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Philippines Free Press Special 101st Anniversary Issue, August 29, 2009.
The cover photo of Cory Aquino which I took on August 24, 1983 was during her press interview after the transfer of Ninoy’s body from their time street home to Sto, Domingo church. There were only a handful of reporters from the various news bureaus probably due to fear of reprisal by the authorities. Only Radio Veritas was bold enough to cover the arrival at the airport thanks to Mr. Harry Gasser who was GM of Radio Veritas in 1983. He assigned Veritas reporters Jun Tanya to cover the arrival at the airport with Ben Paipon stationed in the OB van at Baclaran church where Ninoy was suppose to proceed for a thanks giving mass had he been released on house arrest.
Patricio N. Abinales
A sympathetic media has kept the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on high profile such that foreign and domestic observers have cited them as evidence of a political system in perennial crisis mode and permanent instability. Intermittent ambushes by NPA and the occasional attacks by MILF commanders on AFP outposts are magnified, morphing into “major military offensives” that purportedly expose the fragility of government authority in the countryside.
Yet if one momentarily steps out of the din of the rhetoric and the reportage and looks at both insurgencies more objectively, one actually will also notice a number of under-reported incongruities. In the CPP’s case, reportage on the surge in ambushes fail to note that most of these are happening in the northeastern portion of Mindanao and only sporadically in other parts of the archipelago. Why this asymmetry exists is something that media seems uninterested to pursue. More importantly, media outlets appear not to spot the one clear anomaly that confronts the CPP today: its difficulty in complementing its “advances” in rural warfare with similar breakthroughs in the urban mass politics. While its parliamentary front Bayan Muna, has been instrumental in keeping the CPP at the center of bourgeois politics, and despite consistent print and media coverage of miniscule student protests led by other front organizations like Anakbayan, the truth is that the CPP is still years, perhaps even decades, of reaching the high numbers it had in the late years of the Marcos dictatorship.
No urban protest has shut down thoroughfares the same way as the waves of welgang bayan the CPP launched in the 1980s. No schools have been forced to suspend classes due to massive boycotts, nor factories locked-down because of widespread workers’ strikes. And when urban poor communities resist “urban renewal,” they do so because their immediate lives are at stake; there is hardly anything political in their battles against the police. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) now relies mainly on its “spokesman” delivering bad speeches in Congress; there is none anymore of those huge “poor people’s marches” that marked the heyday of the now dismissed Jaime Tadeo. The “loudest” of the CPP legal organizations, (in part because it is media savvy), is a fisherman’s group whose membership size is quite dubious (note, for example, that Pamalakaya has never had any national congress).
The question that journalists consistently failed to ask is why this unevenness in the CPP revival? Part of the problem has to do with the 1992 split when its Great Leader and eternal chairman Jose Ma. Sison presided over the destruction of the Party’s more dynamic and innovative regional organization, and the expulsion of over half of its central committee members. This singular Stalinist act deprived the revolution of the very cadres that presided over its growth; cadres known for their refusal to be straight-jacketed by Sison’s dogmatic devotion to Maoism, and who then devised creative strategies to turn the CPP into a national military and political movement. After their expulsion – and in the case of Filemon Lagman (Manila-Rizal), Arturo Tabara (Western Visayas) and Rollie Kintanar (NPA chief of staff and Mindanao), their Mafia-style execution – the Party has been having a hard time developing cadres of the same caliber as these “renegades.” The sickly Ka Roger pales in comparison to Kintanar, BAYAN’s Renato Reyes is a poor copycat of the late Lean Alejandro, and the best united front work Teodoro Casiño and Satur Ocampo have been doing of late is making backroom deals with landlords in Congress. Finally, of all the NPA guerrilla zones that remain active, it is only those in Mindanao that have shown the way. The irony here is that these were the same NPA units that Kintanar and the late Benjamin De Vera created and protected from the bloody internal executions of the 1980s.
These internal weaknesses are being aggravated by a shift in the state’s counter-insurgency warfare. While its senior leadership still refers to its strategy as a “war over hearts and minds,” the military – if we are to believe the claims of the pro-CPP human rights group Karapatan – has adopted a mini-version of the successful Phoenix program that nearly destroyed the entire Vietcong infrastructure in South Vietnam. The selective killing of activists and cadres suspected of playing important roles in the revival of the legal organizations in the towns and cities have maimed the urban mass movements that are supposed to function first as diversions to ease military pressures on the guerrilla zones, and later to back up the NPA as it shifts to a more aggressive conventional war against the Philippine state. But with their organizers dead and those who were supposed to succeed made to think twice before assuming senior positions that could be their death warrants, the Party is more and more forced to rely on its military power to maintain its image as the single biggest threat to the government. Hence the increase in the number of ambushes, which now includes the deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED’s) akin to those used in Iraq by Al Qaeda. This, unfortunately, is not what “people’s war” is all about, but the CPP has really very little choice.
The other insurgency has taken a lot of headline space these days after the MILF and the government have come to terms over the issue of what exactly comprised the Moro people’s ancestral domain. The agreement came just at the right time for both protagonists. For Gloria Arroyo it was a chance to show Congress and the 13 percent who might watch her SONA that something is being done about the Mindanao war, and for the MILF, the agreement has further entrenched its position as the real spokesman (yes, the fundamentalist MILF is an all-male club) of the Moro people.
It is the criticism of weapons that has so far kept the MILF at the center of Mindanao’s political landscape (its senior adviser, the politico Michael Mastura once boasted at a donor’s conference that funders should listen to “us” because “we have the guns!”). A second look at this vaunted capability however raises certain question. Like the NPA, the MILF occasionally probes the AFP’s armor, the latest attacks a month or so before the above agreement (the MILF bosses claim these were tantrums by commanders who were supposedly frustrated at the slow pace of the negotiations).. But unlike the NPA, the MILF’s combat zones are extremely constricted — its forces rarely venture outside areas where the communities are under its control. Roughly, we are talking here of Maguindanao province, parts of Lanao del Sur (the southeastern portions), North Cotabato (towns bordering Lanao del Sur), Sulu and Basilan, and a little patch in South Cotabato. Not much of an area if placed in the larger island frame of Mindanao.
The MILF, in short, is fighting a defensive war and its attacks should be properly interpreted as warnings to the AFP to keep its units outside of rebel territory. They were never aimed to expand that space. And if the MILF does decides to “liberate” the rest of Mindanao in the name of the Bangsamoro, there is a 99 percent certainty that it will not even reach even the border of Southern Kudarat or go beyond Tubod, Lanao del Sur; all these despite its supposedly vaunted firepower (which, if one recalls, paled in comparison to the AFP’s when the two confronted each other in 2000).
To military limitations we add political insularity. The MILF has never disavowed that it is claiming Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu mainly for the Bangsa Moro, with the Christian majorities and lumad minorities having only minor, and the case of the lumad, no role at all in its realization. In fact it continues to stoke the resentment and biases of the latter by its military arrogance and dogmatic attachment to the myth of centuries-long of Moro resistance. The MILF has failed to realize that to ensure the success of its separatist goals, it must be able to draw in Christians and lumad into its fold. Unlike the CPP, the MILF feels no need for an NDF, and the reason for this is its belief that all Muslims are behind it.
This is not necessarily true. There is no solid evidence that the entire ummah is backs the MILF’s struggle. In fact frictions within the community are quite obvious. Family or clan loyalty is still far stronger than devotion to the Bangsamoro and prejudices abound between the three principal groups: the Maguindanaos, Maranaos, and Tausogs (again media seems to miss out on the fact that choices for ARMM are also often determined by which group’s turn to govern). Already, the recent hint by Arroyo’s people that elections to the ARMM may be postponed in the light of the ancestral domain agreement has elicited strong reservations from Muslim politicians whose role in the MILF’s Bangsamoro Judicial Entity is actually ill-defined. Are they expected to turn over power to the rebel group? One doubts if they will.
Insurgencies never win if the states they wish to overthrow do not collapse completely as a result of a major conventional war sustained by a steady supply of war material from powerful external sources. This was the case of the successful Asian communist revolutions of the 20th century. With the exception of East Timor, no other separatist movement has managed to break up a Southeast Asian nation-state. In fact, the universal path to success is through compromises with a nation’s government (see, in particular, the case of Burma). There is no such major war in the horizon for the Philippines and the patrons of Moro separatism are tired of wasting resources on a cause that appears to be succeeding better in the negotiating table than in the battlefield.
