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Men of the year, December 30, 2000

Free Press Cover Story
December 30, 2000

Men of the Year

Once and future heroes
by Manuel L. Quezon III

FOR their foolishness, their greed, their quarreling, and the consequences the end of their friendship has entailed for the Filipino people -pushing the nation to the brink of political chaos and submerging it into economic peril- Joseph Ejercito Estrada, president of the Philippines, and Luis Singson, governor of Ilocos Sur, are the FREE PRESS’s Men of the Year for 2000.

Theirs is the story of a friendship built on wine, women and song, on politics and plunder, a camaraderie that was the personification of traditional small-town ideas of fellowship based on shared vices; it is, most of all, the story of a friendship gone sour, and fatally so. Both for their respective political careers, and for the fortunes of the country they both claim to serve.

One must go back to the wild, wild west years before martial law to trace the origins of Joseph Estrada’s and Luis “Chavit” Singson’s famous friendship. According to Singson, their friendship began when then-actor Estrada used to go to Vigan on location for movie projects; the then- Vigan chief of police of with budding political ambitions became exposed to the man with whom he would become closer and closer: they discovered a common affinity for packing pistols and gambling high stakes, even as they drank and feasted and caroused with women. As the years progressed, each man climbed the ladder of political advancement: not in a leisurely, gentlemanly way, but with the sort of steely, iron-fisted determination that is essential for success in small-town and provincial politics. Singson, becoming governor of his province, and Estrada mayor of the municipality of San Juan, each facing challenges both legal and more sinister. Both would find security of tenure by making themselves fixtures of the martial law government, their positions ensured by their continued support for the dictatorship, and their seeming sinecures ended only by the upheaval that was the Edsa Revolution.

Like so many suddenly unemployed politicians, Estrada and Singson had to seek new employment and a vindication of their names by way of a new mandate. Singson would successfuly be elected as a Congressman representing his province while Estrada achieved election to the Philippine senate; after that, Singson would resume the governorship of his province while Estrada would rise even further and become Vice-President of the Philippines.

It is at this point that narrative must give way to reflection; for it would seem that it was in their very vindication by an electorate they they didn’t need during martial law, but to whom they turned with the restoration of democracy, that the seeds for the destruction of both their friendship and the reputation of the Estrada administration would be sown. If any lesson was meant to be taught by the removal of martial law-era local officials, it was a lesson easily ignored by the ability of the very same politicians to seek election and rise to even higher positions. Their personal fortunes intact, their power base threatened but not destroyed, and having had experience in premartial-law politics, there was no reason why the experience of the past could not be used to ensure their continued political future. And that is what the two men.

Unrepentant, with a new mandate, there seemed no reason to think that old tricks would be as useful in the newly-restored democracy of Aquino as it was in the Old Society and New Society of the various Marcos terms; everything would be business as usual. Singson would resume being a political kingpin in Ilocos Sur, and dynastic considerations taken care of in San Juan, Joseph Estrada, having refreshed the memories of voters with an anti-bases propaganda film, went on to the Vice-Presidency and was poised for capturing Malacanang.

Enter, once more, according to his own account, Chavit Singson, who played an active role in the Estrada presidential campaign. The election of Fidel Ramos in 1992 had already conditioned politicians and voters to calculate victory not in terms of building a formidable and overwhelming mandate, but in cobbling together enough resources to engineer a plausible plurality. Fidel Ramos himself had ridden to victory not because of some nation-wide bandwagon, but because his people were clever enough to do enough damage to his opponents to enable him to squeak through; indeed it would even be claimed that his accomplishment was to steal the election “fair and square.” The large number of presidential candidates in 1992 was matched by a mushrooming of “presidentiables” in 1998; with the crucial difference that while in 1992, the plausibility of Fidel Ramos was enhanced by suspicions of the mercurialness of his leading opponent in 1992, six years later the opponents of Joseph Estrada had to contend with the seeming inevitability of an Estrada victory based on predictions in the surveys.

Against Joseph Estrada his opponents hurled every possible defamation possible. But how could the charges hurled against him -of womanizing, of gambling, of fast and high living- be made to count in the already morally-debased atmosphere of the last years of the Ramos presidency? the Ramos administration had been plagued with its fair share of scandals involving graft; it had a terrible record as far as peace and order were concerned, a record not helped by the administration’s inability to either control Estrada in his role as crimefighter or play crimefighter itself; and Ramos himself seemed to be cursed with a genetic (because of his being related to the late dictator) Marcosian predisposition to keeping himself in power regardless of what the Constitution might say: not to mention the futility of accusations of womanizing being hurled against the Vice-President of a President whose supposed mistress had made herself a power broker and a leading figure in Manila’s always morally-ambivalent high society.

