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Raul Manglapus: Pied Piper of Democracy
By Manuel L. Quezon III
NO one sings “Blue Eagle the King” anymore, and no Atenean belonging to the martial law baby generation knows his music at all; but of the many songs he composed, one lives on: “Mambo Magsaysay,” the anthem of the Age of the Bakya and to this day, the song of those who believe that democracy can work in the Philippines.
Raul Manglapus, the composer of the Magsaysay campaign song, was born in Manila on October 20, 1918. A noted student orator, he became one of the best-known alumni of the Ateneo de Manila. He represented a generation that came of age during the War (Manglapus would suffer imprisonment at the hands of the Japanese because of his guerrilla activities) and which attempted to reinvigorate the politics of their country so as to wrest it from the clutches of the ward heelers.
After the war, Manglapus was a journalist – he was present at the Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay- and a professor. Together with Manny Manahan and other Magsaysay die-hards, Manglapus (appointed Assistant Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and then Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1957 by Magsaysay) found himself in the corridors of power – corridors from which it was hoped the tayo-tayo politics of the past had been banished. But the era of good government proved all too fleeting; the death of Magsaysay returned the control of Malacanang to the old hands that had inspired the revulsion that made people like Manglapus enter politics in the first place. He was catapulted to the Senate in 1961 as the symbol of a new generation that hoped to bring back the principles of politics a la Magsaysay. And Manglapus, together with so many others, would find himself dedicating the rest of his life to the return of honest governance to the people.
In 1965 Manglapus thought that he would be the man to do just that, as president. Instead, he helped divide the electorate between himself and Macapagal, handing the presidency to Ferdinand Marcos. He would try to do his part in the Constitutional Convention in 1971, and yet was mercifully spared arrest because he happened to be abroad when martial law was imposed.
He lived far from splendidly in exile, leading the decimated ranks of the politicians who did not succumb to the blandishments of Marcos. When so many of his peers, so many of his countrymen, avidly embraced the dictatorship, he was among the very few who opposed it from the start. And while it is true he did not starve in exile, neither did he live in luxury or dissipation. For speaking out when so many embraced Marcos, he deserves the nation’s thanks. He spent 13 years as a political refugee, lobbying in Washington against the dictatorship.
The return of Freedom brought the return of Manglapus, who, once more, was returned to the senate in 1987, only to resign his position to serve President Aquino. As Aquino’s secretary of foreign affairs he found his own words to be his biggest liability as a public servant; he played an instrumental part in the botched attempt to extend the RP-US Bases agreement which led to the expulsion of those bases.
When his President departed from office, he agreed to serve the next one.
The less said about Manglapus’s service during the Ramos administration, the better. By then, anyway, he was more of a figurehead put out to pasture.
Manglapus was a learned and polished man, one of the last of the romantics when it came to politics. He genuinely believed in reform, and yet found it too distasteful to engage in the sort of ruthless politics that is necessary to achieve the power necessary to initiate genuine reform. And so he found himself politically frustrated at every turn. In retirement, he returned to writing, and to playing music with old friends. He would not be, as he had so earnestly hoped, become the pied piper of democracy. But he tried his damndest to be just that.
What the nation must recall is the young Atenean with the golden tongue and a musical gift, who spoke out for the common tao before Word War II, and who fought the Japanese. He deserves recognition for being part of the Magsaysay revolution and for keeping lonely vigil during the dark days of martial law. Those are achievements enough for any man.
I remember three faces of Manglapus. In exile in Washington, he was a little dark man bundled up in an overcoat, hat and scarf, dignified but it seemed, so very grim: a man carrying the shame of a subjugated nation on his shoulders. As Aquino’s foreign Secretary he was cultivated and urbane, a man of many languages who dreamed of an Internationale of Newly-Restored Democracies. There was an amused twinkle in his one good eye, as if he wanted to say to all those who saw him that he had trodded the path of power once before and was not too impressed with it the second time around.
Then there was Manglapus the elder statesman, beholden to no one, free to speak his own mind, esconced in his position as titular head of the ruling party. This was the Manglapus who, apropos of constituional amendments for President Ramos, pointed out that what Ramos was trying to do had been done before, so what was the big deal? This was the Manglapus of the Malacañang-dispensed sinecure who bothered his long-time admirers to distraction: but perhaps it was because the young firebrand had mellowed with age, and now had the experience and -shall we say wisdom?- to say the truths that his followers still found hard to believe.
Raul Manglapus was a man with a formidable intellect and so many gifts, all of which he unhesitatingly offered to his country. Others have said that he was too far ahead of his time in espousing many of the dreams he cherished; or perhaps it is better to say that he will always be ahead of his time, and that his dreams belong to men who themselves are good, and connot believe that their countrymen cannot be good as well.
The Constitutional Convention:
By Edward R. Kiunisala
February 26, 1972—WHEN the history of the 1971-1972 Constitutional Convention is finally written, one dominant, if not domineering, figure will undoubtedly emerge: Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Even during the pre-Convention days, he was already the center of controversy; he w as accused of buying delegates, of handpicking the charter’s body’s officers. He was accused of trying to control the Constitutional Convention.
True or not, the fact remains that no other political personality has been the cause of so much dispute and discord in committee meetings and plenary sessions of the Convention as President Marcos. No other issue has been more explosive and expensive than Marcos. If the Convention is as politicalized as it is today, we have only Marcos and to a certain extent Mrs. Marcos to thank for it.
All this is easily understood in the context of the significance of the Convention to the people—and to Marcos. To the former, it is the key to a better, more decent life. To the latter, it is the last hope for staying on in Malacañang. Some progressive delegates, however, believe that it is impossible for the people to have Marcos—and a better life, too. So, they want him banned from running again for President or, if the parliamentary form of government is adopted, Premier.
Marcos cannot be expected to agree to this; he seems determined to prove his critics wrong. But to do that, he has to get the control of the Convention. And that’s what he has apparently done since pre-Convention days. It appears as if he has succeeded in converting many delegates into becoming tuta—to lick his boots. It is an open secret that many powerful committee in the charter body are controlled by the tuta of Marcos.
There are no LPs or NPs in the Convention; there are only pro-Marcos delegates and anti-Marcos ones. While many delegates were elected as NPs, LPs or Independents, many of them now consider themselves Marcos-NP, Marcos-LP or Marcos Independent. Between the pro-Marcos group and the anti-Marcos one is the so-called “floating force,” sometimes called the Independent Independents.
The Manglapus-Guingona group constitutes the hard core of the so-called anti-Marcos faction. While it counts with 120 members, it is a highly disorganized group, with no machinery nor money to counter the pro-Marcos forces. In committee as well as plenary votings, the pro-Marcos forces usually win. Even in the campaign to win over the floating force, the pro-Marcos forces, with all those “reasons” behind them, enjoy every advantage over the anti-Marcos faction.
It’s not surprising that behind many clashes in the Convention is the Marcos issue. Take the case of Delegate Augusto Syjuco, Jr., of Rizal, who tried to force the discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution in the plenary session. For doing that, he nearly lost his seat as vice-president for Luzon.
Or take the case of Delegate Jose Mari Velez, who moved for the inclusion of the Ban-Marcos provision in the report of the committee on executive power; he almost got into a fist fight with another delegate.
Not only that Delegate Jesus Barrera, after rising on the issue of collective privilege to move for the immediate discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the object of a black propaganda campaign.
Delegate Napoleon Rama, too, for having authored a Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the target of a committee move to disqualify him as delegate.
Delegates Ceferino Padua and Mary Rose Jacinto-Ezpeleta were nearly ousted from their committee positions for being so outspokenly in favor of the Ban-Marcos resolution.
The name of the game is “all-out force or all-out friendship.” In local lingo, this is “santong dasalan o santong paspasan.” If you can’t be bought, you can be terrorized! Those who are afraid might as well sell themselves. Those who can neither be bought nor terrorized have to do without and “face the music.”
Rama, Syjuco, Ezpeleta, Barrera and Padua refused to be terrorized—and they are now the subject of a vilification campaign and all sorts of threats. If Rama doesn’t keep quiet, according to one tuta, he is going to be disqualified. If Syjuco, Ezpeleta and Barrera don’t foe the Malacañang line, their family businesses and interests will suffer. If Padua does not hold his horses, he will be ousted from his committee position. To them and all those who are in favor of the Marcos ban and who cannot be bought, it is santong paspasan.
Last week, Delegate Raul Manglapus, head of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, found himself in hot water, too. His only crime was to entertain the Ban-Marcos issue in his committee after it had been referred to it by the Convention’s steering council. Manglapus created a subcommittee to discuss the Ban-Marcos question and the sub-committee agreed to include such a ban in Manglapus’s committee report.
If the Manglapus committee includes the Ban-Marcos provision in its report, the Convention, in a plenary session, will have to take up the proposition ahead of the report of the committee on transitory provisions, the last item to be taken up by the Convention. The pro-Marcos delegates do not like this; they want the Ban-Marcos resolution taken up together with the report of the committee on transitory provisions. But the delegates in favor of the Marcos ban know if it is not included in the Manglapus committee report, it may not be taken up at all.
The steering council has referred the various Ban-Marcos resolutions to four committees, namely, the committee on transitory provisions, the committee on legislative power, the committee on executive power and the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. The committees on legislative and executive power have already finished their reports and the pro-Marcos delegates have succeeded in deleting the Ban-Marcos provision in all of them. The committee on transitory provisions, being dominated by pro-Marcos delegates, is not likely to include the Ban-Marcos provision in its report.
Which means that the Manglapus committee is the only hope of those in favor of the Marcos ban. They have tried to force the issue on a matter of collective privilege only to be overruled. They appealed the chair’s decision to the entire body but they were outvoted. When they asked for a nominal voting, they were outvoted. They tried to have the ban included in the report of either the committee on legislative power or the committee on executive power, but they lost. The pro-Marcos delegates seemed to be always many steps ahead of those in favor of the Marcos ban.
But unlike other committees, the Manglapus committee is composed mostly of the so-called Progressive-Independents. These are in favor of the ban. Of 43 members, 23 belong to the Manglapus-Guingona group. It is, therefore, in this committee that the Marcos ban is likely to be taken up favorably—getting the pro-Marcos delegates worried. Since Manglapus cannot be bought, something else has got to be done. Santong paspasan na!
Last week, word leaked that some delegates planned to file a resolution to ban Manglapus for public office “for having violated the election law.” But Manglapus was not to be easily intimidated. He fought back, saying that the Ban-Manglapus move was a gambit “to put me on the spot, confuse the issue on the ban on former President and blackmail me into persuading progressive delegates to withdraw their support of the presidential ban resolutions.”
“These delegates (pro-Marcos) would now rake the old overspending charge against me and I am pleased that they have given me this occasion to recall the following facts about the case:
“1. When I ran for the Senate in 1967, the uniform ceiling on election expenses for senators and congressmen? The total of one year’s salary of the office. At P600 a month (the pre-war figure set by the Constitution) this total was P7,200.
“2. The electoral tribunal found that I had actually spent less than that figure. However, they charged to my expenses a television contract entered into without my intervention by some of my supporters which, as the decision itself states, was never paid. It had to be written off in the books of the television station.
“3. The decision, issued just before my term of office in the Senate expired in 1967, was roundly ridiculed by strong sections of the daily press and by weeklies like the Philippines Free Press, as a hypothetical farce.
“4. Noting the strong public reaction against the decision, both the Liberal and Nacionalista Parties invited me to run for reelection on their tickets in 1967 and again in 1969 when Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who was then running for President, very kindly suggested publicly that I be a common senatorial candidate of both Liberal and Nacionalista parties. I declined these offers.”
Manglapus went on to say that he ran as delegate for the Convention in 1970 and was “vindicated… without LP or NP support by voters of the 1st district of Rizal, who were best informed about my case because of the concentration of mass media in that area.” Manglapus pointed out that in that election he got more votes than did any other delegate in the entire country.
After the Senate decided his case, said Manglapus, “the very senators who voted against me in the decision” amended the law so that a solon who earns P32,000 a year, instead of P7,200 “in my time,” may spend the equivalent “not of one year’s salary as was the rule in my time but of the total salary for their term of six years or P192,000!”
The “ceiling” is now reasonable, said Manglapus, but even so he wondered how many candidates in the 1971 elections were able to limit themselves to the new ceiling.
“Compared with others,” said Manglapus, “I was an underspender.”
Just the same, he went on, the issue has been revived because of his stand in favor of the Marcos ban. He noted that he was not an original author of the Marcos ban; he co-authored, along with 169 others, the Rama resolution “when I was convinced, in view of strong reports of Malacañang intervention in the Convention, that it would serve to assert the independence of the Convention and strengthen its credibility.”
Manglapus, in his prepared statement, assured the pro-Marcos delegates that he would give fair treatment to the Ban-Marcos resolution but “I should also like to remind those who would try to terrorize me with their ‘Ban-Manglapus’ resolution that while I will treat their resolution with equal fairness in my committee, their tactics cannot make me withdraw my support of any resolution which I consider vital to the independence and success of the Convention.”
“Finally, I should remind those who now threaten me with disqualification from public office for ‘overspending’ that is Marcos, not Manglapus, who has been repeatedly and publicly charged with the real and the criminal overspending of hundreds of millions of pesos, not only of his own money, but, worse, of the people’s money in the 1969 elections to get himself reelected…..
“It is Marcos, not Manglapus, who is publicly suspected of trying to corrupt the Convention. On the other hand, it is Manglapus who, in the words of the very decision of the Electoral Tribunal, ‘did not corrupt the voters’ and who, as the press reported last June, ‘refused to buy delegates’ votes in the election for Convention President.”
The Ban-Manglapus move is a shameless resort to political squid tactics. Its purpose is simply to confuse the issue. The Filipino people are not likely to fall for it. What is saddening is the degeneration of the highest deliberative body of the land into a virtual political convention where issues are decided not on the basis of merit but of political partisanship if not money.
The Politicalization of the Constitutional Convention
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 22, 1972–MANY considered it the “last hope” of the impoverished masses—the “magic key” to peace and progress. In an atmosphere of deepening national crisis, it would be called upon to rewrite the fundamental law of the land and provide the blueprint for a better, more meaningful life for the Filipino people. The faith of nearly 40 million Filipinos was pinned on the Constitutional Convention.
The delegates to the Convention were to be men of honor, courage, dedication, wisdom and vision. Certainly, men of less stern stuff have no place in such a body, charged as it is with the sacred duty of charting the national destiny. When the time came to choose them, some 10 million electors voted in a remarkably free and fair election.
A good number of “independent” candidates were elected, including priests, journalists, technocrats, professors, economists, political scientists, youth activists, labor leaders and retired high government officials. It was a “promising start” for the Constitutional Convention, said one political observer. Although many party-backed candidates won, it was believed that these delegates would assert their independence upon assumption of their exalted office.
But, alas, as the opening date of the Convention drew closer, more and more delegates were invited or crawled to Malacañang. The public did not know what transpired there, but could guess. The Malacañang meeting marked the politicalization, that is, the tutaization, of delegates. Reports spread that President Marcos wanted the Constitutional Convention to extend his term by two more years or, failing that, to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary to enable him to become the first Prime Minister.
True or not, Marcos became the first big issue in the Convention. Many independent delegates denounced Malacañang for interfering with the work of the Convention. The denunciation rose to fever pitch some three days before the start of the Convention, prompting Marcos to change his mind about addressing the opening rites of the Convention.
When, in a pre-Convention pow-wow, the majority of the delegates opted to invite Marcos to be the guest speaker at the Convention’s opening ceremonies, the move angered, if not scandalized, many independent-minded delegates. Seventeen of them staged a walk-out on the opening day of the Convention. It was just as well for on that day, the politicians stole the show. At the rostrum was Marcos, flanked by Senate President Gil J. Puyat and Speaker Cornelio Villareal, a guest, acted as if he were the host. He controlled the proceedings as if the charter body were the House of Representatives.
That “circus” led to yet another circus when the Convention tackled the problem of leadership. Five delegates sought the Convention presidency, namely, former Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos P. Garcia, former Sen. Raul Manglapus, former Supreme Court Justice Jesus Barrera and Teopisto Guingona, Jr. Macapagal was allegedly Marcos’s pet—and, indeed, at the outset, he appeared to act like one. But he was later to be disappointed by Malacañang. About 48 hours before the election, some delegates who were committed to back Macapagal sought release from their commitment, according to a Laguna delegate, Manuel Concordia, a supporter of Macapagal. Concordia specifically referred to four delegates who, according to him, “reminded me of a condition to their pledge, that is, it could be withdrawn when ‘orders from above’ are received.”
“Apparently such orders ‘from above’ have been received. I could not, in conscience, hold them to their commitment.”