We will therefore most likely continue to be witness to these lingering-but-failing-to-succeed wars of the flea, their presence becoming more or less a permanent feature of our political narrative.
Special to the Century Book
Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910
Patricio N. Abinales
THE birth of the Philippines in 1896 was one thing; consolidating the territory was another matter. While most Filipinos would attribute the unification of the Philippines to the 1896 Revolution, in reality it was a series of local revolts against the Spanish, and later against the Americans. It remains debatable as to whether these revolts either identified wholly with Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Malolos Republic, or whether, had they all succeeded, whether would unite under one contiguous territory. Already when the first American troops landed in Negros Island, Negrenses were threatening to create their own republic.
The Americans were actually responsible for giving territorial reality to Las Islas Filipinas, the basis of the future Republic. They did this first by employing force against those who opposed American rule. They waged brutal military campaigns against forces loyal to the Malolos Revolutionary Government of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, pushing the latter as far back as the mountain fastness of northern Luzon and scattering his troops in southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The American use of armed might was so brutish that in Samar Island, for example, hundreds of women and children were killed when Gen. Jacob Smith ordered to turn the island into a “howling wilderness.” After Aguinaldo’s capture at Palanan, Isabela, there were attempts to re-establish a new revolutionary center, but all this was quashed by the Americans.
In the towns and in Manila, American suppression of Filipino revolutionary nationalism took the form of proscribing the publication of “seditious” materials that could be disseminated through the emergent print media and the ever-popular plays. Public display of pro-revolutionary sentiments were also prohibited, with the most notable ban being the Flag Law that disallowed any showing of flags associated with the Katipunan and the Malolos Republic. The Americans also sped up the organization of police forces to oversee “peace and order” and this successor of the hated Spanish Guardia Civil proved up to the task of suppressing urban dissent.
Once sure that their control would not be seriously challenged anymore, the Americans turned their attention to governing “the new possessions.” The foremost problem that immediately confronted them was the generating money for the colony and then developing the personnel necessary to run the government.
The U.S. Congress approved the colonization of the Philippines but refused to provide sustained financial support for the undertaking. In fact, the Congress allotted only $3 million for the Philippines in the entire period from 1903 to the formation of the Philippine Commonwealth. One economist called it colonial administration “accomplished ‘on the cheap.’” Financial constraints were also complicated by the difficulty of attracting Americans to govern the colony. The solution to these problems was found in generating revenues from the colony’s own resources, particularly the existing crops that the colony was exporting abroad later years of Spanish rule. Enhancing this export economy, however, was not easy. American legislators, especially those coming from the agricultural regions of the U.S., vigorously opposed proposals that Philippine products enter the country tariff-free. As a consequence, the so-called “free trade” that introduced under American rule was not so free. The U.S. was very selective in the choice of Philippine products that could be exported to the American mainland. Only sugar, hemp and coconut were allowed open access to the U.S. market; and even these products would later be taxed in American ports. Selective entry of these goods however was enough to resurrect the export economy, and by the end of the decade much of it was re-energized because of the American market.
The second issue—putting people into the administrative and political structure—proved more successful because the Americans early on opened up the structure to Filipino participation. It is general knowledge that even as the war against Aguinaldo was raging, the Americans were already able to recruit prominent Filipinos to their side. These collaborators became the backbone of the Federalista Party, a party committed to full American control as well as the medium for introducing the party system to the Philippines. The Federalistas were also supposed to become the dominant Filipino party in the soon-to-be formed Philippine Assembly and American backing initially helped them to mobilize Filipino support.
The Americans transformed the Philippine Commission from its original function as a fact-finding and policy-recommending body created by Pres. McKinley, to the highest policy-making body of the colony. Through the Commission, the Americans were also able to bring in Filipinos into the leadership (although they had limited powers) and further legitimize their rule. With the Federalistas supporting them and the pacification campaigns winding down, especially after Gen. Macario Sakay, the last of the revolutionaries fighting for a Tagalog Republic in 1905, the Americans proceeded to prepare the grounds for eventual self-rule.
The Commission ordered a colony-wide census to ascertain the exact population of the Philippines. The census was followed by provincial elections in 1906 where a new group of Filipinos emerged to challenge the Federalistas. The former consisted of local elites who saw the value of the nationalism of 1896 and how it made many Filipinos suspicious of the pro-American Federalistas. Using their provincial positions, this group began to present themselves as the real alternative to the Federalistas. Americans increasingly recognized the strength of this sentiment, especially at the provincial and municipal levels, and began to turn their attention to these new elites. The result of this new collaboration was the creation of the Nacionalista Party, a coalition of provincial elites who promised to fight for the cause of nationalism but within the framework of the American policy of eventual self-rule.
On July 30, 1907, the first elections to the Philippine Assembly—the legislative body which would act as the “lower house” to the more “senatorial” Philippine Commission—was held and the Nacionalista won a majority. From their ranks emerged Manuel L. Quezon (from Tayabas province) and Sergio Osmeña (from Cebu), who would lead the fight to expand Filipino power inside the government and eventually become the dominant leaders of the American period. Under Quezon and Osmeña, a colony-wide party system began to take shape, its power derived from a combination of clan-based alliances, patronage and a commitment to Filipinization. As more Americans chose to return to the mainland instead of staying to serve the colonial government, Filipinos increasingly took over their position.
By the end of the first decade, “regular provinces” comprised half of the Philippines. These provinces had elected and appointive Filipino officials, many of whom owed their positions to Quezon, Osmeña and the Nacionalistas. Combining their local political experiences learned from the last years of Spanish rule, with the “political education” they were getting from the Americans, the Filipinos proved within a short period of time that they had the ability to be equally adept at governing the colony. In its first year at work, the Philippine Assembly had already shown a marked adeptness in introducing additional provisions or new amendments to existing colonial laws, and in negotiating with the Philippine Commission and the Governor General over matters of policy formulation, funding and government personnel changes. Quezon and Osmeña were at the top of all these processes. They were fast becoming astute leaders of the political party they helped build, of the Assembly that they presided over, and of the colonial regime they co-governed with the Americans. If Rizal was credited for having conceived of the “Filipino,” and if Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were the leaders who gave this imagination a reality with the Revolution, to Quezon and Osmeña must be given the distinction of helping construct the political and administrative structure that would be associated with the term “Filipino.” The Americans may have created the colonial state, but it was these two leaders who gave flesh to it and putting the foundations that the future Republic would stand on.
This type of political and administrative consolidation however was only happening in one part of the colony—the “Christian” Filipino dominated “lowlands” in Luzon, the Visayas and northern Mindanao. In the other half of the colony, the U.S. army administered the “special provinces” on the grounds that their population—the so-called “non-Christian tribes”—were more backward than the Filipinos and were prone to more “warfare.” The Americans saw their “civilizing mission” as special given that the underdeveloped character of the Cordillerans and Muslims required a longer time for them to become familiar with self-government. They also had to be thoroughly “pacified.”
Surprisingly, the pacification process was fast and relatively easy. There was hardly any resistance from the various indigenous communities in the Cordilleras, while Muslim resistance was scattered and unsustained. At the middle of the first decade, the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao” had become very stable and peaceful areas.
A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.” American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”
The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.
Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”
About half a century later, a separatist movement threatened to disengage “Moro Mindanao” from the Philippines, while in the Cordilleras, the quest for autonomy remained strong.
(from the Free Press Century Book)
World War II in the Philippines:
The lasting effect on the Filipino people
By Alfonso J. Aluit
FOR a people without experience of war, World War II came as the crucible for Filipinos, the ultimate test for the individual and the nation, a test of the effectiveness of the institutions of government and religion, a test of faith in truth, justice, and freedom, in fact a test of all the beliefs Filipinos subscribed to.
The Japanese invasion in December 1941 had no precedent in the memory of most Filipinos of that period. The American invasion in 1898 had been a reality only to disparate groups in the country. The Philippine-American War was not of a national character, having been limited to certain areas in Luzon and the Visayas, and was but endemic in nature in Mindanao.
But World War II, which lasted from December 1941 until the last Japanese commander came down from the hills in August 1945, was a national experience the reality of which was felt by every Filipino of every age in every inhabited region of the archipelago.
How did World War II affect the Filipinos, and how have the effects of war influenced Philippine life and civilization in thereafter?
The Poet, The Fighter, The Locsin of Memory
(Cover Story in the commemorative issue of the Philippines Free Press, February 5, 2000)
By Manuel L. Quezon III
In his library
Alone with dead men’s thoughts
Listen to him singing.
