Home » Posts tagged 'Manuel Roxas'
Tag Archives: Manuel Roxas
Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin
by Manuel L. Quezon III
January 26,2002—ANECDOTES told by those who knew him in his prime assure me that Teodoro M. Locsin was a man who possessed a sense of humor, indeed a sense of fun, even what could be said to be an impish wit. He liked good drink and song; we all know he wrote well. But it is the elusiveness of this characteristic that has always intrigued me. If the sons of a man are any reflection of the father, then the assurances given me by my elders that Teddy Locsin, Sr. had a sense of humor must be true; one only has to see his two elder sons to know they have a sense of humor in spades. Yet Teddy Locsin, Sr., if one depends on his writings, comes across as a man of manic anger, of near-hysterical indignation. That was the public man, the crusading journalist.
He described himself, many years ago, reminiscing right after the death of a close friend and recalling the days of Liberation then merely a few years back:
“We had,” he wrote in 1949, recalling the time before the FREE PRESS reopened after being shut down by the Japanese, “with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side.”
Teddy Locsin, Sr. was famous –or infamous, depending on who was reading his editorials and articles and who was being attacked in them– for “jumping on people.” His was the the anger of the man who had fought for his country as a guerrilla; his was the highly-developed moral conscience inculcated by his love of books and the mentorship of Robert McCullough Dick; his was the mind of a poet turned to penning the philippics and jeremiads of a reformist, a man who would give and take no quarter as he was proxy for Juan de la Cruz in fighting corruption, stupidity, cupidity and avarice in and out of government.
Yet there is one instance of his writing reflecting a wit, though, since written as a journalist, the merciless kind of wit. One of my favorite pieces is one he wrote on then Senatorial Candidate Pacita M. Warns on October 22, 1955.
He began the piece self-deprecatingly, writing, that when it came to tackling controversies involving women leaders, “It is difficult to write critically about a woman. Whether you are right or wrong makes no difference; you are being hard, it will be said, on the weaker sex. At the same time, it isn’t fair that just because a woman occupies an office, it should be above reproach. Where does chivalry end and civic duty begin? One cannot always tell. A gentleman has been defined as one who never inflicts pain; a newspaperman sometimes seems to do nothing else but inflict it. It is no use arguing, with people and with oneself, that it is a job that must be done. ‘How can you be so cruel to a lady!’ is the first and last reaction. And when the official, upon meeting you, instead of scratching your eyes out, speaks of the high standard of your paper and how, in only this case, it has fallen from that high standard, how she has admired your writing and thought you a man of principles, fair and objective in your reporting, and how disappointing that you have been less than fair and objective in dealing with her, what a gentleman she always thought you were, and look at you now—as she goes on heaping compliments and reproaches on your head, what can you do but say, ‘I am a dog?’”
In the process of the interview, the self-deprecation remained even as he let his subject pillory herself:
“. . . .Last Wednesday, we had an interview with Mrs. Warns. It was arranged by an officer of the SWA, Victor Baltazar, who came to the office and asked us if we would talk things over with the former SWA head. Certainly, we said.
“We met Mrs. Warns at the Jai Alai Keg Room. With her were Baltazar and two women connected with SWA. With us was Melecio Castaños of the FREE PRESS….”
Locsin asked a question concerning the controversy of the day: “How about those pictures of yours which we saw in the SWA? They were glamour shots and were autographed. Is the SWA supposed to distribute them?”
And Mrs. Warns replied, “Oh, they are my personal property, left there when I resigned. People kept asking for my pictures while I was administrator. The poor pasted them on the wall of their huts alongside the picture of the Virgin Mary. . . .”
Locsin writes that he responded,”No.” And the interview goes on to its –to this writer, anyway– hilarious conclusion:
“Yes.” [replied Mrs. Warns] “ If you could only see how the poor greet me wherever I go! They kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.”
“’Do they really paste your picture along that of the Virgin Mary?’
“’You may find it hard to believe, but they do. If you could come with me, I would show you. . . . Ah, you do not know what it is like to be poor! If you had lived with them, eaten with them, seen how wretched they are, you would understand how they feel toward me, why they would paste my picture beside that of the Virgin Mary and kiss my hand and tell their children to kiss the hem of my dress.’
“Speechless, we listened. She went on.
“’I have always admired the FREE PRESS for its crusading spirit and I have read your articles and thought you to be fair, just, principled newspaperman and when you do not even give me a chance to explain. . . .’
“’But I did give you a chance. I called you up, you will remember, and you told me you did not know how much the SWA spent for photographic materials but you gave your salary to the poor. . . .’
“’Not only my salary, I gave my own money daily to the poor. I only wish I could go on helping the poor. . .’
“’I am sure you can afford to do that immediately.’
“She looked at us with eyes full of pity.
“’Do you know what they are saying about the FREE PRESS now? In the provinces, in the barrios, wherever I go, the people are saying, having read your story about me and the SWA, ‘The FREE PRESS has become just like of the tabloids. It has attacked our Virgin Mary.’ That is what some would say. Others would correct them: ‘Not our Virgin Mary but our goddess.’ That is what the people of this country are saying about the FREE PRESS after your article.’
“’Will you please repeat that.’
“’Well, to show you how objective the FREE PRESS is, I am going to report what people are saying about it and about you in my next article.’
“’But do not say that I said I am the Virgin Mary and a goddess. It is the people who are saying that.’
“’I shall say that the people are saying that the FREE PRESS has become just like one of the tabloids because it has attacked their Virgin Mary or goddess. Is that correct?’
Magnificent. And one of the few examples I’ve found of Locsin letting his sense of humor shine through any of his articles.
He was always a shrewd observer; his journalism is replete with telling details and observations that endure. A short piece he wrote on August 10, 1946, titled “The Big Scramble,” could have been written yesterday, and can be written tomorrow. Just change the names, and the scramble is still there –the only thing different is the uncompromising morality of Locsin, then and always anti-collaborator.
“The young men of Capiz,” Locsin wrote, (referring to the new administration of Manuel Roxas), “according to reports reaching the FREE PRESS, are flocking to Manila, to shake the hand of their province mate, the President of the Philippines, to congratulate him on his election—and to ask for a job.
“Thus it was in Quezon’s time, and it was no different during the Osmeña administration. When Malacañan corridors still echoed with the oaths and curses of the High-Strung One [Quezon] as some cabinet member was called to account for some act of omission or commission, as the Church puts it, the Chosen People came from Tayabas. During the brief reign of Sergio the First and probably the Last, the Lucky Ones spoke English with a thick Cebuano accent. In the 2604th year of the reign of Showa, when Laurel was ‘President,’ Malacañan was a home away from home for Batangueños. Now, in the first year of Roxas, the Palace by the Pasig is being stormed by determined Capiceños, all animated by one single thought—a government job.
“In the palace itself, according to intelligence reports received by the Minority Camp, there are intra-mural hostilities between the De Leon side and the Acuña side of the Presidential family. The Acuñas are said to be increasingly bitter at the way the Bulakeños are getting the best jobs, and there are many dark references to blood, how it should be thicker than water.
“Meanwhile press communiqués indicate that while the Bulakeños and the Capiceños were arguing with each other who should have this job and who should have that, the Ilocanos—Quirinos—boys—have quietly infiltrated the lines and taken over the choicest offices. Determined to hold their positions at all cost, the Ilocanos were last reported to be forming suicide squadrons and building road blocks against future counter-attack by the boys from Bulacan and Capiz. In the face of a common enemy, they may even join forces and as one united army attack the Ilocano positions.
“From Capiz itself comes a report—the author keeps himself anonymous, and wisely, too, probably—that school teachers who made the simply unforgivable error of voting for Osmeña are finding themselves either dropped or assigned to distant barrios where nothing more is heard of them. Osmeña himself was given an honorary elder statesman’s job, but those who voted for him the last time are being slowly—and not so slowly — frozen out of the government, the report concludes.
“In Manila, things are not so bad. Many government employees took the precaution of voting for Roxas during the last election. If Osmeña won, they would still have their jobs, but if Roxas won—well they voted for him, didn’t they?”
And Locsin concluded with an observation that still speaks to us, today:
“Most government jobs are low paid, and one wonders why there is such scramble for them. Then one recalls the story of the pre-war Bureau of Customs employee who had a two story house, a car, and who sent his two daughters to an expensive private school—all on a salary of less than P100 a month. Who knows, once you are in the government, when such an opportunity will strike? The thing is, be prepared—and enter the government.”
Teddy Locsin, Sr. was not a prophet; he was a journalist, but the best kind; from his early post-war writing one is moved to jump to one of his last pre-martial law interviews, this one of his close friend Ninoy Aquino. The same Ninoy he advised, in 1983, not to return to the Philippines because, as Locsin’s middle son once recalled, “bravery achieves nothing, my father told him [Aquino], especially in a country of cowards. Yet that putdown of courage may have tipped the scale for Ninoy’s return. The worse the odds, the more inviting the challenge.”
This is only part of an interview, titled “Mission Impossible?” Locsin wrote on March 21, 1971. The issue of the day was the Jabidah massacre; there was an officer whose wife was looking for her husband. Locsin wrote,
“Captain Titong’s wife wonders, not only where her family’s next meal will come from, but where the hell her husband is.
“What happened to Captain Titong?
“’Five possibilities,’ said Aquino:
“’First, he could be absent without leave. The law demands that if he is AWOL, he should be court-martialed. But, thus far, no charge has been filed against him.’
“’Second, he could have been killed in action.’
“’Third, he could be missing in action.’
“’If the second or the third, then his dependents must receive a decent compensation, but this has been denied them.’
“Fourth, he could have deserted. But before one can prove desertion, one must first prove that the accused has no intention of returning or that he has joined the enemy. If he has deserted, then the officer who sent him on this last mission, even while he was facing charges before a General Court-Martial, has a lot to answer for.’
“’The fifth possibility is that he could be on a mission. This is the army position. But who would be so stupid as to send an exposed agent on a mission? Even the foreign press knew of Captain Titong.’”
Having allowed his readers to see Ninoy’s mind at work, now came Locsin’s turn to reach his own sinister conclusions:
“To send an exposed agent into the field of espionage,” Locsin continued, surely speaking from experience during the War, “again is like leading a sheep to slaughter. In October 1970 a Filipino secret agent identified as Capt. Solferiano Titong was reported to have been apprehended by Malaysian security forces. Some sources say that he has already been executed; others that he is still a prisoner in Kota Kinabalu.
“Where is Captain Titong and what is his fate? If he has been killed while on a mission his dependents should be supported. It is not only the humane, but also the legal thing to do. But if he is on a mission—or was, if he has been captured or killed—why was he sent on a mission while he still faced charges before a General Court-Martial? If he is a deserter or AWOL it could only be because he was given more freedom of movement than he was entitled to. He should have been closely watched. Why was he not?”
Locsin steps back to let Ninoy pose a question that Locsin then answers:
“’I will continue blocking General Ramos’s appointment until he satisfactorily explains what happened to Captain Titong,’ Aquino told the press. It is not true that he is blocking it because General Ramos is President Marcos’s second cousin or because he is ‘an anti-Huk fighter,’ as Malacañang has alleged…
“’Who is more responsible,’ Aquino retorted, ‘I or the man who put the lives of our young men in danger and most probably pushed this country to the brink of conflict?’
“Suddenly Senator Aquino realized that there was something odd about Malacañang’s reaction to his questions about Captain Titong’s fate. Why its deep concern? At the same time he heard from Moslem leaders about a certain individual who stood to profit greatly if the Sabah claim was pressed.
“Malacañang called Aquino, ‘unpatriotic.’
“Against whom? Aquino asked. President Marcos is not the Filipino nation. Or is he? …” Locsin goes on to go into the details on the claim on Sabah and the claim by Ferdinand Marcos that he had a power of attorney from the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu –a complicated question, but which, in the end, boils down to a question pregnant with foreboding:
“Either President Marcos does not envision anyone ever succeeding him as President or it is legal for a private individual to deal with himself as the highest official of the government.”
And so it came to pass. Locsin could see it coming. When the knock came on September 23 he was ready; he went into capitivity willingly. A country unwilling to resist tyranny might as well have examples of those willing to suffer imprisonment for principles upheld. Released, he kept silent –he would not dignify the dictatorship with his journalism. He took up his pen and wrote poetry, his true love; he wrote short stories, he brooded in his library and advised his friend Ninoy that a nation of cowards deserved what it was getting.
But when Ninoy died –the time had come for Locsin’s last crusade. In a sense, it was his Indian Summer, the last hoorah of a mind rejuvenated; he would praise Ninoy and exalt his widow; he would nod at the way a nation redeemed itself –only to keep pounding away at his typewriter as his country degenerated into the same sort of scrambling he had so trenchantly written about as a young man.
The mind of Teodoro M. Locsin, Sr. is best understood as the mind of a romantic; and like any lover of romance, he had his paramour –his country. He had the heart of a minstrel poet yet set it aside in order to be the guardian of the country he loved, betray her though she might, dissapoint her as often she may have done; still –to the end, the would be the man of the days of Liberation who would jump on anyone should they try to take advantage of the country he loved.
There is no other way to make sense of a man who seemed to be so violent in his prose and so forbiddingly distant when it came to his public persona, and yet who was the doting father and loving husband who would sing and drink his scotch and later, wine. The man who, in the twilight of his life said so little, even as he decided to write no more, is the man we see all over. The man who loved, and loved true; and yet refused all recognition for his long arduous hours of guardianship.
Free Press cover story
January 13, 2002 issue
Too early the birds of prey
by Manuel L. Quezon III
MAKING an ass of one’s self should be a basic human right, if only politicians could be denied this right because of the problems it causes other politicians and most of all, the public. To put matters in historical perspective, of the past presidents of this country, two were reelected to office (Manuel L. Quezon and Ferdinand E. Marcos), and only two former presidents ran for the position of president after having served as head of state: Emilio Aguinaldo, who went down in grumpy defeat in 1935, and Jose P. Laurel in 1949, though Laurel was the nobler in at least telling his supporters, who were as angry as Aguinaldo’s had been, not to mount a revolution.
Yet in the case of Aguinaldo and Laurel, there were extenuating circumstances in the cases of their candidacies. Aguinaldo was a political enemy of Quezon from 1922 to 1941, and was pushed by his supporters to run as a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution; Laurel ran as much to vindicate his name as to achieve a mandate, never having been directly elected by the people to a position he served as a well-meaning head of a puppet government -indeed, it is interesting to note that both Aguinaldo, who ran in the first national presidential elections in 1935, and Laurel, who ran in the elections of 1949, were haunted by a desire to achieve what they never had when they were president: a genuine national mandate at the polls.
But one must consider, on the other hand, the cases of the only two presidents reelected: Quezon in 1935 and 1941, and Marcos in 1965 and 1969. Both tarnished their reputations by clinging to power beyond the terms allowed them by the Constitution under which they were elected. To this must be added the inevitability in the minds of many that had Quezon lived, he would have stepped down for a brief 2 years in order to run again in 1946 to be the first president of the independent Republic, and that Ramon Magsaysay would have run —and won— again, after his first term (and there are even those who suspect that Magsaysay, who imitated Quezon in so many ways, would have found a way to stay in office as long as possible as well). But fate decreed Quezon’s death in large part because of the strain of his final battle with Sergio Osmeña to cling to power, and fate had it in the cards that Ramon Magsaysay, like Manuel Roxas, would die before his first term ended, leaving Ferdinand Marcos to make every liberty-loving and democratic Filipinos’ nightmare come true: scrapping the Constitution, ignoring the laws, setting up a dictatorship that only fell when a country regained its dignity and courage and threw the man out of Malacañang.
Now to these negative examples add the examples of past presidents who could have run for office after the Constitutional limitations passed, and yet did not: the list is long. Sergio Osmena; Elpidio Quirino; Carlos P. Garcia; Diosdado Macapagal; Corazon Aquino. Except for Aquino, all the rest suffered defeat in their quest for reelection to a second term, yet had an opportunity (at least in the cases of Osmena, Garcia and Macapagal) to run for president again if they wished. But they never wished to. None of them ever fully retired from politics; they preferred to be consulted as elder statesmen; two of them, Garcia and Macapagal, chose to run for, be elected delegates to, and then presidents of, the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention. But the presidency, having been denied them in the past, was something they never sought again as a political prize.
