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Cory’s “Army”: Organizing People Power
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 10, 1987–AS SOON as Cory Aquino let it be known that she was not against the formation of a political party, her true-blue leaders began regrouping, reorganizing, consolidating and coalescing their political forces. With the political realignment, the battle lines between the pro-Cory and anti-Cory parties were drawn.
As of the latest count, no fewer than 14 political parties , aggrupations and organizations have come out for Cory. Many regional and local political entities have also committed their support to the lady President. Their first political task is to campaign for the approval of the draft constitution.
Ratification = Cory!
Before Cory left for Tokyo, three massive organizations had already sprung up in support of her call for the ratification of the proposed charter. These are the Lakas ng Bansa, a powerful political movement, led by Cory’s cabinet ministers; the Conglomerate of Business Groups, composed of business and industrial leaders; and the Coalition for Constitutional Approval, a five-party entity, whose initials, CCA, correspond with those of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
The original plan was to put up a single, all-encompassing administration party that would provide Cory with strong political support in the task of normalizing and rebuilding the country. It was obvious that Unido, the party under which Cory ran for and won the Presidency, was more of an enemy than a friend of Cory’s, an obstacle rather than a help in the realization of Cory’s vision.
Again and again, no less than Unido’s top guns, “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, attacked Cory’s stand. Unido’s dubious allegiance to the President was intolerable. Then came “Doy’s” open flirtations with Cory’s No. 1 challenger, Enrile.
Like Enrile, Laurel battled for presidential election in case the electorate turned down the draft constitution. He also subscribed to Enrile’s belief that the repudiation of the proposed charter would constitute a repudiation of the Cory government. Worse, “Doy” even agreed with the Marcos “loyalists” that there was no documentary proof of a Cory-Doy victory in the last election, ignoring the overwhelming circumstantial evidence in favor of such a victory.
“Doy’s” liaison with the Marcos-Enrile gang and the muscle-flexing of the Marcos political tail, the KBL, and the so-called NP wings of Palmares and Cayetano prompted Cory’s supporters to do some seducing and muscle-flexing of their own. Lakas ng Bansa attracted to its fold political parties while the five-party coalition of the CCA underscored the political clout behind Cory. The lady President is clearly far from helpless as she sometimes appears to be.
The CCA’s lead party is the PDP-Laban, founded by the late Ninoy Aquino, now headed by Cory’s brother, “Peping” Cojuangco. Cory’s brother-in-law, “Butz” Aquino, with his militant Bandila, is also there. So is Salonga’s wing of the Liberal Party. Ramon Pedrosa’s Pilipino Democratic Socialist Party and Raul Manglapus’s Union of Christian Democrats complete the five-party coalition.
Another organization that has thrown its weight behind Cory is the Conglomerate of Business Groups, which draws individual members from different business and industrial organizations, like the Lions, the Rotary and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries, among others.
Committed to Cory’s economic recovery program, the CBG counts with great influence in the world of business and industry, both here and abroad. Its support has given Cory a stronger moral authority to carry out her program of government.
But the grandest alliance of all is, perhaps, the Lakas ng Bansa, organized by Cory’s closest supporters, many of whom are members of the Cabinet. Although identified only as a political movement, it is considered as Cory Aquino’s “party of the future”. Right now, its top leaders are about the most visible, audible and credible spokesmen of the Cory government. Its president and seven of its 13 vice-presidents are all cabinet ministers.
The Lakas ng Bansa roster of officials reads like a Who’s Who in the government. Justice Secretary Neptali Gonzales, who bolted the Unido, is the movement’s president, Budget Minister Alberto Romulo, who threatened to leave Unido, is vice-president of the National Capital Region.
Other ministers who occupy vice-presidential positions in the Lakas ng Bansa are Heherson Alvarez of Agrarian Reform, Region II; Ramon Mitra Jr., of Agriculture, Region VI; Luis Villafuerte of Reorganization, Region V; and Antonio Cuenco of Political Affairs, Region VII. The remaining vice presidential positions were vacated by Ernesto Maceda and Rogaciano Mercado but will be filled up by top political leaders of their respective regions who also hold high positions in the new dispensation.
Judging from its composition, the Lakas ng Bansa, also known as Laban, is virtually the political movement of the administration. No other single political entity is more conversant with the over-all thrust of the Cory government than Laban, whose principal organizers are also some of Cory’s most trusted advisers. It has the blessings of “Peping” Cojuangco and its day-to-day affairs are run by its secretary-general, “Ding” Tanjuatco, Cory’s cousin.
Laban looks like a stronger version of the Unido, although the latter is a duly-registered political party while the former is not. Its membership comes from a much-wider political spectrum than Unido can ever hope to have. It expects to absorb all the pro-Aquino political forces and groups, like the Cory Aquino for President Movement, Cory Crusaders, Bisig, Bayan, Lakas ng Pilipino, Bansa, Kaiba, and many others.
Its founding fathers come from different political parties, like the Liberal, Nacionalista, PDP-Laban and even Unido itself. Not a few KBL leaders have already expressed their willingness to join. Its membership, according to Tanjuatco, is open to “all Filipinos, here and abroad, young and old, rich and poor of whatever sector, religion or affiliation.”
“Lakas ng Bansa is People Power continued, institutionalized nationwide, and reinforced with a driving vision to emancipate the Filipino people from all forms of poverty and tyranny. The movement will not stand aside ad watch democratic gains eroded. It will not only rally to defend these gains but it will also mobilize to consolidate them.
“We must realize that although we have driven the former president away, he has left behind his destructive and dismal legacy. In many areas of our country, his clones and heirs apparent — but more seriously his distorted values — remain firmly entrenched. A great movement of People Power is needed to expose and bury once and for all these vestiges from a recent and unlimited past.”
Many of Laban’s organizers hope to convert their movement into a duly-registered political party. If they haven’t taken positive steps towards that end yet, it is in deference to Cory’s wishes not to disturb the present so-called “rainbow coalition”. But they are ready. At a moment’s notice, when the movement’s directorate so wishes, Laban will be registered with the Commission on Elections as a full-fledged political party.
Its organizational set-up is virtually complete, including the draft of its constitution and by-laws. It has already adopted the slogan — “Lakas ng Pagkakaisa, Lakas ng Bayan” — a red dove in flight with a broken chain attached to its leg. The red dove, according to Laban officials, symbolizes a courageous and gentle people in their journey towards liberation as represented by the broken chain.
About 2,500 delegates attended the launching of Lakas ng Bansa at the Valle Verde Auditorium in Pasig, Metro Manila. PDP-Laban’s “Peping” Cojuangco and Jose Yap were there. So were Villafuerte and Cuenco of Unido. But “Doy” Laurel and Rene Espina, Unido’s “dynamic duo”, were conspicuously absent. All the delegates were one in their stand to protect Cory from what they called “remnants” of a horrible regime and other “adversaries.”
Lakas ng Bansa was established, according to Minister Gonzales, principally to support Cory’s effort in rebuilding the nation, and its doors are open to all, even to card-carrying members of established political parties without their losing party membership. It was organized, he stressed, “not in opposition to, but in harmony with existing political parties that support President Aquino”. Its first major objective is to restore constitutional democracy “by working for the ratification of the new constitution”.
To repeat, the battle lines have already been drawn. On one side are pro-Cory parties, groups and aggrupations, numbering no fewer than 14 national entities, not counting the seven regional and local ones. On the other side are only two political parties: Enrile’s Nacionalista Party of Palmares and Cayetano and Marcos’s abominable KBL. You may add a third one, if you don’t consider Kalaw’s Liberal Party circus a mere nuisance.
As for Adaza’s Mindanao Alliance, forget it. Such an alliance is only between Homobono and Adaza, for, by and of Homobono Adaza himself. For all intents and purposes, Adaza is nothing more than an appendage of Enrile’s political gang. Kalaw and Adaza used to be “supporters” of Cory, but for one reason or another, they parted ways with her after she assumed power. Wittingly or otherwise, both have in effect aligned themselves with the Marcos-Enrile alliance while maintaining their individual political identity.
In the case of Unido, one has to play it by ear. After wagging against the draft constitution earlier, “Doy” Laurel is now wagging in favor of it. Perhaps, he is playing it by ear as he awaits the wigwag from his elder brother, “Pepito”, who calls the shot in his own wing of the Nacionalista Party. One thing is clear: “Doy” will zig when “Pepito” zigs and zag when “Pepito” zags. Expect Rene Espina to zigzag along with them.
But “Pepito’s” mind is made up. He is for the ratification o the proposed constitution, which, he believes, is an improvement on the 1973 Constitution, “designed for the one-man rule of Marcos”. While the draft charter is “an imperfect document” says “Pepito”, it can “satisfy the desires and even the demands of all the segments of our society”.
“I would never have signed the draft constitution if I believed it would be inimical to the Filipino people. On the contrary, I felt that for all its imperfections and shortcomings, it would guide and inspire us in the fashioning of a freer and richer future after the ordeal of the past despotism from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves.
“It is a worn argument, I suppose, but it is no less valid for the telling, and so I repeat the ratification of this constitution will provide our country with the stability it needs to plan more realistically and to adopt more enduring policies for the days ahead.”
Blas Ople’s Partido Nacionalista ng Pilipinas is also for the approval of the draft constitution. While some PNP members are against it, Ople and his three PNP confreres, who were ConCom members, like Pepito, are duty-bound to uphold what they helped to formulate. Ople’s closest side-kick in the PNP, Teodulo Natividad, also a ConCom member, has already put himself squarely behind the ratification of the proposed charter.
In his typically bombastic manner, Ople announced that the ratification of the new constitution “will erect the sovereign ramparts” to foil all existing conspiracies against the Republic, making all “hidden agendas” obsolescent. He also warned that those who want to seize power still hope to abort the plebiscite and “prolong the constitutional vacuum” because they know that the ratification of the new charter will “foreclose their option of mass violence for toppling the government.”
“All claimants to power, therefore, increasingly realize that the period for an unconventional challenge to the government is definitely capped by the cabinet deadline. Beyond that date, they will have to recast their plans to be able to stay in the game, by preparing for constitutional and peaceful elections.”
The Tried and Tested
But Cory will have to bank on her tried-and-tested supporters to hurdle one of the severest tests of her political career: the approval of the draft charter, whose repudiation could be perceived as a public rejection of her young administration. Such a perception, however, could only come from a distorted sense of logic. Cory had nothing to do with the formulation of the proposed charter, except to appoint the people who drafted it. Whatever flaws it has should not be blamed on Cory but on the people who produced it.
Unlike the 1973 Constitution, which was written for and in behalf of Marcos, the 1986 draft charter is the product of the free interplay of ideas among 47 commissioners insulated from Malacañang influence. Nobody can accuse Cory of doing to the 1986 proposed charter what Marcos did to the 1973 Constitution. In other words, if the people rejected it in the plebiscite, they would do so not because they had withdrawn their support from Cory but because they disapproved of the proposed constitution. So, let Cory call for an elected — this time — constitutional convention!
But the Marcos-Enrile political gangs do not see it that way. They had been peddling the idea that rejection of the new charter would mean the withdrawal of public support from Cory, and therefore, Cory must get a fresh mandate from the electorate to continue in office. And yet, they don’t want Cory to campaign for the ratification of the new charter. Where’s the logic there?
Logical or not, Cory has accepted the challenge — and she is campaigning for the ratification of the proposed constitution, partly because she wants to settle, once and for all, the fake issue of the legitimacy of her government, principally because she really believes that the approval of the draft charter is a giant step towards normalcy and national stability. What the means is that Cory is willing and ready to give up her vast powers under the Freedom Constitution in favor of the 1986 constitution, which establishes limitations on the powers of the Presidency. She’s not power-hungry.
If Cory were like Marcos, she wouldn’t give a hoot for the draft charter. Its rejection would be sufficient justification for her to continue wielding her plenary powers under the Freedom Constitution and call for an elective ConCom to draft another Constitution. Until the electorate approved a new charter, she could go on ruling under the mantle of a revolutionary government. She would be an all-powerful Chief Executive for as long as she continued to enjoy the trust and confidence of her people — which she does.
But Cory is not Marcos—and she is infinitely more perceptive than Marcos, who viewed things only in the light of his insatiable greed for power and self. Precisely because of that, she is working hard for the approval of the new constitution although it means the diminution of the powers that she currently enjoys. Cory’s support for the ratification of the new charter is proof to all that she is no power-hungry politician.
When Marcos “lifted” martial law, he did it only on paper. He retained his vast powers, even the power over the lives and fortunes of his critics and enemies. This is not the case with Cory. If the proposed charter is approved by the people, Cory will have much less power than she would have under the 1935 Constitution. Hers will be a republican government answerable to the people, from whom government powers should emanate.
On this score, a large segment of the people are behind Cory all the way. Besides the Lakas ng Bansa, the Coalition for Constitutional Approval and the Conglomerate of Business groups, other large movements have recently organized themselves in support of Cory’s campaign for the ratification of the proposed constitution. Noteworthy are Bansa, composed of some 20 large farmer organizations, led by former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, and Kaiba, the biggest women political party of the country today, led by Princess Tarhata Lucman.
Lakas ng Pilipino, headed by Charito Planas, is also campaigning for the approval of the new constitution. So are Partido ng Bayan of the late Rolando Olalia and the Lapiang Manggagawa of Jose Villegas. The Philippine Islamic Democratic Party has also come out openly in favor of the approval of the proposed charter. Even militant organizations , like Gabriela, Bisig and Bayan are behind Cory.
Cory’s Unarmed Forces
All these political parties, aggrupations, civic organizations and militant groups now constitute Cory’s unarmed army, which is committed to preserve the gains of the People Power Revolution. They are behind Cory in her quest for a stable and prosperous nation, as they stood by her in her struggle to oust the Dictator. Whether they will eventually fuse into a single political party for Cory or not, the fact remains that they are now solidly one behind her.
Their militant interest in the country’s welfare should serve as a warning to all those, particularly Enrile’s military coup-koos and the Marcos Mafia. These would kill the Filipino people’s newly-recovered rights and liberties — again! Having organized on its own free will, Cory’s “army” is out to prove that People Power remains a tower of strength for a people who loves justice and peace. How strong that Power is will be shown in the outcome of the plebiscite on the proposed constitution.
The Constitutional Convention:
By Edward R. Kiunisala
February 26, 1972—WHEN the history of the 1971-1972 Constitutional Convention is finally written, one dominant, if not domineering, figure will undoubtedly emerge: Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Even during the pre-Convention days, he was already the center of controversy; he w as accused of buying delegates, of handpicking the charter’s body’s officers. He was accused of trying to control the Constitutional Convention.
True or not, the fact remains that no other political personality has been the cause of so much dispute and discord in committee meetings and plenary sessions of the Convention as President Marcos. No other issue has been more explosive and expensive than Marcos. If the Convention is as politicalized as it is today, we have only Marcos and to a certain extent Mrs. Marcos to thank for it.
All this is easily understood in the context of the significance of the Convention to the people—and to Marcos. To the former, it is the key to a better, more decent life. To the latter, it is the last hope for staying on in Malacañang. Some progressive delegates, however, believe that it is impossible for the people to have Marcos—and a better life, too. So, they want him banned from running again for President or, if the parliamentary form of government is adopted, Premier.
Marcos cannot be expected to agree to this; he seems determined to prove his critics wrong. But to do that, he has to get the control of the Convention. And that’s what he has apparently done since pre-Convention days. It appears as if he has succeeded in converting many delegates into becoming tuta—to lick his boots. It is an open secret that many powerful committee in the charter body are controlled by the tuta of Marcos.
There are no LPs or NPs in the Convention; there are only pro-Marcos delegates and anti-Marcos ones. While many delegates were elected as NPs, LPs or Independents, many of them now consider themselves Marcos-NP, Marcos-LP or Marcos Independent. Between the pro-Marcos group and the anti-Marcos one is the so-called “floating force,” sometimes called the Independent Independents.
The Manglapus-Guingona group constitutes the hard core of the so-called anti-Marcos faction. While it counts with 120 members, it is a highly disorganized group, with no machinery nor money to counter the pro-Marcos forces. In committee as well as plenary votings, the pro-Marcos forces usually win. Even in the campaign to win over the floating force, the pro-Marcos forces, with all those “reasons” behind them, enjoy every advantage over the anti-Marcos faction.
It’s not surprising that behind many clashes in the Convention is the Marcos issue. Take the case of Delegate Augusto Syjuco, Jr., of Rizal, who tried to force the discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution in the plenary session. For doing that, he nearly lost his seat as vice-president for Luzon.
Or take the case of Delegate Jose Mari Velez, who moved for the inclusion of the Ban-Marcos provision in the report of the committee on executive power; he almost got into a fist fight with another delegate.
Not only that Delegate Jesus Barrera, after rising on the issue of collective privilege to move for the immediate discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the object of a black propaganda campaign.
Delegate Napoleon Rama, too, for having authored a Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the target of a committee move to disqualify him as delegate.