Later, Macapagal himself categorically stated the Marcos was supporting Garcia—a charge which, if true, substantiated the suspicion about the tutaization of the Convention. Said Macapagal:
“It is not definite and conclusive that President Garcia is the candidate of President Marcos for president of the Convention. This proves that there was no deal between Mr. Marcos and me or warrants the deduction that I must have refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos, that is why he decided to support President Garcia as Convention president.”
And what is this “deal” that Macapagal referred to?
“The previously reported deal was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life, whereas the new subject is about the extension of the presidential term. I am incapable of entering into a deal on the contents of the Constitution since that would be a disgraceful act which I will never countenance.”
On the eve of the Convention, Macapagal filed a resolution banning former Presidents and their close relatives, including Marcos and Imelda, from running for the presidency. Many considered it a gimmick for Macapagal to attract independent voters; in the past he had been evasive on such a question, saying that “a candidate for president of the Convention should not take sides on the contents of the Constitution since the primary duty of the Convention president is to impartially reconcile divisive conflicts of views among the delegates and coordinate the activities of the Convention.”
Anyway, Macapagal lost and Garcia won. The Marcosian strategy appeared to be to divert attention and confuse until the “moment of truth” came. At first Macapagal seemed to be his man—but it was Garcia who won. It was a judo tactic—feign distraction, then attack. Up to now, many delegates still become red in the face when reminded of that election.
Was there really a deal? Were there “orders from above?” Those were the questions. Now, the question is: Does Marcos really favor the parliamentary form of government over the presidential? If he does, is it because Marcos wants to be “Prime Minister for life?” Only Marcos and certain delegates are in a position to answer this. But the verifiable fact is that, after the last election, delegates who were staunchly for the presidential type now advocate parliamentary form of government.
Have “orders from above” been issued?
Curiously enough, the pattern of events during the fight for the Convention presidency is being repeated in the battle between the “parliamentarists” and the “presidentialists.” Before the issue on the form of government came to a head in the Convention, many delegates had reportedly been seen in conference with Marcos. Sometime later, the committee on legislative powers surprisingly changed its stand and voted for the adoption of the parliamentary form of government.
The committee on executive powers, too, which originally favored the retention of the presidential type, as of this writing, is veering towards the adoption of the parliamentary form. Even the Rama-Liwag resolution seeking to ban President Marcos and the First Lady from running for the presidency or premiership seems destined to lose in the committee on transitory provisions.
Worse, talk of presidential favors being granted to some delegates is now widespread. Whether true or not, this talk seems to gather credibility in the face of reports that Lualhati, a government cottage in Baguio City, was occupied by a delegate during the Christmas vacation. The Baguio case certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in the context of what Macapagal had earlier referred to as a “reported deal” which would pave the way for Marcos to become the first Prime Minister of this country.
Editorialized the Manila Chronicle:
“Incidents like the Lualhati case have generated suspicions whenever there are sudden changes of hearts especially when the new Convention decision would favor the President. It is in this light that the public has viewed the change in the committee votes—from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government—with valid misgivings though hoping that the modification was impelled by desires for constructive reforms and not an abdication of conviction for political accommodation.”
Close on the heels of the Lualhati case came the recent change of delegate Jorge Kintanar of Cebu to the effect that 10 delegates recently went to Malacañang and were each given “10,000 reasons” to shift from the presidential to the parliamentary system. Some Convention delegates understood Fr. Kintanar’s statement to mean that some delegates had been bribed P10,000 by Malacañang in consideration for their support of the parliamentary system.
Last week, some 20 delegates demanded the investigation of the Kintanar charge, challenging the priest-delegate to name names. Fr. Kintanar promptly accepted the challenge and promised to name names in a proper committee hearing. The investigation of the Kintanar charge may yet lead to the investigation of still another rumor that certain delegates are on the regular payroll of Malacañang.
Said Delegate Antonio Alano of Batangas:
“While I do not believe that any delegate would succumb to any outside pressure in deciding what form of government our country should adopt, it is proper that we should look into the matter of alleged lobby.”
Delegates Anacleto Badoy, Jr., and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., urged Convention President Macapagal to convoke the committee on privilege to look into the serious charge of bribery. If the Kintanar charge is found to be true, said the two, the Convention should impose “appropriate sanctions.” And Delegate Bren Z. Guiao sought the release of the list of names of delegates who went to Malacañang on January 6 “to clear the names of those delegates who have nothing to do with the so-called Malacañang lobby.”
The persistent talk of Malacañang’s intervention in the conduct of the charter body has to be thoroughly investigated if the Convention is to win the support of the people. Such talk started when delegates started trooping to Malacañang even before the charter body was convened. It gained momentum when Macapagal categorically charged that Marcos had backed Garcia, followed later by the withdrawal of Delegate Felixberto Serrano from the contest for the position of President Pro Tempore of the Convention.
Said Serrano then:
“My heart bleeds to announce to you today that agreeably with my personal knowledge of the events that have transpired in the last few days, the will of this Convention will be subverted by outside political control beyond the power of well-intended and well-meaning delegates to resist and material enough to determine the final outcome of the election.
“I am prepared to announce to you that Speaker Cornelio Villareal of the House of Representatives is the instrumentality of this over-powering, subversive force in our Convention intended to override its free will and better judgment.”
Villareal immediately denied everything. What then, made Serrano’s heart bleed? At any rate, it was an open secret that on the eve of the Convention election a top tuta of Marcos entertained delegates in a hotel suite. The Marcos dog gave to the delegates from “1,000 to 10,000 reasons” in consideration of their canine support for Marcos’s candidates for Convention posts, went reports.
No one in the Convention, except Serrano, whose charges were vague and general, demanded an investigation. But it’s different this time. Fr. Kintanar is reportedly ready to “tell all.” But in all these charges, starting with those of Macapagal to those of Serrano and now those of Kintanar, the common denominator is the alleged move of Malacañang to control the Convention.
If the charges are true, why does Malacañang want to control the Convention? The answer depends on the truthfulness or otherwise of what Macapagal earlier said concerning the “previously reported deal” which “was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life….”
Although Macapagal’s statement was intended to prove that no such deal was consummated between him and Marcos, it did not say, however, whether or not Marcos presented Macapagal with such a deal. In fact, Macapagal said that Garcia being conclusively “the candidate of President Marcos” proved that there was no deal between him and Marcos or that he must have “refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos.” That is why, went on Macapagal, Marcos decided to “support President Garcia as Convention president.”
If it is true that Marcos did not support Macapagal because the latter would not agree to the Marcos deal, which was for Macapagal to work for the parliamentary form of government, then Marcos must have been, from the very beginning, against the presidential system. The vociferous advocacy for the retention of the presidential system by some of his allegedly close supporters in the Convention must have been only a ruse to confuse the “presidentialists.”
Or perhaps, Marcos, sensing that the prevalent sentiment of the Convention was for the retention of the presidential system, agreed to go along with the idea on the assumption that the First Lady, if she ran for the presidency, would win. But the results of the last national elections must have jolted Marcos. He must have realized then that he could not make it any more to Malacañang, directly or indirectly through the First Lady. But if he cannot stay on Malacañang as President under the presidential system, he may still go back there as Prime Minister under a parliamentary system.
If these assumptions are correct, then the sudden change of heart of many delegates vis-à-vis their stand on which form of government the Constitution is to adopt is no mystery. They would simply be heeding their master’s voice.
Certainly, the issue on which form of government this country is to adopt should be decided on merit, not on personal considerations. But the fact that, after extensive deliberations on the subject, two key committees in the Convention had earlier decided to retain the presidential system shows that the present form of government is still workable, that there is no necessity to junk it. That some delegates during the present system to be bad, prompting them to reverse themselves and come out for the parliamentary one, is certainly mysterious. What’s the reason or reasons for the sudden change of mind?
That “mystery” is reason enough to look into the personal consideration in the deliberation on the form of government. The question of whether or not Marcos wants the Convention to adopt the parliamentary form should not be ignored. This issue strikes at the fundamental principle of an independent Convention freely exercising its disinterested judgment. If the will of Marcos is to prevail in the Convention, then we should not have held a Convention at all. We should have simply allowed Marcos to rewrite the Constitution by himself. It would be faster and cheaper that way.
But let it not be forgotten that the new charter will be adopted only after the people have ratified it in a national referendum. If the new Constitution is tainted with the corrupt influence of Malacañang, the people are likely judging from the results of the last elections, to junk it. The Convention will have wasted its efforts and time, not to mention the people’s money, drafting a Marcos Constitution. And the people would lose all hope for a better tomorrow.
Said the Free Press in its editorial of June 19, 1971:
“The challenge to the Constitutional Convention is to rise above the level of the professional politicians, which should not be too difficult since nothing can be lower than that, but if professional politicians were to run, directly or indirectly, the Convention, then, as water seeks its own level, the Constitutional Convention will fall to the level of the lowest form of political life in this country.”
If the Convention finally decides to adopt the parliamentary system to favor Marcos, the referendum will turn into a political election. The pro-Marcos forces will certainly campaign in favor of the new charter while the anti-Marcos faction will campaign against it. The charter body will have achieved one thing: divide the country, instead of uniting it. It would have rendered a monstrous disservice to the nation and its place in history would be a shameful one.
The Ruling Money
By Quijano de Manila
Anatomy of the Republic as a plutocracy.
August 29, 1970–THE RICH are different,” said the American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent his youth singing hooray for the difference and the rest of his life suffering from it. Though a great writer, Fitzgerald was a naïf. He knew the rich had the power to escape the usual penalties attendant on living at all in this world, but he thought the power to be a special quality bred in the rich by their money—a special strength or glamour, or magic even, that made them able to charm their way out of the consequences of what they did.
This, of course, is bull. As the Ted Kennedy drowning case showed, the rich can get into a stupid funk just like you and me. They get away with it because they are indeed “different,” not as Fitzgerald mystically thought but as Hemingway bluntly put it when fed that line about the rich being different. “Yes,” said Hemingway, “they have more money.” Because the Kennedys have more money, son Ted could be given the benefit of the doubt—though it would be hard to say whose doubt that was. Not the American public’s to judge from the polls.
The Kennedy case did dent a Philippine superstition about the United States: that there, unlike here, rich and poor are equal before the law. But the larger superstition that implies still persists, which may be put this way: if money is power, then the American common man has more power than, say, the Latin American, not only because of the greater amount of American money but because of its more general distribution.
In a densely documented exposé entitled The Rich and the Super-Rich, the American economist Ferdinand Lundberg explodes that superstition. More than 30 percent of American wealth, he found out, was owned by only 1.6 percent of the adult population of 103 million. Since the government owned 20 percent of the wealth, that left less than half of the wealth to be divided among some 98 percent of the population, as of figures for the 1950s.
Of the top 1 percent who are rich, a fraction (0.11 percent) are super-rich; they own 45 percent of their group’s concentrated wealth.
The rest of the American people may be considered poor, and not just in comparison with the rich and the super-rich.
Of the have-not majority, 21.89 percent have gross estates averaging $ 15,000— “just enough to cover a serious personal illness.”
Another 18.4 percent of the population were “worth $6,000 on the average, which would probably largely represent participation in life insurance or emergency money in the bank… or two or three shares of AT&T.”
The remainder of the have-not group form the super-poor and they are the 50 percent of the population that own only 8.3 percent of the wealth. “They had an average estate of $1,800—enough to cover furniture, clothes, a television set and perhaps a run-down car. Most of them had less, many had nothing at all.”
Half of the US population are composed of the super-poor while a fraction of 1 percent are super-rich!
Even if we regard the group in between as “middle class” we are still without an argument for the United States as a popular democracy—that is, where the people have the power. Money is power, but the American “middle class” don’t have that kind of money. They may have two cars in the garage, a TV in every room, insurance and savings accounts—but all that doesn’t make them the ruling money. Of a population of 103 million, says Lundberg: “We see that 1.4 million households own 65 percent of the investment assets, which are what give economic control. Automobiles and home ownership and bank deposits do not give such control.”
So, there goes the picture of the United States as a “people’s capitalism” with a widely diffused ownership of industry. The statistics are indeed impressive: in 1962 more than 17 million Americans owned shares in business enterprises and the figure was believed to have swelled to 20 million in 1968.
But: “Most stockholders own trivial amounts of stock; anybody would qualify as a stockholder if he owned only one share worth 10 cents. We are already aware that 1.6 percent of the population own more than 80 percent of all stock, 100 percent of state and local government bonds, and 88.5 percent of corporate bonds.”
And the “people capitalists,” how much do they own?
“Less than 20 percent of all stocks in 1963 were owned by some 15.4 million people.”
And the rest of the 103 million Americans had no share at all in this “people’s capitalism.” The gap between rich and poor that’s supposed to be narrower in the United States turns out to be a Grand Canyon.
But at least, surely, the American masses do have political power? Lundberg says that this, too, like the “Affluent Society,” is a delusion. Without economic power there’s no political power; and the American masses are either too cowed or too indifferent to exercise even what power they have.
“Officials nominated by either one of two major parties are periodically elected at local, state and federal levels by a largely inept electorate that in most elections fails to participate to the full and in general turns out far below 50 percent. Whether the electorate fully participates makes no difference because most of the candidates are handpicked by nominating caucuses of the two major parties rather than of one party as in Russia. The caucuses function in default of popular activity; the populace simply has no political drive of its own. If Russia permitted a Socialist Party and a Communist Party (joined behind the scenes) it would be on all fours with the United States in respect of parties in the field; the candidates in the field might be politically identical twins, as is often the case in the United States (Johnson versus Goldwater). Money plays a large role in the manipulation of this system—much larger than is usually conceded.”
Not the people but the super-rich finance the “system” and the financing is “down payment on future influence in government.” Since the people cannot or will not actively participate in government, Lundberg calls the set-up in the United States an “oligarchy by default.”
“Writers, focusing attention on Central America, refer caustically to the ‘banana republics’—those countries, economically dominated by the United Fruit Company, whose political leaders are bought and sold like popcorn. Conditions in the United States, mutatis mutandis, are not nearly so different. Even in such a presumably distinctive Latin American feature as the intervention of the military, the United States now clearly overshadows anything in this line the Latin American republics are able to show. Except that the United States has such large numbers of industrial and office workers, rather than landless peasants, it has few features to which general descriptions of Latin American society do not apply. It might almost be said that there’s a growing tendency to mold the United States, apart from its industrial features, upon the ‘banana republics,’ this making it the Banana Republic par excellence.”
On top of the pile is a “well-established hereditary propertied class.” It’s the ruling money, the privileged oligarchy, the super-rich one percent. And it didn’t even earn its money or privilege.
“Great wealth in the United States is no longer ordinarily gained by the input of some effort, legal or illegal, useful or mischievous, but comes from being named an heir. Almost every single wealth holder of the upper half of 1 percent arrived by this route.”
No more room at the top.
The rest of the Americans find how insecure “affluence” is when they lose a job.
“As was shown in the 1930s, Americans can become destitute overnight if deprived of their jobs, a strong support to mindless conformity. As a matter of fact, many persons in rather well-paid jobs, even executives, from time to time find themselves jobless owing to mergers, technical innovations or plant removal. Unable to get new jobs, they suddenly discover, to their amazement, that they are really poor.”
Ability, skills, talent, merely personal qualities, cannot be depended on as assets in the exploitative society.
“The incandescent Marilyn Monroe, as big as they come in filmdom and a veritable box-office Golconda, died broke.”
For that matter, so did poor Scott Fitzgerald, his talent worn out and wasted in the Hollywood dream factories, in the service of the big money that awed him when young.
Insecurity—Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” —is the American way of life.
How is the Philippine picture similar and different?
“FANTASTICALLY LOPSIDED” is how Lundberg describes income distribution in the United States. The Philippines money graph would provoke the same exclamation.
In May, 1969, the Senate committee on economic affairs issued a report on the country’s development from 1955 to 1968.
The most depressing finding was that, in a period of 13 years, “there has been no substantial change in the structure of our economy.” We were still an agricultural country of low productivity, with 58 percent of the labor force tied up in food production, only 11 percent engaged in manufacture. We had no capital-goods industry to speak of; our industry was more assembly than manufacture; and our manufacture was limited to durables like furniture and non-durables like cigarettes, had remained static since 1958, was heavily dependent on imported raw materials.
As a result, our foreign-trade deficit rose from over $147 million in 1955 to over $301 million in 1968: “The deficit in the last two years alone [1967-68] is greater than the combined deficit from 1957 to 1966.”
The national income had increased by 94 percent during the 13-year period, from almost P8 billion in 1955 to almost P15 billion in 1968. But again, this was partly a depressing finding. Despite an increase in average family income, and a shrink in the bottom group of society, the income structure had not changed either. The gap between rich and poor remained just as wide, or had widened further.