The fact is that it should be enough for a former president to have had the honor and privilege of serving the country once, or in the old days twice, and end it at that. The exemplar of how a former president should conduct himself after leaving office is of course, Sergio Osmena, who represented many of the political virtues of the country, anyway; to a lesser extent, there are the examples of Aguinaldo and Laurel, the former reconciling himself to playing elder statesman, the latter choosing to serve in the senate as long as he could and even serve other presidents. There are the examples, too, of Garcia and Macapagal: the former went into quiet retirement until the ConCon and then died 24 hours after being sworn in as president of the convention; Macapagal, after a checkered experience with presiding and eventually losing control over the ConCon at least followed Aguinaldo’s path and quietly learned to enjoy the role of elder statesman; poor Elpidio Quirino lived too briefly after leaving office to accomplish much more than begin his memoirs and reach a touching reconciliation with his erstwhile protégé, Magsaysay.
Enter Fidel V. Ramos, former and, to the minds of too many, including quite possibly the mind of Mr. Ramos himself, future President of the Republic of the Philippines. Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, present president and, almost indubitably, candidate for the position in 2004. What of them?
Of Fidel Ramos, one should note immediately what has been whispered about town almost from the moment he left office -the man has never grown accustomed to not wielding the reins of power. He wanted to amend the Constitution to allow himself either two more years in the manner of Quezon, or transform the country to a parliamentary system which was the original Marcos plan to perpetuate himself in power. This grand design failed in the face of the intransigence of Corazon Aquino (former president who seems not to miss being president at all), Cardinal Sin, a multitude of Filipinos, and one Joseph Ejercito Estrada who would be damned if his sure election to the presidency would be postponed even for a minute by a man he loathed.
Result? A lost kibbitzer, which Mr. Ramos is of the first order, as proven by his most unpresidential behavior during Joseph Estrada’s inauguration at Barasoain. The man tried to steal the limelight every moment he could, and then loftily proclaimed that under Estrada, he would be pleased to play the role of Elder Statesman in an official capacity, much to the amusement of everyone who head Ramos say these things. However, neither public derision, or skepticism, or outright hostility has ever deterred Mr. Ramos from doing what he pleases, and it has pleased him to use the time in between his never-ending globetrotting to keep himself in the limelight, including first, playing a lecturing uncle to Estrada, and then supposed pillar of the opposition when Estrada grew impatient with his “advice,” and now, gadfly and thorn in the side of Mrs. Arroyo. Perhaps Mr. Ramos feels that if Cory Aquino can bring down one government after stopping the attempts at charter change of two other presidents dead in their tracks, he has similar powers.
Perhaps. Although if this is the case, then it only proves that the man has an axe to grind against the woman who broke tradition to attend his inauguration (for perfectly legitimate symbolic reasons, the inauguration of Ramos was the first democratic handover of power since 1965) and put country ahead of her having given him her previous blessings in firmly saying “no” to his obvious desire to prolong his stay in office. One is forced to wonder if Fidel Ramos is not only ungrateful when it comes to Cory Aquino, but whether he actively dislikes her now -which would make him a petty, mean, and small-minded man.
Or could it be Fidel Ramos simply is getting old and too dense to realize the reason Cory Aquino can be an influential ex-president and Fidel Ramos may be influential, but not popular, and lacks what he seems to crave: a nation, on bended knee, begging him to return to Malacanang? Were this the case, then at least one can conclude Fidel Ramos is not petty, mean and small-minded but suffering from well-intentioned delusions: of being an irreplaceable man, of believing as gospel truth the insincere flattery of the sycophants that surround any politician, and the quite human refusal to recognize his own mortality and accept being put out to political pasture, since he is by no means, ancient. The reason Cory Aquino has the influence and respect she has, and Ramos does not, is that she is the only president in our history to say one term is enough, I’ve had it, and left Malacanang without looking back and probably murmuring “good riddance” the whole time. In short, she has what Fidel Ramos has never, ever, had in his life or career: moral ascendancy.
Fidel Ramos is too fidgety, too eager the attention-seeker, too enthusiastic the opiner, too happy the meddler, to be respected or have moral ascendancy of any sort. This is not to say he does not have influence, for he does; this is not to say he does not have political supporters, for he does; but it is to say that as far as the public is concerned, Fidel Ramos is history and had better accept the fact that he belongs to the past and not the future. One need only listen to the verbal abuse he was subjected to by the great unwashed at Edsa III to recognize this; and aside from the usual businessmen who value the illusion of Fidel Ramos being “Steady Eddie,” and who crave a man who will be content to go on junkets and turn a blind eye to anything so long as he gets the perks (a bad executive habit he shared with Joseph Estrada except in comparison to Estrada’s being uncouth about corruption, even Ramos’s most vicious detractors give him credit for being suave when it came to the corruption they are convinced he was a party to during his term).
To be a president or past president is, of course, not to be divine; which means Fidel Ramos is as likely to fall prey to illusions as much as the next man. He probably thinks the can still do good for the country, that the country needs him, and if the country were only given a chance it would fall to the ground in gratitude and kiss his feet were he to have the chance to be president again. This explains the never-ending and, really, tiring controversy of the day, which is the alleged rift between President Arroyo and former president Ramos over an election two years away. Fidel Ramos already suffers from the perception too widely held that he at one point pulled all the strings in the new Arroyo administration, or tried to, which made him as much the object of the poor’s equally deluded wrath in May 2001, as President Arroyo herself. And as for President Arroyo, she suffers from two insecurities: the fact that she was elevated to the presidency by succession and not election, and under the most confused of circumstances at that; and that she is the first child of a president who seems to have a chance to break the long curse, it seems, that has afflicted the children of past presidents -none of them ever make it to Malacanang although the senate and Vice-Presidency have been proven to not be beyond their reach.
For a politician and a businessman and even a soldier, and even for certain members of our uncivilized civil society, Fidel Ramos has the virtue of exuding an aura of dynamism, of calm, of precise, methodical working habits and discipline. How close perceptions are to the truth only those truly close to him can answer; but the fact is that there are those with influence and money who believe there exists a Steady Eddie and wouldn’t mind Ramos back. For the same politicians and businessmen, the problem with President Arroyo is that even if she is equally hard working, she happens to be frugal, as hot-tempered as Ramos but far from being his peer in hiding the fact, and she is a woman who suffers from the idea she has nothing to lose by actually giving the country as honest an administration as is possible given our society’s limitations. That, and the fact there is that onus on presidential children and that they might get stuck with her for nine uninterrupted years. The ramifications of a fairly clean, competent, and hard-working government are simply too frightening for these people to contemplate.
And thus the need to at least obtain leverage on Mrs. Arroyo by way of using Fidel Ramos as a threat. After all, Mr. Ramos is willing and able to be used as such a tool, indeed he may have thought up the idea of using the bogey of a Ramos for President campaign in 2004 as a potential spoiler to exact concessions from the administration, which has enough of a problem on its hands with fulfilling its promises, neutralizing its enemies, and keeping the country together during tough times.
Fidel Ramos would never win another presidential election even if Mrs. Arroyo dropped dead and a way was found to make monkeys run against Ramos the way Marcos engineered his farcical martial law presidential elections. What can happen is Fidel Ramos could ensure that if he can’t win, neither can Mrs. Arroyo, but it wouldn’t be in the interest of either to give away the election in 2004 to the opposition, which is indeed vicious, ruthless, has many axes to grind, and much dirt to dish out against the two.
Hence the view of this writer than Mr. Ramos is either extremely delusional or out to keep himself in the political loop and be a powerbroker of sorts, if not an actual shadow president (the best of both worlds). The fact that Joe de Venecia, who has the biggest chance of being Prime Minister for life were we to go parliamentary, is as usual going out of his way to get into trouble trying to patch things up between former president Ramos and President Macapagal, is no surprise or mystery. De Venecia is simply too nice, too compleat the politician, to give the opposition ammunition when things could all be quietly smoothed out to his party’s advantage.
The spoiler of course is Mrs. Arroyo’s determination not to be anyone’s patsy; she may have, as all presidents have done, tried to pay her dues in the early part of her administration, but she can clearly see, if she has half a brain (and no one doubts she has not just half but quite a complete one), that she needs a mandate, a real mandate, and that her political destiny must be played out as her father’s was -either to a happier conclusion by way of election in 2004, or defeat, as her father endured in 1965. But she has no other option but to stay the course and fight.
That having been said, this is all, then, a testing of the waters. The West Pointer in Ramos is probing the defenses of the administration, looking for its weaknesses. His archskeptics are under the impression his real aim is to simply be done with a Constitution that he could not amend to satisfy his ambitions, and be called upon to trot out on a white horse and restore the lost era of Philippines 2000. No one with any intellectual honesty can deny that Mr. Ramos’s actions to date, down to calling a radio station to muse on the need to file a test case to figure out if he’s entitled to run legitimately in the next election, only serve to reinforce the worst perceptions that exist of the man. Nor can anyone deny the political and even personal imperatives that would drive Mrs. Arroyo to seek election in 2004 come hell or high water, if only to prove her critics wrong, and be remembered not as a woman who inherited the presidential mantle, but who earned it in her own right.
So Fidel Ramos says he is not running —period, period, period. Though the country is used to his three periods being the ellipse that leads to a pregnant pause that leads others to begin to have paranoid attacks (which Ramos surely enjoys). The President, on the other hand, truthfully says she is too busy worrying about the here and now to fuss over 2004, though even in that she is being disingenuous -but then which president entitled to reelection, with the exception of Cory Aquino- ever was anything but disingenuous about the possibility of their running again? Even Cory Aquino, who was not bound by the term limitations of the Charter approved during her term, kept her options open if only to keep from becoming a lame duck. The only president in our history who ever committed political suicide was Joseph Estrada and neither Ramos nor Arroyo are Estrada. There is no surer way to commit political hara-kiri than to say you have no intention of running for reelection when you can -and be believed.
The whole non-issue then boils down to a rift between the Lakas-NUCD people who grew fat and soft under Ramos, and who aren’t pleased that they are expected to stay relatively lean during the Arroyo New Era Part 2. The whole issue is that having abandoned the Liberals, and never having established a cohesive hard-core party of loyalists of her own, Mrs. Arroyo is not in full control of the party she is putatively the chief of, but which recalls its salad days as having been under Fidel Ramos. Ramos may be circulating offering them a chance of reliving the good old days when boys could be boys, businessmen could do business under a regime that was all light and sound, and not hard work as it is at present.
Pie in the sky, Ramos-style, versus the drudgery of the dirty kitchen, Arroyo-style. Were you a politician you would at least give pause to the thought that life would be tough under another six years of Arroyo, and positively miserable if not dangerous to life and limb under a Ping Lacson regime: so why not, indeed, a return to steady Eddie.
We shall have to see who has the last wink. Or who raises her eyebrow last in satisfaction as her opponent folds.
What’s with Doy?
Only a heartbeat away from the Presidency, the Vice-President is disliked if not despised by the press which either damns him outright or damns itself by silence over his questionable acts. Worse, even his friends . . .
October 3, 1987–YET he had yielded in favor of Cory as presidential candidate of the opposition then and agreed to be second to her. The Presidency had been Doy’s life ambition. His father was President, albeit only by appointment by the Japanese invaders in World War II, and faced trial for treasonable collaboration with the enemy after the war. (Together with Claro M. Recto, who had served as secretary of foreign affairs, and Benigno Aquino, Sr., who was Speaker in the made-in-Japan government.) Lorenzo Tañada headed the People’s Court that would have tried them — but for the grant of amnesty by then Pres. Manuel Roxas. Laurel Sr. went on to run for President against then Pres. Elpidio Quirino and would have won and been a truly elected President of the Republic if he had not been so grossly cheated in that 1949 election by the First Great Ilocano’s political gang.
What his father was cheated of, Doy would win and be President — despite the predictable resort by the Worst Ilocano to mass vote-buying (with billions from the Jobo-headed Central Bank) plus fraud (with his Commission on Fake Elections) and, of course, plain terrorism — as events bloodily proved. He, Doy, should be the opposition’s presidential candidate, not Cory, a “mere housewife”. Didn’t his UNIDO pit candidates for the Batasan against the Dictator’s candidates and win — yes, not many seats but at least some? Pit a politician against a politician.
But all but Doy — at least initially—could see that he could not win against Marcos. He was the “ideal” candidate of the opposition as far as the Dictator was concerned. He could lick Doy—even in a clean election, he was assured — by his cohorts and himself. In the end, sense prevailed and Doy agreed to run for Vice-President to Cory’s President. And won with her.
Or, to be precise, lost with her. Marcos was proclaimed duly reelected President and his runningmate, Arturo Tolentino, elected Vice President, after a scandalously false count of votes by his Commission on Fake Elections, by the bats (political birds that flew in the night) in his Batasan. Marcos was still President — under his fake Constitution. (One never approved by the people in a plebiscite as it provides before it could become The Law.) Under that charter — under which Cory and Doy had run — they had both lost.
But they won just the same after the People Revolution of Cory’s faithful proclaimed her the truly elected President of the Philippines — and Doy the Vice-President. It was not by virtue of Marcos’s Constitution that Cory assumed the Presidency and Doy the Vice-Presidency but by the Will of the People. As expressed in an unprecedented revolution — one not stained by blood.
And that Will was expressed again in the February plebiscite that ratified her Constitution—replacing the Freedom Constitution which was also hers. More than two-thirds of the electorate voted for the charter, not because they had read it — most did not bother — but because it was hers. And the Will was reaffirmed in the May congressional election in which 22 out of 24 senatorial candidates came out as winners — mainly because they were her candidates. Most of the voters did not know most of the winning senatorial candidates administration from Adam. One won despite what people knew or thought of him — because he was Cory’s candidate.
Corazon C. Aquino is the elected President of the Philippines and Salvador Laurel the Vice President — by the Will of the Filipino People, not by virtue of the Marcos fake Constitution but by the People Power revolution and the overwhelming reaffirmation of confidence in her presidency in the February plebiscite and May election this year.
For his political collaboration with Cory, Doy was rewarded with the position of premier, which went out of existence with the Batasan under the Freedom Constitution, and secretary of foreign affairs. Under the American system, the Vice-President is just a spare tire. He’s nobody until the President dies, naturally or by assassination, or becomes incompetent to discharge the duties of his office—or impeached, as Nixon nearly was because of Watergate, saving himself from that shameful rejection through resignation. Leaving with his tail between his hind legs, as then American President Johnson said the United States would never do in Vietnam. A terrific musical comedy of Pre-World War II vintage, Of Thee I Sing, with words and music by George and Ira Gershwin, had a bewildered man as Vice-President of the United States or candidate for that position. He didn’t want it. Maybe he was a nobody, but he did not want it to be made official. As it was, nobody could remember his name.
“Of thee I sing, baby . . .” went the song, but how could anybody sing the Vice-Presidential bet’s name if nobody knew it? Who he?
To compensate the American Vice-President for his sorry but expectant position in political life, he is designated presiding officer of the Senate, rescuing him from total anonymity. Such is George Bush, who has proven his fitness for removal from public memory by hailing Marcos’s “devotion to democratic principles” or such bull as that.
Not Made in Heaven
In the case of Doy, what now? That his political union with Cory was not made in heaven — of political ideas and principles — was made clear soon enough with his demand to be “parallel” President with her. He was elected as substitute if she died or was incapacitated, not co-equal. But Doy wanted to be President, of only on a half-and-half basis. Nothing doing, Cory soon made it clear to Doy.
Must Doy then wait for five years, until the 1992 presidential election, before he could be President? Sure, Cory has said she did not want reelection, and the new Constitution appears to ban that, but what if a million or more signatures were gathered calling for amendment of the charter to allow her to run for reelection? Even if she retired wearily into private life, could Doy be certain he would have her support in the presidential election? Would he be her candidate? How about the other presidential hopefuls in the ruling party she might like more than Doy? Does she like him more than any of the others? Why like him — after all the trouble or problem he has been causing her.
If Doy ran for President five years from now, how many would vote for him? The political field would be divided how many ways? Doy’s UNIDO would just be “one of those things” — those political things. And if Cory were to come out in support of a candidate other than Doy . . .
Cory has said nothing in the least derogatory to Doy. But the press has been giving him hell, not only righteously but with enjoyment, one gets the feeling. It is having fun with him — as he goes on making, in its opinion, a fool of himself.
When Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo was invited to speak before the House of Representatives on the political situation after the August 28 attack by AFP renegades on the government — a nearly successful one — Malaya headlined the Arroyo address thus:
“ARROYO HITS LAUREL, 3 TOP BUSINESSMEN
“Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo yesterday accused Vice-President Salvador H. Laurel and three prominent businessmen of destabilizing the Aquino government as he denied charges that he and Presidential Counsel Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. meddled in military operations during the failed Aug. 28 coup.”
How was Doy destabilizing, or trying to destabilize, the Aquino government? What would he have gained by it if he had succeeded?