Delegates Ceferino Padua and Mary Rose Jacinto-Ezpeleta were nearly ousted from their committee positions for being so outspokenly in favor of the Ban-Marcos resolution.
The name of the game is “all-out force or all-out friendship.” In local lingo, this is “santong dasalan o santong paspasan.” If you can’t be bought, you can be terrorized! Those who are afraid might as well sell themselves. Those who can neither be bought nor terrorized have to do without and “face the music.”
Rama, Syjuco, Ezpeleta, Barrera and Padua refused to be terrorized—and they are now the subject of a vilification campaign and all sorts of threats. If Rama doesn’t keep quiet, according to one tuta, he is going to be disqualified. If Syjuco, Ezpeleta and Barrera don’t foe the Malacañang line, their family businesses and interests will suffer. If Padua does not hold his horses, he will be ousted from his committee position. To them and all those who are in favor of the Marcos ban and who cannot be bought, it is santong paspasan.
Last week, Delegate Raul Manglapus, head of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, found himself in hot water, too. His only crime was to entertain the Ban-Marcos issue in his committee after it had been referred to it by the Convention’s steering council. Manglapus created a subcommittee to discuss the Ban-Marcos question and the sub-committee agreed to include such a ban in Manglapus’s committee report.
If the Manglapus committee includes the Ban-Marcos provision in its report, the Convention, in a plenary session, will have to take up the proposition ahead of the report of the committee on transitory provisions, the last item to be taken up by the Convention. The pro-Marcos delegates do not like this; they want the Ban-Marcos resolution taken up together with the report of the committee on transitory provisions. But the delegates in favor of the Marcos ban know if it is not included in the Manglapus committee report, it may not be taken up at all.
The steering council has referred the various Ban-Marcos resolutions to four committees, namely, the committee on transitory provisions, the committee on legislative power, the committee on executive power and the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. The committees on legislative and executive power have already finished their reports and the pro-Marcos delegates have succeeded in deleting the Ban-Marcos provision in all of them. The committee on transitory provisions, being dominated by pro-Marcos delegates, is not likely to include the Ban-Marcos provision in its report.
Which means that the Manglapus committee is the only hope of those in favor of the Marcos ban. They have tried to force the issue on a matter of collective privilege only to be overruled. They appealed the chair’s decision to the entire body but they were outvoted. When they asked for a nominal voting, they were outvoted. They tried to have the ban included in the report of either the committee on legislative power or the committee on executive power, but they lost. The pro-Marcos delegates seemed to be always many steps ahead of those in favor of the Marcos ban.
But unlike other committees, the Manglapus committee is composed mostly of the so-called Progressive-Independents. These are in favor of the ban. Of 43 members, 23 belong to the Manglapus-Guingona group. It is, therefore, in this committee that the Marcos ban is likely to be taken up favorably—getting the pro-Marcos delegates worried. Since Manglapus cannot be bought, something else has got to be done. Santong paspasan na!
Last week, word leaked that some delegates planned to file a resolution to ban Manglapus for public office “for having violated the election law.” But Manglapus was not to be easily intimidated. He fought back, saying that the Ban-Manglapus move was a gambit “to put me on the spot, confuse the issue on the ban on former President and blackmail me into persuading progressive delegates to withdraw their support of the presidential ban resolutions.”
“These delegates (pro-Marcos) would now rake the old overspending charge against me and I am pleased that they have given me this occasion to recall the following facts about the case:
“1. When I ran for the Senate in 1967, the uniform ceiling on election expenses for senators and congressmen? The total of one year’s salary of the office. At P600 a month (the pre-war figure set by the Constitution) this total was P7,200.
“2. The electoral tribunal found that I had actually spent less than that figure. However, they charged to my expenses a television contract entered into without my intervention by some of my supporters which, as the decision itself states, was never paid. It had to be written off in the books of the television station.
“3. The decision, issued just before my term of office in the Senate expired in 1967, was roundly ridiculed by strong sections of the daily press and by weeklies like the Philippines Free Press, as a hypothetical farce.
“4. Noting the strong public reaction against the decision, both the Liberal and Nacionalista Parties invited me to run for reelection on their tickets in 1967 and again in 1969 when Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who was then running for President, very kindly suggested publicly that I be a common senatorial candidate of both Liberal and Nacionalista parties. I declined these offers.”
Manglapus went on to say that he ran as delegate for the Convention in 1970 and was “vindicated… without LP or NP support by voters of the 1st district of Rizal, who were best informed about my case because of the concentration of mass media in that area.” Manglapus pointed out that in that election he got more votes than did any other delegate in the entire country.
After the Senate decided his case, said Manglapus, “the very senators who voted against me in the decision” amended the law so that a solon who earns P32,000 a year, instead of P7,200 “in my time,” may spend the equivalent “not of one year’s salary as was the rule in my time but of the total salary for their term of six years or P192,000!”
The “ceiling” is now reasonable, said Manglapus, but even so he wondered how many candidates in the 1971 elections were able to limit themselves to the new ceiling.
“Compared with others,” said Manglapus, “I was an underspender.”
Just the same, he went on, the issue has been revived because of his stand in favor of the Marcos ban. He noted that he was not an original author of the Marcos ban; he co-authored, along with 169 others, the Rama resolution “when I was convinced, in view of strong reports of Malacañang intervention in the Convention, that it would serve to assert the independence of the Convention and strengthen its credibility.”
Manglapus, in his prepared statement, assured the pro-Marcos delegates that he would give fair treatment to the Ban-Marcos resolution but “I should also like to remind those who would try to terrorize me with their ‘Ban-Manglapus’ resolution that while I will treat their resolution with equal fairness in my committee, their tactics cannot make me withdraw my support of any resolution which I consider vital to the independence and success of the Convention.”
“Finally, I should remind those who now threaten me with disqualification from public office for ‘overspending’ that is Marcos, not Manglapus, who has been repeatedly and publicly charged with the real and the criminal overspending of hundreds of millions of pesos, not only of his own money, but, worse, of the people’s money in the 1969 elections to get himself reelected…..
“It is Marcos, not Manglapus, who is publicly suspected of trying to corrupt the Convention. On the other hand, it is Manglapus who, in the words of the very decision of the Electoral Tribunal, ‘did not corrupt the voters’ and who, as the press reported last June, ‘refused to buy delegates’ votes in the election for Convention President.”
The Ban-Manglapus move is a shameless resort to political squid tactics. Its purpose is simply to confuse the issue. The Filipino people are not likely to fall for it. What is saddening is the degeneration of the highest deliberative body of the land into a virtual political convention where issues are decided not on the basis of merit but of political partisanship if not money.
February 5, 1972
by Filemon V. Tutay
“THE most urgent problem of the nation today—possibly through the rest of his decade—is the problem of peace and order,” declared President Marcos in his State-of-the-Nation address last week.
Who is to blame for the deplorable state of peace and orders in the country today?
The urgency of the problem was stressed by the President when he said that the time “to meet the challenge of lawlessness, in the form of ordinary crimes, violent upheavals, private armies, and crime syndicates, is now; beyond this year may be too late.”
The President referred to so-called “private armies” a number of times in his State-of-the-Nation message. At one point, he declared that “the reported activities of so-called private armies…have contributed to the erosion of confidence in and respect for public authority.”
Immediately after the assassination of Rep. Floro Crisologo (N-Ilocos Sur) inside the cathedral in Vigan in October 1970, there was a nationwide clamor for the disbandment of all “private armies.” The outcry was triggered by a challenge hurled by Sen. Pres. Pro Tempore Jose J. Roy for President Marcos to disband all armed groups being maintained by “political warlords” in different parts of the country. The senator from Tarlac said that the breaking up of the “private armies” was a necessary step in liberating the people from what he called the “grip of fear” of these armed groups.
“This is a supreme test for the Administration,” said Roy at that time.
The clamor for the disbanding of the “private armies” picked up rapidly, reaching its peak on November 10, 1970, when the electorate went to the polls to elect 320 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Then the popular clamor died down just as suddenly as it started.
The “private armies” of the “political warlords” were not disbanded. They remained intact.
Barely one week before the Con-Con election that year, Chairman Jaime N. Ferrer of the Commission on Elections told media representatives that the PC high command “knew all about the political warlords” and their respective “private armies.”
But Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and the then PC chief, Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Garcia, pretended not to know anything about the “political warlords” and “private armies” that Ferrer was talking about.
Enrile went farther by challenging Ferrer to name the “political warlords” with “private armies” so that he could order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go after them. The defense secretary issued his challenge on the basis of reports supposedly quoting Ferrer as saying that there were some 80 “political warlords” with “private armies” in the Philippines at that time.
Ferrer was further quoted as saying that of the 80 “political warlords” then six were members of the Senate, 37 were members of the House of Representatives, and the rest were either provincial governors, city mayors or other prominent individuals who were mostly relatives of prominent politicians.
Enrile, in his rejoinder, said then that it was unfair for Ferrer to say that certain senators and congressmen were maintaining “private armies” without naming names. The Comelec chairman, said Enrile, should furnish the defense department with a list of politicians who were maintaining “private armies” so that it could be used as basis for action.
Unperturbed, Ferrer took up the challenge and did not only identify some of the alleged “political warlords” by name but also directed the PC as Comelec deputies to arrest and investigate the members of their so-called “private armies” why they had firearms in their possession.
Following Ferrer’s issuance of orders to the PC chief then to go after politicians with “private armies” whom he identified, several congressmen threatened to sue him for his allegedly “false accusations.”
Let them sue! said Ferrer, unfazed.
None of the congressmen dared to go to court.
And now, after almost two years, here we go again on “political warlords” and their “private armies.” No less than President Marcos himself has taken cognizance of “the reported activities of so-called private armies” which “have contributed to the erosion of confidence in and respect for public authority.” The President, in his State-of-the-Nation address, was obviously referring to the “political warlords” when he alluded to “certain politicians who have placed personal power and ambition above the public service…”
Why doesn’t Enrile challenge his boss to name them? Instead, it was Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerardo Roxas, LP president, who challenged the Chief Executive to name and prosecute the politicians who have been maintaining “private armies” and misusing local police forces.
“Having mentioned them,” said Roxas, “and being aware of the situation as President of the country, Mr. Marcos should name names and go after these politicians who have perverted our police forces and brought about a deterioration of the peace and order situation.”
The Opposition leader likewise denounced “the laxity in the enforcement of the parole law and the release of Muntinlupa convicts which often result in the commission of more crimes.”
At this writing, Brig. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, the new PC chief, was reported to have directed all PC provincial commanders to disband the “private armies” of all “political warlords” in their respective territorial jurisdictions. The provincial commanders were further ordered to go after all persons known to be in possession of loose firearms.
Ramos issued the order at the behest of Enrile during a peace and order briefing in the Third PC Zone headquarters in Cebu City. The defense secretary and the PC chief, who were on an inspection tour of the Visayan provinces, were told by zone intelligence officers of the high incidence of crime in the Visayas. They were likewise told that Danao City in Cebu is fast becoming famous as a manufacturing center for hand-crafted paltiks.
At about the same time, Brig. Gen. Tomas Diaz, First PC Zone commander, also ordered the immediate disbandment of a “private army” based in Macabebe, Pampanga. This particular “private army” is supposed to be equipped with government-issued firearms. Until recently, the “private army” was operating an armored vehicle which belonged to the PC.
The existence of the “private army” in Macabebe was brought to the attention of the First PC Zone commander in the course of his courtesy call on Pampanga Gov. Brigidio Valencia at the provincial capitol in San Fernando. Earlier, Diaz ordered the 19 PC provincial commanders within the zone to break up all “private armies” in their respective jurisdictions.
Having finally become aware of the existence of so-called “private armies,” Enrile may be asked if he is really sincere about or capable of disbanding them.
According to observers, the directive issued by Enrile to PC Chief Ramos to break up all “private armies” is “easier said than done.” This is so, they claimed, because PC provincial commanders are nearly always beholden to either the provincial governor or the congressman of the district or both. In most cases, the provincial commander owes his assignment to a particular province to the recommendation of the governor or the congressman. This system is being followed in order to avoid “conflicts.” It is necessary that the provincial commander be in the good graces of local officials so that there is “complete harmony and cooperation.”
It is standard practice for provincial governors and congressmen to make courtesy calls on every newly-installed PC chief not necessarily to pay their respects but to “establish rapport.” During such calls, a provincial governor or a congressman would ask for the relief of a provincial commander for being “uncooperative” or the promotion of certain enlisted men of the provincial PC command for certain “special services.”
It is recognized in PC circles that a provincial commander cannot afford to be “difficult” with local officials, especially the governor or the congressman, if he wants to keep his assignment. A provincial commander may be expected to do his duty according to the book only if he happens to be assigned in a province which is under the control of the political Opposition. Even then, this is not always true.
Under the circumstances, who is the provincial commander who has the guts to disband the “private army” of a “political warlord”?
More so if the “political warlord” happens to be with the ruling Nacionalista Party.
Disband the “private armies”?
Who will do it?
It is easy for Enrile to order the PC chief to break up the “private armies” and go after the “political warlords.”
In turn, it is quite simple for the PC chief to order all provincial commanders to disband all “private armies” in their respective jurisdictions.
But who is the provincial commander man enough to carry out the order?
What will probably happen in this case will be in accordance with the customary “chain of command.”
Since Enrile has issued the order to Ramos, and Ramos has ordered his provincial commanders, the provincial commanders will now order their executive officers or operation officers, as the case may be, to carry out the order. In turn, the executive or operation officers will order the company commanders to disband the “private armies.” The company commanders will then pass on the order to their junior officers who will then relay the order to their sergeants.
True to the chain of command concept, the sergeants will pass on the order down the line until it finally reaches the buck private if not the recruit.
Then, the buck private or the recruit will ask: “Who, me?”
Who will disband the “private armies” and go after the “political warlords”?
It looks like were are stuck with the “private armies” and the “political warlords” and deteriorating peace and order for only God knows how long!
by Edward R. Kiunisala
September 4, 1971–SATURDAY, August 21, at about 9:15 p.m., barely seconds after the Liberal Party candidates for Manila’s elective posts had been officially proclaimed on jam-packed Plaza Miranda, two fragmentation, combat grenades suddenly exploded in what proved to be the most villainous, outrageous and shameful crime in the annals of local political violence. It was a night of national tragedy and infamy as democracy—Philippine style—bared itself in all its terrifying ugliness.
For one dark, demented, damning moment of history, time stopped as tens of thousands of televiewers all over the country watched in utter horror the mass slaughter at Plaza Miranda. Miraculously, all top Opposition leaders who were there managed to cheat death. But not one of the eight LP senatorial candidates escaped injury. Sen. Jovito Salonga, as of this writing, is still fighting for his life, although the others were already pronounced “out of danger.”
Also on the critical list is Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who declined to seek reelection to pursue his electoral protest against Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Sen. Gerardo Roxas, LP president, and his wife, Judy, were badly injured.
So were Constitutional Delegate Salvador Mariño, chairman of the Manila LP chapter, and Ramon Bagatsing, LP mayoralty candidate for Manila.
LP senatorial candidates Edgar Ilarde and John Osmeña were badly wounded. Their damaged legs nearly had to be amputated. Ilarde may not be able to walk for from six months to one year while Johnny may be bedridden for about four months. Ilarde’s right leg was severely fractured while John’s leg’s artery was severed and his leg bones splintered.
Rep. Ramon Mitra, another LP senatorial aspirant, suffered multiple leg and body injuries. A splinter went through his left breast muscles, ripping off flesh. But he is now out of danger along with the rest of the LP Senate bets—Eva Estrada Kalaw, Melanio Singson, Salipada Pendatun and Genaro Magsaysay, who all suffered various degrees of injuries.
But others on Plaza Miranda that night were not so lucky. Slaughtered were nine persons, including Manila Times photographer Ben Roxas. Some were mangled beyond recognition while others were dead on arrival at the hospital. The latest count showed that 96 others were injured that night.
Ramon Vecina, Free Press photographer, was also seriously wounded in that bloody night of the LP proclamation meeting.
“I am holding President Marcos personally responsibly for the brutal and senseless carnage that took place on Plaza Miranda,” muttered the LP boss, Sen. Roxas in his hospital bed.
“The Plaza Miranda incident has illustrated beyond doubt that there is not a safe place in the country where people may express their views without having to face the perils of assassination.
“I have only one message to leaders, followers and the electorate: Nothing will deter the LP nor dampen its determination to win the mandate of the people this election. We shall continue to fight for the right of our citizenry. I am grateful to the Almighty for those of us who were fortunate to have been spared.”
The gory incident happened so quickly no one among the victims knew what hit him. It took Manila police officers some two hours to know what went off on Plaza Miranda that night. The instant suspicion was that a bomb had been planted under the stage or had been lobbed in its direction from somewhere. Only after the grenade levers and pins were found did the authorities know the cause of the outrage.