In such an atmosphere of naked ambition and moral indifference, the presidential ambitions of Joseph Estrada, which seemed so remote in 1987, the year he was expelled from the mayoralty of San Juan, not only seemed inevitable, but also appropriate. After a little over of six years of sincere, piously Catholic, but at times muddled and naive administration under Aquino, and another six years of an energetic, self-pleased, but crass, clever but fatally weak Ramos administration, enough of the electorate was convinced that it had nothing to lose under a President who didn’t hide his vices, who didn’t pretend he was clever, and whom everyone knew was a tough guy. After the bland corporate-style leadership of Ramos, the country seemed ready for a rejuvenating populism; and it was this populism which told the electorate that here was a man with all the defects of the Filipino masses writ large,  in contrast to his opponents who had all the defects of the Filipino patriciate writ large, who deserved their votes.

If all elections involve myth-making, then the election of Joseph Estrada involved myth-making on a truly, well, mythical scale. The heroes of Edsa were tarnished; so why not turn to a folk hero? The so-called old rich were against him; so why not glory in his being a self-made millionaire surrounded by other self-made millionaires? Here was a small-town leader prepared to provide small-town style leadership after 12 years of elite rule; here was a man who spoke the language of the people and who could claim that he could eat with his hands and swagger down the street, in a way that hadn’t been seen since Magsaysay. Here was the underdog who could be a winner.

And he won, without having to steal the election, thanks to ten million votes that were enough to negate the tens of millions of other votes divvied up between his opponents, none of whom had his charisma and rapport with not just the masses, but even the middle and upper class. His supporters crowed that he received the largest number of votes in Philippine history, while ignoring the uselessness of this statistic in a nation that has an ever-growing population -for his percentage of the votes, while respectable, only served to underline the fact that 6 out of 10 voters had been against him.

Still, the myth had endured; it had been added to. And in true small-town style, there would be no magnanimity in victory. The Estrada of bacchanalian tastes would be the President Estrada who would exact revenge, Roman in zest if not in scope, on his enemies. And reward, in equally determined fashion, his friends and benefactors.

Enter, once more, Chavit Singson, Estrada’s point man in negotiating alliances with Singson’s fellow governors. With Estrada’s victory would come what he and Singson perceived as approval of their attitude toward governance and the conduct of not just their public, but private lives. Like their political revivals after Edsa, Estrada’s victory in 1998 would come to be seen as a referendum, overwhelmingly approved, on Estrada the man: how often would he be quoted by insiders as saying, in response to any criticism, “They voted for me, let them adjust to me”. The slogan of the new administration might be “Erap para sa mahirap,” but as more and more would complain, the real guiding principle of the administration seemed to be the gambler’s view that the winner takes all.

The defects of Estrada’s larger-than-life personality, while perhaps a strength on the hustings, proved to be the defects of his administration. Everything was done apparently on a whim; a country used to mercurial presidents suddenly found itself with a president both mercurial and without a strong work ethic. The President would be, as all presidents with strong characters tend to be, the fountain of all patronage; but it was patronage dispensed without rhyme or reason, purely, it was whispered, on the basis of who could whisper into the President’s ear while he caroused and sank karaoke until the early morning. Much has been written about the Estrada administration being an administration within an administration. But what concerns us here is the role Chavit Singson played in what has come to be known as the “midnight cabinet”.

Having placed his bets on his friend Estrada, and with Estrada having taken the biggest gamble of his life -and having won big- it was time for Chavit Singson to cash in his chips and collect his share of the winnings. Singson was to have his cut: and he was given it. That cut was control -call it “supervision”- of jueteng. The story of how Singson was given his racket, and peddled influence both to serve his own interests and that of the President, has been discussed at length elsewhere. What is important to consider, however, is how Singson was among the most important among the hardy crowd of drinkers and gamblers and womanizers that surrounded the President. People whose continued influence was dependent not on what they could offer the President by way of skills in government, but simply by virtue of their sharing the tastes and physical endurance of the President.