“In 1965, as in 1957, the 10 percent of our families who comprise the highest income bracket received 40 percent of the total income, leaving 60 percent of the income to be divided among 90 percent of the families.”
The figures for 1957 may be broken down thus:
2.8 percent of Filipino families earn over P5,000 a year.
17.1 percent earn between P2,001 and P4,999.
This 19.9 percent of Filipino families may be regarded as our “middle-class”—and it’s as meager as the incomes that make it comparatively well-to-do.
78.12 percent of all Filipino families earn less than P2,000 a year.
These are our poor and they comprise almost 80 percent of the nation’s households.
In this group are two subgroups that may be called the super-poor, because the figures on them are:
17.7 percent of Filipino families earn less than P1,000 a year.
11.6 percent earn less than P500.
Or almost 30 percent of the nation’s households living in stark misery.
Now for the other end of the scale.
1 percent of the nation’s families earn over P25,000 a year. These are the rich.
And one-tenth of this 1 percent earn over P100,000 a year. These are the super-rich.
So, in a country where 50 percent of the households live in poverty and 30 percent in utter misery, 1 percent of Filipino families live in affluence and a fraction of them live in super affluence.
Do these happy few constitute, as in the United States, an oligarchy?
Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who helped prepare that Senate report, thinks so. The 1 percent on top are the ruling money not only because they monopolize the wealth but because they control the sources of wealth (land, industry) and the forces of wealth (banking, politics). But the Philippine picture differs from the American in that we are still, more or less, in the robber-baron and nouveau-riche stage.
There’s still room at the top.
THREE LAYERS of wealth have accumulated since the turn of the century and Senator Aquino identifies these layers with lands, politics and banks.
“When the Americans came, a group of young lawyers started titling lands: this was the beginning of the big estates. Gregorio Araneta, for example, became the lawyer of the Tuason family that claimed this tremendous tract of land from Sampaloc to the Marikina Valley. The original source of the Philippine fortunes was, therefore, land—either Spanish grants, like the Ayala estate, or the acquisitions titled during the 1900s.
“The second generation of Filipino wealth came from government connections. In the 1920s when Quezon was financing his independence missions, certain people got choice contracts from the government, like the Teodoros of Ang Tibay, the Madrigals of the shipping line.
“Then we have a third generation of millionaires: those who got concessions from government financing institutions, like the sugar barons. The Philippine National Bank was set up and it financed practically the entire sugar-mill construction of the period. The movement was from Negros Occidental to Iloilo and the sugar barons—the Lopezes, the Javellanas, the Aranetas—started taking over virgin forest.”
The PNB marked an important development: Filipinos—or, at least, some Filipinos—began to have access to capital. Previously, all banks in the country were foreign-owned. Not until 1938 was the first Filipino private commercial bank founded: the Philippine Bank of Commerce. And only after the war, during the Garcia era, did the native entrepreneur really understand why he should have his own bank.
“This cue was Garcia’s Filipino First. The Americans in the Philippines, the British, the Chinese—they had their own banks. But Filipinos had only the PNB to rely on and even there they were not, so to speak, getting the lion’s share, because the Chinese were more adept in the lagay system. So, we began putting up our own banks. The Rufinos set up the Securities Bank, the Santos family, their Prudential Bank; a group of sugar planters (Sarmiento, Antonino), their PCI Bank; and young professionals, graduates of foreign schools, came back and put to use what they had learned by establishing a bank of their own : the Far East.
“There was this proliferation of banks because the Filipino had suddenly realized that money begets money and that he who holds capital can control the economy. The development of native banking system spurred activity in all directions. Now, for the first time, the Filipino had his own capital. On it, he could borrow foreign funds to use for his own development. So, you had the opening of subdivisions, another source of funds, of capital, and you had the rise of local manufacturing industries, all financed by local banks. This is a healthy sign: the Filipino is becoming the master in his own house.”
But Senator Aquino sees one great danger: the Filipino who becomes master in Juan’s house may not be Juan de la Cruz himself. Juan may find that the foreign exploiter he kicked out has been replaced by a native one. “The Spanish exile, Salvador de Madariaga, warned that a country can become the colony of its own people.” And the hurt is that it’s Juan’s money that will be used to make him poorer and his master richer. As the taxes that Juan pays to the government too often are used merely to enrich a few politicians, so, in the banking system, the money of the depositors, of the people, may be used merely to capitalize the owners of the banks.
Senator Aquino says that this is already happening.
“That’s why when Licaros became governor of the Central Bank he came up with the controversial Circular No. 306. This circular makes it official, in writing, that there are tremendous arrears (unpaid debts) in private banks—arrears accountable by the majority stockholders, officers and directors of private banks. In other words, they borrowed money from their own banks, they used the money that people had deposited with them—and they are in arrears. So, according to Licaros, the entire private banking system must never have more than 5 percent in arrears. [The present rate is at least 10 percent.] And he has suggested to us in Congress an amendment to the General Banking Act to penalize bank directors, officials and stockholders who borrow more than their equity in their bank.”
Such a curb, if imposed abruptly, would, thinks Senator Aquino, result in financial chaos: the rich who have been growing richer through two decades by using the depositor’s money would have to be given time to restructure their loans; and the senator also sees how these rich folk who compose a “syndicate” that controls the banks might evade the curb by lending their banks’ money to one another.
“But Licaros says that the moment you go from your bank to another, the application for a loan will have to be examined by two sets of people; it becomes an arm’s-length deal; you will have to put up some collateral; and if there’s somebody on the board of directors who’s not a member of the ‘syndicate’ he could raise hell if the loan is not aboveboard. Licaros maintains that, while this may not completely eliminate the practice, it would minimize it. My contention is: unless we restructure the banking system to break the stranglehold of a small elite of the affluent, this country will definitely become a colony of its own people.”
Already, warns the senator, around 50 super-rich families have become, in effect, the oligarchy that rules our lives.
“These 50 families or so control the private banking system and they now control about 50 percent of the total money in circulation. They are interlocked among themselves through marriage; they join together to buy up foreign corporations. So, already in control of capital, they end up owning the sources of capital. And this new breed of colonizers is sometimes more rapacious than the old ones.”
A public-utility firm previously foreign-run is taken over by the super-rich Filipinos—and what’s the first thing they do? Raise the rates. The service remains just as awful, or gets worse. This, grimaces Senator Aquino, is the fulfillment of Quezon’s wish: a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos.
And it’s not only in the private sector that the 50 super families are taking over. They have also become the State; at least, they alone seem to know how to use it. For their own profit, of course. A good illustration of this is the priority they enjoy when it comes to loans of government funds. Those funds are supposed to be the people’s money. Do “the people” ever get a crack at it?
COMPOUND INJUSTICE it cannot but seem that the elite 10 percent who get 43 percent of the nation’s income should also monopolize the State funds available for capital.
The monopoly, as exemplified during the Marcos era, has been examined by Senator Aquino.
“We cannot get complete solid detailed data, but this much we know. The government has granted around ₱4.5 billion in loans during the Marcos administration. Of this, from 40 to 50 families got 2.3 billion, either by borrowing directly from, or getting their foreign loans guaranteed by, government financing institutions. In other words, some 40-50 families got almost 50 percent of the total loanable funds of the government.
“One family got a loan guarantee for ₱300 million; another, for ₱263 million; a third, for ₱178 million. Sunod-sunod na ‘yan.”
Just the names of those families betray their political connections; those actually—and eminently—in politics enjoyed even larger drafts.
“Two senators each got over ₱400 million; a congressman got ₱180 million. Now what could you possibly say about that?
“It’s true the loans may be not money given out by the government but money borrowed from abroad, on guarantees of the Philippine government—but if the borrowers fail to pay it’s the government that will have to pay.”
In snide terms: to favor 40 or 50 families, the government is willing to risk bankrupting 38 million Filipinos. And these favored families may not even have to risk a signature. A joke in banking circles is that if you belong to the elite just the sound of your name (and the proper amount of kickback, of course) will suffice to get you a government loan. Once the deal is set you can line up your housemaids, chauffeurs and gardeners and make them sign the deed; you’ll get the money just the same.
One gigantic loan being negotiated by a top favorite of the regime had Senator Aquino worried because it looked at first like a direct loan from the government—which is supposed to be lean on funds. Though even a government guarantee for such a huge loan still seems too great a risk, Senator Aquino is more or less resigned to letting the favorite get it— “as long as he himself signs for it.”
Making the State’s fiscal machinery exploitable by an elite is not peculiar to the Marcos administration. Every Philippine president, says Aquino, spawned his own set of millionaires. Quezon did it, to fund his own political machine, and the millionaires he created repaid love with love. “When the T-V-T became obnoxious to Quezon he called in his group of millionaires led by Madrigal and told them to put up a newspaper chain and they came up with the D-M-H-M.” Even the “freedom of the press” depends on the requirements of the ruling money.
Under the Republic the successive sets of millionaires have been identifiable with their respective gold mines.
“The first set was the surplus-property millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Roxas. Then you had the immigration-quota millionaires under Quirino; the import-control millionaires under Quirino and Magsaysay; the reparations millionaires under Garcia; and Macapagal’s government-financed millionaires: the Todas, the Delgados, who put up the Hilton. Under Marcos we have the money-manipulators, the quick artists who dabble in stocks and make money on such manipulations as the devaluation of the peso.”
Of each new set, a few millionaires will survive the passing of the regime, the rest will sink back to obscurity, as a Tony Quirino fades away with the passing of his brother. Those who survive “institutionalize” themselves; they can still be tagged according to their respective eras—a Dindo Gonzalez from Quirino times; a Chiongbian or Antonino or Rustia or Tantoco or Durano from Garcia days; a Toda from the Macapagal era—but where, before, they were identified with a specific administration, now they can influence any administration. They can join the “syndicate” of the super-rich who control the nation’s wealth, the money supply, the banks and the State funds; and it’s this elite, says Senator Aquino, who really control the economic and political destinies of the country.
“Why do I say political? First: these bankers who control 50 percent of the total money in circulation can gang up against any political candidate, or, for that matter, can meet together and agree among themselves to support a particular candidate. Now, big politician needs big money. Big money only comes from big businessman. Big businessman gives big money to big politician. Then big politician repays the favor. That’s the cycle of corruption.
“Second: big businessman gets to feeling it’s more economical to seek public office himself instead of funding candidates who may become unreliable or recalcitrant. This is the beginning of the businessman turned politician. So now we have millionaires and bankers and industrialists going into politics to protect their interests. Not content with economic power, they want it combined with political power. And if they can’t run themselves, they make their wives run for office. This is the development of the dynasties.”
The senator thinks this “pyramiding” of wealth and power unhealthy.
“When the wealth of a country is used by a handful to make the rest of the population virtual slaves, that is unhealthy because it’s no longer a democracy. This is what the young activists denounce as feudalism: a small group of families controlling the destinies of the bulk of the population.”
Moreover, by controlling the politicians, or by being in politics themselves, the elite families ensure that no attempt to reform them out of power can ever succeed. How impose tax laws or inheritance laws to redistribute the wealth when those whom these laws would hurt control the Palace and the Congress and the courts?
Nevertheless Senator Aquino insists that a beginning can be made.
“For example, in the matter of the government loans, I propose that any such loan over half a million be granted to a corporation only if 40 percent of its shares are offered to the public. A corporation not open thus to the public should not be granted a government loan. Why should the money of the people go to one rich family to make that family super-rich? Only public-held corporations should enjoy priority.
“Another thing I would propose: rigid anti-trust laws. In the United States you can’t have what are called ancillary businesses. For example, you are General Motors, you have to purchase tires. You can’t set up a tire company because that would give you undue advantage. Nor a battery factory, because that’s also related to your main line.
“Now the Meralco: it generates 90 percent of the total power in this country. It’s putting up a transformer company. So, that new company will have a 90 percent captive market. If you were an individual wanting to put up a transformer company of your own, how can you compete? You would be fighting only for a 10 percent free market. But Meralco, which, under the law, may not make more than 12 percent profit, can pass all its income to that ancillary transformer company.”
That’s how the rich become richer.
And that’s why they will block anti-trust laws, anti-monopoly laws, inheritance-tax laws, land reform, tax reform, and every attempt to diffuse and equalize wealth.
But the situation is not entirely hopeless. The ruling money is also a built-in bomb.
“Divine Providence,” says Senator Aquino, “has provided for certain checks to self-perpetuating royalty, as can be seen in what happened to European royalty.”
The built-in bomb is in-breeding.
“Sila-sila ang nagasawahan,” laughs the senator.
THE INCESTUOUSNESS of ruling money ensures its downfall better than any socialist law—especially in the Philippines, where energy seems to drain out of a family in two or three generations.
In two generations the Quezon, and in three generations the Legarda, family is faced with extinction. The Castelvi were authentic bluebloods but in barely a century slid from top drawer to déclassé. The Ayala-Zobel business empire rides the impetus brought in by two outsiders, McMicking and Soriano; the direct heirs have turned to art and culture. Of the two boys who inherited the Cojuangco hacienda, neither is running it; authority has passed to those who married into the family. The department-store Aguinaldos were a tycoon family before the war; the third generation has run out of steam. A similar attenuation of spirit imperils every big business family in the country, whether it be the Elizalde or the Yulo or the Roces, and the trend is to bring in outsiders: the family itself can no longer supply the talent. The Madrigals have to employ professional managers to run their businesses; so do the Lopez brothers, who own the biggest fortunes in the country but, alas, cannot count on their sons to take over and carry on.
This is our protection against “dynasties”: that they don’t last long enough to be a dynasty.
“Therefore,” says Senator Aquino, “you really cannot talk of old fortunes in the Philippines. The oldest fortune today would not be more than a hundred years old. It’s money without pedigree. All of it started, somehow, somewhere, in corruption; then the children gamble it away.
“It’s a phenomenon: how the children of the rich tend to backslide. They join the jet set, or they go into art. It’s very rare for the children of the founder to take over the business and improve it. By the third generation you get the young heirs stricken with guilt and social conscience, and the rich hippies rebelling against their own Establishment, and the alienated young who take pot because they have so much money. The rich plant the seeds of their own destruction.”
Even if there are competent heirs to take over the family business, outsiders must still be brought in and allowed to occupy positions of power.
“You are a millionaire with 20 industries and three sons. How can they run all those industries? The era of the individual swashbuckler, the one-man show, is passing; Gonzalo Puyat, Amado Araneta—they are a vanishing breed. Modern industry demands so many different special talents you can only be chairman to a board composed of those talents. And whereas, before, a family could raise a million and start an industry, today capital is in terms of tens of millions. You would have to invite 20 or 30 other families to join in—and the diffusion of wealth begins. It’s no longer a closed family corporation, a tayo-tayo outfit where father is the president, mother is the treasurer, and the children are the directors. You have to hire professional managers.
“This is the new development. An elite is developing which Adolf Berle calls ‘the powerful without money.’ Before, you could have power only with money. Now, you can have power without money, by becoming the professional manager of a giant corporation, not because you own stock in it but because of sheer talent. For example: McNamara of Ford, Lyn Townsend of Chrysler, Knudsen of General Motors. They are technical people who rose from the ranks to wield tremendous power without money. The same thing, I submit, is happening in our country: the rise to power of technical talent who do not come from landed families. A classic example is Leo Virata.”
The trend is most visible in the Marcos cabinet.
“To the credit of Marcos, no other administration has given so much opportunity to the technocrats. The President has realized that to come up with a government for the 1970s he can no longer rely on the old political talent; he has to backstop his political organization with an army of technocrats. That is why he brought in management experts like Ponce Enrile, Alex Melchor, Cesar Virata, Gerry Sicat, Placido Mapa. The age of the technocrat has come.”
What this means is that technical talent is becoming a counterforce to the ruling money. If they should put up a candidate for president against the candidate of the plutocrats, the technocrats could change Philippine society without a revolution—because, says Aquino, the presidency is armed with revolutionary power. “I have always contended that the successful Philippine revolution will be a Palace coup.” A young president elected to power by the technocrats, should he wish to destroy the Establishment that opposed him, has only to use the laws that empower him to take over all public-utility and communications companies, seize their assets and equipment, recall the franchises. With one stroke he could raze the Establishment. No president has yet dared use this power of his against the plutocrats because every president has owed his position to them.
“But the elite have now realized the implications of this terrible power concentrated in the hands of the chief executive and that’s why they’re going to make their influence felt in the Constitutional Convention, to have that power diluted. This is one of the current moves of the elite.”
The senator is strongly against such a dilution of presidential powers, even if, ultimately, he is not so despairing of the elite as he may sound.
