to enumerate what President Quirino has done for the country during the years he has been in office. The Filipino people know what he has accomplished. They also know what he has failed to do.

If elected again, the Apo says he will complete his total economic mobilization program which is embodied in the Quirino-Foster Agreement. Two more years is all he asks, and after that the Philippines would be ushered into an era of unprecedented progress, contentment and peace. And if he does not finish his task, he says that his vice president, Jose Yulo, will complete it. Yulo is the only man in the Liberal Party, Quirino has stressed, who can carry out the unfinished job.

But many people are saying that Quirino and his Liberals have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eight years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

The popular clamor is for a change in administration. The people unmistakably demonstrated that in 1951 when they endorsed the entire Nacionalista senatorial ticket. That the majority of the Filipinos have grown tired of the LP regime can, therefore, hardly be successfully disputed.

It’s a complete change of crew for our ship of state that most of our people are crying for these days. The decent elements among our population are fed up with the seemingly endless cases of graft, corruption and all kinds of shady deals that have made the Liberal administration more notorious than any other political regime this country has had.

Right-thinking, independent-minded people are by now more than convinced that unless a new leader takes charge, peace and order will never be completely restored in this land; our Constitution will continue to be violated; reckless extravagance in government spending will continue; abuses  by certain powerful officials will never come to an end; civil service rules and regulations will continue to be ignored and violated for political expediency; elections will never be free, clean and orderly; gangsterism, abetted by certain highly placed individuals, will flourish; the worst forms of nepotism and favoritism will not stop; misappropriation of public funds and public property will go on indefinitely; and favorites in the administration will continue enjoying their regular junkets abroad at the people’s expense.

Liberal Party spokesmen talk about the prosperity that they have allegedly brought to this island. If this is true, why are millions of our countrymen without work? Without enough food? Without sufficient clothing?

Millions are unable to enjoy the blessings of modern medical  care and hospitalization. Liberals continually din into the ears of our people talk about their campaign to rid the government of crooks. But has a single big shot in the administration ever been sent to jail even for a day?

Who are getting rich under the LP regime? Who have been most benefited by the Apo’s so-called “total economic mobilization program”?

Of course, our people well know who the beneficiaries are. The people are not asleep and they aren’t stupid either. They have been fooled, once, twice, nay, thrice; but they won’t allow themselves to be fooled all the time. They were terrorized once at the polls, and thereby prevented from choosing the candidates of their choice. This time, they won’t allow hoodlums to scare them away from the polls. The time for a change has come. The need for a new, for a dynamic leader is desperate. Given the chance to express their minds, some 5,540,000 Filipino voters will choose the right man to lead them the next four years.

The hectic political campaign is over. You, fellow voters, have heard the pros and cons of the issues involved in this election. The candidates have made them clear to you in political rallies and meetings and the various newspapers and radio stations have helped in explaining the merits of those who seek election on November 10. By now you should know the records of the different candidates, both as private citizens and as public officials. Also known to you are the programs of the opposing parties and the men who compose them. With this background you are expected to vote intelligently.

It’s up to you now!

The Magsaysay boom, editorial, March 7, 1953

The Magsaysay boom
March 7, 1953

THE Philippines is going wild about Ramon Magsaysay.

Newspaper correspondents’ reports, numerous telegrams and letters of congratulation have been endlessly pouring into Manila, hailing Magsaysay’s resignation from the Quirino cabinet. Magsaysay-for-President clubs are daily mushrooming in provincial capitals, chartered cities and municipalities, while labor, school, civic, social and youth organizations continue to vie with each other in endorsing Magsaysay’s candidacy for the highest position within the gift of the Filipino people. Even some of the Huks—whom Magsaysay and the armed forces of the Philippines tried hard to subdue during the two and a half years that he was secretary of national defense—have made known their Magsaysay-for-President stand.

There is no parallel in our political history to the case of Magsaysay. No Filipino official has as yet resigned from a government job and received so much spontaneous commendation as has this man from Zambales. In fact, no public official in our country has severed his connection with the government and been the recipient of so much praise for a job well done.