If Chavit Singson was the loyal courtier, then the President, at least according to his enemies and friends, held office in the manner that the Aga Khan: his attitude that tribute and lavish gifts were his right and due because of the position he held. The coming rift between Singson and the President could be traced to this attitude, which became offensive even to his closest friends and more intimate allies; this was a man who had forgotten two crucial “Asian values”: gratitude and face.

Machiavelli wrote that it is better for a prince to be feared than loved, and woe to the prince who tries to be both feared and loved but fails to achieve either. The story of the souring of the Estrada-Singson friendship is the story, at least as told by Singson, of a President who liked to throw money and privileges at his friends while reserving the lion’s share of both for himself. And whose caprices and appetites repeatedly led him to discarding the friends who could not pay the President the tribute he felt he deserved. Having been rewarded with the supervision of the illegal numbers racket, Singson was tasked with ensuring the President received his cut. It was the tried-and-true Marcosian manner of handing out monopolies in order to delegate the amassing of illegal wealth while giving cronies a cut of the action. However, where Marcos had operated subtly and cunningly and with attention to detail, Estrada, at least as Singson has described it, acted in the grand manner, without thought of the consequences of his decisions, and without caring how things were done, as long as Estrada got his cut: and while Marcos would skim here and there, the President would insist on more and more, the quicker the better. And while Marcos would, upon seeing an ally becoming ineffectual or acting suspicious, allow the preservation of a small racket or too to enable the once-useful ally to save face, Estrada, again according to Singson, would simply lose interest and turn over what was once a particular cronies’, lock stock and barrel, to another one.

If there is the truism that in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests, then Chavit Singson should not have been surprised to reach the point where his once close friend would decide he had outlived his usefulness. What he did find surprising, and perhaps doubly so because of their being contemporaries who had seen Marcos at work, was the way President Estrada apparently thought he could deprive his friend of a monopoly and leave him no other racket by way of a face-saving compensation. Upset over the way Atong Ang had not only eclipsed him, but seemed bent on reducing him to political impotence and even financial danger, Singson appealed to the President’s sense of friendship, fairness and amor propio -and found himself the target of presidential indifference and hostility. Faced with the humiliating circumstances surrounding his fall from grace, it was not surprising in turn that Singson decided to reward a betrayal with a betrayal of his own. A betrayal that, having begun as a last-ditch face-saving threat, became the cause for a vendetta when Singson saw himself targeted for liquidation. For when Singson saw that as far as the President was concerned, a useless friend was no longer even a friend, but someone expendable, he decided to make true his threat to go public and make a dramatic expose of the inner workings of the administration.

It is important to note that by his own confession, Singson viewed going public as his last card; he gave the President every chance to reach an accommodation that would enable Singson to save face and retire quietly to the sidelines. Emissary after emissary from the President came to Singson but could not offer him anything beyond an offer to liquidate Atong Ang, the President’s ambitious Chinese chum who was the cause of Singson’s fall from favor. However, the elimination of Ang would not solve Singson’s pressing needs -such as how to cover up the missing millions Singson said he filched from provincial funds and passed on to the President- and did nothing to undo the humiliating farming out of gambling license concessions in Singson’s own province to his political opponents. Singson said he was constrained to refuse; and such was the bad faith of the President or his people that Singson would soon after only narrowly escape assassination.

It was the attempt on his life that convinced Singson that he had to burn his bridges with the administration and go public. If seeking the Presidency was the greatest gamble of Joseph Estrada’s life, the attempt on Singson’s life would, in turn, lead Singson to taking the biggest gamble of all: providing the ammunition the President’s ever-growing number of opponents needed to disgrace him and shove him out of office.
When Chavit Singson went to town and told the public that he had been in league with the President in tolerating and using illegal gambling, he became the first prominent person close to the President who, for whatever reason, had finally dared to do what so many have been hoping would be done: point a finger at the President and call him a crook, a liar, and a thief.

That a man so close to the President should have been driven to doing what he did, served as the gravest and most damning indictment of the President himself. A good man, a good President, an honest and sincere Chief Executive would not be reeling from accusations of the sort Singson began hurling about, simply because people would have know, instinctively, that such charges were ludicrous.

But when Singson started talking to the press, the public’s reaction was the opposite of what it should have been if the President was everything the Palace spokesmen and the President claimed was the case. The fact was that people believed Singson. They believed Singson, more or less, because what he said seemed so plausible. And this is the reason why the President henceforth was always to be on the defensive: the Estrada of many weaknesses had already been seen, in less than two years, to be an Estrada of enormous appetites and an even vaster ego. When Singson said he had pleaded for a way out, a little consideration, and had received none, instead inviting a gangland-style rubout upon himself, the picture he painted of Estrada was one people had gotten all too familiar with. The very appetites that had once been considered strengths were now revealed as what they were: flaws and liabilities in every respect.