“The advantage of the money establishment in this country is its resiliency. It is not rigid, you can move it; it is not impervious to public opinion. Look at the Church: it is changing. The Filipino elite may not even have to respond to the challenge, because they will do the challenging. They will grab the leadership again, this opportunistic elite of ours. And they are pragmatic, they are innovators. They will lead the Revolution. They realize that, if the old system is not changed, their hard-earned money will go.”
THIS OPTIMISM may be justified. Ours is, after all an Establishment that hardly deserves the name, so barely founded is it; and many of the plutocrats can remember the days when papa rode the buses and mama was the neighborhood usurer. Money itself upstart has no nose to turn up at upstarts, nor can “society” crystallize in a country where each change of regime brings on a crop of parvenu.
Despite the great distance, the view from the bottom is still of room at the top. McMicking and Soriano began as accountants for the Ayalas; and Gregorio Araneta, as the Tuasons’ attorney. With the rapid attenuation of blood, today’s plutocrat, when considering an applicant, whether for manager or son-in-law, may not be so concerned to ask what family he comes from as what business school: Harvard? Wharton? Since it’s talent that counts in such schools, their Filipino graduates today are apt to be poor boys who made it aboard on fellowship or grant. If, says Senator Aquino, we spent as much effort searching for such talent to send to good schools as we spend searching for shapely girls to send to beauty contests, we would be hastening social reform.
That the rich can be scared into conscience was proved by the number of balls canceled in the wake of the riots and by the sudden swell of the Christian Social Movement, at whose meetings, one hears, Mr. Manglapus has only to shake a warning finger to get, like another Savoranola, the greatest ladies stripping off their jewels to cast at his feet. But even apocalypse may at last come to feel like something one can live with; and the latest communiqués from the front—Bantay and Cadiz and Cotabato, Expo and Customs, ballroom and fashion salon—indicate that the powerful have recovered from shock and it’s business as usual. Optimism over their voluntary reform should therefore be tempered by the thought of the Bourbons who came and went, and came back again, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
If one has any doubts about who rules and owns this country, one has only to consider the curious upsurge of violence by the “forces of the law,” as if the Establishment, having got over its scare, would have us remember who holds the fire power. Polcom is supposed to have reported an increase of violence but most probably didn’t say if the increase was of violence done by the people or done to the people—and included the burning of that barrio in Bantay, the massacre of those barrio officials in Tarlac. One could then go and ask on which side the police always are during labor strikes; or the PC, when peasants are being burned out of their property or being shot down in cold blood; or the courts, when the question is the defense of Establishment property. Since ours is a plutocracy, they rule the country who own it—and the police agencies are their private security guards. That’s the best index of where power resides—and how uneasily.
In Canton, an island on the river served as castle for the ruling of money, which was foreign, in the days when such enclaves in China could keep a snigger at the gate: No dogs or Chinese allowed. There were tycoon of taste in Canton and the enclave they built was beautiful—tree-shaded lanes, a splendid mall, lordly manors spaced by lawn or garden—but they didn’t know whom they were really building for. They are long gone now and, in what was their Forbes Park, Chinese workers share the houses from which, before the Revolution, money ruled.
In Havana, there are similar relics from the days of the ruling money: elegant villages, a yacht club, a polo club, exclusive beaches. Again, the tycoon, both native and foreign, of Batista days didn’t know for whom they gilt a ceiling or marbled a floor. They couldn’t take it with them—and the people have taken over. In the stylish villages, the great houses are now clinics or colleges or rest homes for workers. The yacht club is a fishermen’s cooperative and on weekends turns into a rendezvous for proletarian boating aficionados. On the beaches once exclusive to those who had the color of money now swim every shade of sepia, every kind of black. The polo club has been turned into a boarding school for young talent and on the grounds where the jet set gamboled teenage Cubans paint, sculpt, dance, compose music, stage dramas, put on concerts—and all as wards of the State, which scouts for talent.
“For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
Next time you ride past Forbes Park, remember: the ruling money never knows for whom it builds a Versailles.
MAN OF THE YEAR
January 6, 1962
by NAPOLEON G. RAMA
MACAPAGAL’S “LOVE AFFAIR’ WITH THE POOR ENDS IN MALACAÑANG
HE has been called a colorless politician and a vote-getter, a weakling and a dictator, a demagogue and a crusader, a poor man and a snob, a compulsive puppet and a patriot, simple-minded and shrewd.
That so many so actively disagree on what manner of a man is Diosdado Pangan Macapagal points up the fact that the new President is little known and widely misunderstood. Despite his long years of public service, he cares little for publicity and public relations. He is as old-fashioned as the way his hair is parted — in the middle — which was a fad in the 1930s.
Whether or not President Macapagal possesses the conflicting characteristics attributed to him by friend and foe, he is admittedly an unorthodox politician.
Many times he was a bore on the campaign platform, mouthing all the cliches in the book, except “Friends, Roman, countrymen. . . .” And yet on election day he dismantled one of the mightiest political machines in the postwar era. If he didn’t capture his audiences on the town plaza, he corralled the votes at the polling places.
In Congress he sometimes failed to display moral courage or take a clear cut stand on some controversial and politically explosive bills. But within the confines of his own party, he is Big Daddy; he alone makes all the big decisions. He would not allow his to choose for him his candidates for senator — or recently his appointees to the Cabinet. This right he reserved for himself.
His main and monotonous theme during the campaign was that he was a poor man. He knew abysmal poverty, he said, and therefore understood the plight of the common man. He was the common tao’s authentic champion. His use of the poor-man theme verged on demagoguery. And yet, none had crusaded as fervently as he for a change of moral and political values. There is a ring of sincerity in his campaign for a better life for the people and a better government for the country.
No one in our history has risen so high in the government service from so humble beginning. His father, a poet and a peasant who lived in a leaky shack on a lot that didn’t belong to him, could hardly feed him. To this day he does not own a house or a lot. He has stuck to simple living. The fare on the Macapagal dinning table is frugal. His polo shirts (short sleeved) are at least one year old; his long-sleeved polos are of 1957 vintage. It is not hard to catch his wife, Evangeline, puttering about the house in faded duster. His San Juan residence belongs to his wife’s family.
And yet Spanish is the language in his household and often during the campaign he entertained at his friends plush homes in Forbes Park. he is a poor man, say his friends; he is only a status-seeker, say his critics.
He has a strong admiration for America and welcomes American aid and protection against Communist aggression. Oftentimes he was overly fervent in stating his stand for Free Worldism. He wanted the Filipinos to stand up and be counted when it was fashionable to be neutral and safe. On foreign affairs, some say, he sounds like a puppet. Others say he is for what is best for the country.
He can be both naive and shrewd. Some of his utterances while abroad made even his ardent admirers wince and left his political leaders wretched with embarrassment. After Macapagal’s performance abroad, as reported by the press, President Garcia thought him a silly man.
His insistence on stressing the poor-boy campaign theme even before the sophisticated voters of Manila was regarded by many as the height of naiveté and simple-mindedness.
Up to the day before the LP convention, President Garcia, bothered by the 1959 election reverses, harassed by widespread criticism against his administration and worried over his recent heart attack, was still vacillating on whether he should seek re-election or not. But when the LP convention declared Macapagal the LP standard-bearer instead of Senator Marcos. President Garcia decided to run for re-election. He thought Macapagal was a pushover, and Marcos a much stronger and shrewder candidate. If Marcos had won the LP nomination, said one of Garcia’s closest lieutenants, the President would have chosen to retire from politics.
But there, too, are a great number of people who regard Macapagal as one of the shrewdest politicos of our time. Almost single-handed and without funds he resembled a despised party that had been discredited and dismembered. He wooed and won the opposition groups — the Grand Alliance men, Mayor Arsenio Lacson and on election eve, Rogelio de la Rosa—all political prima donnas. By sheer political craftsmanship, he forced his strongest rival within the party, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, to capitulate and endorse him at the start of the LP convention. And throughout the campaign, he tool all these political virtuosos in tow without any one of them giving him any trouble or disputing his leadership. By campaigning for four years in almost every town and barrio of the known NP bailiwicks, he pulled the rug from under President Garcia on election day.
Outside of those who have been in contact with Macapagal, few really know the man. Until now he is still a nebulous public figure who, despite his years in public life, has left no clear-cut imprint of his personality. For sure, he does not have the effervescence of President Quezon nor the charisma of President Magsaysay.
So uncertain were the people of his true image that when the black propagandists mounted their operations, they came close to spoiling his four years of campaigning and personal appearances. In the first of months of Operation Torpedo, Macapagal himself fretfully admitted that it was the biggest threat to his candidacy. He had to rely on Mayor Lacson and step up his campaign tempo to counteract the black propaganda which held him up as a bungler, a murderer, a puppet, an enemy of the common man and a status-seeker disguised as a peasant’s son.
Indeed, even many intellectuals, believing they had uncovered his true nature, scornfully denounced him during the campaign as a demagogue, a simpleton, or, at best, a fake. The pundits, for all their sensitive political antennae, declared him a weak candidate and a sure loser. “Macapagal let the pundits down by winning,” quipped a columnist in an election postmortem.
Macapagal, the man and the politician, is clearly as complex as the latest IBM machine. There are many facets to his character and only those who are close to him or who have had the patience and opportunity to study his private and public life can assess him with some degree of fairness and accuracy.
There are, however, three facts about which there is little dispute: One, Macapagal has been a scrupulously honest government official; two, his was one of the poorest families in Pampanga; and three, he has not enriched himself while in public office, despite the fact that he was a bigwig in the old LP administration at the apogee of its power.
These facts should give us an insight into the nature of the man. They testify to his strength of character.
During the entire campaign, the high-paid professional researchers of the NP turned upside down all records of his public life but they couldn’t find so much as a breath of scandal linked to his name. Neither could they find a piece of land nor house owned by him. He is the first president of the Philippines who is homeless and landless.
It was the poverty of his parents and the suffering that he endured during his youth that endowed him with a sense of mission, tremendous drive and a consuming ambition to be president.
This is the little-known fact about Macapagal: he had made a career of preparing himself for the presidency. Few men in our generation have set their sights on the presidency as intently as had Macapagal — and did something about it.
No president had schooled and disciplined himself for the big job as deliberately and conscientiously. He didn’t mind telling his friends that he forced himself, even after he became a congressman, to go back to school to earn doctorates in economics and in law precisely to prepare himself for the presidential task. To fill the job with competence, he believed, one must be highly skilled in economics as well as law, for the big problems of the country are economic in nature.
Since his school days, recalled a classmate, Macapagal acted as if one day he would be the chief of state. “I will be president some day,” he confided to a close friend, “I can feel it in my bones.”
To his friends his ardent ambition was a fantastic dream. To his enemies this unbridled aspiration made him a dangerous man. His close associates swear that Macapagal’s relentless drive to the presidency was free from the taint of greed for naked power or money. His upright public life and his frugal living, they point out, are ample evidence that he is not saddled with such debauching motives. Back of his presidential ambition is his sense of mission, if you will, a messianic ardor to give the millions of poor in the country a better life, to chart the country’s path to progress and greatness, Because he knew abject poverty, he feels very strongly about redeeming those in the grip of want. He feels that in the presidency he will find such power and authority. This ambition drove him as a young man to Manila to take up law, to excel in his classes, to top the bar examinations.
First Big Break
In pursuit of his big dream, no odds appeared unconquerable to him, even his own wretched poverty. He took all kinds of jobs, including that of writing letters for the unlettered for a paltry compensation, to enable him to finance his studies. After two years in college, his health broke—from under nourishment! He was too poor to support himself and his education at the same time. For two long, disconsolate years he was out of school trying to mend his health and save up for the next school year.
Then his first big break in life came. Don Honorio Ventura, then secretary of the interior, an authentic patriot and philanthropist, took him along with other promising young men, under his wing. He financed his law studies. Now dead, Don Honorio belonged to the noble breed of wealthy Filipino ilustrado of prewar days, now an almost extinct tribe that has been, alas, replaced by a new group of insensitive Filipino multimillionaires who would sooner exploit than help their fellow Filipinos.
There is no way of knowing or understanding Macapagal — his outlook in life, motivation, ideals and political doctrine — without knowing exactly what kind of poverty he endured in youth. His own personal combat with poverty was to color his philosophy in later years and shape his behavior in life.
This seems to be the explanation why, against the advice of his closest friends, he never tires of telling the story of the poor boy from Lubao at the drop of a hat. His experience with poverty has become the source from which he draws inspiration, courage, determination.
He is apt to grow sentimental when he recalls his youth. “I belonged to one of the poorest and most wretched families in Pampanga,” he told an audience in Iloilo. “In my boyhood, I often knew hunger. I remember when we children would ask mother for food at noontime. Instead of feeding us, she would make us go to sleep so that we would make us go to sleep so that we would not feel our hunger while she went out from neighbor to neighbor, from relative to relative, asking for a handful of rice. Many times we would have our lunch at four or five in the afternoon, after mother had gathered rice for us.
“I remember when as a boy I used to play by myself along the rugged road of our barrio, wearing torn and shabby clothes, so pauperish in appearance that I could not play with the sons of the rich in the neighborhood. I didn’t even dare to approach the fences of their tall and big houses.
“As a boy and a young man I knew what it was to live in a nipa shack. When a heavy rain fell at night, the roof leaked. We moved our tattered mat from one sot to another for a dry place on the bamboo floor. But soon there was no dry spot left and we could not sleep the rest of the night.
“I remember as a young student in Manila when I walked daily three kilometers back and forth from the slums of Tondo where I lived to the state university. When it rained at the close of classes in the evening, I would wait for the rain to stop, because I didn’t have money for fare. Many times I had to wait until midnight and walk home, starved and sleepy. I dreamed of a better life for me and for all the poor children of countless miserable families in our country.
“I plead the cause of the common man because I am a common man. I suffered to acquire an education in the manner of a man bearing a heavy cross up a hill. . .with eyes riveted on an ideal radiant on the hilltop. Having acquired an education I could have escaped the rugged life of the poor, leaving it behind me forever like a nightmare, but I chose the status of a common man where I could continue to struggle. . . .
“Deep in my heart I know that for me there can never be a sense of redemption from poverty while countless countrymen live in the misery that was my lot as a child and as a youth. I shall feel released from the shackles of the poor man’s life only when the masses of our people shall have cast aside the chains of poverty and found a decent living for themselves and their children.”
This was the main burden of his message to the people during the entire campaign.
To many the message was much too melodramatic, too mushy, to be taken seriously. It was said during a campaign by a politician seeking a public office. Both his motive and sincerity were suspect. But he is a breed apart — all who know him intimately swear to this. He apparently meant every word he said in that message.
Thus, it was no surprise that soon after he won the election he announced that his top priority program would be a crash project designed to push down and stabilize the price of rice and create job opportunities for many.
Sincerity, according to Senator Raul Manglapus, is the brightest of Macapagal’s virtues. Take, for instance, his promise to the Batanes people—that he would visit them. There are only a few thousand voters in Batanes. On the scheduled day of his visit, the sea was rough. The motorboat captain told him it would be a dangerous voyage. His lieutenants pleaded with him not to take the risk. Macapagal was unmoved. He had promised the Batanes people and he would make good his word. Half way to Batanes, the motorboat was getting out of control; the captain ordered it back.
Undaunted, Macapagal wired some friends in Manila to send a plane. He took off for Batanes the very next day. He fulfilled his promise. But it almost cost him his life for the plane, buffeted by rough winds, developed engine trouble. It limped back to an airport in northern Luzon.
Those who didn’t know Macapagal were baffled by his behavior. Those who have been close to Macapagal were not surprised.
Many dismiss Macapagal’s pledge to renounce a second term as empty political talk. But the men who know him — and some of them are seasoned politicos—entertain no doubt that Macapagal will keep his pledge.
In an interview with Macapagal, the FREE PRESS pointed out the dilemma he would have to face just before his four-year term is up: The problems of the country are tremendous. A four-year term is too short for his administration to solve the problems or complete his program. Thus, wouldn’t he be forced to seek another term to enable him to finish his program? On the other hand, if his administration achieved a great deal during his term or completed its program, wouldn’t the people themselves insist that he serve another term in office?
Macapagal replied that he realized that his administration’s program would not be fully implemented in four years. He would not solve all the problems in so short a period.
It would be achievement enough for him, he said, if he could divert the ship of state from its present disastrous direction and put it on the right path toward progress and greatness.” I am concerned with moral and political values in not seeking re-election. I would like to set an example for those who come after me. I don’t believe in re-election for a president. It is a curse on the presidency. I would like to show everyone that a Filipino president has enough self-abnegation to refuse a second term.”