Tragedy was farthest from the minds of the LP leaders when they ascended the Plaza Miranda stage that Black Saturday night on August 21. Of course, they were somewhat apprehensive of their safety, but such misgivings were not uncommon in public exposures in an election campaign. Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., LP secretary-general, Congressman Mitra and aides of Senator Osmeña had received threats over the telephone early that day, but all of them dismissed the threatening phone calls as the work of a crank.
Just the same, the LPs did not take any chances. Bagatsing sent his aides to secure the Plaza Miranda stage. Cesar Climaco, Manila’s new “garbage czar,” ordered the cleaning of Plaza Miranda that afternoon. Meanwhile, LP security officers kept an eagle eye on the stage to prevent sabotage. By about seven o’clock that night, a large crowd had already gathered on Plaza Miranda.
Former Sen. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo was originally requested to emcee the LP proclamation meeting, but he declined, so, Mariño took over. The local candidates were given three minutes each to deliver their speeches. An oppositionist crowd applauded each speaker thunderously. At about 9:10 p.m., all the local candidates had already spoken and the National Anthem was played.
The next part of the program was the proclamation of the LP’s local candidates in Manila. Roxas stood up and approached the battery of microphones. The photographers spread out to get a good view. FP photographer Vecina moved back from the stage, about five heads away to get a vantage shot. It was a great moment for the LP local candidates as Roxas, “by virtue of the powers” vested in him as head of the Liberal Party, proclaimed the official LP candidates for Manila’s elective positions.
As the local candidates, their hands raised high, beamed and smiled and acknowledged the lusty cheers of the audience, fireworks bathed the Plaza Miranda crowd with incandescence. There was a festive atmosphere as the pyro-technics burned and crackled. The local candidates happily returned to their seat and emcee Mariño started to speak again. But before he could finish the sentence, a fist-sized solid object hit the edge of the stage. Meanwhile all eyes were glued to the fireworks display. Somewhere, someone shouted, “Ibagsak ang mga tuta ni Marcos!” Almost simultaneously, the solid object which had hit the stage went off, ripping the wooden planks and blasting the people near it. FP photographer Vecina winced and fell and was buried by falling bodies.
At that moment, Mitra, who was talking to Roxas, felt shrapnel pierce his breast muscles. Recalling the threatening phone call, he ran. John Osmeña, seated to the right of Singson, embraced Singson and they both fell behind Salonga, who remained seated. The other LP senatorial aspirants dove for the floor. Roxas tried to run; his aide jumped on him to cover him.
Before Mitra could reach the stairs of the stage, another blast came, hitting Mitra from behind, throwing him off the stage to the ground near a six-by-six vehicle. All hell broke loose. Those on the stage scampered in all directions as did those on the ground. It was survival of the fittest! The weaker ones fell and were trampled underfoot.
In a matter of seconds, Plaza Miranda was empty; except for police officers and plainclothesmen—and the wounded and the dead. John Osmeña tried to sit up but later fell on the floor unconscious. Aides and bodyguards of top LPs along with police officers rushed to the stage and carried the wounded to places of safety. Rattan chairs were stacked up in heaps to make way for vehicles which would bring the victims to the hospitals.
Senator Osmeña and Singson were rushed to the FEU hospital.
Mitra and Salonga were brought to Medical Center Manila and Roxas and his wife to Makati Medical Center.
John Osmeña and Magsaysay were rushed to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital while Ilarde was brought to the Singian Clinic.
Senator Kalaw was taken to the De Ocampo Hospital and later that night transferred to the Chinese General Hospital.
Pendatun limped his way to an ABS-CBN truck which brought him to ABM Sison Hospital.
Other wounded victims were brought to PGH and De Ocampo Hospital.
About 10 minutes after the Plaza Miranda bloodbath, Climaco arrived and brought a semblance of order. Along with the police, he helped carry wounded onlookers and the dead to waiting vehicles to take them to hospitals. Our Vecina was unearthed from a pile of blood and dying persons. Recovering consciousness, Vecina, bleeding and weakened from loss of blood, clambered back to the stage and took some more shots. Exhausted, he asked to be brought to Medical Center Manila. While there, he took pictures of some of the Plaza Miranda victims. Then he again lost consciousness and was taken to the operating room.
Back at Plaza Miranda, MPD Chief Gerardo Tamayo arrived. With Climaco, Tamayo investigated the incident, at the same time ordering his men to look for clues. He also sought the help of bomb disposal experts from the army. About an hour after the blasts, Metrocom troops came and helped in restoring order and looking for clues. An hour and forty-five minutes later, President Marcos signed the order suspending the writ of habeas corpus and blaming the Communists for the bombings.
Police investigators found two grenade pins at a distance of two and a half meters from each other, with both pins about 17 meters from the stage. Two grenade levers were also found on the plaza. Outside of the levers and pins, no other clues were found. Sometime later, however, police officers found a witness who testified that he saw a man pull out a solid object from a bag and hurl it in the direction of the stage.
Since the time-lag between the blasts was only three seconds, the police theorized that two men, not just one, threw the grenades. It is impossible for one man in a sardine-packed crowd to throw two grenades in three seconds, said Tamayo. But the police were in no position to identify the criminals. First they thought a mad man did it, later they junked the idea.
If two men committed the heinous crime, the police theorized, then it was a planned criminal act. The timing of the grenade-throwing with the display of the fireworks indicated planning. The type of the grenades used, used for combat in Vietnam, and the way the grenades were thrown showed that the criminals were professionals, doing a professional job.
Meanwhile, media men, after a round of hospitals, sped to Malacañang where they were met by the First Lady, who reportedly showed them a report of a certain disgruntled major who said that something bad was going to happen that night. At that time, the President was closeted in his study room, preparing a statement on the Plaza Miranda tragedy. Little did anyone know that Marcos was readying the ground preparatory to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
When pandemonium broke loose at Plaza Miranda, American Ambassador Henry Byroade was in his bedroom about to retire. His staff rang him up to inform him of the incident. Meanwhile Sen. Benigno Aquino, who had attended a party at the Jai Alai, was on the way home to get his bullet-proof vest. He was scheduled to speak at the meeting at about two o’clock the following morning. On the way home, Aquino heard the tragic news on the radio. He sped home, grabbed a pistol, put on his bullet-proof vest and a combat jacket on top of it, then told his driver to take him to the hospitals where his wounded colleagues were confined. Aquino went up the Medical Center Manila, pistol in hand. Interviewed on the air, Aquino said that he hoped the criminal or criminals behind the Plaza Miranda carnage were mad men or demented persons because otherwise the Plaza Miranda crime meant the death of democracy.
For others throughout the country, it was a sleepless night. Lights were on in many homes in Greater Manila. People stayed glued to their radio or TV sets, listening to the latest developments. Salonga and Osmeña were on the critical list, Pendatun and Eva Estrada were already pronounced out of danger. Radio reports captured the screams and agonized cries of victims in emergency wards.
Of the LP senatorial candidates, Salonga got it worst of all. He had no time to run after the first blast. The second one caught him sitting down, with the grenade going off only a few meters away. Salonga’s left cheek was shattered and a shrapnel imbedded itself in his left eye. His right arm was broken, with three of his fingers cut off. Shrapnel went through his left leg. All told, Salonga suffered some 30 wounds of various sizes and depths all over his body.
Senator Osmeña, too, was critically wounded. After the first blast, Osmeña turned around to duck, but the second blast came too soon and he suffered wounds in the back and the left arm. Shrapnel went right through Serging’s lungs. He was bleeding profusely when his aides picked him up. Upon arrival at the hospital, Osmeña’s heart stopped. The doctors had to massage his heart to revive him.
Singson, who sat beside Salonga, was lucky. When John Osmeña embraced him, he fell; John got most of the shrapnel from the grenade blast.
After the first blast, Ilarde tried to sprint for safety but the succeeding blast caught him in the leg and he fell unconscious. Mrs. Kalaw dove for the floor but shrapnel hit her right ankle and another got imbedded in her back.
Of the Manila local candidates, Councilor Ambrosio Lorenzo got it worst. The first blast came while he was on the way to his seat. The second blast hit him while he was trying to find out what hit him and he fell on the stage floor. Shrapnel saturated his body; one hit his left eye. As of this writing, Lorenzo, like Salonga, is still fighting for his life. A police major picked him up sprawled on the floor, stunned and bleeding.
Manila LP mayoralty candidate Bagatsing was hit on the left cheekbone and in the right heel. He also suffered several shrapnel wounds in his left side and back. He was under sedation for three days. His doctors have taken him off the danger list.
Other Manila local candidates were luckier—they had gone back to their seats about three rows behind when the first blast came.
National shock followed the Plaza Miranda bombings.
The question uppermost in the minds of the people was, of course: Who committed the crime?
Some blamed student activists; others, lunatics. President Marcos was quick to put up the blame on “subversives” who received “moral and material support from a foreign source, guided and directed by a well-trained, determined and ruthless group.”
Later, Marcos charged Senator Aquino with coddling and financing the “subversives.” The Marcos blast against Aquino created suspicion that Aquino might be behind the Plaza Miranda tragedy but people refused to believe in the innuendoes against Aquino. If Aquino had known what was going to happen on Plaza Miranda that night, he would surely have tipped off Senator Kalaw, who is his first-degree cousin.
In an interview, Senator Kalaw denounced the President for shifting the blame for the Plaza Miranda outrage to Aquino. The President’s move, she said, worked to deflect attention from the real perpetrators of the crime. A social work expert, Kalaw could not understand why Marcos was more concerned over shifting the blame to Aquino than looking for the real criminals. The President’s actuations, said Kalaw, were simply not fitting for the President, who should act as the father of the nation and not like Marcos.
Former Congressman Singson argued against the possibility that the Huks or the New People’s Army was behind the Plaza Miranda massacre. The revolutionaries, he said, anchor their hope of reforms on the Opposition. If they wiped out the Opposition, they would be doing a disservice to their cause. It just doesn’t stand to reason!
But whoever are the perpetrators of the horrible crime at Plaza Miranda, they have done a professional job. Which means that an intelligent mind was behind it. Climaco theorizes that two trained teams undertook the Plaza Miranda bombings. The two grenade throwers, he said, were encircled by their accomplices to give them elbow room to hurl the grenades. In other words, he said, the Plaza Miranda crime was the result of a team effort.
As of this writing, the Manila police are still in the dark as to identities of the Plaza Miranda criminals. But whoever and wherever they are now, the death of nine innocent persons and the injury to 96 others will haunt their conscience for as long as they live—if they have any conscience at all. They not only killed nine of their countrymen and wounded close to a hundred others, but also inflicted an irreparable injury on Philippine democracy.
It will take a long time before Plaza Miranda, the symbol of free expression, will be as it used to be. No one will ascend the Plaza Miranda stage again without fearing for his life. How much of the militancy, the courage, the national pride and the spirit of the Filipino people have gone that Black Saturday at Plaza Miranda?
WILL THERE BE MARTIAL LAW?
By Napoleon G. Rama
January 30, 1971—His theme was sobriety and unity in the hour of crisis; his delivery, cool and slow; his tone, soft and supplicating. But the words were intimidating.
“If violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if there should be terrorism, if there is assassination, I will have no other alternative but to utilize the extraordinary powers granted me by our Constitution. These powers are the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus under which [suspension] any man can be arrested and detained any length of time; and the power to declare any part or the whole of the Philippines under martial law. These powers I do not wish to utilize and it is for this reason I appeal to our people tonight.”
With just this one paragraph President Marcos spoiled what could have been one of his best speeches, certainly the most impressive TV performance since he spoke before the US Congress.
All throughout the first 20 minutes of his speech—a persuasive plea for restraint and understanding—he displayed style and coolness under fire, until he struck the jarring chords. Thus, the newspaper headlines the next day couldn’t help but scream the frightening words: “martial law.” Instead of calm, the speech succeeded in spreading alarm throughout the breadth and width of the nation.
Weeks after he made the speech and after the jeepney drivers ended their strike, political quarters, campuses, coffee shops and wherever people gathered were still abuzz with the dreaded words—articulated sometimes in anger but mostly in fear.
School tots come home asking their mommies what’s this “martial law” their teachers were talking about in grave and fearful tones.
Opposition leaders bristle with counter-warnings and charges of goon mentality against the President.
Student leaders answered him with threats of larger and more violent demonstrations.
Religious leaders chide the President and invite him to look into what ails the nation, at the rampant social injustice that spawns social unrest.
Constitutional Convention delegates feverishly hold emergency meetings to plot out their moves in case martial law is declared.
For all the efforts of the President (buried in the inside pages of the dailies) to quiet the anxieties and allay fears, the nervous talk goes on. There has been, said the President, a misreading of his statement. He had stressed certain conditions before he would declare martial law. The present drift of events, he now said, does not lead to those conditions.
The reason he mentioned martial law in his speech, he explained, was to warn radicals about the consequences of their acts, to stop further violence which, he said, was about to crop up.
He branded as irresponsible the threat of LP Congress leaders to boycott the sessions of Congress if Marcos declared military rule in the country or any part of it.
“Ridiculous” was the word he used to describe speculations that he would manipulate the present situation to bring about the conditions which would justify the imposition of martial law.
What probably upset the President more than anything else was the damning reaction of leaders of his own party.
The proclamation of martial law, declared the top NP leader in the House of Representatives, Speaker Jose B. Laurel, would be “an admission of weakness” on the part of the government.
“It would seem that the situation has become uncontrollable and unless martial law is proclaimed the government cannot function,” he said.
The Speaker pointed out that although under the Constitution the President may proclaim martial law without first getting the consent of Congress, he has to meet certain constitutional requirements.
“Legally, the issuance of a proclamation on martial law may be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Laurel said.
In harsher tones, he called President Marcos’s “veiled threats” untimely and uncalled for.
He said that there are many “fence-sitters” now merely critical of the Administration.
“The moment martial law is declared,” he said, “and they suspect that they are on the list of people to be picked up by the military, they will go to the hills.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Arturo Tolentino commented:
“Definitely, there is no justification yet to impose martial law.”
In a meeting with his Congress leaders in the Palace, the President’s talk of martial law drew a similar reaction from NP solons: no good! Several NP congressmen and senators warned the President that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus might only worsen the already critical situation.
Sen. Leonardo Perez, one of the Marcos stalwarts in the Senate, said that military rule would be ill-advised for the moment.
In a hurriedly convened caucus, the LPs came up with a plan to boycott the session of Congress if President Marcos declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus. They elaborated that even if they went on leave, they will continue to discharge their duties and responsibilities….
In the mountains?
Sen. Gerry Roxas, LP president, said that the LP solons will continue to fiscalize the government outside the halls of Congress and will resume attending the session only upon restoration of the normal process of civil government. They will refuse to be identified with the government the moment it declares martial law.
Read the LP manifesto:
“WE BELIEVE THAT A DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW OR THE SUSPENSION OF THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS INTENDED TO ELIMINATE ALL OPPOSITIONS; TO SUPPRESS DISSENT; FREE SPEECH, AND FREE PRESS, ALL CIVIL LIBERTIES, AND INSTALL A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP THROUGHOUT THE LAND.”
On the other hand, several delegates to the Constitutional Convention voiced their determination to continue holding pre-convention meetings and convention sessions, once opened formally, and risk life and limb in defense of the Constitutional Convention.
The most interesting comment came from churchmen. Isabelo de los Reyes, supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, said that the President must have gotten the wrong advice, hence, his gross indiscretion.
He warned that the imposition of military rule would only “boomerang” on the President.
Fr. Horacio de la Costa, historian and former provincial of the Society of Jesus, said that the establishment of military rule would subvert the Constitutional Convention and only invite the very perils that the President would want to avoid—anarchy and communism.
Bishop de los Reyes suggested that the President unbend and mix with the people without displaying military force, to “show that he trusts his own people and that his own people trust him.”
The bishop was for attacking the disease and not the symptoms. He said that no democratic nation could subsist without social justice.
“Lack of social justice causes social unrest,” he argued.
“While President Marcos exalts the duties of the people towards the Republic,” he added, “young students and jeepney drivers exalt human rights and believe that social victory, permanent social victory, will come only through loyalty towards principles, justice, truth, sacrifice—and constancy in sacrifice.”
He went on:
“While the police and the army are ready to kill but not to die for a salary, our students and jeepney drivers, with a common devotion to social justice, are ready to fight and die side by side for their principles.
“This is no time for mediocrity anywhere in the government.
“Let our President show his grandeur not by words but by deeds; by showing himself a statesman who believes, speaks, and acts without anger to help the people recover from a long and somber period of economic desperation.”
Father de la Costa expressed concern over the coming Constitutional Convention. If the President, he said, opted for military rule, it could nullify all chances of the Constitutional Convention drawing up the radical but peaceful reforms that are needed and instead invite anarchy.
The Jesuit scholar, speaking before a seminar for newsmen, said that one of the immediate national objectives should be to ensure the holding of the Constitutional Convention, scheduled to open June 1 if not earlier. The imposition of martial law at this time is not necessary and will make the attainment of this objective impossible.