The simple explanation of the current Magsaysay-inspired rejoicing must be that the Filipino people as a whole, are fundamentally sound and that they know a good, faithful, and patriotic public servant when they see one. It is more than apparent that in Ramon Magsaysay they have seen one.

It is doubtful if any administration has received so much public condemnation for tolerance of official crookedness, corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence as the present. But despite the general damnation that has come from the people, Magsaysay (who was with the same administration for a long time) has been singled out as a shining exception. And rightly so. For during his time in office, not once was his name mentioned in the same breath with venality, abuse of power and other cardinal sins associated with many a Filipino public official today.

Magsaysay left the Quirino cabinet because life with Quirino had become a series of frustrations. Magsaysay said that he sought public confidence as his highest reward for the services he had rendered. But he realized that such confidence could not be won if he continued serving under the Quirino regime. Many people sincerely subscribe to this view.

Despite efforts were made this week to win back Magsaysay to the fold of the Liberal Party. Liberals who fear their party’s collapse now that Magsaysay—the party’s chief redeeming feature—is out, and won over by the Nacionalistas, this week planned and schemed to woo back the ex-defense secretary. But all attempts have proved futile. Senator Tomas Cabili, chief LP negotiator, has given up the idea of ever getting Magsaysay back. In a moment of despair, Cabili said this week: “They (referring to his fellow Liberals) have ignored the handwriting on the wall…and now, when it is too late, there is feverish effort to reach for a solution….”

Meanwhile, the Magsaysay boom keeps increasing. To try to stop it would be tantamount to the old story of sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow, June 21, 1952

The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

June 21, 1952—LYTTON STRACHEY, father of modern biography, complained against the two-volume “life” that usually followed and seemed almost to form part of the burial rites of the distinguished dead:

“Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead—who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortege of the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism.”

This piece on Recto, who is very much alive, will be brief.

Its purpose is to draw the trajectory of his mind, not to go into the minutiae of his life or every step of his career; his life may be quickly sketched, his career rapidly followed. He was not born rich; he walked to school with scuffed shoes. To pay for food and lodging, what he learned at the Ateneo in the morning he taught in another school in the evening. He received at the Ateneo, it is significant to note, a European education, not the American one being dispensed at the public schools. He graduated with what a biographer calls “the unbelievable grade of ‘excellent’ in all subjects.” His scholastic record was better than Rizal’s.

In doubt—being so good in so many subjects and variously urged by relatives and friends to take up holy orders, medicine, engineering—in doubt, he took, in the honored tradition—in doubt he took up law. He proved himself supreme in it.

He has been a representative, a justice of the Supreme Court and is now a senator; he hopes, it is known, to be president. In the Supreme Court and in the Senate he has shone in dissent. It was due to him that an attempt to deny the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and the press to foreigners was frustrated in Congress. The magazine Newsweek, or its ill-informed correspondent, thought this a remarkable, a surprising thing for Recto to do. It was the thing one would expect Recto to do; he presided over the constitutional convention that drafted the Bill of Rights.

He has also been a poet.

Today, no man in the Senate commands more respect by sheer force of mind than Recto. No one has a cultural background so broad, a logic so implacable, a rhetoric so firmly based on the masters. Not that Recto is a good speaker, as the word is commonly defined. He does not raise his voice; he makes few, if any, gestures; he is dry and unemotional. He makes no promises, utters no angry denunciations; when he denounces anyone, it is in a tone so judicious and reasonable as to pass almost for praise. Well, not exactly praise. The man denounced may never be able to look at himself in the mirror again. At the same time, he will not feel he has been outraged; he has merely been exposed.

Recto is not a good speaker, no.  He will arouse no mob.  But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish.  His sentences march, like ordered battalions, against the inmost citadel of the man’s arguments and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile, his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary.  The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista Senator Zulueta’s conception of a sound foreign policy was a shattering experience; the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done. The most result from the lightest blow—the greatest damage with the least force.  Recto cannot—no one can, except against the stupid and ignorant—he cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken.