A remarkable transformation took place in the political landscape; it was as if Singson had abandoned the field in a crucial moment of the battle, and thereby started a rout. Seemingly overnight, far fewer people were frightened of Estrada. What had been whispered was now freely discussed in the press and by the public. The President flinched when he saw businessmen, journalists, the middle class, intellectuals and even the ordinary man on the street, not to mention churchmen, all of whom, as individual sectors he had managed to either bully or appease into an uneasy acceptance of his administration, suddenly declare him morally unfit for office. He could scoff, as he did scoff, that they were being hypocrites; but it was he who began to be viewed as the bigger hypocrite. For his flaws, though public, had never been connected with criminality and contempt for the law; his tastes, while known to be lavish, were always seen as fueled by his own personal fortune, gainfully made; now the Presidential fortune, it was alleged, was the fruit of crass and demeaning graft and corruption and gangsterism: no President, however crooked, had ever deigned to accept money from illegal gambling. Now here was the President of the Republic taking the dirtiest of dirty money, for it came from the small-time wagers of the very poor he said he had come to free from misery.

What would ensue was the transformation of Chavit Singson into the good crook; the crook who, staring death in the face, decides he might as well redeem himself by confessing his wrongdoings. His motivations of revenge and resentment over losing face and his longtime friend, the President showing no gratitude, Filipinos readily understood and sympathized with. While known as a typical crooked politician, he became the politician who was willing to blow the whistle; and the country gloried in his every lurid revelation.

In contrast, the Joseph Estrada who had been seen as a tough guy with compassion for the poor was seen to be a man who didn’t even have compassion for his partners in crime; the accusations of widescale graft and corruption in his government only served to underline the disparity between the administration’s rhetoric and what was going on in secret; and the President’s tactical mistakes -his silence, marred by occasional sallies on radio and television that became the despair of his lawyers because of the way he refused to keep to the script they prepared for him, and then the perception he refused to face his accusers, preferring, instead, to hide behind his frustrated lawyers- eroded the image of Estrada the straight-talking, blunt and courageous man. If his image and popularity were built on the myth that here at least was a politician who was unashamed of his weaknesses and compensated for them with courage and conviction, then the revelations of Singson quickly and effectively dispelled that myth.

An ironic reversal of roles thus took place. Where once Singson was a not particularly respected and indeed, notorious official, he became a hero; and where once Estrada was hero to many, he was suddenly seen as a poor caricature of his mentor, Ferdinand Marcos. Where once no one was afraid to call the President’s bluff, Singson ended up calling the President’s bluff -and the President folded. Just as he had folded time and again every time he tried to bully his opponents into submission, over giving Marcos a heroes’ burial, amending the Constitution, and muzzling the press. Here was a man standing up to the President, and hundreds of thousands rushed to his aid.

It would be Chavit Singson who would manage to steal the role that had successfully catapulted Estrada to the presidency. Chavit Singson, henceforth, would be the underdog, the maligned man fighting for his survival. It would be Estrada who would now be painted as the villain with immense wealth and power using every means, fair or foul, to get rid of his enemy and humiliate him. This turned out to be a reversal of roles incomprehensible to Joseph Estrada, action star. He had never played the role of a villain, on or off camera. Yet here he was, now, being demonized by his opponents.

Like Ferdinand Marcos, too long used to commanding and getting his way, Estrada would refuse to accept that the public’s perception of him had changed, perhaps irrevocably. He continued to sally forth, pleading that he was misunderstood, maligned, slandered; and yet the old lines didn’t work anymore. The more he protested innocence, the harder his supporters worked to prevent what he himself said he wanted: a chance to vindicate himself. And the more his supporters failed to derail the attempts to impeach and try the President, the hollower the rhetoric sounded, and the more admirable Singson became in the eyes of the public.

The result is that, as the year 2000 draws to a close, President Estrada finds himself being cast in a role he was never prepared to play, all the while insisting he is still the Asiong Salonga, the Filipino robin hood of the slums, that made him famous. But it is Chavit Singson who has adopted that role; the President finds himself reduced to the role of the old mafia don screaming for revenge as his hit men stumble over each other in confusion. All the while, protesting to the a press he once bullied, and a civil society whose moderate conventions he had defied once too often and too flagrantly, that he was still a good, well-meaning yet highly misunderstood man.