“The Convention must open under conditions that will permit it, in freedom, to at least initiate the radical structural changes in our government and society which will permit rapid progress towards both social justice and socioeconomic development,” he said.
Should martial law be imposed, the Convention could fall by the wayside, he warned, and another avenue for peaceful dialogue, for reaching a national consensus for reforms, would thereby be closed.
The press and other media and citizen groups should move together to impress on President Marcos the disastrous consequences of military government, the Jesuit priest added.
He forecast that if martial law came, it would polarize the people and could lead to anarchy, authoritarian rule, or even, possibly, a communist takeover. The repression implicit in martial law will effectively block the kind of national dialogue that is needed, he said.
The principal student organizations and adult citizen groups should be invited by the press, radio and TV to clarify both their thinking and their public statements and the meaning, the objectives, the advisability or the necessity of revolution, he suggested.
President Marcos’s opponent in the last elections, Sen. Sergio Osmeña Jr., warned that martial law might be “the trigger that could spark a bloody revolution.” The threat of martial law would make a bigger mess of the national economy already in a shambles. Martial law “would make more unfavorable the climate for business and capital, thereby aggravating the serious economic difficulties now confronting the country.”
Osmeña damned the brutal action taken by government troops against the demonstrating students. Granting, he said, that the explosions were caused by infiltrators, did they constitute sufficient provocation for the government troops to act as they did?
“It would have been enough for them to use tear gas to disperse the crowd,” he said. “But they went much further than that, as if their being in uniform and having guns gave them the license to kill at the slightest excuse.”
Indeed, the most intriguing feature of the Plaza Miranda incident where four were killed during the jeepney driver-student demonstration was the use of Armalites by rampaging government troops—not just to disperse but to gun down student demonstrators who were already on the run.
It was a ruthless departure from the agreed and civilized formula of employing truncheons or tear gas which proved so effective in the demonstrations middle of last year. This time, it seems, there was a deliberate plan to crush demonstrations by brutal force and terrorism—to give the demonstrators a lesson and a preview of what would happen in future demonstrations?
It was a peaceful demonstration until late in the afternoon when a pillbox was exploded somewhere in Plaza Miranda. This was followed by shots fired into the sky. At this stage, everyone was scampering out of Plaza Miranda, seeking cover. In a jiffy, national government troops, replacing the Manila policemen, invaded the plaza. In five minutes, or just before the troops armed with Armalites poured into Plaza Miranda, both the students and the on-lookers had emptied the plaza and spilled into Quezon Boulevard and the side streets. TV cameras showed that the troops were not there just to disperse the crowd but to give chase to demonstrators running for their lives away from the plaza.
A TV replay showed a soldier aiming and shooting at demonstrators who were no longer in Plaza Miranda. On the streets nearby the soldiers were engaging in mopping up operations, not to scatter a defiant crowd but, it seems, to hunt and shoot down those running away from the demonstration site. The scene was undistinguishable from a war operation in Vietnam: soldiers in single file, in crouching position, ears and eyes alert, trigger-happy fingers ready to shoot at the slightest noise or motion of the enemy.
But there is a difference. In Vietnam, government and American soldiers carry Armalites only in battle or mopping up operations. They don’t use the terrible weapon for police work—as did our troopers at Plaza Miranda.
Foreigners were shocked to see Armalite-carrying soldiers employed by the national government to break demonstrations by students who were not even armed. Why did the government abandon the civilized manner of controlling demonstrators in favor of the monstrous method? Why were truncheon-bearing soldiers conspicuously absent in that Plaza Miranda demonstration?
What is Malacañang up to?
It’s now evident that the net result of the President’s veiled threat of imposing martial law has alienated many of his political allies, if not the whole nation. None of his top lieutenants in the party has come up endorsing the presidential statement. Everyone of them thought the President made a costly tactical blunder in making such a threat, despite his cushioning conditions for suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law. Worse, even the moderates who frown upon violent demonstrations are having second thoughts. Many of them are gravitating toward the radical group, the extremists.
The impression conveyed is that the President will resist reforms, hence the idea of martial law to defend the status quo— Marcos style. In political quarters, the martial law idea is seen as a Marcos formula for perpetuating himself in office—at all costs! All are agreed that, as things are, neither the President nor the First Lady can hope to stay in Malacañang after 1973, even if they succeeded in rigging the Constitutional Convention into drawing up a constitution permitting an expansion of his term or succession by the First Lady to his office. If they can’t stay in Malacañang beyond 1973 by popular election, then the only remedy is to place the whole country under a military dictatorship, with Marcos the dictator, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
That is, to stay in power not by ballot but by bullet.
If the President entertained such a notion, he would be smart to drop it. Military rule would need the support of some segment of the population to maintain itself. As things stand now, almost everyone is against the idea of martial law. You can’t just defy the whole nation and survive. The armed forces would carry out orders to fight certain segments of the population but not the whole population. When ordered to terrorize the nation and repress the rights of all on flimsy grounds, the armed forces would surely think twice before obeying such orders. It is doubtful that the majority of the military brass warms up to the idea of martial law.
The loyalty of the military men to the President is still to be tested. The defection of a Philippine Military Academy instructor, Lieutenant Corpus, should give an inkling of the shaky hold of the Establishment on the military brass. It’s significant that after Lieutenant Corpus defected, the President felt compelled to order a loyalty check in the armed forces, including a cloak-and-dagger once-over of the headquarters of the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary.
A government by martial law must be premised on indubitable loyalty of the military to the ruler decreeing the martial law and substantial popular support. Hitler and Mussolini had such loyalty and support. And the fact is, the President himself is not quite sure of the loyalty of the armed forces when the chips are down—and certainly not the support of the people.
Ferdinand E. Marcos: An Appreciation
By Gregorio C. Brillantes
Don’t lose heart, folks—as The Man said, this nation can be great again!
August 29, 1970—CERTAIN Liberals and Nacionalistas with presidential ambitions, and scores of other Filipinos, including many who once idolized him, will likely dispute it; but in our time, in our country, Ferdinand E. Marcos remains destiny’s favorite son.
The trials he has had to endure, the fearsome obstacles he has encountered and overcome—tests of manhood which would have reduced lesser mortals to quivering blobs of jelly—have only added, it would seem, to the zest with which he has pursued, as the song puts it, his glorious quest. Charged with murder in his law student days, he defended himself with such flourish and skill as to win acquittal from the High Tribunal and went on from there to pass the bar exams with highest honors—a twin feat probably without parallel anywhere in the world. (It has been the sad fate of other men as great and as brilliant to meet an early end, behind bars, on the gallows or before a firing squad, their full potential unrealized, the noble promise of their lives unfulfilled, mankind thus rendered so much the poorer.) From his daredevil exploits in the last war, he merged with a chestful of Fil-American medals, the most decorated soldier of his country. The pride of his generation, he has since continued to win, with undiminished energy, the honors and prizes that the nation sees fit to offer only to the brave and the true, not the least of these rewards being the love of a fabulous lady. As everyone knows only too well, he became the first president of the Republic to be reelected, an awesome triumph which, true to form, he achieved with an unprecedented majority of two million votes over his LP rival, who, by the way, still thinks he wuz robbed.
That was but less than a year ago. Forward with Marcos and Lopez—the unbeatable Performance Team! Remember the tumult and the shouting, the sense of a vast master plan carried out without a hitch, of irresistible destiny fulfilling itself? Remember J.V. Cruz on TV working suavely for his ambassadorship, explaining what “extrapolation” was all about, and Serging Osmeña hoarse and tired in defeat, and then the morning after, the outcries about goons and massive fraud and vote-buying all the rest of that exciting week? Barely 10 months have passed—yet it seems like ages ago. Was it only last November that the Second Mandate dawned upon an expectant land? So much has happened since then that it feels as though not months but years separate us now from President Marcos’s day of victory. Propelled as it were by a combustible concentration of changes and events, the nation has moved forward, as President Marcos himself loved to predict, although he could not have guessed the precise direction—and such has been the distance we as a people have covered that Eelction Day 1969 seems much more remote in time than it really is.
The President, of course, is not one to stand still or lag behind while history is in the making; and since the auspicious first month of Marcos II marked by unusually festive fireworks in the vicinity of Malacañang, he has been striding with the usual confidence and vigor toward more achievements, more honors and distinctions. The gods who watch over the Filipino race must have reserved their fondest benediction for the likes of him, for it seems there is nothing that he wills or does, nothing that he encourages or allows to happen which does not exalt him, does not distinguish him from the common run of men. His is a light that was never meant to be hidden under a bushel of mediocrity; his life indeed is the stuff of legend, and he can no more evade fame and distinction than he can renounce his sworn duty to his people, which is to serve them and make the country, if not “great again,” at least not hostile to the idea of greatness. (He did say, after all: “This nation can”—not shall—“be great again.”)
Thus to the scroll citing President Marcos’s many achievements has been added some more honors earned in the six or seven months following the riotous celebrations of January. He has, for instance, in less than a year of the Second Mandate, merited the distinction of having the deepest and widest credibility gap ever to yawn at the feet of a Philippine president. (“If Marcos were to run today, Racuyal would beat him!” swears our barber from Pampanga.) Amazingly, for all the disgust and skepticism he has spawned, he has at the same time aroused the increasingly passionate attention of the populace, including even those citizens who normally pay no heed to politicians. (“What is Marcos up to? What will he do next?” wonder radicals and moderates, natives and aliens, labor and management , laymen and clergy.) Above all, his is the distinction of being held solely accountable, by more and more of the people, for the multitude of troubles that have of late descended upon the country.
Never before in our history have so many blamed so much on one man.
But so-called public opinion, the same history would testify, has not always been as enlightened as it should be; it has committed many gross and costly errors, and the living proofs of these blunders may be found today delivering privileged speeches in Congress. The voice of the people, in this country anyway, is seldom, alas, the voice of God; in the instances it has reflected divine wisdom, goons in the hire of the devil have been quick to silence it at the polls. Popular tastes and convictions are more often than not suspect, especially in so confused and clamorous an activity as politics, Philippine style. Public sentiment is rarely infallible, and as it applies now to the much-maligned President, it is wide off the mark, quite petty, misinformed, ungrateful, unjust, disproportionate, lacking in perspective. The accusation, spoken harshly where detractors of the President gather in rebellious force, as in Plaza Miranda or along Mendiola—the charge that he is a fascist, a fake patriot, a power-crazed, money-obsessed operator with the mentality of a small-town politico, is surely anything but a sane and reasonable conclusion. It is the emotional judgment of a people who believe, mistakenly, that they have been robbed of their faith and hopes in a man of destiny.
The course, the direction of Ferdinand E. Marcos’s destiny belies the indictment of public opinion, his motives and ideals repudiate it, his actions disprove it. True, his greatness has dimmed somewhat, as if the general dissatisfaction with his regime had formed a smog that the radiance could scarcely penetrate—but the greatness is still there, in the man, for those who seek it, a guiding light for all seasons. Even the elect of God, we are told, don’t arrive at divine knowledge without undergoing what mystics call the dark night of the soul; they must fast and pray for illumination. The perception of certain forms of greatness a notch or two below the Almighty’s likewise calls for some effort, but the strain would be well worth it in terms of inspiration, splendor of vision and peace of soul. It goes without saying that such irreverent cynics as columnists Maximo V. Soliven and Amando Doronila—O ye of little faith!—are denied the spiritual rewards bestowed on the pure and humble of heart, like Teodoro Valencia or Emil Jurado, who are reportedly in constant communion with the power and the glory.
Let us then follow the example of the truly wise and contemplate, without partisan rancor, dispassionately but with all the powers of intellect and will, as Jesuit retreat masters are wont to remind us, the issues that the people’s parliament has raised against President Marcos.
The President and his party, it is charged, spent P168 million in so-called barrio improvement funds and untold millions more in God knows what funds to “buy” his reelection, in the process of which he debauched the currency and brought down upon all our anxious heads a host of evils—ever-soaring prices, shrinking incomes, strikes, mass layoffs, business and industry in a state of suspended animation. Because of the economic dislocation—compound fractures is more like it, according to the President’s more cantankerous critics—there is now an upsurge of graft and corruption, violence and gangsterism as the low- or no-income sectors of the population strive to cope criminally with the rising cost of living.
The President, it is further charged, is a champion of imperialism, feudalism and fascism. He has demonstrated nothing less than canine devotion to the imperialist cause in Asia, as witness the infamous Philcag deal with what Senator Aquino brands the “Americanization” of his regime. He has conspired with the rapacious landlord class to perpetuate feudalism, depriving the land reform program of needed funds, so his accusers say. He is a veritable Hitler who relishes the use of force to smash dissent in the streets and resistance to fascism in Central Luzon, charge student militants. At the same time, he has proved to be the tuta of a tuta with his administration’s brutal deportation of the Yuyitung brothers to Taiwan.
The President, insist his persecutors, supports political warlordism—just think, they tell us, what a strong and moral president would have done after somebody’s goons burned and shot up that barrio in Bantay! He has not acted to stop rampant deforestation, his critics claim, and at the rate our forests are being destroyed—three hectares a minute—this nation before long will be a desert, a wasteland! And how many of the promises he made way back in 1965 has he fulfilled? (“Bring down high prices. . .Rule of law. . . Economy in the government. . .Nationalistic policy. . .Heroic leadership,” etc.) More savage questions are flung at us: Isn’t he already the richest man in Asia, but still insatiable, wanting more loot, at least half of PLDT, shares in Benguet, a TV station, choice real estate in various parts of the country? When will he renounce his worldly possessions, as he promised, and set up that foundation? Isn’t he just biding his time to impose martial law and install himself as the Great Dictator? Isn’t he plotting to rig the Constitutional Convention so he could run for a third term or become president for life? And so forth, and so on, a litany of outrage and apprehension.
Is President Marcos as detestable as these unkind critics, uncharitable detractors and irresponsible radicals have painted him out to be?
Could a man so favored by destiny and embodying a special greatness be such an abomination to his people?
One recoils from such malevolent thoughts. No! Of course not! Impossible!
It is time we put those wild-eyed and long-haired accusers of the President where they belong—in a padded cell and under sedation—and restored calmness and objectivity to the so-called public opinion of our disjointed times. This must be done in justice to the President, who has suffered enough in his mission to lead his people to peace and prosperity. The President is a man of heroic qualities, as we have seen; but he remains a man, vulnerable to the ailments that flesh is heir to. We gather from Luis Beltran of the Evening News that the President suffers on occasion from a curious disease which “makes tears fall from his eyes, renders him deaf and makes his throat hurt.” We could help ease the President’s aches and pains, help lighten his grievous burdens by reassuring him of our loyalty and our faith.
Assuming, for the moment, that the malicious charges leveled against the President are true, men of good will and unflinching faith in the Marcos destiny—and this unfortunate country is not bereft of them—would still perceive that whatever harm might have been done is far outweighed, rendered insignificant, by the national blessings resulting from these presidential “crimes” rashly condemned by a disenchanted, short-sighted people. It is all a matter of point of view, of angle and depth (or shallowness) of vision: what is so outrageous from a certain vantage point is revealed, from another, as good and desirable in its true nature. Filipinos who now view President Marcos as a sort of calamity—not a few even blamed him for those earthquakes—should change the slant of their perspective, regard the object of their ire from a different plane.
Then will they understand what they in anger or prejudice or despair have failed to comprehend: that the President, even in committing what appear to be crimes against the people, or refusing to act for their benefit, has had only the people’s welfare at heart. He knows that without the people, he would not be where he is today: at the seat of supreme power, his heart’s desire, his destiny. It is simply inconceivable that a man of such charisma, sensitivity and intelligence should willfully deliver them to disaster; their doom would be his own as well, for is he not one with them? Did he not fight and bleed for them in the crucible that was Bataan? And despite the expense and the hazards, didn’t he become congressman, senator and finally president the better to serve them?
No Filipino loves his country more than President Marcos—a truth that will reveal itself after the prescribed shift in viewpoint.
Consider anew the spending orgy during the last elections—was it not actually a laudable attempt to redistribute wealth and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor? As Senator Lagumbay, statesman and artist and one of the more perceptive of our solons, said recently concerning budgetary deficits caused by wanton election spending: “The father of children who are sick will not hesitate to go into debt to give them the medicines they need.” The fiscal and economic consequences of the President’s compassion for the electorate are not without their positive aspects—for has the price spiral not encouraged the people to give up vain material things and prodded them to practice austerity which, everyone will agree, is good for the soul and cuts down on cholesterol? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust and moth consume…” As for the President’s alleged servility to imperialist America—is it not merely expressive of Filipino gratitude for American tutelage in the arts of democracy? And is not the “Americanization” of his administration the next best thing to the statehood that many Filipinos still dream of? And regarding the Yuyitung case, for which certain benighted sectors of the press would consign the President to the innermost circle of hell, didn’t the magnificent show of collaboration between Taipei and Malacañang further strengthen the ties that bind two “Free World” nations committed to the defense of freedom and democracy?
