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Reflections on history, society and politics...

Updated: 2018-01-22T01:31:54.702-08:00


Face Off in the Palace: The Laurels versus Marcos


The Laurels and Ferdinand Marcos were no strangers to each other. It will be recalled that sometime in 1964, Marcos wanted to challenge then-President Diosdado Macapagal in the national convention of the Liberal Party. He realized later that he had no chance of winning in that convention as LP’s presidential standard-bearer, and so Marcos approached Speaker Jose “Pepito” Laurel, eldest son of the wartime president, to discuss his predicament. Right off, Speaker Laurel, along with a group of NPs that included Puyat, Roy, and Almendras, worked for Marcos’ conversion into a Nacionalista. Marcos’ entry in the NP, however, was not well received by the party’s hierarchy. Especially displeased was NP chief Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, who refused to give Marcos his blessing. My god! Pepito is bringing a devil to the party! Amang was quoted saying. But as Fate would have it, Pepito Laurel managed to sneak Marcos in, and from there win the presidency from Diosdado Macapagal in 1965. The rest is history. Fast forward to 1978. Just about two months before the scheduled interim Batasan Pambansa elections, President Marcos invited his fellow Nacionalistas to a conclave in Malacañang, where the president would attempt to pull off his biggest surprise. Present in that meeting were some NP eminentos: Emmanuel Pelaez, Arturo Tolentino, Jose Roy, Cornelio Villareal, J. Antonio Araneta, and the Laurel brothers, Speaker Jose “Pepito” Laurel, and his younger brother, Salvador “Doy” Laurel. Bereft of the usual pleasantries, President Marcos went straight to the jugular and announced the impending abolition of NP and LP, and in their stead, he proposed the creation of a new political party that would be in accord with the spirit of the “New Society.” Visibly upset by Marcos’ temerity to abolish the party that made him President, Speaker Pepito Laurel swooped on Marcos, and angrily said: “Just a moment, Mr. President. I was not coming here at all. I had sworn I would not come to Malacañang as long as martial law was in force. But I was told by NP Secretary General Constancio Castaneda that today was the burial of the Nacionalista Party. And so I put on my best suit, my funeral suit, and as you can see my tie is black. Because for the sake of the Nacionalista Party, which made us all, I will go anywhere, even to Malacañang.” Pepito Laurel, reported one account, was so enraged that he virtually pointed his finger at Marcos’ face and went on to lecture the president on what loyalty was all about. The silence, said Doy Laurel, who was beside his elder brother the whole time, was deafening. Of course, the people around Ferdinand Marcos were all taken aback, as was the president. No one reacted but everybody knew what the Speaker meant. Apparently, the Laurels could not accept that the Marcos would absorb the Nacionalista Party, which was a legacy of their father Jose P. Laurel, into his own Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. Then the Speaker made a last-ditch effort to save the NP, and told Marcos, with all the passion at his command, not to kill it. “This is the party that made you president, twice. It should not be recorded that this party born in 1907, was killed by Ferdinand Marcos in 1978. Don’t kill it, Mr. President. Just let it rest, let it sleep for a while.” In an effort to hasten their predicament, Speaker Laurel proposed a win-win solution and suggested to form— instead of a party— a movement that would serve as an “umbrella” for all candidates in the upcoming elections. The President, who held his peace all along, liked Pepito’s “umbrella idea,” and bought it almost immediately. And so it was settled. But before the Laurels could stalk off, the Speaker once again surveyed the people around the president, people he hardly knew, feigned a grin and said: “Mr. President, I noticed a lot of new faces around; when your boat sinks, these new faces will be the first to abandon you.” As it happened, only Vicente “Ting” Paterno, a Marcos official at that time, had the guts and the decency to[...]

CELIA DIAZ LAUREL: Muse of Philippine Theatre


By Donna Dimaano-BonoanUnlike other gods who had their counterpart goddesses, Dionysus or Bacchus, Greek god of theatre, appears to have had no particular muse. Good for us Filipinos, the Grecian roots and influence of arts and theatre has led to the emergence of our own stage drama royalties, one of whom was recognized in the 2016 Philippine Gawad Buhay Awards held last April 28, 2016 at Onstage in Greenbelt, Makati. Alongside National Artist for Dance Alice Reyes, Madame Celia Diaz Laurel (CDL), was given the Natatanging Gawad Award, a lifetime achievement award, for her exemplary work and dedication for Philippine theatre and arts in general.Start of Art. Maria Luz Celia Teresita Diaz Laurel, born to a devout Catholic family, had almost missed her UP Fine Arts education if her mother, as recounted by National Artist Nick Joaquin in the book Doy Laurel: In Profile, released in 2012, only insisted on her sweeping pagan belief on UP and its people. But trusting a friend who promised to look after the young Celia, Mrs. Conching Diaz finally allowed CDL to enroll in June 1947. And just like the war-ruined Villamor Hall where the School of Fine Arts and the Conservatory of Music were lodged, CDL was about to start a new chapter in her life which is far from the medical aspirations that she used to entertain when she was young.Art Masters. Landing at the helm of Dominador Castaneda (art history), Ambrosio Morales (modeling and sculpturing) and no less than the 1972 National Artist for Painting, Fernando Amorsolo, then director of the UP School of Fine Arts and 1976 National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino, CDL was destined to hone her innate creative bents to perfection. In Book I of her three-part autobiographic book, Colors of My Life: Celia Diaz Laurel, The Painter published in 2014, she related how elated she was when she knew that she will be mentored by Amorsolo and Guillermo, and how frustrated she became when she learned that she will have to wait for a few more years to make that happen because the masters apparently only taught higher college levels. Personal conversations and encounters with these Philippine art titans can also be found and are immortalized in the same book. Aside from vital lessons on contrasting dark and light elements or chiaroscuro which is evident in her artworks, the UP School of Fine Arts, said Celia, has also taught her virtues of diligence and patience – values which are essential in her craft and life. Drama Arts. In so little time, the Negros lass has literally won the UP community not only through her beauty (thus earning her the Sweetheart of Upsilon tag), but also by her admirable talents in poetry and long prose. Later, she would also join the UP Dramatic Club and Manila Community Players, an affliction for the performing arts which actually started while she was still in the Assumption Convent. From her first lead role as Lilay in Godofredo Burce Bunao’s Newer Years to her one-day notice Tia Consuelo role in Freddie Guerrero’s Forever and to the other lead roles she landed on or rather, landed on her, the theatre stage, aside from Doy Laurel’s heart, proved to be another territory she can rightfully claim.Family and Art. Early marriage and motherhood did not however stop Celia from improving her craft. In the same interview by Nick Joaquin, Doy Laurel shared that a few months after their first-born Suzie was born, he went back to UP College of Law while “Celia was back in fine arts; she was very serious about her painting and she got excellent grades.” Her theatrical stretches, however has continued to impress National Artist for Theatre Ma. Wilfrido Guerrero. In fact, in her book, CDL revealed, “A week after the play closed [Newer Years], I had a surprise visit from Ma. Wilfrido Guerrero, who was not only a noted playwright and director, but was the head of the UP Dramatic Club.”After receiving their college degrees in 1952, they headed to Yale University for their post-graduate studies on law for Doy and drama for Celia. Again,[...]

The Right To Get Angry


A little over a year after EDSA People Power restored democracy in our country, American journalist James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly came out with a scathing article that shook Cory Aquino to the roots of her hair. “A Damage Culture,” as it turned out, talked about our culture—the Filipino culture. Very few agreed with Fallows’ sententious conclusion at that time. Very many posited the view that our manifold problems would be resolved, that the light at the end of the tunnel was in sight, and that the “damage” in our culture Fallows wrote so harshly about could, in time, be repaired. That would have been understandable because for twenty years our nation was under Marcos’ thumb, and it would take time before we could uproot the evil and rid ourselves of the putrescence of the martial law years. Sure, Marcos did the country a lot of injustices. But blaming the Marcos regime alone, it would seem, was much too easy an answer. What made Marcos possible, what enabled him to hold on to power for so long, clearly proved Fallows’ point. The monumental problem in the Philippines, as Fallows would observe, was cultural and, in many ways, a preexisting condition even before martial law. He was dead right. Our problem stemmed from our “culture,” a unique culture that was shaped, molded, and in many ways, imposed upon us by our benevolent colonizers for centuries. Listen to this: “The countries that surround the Philippines have become the world's most famous showcases for the impact of culture on economic development. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore--all are short on natural resources, but all (as their officials never stop telling you) have clawed their way up through hard study and hard work. Unfortunately for its people, the Philippines illustrates the contrary: that culture can make a naturally rich country poor. There may be more miserable places to live in East Asia-- Vietnam, Cambodia--but there are few others where the culture itself, rather than a communist political system, is the main barrier to development. The culture in question is Filipino, but it has been heavily shaped by nearly a hundred years of the "Fil-Am relationship.' The result is apparently the only non-communist society in East Asia in which the average living standard is going down.”Every word Fallows has written about our culture rings true today. Nothing has changed except that our conditioned worsened. Sadly, the culture that Fallows says is damaged would in fact remain severely damaged more than two decades after.Of the things Fallows wrote in his article, there’s this one paragraph that got me hooked from beginning to end, especially now that we are gearing up for the 2016 presidential elections. Again, listen to his words, and listen very carefully: “Most of the time I spent in the Philippines, I walked around feeling angry, angry at myself when I brushed off the latest platoon of child beggars, angry at the beggars when I did give in, angry at the rich Filipinos for living behind high walls and guardhouses in the fortified Makati compounds euphemistically called villages, angry as I picked my way around piles of human feces left by homeless families living near the Philippine Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, angry at a society that had degenerated into a war of every man against every man.”Now why would I feel like someone had just walloped my stomach after reading those searing words? If James Fallows, a visiting foreigner, can get angry over what is happening in our country decades ago, why can’t we? The late Teodoro “Teddyman” Benigno, in his poignant essay titled “Our Damaged Culture,” provides us with an answer: “This is what gets me, the Filipino’s infinite capacity for patience. We can never really get angry, it seems, even if there is everything to get angry about.” WHAM! As election day approaches, we have all the right to get angry. We have all the right to say, fuck that establishment, damn all the sonouvabitches and d[...]