—“Solo,” Teodoro M. Locsin
IN the end, all he could communicate with were his eyes. There seemed little pain expressed in them but there was anger: indignation over being taken from his home, confined to a hospital bed, violated by a breathing tube, punctured by IV drips.
Anger at life: he had lived it well; he had no apologies to make; it was time to go —so why was he being detained? His heart would not let him go. It kept pumping life, refusing to surrender, refusing to let go.
Those eyes: piercing, probing, stoic. How they shone with a sardonic humor when he would be approached. You see me an old man and show me respect, they seemed to acknowledge. And yet, as you greeted him his eyes would seem to say —what? His eyes would communicate a message, a poem, his own:
Let me think of you
When you were young and without guile
Not a wise old man
Waiting to die.
But how can one ever think of him as having ever had guile —or been foolish? He was a man who had no time or patience to waste on fools. He had nothing but contempt for guile, for deceit, the weapons of the weak. Only the frontal attack, the formal duel for him. In his last years, the contempt, the rage still smoldered. What have you done to my country? his eyes seemed to say.
An image: Teodoro M. Locsin Sr., sitting on a chair, scanning the newspapers, a glass of iced red wine on the table before him. A young writer, in awe, watches his every move. He looks up, gives the paper in his hand a little shake, and says, “God damn it!” His eyes flash.
God damn it, indeed. Reams and reams of paper, on them hundreds of thousands of words-half a century and more of words, angry words, eloquent words. Years of pounding them out on a typewriter to explain the wrong and convey the outrage, to educate the ignorant, to exhort the decent not to surrender to what was convenient and wrong. But for what?
Fools stayed fools. The crooked got clever and completely unscrupulous. “It was different in my time,” he tells his daughter-in-law. “Even the crooks were decent, knew limits. Now they are just plain shits. They observe no rules, no rules should be observed them.”
The good and the well-meaning caved in to tyranny and shrugged off injustice, feigning contempt when what they felt was abject fear. He saw this. Tried to shrug it off as life. Hadn’t he written that the just deserts of slaves is slavery? Let them be slaves. He would not, And yet —“God damn it!” They did not have to be. And the anger boiled over again.
The Jesuits, under whom he had been educated, and who produced a man in the mold of Rizal -a man who valued his conscience above the easy consolations of a facile faith and the rewards of a material society- would have called it righteous anger. The faith of his teachers taught that God reserved his most awesome wrath and retribution for those sins that cried out for vengeance: the oppression of widows and orphans, the weak, defenseless and meek.
But Teodoro M. Locsin Sr. would not leave to heaven the justice we can mete out here and now if we but had the fortitude. And what was faith most of the time but pious words? He had better: fighting words. Indignant words. Wounding, merciless words that humbled the proud, drove back the oppressor, exposed crime to retribution and pointed out with embarrassing clarity what was lacking and what needed to be done.
At what point in his life did Teodoro M. Locsin, privileged lover of books, a man with a gift for writing, who had been to the manor born, decide that submission would never be his condition, that slavery would never be his lot? His own words give us a clue.
His journal entry for December 23, 1941:
“The war reveals the parasite, the nonessential man self-confessed. He who does not produce is regarded, with suddenly clear eyes, as an enemy. In peacetime he often occupies an honored position, being then only a thief who lives lawfully on what his neighbor makes.
“The war leaves us with only human values to go by. It is not very comfortable. It either shoes a man or shows him up. Out of this new revelation may come a new society, a true society.
“There are economic problems because there are rich men and poor men. There are wars because there are economic problems. Let us, simply, eliminate the rich men?”
He answers his own questions in his entry for December 29, 1941:
“The rich and the influential are the pitiful ones. They have so much to lose! They shake for their lives, they shake for their office, they shake for their bank accounts. They read all the literature on the established methods of avoiding death and damage by bomb, bullet and gas. They sit in a circle all day and worry over every rumor and report of disaster. They scan every threat to their security with the passion of scholars poring over a newly recovered line from the Greek Anthology.
“The war freshly illumines a paradox:
“One may be casual about one’s life but rarely over one’s property.
“In high good humor the people are compiling a list of dishonor. With infinite malice they treasure each new story of how their lords and masters have disgraced themselves.”
Though he came from the class of “lords and masters,” he also belonged to the elite of intellectuals. He would not disgrace himself. His thought is not unique. Throughout Europe, in farm houses and attics, basements and empty warehouses where the resistance met, men placed their hopes of a corrupt society’s self-destruction on the elite’s betrayal of their countries. There would be no need for a revolution from the streets to overturn the established order. That would self-destruct in shame. When Europe was finally free of the Nazis-the Philippines of the Japanese-they would also be free from their corrupt and compromised elites. It would not happen.
In the same journal he marveled at the coming of war, giving him time to catch up with his reading, even as he noticed his reading being drawn to the philosophers instead of the crime writers he had favored in the past. Yet this was no longer the time for sitting down to read or even worrying about the fate of his library.
“To everything there is a season.” He read that in a fine edition of Ecclesiastes he would keep through the war. It was the time to fight. He joined the resistance.
Besides what else was there to do? The Free Press had been shut down. Writing for the pro-Japanese Philippine media was out of the question.
Writing shortly after the war, he would explain with the exceptional clarity that would always be his hallmark, what the choice he had made-to fight-had been all about. It was not a romantic choice; it was a choice rationally made.
“Collaboration or resistance -all of us were captives of war. War was a prison; some cells were bigger than the others but the walls were there. We were all hemmed in -those in the cities and towns, and those in the jungles. In the ‘free’ areas, communication was possible with the outside world, and breaks from the prison for a few by submarine; that was all. The resistance may be compared to rioting in prison…
“No, that is not quite accurate. The resistance undermined the power and authority of the warden; even if it did not succeed in taking him prisoner, it made the opening of the prison and the release of the prisoners easier, the liberators did not lose so many men. When the resistance in Negros flashed the move of the Japanese fleet before a battle, that was more helpful, surely, to the cause of freedom than collaboration.”
He had nothing but contempt for the collaborators. Even before he joined the Free Press, he had returned to being a journalist, founding Free Philippines with, among other writers, Philip Buencamino. (He would turn his back on his communist comrades in arms in the anti-Japanese resistance when they ambushed the Quezon family and killed Buencamino, and join Magsaysay for the final solution to the Huk challenge.) He said of himself, during the time, that “I thundered and shrilled —that is, I wrote editorials.” Journalism during the heady —and for many, vengeful— days of liberation involved “jumping on a man,” as Locsin described it. Sobriety and balance were for other practitioners of the craft.
Then the Free Press resumed publication, and star writer of the publication was he. A division of labor became evident: Filemon Tutay and Leon O. Ty were to prowl about and keep their ears to the ground; theirs were the scoops and big exposés. To Locsin was given the task of the probing interview, the devastating revelation of his subject’s hubris and idiocy. And the serious, reflective pieces, the essays on society, sovereignty and liberty: those were reserved for Locsin.
Were these early days the days of “foolishness” and “lack of guile” that he alludes to in his poem? Heady days, indeed: and perhaps, to him, in looking back, days of naiveté. If they were, they were not to last long.
Days of Liberation flowed into the early days of Independence, then a new war, against the Huks, and though he always gave them their due for their bravery against the Japanese, he saw little romance in what they were doing to a country crying to recover from an earlier war. Then they crossed the line and murdered his friend.
The Fifties were years of exposing the cruelty of the military and the communists both, though his words were particularly harsh against the communists. Not just because of what they had done to his friend, but because he knew, from their implacability, what they held in store for his country if they triumphed. Once again, the freedom of the prison yard, the security of the barbed-wire fence.
And hadn’t he resolved never to be a slave?
Then came the Sixties. His time to be at the helm had come. The passing of “Mr. Dick,” founder of the Free Press, who had made Locsin his heir, saw the transformation of Locsin from staff member to publisher and editor in chief. He was in command now. He built the Free Press up, made it bigger, richer and far better equipped, giving it the most modern printing facilities in the country. The Free Press had become a battleship with only one mission: putting out a single issue a week to perfection. He would not allow the Free Press facilities to be used for any ancillary business, even printing comic books like his friend Don Ramon Roces had started to do, just in case newspapering became too dangerous. His machines were so fast they turned out the second-biggest print run in the industry in a few hours. The rest of the week was devoted to cleaning the machines, oiling them, buffing them to a sparkling finish, like a dreadnought.
