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The First Gentleman of Cebu
By Manuel L. Quezon III
IN many respects, he was a modern-day Jose Yulo. A gentle, self-effacing and accomplished man, privileged to have served in all three branches of government, and in two of them with distinction. For like Jose Yulo, Marcelo Fernan had the distinction of not only heading a chamber of the legislature, but of becoming the Chief Justice of the land. Yulo became Speaker of the National Assembly after serving in the cabinet, and then became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Mercelo Fernan, after being in the puppet Assembly of the Marcos regime, became Chief Justice and then ended his career as a senator who had become Senate President.
Marcelo Fernan, too, was compared to the man Free Press readers used to call the “Private Citizen No. 1″ during his long retirement from active politics: Sergio Osmeña. Indeed, in his many years as the most prominent politician from Cebu, Marcelo Fernan did all he could do keep the memory of that exemplar of the gentleman-politico alive. Fernan would help establish the Sergio Osmeña memorial lectures. And like Osmeña, Fernan, while being considered an accomplished politician in his own right, was primarily considered by his peers to be something much more special: a kind, considerate gentlemen who was not too obsessed with power and privilege. And while he did not obsessively seek honors, honors sought him out. At the time of his death his walls were covered with plaques and citations and awards, both for his political achievements and for what he did as a private lawyer, educator, and loyal son of the Church.
Born in 1927, he belonged to the generation that found its childhood cut short by the war; he was even detained by the Japanese. Returning to school after peace was restored, he would tell his friends he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Manuel Briones, one time senator, failed candidate for vice-president, and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In one sense the ambition he confessed to his friends would find fruition: he would be all that his uncle was, and more. He became Senate President.
Fernan succesfully took the bar (he graduated from the University of the Philippines and yet bring more honor to his alma mater than that other famous Upean, Ferdinand Marcos),and became a succesful lawyer, making himself an honest and comfortable living. He began to teach; he married; he became a father and life was prosperous.
In 1959, Fernan’s political career began with his succesful candidacy for for membership in the Cebu City Planning Board. In 1962 he would run succesfully for membership in the Cebu Provincial Board. In 1971, he declared his candidacy for the position of delegate to the Constitutional Convention and won.
It was as a member of the ill-fated Con-Con that he would achieve greatness.
When, in 1973, cowed, bribed or deluded delegates meekly voted to approve the Marcos charter, Marcelo Fernan became one of only 16 delegates who did not succumb to the temptation to sell out, in the hope of preferment from the dictator or the pious hope that having voted for the charter, they would be in a position to convert Marcos back to the ways of democracy. Fernan voted “no” to the Charter; so many others voted yes. Years later, when delegates led by Diosdado Macapagal would try to undo what they had gamely acceded to previously by reconvening a rump Convention and declaring the 1973 Constitution null and void, Fernan could repeat what he said of the Marcos charter: “I did not sire it; it’s not even my bastard.” That dubious distinction would haunt the other delegates to their graves. He was not greedy, and so he could not be bribed; he was not that ambitious, and so he did not sell his vote for the chimerical expectation of a seat in the Interim National Assembly. He was not so short-sighted as to think that his countrymen would forget which way he voted when the roll call was called.
The greatness Fernan achieved in the moment he voted against the Marcos Constitution was never sullied by his eventually joining the ranks of the dictator’s party machine. He participated in the elections of 1982 and became a member of the rubber-stamp Batasang Pambansa â‚¬â€œbut as a member of the opposition, becoming minority floor leader. His good friends the Osmenas reduced to political impotence, he alone at time represented the old guard of the anti-Marcos opposition in Cebu. And when the time came for him to do his part to add to the final push that toppled the dictatorship, he did so. It was as a member of that dubious assembly that Fernan participated in the efforts to expose Marcos’s attempts to rig the 1986 snap elections. And unlike so many members of the Batasan, when it was quietly dissolved, Fernan went quietly. He was never one to hold on to a position at the expense of his dignity.
A grateful President Aquino elevated him to the Supreme Court. In three short years he found himself the 19th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. And under his watch the Supreme Court maintained its newly-restored independence. He did not leave elective office in order to become a toady. Indeed, the Fernan Court handed down decisions that irked the Aquino administration; and yet it gained the respect of that administration precisely because of the Fernan Court refusing to succumb to any political pressure, real or imagined. And when, in 1989, Fernan was offered the titular leadership of a Junta to be established by the putschists, Fernan turned them down just as he had turned down an offer by Ferdinand Marcos to put him in the Supreme Court. Fernan would be loyal to his Republic: he did not fight Marcos, he declared on national television, only to be a party to the destruction of consitutional government by the military.
As Chief Justice, Fernan was proud of having established the system of having continuous trials which, if it did not radically improve the quality of justice that was dispensed, at least caused the wheels of justice to grind less slowly.
But in 1991 Fernan relinquished the supreme magistracy of the land in order to porsue an altogether different ambition: to be president, or, if he would not be president, to be vice-president. He would, in the end, become neither. He had agonized too long over the question of resigning from the Supreme Court; he had been too slow to answer the call of ambition. And when he did, he found himself outspent and outfoxed, even when he decided to accept the nomination for the vice-presidency instead. There he found himself pitted against the unbeatable Joseph Estrada. He lost.