Yet it is the President who does not understand himself; and it is Singson, strangely enough, who has revealed a better understanding of the psychology of the Filipino, than Estrada the so-called man of the masses. Estrada, history may come to judge, placed all his eggs in one basket, ignoring the need to cultivate enough support to at least keep sectors that might mobilize against you, divided. Sector upon sector has united in defiance of the President, in support, whether moderate or enthusiastic, of the President’s accuser; leaving the President only his vaunted masses to cling to.

What the masses will do still remains to be seen; the daily round of revelations in the impeachment court, however, have been closely followed by the masses; and where once they were disposed to give the President the benefit of the doubt, it may turn out more and more are inclined to believe the allegations of his accusers. For Chavit Singson’s new role as underdog  has been strengthened by a supporting cast of witnesses who have gained the public’s admiration for standing up to the administration. An administration, no one should forget, personified by the President.

they rose up together, they could have enjoyed six years of eating, singing, gambling and wenching together; instead, after less than three years, the party has come to an end, the friendship is gone, and only one man, either President Joseph Estrada or Luis “Chavit” Singson, will remain standing when the crisis comes to an end. As Singson has said so many times, there was no reason for things to come to this. The President had a chance to settle matters, but he preferred to kick his friend when he was down. As so many Filipinos have discovered, from all walks of life, that is one thing you never do to someone you used to call a friend. The man who knows your weaknesses is the man best able to turn that knowledge into an instrument of revenge.

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Corazon Aquino: Person of the Century, December 30, 1999

Philippines Free Press Person of the Century:
Corazon C. Aquino

By Manuel L. Quezon III

December 30, 1999–YEAR after year, for nearly three generations, the Philippines FREE PRESS has bestowed the distinction of Man or Woman of the Year on the Filipino who has had the most influence on the country for the year in question. Over the past 91 years of its existence, this magazine has seen leaders come and go; it has seen them rise and fall; and it knows, as no other institution can, which leaders have made a positive difference in the destiny of the Philippines and its people. Having covered leaders, having seen them up close -faults, foibles, virtues and all- the FREE PRESS knows that the leaders (and the leadership) that counts is what the American writer Garry Wills defined as “Trinitarian”: not just the push and pull between a leader and his followers, not merely the stories of people who have had great numbers either pushing them forward or being hectored onward by them, but rather the leaders who mobilized “others toward a goal shared by leader and followers.” As Wills points out, “one-legged and two-legged chairs do not, of themselves, stand. A third leg is needed. Leaders, followers, and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.”

Of the leaders entitled to consideration as the Philippines Free Press’s Person of the Century a short list of six comes to mind: Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Ramon Magsaysay, Claro M. Recto, Ninoy Aquino and Corazon Aquino. All of them were leaders, successful in their political careers and admired by their contemporaries; they had followers and they had goals which their followers shared. All of them have been both hailed and lambasted in the pages of this magazine over the years. And yet, time and again throughout its long history, the FREE PRESS has always returned to these leaders as exemplars of positive leadership –in contrast to that other Filipino, Ferdinand E. Marcos, who affected our lives and our history completely negatively: he was, after all, a leader, and had followers; but his goals, many of them achieved only at gunpoint, were rejected by the majority of his people.
(more…)

Gaudencio Antonino, Man of the Year, 1967

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.”

He concluded:

“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.

Ferdinand E. Marcos, Man of the Year, 1965

January 1, 1966

Man of the Year


The Man Who Always Wanted To Be First Now Occupies the Highest Post In the Land. Will He Be “First” Among Our Country’s Presidents?


By Napoleon G. Rama

Staff Member

TO BE on top and to stay at the top has been Ferdinand Edralin Marcos’ lifetime dream. In school, he was always at the head of his class; in the bar examinations, he was top-notcher; during the war years, he was, according to army records, the bravest among the brave, the most be-medaled soldier; in the House of Representatives, he was minority floor leader; in the Senate, he was the Senate President; in the Liberal Party, he was party president; in the Nacionalista Party, he was standard-bearer; in Ilocandia, of course, he is the supreme political leader.

Today he occupies the highest post in the nation. He is President of the Republic of the Philippines.

Since boyhood, he has been striving for the top with the soaring ambition and nerve of a pole-vault champion.