The new President believes that it is hard for a president who seeks second term to keep faith with the people and the public…
… He has pulled many surprises in the last elections. But the biggest surprise that he has in store for his critics is yet to come. He intends to give the country the best administration it has ever had. he aims to be the best president the Philippines has ever had. He has the courage, vision and patriotism to fulfill his plans.
The new President once told the FREE PRESS:
“I will work myself to the bone to give the country a good government and the people a new life and new values. I will fulfill my promises. I don’t care if I have to work 24 hours a day. I don’t care if at the end of my term I leave the presidency a broken man, an invalid. My only happiness will be the thought that I have done what I could to make my country great and my fellow countrymen prosperous and happy.”
Diosdado Pangan Macapagal, the new President, has a book entitled The Common Man, a compilation of his speeches, his program of government and his philosophy in life. He picked the title himself. He hopes to be remembered as the common man who became president.
The FREE PRESS’ Man of the Year —he had previously earned the title in 1957 — proved himself a dedicated and resourceful campaigner in giving the entrenched and corrupt NP administration the licking of its life. He may or may not prove a great president, but one thing is certain: He was the most uncommon man of the year 1961.
December 2, 1961
No. 2 Man
Pelaez is the first Mindanao politician to occupy the vice-presidency. He fought Magsaysay’s battles in congress. Together they minted the political credo: “What is good for the common man is good for the country.”
UP TO early December, 1960, Diosdado Macapagal was still in the throes of hunting for a running mate. On the political horizon there were only two outstanding anti-administration politicos who fitted the geographical requirement—a southerner with sufficient political charm and following. These were Serging Osmeña, Jr., and Emmanuel Pelaez. But both had turned down Macapagal’s offer.
Serging cast himself in the role of a political prima donna—noisily spurning the advances of Macapagal. Flushed with triumphal trips to the provinces soon after his sensational suspension from Congress, Osmeña disputed Macapagal’s right to wear the mantle of the opposition standard-bearer.
He would send away Macapagal’s emissaries with irreverent messages for the LP boss. “Tell your master,” he once told a Macapagal errand boy, “that his offer is ridiculous. It is I who should ask him to run as my vice-presidential candidate. It is unthinkable for me to run under him.”
Without funds and discredited by the NP vilification squad, Macapagal, in Serging’s estimate, would make a very shabby presidential candidate—a sure loser to the lord-almighty of the party-in-power. For Macapagal to fight the money and machine of the administration with a weak and impoverished Liberal Party was to Serging a quixotic venture. He let it be known that he had no intention to play Sancho Panza to the Pampango politico. He expected the LP leaders to see the light soon and come crawling to him to offer him the LP presidential nomination. Among the presidential possibilities outside of the party-in-power, he alone was reputed to have the financial capacity and the ready-made broad political base—the Cebuano and the Iglesia ni Cristo vote—needed to combat the administration candidates.
Pelaez, for his part, had other reasons for declining the vice-presidential offer. Still bearing the scars of the 1959 elections, when he ran on a third party ticket and lost, Pelaez was not ready to take any more chances. His wife, Edith, had asked him to swear off politics and wept when she learned that he was again involved in political conferences. Financially and politically, he couldn’t afford to lose again. he figured that if he ran for the Senate, he would be a sure winner. There would be eight positions at stake and he would be vying with 15 other candidates—some of them disreputable or amateur politicians.
It would be a more difficult feat to win the vice-presidential election as an opposition candidate. The fight would be much rougher. Along with the presidential candidate, he would be a target of the concentrated campaign of the party-in-power.
He frankly told Macapagal about his predicament and misgivings—and his decision to run for the Senate. He even went out of his way to persuade Serging to take the vice-presidential offer.
In the middle of December, 1960, Macapagal, chafing over Serging’s irritating rebuffs, decided to forget Serging and assert his leadership as bossed the aid of the Grand Alliance colleagues of Pelaez to pressure Pelaez into accepting the vice-presidential candidacy. In an emergency meeting the Grand Alliance leaders bluntly reminded Pelaez of their pact to abide by the decision of the group. There was not going to be a one-man decision. Raul Manglapus, Francisco Rodrigo, Manuel Manahan and Rodrigo Perez informed Pelaez that the group decision was that he should run for vice-president under the United Opposition. Pelaez was left no choice.
Serging Osmeña, in the meantime, had changed his mind. He sent word to Macapagal that he was after all amendable to his vice-presidential offer. it was too late. Macapagal, a shrewd politician, made no move to rebuff Serging’s belated bid. He told Serging to submit his name to the LP convention—largely to humor the Cebuano kingpin and consolidate the United Opposition.
Before the convention Macapagal lent Pelaez his full support. Despite this, Pelaez up to a week before the LP convention was still ready to yield the nomination to Serging, if his GA group would allow him. The rest is now history—the most reluctant vice-presidential candidate in our political history got elected and, because of his election, he may be on his way to become president of the Republic.
Pelaez’s reluctance had nothing to do with his personal qualifications for the post. He has stood in the national limelight since he got into the political big-time as a Mindanao congressman in 1949. He has elected etched out an attractive, alert and intelligent public image—a politician preoccupied with principles and possessed of a social conscience.
He was at the top of the political ladder during Ramon Magsaysay’s regime. The late President considered Pelaez his most trusted adviser and confidant; in fact, he had groomed him as his heir apparent. He had asked Pelaez to run for vice-president in 1957–precisely to set the presidential stage for Pelaez.
But for one of those inscrutable twists of fate, Pelaez might have been Macapagal’s opponent in the last election, instead of his running mate, and might now have been the President-Elect, instead of Macapagal–if Magsaysay had lived. Remember that RM’s term would have ended this year, assuming that he would have been re-elected in 1957.
Pelaez’s spectacular political career was no accident. From his father, the late Governor Gregorio Pelaez, who for years was the undisputed political boss of Misamis Oriental, he got his first schooling in the art of politics. he inherited the Pelaez charm–the easy grin winsome gestures, the soft, persuasive voice.
The young Pelaez, however, was not content with resting on the family laurels. In 1938 he topped the bar exams—a remarkable feat for a student who had worked himself through college. His father, a wealthy coconut planter, was hard hit by the economic crisis in the 1930’s. He let his son strike out on his own in the country’s capital. Soon after passing the bar, Pelaez became one of the youngest and best-known law professors in Manila.
In 1934, while in college, he worked as a P36-a-month clerk in the journal division of the old Philippine Senate. A year later he was a reporter of El Debate, an influential Spanish daily. Just before he finished college, he did a stint as a translator in the Court of Appeals.
He will be the second authentic former newspaperman to have occupied the No. 2 post of the country. The first was the late Sergio Osmeña, Sr., who was publisher and editor of a Cebu newspaper near the turn of the century. Pelaez, however, is the first son of Mindanao to have been elected to the vice-presidency, the highest position that a Mindanao politician has ever attained.
Pelaez won national recognition as a lawyer in 1949 when he was commissioned to prosecute them Senate President Jose Avelino, the respondent in a case involving the sale of surplus beer. Pitted against top lawyers in Manila, Pelaez displayed brilliant legal strategy and resourcefulness. Sprung to fame as the hard-driving prosecutor in the well-publicized probe, Pelaez was tapped to run for Congress in his home province in 1949 on the Liberal ticket.
His performance in the House of Representatives as a freshman solon was outstanding. his most memorable fight in the House was in defense of the Constitution and against his party bosses. President Quirino, anxious for more power, had demanded more and more from Congress—invoking the wartime emergency powers. The congressman from Mindanao refused to toe the party line and, worse, urged the repeal of existing presidential power statutes. His campaign against the bill forced the House to revise the original draft and settle for an emasculated version. In the end Pelaez scored a moral victory when the Supreme Court stripped the President of his emergency powers.
The party bosses could not forget the misbehavior of the upstart solon from Mindanao. To teach him a lesson, they plotted his expulsion from Congress. His comeuppance came in the form of a House Electoral Tribunal decision which ruled that the Mindanao solon for lack of residence was unfit to hold his congressional office. His own party colleagues were browbeaten by the big bosses into voting against him.
Pelaez refused to accept defeat, asked for a reconsideration of the verdict and carried his fight to the floor of Congress. He argued his case with such eloquence that he rallied the minority solons behind him, stirred up press indignation and even won the motion for reconsideration; and the majority party lost to the opposition the most popular congressman at that time.
Out of his fight to retain his seat in Congress Pelaez emerged as the undisputed leader of the ever-swelling “Progressive Bloc” in the House—composed of majority solons who took it upon themselves to fiscalize the graft-ridden Quirino administration.
When the 1953 elections drew near, it was Pelaez’s turn to work against the big boss of the LP. He was the chief architect of the political strategy that brought Ramon Magsaysay into the Nacionalista Party and paved the way for RM’s presidential nomination.
In their days in Congress together, Magsaysay and Pelaez were great friends. They were drawn to each other by a strong sense of idealism–a public philosophy that both shared. Both believed that the common tao in the rural areas was the forgotten in the man in our age; that the government’s first obligation was to better the lot of the rural tao; that social reform was the answer to Communist subversion; that a dishonest administration could not solve the social and economic ills of the country; that the rule of vested interests, landlords and the caciques had to go; and that a square deal must be inaugurated for the rural folk who composed three-fourths of the population.
Throughout RM’s term as president, Pelaez handled the delicate policy-making task of drafting his state-of-the-nation messages. RM trusted no one else. In one of the best-written messages to the nation, Pelaez summed up in one simple, succinct and memorable sentence the RM doctrine:
“What is good for the common man is good for the country.”
When Congressman Ramon Magsaysay was recruited for the Department of National Defense secretaryship at a time when the Huks were knocking at the gates of Manila, it was his good friend Pelaez who lined up votes for his request for funds with which to finance his anti-Huk campaign and program.
In RM’s bid for the presidential nomination under the Nacionalista banner, Pelaez was his adviser, campaign manager and spokesman. In RM’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with the NP old Guard, Amang Rodriguez, Claro M. Recto and Jose Laurel, Sr., all shrewd and seasoned politicos, he named Pelaez as his spokesman. Until the death of President Magsaysay, the NP Old Guard nursed secret resentment against Pelaez for spoiling their plans during those negotiations.
Having second thoughts about an “outsider” taking over the reins of the party, the NP Old Guard wanted to be sure that when he became president he would follow their signals. One of their moves to keep RM beholden to them was to get him to give the NP Old Guard a free hand in picking his Cabinet members. On the advice of Pelaez, Magsaysay put his foot down on the proposal. The Old Guard were outraged. But Pelaez’s estimate of the situation proved correct: The old bosses would finally knuckle down because they needed Magsaysay more than he needed them.
The same fateful elections of 1953 that swept Magsaysay into power also Pelaez in the Senate. Their bonds grew stronger, their teamwork smoother. Having more prestige in the Senate than he had in the House, Pelaez enjoyed new power. It was he who whipped up support for RM’s pet projects. It was not an easy task. Most of RM’s social reforms were strong medicine for the landlord-dominated Congress.
There was bitter resistance to RM’s land reform bill. It took a special session and threats of political reprisals for RM to get the measure through Congress.
The Anti-Subversion La which Pelaez valiantly sponsored on the Senate floor was almost derailed on the last days of session. A motion was sprung to send the bill back to its committee of origin for further study. Sensing the main strategy of the bill’s opponents, Pelaez maneuvered to meet the counter-thrust. He threw away the kid gloves. “Let’s face it,” he told them, “to remand the bill to the committee at this late hour would mean its death.” He dared the opponents to kill the measure on the senate floor so that the people would know those who did not want it to pass.
The opponents fidgeted and stalled, but finally retreated. The bill passed and is now a major deterrent to the spread of communism in the country.
When it was fashionable among congressmen to laugh off RM’s rural improvement program as a re-election gimmick of “a product of rural mentality,” Pelaez was among the few who took it seriously and fought for it right down the line.
Take, for instance, the budget for the PACD which ran RM’s community development program. During its first years of existence the PACD budget was cut or scrapped altogether by pork-barrel-minded solons. Invariably, it was Pelaez who would take up the fight for the PACD and get its budget restored.
Pelaez’s fondness for community development stems not only from a conviction that it is a good program but also from more sentimental roots. It was he who midwifed the birth of the program. At a time when “community development” was a vague term and “self-help” little more than a sonorous platitude, Ramon P. Binamira, now PACD chief, presented to Magsaysay his draft of the PACD program. RM was thoroughly skeptical. A man in a great hurry, he wanted a more drastic, more immediate aid program for the rural people.
Binamira, convinced of his program’s worth, sought the aid of Manny Pelaez. He carefully explained to Pelaez the mechanics and principles of the PACD. Pelaez took time out to study the draft and assess its merits. On the same day, late in the evening, Pelaez accompanied Binamira back to Malacañang to persuade Magsaysay to accept the program This time the President listened. The meeting lasted until midnight and ended with Magsaysay signing an executive order creating the PACD and sending away Binamira with his benediction.
It has since become an in controvertible fact: The PACD program is the best rural uplift program in this part of the globe—one which many Asian countries are now studying and adopting.
All through his term in the Senate, Pelaez defended, kept alive and gave flesh and meaning to RM’s program and ideals—even after RM’s death. Pelaez went on to author and sponsor the Barrio Charter, now known as the rural people’s Magna Carta. More aptly, it should be called the rural folk’s Declaration of Independence.
The Barrio Charter places in the hands of the barrio people the management of their affairs and the tools for their economic and political redemption. It provides for a barrio government whose officials the barrio people can assert and govern themselves, determine their needs and problems, raise taxes and retain them, and decide what projects to undertake. Into their hands is thrust the responsibility of carving out their own local destiny. Apart from the taxes raised through self-taxation, the barrio people, by virtue of the Charter, retain 10 percent of all real estate taxes collected by the national government within the barrio. To get this additional income, the barrio people need not go begging to the politicians or the national government.
Barrio home rule should help do away with the hand-out mentality, the overdependence on pork barrel, the indifference and lassitude of the barrio people—which are largely responsible for the snail’s pace of rural progress.
Possibly the most important piece of legislation in the last decade, the Barrio Charter sets in motion the mechanics of democracy at the grassroots level. It is a means of bettering the lot of the forgotten man in the barrio even as it makes of him a better citizen.
Since the death of Magsaysay, no piece of legislation has done more to accelerate what he liked to call “the peaceful revolution in the barrios”—or the revolution of rising expectations, as the economists and pundits put it.
The Barrio Charter may even have contributed to the rout of the administration candidates in the rural areas. Many barrios, it appears, are no longer so vulnerable to the political machine of the party in power. They have ceased to be the private preserves of the political bosses, the caciques, the landlords and the pork-barrel artists. Many rural people, through their barrio government, can now stand on their own feet and can do without political doles. They have declared their independence from their traditional masters.
In sponsoring and fighting for the passage of a law that would bring new hope and new life to the bulk of the population, Pelaez had his finest hour in his entire political career.
But a greater task awaits him. ALL indications are that despite his being a newcomer to Macapagal’s Liberal Party he has hit it off famously with the LP boss. Macapagal, shortly after the election trends pointed to an LP win, served notice that he would saddle the Vice-President-Elect with grave responsibilities. Pelaez was his first Cabinet appointee—as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Pelaez himself originally wanted the secretaryship of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. he thought that as agriculture boss he could do more in pursuing the basic program of land reform, barrio-load building, irrigation, local autonomy, community development—all of which directly affect the lives of the rural folk. He had hoped to play a major role in unlocking the treasures of the land and providing prosperity for the nation by properly developing the country’s vast natural resources through local and foreign investments.
When he got word, however, that the President-Elect wanted him to take over the foreign affairs department in January, he had no complaint. In his first formal press interview Pelaez declared that he would mobilize the foreign office as an instrument for economic development of the country. His plans included a no non-sense foreign investment program and promotion of foreign trade.
He would request Macapagal to study the feasibility of placing the PACD–his old baby–under his department. After all, he said, the PACD is a joint P.I.-U.S. program and derives much of its fund from abroad. It would not be unseemly to put the office under him.
Pelaez says that he owes much of his election victory to the late President Magsaysay with whom he and his Grand Alliance group were closely identified. In voting for the RM men, the people voted for RM’s principles and policies. His men believe they owe it to RM to pursue these policies. Macapagal himself seems to realize the need for a peaceful economic revolution in the rural areas.
Insight into the thinking and personality of the new No. 2 man of the country may be found in his recent speeches. Here is the main theme that he has stressed.
“Our efforts to change the status quo and imbue our society with those attitudes and patterns of thinking that would promote economic progress should follow two main courses: first, by structural and institutional changes through public policy, social reforms, and decentralization of economic and political power; and secondly, by particularly of the young before they acquire traditional values and attitudes.