The President has a soft spot in his heart for the students, especially the nationalistic activists, and he has taken pains to provide them with issues to rouse them up and keep them from physical, mental and ideological stagnation. Suppose the President never bothered to give them cause for pickets and demonstrations—they would all be smoking pot and watching smut movies instead, languid preoccupations that would not predispose them to any politicalization. The rise of youth radicalism, which promises to restructure and revitalize our ailing society, the nation owes to President Marcos.
With regard to the Bantay case, the simple-minded had expected the President to do something dramatic, like helicoptering down on the burned barrio of Ora and poking among the ruins; but he wisely chose to maintain a statesmanlike distance from the protagonists, lest his presence be misconstrued as lending aid and comfort to one party or the other. It is true that he was photographed in a conspiratorial huddle with his Ilocano friend, Congressman Floring Crisologo, but that was nothing but a pose arranged by a weekly magazine for a promotional gimmick. If he has shown little enthusiasm for land reform, as he has been repeatedly charged, that could be due to his determination to spare long-suffering farm tenants the troublesome capitalistic burdens of ownership. As for the Philippines turning into a desert because of his alleged reluctance to stop illegal logging, has it not occurred to his simple-minded critics that rock and sand exports may yet resolve our balance of payments difficulties, and that as the Sahara of Asia, we shall probably strike oil and banish poverty for good from our underdeveloped shores?
True, he said he would renounce his worldly possessions and establish a foundation, but he didn’t say when; great men have their own timetables, and will not be rushed by vile insinuations. Possibly the President has decided to postpone his philanthropic endeavors to a future term in office, a prospect that alarms his detractors, who have been issuing dire warnings that he will pack the Constitutional Convention with his men. But why should anyone be alarmed by his desire to be president longer than eight years or perhaps for life? Isn’t it all of a pattern, the extension of the glorious quest, the irresistible command of that destiny which has brought us so many blessings?
If he wants to go on serving his people for as long as he can climb the grand stairway in Malacang unassisted, the least a grateful nation can do is let him. Ten or twenty years more of nation-building may sap his strength and make climbing that starway an ordeal, but neither age nor infirmity should deter him from his noble mission; Salazar of Portugal, one recalls, presided admirably over the affairs of his country from a wheelchair, if not a sickbed, for the better part of his reign.
“Politics galvanizes into action all the beautiful hopes that a man can nurture in his heart for his country and for his nation. Politics is my life,” Hartzell Spence quotes Ferdinand E. Marcos in his biography of the President, For Every Tear a Victory, a book we keep on a special shelf of inspirational reading, along with the works of Norman Vincent Peale and S. J. Perelman (not a Jesuit).
No President has done more for his people. Never have a people owed so much to their President.
Tadhana, fate, has decreed it: Ferdinand E. Marcos, the sixth president of the Republic, will long be remembered for what he has done, and for what he will yet do.
November 29, 1969
How Lopez Won
by Edward R. Kiunisala
A YEAR AGO, he was probably the most underrated among the administration’s high elective officials. Not a few considered him a political jalopy, if not electoral junk. ready to be mothballed or fit only to be jettisoned. Some well-meaningPalace advisers thought that he was too old, too weak and colorless for the rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred political game.
Earlier, rumors had it tha President Marcos was casting about for a younger and charismatic running mate. There was Rafael Salas, the new darling of Western Visayas, and Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, the political charmer from Minadanao. Either of the two, it was argued, would make a good Vice-President and would bolster the administration’s chances for another mandate.
It seemed then that Fernando Lopez’s political stock was at its lowest ebb. A possible reason was his lackluster performance in the 1965 elections when he beat his opponent, Gerardo Roxas, by an uncomfortably slim margin of only 26,500 votes. Added to this was his celebrated friction with the President on forestry matters, which almost led to an open break.
One thing about Lopez — he is no yes man. He may not have the eloquence of a Jovito Salonga, but he has the temper of a Manuel L. Quezon and the single-mindedness of an Elpidio Quirino. When he believe he is right, he will defy anyone except, perhaps, God and his brother, Eugenio. But there’s nothing personal about Lopez’s defiance. Prove him wrong and your alternative right — and he will cooperate with you to the limit.
It is this particular trait that made Lopez vulnerable to intra-party intrigues. And the intrigues almost succeeded in splitting the Marcos-Lopez partnership. What saved it was Marcos’s sense of fairness and Lopez’s political bahala na attitude. He knew he had served the people well. Not a taint of scandal marred his name. Even his bitterest critics believed in his honesty and integrity in public service.
Long before the party convention in June, Lopez was ready to give up politics if that was will of the party. After all, unlike most politicians, public office, to him, meant a life of dedication and sacrifice. Few high elective officials in the country today can honestly say that they are, like Lopez, in politics to serve. Rare is the politician who, like Lopez, has remained a gentleman.
But if Lopez was ready to hang up his political gloves, his close friends were dead set against it. When the chips were down, they including President Marcos, rallied behind him, and the Nacionalista Party finally chose him as the vice-presidential standard-bearer. But despite the party’s unanimous choice, only a handful gave Lopez a chinaman’s chance against his youthful opponent, Genaro Magsaysay, an indefatigable campaigner and reportedly the idol of the masses. For one, Magsaysay was many things that Lopez was not – he was much younger, he was a better speaker, more energetic and charismatic than Lopez. He was full of political tricks and had in fact been campaigning for years. He had been to practically every barrio in the country. He certainly had more exposure than Lopez and, what’s more, he had the 600,000 Iglesia votes in his pocket.
In the matter of logistics, it was a tossup between the two, though many believed Lopez had the edge. Some, however, swore Magsaysay could match Lopez’s campaign fund peso for peso. During the LP convention, Magsaysay surprised everyone with his ready cash. His delegates were billeted in first-class hotels. In fact, it was bruited around that he was financially ready for a presidential contest.
But Lopez had what Magsaysay didn’t have — an efficient machine, performance, sincerity and good taste. While “Carry On” Gene overacted, Toto Nanading simply acted himself. Soon, the electorate saw through Gene’s overacting and recognized him for what he was. The Magsaysay cult lost much of its appeal and the Iglesia Ni Cristo was shown to be less potent politically than it was billed to be.
As of the last OQC count, with only about 500 precints left unreported, Magsaysay was trailing behind Lopez by almost 2,000,000 votes. If the Iglesia had not helped Magsaysay, Magsaysay would have been worse off. But what is more significant is that even if the Iglesia votes for Magsaysay were doubled, Lopez would still emerge the decisive winner.
Lopez’s victory over Magsaysay has blasted the myth of Iglesia political power. Bishop Eraño Manalo may still receive the homage of political jellyfish, but no longer will he be taken seriously by responsible politicians. What Joseph Estrada started in the local elections of San Juan, Rizal, Manalo’s own homegrounds, Lopez completed in the last national elections.
We sought out Lopez again last week for an interview. He was relaxed, smiling and, as usual, garrulous. He had just been to church and a group of well-wishers had gathered to congratulate him. It was the same Lopez we had seen three weeks before the elections. He had not chnaged. One had expected his well-earned victory to cause him to puff up a bit.
“Well, I made it,” he said rather shyly.
“What made you in, Mr. Vice-President?”
“I believe my performance. Yes, it is my performance, I think so. Gene’s public record is practically zero. And I repeat, he has no personal friends worked for me even without my knowledge. Frienship is an investment, yes. It pays dividends.”
“But Mr. Vice- President, Gene has a powerful personal friends – Bishop Manalo….”
Lopez perked up. We had never heard him so eloquent and grammatical before. On the subject of Iglesia Ni Cristo, he was the expert, the master coversationalist. he has debunked Iglesia political power, he said, adding that he did so with the help of responsible voters. The recent elections meant two things to him: first, the Iglesia political balloon was deflated and second, dedicated public service is still highly valued by the people.
The best politics, according to the Vice-President, is still good public service. A politician who wants sincerely to serve the people does not have to kowtow to any vested political group to win. All he has to do to get reelected is to discharge his duties as best he can. In the past, candidates for national office paid homage to the Iglesia to win. He has proved, he said, that the so-called solid Iglesia vote cannot frustrate the will of the intelligent electorate.
“Do you know that the Iglesia had been abusing? It wanted to have so many public postions for its members – it even wanted to dictate as to who should occupy this or that cabinet position. Not only that. It even wanted to have say on what kind of laws we are going to have. Sobra naman sila. i would rather lose than surrender to them. Ti, abi, I still won.”
But Lopez admitted that he won because of President Marcos. The President, he said, carried him in Northern Luzon and in many other areas of the country. Marcos really worked hard for him, said Lopez, and he, too, spared no effort to get the President reelected. It was a team effort — there was no double-crossing, no junking.
“You saw how I campaigned in Western Visayas. You were with me. You can testify. I campaigned mainly for the President. An that was what the President did in Ilocos. He campaigned hard for me. The votes he got in Ilocos, I got, too. In the Western Visayas, he did not get the votes I got — because, you know, for one thing, Serging’s wife is from there. But another thing. They are really matigas ang ulo. They didn’t even vote for Jose Yulo against Macapagal.
“That’s why you see, i promised not to take my oath of office if I won in Western Visayas and the President lost there. Now, I can still take my oath of office. The President won in Western Visayas. Of course, I have helped the President also. But I am not ashamed to say that he has helped me more. I do not know how I can thank the President for it.”
The Vice-President reserved his “most hearfelt gratitude” to the First Lady. “I owe a lot to her — ay, she really campaigned for me. She won a lot of votes for me. I do not know how to repay her. You know that it was the First Lady who told me to work hard because I was behind. She showed us the survey and she told us that i was not doing so well. If she did not want me to win, she would have remained silent.”
Indeed, early last July, Lopez was running a poor second to Magsaysay, though Marcos was already ahead of Osmeña, according to an administration survey. Informed of it, Mrs. Marcos called Lopez’s key leaders to Malacanang. Alfredo Montelibano, Eugenio Lopez, Jr., Undersecretary Raul Inocentes and a communications expert met with the First Lady in the music room. The First Lady gave Montelibano and Company the lowdown on the Vice-President’s chances.
It was a lonf talk – the First Lady wanted Lopez to put up his own political machinery. Though Lopez was nagging behind, the large number of uncommitted votes could turn the tide in Lopez’s favor. The First Lady wanted a Marcos-Lopez victory, not just a Marcos triumph. Mrs. Marcos pointed out to the Montelibano group where Lopez was weak and what should be done to boost the Vice-President’s campaign.
The Montelibano group immediately got in touch with the Vice-President. If Lopez was discouraged, he did not show it. After all, he had had 24 years of political experience. He was no political tyro. If another campaign organization was needed, it would be put up. At the time, the Vice-President’s brother, Eugenio, was in his U.S. residence in Seacliff, San Francisco. The Vice-President rang up his brother by overseas phone.
Eugenio Lopez, Sr., apparently gave the green light for the setting up of a campaign machine for the Veep. For in less than 30 minutes, the political mobilazation of the Lopez business empire was under way. In an hour, top communications experts, political analysts, researchers, idea men, statisticians, had been tapped for the Lopez machine.
Alfredo Montelibano, Sr., became top strategic aviser. All policies had to be cleared with him. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., was in charge of logistics. Ike Inocentes served as liaison between the Vice-President and the new political machine manned by top communications experts. Antonio Bareiro handled radio-TV while Ernesto Granada supervised the print medium.
The first thing the Lopez organization did was conduct a survey. The results showed that Lopez, although more popular than his opponenet in urban centers, was weak in many rural areas. In the overall, however, the survey showed Lopez leading Magsaysay by about 3%. However, it was noted that the uncommitted votes – 17% of the voting population – were mostly in the rural areas.
So the Lopez machine concentrated on the rural areas. The communications media came out with a lot of materials depicting Lopez as the friend of the farmer, the worker and the common man. His leaflets carried the picture of the vice-President holding up rice stalks. The Lopez machine worked to buikd up the Vice-President’s image as Marcos’s top performance man in rice production.
Meanwhile, radio and television commentators all over the country were supplied with Magsaysay’ record as a public servant. The idea was to debunk Magsaysay’s claim that he was the idol of the masses and to portray him as a demagogue with no solid achivements to his name. On the other hand, the communications experts in the Lopez’s performance as an executive and a legislator.
It was at this time that political candidates went out of their way to win the Iglesia support. Some pragmatic Lopez advisers suggested the Veep take a crack at the Iglesia votes. And he got mad, spewing yawa and sonamagun. He would not pay homage to Manalo merely to win the Iglesia support. If the sect voted for him, they were welcome, but he wouldn’t go out of his way to woo the INC.
Manalo reportedly got wind of Lopez’s reactions and he decided to teach Lopez a lesson or two in practical politics. The INC boss directed his followers to go all out for Magsaysay. Some NP congressional bets were told to junk Lopez in exchange for Iglesia suppor. Others were even asked to surrender their sample ballots, it was reported, to the Iglesia so that Lopez’s name could be replaced with Magsaysay’s.
Ateneo priests and Catholic lay leaders who heards of the Iglesia political ploy to down Lopez were scandalized and angered. They decided to band together behind Lopez. They put up two headquarters silently worked behind the scenes. They got in touch with no fewer than 30,000 Catholic leaders all over the country and pleaded with them to vote for the Marcos-Lopez team.
Other religious setc, too, didn’t like the way Manalo was wielding political power – and they, too, got into the act. Two Aglipayan bishops and one Protestant sect came out openly for Lopez. It was a silent religious-political war. The Îglesia versus the Catholics and other religious sects. In a sense, Manalo’s support of Magsaysay proved to be a kiss of death – it served to unite other religious elelments against him.
Early in October, the Lopez machine made another survey – and the result was encouraging. lopez was leading by about 400,000 votes over Magsaysay. When informed about it, Lopez could hardly believe it. But instead of being complacent, Lopez worked even harder. Working closely with the NP machine, the Lopez machine proved effective. A few of its key people were able to infiltrate the opposite camp and discover Magsaysay’s political sttrategems, some of which were below the belt.
Lopez’s technopols wanted the Veep to pay back Magsaysay in kind, but Lopez put his foot down. He did not believe that Gene would resort to foul trickery. Perhaps Gene strategists, but not Gene, said Lopez. Even when news broke that Gene allegedly tried to finance a student organization to demonstrate against the Lopez interests, the Veep still gave Gene the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, the entire Lopez clan fanned out to rural areas to help Toto Nanding. Mrs. Mariquit Lopez, fondly called Inday Mariquit by her friends, campaigned with the Blue Ladies. Even Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., went to the hustings to plug for her brother-in-law. Mrs. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., too, joined Mrs. Marcos’s Blue Ladies.
All the Veep’s children, except who is abroad, campaigned for their father, Albertito usually went along with his father in Luzon. Mila also accompanied her father throughout Western Visayas. Fernando, Jr., and Bobby helped entertain political leaders in the Veep’s Iloilo mansion.
Even the sons of the Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., joined their uncle’s campaign trail. Eugenio Jr., took charge of finances while Manolo and Oscar put up the Friends of Lopez Kami (FOLK) organization. Manolo, too, organized his own version of Blue Ladies and Blue Boys, with the latter composed mainly of junior executives in their 20’s.
Meanwhile, the Lopez machine suceeded in putting up an organization which reached down to the town level and, in sesitive areas, down to the precint level. All these served as nerve cells of the vast Lopez political machine. Information was sent to the Lopez coordinating center in Quezon City where it was compiled, analyzed and acted upon. A group of creative writers made up the Lopez Machine Think Tank.
Lopez expressly directed his technopols to stress the performance theme. Not once was it ever a Lopez machine for Lopez alone. It was a Marcos-Lopez team campaign all the way, though the bulk of the campaign was directed at the areas where Lopez was supposedly weak. In Cebu and Iloilo, Osmeña-Lopez groups for some mushroomed. But Lopez ordered his men to plead with these groups to disband. It was found that these groups were LPs who could not stomach Magsaysay.
In Iloilo, one NP congressional bet reportedly campaigned lukewarmly for Marcos and the congressional candidate got a tongue-lashing from the Veep in front of the many people. In Sulu, despite the advice of some Muslim leaders not to campaign for Marcos, Lopez batted for Marcos all the way. At one time, he even asked the Muslims not to vote for him if they would not vote for Marcos, too.
By the first week of November, another survey showed that Lopez was ahead by about 700,000 votes. he couldn’t believe it. He had thought he would win over Magsaysay by only about 200,000 0r 300,000 votes. But he assumed that even if the survey had mistakenly counted 500,000 votes in his favor, he would still win th balloting by a comfortable margin.
But when the votes were counted, Lopez was the most surprised of them all in many precints, even in so-called Magsaysay stronghlds, Lopez got twice more votes than Magsaysay did. Lopez bested Magsaysay even in rural areas. In about 67 provinces, Lopez lost only in Zambales and Pampanga Greater Manila went all out for Lopez. Despite the Iglesia’s support of Marcos, Lopez got almost as many voted as the President..