Like Sergio Osmena, he accepted the will of the people and returned to the practice of law, focusing on giving legal assistance to those who needed it most: the poor.
1995 and the senatorial election in that year found him given a new breath of political life, this time as a member of the Philippine Senate. He was elected on the Lakas-Laban ticket. It would turn out to be the last position of public trust to be given him by an admiring people. In the Senate, he became Assistant Majority Leader and sponsored his share of legislation. Three years later, on July 27, 1998, he was elected Senate President, succeeding Neptali Gonzalez.
As senator and Senate President, Marcelo Fernan would again achieve greatness, but not because of any particular political act on his part, but because of who he was. While his very elevation to the position of Senate President had less to do with his clout as a senator and more to do with his seniority and lack of ambition making him a soothing paterfamilias for the fractuous Senate- as Senate President he demonstrated what his life was all about: courage, dignity, duty.
Shortly after becoming Senate President, Fernan was diagnosed as having a lesion in the lung; he went to the United States to have it removed. But the cancer was metastizing too fast. This was one battle he could not win; but like other battles he fought, Fernan decided that it was not winning that mattered; it was how one fought. He decided he would stick to his post as long as he was able, and do the job the people had elected him to do. But he would do little to disguise the toll the cancer was taking on his health and appearance.
Always a dapper man, he caused a stir when he acknowledged in public what his nemesis Marcos had so earnestly tried to hide from his people: Marcelo Fernan admitted he was ill and showed the signs of his ailment, although he and his family would remain mum on the subject of what his illness actually was.
But the public knew, and the public sympathized with the sight of a chemotherapy-ravaged Senate President being wheeled to the podium to preside over tedious sessions.
Under his watch, the Senate found its debates reach a low point during the deliberations on the Visiting Forces Agreement; but what would be of consequence was not the actual vote on the VFA, but the quiet courage of the man who almost single-handedly tried to maintain the dignity of the chamber he presided over. Indeed the Senate passed no distinguished legislation while Fernan was Senate President, save for the VFA and one law that will go down in history as significant: the decision, by the Senate, to relinquish its pork barrel, a bold move that the lower house did not approve of.
And then it was time to go. And Marcelo Fernan did go, not stubbornly holding on to the position he had achieved to the bitter end as others might have done and so many expected. His battle with cancer lost, the time had come to make peace with his maker, and this he did. He resigned the Senate presidency, though not his position as senator, and the next thing the public knew, he was gone.
With his passing the country paused to take stock of the career of a man who represented something that will not be seen again: the seasoned politician who never forgot what it meant to be a gentleman. He was good, kind, studious and refined; most of all, he had principles.
He was like Sergio Osmeña, he was like Jose Yulo; and like the peers of those two men, his contemporaries were found by the public to be wanting in the characteristics that evoke the gratitude of a people. Even as Fernan faced death, his fellow senators began the bruising and humiliating battle for the Senate that resulted in a Solomonic solution that made no one happy, and which necessitated the intervention of the President: something against the most cherished traditions of the chamber Fernan once headed. Fernan did not bow to Marcos when in the Con-con, he did not bow to Marcos when he was in the Batasan, he did not bow to Aquino in the Supreme Court and he did not bow to Ramos and Estrada when he was in the Senate. But as he lay dying, it was not to his fellow senators that those fighting over his mantle as Senate chief ran to; it was to the President. And it was the President, as the Free Press suggested, who weighed in and decreed the new leadership in contravention of conventional wisdom: Old Marcos hand Blas Ople got the Senate presidency, while Franklin Drilon, who did so much to foster the impression he was Fernan’s anointed, was told to cool his heels until his time would come. And all the while, as Fernan lay dying, the Senate too was giving up the ghost on whatever pretentions to independence it still had. When Blas Ople and Franklin Drilon took turns orating before Fernan’s bier, paying him the unprecedented honor of holding his necrological service during the session, they were bidding farewell not only to a rare individual, but to one of the most cherished —and most often lost, if not often regained— pretentions of the chamber they belonged to: its independence from the Palace.
How quickly can the meaning of a life be forgotten by those who claim to have admired it.
Marcelo Fernan, near the end of his life, mused to a writer that his final illness had taught him that political power and official positions were as nothing in the larger scheme of things. He saw what too few of his fellow politicians have come to realize; the pity is that with his death there will be no more like him, capable of realizing such humbling truths.
Same Dog, Different Collar?
March 18, 1972–FOUR months ago, the overwhelming majority of the electorate voted against six of the eight NP senatorial candidates (picked by President and Mrs. Marcos) as an act of protest against the Marcos Administration. No other administration had inflicted so much suffering on the Filipino people since the establishment of the Republic! Mr. Marcos, it was clear, could not win if he ran for President again—not if the elections are clean. He might not even make it if he ran for senator.
But if Mr. Marcos were to run for deputy in Ilocos Norte under the Parliamentary system, he would surely win in that province. Once in Parliament he could shoot for the Premiership—and get it. Nacionalista congressmen, with huge sums in criminal allowances collected during their present term and with additional financial support from Malacañang plus electoral frauds and terrorism, would support for Parliament on their respective districts and most of them would win—and, in gratitude for the help extended them during the elections, not to mention whatever they might get after, vote for Mr. Marcos for Premier. Thus, Mr. Marcos would be head of state for the third time. He would have run, in effect, for reelection a second time and won.