It would be 20 years of steady, relentless campaigning: for land reform, against logging, against the criminal and exponential growth of the population, against a supine foreign policy that would involve us, “the showcase of democracy in Asia,” in an unjust colonial war in Vietnam, against creeping militarism, the coming of martial law.
This is how he would conduct his campaigns. He would call in his editors and writers, he would farm out the different aspects of the campaign, and then he would relentlessly pursue it. Giving them their cue in his editorials. His fingers would pound away at the keys of his typewriter; the Free Press would pound away at the enemy.
Against landlords and for real, not naive, solutions: “A sentimental approach will not do; hearts bleeding for the poor are not enough. Too many congressmen and landlords or tools of landlords -from whom they get campaign funds, retainers, etc.- for emotion to prevail in the Senate and the House. And the Mexican experience has shown that it is not enough to give land to the landless if they do not know what to do with it, if they are not provided with the necessary credit facilities for increasing production. A poor landowner is still a poor man.”
And against “tutas” — whether of the Americans or Malacañang, whether by omission or commission:
“Dogs are dogs. Their canine behavior should surprise no one; for them to act with the dignity of human beings would be unnatural. But there are parliamentarists who are so from conviction. Their arguments in favor of the parliamentary system are, however, arguments articulated in a vacuum. Without the adoption of a Ban-Marcos or Ban-the-Marcoses provision in the new charter, they would be acting-objectively, judging from the results of their action, not their intention-no differently from the professional tuta of Malacañang… Parliamentarists would be the same dog, with a different collar. Whatever the intentions, they would be paving the road to hell.
“By their fruits should you judge them.”
And the Free Press would pound away against loggers and reactionary princes of the Church.
For 20 years he led the fight; he would deny his countrymen the privilege of pleading ignorance to their eventual enslavement.
There would be a bitter interlude before the climax of the fight: a rebellion within the walls. Society —the same society whose defects he had so clearly seen, so eloquently pointed out, so vehemently condemned— and its evils were projected on his person by his own people in the Free Press —supported by his enemies in the Palace. He was called an oligarch; oppressor of the working man who gave 14th-to 16th-month bonuses because he believed that a company he kept completely free from debt should distribute its excess wealth —a throwback to his days in the anti-Japanese communist resistance. His comrades in arms tried to seize control of the Free Press, he showed them the door: leave. They left. All his old friends, his drinking companions, the men whose talents he had encouraged, whose reputations he had built up with more care than his own.
He would continue to fight, harder than ever with a handful of his former complement. The Free Press was now in the trenches against the coming dictatorship and soon it was over the top. Challenging the Palace to do its worst. And it did.
Darkness fell and then the morning came when he was taken away by the military. The heir of the editor in chief arrested by the Japanese was under arrest by order of the president he had helped get elected because it was preferable to have a murderer from the Ilocos who had feigned resistance to the Japanese to an enthusiastic collaborator from Cebu.
When Ferdinand Marcos, in gratitude for his support, offered him the portfolio of the Department of National Defense, Locsin declined, joking, “It isn’t right for the secretary of defense to limp in review past the troops because he has gout. He would really look like a lame duck.” The position, in a few years, would go instead to Locsin’s jailer. Locsin had no regrets for, had he accepted, he would have been arrested anyway or he would have to arrest his best friends— Soc Rodrigo, Ninoy Aquino, Chino Roces, the others.
The sons of the soldiers by whose he had fought to liberate the Republic from the Japanese and then to save it from the communists, now padlocked the Free Press. Philippine Marines took on the role last taken up by Japanese imperial troops. Locsin was kept in detention in Fort Bonifacio, and given a choice.
He had written the response to the choice he was given a decade before: journalism without freedom was not journalism. Marcos, thinking he had in his hand all the aces, gave him the devil’s option: keep what you have, only publish.
Publish, under such circumstances? Never. He would not even deign to bid on Marcos’s hand. Very well then, if Locsin would not play his game, Marcos would take everything. And he did: a forced sale-confiscation. If Locsin would not publish the Free Press, the Marcos would take it away. The physical plant, the assets —they would go to a crony, for a song. The most modern printing plant in the country.
Locsin’s own son would recall what that crony told Marcos: it is better to kill him than take his life’s work away. But that was what Marcos was all about: he knew how to hit a man where it hurt.
Years of seclusion followed. The betrayal of his own people in the Free Press was nothing to the cavalier way his countrymen took the loss of their liberties. Locsin had done his part, his countrymen now had to do theirs. Few cared about the silencing of the Free Press -very well, he would be silent since anyway he could not be heard.
Years spent writing stories and poems—things dear to his heart, which had been set aside because there were more mundane but pressing things to attend to. Now, as in the first weeks of the war, he had time to be with his books, a respite from journalism in a hurry. Years in which to attend to his craft. Years of rest, though still of rage. The slave deserves slavery. But what man can abide slavery?
He took up his journalistic pen when his countrymen showed they were ready to break their chains. The Free Press returned; the byline of Teodoro M. Locsin was back. From him, however, flowed no words of congratulation, essays to encourage the smugness felt by those to whom democracy had been given back on a silver platter, for not a drop of blood had been shed except that of his friend, Ninoy Aquino.
Locsin was back, on his own terms, and with a mission still left to fulfill. He began where he had left off: it would be the same causes, the same warnings, the same criticism, the same lack of pity for the foolish and the same intolerance of crooks and tyrants, petty or big, fascist or left-leaning.
As for the Free Press, did he get it back? He had it for the asking from Mrs. Aquino. But that would have been the height of bad taste. In a sense he was in power, which he had never been: his son was in Malacañang. He chose to file a lawsuit to recover what had been taken from him only after Mrs. Aquino had stepped down. The result, thus far, has been predictably grim.
He was in the field again, fighting. Would his causes be defeated again? Would his words be again in vain? From 1985 to 1994, he would write and publish. But for what?
In 1986 he wrote, “Defeat it 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 only 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.”
Was there such a thing as victory for a man who fought with words?
If in politics, which he keenly observed throughout his life, victory was only the pretext for a new round of corruption, did Locsin ever seek a victory? Or simply to state the case for right?
He wrote for hopeless causes -hopeless in that even the victory of his causes meant their distortion, their rhetorical triumph and substantive defeat. He would get an award for his singular championship of land reform from the man who buried it in a flood of rhetoric and empty promises —Ferdinand Marcos.
His words were the raging of the just, of the righteous. And yet if justice was finally achieved it had still to be maintained. The struggle would never end.
Teodoro M. Locsin as Sisyphus —condemned, not by the gods but his own heart —a heart that would not give up.
The enigma of a life. What is left but to find solace in a poem, his own, “Past Midnight”:
The music is ended
The hall is deserted
all the dancers are gone
Drink to the empty chairs.
He had called his column “The Uneasy Chair.” To the end, he was restless: he could not come to terms with the causes of his anger. And so, anger never left him. You could see it in his eyes.
He left behind his books, and the words he wrote. He left behind his anger, too —for others to feel. And having felt, perhaps to do as he did —fight.
Red flags and raised fists
By Dan Mariano
Special to the Century Book
DURING the 1950s and early 1960s, nationalism was equated with communism. Filipinos were, in general, perfectly content to be regarded as the Americans’ “little brown brothers.”
Yet, in this sea of colonial mentality emerged islands of nationalism that invoked the unresolved conflict between Philippine Independence and America’s Manifest Destiny at the turn of the century.
These nationalist pockets were initially manned by politicians such as Claro M. Recto, Jose P. Laurel and Lorenzo Tañada, who gave inspiration t o associations like the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). By the mid-l960s, nationalism began to attract a younger crop of Filipinos.
In l964, a group of university students founded the Kabataang Makabayan. By l968, the KM’s patriotic platform was reinforced by Mao Zedong Thought. Later, that same year, its leading members—who had previously been associated with MAN—and several Huk commanders disenchanted with the old PKP declared the “re–establishment” of the Communist Party of Philippines along Maoist lines on December 26.
On March 29 of the following year, the New People’s Army (NPA) was organized, announcing the CPP’s determination to capture state power through armed struggle.
IN 1969, with the relaxation of sexual standards came the proliferation of pornography. Local movie producers made a killing out of films that titillated previously conservative Filipinos with frontal nudity and graphic bed scenes. A mere decade was all it took for the local film industry to take a licentious leap from wholesome, family-oriented movies like “Ibiang, Mahal Kita” to the salacious “Ang Saging ni Pacing,” which left little to the imagination.
