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November 23, 1957
Why Garcia won
THE victory of President Garcia should have come as no surprise to Free Press readers. In a series of articles before the elections the outline of that victory was more or less clearly discernible. Not that President Garcia did not face formidable opposition. At one time, he was not even sure of nomination by his own party. To be precise, his nomination was contested by powerful, or apparently powerful, Nacionalista leaders; the President himself never doubted that he would get the nomination—and win in the election.
Two months before the Nacionalista convention, we went to interview the President. He had been fasting. Once a year Garcia would go on a two-week fast.
“After going practically without food for two weeks, I feel better physically—my blood pressure is very good, you know—better spiritually, too, I hope. A man who has voluntarily denied himself food for fourteen days should not be afraid of anything. If hunger has no fears for him, what has? It is a test of character. Look at me. Would you say, if you had not known about it, that I had been fasting for six days now?”
“You look good,” we said.
“I feel good,” said Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.
“You may feel good,” we said, “but should you? How certain are you of nomination by your party for the presidency? Laurel, Rodriguez, and nobody knows how many others would like to get the presidency. Not so long ago, you were, as far as your party was concerned, a political zero. The forgotten man. President Magsaysay had his own boys, and the Old Guard had Laurel, Rodriguez, etc. What were you? Nothing. How can you be so calm? The convention is only about 60 days away.”
Garcia should be worried. He was supremely confident:
“A president has to be pretty stupid not to get his party’s nomination in the convention. And I’m not stupid!”
Laurel the rival
Was he not afraid of Laurel, Sr.? The Batangueño would not run for president when Magsaysay was alive, but he was only too willing to run for the office now that Magsaysay was gone.
“All I can say about Laurel is that he has been telling me, these many, many years, how old, how sick, how tired he was,” said Garcia. “I’m old, I’m sick, I’m tired,’ Laurel kept on saying. Now he says he is available. It’s up to the convention to decide.”
Who fought Garcia for the Nacionalista nomination?
Laurel, Sr., at one time, Garcia’s strongest rival. But Laurel eventually made it clear that he would withdraw from the race—if his son, Laurel, Jr., were nominated for vice-president. Garcia did not think very much of the proposition.
“The Batangueños will vote for Recto for president and Speaker Laurel for vice-president if the Nacionalista convention nominates young Laurel for my running mate,” said the Boholano.
The Free Press article, “Lord of the Jungle,” noted:
“The followers of Laurel, Jr., would have no alternative but to support Garcia for president in the convention if they would have Laurel, Jr., nominated for vice-president. If the convention nominated Laurel, Sr., for president, young Laurel could hardly be made his running mate; that would be too much for Philippine democracy, such, even, as it is, to stomach. If the convention nominated Paredes or Puyat or Rodriguez for president, that would rule young Laurel out, too, for they all come from Luzon. Those who wanted Laurel, Jr., for vice-president must support Garcia, if only because Garcia comes from the south.
“The nomination would take up the nomination for president first, then the nomination for vice-president. In the fight for the presidential nomination, the followers of Laurel, Jr. would just have to vote for Garcia if they were to hope for the nomination of Laurel, Jr., for vice-president. Once Garcia had won the presidential nomination, however, he would no longer need Laurel, Jr. But young Laurel would need Garcia more than ever if he would be the vice-presidential candidate of the party.
“Garcia’s position, then, with respect to the Laurels, Senior and Junior, was a commanding one. He had them completely at his mercy. As it became clearer and clearer that all Laurel, Sr., was really interested in was the vice-presidential nomination for his son, Garcia would be reported favoring Laurel, Jr. for his running mate one day, then declaring himself neutral the next day. Laurel, Sr., would withdraw from the presidential race, then enter the race again. Garcia had him coming and going….
“How about Garcia’s other rivals for the presidential nomination?
“Paredes was too new a Nacionalista to seriously hope to get the nomination, and he was soon persuaded to withdraw from the race.
“As for Puyat, not very many took his bid for the presidency seriously. It was just a stunt, many believed—to get the vice-presidential nomination. He would shoot for the No. 1 post, and settle for the No. 2. When Puyat insisted that he was after the presidency, and only the presidency, that he was not interested at all in the vice-presidency, well—who was Puyat, anyway? What could he give the delegates to the convention that Garcia could not give them—and more?
“Rodriguez was the most popular man in the Nacionalista Party, it was believed, and when Lacson withdrew from the presidential race to support ‘Amang,’ the man from Rizal seemed a real threat to Garcia in the convention. Rodriguez and Puyat could take away from Garcia enough votes to prevent his nomination. There would be a deadlock and Rodriguez might well be nominated for president by the convention in the interest of party unity. If Garcia could not get the 60 percent of the votes necessary for nomination, why not give the nomination to the popular ‘Amang’?
“But the question remained: What could Rodriguez give the delegates or the Nacionalista Party that Garcia could not give, and more—much more?”
Garcia, we thought, could very well say to the Nacionalistas who would take away the nomination from him:
“If you don’t want me, I don’t want you. If you hurt me, I will hurt you. And I can hurt you. If I go down, you go down. Well?”
Garcia got 888 votes in the Nacionalista convention, Puyat 165, Rodriguez 69. Lacson was booed.
“We will win!”
The convention nominated Garcia for president, but failed to select a running mate for him. That was left to the executive committee of the Nacionalista Party, which picked Laurel, Jr. Garcia abided by the decision of the executive committee. He ran with Laurel, Jr., winning with him Garcia said, candidly, that he would have to get a majority of more than 700,000 if Laurel, Jr., was to win with him. He, Garcia, remained confident of winning.
“We will win!” said Eleuterio Adevoso, Manahan’s campaign manager. The people were for Manahan. Magsaysay was their guy; Magsaysay was gone; Manahan was their man.
“Tapus na ang boksing!” said the Nationalist-Citizens presidential bet, Claro M. Recto. He had no machine, no inspectors, like Manahan, but—
“We will win because the people are behind us and they now understand the issues clearly, the resolution of which will uplift them from their age-old problems.”
The Liberal candidate, Yulo, was also sure of winning.
“I have faith and confidence in the people and in their sense of values and their capacity to judge wisely,” Yulo said. “Otherwise I would not be in this fight now…. General misery and economic difficulties are gripping the nation.”
The suffering of the people would mean the defeat of the administration. The people would vote for the opposition.
But the opposition was divided. How could it hope to lick the administration, with all its powers and advantages? Osmeña had lost to Roxas in 1946, and the Nacionalistas claimed it was only the use of force as well as mass frauds that made possible the “victory” of Quirino over Laurel in 1949, but the opposition triumphed over the administration in the 1951 senatorial election when not one of the administration candidates won, and, of course, the opposition won in 1953. The administration could be beaten, indeed. But, by a united opposition.
Yulo’s man, Crisol, however, took a different view of the situation.
“It is the party in power that is badly split,” said Crisol. “The Recto group is composed mostly of Nacionalistas. Remember, Recto used to be an NP. When he bolted that group to organize his own party, his supporters and sympathizers joined him. Tañada’s backers used to be sympathetic to the NP cause, largely because of the late President Magsaysay. But when Tañada severed his connection with the NP’s, his loyal supporters went with him.
Then there is the group of Manahan, and the rest of the MPM that bolstered the Nacionalista Party in 1953. The bulk of PPP is composed of men and women who helped the NP win the presidency for RM in 1953. Garcia cannot count on the support of one MPM because it has its own candidate, Manahan.”
The fact remained that the opposition was divided. Said the article, “The Political Chances of the Candidates,” in the October 12 Free Press:
“Instead of concentrating on the administration, opposition parties are fighting each other and the administration. If the administration wins, it will be from lack of effective opposition. Divide and rule—that was a tried and proven imperialist policy. While the opposition is divided, how can Yulo and Recto or Manahan hope to put an end to the Nacionalista rule?
“If Recto, Manahan and Yulo were to get together, the victory of the opposition should be certain. But they can’t get together. Instead of fighting Garcia, they are fighting him and each other. If Recto, Manahan or Yulo wins, it would be almost a miracle.
“Miracles do happen, we are told. They are the exception rather than the rule, however. Hence the calmness with which President Garcia faces the elections. While the opposition is divided, victory seems to him pretty certain.