The usual politicians offer no challenge to the mind. They are all so obvious in their purpose, so pitiful in their intellectual equipment, so mediocre in their performance, so common, so unremarkable that one could cut a pattern and it would fit them all. Some have money and want more; some have none and would get some; most are capable of a mouldy sort of rhetoric, cliché-infested, paltry of thought. The tired shibboleths of the professional rabble-rouser characterize their speeches. The frantic gestures, the screaming voice, the frenzied expressions, the hysterical charges, the crocodile tears—these are the usual politician’s stock-in-trade.  Recto does not resort to them.

It is a surprising thing, then, that he should have polled more votes than Roxas in a prewar senatorial election and should continue to inspire enthusiasm among an impressive number of the electorate. His fellow Nacionalistas say of Recto that he is aloof—alien to the masses, caviar to the general, but the proof of the pudding, after all, is in the eating, and he got more votes than any other Nacionalista senatorial candidate in the 1949 poll. Than any Liberal candidate, probably, if the poll had been clean. Is it possible, then, that the common people have and could be fired by a passion like Recto’s for an abstraction—for law?

It is there, in his dedication to law, that Recto’s significance chiefly lies. But law, to Recto, means civil law; it is possible only under civilian rule. Hence, his warnings against the increasing predominance of the military in Philippine affairs. The army, if unchecked, is certain to establish a despotism, no matter how well-intentioned at the start. The army, by its very structure, is hierarchical; the orders of officers are absolute. There is no separation of powers, judicial, executive, and legislative, on which a democratic society rests. As the army grows and grows, civil control must decay; a military coup d’ état becomes a probability. To Recto it is no argument for despotism that the despot may be benevolent.

In the Philippines the democratic processes had so far deteriorated that the relatively free elections of 1951 were possible only through the intervention of the military, inspired, at that, by another country. Recto observed:

“Already, I daresay, the thought is not uncommon in our military circles that only the army can enforce order, that the reality of power is in its combat battalions, and that, in a not too distant day, it can, and shall, and should, decide the victor in any electoral contest. It will be said that such a temptation will now assail a republican army, a citizen army, but the history of nations is full of such temptations that were not resisted, and were even joyfully embraced, for few men, particularly in the face of vice and corruption, can resist the temptation of using their power to reform, by force, if necessary, the society of which they will fancy themselves the saviors and liberators….

“We have already reached the first stage in the familiar tragedy.”

Not only electoral fraud and terrorism menaced the rule of law, threatened to substitute the rule of men in its place. Corruption had undermined the morale of the people and the government service. From top to bottom it was increasingly felt that all was permitted, everything licensed—if one had the power and influence. If one had the connections. To a man brought up in the ideal conception of law, the spectacle was an appalling one. No curse seemed strong enough for such a regime.

Most are familiar with the biblical account of Moses and his anger at the fall of the Chosen People into idolatry. He broke the tables of the law. Only after the people repented of their sins was Moses prevailed upon to make new tables. He must have known that, it being human to err, the laws would be broken—but those who broke them would do so conscious of the offense, knowing they had broken the Law. To violate is to affirm, for one cannot violate what is not there. Thus, man, although he has sinned, may be forgiven. But cursed be he who says that there is no law and man might do all things. In the version of the story of Moses by Thomas Mann, the lawgiver declares:

“And I will lift My foot, saith the Lord, and tread him into the mire—to the bottom of the earth will I tread the blashphemer, an hundred and twelve fathoms deep, and man and beast shall make a bend around the spot where I trod him in, and the birds of the air high in their flight shall swerve that they fly not over it. And whosoever names his name shall spit toward the four quarters of the earth, and wipe his mouth and say ‘God save us all!’ that the earth may be again the earth—a vale of troubles, but not a sink of iniquity.”