Adding to the Mardi Gras-like atmosphere of 1969 were the lavish parties that the elite threw, giving currency to the phrase “ostentatious display of wealth.” The grandest of these was a banquet staged by the Lopezes—kingpins of the sugar bloc and owners of the country’s biggest broadcasting network and electric utility—where champagne flowed, literally, from a fountain.
IF 1969 was Fat Tuesday, 1970 became the nation’s Good Friday when popular passions reached boiling point.
Ferdinand Marcos had just won an unprecedented second term in an election that his political rivals and independent observers alike claimed were the dirtiest in the nation’s political history. Nevertheless, Marcos felt that his reelection vindicated the “record of performance” of his first term, which witnessed an explosion of public works construction that, for the most part, was financed with Japanese war reparations.
Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent 100-percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2:$1 to P4:$1, then P8:$1. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.
When he delivered his State of the Nation Address on the afternoon January 26, 1970 before a joint session of Congress, the popularity that allowed him to win reelection the year before was already badly eroded.
Outside the legislative building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention. As Marcos stepped out of the building and onto the driveway, a papier-mâché crocodile (representing government corruption) and a make shift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew in his direction. Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped off away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft drink bottle, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.
The first encounter of what would later be called the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 ran for several hours with either side gaining, losing and retaking ground on. J. Burgos Street in front of what was then the congress building. Another phrase would gain currency that evening: “police brutality.”
Rarely did the protesters number more than 10,000 at any given demonstration, but the impression they left was of a whole generation rising up in rebellion.
THE main focus of 1971 was the election for eight seats in the Senate. The bloody events leading up to the voting would exert a marked influence on the outcome.
Emboldened by the phenomenal growth of the youth movement, UP students occupied the Diliman campus and barricaded its main roads. In this, they won the support of the faculty, non-academic personnel and virtually the entire UP community.
The campus remained under the students’ control for several days until the university radio station began broadcasting a tape recording purportedly of Marcos making love to an American starlet, Dovie Beams. That proved to be the last straw. The President ordered the PC Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) to retake the campus. The first thing the troops did after dispersing the protesters was to smash the transmission equipment of DZUP, which was never heard from again.
On the eve of the by-election, the opposition Liberal Party was holding its final rally at Plaza Miranda when all of a sudden the stage was rocked with an explosion that was soon followed by another. The grenade attack killed about a dozen people and injured scores of others, including LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, Ramon Mitra, Eddie Ilarde and Eva Estrada Kalaw.
The blame quickly fell on Marcos, who merely encouraged the popular suspicion by suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus that same evening.
BY 1972, the feeling of dread that Marcos was up to no good had become so palpable that even sections of the press that had once given him favorable coverage began to turn critical and pro-opposition. Thus, when Senator Aquino delivered a privileged speech exposing an alleged plot to justify the declaration of martial law, the media painted the town red with the explosive disclosure.
The plot, codenamed Oplan Sagittarius, contained all the incidents that had already taken place that would lead the public to conclude that the situation was getting out of hand, the communists were running berserk, the political opposition was encouraging civil unrest and, therefore, the government had to step in to regain control.
All that needed to be carried out, according to the plot, was an attempt on the life of a high-ranking official of the Marcos administration.
That scenario unfolded one night in September 1972. The following day, the newspapers ran pictures of a car assigned to Enrile that bore so many bullet holes only a miracle could have made the defense secretary come out of it alive. Years later, after leading a coup against Marcos, Enrile would confess that the ambush had been staged.
Days later, Filipinos woke up to find their radios eerily silent. No newsboy came around to deliver the papers. Later in the afternoon, the television station owned by Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto went on the air and asked viewers to stand by for a very important announcement direct from Malacañang.
The talking head that eventually came into view belonged to Francisco Tatad. With all the solemnity that he could muster, the press secretary announced that Marcos had issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.
The nightmare had begun.
80 years of the Free Press
After 80 years, the commitment to people and country lives on
Free Press, August 13, 1988
By Gigi Galang
FOR a publication that’s a byword in Philippine magazine publishing, the Philippines FREE PRESS ironically began life as a newspaper during the first decade of the American occupation of the Philippines. Its maiden issue came out on January 20, 1907 and contained both English and Spanish sections. Owned by Judge W. A. Kincaid and edited first by Percy Warner Tinan and then by Pat Gallagher, the first FREE PRESS was set up as an organ of the Moral Progress League, a group engaged in a crusade against vice in Manila.
The early venture proved to be a dismal failure. Unable to generate enough revenue, the paper, after only a year in circulation, stopped publication in 1908. Before the year was over, however, the FREE PRESS would experience a quick revival at the hands of a Scotsman and this time to stay and become an institution in the Philippine scene.
R. McCulloch Dick had worked on newspapers in the United States and Hong Kong before coming to the Philippines in 1900. Shortly after arriving in Manila, he found employment with the Manila Times, first as reporter and later as editor. It was during his eight year with the Times that Dick thought of reviving Kincaid’s Philippines FREE PRESS.
In 1908, Dick asked Martin Egan, then correspondent of Associated Press in Manila and managing editor of the Manila Times, to allow him to take the two-week vacation leave due him. He explained that he was going to sound out some businessmen on his idea of a new publication. Granted his leave, Dick set out on his project.
Of the 12 businessmen he approached to help bankroll the project, two came out in favor; three or four were lukewarm; the rest predicted doom. Despite lack of financial support, Dick went ahead and put his lifetime savings of P8,000 as capital for the venture.
Meanwhile, Kincaid had departed for the United States, but he had left behind a power of attorney with Charles A. McDonough. It did not take long for ownership of the defunct paper to change hands. With Kincaid’s approval, Dick paid the token amount of one peso for the newspaper’s list of subscriptions, name and goodwill.
A magazine for harmony
On August 29, 1908, a new Philippines FREE PRESS reappeared with Dick as reporter, editor and publisher rolled into one. Now in magazine format, the FREE PRESS was printed on 16 pages of cheap paper and newsprint. As before, it contained English and Spanish sections. The new edition was priced at five centavos per copy.
In the maiden issue of the new magazine, Dick spelled out the policy that his publication would adopt:
The FREE PRESS will be conducted as an independent journal. It’s chief aim will be to promote, in its humble way and in so far as it may, a friendly feeling between Filipinos and Americans think they are, and the Americans are much better than some Filipinos think they are. In any case it holds that more is to be gained by harmony and mutual forbearance than by suspicion, irritation and discord.
The new FREE PRESS offices were located at No. 44 Escolta, on the second floor of the same building which housed Manuel Pellicer, Manila Shirt Factory and Dry Goods Store, and another fledgling publication—the Daily Bulletin, which had offices and printing plant in the building. By arrangement with Daily Bulletin owner Carson Taylor, the FREE PRESS was printed by the Bulletin press.
Joining Dick on the staff were Don Alberto Campos who stood as first assistant and later editor of the Spanish section, Percy Warner Tinan who took charge of the advertising, and F. Theo Rogers who helped solicit ads and refused to be paid for his services. Rogers was later to become the magazine’s general manager.
Years of hardship
The early years were a struggle for the magazine. After just seven months of publication, Dick original investment had been exhausted and he was compelled to borrow P2,000 at 8 per cent interest per annum to continue publishing.
It was during this touch-and-go period for the FREE PRESS that dick displayed a strict sense of frugality. One of the off-cited accounts of his parsimony related to the time when the Spanish section editor left his light on overnight. When Dick discovered the deed the next morning, he called the electric company to find out how much it cost for a bulb to burn all night, then ordered the business department to deduct the amount from the Spanish editor’s salary.
After another six to seven months following the P2,000 loan, Dick had borrowed another P1,000 to keep the FREE PRESS going. The fresh capital infusion proved sufficient to sustain the project. Shortly after, the FREE PRESS began to turn a profit.
When the Bulletin transferred offices to the Cosmopolitan Building the FREE PRESS went along because of the printing services. The magazine continued to be printed on the Bulletin press until 1921 when the FREE PRESS finally erected its own building on Rizal Avenue and installed its own printing plant.
By 1925, with the publication doing good business and established as a regular reading fare, the FREE PRESS began publishing short stories, a new feature then in journalism. Not long after, it launched its annual short story contest.