“If the opposition were ever to get together… But the President is banking on the individual ambitions of the opposition candidates to keep them apart. He is depending on Recto, Yulo and Manahan to knock each other out for him.”
That was exactly what Recto, Yulo and Manahan did.
In this corner: Lacson
By Quijano de Manila
May 11, 1957–THE belief that the late President Magsaysay started the strenous style in Philipine politics is more affectionate than accurate, for long before the guy attracted notice, another, younger fellow was already startling the nation with his loud shirts and louder mouth his high leaps and fast pace, and his general air of roughness, toughness, youthfulness and vitality.
To post-liberation voters, Arsenio Lacson of Talisay, Negros Occidental, seemed completely new kind of politician, a brute wind hurtling through a wasteland of old men. Quezon had fixed the type of the old-style politico, who was elegant, eloquent and imperious—and a rather jaded man of the world. Politics, before the war, created the only real aristocracy, in the country; the Commonwealth was purely a governmetn by cronies: the affairs of the nation wer in the hands of an elite whose members also laid down the law in fashion and manners. When Quezon combined a white silk suit with a dark-blue shirt and a pastel tie, he launched a style that became almost a uniform throughout the country in the late 1930’s. when his cabinet members took up the tango, every social-climber started dipping and sliding in the Argentine manner. The so-called stability of the prewar world was based on this feudal admiration that the country had for its leaders as rare beings set apart by talent and breeding and ability to direct the destinies of people of lesser clay. A phenomenon like Magsaysay would have been impossible during the Quezon era; everybody would have noted uneasily that he just didn’t “belong,” for the old political aristocrats valued gentility almost as much as they did money.
Government in the grand manner tried a comeback after the war—but the authority had vanished with Quezon and suave manners no longer awed the commonalty. Mr. Osmeña had valid reasons for not campaigning for re-election; besides, begging for votes smacked of the vulgar. His wife gauged the postwar temper more accurately. Mr. Roxas was of the true Quezonian stamp—courtly and polished and vaguely jaded – but when he attempted Quezon’s grand manner he was rudely rapped by the rowdy new age in the person of Arsenio Lacson.
Lacson symbolized the postwar world almost too perfectly: he was not only a newspaperman and a columnist, he was also a radio commentator. He looked and talked like a stevedore; he was a gaudy dresser; and he didn’t dance the tango. He had no respect for political parties and no great liking for Americans—and he said so, in his newspaper column and over radio. When President Roxas barred him from the air on October 4, 1947, Lacson became the first popular idol of the postwar era. It became inevitable that he would enter politics. A generation that disliked everything old had found a voice.
Lacson was youth itself – noisy and brash and violent. Legends sprang up about his virility and sexual prowess until he became identified in the popular mind with the traveling saleman of every stag story. His physical courage has been equally blazoned. A famous instance is the incident on Pier 7 in 1948, when college students jeering a departing group of senatorial junketeers were threatened with shooting by the senators’ bodyguards. Lacson, then still a newspaperman, strode right up to the drawn pistols, shoved them away with a sweep of his hand, and ordered the students to resume their derisive despedida.
A man among men
From those wild early days when “Lacson stories” were the chief laughing matter of the nation, he has displayed what is known as “the common touch.” He is no folksy man of the masses but one look at him and the man on the street knows that here is a fellow he can talk to with his mental fly unbottoned. It’s a Manila joke that the Tondo goons respect only two beings in this world—Mayor Lacson and the Señor of Quiapo. Lacson has sedulously cultivated the Yahoo manner, the siga-siga style, but one suspects that the bristles on the surface do not go all the way down; for this guy with a pug’s battered nose comes from a “good” family and went to the right schools; this character who talks like a stevedore is a literate, even a literary, man; and this toughie who has often been accused of being too chummy with the underworld belonged to the most “idealistic” of the wartime underground groups: the Free Philippines. One realizes how much our violent times have shaped him into their young face in the old photographs—a gentle, almost ethereal face, quite good-looking, and with a fine lordly nose.
As a candidate—first for Congress and then for the mayoralty of Manila – he manifested the same kind of spontaneity and exuberance with which Mr. Magsaysay was later to bowl us all over. When he won the nomination for the congressional post, he leapt from the floor to the stage and acknowledged the plaudits of the delegates in boxer style – hands locked above his head. As a campaigner, he abolished the era of eloquence and instituted the person-to-person approach, leaping down from the granstand, after having introduced himself, to mingle and make merry with the crowd. Even the barrio-to-barrio strategy had already been anticipated, somewhat cynically, by Lacson with his bar-to-bar campaign tour to Tondo – where, as any Manila policeman will tell you, the distance between any two bars is at least as perilous as the distance between two barrios in the more alarming provinces.
Public office was not to mellow the young Terror from Talisay. His friends say that the enemies at whom he sticks out his tongue perish completely from popular esteem, so fatal is the Lacson venom, and they cite such fearful examples as Valeriano Fugoso, Manuel de la Fuente and Elpidio Quirino. The Quirino-Lacson feud forms one of the most entertaining chapters of our political history and it was climaxed by Lacson’s suspension as mayor of Manila—a “martyrdom” as profitable for Lacson as his 1947 suspension from the air by President Roxas. On both occasions, Lacson found popular opinion, both side and against the President of the Republic. (In 1947, one of his defenders was famed columnist Walter Winchell, who assailed Harold Ickes, then U.S. secretary of the interior, for defending the Roxas ban.) Lacson’s popularity, in fact, disproves the Dale Carnegie rule; he wins friends by making enemies.
Relegated to the background during the Magsaysay era, Lacson has come back with a bang into the center of the limelight: he has announced that he is joining the scrimmage for the presidency. He says he made this decision even before Magsaysay died and that he did the deciding while he was in the hospital for a sinusitis operation.
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Claro M. Recto and Manuel Roxas, returning from the United States after the approval of the Constitution, were met the Legaspi landing by the Sen. Elpidio Quirino, Secretary of the Interior Teofilo Sison, Speaker Quintin Paredes.
February 7, 1953–ON Feb. 8, 1935, the Constitutional Convention approved, with one dissenting vote, a new constitution. The one dissenting voter was Delegate Tomas Cabili from Lanao; he was of the unshakable opinion that Lanao was sufficiently enlightened and knew enough of democracy’s ways to be given the vote. The delegate from Ilocos Sur, Elpidio Quirino, agreed was Cabili: Lanao should be given to vote. Absolutely. The Cabili motion was defeated, but Lanao was to reward handsomely the man who stood up in support of it 14 years later, in 1949.
The convention vote was 201-to-one for the Constitution.
The near-unanimity was surprising when one considers the composition of the assembly. Among the delegates there were, as one writer pointed out, “blue-blooded nobles from the Moroland, trained intellectuals from world-famous colleges and universities, religious leaders and moral crusaders, political moguls and parliamentary luminaries, eminent educators and outstanding jurists, revolutionary generals and World War veterans, business entrepreneurs and banking magnates, opulent hacenderos and small planters, noted writers and famous orators, wealthy landowners and indigent professionals, and former school teachers and actual university professors.”
The old, familiar figures come back as one goes over the record of the convention. Manuel L. Quezon, then senate president, who welcomed the delegates assembled for the first time in the session hall of the House of Representatives and declared the existence of a quorum: One hundred ninety-nine of the 202 elected delegates showed up the first day, some as early as eight o’clock in the morning, although the session was to begin at 10:30. The American governor general, Frank Murphy, who was expected to make a brief speech but stayed away, as a matter of delicadeza: the Filipinos were about to prepare the fundamental law of their future independent state; he did to want anything he might say to influence in the least the deliberations of the body. Manuel A. Roxas, the delegate from Capiz, seconding the nomination of Jose P. Laurel of Batangas by Manuel Cuenco of Cebu as the temporary chairman of the convention, then discharging “the very pleasant duty of presenting…the distinguished jurist, able lawyer and successful statesman who will preside over your convention, the gentleman from Batangas, the Honorable Senator Recto.” Tomas Confesor of Iloilo, raising a tempest in a teapot and being ignored. Gen. Teodoro Sandiko administering the oath of office to Recto as president of the convention. Gregorio Perfecto being ruled out of order by Recto. Ruperto Montinola of Iloilo and Teodoro Sandiko of Bulacan being elected as first and second vice-president, respectively.