The Political Ideology of Alma Moreno


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Jottings on Jejomar Binay


Lest we all be fooled into thinking that the 2016 presidential election is a revolution to end all revolutions, let’s take a peek at the candidates aspiring for the nation’s highest post. Who are they? What kind of leadership will they bring to the presidency? If elected, will they really make a difference? I’m the eternal cynic, I suppose. But I have argued long and loud that with the present crop of candidates, all that will really change, it seems, is the façade nothing more, nothing less. Sorry to say, none of the contenders fits my description of an avenging hawk in midflight, out to swoop and redress popular grievances. Lo, the game is on and the Golden Fleece is really up for grabs. Come one, come all, if you have the money. Come one, come everybody if you’ve got the popularity. That is the tragedy of Philippine politics—heavy on rhetoric, weak in ideology and vision.Let us not jump into conclusions though because no matter what happens, a choice has to be made, and a president needs to be elected. After all, I am told, this is what democracy is all about.Let’s start with Vice President Jejomar Binay. In retrospect, Binay’s career in politics started out with a promise. A street parliamentarian and a human rights lawyer during Martial Law, Binay became mayor of the country’s financial capital when democracy was reclaimed in 1986. At first he was just an OIC mayor of Makati City, but Binay grabbed the opportunity by the forelock and defeated his opponents in the first local elections held under the Cory government. Binay was on the road since. Among the 2016 presidentiables, Binay appears to be a stand out in terms of dogged determination. He makes no bones about the fact that he covet the presidency more than anything else. The quirks of fate, however, turned against him when graft and corruption cases surfaced last year. As a result, a couple of other plunder cases that are now pending with the Ombudsman were unearthed as well. The charges are formidable. Even for the firm believer, this is rich, riveting headline stuff. But Binay denies the charges, denies having anything to do with P2.2-billion Makati City Hall parking building project, and denies having ill-gotten wealth – all this and more, much more. Win or lose, guilty or not, the accusations would continue to be a sword of Damocles on Binay’s head. Jojo Binay belongs to a legion of Filipino traditional politicians whose biggest sin is political dynasty. It is of public knowledge that aside from Vice President Binay, he has relatives in government service, and they are no less than his direct family members. His son Junjun is presently the suspended City Mayor of Makati City, his eldest daughter Nancy is also a Senator of the Republic, and Abigail, his lawyer daughter, is a member of the House of Representatives representing one of the legislative districts of Makati City. To complete the list, the matriarch too once held the mayoralty post back in 1998 -2001 when Binay could not run for mayor because of the three-year rule prohibition.In a defensive mode, Binay, in one of the academic fora he attended said, “Political dynasties do not cause poverty. Poverty is caused by poor leadership,” Oh, the shivers. How can politicians like him behave thusly? How can we allow them to do so? Political dynasty is a major ailment for politicians in this country. In truth, it is designed to keep the elite in power, an elite which refuses to wipe out poverty. All serious political scientists and scholars of Philippine history, I believe, agree on this point. Oh yes, grinding poverty is the bottomless well from which the Binays and their ilk draw their vigor and sustenance like the toil of Sisyphus. Very obviously, Binay’s “socialist programs” in Makati on health, education, benefits for senior citizens, local government attention to wakes and funeral expenses to name a few, are nothing more but a pittance. Now we are repeatedly told[...]

Too Bad, My Miriam Is Not Forever


The political ashfall thickens and we are looking for a savior, but none so far is on the horizon.It was supposed to be a night like no other night for Miriam Defensor Santiago (MDS), the night she was to immerse above all the other presidential aspirants. Like millions of Filipinos on that day, I too sat in wide-eyed lumps before my television set hoping to watch, who, among them could draw Excalibur faster from its scabbard than Miriam Defensor Santiago can. Or so I thought. Or so I remembered. As all have witnessed, last Sunday’s performance was MDS record low. As an aficionado, I was pained to watch her riposte even the simplest questions which she could have easily waded off during her healthier years. In so many occasions, her voice was weak, with little hoarseness in it. I felt her words exiting in crutches which naturally force a look-see of her faltering health. Ah, if only this were 1992, young MDS could have walloped them with her sharp and staccato delivery, with her wit that cuts through and through that could hit right at little Grace's messianic jugular.Unfortunately, MDS could not turn the political clock back. The “Miriam Phenomenon” that had once mesmerized a groping nation is all in the past now and all she needs now is a miracle, a major miracle, not only to get back to the days when she was in tip-top shape to mount a nationwide campaign, but also to run the government, in case.True that there is no law that disqualifies a candidate for public office on the sole reason of health, and here in MDS’ case, to have been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer but MDS’ medical condition calls for a deeper concern –that which puts the country at great risk. If a candidate with serious health issues gets elected as president and eventually fell ill to the point that he/she can no longer effectively carry out the functions of the office, what is there to do? Well, if the president’s health fails, the Constitution mandates that the system can fall back on the “spare tire,” the vice president. The dilemma actually lies not in the eventual deterioration or demise of the president but of the kind of “spare tire” we have. What happens when the vice president is not exactly what you would want for president? A concerned citizen once demanded MDS to publicly disclose her medical records which could have been her opportunity to dispel any doubts about her illness. And yet to this day, MDS refuses to take the challenge head on. Instead, she reiterated her claim that she is completely free from cancer and that she is well within her rights not to disclose her medical records for this would violate her right to privacy. She is a renowned constitutionalist alright, but I beg to disagree. I submit, however, that a citizen running for public office, especially a presidential aspirant of her stature, cannot hide behind the permissible ‘zones of privacy’ when grave health issues are concerned. Necessarily, when a person offers himself before the electorate as a candidate, everything that concerns his fitness to govern, whether moral, physical or mental, becomes a matter of public interest. In any case, as lawyers would say, MDS is deemed to have waived her right to privacy since day one.Culled from the Marcos experience, a unique provision under the 1987 Constitution explains the dynamics of governance during a president’s illness. The Constitution says: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness."Now, if this provision ought to solve the danger of a power vacuum in the executive department during a president’s illness, the more reason we must apply the principle of transparency for future presidents, MDS [...]

Today's Revolution: Rodrigo Duterte?


“He who submits to tyranny, loves it.”− J.P. RizalIf there is anything Rodrigo Duterte hated so much, it is the elementary notion of due process: a law which hears before it condemns. Under his watch as mayor, the City of Davao has no use for such notion. This is a perversion of what the rule of law is supposed to be. The next step for such perverted behavior is to capture the Golden Fleece− the presidency. Then comes, dictatorship.A shame to be proud of?Relished by many as the country’s “Punisher,” Duterte makes no qualms of his admiration for the Marcos dictatorship as the perfect model of authoritarian rule while at the same time bewailing everyone not to mess up with the Constitution. Pure admiration, however, is the easiest part; making it work is the real test. Duplicating the Marcos blueprint, of course, is fatal for as the saying goes, nothing grows under the Banyan tree. If Duterte were to plot the direction of dictatorship in this country, let me remind him that the framers of the 1987 Constitution, wary of another emerging dictator coming in our midst, fashioned the present martial law powers with intricate safeguards that could surely stop him dead on his tracks. This I’m most confident about.But for all the constitutional antidotes against a repetition of the Marcos regime, the quirks of history convinced me that indeed it would be very difficult to stop a much determined tyrant from imposing his will. And this what makes Rodrigo Duterte’s bid for the presidency so dangerous. I don’t know if you feel it, but I feel it and the mention of Rodrigo Duterte’s name alone, even in subterranean whispers, give me shivers down my spine. Duterte, who has been mayor since 1988, has flaunted more than 1000 victims of apparent death squad executions. And that is not all. In his recent interview with Rappler, Duterte threatened criminal suspects anew: “Kapag naging presidente ako, magtago na kayo. Yang 1,000 it will reach 50,000. I would kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable." If he were to make good of his promises of law and order and the speedy eradication of corruption from top to bottom, it is not hard to imagine that we would soon be having a ‘revolutionary government’ under a Duterte presidency. Seriously, nothing is “carved on tablets of imperishable stone, “not even the supreme law of the land. I have not read any of his statements on how he would go about imposing dictatorial rule with the 1987 Constitution firmly in place. Duterte is a lawyer by profession, but certainly not of Mr. Marcos’ caliber. All he has at the moment is the Marcosian daring. My surmise is that he would call for a constitutional revision to carry out his planned dictatorship under a revolutionary scheme, then a shift maybe to federalism when the dust settles.Duterte the revolutionary, hah!Change. The nation is whirling with change and the first shoot-to-kill victim would be the fundamental law, the 1987 Constitution we hold dear. Being a ruthless violator of the Bill of Rights, Duterte would not allow himself to be imprisoned by any constitution like Mr. Marcos’ martial law in 1972. For a time, Marcos too toyed with the idea of a revolutionary government but had to scrapped it altogether as he didn’t want to look like he violated the Constitution. In his book “Leaders: From Marcos to Arroyo,” prolific writer and political firebrand Bono Adaza pointed out that this was Ferdinand Marcos’ “grand and tragic mistake.” Instead of a revolutionary government, Marcos, for all his creativity and brilliance, chose in the end to go along traditional channels to institute his daring reforms. “Martial law is a prisoner of the Constitution,” wrote Adaza in one of the chapters of his magnificent book. “You must always act within the provisions of the Constitution. What Marcos should have done was to declare a revolutionary[...]