The evils of having a reelectionist President or head of state are well known and most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had declared that they were against reelection for the President. A reelectionist President would mean monstrous graft and corruption during his administration to collect the necessary funds for his reelection campaign, then mass frauds and terrorism at the polls in addition to massive vote-buying to ensure his victory. Both democracy and the currency would take a terrible licking to make the reelectionist President win, judging from what happened in 1969. As President he would be in a position to administer that licking. And how the people, apart from the democratic institutions, would suffer as prices of food, clothing and shelter shoot up! There would be more demonstrations and slaughter of demonstrators and threat, once more, of military dictatorship.
Mr. Marcos is barred from running for reelection under the present Constitution but if the Parliamentary system were adopted, he could run for Parliament and return to Malacañang, regardless of the cost to the nation. By a dirty coincidence, many of those who were against the Parliamentary system before last year’s elections were converted to it after the miserable showing made by the Administration in the senatorial poll. The only way for Mr. Marcos to be perpetuated in power after 1973 is for the Con-Con to junk the Presidential system, which they had previously favored, and adopt the Parliamentary.
Dogs are dogs. Their canine behavior should surprise no one; for them to act with the dignity of human beings would be unnatural. But there are Parliamentarists who are so from conviction. Their arguments in favor of the Parliamentary system are, however, arguments articulated in a vacuum. Without the adoption of a Ban-Marcos or Ban-the-Marcoses provision in the new charter, they would be acting—objectively, judging from the results of their action, not their intention—no differently from the professional tuta of Malacañang. (It is argued that such a ban should have no place in the new Constitution because it would be directed at an individual, yet without such a ban, provision against reelection of the head of state would be discriminatory against everyone except Mr. Marcos who would be allowed to run for the position for the third time. They couldn’t run for reelection but he could!) Parliamentarists would be the same dog, in effect, though with a different collar. Whatever their intentions, they would be paving the roads to hell.
By their fruits should you judge them.
“Ayos na ang Buto-Buto”
by Quijano de Manila
November 1963–THE cooked goose, the swung deal, the clinched victory, the mission accomplished have had rich utterance in street argot. Your ability to remember Arreglado na ang kilay will date you. Later gamier words for it are Kuarta na! and Yari na! The classic expression is Tapos na ang boksing, which will always sound unbearably sad to those who heard the great Recto saying it during the 1957 campaign.
This year’s campaign will go down in slang annals for broaching a new way to say curtains. The hot phrase wildfired through Manila during the last month of the campaign, is now to be heard wherever folk talk. Has the eighth passenger climbed into the A.C. jeepney? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has the bingo emcee picked up that elusive number? Ayos na ang butó-butó. Has your girl finally agreed to a movie date? Ayos na ang butó-butó.
The literal meaning of it is: The voting’s over. The blossoming meanings are: It’s made, sewed up, completed, settled, on the way, in the bag, amen, fin, the end. The rites of politics required every candidate and his henchmen to claim cocksurely that, as far as they were concerned, the fight was over, the voting was over, long before the people stormed the polls. Now, as the two parties wrangle over who really won or lost, the people hurl back at them their own cry of pre-poll confidence. So what’s the use of post-poll wrangling? Ayos na ang butó-butó!
The birth of that byword was a major event of the campaign, which ended with a bang-bang-bang. The first bang was the War over the Mestizo. The second bang was the Apocalypse according to St. Robot. The third bang was the pair of avance mitings on Plaza Miranda. It wasn’t a dull campaign, and don’t let anybody tell you different. Funny things happened to the politicos on their way to public office.
The fun began with the assault on the mestizo. Just when people were thinking the NPs should be thrashed for conducting what can only be described as a hate campaign, the LPs, who had been behaving more primly, got their nice record spoiled for them by their own chief, the President, with his unhappy remark on the “mestizo arrogance” of Vice-President Pelaez. Though efforts were made to explain away the gibe, the general reaction was: Why bring up racism at all? But if that’s the point of the fuss, then the matter doesn’t end here, and the veep, too, must be haled in and declared just as guilty as the President in this matter of racism. Or maybe guiltier. The President’s tongue slipped only once; but the veep, in his campaign, at least in Bulacan, brought up the question of race in after speech, as all those who saw him campaigning can testify.
In Bulacan, the veep invariably began his speeches by denying, apropos of nothing, that he was a mestizo, or half-white. This was before anybody accused him of “mestizo arrogance.” He seemed to feel a need to explain away his European color and appearance, and his explanation was mystical: his mother had “conceived” him after St. Anthony. But though his skin was fair, his heart was kayumanggi. In other words, though he might look like a mestizo, he really was not a mestizo. Now this is equivalent to a Harlem Negro saying that, despite his looks, he’s really a Dutchman. Fellow Negroes could accuse him of being ashamed of his race. Fellow mestizos could complain that before the President is said to have insulted their breed, Pelaez had already done son, by gratuitously denying to be what he obviously is. Dark-skinned Filipinos may feel flattered that their vice-president is trying to pass for brown; but a man who’s embarrassed by the color of his skin, and apologizes for it, ultimately heightens our awareness of racial differences. Why bring up racism at all, we justifiably cry. And Pelaez is as bound to answer that question as his adversary.