Quezon addressed the convention:
“In the name of the Filipino people and the Philippine Legislature, as well as in my own, I bid you welcome and extend to you the warmest congratulations for your election to this august body.”
He was dressed in a white silk suit with a gray necktie and grayish-striped shirt: trim and erect and engaging—a dandy. He enumerated the steps that led to the holding of the convention:
“On March 24,1934, the Congress of the United States approved Public Act No, 127, 73rd Congress, entitled ‘An Act to provide for the independence of the Philippine Islands, to provide for the adoption of a constitution and form of government for the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes.’ As a condition ‘sine qua non’ for the enforcement of this Act, it was provided that it be accepted either by the Philippine Legislature or by a convention called for the purpose of passing upon that question. On May 1, 1934, the Philippine Legislature, at a special session called by His Excellency the Governor-General, accepted the aforesaid Act and ordered the election of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and fixed this date, the 30th of July, 1934, as the date for the delegates to convene in this Hall of the House of Representatives.”
The man who seemed mainly composed of fire, charm and political cunning, whose nature and American justice tried to explain by saying that in him there were two elements, the white and the brown, with the white despising the brown and the brown hating the white, who had made himself the leader of a similarly confused people, whom it was impossible—many said of him—not to love, paused. An eyebrow twitched. The half-shrill, compelling voice went on:
“You have met here in pursuance to the call of the Philippine Legislature to organize yourself as a constitutional convention and to frame and adopt the constitution for the Government of the Commonwealth, as well as for the Government of the Philippine Republic, until such constitution is amended or abrogated by the sovereign will of the people of the Philippine Islands. It is my fervent wish and prayer that your task upon prosperity of the Filipino people will greatly depend be crowned with complete success.”
After a quorum had been declared, Bishop Alfredo Versoza of Lipa, Batangas, rose and prayed God to guide the convention. Dr. Laurel was voted temporary chairman by acclamation. He appointed House Secretary Eulogio Benitez as temporary secretary of the convention. Delegate Manuel Briones of Cebu then nominated Claro M. Recto as permanent president of the convention, was seconded by Delegate Cuenco. Recto was elected by acclamation. Then came the election of the two vice-presidents.
It was a time of hope, of blithe optimism. The United States had elected a man president that it was to reelect three times; the American people were recovering from a terrible depression, although millions remained unemployed until war-orders provided them with work. Dictatorship had raised its head in Europe, with millions coming—many of them enthusiastically—under the rule of hysterical or pompous or falsely benign men. The Japanese had taken Manchuria. But the Filipinos, as parochial then in their world view as most Americans, thought that what happened to the rest of the world could not happen to them and happily framed a constitution republican in form and outlawing war as an instrument of national policy. There would be no war, no Bataan and Corregidor, no occupation.
Just in case, however, that there should be—but the possibility was remote—a provision in the charter authorized the government to require the services of every citizen in both war and peace.
Every delegate contributed something to the Constitution—some a little, others more. Jose Lansang, writing in the Philippines Herald, tried to assess the contributions of the various members:
“The provisions on the Executive Power were prepared by Delegate Roxas, using the American constitution and the Jones Law and several contemporary constitutions as guide. President Recto, Delegate Briones, Delegate Roxas and others worked together in the drafting of the article on the Legislative Power.
“The article on the Judicial Power was prepared by Delegate Romualdez after a conference with Chief Justice Ramon Avaceña of the Supreme Court, and…was based on the report of the committee on judiciary, headed by Delegate Vicente J. Francisco….
“The bill of rights…was the one prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Laurel and is based on the English bill of rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man of France, the American constitution and the Jones Law, with two or three provisions later on inserted by some delegates, the provision against retroactive taxation by Delegate Salvador Araneta and the prohibition of imprisonment for poll-tax delinquents by Delegate Jesus Y. Perez.
“The general provisions…referring to the nationalization of lands were from the report of the committee headed by Delegate Jose C. Locsin, and were based largely on a report of an technical committee headed by Professor Vicente Sinco of the University of the Philippines.”
Delegates Singson-Encarnacion and Cuaderno drafted the provisions on the budget, aided by an experienced auditor, Delegate Domingo Dikit. Delegates Conrado Benitez and Ricardo Nepomuceno had much to do with the provisions on education and citizenship training. The provisions on public contracts and the electoral commission were prepared by Recto, Briones, Cuenco, Roxas, Laurel and Francisco. Delegate Locsin was “identified throughout the history of the convention with movements to secure social justice through the constitution.” State universities were guaranteed academic freedom by amendment of Delegates Conrado Benitez, Manuel Lim, Ricardo Nepomuceno, Rafael Palma, Camilo Osias and others. Delegate Vicente Francisco introduced the amendment on double jeopardy.
The committee responsible for the final phraseology of the Constitution was headed by President Recto, composed of the two vice-presidents, Montinola and Sandiko, and the seven subcommitteemen of the sponsorship committee as ex-officio members (Delegates Filemon Sotto, Manuel Roxas, Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, Manuel Briones, Miguel Cuaderno, Norberto Romualdez and Conrado Benitez). The following also had something to say on the final wording of the supreme law: Delegates Francisco, Hontiveros, Romero, Laurel, Nepomuceno, Palma, Arellano, Lim, Osias, Orense, Reyes, Aruego, Delgado, Perfecto, Conejero, Caram….
The preamble to the Constitution was drafted by Recto who contributed most, it was generally held, to the Constitution. At the close of the convention, the senate president and future president of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, said of the president of the convention:
“It has indeed been a great honor, that which you have conferred upon the Honorable Claro M. Recto, when you elected him as your President. You have given him the opportunity either to make or unmake himself. He was of course preceded by a great reputation as a scholar, as a man of letters, as a jurist, and as a statesman. But we all know that sometimes precisely those with the same qualifications, however well deserved, when faced by the realities of actually dealing with men, are the ones who do not always rise to the demands of the occasion. It is not necessary for me to say whether President Recto has been equal to his task or not. Soon every member of this convention will affix his signature to the Constitution, a document which is historical not only because to frame the fundamental law of the land is in itself historical, but because I confidently hope that this charter will guide our ship of state not only for many generations but for all generations to come. It has been your privilege to make history; and President Recto should be credited with the able leadership of this convention and the golden opportunity to place his talent and his patriotism at the service of his country.”
The president of the convention made his closing speech in Spanish. In substance, in English paraphrase, he said:
The years will pass into nothing; new generations will succeed ours; Time in its course will change our world if not destroy it; humanity, weary of itself and prey to new follies, will again and again throw the treasures of civilization into the flames of new and terrifying wars; but when those who come after us turn their faces to the past and consider what we have done in this convention, I am confident that they will say that we have done nobly, that we have done greatly. And they will not fail to note that the solicitude and the zeal which attended our efforts were not due to any desire for the praise of the present or the plaudits of the future, any wish to see our names in the bronze or marble of perishable glory, but to the desire to realize for our people, through this Constitution, to make that for which an illustrious prelate, pride of the native clergy, prayed God on the day of our inauguration: “A nation of happy people within Thy Kingdom.”
That was 18 years ago.
A mission headed by Quezon and including Recto and Roxas was sent to the United States to secure then President Roosevelt’s approval of the Constitution. The presentation of the draft was made to the American president on March 18. A Quezon joke made the presentation at the time and on the date set possible. Recto thought Roxas had the copy of the Constitution with him when they left for the White House and Roxas thought Quezon had it. “Don’t forget to bring the official copy of the Constitution with you,” President Quezon told Recto jokingly in Quezon’s room in the Shoreham Hotel where the members of the mission had gathered. The official copy was found in the briefcase of Private Secretary Guillermo Cabrera; it would have been left behind but for Quezon’s little joke.
Recto presented the copy to Roosevelt. On March 23, in the presence of Filipino and American officials, President Roosevelt approved the Constitution, congratulated those responsible for it. He called it a “great constitution.” Quezon told the Filipino people about the approval of the law by radiophone, at 1:02 a.m.
“The Constitution is signed!”
That was the signal to start the sirens going. Bells rang, firecrackers exploded, fireworks were lighted. All Manila was awake and cheering.
It was a great and happy day.