“We must concern ourselves with government and its procedures. For instance, the present attitude of basing almost all governmental actions on political and personal considerations must be replaced by a return to the moral concept that government exists for the satisfaction of the people’s needs. Decentralization of power must be carried out in order to promote participation of all citizens in governmental decisions and actions.
“Ability and excellence must be given the highest priority in appointments to government positions so that we may develop a corps of career men qualified to run its affairs competently and honestly.
“The second task requires radical changes in our social values and relationships. It can be done if all elements—the government, the Church, political parties, civic groups, officials and citizens—take part in the endeavor.
“The single most critical factor in meeting the responsibilities and challenges of the times is leadership of a high order—a leadership capable of understanding and integrating technical, social, economic and political forces and placing them behind the drive toward achieving the nation’s political and economic maturity…above all a leadership dedicated to the democratic faith and the dignity of the human individual. In a country like ours where the people are wont to look to the top for guidance national leadership[ of a high order is demanded if we are to transform this country into a modern democratic society.”
The Winners ’61
By Quijano de Manila
November 1961–VICTORY, the poll victors found out after the polls, is chiefly an overpowering, devouring drowsiness.
Happy eyes glaze over, the eyelids droop; ecstatic smiles freeze, the head nods. Hands held out to congratulators grope and falter; and the words of joy fatten into a yawn.
Making the rounds of victors’ houses three days after the polls, one found doorbells and telephones ringing in vain, crowds of visitors collecting and dispersing unreceived, blue telegrams piling up on doorside tables, while the winners hungrily slept, slept, slept.
Not applause, nor congratulations, nor the latest poll returns widening the margin of victory, could be sweeter than bed and darkness, pillow and sheet.
Maria Kalaw Katigbak stayed home only long enough to make sure she was among the select senatorial eight, then reportedly fled to Lipa—“to get some sleep.” Her husband, an immense man, winces when congratulated on his victory, is resigned to being introduced as “the senator’s husband.”
Soc Rodrigo’s wife Medy says she’s glad it’s all over: “Now we can get some sleep.”
Dragged up from bed in the late afternoon, her eyes still swollen from drowse, Edith Pelaez groaned: “I haven’t had a good sleep in a long time!” Manny Pelaez came home from Mindanao three days after the polls, stayed just to bathe and change clothes, then rushed off again. About all his wife can remember him saying (she was too sleepy to ask about Mindanao) was that he was sleepy too.
Like a somnambulist was Manuel Manahan’s wife Connie, barely awake as she moved around her workshop, finally giving up and crawling home to bed, muttering that she felt she was coming down with the flu. For the Manahans, this victory is more poignant than previous defeats. Mrs. Manahan lost a baby (her eleventh child, eighth boy) two months before the elections, was up and campaigning for Manny two weeks after her confinement. “I’ve had disappointments,” she told friends, “but this is the one that hurt most.” Her baby lived only two days; she never even saw it.
Connie Manahan says she felt surer this time her Manny would win but never dreamed he would get the second place in the tabulation: “We had no funds at all for propaganda materials. I saw other candidates spending money right and left and I told Manny, ‘We just can’t compete.’ “All they had were stickers and sample ballots. Six weeks before the polls, friends of Manny put up a billboard for him in Quiapo: it was his biggest single publicity display. But he had learned to speak Tagalog fluently, and that helped.
For Raul and Pacita Manglapus, this triumph is, of course, the Victory of the Voice—of both their voices. Whenever Raul ran out of words, or of breath, wife Pacita stepped forward and sang. Her friends say her singing was as big a hit with voters as her husband’s gift of tongues. Not even sleeplessness could dull his oratorical, her lyrical, magic.
Also sleepless during the tense days before and after the balloting was the grande dame of the Liberal Party, Doña Trining Roxas, who sought bed only when victory was certain. The sleeping dowager was thus unable to attend the first public expression of Liberal triumph: the rites in honor of Elpidio Quirino on November 16, his 71st birthday.
The rites began with mass at the San Marcelino church, where Vicky Quirino Gonzalez found the Old Guard massed around her but nary a sign of the United Opposition. The Macapagals could not come, Manny Pelaez was still in Mindanao, the erstwhile rah-rah boys who had caused Mr. Quirino so much pain were at Comelec or Camp Crame, exultantly counting, or in bed, hungrily sleeping.
Nevertheless, the Old Guard Liberals were in festive mood. After mass, the gay hubbub on the patio seemed a single refrain: “We’re back! We’re back! We’re back!” Sunshine glinted from faces once so current in Malacañang, notably of the ladies who were the Apo’s favorite partners at Palace balls: Nila Syquia Mendoza, Chedeng Araneta, Angela Butte, Carmen Planas. Ever the holy terror, Mameng Planas mockingly distributed cabinet portfolios among the Old Guard: this one was to be finance secretary, that one secretary of foreign affairs. Moving from one merry group to another, causing astonished pauses, like a ghost at a party, was Ambassador Romulo, come to attend this reunion of old friend. His offer to resign before the elections had, say the Liberals been a good omen for them: it had meant Mr. Romulo smelled a change coming.
From the church the Old Guard repaired to the South Cemetery, where the Man of the Hour, Macapagal, laid a wreath on the grave of the Apo. That noon, there was a banquet at a restaurant in Quezon City, and gathered for this happiest hour of the Liberals in a decade were more of the old familiar faces; Vicente Albano Pacis, Johnny Collas, Fred Mangahas. But when a speaker addressed the gathering as “Fellow Liberals,” there were objections: this was a gathering of the Friends of Quirino, not all of whom were Liberals. Unspoken was a parallel thought: that not all of today’s Liberals, especially the very new ones, had been Friends of Quirino.
While yesterday’s Liberals reminisced on the past and the Apo, today’s Liberals were already plotting the future. Slumber had not felled all the victors; still wide awake were Diosdado and Eva Macapagal. Drowsiness showed in her only in narrower eyes, in him only in paler cheeks and a tic in one eye. He said he could go without sleep for a month; she said she had been dozing on and off during the long wait. Whenever she awoke she would ask: “Well, how is it going now?” And her unsleeping husband would cry: “We’re winning!”
For Eva Macapagal, this triumph vindicates feminine intuition. “I am,” she says, “a person of strong presentiments.” She had had a presentiment of victory, had told her husband before the elections: “I think you’re going to win. I feel again as I felt in 1957.”
Macapagal himself had never had any doubts. His campaign to win the presidency was, he says, “methodical and scientific.” There could be only one outcome. In the light of his victory, his campaign, which we all regarded as an aimless wandering from barrio to barrio and a futile shaking of hands, does assume the look of a great design, of carefully planned military strategy. Nothing had been aimless; everything adds up. Each sortie into the wilds had made straighter route to Malacañang. And we now wonder why we failed to see what now seems so clear.
Invisible in the speckled forest because of its spots, the leopard stalks its prey, weaving round and round on velvet paws, in ever narrowing circles. Only when it closes in for the kill is it suddenly beheld in all its might and majesty: this sleek sly creature that blends into the light and dark of the forest, that had seemed to be wandering around in aimless circles.
Macapagal had been invisible to many, a nondescript personality (“negative” was how the NPs loved to describe him), a compulsive hand-shaker, a mousy little man going round and round in circles. Alas for those who could not spot the leopard for its spots! The coloring was protective, the circlings followed a route.
A cry has rent the political jungle.
The leopard has sprung.
The hackneyed thing to say is that Macapagal’s triumph is like Magsaysay’s. Both men undertook a barrio-to-barrio campaign; both toppled an unpopular regime accused of being graft-ridden—but here the resemblance stops.
Magsaysay was expected to win; Macapagal was not.
Nobody was really surprised when the Magsaysay vote began to assume the proportions of an avalanche; the surprise would have been if it didn’t. But the day after this month’s elections, astonishment that Macapagal should be leading at all was so great everybody felt the lead couldn’t last. What one heard on all sides was: “Yes, of course he’s leading, but only on the Manila vote. Just wait till the NP votes start pouring in.” When the lead was maintained the chorus became: “Oh, that’s only the Manila and Luzon vote. Wait till the votes from the South come in.” Finally, when the nationwide trend became unmistakable, those who cautiously conceded that Macapagal might win quickly added that his margin of victory would be slim.
Actually, Macapagal polled a bigger popular vote than Magsaysay.
President Garcia can hardly be blamed for not conceding defeat at once; he, too, just couldn’t believe that Macapagal was winning and, but not conceding, was merely expressing a general astonishment and incredulity. It seems now that everyone who voted for Macapagal did so with no great hope that he would win. Each pro-Macapagal voter must have felt solitary, one in a hundred. So many people who had expressed disgust of the Garcia regime had followed denunciation with despair: “But how can one vote for Macapagal?”
This is in sharp contrast to the atmosphere in 1953, when everyone who voted for Magsaysay felt quite sure that everybody else was doing the same.
The doubts about a Macapagal triumph were indicated by all the pre-election forecasts, even those that had him leading. The pollsters in general detected a trend in his favor but apparently questioned the strength of the trend. Those who gave him the lead carefully stressed that the lead was very small. In fact, the last poll survey to be made public just before the elections, the U.P poll, flatly declared that Garcia and Macapagal were running even, any edge in favor of the latter being so slight as to be “insignificant.”
When the returns started coming in, the public literally couldn’t believe its eyes.
Why was Macapagal, even when given the edge to win, so underrated?
The prime reason is that there was no visible evidence of his popularity, save those reports from the field of the large crowds he was attracting—and we have learned to be cynical about large crowds. And the belief that he was a “colorless” figured seemed to have been proved by his inability, even during the climactic period of the campaign, to arouse fervor where fervor would show. Unlike Magsaysay, he had failed to inflame the imagination or capture the sympathies of those elements of society which create glamour figures.
Into his Great Crusade, Magsaysay had drawn the press, the intelligentsia, the businessmen, the Church, and a lot of people previously indifferent to politics—a motley mass that ranged from college boys and society girls to writers and movie actors, each group forming a movement that helped swell the following, not to mention the finances, of the crusade.
But Macapagal had been unable to make a similar crusade of his campaign. The intelligentsia was actively hostile; the press was cool; the businessmen were wary; the Church was, happily, more mute than during the Magsaysay crusade; and the political dilettantes who had cooed over the Guy found Mac a sad sack. The most influential foreign group in the Philippines, the Americans, had made no bones of being behind Magsaysay; but in this year’s campaign, rumors of American support for the LPs were popularly believed to have been circulated, not by their nationalist rivals, but by the LPs themselves, and that they should feel the need to do so implied American unwillingness to do it for them. One eminent columnist assured his readers that the Americans—the thoughtful ones, that is—would rather have the NPs remain in power. Finally, when that bogey of Philippine politics, the Iglesia ni Kristo, also declared itself against Macapagal, his cause seemed lost indeed.
Yet he took his cause to the common folk and won.
His victory is more impressive than Magsaysay’s, having been achieved against greater odds and without the fancy trimmings of the Great Crusade. Far more than Magsaysay, he can be said to have been carried to triumph by the masses, and only by the masses. And since there were none to glamorize him, since his very foes deny he had any of the Magsaysay charm and magic, since no fringe movements helped swell his finances or the tide of his popularity, he can now claim to have won on sheer skill, intelligence, industry, and the faith in him of he people. He could not become a glamour figure, so he became a folk hero.
And such has been the success of his solitary campaigning that every Philippine politician will, from now on, have to ponder the methods of Macapagal the campaigner.
Poetry got Diosdado Macapagal into politics. Before 1949, his future had seemed to lie in the foreign service. He had risen to the fourth ranking position in the foreign affairs department; President Quirino, obviously grooming the young Pampango for a diplomatic career, sent him to the United States, to broaden his outlook. Macapagal was second secretary of the embassy in Washington.
Then, in 1949, the congressman for Pampanga, Huk-elected Amado Yuson, announced his intention to run for re-election. President Quirino was then engaged in a campaign to topple all Huk-elected officials. But Yuson had a special strength: he was recognized as the poet laureate of Pampanga, a province that loves its bards. Yuson drew crowds not as a politician but as a poet; at his mitings he did not deliver speeches, he improvised verses. Quirino saw it would take a poet to lick a poet.
He had Macapagal recalled from Washington and bade him run against Yuson. The platform was practically who was the better poet. Macapagal had had no experience in politics but did have renown as a bard. In his youth he had composed about a hundred poems, and they had established him as a public figure in his native province, important enough to be invited to address school convocations and crown fiesta queens.
The 1949 campaign in Pampanga turned into a poetic joust. Macapagal trailed his rival from plaza to plaza. Had Yuson delivered a particularly lovely poem in a certain town? The very next night, or a few nights later, Macapagal was in that town, delivering an even lovelier poem. He says he finds it easier to improvise in verse than in prose.
Because he had no campaign funds to use to publicize his candidacy he was forced to adopt a person-to-person approach, to go into every nook and corner of the province to introduce himself to the populace. Thus began, long before the Great Crusade of Magsaysay, the barrio-to-barrio campaign. For Macapagal, such a campaign was inevitable because he felt surest of himself among his own kind.
“Until I ran,” he says, “politicians in Pampanga came from the propertied class. I was the first poor candidate there.”
He not only won against Yuson but topped the congressional winners, which included Magsaysay, in second place. Then came another surprise. It was the custom among Pampango politicians, because they were wealthy, to go off to Baguio or Hong Kong after an election, to rest. But a few days after the 1949 polls, the barrio folk of Pampanga were astounded to find their winning candidate again in their midst. Macapagal had no money for a Baguio or Hong Kong vacation, and he thought that elegant custom silly anyway. Instead, he traveled all over the province again, to thank in person whose who had helped him win. This, cried the Pampangos, was something new in politics.
That first campaign established the style of Macapagal the campaigner; his next major campaign—for the Senate in 1955—disclosed an ability to project himself n a nationwide scale. He was, till then, regarded as a small-time, strictly local politician. Though he regularly made the lists of top congressmen of the year, his name was unknown outside Pampanga. In 1955, he was running with name politicians: Osias, Peralta, Magalona and Geronima Pecson. He was the expendable one on that list, merely followed the others on the regular campaign routes.
Then, in Pototan, Iloilo, came the revelation.
The LPs were waging a futile fight and they themselves knew it: their campaigning was lackadaisical. Macapagal, too, had prepared only one speech, which he used over and over again. One night—that night in Pototan—he finally got so sick of his own clichés he threw the speech away and began to talk as he pleased. It was raining anyway; there were few to listen. He could think aloud, could speak from the heart. He recalled the misery of his childhood, the squalor of his youth. He had almost, though the valedictorian, not attended his grade school graduation because he had no clothes and no shoes to wear. He had almost not gone to high school because there was no money for tuition fees; his mother had raised pigs, his grandmother had worked as a midwife, to send him to high school. All his dreams were one: to end poverty, because he had known how cruel poverty could be. He could not bear the thought of other children going through what he had gone through.
He was practically speaking to himself and was hardly aware that his audience, though the rain was falling harder, had drawn closer around him instead of running to shelter. When he stopped speaking, there was tumultuous applause. Mrs. Pecson stepped forward to speak but could not do so because the crowd kept on applauding and shouting: “Macapagal! Macapagal!” The congressman from Pampanga had to leave his seat and speak to the crowd again.
The following night, in another town, he discarded his prepared speech again and spoke extemporaneously: of his life and hard times, his struggles and dreams. Again he had a rapt audience, again he got tumultuous applause. Macapagal realized he had a larger appeal than he had thought.
This year, when he campaigned in Pototan, he told the people there; “Pototan is not merely a town to me. It is a landmark. For here I discovered I had a message for the nation.”
Macapagal lost in the 1955 senatorial race but topped all the Liberal candidates, though they were better-known than he. His colleagues in the party saw that he was no longer a small-time politico and a stop-Macapagal movement started. The party hierarchy was reorganized and Macapagal was ousted as vice-president for Central Luzon. But it was too late to stop his rise: the public already knew him as “Mr. Liberal.”
After his defeat in the polls, his wife said to him: “It seems your Divine Providence failed you this time. Had you won, you would have been minority floor leader in the Senate and the undisputed leader of the Liberal Party.”
Said Macapagal: “God answers our prayers in his own way. I have faith in his own design in my defeat.”
The design, as he sees it now, was victory in 1961: “Had I won in 1955, my party would have made me run for president in 1957, and I would surely have lost. Garcia had been president only nine months and voters would be inclined to give him a full term to show what he could do. Because I lost in 1955, I was good only for vice-president in 1957, and I had time to prepare to run for president n 1961 and win.”
The vice-presidential nomination was offered to him by a dying man: Speaker Eugenio Perez. Late one night, while the House was discussing the budget, the Speaker, pale and feeble, suddenly appeared in the chamber. Al the solons started up from their seats as if they had seen a ghost, for Perez was supposed to be on his deathbed: the doctors had given him up. Dragging his feet, he shuffled toward Macapagal. “I want to talk to you,” he said.