Vignettes from the Past—Salvador “Doy” Laurel


“One has to wait for the darkness of the night”, uttered one Chinese philosopher of yore, “to realize how splendid the day has been!” Gazing at the political circus heading to the 2016 elections where windbags, wimps and thieves dominate the show, a huge question mark looms over the political horizon: Where are the grandees of the yesteryear? Sadly, they are no longer around because great leaders, like it or not, come in a torrent or they don't come at all.Today you look around you simply want to puke in utter disgust. Many of our politicos at present do not have what it takes to be leaders. All they have going for them is that they are popular and they are very good at casting voodoo spell on the masses. But times have changed. Gone are the days when political leaders possessed the kind of integrity that could mount on granite; leaders of vision and substance, men who cared, men who would readily give up their ambitions, even their lives for the country. Speaking of great leaders, November 18 marks the 87th birth anniversary of one of the inimitable statesmen of the golden days, the chivalrous Batangueño gentleman Salvador “Doy” Laurel, who was Vice President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. But before his iconic display of selflessness in 1985 when he gave up his presidential ambition to unite a divided opposition at the senescent of the Marcos regime, Doy Laurel too graced the gilded halls of the Senate in 1968. This was a time, that glorious moment in our political history when the crass of materialism and opportunism had not yet taken over the nobility of public office. Doy Laurel, a first-timer in politics, trudged by and distinguished himself on a par with the political giants of his time such as Lorenzo Tanada, Jose W. Diokno, Emmanuel Pelaez, Arturo Tolentino, Jovito Salonga, Ambrosio Padilla, and many others who were almost as brilliant and prodigious. Novice with a cause –social justiceWhile politicos of today are propelled to public office despite the lack of outstanding academic achievement, appreciable experience or any earth-shaking contribution to society, leaders of the old could jerk your jaw in any direction with their impeccable pedigree. And the same is true with the young barrister, Doy Laurel, when he plunged into politics in the late sixties. Capped with a law degree from UP and a doctoral degree from Yale University, Doy was a renaissance man who showed a social conscience at the outset of his public life, quite rare for politicians of his stature (if any) these days. For his groundbreaking free legal aid work which greatly benefited the poor and the unwanted, Doy crashed the headlines and earned the cognomen of “Mr. Public Defender.” Soon came the founding of the Citizen’s Legal Aid Society of the Philippines or CLASP, which later on became a nationwide organization of legal aid lawyers, the first of its kind in the country– the mother of what we now call the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). Still and all, Doy had the gnawing realization that even though the poor could get a lawyer’s services for free, the law itself did not help them enough to afford the high cost of justice. It was then that Doy Laurel switched his talent and decided to run for the Senate. On the stump, Doy, a known orator even in his UP days, aroused the crowd with effortless ease: “Let me carry on this crusade for justice in the halls of the Senate! Help me bring down the high cost of justice! Help bring justice within the reach of the poor.”Such was his battle cry, the ‘cause’ that catapulted Doy to the Senate. Again, this was the 1967 Senatorial Elections when contenders for public office were men of eloquence, ideas and dedication to the cause of the people. Benjamin of the SenateFrom the very start, despite being an administration candidate, Doy Laurel emerged as an independent senator of the[...]

Salvador H. Laurel—“Mr. Public Defender” (Part 2)


Sworn to serve the poorThe trial by publicity surrounding the celebrated Laurel-Silva case must have turned the tide of Atty. Laurel’s promising and blissful career. His lifelong advocacy began with a phone call from Bulacan Represenative Teodulo Natividad who—mired in congressional inquiry of police brutalities—was torn one morning by the plight of a young couple who were mauled by Parañaque policemen. “Please,” he implored Atty. Laurel, “take the case for the prosecution.” Feeling that every word was exiting in crutches, Atty. Laurel accepted the case for free. By sheer happenstance, however, word leaked out to a newspaperman, who used the item for his staid column.The same morning that the story came out, Atty. Laurel received another phone call— this time from Justice Roman Ozaeta, president of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA). “Allow us to help you,” said Justice Ozaeta to the young barrister. “Let the prosecution of erring policemen be a public service of our group.” By some extraordinary act of fate, Atty. Laurel once again, said yes. As Atty. Laurel’s popularity began to soar, he later found himself swamped with a dozen of similar cases referred by the PBA involving pauper litigants. At times, penniless clients went directly to him, begging for free legal assistance. Suddenly, he was very much involved with legal aid. And the more he plunged himself into the plight of the poor the sooner he realized that many people suffered in silence because they could not afford the services of a lawyer. He promised to do something about it. But he needed all the help he could get. Atty. Laurel then visited Justice Ozaeta to raise his concerns. There he suggested the formation of a legal aid committee composed of lawyers who must not only be brilliant, but one with guts, and must be non-political. From thence, the Citizens Legal Assistance Committee (CLAC) was born. In accepting the chairmanship of the PBA anti-crime body, Atty. Laurel said thusly, “I shall do my best.” Early on, one could already predict that the young Laurel had the imprint of an exceptional leader just like his idol, the illustrious wartime president and former (acting) chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Jose P. Laurel. He also showed social conscience, quite rare for a man of his stature and prestige. But no matter how resolute he was at that time, he needed still a helping hand from his fellow civic-minded compañeros in order to push his advocacy: “It is high time that we in the legal profession should stand up as a man and fight criminality in all forms, especially crimes committed on helpless citizens by those in the police forces,” Atty. Laurel seethed. In a matter of weeks after the nascent of CLAC, the Laurel Law Office in Intramuros had been inundated with hundreds of request for free legal assistance. There is, however, one remarkable case among the pile of cases referred to CLAC that had societal implications even to this day: the case of Parisio Tayag. This case, by all accounts, had truly put CLAC on the map at a time when the bogey of police brutality was very much in the saddle. Again, our protagonist Atty. Laurel personally handled the case from womb to tomb.Murder in DinalupihanParisio Tayag was a destitute man working as a bus driver in Dinalupihan, Bataan. One day, as he was driving along barrio Luacan of said town, his bus bumped into a passenger jeepney, causing a small dent on in its rear fender. The town policeman, no less than Dinalupihan’s chief of police who also happens to be a close friend of the jeepney owner, came to investigate the incident. After a cursory look at the jeepney’s railing, he demanded a paltry sum of three hundred pesos from Tayag, allegedly for the repair of his friend’s vehicle. Tayag, unmoved, told the policeman that he was not at fault a[...]

Salvador H. Laurel— "Mr.Public Defender" (1)