It was a great and noble work. The members of the convention had not worked alone, of course. Inspiration, as has been pointed out—from the minds of England, the United States, France. Among the presiding spirits at the convention were those of St. Thomas More, who had envisioned a “Utopia” in which all men would be free and reasonable—this, under the despotism of Henry VIII; the blind Milton, who wrote of earth, heaven and hell, and the reasons for a free press; Thomas Paine, who called it “Common Sense” to be independent and fought for “The Rights of Man” against the “divine right” of kings; Thomas Jefferson.
The Greeks and the Romans were there, and the Jews, the wedding of whose culture with the cultures of Greece and Rome produced the Western World and its concern for the rights of the individual, the soul of man.
The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow
by Teodoro M. Locsin
June 21, 1952—LYTTON STRACHEY, father of modern biography, complained against the two-volume “life” that usually followed and seemed almost to form part of the burial rites of the distinguished dead:
“Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead—who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortege of the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism.”
This piece on Recto, who is very much alive, will be brief.
Its purpose is to draw the trajectory of his mind, not to go into the minutiae of his life or every step of his career; his life may be quickly sketched, his career rapidly followed. He was not born rich; he walked to school with scuffed shoes. To pay for food and lodging, what he learned at the Ateneo in the morning he taught in another school in the evening. He received at the Ateneo, it is significant to note, a European education, not the American one being dispensed at the public schools. He graduated with what a biographer calls “the unbelievable grade of ‘excellent’ in all subjects.” His scholastic record was better than Rizal’s.
In doubt—being so good in so many subjects and variously urged by relatives and friends to take up holy orders, medicine, engineering—in doubt, he took, in the honored tradition—in doubt he took up law. He proved himself supreme in it.
He has been a representative, a justice of the Supreme Court and is now a senator; he hopes, it is known, to be president. In the Supreme Court and in the Senate he has shone in dissent. It was due to him that an attempt to deny the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and the press to foreigners was frustrated in Congress. The magazine Newsweek, or its ill-informed correspondent, thought this a remarkable, a surprising thing for Recto to do. It was the thing one would expect Recto to do; he presided over the constitutional convention that drafted the Bill of Rights.
He has also been a poet.
Today, no man in the Senate commands more respect by sheer force of mind than Recto. No one has a cultural background so broad, a logic so implacable, a rhetoric so firmly based on the masters. Not that Recto is a good speaker, as the word is commonly defined. He does not raise his voice; he makes few, if any, gestures; he is dry and unemotional. He makes no promises, utters no angry denunciations; when he denounces anyone, it is in a tone so judicious and reasonable as to pass almost for praise. Well, not exactly praise. The man denounced may never be able to look at himself in the mirror again. At the same time, he will not feel he has been outraged; he has merely been exposed.
Recto is not a good speaker, no. He will arouse no mob. But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish. His sentences march, like ordered battalions, against the inmost citadel of the man’s arguments and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile, his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary. The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista Senator Zulueta’s conception of a sound foreign policy was a shattering experience; the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done. The most result from the lightest blow—the greatest damage with the least force. Recto cannot—no one can, except against the stupid and ignorant—he cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken.
The usual politicians offer no challenge to the mind. They are all so obvious in their purpose, so pitiful in their intellectual equipment, so mediocre in their performance, so common, so unremarkable that one could cut a pattern and it would fit them all. Some have money and want more; some have none and would get some; most are capable of a mouldy sort of rhetoric, cliché-infested, paltry of thought. The tired shibboleths of the professional rabble-rouser characterize their speeches. The frantic gestures, the screaming voice, the frenzied expressions, the hysterical charges, the crocodile tears—these are the usual politician’s stock-in-trade. Recto does not resort to them.
It is a surprising thing, then, that he should have polled more votes than Roxas in a prewar senatorial election and should continue to inspire enthusiasm among an impressive number of the electorate. His fellow Nacionalistas say of Recto that he is aloof—alien to the masses, caviar to the general, but the proof of the pudding, after all, is in the eating, and he got more votes than any other Nacionalista senatorial candidate in the 1949 poll. Than any Liberal candidate, probably, if the poll had been clean. Is it possible, then, that the common people have and could be fired by a passion like Recto’s for an abstraction—for law?
It is there, in his dedication to law, that Recto’s significance chiefly lies. But law, to Recto, means civil law; it is possible only under civilian rule. Hence, his warnings against the increasing predominance of the military in Philippine affairs. The army, if unchecked, is certain to establish a despotism, no matter how well-intentioned at the start. The army, by its very structure, is hierarchical; the orders of officers are absolute. There is no separation of powers, judicial, executive, and legislative, on which a democratic society rests. As the army grows and grows, civil control must decay; a military coup d’ état becomes a probability. To Recto it is no argument for despotism that the despot may be benevolent.
In the Philippines the democratic processes had so far deteriorated that the relatively free elections of 1951 were possible only through the intervention of the military, inspired, at that, by another country. Recto observed:
“Already, I daresay, the thought is not uncommon in our military circles that only the army can enforce order, that the reality of power is in its combat battalions, and that, in a not too distant day, it can, and shall, and should, decide the victor in any electoral contest. It will be said that such a temptation will now assail a republican army, a citizen army, but the history of nations is full of such temptations that were not resisted, and were even joyfully embraced, for few men, particularly in the face of vice and corruption, can resist the temptation of using their power to reform, by force, if necessary, the society of which they will fancy themselves the saviors and liberators….
“We have already reached the first stage in the familiar tragedy.”
Not only electoral fraud and terrorism menaced the rule of law, threatened to substitute the rule of men in its place. Corruption had undermined the morale of the people and the government service. From top to bottom it was increasingly felt that all was permitted, everything licensed—if one had the power and influence. If one had the connections. To a man brought up in the ideal conception of law, the spectacle was an appalling one. No curse seemed strong enough for such a regime.
Most are familiar with the biblical account of Moses and his anger at the fall of the Chosen People into idolatry. He broke the tables of the law. Only after the people repented of their sins was Moses prevailed upon to make new tables. He must have known that, it being human to err, the laws would be broken—but those who broke them would do so conscious of the offense, knowing they had broken the Law. To violate is to affirm, for one cannot violate what is not there. Thus, man, although he has sinned, may be forgiven. But cursed be he who says that there is no law and man might do all things. In the version of the story of Moses by Thomas Mann, the lawgiver declares:
“And I will lift My foot, saith the Lord, and tread him into the mire—to the bottom of the earth will I tread the blashphemer, an hundred and twelve fathoms deep, and man and beast shall make a bend around the spot where I trod him in, and the birds of the air high in their flight shall swerve that they fly not over it. And whosoever names his name shall spit toward the four quarters of the earth, and wipe his mouth and say ‘God save us all!’ that the earth may be again the earth—a vale of troubles, but not a sink of iniquity.”
The sink of iniquity that the Philippines became after a few years of Liberal rule could not but enrage a man like Recto. With visible effort at self-restraint, he noted:
“During the past two or three years, particularly since the mock elections of 1949, I have often been oppressed, as no doubt you too have been, by a vague fear that we are living in the wrong country, or if you prefer it this way, that our country is inhabited by the wrong people. Surely, I said to myself, this cannot be the country and people that we envisioned in the Constitutional Convention of 1934. When my colleagues and I set to work on that constitution, we had before us the inspiring vision of a united people practicing self-government, moulding civic spirit and learning patriotism in the daily observance of just and wise laws, ever vigilant against any threat to their liberties, faithful in the performance of their duties, and firm in the enforcement of those rights which are inalienable because they are God-given…
“… What do we have now? At the very head of the government, clutching tightly around him the robes of false authority, a man, over the legality of whose position the gravest doubts have been cast, sits enthroned, a very monarch of his ambition and behavior, far removed from public opinion and the guidance of disinterested and competent advisers, surrounded instead by sycophants, opportunists, courtiers, and jesters, and plotting the foundation of a dynasty that will perpetuate the ignominy of his regime.”
To Recto, the law is the law, to be observed by all and mended, if at all, only by law. He lives by it. He has, in fact, grown rich in its practice—but by mastering, not perverting it. He would abide by all its implications. To the President, it may seem strange, even subversive, that Recto should offer himself as legal counsel to the communists when they came up for trial. But the law is the law; a man should have legal counsel if he is to be properly tried, no matter for what offense. Anything else would make of the trial a mock one. (Neither mock elections nor mock trials for Recto.) Let it never be said by the communists that they were railroaded to imprisonment or death, that they might have been saved but for the incompetence of their counsel. They had the best in the land. But even he could not save them. It was democracy in action, wonderfully in action, and the communists could not afterward make propaganda out of the result. Had they been represented by a lawyer who had been at the tail of his class instead of at the head, they might have cried: “Unfair!” But they had Recto.