When they were alone together, Perez said to Macapagal: “The party is putting up Mr. Yulo for president because it has no money, but Mr. Yulo will be attacked. We need someone to run with him whose integrity cannot be questioned. The party has been good to you; not it’s your turn to help the party. If we only had money I would put you up for president. But I tell you: you will be president someday.”
Macapagal says he would have preferred to play it safe and just run for Congress again—but how could he refuse the plea of a dying man?
When he got home that night he woke up his wife to confess that he had made a decision without consulting her: he had agreed to run for vice-president.
“What are your chances?” she asked.
“And what will you do afterwards?”
“I’ll teach and practise law.”
The very next day, he went to the University of Santo Tomas to arrange a teaching contract, so sure was he that his election as vice-president was improbable. But when the NPs put up Laurel junior as their veep candidate and the NCPs selected Tañada, Macapagal began to think that he could win. Laurel junior was manifestly unpopular, and Tañada would divide the Tagalog vote.
But again there was the problem of finances. Macapagal had no money, and neither did the Liberal Party. All the funds came from Yulo and: I don’t think Mr. Yulo ever liked me,” says Macapagal.
Into the picture stepped Amelito Mutuc, an old acquaintance who had married into a wealthy family. Mutuc offered to direct Macapagal’s campaign.
“Can you raise two thousand pesos?” he asked Macapagal.
Macapagal borrowed two thousand from his wife; with the money Mutuc rented a building in Manila, bought a couple of typewriters and set up a Macapagal campaign headquarters.
Says Macapagal: “I had not a centavo for my first campaign. When I ran for the Senate I had about five hundred pesos. And I ran for vice-president on two thousand pesos.”
There were, however, the transportation expenses, which the LP candidates were apparently expected to shoulder themselves. The campaigners had been divided into teams; Macapagal noticed that he was not included in Mr. Yulo’s team. He was told to go to Mindanao and campaign there. But how could he go when he didn’t even have the fare? Instead, he looked up Yulo’s itinerary. He discovered that Yulo was in a certain Visayan town. Macapagal suddenly showed up there, during a rally, and when he spoke he praised Yulo to the skies. Delighted, Yulo told him: “You better come along with my group.”
“And that,” grins Macapagal, “was how I got through the campaigns without any funds. I just joined Mr. Yulo’s party.”
Though Macapagal polled more votes than Garcia, his victory was dismissed as a fluke. The popular view was that he had won on the strength of “negative” votes cast, not really for him, but against Laurel junior.
Macapagal was still “invisible” to many, though he had pulled up quite a feat: had won against the party in power at the height of its power.
President Garcia, it is said, had originally regarded the large popular vote for Macapagal as a directive from the people to make Macapagal serve in the government: there were hints from Malacañang that the vice-president would be appointed secretary of foreign affairs. But after a consultation with his council of leaders, Mr. Garcia decided not to give Macapagal a job.
“From that moment,” says Macapagal, “I decided to build up and strengthen the Liberal Party, to begin campaigning for the presidency, and to beat Garcia in 1961.”
He started campaigning during his very first year as veep, circled the country three times during his term: “It took me a year the first time, two years the second time, a year the third time.”
At first President Garcia allowed him to use a navy cutter, the Ifugao. Macapagal started with the most inaccessible areas: Palawan, the isles of the Badjaos, the Turtle Islands. He had, while still in the foreign affairs department, negotiated the return of the Turtle Islands to the Philippines, had raised the Philippine flag there. On his second trip, he covered the isolated areas on the Pacific coast. When he submitted his schedule for his third trip, which was to have included Batanes, President Garcia smelled what the vice-president was up to and forbade his further use of the Ifugao. Undaunted, Macapagal used inter-island steamers.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “On the steamers I met more people.” He ate with the third-class passengers, surprised them by cleaning up his plate, though the food was staler than most people could stomach.
In his wanderings, Macapagal reached places where the last government official people remembered having seen was Governor-General Leonard Wood. “I think,” says Macapagal, “that Wood was the one government official who tried to reach every place in the country.”
Macapagal was not always the politician in his four-year odyssey: he has an eye for the odd and the beautiful. In a coastal town in Samar he saw a man who was said to be 150 years old: “He was like a mummy, he looked dead already, but he could still talk.” Macapagal becomes lyrical when describing the brooks in Camiguin: “They are the most beautiful brooks I ever saw—water flowing over white stones. If I were an artist I would paint those brooks.”
At the same time that he was trying to reach every place in the country, he was building up his party. He saw the need for uniting the opposition but saw no hope for union as long as the Progressives clung to two ideas of theirs: first, that the Liberal Party was rotten to the core and could never return to power and, second, that they, the Progressives, could win by themselves. When negotiations for union in 1959 lagged, Macapagal abruptly ended them: “I saw it was useless to negotiate until I had proved to the Progressives that we could win in an election and that they couldn’t.” The Progressives tried to reopen the negotiations but Macapagal firmly repulsed them: “I just told them that we had already lost a month of the campaign. After all, I felt that union in 1959 was not important. What was important was union in 1961—and I could get that only by proving myself right in 1959.”
Then Ferdinand Marcos, who had been made to run for the Senate, got cold feet and wanted to withdraw. Marcos felt that Macapagal was courting disaster by deciding that the Liberal Party was to run alone, without any coalition with the Progressives. But Macapagal was willing to stake his political reputation and his presidential chances on that decision. He had more to lose than Marcos but was less apprehensive. He said to Marcos: “You not only will not lose but you will get first place.”
During the counting of the returns, the Progressives who had seemed at first to be winning, all dropped out, but three Liberals remained steady on the winning list, and Marcos did top it. The victory, says Macapagal, was not a random one; he had carefully engineered it. He had pinpointed the areas from where came the votes that had swamped the LPs in previous elections; during the campaign he concentrated on those areas. These were, he says, the “pockets” that had to be pushed back so that his “military line” would hold straight and steady. Having eliminated those “pockets,” Macapagal, after the balloting, sat back and waited confidently for the returns. His fellow Liberals nervously awaited the usual NP avalanche of votes to sweep them away—but Macapagal told them there would be no avalanche, and there was none.
Says Marcos: “That is why we respect Macapagal—because he makes decisions even against our will. Afterwards we find that he was right.”
Macapagal was proved right, too, about the Progressives. When Soc Rodrigo was quoted as saying, after the 1959 polls, that the Grand Alliance would continue, Macapagal said: “If there is one man who has no choice now but to join the Liberals, it is Soc Rodrigo.”
Then he sent Senator Estanislao Fernandez to ask Rodrigo if he was ready now to join the Liberals. Said Rodrigo: “What else can I do?”
“And that,” smiles Macapagal, “was what I had been saying all along.”
Again Macapagal had done the impossible: he had turned a discredited and disheartened LP into a winning party and he had united the opposition. If there be still doubts about his capacity for leadership, he points to the diverse personalities he was able, for this campaign, to bring together and organize into a team: Marcos, Manglapus, Lacson, Manahan, not to mention Roger de la Rosa.
“Each one a strong personality,” he sighs, “and all of them stars!”
What Macapagal did in 1959 he repeated in 1961. He circled the country a third time but concentrated on the new “pockets” revealed by the 1959 polls. The very first province he stormed this year was Batangas, where the LPs had always lost heavily. He campaigned there for a week, then moved on to Quezon, and then, to everybody’s amazement, returned to Batangas and campaigned through it all over again. The Batangueños said to him: “You are the first presidential candidate to campaign here twice.” The politicos predicted a Macapagal loss in Batangas, but he carried the province.
He went wherever the LP was weak, however remote the region. Everybody thought him crazy to go to the Davao town of Manay, which is a Nacionalista stronghold and almost inaccessible. Boats dock far off; passengers must plunge into neck-deep water and wade ashore, for small boats would be dashed by the strong waves against the rocks. On reaching the shore, the Manay-bound must still climb a steep rocky slope to reach the town. Though it was past midnight when his ship reached the place, Macapagal plunged into the water, waded ashore through the darkness, climbed up over the rocks, and found the townspeople of Manay still waiting for him. The mayor told him: “This is a Nacionalista town, but because you came here you will win here.”
The intrepidity Macapagal displayed during the campaign may well turn into legend. He crossed, on a frail fishing boat, that point of the San Bernardino Strait which folk in the vicinity regard with horror, because four currents converging there create a maelstrom. The crossing was pure agony; Macapagal got across without being sucked into the maelstrom—“but,” he shudders, “I don’t think I could do it again.”
Batanes had become an obsession with him ever since his scheduled trip there, in 1957, had to be cancelled with the Ifugao was forbidden him. Three subsequent attempts to sail to Batanes were thwarted by bad weather. Then, late in the last month of the campaign, he decided he just had to get there. He hired a fishing boat and set off. Halfway across, he noticed that the boat was slapping against the water: “That’s when it’s dangerous—not when a boat is rocking but when it’s slapping.” He said to the skipper of the boat: “Puede ba? If it’s possible, let’s go on. If not, let’s return.” Said the skipper: “We had better return.”
But there was no stopping Macapagal now. He wired his wife in Manila that he needed two planes. “To think that it was I who arranged that trip!” she wails now. Macapagal finally reached Batanes by plane, but the return trip was made with one engine dead.
Why had he risked his life to reach a place that had but a handful of voters? He says? “I wanted to show that it was not the votes that mattered to me. Besides, I had covered the entire country except Batanes. And when you say except, you remove the impact.”
The Sunday before the polls, Macapagal addressed the LP miting de avance on Plaza Miranda. He had not campaigned at all in Manila but the multitude he drew was epochal. “I felt,” he says, “that the people there had already made up their minds. They had not come to be convinced but just to be there.” Manny Pelaez nudged Mrs. Macapagal and whispered: “Just watch. The crowd will applaud your husband whatever he says.” “And,” says Mrs. Macapagal, “it was true. The people applauded even in the middle of a word!”
On the eve of the elections, Macapagal conducted a “talkaton” that lasted all night, answering questions from all quarters, demonstrating, for all to see, how quickly his mind worked. The invisible man was finally emerging as quite a dynamic chap. It was dawn when he went home, but not to sleep. He and Mrs. Macapagal immediately motored to his home town of Lubao, to vote. When they got there, at seven in the morning, the streets were already full of people impatient to vote.
The Pampangos had a cardinal, now they wanted a president.
That night, the poll returns began to paint an astounding new image of Macapagal. The man described as “colorless” had turned out to be a phenomenon.
Luck is still on his side. He is fortunate to become president when people are just beginning to see him clearly. Magsaysay became an idol too soon; adulation reached a peak during his campaign: there was nowhere else to go but down. So much was expected of the Guy he could not but disappoint. Barely two years after he assumed office there was already a marked chill in the air.
But Macapagal assumes office amid general incredulity rather than expectation, amid a growing curiosity rather than love. Because he was so underrated, anything he does now will have the quality of surprise. Because nothing was expected of him, he cannot disappoint. The way for him is still up. He is not yet entangled in a myth of himself; idolatry has still to becloud his eyes with incense. He should be able to accomplish more, since he has to earn the people’s love rather than justify it.
He comes to us practically unknown: an ambiguous figure, half light and half dark, moving toward the presidency and wresting it away with a few arms, though the dragons of power and propaganda stood round about.
Of his feat he says: “It was difficult, it was impossible, but we did it. Now, the job ahead is even more difficult, ten times more difficult. But I am read for it.”
The death of The Guy
by Quijano de Manila
His Death Was Not His End But A Transfiguration –From Folk Hero To Folk Myth.
March 18, 1961–HE HAD skipped a friend’s party the night before to attend a sudden conference; and coming home from the party, to which she had gone ahead, alone, Mrs. Magsaysay found him in his bedroom looking so tired and worried she didn’t press her inquiries as to why he hadn’t followed.
But when he woke up the next morning he was his old self again, jaunty and jovial. They had breakfast together, and talked of the trip he would make to Cebu that day. He was leaving at noon. She urged him to rest all morning. When she looked for him later, he had vanished. He was nowhere in the Palace. She called up this place and that and finally located him in a house within the Palace compound. He had been visiting his in-laws, the Corpuses.
She reproved him when he came back: “I thought you promised to rest all morning?”
He said he had been rehearsing his speeches for the Cebu visit and couldn’t do so in the Palace, with people popping in and out all the time.
She watched while he had a haircut in a hall off his bedroom. Standing behind him, she could see his face in the mirror, his eyes restless as a little boy’s over this enforced moment of stillness.
“Will you see me off at the airport?” he suddenly asked, meeting her eyes in the mirror.
“If you want me to.”
“Yes, do come.”
She was rather amused at the request. A despedida for an overnight trip? In the bedroom, the two valets who were to perish with him were busy packing. He kept telling the barber to hurry up. She always paid the barber for him, had a ten-peso bill ready in a pocket.
They had lunch with a young nephew. The children were in school or in their rooms. Teresita, the eldest, just engaged, was sewing her trousseau. Jun, the the only son was at his classes. Mila, the younger daughter, had a stove in her room and liked to cook meals for her gang. Whenever she prepared a special dish, she sent a portion to the presidential table with instructions that her father was to sample the dish and give his comments on it. He always sent back word that it was delicious, whether he had found it too tough or too salty.
The family got together only on Sundays, when it was the rule that the children were to come to table for breakfast, lunch, and supper. In the evening, they gathered in his room, just the five of them. Teresita gave him a neck massage. Mila strummed a uke. Jun played the hi-fi, putting on his father’s favorite records. His father and mother had a special favorite that summer: Que Será, Será —the song to which they had danced on their last wedding anniversary. Only afterwards would she realize the significance of that song’s gaily grim lyrics. The children complained that Sunday was the only time they could have their Daddy to themselves.
So, on this March day, a Saturday, his last day in the Palace, he did not have his children with him as he lunched with his wife, his last meal with her. He told her about the movies he had ordered for showing at the Palace that night: a Tagalog picture and a Hollywood drama for her, an action movie for himself. He always asked for one, whether he was there to see it or not. He loved action pictures and before he became president, dragged his wife to small neighborhood cinemas where the audience was as rowdy as the folk on the screen and where he could stomp and shout unashamed during chases and fist fights.
“Three movies for tonight,” he told his wife now, “but don’t sit through all of them. You may be cross-eyed when I come back.”
She smiled drowsily. She had been feeling drowsy all through lunch, could hardly keep her head up, her eyes open.
He finally laughed at her: “No, you better not see me off at the airport. You’re sleepy. Go take a nap.”
But she accompanied him down the stairs to the car, her arm around his waist. She told him his waist was slimmer.
He patted his belly proudly: “Yes, no more paunch. I must keep it this way.” When they reached the car he said: “If you’re asleep when I arrive, I’ll wake you up.”
“Even if you didn’t,” she cried very sarcastically, “I would wake up!”
He had never learned to move quietly, on tiptoe, with stealth. She always knew when he was in: the floor seemed to shake with his movements. He was, she says, “pagpag,” very heavy-footed. He didn’t walk, he strode. He didn’t open a door, he burst it open. He didn’t enter a room, he stormed into it.
He laughed now at her sarcasm, kissed her and got into the car. It was about half-past noon. That was the last time she ever saw him. He was wearing slacks, one of his gaudy polo shirts and a jacket; and his brown face, after some three years of the presidency, looked almost as lean as the face of that very thin, very tall mechanic she had fallen in love with some 25 years before.
After he had gone, she had her nap. Then she drove to Tagaytay with a group of friends and spent the afternoon in a cottage on a hilltop. In the group was Chiming Hernández, whose husband, Gregorio Hernández, the education secretary, had also gone on that trip to Cebu. Mrs. Magsaysay noticed that her friend Chiming was moody, almost melancholy. She sat at a window, chin propped on hands, watching the sunset on Manila Bay.
“The sun is so red,” she kept saying. “Why is the sun so red?”
Mrs. Magsaysay said the sun didn’t look unusually red to her. Driving back to the city in the evening, she saw the skies radiant with moonlight and fleetingly thought it would be a safe night for flying.
After supper, she sat down for the picture show but did not, as her husband had advised, sit through all the movies. Before retiring, she took a spoonful of a tranquilizing liquid. Nevertheless, she could not fall asleep at once. Annoyed, she rose and, this time without bothering to use the spoon, gulped down the tranquilizer from the bottle. “Now,” she thought, “I should be able to go to sleep.” But her slumber that night was troubled, though she had not been worrying about her husband’s safety.