It was not merely the natural gift of a superior intellect that made him Numero Uno wherever he went. Nor was Lady Luck the primary factor. In Philippine politics, there are other politicos brighter and on the whole luckier than he.

But Ferdinand E. Marcos has other attributes more effective and rewarding than just brains—a will of steel, unflinching resolve and a passion for planning, planning, planning. It seems nothing ever happens to Ferdinand E. Marcos without his knowledge and consent. In politics at least, everything that has happened to him he knew beforehand: he had planned and prepared for it. (His biographer, Hartzell Spence, would dramatize the point by suggesting, albeit half-seriously, that Marcos had something to do with the timing of his entry into the world. “Ferdinand Edralin Marcos,” wrote Spence in the opening sentence of his worshipful book, For Every Tear A Victory, “was in such a hurry to be born that his father, who was only eighteen years old himself, had to act as midwife. In fact, young Ferdinand scarcely waited for his parents to graduate from normal school before he put in his appearance, thus bringing to light a secret marriage.”)

But to separate fable from fact, no politician has assiduously made a fetish of preparing for his political career years in advance. Marcos charted his political course from the House of Representatives to the Senate, to the presidency of the LP and, finally, to the presidency of the Republic. Every political move by Marcos has been a conscious, calculated maneuver, executed according to a meticulous, carefully-studied plan.

Regarding the presidency, he didn’t only draw up a master plan, he also had a timetable with such specifics as when he would become president. Ilocanos now recall how, years back, Marcos, without batting an eyelash, would assure them in the town plazas that he would give them a president in 1965. He did.

Few presidents can boast of a perfect score on their entire political careers. President Marcos is one of them. Never has he suffered anything that might amount to a political setback. He has never lost an election. From the start his career has been one continuous climb, at turns smooth or rough, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always upward.

Not once in his entire career as parliamentarian in both chambers of Congress, one now recalls, was Marcos ever caught unprepared in a debate or in a floor maneuver during the periodic power struggles. In a TV debate with the country’s sharpest debater, Arturo Tolentino, on Harry Stonehill’s deportation—a topic heavily loaded in favor of the opposition then—Marcos, as president of the LP, ably held his ground, turned expected disaster into a creditable defense of the LP’s precarious position—thanks to a cool intellect, eloquence, and intensive research and preparation.

When President Macapagal started to hem and haw on his promise to let him take over as party standard-bearer in the 1965 elections, the Ilocano politico had already drafted a plan to deal with DM’s turnabout. His strategy was to capture the Senate presidency and make common cause with the opposition, thus checkmating Macapagal.

With the armor of the Senate presidency, he was able to blunt Macapagal’s deadly thrusts and escape a political beheading at the height of LP power. He waited until it was safe to tangle with the President. When the tide turned against Macapagal in the last two years of the New Era, Marcos charged and took on the party in power.

He resolved to hold on to the Senate presidency at all costs until the end of the session in 1965. “In case our plan to win over Senator (Alejandro) Almendras failed,” said a Marcos lieutenant, “our boss had two other emergency plans ready for implementation, which would have kept him in the top Senate post just the same.”

Marcos had it all figured out. He knew that the NPs would be disposed to deal with him only as long as he remained head of the powerful Senate. He knew only too well that only as Senate President would he be able to crash the NP national convention and elbow aside the NP’s homegrown presidential aspirants. All through the tumultuous years of his incumbency as Senate President, Marcos turned down the most tempting offers, ignored all threats endured all sorts of political buffetings just so he could remain Senate boss until the end of the 1965 session. His ability to plan and think ahead paid off.

Three years ago we asked his favorite brother-in-law why Marcos, unlike his colleagues in Congress, shunned the social circuit, preferring to stay home curled up with a book or immersed in his papers in his library.

“He is preparing himself for the presidency,” replied Kokoy Romualdez with disarming candor. “He has a timetable and it’s already due. He also plays golf every day,” Romualdez volunteered the information. “He wants to keep fit for the rigorous presidential campaign.”

Three years ago all speculation about the president of the majority party running as standard-bearer of the minority party would have been branded wild and wishful thinking. The prospects for Marcos in the LP were quite bleak—the incumbent President then had let it be known that early that he had preempted the LP presidential nomination.

On November 9, 1965, Marcos defeated the reelectionist candidate of the party in power.

Marcos’ favorite reading fare is politics and economics. He has read and re-read all the books about the “making” of presidents in the United States. On the average he finishes two books a day. “He still does it,” said his Press Secretary Jose Aspiras, “despite his heavy schedule as President-elect.”