Communism could only be repulsive to a man of Recto’s non-conforming spirit, aside from the fact that he is a man of wealth. But the law is the law, to repeat, and Recto would assure every man of a true day in court. It was not that he would defend the communist creed, but that he would stand by the democratic one. All have a right to counsel when their lives or liberties are at stake. Recto, the corporation lawyer, offered his services to the Reds.
The law, of course, is merely the law, and not always to be equated with justice. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor alike to beg, to steal their bread, and to sleep under bridges.” The law is the superstructure; but what of the foundation? What if the society the law holds up rests on social injustice? Against violations of the Bill of Rights, Recto has been sleeplessly vigilant, but what of the poor—must we have them always with us? May they hope, at best, to live only in a vacuum of political liberties, of which Recto stands today the foremost champion? Must one think merely of the law? Their spirits are hungry, says a character in a play by Shaw, referring to well-paid workers, because their stomachs are full. What of the poor?
Nonetheless, before one talks of changing the law, its rule must first be firmly established; only then would it be possible, without injury to the Republic, at the least cost to the fewest people, to correct and amend. First of all, there must be law. Cursed be he who says there is none.
What of Recto’s alleged anti-Americanism? We accused him of that in an article on Philippine security. It cannot be the same as anti-democratic, for that is the last thing one could call the president of the Constitutional Convention and the proven defender of the democratic faith. What does it mean, then, being “anti-American”?
If to be the least bit critical of America, of any of its ways or institutions, is to be anti-American, then Recto is anti-American. Yet to be thus critical is to be in the direct line of a great American tradition. Lincoln was critical of Negro slavery. Wilson would involve the United States in the League of Nations, going against the old isolationist injunction against foreign entanglements. Franklin Delano Roosevelt attacked such established American practices as the sweatshop, child labor, the boom-and-bust economy, poverty in the midst of plenty. Today, millions of Americans reject and are determined to change a foreign policy, for being critical of which Recto gained the reputation of being anti-American.
If, on the other hand, to be pro-American is to agree to everything Americans say—that hardly speaks well of one. In fact, it is a rather obvious form of opportunism; surely Americans cannot be beguiled by it. Such pro-Americanism is so patently a mask for mendicancy, Americans should beware of it. Every time an American hears a Filipino say that America is perfect and Americans beyond reproach, he should be prepared to be asked for money. To pay for the praise of the venal with so sound a currency, as the American dollar seems to us not fair exchange; it is to give good money for shoddy goods. To win over to one’s side, on the other hand, the critical and incorruptible is to gain a friend indeed, because not a friend habitually in need, a chronic dependent, but one who, being independent, can be depended on.
Recto’s concern—excessive concern, it seems to some—over national sovereignty comes naturally. To the legal mind, sovereignty is indivisible; a part cannot be surrendered without denying the whole. Since the beggar cannot be sovereign, Recto, while conceding the aid received by the Philippines from the United States, is always quick to point out the benefits received by the United States from us:
“I speak not only in terms of bases, parity, tariff preferences, immigration rights, and other unprecedented concessions, but also in terms of loyalty measured in the blood spilled in Bataan, Corregidor, and Korea….Our relations with the United States have not been a one-way street but a two-way street, in which the traffic was just about equal.”
It is this passion for independence that drives a man like Recto sometimes to extremes of utterance. The mutual defense pact between the United States and the Philippines may be queerly worded—no such contract would be allowed to go through a law firm like Recto’s, it is, in its letter if not in its spirit, so patently full of holes—at the same time, it is surely going too far to call it a swindle, as Recto does, and then go on and speak of duress, threats, and intimidations. It should be noted, however, that the brunt of Recto’s attack falls, not on the United States, for looking out for its interests, but on the Philippine administration, for being too mendicant to insist on its rights.
Besides, the Philippine position is so weak, so untenable, the independence of the country faces such threats from so many quarters that short of lasting international peace, which is a dream, one who thinks long and hard on what the Philippines must do to save itself can hardly avoid being filled with a sense of angry frustration. In such a mood, one may well grow violent over the wording of a pact. Those who maintain a more confident attitude are only able to do so because they do not think about the fix we are in. “Leave everything to America”—that’s the standard view. It’s a weak-minded one. If they are right, it is for the wrong reason; if Recto is wrong, it is for the right one.
There is always the possibility, of course, that Recto’s not always restrainable doubts about America’s perhaps too glib assurances of safety have deeper roots than the national predicament. Recto was a poet before he was a politician; in his youth he was steeped in European culture, not American. He belonged to a literary tradition that the American pursuit of Manifest Destiny brought to an untimely close. English put Spanish, which Recto had learned so painfully and so well, to the sword.
“Poetry withered away for the writers of my time,” bitterly remarks Don Perico, a character in a play who deserts the arts for politics, “because we knew that we had come to a dead end, we had come to a blind alley. We could go on writing if we liked—but we would be writing only for ourselves—and our poems would die with us, our poems would die barren. They were written in a dying tongue; our sons spoke another language….”
Anchises was carried by his son, Aeneas, from burning Troy. The men of Perico’s generation must carry themselves to their graves.
“We have begotten no sons.”
Here is injury, indeed, though unconsciously inflicted. Here is a wound. Recto, the poet, maimed at the very start….The American liberation of the Philippines brought another wound. With other members of Laurel’s Cabinet, Recto was imprisoned in Iwahig where he awaited trial for collaboration with the Japanese whom he had the courage to caution against abuse of the Filipinos….The wound could not have entirely healed.
The American critic Edmund Wilson named one of his books after the Greek legend of Philoctetes to whom Heracles passed on a bow given him by Apollo— “a bow that never missed its mark.” Philoctetes, on the way to Troy, was bitten by a snake; the wound, becoming infected, gave so horrible a smell that his companions abandoned him. Afterward, however, the Greeks were told that they would never win the war without the aid of Philoctetes and his bow. The problem was how to persuade the embittered man, whose wound did not heal, to join the Greeks, to forget his grievance and his pain in the common cause. Philoctetes finally relenting, his wound was healed and the Trojan War was won.
The point of the legend would seem to be that a man’s wounds, the psychic ones, are not to be distinguished from the man, that they make him what he is, that if he is strong, they are the source of his strength; the wound is the bow. The strength, however, will lie useless until the man is reconciled to the society that had inflicted the wound or rejected him because of it. The pain will cease when the wounded man finally identifies his fate with the common one.
Will Recto’s wound ever heal? It is the source of his strength, his independence. He may negotiate, he will not beg. But must it always pain? Will it never heal? Yes, one hazards—when the opposition of which he is such a pillar becomes the administration. As the wound of Philoctetes healed when he forgot his old grievances and joined the Grecian camp, bringing victory over Troy, may one not say that the wound of Recto will heal when—when he enters Malacañang? Then he must think not of one but of all.
But he will say, of course, that this, precisely, is what he has been doing all this time.
Presidents at Play
July 9, 1949
By Filemon V. Tutay
EVEN heads of state must also play. And the present President of the Philippines and those before him provide no exception. Whit it is true that presidents are very busy people, they always manage to find a little spare time for some kind of sport to divert themselves from the manifold worries of running a government. And, of course, it is not always poker, as some people think.
When in Manila, the President loves to go swimming in the elaborate swimming pool of Malacañan park at least once a week. And when he does go swimming, one of the palace physicians is also in the pool. Sometimes, the President also invites friends to go swimming with him. Very rarely does he avail himself of the well-kept miniature golf course on the park just across the river from the palace although he can swing a mean club when he is in the mood.
President Quirino saves his golf for his visits to Baguio. This is probably because swimming pools in the summer capital are too cold for him to enjoy his swimming routine. His son, Tommy, keeps him company around the course of the Baguio Country Club. No betting, Tommy is a pretty good golfer.
As a senator and later as member of the cabinet, Quirino used to play bowling at the old Columbian club. Since he landed in Malacañan, however, the Apo has not been known to bowl. Indoor diversions include poker, but no bridge.