In the South
He had arrived at the airport at around one in the afternoon, had changed into gray trousers and a pastel blue barong before boarding the Mount Pinatubo. At two minutes past one, his plane took off for the South. There were 27 persons aboard and he had to sit on a bunk. When his guests complained of the heat in the plane, he said he had had the air-conditioning removed from the presidential plane to avoid public criticism. “We’ll all just have to sweat it out,” he said. He added that he had named the plane after the highest peak in Zambales, where he had operated as a guerrilla during the war.
At a quarter past tree, the plane landed in Cebu City and, to the roar of guns and of a multitude burned black by the March sun, he descended and began the ten-hour tour of Cebu City that was to be his last public appearance.
His first words to the Cebuanos were about corn, for the South was then suffering from a shortage of its staple cereal. He promised them that 20,000 tons of corn were arriving from America to relieve the shortage.
Then he drove through packed streets decored with festive arches to the house of the elder Osmeña, to salute the former president and his wife. From the Osmeñas’ he went to the archbishop’s palace. After a chat with Archbishop Julio Rosales, he prayed in the chapel. The pictures taken of him there show him looking strangely pensive, though the strangeness may only be because we are so used to seeing him in action. People with him noted that he tarried, on his knees, in the chapel long after the others had risen and that there was an odd look of peace, of relief in his face when he emerged –as of “a man who had moved from darkness into light.”
At five that afternoon, he was at the University of the Visayas, to be made an honorary doctor of laws. It was dusk when the ceremonies started. Suddenly the lights went out and stayed out for a quarter of an hour. He stood in the darkness, on the platform, and no one came to lead him away. Afterwards the superstitious would say that they had felt it as ominous: that sudden darkness at a moment of glory.
Then he went to another school, the University of Southern Philippines, to speak on parental love and against neutralism. He still looked fresh but his baro had wilted and he hurried to the residence of a labor leader to change into a suit with tie and to eat supper. He was delighted with the menu: vegetables and dried fish, and his host gave him a pabaon: a package of the dried fish he had enjoyed so much. The dried fish would later be found scattered over the wreckage of his plane.
At eight that night, he was at the University of San Carlos, where he had the biggest audience of all during his Cebu City speaking tour. About two hours later, he was at the house of Governor Manuel Cuenco, for a brief chat. Then he proceeded to the residence of Serging Osmeña, then mayor of the city, with whom he was to have dinner, the last one of his life. As he sat down to eat, someone noted that there were 13 at the table.
He still had two engagements: at the Patria Recreation Hall, which was being inaugurated, and at the Club Filipino, which was holding a veterans forum. It was past midnight when, escorted by the two Osmeñas, he returned to the airport to take the plane back to Manila. He declined their invitations to stay the night in the city; he said he had an important conference in Malacañang in the morning.
As the list of passengers was read out, it was noted that he was No. 13. He grinned, shrugged his shoulders, said goodbye to the Osmeñas and boarded the plane. At about a quarter past one, Sunday, March 17, the Mount Pinatubo took off for Manila carrying aloft 26 very tired and sleepy people, only one of whom would reach the city alive. Ahead, just ten minutes away, a dark bulk in the moonlight, soared one of the most tragic mountains in Philippine history: Mount Manúnggal.
Manúnggal is a mountain range curving like an arm just north of Cebu City. It’s such an obscure mountain, Cebuanos themselves say they had never heard of it until the accident put its name on the front pages. Its peak rises about 3,000 feet above sea level. The lower slopes have been deforested by kaingins; the upper slopes are steep, ending not on sharp peaks but on rough plateaus. From the center of the range springs a river, the Balamban, which winds all around the mountain and its base and then flowds through the western part of Cebu island into the sea.
Ten minutes after it left Cebu, the Mount Pinatubo confronted Mount Manúnggal and was flying toward the central plateau of the range, which is the source of the Balamban. The plane had lost altitude –from “metal fatigue,” according to investigation– but could have cleared the mountain and flown safely beyond it but for a giant tree standing on the summit.
The tree, an ibalos, is about fifty feet tall. The plane must have been flying about 45 feet above the summit, high enough to clear the mountain range –if that ibalos tree had not been standing right in its path. And it was against that tree, not the mountain, the the Mount Pinatubo crashed.
As plane and tree collided, the passengers inside were hurled against or out of their seats and the tree sliced off one of the plane’s wings. This wing was found near the foot of the tree. The crippled plane itself dropped much further down, about a hundred feet down the slope, which explains survivor Nestor Mata’s sensation of “hurtling down a black bottomless pit.” When the plane hit the ground, it exploded and burst into flames.
The fire –so intense it melted metal and fused bodies into an almost solid lump of coal– raged most fiercely nearest the fuselage but spared the tail and cockpit. The passengers seated nearest the fuselage –there were apparently seven of them, including the President– were burned beyond recognition, were turned into a single mass of charred flesh. The President was identified only by a wristwatch and ring embedded in the black mass.
About 14 other bodies, also horribly burned, were thrown out of the plane by the explosion and scattered lower down the hill. A few feet away was another group of bodies that had been only partially burned.
Two of the pilots, General Benito Ebuen and Major Florencio Pobre, were apparently hurled forward, still strapped to their seats, against the engines. The first had his skull broken; the second had his head ripped off. A security officer, Major Felipe Nunag, seems to have survived the crash, though wounded in the head, and to have crawled out of the wreckage and some distance down the slope, quite a trip for a man who was dying and must have known it. His was one of the few bodies found intact.
The only survivor, reporter Nestor Mata of the Herald, may owe his luck to the fact that he was thrown out of the plane at the very instant it hit the ground. He had been dozing, was jolted awake by a flash –“like thousands of flashbulbs popping at one time” –felt himself flying, and heard the deafening boom of an explosion. He blacked out. When he came to, he found himself lying under tall trees, among twisted bits of metal. He smelled burning flesh and saw in the distance the awful conflagration and the bodies strewn around it. But it may have been his own flesh he smelled, for he had been burned from head to foot.
Several people dwelling on the mountain looked up that night and saw its peak ablaze: a splash of red in the white moonlight. Some had heard an explosion. But the hero of the rescue operation, Marcelino Nuya, who lives near the peak, only some 800 feet from the crash site, neither heard the explosion nor saw the mountain top on fire that night. All he had noticed was that the droning of a plane overhead late that night had suddenly stopped.
Marcelino Nuya, in his early 40s at the time of the disaster, was born in the lowland town of Compostela but has lived most of his life on the heights of Manúnggal. He was then the teniente of the mountain’s topmost barrio, though barrio is hardly the word for settlements of bamboo and cogon huts separated from one another by long lonely stretches of hillside, only patches of which are cultivated. Nuya’s house is more substantial than the others; its roof is of cogon but it has wooden walls and flooring. The house is 2,000 feet above sea level and beside it is a mountain spring that yields cold water.
Nuya is short and stocky and, though unschooled, has the courtesy and percipience of people who live close to nature and have studied it. That March night, he and his wife had sat up waiting for their eldest daughter, who had gone to a barrio dance. Up in the mountains, too, young people go dancing on Saturday night. When the daughter arrived, she had friends with her and they sat around a while longer chatting. It was long past midnight before Nuya and his wide got to bed. Before they fell asleep, they heard a plane roaring directly overhead. It sounded very close, as though it were flying very low. Suddenly the roaring stopped. In the stillness, Nuya and his wife wondered what had happened. “Maybe it fell,” she said. He listened but heard no crash, no explosion. So he went to sleep.
He was aroused from sleep early the next morning by a neighbor crying that the mountain top was on fire. Nuya went out to look and saw that the blaze was not a kaingin. He decided to climb at once to the peak. With him were his two sons and the neighbor. They were followed by Nuya’s white dog, whom he called Serging, after the mayor of Cebu City. The press would later discreetly change the name of the dog to Avante. It was the dog’s barking that lifted Nestor Mata from despair, giving him the strength to push himself up from the ground, lean against a tree and cry out, “Tao! Tao!”
The dog ran toward the voice, followed by Nuya and his companions, who had to hack their way through the thick foliage and the undergrowth. On an old clearing now covered with cogon, huddled against a tree, they saw something that looked hardly human, hardly alive. It was black and bloated from head to foot, with monstrous ears and denuded skull and wounds that reeked of the grave’s corruption. As they stared in horror, it limply lifted one black arm and gestured toward the burning plane and from its black mouth came sounds that seemed to them gibberish. Mata was talking in English and Tagalog, strange tongues to these mountain folk.
Yet they understood when he cried: “Help me, I’m in pain!”
Nuya spoke to the neighbor and the neighbor lifted the burned man and heaved him over his shoulder. The swollen flesh crushed like fruit and foul juices streamed out.
“Put me down! Put me down, please!” screamed the agonized Mata.
All that day they carried him down the mountain, on a hammock, to a village where passed the buses for Cebu City. In the village were newsmen who knew Mata well, but when they saw the heap of carrion in the hammock they could only gape aghast and ask, “Who are you?”
Late that night, the lone survivor reached Cebu City and the nation at last knew what had happened to the plane that left Cebu at past one that morning and seemed to have completely disappeared in the skies.
The Long Wait
Mrs. Magsaysay had risen early that morning, to prepare for mass. As she combed her hair at her dresser, she glanced at the newspaper that had been slipped under her door. On the front page she could see a large picture of her husband with garlands of flowers around his neck. She thought happily that he had had a nice welcome in Cebu and she said to herself: “The Osmeñas persuaded him to stay the night.”
She went down to the chapel with her children. During the mass, she noticed that someone had approached one of the Palace aides and was whispering in his ear. The aide rose and left the chapel. When he showed up again, she was having breakfast with the children. He said there were people who wanted to see her: the Pelaezes, the Manahans, the Manglapuses. When they were shown in they all looked so solemn she at once felt sure they were going to ask a very big favor.
“Have you people heard mass already?” She asked. “Have you had breakfast?”
She ordered more coffee for the visitors. Manny Pelaez sat down beside her and thoughtfully stirred his coffee.
“Well, what was it you wanted to see me about?” she prompted.
“It’s so hard to say,” he said.
“Nothing’s hard if you try,” she laughed. “Say it –and I’ll let Monching know.”
At last he got it out: “The President’s plane was due back at half-past three. It’s long overdue.”
Her eyes flew to the clock on the wall; it was almost nine.
“So he did leave Cebu City last night?”
“Yes, at about one.”
“Maybe he stopped off somewhere.”
“Maybe. There’s really no cause for alarm yet.”
She saw her children silently rising from the table and going off to their rooms. Raul Manglapus approached her. “Let’s go and pray,” he said. Suddenly she began to weep but allowed herself to be led to an altar in another room. But she could not concentrate. She looked around and said, “This is not my room. I want to be in my own room.”
During the next four days she would not eat or drink anything and would lose four pounds. There was a cruel rumor that afternoon that the plane had been found, that the President was safe, and she would emerge from her room looking hysterical with joy. But that night the grim news arrived from Cebu: Nestor Mata had said the plane had crashed and that, as far as he knew, there were no other survivors. By then, a great crowd had collected on the Palace grounds and the cry went up: “We want the First Lady.” Mrs. Magsaysay was told she would have to make an appearance, to instil hope in a populace that still refused to believe her husband was dead. She went out to them and told them that she, too, like them, was still waiting for him.
And many, though four years have passed, are still waiting for him. Even as the news of his death was being flashed to the nation, the word was already going around that the Guy was not dead, that he was merely hiding himself for a while, but would eventually come down from the mountain to lead his people anew. The holocaust on the mountain top was bound to kindle the popular imagination, for mountains and folk leaders are closely associated in folklore. One thinks of Moses vanishing into the smoke and fire of Sinai until his people believed him dead; of Elias disappearing from Mount Carmel on a chariot of fire; of Bernardo Carpio, whom an earlier generation of Filipinos believed to be hiding on a mountain, too, from where, in the fullness of time, he would descend to led the people out of bondage. Today, four years after he died, the Magsaysay legend has attained the stature of myth and may in time become for us Filipinos what the Lincoln myth is for Americans.
In spite of the news from Cebu, Mrs. Magsaysay and her children stubbornly clung to the hope that rescuers sent to the crash site would find survivors, the President among them. That night, Jun Magsaysay kept vigil at his mother’s bedside. She had been given one injection after another to put her to sleep until she rebelled and cried out: “I don’t want to be put to sleep! I want to be conscious! I want to know!” And, anyway, the injections eventually had no effect. They could jab her arm till it bled; no kind sleep blacked out her grief.
So she lay sleepless that night and heard her son walking back and forth, back and forth, crackling his knuckles and moaning, “Daddy, Daddy — what happened to you? What happened to you?” She called to him and bade him lie down at her side. “No, I can’t sleep,” he said. “Just lie down,” she told him, “and rest.” But the boy refused to lie down, continued to pace the floor, crackling his knuckles and groaning.
Of his sisters, the younger one, Mila, had collapsed and was being kept in bed by her friends. The elder sister, Teresita, had gathered all her young relatives and the household help in the chapel and had been leading them in prayer all day and night.
Hope died out the next day when a younger brother of the President was flown to the crash site and identified the remains. A report was wired to the Palace and Jun Magsaysay was delegated to break the news to his mother. The moment he entered the room, biting his lips and pale with shock, she knew what he was going to say.
Before he had finished speaking, she flung her hands to her head and uttered a scream that rang through the Palace and froze the blood of all who heard it.
“Monchi-i-ing!” she cried –and fell backward as her son ran to catch her.
Her daughters were summoned to her room. Mila rose from bed but had to be carried back to it before she reached her mother’s room. Teresita, an image of fortitude, came up from the chapel, rosary in hand, dark glasses shrouding her eyes. She strode into her mother’s room and closed the door behind her. When the two of them were alone together and she had been told that her father’s body had been found, she unclenched her hand before her mother’s eyes. The girl had been gripping the rosary so hard she had crushed the beads.
Suddenly her face twisted. “I have lost faith in God!” she cried, hurling the rosary at a mirror. The mirror broke. Shocked, Mrs. Magsaysay ran toward her trembling daughter, but the girl broke away from her mother’s arms and fled to her room.
Mrs. Magsaysay forgot her grief. She went out of her room to seek out a cousin of hers, a Jesuit priest, whom she sent to her daughter. When the priest returned, he told Mrs. Magsaysay there was nothing to worry about. Teresita was merely suffering from shock and was already aghast at what she had done. “The girl,” said the priest, “was expecting a miracle.”
The remains arrived and were at the Palace for three days, but the widow and her children were never alone, even for a moment, with their dead. Day and night, lying in her bed, Mrs. Magsaysay heard the tramping of feet and felt the old house shaking as the masses stampeded up the stairs to bid farewell to their Guy. “Abah, we may crash,” she thought as the Palace swayed with the weight of the people.
She could not weep anymore. “I found out then,” she says, “that you can run out of tears too.” But not to be able to weep can be more terrible than weeping. The unshed tears hurt like stones under one’s eyelids.
During the funeral, all he could think of was that it was most uncomfortable, on such a hot day, to be wedged between two people. She was in the presidential car, seated between President and Mrs. Garcia. “Why can’t I be with my own family?” she asked herself peevishly, and herself answered the question: “Protocol! Protocol!” Then she wondered why she couldn’t be sitting in front beside the driver, instead of that aide. “It would be so much cooler there,” she thought, and idly noticed that the aide’s hair needed cutting. She glanced sideways at President Garcia sitting so still and stolid. She glanced at Inday Garcia quietly eating boiled eggs. She looked out the window at people running between cars, hurrying after the bier. “Won’t they get run over?” she wondered. Finally she concentrated on her husband’s horse, marching with such dignity just before their car, the empty saddle and boots on its back. On that hot crowded day, that horse alone looked cool and poised and whole. “It died a year later,” says Mrs. Magsaysay, “People wanted me to sell it but I said no. Then it fell sick. We had it operated on but it was no use. It died.”
At the graveyard, as the cannon boomed and the bugle sounded taps and the hot sun beat down on the multitude, what had felt like stones under her eyelids loosened at last and tears mercifully came streaming again from her eyes.
Mrs. Magsaysay says she used to dream a lot about her husband: “But since we moved to this new house of ours, I have dreamed of him only three or four times. The dreams are rather odd. He is wearing his old polo shirts. But he is never talking to me; he is always talking to somebody else, just like when he was alive.”
About ten months after the disaster, two groups of priests climbed Mount Manúnggal to the site of the crash. They found the plane’s wreckage still there and said mass on the spot. For congregation, they had the mountain folk, who live so far from church many of them had never heard mass until that day. On the spot where the body of the Guy was found somebody had placed a makeshift marker: a round piece of paper framed in bamboo. There had been an inscription on the paper but it was illegible when the priests got there.
On the site of the crash now stands a rough-hewn chapel which the mountain folk also use as an assembly hall.