Fortunately for the nation, before barricades could be put up by the chabacanos of Cavite and Zamboanga and the entresuelistas of Manila, the potential Battle of Birmingham in reserve got kicked off center stage by another act: the unturbanned magus called Robot with his clouded crystal ball. Robot’s revelations shook the local political earth. The Liberals would win the senatorial race by 5-3, or more likely by 6-2, with either Padilla or Roxas as topnotcher, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Ziga, Climaco and Liwag. The eighth place would be contested by De la Rosa, Balao, Puyat and Cuenco, with the first two having “a slight edge over the others.”
As it turned out, the topnotcher berth was contested by Roxas and Tolentino, not Padilla and Roxas; Puyat, whom Robot placed almost outside the magic eight, landed in fifth place; De la Rosa, Balao and Cuenco ended way, way below eighth place; and the unmentioned Ganzon and Lim fought it out with Climaco for the tail end of the line.
The Robot findings, released to the press a week before election day, were published three days before the elections, and one day before the U.P. statistical center released its own poll survey, which also had the LPs leading, 6-2, with Padilla and Roxas in the first two places, followed by Tolentino, Diokno, Climaco, Ziga and Liwag, and the eighth place being contested by Balao and Puyat. As Robot, aggrieved, would later point out, the U.P. poll escaped the ire of the politicians, but Robot got it from both sides.
De la Rosa and Cuenco angrily questioned the accuracy of the poll. The NPs were, of course, even angrier. They denounced the poll as “part of the Liberal scheme to cheat” in the elections, “a smoke-screen to prepare the people’s minds to accept rigged election returns.” The Robot poll results had been “doctored” to produce a “bandwagon mentality” among voters, and their “premature publication” was an LP propaganda gimmick. The NPs insisted that they would either sweep the polls or get a clear majority.
The day after the elections, people were quipping that there was one sure loser: Robot. Its forecast had flopped.
Says Vice-President Francisco Lopez of Robot Statistics: “What we published was an estimate of the situation as of a given period of time: from late October to early November. It was not a forecast, it was not a prediction. If we had wanted to make a real forecast, we would have continued polling up to the eve of the elections.”
The trouble with this disclaimer is that Robot was using that very word, forecast, during the days it was frantically trying to decide whether or not to publish its poll findings ahead of the balloting, or wait, as it did in 1959, until the last ballot had been cast. One-upmanship finally prompted the “premature publication.” Robot feared to be one-upped by another poll organization, and decided to release its findings to the press a week before election day.
The other poll organization was Index, which had, in late October, begun publishing a series of reports on voter attitudes based on a survey. Robot felt sure that the series would be climaxed by a forecast of election results. The fear was unfounded; but Robot not only didn’t want to be beaten to a forecast but was afraid the poll figures it had been gathering month after month since the campaign started might be stolen and used.
On November 2, Robot invited three distinguished citizens—Father Francisco Araneta, Professor Ariston Estrada and Judge Pastor Endencia—to read its latest survey on poll trends. Copies of the survey were read and signed by the three men, and then locked up in a vault, as proof that Robot already had those figures at that time. One-upmanship is a nervous way of life in every branch of Madison Avenue.
This was on a Saturday. The following Monday, November 4, Robot, apparently still jittery about being beaten to the draw, assembled representatives of the four leading Manila newspapers and provided them with copies of the latest Robot poll results.
Explains Robot’s Armando Baltazar: “That was for their guidance only. We wanted them to know the real score. Their columnists were making predictions and might go off on a wild tangent. The publishers could keep their columnists from going out on a limb if they knew what the figures were. But we made it clear that we did not want any publication.”
Robot’s George Cohen modifies this: the poll figures were released to the press; it was up to the press to decide whether to publish them or not, and when. On November 8, Cohen dispatched a letter to the publishers:
“You will recall last Monday that Robot wished to impose an embargo on the release of its election estimates until the closing of the polls on election day when survey results could not possibly be accused of influencing events. Robot in fact does not believe that at this stage of the election campaign a release of its survey results now would significantly affect its outcome—if at all. However, Robot does not wish to be the first polling group to be releasing pre-election forecasts—but as a public opinion/marketing research organization it feels obliged researchers do. Thus please feel free to publish the results enclosed within red quotation marks if other polling organizations or research groups (exclude informal newspaper or magazine surveys) such as the University of the Philippines, Index, et al. have or are in the act of publishing national senatorial election forecasts. If not, Robot respectfully requests that you withhold publication until the polls have closed on election day.
“Finally we wish to remind that some 15% of the voters still do not know whom they will select for their senatorial choices on November 12. This figure constitutes a 4% increase over the ‘don’t know’ers’ since September, thus indicating considerable uncertainty on the part of the voters. Thus last minute shifts of preferences are possible even on election day—which could upset the above forecast. What the forecast represents is the best estimate of the state of the public opinion at a given point of time, 26 October to 6 November.”
Through the tangle of language, the publishers presumably saw permission to publish, since the U.P. was “in the act of publishing” its own forecast. But why did Robot’s “best estimate of the state of public opinion” fail to tally with actual public opinion as expressed in the elections?
Cohen and his colleagues say that they went by trends. When they began polling in July, Puyat, for instance, was in fourth place but kept slipping, slipping, until he was in seventh or eighth place. The Puyat trend was, therefore, downward: “But he didn’t slip as much as we expected him to. He caught it in time, arrested his decline.” Robot failed to catch that stoppage and went by the general Puyat trend—which is why the forecast had him still slipping off the tail end.