The late President Roxas’ favorite sport was golf. he was the one who authorized the laying out of the miniature 9-hole course at Malacañan park. he had told friends that he wanted to save time by having a golf course close at hand. Wack Wack and Caloocan were too far off to suit him. When in the mood to play, if playing companions were not available, Roxas played against himself. But playing either alone or with companions, he always had an aide following him with an umbrella. The late President made pretty poor scores in his golf, but those who should know say that Roxas was great at poker.
Roxas’ other pet diversion was truck gardening. he started a truck garden in Malacañan park to inaugurate a food production campaign, probably as a publicity stunt. But his interest in the garden did not end there. He put in more and more of his leisure time in the cultivation of the plants with his own hands. Roxas had a lush luck garden going at the time of his death.
Former President Osmeña does not have any know athletic proclivities. This does not mean, however, that he lacked exercise, for he went in strong for dancing. With the possible exception of the late President Quezon, Osmeña should rank highest as a dancer among former occupants of Malacañan. Unlike other presidents, Osmeña was not choosy in his partners. he danced with anybody.
The present “Private Citizen No. 1” did not confine his exercise to dancing. When he could not dance, he hiked. He used to take early-morning walks when he was president. And he enjoys the long walks he now has time to take in his extensive hacienda in Cebu.
Quezon was perhaps the most athletic of Philippine presidents. he loved to play golf and did so every time he had a chance, either at the Manila Golf club in Caloocan or at Wack Wack in Mandaluyong. His favorite playing companions were Sen. Vicente Madrigal, former Speaker Jose Yulo, Dr. Jose P. Laurel and sometimes Archbishop Michael O’Doherty. it was said of the late fiery leader that when his score was low he used to call out his score to friends playing one hole behind. But it was different when his ball was always “in the rough,” and his score was high. It was then that Don Manuel was at his vitriolic best. He swore in at least three languages and a couple of dialects. It was just too bad if one of his playing companions happened to be the archbishop of Manila. The other players had a merry time laughing behind Quezon’s back.
Horseback riding was also a great love of Don Manuel’s. He did most of his riding early in the morning and it is said that he made his greatest decisions while on horseback. it is related that he was riding horseback one morning when he suddenly realized that the then house of representatives was getting out of hand under Quintin Paredes and he decided then and there to start the necessary maneuvers to unseat Paredes and install in his place Gil Montilla who, later on, was referred to as the “silent speaker.”
Dancing was another pet diversion of Quezon. Those who have seen him dance agree that the late President was a very elegant dancer and would do credit to any dance floor. His favorite music was the tango. Because of his dancing proclivities, his detractors used to say that his was the cabaretista type of leadership in the government.
Generally, he did not give a hoot to what his critics said about his cabaretista leadership. He learned how to dance from the most exclusive dancing maestros in New York. Even after he became an accomplished dancer, Quezon used to take dancing lessons whenever he was in the United States, not so much for the instruction as for the pleasure of dancing with pretty and graceful partners.
Quezon did much to promote athletics on a national scale. he was president of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation from 1917 to 1935, and ceased as such only upon his election as President of the Philippine Commonwealth. He started the movement which culminated in the participation of Philippine tennis players in the Davis cup championships.
This being a straight sports story without any political implications, we include Dr. Jose P. Laurel, president of the republic, under the Japanese. Laurel is a pretty good golfer. He played golf even before he got to Malacañan. His most memorable round of golf was played at Wack Wack some time in 1943, with Dr. Nicanor Jacinto, Dean Leoncio Munson, and Enrique Katigbak.
Everything went well until the foursome got to the seventh hole, which is near the road. Laurel was making a putt on the seventh green when shots rent the air. The occupation president fell, seriously wounded by four heavy slugs. The injury was serious but Laurel’s life was saved by the best surgical skill the whole Japanese army in the Philippines could muster. He was patched up as good as new and he is still able to play the game.
It may be of interest to add that Laurel’s favorite indoor pastime is to fiddle. He frequently plays the violin in the presence of friends. And they say that he plays well indeed for an amateur.
General Emilio Aguinaldo, having been the first and only president of the first Philippine Republic, should be given space in this story. In his younger days, the general rode horseback a lot, more for duty, of course, than for pleasure. He also put in a little swimming when he got the time. As a hunter, the general once bagged a prize crocodile in the Cagayan river in the early ’20s. The croc was mounted and at one time decorated the hallway of the University of the Philippines.
Aguinaldo has no “vices.” He takes no liquor, does not smoke and does not gamble. In his old age, the general’s main interest is looking after his veteranos. The thinning ranks of his followers have not dimmed his hope of eventual recognition for their sacrifices from the government in the form of token aid or pension in their old age. The general’s pension was stopped in 1935. He is not interested in the revival of the pension for himself, but he would like to bring satisfaction to his veteranos who have, after all, only a few more years to live.
May 28, 1949
President Quirino Holds On To Them, Citing A National Emergency, But The Only emergency, His Critics Say, Is His Reelection
By Teodoro M. Locsin
On August 19, 1939, the National Assembly (not yet the Congress of the Philippines) declared the existence of a state of emergency.
“The existence of war in many parts of the world has created national emergency which makes it necessary to invest the President with extraordinary powers in order to safeguard the integrity of the Philippines and to insure the tranquillity of its inhabitants, by suppressing espionage and other subversive activities, by preventing or relieving unemployment, and by insuring to the people adequate shelter and clothing and sufficient food supply.”
That was Commonwealth Act No. 600.
On June 6, 1941, Act No. 620, amending Act No. 600 was passed, to make a more detailed and specific grant of extraordinary powers to the President.
On December 16, 1941, after the outbreak of the Pacific War, the National Congress, meeting in the air-raid shelter in the basement of the legislative building, passed Commonwealth Act No. 671:
“The existence of war between the United States and other countries of Europe and Asia which involves the Philippines, makes it necessary to invest the President with extraordinary powers in order to meet the resulting emergency.”
The act justified the grant of extraordinary powers by describing the state of emergency as a “TOTAL” one.
“This act shall take effect upon its approval and the rules and regulations promulgated hereunder shall be in force and effect until the Congress of the Philippines shall otherwise provide.”
The Japanese invasion of the Philippines, it was seen, might make it impossible for 96 congressmen and 24 senators, scattered all over the islands, to meet in session. Hence the delegation of legislative powers to the President. Somebody must pass the necessary laws, issue the necessary orders, should Congress be unable to meet.
Acts No. 600 and 620 provided that the rules and regulations adopted by the President under his emergency powers “shall have the force and effect of law until the date of adjournment of the next regular session of the first Congress of the Philippines, unless sooner amended or repealed.”
Act No. 671 was silent on this point, merely saying that the President is authorized to exercise powers during the existence of the total emergency. It did provide that the President shall “as soon as practicable upon the convening of the Congress of the Philippines report thereto all the rules and regulations promulgated by him under the powers herein granted.”
One Must Die
by Teodoro M. Locsin
May 7, 1949–I KNEW both Luis Taruc and Philip Buencamino III. Taruc has disclaimed responsibility for the murder of Philip, but in the absence of evidence other than the word of Taruc, one must conclude that Philip was killed, if not at the order of Taruc, at any rate by his men.
This is the story of two men, who had never met each other, as far as I know, yet one must die because the world apparently was not big enough for the two of them. Yet Taruc felt, I am sure, no personal animus against the dead man. What he did, he did as a matter of principle. Unless it was all a senseless accident.
I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.
Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.
Meanwhile, we had, 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.
The paper was pro-Osmeña and against the rest of the government. It was anti-collaborationist and, later, anti-parity. It leaned to the left and praised the wartime record of the Hukbalahap. One day a small, thin-faced man, timid-looking, shy, showed up at the office. He came to thank us for our editorial policy. His name, he said, was Luis Taruc.
During the war, I carried a message of Taruc’s to Negros where it was flashed to Australia by the radio station established on the island by Villamor. The message was addressed to General MacArthur and offered to the general all the forces of the Hukbalahap in the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. When the Americans came, Taruc was arrested and, with the most prominent collaborators, imprisoned in Iwahig.