In 1929, the P1,000 prize in the short story contest was won by Jose Garcia Villa for his story “Mir-i-nisa.” In 1936, the first prize was bagged by Manuel Arguilla for his “Epilogue to Reconciliation.”
The Free Press Staff
Aside from the handful of people who joined Dick in the early years of the FREE PRESS, the pre-war staff members of the magazine included composing room foreman Domingo Magsarili, writers Leon Guerrero, Frederic Marquardt, Leon Ty, Filemon Tutay, Juan Collas, Alfonso Torres, D.L. Francisco, Ramon Navas, Roberto Anselmo, Federico Calero, Jose Joven, Jose G, Reyes and Teodoro Locsin, Sr. Artist Esmeraldo Izon drew the satirical cartoons that appeared on the magazine’s first page.
By the time World War II broke out, the FREE PRESS had become the most popular weekly publication in English and Spanish. Before the conquering Japanese closed the magazine in 1941, FREE PRESS circulation had gone past 80,000 copies per week.
Besides the paper’s becoming a journalistic casualty during the Japanese occupation, both Dick and Rogers were incarcerated at Fort Bonifacio. There, the Japanese attempted but failed to destroy the formidable Dick who kept his sanity by lecturing on Shakespeare before his fellow prisoners.
After the liberation and on the eve of the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946, Dick resumed publication of the FREE PRESS. In its post-war issue which came out on February 23, 1946, Dick explained the reasons for resuming publication of the FREE PRESS in an editorial entitled, “A Word to our Readers”:
After four years of “Blackout,” the FREE PRESS resumes publication. It is not the old Free Press as our readers know it. But we trust they will make allowances. We had really intended to postpone publication to a “more convenient season,” when conditions would be normal, but demand became so insistent with so many people asking “When is the FREE PRESS coming out?” that we finally capitulated—whether wisely or not, time will show.
Besides Dick and Rogers, of the pre-war staff members of the FREE PRESS only the triumvirate of Locsin, Ty and Tutay, plus artist Izon and composing room foreman Magsarili remained. But the magazine was joined by new talents, among them writers Nick Joaquin and Napoleon Rama, Artist Gene Cabrera, and Robert Hendry who was associate editor from 1947 to 1955, and who was later succeeded by Dick Kennewick.
Locsin, aside from writing two or three feature articles each issue, wrote almost all the editorials and was for some time the short story editor. (Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. would join the editorial staff in the sixties when he was barely 20. Later, Supreme Court justices would candidly tell Locsin Senior that they preferred his son’s pieces to his.)
The nation’s premier magazine
The years following the liberation of the Philippines from Japan were exciting, eventful and glorious for the FREE PRESS. Shortly after its revival, it won more and more readers and advertisers. By the time it reached circulation of 100,000, the vigor that marked the FREE PRESS’ style of journalism had made it the most successful magazine venture in the country.
The FREE PRESS came to be known as the publication that explored every significant event and issue without regard for the influence of people involved. During the American administration of the country, the magazine vigorously campaigned for an early independence of the Philippines from the United States. It also did not waver in its expose of venalities even in the highest office of the government.
For the FREE PRESS, exposing graft and abuse of public office was nothing less than a crusade. The commitment brought unrivalled influence on public opinion. It was said that no public official could afford to overlook the publication.
Nor was recognition limited to just inside the country.
In its August 26, 1955 issue, the New York Times paid tribute to the influence of FREE PRESS on Philippine life:
“Philippine elders have laboriously learned to read English so they could spell out for themselves the printed words of the FREE PRESS.
There’s many an argument in the barrios, a long-time American resident of the Islands said recently, that is settled for good at exactly the moment when someone remarks, “Well, the FREE PRESS said…”
“One reason for is that readers write more than half of the FREE PRESS. Subscribers report on a gay village fiesta; on an energetic mayor who gives medical injections and legal advices, teaches the catechism class and ghost writes all the letters of the community; on the successful mechanization of a small farm; the problems of a little barrio where all the water has to be carried by a cart a distance of three miles; a wedding of tribespeople in Zamboanga; a community ruined by hot feelings over politics; the only Filipino woman in Congress.”
One more significant fact that might be pointed out—the FREE PRESS was a newsmagazine long before Hadden and Luce developed Time. To this may be added that the many exclusives, explosive and otherwise, written by Locsin, Ty and Tutay came from tips furnished by people who had complaints against the government, other people or articles printed in the magazine.
A touch of libel
Proof of the courage that made the FREE PRESS a standout in the industry were the many libel cases brought against Dick (for an editorial written by then staffer Teodoro Locsin) by former governor Eliseo Quirino. The court acquitted the accused with commendation for service to the cause of good government. Governor Quirino gave a lechonada for Dick and Locsin. There was also the libel case filed at the behest of then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon. Dick himself was once ordered deported by Governor General Francis Burton Harrison. The case even reached the Supreme Court of the United States. It was later dropped when Harrison left the Philippines and placed administration of the country in the hands of Vice-Governor General Charles Emmet Yeater.
In August 1958, during the celebration of the FREE PRESS’ 50th anniversary, Dick and Rogers were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor by the Philippine government for their service to the cause of Philippine freedom. The same year, Dick received the Ramon Magsaysay award for literature and journalism.
On June 16, 1965, the FREE PRESS came out with a weekly Pilipino edition. Called the Philippine FREE PRESS Sa Wikang Pilipino, it had the same format and content as the original FREE PRESS. It reached a circulation of 40,000 quickly, largely the provincial school system which used it as reading material. Then it experimented with radical articles and “sexy” stories by avant garde writers. Circulation took a nose-dive. In December 1970, the Pilipino edition was closed; it was a flop.
The pioneer passes away
In September 1960, R. McCulloch Dick passed away. His death marked the end of his more than 50 years of influence on Philippine Journalism. At the time of his demise, Dick owned 99 percent of FREE PRESS stocks, which he bequeathed to Rogers and his own employees under certain conditions. The corporation eventually bought the stocks of Rogers who had returned to the United States and lost interest in the magazine. Rogers died in the United States in late 1963.
In the hands of Teodoro Locsin Sr. as publisher and editor, the FREE PRESS remained the fightingest publication in the country.
Twenty months before Marcos imposed martial law, the FREE PRESS painted the scenario of life under military rule:
With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be polarized. The Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded misguided elements (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.
Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from the life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would forever be?
On September 21, 1972, martial law was declared. The following day, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction No. 1 ordering the Press and Defense Secretaries to “take over and control or cause the taking over and control of the mass media for the duration of the national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by the President or his duly designated representative.”
Newspapers and magazines, including the FREE PRESS, were closed down, Leading media men, including Manila Times’ Chino Roces and the FREE PRESS’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon Rama, were arrested and imprisoned—without charges.
With the government clampdown, the FREE PRESS ended its many years as the country’s premier weekly magazine. It was not until 1986, 14 years after it was closed down, that the FREE PRESS reappeared in the country.
The magazine came out shortly before the February 7, 1986 snap elections to join the candidate Corazon Aquino’s campaign for the presidency.
After the EDSA revolution and the accession of a new regime, the FREE PRESS was relaunched as a fortnightly publication. But if the frequency was altered, the commitment to good government and the public interest never wavered.
That commitment—from the very birth of the magazine in 1908 to the present—in a sense explains the return in August 1988 of the FREE PRESS as a weekly journal of news and opinion.
Eighty years now lie behind the FREE PRESS. Unless catastrophe once more descends on the Philippines, it is certain to complete its first century of publication and offer more years of service to the life of the Filipino nation.
August 13, 1988
By Teodoro M. Locsin
OF the dead we should speak only good, we are told, which makes it difficult—for how are people to tell whether we are doing only what is proper or telling the truth?
In the case of Mr. Dick, it is doubly difficult, for he distrusted praise, or, to be precise, he was wary of its insidious effect. He liked it, I suppose, as much as any man, but with this difference: he felt it was weakening; it made you pleased with yourself. When things are going well, he would say, that is the time to be worried. A most canny Scot!
And there is this further point: To praise a man with whom one was so closely associated is, somehow, to praise oneself, and as he would say, self-praise is no praise. Yet, I must say it, now or never, the earth having received its “honored guest.” He was the one great man I knew.
A difficult man to work with, for he demanded, it sometimes seemed, too much from you. You forgave him only because it was obvious that he demanded even more from himself. To see him in terrible pain with every movement an agony, still doing his work, day after day, year after year—it was impossible to find excuses for any failure to do the best you could.