Business World’s Ninez Cacho-Olivares, whose Cup of Tea has never been Doy, not even before the 1986 presidential and vice-presidential election, recalling then the long past services to Marcos of Doy and his brother Pepito and his father who got Marcos off the hook when he was tried for murder of his father’s political rival — Doy’s most dedicated nemesis in the press had this to say about Doy’s latest act:
“Irresponsibility at Its Height
“Vice-President Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel has belly-ached many a time to the media that he is being bypassed or that he is being ignored by Malacañang. The general perception is that he is ‘out’ of the decision-making process in the Guest House.
“And, indeed, in many instances, it does seem — as far as media reports go — that the President generally ignores her Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“But I know of no one who disapproves of the attitude the Palace officials have displayed towards Mr. Laurel. One even appreciates that Palace attitude, for Mr. Laurel has proven, through his recent actuations, to be an utterly irresponsible public official.
“Mr. Laurel was highly visible after the aborted coup, and has engaged in dialogs with officers and men of the AFP. He told all and sundry that he has been authorized by the President to hold dealings with the military to assess the soldiers’ grievances and complaints. Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo confirmed this, however, he pointed out that Mr. Laurel has not been authorized by the President to create a wedge between the military and the civilian government.
“And that is precisely what Mr. Laurel has done through the set of questions he posed before the soldiers. He added fuel to the fire when he asked the soldiers whether they wanted Arroyo and Locsin out of the Cabinet. He displays the height of irresponsibility when he, as the second highest official in the land, asks soldiers the question, ‘Should we remove the Communists in the government?’
“And for all his outrageous actuation, he reportedly said, ‘It is better to allow them to shout than to shoot,’ adding his dealings are very positive steps in addressing the grievances of soldiers. ‘It has helped to defuse an otherwise tense situation. This is because our soldiers have been made to feel that the Government is willing to listen to their grievances and to act on those that are legitimate and reasonable.’
“With a Vice-President like that, I dread the thought of his ever succeeding the President. What he had done, in my opinion, was to allow the soldiers who have been fed the disinformation that there are Communists in the Aquino Government to call the shots on the matter. The question presupposes that there are Communists in the Aquino Government and this smacks not only of irresponsibility but of malice. He has done the Aquino Government a disservice and really should be shown the door for his misdeed. It is evident that he wants certain Cabinet officials out, and he used that opportunity to boost the demand to oust these Cabinet officials and in the process, he succeeded in driving a deeper wedge between the military and the civilian government.
“Obviously, Vice-President Laurel was playing up to the soldiers and engaging in the same game Juan Ponce-Enrile played. He wanted to add fire to the anti-Communist hysteria being fanned by the mutineers and, at the same time, be identified as the soldiers’ defender and ally. But at whose expense? The President’s? The Government’s?
“The Vice-President was given a job to do by the President. He botched it, and he deserves to be out.”
And here is a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial — with cartoon yet:
“What is Laurel Really Up To?
“On Aug. 27 ranking officials of the so-called defense establishment and Vice-President Laurel met behind closed doors for two hours at the latter’s office. When they emerged out from that gathering, Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto, AFP chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, vice-chief of staff Lt. Gen. Renato de Villa and an official of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, refused to answer questions raised by reporters at the scene. For his part, the Vice-President said that he had merely been given a briefing on the peace and order situation.
“The day before that closed-door meeting, a widely successful protest against raised fuel prices had been staged. On that Thursday itself, the mass arrest of leaders of militant union and transport workers was underway. Conservative politicians and their reactionary spokesmen in media were agitating for even more draconian measures and a more thorough crackdown on ‘leftists.’ Reporters who caught the defense officials emerging out of Mr. Laurel’s office could not help suspect that something was afoot. Several hours later, Gregorio Honasan launched his bloody venture to unseat, if not actually murder, President Aquino.
“As the mutiny was in progress, nothing was heard from Mr. Laurel — highly uncharacteristic of a public figure who almost always has something to say about anything. Throughout that Friday morning foreigners, presumably Americans, were seen going in and out of his house. It was only in the afternoon, when the tide had turned clearly in the favor of the government, that the Vice-President became accessible and joined the indignant chorus of ruling-coalition politicians condemning the military rebellion. In the days that followed, Mr. Laurel would also join other conservatives both in and out of government in pressing Malacañang to look into the ‘causes’ of the rebellion. And as far as they were concerned these causes were the low pay of the soldiery and allegedly Communist advisers surrounding Mrs. Aquino. Strangely few of them demanded justice for the innocent victims of the rebellion. What in effect these conservatives were demanding was for the Aquino administration to give in to the mutineers’ demands — the very same demands that were delivered through the barrel of the gun.
“Over the past few days, Mr. Laurel has been making the rounds of military camps throughout the islands on a purported mission of ‘dialog’ (a much abused term, which as currently used, has no exact definition) with AFP servicemen. But from what we have been able to gather, the Vice-President has in fact only succeeded in agitating further the already restive soldiers. So what is Mr. Laurel really up to?
“Evidently, the Vice-President has some serious explaining to do, not only to his immediate superior, the President, but also to the people. His puzzling behavior immediately before, during and after the Aug. 28 mutiny has led observers to suspect that he is more involved in recent developments than he would care to make the public believe. Moreover, Mr. Laurel’s much-publicized links to an ultra-rightist international organization of modern-day witch hunters has not allayed the growing misgivings about him.”
And here is Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Hilarion M. Henares, Jr., who claims to be a friend of Doy’s, with the most searing indictment of his “friend”, making the enemies almost friendly:
“Sadly, Sadly . . . What Are We to Do With You, Doy?
“What’s wrong with this guy Doy Laurel?
“Volunteering to ‘survey’ the feelings of the Armed Forces, he harangues them with pointed leading questions—Do you want Cory to fire Joker? Teddyboy? Noel Soriano? Do you favor amnesty for Honasan?
“He never asked: Do you want Cory to fire Doy?
“He did this once before, you know, riding in on people’s pent-up emotions to promote his obvious ambitions for the presidency.
“Last year, in the reconciliation meeting between President Cory and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Doy Laurel spoke out of turn, saying that the only way to achieve reconciliation is to acquiesce in a ‘previous top level meeting’ — get rid of three Cabinet members, Aquilino Pimentel, Bobbit Sanchez and Joker Arroyo.
“Cardinal Sin denied he ever made such demands, and went into his chapel to pray for the soul of a fool.
“Ambassador Bosworth maintained a pained and stony silence, and wished he could stuff his shoes into the mouth of a fool.
“Doy Laurel just felt foolish.
“These days, the fool is ever the fool, a louse as he ever was.
“I have mutual friends with Doy than most people I know. I genuinely respect his father and brothers. In La Salle, he was the classmate of Ronnie Velasco, my brother, and many others—a class of machos where Doy is acknowledged to be the fastest with the mostest.
“If brother Teddy, the meanest cock in the Henares coop, takes his hat off to Doy, then Doy is IT, better than that high-spending tourist Tony Gonzalez.
“I asked our mutual friends, most of whom grew up with Doy, Will you vote for Doy? Silence and a vigorous shaking of the head.
“Why not? Silence and a shrug of the shoulder.
“Is Doy a thief, a crook? No . . .
“Is he ugly, repugnant, abominable? No . . .
“Is Doy an unmitigated liar? Not really . . .
“Is Doy a hypocrite, a scoundrel, a con-man? No . . .
“His smile that looks halfway between a snarl and a smirk? No, that’s the problem of his dentures . . .
“Then why wouldn’t you vote for him? I do not know . . . but I will be damned if I will vote for him.
“Now that is the eternal dilemma of Doy. If he only knew why his friends won’t vote for him, then perhaps he can do something about it.
“But he does not know, nobody knows, and that’s his problem.
“Well, I know the reason why, Doy. You have been a special study of mine for the last two years, and I know. And being your friend, I will tell you.
“I ran for the Senate at the same time you and Ninoy Aquino did. I lost while you and Ninoy won. Our mutual friends voted for you then, even if you were on the side of Marcos. You were terrific in the Senate, Doy, you were nationalistic . . . you exposed the secret protocols Carlos Romulo signed with the American ambassador.
“When I was chairman of the National Economic Council, I was approving all proposals of American firms for US guarantees against political risk in the Philippines. Imagine my chagrin when you exposed a secret agreement that bound the Philippine government to compensate the US government for losses arising from political risk! That Romulo!
“I admired you for that, Doy. You were okay, just like your papa and cuyas.
“Even during martial law, still allied with Marcos, at least you and your brothers maintained an independent posture, and in the end severed your connection with the dictator.
“You were still OK then, especially during the time of troubles after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
“I think you started to change when you entertained the notion of being nominated for president. That’s no sin, but when you began to kowtow to embassy officials and make pro-American noises in order to get the support of the CIA and neanderthal Americans, you took the fatal step to perdition.
“But you gloried in it — you hired an American Steve Thomas as security guard, and our friend Roger Davis as your publicity man, so people would think you were favored by the CIA.
“The change from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde occurred I believe when you announced during the crucial time we expected to be presented a Cory-Doy ticket, that the deal was off, and that come what may, you’d be a candidate for the presidency.
“You were never a viable candidate. You were being used by the Americans to extract a commitment from Cory on the American Bases, so Cory had to backtrack from ‘Bases out in 1992!’ to ‘I want to keep my options open.’ You were the cat’s paw, Doy, and you knew it.
“After the revolution, Doy, you became not only vice-president, but also prime minister and minister of foreign affairs—three powerful positions, Doy—while your colleagues in the Unido got nothing, except Orly Mercado who was appointed Rizal Park attendant. Your faithful Rene Espina gritted his teeth, acquired a couple more bags under his eyes, and bolted to the opposition.
“Then you came up with the idea of a Parallel Presidency, to have your own official line organization all the way down to the barangay level, that will allow you to exercise the powers of the presidency. Admit it, that was the idea of Bosworth and Kaplan, right?
“In effect you and your American friends implied that Cory as a housewife is not competent to be president, that you Salvador Laurel should take over the reins of government and assure the Americans of their bases and business monopolies.
“Fortunately, Cory Aquino is no fool, and her advisers no pushovers for the neanderthals.
“You struck out on that one, Doy.
“Poor Doy, even the lowest embassy employees do not respect you as foreign secretary. They totally bypass your office and directly deal with our highest officials, against all rules of protocol.
“Sadly, sadly, we ask Cory to relieve you of the foreign affairs portfolio.
“What are we to do with you, Doy?”
Even the Communists, whom one might think consider him a good argument for communism, don’t like Doy. Here goes a Malaya report:
“LAUREL ACCUSED OF ‘FOMENTING’ UNREST IN AFP
“Former rebel peace negotiator Satur Ocampo accused Vice-President Salvador Laurel of political grandstanding and fanning unrest within the already divided military . . .
“Commenting on Laurel’s visits to military camps last week, Ocampo, who went into hiding early this year following the collapse of peace negotiations with the Aquino government, said the Vice-President has been more concerned with projecting his political image than looking into the causes of unrest within the military.
“’What he is doing now is projecting himself, but at the same time creating unrest within the military.’”
But why should Doy be doing that?
Divide the AFP — so the Communists will win?
Make more AFP rebels against the Aquino government if their demands, as proclaimed by Doy, are not granted?
Among the demands of the officers and soldiers with whom Doy cuddled up during his military camp visits, is amnesty for Gringo Honasan and his followers in the attack against the government. This demand the government has made clear is totally unacceptable. Not only to the government but to the AFP top command. But Doy played it up — for all it was worth to him.
So, if the impossible demand and others of the same category are rejected, more of the AFP would defect to the rebel camp?
And help mount another attempt at a coup to overthrow the Aquino government?
Turning Cory into a ceremonial President if not killing her?
But who will head that government? That military junta? Enrile? If not Enrile, then Gringo? Why not Gringo — who laid his life on the line to seize power?
BUT SURE AS HELL, NOT DOY!
He just has to wait until Cory drops dead or becomes incompetent to discharge her duties as President. In which latter case, there might well be another attempt at a military coup and the next head of state would be anybody but Doy.
Doy will just have to wait until Cory dies—of natural death.
Last week, Doy tendered his irrevocable resignation as secretary of foreign affairs from the Aquino cabinet.
The President accepted it.
“Good!” many sighed in relief.
C’est la vie — political wise.
Filipino Political Humor
February 1986–“Amang” Rodriguez, known as “Mr Nacionalista” and famous for his malapropisms, congratulated U.S. Pres. Dwight Eisenhower on a speech the latter had just delivered saying, with a radiant smile:
“That was a great speech! It should be published posthumously.”
Sebastian Ugarte of football fame and after whom the field in Makati is named liked to tell this story about an aide of Commonwealth Pres. Manuel Quezon in exile in the United States during World War II. Vice-Pres. Sergio Osmeña Sr. should have succeeded Quezon as President when the latter’s term expired under the Constitution, but Quezon would remain President. His aide loudly supported him, referring contemptuously to Osmeña as:
Quezon died and Osmeña became President.
“At last,” exclaimed the former Quezon aide, “we have a statesman!”
When Manuel Roxas, who had been accused of collaboration with the Japanese invader, split the Nacionalist Party, formed the Liberal and announced his candidacy for the Presidency against Osmeña the professional nay-yea sayer expressed the highest indignation at Roxas’s action:
The Roxas won.
“Now, we have an economist!” rejoiced the man of all politcal seasons.
The wittiest of the lot was Mayor Arsenio Lacson of Manila, a man of “infinite jest” and well, invention. Lacson, who was also the best sports writer the country ever had, and even up to now, described a fistic encounter between two old senators right in the Senate hall as:”The battle of a couple of centuries.”
Then Pres. Elpidio Quirino who was suffering from a severe case of gout, received this accolade from Lacson: “He has one foot in the grave and the other foot goosing the Filipino people.”
Lacson called Manuel de la Fuente, the preceeding mayor of Manila, “Canvas-back De la Fuente,” from the once-upon-a-time pugilist’s alleged propensity for hitting the canvas.
It was all in fun, of course. That was the Age of Innocence.
Lacson’s best was probably this:
After a senator involved in a war-surplus scandal decided to run for President, he went to Quiapo Church for reassurance on his candidacy from the Black Nazarene.
“Lord, what are my chances in the election?” asked the kneeling candidate.
“May suerte, ka,” said the Black Nazarene. “May suerte, ka.”
“Thank you, Lord,” said the happy man.
The following month, he sought further reassurance and once more received the same comforting reply.
But how could be possibly win against the formidable advantages of his opponent? In an anguish of doubt he went to the church for the third time and on his knees, torn between the previous answers of the Black Nazarene and his new uncertainty, cried:
“Lord, Lord, what are my chances in the election?”
Said the Black Nazarene:
“May suerte ka nga nakapako ang aking paa, kung hindi, sisipain kita!”
What’s been happening to the Filipino people, what’s being done to them is no laughing matter. Humor out of such suffering should be as difficult of extraction as water from stone, blood from turnip – but humor issues, just the same. Filipino wit is irrespressible. It may amount to nothing more than whistling past a graveyard. But if one can still laugh at one’s situation however grim it may be, it can’t be as bad as all that. Laughter wards off despair. It is also the oppressor’s secret weapon, though not wielded by him; he is a mere beneficiary. For while one is laughing, one can’t be mad.
The best practising wit around these days is probably Alejandro Roces, former secretary of education and author of one published book on the Filipino fiesta and several more awaiting publication. Here’s Anding:
Of a KBL candidate for the National Ass. in l978, Anding said that the man was so old “he was godfather at the baptism of Andres Bonifacio” – which the man troubled himself to deny.
Another KBL bet of similar vintage was quoted by Anding as saying, in denial of his alleged senility: “That’s a lie! I’m not senile.What are the signs of senility? No. 1. Loss of memory. No.2. . . No. 2. . . No. 2. . No. 2 . . .”
And there was the man who, because of the recurrent shortages, got so fed up with having to line up for water, rice, sugar, every necessity, he got his bolo and proceeded to Malacañang where he was stopped at the gate by a presidential guard.
“What have you come here for?” the guard asked the bolo-waving man.
“I have come to kill the President!” said the man, throwing all caution to the wind.
“Then.” said the guard,”you will have to fall in line.”
The Marcos press headlined it as advocacy of assasination of the President by the Opposition.
Anding’s best is probably:
Farmers were constantly being pressed to attend regular barangay meetings where they were endlessly dosed with government propaganda.One farmer was conspicuous by his absence. The, one day, he showed up.When the barangay captain saw him, he said:
“Ah, there you are. At last! Do you know what you have been missing for not attending these meetings? Do you know what’s going on in our country? What’s what, who’s who?”
The farmer said nothing.
“Do you know who is the minister of tourism?” pressed the barangay captain.
“I don’t know,” confessed the farmer.
“You see, you don’t know. It is Aspiras. Do you know who is the minister of labor?
“I don’t know,” said the farmer humbly.