Seeing Taruc for the first time, I thought he was a government clerk, with some petty complaint, until he gave his name. He was humbled, unobtrusive; he seemed like a man other men usually pushed around. He talked softly, in a low voice. Later, in another meeting, he was to take correction mildly, without rancor. A man who had no vanity. I did not know of the will of steel underneath, of the fire burning in his brain. I should have known, for I knew enough about Communism, that here was a man who had declared war on all the non-Communist world.
I liked him because he was brave; it was only later that I was to learn that he was also ruthless. As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.
After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.
Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.
He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.
When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.
He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.
At that time it seemed entirely possible and such was the belief of men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the Communist world could live in good faith with the non-Communist. Recent events have proved the falsity of the proposition. . . . Mentally dishonest Filipinos pay lip service to human liberty, still invoke freedom of speech and the press, but their heart is with the totalitarian system. They do not love liberty, they only make use of it. When they are in power, they will erase the infamy.
I met Luis Taruc once, twice, and I met him again before he took to the “field” in 1946, after the election of Roxas and after he (Taruc) had, anyway in my opinion, been cheated by an unscrupulous majority of his seat in the House of Representatives. I know little of the man except that he is, within his lights and according to his definition of the word, honest. He is self-denying. He believes in Marx. He loves the peasants. There is nothing he would not do for them and there is nothing he would not do to them, for what he considers their good. He is not a man but an instrument of the party to which he belongs. He cannot call his life his own, and there is no life he would spare in the pursuit of the Communist dream.
I interviewed him in a tailor shop, just before he took to the mountains. With him were dark-skinned, burly mean: his bodyguards. He spoke of being prepared to accept martyrdom. He was not afraid to die. That is what makes him so formidable an adversary. He had no pity, and he is brave. It is proper and fitting that he should be the commander-in-chief of the Hukbalahap, the military instrument of the Communist party of the Philippines.
When next we met, it was at the Quirino residence on Dewey Boulevard where he was being kept by the government in “protective custody” after the grant of amnesty. We shook hands and he embraced me. Later during the interview, I told him to stop repeating the Communist jargon, to talk like a man. He accepted the correction with a humble smile. It was the only way he could talk, he said.
What can one say of Taruc? A man without pretension, who does not live for himself, who is willing to die for his convictions. . . but who would make it impossible, with power his for others to life for theirs. He is the New Man, who has no country but Russia, no home but Moscow, and dreaming of a Communist Philippines, will take criticism, or a life, with a smile.
It is still possible to build a bridge between the two ways of life: ours and Taruc’s? Or must one die? The difficulties seem insuperable. The Communists are not the kind to tolerate any way of life other than theirs. They speak of peace, but it is only the peace of dictatorship, the peace of the slave state. And how are we girding for the struggle? Are we doing what must be done, or are we merely talking, talking about it? Must we lose the Battle of Survival?
They Saw Manoling for the Last Time
by Leon O. Ty
April 24, 1948–THE general public was allowed to view the body of the late President Manuel Roxas beginning Friday afternoon, April 16. As soon as the notice to that effect became known an endless procession of silent, sad-faced people—Filipinos and foreigners, old and young, from all walks of life—made a bee line for the Palace to take one last look at their departed leader.
The wealthy drove to the Palace grounds in their expensive limousines, properly attired for the occasion. The men wore immaculate de hilo or sharkskin suits with black arm bands, black ties and black shoes to match. The women were in shiny, ebony dresses. The less opulent went to the Palace in taxis while the majority of the mourners took jeepneys and buses.
Most striking among those who paid Roxas their last homage were poor people of Manila who walked all the way from their homes in different sections of the city to the Palace, some in slippers and wooden clogs. Others were barefooted.
Without uttering a word, the people lined up, ascended to the second floor of the Palace, mounted the low platform where the body lay in a black casket, cast one fleeting look at the dead Chief Executive, then walked out of the wealth-filled room—still mute.
Not until the departing mourners reached the lovely Palace garden did they find their voices to talk to their companions.
Late last Saturday afternoon, the writer stood a few meters away from the illumined bier for almost one hour and watched intently the outward reactions of those who viewed the President’s remains.
President Bienvenido Gonzales of the University of the Philippines was one of those that saw Roxas’ body last Saturday. He simply could not conceal his sadness as he looked at the lifeless body of his friend who, a couple of days ago, had been with him at the state university graduation program.
The veins on Gonzales’s forehead bulged prominently as he tried to suppress the tears which reddened his eyes. As he and Mrs. Gonzales emerged from the room where the casket lay, he looked like one in a trance. Not a word was spoken between him and his wife.
Presently a solemn-faced woman, about 60, in a chocolate-colored dress (San Antonio), and wearing wooden clogs, mounted the platform and kissed the casket. The soldiers on guard at once led her out as she was blocking the passage of the other mourners. But this woman was not to be denied a moment’s prayer. As soon as she had descended the platform, she knelt reverently in front of the coffin—about a meter away—bowed her head and prayed for a couple of minutes. Then she made the sign of the cross, stood up, and quietly walked out, without minding in the least the many people staring at her.
“I wonder who she is?” asked a man standing beside the writer. “She must be an admirer of Manoling.”
A man, his wife, and two young boys followed. Since the younger child was not tall enough to see the President’s face, his father lifted him up by the waist and the tot was thus able to see—perhaps for the first time—the face of the dead leader.
Hundreds of university and secondary students as well as elementary school pupils flocked to the Palace to take a glimpse of the man who had earned the love of and inspired the youth of his country—as much as and perhaps more than any other Filipino leader.
Among the thousands of mourners were women who had just finished their marketing. They carried paper bags loaded with groceries as they passed alongside the casket.
A hunchback caught the writer’s attention. The man was middle-aged. He had a little difficulty in mounting the low platform, but he managed somehow to take a good look at the dead man. It was not easy for him to go down from the platform, either. Garbed in wrinkled, yellowish abaca short-sleeved shift and khaki trousers, his old, white shoes needed a good, thorough cleaning.
A lady known to the writer, was one of last Saturday’s mourners. After she had viewed the dark face of Roxas, I greeted her with a handshake. I noticed that her hands were unusually cold.
“Are you ill?” I asked.
She couldn’t talk for a few seconds. Later, she answered in a low, quivering voice:
“I can’t believe that he is dead. I can’t.”
After standing in front of the casket quietly for a few moments, she turned around and headed for the door.
A little boy, about seven years old, was perhaps not content with just a fleeting glimpse of the President’s face. Scarcely had he descended the platform when he turned back and took another look at the corpse.
A very old man with a cane made his last token of reverence for Roxas. He had a hard time climbing the stairs to the second floor of the Palace and he had also a difficult time mounting the platform. But with shaking legs, he managed to view the President’s body.
There was a newsboy who joined the throng of mourners. The lad was dressed in soiled, short khaki pants and striped T-shirt. In his left hand was a bundle of newspapers.
A stout, elderly woman walked past the casket biting her rouged lips. Her eyes were red with unshed tears. An old Spaniard followed her. His face was grave. He might have been a friend or an admirer of the departed leader.
Then there was a husky man with a .45 caliber automatic pistol sticking out of his belt. Briskly, he mounted the platform, tilted his head to take a look at the corpse, then walked away without revealing any trace of emotion on his rugged face. He looked like a tough character.
The writer was informed by a Palace employee that an American old-timer in the Philippines burst into weeping beside the casket last week.
“I’m weeping not for Roxas alone,” the American told Colonel Jose Tando, chief of the presidential guards, who led him out of the room, “but for the Philippines because she is bereft of a great leader.”
This American was a great friend of Roxas and had known Manoling since he was a mere stripling in Capiz.
Varied were the people’s comments after they had seen the lifeless body of the President.
Said a tall, young man in white suit and black, bow tie:
“A great man has passed away.”
A young lady whose voice was choked with emotion was heard to say in the Palace garden:
“I had no chance to see him in life. I should have seen him while he was still living. They say he was a wonderful speaker.”
“He reached the end of the road,” declared a lady to her male companion.
A man who must have been an oppositionist, judging from the way he talked, said:
“I wanted to see him defeated in the coming elections, but I didn’t want him to die before his term was over.”
“He was a very loving and patient husband,” stated an elderly lady, as she was entering the Palace garden. “I wonder if Mrs. Roxas can find another husband like him. That is, if she ever marries again.”