In a litigious culture such as ours, lawyers are often seen as the repository of wit and intellect. But in most cases, this notion appears to be false. Today, courtrooms are plagued with a good number of half-witted tawdry attorneys lurking around the halls of justice, preying on clients for alms. What is so frustrating is the fact that most of these grammatically unsound lawyers belong to the public defender’s office of the government. Yes, they are tasked to handle cases of non-paying clients, or what we call “pauper litigants.” Most of these cases involve criminal abuses that are eventually thrown out either for lack of counsel or in a situation where the indigent is the accused─ imprisoned because of ineffective counsel. But there are exceptions of course: dedicated public servants who committed themselves early on to help the poor, those who could not afford the services of a lawyer. Atty. Salvador H. Laurel —highly educated with a law degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) and a doctoral degree from Yale University —was no ordinary lawyer in the sixties. He had already an established reputation as a trial lawyer before he was fished out of his lucrative corporate practice. Over time Atty. Laurel had lived up to his lawyer’s oath and become the leading public defender of his day. Not too long, renowned columnist Emil P. Jurado hailed him as “Mr. Public Defender,” a moniker he earned for his undying advocacy to help poor litigants in their fight for justice. Implicit in the due process clause of the Bill of Rights─ the right to be heard─ is “the right to counsel.” In hindsight, Atty. Salvador H. Laurel’s quiescent legacy best exemplifies what the Constitution really means when it elevated “the right to counsel” in the hierarchy of constitutional rights─ zealous legal protection sans pecuniary considerations.The Banjo Laurel caseHis first taste of the limelight as a lawyer came during the celebrated “Laurel-Silva” trial in the mid-60s. It was said that this celebrated case held the public and the print media in captivity for nineteen (19) consecutive days. The uproar of the vicious throng inflamed by the media then could be attributed to the fact that this was no ordinary crime for it involved the scion of one of most respectable political clan in the country— the Laurels of Batangas. On trial was Atty. Laurel’s nephew, Jaime “Banjo” Laurel, son of Speaker Jose B. Laurel. The case stemmed from a woman named Erlinda Gallegos-Laurel whose lifeless body was found in her apartment riddled with gunshot wounds. Slumped over her was Amado Silva─ her lover─ also with a gunshot wound on his temple. Initially, the findings of the police investigation ruled that it was a clear case of a “murder-suicide”: the victim Erlinda Laurel was shot to death by Amando Silva, who in turn fired the gun on himself. Case closed? Not quite, because a month later, another team of police investigators took over the case and submitted a different report. This time, the crime had morphed into a case of “murder-parricide” and the alleged perpetrator of the crime was no other than victim’s estranged husband, Banjo Laurel.Atty. Laurel handled the case through and through; from the preliminary investigation up to the trial. When the case was brought to court, it landed on the lap of Judge Jesus P. Morfe of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) Manila—a well-known stern magistrate and a true man of law. At the courtroom, a crowd of spectators and news reporters gathered to witness the big event during the first stages of the trial. Though the case dragged on for almost two years, the public remained fascinated until its end. The Star BrightensIt can be said that the limelight accorded to the “Laurel-Silva”case was larg[...]

The Story of Primitivo "Tibo" Mijares (Part2)


Rendezvous with historyMijares started off on the right foot upon his arrival in San Francisco. There, he secretly contacted the Philippine News editor Alex Esclamado and told him about his forthcoming defection from the Marcos government. In a matter of time, anti-Marcos activist Steve Psinakis joined the fray, and together they outlined a plan in preparation for Mijares’ explosive somersault. On February 20, 1975, Mijares finally made his rendezvous with history. He announced, through a press conference in San Francisco, that he was renouncing his former way of life, and that he was formally defecting from the martial law regime of the ruling duumvirate. The “conjugal dictators” got further kicking when Mijares castigated Marcos and pointedly explained how he planned the imposition of martial law because he never intended to relinquish power since day one. Naturally the American press loved such tales. And from there, Mijares’ story blew out of the water. The buck would have stopped there, but as it was, Mijares got an invitation to appear as star witness for the Congressional House International Relations subcommittee chaired by Congressman Donald Fraser (D-Minn.). This move sealed Mijares’ fate.Malacanang was rattled. Obviously, this one-time press censor chief knew too much, and so Marcos’ thugs frantically sought to prevent his appearance before the U.S. Congress. At that time, the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP) headed by Raul Manglapus was lobbying against U.S. economic and military assistance to the Philippines. By allowing Mijares to testify on the human rights violations and other abuses would result in a reduction of American support for the dictatorship. The cover-up was now in full swing.First bribe attemptBased on Mijares’ affidavit, as recounted in his book Conjugal Dictatorship, a phone conversation detailing the first bribe offer allegedly took place on the night of June 16, 1975, a day before his scheduled appearance in the Fraser committee. By then, he was already in a downtown motel somewhere in Washington when he received the call from Manila. Surprisingly, on the other end of the line was his good friend Secretary Guillermo De Vega. By Mijares’ account, here’s what happened.SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Tibo, gusto kang makausap ni Sir.”PRESIDENT MARCOS: “Tibo, puede bang huwag ka ng sumipot sa Komiteng yan? Alam mo, marami na tayong prublema dito. Baka madagdagan mo pa. Mabuti pa at bumalik ka na agad sa San Francisco.MIJARES: “But sir, there is no way I can back out now. I have already placed myself under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee.”PRESIDENT MARCOS: “Here is Gimo (Secretary De Vega) and he has something to tell you.” (Then transferring the telephone to Secretary De Vega.)SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Tibo, bumatsi ka na dyan and Trining will arrange for you ‘cinquenta’ in San Francisco.”MIJARES: “Mogs, (a nickname I use in addressing Secretary De Vega) hindi na puede. Nasabi ko na sa Komite na nandito na ako sa Washington. I have to testify.SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Yung figure ay libo. And you will get another Fifty when you leave the United States. Since you may not want to come home to Manila, you may want to go to Australia to be with your sister. Will send you another Fifty upon your arrival there.MIJARES: “Salamat na lang, Mogs. Pero inde kita puedeng mapagbigyan.SECRETARY DE VEGA: I will not accept your negative answer now. Pagaralan mong mabuti iyan, Tibo. You know very well that, if you testify that would mean a Declaration of War on your part against us here.” (Italics mine) MIJARES: “I realize that, and you can be sure I will act accordingly, Goodbye, Doc.”SECRETARY DE VEGA: “Sigue na, Tibo. Take care of yourself. Trining (Ambassador Trinidad Alconel) will contact you.As th[...]

The Story of Primitivo "Tibo" Mijares(Part 1)


Primitivo Mijares will always be known for his opus “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” a magnum that delivered a serious blow to the strongman rule. The book, published under strenuous circumstances in the United States on April 27, 1976, chronicled in great detail the truth about martial rule in the Philippines. In it, Mijares gave his readers what they wanted, an insider’s view of the shenanigans and corruption of the Marcos regime to which he claimed he was privy about—the fabrication of the 1973 referenda results, the faking of the Marcos war record, the systematic full scale seizure of government and some of the largest businesses, all this and many more. But the juiciest parts of Conjugal Dictatorship, of course, are the gossips. With obvious exaggeration and bitterness of a disillusioned journalist, Mijares wielded his trenchant pen with gustatory relish, and consequently opened up the Pandora’s Box of rumors on the private lives and loves of both Marcos and his wife, including the president’s amorous escapades every inch of the way. Needless to say, Marcos’ enemies have had their field day merchandising Mijares’ “political pornography” as solemn truth.Just exactly who was Primitivo Mijares in the inner igloos of power? Before his defection from the Marcos regime in 1975, which he did while on a special mission to the United States to invite “steak commandos” home, Mijares was Marcos’ chief propagandist and press censor. Once upon a time, Mijares was said to be among the chosen few who could walk in and out of Marcos’ office almost any time even without an appointment. But by some mysterious act of fate, Mijares vanished from the face of the earth just eight months after the release of Conjugal Dictatorship— he has not been seen since. “Dark ages” of Philippine pressIn any kind of revolution—whether from the left or from the right—free press becomes the primary victim of control. In the experience of the world, a free press cannot survive a dictatorship; both cannot co-exist, and the reason for this startling contradiction is that “truth” cannot co-exist with dictatorship. That everyone knows. And so it was in the Marcos “revolution from the center.”Prior to martial law in 1972, the Philippine press was looked upon— nay envied— by journalists of neighboring countries as the “liveliest and freest in all of Asia.” Free indeed, but it was also free-wheeling like a runaway dervish. Things changed dramatically on the night of September 22, 1972. Along with the subversives and anti-Marcos politicians, prominent journalists too were herded by teams of military men to the stockades. Simultaneously, “sequestration notices” were tacked on the doors of publishing houses, radios, and TV stations. By nightfall, the next day, then Press Secretary Francisco “Kit” Tatad rang the death knell of democracy as he appeared through government-controlled TV and radio stations announcing that martial law had just been declared. They never flinched— the eyes of President Marcos— when he assured his countrymen not to worry because democracy would be restored in a year or two. But for writers and journalists of that period, Proclamation No. 1081 sounded like a slow and solemn drumroll beating out as in a funeral dirge the gradual demise of press freedom. Then began what historian Charles McDougald described as the “dark ages” of the Philippine media. Architect of press censorshipWith the “death” of democracy in the country, from its ashes rose the New Society and the “conjugal dictators’’ were to be its rulers. Before martial law, no government permit or license was necessary as free expression was guaranteed by no less than the Constitution.[...]