“Do not grow old,” he would say, and, sometimes, when the pain was unbearable, he would cry: “Let me die.” But the next morning he would be at his desk as usual—though he had to be half-carried there—working for the FREE PRESS. He never spared himself. He would not be a burden; he must earn his keep! What was important to him was not how he felt, but the magazine, which had for him a kind of transcendent existence apart from the people who composed it.
He had the quality of disinterestedness that marks the man one could call great. His temper was explosive, but his anger was never spiteful; it was impersonal; he did not know hate. We nurse our wrath to keep it warm, as the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, would put it, but the anger of Mr. Dick, provoked by some mistake, did not last long. “I have a vile temper,” he would apologize. His anger could pierce like a sword, sharp and cold, but it left a clean wound; nothing festered. He was never mad at the man but the act.
He made of the public interest a kind of mystique, which he would have his magazine solely serve. The general good was his own particular creed, and he equated it with truth and justice. It seemed to him the mark of a noble man that he should concern himself not merely with his interest but with the interests of others. It is the peculiar purpose of the press, he thought, to seek out such a man and give him praise—and go after his vicious opposite.
A lot of people talk about serving the public interest these days, of course, but what made Mr. Dick different was the fact that he meant it. Tired expressions and mere common-places, which one would avoid because so many had made use of them to deceive, regained authority on his lips. Shopworn phrases seemed newly made; old saws turned into “modern instances” through the force of example and belief. He was what he said.
“What’s his racket?” one thinks when somebody speaks of the “general welfare” and the “common good.” But words were, to Mr. Dick, meant to express thought, not hide it. He pretended to nothing he was not. He would not even think of doing it. Having known him, it was an almost painful experience listening to some public figure invoke the public interest while promoting his own; you are embarrassed by the transparent attempt to impress, by the obvious lies.
“Damn it,” he said impatiently once to an acquaintance who was trying to convince him that he was not guilty when he quite plainly was, “Damn it, can’t you tell the truth?”
He was a measure for other men. In most of them one found something contemptible, something not quite straight. Though the years bent his body until he walked, or shuffled, with his face to the ground, nothing else in Mr. Dick bowed.
Let us honor if we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.
Because he meant what he said, Mr. Dick had a reality most people do not have. The outline of the man was sharp and clear, that of others shifty and vague. He had the definition of rectitude. The dishonest continually change shape. Thus, thieves, who convert what does not belong to them into their own, assuming the substance of others, take, in Dante’s vision of hell, reptilian forms, becoming lizards and snakes. But the honest do not change; they are always themselves.
Rectitude, it should be noted, is not the same as being righteous, which is repulsive. To be straight is not to be smug. Mr. Dick was the most humble of men as he was the most upright. And if he seemed the embodiment of the decorous and correct, he was also, when his work was done and dinner was waiting and the company good, the mellowest of human beings. A drink or two would set him reminiscing. (The iron grew soft in the warmth of a Martini.) The sentimentalist had the upper hand.
Let the record be set straight. Mr. Dick enjoyed a good drink. He never pretended he did not. For some 50 years he did not touch a drop—having promised his mother he would not, but with middle age he felt he could handle a cocktail as well as the next man. He drank in moderation, but the legend would have him totally abstemious. Advertising liquor, however, was something else, and the FREE PRESS gave up a small fortune each year of its life turning down liquor ads. It served to buttress its independence. Advertisers who would dictate to the paper were rendered impotent, for how could they really hurt the FREE PRESS? If it could turn down legitimate liquor advertisement, why should it “play ball” with them just to get their business? Mr. Dick made principle somehow work. This is not easy.
“Let your spear know no brother,” he would quote from an upstanding man in public affairs early in the century. If you must fight, fight for a cause—impartially. Not that he loved a fight, for its own sake. He would neither run away from nor be rushed into a fight. “Everybody loves a dogfight,” he would say, while he debated whether a battle was necessary. Fighting for the sake of fighting is silly!
A man fought for a cause; to fight for any other reason was to be not a fighter but a bruiser.
He loved a clean blow. Say it if you must, in the public interest. If in doubt, cut it out. Never insinuate.
When a writer allowed his political feelings to get the better of him and damned a president by calling a previous one “not a swine,” Mr. Dick was furious.
“Would you have said he was not a swine if you did not mean to suggest that the other was?”
He was, indeed, a man to reckon with. If, for your own purposes, you tried to get around him, you would find it was useless. Sooner or later, you would be confronted with the truth and have to face, after him—yourself.
He thought of you as a man, not as a subordinate, and if you acted as you should, there could be no issue between the two of you. Sometimes, when he seemed too demanding, you would ask yourself what his game was? What was behind that formidable front? In the end, you would realize he had no game at all. It is impossible to see through most men, to see through the virtuous show, to see the man himself. In the case of Mr. Dick, one could not see through him because he was all there right in front of you. He believed in being true to certain things, and that, perhaps, was what made him seem incredible. How could he possibly mean it? But he did.
He believed in fairness, and carried his belief to what may seem to others fantastic lengths. When he was already ailing, he had to make a long trip by car to face trial on a libel charge. There were three of us on the back seat: Mr. Dick, our lawyer, then Rep. Emmanuel Pelaez, and myself. I was in the middle, Mr. Pelaez at my left, Mr. Dick at my right. We started early in the morning. The congressman had the sun on his face but did not mind. Mr. Dick, however, did, and half-way between Manila and Baguio told the driver to stop the car.
“You have had the sun on you half the way,” he said to Mr. Pelaez, showing his watch. “Now it is my turn. It is not right that you should be inconvenienced all the way. I can’t allow it.”
“But Mr. Dick,” the congressman protested, “I don’t mind the sun at all.”
“I can’t have you as you are all the way from Manila. I would not feel right.”
“Mr. Dick, you are an older man, and not well…”
“Please, humor this old man then.”
And slowly, painfully, the change in places was effected half-way between Manila and Baguio.
When he was not hard at work, or exploding over some mistake, his manners could be courtly and elaborate. Praise did not come casually from him. A note of appreciation would be as carefully composed as an essay, with words stricken out for others more precisely to the point; you knew exactly for what you were being praised. (You also knew exactly what you were getting hell for.) There was nothing lax about the man.
One never presumed on anything with him.
“That’s not the way I do business!” he once said, and the man he said it to never forget it.
“Order is heaven’s first law,” he would say. And order would reign on the desk of the man the note was sent to.
He had no use for servility; it could not be trusted. He would tell his staff with relish the story of the Englishman who went to America to look for work and, having found a place in a factory, immediately asked: “Who’s the management here? Whoever it is, I’m against it!”
He had a difficult life. He would speak of the bitter poverty of his childhood and of his father’s untimely death, leaving his mother as the family’s sole support. (She was known, among an honest people, as “the honest widow Dick.”) He would recall the early days of FREE PRESS, how he had a table in the office for a bed. His only indulgence was a single bottle of soft-drink at the end of the week. (How he looked forward to it!) It was hard going, indeed.
And there were his clashes with the American authorities. An American captain, or something, challenge him once to a duel. (He liked Taft. “It was at a banquet when Taft, with clenched hand and a trembling voice, said: ‘The Philippines for the Filipinos!’ F. Theo. Rogers and I were for Philippine independence and when we entered a restaurant we would hear them say, ‘There go those sons of bitches Rogers and Dick!’”) He did not know, he would say, how the FREE PRESS would have survived without the unsolicited help of Mr. Rogers…
He was always talking of his association with Mr. Rogers—and Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., of the Manila Times. Last week, at the necrological services of Mr. Dick, Joaquin Roces said of his father’s friend:
“Time is too short for us to record here the early career of his plain-speaking magazine, which in the span of a few short years gained the position of monitor for the government and the nation. But the time is never too short to omit mention of R. McCulloch Dick, the uncompromising Scot who maintained the simple creed: ‘The people can never be wrong.’
“In the spirit of tolerance that he brought to his task, there was always room for the little man who sought justice—but there was not an inch of space for the powerful in the land, the tycoons of government, the men who sat in the seats of the mighty-whether they were Filipinos or Americans—if they were not on the people’s side.
“R. McCulloch Dick was not the most tolerant of men where his most cherished ideals were concerned. There was a sign on the door of the FREE PRESS editorial rooms: ‘No crooks or grafters need apply.’ It may have been invisible, but it was there.
“R. McCulloch Dick left for us a heritage. It is not a formula for making money fast; it is not a prescription for getting close to the powers in the government. Those who accept it will be accepting a burden to carry—the burden of the journalist’s duty to the people.