The sink of iniquity that the Philippines became after a few years of Liberal rule could not but enrage a man like Recto. With visible effort at self-restraint, he noted:

“During the past two or three years, particularly since the mock elections of 1949, I have often been oppressed, as no doubt you too have been, by a vague fear that we are living in the wrong country, or if you prefer it this way, that our country is inhabited by the wrong people. Surely, I said to myself, this cannot be the country and people that we envisioned in the Constitutional Convention of 1934. When my colleagues and I set to work on that constitution, we had before us the inspiring vision of a united people practicing self-government, moulding civic spirit and learning patriotism in the daily observance of just and wise laws, ever vigilant against any threat to their liberties, faithful in the performance of their duties, and firm in the enforcement of those rights which are inalienable because they are God-given…

“… What do we have now? At the very head of the government, clutching tightly around him the robes of false authority, a man, over the legality of whose position the gravest doubts have been cast, sits enthroned, a very monarch of his ambition and behavior, far removed from public opinion and the guidance of disinterested and competent advisers, surrounded instead by sycophants, opportunists, courtiers, and jesters, and plotting the foundation of a dynasty that will perpetuate the ignominy of his regime.”

To Recto, the law is the law, to be observed by all and mended, if at all, only by law. He lives by it. He has, in fact, grown rich in its practice—but by mastering, not perverting it. He would abide by all its implications. To the President, it may seem strange, even subversive, that Recto should offer himself as legal counsel to the communists when they came up for trial. But the law is the law; a man should have legal counsel if he is to be properly tried, no matter for what offense. Anything else would make of the trial a mock one. (Neither mock elections nor mock trials for Recto.) Let it never be said by the communists that they were railroaded to imprisonment or death, that they might have been saved but for the incompetence of their counsel. They had the best in the land. But even he could not save them. It was democracy in action, wonderfully in action, and the communists could not afterward make propaganda out of the result. Had they been represented by a lawyer who had been at the tail of his class instead of at the head, they might have cried: “Unfair!” But they had Recto.

Communism could only be repulsive to a man of Recto’s non-conforming spirit, aside from the fact that he is a man of wealth. But the law is the law, to repeat, and Recto would assure every man of a true day in court. It was not that he would defend the communist creed, but that he would stand by the democratic one. All have a right to counsel when their lives or liberties are at stake. Recto, the corporation lawyer, offered his services to the Reds.

The law, of course, is merely the law, and not always to be equated with justice. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor alike to beg, to steal their bread, and to sleep under bridges.” The law is the superstructure; but what of the foundation? What if the society the law holds up rests on social injustice? Against violations of the Bill of Rights, Recto has been sleeplessly vigilant, but what of the poor—must we have them always with us? May they hope, at best, to live only in a vacuum of political liberties, of which Recto stands today the foremost champion? Must one think merely of the law? Their spirits are hungry, says a character in a play by Shaw, referring to well-paid workers, because their stomachs are full. What of the poor?

Nonetheless, before one talks of changing the law, its rule must first be firmly established; only then would it be possible, without injury to the Republic, at the least cost to the fewest people, to correct and amend. First of all, there must be law. Cursed be he who says there is none.

What of Recto’s alleged anti-Americanism? We accused him of that in an article on Philippine security. It cannot be the same as anti-democratic, for that is the last thing one could call the president of the Constitutional Convention and the proven defender of the democratic faith. What does it mean, then, being “anti-American”?

If to be the least bit critical of America, of any of its ways or institutions, is to be anti-American, then Recto is anti-American. Yet to be thus critical is to be in the direct line of a great American tradition. Lincoln was critical of Negro slavery. Wilson would involve the United States in the League of Nations, going against the old isolationist injunction against foreign entanglements. Franklin Delano Roosevelt attacked such established American practices as the sweatshop, child labor, the boom-and-bust economy, poverty in the midst of plenty. Today, millions of Americans reject and are determined to change a foreign policy, for being critical of which Recto gained the reputation of being anti-American.

If, on the other hand, to be pro-American is to agree to everything Americans say—that hardly speaks well of one. In fact, it is a rather obvious form of opportunism; surely Americans cannot be beguiled by it. Such pro-Americanism is so patently a mask for mendicancy, Americans should beware of it. Every time an American hears a Filipino say that America is perfect and Americans beyond reproach, he should be prepared to be asked for money. To pay for the praise of the venal with so sound a currency, as the American dollar seems to us not fair exchange; it is to give good money for shoddy goods. To win over to one’s side, on the other hand, the critical and incorruptible is to gain a friend indeed, because not a friend habitually in need, a chronic dependent, but one who, being independent, can be depended on.