“That’s the price you pay for non-attendance. Ignorance! The minister of labor of our glorious republic is Blas Ople.
Now it was the turn of the farmer to ask questions. Just one, it turned out.
“Do you know who is Pedro Espadista?” he askedthe barangay captain.
“No,” said the barangay captain after searching his memory.
“I don’t know Pedro Espadista.”
“You see,” said the farmer triumphantly, “that’s what you get for attending these meetings all the time. You don’t know who he is. He is the man who has been sleeping with your wife.”
Last but not least, Arturo Tolentino, running-mate of the Great Dictator:
“Twenty years is already too long a period for anybody to be governing the country, and perhaps it is time for the President to retire.”
“I will not support Marcos . .”
“I will follow the rule of law and prosecute (the Marcos and Romualdez families) if there is evidence.”
“The election is unconstitutional!”
And have you heard this one about the American woman columnist and former high government official who distinguishes between totalitarianism and authoritarianism Marcos-style, chiding the American press for its anti-Marcos “bias,” arguing that the Marcos dictatorship is nicer than other dictatorships?
“I wonder if she has read the Amnesty International report on the widespread use of torture by the Philippine dictatorship. You know, burning the pubic hair of prisoners with cigarette lighter, water cure, forcing water down the throat of a prisoner under interrogation until he or she is almost ready to burst?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe, if she were given the same treatment by the Marcos military, she would sing a different tune.”
“Singing in the rain.”
The Conscience of the Filipino
by Teodoro M. Locsin
February 2, 1986–DEFEAT is usually termed ignominious unless one fights to the end, against overwhelming odds, then it is called honorable. Thus, Spartan mothers told their sons setting forth to war to return with their shields or on them. But there is another kind of defeat, and it’s a rare one. Rare in history, and most rare in political history, for politics seems to bring out the worst, the meanest in men. It’s more than just honorable, it’s glorious, and that is defeat from self-denial: to lose when one might have won, out of a sense of high purpose. Such was the defeat of Pres. Sergio Osmeña in the 1946 presidential election. He lost in his presidential reelection bid because he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. He would not stretch the meaning of the word “promise” to cover mere attempt. Surely, one may not be expected to do more than one can, but he would not equate mere attempt with performance and what he was not sure he could do, he would not promise. Presidential candidates promise to balance the budget and get elected only to unbalance the budget even more, and people do not hold it too much against them. Failure to fulfill a political promise is taken as just one of those things, like death and taxes. One learns to live with it. Not to promise what one is not sure one can do is, surely, naive. After all, one might be able to do it. Things might improve. To hold promise under so strict a definition is not, well, not common. But Sergio Osmeña was not a common man.
He might have been President earlier if he had not yielded his right to a sick man who would cling on to the office. Too long had he played a secondary role to the flamboyant Quezon, now he would be first at last! Quezon’s term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth expired in 1943 and Osmeña was to succeed him in the office under the Constitution. But Quezon argued that the war had suspended the Constitution and he should be allowed to serve as President indefinitely. For life, if the war went on. Well, he did, remaining President until death took him. Though convinced that he should be President, with every legal reason supporting his position, Osmeña acceded to Quezon’s plea. The Filipino people had come to think of him, Quezon, as the symbol of the Philippine government-in-exile and Osmeña’s taking over might create confusion, the ailing man argued. Osmeña listened and gave way. Let his old political rival have his way since he wanted the office so much! He himself suffered from no such obsession. And if it was good for the Filipino people that he should step aside, that is the way it should be. Told after Quezon’s death that he was now President, all Osmeña said was: “Am I?”
Asked when he would take the oath of office, Osmeña said he would first attend to the funeral arrangements, then asked to be left alone so he could compose a tribute to his dead associate. Later, he offered Quezon’s widow and children the continued use of their elegant quarters at the Shoreham Hotel and a pension, the law being silent then on such provision for the widows of past presidents.
When the U.S. government ordered the prosecution of Filipinos who had collaborated with the Japanese during the war, Osmeña asked General MacArthur to release them on his personal guarantee. He thought they had served in the Japanese puppet government to act as buffers between the people and the brute force of the invaders. But MacArthur could not go against Washington and so herded them all in the Iwahig penal colony.
But while understanding toward collaborators — the political ones like Roxas, who would afterward take the Presidency away from him, Laurel and Recto — Osmeña would show no favor to two of his sons who were charged with collaboration with the Japanese for money, and when one of them tried to see him in Leyte, wearing a guerrilla outfit, he refused to see him. The son stayed under a tree all morning waiting for his father to change his mind, but the old man was unrelenting. The other son, whom we visited in prison, cursed him. But the law, as Osmeña held it to be, is impersonal, whatever heartbreak that might mean to the enforcer. When, during the trial of that son, he had to be confined at the Quezon Institute for the tubercular, and asked for “better facilities,” the father said his son should be given the same facilities the others had, not more, not less.
When Roxas split from the Nacionalista Party and created the Liberal Party to run for president, Osmeña, in the interest of national unity, prepared to retire and let Roxas have the field to himself. But those who wanted to hold on to their government positions argued with Osmeña that he should run to demonstrate that the Philippines was capable of holding a true election, a democratic electoral contest even amidst the ruins of war, that an orderly succession was possible — the ultimate test of political maturity. National unity would be served and Americans who held that Filipinos were incapable of self-rule and therefore unworthy of independence would be confounded.
So, Osmeña decided to run. But run in his own fashion.
Under the law then, the Nacionalista Party, as the majority party, was entitled to two election inspectors and the Commission on Elections to one, with none for the splinter party. Osmeña had the law amended so that the Roxas party would be entitled to one inspector in each precinct and would not be cheated without detection.
An act of political madness, the usual practitioners of politics would say. Well, Osmeña was mad — mad for fairness. Before the election, Osmeña was scheduled to leave for Washington with Roxas and Jose Zulueta, then Speaker of the House. When their names were forwarded to Washington for the necessary clearance, Roxas was not “cleared” for the trip. A newspaperman heard of the Washington message and asked for a copy so it could be published, demoralizing the Roxas camp. Osmeña would have nothing to do with it.
“Let me keep that in my safe,” said the President then of the Philippines (How such a President made a Filipino feel clean!) He would not hit the man who sought to remove him from his position “below the belt.”
When it was suggested that he use the Philippine Air Force for an island-hopping election campaign, he ordered all units grounded. Then, when told that Eulogio Rodriguez — “Mr. Nacionalista” — had used an Air Force plane in campaigning for the party’s ticket outside Luzon, to deliver campaign material, Osmeña ordered his secretary of defense, Alfredo Montelibano, to call up Roxas and offer the use of an Air Force plane to equalize advantages. The offer was made twice.
“The fight is over,” said Rodriguez. “Roxas is really fortunate. His campaign manager is Osmeña.”
When an appointment of a Roxas supporter to provincial fiscal was up for approval by Osmeña, he was advised to turn it down because of the man’s political affiliation. That was one of the few times Osmeña showed anger.
“Tell them,” he said, “a man is appointed to an office because his qualifications call for it, not because of his political sympathies.”
Government employees held a rally before Malacañan demanding backpay for services to the government under the Japanese and Osmeña was urged to promise them backpay if elected, even though Washington had not yet set aside the money as it had promised.
“I can’t do that.”
“You need their votes.”
“No, I have to tell them the truth.”
So, he told the rallyists who represented a multitude of government employees all over the country that he would not fool them, he would make no promise he was not certain of fulfilling. And they shouted, “Long live Roxas!”
He would not campaign for election as he would not lie. He had the duties of his office to do, work to do for a ruined country.
“I will just stand before the electorate on the basis of my record and what I have done for the country all these years.”
He did make an election-eve speech — on the state of the nation.
He had served the Filipino people well. If they were not satisfied with his service, if they believed another would serve them better, he was happy to go. He lost by 200,000 votes. If he had lied to that howling mob before Malacañan, he might have gained their votes and those of their families and friends, and won. But he would not lie.
He lost — and felt no rancor toward the winner. Not one word could be extracted from him by a journalist in derogation of Roxas. He was a gentleman to the end.
Why did he refuse to campaign?
“Those were abnormal times,” he said later, “those days after the liberation. There were tens of thousands of loose firearms in the hands of private citizens. The peace and order situation was uncertain. If I had gone out to denounce my political opponents and urged my leaders in the provinces to win the election at all costs, perhaps I could have won, but there would have been bloodshed. Political wrangles might have aggravated the prevailing situation. So, I told my leaders to allow the opposition to say anything its spokesmen wanted to say in their meetings and in the newspapers. I believed then as I do now, that as President it was my highest duty to set an example to the rest of the candidates, to avoid trouble that might endanger the nation and cause our people to lose faith in the government and its officials.”
His old rival and beneficiary, Quezon, said, after defeating him—yet not defeating him in the disgraceful sense of the word:
“It is useless to try to defeat him; he is in alliance with God.”
He set an example for his people and those who led them after him — in vain. The motivation behind the degradation of democracy that came after was best expressed in the words of a high government official:
“What are we in power for?”
Osmeña set an example. He set a standard for those who would govern a people, and it was not enough. He had done his best. I visited him in retirement and found a man—a gentleman—at rest.
The Ruling Money
By Quijano de Manila
Anatomy of the Republic as a plutocracy.
August 29, 1970–THE RICH are different,” said the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent his youth singing hooray for the difference and the rest of his life suffering from it. Though a great writer, Fitzgerald was a naïf. He knew the rich had the power to escape the usual penalties attendant on living at all in this world, but he thought the power to be a special quality bred in the rich by their money—a special strength or glamour, or magic even, that made them able to charm their way out of the consequences of what they did.
This, of course, is bull. As the Ted Kennedy drowning case showed, the rich can get into a stupid funk just like you and me. They get away with it because they are indeed “different,” not as Fitzgerald mystically thought but as Hemingway bluntly put it when fed that line about the rich being different. “Yes,” said Hemingway, “they have more money.” Because the Kennedys have more money, son Ted could be given the benefit of the doubt—though it would be hard to say whose doubt that was. Not the American public’s to judge from the polls.
The Kennedy case did dent a Philippine superstition about the United States: that there, unlike here, rich and poor are equal before the law. But the larger superstition that implies still persists, which may be put this way: if money is power, then the American common man has more power than, say, the Latin American, not only because of the greater amount of American money but because of its more general distribution.
In a densely documented exposé entitled The Rich and the Super-Rich, the American economist Ferdinand Lundberg explodes that superstition. More than 30 percent of American wealth, he found out, was owned by only 1.6 percent of the adult population of 103 million. Since the government owned 20 percent of the wealth, that left less than half of the wealth to be divided among some 98 percent of the population, as of figures for the 1950s.
Of the top 1 percent who are rich, a fraction (0.11 percent) are super-rich; they own 45 percent of their group’s concentrated wealth.
The rest of the American people may be considered poor, and not just in comparison with the rich and the super-rich.
Of the have-not majority, 21.89 percent have gross estates averaging $ 15,000— “just enough to cover a serious personal illness.”
Another 18.4 percent of the population were “worth $6,000 on the average, which would probably largely represent participation in life insurance or emergency money in the bank… or two or three shares of AT&T.”
The remainder of the have-not group form the super-poor and they are the 50 percent of the population that own only 8.3 percent of the wealth. “They had an average estate of $1,800—enough to cover furniture, clothes, a television set and perhaps a run-down car. Most of them had less, many had nothing at all.”
Half of the US population are composed of the super-poor while a fraction of 1 percent are super-rich!
Even if we regard the group in between as “middle class” we are still without an argument for the United States as a popular democracy—that is, where the people have the power. Money is power, but the American “middle class” don’t have that kind of money. They may have two cars in the garage, a TV in every room, insurance and savings accounts—but all that doesn’t make them the ruling money. Of a population of 103 million, says Lundberg: “We see that 1.4 million households own 65 percent of the investment assets, which are what give economic control. Automobiles and home ownership and bank deposits do not give such control.”
So, there goes the picture of the United States as a “people’s capitalism” with a widely diffused ownership of industry. The statistics are indeed impressive: in 1962 more than 17 million Americans owned shares in business enterprises and the figure was believed to have swelled to 20 million in 1968.
But: “Most stockholders own trivial amounts of stock; anybody would qualify as a stockholder if he owned only one share worth 10 cents. We are already aware that 1.6 percent of the population own more than 80 percent of all stock, 100 percent of state and local government bonds, and 88.5 percent of corporate bonds.”
And the “people capitalists,” how much do they own?
“Less than 20 percent of all stocks in 1963 were owned by some 15.4 million people.”
And the rest of the 103 million Americans had no share at all in this “people’s capitalism.” The gap between rich and poor that’s supposed to be narrower in the United States turns out to be a Grand Canyon.
But at least, surely, the American masses do have political power? Lundberg says that this, too, like the “Affluent Society,” is a delusion. Without economic power there’s no political power; and the American masses are either too cowed or too indifferent to exercise even what power they have.
“Officials nominated by either one of two major parties are periodically elected at local, state and federal levels by a largely inept electorate that in most elections fails to participate to the full and in general turns out far below 50 percent. Whether the electorate fully participates makes no difference because most of the candidates are handpicked by nominating caucuses of the two major parties rather than of one party as in Russia. The caucuses function in default of popular activity; the populace simply has no political drive of its own. If Russia permitted a Socialist Party and a Communist Party (joined behind the scenes) it would be on all fours with the United States in respect of parties in the field; the candidates in the field might be politically identical twins, as is often the case in the United States (Johnson versus Goldwater). Money plays a large role in the manipulation of this system—much larger than is usually conceded.”
Not the people but the super-rich finance the “system” and the financing is “down payment on future influence in government.” Since the people cannot or will not actively participate in government, Lundberg calls the set-up in the United States an “oligarchy by default.”
“Writers, focusing attention on Central America, refer caustically to the ‘banana republics’—those countries, economically dominated by the United Fruit Company, whose political leaders are bought and sold like popcorn. Conditions in the United States, mutatis mutandis, are not nearly so different. Even in such a presumably distinctive Latin American feature as the intervention of the military, the United States now clearly overshadows anything in this line the Latin American republics are able to show. Except that the United States has such large numbers of industrial and office workers, rather than landless peasants, it has few features to which general descriptions of Latin American society do not apply. It might almost be said that there’s a growing tendency to mold the United States, apart from its industrial features, upon the ‘banana republics,’ this making it the Banana Republic par excellence.”
On top of the pile is a “well-established hereditary propertied class.” It’s the ruling money, the privileged oligarchy, the super-rich one percent. And it didn’t even earn its money or privilege.
“Great wealth in the United States is no longer ordinarily gained by the input of some effort, legal or illegal, useful or mischievous, but comes from being named an heir. Almost every single wealth holder of the upper half of 1 percent arrived by this route.”
No more room at the top.
The rest of the Americans find how insecure “affluence” is when they lose a job.
“As was shown in the 1930s, Americans can become destitute overnight if deprived of their jobs, a strong support to mindless conformity. As a matter of fact, many persons in rather well-paid jobs, even executives, from time to time find themselves jobless owing to mergers, technical innovations or plant removal. Unable to get new jobs, they suddenly discover, to their amazement, that they are really poor.”
Ability, skills, talent, merely personal qualities, cannot be depended on as assets in the exploitative society.
“The incandescent Marilyn Monroe, as big as they come in filmdom and a veritable box-office Golconda, died broke.”
For that matter, so did poor Scott Fitzgerald, his talent worn out and wasted in the Hollywood dream factories, in the service of the big money that awed him when young.
Insecurity—Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” —is the American way of life.
How is the Philippine picture similar and different?
“FANTASTICALLY LOPSIDED” is how Lundberg describes income distribution in the United States. The Philippines money graph would provoke the same exclamation.
In May, 1969, the Senate committee on economic affairs issued a report on the country’s development from 1955 to 1968.
The most depressing finding was that, in a period of 13 years, “there has been no substantial change in the structure of our economy.” We were still an agricultural country of low productivity, with 58 percent of the labor force tied up in food production, only 11 percent engaged in manufacture. We had no capital-goods industry to speak of; our industry was more assembly than manufacture; and our manufacture was limited to durables like furniture and non-durables like cigarettes, had remained static since 1958, was heavily dependent on imported raw materials.
As a result, our foreign-trade deficit rose from over $147 million in 1955 to over $301 million in 1968: “The deficit in the last two years alone [1967-68] is greater than the combined deficit from 1957 to 1966.”
The national income had increased by 94 percent during the 13-year period, from almost P8 billion in 1955 to almost P15 billion in 1968. But again, this was partly a depressing finding. Despite an increase in average family income, and a shrink in the bottom group of society, the income structure had not changed either. The gap between rich and poor remained just as wide, or had widened further.