Grace Poe’s Unnatural Citizenship


"Public office is a public trust..." —Art. XI, Sec. 1 of the 1987 ConstitutionWriting for the majority in the case of Labo v. COMELEC, Justice Isagani A. Cruz said: “Philippine citizenship is not a cheap commodity that can be easily recovered after its renunciation. It may be restored only after the returning renegade makes a formal act of re-dedication to the country he has abjured and he solemnly affirms once again his total exclusive loyalty to the Republic of the Philippines.”Is Grace Poe a worthy returning renegade to seize the highest office of the land?BackdropIt is true that Senator Grace Poe, one of the possible frontrunners for the 2016 presidential elections, did reassume her status as a Filipino citizen by repatriation in 2006. But what most people don’t know is that after her 2006 repatriation, she deliberately played it safe and held dual citizenship until 2010, or four years thereafter. (Grace Poe, then, was both a Filipino and a U.S. citizen.) This she did when President Benigno Aquino III appointed her as chairperson of MTRCB. Under RA 9225 (otherwise known as the “Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act”) potential appointive and elective officials are not only required to take their oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines but must also expressly renounce their foreign citizenship. The rule is, to qualify for public office, they must only have one citizenship and that is Philippine citizenship, no less. And so Grace Poe brandished the coup de grace only in 2010 by executing an affidavit explicitly renouncing her allegiance to the United States of America which in effect forfeited her naturalized American citizenship too.Natural-born citizens and repatriationIn a long line of cases decided by the Supreme Court, repatriation has been defined as the reacquisition of lost citizenship and not the acquisition of a new citizenship, one who is repatriated regains the level of his original citizenship. In the case of Grace Poe, if indeed she is a natural-born Filipino before her naturalization in the U.S., case law on the subject says that she is deemed never to have lost her “natural born” citizenship.The rules under the Constitution are fairly simple: “Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire of perfect their citizenship…” Clearly, we follow the principle of jus sanguinis (or the right of blood) wherein a person follows the citizenship of either Filipino blood parent. But what happens when a child is born in a country that adheres to jus sanguinis but whose parents are completely unknown? Grace Poe perfectly fits the bill. (Note that while she was adopted by FPJ and Susan Roces, adoption does not confer citizenship on her.) This is a gray area in constitutional law and I have yet to do my research on whether a ‘foundling’ can be considered a natural born citizen. In fact, even the renowned former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, in his regular column with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, had to apply principles of international law to justify his thesis that Poe is a natural-born Filipino. But customary international law, while recognized as “part of the law of the land” by virtue of the doctrine of incorporation, does not, however, stand on the same level as the Constitution. In our jurisdiction, the Constitution is primus inter omnes, the supreme law of the land from which all other laws must bow. Misplaced legal presumptionsMost legal experts and luminaries, echoing in part CJ Panganiban’s view, have added arguments holding that by default, Grace Poe is natural born citizen and thus qualified to run for president. Relying heavily on “legal presumptions,[...]

"Wall of Separation"


This is a hot issue that has bothered me for quite sometime. Iglesia ni Cristo's (INC) misplaced invocation of the principle of separation of church and state has been pinching at my “constitutional” nerves like the devil’s pitchfork, challenging me to write my thoughts down. Contrary to popular belief, I have said it before in my Facebook post and I say it again here, this doctrine came into being in order to protect the Church from undue intrusion by the state, NOT VICE VERSA.The provision (Article 2, Section 6) in “The Declaration of Principles and State Policies” under the 1987 Constitution that says that the separation of church and state shall be inviolable is no more than a flagship provision for non-establishment: “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”If one would carefully examine the text of the Constitution, the thrust of the principle is strictly geared towards the state and not the church. In other words, the “wall of separation” is a limitation directed upon the State and its institutions, primarily Congress. The non-establishment clause found in the Bill of Rights undoubtedly cautions the state not to pass laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” In this sense, the Church, therefore, cannot violate the separation because it cannot pass laws other than church laws or policies. The Church and its minions, of course, cannot dictate state law or policy; but this does not mean that the Church shall have nothing to say on the conduct of government. The bottom line, said a noted Filipino constitutionalist, is that “neither side may legislate for the other.” (Bernas, 1999)This is my understanding of what separation of church and state is all about. Apparently, INC’s invocation of the principle is inapplicable in the present scenario.When DOJ Secretary De Lima ordered an investigation on the alleged kidnapping of Samson, who has filed a serious illegal detention complaint against several INC leaders, she acted within the bounds of law and not because she favored or preferred one religion over another. If it were the other way around, she would be violating the Constitution as her actions would be construed as “state action” under the law. In simple terms, if De Lima would ignore the criminal complaint would give others- those not belonging or no longer belonging in this flock- a valid cause to raise this separation doctrine. The idea that she might have violated the “wall of separation” seemed far-fetched because what is involved is a possible violation of the Revised Penal Code, and the parties happened to be citizens of the Philippines and not as flocks of a cultish congregation. The better view, however, is to examine the issue from a different angle: the INC’s battlecry of separation of church and state is nothing more than a short-hand expression of freedom of speech, and to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Though these fundamental rights of the people are guaranteed by no less than the Constitution, the exercise of these rights are not absolute for it may be so regulated that it shall not be injurious to the equal enjoyment of others having equal rights, nor injurious to the rights of the community or society. (Primicias v. Fugoso) Photo credit: CNN Philippines[...]

Domingo Franco


Faceless martyrs have long fascinated me. While tapping out this article, I’m looking at an old photo showing thirteen valiant men, standing in a row about eight feet apart from each other, facing the firing squad. That was the “killing fields” of Bagumbayan in the early morning of January 11, 1897. On that day, El Supremo of the revived La Liga Filipina, and twelve of his compatriots sprawled on the ground, “kissing the soil of their beloved country” for the last time.It is said that a nation without heroes is a sad nation. True, because without heroes there can be no inspired leadership among our people and that makes our nation even sadder. But what difference does it make if we, as a people, limit ourselves with historical bywords like Rizal, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and other towering figures of the Philippine Revolution? Sadly, as I look around the corridors of heroes, there are still many unknown patriots that deserve the sidelights of history. One such obscure figure that needs illumination is— Domingo Franco. His name is not a byword in Philippine history. Nor was he even mentioned in our history textbooks except that fact he was one of “The Thirteen Martyrs of Bagumbayan.”Who was Domingo Franco? Scantily, history tells us that Domingo Franco was a native of Mambusao, Capiz, who later rose to become a highly successful leaf tobacco businessman in Manila. With the emergence of Masonic societies in the Philippines, Franco, together with his friend Numeriano Adriano joined the seminal Filipino Masonic Lodge Nilad in 1891. The great Mabini, on the other hand, joined the Lodge Balagtas. Franco took the symbolic name “Felipe Leal” (Loyal Philip) and was said to be the man in whom Rizal and Mabini reposed “the greatest confidence.” True to form, it was Franco who courageously received the first shipment of Noli that was sent by Rizal, clearing the “contrabands” in the Customs to avoid confiscation, and took care of distributing them.The revived La Liga Filipina After Rizal’s disengagement from La Solidaridad, he went on to challenge Mother Spain in the home country and launch La Liga Filipina—a front organization of the movement for reforms and unification of the Filipino nation. Upon Rizal’s return to Manila in June 1892, it was Franco, along with Timoteo Paez, who organized that historic meeting at the Onjunco house in Tondo where Rizal proposed the idea of La Liga. Three days later, however, Rizal was arrested, and the Liga was quickly dispersed.The paragon reformist that he is, a year later, he and other patriots sought the revival of Liga; not only to carry on the goals as formulated by Rizal but also to raise funds for Soli. Soon, Franco was elected President of the revived La Liga Filipina and Mabini became Secretary of the Supreme Council. In charge of recruitment in the outskirt provinces was no less than the supreme revolutionist from Tondo, Andres Bonifacio. Altogether, they ran the gamut of the organization, from vice to virtue, from opposing views to winged innocence.Rise of Katipunan—fall of La LigaRizal’s deportation to Dapitan, however, signaled the coming of revolutionary radicalism. For Bonifacio and the working class, the time for armed revolution had come. And so, although he was one of the active members of the revived Liga, in truth, Bonifacio balked the idea of having to use Liga as an instrument for raising funds to support reformist ends. To him, the Spanish masters could no longer be won by words. Franco and Adriano, of course, disagreed. And so, the organization splintered into two factions: the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, composed of moderate ilustrados, who still wanted to carry on o[...]

Carlos P. Garcia in Retrospect


The nation was stunned in tears, with uncertainty afloat. On March 17, 1957, dubbed as the “blackest day in our history,” presidential plane christened as “Pinatubo,” bound for Manila, crashed in Mt. Manunggal just fifteen minutes after it took off in Cebu. President Ramon Magsaysay, the most likable of the towering political figures in the 50s, was killed and so was the entire complement in the plane save one. His vain death—which deserves a story of its own, for whatever it was purposed, was as widespread as his humble rise to power. Ultimately, his death had a profound impact on the masses not only because Magsaysay was their ‘savior,’ but he was also perceived to be one of their own.But reality had to set in soon, no matter how dreadful. The next day, before a rapt and morose audience, a new president was sworn in to take over the reins of government for the remaining eight months. Against this background, the Herculean task fell squarely on the shoulders of Magsaysay’s subaltern— Vice President Carlos P. Garcia. In the “Guy’s” shadowCarlos Polistico Garcia was not a charming politician. That was the truth. Small, dark-skinned, curly-haired fellow, almost Moorish in appearance, Garcia lacked Magsaysay’s charm that had enthralled the hoi polloi to his side. Nor was he able to mesmerize the masses with bombastic oratory, create dramatic pauses and raised hubbubs. Though he always thought and spoke on his feet, Garcia’s poetic prowess was clearly overshadowed by Magsaysay’s magic. It was said that had Magsaysay lived to run for a second term, Garcia would have been replaced as his running mate with a better vote-getter candidate. Not that Garcia was unaware of these criticisms early on—quite the contrary. He found his supposed weaknesses to be his strength. In a broader sense, it is not easy to classify Garcia. He had the mind of a chess grandmaster, eager to take challenges, grapple with facts through calculated moves, rather than a populist’s mesmerized by abstractions with their what ifs and wherefores. This was clearly demonstrated when Garcia, the seemingly uncharismatic candidate, confounded his opponents by winning his own presidential mandate in 1957 with apparent ease. All the same, if Garcia was ever anything, he was a nationalist.Garcia’s politicsBorn on November 4, 1896 in Talibon, Bohol, Carlos P. Garcia belonged to a middle-class family who valued education more than anything else. After high-school, he went on to pursue a preparatory law course in the prestigious Silliman University, and Philippine Law School where Garcia obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree. After placing first in the 1923 bar examinations, Garcia had a brief stint teaching law until politics caught up with him. Elected representative of the third district of Bohol for six years, Garcia had gone the opposite path and became the provincial governor of Bohol for three successive terms. Then the turning point came when both Quezon and Osmeña, Nacionalista bigwigs at that time, drafted him to run for senator in 1941, and he won. His jubilation, however, was short-lived when the Japanese invaders arrived in the Philippines. Instead of collaborating with the enemy, Garcia went up the hills and fought the Japs as a leader of a guerilla force. Garcia’s service in the trenches served him well when he resumed his political career after the war. While a senator, Garcia’s nationalistic fervor enabled him to function well as chairman of the Senate committee on foreign affairs advocating claims for reparation and war damages. He too was instrumental in opposing the “No money, no parity” policy that was be[...]