Recto’s concern—excessive concern, it seems to some—over national sovereignty comes naturally. To the legal mind, sovereignty is indivisible; a part cannot be surrendered without denying the whole. Since the beggar cannot be sovereign, Recto, while conceding the aid received by the Philippines from the United States, is always quick to point out the benefits received by the United States from us:

“I speak not only in terms of bases, parity, tariff preferences, immigration rights, and other unprecedented concessions, but also in terms of loyalty measured in the blood spilled in Bataan, Corregidor, and Korea….Our relations with the United States have not been a one-way street but a two-way street, in which the traffic was just about equal.”

It is this passion for independence that drives a man like Recto sometimes to extremes of utterance. The mutual defense pact between the United States and the Philippines may be queerly worded—no such contract would be allowed to go through a law firm like Recto’s, it is, in its letter if not in its spirit, so patently full of holes—at the same time, it is surely going too far to call it a swindle, as Recto does, and then go on and speak of duress, threats, and intimidations.  It should be noted, however, that the brunt of Recto’s attack falls, not on the United States, for looking out for its interests, but on the Philippine administration, for being too mendicant to insist on its rights.

Besides, the Philippine position is so weak, so untenable, the independence of the country faces such threats from so many quarters that short of lasting international peace, which is a dream, one who thinks long and hard on what the Philippines must do to save itself can hardly avoid being filled with a sense of angry frustration. In such a mood, one may well grow violent over the wording of a pact. Those who maintain a more confident attitude are only able to do so because they do not think about the fix we are in. “Leave everything to America”—that’s the standard view. It’s a weak-minded one. If they are right, it is for the wrong reason; if Recto is wrong, it is for the right one.

There is always the possibility, of course, that Recto’s not always restrainable doubts about America’s perhaps too glib assurances of safety have deeper roots than the national predicament. Recto was a poet before he was a politician; in his youth he was steeped in European culture, not American. He belonged to a literary tradition that the American pursuit of Manifest Destiny brought to an untimely close. English put Spanish, which Recto had learned so painfully and so well, to the sword.

“Poetry withered away for the writers of my time,” bitterly remarks Don Perico, a character in a play who deserts the arts for politics, “because we knew that we had come to a dead end, we had come to a blind alley.  We could go on writing if we liked—but we would be writing only for ourselves—and our poems would die with us, our poems would die barren. They were written in a dying tongue; our sons spoke another language….”

Anchises was carried by his son, Aeneas, from burning Troy. The men of Perico’s generation must carry themselves to their graves.

“We have begotten no sons.”

Here is injury, indeed, though unconsciously inflicted. Here is a wound. Recto, the poet, maimed at the very start….The American liberation of the Philippines brought another wound. With other members of Laurel’s Cabinet, Recto was imprisoned in Iwahig where he awaited trial for collaboration with the Japanese whom he had the courage to caution against abuse of the Filipinos….The wound could not have entirely healed.

The American critic Edmund Wilson named one of his books after the Greek legend of Philoctetes to whom Heracles passed on a bow given him by Apollo— “a bow that never missed its mark.” Philoctetes, on the way to Troy, was bitten by a snake; the wound, becoming infected, gave so horrible a smell that his companions abandoned him. Afterward, however, the Greeks were told that they would never win the war without the aid of Philoctetes and his bow. The problem was how to persuade the embittered man, whose wound did not heal, to join the Greeks, to forget his grievance and his pain in the common cause. Philoctetes finally relenting, his wound was healed and the Trojan War was won.

The point of the legend would seem to be that a man’s wounds, the psychic ones, are not to be distinguished from the man, that they make him what he is, that if he is strong, they are the source of his strength; the wound is the bow. The strength, however, will lie useless until the man is reconciled to the society that had inflicted the wound or rejected him because of it. The pain will cease when the wounded man finally identifies his fate with the common one.