Another candidate whose trend was a downward slide. De la Rosa, was popularly believed to be a sure winner. Robot was a bit more accurate here, and surprised everybody by having De la Rosa just hovering over the edge of the eighth place: “If we had surveyed more, up to a few days before the elections, we might have caught him on his way out.” The U.P. poll did find De la Rosa already out.
The three fastest risers, according to Robot, were Roxas, Diokno and Liwag. Diokno started at 13th or 14th place, rose steadily, suddenly shot straight up during the last phase of the campaign. If graphed, his progress would be a long slanting line that ends in a steep curve. Liwag started at 16th, worked his way up to 7th in a more even manner. Most spectacular of all was Roxas, who started below the eighth place and rocketed to the top. Robot’s data indicate how effective propaganda can be when skillfully used, for Roxas, Diokno and Liwag had the smartest publicity machines in this campaign.
The candidates that really got Robot into trouble were Climaco and Ganzon. Robot estimated that Climaco would outpoll Ganzon in Mindanao, 2-1. The elections proved they had about even strength there—which, says Cohen, is inexplicable, since Climaco, after all, is from Mindanao. Cohen hazards the guess that Climaco’s drive against smuggling while in Customs turned the Moro vote against him.
To people who say that Robot took a beating in these elections, Cohen points out that his organization had a near-perfect score in the gubernatorial races, pinpointing the winners in 21 out of the 22 provinces it polled. (Robot, like everybody else, guessed wrong in Bulacan.) Cohen also claims that Robot scored almost 100% in its forecast of election results in the Manila area; it missed only one winner: the vice-mayor of Quezon City. But Robot saw the Manila vote as 4-4 in the senatorial election (the actual ratio was 6-2 in favor of the NPs) and 4-1 in the mayoralty contest (Villegas actually had only about a 2-1 lead over Oca). Cohen has two explanations for the increased figures in favor of the NPs: their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda was a major event of the campaign, giving the NP senatorial candidates, and Oca along with them, the benefit of maximum public exposure, and exerting a terrific influence on the undecided vote. Cohen’s other explanation is that Manila has a large floating vote: the squatters but still vote in the city. Because it polled only actual residents, Robot failed to get a picture of the total Manila vote.
Just how much do these forecasts affect voters’ decisions? In the U.S. not at all—or so they say. In the Philippines, such forecasts, Cohen admits, may sway votes, but only if published, say, ten days or two weeks before the elections. But a forecast published practically on the eve of the polls can have little effect on them. Cohen cites an instance. In 1961, just two days before the elections, Mayor Lacson, against Robot’s wishes, published the Robot poll survey that showed Garcia was losing. The forecast, according to Cohen, did not appreciably alter voting trends. But it did have one unexpected result that has passed into political legend. The story goes that money given to the leaders to distribute on election day was not handed out because, the leaders told themselves, Garcia was going to lose anyway. Failure to flood the polls with handouts may have helped Garcia lose.
The NPs, who are usually so zealous for freedom of expression, are currently up in arms against public opinion polls. Senator Primicias threatened to sue Robot for multimillion-peso damages and to have it investigated as a foreign agency interfering with Philippine elections. Robot says its capital is 90% Filipino, that the company is run by Filipinos, and that it is in no way subsidized by World Gallup Polls. One NP who doesn’t believe the Robot forecast was “rigged to please its client” (Robot says it had clients from both parties in this campaign) is Diokno. Robot tried to assess the situation as best it could, but, says Diokno, it failed to take into account an important “x-factor”: people’s fear of the administration. As Robot was not really undecided, was already for the NP, but preferred to keep mum and express itself only at the polling booths, for fear of reprisals.
The Robot forecast appeared the Saturday before election day. The NPs had their miting de avance on Plaza Miranda that Monday night; and Robot, the second favorite target, suffered the slings and arrows for outrageous fortune-telling. The crowd the NPs drew that night was unquestionably the hugest to assemble on Plaza Miranda since the time of Magsaysay.
Manileños who attended both the LP and the NP miting de avance could not but note the “visayanization” of their city, its utter conquest by the seafolk of the South. The LP crowd was still recognizable Manileño (Villegas’s yeba urbanites) though it’s significant that the speaker who made the greatest hit with the audience that Sunday night was Climaco of Zamboanga. The other “Star of the South,” Gerry Roxas, didn’t shine so bright that night, through no fault of his own. He was rising to speak when word came that the President had not yet arrived. It turned out that the President had not yet arrived; so Roxas preceeded to the mike. As he started to speak the stage and plaza buzzed again with he rumor that the President was already there. “I rushed through my speech,” recalls Roxas, “like a locomotive.” Had he been allowed to speak at his leisure he might have proved that the witching powers associated with his province now work as well on Plaza Miranda.
The following night, at the NP miting de avance, there was again no doubt that the crowd responded most fraternally to another Southerner, Senator Roseller Lim of Zamboanga—and this on the testimony of a Pampango-Manileño, Senator Puyat. A forecaster could indeed have read in the size and temper of that multitude on Plaza Miranda the great swing of the South to the Opposition that the next day’s polls would reveal. If the politicos want a new rule on Manila, here’s a possible one: As Manila goes, the South goes. Because Manila is now the biggest Southern city in the Philippines.