Lopez was in Manila Tuesday night. He slept all night in his Forbes Park residence. Early Wednesday morning, he received reports that the NP won in the Western Visayas. After a dip in the pool and a mass in the San Antonio Church, Lopez motored to Malacañang. The President was asleep and Lopez exchanged pleasantries with other top NP leaders in the Palace.
When Mrs. Marcos emerged, the Veep kissed her hand and gave her a big buss. He owed much of his recent political success to Mrs. Marcos, he openly said. He would have been happy if he had won even by only 200,000, but a margin of 2,000,000 votes was beyond his wildest dreams. He promised to work harder to merit the people’s trust.
From Malacañang, Lopez went to his office in the Bureau of Lands Building. There, he received congratulatory messages from his friends and symphatizers. When the Lopez victory trend reached irreversible proportions, Lopez thanked all his supporters for their labor. He hastened to add, however, that he had not solicited any political financiers and was, therefore, not beholden to anyone but the electorate for his political victory.
His political fund, he said, came only from his brother and relatives. As Vice-President, he continued, he had granted many favors to many businessmen, industrialists and millionaire-agriculturists. But he did not ask any favor from any of them. This was because he did not want compromise national interests with the private interests of the political financiers.
In an interview, Lopez left to President Marcos what role the Veep should play in the next four years. But if he were to have his way, he would prefer to remain the concurrent Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I know this job very well. I don’t have to study anymore. Besides, there are still many things that I have to do here.”
Lopez obsession now is to achieve self-sufficiency in meat and fish and to conserve the antional forests. His plan is to seed the country’s lakes and rivers with bangus and carps. He also wants to increase animal breeding stations throughout the country. The Veep believes that massive reforestations is necessary, if Philippine civilization is to be preserved.
The Vice-President started his public life when then President Sergio Osmeña, Sr., appointed him mayor of Iloilo. At that time, Iloilo City was no-man’s land. Criminality was rampant; nobody was safe after six in the evening. He accepted Osmeña’s challenge to clean Iloilo on condition that he be free to resign after three months. But public service got into his blood and three months became a lifetime.
Lopez’s honesty is almost legendary. While manager of his family’s bus company, he caught the conductress cheating by five centavos. Lopez sued the girl who was sentenced to 25 days in jail. But while the girl was in jail, Lopez supported her family and got her another job after she had served her sentence. in later years, this was to be the Veep’s code of conduct.
His employees still remembered how Lopez, some years ago, fulminated at one of his political supporters who asked him to help him with his customs duties. A call to the customs disclosed that this man was one of those blacklisted by customs. Lopez shouted at him, saying: “What? You want me to help you cheat the government? “You, sonamagan, I don’t want to see you anymore.”
And when the son of another political supporter asked the Veep to get him a job in the onternal revenue bureau even without pay, Lopez reddened: “Why you want to work without pay? Because you will steal? You want me to help you so you can steal? Get out! Get out!”
Lopez is an apolitical politician. he both loves and hates politics. His father, he said, a former Iloilo governor, was assassinated. To Lopez, politics summed up all that he disliked in htis world: dishonesty, double-dealing, and back-stabbing. Paradoxically, it was the only way by which he could help so many people he has helped while a politician has sustained his political career.
The Vice-President is married to the former Mariquit Javellana by whom he has six children, Yolanda Benito, Fernando Jr., Albert, Milagros and Manuel. In addition, they have 12 proteges, now all married, whom they have informally adopted as children. Every Friday, in the Lopez mansion in LaPaz, Iloilo, is a day for the poor to whom the Lopezes distribute cash and goods.
Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Lopez are devout Catholics. Wherever Lopez goes, his first stop is the church. He makes the sign of the cross every time he goes out of the car, helicopter or plane. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lopez are music lovers; she loves to play the piano and the Hammand organ; he loves to listen to Mendelssohn or Chopin.
Many have asked him where he will go from here. Will he run for presidency? To this, he displays shock. “Please, please, don’t ask me that. Thatis farthest from my mind now. All I want to do is work to be worthy of the people’s trust. you know, I am already old.”
But when reminded of his campaign slogan, “Matigas pa ito —ang tuhod ko,” Lopez would break into loud, unrestrained, plebeian laughter that endears him to his supporters. Just the same, he entertains no questions about his political future. This is no time to talk politics, he insists.
But whether Lopez likes it or not, he has to think about his political future. by national mandate, he is now, for the third time, only a heartbeat away from the presidency. His decisive political victory in the last elections has catapulted him to the forefront of his party’s presidential possiblitis. Next to Marcos, he is the people’s choice. If he doubted that in the 1965 elections, he doesn’t doubt it now.
Besides, Lopez cannot be running for Vice-President all the time. If he chooses to continue serving the people after his third term as the No. 2 public official, he deserves, by equity of the electorate, a promotion. Who knows, with the help of God and his brother, Eugenio, the three-time Veep, once an underrated administration high official, may pull another surprise and run away with the highest position a people whom he has served long and well can give him.
Winding It up
by Quijano de Manila
The Second Time Around Is Marked by An Intensive Use of the Helicopter (To Overcome The Limitation On The Campaign Period), The Computer (To Get The Proportions Right Between Effort And Geography), The Public-Opinion Survey (To Check On Mileage) And A Controlled Budget, Meaning, Says President Marcos, “Limited Funds.”
November 1, 1969–The Helicopter has become today’s campaign symbol, as the jeep was in the ’50s, the railroad before the war. It is an apt symbol. When the man-made cyclonew appears in the air, turning and turning in a narrowing gyre, things fall apart, mere anarchy is loosed, the ceremony of innocence drowns in a tide of dust, and the blinded crowd leaning to the whirlwind gropes in sudden darkness to greet the good who lack conviction or the bad who reek of passionate intensity.
It’s pentecostal scene. First that crowd gathered round an open space, hot and bored from waiting. Then a faint whirr in the sky. Heads lift eyes squint exclamations become a roar, children jump up and down pointing to the tiny gleaming spiral in the air, to the swelling windmill, to the violent cross abruptly, deafeningly, overhead, blotting out the light. And suddenly a mighty wind plunges into earth and explodes into whirled fog, a typhoon of dust. The crowd falls apart, screaming. People stagger, crouch, press hands to eyes; but even those who have run to cower behind wall or tree cannot escape the hot blast of wind or the clattering fallout of soil. All at once the pall of dust lifts, the wind sinks, and people gray with dust from head to foot straighten up and slap at their clothes, looking foolish..
Meanwhile, the arrived candidate, himself immaculate, descends on his ravaged welcomers, is garlanded, poses for pictures with the local satraps, is escorted to the transportation. The crowd surges after him. Sweat has turned the gray of dust they wear into trickles of mud on face and neck.
Left behind on the field is the helicopter, now looking too small and innocent to be capable of the tornado it stirred, that moment of unloosed anarchy, dark and dangerous as a election campaign, disrupting the ground and leaving on the body of the people a film of filth. Centuries of stony sleep now vexed to nightmare every two years.
“The Helicopter,” says President Marcos, “has completely revolutionized campaigning. When I first ran for President I went around the country twice – and each round took me one whole year. In this year’s campaign I will have gone around the country three times in one year and it has been less tiring, less fatiguing, than in 1964-65.”
Air travel in earlier campaigns had been limited to places with airports. “And our airport system was very, very deficient.” But now you can enplane to an airport and from there fan out by helicopter to areas inaccessible by plane. “You can get into towns within range in 20 or 30 minutes, places that perhaps would take hours to reach by car, like Isabela, the Mountain Province, Cotabato. The helicopter ranges anywhere in 210 or 30 minutes. You cut travel time by almost two-thirds…”
Enabling the President to complete three national round trips in this campaign.
“I am on my third round. And the First Lady is also on her third round. She has a separate schedule.”
From mid-October, when the wind-up phase of the campaign began, the President could afford to take it easy. He stayed oftener at home base (which was no relief, because the Palace was always crowded with callers) and stumped closer to home. He made his first borough appearance in Manila at a Roces miting in San Nicolas; breezed through an afternoon tour of Cavite; devoted a Saturday to Laguna; went on flying trips to the South. He was hoarding up energy for the orgiastic miting-de-avance period.
Every variation in tempo is according to plan.
“We have reached the point,” explains the President, “when we are gathering the, shall we say, most speed. This is the last phase of the campaign, when every campaign is geared to reach its peak, at least as planned. As we planned it, the first phase was supposed to be an intense campaign to bring about awareness, raise enthusiasm. This slows down to a second, organizational period. But there should be enough momentum to carry you into the third phase, when you build up to a climax.”
Graphed, the progression would begin with an upward curve (turning the voters on) that would level off to a plateau (organization, consolidation) and then escalate to a peak (the climax).
How well has the plan worked?
“We have exceeded targets,” says the President.
And he cites as an example the second, or “in-between,” period when “we stopped campaigning” but what should have been a slowing down, or “plateau,”proved to be an acute escalation itself. During the first phase the Marcos camp fielded a plethora of mass-media advertising. Much of this material disappeared during the second phase and the interpretation of observers was that the Marcos camp, feeling confident, had seen the surfeit of propaganda (especially the radio jingles) as overkill and decided to stop. President Marcos denies this: there was no stop, it was all part of the original schedule.
“When I say we stopped campaigning I mean a stop in the handout of materials for radio, TV, the press. This was practically unnoticed becausewe spaced out what advertising we had. No (new) billboards; no (new) nothing; pure organization. We were just moving around in the provinces and asking: Are there any changes, any reaffiliations? Expenditures were also kept to the barest minimum.”
Logically, during this lull, there should be a drop in the candidate’s poll rating. But, says the President, the surveys taken of this period told a different story,
“I might just as well be frank. I called in experts from abroad to conduct the surveys for me. They were the ones who thought out the questionnaires and prepared the forms. Objective. The surveys. And when they showed that, instead of slumping. I had started steadying up a gradual incline — up the plateau, you might say — I questioned the surveys. I said: There must be something wrong here, because we stopped campaigning. They said: No; but, all right, we will take another survey. They took another survey after l5 days – and it was the same thing. So, it was either that the candidate of the opposition was not being accepted or that we were doing the right thing. For, as we had planned, the mementum was carrying us through. Now, we have our funds for the last phase of the campaign still intact and the surveys indicate that we havenot been hurt by this.”
To clinch the matter, campus straw-vote polls in the Manila area taken at the end of this “plateau” period likewise had the NP team ahead by a least a 2-1 margin. (These college polls also showed Vice-President Lopez consistentrly out-polling the President.)
“So, then , we can conclude,” says the President, “that, as generally planned, the campaign has really been effective.” The plans were prepared by several groups. “But the matter schedule was prepared by me. I had to go over the arrangements, the schedule. because it affected me, because it is I who know what I can do. For instance, at a given time, I can say that I can visit 16 towns in one day. The other day I went through Nueva Ecija and the Mountain Province: 14 towns. And that is regular.” In pre-helicopter days the safe average would be four or five towns. “But because of the helicopter the First Lady and I can visit anywhere from 10 to 16 towns in one day. I cut down my speeches to 20 or 30 minutes; so I have an allowanceof an hour per town. I sleep five minutes on the helicopter between stops and I feel rested all day. Still, it is a hard schedule. The first month, I was fagged out, and so was Imelda. No matter how tough your stamina, when your schedule is to speak in 15 or 16 towns- it’s tough. But you get used to it, you get the hand of it. Then your speaking habits get attuned to it, too.”
The President says he doesn’t actually get hoarse — “unless I drink cold water or catch cold from the weather or the air-conditioning.” He drinks tap water and thinks of his father.
“I’m happy I am endowed with this kind of voice I can use 24 hours a day. I think I inherited it from my father. When he was congressman and governor I heard him deliver speeches, without a mike to crowds as big as ours. He could throw his voice to the limit of the crowd and yet never lose his voice. Unbelievable, those old people. Fantastic. I had some training in school in elocution but actually this was developed in us from as early as five years old. Father used to teach us how to throw our voice.”
Though the campaign plans were made flexible, they have proved to be so practical the President has deviated from schedule only some five times.
“Twice because ofthe weather, once because of my health, once at the request of leaders who were prompted by political circumstances, and once at the instance of the planning group. This last change was when Imelda and I split up. We decided to do so when we noticed we could cover more ground that way and were just as effective.”
His health forced a change in schedule only once.
“That was in late July, when I sprained my ankle in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. The reception there were kind of hysterical. At the heliport, teen-agers, young girls, rushed me. They tried to kiss me; some succeeded, I think I lost my footing, slipped on pebbles, and sprained my right ankle tendon, But I went on that night as usual and kept my schedule for three days, until I couldn’t stand the pain any more and the doctors practically knocked me out of the campaign. My ankle was swollen and the pain was almost unbearable — but I have an unusually high level of pain tolerance. So, nobody noticed, though I was already limping. I used crutches, but only in private. In public I always walked straight. I was afraid to be marked out as the lame candidate!”
If his campaign strategy has turned out to be so workable it’s because it was planned well in advance and made use of campaign lessons learned in ’65 and ’67.
“This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment campaign. It was planned way back in 1968 — no , it has been in the planning since 1967: 1967 was the trial run. We tried them out: the techniques, the different organizations. We discarded those that failed; we adopted the methods that succeeded. And we have a complete file on the elections of 1967 and 1965, though of course my studies, my own knowledge of politics, go further back.
“I take notes of what happens in every election: the issues raised, where we were weakest, our deficiencies, how our supporter acted. There are many secrets in a campaign that must not descend to the lower-level leadership, that I must keep to myself. If, for instance, this or that leader promises me that at such and such a time his group will declare for us, I must make a note of that, and also record, when the time comes, if he has kept our agreement or has turned against me.
“The old politicians kept all this in their heads. That’s the difference between them and modern politicians. The gentlemen of the old school relied on the personal word of honor. They didn’t have to keep records. That’s not always an advantage. They had memory, but we have records, and the records are precise and computerized.”
For example, after the ’65 victory, a “critique” was made of that year’s campaign.
“One of the things we discovered in our post-election critique was that we spent too much time in small provinces; we had attempted to follow the example of Macapagal. We spent as much time in a small area like Batanes as in a big area like Pangasinan. This, of course was not correct. Manila has over 600,000 voter and Rizal over a million — but we spent the same amount of time campaigning in Marinduque, a smaller province, as in Rizal. So, we decided that, in l967, we would try out a new schedule, proportioning time to each area according to its size. And not only time but also funding. The funding in l967 had been scattered gunshots — no system to it, none of the delicate accuracy of aim required.”
So, the ’67 polls were used to apply lessons learned from the mistakes of ’65, and also as a trial run for strategies contemplated for ’69.
“There were many things we tested in l967. However, when you are in politics, always, after an election, the question comes up: How could we have improved on this? Or you say: This should not have happened.”
And what happened in ’67 that should not have happened, that certainly must not happen again in ’69?
“Manila. We were pushed into participating in choosing a local candidate. The national leaders must not be pushed into that. There should be a middle body to absorb the shocks. So, we created a mediation committee, an arbitration committee of the junta, which chooses the candidates.
“A second mistake was, again, funding. It was coursed only through a few men, If any of them turns against you, the lower levels are lost, you are lost. So, there had to be a re-routing a re-channeling of funds, materials, campaign instructions. There must be alternatives; in the armed forces you call them lines of communication. In politics there must be an alternate organization to take over in the event of a crisis.”
The President says he doesn’t specifically have the Salas crisis in mind.
“I use the word crisis to mean any unexpected stoppage in communication between those above and those below, since on that continuing communication depends the effectivity of an organization. Stop that and it’s the end of the organization. So, you must have alternate lines of communication.”
It’s to be inferred that the campaign was not delayed in the takeoff stage by the Salas crisis because the “alternatives” realized as necessary in ’67 had already been established — and that these “alternatives” can also prevent “stoppage” in case of, say, a Lopez crisis.
From the trial run of ’67, work moved on to the actual planning of the ’69 campaign, which is marked by an intensive use of the helicopter (to overcome the limitation on the campaign period), the computer (to get the proportions right between effort and geography), the public-opinion survey (to check on mileage) and a controlled budge, meaning limited funds.
“I want that clarified,” says the President, “because ‘unlimited funding’ is one of the fables of political history. People think we have an unlimited amount of money. That is not true. I am trying to limit expenses.”
But so rooted is the belief there’s a fear to buck it; one might be dropped in favor of someone willing to continue the fiction.
“That is why most Presidents, I mean their leaders, want to give the impression of having unlimited resources. They are not to blame at all. But it is apocryphal, legendary, a myth. It is not true that a President has unlimited funds. There is never any limit unless you set a limit. Even President Magsaysay, President Garcia and President Macapagal, they themselves told me, this I got from them, because I wanted to know, and they said that the money is never enough, no matter how much you think you have, there is never enough. Unless you set a budget and stick to it. Because they will assume the sky’s the limit and if you don’t come across you’re dead. Unless you tell them point-blank: the myth is only politics.