“In 1965, as in 1957, the 10 percent of our families who comprise the highest income bracket received 40 percent of the total income, leaving 60 percent of the income to be divided among 90 percent of the families.”
The figures for 1957 may be broken down thus:
2.8 percent of Filipino families earn over P5,000 a year.
17.1 percent earn between P2,001 and P4,999.
This 19.9 percent of Filipino families may be regarded as our “middle-class”—and it’s as meager as the incomes that make it comparatively well-to-do.
78.12 percent of all Filipino families earn less than P2,000 a year.
These are our poor and they comprise almost 80 percent of the nation’s households.
In this group are two subgroups that may be called the super-poor, because the figures on them are:
17.7 percent of Filipino families earn less than P1,000 a year.
11.6 percent earn less than P500.
Or almost 30 percent of the nation’s households living in stark misery.
Now for the other end of the scale.
1 percent of the nation’s families earn over P25,000 a year. These are the rich.
And one-tenth of this 1 percent earn over P100,000 a year. These are the super-rich.
So, in a country where 50 percent of the households live in poverty and 30 percent in utter misery, 1 percent of Filipino families live in affluence and a fraction of them live in super affluence.
Do these happy few constitute, as in the United States, an oligarchy?
Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who helped prepare that Senate report, thinks so. The 1 percent on top are the ruling money not only because they monopolize the wealth but because they control the sources of wealth (land, industry) and the forces of wealth (banking, politics). But the Philippine picture differs from the American in that we are still, more or less, in the robber-baron and nouveau-riche stage.
There’s still room at the top.
THREE LAYERS of wealth have accumulated since the turn of the century and Senator Aquino identifies these layers with lands, politics and banks.
“When the Americans came, a group of young lawyers started titling lands: this was the beginning of the big estates. Gregorio Araneta, for example, became the lawyer of the Tuason family that claimed this tremendous tract of land from Sampaloc to the Marikina Valley. The original source of the Philippine fortunes was, therefore, land—either Spanish grants, like the Ayala estate, or the acquisitions titled during the 1900s.
“The second generation of Filipino wealth came from government connections. In the 1920s when Quezon was financing his independence missions, certain people got choice contracts from the government, like the Teodoros of Ang Tibay, the Madrigals of the shipping line.
“Then we have a third generation of millionaires: those who got concessions from government financing institutions, like the sugar barons. The Philippine National Bank was set up and it financed practically the entire sugar-mill construction of the period. The movement was from Negros Occidental to Iloilo and the sugar barons—the Lopezes, the Javellanas, the Aranetas—started taking over virgin forest.”
The PNB marked an important development: Filipinos—or, at least, some Filipinos—began to have access to capital. Previously, all banks in the country were foreign-owned. Not until 1938 was the first Filipino private commercial bank founded: the Philippine Bank of Commerce. And only after the war, during the Garcia era, did the native entrepreneur really understand why he should have his own bank.
“This cue was Garcia’s Filipino First. The Americans in the Philippines, the British, the Chinese—they had their own banks. But Filipinos had only the PNB to rely on and even there they were not, so to speak, getting the lion’s share, because the Chinese were more adept in the lagay system. So, we began putting up our own banks. The Rufinos set up the Securities Bank, the Santos family, their Prudential Bank; a group of sugar planters (Sarmiento, Antonino), their PCI Bank; and young professionals, graduates of foreign schools, came back and put to use what they had learned by establishing a bank of their own : the Far East.
“There was this proliferation of banks because the Filipino had suddenly realized that money begets money and that he who holds capital can control the economy. The development of native banking system spurred activity in all directions. Now, for the first time, the Filipino had his own capital. On it, he could borrow foreign funds to use for his own development. So, you had the opening of subdivisions, another source of funds, of capital, and you had the rise of local manufacturing industries, all financed by local banks. This is a healthy sign: the Filipino is becoming the master in his own house.”
But Senator Aquino sees one great danger: the Filipino who becomes master in Juan’s house may not be Juan de la Cruz himself. Juan may find that the foreign exploiter he kicked out has been replaced by a native one. “The Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, warned that a country can become the colony of its own people.” And the hurt is that it’s Juan’s money that will be used to make him poorer and his master richer. As the taxes that Juan pays to the government too often are used merely to enrich a few politicians, so, in the banking system, the money of the depositors, of the people, may be used merely to capitalize the owners of the banks.
Senator Aquino says that this is already happening.
“That’s why when Licaros became governor of the Central Bank he came up with the controversial Circular No. 306. This circular makes it official, in writing, that there are tremendous arrears (unpaid debts) in private banks—arrears accountable by the majority stockholders, officers and directors of private banks. In other words, they borrowed money from their own banks, they used the money that people had deposited with them—and they are in arrears. So, according to Licaros, the entire private banking system must never have more than 5 percent in arrears. [The present rate is at least 10 percent.] And he has suggested to us in Congress an amendment to the General Banking Act to penalize bank directors, officials and stockholders who borrow more than their equity in their bank.”
Such a curb, if imposed abruptly, would, thinks Senator Aquino, result in financial chaos: the rich who have been growing richer through two decades by using the depositor’s money would have to be given time to restructure their loans; and the senator also sees how these rich folk who compose a “syndicate” that controls the banks might evade the curb by lending their banks’ money to one another.
“But Licaros says that the moment you go from your bank to another, the application for a loan will have to be examined by two sets of people; it becomes an arm’s-length deal; you will have to put up some collateral; and if there’s somebody on the board of directors who’s not a member of the ‘syndicate’ he could raise hell if the loan is not aboveboard. Licaros maintains that, while this may not completely eliminate the practice, it would minimize it. My contention is: unless we restructure the banking system to break the stranglehold of a small elite of the affluent, this country will definitely become a colony of its own people.”
Already, warns the senator, around 50 super-rich families have become, in effect, the oligarchy that rules our lives.
“These 50 families or so control the private banking system and they now control about 50 percent of the total money in circulation. They are interlocked among themselves through marriage; they join together to buy up foreign corporations. So, already in control of capital, they end up owning the sources of capital. And this new breed of colonizers is sometimes more rapacious than the old ones.”
A public-utility firm previously foreign-run is taken over by the super-rich Filipinos—and what’s the first thing they do? Raise the rates. The service remains just as awful, or gets worse. This, grimaces Senator Aquino, is the fulfillment of Quezon’s wish: a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos.
And it’s not only in the private sector that the 50 super families are taking over. They have also become the State; at least, they alone seem to know how to use it. For their own profit, of course. A good illustration of this is the priority they enjoy when it comes to loans of government funds. Those funds are supposed to be the people’s money. Do “the people” ever get a crack at it?
COMPOUND INJUSTICE it cannot but seem that the elite 10 percent who get 43 percent of the nation’s income should also monopolize the State funds available for capital.
The monopoly, as exemplified during the Marcos era, has been examined by Senator Aquino.
“We cannot get complete solid detailed data, but this much we know. The government has granted around ₱4.5 billion in loans during the Marcos administration. Of this, from 40 to 50 families got 2.3 billion, either by borrowing directly from, or getting their foreign loans guaranteed by, government financing institutions. In other words, some 40-50 families got almost 50 percent of the total loanable funds of the government.
“One family got a loan guarantee for ₱300 million; another, for ₱263 million; a third, for ₱178 million. Sunod-sunod na ‘yan.”
Just the names of those families betray their political connections; those actually—and eminently—in politics enjoyed even larger drafts.
“Two senators each got over ₱400 million; a congressman got ₱180 million. Now what could you possibly say about that?
“It’s true the loans may be not money given out by the government but money borrowed from abroad, on guarantees of the Philippine government—but if the borrowers fail to pay it’s the government that will have to pay.”
In snide terms: to favor 40 or 50 families, the government is willing to risk bankrupting 38 million Filipinos. And these favored families may not even have to risk a signature. A joke in banking circles is that if you belong to the elite just the sound of your name (and the proper amount of kickback, of course) will suffice to get you a government loan. Once the deal is set you can line up your housemaids, chauffeurs and gardeners and make them sign the deed; you’ll get the money just the same.
One gigantic loan being negotiated by a top favorite of the regime had Senator Aquino worried because it looked at first like a direct loan from the government—which is supposed to be lean on funds. Though even a government guarantee for such a huge loan still seems too great a risk, Senator Aquino is more or less resigned to letting the favorite get it— “as long as he himself signs for it.”
Making the State’s fiscal machinery exploitable by an elite is not peculiar to the Marcos administration. Every Philippine president, says Aquino, spawned his own set of millionaires. Quezon did it, to fund his own political machine, and the millionaires he created repaid love with love. “When the T-V-T became obnoxious to Quezon he called in his group of millionaires led by Madrigal and told them to put up a newspaper chain and they came up with the D-M-H-M.” Even the “freedom of the press” depends on the requirements of the ruling money.
Under the Republic the successive sets of millionaires have been identifiable with their respective gold mines.
“The first set was the surplus-property millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Quirino; the import-control millionaires under Quirino and Magsaysay; the reparations millionaires under Garcia; and Macapagal’s government-financed millionaires: the Todas, the Delgados, who put up the Hilton. Under Marcos we have the money-manipulators, the quick artists who dabble in stocks and make money on such manipulations as the devaluation of the peso.”
Of each new set, a few millionaires will survive the passing of the regime, the rest will sink back to obscurity, as a Tony Quirino fades away with the passing of his brother. Those who survive “institutionalize” themselves; they can still be tagged according to their respective eras—a Dindo Gonzalez from Quirino times; a Chiongbian or Antonino or Rustia or Tantoco or Durano from Garcia days; a Toda from the Macapagal era—but where, before, they were identified with a specific administration, now they can influence any administration. They can join the “syndicate” of the super-rich who control the nation’s wealth, the money supply, the banks and the State funds; and it’s this elite, says Senator Aquino, who really control the economic and political destinies of the country.
“Why do I say political? First: these bankers who control 50 percent of the total money in circulation can gang up against any political candidate, or, for that matter, can meet together and agree among themselves to support a particular candidate. Now, big politician needs big money. Big money only comes from big businessman. Big businessman gives big money to big politician. Then big politician repays the favor. That’s the cycle of corruption.
“Second: big businessman gets to feeling it’s more economical to seek public office himself instead of funding candidates who may become unreliable or recalcitrant. This is the beginning of the businessman turned politician. So now we have millionaires and bankers and industrialists going into politics to protect their interests. Not content with economic power, they want it combined with political power. And if they can’t run themselves, they make their wives run for office. This is the development of the dynasties.”
The senator thinks this “pyramiding” of wealth and power unhealthy.
“When the wealth of a country is used by a handful to make the rest of the population virtual slaves, that is unhealthy because it’s no longer a democracy. This is what the young activists denounce as feudalism: a small group of families controlling the destinies of the bulk of the population.”
Moreover, by controlling the politicians, or by being in politics themselves, the elite families ensure that no attempt to reform them out of power can ever succeed. How impose tax laws or inheritance laws to redistribute the wealth when those whom these laws would hurt control the Palace and the Congress and the courts?
Nevertheless Senator Aquino insists that a beginning can be made.
“For example, in the matter of the government loans, I propose that any such loan over half a million be granted to a corporation only if 40 percent of its shares are offered to the public. A corporation not open thus to the public should not be granted a government loan. Why should the money of the people go to one rich family to make that family super-rich? Only public-held corporations should enjoy priority.
“Another thing I would propose: rigid anti-trust laws. In the United States you can’t have what are called ancillary businesses. For example, you are General Motors, you have to purchase tires. You can’t set up a tire company because that would give you undue advantage. Nor a battery factory, because that’s also related to your main line.
“Now the Meralco: it generates 90 percent of the total power in this country. It’s putting up a transformer company. So, that new company will have a 90 percent captive market. If you were an individual wanting to put up a transformer company of your own, how can you compete? You would be fighting only for a 10 percent free market. But Meralco, which, under the law, may not make more than 12 percent profit, can pass all its income to that ancillary transformer company.”
That’s how the rich become richer.
And that’s why they will block anti-trust laws, anti-monopoly laws, inheritance-tax laws, land reform, tax reform, and every attempt to diffuse and equalize wealth.
But the situation is not entirely hopeless. The ruling money is also a built-in bomb.
“Divine Providence,” says Senator Aquino, “has provided for certain checks to self-perpetuating royalty, as can be seen in what happened to European royalty.”
The built-in bomb is in-breeding.
“Sila-sila ang nagasawahan,” laughs the senator.
THE INCESTUOUSNESS of ruling money ensures its downfall better than any socialist law—especially in the Philippines, where energy seems to drain out of a family in two or three generations.
In two generations the Quezon, and in three generations the Legarda, family is faced with extinction. The Castelvi were authentic bluebloods but in barely a century slid from top drawer to déclassé. The Ayala-Zobel business empire rides the impetus brought in by two outsiders, McMicking and Soriano; the direct heirs have turned to art and culture. Of the two boys who inherited the Cojuangco hacienda, neither is running it; authority has passed to those who married into the family. The department-store Aguinaldos were a tycoon family before the war; the third generation has run out of steam. A similar attenuation of spirit imperils every big business family in the country, whether it be the Elizalde or the Yulo or the Roces, and the trend is to bring in outsiders: the family itself can no longer supply the talent. The Madrigals have to employ professional managers to run their businesses; so do the Lopez brothers, who own the biggest fortunes in the country but, alas, cannot count on their sons to take over and carry on.
This is our protection against “dynasties”: that they don’t last long enough to be a dynasty.
“Therefore,” says Senator Aquino, “you really cannot talk of old fortunes in the Philippines. The oldest fortune today would not be more than a hundred years old. It’s money without pedigree. All of it started, somehow, somewhere, in corruption; then the children gamble it away.
“It’s a phenomenon: how the children of the rich tend to backslide. They join the jet set, or they go into art. It’s very rare for the children of the founder to take over the business and improve it. By the third generation you get the young heirs stricken with guilt and social conscience, and the rich hippies rebelling against their own Establishment, and the alienated young who take pot because they have so much money. The rich plant the seeds of their own destruction.”
Even if there are competent heirs to take over the family business, outsiders must still be brought in and allowed to occupy positions of power.
“You are a millionaire with 20 industries and three sons. How can they run all those industries? The era of the individual swashbuckler, the one-man show, is passing; Gonzalo Puyat, Amado Araneta—they are a vanishing breed. Modern industry demands so many different special talents you can only be chairman to a board composed of those talents. And whereas, before, a family could raise a million and start an industry, today capital is in terms of tens of millions. You would have to invite 20 or 30 other families to join in—and the diffusion of wealth begins. It’s no longer a closed family corporation, a tayo-tayo outfit where father is the president, mother is the treasurer, and the children are the directors. You have to hire professional managers.
“This is the new development. An elite is developing which Adolf Berle calls ‘the powerful without money.’ Before, you could have power only with money. Now, you can have power without money, by becoming the professional manager of a giant corporation, not because you own stock in it but because of sheer talent. For example: McNamara of Ford, Lyn Townsend of Chrysler, Knudsen of General Motors. They are technical people who rose from the ranks to wield tremendous power without money. The same thing, I submit, is happening in our country: the rise to power of technical talent who do not come from landed families. A classic example is Leo Virata.”
The trend is most visible in the Marcos cabinet.
“To the credit of Marcos, no other administration has given so much opportunity to the technocrats. The President has realized that to come up with a government for the 1970s he can no longer rely on the old political talent; he has to backstop his political organization with an army of technocrats. That is why he brought in management experts like Ponce Enrile, Alex Melchor, Cesar Virata, Gerry Sicat, Placido Mapa. The age of the technocrat has come.”
What this means is that technical talent is becoming a counterforce to the ruling money. If they should put up a candidate for president against the candidate of the plutocrats, the technocrats could change Philippine society without a revolution—because, says Aquino, the presidency is armed with revolutionary power. “I have always contended that the successful Philippine revolution will be a Palace coup.” A young president elected to power by the technocrats, should he wish to destroy the Establishment that opposed him, has only to use the laws that empower him to take over all public-utility and communications companies, seize their assets and equipment, recall the franchises. With one stroke he could raze the Establishment. No president has yet dared use this power of his against the plutocrats because every president has owed his position to them.
“But the elite have now realized the implications of this terrible power concentrated in the hands of the chief executive and that’s why they’re going to make their influence felt in the Constitutional Convention, to have that power diluted. This is one of the current moves of the elite.”
The senator is strongly against such a dilution of presidential powers, even if, ultimately, he is not so despairing of the elite as he may sound.
“The advantage of the money establishment in this country is its resiliency. It is not rigid, you can move it; it is not impervious to public opinion. Look at the Church: it is changing. The Filipino elite may not even have to respond to the challenge, because they will do the challenging. They will grab the leadership again, this opportunistic elite of ours. And they are pragmatic, they are innovators. They will lead the Revolution. They realize that, if the old system is not changed, their hard-earned money will go.”