“And this is a burden, indeed…
“My late father used to tell this story: It appears that Mr. Dick, toward the end of the Harrison administration, noted that the Governor General had been absenting himself from his office altogether too much. He opened an editorial campaign that shook the rafters in Malacañan. The governor, using his vast powers, ordered the deportation of the fighting editor-publisher. When the latter’s personal friends—among them my father and others whose opinion Mr. Harrison respected—intervened, the deportation order was rescinded, and Mr. Dick remained to steer of course of the FREE PRESS for the next 42 years. And never, before or since those eventful days in 1918, has the FREE PRESS ever taken a backward step from the ideas of R. McCulloch Dick—’The people can do no wrong!’
“This, then was R. McCulloch Dick: the man who had so much to give, and who gave it all to the people. He gave not because he was forced to give, but because he loved the people so much that he could not conceived being in opposition to anything that could possibly benefit them.”
Mr. Dick got in trouble, too, of course, with the Filipino authorities. Only fear of public opinion stopped the Liberal administration from deporting him. (Many of those whom his paper had hit the hardest would say, even as they hit back, “I have nothing against Mr. Dick himself.” And last week, at the necrological services, the press secretary of President Garcia was there to pay Mr. Dick tribute: “When future generations of our people ask who Mr. R. McCulloch Dick was, let it be said that he was a friend—a true friend of the Filipino people!”) But enough of his battles with the authorities.
“His many unreported deeds of kindness and generosity earned for him the love of his poor and unlettered neighbors who looked up to him not only as a man who was ever ready to champion their rights but also as one who was always there to help them meet their most pressing needs,” said Jose R. Arcangel of the National Press Club at the necrological services. “It was a touching scene, indeed, at the mortuary where he lay, to see fisherfolk from Malabon render their simple but eloquent tribute to the man who had been unsparing in his benefactions to them.”
He did what he had to do “without fanfare.” The story is told that when a correspondent of the American magazine Time was going to publish about him, Mr. Dick pleaded with the man to leave him alone. “I will pay you not to write about me.” He hated publicity, raised hell with Don Alejandro Roces, Sr., when a picture of them together during a fishing trip appeared in Don Alejandro’s paper.
He was a fighter, but a shy one. He fought—but only for what he considered the people’s good. When he spoke of their plight, it was with an urgency that came from direct contact. He lived among them, among the poor—as those discovered who saw for the first time, at his burial, the house where Mr. Dick lived. The poor were all around him. How could he disregard their need?
Many of our nationalists speak of the Filipino people and their needs most passionately, yet live in a world completely apart, a world of privilege and wealth. What can these know of the people? Mr. Dick was with the Filipino people in life and death. He is buried in the cemetery of the town of Malabon, Rizal, across thousands of miles from his native Scotland and 87 years later he came to find his final rest there.
He stood by what he said, bearing witness to his words by his deeds. Sincerity and disinterestedness marked his life, and an unqualified devotion to an ideal of the press as a force for the general good. “The truth will set you free,” he would say, believing it. He would permit no compromise. “We are no hucksters,” he would say to his staff. Thinking of him, one thinks of “those who were truly great.” Surely he is of their number—
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled
A short while toward the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.
He lived long but never faltered in his journey toward the light and the air is vivid with his honor.
by Teodoro M. Locsin
Reflections on Ninoy Aquino’s “The Filipino is worth dying for”
August 23, 1986–WHEN NINOY AQUINO was arrested, together with thousands whose only crime was love of truth, justice and liberty, no voice of protest was heard; there were no demonstrations by those still “free.”
Traffic flowed smoothly. Business went on as usual. The Church went on in its non-militant way, preaching submission, by its silence, to the brutal rule. Marcos’s Iglesia was all for it, of course. Thus was upheld the judgment of the Communist Prophet: “Religion is the opium of the people.” Politicians went on their, to use Shakespeare’s term, scurvy way. But what else could be expected of them? But what was heartbreaking was the general indifference to the death of liberty. The Filipino people did not give a damn.
Except a few. The unhappy few who found their cries against the death of liberty met with indifference if not scorn. Ninoy and Cory would afterward speak of how those they thought their friends pretended they did not know them!
There were no demonstrations of any consequence for years and years. When Ninoy, in ultimate defiance and despair, went on a hunger strike, masses were held for him at St. Joseph’s Church in Greenhills. A hundred or two showed up. An American Jesuit, Reuter, and a Filipino, Olaguer, said mass for Ninoy, witnesses to his cause. The currently most conspicuous member of the order busied himself with constitutional law and judicial resignation to Marcos’s “revolutionary” government. A banker showed up. No other demonstration for what Ninoy was slowly, painfully, starving himself to restore: the rule of law, not the rule of one man.
To be a prisoner is to be dehumanized. It is to be no one. Nothing. You have no rights, no control of your life, no existence except what your jailer allows you. You eat, sleep, and live at his pleasure. You remain human only by saying No!
From Camp Bonifacio, Ninoy and Diokno were taken to Fort Laur where they were stripped naked and kept incommunicado in separate rooms, singing the best way they could to tell the other that they were still alive. After weeks and weeks in their sweatboxes, they were taken back to Bonifacio from which Diokno was finally released after two years. Leaving Ninoy alone. Thus he lived for five more years. Years during which he would watch the trail of ants on the wall and try to make friends with a mouse and go into a frenzy of physical exercise in that windowless room to keep his sanity. But still No! to Marcos and his rule.
Years more of solitary confinement, then a heart attack, with Imelda showing up at the hospital with a rosary (not the one with the inverted cross or the other with the face of an animal that were found in Malacañang after her hurried departure) and permission granted for Ninoy to leave for the United States for heart surgery. Freedom at last—freedom in exile. A death in life for one who misses his people. A sense of total irrelevance. For what is a Filipino like Ninoy—not one who went there to make it his home, to be an American—in that country? Home he must go.
Against all the warnings: Imelda’s, Ver’s….Against the advice of friends. What did he hope to accomplish by his return? Reconciliation, peace, restoration of Filipino liberties. He would address himself to the “good” he believed was still in Marcos. Did he ask his children what they thought about his going back? Yes, and his children said they would abide by his decision. Did he ask Cory what she thought?
“You are the one who will suffer, Ninoy,” said that long-suffering woman. “You decide.”
So he went home to death.
Why did Ninoy go so willingly enough to a fate he must have considered a possibility if not a probability? Why do men—and women—say No! to injustice and force? Why do they opt for good at the cost of their lives?
For love of country? Out of sheer patriotism?
Here is a mystery of human nature that defies solution while humbling us. Evil we know, and understand, knowing our nature. But good is something else. As martyrdom, it has had, history shows, a fascination for some. The cynic would say it is mere inflation of the ego. But how explain the slow martyrdom of Damien who lived among lepers, ministering to their needs, and finding a mystical fulfillment when he could say: “We lepers.” Ego-inflation still? If that is the supreme desire, then the cynic might try life in a leper colony. He should never think more highly of himself then. But cynicism is only fear—fear of knowing what one is. To debase the good is to rise in self-estimation. If all men are vile, then you are not worse than you might think you are. You just know the human score. To face and recognize goodness is to sit in judgment on oneself. Avoid it.
For us? Because, as he said, “The Filipino is worth dying for”? In spite of his indifference or submission to evil until the final sacrifice that reminded him of what he should be? Because Ninoy expected neither appreciation nor gratitude for what he did for until then a graceless breed? “He who would be a leader of his people must learn to forgive them,” he once said. Look not for praise or reward. The daring is all.
For what good is for all, whoever they are?
The mystery of human goodness is—according to one who has thought long and hard on the question—the final proof that, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, God is good. For from whom else could what is good in man have come if not from Him?
If they had sent a limousine to the airport instead of a van, Marcos and Imelda would still be in Malacañang. The Conjugal Dictatorship, as the author of the book with that title called the regime, would still be in dictatorial power – to imprison, torture, murder whoever opposed the Monstrous Duo while the looting of the nation went on. The author of the book now lies in an unknown grave but Marcos and Imelda would be living horribly on.
Why the van? To take the body of Ninoy after his execution at the airport to a military camp where it would be dumped by his killers on the cement floor. (Why killers, not killer? Because he was killed by all those who plotted his assassination, not just by the soldier or officer who fired the shot. Only a conspiracy made possible the “salvaging”.) And so it came to pass.