“In the first place, where’s the unlimited funding to come from?” Graft? “As far as I am concerned, I will not call on anyone who’s asking for a forest concession.” Contributions? “You can’t blend your friends white. No matter how hard you try. They can only give so much, they won’t go over a hundred or two hundred thousand. And how many people are in a position to contribute?” The ten per cent of the population that controls the wealth. “Yes, and the ten per cent are the most selfish, the most self-centered people in the country. They will start contributing on November l — if they are more or less sure you are in. They will contribute only if you are in. I have had the experience of having to refuse contributions from people who I know represent selfish interest.”
The only solution to the problem of funds is to set a limit on funds.
“There is no other way. Why? I know the consquences. If they expect more and you can’t deliver, you are dead. That’s the end of the campaign. So, at the start of the campaign, I told them: “We will raise only this much, we will commit ourselves only this far. Beyond that, no more. At the start of the campaign I told them what the limit was and I warned everybody. Too bad if you exceed this because I won’t be able to bail you out after the limit is reached.”
The President claims he has already enforced the budget. “For instance, you may have noticed that, beginning September, there were no more jingles, no TV.” This slow-down in propaganda matched a slow-down in handouts. “That was when you heard all those rumblings, charges, etc.” The leaders were reacting to the rationing with threats of rebellion. “The only thing you can do is be quiet and take it.” The crisis passed. “They are now convinced that I was correct in limiting the budget.”
However, the President admits that the limit he set is subject to change any time the enemy shows signs of fiscal power. “We were watching the opposition. If they ever raised enough money we would take a risk and spend more. We would at least keep up with them. But there was no move on the other side. Apparently they didn’t know what was happening among us.” This was not to say that the opposition was broke, after all those trips abroad. “They got a little, they got something. And they are trying to bring in more, this from our intelligence.” But the President is glad he took the risk of enforcing his limit. “We have taken many gambles in this campaign but they were deliberate risks. We are not experimenting. We experimented already in 1967 — though of course every election is always something of an experiment.” He did feel nervous over this “plateau” period of risk and nation — until the survey showed the outcome. “It was better than I expected. I never imagined it could be so good. And I became frightened.” Which is why he ordered a re-survey.
The second outcome being just as encouraging, the President has this precise computerized confidence to draw on as he climaxes his campaign, winding it up with gusto.
He can now even look back on the various crimes as ” not hurdles” but as spurs to the momentum.
The Vexing Nightmares
None of these crimes, thinks the President, really hurst his campaign — certainly not the first of them, the Salas resignation, though it seemed so damaging at the time. “Because in this country,” shrugs Mr. Marcos. “small things can be built up into a big event.” But the resignation created no problems.
“I let him go. He was inistent. He was the one who wanted it. Many doubts have been cast as to the reason for his resignation. I think everybody knows what it was. Let us say he had problems with his immediate family other than his wife — yes, with his relatives.”
The campaign then already on the launching pad, lost nothing with the Salas withdrawal.
“He had already contributed his share to the planning.”
Nor did the rice crisis create a campaign crisis.
“As we expected, the whole thing blew off. It affected me only mildly because I knew the situation. I was convinced that the figures on the rice harvested were correct; we had quite enough. But because of deficiencies in transportation, distribution and ware-housing, the supply would seem to be short. I immediately convoked a meeting; it was a secret; no one knew I had taken this up with the millers; the problem of distribution in Bulacan and Manila. The decisions made there proved effective.”
Then why the continuing rice queues?
“The RCA Pl.40 rice is the cheapest you can get; so everybody is lining up to buy it.”
For the increase in sugar prices, the President has a different explanation: it’s not really a current event but something decided on by sugar planters and millers a year ago.
“You will remember that I established what we call an amelioration fund for sugar tenants and sacadas — three pesos per picul — which I asked the millers and planters to set up for the exploited sacadas, so they can have schools, hospitals, playgrounds, better housing facilities, and perhaps, in certain instances, 50% of the fund in cash. That was one of the conditions I imposed on the sugar planters and millers when, about a year ago, they told me they were going to increase the price of sugar. So, 50% of the price increase goes to the sacadas.”
If this be hard to swallow, in the light of the exposes on sacada misery, the President has a quick, rejoinder: there are haciendas implementing the sacada-amelioration agreement. “They are not written about.” Only the haciendas where there have been no improvements get written about. “That’s why I feel like going after the people who have not implemented the agreement.”
The price explosion in general, thinks the President (somewhat forgetting the stick he beat the dog with in ’65), cannot be a legitimate campaign issue because it’s the campaign itself that creates the problem. In other words, the LPs, just by campaigning, are as responsible for the high prices they condemm as the NPs.
“We talk of index products, like rice, that affect the prices of other goods. But it’s not only rice that affects prices. This is a very strange thing, but an election campaign affects prices. The leaders are buying and buying: they have to stock up on rice and canned goods. Do you know how many leaders in, for instance, Caloocan City are funded by the party? Let us say there are 4,000. And all these 4,000 leaders will be buying enough stocks for one or two months. What will this do to prices? It will increase prices. The merchants always take advantage when there is a demand. It’s a natural law. In a small town, a capitan del barrio suddenly receives P2,000. You say to his barrio people: “You asked for this money; we give it to you; you decide what you want to do with it.” That’s the democratic way. They decide they want an irrigation system, or a schoolhouse, or a library, or a multi-purpose center. What does this mean? You gotta buy wood, building materials, etc. With the demand, the prices go up.”
Then the President is damned for not bringing down prices.
“I haven’t the power,” says Mr. Marcos. “Very few people know that I can’t control prices.”
As he sees it, the issue of high prices is actually an issue against the kind of election campaign we hold, the extravagance of which was not really stopped by the Tañada-Singson law, since that law, as the President points out, limits a candidate’s personal expenditures but not the expeditures of political parties. A reasonable limit should be set on what both a candidate and a party can spend. “When I was in Congress I filed a bill to that effect. When I became President I recommended it. There has been no action taken on this. If, God willing, I am reelected, I will push it.”
The bomba of high prices is actually a double bomb, according to the opposition. If prices are high today, when the NPs, to enhance their chances, are trying to keep them down, wait till after the elections, when, if the NPs win, there will be no more reason to check prices. Then they will really run wild.
The President doubts this.
“Prices go down after an election, they usally do; they did after previous elections. After the Macapagal loss, prices went down by around four per cent. There was this behavior again in 1967: prices went up a little, then stayed down after the election. Christmas may affect prices, but for consumer goods in general, prices will go down, especially for food.”
The other bombas have been more stink than sting.
Of the Haruta letter, the President will say only that he refuses “to go down to the level of a false document by commenting on it.” But he thinks the fuss ” strengthened my position and weakened that of my opponent.”
“A man who runs for the presidency should be discriminating enough to know what is a false charge and what is genuine., what is a valid issue and what is not. But here you have a man fabricating charges against me. They are laughing at him in the provinces, because it fits in with his character, with his background: claiming to be a guerilla when he is not; running for mayor and refusing to sit as mayor and then selling the property of the city; and you hear things about the reclamation project and the De la Rama shipping. You know, our people, whatever politicians may try to think, are realy a sensible lot. Never underestimate the people.”
To the charge that there’s a breakdown in peace and order, Mr. Marcos has a blunt reply: “All over the country crime has gone down, except in two places: Manila and suburbs, and Central Luzon. ” And the Crisologo-Singson scrimmage up in the North was no longer merely political. “What we have there is personal enmity. Do you know that they are uncle and nephew? But such hatred. You can feel the hatred. That’s why I took Msgr. Gaviola and others of the clergy up there. This is not just a political problem; it is a personal problem.” Anyway, Mr. Marcos feels no need to be partisan in that strife. “You see, my hold on the North is not because of any leader. It’s not because this or that leader supports me but because the North identifies me with the nobler things that have been done there, beginning with the liberation of those nine provinces from the Japanese. After Liberation I had the burden of re-organizing civil government there, making all the appointments, from janitor up to governor. They have always identified me with authority. If they had family troubles I was the referee. I built schools for them. That was how the Marcos type of schoolhouse started. Now there’s this fear that, because the Crisologo are so strongly entrenched politically, they may become dictators; and so I have stepped in and authorized the investigation of cases involving the family, even a case against the son. That will be prosecuted to the very end.”
On the recurrent rumor of a rift in the NP team, the President remarks that there’s alway talk of estrangement but it’s only a figment of the imagination.” He and Vice President Lopez worked in tandem harmoniously. “We plan together, we move together. Our expenditures are completely coordinated. He will get a little more than I in the South, as I will get a little more than he in the North, by a few thousand.” The supposed Montelibano incident was just a put-on by the enemy. “They were the ones who distributed the copies of the alleged telegrams sent by Montelibano. When we checked with him he immediately asked who had been distributing telegrams.”
As for the boycott movement of the young:
“They are just too tired to think. I am not the type of man who folds his arms to decide a problem. You have choose one way or the other.”
But he doubts that the boycott will go through.
“It may be a national movement, I do not think they have a national following. The majority of the young will vote, they are against non-voting. I have seen them all over the country, I go out of my way to meet them, and they are just as active, if not more so, than their elders.”
Anyway, the boycott movement might mean the beginning of a new kind of politics.
“Of a new party system or a new approach to old questions. Maybe they want a parliamentary form of government, or fewer elections, or a longer term for the President. Whatever their point, I say let them voice their sentiments. We should not be afraid of ideas. After I encourage them to speak out, how can they say I am against them? Even when they demonstrate supposedly against me, I encourage them, because it indicates they are indicates they are interested in their government, interested enough in the country.”
Mr Marcos sees the validity of the contention that the two presidential candidates do not really represent a two-paty system and he is willing to aid the emergence of a real opposition, though that be the
Communist Party — which, he points out, is not outlawed in the Philippines.
“Republic Act 1700 is not a law which disauthorizes or makes illegal all communist organizations. It outlaws only one particular communist organization, that of the Huks, because it seeks the overthrow of the government. As an organization intending to destroy the government it is illegal, but not because it is communist. A communist party utilizing the democratic processes to attain power would not be illegal. Both a socialist party and a communist party intending to take over the government through democratic processes would be as legal as any other political party.”
And the way Ferdinand the Bull is feeling now, he can’t be rattled by Red or any other color opposition.
The current appetite to take on any and all comers is based on computer’d majorities that are rising, says the President, to close to three million.
“At the start of the campaign, according to surveys, I was leadingt by a little more than a million. As I said, during the ‘plateau’ period, my lead rose to 1.7 million and settled there, or its vicinity. The latest surveys, done not by our men but by commercial houses, show that my lead has gone up to 2.7 million. The latest figure. I didn’t believe it myself.”
If he does win by a two- or three-million majority, how will he think he did it?
“Exactly as we had it planned: foresight.”
The Second Coming?
The wind-up phase through the last half of October has meant shorter trips and longer siestas. The crowded Palace was a wondering smile one afternoon when he slept on and on. But once up he’s non-stop, distributing himself among several rooms to different groups. glimpsed every 15 minutes, or so as a streak of speed in the aisle, a flurry of paper at a desk. Boy Scouts to be inducted. “Do you still accept invitations like this?” Or leaders wanting to present surrendered Huks. “Na naman! Matagal na raw sumurrender ‘yan ah.”
On the road the confidence shows as waggish humor, a merriment that didn’t falter even during his afternoon in Cavite, though the crowds there were thin, the reception cool, and the stump looked perfunctory: no arches, no brass bands, no mammoth stages, no climactic miting on a city plaza. But the President showed himself a trouper by staying in fine form in the family hostile atmosphere of theMontano terrain. Evidently, not even the First Lady, who was stumping there the day before, had been able turn it on,
Mercifully, the ordeal was brief. The President helicoptered into Indang town at high noon. Excuse my dust. He was met with placards asking for a sugar central. Then lunch at a leader’s house, a huddle with the press, an appearance at the plaza, where his polo barong was set off by a colorful entourage. Vice-President Lopez was in Boy Scout green; congressional candidate Fernando Campos in U.P. maroon: Linda Campos in blue Lady blue; Inday Garcia in orange candy-stripes; and Senadora Helen Benitez in a pink-and-white terno. The town mayor, though a Liberal, was gallantly present to do the honors. The President took one look at his audience (either too young or too old) and wryly laughed out an opening line: “Bata at matanda, may ngipin at wala . . .” He supposed that, this being harvest time, the working population was in the fields. The picketers rattled their placards. The President asked if the town really wanted a sugar central. A faint murmur from the crowd. “Mahina ang sagot,” said the President. It was indicative of the Cavite response.
At around three the President was in Dasmariñas, on a bit of platform, addressing a streetful of the grade, and high-school young. He set them to doing arithmetic. If the LPs had built 200,000 kilometers of road in four years and the NPs had built 200, 000 kilometers in three years, how much more road had the NPs built? Then he held up a box and called for a captain del barrio. No response.”Nawala nang lahat ang captain del barrio?” Finally somebody shutfled sheepishly onstage and the President explained that the box he held was a health kit being distributed to the barrios and containing medicine for colds, flu, headaches, stomachaches and other aches – “except heartaches.” No medicine there for the love-stricken: “Ang puso ng nagliligawan.” As his listeners giggled, the President, still holding up the box, grimaced: “Para na akong ‘yang mga nagbibili ng gamot sa Quiapo.” Off the fringe of the young crowd were knots of male adults, stolidly watching.
The crowd was bigger in Bacoor, though still predominantly school-uniformed. It was around half-past four and the President had picked up the Caviteño intonation. Campos had become ” si Campus,” pronounced with a grin. Here again, the President had good news for the capitanes del Barrio. They had already received P2,000 each: “Kailangan pa ng dagdag?” A roar of young voices, “Ang sumagot ay hindi mga capitan del barrio.” The President proceeded to the revelation that was the glad tidings of his Cavite stumps: a dagdag of P2,000 more for every barrio. And he handed out — or seemed to be handing out — the checks. “Symbolic lang ‘yan. Matagal nang ibinigay ‘yan.” The second helpings had been released beforehand to escape the laws moratorium on such moneys.
Evening had fallen when the President reached Cavite City, his last stop in the province. The traffic jam on the highway had people wondering if this was sabotage, but the jam had a natural explanation: the line of trucks outside Kawit waiting to haul people to the miting in the city. Yet the miting in the premier city of the province offered the most disheartening crowd of all. It was a mere street-corner miting and the stage was a couple of bare planks between four posts – no roof even, no backdrop even. It seemed incredible that this was the President of the Philippines speaking on what was practically a sidewalk soapbox. But, to the credit of Mr. Marcos, the rude stage in what was certainly not a poor barrio in no way depressed his spirits. he showered praise on all the dalaginding who had met him with flowers and kisses: “Mga nanggigil. Meron pang kumukurot.” This was a domestic problem. He had consulted Mrs, Marcos on the problem of girls kissing him and she had said it was all right. “Huwag ka lang gaganti.” Throughout his Cavite tour the President stuck to Tagalog and his easy colloquial command of it was quite a revelation.
Happily that stump ended on friendlier ground, in the suburban towns of Las Piñas and Parañaque, towards midnight. Up with the dawn the following day was the President, for a whole day of campaigning in Laguna. Like Cavite, Laguna is traditionally oppositions, but on that Saturday of the President’s stump the crowds in Laguna made up for Cavite by being large and responsive. The traditionally oppositionist may spring a surprise this time around by going administration.
The tail-end of the campaign has had other surprises: the swelling pro-Marcos sentiment in supposedly rebellious academe; the Iglesia’s rumored junking of Serging. Yet the Ferdinand Marcos moving through the terminal hustings is a man increasingly bemused by the comedies of Philippine political campaigns. As he looks around at horde and hoopla the thought often crosses his mind that he would like to write a book on campaigns.
“I have the notes down in writing, indexed. Because I’ve been toying with the idea of writing such a book. It should make interesting reading.”
He would call the book “How To Win An Election Without Money” and it would be for all the young people dismayed by our money politics.
“In my mind, I think of such a young man, a young man disillusioned by the situation, the set-up, and asking: ‘How can I go into politics without money?’ That is one of the interesting possibilities we should look into.”
The answers would be partly based on Mr. Marcos’s experience. “I went into my first campaign without money; I won with only 5,000 bucks in my pocket.” And he won the 1964 NP presidential convention on, he says, practically nothing. “Everybody was expecting we would start buying. But what could you use for buying when you’re in the opposition?”
The main answer would have to be a reform of our political system, an abolition or editing of its greedier traditions. For example: “When we won the convention in 1964 our first problem was how to put up an organization. That means money.” Because, to have a nation-wide organization, one felt obliged to enlist every delegate to the convention. Yet it turned out that these delegates, even taken all together, did not represent the party as a whole, let alone the nation. “We discovered that, having them, we still did not have enough of a nucleus. A convention is supposed to be an assembly of party leaders, but many of these leaders did ot necessarily represent the stronger elements in the party; they might be there only because of election in a previous campaign.” Yet these delegates are one big reason every Filipino who goes into politics has to be loaded.