Will Recto’s wound ever heal? It is the source of his strength, his independence.  He may negotiate, he will not beg. But must it always pain? Will it never heal? Yes, one hazards—when the opposition of which he is such a pillar becomes the administration. As the wound of Philoctetes healed when he forgot his old grievances and joined the Grecian camp, bringing victory over Troy, may one not say that the wound of Recto will heal when—when he enters Malacañang? Then he must think not of one but of all.

But he will say, of course, that this, precisely, is what he has been doing all this time.

 

No More Divorce? April 9, 1949

No More Divorce?

By Teodoro M. Locsin

 

“ABSOLUTELY AGAINST LIBERALIZATION PRESENT DIVORCE LAW.”

 

“VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE LIBERALIZATION OF DIVORCE LAW.”

 

“WE URGE ABOLITION OF DIVORCE DISHONORS GOD DESTROYS FAMILY NATION.”

 

April 9, 1949—BECAUSE of a flood of such telegrams, and letters and petitions from Catholics all over the Philippines, Nacionalista and Liberal members of the House of Representatives decided in caucus last week, not only to vote against the proposed “liberalization” of the present Divorce Act, but to abolish absolute divorce.

Henceforth, only legal separation would be authorized, on the ground of adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Re-marriage would be impossible. That is, if the bill sponsored by Congressman Lorenzo Sumulong of Rizal is passed, as it is expected to be passed, by the House, and if the Senate should act favorably on the measure and the President does not veto it.

One congressman was quoted thus, by the Evening News Saturday Magazine:

“I have daughters. For their sake, I’d like to liberalize the Divorce Law. I don’t intend to divorce my wife, but I would give my daughters a chance to mend their lives if they should happen to marry impossible husbands. I believe Catholics should exercise strict discipline among their flock instead of imposing their religious prejudice on other people, who are non-Catholics. It’s on the same principle of human rights that we would object if Mohammedans, whose religion forbids the eating of pork, should try to influence legislation so Catholics, like Mohammedans, would be prevented from eating pork. There such things as minority rights. Granted that Catholics are preponderant in this country, it should not mean that their religious prejudices should be visited on non-Catholics, or that non-Catholics should be bound by the limitations inherently religious, rather than civil, of Catholics. If Catholics don’t want divorce, let them restrain themselves, within the church, but not within the law. But don’t quote me,” laughed the congressman, “I want to get reelected.”

The congressman had good cause to fear electoral defeat if he should be identified with those who favor liberalization of the Divorce Law. “Catholic bishops,” reports the Manila Times, “from all over the country broadly hinted in their urgent wires that unless their pleas were heeded, reelectionists would encounter their Nemesis in November. The prelates also stated that they had no objection to passage of the proposed code provided its divorce provisions were eliminated, inferentially consenting to [the continuance of] the present law on absolute divorce.”

But the congressmen, Nacionalistas as well as Liberals, decided to outdo the bishops, to be more Popish than the Pope, to impose the Catholic religion, at least in the matter of divorce, on all Filipinos, Catholics and non-Catholics, and agreed not only not to liberalize the Divorce Law but to abolish absolute divorce. These members of Congress decided to sacrifice the rights of a substantial minority, the non-Catholic population of the country, on the altar of reelection.

Non-Catholics believe that divorce should be granted on certain grounds, such as, for instance, adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Non-Catholics believe that after the marriage tie has been cut, the former spouses are free to remarry. But the Catholic Church holds that while there may be separation of the spouses, remarriage is not to be allowed. To remarry, while the other spouse, no matter how erring, is still alive, would be a heinous, a mortal sin.

So that non-Catholics as well as Catholics may not commit that “mortal” sin, members of Congress have decided to make the commission of the “sin” impossible by making remarriage legally impossible, a crime: bigamy.

Under the present law, a man may secure a divorce from his wife only after sending her to prison for adultery. He must send her to prison; he must feel no pity, grant no mercy, if he is to be free of her, and free to marry again. In the case of the woman, she must send her husband to prison for concubinage if she would be free to remarry.