Puyat says he felt rather scared when the atmosphere became so charged with passion the miting turned into a mighty dialogue between speaker on stage and the crowd below.
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
SPEAKER: Ano ang gagawin kay Macapagal?
“I felt,” says Puyat, “that if the speaker had shouted On to Malacañang! that mob would have followed—and I fear to think what would have happened there. We politicians carry a big responsibility.”
As one listened to Puyat’s account, one had the creepy feeling, too, that our political campaigns have gotten out of hand and are becoming sick.
But during those two pre-poll days, Sunday and Monday, it felt like fiesta, like New Year’s Eve, especially since the firecracker ban had apparently been lifted and the savage things crackled underfoot, along with the watusi, as massed marchers, as torrents of torches, surged up every street toward the town plazas and the mitings de avance. As the people marched shouting, fireworks lit up the skies to the thunder of rockets. The candidates held open house all day and all night; arroz caldo and pancit perpetually simmered in caldrons in the yards. Bus rides got pelted with showers of leaflets as if it was carnival time and this was the confetti. A blaze of electric bulbs framed the portraits of the candidates, full length, in full color, in action, in the style started by Lacson: the giant figures jutting right out of the frames, waving a hand, or pointing at the beholder, or striding forward into the air. Some billboards carried multiple portraits and a title: The Four Aces, The Magnificent 7. One rode through one gorgeous arch after another and pondered the thought that politicians are the only people in the world who build triumphal arches before they have triumphed. Ah, but it seemed so right then; everybody would win; we all shared in the excitement; the very air was festive. We were having a cold wave then, and the campaigners turned out in hats and jackets, in sweaters and mufflers. The country was supposed to have gone dry, but you could get a drink in almost any restaurant along the way. They served it in pitchers and you drank it from cups or colored plastic glasses.
After all that, election day itself was anticlimactic, very quiet in Manila. Mayor Villegas began the day with a mass, breakfasted at a leader’s house, had a haircut and a mud pack, holed up at the Army and Navy. Oca voted in San Nicholas, slept out the day at a friend’s house in Lavezares. Senator Puyat and his wife voted at the precinct on Mayon in Quezon City. Voting at the same time in the same place were Senator Padilla and his wife. Contrapartidos but good friends, Puyat and Padilla hailed each other, their wives merrily chatted. Right after the LP miting de avance, which ended at dawn, Roxas gave a thank-you breakfast for his campaign staff, then flew to Roxas City, where he stayed through election day. “That was,” he says, “the first time I went to Capiz in this campaign.” Diokno, too, departed for his home province, Batangas, right after the NP miting de avance, which ended only a couple of hours before the polls opened. He and his wife were among the first to vote in Taal. Riding back to Manila, they were stopped by so many well-wishers along the way it was noon when they reached home. Diokno fled to bed and slept till evening.
In Manila, few people stayed up all night to follow the counting; but the surrounding towns kept vigil and the winners started celebrating at dawn. In one suburban town, victory was proclaimed at four a.m. by a fire engine racing up and down the streets, siren a-wailing and bell a-ringing, while the people on it yelled: “Nanalo si Mayor!” For the losers, that was a bleak day, the caldrons in the yard now cold and empty, and out on the street, in front of their gates, the mocking music of the brass bands hired by the winners to serenade the defeated with the Marcha Funebre, a cute rite of Philippine elections.
The NPs were leading in the Senate race by 6-2, then by 5-3; and there was a rumor that Terry Adevoso was sneaking out of the country: someone had seen him getting a passport. Then the tide turned: the LPs briefly led by 5-3, then dropped to a tie with the Opposition; and the talk now was that Adevoso had changed his mind about leaving. Adevoso himself says, laughing, that he had really been scheduled to leave the day after the polls, to visit shipyards in Japan; but the trip was postponed for a few days so he could make a stop first in Hong Kong to attend the opening of the PNB branch there.
The Thursday after the elections, the NPs began muttering about the slow-down in election returns reportage. They assembled for an angry conference that night at Amang Rodriguez’s office in Congress, behind closed doors, but there are guesses as to what they decided to do. The LPs were suspected of withholding returns from the provinces they controlled so they would know if they had a big enough backload of votes to cover the NP lead. If they didn’t have enough, they would know just how many more votes they must conjure up to win. Or so the NPs suspected. So, the NPs replied to the LP slow-down with a slow-down of their own, according to observers, who say that returns from such NP bailiwicks as Rizal, Quezon, Batangas and Negros Occidental suddenly dwindled to a trickle, because the NPs were withholding their returns too, so the LPs wouldn’t know just how far ahead the Opposition was. Whether this battle of slow-downs is true or not, there was certainly a freezing of the 4-4 position through the weekend.
While the NPs were conferring that Thursday night, word was going around that Gerry Roxas was protesting Tolentino’s position as topnotcher. The next day, Roxas issued a denial that he had lodged any protest: “I have not even seen Johnny Bora (Comelec chairman), much less talked with him. I’m happy enough that I’m included in the win group.” But in private Roxas said that there was an already admitted mistake in the figures credited to Tolentino. The error amounted to over 70,000 votes, which, if cancelled, would erase Tolentino’s 20,000-vote lead over Roxas and put Roxas in first place. However, Roxas’s attitude was: “Comelec made the mistake, it’s up to Comelec to correct.” Gerry said he didn’t want people to think he was so greedy for glory that just winning was not enough for him, he had to be topnotcher too.