The year was 1968. President Marcos, a brilliant politician by all accounts, was nearing the end of his first term, and would surely run for reelection the next year. But there was a hitch. A young and ambitious senator, one of the rising stars of the opposition party was about to expose Marcos regime’s “secret military operation” to recover a lost territory, now unjustly occupied by Malaysia. “Tell your cousin Ninoy to stop spreading the rumor that the Philippines will invade Sabah,” President Marcos warned Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw as soon as news reached the Palace. Surprised with the remark, she meekly tried to defend him, but to no avail. “Tell him he is a congenital liar,” the president shot back.Meanwhile, in the Senate that evening, the solons were having their usual debates when Senate President Gil Puyat banged the gavel for a recess and announced for them to assemble in his room. There, he apprised them of a national security matter: the possible sneak invasion of Sabah. “Shall we discuss it in private or bring it up on the floor?” he pushed. Probably unaware of the serious implications of the issue before them, all of the senators agreed: Ninoy shall take the Senate floor.The following morning, the so-called “Operation Jabidah” crashed the headlines. “Open the ‘Bulletin’ and see if I’m a congenital liar,” Ninoy bragged to his prima over the phone. Obviously, the opposition Liberal Party (LP) lost no time in making political capital of the incident. LP leaders took turns on the Senate floor to lambast President Marcos and demand investigation of the massacre. Throughout the country, Muslim students took their indignation to the streets, crying out justice for the deaths of so many young Muslims in Corregidor. The demonstrations, led by then UP political science Professor Nur Misuari, went as far as Malacanang Palace and Congress chanting to the choruses of “Alahu Akbar!” urging Muslim youth to unite. Thus began that infamous episode in modern Philippine history dubbed as the Jabidah massacre. A stab at diplomacyAfter persistent diplomacy to take back Sabah from Malaysia in the early sixties, President Diosdado Macapagal finally forced the issue upon the international community. And so, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), a referendum was held over Sabah. The locals, however, voted to join the Federation of Malaysia despite strong objections filed in the UN by Indonesia and the Philippines. It was an inconclusive election, to say the least. But as it was, the US government had spoken in favor of the outcome of the referendum, officially sealing the fate of the Philippine claim to Sabah. Furious at leaders in Malaysia, the Philippines severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia, a hiatus that lasted until President Marcos re-established relations during his term. But President Marcos had a different agenda on the table. Unlike his predecessor, one of the notable facets in the President’s character was deep secrecy; he played his foreign policy cards close to his chest. As a result, by feigning peaceful intentions with Malaysia, President Marcos bid his time well in preparation for the grand adventure. Indeed, as they say, politics is drama, politics is theater.Project Merdeka (Freedom)It was against this background of general frustration that the covert operation codenamed “Operation Merdeka”—the recruitment and initial training phase—was hatched.The original idea was to destabilize Sabah by sending as many Filipinos there so that when a referendum was held among the Sabahans, the majority would have the numbers to claim the provinc[...]

A Past Denied 2


The seminal boil of resistance was lanced in the “Battle of Mactan” and with it came the moral of the story that no matter what the odds, freedom is always worth fighting for. Legend has it that Lapu-Lapu and his men simply fought with arrows and bamboo spears; but they fought with great heroism. Their sense of nationalistic pride, love for freedom, had put the foreign invaders to rout. Thus, the battle ended with the Spaniards fleeing back to their boats, leaving their beloved captain — their “light, mirror, and comfort”— to die on the rocky shore.This resistance was to be reaffirmed many times over when the Spaniards returned in force to colonize the archipelago, especially in Muslim fiefdoms. Prelude to colonizationAs it was, Filipinos of 1521 were not yet Filipinos but indios, Moors or heathens. When the Spanish fleet, led by the heavily bearded Portuguese dreamer and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, reached Samar (and later Cebu), the Philippines then was just an archipelagic cluster of tribes. The notion of state, or region, or common worship or civilization was alien to the natives. Armed to the teeth, each wary of the other, the natives were seemingly preoccupied with sailing the short seas for livelihood, and also to fight. The excellent chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, who accompanied Ferdinand Magellan’s 1521 expedition in Las Yslas Filipinas, describes the islanders (Samarenos) thusly: “They have holes in their ears so large that they can pass their arms through them. Those people are caphri, that is to say heathen. They go naked, with a cloth woven from the bark of a tree about their privies, except some of the chiefs who wear the cotton cloth embroidered with silk at the ends by means of a needle. They are dark, fat and painted. They anoint themselves with coconut and beneseed oil for protection against the sun and wind. They have very black hair that falls to the waist, and use daggers, knives and spears ornamented with gold, large shields, fascines, javelins and fishing nets that resemble rizali and their boat are like ours.” Like politicians of today, the conquistadors too encouraged ignorance. With a country splintered into 7000 islands, the Spaniards must have thought that they could easily rule and exploit the entire archipelago in no time. To make sure that they could lay down their colonial intentions smoothly, the Spaniards saw to it that any kind of unity among the natives was to be avoided at all cost. Necessarily, any effort at coming together was to be discouraged. In search of paradiseAfter Magellan’s fateful expedition, the strident wind of colonization began to sweep the country. It was certain that the invaders would return, but the natives were clueless what their real intentions were. And so the Spaniards were back but with a different twist. Under the common of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the Spanish fleet landed in Cebu around 1564. The Spaniards, despite being outnumbered, wasted no time to begin the process of colonization. Using the banner of Catholicism as a tool for subjugation, the colonizers launched a massive military campaign. Worse atrocities were committed to these malleable natives as part of the Spanish Crown’s colonial efforts. The burning of houses, the wholesale looting, and the desecration of the dead in search of gold, were methods used by the Spaniards, not only to force submission from the natives, but also as means to survive in a desolated island. Some of the natives fled, leaving their villages in ruins while others stood their ground only to surrender their freedoms out of fear later. With the d[...]

A Past Denied (Part 1)


The coming of Islam in the archipelago is an epic tale. And it is a tale we must unfold to better understand the Moro struggle in Mindanao. While Filipinos today take pride that the Philippines remain to be the only Christian nation in Asia, such fact could not have been true had the colonizers arrived a little late. Were it not for the quirks of history, majority of the people today would be worshipping in mosques instead of Catholic cathedrals.It is undeniable that the advent of Islam antedated the arrival of the Spaniards by two centuries. And so when the great Magellan thrust his Cross in Cebu in 1521, many of the islands had long been under the Crescent. It was only a matter of time before the rest did. But the conquistadors came right on the dot. What could have been a simple expedition in search of spices and lowly peppers became Spain’s iron grip on the spread of the Islamic faith throughout the archipelago. The coming of IslamIslam first landed on the shores of Sulu in the early part of the 13th century. Located in the most nearly central position of any island in eastern Malaysia, Sulu stood to gain immense commercial advantages more than any of the scattered islands in the archipelago. Travelling from the Middle East to the Orient, Arab traders from Malacca brought the religion to the area as part of their mission to propagate Islam and to find a new home. Historians are one in saying that the first Arab missionary to visit the Philippines was Karim Al-Makhdum. Coming from Malacca in 1380, Makhdum established the first Islamic mosque in Simunul, the tiny island in Sulu. From there, Islam began to send branches towards the outskirts of Sulu and beyond. Later on, in 1540, with Islam firmly in place, the Muslim communities in Sulu established the first Sultanate in the archipelago with the messianic Shariful Hashim Abubakar as its progenitor.The arrival of Islam had indeed brought tremendous changes in the life of the people, especially in their culture. With Islam as the foundation for the establishment of a new superstructure, the scattered datuships or barangays were consolidated into one political entity—the sultanate. Along with the Islamic schools and the introduction of the Shariah, Islam also enabled the people to feel that they were members of a community larger than their barangays—the Muslim Ummah. Instantly, the new religion blended with pre-Islamic socio-cultural practices of the local population, which even strengthen their ties as a community. By this time, the native Muslims began to see the world differently. Islam did not only give the Muslims a sense of purpose but also a unique identity that would spur fierce resistance against Spanish attempts to subjugate them. The first quarter of the 16th century saw the spread of Islam in mainland Mindanao. From the mouth of the Pulangi River, the historic Shariff Kabungsuan arrived and founded the Sultanate of Maguindanao. A century later, Islam reached the Lanao areas and had moved further towards north of Luzon. As a result, progressive Muslim settlements sprung in Manila under Rajah Soliman’s tutelage. But his reign was merely an ephemeral episode. Shortly before Islam began to take roots in the region, the colonizers arrived and crushed them.The bygone periodThe winds of change were now blowing all over the archipelago, shaking if not shattering the peaceful coexistence of the people. Except for occasional wars between feuding factions, relations between Muslim and non-Muslim communities were generally peaceful. This was the situation when the Spaniards took [...]