“Politics,” Marcos once said, “is my life.” He has been boning up on economics, “because the country’s main problems are economic in nature.”

For all the experts’ intricate analyses of what makes Marcos tick, his formula for success is nothing complicated or tricky. He simply made the Boy Scout motto his own: Be prepared. He saw and prepared, came and conquered. He planned and fought his way to the top. He is the FREE PRESS’ Man of the Year, the man who dominated the news in 1965.

In the 1965 presidential elections he demonstrated beyond any doubt that he had more political savvy than all the political pros in both parties put together. Of course, he had in his favor some pre-fabricated votes—the Ilocano Vote, the Iglesia ni Cristo vote, the protest vote. Any opposition presidential candidate who is also an Ilocano, it may be argued, would have little trouble corralling these bloc votes.

But his winning the presidential elections was certainly not the most astounding or the most difficult of his political feats. Far more awe-inspiring than this achievement was his maneuver that transported him from the top echelon of the party in power to the top of the ladder of the opposition party—from president of the LP to presidential standard bearer of the NP. It is doubtful if this feat has been duplicated in any democracy anywhere else in the world.

To win the NP presidential nomination, Marcos had to face and fight a formidable galaxy of NP political giants, joust with them in their own home grounds, under their own terms and rules of the game—and using their own men and votes.

To beat them in the NP convention, he had to woo strangers and old, embittered political foes. For two decades, Marcos had been an aggressive and ardent Liberal leader tangling in every election with the NPs and, in his own political bastion in the North, making life for the NP leaders miserable during all these years.

These were the conventionists that he had to woo and win in the last NP national convention. He won them over, and after that singular feat at the Manila Hotel Fiesta Pavilion, his followers felt certain that he would surmount whatever political obstacles still lay in his path. Even his victory in the presidential elections was an anti-climax.

A politician’s political skill can be measured not only by the enemies he has licked but also by the enemies he has won over. During his early days in the Nacionalista Party and even after the convention and during the campaign, Marcos had to deal with formidable foes in the NP hierarchy.

At the lowest ebb of his campaign a number of top NPs refused to endorse him publicly. In private, they actively opposed his candidacy. He was fighting the elections on two fronts—within the party and without. He succeeded in winning over his NP detractors toward the end. That he succeeded in doing so revealed the quality of the man. He had what it takes to win the presidency—leadership.

To the known factors that propelled him to the summit—the protest vote against the administration, the Iglesia Ni Cristo vote, the Ilocano vote, and Imelda, his wife, who, more than any one individual (except Eraño Manalo), earned more votes for Marcos in the last campaign—one more element might be added. . . Marcos’ political leadership, which welded all these factors together and set them in motion.

What kind of president will Marcos make?

His friends are quick to point out that more than anything else, the popular appeal that Marcos inspired in the last polls would ensure  his success as president of the nation. The post-election picture of Marcos himself is one aglow with confidence. Didn’t he lick the party in power? Didn’t he rally the Nacionalistas around him? Hasn’t he proved his ability and determination to conquer tremendous odds, hurdle all kinds of obstacles?

But this analysis is but half of the picture. A president faces not just the problems of his party, the problems of certain sectors of the population, the problems of an election campaign, the problem of winning votes. A president carries the burden of the nation—all the national problems, including those inherited from past centuries and those to come in the next four years.

No past president knew what he was up against until he found himself in the chair of power in Malacañang. True, Marcos as president has tremendous powers. He is now the most powerful man in the country. At his disposal are the prerogatives and authority bestowed on him by the Constitution and the laws.

But soon he will discover, as all presidents before him discovered, that these tremendous presidential powers have built-in restraints. Too late President Macapagal, by his own admission, came to grief with this truth. For one, the great powers of the president carry greater responsibilities. Presidential responsibilities tend to abridge presidential authority.

It was easy for Marcos, as opposition candidate, to damn the administration for trying to raise taxes and promise not to increase them or create new ones. He will soon find out that, as a president responsible for providing the people with essential services, for keeping the government and its programs in operation, his pre-election promises are not so easy to keep.

How does one keep prices down under the decontrol program, with a million new mouths to feed every year? How does one begin employing the four million or more unemployed? Where does one get the homes for the legions of homeless?