The President inists on his “heresy.”
“I am telling you that the delegates are not necessarily the stronger leaders of the party.”
What, then, is needed to make a convention at once more representative and less costly?
If Mr. Marcos is earnest, the next NP convention should really be heretical.
But first this campaign. As he winds it up the President himself doesn’t look winded. There are bags under his yes but a sparkle in the eyes and his tan has pink tones to it.
“Shall we say I am well-preserved? I have none of the minor vices. And, he concludes with a twinkle, “shall we say I have no heavy sins burdening me?”
By Napoleon G. Rama
Party strategists are junking old doctrines, Imelda is busy wooing votes for FM, Ninoy and Salonga are on the offensive for Serging.
November 1, 1969—THE old doctrines and certitudes on how to conduct and win a presidential campaign seem to be giving way to unorthodox theories. Many of the old notions and articles of faith on when, where and how to corral votes are collapsing.
One such notion is that a campaign of personal and platform persuasion just a month before Election Day is an exercise in futility. For by then, it is argued, the voters will have already made up their minds. Thus, the more rewarding strategy for the month immediately before the big day would be to consolidate party forces and refuel the political machine for mopping-up operations. But the way President Marcos and Senator Osmeña have been crisscrossing the country, raising fresh issues and hurling new charges at each other just a few weeks before Election Day, shows that they and their strategists have abandoned the old doctrine.
There seems to be sound logic behind the new strategy. A decade ago, transistor radios were as rare as Asian blondes. Television was a novelty and the TV audience was very limited. Now transistor radios are as common as coconut trees even in remote barrios. In the Visayas, tuba-gatherers climb palm trees with a transistor set strapped to their waist in order not to miss their favorite radio programs and commentators. And today, there are perhaps more TV and radio stations in the Philippines than in any other country its size. Now you can even hear two stations on one meter band.
Furthermore, a nationwide radio or even TV hook-up is no longer unusual. TV and radio audiences are now assured of receiving programs with few interruptions and little static, even in remote areas. Scientific breakthroughs, like the development of inexpensive videotape and tape recorders, have prompted the revision of campaign strategy and the updating of campaign timetables. To the electronics people, the new strategy is no surprise. They are also among the happiest people in the current campaign. One can build a radio station during the campaign and recoup his capital before Election Day.
Thanks to TV, radio, helicopters and fast planes ferrying the day’s newspapers, it’s never too late for a candidate to raise a new issue or throw a new bomba at his opponent.
The old notion was that it took at least two to three months before an issue or an idea could seep down to the vote-rich rural areas. Now you can talk about a Japanese businessman in Plaza Miranda and people in Jolo will be commenting on it the next day.
Last week, just three weeks before Election Day, the presidential candidates were still developing new election themes, minting new slogans and unwrapping new charges. There has been no letup in the punishing pace since the campaign officially started a few months ago. President Marcos was in Laguna and Leyte, hopping east to west and back; covering both Leyte provinces in an exhausting sweep that originally included Cebu and Iloilo. LP presidential candidate Serging Osmeña visited Negros Oriental, then leapfrogged to Siquijor Island before invading ube-shaped Bohol.
The Marcos persuaders announced in Leyte that the Iglesia Ni Cristo, the monolithic socio-politico-religious sect that claims a solid following of over 500,000, was all set to support Marcos. The Osmeña camp also let the nation know that an OK bandwagon trend was under way. President Marcos spoke of beefing up revenue allocations for the rural areas and bringing more progress to the barrios.
Osmeña went on television to detonate a new bomb—the “Balao Memo”—giving a new wrinkle to his Plaza Miranda reparations-kickbacks charge. President Marcos cited new achievements and enunciated what was billed as a new foreign policy touching on American bases and investments.
As of last week, the propaganda people of both camps were still setting up posters and billboards along the highways, on the theory perhaps that nowadays people travel more and farther.
One notable new feature of the current campaign is the uneven propaganda battle of billboards, leaflets, pins, buttons and television time. The battle of the billboards is no contest. The Marcos billboards far outnumber the OK signs. In fact, in many provinces, Osmeña billboards are nowhere to be seen.
Osmeña operates on the theory that billboards in the presidential contest serve little purpose. Billboards, he maintains, are necessary for the senatorial candidates because the voters are apt to forget some names in a field of 16. But in the presidential competition, Osmeña continues, no voter need be reminded of the names of the two protagonists.
The Marcos boys have another interpretation: “It’s simply that the OK camp hasn’t got the logistics.” To which taunt the Osmeña persuaders reply “since we haven’t got kickback money, we are using our logistics where they count most.”
All over the land, the landscape is dotted with Marcos or Marcos-Lopez billboards and streamers. The Marcos billboards are multi-colored, larger-than-life affairs, the largest and the most elaborate on the campaign scene, and perhaps the most expensive ever put up by any presidential candidate.
The November polls will put to the test Serging’s theory that billboards are of negligible importance in presidential elections. The outcome should settle a question of great interest to future budget-conscious presidential candidates. Billboards represent one of the biggest items in the candidate’s budgets. Confirmation of Serging’s theory would save future presidential aspirants a tidy sum.
While the propaganda contest is unequal in many other respects, the Osmeña persuaders are not far behind the administration drumbeaters in radio blurbs, jingles and commentaries. Because of limited resources, opposition propagandists take care to feature on radio and TV only effective impact programs or “spots.”
What has Malacañang worried is the phenomenal rating of a radio commentary program conducted by Cebu’s top radio commentator: Natalio Bacalso. Until the start of the current campaign Bacalso was a ranking official in the Malacañang Press Office. His program, which has been beamed in simultaneous broadcasts to all parts of the Visayas and Mindanao for the past several months, enjoys a fantastic rating: from 80 to 90 percent of all radio sets in most Cebuano-speaking provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Bacalso, a virtuoso on the platform, was top campaigner for Marcos in the Visayas and Mindanao in the 1965 elections. He had a falling out with the First Couple at the start of the current campaign and volunteered to campaign for Osmeña.
More than any single propaganda effort, it’s Bacalso’s radio commentaries, according to Malacañang intelligence reports, that are hurting the NP presidential campaign in Visayas and Mindanao. Indicative of Malacañang’s apprehension over his program and respect for Bacalso’s lethal gift of gab is the recent frantic attempt of administration men to woo Bacalso back into the fold, a little too late in the day. Bacalso’s astounding success as a political commentator is traced to his talent for working magic with the Cebuano language. The consensus among the political persuaders, LP and NP, is that Bacalso’s radio program is worth more than all the NP radio programs and gimmicks in the Visayas and Mindanao put together.
Bacalso’s success proves that it takes more than money and radio programs to achieve maximum propaganda impact. One good radio program is worth a hundred mediocre ones. The old saturation theory of radio propaganda may well be on its way out.
In the television battle, NP programs outnumber LP presentations 20 to 1. The NPs run several half-hour television political dramas featuring top television and movie stars. But the scripts, more often than not badly written, concentrate on name-calling and vulgar language instead of issues. Even Marcos partisans are critical of these programs.
Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, who is certainly not an Osmeña fan, is unhappy about such programs. Last week he wrote: “Radio, television and press propaganda can be overdone. The NP seem to be overdoing the media advertising and propaganda. The ‘overkill’ can work in reverse. As it is, the NP have a 90-10 advantage in media advertising. If the propaganda can be good all the time, well and good. But if the tempo or the quality declines some more, the preponderance of propaganda can boomerang.”
LP strategists meet the TV onslaught with one-minute spots depicting crime and poverty, and, occasionally, television interviews with the LP presidential candidate himself or top LP leaders. Newspaper columnists are agreed that Marcos is not as effective as Osmeña on TV. Here is columnist Apolonio Batalla of the Manila Bulletin on the two presidential candidates as TV performers: “The other evening we watched Senator Osmeña being interviewed on TV in a program sponsored by the UP Institute of Mass Communication. His manner was forthright, his answers were sensible and direct, and his exposition was simple and spontaneous.
“We also watched the President being interviewed in Malacañang. Although he revealed what to us is significant—the Philippine economy has ‘taken off’ (probably in the Rostovian context), he was as usual lisping and groping for words. The delivery of the message was not effective. He would create the impression that he was merely relaying the message and that he did not know much about it. Considering that he could have made capital of the ‘take-off’ study, his delivery was tragic….
“We have sneaking suspicion that the President declined the proposal of some student groups to share the same platform with his rival because he had been told that he would be no match for Osmeña on TV. In that case his advisers observed correctly. On TV, Osmeña would make mincemeat of the President.”
The observation is a bit exaggerated. But the point made has not been lost on the LP bright boys, who have scheduled more TV appearances for Osmeña.
Newspaper columnists and opinion-makers sympathetic to the incumbent President and the First Lady outnumber those inclined to Osmeña, 8 to 2. What is keeping the Cebu senator from being buried is his headline-baiting tactic of making provocative statements during his daily press conferences with newsmen covering his campaign.
“Some people have been complaining that Osmeña gets into the news more often than Marcos does,” said veteran newsman Feliciano Magno, whom the Daily Mirror assigned to cover the Osmeña campaign. “We can’t help it. Osmeña is quicker on the draw and makes superior, more newsworthy statements at press conferences.”
Imelda Marcos is still the most effective campaigner for the President. She has not lost her bewitching popular appeal. While she merely sang or delivered five-minute messages in 1965, now she goes campaigning on her own, accompanied only by some Blue Ladies, distributing goodies and making hour-long political speeches. Her enchanting style is said to have softened many Liberal leaders in the provinces.
Osmeña’s answer to Imelda is the potent LP duo, Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jovito Salonga, whose political oomph and oratorical skill have been mesmerizing the rally crowds. Ninoy has been making sorties to all parts of the country, plumping for Osmeña’s presidential bid. Osmeña has appointed him commander-in-chief of the Central Luzon campaign. Ninoy has promised to deliver the region’s votes to the Cebu senator.
One reason why the Tarlac senator is going out of his way to campaign for Osmeña is that Malacañang has threatened to file anti-subversion charges against him. Broad hints have been dropped that after the elections, Ninoy will face criminal charges for his alleged ties with the Huks.
Ninoy has not passed up any invitations to pro-Serging rallies, even in Osmeña country. Cebuanos are still talking about “the most dramatic platform performance” they have seen so far in the current campaign. At a rally early last week, an inspired Aquino appealed to Cebuano pride and ethnic sentiment so skillfully that instead of mere applause, he drew fervent cries of “Osmeña Kami!” from his Cebuano audience.
His electrically-charged pitch: “If we in Central Luzon, so far away from Cebu, are fighting and dying for the cause of your favorite son, Serging, there’s no reason why all the Visayans and all the Cebuanos should not unite for the victory of Osmeña this coming November.” His impassioned appeal simply bowled over Cebuanos, whether pro- or anti-Serging.
Salonga’s performance as Osmeña’s chief legal counsel in the Haruta case and his forays into the Tagalog provinces have alarmed NP tacticians. They had figured on a sulking Salonga, nursing the wounds acquired during the vice-presidential tussle, and having nothing to do with Osmeña’s presidential campaign. There was apprehension at NP headquarters when word came that Salonga was appearing at the LP Plaza Miranda rally, and consternation when he accepted the legal assignment and started campaigning in the Tagalog provinces for Osmeña.
But whether or not Ninoy and Salonga are effective enough to counteract Imelda and the inexhaustible resources of the Marcos camp remains to be seen.
A most interesting question that Election Day will answer is whether a well-oiled party machine, plus unlimited resources for politicking and propaganda, plus Imelda, plus the Ilocano vote, plus the P2,000 to barrio captains can be beaten by the poverty vote, plus the Cebuano vote, plus the Salonga-Aquino combine, plus charges of kickbacks aired by a presidential candidate running on a shoestring budget.
January 6, 1968
Man of the Year
WHO is the man of the year?
THE politician of the Year is, undoubtedly, President Ferdinand Marcos. He dominated the Nacionalista convention and six of his senatorial candidates for the Senate won in the elections. The overwhelming majority of the Nacionalista candidates for governor won, and the same is true of the Nacionalista candidates for city mayor. Since Marcos made his administration the principal issue in the elections, it may be said that, of all the winners, he is the greatest winner.
Why is Marcos not the Man of the Year? He has scored a tremendous political victory, but he has not solved any of the big problems that have beset the country since it gained political independence. Corruption is rampant in the government, and nepotism is more flagrant than ever. He has built roads, more roads than any of his predecessors, but it is only a beginning. Thousands of kilometers more of road must be built before the Philippines can be said to have an adequate road system. There is the “miracle rice,” but it was developed not under him but under previous administrations, and with American funds. Marcos was the Man of the Year two years ago, when he won against Diosdado Macapagal, who used all the power and money at his command to crush his rival—in vain. Marcos showed it was not enough to have money and power to remain in Malacañang. One must deserve to be there. But under Marcos as president… Here is a letter from a reader to The Manila Times which expresses much of what most people feel today:
“Life is so difficult nowadays. One ganta of rice costs over P2; movie prices have gone up; one small calamansi is worth 5 centavos. Even a trip to Baguio is now more costly; toll fees have been jacked up from P2 to P4.
“The Marcos administration is to be congratulated for its success in making the people believe that the situation is not as difficult as it really is. The President’s bright boys talk of ‘miracle rice’; but has the price of rice gone down? They build a Cultural Center; but, does this alleviate the plight of the poor? They plan grandiose state visits; but, will these visits make life a little more bearable? What the people need are bread and butter, not circuses fit for kings!”
If the candidates of Marcos won in the last elections, it was because the opposition had nothing better in the way of principles or candidates to offer the electorate. The voters were sick and tired of the old political vicious circle. If the candidates of the two major parties were interchangeable, why bother to vote or, if one must vote, why vote for the opposition—which was really no opposition at all, being no different from the party in power?
This is not to say that Marcos has not done some good as president, but so much more must be done that to name him Man of the Year is to lull him into complacency; it is not to drive him to do better. And he must do better if his administration is not to be, in the end, just another administration, no worse, no better, and not good enough.
Benigno Aquino, it has been suggested, should be the Man of the Year, for did he not win in spite of all the Marcos administration did to stop him? Aquino certainly came out well—second—in the senatorial election, but a lot of the credit must go to Malacañang, which did all it could to make a political martyr of Aquino. The stupidity of the Palace should not make anyone Man of the Year. Political Beneficiary of the Year, perhaps, but to be Man of the Year, one must have done something extraordinarily good for the people—or bad. One must be the cause of great social, economic, political, moral, scientific or some other kind of change. The victory of Aquino has changed nothing.
The Man of the Year is the late Senator Gaudencio Antonino.
Rejected by the Nacionalista convention because of his unrelenting campaign against the shameless and criminal allowances congressmen were giving themselves, Antonino ran as an independent candidate, died in a helicopter crash the day before Election Day—and the name “Antonino” was written on more ballots than the names of 14 living candidates of the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party. “Antonino” came out third in the senatorial race.
“I don’t have to win,” he said to the Free Press. “If I get a million and a half votes running on the issue of congressional allowances and running alone, congressmen will know how strong is the sentiment against congressional allowances. Imagine if I got more than two million votes—how would they dare vote themselves their old allowances? But if I don’t run, then the congressional allowances issue will be dead and they will vote themselves all kinds of allowances, in the Senate as well as in the House, without fear of the people’s anger. The issue will be politically dead with me.”
“You have a heart condition, I understand. You know what it will mean running alone. You will have to cover the entire country by yourself or try to. How can you stand it? Don’t you think of your family?”
“I have talked it over with my family and they agree I should run. If I have four years to live and I lose two, that will be all right by me. When I filibustered against congressional allowances in the Senate, there was a nurse with an oxygen tank standing by in case I had an attack.”
“I will not be a Nacionalista candidate nor a Liberal candidate but the candidate of the people, I will tell them. All they have to do is drop one and put me in his place if they want the fight against congressional allowances to go on. If I lose, they lose with me.”
Millions not only voted “Antonino” but also voted against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve as delegates to the constitutional convention without forfeiting their congressional office. Both the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party were for the proposed constitutional amendments; their sample ballots had “Yes” under each of the amendments, but millions disregarded the instruction. More congressmen would mean more congressional allowances, and with congressmen dominating the constitutional convention, it would be no different from Congress. Why hold a constitutional convention at all?
How much Antonino’s campaign against congressional allowances contributed to the overwhelming vote against increasing the number of congressmen and allowing them to serve at the same time as delegates to the constitutional convention, one cannot exactly tell, but it must have been a great deal. The nation owed Antonino much while he was alive and should remember him now that he is gone. He fought to reduce congressional allowances, ran as an independent and “won.” There will be the same number of congressmen, not more, and the constitutional convention will not be just another Congress—thanks, not a little, to him!
Gaudencio Antonino is the Man of the Year 1967.