THIS OPTIMISM may be justified. Ours is, after all an Establishment that hardly deserves the name, so barely founded is it; and many of the plutocrats can remember the days when papa rode the buses and mama was the neighborhood usurer. Money itself upstart has no nose to turn up at upstarts, nor can “society” crystallize in a country where each change of regime brings on a crop of parvenu.
Despite the great distance, the view from the bottom is still of room at the top. McMicking and Soriano began as accountants for the Ayalas; and Gregorio Araneta, as the Tuasons’ attorney. With the rapid attenuation of blood, today’s plutocrat, when considering an applicant, whether for manager or son-in-law, may not be so concerned to ask what family he comes from as what business school: Harvard? Wharton? Since it’s talent that counts in such schools, their Filipino graduates today are apt to be poor boys who made it aboard on fellowship or grant. If, says Senator Aquino, we spent as much effort searching for such talent to send to good schools as we spend searching for shapely girls to send to beauty contests, we would be hastening social reform.
That the rich can be scared into conscience was proved by the number of balls canceled in the wake of the riots and by the sudden swell of the Christian Social Movement, at whose meetings, one hears, Mr. Manglapus has only to shake a warning finger to get, like another Savoranola, the greatest ladies stripping off their jewels to cast at his feet. But even apocalypse may at last come to feel like something one can live with; and the latest communiqués from the front—Bantay and Cadiz and Cotabato, Expo and Customs, ballroom and fashion salon—indicate that the powerful have recovered from shock and it’s business as usual. Optimism over their voluntary reform should therefore be tempered by the thought of the Bourbons who came and went, and came back again, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
If one has any doubts about who rules and owns this country, one has only to consider the curious upsurge of violence by the “forces of the law,” as if the Establishment, having got over its scare, would have us remember who holds the fire power. Polcom is supposed to have reported an increase of violence but most probably didn’t say if the increase was of violence done by the people or done to the people—and included the burning of that barrio in Bantay, the massacre of those barrio officials in Tarlac. One could then go and ask on which side the police always are during labor strikes; or the PC, when peasants are being burned out of their property or being shot down in cold blood; or the courts, when the question is the defense of Establishment property. Since ours is a plutocracy, they rule the country who own it—and the police agencies are their private security guards. That’s the best index of where power resides—and how uneasily.
In Canton, an island on the river served as castle for the ruling of money, which was foreign, in the days when such enclaves in China could keep a snigger at the gate: No dogs or Chinese allowed. There were tycoon of taste in Canton and the enclave they built was beautiful—tree-shaded lanes, a splendid mall, lordly manors spaced by lawn or garden—but they didn’t know whom they were really building for. They are long gone now and, in what was their Forbes Park, Chinese workers share the houses from which, before the Revolution, money ruled.
In Havana, there are similar relics from the days of the ruling money: elegant villages, a yacht club, a polo club, exclusive beaches. Again, the tycoon, both native and foreign, of Batista days didn’t know for whom they gilt a ceiling or marbled a floor. They couldn’t take it with them—and the people have taken over. In the stylish villages, the great houses are now clinics or colleges or rest homes for workers. The yacht club is a fishermen’s cooperative and on weekends turns into a rendezvous for proletarian boating aficionados. On the beaches once exclusive to those who had the color of money now swim every shade of sepia, every kind of black. The polo club has been turned into a boarding school for young talent and on the grounds where the jet set gamboled teenage Cubans paint, sculpt, dance, compose music, stage dramas, put on concerts—and all as wards of the State, which scouts for talent.
“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
Next time you ride past Forbes Park, remember: the ruling money never knows for whom it builds a Versailles.
November 20, 1965
It’s The Same Old Story – A New Hero’s Rise to Power On the Wave Of The People’s Will,Whose Name Is Fickleness; The Downfall Of Yesterday’s Idol Who Was Blamed For All The Country’s Ills.
By Napoleon G. Rama
It was like 1961 all over again. The play had the same ending. The lonely vigil in the Palace. Laughter and lights in the hideout of the winner. The stunned disbelief. The threats and tension. Controversy over the count. The flight of “migratory birds.” The warm embrace of the few faithful left – warm like the coming of tears.
Turn back the clock of history . . . An era was ending; a new one was about to begin. The rock of Sisyphus had rolled down – and now to begin again at the foot of the hopeless hill.
One passed by the Palace on that night of defeat and noted the stillness and the sadness, the silence drenching the park and the passersby. And the lamps, once lovely and luminous among the trees, announcing with their incandescence the gay rituals in the Palace premises, now burned dully, somberly, casting more shadows than light.
A new hero was hailed; the old one was mocked and derided. Such was the will of the people, whose name is fickleness. It seemed as if politics had been invented to punish the powerful, and the cycle of presidential elections, to confirm the loneliness of the office of the president.
Now, the same old story. . . . glory and defeat in the batting of an eye, in a dot of time – reminder to the vanquished and a warning to the victor that power passes and the contract with the electorate is good only for four years.
Let the winner never forget – no president of the Republic has eve been reelected. There was President Elpidio Quirino, then President Carlos P. Garcia, and now President Diosdado Macapagal. It is doubtful if President Manuel Roxas could have avoided their fate even if he had lived long enough to face the electorate again. Before him, President Sergio Osmeña, the greatest statesman the country has ever produced, was not spared the rebuff reserved for all re-electionist presidents.
Only President Ramon Magsaysay could have survived a reelection bid, but only because he was endowed with that rarest of gifts – political charisma. But he was phenomenon hard to come by. In the last half century only two Philippine politicians possessed this gift – Quezon and Magsaysay. They inspired not merely admiration but also adulation. Worshippers overlooked their idols’ faults, remembered only their virtues.
The political pattern of presidential rise and fall favored President Macapagal in 1961. In 1965 it was President-elect Marcos’ turn to profit from it.
The cards are always stacked against the incumbent.
The reason is not hard to find. No president, no matter how well-meaning and hard-driving, how wise and competent, is capable of solving the problems of the country in four years. So tremendous are the problems, many of them centuries-old, that four years is too short and a human president too limited to cope with them.
It is here that a president comes to grief at the hands of his own people. More than just an occupant of the loftiest post of the land, he is in the eyes of the electorate (thanks to campaign speeches and promises) the Moses who will deliver his people from bondage and want.
Every election season the them dinned into the ears of the electorate is that the presidential aspirant can do what the incumbent president did not accomplish. The companion theme is that for all the evils buffeting the country the President is to blame. Alas for President Macapagal, there were even those who blamed him for the eruption of Taal Volcano.
Thus, in every election campaign the people’s mind is conditioned to fixing responsibility for the unsolved problems of the nation on the incumbent president. They expect the in-coming president to perform miracles. The clamor for change becomes the opposition’s most resonant was cry. Every opposition party since Roxas’ Liberal Party has adopted the battle cry. It has never failed. No theme, the politicos have discovered, more effectively establishes identification with the electorate. For it echoes the popular sentiment. It was the issue that licked President Garcia, the theme that beat President Macapagal.
For all the expert analyses on the factors that swept President-elect Marcos into power, the obvious reason is a simple one, a needy people demanded a change – any change. This demand was stronger than all other factors put together in the last campaign.
Hence, the biggest most powerful vote in the country is not the Ilocano vote, the Cebuano vote, the Iglesia Ni Cristo vote, the NP or LP vote, but the protest vote, the poverty vote. There is no other way of explaining why President Macapagal lost or scored so poorly in almost all undisputed LP bailiwicks.
For as long as the country is afflicted with the ancient problems of food, housing, unemployment, high prices, law and order, so long will the protest vote be the most potent force in a presidential election.. The rising expectations, the unreasoning demand that the president solve all the country’s major problems, the predisposition to blame him for every ill, the predilection of candidates to make wild promises, the general poverty – all help create the protest vote.
Next to the protest vote – from which every opposition party has profited – the most powerful factor behind the Marcos victory was the solid Ilocano vote. It marked off the l965 election from all other presidential elections in the past.
The Ilocano vote was a tremendous political asset for Mr. Marcos, not only because the Ilocanos are clannish and numerous but also because they furnished the President-elect with a tremendous political machine to match or blunt the operations of the powerful administration one. Even more vital to the Marcos victory than the votes in Ilocandia was the national machine assembled and oiled by Ilocano immigrants in all parts of the country. The most footloose group in the country, they are in every nook of the Republic. There is no single big town in the country that doesnot harbor an Ilocano community.
Now it can be told. Mr. Marcos’ secret weapon in the last elections was not the Ilocanos in Ilocandia, but the Ilocanos out of it.
The Ilocanos away from home”, explains Jose Aspiras, Mr.Marcos’s genuine Ilocano spokesman “are more Ilocano than those in Ilocandia.”
What keeps the Ilocanos away from Ilocandia fervent Ilocanos is their minority complex, the instinct of self-preservation and constant nostalgia, said Aspiras. Always a meek minority and keenly aware of the national joke about their thriftiness (“The Scots of the Philippines”), they stay close to one another, make common cause and form a well-knit, solidly-welded community, not so much out of fondness for one another as for purposes ofself-protection.
In Ilocandia where the climate is harsh and the soil niggardly, the Ilocanos have to fight for survival. Hardship and poverty at home,said Aspiras, have made the Ilocanos away from home a self-conscious, hardy, industrious group, better-equipped than any other group to meet the challenge of life and to survive a crisis. Such hardiness and industry have paid off in their quest for a place under the sun in other provinces. In many provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, the Ilocano communities are well-off and well-heeled, some of them dominating the business fields.
It was these immigrant Ilocanos spread all over the country that provided Mr. Marcos with what the political pros regard as the most necessary election equipment – a “personal” campaign apparatus. In many places the party machine, because of factional fights, cannot be relied upon. It is here where the “personal” machine comes in.
According to the Marcos boys, the immigrant Ilocanos proved their clanish allegiance to their region and fellow-Ilocano candidate for president.
“As far as they were concerned,” said Aspiras, “it was no longer just an election fight between President Macapagal and Mr. Marcos. They regarded it also as their own personal fight which had at stake regional pride and fortune.”
They conducted their own campaigns in the towns and barrios where they resided; they got organized; they gathered information, they printed their own sample ballots; they took care of herding the voters to the polls; they raised campaign funds; they stood watchers inside the polling places. They were Mr. Marcos’ Fifth Column in Mindanao, the vaunted LP bastion.
The NP standard-bearer could not have had a more devoted, more hard-driving political machine. What made it a perfect political machine was that it was self-winding so to speak. It was a volunteer organization, fired with missionary ardor and zeal.
Next to the Ilocano vote, in Ilocandia and elsewhere, Mr. Marcos’ msot devastating election “weapon” was Mrs. Imelda Marcos whose success as a vote-getter was described by most political writers covering the NP campaign as “phenomenal.”
She managed a campaign of her own. She certainly was the most beautiful campaigner in the l965 elections. Everywhere she went she drew bigger crowds than any of the senatorial teams. On the surface, the voters wsent for her bewitching campaign tactics – her little sob stories, her glorious dresses, her tea parties, and her kundimans sung with professional style and skill.
But it was not her tear–jerkers, her dresses, her parties and kunkimans that made up her greatest contribution to the Marcos campaign. It was her remarkable defense of her husband’s questioned integrity that countred most.
NP tacticians were agreed that in the electoral battle the LP’s most lethal weapon was the integrity issue against the NP standard-bearer. At the start of the campaign some NP leaders threws their hands up and kept out of the fight because they were convinced that the integrity charges against the NP standar-bearer were simply unanswerable.
In the integrity issue the LP’s found Mr. Marcos’ softest spot. NP strategists were at their wits’ end trying to blunt the LP attack on Marcos’ personal character and record in office. It was Imelda who provided the NPs with the armor that shielded Marcos from political destruction.
And Imelda’s defense was classic in simplicity and conciseness. She offered herself as the star character witness for her husband. And her punch line was:
“They say that my husband is a forger, a murderer, a land-grabber. Look at me. Do you think I would have married this man if he was that bad? Do you think I would have stayed with him and campaigned for him if the charges were true? I should have been the first to know about the character of my husband. He is the best, the tenderest husband in the world. . .”
A beautiful woman, with the “voice of a nightingale” and the “charms of a movie queen,” as an AmericAn newsman described her, testifying in behalf of her husband, is the most effective, the most appealing star witness in the world.
That her defense was largely addressed to the emotions and, in the realm of logic and legal procedure, a little irrelevant was of no moment. A town plaza is not a courtroom. What might be an effective brief before a court of justice is a “dud” as far as the crowds are concerned. Thus, the NPs solved what they considered their biggest problem in the battle of propaganda – the integrity issue against “President-elect Marcos. It was Imelda who “de-fused” the LP propaganda bombs.
And, of course, there was the Iglesia ni Cristo vote. The fact is Mr. Marcos, despite the confident predictions of his strategists, did not get 90 per cent of all the votes in Ilocandia. But INC insiders will swear that Marcos got at least 99 per cent of all the INC votes.
The INC vote has proved to be more monolithic than the Ilocano vote. The reason is simple. The Ilocanos voted as Ilocanos devoted to a fellow-Ilocano and a “favorite son.” The Iglesia ni Cristo members voted as a religious sect, bound by a religious dogma and by church injunction to vote for INC candidates under pain of mortal sin and expulsion from the sect.
The INC makes no bones about it. Its spokesman in an official statement confirmed that the policy of the INC to vote as one man is “scripturally-supported.” The injunction is part of the INC catechism. As a religio-political organization, the Iglesia Ni Cristo has a totalitarian force.
Apart from the effects of an absolutely solid vote, variously estimated at from 300,000 to 400,000 in number, the INC, although a religious minority, increases its political sway and power by expert political horse-trading in towns and barrios. In many places, the INC’s small but solid group holds the balance of power. Where the contending candidates are evenly matched and engaged in a nip-and-tuck fight, the INC vote determines the result of the elections. Here is where the INC strategists come in. The politicos knws that the INC can deliver on its promise. That is why they go out of their way to woo the INC ministers in their districts and jump at the opportunity to make a deal with the INC. Under this setup, the INC usually winds up controlling the town or the province.
It is this situation that makes the INC even more powerful than it is thought to be. With its solid vote, it holds the sword of Damocles over the heads of politicians, big or small. It is not the number, but the monolithic character, of the Iglesia Ni Cristo that makes it a very potent and dangerous political force.
The INC knows the uses of religion for political purposes, understands Philippine politics and is aware of its political power. There’s no telling how far the INC will go to influence national elections. INC insiders are already predicting an INC president in a not so distant future. All this INC political sway is further abetted by the lack of a Catholic vote, as the last elections clearly demonstrated. Catholics vote as independent men.
Summing up, the President-elect’s victory in the last elections was made possible by the protest vote or guts issue, the Ilocano vote, the campaign charms of Imelda and the Iglesia Ni Cristo’s politico-religious vote.
Quezon and Osmeña
From a former Free Press associate editor come these recollections of two Philippine presidents.
By Frederic S. Marquardt
December 15, 1962—SERGIO Osmeña’s long life was filled with many great services to his country, but none of them surpassed his voluntary relinquency of the presidency of the Philippines in the fall of the war year of 1943. That office was the goal of his political life. He undoubtedly wanted it more than anything else. But he gave up the presidency to which he was legally entitled. If history records a similar example of self-abnegation in any nation in the world, it has escaped my attention.
Perhaps the closest parallel in American history is to be found in the case of William Tecumseh, a Civil War general who was asked to run for the presidency. Because of his tremendous personal popularity, a move was started to draft him for the post. In terms of utter finality, General Sherman said, “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.”
But Osmeña went even farther. He gave up the presidency after having been, in effect, elected to it. He signed away his right to the chief magistracy, when all he had to do was remain silent and the mantle of power would have fallen to him. He gave up what was rightfully his, in the interest of Philippine unity during time of war.
The story really began when the Philippine Constitution was drawn up. Although neither Manuel Quezon nor Sergio Osmeña was a delegate to the constitutional convention, they agreed with a charter provision limiting the presidential tenure to one term of six years. Quezon was elected president, Osmeña vice-president. They assumed office on November 15, 1935, the day on which the Commonwealth of the Philippines was officially proclaimed.
I covered the constitutional convention for the Free Press, and attended many of its sessions. It was always my opinion, although I could never prove it, that Governor-General Frank Murphy, who later became a justice on the US Supreme Court, planted the seed of the single six-year term. He also was responsible for the unicameral legislature that was written into the Philippine Constitution—and abandoned shortly after he left the Philippines.