From an eloquent man carrying a briefcase, came this intriguing remark:
“Was Roxas really guilty of the charges made against him by his political enemies? I’ve heard and I believe that many of his friends and leaders became rich because they used his (Roxas) name in surplus and other transactions. But I have not heard of Roxas himself getting rich.”
“He was too good to fire even the men who besmirched his administration,” commented an elderly man who looked like a government employee.
A slim, morose-looking man in brown pants and a short-sleeved shirt said:
“Is it not queer that Roxas died in American territory—in Clark Field, a US military reservation? In the home of an American at that. Quezon, too, died on American soil. Our greatest leaders always die on American soil. Why?”
A Philippine Constabulary soldier queried as if in a soliloquy:
“Why did God take President Roxas away before his term was over?”
For more than a week the mourners passed silently one by one beside the lifeless body of Manuel Acuña Roxas. Nobody could tell what thoughts were in their minds or how profound might be the grief in their hearts. One thing could, however, be ascertained: They all felt bereft by the passing away of one of the most brilliant of their countrymen that ever lived. —L. O. Ty
HUNT FOR HUKS
April 10, 1948
Grown-up Males In Pampanga Are Being Screened For Possible Connection With Taruc’s Organization. Governor Lingad’s Slogan: “Peace At Any Cost.”
By Leon O. Ty
THE check-up of civilians in central and southern Luzon for possible connection with the Huks and PKMs has begun.
In Pampanga -birthplace and hotbed of communism in the Philippines- the youthful, fighting provincial governor, Jose B. Lingad, lost no time in carrying out President Manuel Roxas’s executive order outlawing the Huk and PKM organizations which was subsequently implemented by a lengthy, 14-point directive drafted by Secretary of the Interior Jose Zulueta.
Three FREE PRESS staffers went to Pampanga last week to gather first-hand information of the process. Their observations disclosed this one inescapable fact: that Huk Supremo Luis Taruc’s organizations is still strong with the Pampanga peasants. It is the belief of this writer that it may be a long time before the working class of that province can completely extricate itself, so to speak, from Huk control. This control may be based on mortal fear of Taruc’s “Gestapo,” or on the peasant’s honest belief that Taruc is a Redeemer, a Messiah, who will some day lead them out of a wilderness of economic misery to a land of plenty. That it exists cannot be doubted.
Governor Lingad did not follow strictly Secretary Zulueta’s impractical “screening” instructions. As a matter of fact, he practically discarded them and adopted a much simpler method of his own.
When President Quezon broke into tears
by Lt. Col. Emigdio Cruz
PRESIDENT QUEZON could not believe that the men he had left in charge of the government had betrayed him and turned disloyal to the United States. Then the question of succession to the presidency had come up, and he wanted, if possible, to consult the Filipino people and the men in the government in Manila regarding it. Although the constitution definitely provided that the Vice-President automatically would succeed to the presidency on November 14, 1943, that provision had been drafted and approved when the exigencies of war had not even been thought of, Quezon’s health was very poor, but he did not wish to run the risk of being charged with having deserted his post of leadership in time of great peril. He had left his nation in defeat and disaster to undertake the dangerous trip across the ocean to America, not to seek refuge or rest, but to work for its early liberation. He felt he had to continue to serve his country until his people decided otherwise. Consideration of health and family were secondary. Therefore, it was imperative that he should get some direct, trustworthy word from those left behind. He had to know their wish in the matter, for their wish would be his command.
Early in the morning of April 28, 1943, after the usual Mass in the private chapel of the Quezon suite in the Shoreham Hotel, the President remarked that he was not satisfied with the people he had sent to the Philippines because they had not succeeded in getting into Manila. He said that he was at a loss on whom to send.
It was then that I volunteered to go, saying that I would like to return to the Islands.
The President asked me if I was in earnest and if I was really willing to undertake the mission, which would very probably cost me my life. I answered that I was very willing to take the assignment. The President then said that since I was one of the family physicians, I should ask the permission of Mrs. Quezon, who was then listening without saying a word.
Mrs. Quezon, who regarded me as one of the family, was reluctant to let me go. She said I was not trained for such a mission. She was afraid that, like those who had gone before me, I would fail to reach Manila.
Still, I felt I could not convince myself of having contributed anything to the war effort if I did nothing more than serve the President in my capacity as a physician. So I told Mrs. Quezon that since we were already in the States where we had all the hospital facilities and the best doctors, I thought I was no longer of any use to the family. Nothing would make me happier, I told her, than to undertake the mission.
Mrs. Quezon, who was like a mother to me, gave her consent with tears in her eyes.
That same morning, the President sent a cable to Gen. MacArthur. Two days later, he announced that General MacArthur had answered: “Cruz is all right. Send him over.”
The personal and official instructions of the President and his family were given to me. As per instructions, I reported at Ft. Hamilton for embarkation.
I arrived in Australia on June 9. I reported to the headquarters of General MacArthur. He gave me a friendly welcome, and I gave General MacArthur the secret message and letters of President Quezon.
I left Perth, Australia on June 19, 1943. When Zamboanga was sighted the skipper called me up to look through the periscope. The island did not look any different from other Pacific islands, but knowing that I was looking at one of the islands of my country, which I thought I might never see again, I was overcome with joy and could not help shedding tears of happiness.
When I got to Manila I stayed for several days more, contacting some more of the men I had been instructed to see. I started back with the documents given me by Roxas hidden at the bottom of a bamboo trunk and covered by boxes of cigars, handbags, and wooden shoes.
The return trip to Australia which took 10 days was uneventful.
When I returned to the United States, I found the President very ill in bed. He was terribly excited. With tears in his eyes, he congratulated me upon the successful accomplishment of my mission.
I gave him a verbal report of my mission. I told him that the people wanted him to remain at the head of the government for the duration of the war, that they were loyal and were expecting that they would be liberated soon. My arrival in the Philippines, I said, convinced those I had met that the islands had not been abandoned, and that liberation from the Japanese yoke would soon be effected.
President Quezon was deeply moved. He asked me about Laurel. I replied that General Roxas thought that Laurel was honest in his conviction that what he (Laurel) was doing was in the best interests of the Filipino people. President Quezon said, “I agree with Manoling in his opinion of Laurel.”
I gave him General MacArthur’s message not to concern himself with anything except his health so he could take part in the landing when MacArthur returned to the Philippines. He smiled and told me he was awarding me the Congressional Medal of Valor as per recommendation of General MacArthur. He said I was the first and only Filipino to receive the medal of valor, the highest decoration of the Philippines, and he was presenting it to me with full satisfaction over the accomplishment of my mission.
The President appointed me permanent major and promoted me to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. I had an assignment in the Surgical Service of Walter Reed Hospital, but the condition of the President had taken a turn for the worse, and it was decided that I should stay with him as he was moved from one hospital to another in search of a drier climate.
On the morning of August 1st, 1944, I entered the room at a quarter to eight to relieve Dr. Diño. The President was awake and reclining against the back rest. He asked me to read the Sermon on the Mount to him.
After I had finished reading, the President snapped his fingers and pointed at the back of his left wrist. I looked at my watch and said, “time for the broadcast, Mr. President,” at the same time turning on the radio.
“Gen. MacArthur made a successful landing on Noonfar just 600 miles from the Philippines,” came the announcement. Almost simultaneously we clapped our hands. “It won’t be long now,” he said, and told me to step out of the room as he needed the attendant. I stayed in the lobby just outside the door, looking for the President’s favorite passage in the Bible.
All of a sudden I heard a noise. I rushed into the room and found the President coughing spasmodically, with blood coming out his mouth and nose. He was being held by the attendant. When I got near his side he said, “Trepp.”
I rushed downstairs and called Dr. Trepp and dashed to the chapel and told Mrs. Quezon to pray hard for the President.
Then I went up again and gave the President stimulants. I requested Dr. Diño to call up Dr. Hayes.
Dr. Trepp was holding the President, who was at that time in a very cyanotic condition. His pulse became very weak, so I went down and called Mrs. Quezon.
Mrs. Quezon and the children entered the room. She tried to go to the bedside of the President. The President waved her aside to spare her feelings. Then I saw the President gasp so we turned him upside down to get the blood clots out of his air passages. A big clot was recovered. I started giving him artificial respiration. I was still astride him giving artificial respiration when Dr. Hayes arrived. The President breathed a few more gasps. He died fifteen minutes after ten o’clock in the morning of August 1st, 1944.