Comelec had made no revision of the senatorial standings when election week ended. Tolentino stayed in first, Roxas in second. The Senate race was still tied at 4-4. Adevoso was still waiting for the pieces of his jigsaw puzzle to fall into place, but now said that a “4-4 result would be satisfactory enough for us.” He stressed one point: when the campaign began back in July, a poll survey showed that only two of the LP candidates were among the top eight. By October, surveys were showing that five LPs had shot up to winning positions. The party machine had been tested, had acquitted itself. The final results might not come up to expectations. “But,” shrugs Adevoso, “1963 is just a laboratory year.”
Adevoso sees the administration in mid-term as “a sala in which the furniture is being rearranged.” Everything is helter-skelter. A visitor who walked in might get an impression of disorder, not knowing what was going on: “In the same way, a reform administration like this one is shakes up things. People who have been hurt, or think they have been hurt, are bound to be antagonistic. We cannot expect, in mid-term that everybody will understand that what has to be done is now what’s popular but what’s right.”
The LP “rearrangement of the furniture” has certainly shaken up the country’s political sala. If the 1963 elections are regarded purely as local elections, which is what they are supposed to be anyway, then the Liberals scored a sensational success, by winning some 70% of the provinces, including such NP domains as Bulacan and Iloilo. Adevoso says that of the country’s 12 biggest provinces only two were in Liberals hands before the polls. The elections gave them six more of the topnotch provinces: Pangasinan, Bulacan, Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Iloilo.
But if the LPs think a victory on the local level presages victory in 1965, they should ponder the recent history of the NPs, who likewise scored an overwhelming victory in the local elections of 1959 but found that their control of the provinces didn’t help them any in the presidential elections of 1961.
If, on the other hand, this year’s elections are regarded as a national contest between the President and the Opposition, which is how the campaign projected the fight, then the most that can be said, if the score says at 4-4, is that the NPs didn’t win it. Their basic argument was that the people should not, for their own good, give the President a majority in the Senate. It is, therefore, immaterial whether the LPs win by a sweep or by 5-2 or only end up in a tie. As long as the LPs get a Senate majority, even if only by one vote, then the NPs have lost, because the people will have given the President what he asked for and rejected the arguments of the Opposition.
Since all the other issues, from high prices to rice queues, got tied up with this question of whether or not it was safe to give Macapagal a Senate majority, the people, if they give it to him, can be said to have rejected all the other issues too, by giving the President a vote of confidence. For though 4-4 is hardly an impressive score, it must still be regarded as a vote of confidence, since it will mean that the people do not believe that an LP Senate, which they decree with a 4-4 score, will bring on the death of democracy, the horrors of dictatorship, harder times, higher prices, more rice queues and more ax murders—which is how the NP campaign line went.
But a mid-term election is also an assessment of the administration. The vote of confidence only means that the people do not believe the President will use the Senate to make himself a dictator; it does not necessarily imply approval of his performance so far. To gauge the people’s judgment of the New Era, this year’s score will have to be compared with the mid-term scores of previous administrations. Under Quirino, it was 8-0 against Quirino’s regime, a clear condemnation. Under Magsaysay, it was 7-1 for the administration, an accolade. Under Garcia, it was 5-3, a passing mark. A score of 4-4 for the New Era would mean that, at mid-term, the people assessed the New Era as much better than Quirino’s administration, far below Magsaysay’s, not as good as Garcia’s. The grade would thus be, not excellent, not good, and not bad, but merely fair. It amounts to a repetition of what’s becoming a cliché pronouncement on the New Era: suspended judgment.
Still another way of interpreting the senatorial election results is to disregard party tags and consider the winners as having bee elected for their individual qualities and attitudes. Diokno says that the top five winners—Tolentino, Roxas, Diokno, Puyat and himself—all have one thing in common: a reputation for being “uncontrollable” by Macapagal. The people, according to Diokno, expressed their disapproval of Macapagal by voting most heavily for men who are, in one way or another, anti-Macapagal.
There’s something to Diokno’s theory, but it collapses when we consider that he and Tolentino had heir most dramatic encounters with Macapagal last year. If the people were really voting against Macapagal, it would have been more logical for them to vote for the men whose battle against the President are still fresh in the mind, being recently in the headlines: Lim, for instance, because of his filibuster in the Senate; Cabangbang, especially, because of his defiance of the Palace; and Oca, too, because of his anti-administration strikes. Since all these much-headlined foes of the President lost, anti-Macapagalism can hardly be said to have been a strong factor in the elections.
The Stonehill case, on the other hand, which was being written off as an issue, now appears to have been a factor after all, since it can now be said to have helped Diokno and Liwag win, and to have killed off Lim, Balao and De la Rosa.
Whether the campaign of Pelaez was an important factor is still in question. The vice-president probably got a score of 4-4. The massing of the South behind the Opposition is undoubtedly partly due to him; but he failed to show a similar ability to sway the voters in Luzon. The test province here is Bulacan, which was a Nacionalista stronghold to begin with. Pelaez personally campaigned there, personally proclaimed and endorsed the local NP candidates. They mostly lost. Bulacan turned Liberal.