There is the unfortunate notion, held by the mass of our people, that a presidential election or rather its results will solve most, if not all, of the problems of the nation. Some of the friends of Marcos seem to have this belief. It is time the minds of the people were disabused of this notion. There’s no telling how the people would react to another let-down, another disenchantment with the president of their choice.

Things are going to be worse before they are going to be better, said the late John F. Kennedy when he assumed the U.S. presidency.

To start off on the right foot, a president must at least try to learn from the mistakes of past presidents. To promise happy days ahead as the New Era had promised the electorate is the surest way to erode public confidence in the new administration.

This is not to say that Marcos is bound to fail as president. He has one quality, it must be admitted, that might turn the trick, bring about the miracle—leadership. But even the most dynamic and heroic leader will not be able to provide instant happiness for the country under present conditions. Not in the next two years, anyway. Marcos is no superman. He can only do so much. The sooner we faced up to this fact, the better for the country.

But the friends of Marcos have one comforting thought to offer. The new President, says a Marcos confidant, was “the most maligned” presidential candidate ever—“He was charged with all kinds of crimes during the campaign. As a result, he will try his best to become the best President the country has ever had. He is out to prove to our people that he is not what he has been painted to be.”

The motive may not be exactly orthodox. But in an age of cynicism and disenchantment, in a country grown weary with politicians’ promises, motives and intentions are of secondary importance. Results, concrete achievements are what count. Whatever his motives, if President Marcos performs well, a grateful people will thank him and future historians will reserve him a permanent niche in the annals of our country.

The new President seems to be obsessed with the word “great.” His battle cry in the last campaign was: “This country can be great again!” The title of his inaugural speech, he told this writer, is “Challenge to Greatness.” His intimates say that his burning ambition now is to go down in history as a “great president.”

Now that the elections are over, the big task is nation-building. What his foes and critics said of him before the election should not matter now that the people have spoken. He has been given the mandate. If he performs well, soon everybody will forget what has been said of him. But if he falls down on the job—then he will have to worry about what his critics said of him. The people will remember him as he had been painted by his enemies. Thus, what is important for him and the country is that he do an excellent job in Malacañang.

The Man of the Year faces his biggest test in the next four years. In essence, the challenge the new President confronts is not new at all: more good government and less politics.

Will he pass the test? Time, a philosopher has remarked, is the fastest thing in the world. The Macapagal era is over. The Marcos regime has begun. Soon the history of this administration will be written—a record of futility and ignominious shame, or a testament to Filipino pride and greatness.

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

MAN OF THE YEAR

January 6, 1962

by  NAPOLEON G. RAMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Big Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brightest Virtue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new President once told the FREE PRESS:

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

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

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

 

 

Joaquin Elizalde: Free Press Man of the Year for 1940

January 4, 1941
Joaquin Elizalde: Man of the year

By James G. Wingo
Free Press Correspondent in Washington

In 1938 the opportunity to have a representative in Washington able to handle the increasingly important U.S.-Philippine economic and trade problems presented itself to President Quezon. Taking advantage of it, the Philippine chief executive, despite bitter opposition from varied quarters, picked for resident commissioner polo-playing, socially attractive Joaquin “Mike” Elizalde, one of the Islands’ topnotch business executives.

U.S. and Philippine businessmen hailed the appointment as a step toward better U.S.-Philippine relations because of his vast economic experience in private business and in the government.
(more…)

Looking back on the year of hare-splitting, Man of the Year, 1933

January 6, 1934

Looking back on the year of hare-splitting

By James G. Wingo

 

ON THE Philippine scene 1933 was fated to be nothing but a political year with much wrangling, squabbling, bickering and hairsplitting among the acknowledged leaders of the land over a piece of legislation passed by the last lame duck congress of the United States in its final convulsions and willed to the Philippine people as a left-handed bequest. This measure was fathered by a mediocre lame duck from the backward Carolinas, who was chairman of the lower house’s committee on insular affairs. His name was Hare, Butler B. Hare. After him must be named the year through which we have passed. Without a grain of salt your historian christens 1933 the year of Hare-splitting.

In the events of 1933, a little, thin, wizened, sharp-faced light-complexioned, graying man in his fifties played the leading dramatic role. He was the man of destiny. Upon him depended the fate of 13,000,000 people. Any gesture or remark he made was destined to go down in history. No Filipino can present better claims to be the Man of the Year than Manuel Luis Quezon, president of the Philippine senate. He outshone Sergio Osmeña in almost every political skirmish in the year of Hare-splitting.