The Sabah Claim


NB: The elements for making this an article about the Mamasapano massacre are complete, yet this is not about it. Though not entirely unrelated, this digs the Philippines’ long standing claim over Sabah, which is threatened to be in vain following the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).Bangsamoro: The Sabah equationThe Sabah claim has been a contentious issue, a festering sore in Philippine foreign policy agenda. And so there goes the fifty-year old sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Philippine-Malaysian relations.In the art of diplomacy, however, the first lesson is that there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Obviously, the Palace took this diplomatic cliché by heart if it would mean a lasting peace in Mindanao. Indeed, Gladstone was right when he said, “the first principle of foreign policy is good government at home.”But could we really say that by forging peace in Mindanao at the expense of the Sabah claim rests on a sound foreign policy?The concluded Bangsamoro peace pact between the Philippines and MILF (the initial step that gave breath to the infamous BBL), with Malaysia acting as a third-party negotiator in the peace talks, could certainly compromise the Philippine position on Sabah. In fact, the Palace has just downgraded our position by calling our claim as simply “valid but dormant,” a statement more sounding in brass than a solid declaration.But despite these developments, there are sovereign reasons we must press the Sabah issue because that progressive enclave in North Borneo belongs to us─ historically and legally.Historical precisSabah, formerly known as North Borneo, was originally owned by the Sultan of Brunei.In 1704, the Sultan of Brunei ceded Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu as a token of gratitude for his aid in suppressing an insurrection. From thence, Sabah became part of the Sultanate of Sulu.Things changed when in 1878 a British merchant by the name of Alfred Dent offered to lease Sabah from the Sultan of Sulu. Thereafter, Dent sought the help of his friend Baron von Overbeck to negotiate the lease. At that time, the Sultan was under heavy attack from the Spanish forces in the Sulu archipelago thus, the need of funds to sustain the resistance.Overbeck then grabbed this opportunity by the forelock and convinced the Sultan of Sulu of the lease in consideration of a stingy annual rental in the amount of 5,000 Malaysian dollars or equivalent to $1,000 in American dollars. The terms and conditions of the lease agreement were reduced in writing.In turn, Overbeck sold his rights under the lease contract in favour of Alfred Dent.After eleven (11) months or so, Dent organized the British North Borneo Company, also known as the North Borneo Chartered Company, and thereby assigned all his rights and obligations under the 1878 lease contract in favor of the said company. In the following year, the company was able to secure a Royal Charter from the British government.A protest ensued claiming that the grant would mean that the British had already assumed dominion over Sabah by virtue of the Royal Charter. But the British Crown denied the charge and clarified that the Sultan of Sulu retained sovereignty over Sabah.Over the years, the Sultan of Sulu was the duly recognized sovereign ruler of Sabah.But on July 10, 1946 exactly six days after the declaration of Philippine Independence, the British government made a sudden turn and claimed that it purchased Sabah from the British North Borneo Company. (Source: Jovito Salonga, A Point-by-Point Reply, THE INTANGIBLES T[...]

The Broken Vow: Betrayal of a "Saint"


Solitude was this man’s compromise to the bitter-sweet story of concession. In the rarest occasion, he stood alone before the beach, with the sun threatening to shed light to his skeptic thoughts, contemplative of the events that are yet to happen when he finally decides to crack his crucial pronouncement. He was torn between them and only God knows how he prayed after another to arise with the sanest and noblest decision. “What would my father do if he were in my place?” he mumbled to himself more than once. Gawking into the wilderness of the sea, the rising sun shone more on his esteemed being and lineage, he convinced himself as he traverse back the path that led him where he is now. Indeed, history has its trends, phases and rhythms. This was his; but we must know because it’s ours. The glory days of Doy and UNIDOIn 1984, Salvador “Doy” Laurel was on top of his game with his star seemingly pointed at the presidency. After the murder of Ninoy Aquino, Doy took over the opposition’s helm and reorganized his own political juggernaut, the United Nationalist Democratic Organization or UNIDO. Doy tirelessly went around the country to spread UNIDO’s network, stoking brushfires into an anti-Marcos firestorm. Eventually, Marcos made his biggest blunder of holding parliamentary elections in the same year. Opposition bigwigs meanwhile opted for a boycott arguing that Marcos would just rig the elections but Doy Laurel was not convinced. He reasoned with the Liberals to reconsider their decision arguing that this was the best time to risk everything— “to give the democratic alternative one last chance.” Old Man Tanada and Diokno, however, prominent stalwarts of the boycott movement, would not budge on their decision. But they reckoned wrong, as it turned out. To be able to pitch UNIDO’s tent nationwide, Doy desisted himself from running as a candidate. Despite UNIDO’s shoestring budget, Doy, along with Eva Estrada Kalaw, didn’t mind having to deliver his impromptu speeches on small makeshift stages. Behind the microphone, Doy Laurel bewailed: “Kung inde tayo sisigaw, sino ang sisigaw? Kung inde ngayon, kalian pa?” As his stentorian voice rose in anger against dictatorship, the crowds roared, and kept roaring with every sally. As it was, the political cauldron had started to seethe earlier than expected. UNIDO bagged about a third of the seats and even swept Metro Manila, Imelda’s fiefdom. UNIDO could have won more, much more, except that the Marcos regime decided it couldn’t have more than a third. The First Lady, of course, was fuming mad. She bore defeat on her shoulders with a vengeance so much so that the President had to pack her off to the United States for a respite. Undoubtedly, Doy Laurel and UNIDO had a profound impact on the nation’s political climate during the senescent years of the Marcos regime. By all accounts, Doy was next in line after UNIDO’s splendid performance in 1984, even Washington had him on top of the list of successor to Ferdinand Marcos.But as fate would have it, the historic wave reached for a grieving woman instead of any of the other opposition aspirants lining up to battle Ferdinand Marcos for the 1986 snap elections.Not quite Towards the end of 1985, President Marcos was faced with another political compromise. The increasing international pressures, accompanied by rumors that the president was in poor health, he was forced to call an early presidential election. By then, Doy Laurel was already UNIDO’s presidential st[...]

I have a dream


I had a dream. Standing before a sharp-eyed audience, I incessantly pound on my case to drive at my point. Clad in my favorite white barong, I was an epitome of excellence in the court room. Suddenly, I was awakened by the thud of two children, calling me “Dad.” Yes, I may be too old for those “dreams,” but I still have that dream. Dreams are useless if they do not come alive. At some point, they have to strike a chord in our system; relate to our own experiences and make them work to finally rouse meaning in our lives. But behind any enduring dreamer are inspirations and icons with strong vision and courage. Unexplainably, these people drive us to realize our aspirations with meaning and mission. Here are two of my inspirations, “the gods” of my ideals. Before they became the man that they are,—or long before politics complicated their lives— Messrs. Ferdinand E. Marcos and Salvador H. Laurel are among the best and the brightest barristers in their time. Ferdinand E. MarcosIt was said that the young Ferdinand Marcos, a practicing attorney in the 50s, was quite a dresser appearing in court in suit and tie. Accompanied by a voice that often nestled on the mountain top, the young lawyer could ferret out the truth from any witness during cross-examination. This prowess was put to test when he himself was put on trial. Murder at duskThe year was 1935. Mariano Marcos, Ferdinand’s father, had been twice a congressman. In his third attempt to regain his lost congressional seat, Marcos was bitterly defeated by his perennial rival, Julio Nalundasan. Supporters of Nalundasan, however, celebrated his victory by holding a mock funeral through the cobbled streets of Batac Ilocos Norte; the empty coffin was supposed to symbolize the political demise of the older Marcos. Three nights after, while brushing his teeth at the window, Nalundasan was shot between the eyes. Young Ferdinand was one of the main suspects.Then a brainy law student at UP, Ferdinand Marcos was subsequently arrested and charged for murder. After the trial, Marcos was convicted by the lower court under purely circumstantial evidence. The case reached the Supreme Court, when he was getting ready for the bar examinations. Clapped in a dark calaboose, the young Marcos crammed for the bar seemingly unperturbed of the uncertainties of his fate. But as it was, he nailed the test, garnering an unprecedented high score on record.Still and all, Marcos’s plight caught the public imagination. Overnight, he became both an underdog and celebrity — a status which gained added dimension when he was acquitted on appeal by the Supreme Court, because of his own brilliant defense. Although he was not yet a full-pledge lawyer at the time of his acquittal, Philippine Free Press plastered his photograph on its cover with a caption, “Lawyer of the Year.” He was only twenty- three years old. Many years later, another brilliant lawyer, a dreamer from Batangas, will carve his name in history. Doy Laurel—Mr. Public Defender“If every lawyer in the country would only handle one case for an aggrieved litigant that would go a long way in restoring the faith of the poor in the administration of justice,” said Doy Laurel, the dashing dare-devil lawyer who crashed the headlines in the 1960s by defending the poor and the underprivileged against police brutality.Doy Laurel—highly educated with a law degree from UP and a doctoral degree from Yale— was no ordinary lawyer in his time when he began to do pr[...]