Under the proposed law, abolishing absolute divorce, a man must not only be without pity and send his adulterous wife to prison if he would be rid of her and be able to remarry. He must harden his heart, plot and plan; lay a trap for his wife, catch her in the act of adultery and shoot her to death. He must kill.

If the husband of an adulterous woman hesitates to kill, then he must condemn himself to a life of perfect celibacy for the next 20, 30, 40 years. He must suppress all natural desires, he must be perfectly chaste. He is expected to be, under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce. For the alternative would be to get himself a querida, which it is certain neither the Catholic Church nor our congressmen would countenance, or to take his faithless wife to himself again, to be, in short, as the Spaniards put it, a pendejo consentido.

It was St. Paul who said, “Better to marry than to burn.” Under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce, a man who is the husband of an unfaithful woman must kill, or remain a cuckold.

Those who would abolish absolute divorce argue that the rights of a minority, that is, in this case, of the non-Catholic population of the country, may be overridden in the interest of the welfare of the state. In a time of revolutionary change, of political disorder and economic chaos, a state that would endure must be built on solid rock. That solid rock is the family; only on such a rock may a nation stand firmly and unafraid, etc.

Family relations must be strengthened and reinforced; the family must be placed beyond danger of dissolution. “Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The words vary, the sentiment is the same. The family, at all cost, must be saved. The law must see to it that the family is not, for whatever reason, broken up.

But, it is enough to point out, when a wife becomes adulterous, or making of her marriage vows a joke, or when a man takes a mistress and openly lives with her and keeps her under circumstances “scandalous,” the family may continue to exist, but in name only. Its foundations are gone, it is an empty temple, a mockery and a sham. Nothing remains of the ties that had once bound a man and a woman together. There is only a festering sore.

The plain and true reason, of course, for the bill abolishing absolute divorce is no great concern on the part of the congressmen to save the Filipino family form rack and ruin. The purpose of the bill is political—reelection. The congressmen think that by giving the Catholic bishops, priests and laymen what they want, the non-liberalization of the Divorce Law, and more than they has asked for, the abolition of absolute divorce, they (the congressmen) have assured their reelection. That’s the only reason why they would abolish absolute divorce, and they will admit it, if they be honest. If they be honest!

As it is, these members of Congress have placed the Catholic Church in a dubious position. Catholics are always ready to cry out and complain when their rights as Catholics are trampled upon, when others would impose upon them a non-Catholic way of life. Now congressmen are making it appear that Catholics, when they are in the majority, have no compunction in imposing their way of life on non-Catholics. That Catholics are for freedom and tolerance—only when it suits them.

As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church need not fear that the present law permitting absolute divorce, or even a liberalization of it, would send true Catholics on a divorce spree. Remarriage, while the other spouse is still alive, is, the church teaches, a mortal sin, and, on this score alone, the sinner faces the threat of eternal punishment. That should be enough to keep any husband in the straight and narrow path.

If, despite threat of hell, a Catholic insists on getting a divorce and remarrying, why, he is no Catholic. And if he is not afraid of hell, no mere legal prohibition against remarriage will prevent him from leaving his wife for another woman, and breaking up the family. As a matter of fact, the proposed abolition of absolute divorce, ostensibly to buttress the Filipino family, allows legal separation of the spouses, which means the breakup of the family.

Report on the Plebiscite, April 5, 1947

REPORT ON THE PLEBISCITE
April 5, 1947

The struggle to preserve the purity of the franchise is a never-ending one. At the times and places described below, the forces of genuine democracy seem to have lost the battle to forces of arrogance and corruption. There can be only one answer. Let those who truly believe in honest elections resolve with increased firmness and determination to fight for them, in spite of temporary defeat and discouragement.—The Editor.

Report from Iloilo

March 12, 1947

To An American Friend:

The plebiscite is over. For the next 28 years you will have equal rights with us in the development of our country. As the saying is, “The people have spoken.” In this case, however, it seems to me that this means, “The people who compose the Board of Election Inspectors have spoken for the people who did not vote.” Let me explain.
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