It didn’t take much longer for opposition to mount against the single six-year term for president. There was a general feeling that it would be a mistake to rob the Philippines of the service of President Quezon, its most distinguished son and most gifted political leader. If the constitutional provision were carried out, politicians argued, it would be impossible for Quezon to be president when the Philippines achieved independence on July 4, 1946. So powerful was Quezon’s hold on his people that Independence Day without Quezon as president would have been like a wedding ceremony without a bridegroom.
So the Constitution was changed, to fix the term of president at four years and to prevent anyone from holding the office for more than eight consecutive years. It was generally understood that Quezon and Osmeña would be reelected for four-year terms in 1941. Quezon’s eight consecutive years would be up on November 15, 1943. he would step aside on that date and Osmeña would be president for two years. Then Quezon could be reelected in the 1945 elections, and he would be president when Independence Day arrived on July 4, 1946.
Things didn’t work out that way. The Quezon-Osmeña team was reelected in November, 1941, but the votes had hardly been counted before the Philippines was at war with Japan. President Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña went to Corregidor with General Douglas MacArthur, and early in 1942 made their way to Washington to establish a Philippine government in exile.
By the summer of 1943 it became evident that the Philippine presidential issue would have to be resolved. Japanese propaganda broadcasts were proclaiming that Quezon had been forced to go to the United States, and was in fact being held in Washington against his will. If Osmeña should become president, as would happen unless the constitutional limitation on the presidential term were changed, the Japanese would claim Quezon had been stripped of authority by his alleged friends, the Americans. Of course, the Japanese propaganda mills would also work the other way. If Osmeña did not become president, Radio Tokyo would say the Philippine Constitution had been altered at the behest of the US government.
A few days before the November 15, 1943, deadline, the US Congress passed a bill providing Quezon would remain president and Osmeña vice-president until their terms ended in 1945. Congressional authority to act in the matter was based on American sovereignty in the Philippines, which would run until 1946. However, such a distinguished authority as George A. Malcolm, long-time member of the Philippine Supreme Court, described the congressional action as “constitutionally indefensible” in his book, First Malayan Republic.
The bill to keep Quezon in the presidency passed the Senate unanimously, but 150 members of the House of Representatives voted against it, largely because they were opposed to allowing any president to serve more than eight years and they hoped, somehow, to stave off the bid for a fourth term that President Roosevelt was obviously going to make in 1944.
Just how was this critical decision in Philippine history made? I heard the entire story from the lips of the two major participants, Quezon and Osmeña, in Washington late in November, 1943. I had just been appointed Chief of the US Office of War Information in the Southwest Pacific, and was on my way to join General MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia. I made courtesy calls on both the President and the Vice-President. A verbatim copy of the notes I made after those conferences appears with this article. I believe it is fitting to retell this important chapter of Philippine history in the exact words that I used after talking with the two principal participants nearly 20 years ago.
Notes on a talk with Vice-President Osmeña at the Twenty-Four Hundred Hotel in Washington, Saturday, November 27, 1943
I called on Vice-President Osmeña in his hotel suite and opened the conversation by telling him what I thought the Filipinos in Washington deserved to be congratulated for having so amicably disposed of their differences. I said that unity seemed to me to be essential, and I realized that he had made unity possible by his action in the matter of presidential succession.
“I asked him to let me know exactly what he wanted to do in this case,” said Osmeña. “I said I would study the matter and that if I could conscientiously agree with him, it would be the best for all of us if we presented a unified front.
“Well, Mr. Quezon said that he didn’t believe the Constitution was applicable to our government, since it was no longer operative in the Philippines. I told him that id dint agree with the interpretation, since everything we had done was under the Constitution. We were, in fact, spending the people’s money because of the authority of the Constitution, and I could not agree that ours was merely an interim government. I thought it was the legitimate government of the Philippines. But I said that we could easily refer the matter to the department of the interior, the state department or the attorney general’s office.
“After I was out of the hospital we talked about the matter again and President Quezon said that he felt that President Roosevelt should intervene and use his emergency powers to settle the question of succession. He had apparently consulted some lawyers because he quoted Civil War precedents under President Lincoln.”
As I remember it, Osmeña did not agree with the interpretation of law either. At all events, many times during the conversation he made it clear that he always felt that Congress should act in the matter, since Congress alone had authority to alter the Tydings-McDuffie law. He also said that the attorney-general had given an opinion to the effect that President Roosevelt could not extend President Roosevelt’s term of office.
Mr. Osmeña then told me of a long conversation he had with Secretary of War Stimson. “Since the restoration of our government depended upon the United States military power,” Osmeña said, “I wanted to find out what the responsible American officials thought about it. Stimson kept me in his office for about an hour and a half. There were a lot of generals and chiefs of staff waiting to see him, but when I tried to break away he told me to stay. I told him I didn’t want to be responsible for losing a battle, and he laughed.
“Stimson painted a very compelling picture of the entire war, starting with Pearl Harbor. He told me that one great aim of the United States was to recapture the Philippines and give the Filipinos their real independence. I told him I was glad to hear that pledge repeated, although of course it had been made many times and I had never doubted it. He said that in defeating Japan the United States needed the help of the Filipinos, all of them, and that he hoped President Quezon and I would be able to help, and not only one of us, as would happen if Quezon should be replaced as president by me. I told him that I was anxious for unity too, but I asked him now, assuming that I agreed that Mr. Quezon was to remain as president, it could be done. I told him there were certain legal obstacles to be considered. He said that wasn’t in his province, and that the method of settling the issue would have to be left to the legalists, but he made it very clear that he wanted both Mr. Quezon and myself to continue in our offices as a war measure.”
At a later point in the conversation, Osmeña, referring back to this conversation, said Stimson had said that two men were essential in the reconquest of the Philippines—MacArthur and Quezon.
Osmeña then referred to the letter that Quezon had written President Roosevelt asking that he be kept in office. He asked me if I were acquainted with it, and I said yes. “One day,” said Osmeña, “Quezon called me over to the Shoreham and said, ‘Well, they’re going to throw me out in the street.’ I could see he was depressed so I asked him what made him say that. He had sent me a copy of the letter, as a matter of courtesy, but had not asked me to comment on it, so I had said nothing. If he had asked for my advice, however, I should have told him not to send the letter, as its arguments were very weak. ‘I sent a letter to the White House two weeks ago,’ he said, ‘and they haven’t even acknowledged it. They want to get rid of me.’ Well, I knew that Mr. Quezon had come out of the Philippines against his best judgment, because he was sick, but I assured him no one was trying to get rid of him. To make him feel better, I said I had tried to get an appointment with President Roosevelt but hadn’t received an answer. I said the President was very busy. I also said that I had no intention of throwing Mr. Quezon out. I told him that I had long since told mutual friends that if I should become president I would make Mr. Quezon head of a council of state and would ask him to stay in the Shoreham and retain all the perquisites of his present office. I didn’t want to move in that big hotel suite. This place is fine for me.”
The vital question, it seemed, was one of procedure. Although Osmeña apparently at no time gave his outright consent to a blanket plan of letting Quezon stay in office, he was willing to discuss any method by which it could be done. Finally, he said, he talked to Judge Sam Rosenman, presidential aide, who was handling the case for the White House. “Judge Rosenman wanted us to petition Congress to act,” Osmeña said. “I told him that if that was a request of President Roosevelt’s, of course, I would comply. A little later he called me up and said his office had drafted a letter that he was sure I would be satisfied with, and that he wanted Mr. Quezon and me to sign it. He said President Quezon had the copy. I went to Shoreham and Mr. Quezon read me the letter. But it wasn’t the one I had expected, that is one from the President asking us to take the question to Congress. Rather it was just a letter from the two of us asking Congress to act. I told Mr. Quezon I couldn’t sign it. He said he had already committed himself. I said I was sorry, but I couldn’t sign it. So he called a meeting of the Cabinet.
“He spoke to us at some length, lying there in his bed, about the whole question, and then asked for our opinions. He asked me if I wanted to be heard and I presented my side of the question. Then he said he wanted the opinion of his Cabinet members. First he called on [Jaime] Hernandez, who as auditor-general would remain in the Cabinet by law, whether I took office or not. Hernandez spoke in a very low voice for a minute or two then said, ‘This is a very vital matter, and I would like a little time to think it over.’ Then Mr. Quezon said, ‘Well, I see the Cabinet is divided. In that case, my decision is made. I have rented a home in California and I shall leave here on November 14. Mr. Osmeña will become president on the 15th. This is the final Cabinet meeting. It’s good-bye to all of you.’ They all walked out and I went to the elevator with them. Then I returned to the President’s bedroom and told him I wanted to think things over and I would see him in the morning. I thought he might change his mind. But when I saw him the next morning, he was as determined as ever.
“‘I’m disgusted with it all, and I’ll have no more to do with it,’ Mr. Quezon said.
“‘Does that stop me from settling the case?’ I asked him.
“‘No, you can go ahead and do what you like,’ he said.
“‘All right, I said, ‘but I want one promise from you. I want you to let me handle it entirely alone. Please don’t call up anyone or do anything about it.’
“‘I’ll promise that,’ Mr. Quezon said. ‘You can do anything you like. I’ll have no more to do with it.’
“Then I said that since the White House had refused to intervene, I intended to take the matter up with Senator [Millard W.] Tydings. I outlined three possible courses of action.”
I’m not sure now what one of these three courses was. One was for Congress to suspend the running of all terms of office of all Philippine officials, the terms to recommence running one month after the retaking of the Philippines. The last was to extend the present terms of office, or rather to keep Quezon and Osmeña in their present positions.
Osmeña also said that when he could not get a letter from President Roosevelt requesting him to submit the matter to Congress, he would have been satisfied with a similar letter from the secretary of war. Apparently, however, he failed to get such a letter, or perhaps he didn’t try for one.
At all events, he talked at great length of Tydings, who said that of his three plans, only the final one could be pushed through Congress, and then only if he and President Quezon would sign the request for it. So he asked Tydings to help on the draft, they revised it, and then Osmeña took it to the Cabinet. After a few changes, the Cabinet approved it, all of them initialed it, and he took it to President Quezon, who promptly agreed to sign it.
Then it went to Congress, and the Senate passed it unanimously, but there were more than 150 votes against it in the Lower House after a particularly hot debate. Osmeña could undoubtedly have killed the bill in the Lower House had he expressed any disapproval of it.
It should be added that Roosevelt’s refusal to take any part in the business was undoubtedly due to the 1944 presidential campaign. He would have been charged with perpetuating one presidency fiat as a prelude to perpetuating his own.
Notes on a talk with President Quezon at the Shoreham Hotel on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1943
President Quezon had asked me to see him regarding the possibility of taking a job with the Commonwealth government. I explained that I was going to Australia for OWI, and we discussed the situation in Australia briefly.
I was talking about the radio propaganda now being directed at the Philippines, and mentioned that the presidential succession, whereby Quezon and Osmeña were kept in their present positions for the duration, had been treated in a simple, factual manner in the broadcasts to the Philippines. I went on to say that I thought the manner in which the Filipino government in exile had worked out its problem in unison contrasted sharply with the de Gaulle-Girard rift in the French Committee of Liberation, and with the various Cabinet crises in the Polish and Yugoslav governments in exile. Then Quezon broke in and said, “I’m going to tell you some history.”
He recalled that last May President Roosevelt had told him he wanted him to remain as president of the government after November 15, the day on which, according to the Philippine Constitution, he should retire in favor of Osmeña. “I told the President not to take any action without first consulting Osmeña,” said Quezon to me. “For I earlier had spoken to Osmeña and told him we should settle this question among ourselves. I told him that if he thought he had a right to the office, he should let me know and we should work it out without asking anyone in the United States government to intervene. He agreed.
“Well, last summer when I was in Saranac, some people apparently convinced Osmeña that he should have the office according to legal right.”
Earlier Quezon had explained to me at length that he did not believe the Constitution was operative in the present emergency, since the Tydings-McDuffie Law provided the President should authority in the Philippines, and obviously he had no such authority. “I am the President of half a dozen men, not of the Philippines,” he had said laughingly.
In the fall, when he returned from Saranac, he wanted President Roosevelt to intervene and use his emergency powers to keep him in office. (In this connection, when I saw Quezon late in October, he had me read a six-page letter he had sent President Roosevelt asking him to settle the issue and giving the reasons for which he thought he should be kept in office.) Osmeña wanted Congress to act on the matter. Finally, a few days before November 15, Congress did act, on the basis of a letter signed by Quezon, Osmeña and the Philippine Cabinet.
“Rosenman [Sam Rosenman, White House adviser] called me up one night about that letter,” Quezon told me. “He said Osmeña had agreed to sign it if I would, and he read a draft of it. I told him I wouldn’t sign it. He asked me to think it over and consult Tydings, Stimson and others and let him know in the morning. I told him I wouldn’t have to think it over. I wouldn’t sign it.
“Well, the next morning Stimson came in and showed me the letter and asked me to sign it. I said I couldn’t. He said, ‘That’s your Spanish pride, Don Manuel.’ I said, ‘I resent that, Governor!’ He laughed and recalled I was talking the same way I did when he was governor-general and I stood by him on liberalizing the corporation laws, when every other Filipino opposed him. I said it wasn’t pride, but simply a matter of dignity. I wasn’t a jobseeker, and never had been one. I wasn’t going to sign a letter to Congress now begging for a job.
“Then Stimson said, ‘I’m asking you to sign the letter because we need you in the war effort, and we need you at the head of the government. It’s your duty.’
“So I said, ‘Then I’ll sign it. I have never yet failed to do my patriotic duty. If Osmeña will sign it, I will.’
“So I thought it was all settled, but that afternoon Osmeña came and said he couldn’t sign the letter and he didn’t think he should.”
Quezon didn’t make clear why Osmeña was opposed to signing the letter. But during another telephone conversation with Quezon, Rosenman said, “What’s the matter with you fellows? When Osmeña wants to sign, you don’t. and when you want to sign, he doesn’t.”
Then Quezon told me, “So I called a meeting of the Cabinet. When they were all here, I told them that I hadn’t wanted to sign the letter, but when the secretary of war told me it was my duty to do so I had agreed. However, Sergio wouldn’t sign it.”
He rested for a few seconds in his bed, where he had been during the entire interview, then said with his customary dramatic flourish, “So I said, ‘Gentlemen, I’m through.’ I turned to Hernandez [Jaime Hernandez, secretary of finance] and said, ‘Fix up a complete financial report for my term of office.’ Then I said, ‘Rotor [Arturo B. Rotor, private secretary], get all my papers for me.’ And then to all of them, I said, ‘I’m leaving here on the 14th.’”
He smiled and said, “Osmeña came over quickly and said he’d sign the paper. So did everyone else. And that’s how it happened.”
Then he paid tribute to the statement issued by Osmeña regarding the unity of the Filipinos, and saying it was a pity it had not received more publicity in this country. He didn’t feel, however, that it was of any particular propaganda value in the Philippines.
There was one other statement of particular interest in the conversation. Toward the close, Quezon said, “Marquardt, there’s one thing I want you to remember, and to spread publicly and privately when the time comes. I’m a sick man, and I may die, but I want everyone to know what a wonderful thing Roxas [Manuel Roxas] has done in the Philippines. He refused to come out with me. Three times he has refused to be the head of the new government there, although I wanted him to. He said his duty was with Wainwright. I know of no one better qualified for future leadership in the Philippines than Roxas. If I live, he will be my successor.”
Quezon and his fights
by Rodrigo C. Lim
Everything he did, he did with style and elegance, which is why even his political feuds seem so dramatic and glamorous, especially when compared to the sordid political squabbles of today.
THE CURRENT POWER STRUGGLE among the country’s top political leaders, particularly that between President Garcia and NP and Senate President “Amang” Rodriguez, reminds us of the fights the late President Quezon had in in his over 30 years of public life.
In one respect Quezon’s political career was unique, singular. It could be perhaps duplicated but surely not surpassed by that of any other Filipino leader, or any other country for that matter. For not once in his incessant political strifes did he suffer a single defeat – and in many of them he was pitted against the most formidable opponents of his time.
Foremost of these battles was his historic fight for political supremacy in the early 20s against then Speaker Osmeña on the issue of collective versus unipersonal leadership. For over 15 years the two leaders had been disinterestingly and unselfishly collaborating in the common effort of nation building, forming a political partnership without parallel anywhere else then or today. Times there were when, because of conflict of opinion on vital national questions and of diametrically opposed characters and temperaments, a clash appeared imminent and inevitable. Each time, however, one or the other sacrificed personal prid and ambition for the good of the country, particularly the cause for which both had fought in war and in peace – Philippine independence.