Do you know Cesar C. Climaco?


“Reserba uno de ese para comigo (Reserve one of these for me),” he jokingly said upon seeing the coffins displayed in a funeral home after inspecting the scene of a fire just across the street. For his constituents, there was nothing unusual with his demeanour on that fateful morning as he would always love to crack jokes, playing pranks on people, and guffaw like a clown even on the face of many adversities.Yet, for all his supposed uncanny ways, he was a spellbinder and an insightful sage who minces no words when corruption in government was in the saddle. In a time where even lowly men in uniform strutted like generals and generals like congressmen, he would relentlessly pounce on them and denounce each abuse openly. But of all his many endowments, the most admirable and effective was his sense of humour. This gift was all too clearly manifested in his black-on-orange felt paper sign in front of his office desk that reads: “I’m not a dirty old man; I’m a sexy senior citizen.” Thus equipped, this once celebrated clown of the anti-Marcos Opposition would humour anyone -- even the strongman in Malacańang to no exception− on the blatant realities of life under a tyrannical regime.Murder in broad daylight At 10:30 a.m. on November 14, 1984, however, that lasting cruel joke as the song goes, was on him. Moments after leaving the funeral home, he boarded his Honda blue motorcycle and slowly waded through the traffic. Unknowingly, lurking behind him was a man in denim pants and blue checked shirt, tasked to stealthily walked up to him, and fire at him in close range. Bang! As quick as the fatal bullet, the lone gunman fled, almost leisurely amongst the milling crowd, leaving the 68-year-old victim not even a hint of life. As any assassination movie, we suspect, if not assume that his enemies must have thought they had the last laugh, a one big laugh. But I beg to laugh it off too. Who is Cesar C. Climaco?Cesar Cortes Climaco is a modern-day hero; I mention this fact not only with pride as a fellow Chavacano but, more importantly, to highlight the dearth of information we know about him. I was barely 4 when Climaco was mayor of Zamboanga City, a position he loved dearly until his death. But my naivety was never a hindrance to appreciate the endearing stories about him, recounted not by politicos of today, but of simple folks –of true Zamboangueños− who were there when it happened. Thus, it is always with great pride that I talk about a valiant man from the South against a history largely muddled by the North. Starting as a lowly janitor in the Court of Appeals while taking up law at the University of the Philippines, he was to rise by dint of his extraordinary abilities to hold local elective and national appointive positions. He began his political career as city councilor of Zamboanga in 1953 and in the same year, he was designated mayor of the city. From then on, Climaco became the first elected city mayor (1956-1961) for two consecutive terms. His bravery and integrity in public service, however, did not escape the watchful eye of President Diosdado Macapagal. Suddenly, Climaco was fished out of local politics and was made to handle delicate positions in the national government. In no time he was appointed by President Macapagal as commissioner of the Bureau of Customs, Economic Coordinator and head of Presidential Assistance on Community Development Office, among others. Pillar of the anti-Marcos opposition But i[...]

Lest we forget


Forty-two years ago, Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081 declaring martial law and proceeded to rule the country without accountability− not even to the Constitution that he had sworn to serve. Today, we remember September 21 not as a “National Thanksgiving Day” but a sad episode in our nation’s history. Martial law stumbled in our midst like a thief in the night. It’s like suddenly waking up the next day with a strange gut feel that something seemed not right. Nevertheless, you squandered around, hoping to confirm your suspicious thoughts. And there, you discover the systematic looting; your precious human rights, stolen, robbed!The day the nation stood stillContrary to popular belief, it was on the night of September 22, 1972 when Proclamation 1081 had gone full steam. It appears that September 21─the official date of commemoration─ refers to the actual signing of the proclamation and it was only on September 23, 1972 when martial law was made known to the public. Later though, Marcos revealed that he really signed the martial law edict on September 17, 1972.So our story begins on September 23, a Saturday morning when a certain eerie of silence jolted the nation from deep slumber. Everybody woke up without newspapers on their doorsteps. On TV, except in one station where the national anthem was repeatedly played, broadcasting had been stopped. Nothing on TV but ‘snow’ and static on radio. The streets of Metro Manila were said to be virtually uninhabited and abandoned like a lifeless city. Hours passed, still no newspapers. People grew restive as fear and panic began to set in. Something terrible was certainly in the offing, baffled Filipinos must have thought. By nightfall, news started to circulate that FM would address the nation and everybody was told to stay put. At exactly 7:15 p.m. that day, the cat was finally out of the bag as the President appeared on national television saying that he had just declared Martial Law. That day was said to be the beginning of one of the darkest eras in Philippine history. Benefit of the doubtWhile many people view martial law today as a metaphor for everything that is corrupt, oppressive and detestable, President Marcos saw things very differently when he issued the proclamation. And for a while, many ordinary Filipinos then, tired of traditional politics and economic instability, also gave Marcos the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, they did not mind exchanging their civil and political freedoms for the material necessities of daily existence like stable a job, regular food on the table, and probably, a secured future for their children. In fact even in the academe, a great number of intelligentsias did think of Marcos’ theory of revolution as offering the possibilities of correcting the ills of society. Marcos feared historyOf the qualities that made Ferdinand Marcos who he was, his sense of history appeared to be very prominent in his decision points. He used the lessons of the past to hold on to power longer than any Philippine president to date. But he also viewed history prospectively which explains why he left diaries, speeches and wrote a great deal of books to aid scholars, and probably confound history buffs.As early as 1966, on the day of his first inauguration as President, the lines appear quite clearly drawn for Marcos. Driven by his obsession with national greatness and passion, Marcos had seemingly nothing but deep-se[...]

Ninoy Aquino: The unforgotten martyr?


China Airlines Flight 811 was no ordinary flight.At about 11:15 am on August 21, 1983, China Airlines Boeing 767 bound for Manila, carrying over a hundred passengers, cleared the Taipei runway.Of the passengers on board, the traveller in seat 14-C on the aisle, second section coach, seemed to enjoy considerable attention from the international press. A few passengers also kept him busy throughout the flight with handshakes and requests for autographs; young Filipino women kissed him, giggling as they wiped away the lipstick smudge on his rosy cheeks. Instantly, he was the dazzling politician again.The traveller was obviously carrying a sham passport which bore the name of “Marcial Bonifacio,” a name that stood for martial law and his old dungeon, Fort Bonifacio. But the bold initials “BSA” etched on the breast patch of his cream safari suit gave him away all too quickly.Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, the erstwhile undisputed leader of the opposition, was finally returning home after 3 years in exile.As the plane winged to Manila, Ninoy prayed to himself, his fingers sliding along the beads of his rosary. Then he stood up and went to the restroom and donned his bullet proof vest. As the plane touched down, his brother-in-law turned to him and said, “Noy, we’re home.”Ninoy looked up and gave the mysterious Mona Lisa smile as a response. This is it! I can only imagine Ninoy’s growing sense of anxiety as he sat there waiting for the events to unfold – the final act of the tragedy that he himself had predicted moments earlier.Meanwhile, thousands had come to the airport eager to welcome Ninoy. The streets heading to the airport were filled with people coming from different parts of Metro Manila. Yellow ribbons were draped over buses and jeeps and even around trees symbolizing the return of a freed prisoner.At the airport’s VIP Lounge, another crowd was in place. Family and close friends, including Ninoy’s 73-year-old mother Doña Aurora, as well as some of the grand old names in the opposition headed by Ninoy’s childhood buddy, Doy Laurel, converged in one piece.At about 1:00 pm the welcoming group decided to move out of the lounge as Ninoy’s plane taxied smoothly toward Gate 8. But as the group approached the doors leading to the tube, they were in for a surprise – all doors were locked. They simply could not move out of the room. What was left was a tiny glass opening and so one of them had to peep through and motioned the guards to open the door. The guards, although visibly shaken, simply ignored them. And so they tried to force the door open, but to no avail. When queried why the doors were locked, all the military officers could say was: “We are only following orders!”Suddenly, one of the glass doors opened. But it was too late. Passengers started to come out in droves, their faces looking scared and grim. In a split of second, news broke out that Ninoy had arrived. He had come home for the last time.Almost 50 seconds since he stood up from seat 14-C, a single shot coming from the back of his head sent Ninoy Aquino straight to immortality…and to martyrdom.Exile yearsAlmost 3 years before his fateful homecoming, Ninoy Aquino spent 7 years and 7 months in solitary confinement at Fort Bonifacio only to be released on May 8, 1980. Ninoy then was stricken with severe chest pains while in detention and had to undergo a delicate form of triple-pass h[...]