A main factor is party organization—but it, too, must be given a 4-4 rating. The Liberals placed utmost confidence in the value of a strong organization, a smooth party machine, a rigidly disciplined team—but the results don’t justify their faith. The Nacionalistas, with a creakier machine that lacked the oil of finance, did just as well, though hindsight now exposes their grave errors. They made Ziga a sure winner by not putting up a woman candidate to divide the feminine vote; and they chose as campaign manager a man who, it turns out, could not make his personal candidates win in his own province. Puyat thinks the NP machine will have to be completely overhauled. Politics, he says, is not just an election every two years. It’s not a sometime thing but an all-the-time thing. A party machine shouldn’t be left to rust in storage until just a few months before an election; it should be kept running all the time. “Right after one campaign is over,” says Puyat, “we should immediately start preparing for the next one.” Somebody has already been putting that idea to practice, in case the NPs haven’t noticed.
Puyat still had, last week, for campaign souvenir, the hoarseness of the candidate. The two “wonder boys” of these elections, Roxas and Diokno, were still vigorously audible. Both gallantly said that the big factor in their wins were their wives, who attended to campaign minutiae. Diokno added that his children (he has eight) were a big help too: “They didn’t fall sick!”
As for the country, it looked as if a skyful of trash had been dumped on it: collapsed arches, tattered streamers, rusting tin plates, and an autumn litter of brown leaflets scattering in the wind. Walls and posts looked leprous with the rot of stickers. Worse than teen-age naughtiness were the gross splotches with which politics defaced the land. No public surface, not even the paving of the streets, escaped the tar or paint of propaganda. The gaudy billboards still stood, no longer lit up; but whatever the words on them, they all now sadly or gladly said the same thing:
“Tapos na, pare, ang butó-butó!”
October 21, 1916
Inauguration of New Senate and First Completely Filipino Legislature
In the same historic McKinley plaza which sixteen years ago witnessed the transfer of the government of these islands from the military to the civil authority of the United States, there was witnessed last Monday another epoch-making act in the great political drama being unfolded here in the benevolent emancipation of the Filipino people under the protecting aegis of America. For the first time in their history the Filipino people gazed upon a senate or upper house of their own choosing. They saw the passing of a legislative body selected by the sovereign will of the American people as represented in the President and Congress of the United States, and the birth of a body chosen by the sovereign will of the Filipino people as expressed in the popular vote. In such transformation there was recorded another momentous advance in the political evolution of the Filipino people, and another aspiring dream of the years come true.
The scene of the gathering was befitting such an historic occasion, the setting being the foreground of the Ayuntamiento or seat of government. From the large pillared portals of the building out over the street in front there extended a platform where sat Governor General Harrison, Speaker Osmeña, Senate President Quezon, the members of the upper and lower houses, and other official functionaries. In front and facing the platform sat members of the judiciary and other branches of the government, and representatives of the army and navy, the consular corps, the church, and commercial and other organizations. Behind them and spreading out fanwise under the shady acacia trees of the plaza and on the adjoining streets, stood an enormous throng, estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Guarding the avenues of approach and holding back the immense throng from pressing too closely to the platform, were serried files of the United States troops and the Philippine constabulary, their uniforms and accoutrements lending a martial touch to the occasion.
It was about eleven o’clock when the imposing strains of the overture by the constabulary band heralded the opening of the ceremonies. As the music ceased the members of the senate and the lower house filed through the spacious doorway and took their seats on the platform, being followed almost immediately by Governor General Harrison, accompanied by the passing Philippine commission, and Speaker Osmeña and Senate President Quezon, both of whom had been elected to their respective posts just previous to the grand ceremony. In the presence of the vast throng, President Quezon and Speaker Osmeña each called his house to order, and then Governor General Harrison advanced to the speaker’s desk and read the messages received from President Wilson and Secretary of War Baker, which evoked enthusiastic responses. The chief executive then read (in Spanish) his message to the legislature, being greeted on several occasions with loud cheers.
Bank and Railroad
Described as “two acts of the greatest importance to the economic development of the islands,” the governor general referred to the creation of the Philippine National bank and the purchase of the controlling stock of the Manila Railroad company. Of the former he said that under wise management it would go far to “secure the freedom of Philippine commerce” and would stimulate agriculture and industry, and of the latter that it would greatly profit the Filipino people to hold in their own hands the power and direction of their principal system of land transportation. Thus they could “stimulate and distribute the commerce of the islands in the interests of the people as a whole, instead of primarily for the benefit of foreign stockholders.” The railroad would prove the “very backbone” of the plans of the Filipino people for “the fiscal independence and financial development of the archipelago.”
On this subject the chief executive said the civil service roster of July 1, 1916, showed: approximately 1500 Americans and 8,200 Filipinos in the civil service. Under the present policy of steady filipinization the position was gradually being reached where every bureau or office of the government would be under a Filipino chief or have a Filipino assistant. The terms of the new act showed clearly that congress intended that Filipino citizens should be given an opportunity to demonstrate their own capacity to establish a stable government here. “Should it be your pleasure, therefore, to reorganize the departments of the insular government, it should be the policy for the governor general to appoint a Filipino to be head of each department of which the law gives him the right of nomination.”