But even the sweetest of honeymoons cannot last forever and in due time, the Quezon-Osmeña combine ended as any such political alliance is bound to end somehow, sometime. The formal parting of the ways came in the evening of February 17, 1922 when, before a mammoth crowd that overflowed the pre-war Manila Grand Opera House, Quezon declared war against his life-long friend and partner.
“When one is convinced that the conduct of a party is no longer in consonance with the will of the people and does not respect the demands of public opinion”, he told the teeming thousands that jammed that huge theater, “then no member is under any obligation to remain in that party.” It was then that he pronounced his classic now off-quoted dogma: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”
Talking of the conflict, which some wiseacres of the time called a fight between autocracy as represented by Osmeña and democracy as typified by Quezon, the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, then secretary of interior and one of the geatest minds the Philippins has ever produced, said:
“The split came as a result of the disagreement over the leadership which question. Our faction stood for the so-called collective leadership which puts responsibilty in each department of the government. In other wotds the unipersonalists supported the introduction of the parliamentary form of government in the Philippines and the collectivitists the presidential form.”
While a good many people sincerely believed that Quezon only wanted to establish “a government by the people by means of a voluntary expression of sovereign will of the people” and “not the people’s rule without the expression of the popular will”, there were others who accused him of provoking the split to take control of the party and pertpetuate himself in power.
To those critics he retorted:
“Can I find a position in the Philippine government and in the gift of the Filipino people higher than that of president of the Senate, the highest position to which a Filipino could be sent by his countrymen? If I wanted to perpetuate myself in power, is there anything better for me than to remain in the Nacionalista Party?”
From the thundeous ovation the greeted his memorable pronouncements that evening at the Opera House, could be foreseen the outcome of the first clash between the two Filipino titans. In the subsequent election, in June, 1922, during which both were in the United States as joint chiefs of an independence mission, Quezon’s Collectivistas won with such a convincing majority that he thereafter became the acknowledged leader of Filipino participation in the government.
The Quezon-Osmeña divorce did not last long however. Quezon did not have a sufficient majority in the Lower House to elect the speaker of his choice, the then rising political star from Capiz, Manuel Roxas, and as between his former partner and the Democratas, he chose to coalesce with former. Neither did the Cebuano leader want any coalition with the oppositionists. Thus was formed the Nacionalista Consolidado Party with Quezon as head.
No sooner had Quezon and Osmeña kissed and made up when MLQ had to face a greater fight with no less than the representative of American sovereignty in his country – Governor-General Wood.
An arch-enemy of Philippine Independence, Wood was set on undoing all that his predecessor, Francis Burton Harrison, ahd done to give the Filipinos ample powers and responsibilities in preparation for self-government. Among other things, he turned his cabinet secretaries into glorified office clerks, solely responsible to him and under his absolute control, although their appointments were subject to control and approval of the Philippine legislature. To advise him in matters that were purely the concern of the Filipinos, he insteaf formed what then Editor Carlos P. Romulo called the “Kitchen Cabinet” or “Cavalry Cabinet” as others dubbed it, composed of U.S. Army officers including his playboy son, Lt. Osborne C. Wood.
Quezon was not one to take such affront to Filipino dignity lying down. The open break was precipitated by Governor Wood’s reinstatement of an American police detective who had been suspended by the city mayor with the approval of the interior. Quezon considered this act a clear violation of the fundamental law of the land and “a backward step and a curtailment of Filipino autonomy guaranteed by the organic act and enjoyed by the Filipino people continously since the operation of the Jones Law”. Shortly before midnight of July 17, 1922, the department secretaries led by Quezon and Speaker Roxas marched to Malacañan and presented their resignations from the cabinet and the council of state.
Wood accepted the resignations which he considered “a challenge and a threat which cannot ignore”. He likewise accepted the resignation of City Mayor Ramon J. Fernandez which was simultaneously presented with those of the cabinet men.
Quezon had so presented the issue that the people readily rallied around him. Only dissenters who saw in the crisis a chance to assume the powers formerly enjoyed by Quezon and company, were the Democratas led by Judge Juan Sumulong who branded the resignations as “fictitious, artificial, ridiculous and frivilous”. The case was later submitted to the people when a special election was held in the fourth senatorila district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Pedro Guevara who was chosen resident commissioner to Washington.
Never had the people witnessed such a battle royal in which all available instruments of political warfare were utilized. Quezon went to the people to the people in behalf of his man, Ex-Mayor Fernandez, with no other issue but “A vote for Fernandez is a vote for the people; a vote for Sumulong is a vote for Wood”. The result was an overwhelming majority for Fernandez and once again, Quezon scored one of the biggest victories in his political career.
A consequence of his rift with Wood which ended with the latter’s death on August 7, 1927, was Quezon’s equally acrimonious controversy with his former revolutionary chief, General Aguinaldo, whom he had served as an aide with the rank of major. Aguinaldo did not only express support for Wood but tried to strengthen the latter’s position here and in America by expelling Quezon from his Veterans of the Revolution Association. The bomb that was expected to discredit the Filipino leader in the eyes of both Filipinos and Americans proved a dud however. It turned out that Quezon had never been a member of the association and he could not therefore be expelled therefrom.
“While I am a veteran I have never affiliated with the association”. Quezon pointed out, “and from the time General Aguinaldo, for purely personal motives, came out in support of General Wood I have considered any association with it not only an inconsistency but a betrayal of public trust on my part.”
Offshoot of that controversy which lasted for quite a time was the withdrawal by the legislature of Aguinaldo’s P12,000 annual pension.
Last but not least of Quezon’s major political battles was his second break with Osmeña on the question of the H-H-C (Hare-Hawes-Cutting) Law. As everyone failiar with Philippine history knows, that law which provided for independence after a transition period of ten years, was passed by the U.S. Congress through the efforts of the so-called OSROX mission headed by Senator Osmeña and Speaker Roxas. Quezon objected however to the economic provisions of the law and caused the legislature to reject it.
With the OSROX group, aside from Osmeña and Roxas, were such political stalwarts as Rep. Benigno Aquino, Sen. Jose O. Vera, Commissioner Osias and U.P. President Palma. On Quezon’s side were his righthand men Senator Jose Ma. Clarin, Senator Elpidio Quirino and Reps. Quintin Paredes and Jose Zulueta. A tribute to Quezon’s political sagacity, he won to his side such former enemies as Aguinaldo, Sumulong, Recto and other lesser oppositionists.
The bitter fight had its first repercussions in the legislature when Osmeña men or “pros” were eliminated from key positions. Foremost of those “decapitated” was Speaker Roxas who was replaced by Rep. Paredes. The senate re-elected Quezon as president; Clarin, president-protempore, and Quirino, floor leader. There was then no question that Quezon and his “antis” were masters of the situation.
Quezon’s stock rose to greater heights when, despite dark predictions of failure voiced by the “pros”, he went to America and came back with another law – the Tydings-McDuffie Act – which was admittedly a much better law in so far as the Filipinos were concerned. Without a dissenting vote the legislature later accepted the law which became the foundation of the present Republic.
Once more, the people gave eloquent evidence of their confidence in Quezon when, in the election held barely a month after the acceptance of the T-M law, his men swept to victory throughout the country.
The foregoing are but a few of the fights that made Quezon’s political career colorful and dramatic. As has been already said, is not one of them did he ever taste the bitter pill of defeat. This, many of those who knew him attributed to his great and winning personality, his deep insight into human nature and his fighting spirit. To this the writer would add: if Quezon never lost a fight, it was because before he plunged into a battle he made sure of his backing, political or otherwise. I still remember that on the eve of his declaration of war against Osmeña and Roxas on the H-H-C law, he gathered at his home in Pasay the biggest men in business, finance and industry to ask for their support.
“Somos or no somos” he asked them, and when everyone chorused “Somos,” he fired the following day the first salvo against the OSROX.
My Years with the FREE PRESS
By Frederic S. Marquardt
‘None of us worked for fame or glory, but I think we all had a sense of doing a good job at an exciting time in the life of a people emerging from colonial to independent status’
August 30, 1958—TWENTY-FIVE years ago I helped prepare the silver anniversary edition of the Philippines Free Press. The depression we wrestled with in those days has passed. The Japanese menace we wrote about has come and gone. The independence we discussed on all occasions is an established fact. Quezon and Osmeña and Roxas have left the scene. It’s a different world, a world of television, of Sputniks, of intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with hydrogen warheads. But the Free Press hasn’t changed, not really, during the second quarter century of its existence. It still holds fast to the high standards of good English that have marked every issue. It still is ready to break a lance on corruption in government. It still fights for a better Philippines in a world at least slightly mad. And I am happy indeed to be able to salute it on its golden anniversary.
Not many newspapers have managed to survive 50 years of what is, I suppose, the toughest competition that exists. I know of no other which has been edited and published by one man for half a century. Certainly none of the world’s other great national publications have had one hand at the tiller for so long.
Since R. McCulloch Dick probably will wield the red pencil on my copy if I say much more about him, let me get down to my assignment of describing the Free Press in the days before World War II.
When I joined the Free Press staff late in 1928, the ordinary edition contained 56 pages a week, of which 16 were in Spanish. All editorials were translated into Spanish, to achieve a maximum impact for editorial opinion. Although Don Alberto Campos and Roman Joven and the others who worked on the Spanish section were extremely able men, the times were against them. The advertisers got better results when their ads were in the English section, and the Spanish section was abandoned after it had shrunk to a meager six pages. The bilingual F. Theo Rogers, business manager and lifelong associate of Mr. Dick, felt badly when the glory that was Castile faded from the pages of the Free Press, but he too accepted the inevitable.
I think I should make at least a passing reference to the hard-headed business sense of the Dick-Rogers team. They have always known that financial stability was the only basis on which a newspaper can operate in a competitive economy. I recall reading to Mr. Dick the lead editorial in Volume I, Number 1, of one of the papers that were constantly springing up in those days. The editorial platform announced the highest possible motives, all of which Mr. Dick agreed with. “But,” said the Free Press owner, “I would give it more chance of surviving if it said it was determined to keep out of the red.” The Free Press kept out of the red. It didn’t amass a great fortune or erect a magnificent plant, but it wasn’t in hock to a bank and it always met its payrolls. The pay scale, by the way, was the highest in Manila.
For roughly the first 25 or 30 years of its existence the Free Press ran an ad on its front cover each week. The cover stock was blue, and the result was a distinctive appearance that could easily be spotted on newsstands. But the British example of printing ads on the front cover became gradually outmoded and by the early ’30s we switched over to photographs or other illustrations. I recall the indignant letters we received from old subscribers when the change was made. Some of them had failed to recognize the Free Press in its new dress, and at least one annoyed reader told us to quit copying the Saturday Evening Post. Oddly enough the change to what we considered a more attractive cover did not boost circulation, but those were depression days and new subscribers were hard to come by.
For years prior to my arrival the Free Press had occasionally been running an insert bearing the picture of a national hero, a distinguished citizen, or a Filipino beauty. It usually was printed on one side of a sheet of glossy paper, and slipped into the paper as a sort of bonus. These inserts were highly popular and they appeared throughout the Philippines as decorations in homes of all sorts. The beauty contest, glorifying Filipino womanhood in every province, was a great feature of the paper.
We expanded the insert to four pages on book stock, but made it the same size as the rest of the paper and stapled it in the center of the magazine. On special occasions we would use color, and gradually color reproductions spread throughout the paper until, shortly before Pearl Harbor, it was available for as many as 16 pages a week. The covers also blossomed like a rose, as the engravers became more proficient.
Mr. Dick never resisted change. He didn’t want to experiment needlessly, but when it came to setting type by machine instead of by hand, he quickly brought in the linotypes and Ludlows. Domingo Magsarili Sr., composing room foreman, and Agustin Foz Sr., who ran the press room, knew they could always get money for labor-saving and time-saving machinery. On the other hand, Mr. Dick vetoed the idea of a rotary printing press, which would have been faster and more economical than the Miehle flatbeds, because he knew the quality of printing would decline with the rotaries in those days before air-conditioning and other modern aids to printing.
As the years went on, Floro Santos Sr., a schoolteacher turned businessman, took on more and more of the business details of running the Free Press. I’m not sure what his title was—we didn’t put much stock in titles—but he was a combination treasurer, circulation manager, office manager, and general factotum who saw that the Free Press got out on time and was circulated into the most remote barrios. To those of us who knew it was stating the obvious to say that the Free Press would never have been the same without Floro Santos. Nor could the advertising department have developed without the patient, careful effort of Lino Gimeno.
But enough of the mechanical and business details. The heart of a newspaper is the newsroom, and its strength lies in the sincerity and honesty with which it reports the news. From 1929 through 1934 there was only one really important news story in the Philippines, and that was independence. Back in those days there were a lot of Americans and some Filipinos who felt that independence would never work. I doubt if we at the Free Press ever felt that way. It seemed to us that the only ultimate solution to Philippine-American relationships was a complete severance of political ties, although we also felt that the dictates of common sense would maintain intimate international relationships after American sovereignty had ended.
Once I discussed the problem with Ramon Navas, first of the great Filipino newspapermen I had a chance to work with. Independence, of course, was an emotional issue, and I recall Navas reading a statement by President Hoover about independence and saying, with tears in his eyes, “I’ll never live to see it.” I assured him he would, but I was wrong. He was drowned during a bad typhoon that raged across the city.
Next to the independence question, I should say the main running news stories were honesty in government (then as now) and law and order. Mr. Rogers used to say, “Unless the people learn to maintain law and order, independence will be worthless.” I agreed that there was a lot to what he said.
One of the biggest stories I recall was the Sakdal uprising of May 2, 1935. It was aimed at negating the plebiscite to be taken May 14, to ratify the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The Sakdalistas struck at municipal officials in 14 towns. The morning after the uprising, we assigned our top three reporters, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay and D.L. Francisco, to go to Cavite, Pampanga and Laguna provinces. They brought back pictures and word stories that covered the uprising like one of these new sacque dresses. Malacañang Palace, then the residence of the governor-general, used our reports to guide its own fact-finding commissions.
For many years Tutay doubled as a cameraman, and set up the first darkroom we had. Then, as now, he was a fine sports writer. Ty was hired as an advertising solicitor, but at heart he was a crusading reporter. He would come in after a hard day of calling on the advertisers to sit down and write the first tentative thrusts at government abuses which were to become his hallmark. Jose Pereira and Esmeraldo Izon drew cartoons and illustrations that gave the paper a quality of its own.
We were the only Manila newspaper, back in those days, to keep a correspondent in Washington. James G. Wingo kept track of the independence bills, the congressional hearings, the resident commissioner’s office and the visiting Filipinos. His Independence Merry-Go-Round was a source of cold fact and choice gossip.
The constitutional convention was another big story, and I went to as many of the meetings as I could. But most of the reports were written by Juan Collas, whose legal mind stood him in good stead, and by Leon Ma. Guerrero, the first Filipino writer, I believe, to completely master the American idiom. Both Collas and Guerrero helped set the Free Press on its path as a patron of creative writing, by the attention they paid to our short stories and poems. Teodoro M. Locsin, who came late in my Free Press career, was another master of the English language. Two American staff members who made important contributions were Ralph Busick, now holding a high post with the US Information Agency in Washington, and Robert Yelton Robb, now a university professor in Detroit.
There are more, many more, who should be mentioned in even such a brief summary as this. But I know they will forgive me for omitting them. None of us worked for fame or glory, but I think we all had a sense of doing a good job at an exciting time in the life of a people emerging from colonial to independent status.
Mrs. Douglas MacArthur once expressed her feelings—and mine—when she said of those prewar days, “We didn’t have to wait until they were over before we knew we enjoyed them.” Filipinos and Americans alike, I believe, had a sense of destiny, a feeling of important work to be done.
When I returned to the Philippines during World War II, not long after MacArthur had landed in Leyte, an American GI handed me a copy of one of the issues of the Free Press that had been printed just before Pearl Harbor. He had found it in a home in Tacloban, and I read it with great interest.
The story I will always remember was one by Locsin. It was a piece on the tense world situation, and the current status of the Philippines. And it ended with the rejoinder, to American and Filipino readers alike: “Count your blessings, and prepare to defend them.”
I was proud to learn a little later, that many of the Free Press staff were leading the precarious life of guerrillas, as they defended those blessings. Shortly after the liberation of Manila I stood with Mr. Dick and looked at the gutted Free Press building and the twisted presses and wondered how the paper would ever be rebuilt. I should not have had any doubts. The spark that had driven the Free Press to its prewar status was still ready to push it to new postwar heights. In the 17 years since I left its editorial staff, the Free Press has become better and more powerful. But it has never lost sight of the basic aim of an honest newspaper. I, for one, am confident it never will.
The past is prelude. The second fifty years in the life of the Free Press should see it reaching new heights of journalistic achievement.