President Marcos and Me

Diliman Way

With Homobono A. Adaza

“…the qualities required for greatness and
wickedness, for heroism and monstrosity,
for brilliant decent philanthropy and brutal
dystopian murderousness are not too far distant
from each other. The Norwegian alone has a word for this: stormannsgalskap – the madness
of great men.” – Titans of History by Simom
Sebag Montefiore

I have to write about the past to seek refuge from the oppressive environment created by the tomfooleries and insanities of our time. It is a much desired respite from a suffocating journey of life in our country. It is like an endless venture into a desert. You have to find an oasis to catch your breath from the burning heat of the sun to rest, relax and survive.

Rationale: Why moments of historical flashback? They are educative and memorable. They can be instructive and inspiring. They can also be revolting. But more than anything else, reminiscences of strategic times in history make you wonder of what might have been. There is sweetness and sadness in remembering the moments. There is delight as well as agony as you remember the elusive moments which if properly grasped your personal life and the tides of history could have changed.

Many of these moments which reveal the character of leaders have been written about in four books of speeches by one of two elected Opposition provincial governors during the period of Martial Law under President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and six other books by this author.

The moments which will be narrated in this column have been detailed in three books – Leaders from Marcos to Arroyo, Ideas, Principles and Lost Opportunities and Capturing the Moments. But why write about them on these pages.

First, Most Filipinos don’t read books. Second, Books are expensive. Third, Books can be read in the internet for free. But articles and essays, many Filipinos will read for information, education, and pleasure because they are much shorter than the intimidating length of books.

Controversial: President Marcos will always be controversial in this country Mere mention of his name is enough to provoke a shouting match. The Left and the Coristas consider him as the Devil. Marcos Loyalists consider him a Saint. Controversy is normal as there is a devil and a saint in every individual. In the final analysis, it is a matter of which one in you prevails – the devil or the saint. Sometimes the devil captures a moment in a person, sometimes the angel. But whatever is the choice, there is always excitement in the moment.

The final judgment is determined by history. The problem is that history oftentimes is written by the winners. It takes about a century to determine the eventual winner in an era. How Marcos will fare in the judgment of history would be determined beyond our time? It is tragic to be imprisoned by the ineluctable judgment of history unless if one’s life span competes with that of Methuselah and Jared.

That would be exciting.

For now, I will relate incidents in time which may reveal the character and the disputed greatness of President Ferdinand Marcos. And in so doing, objective historians may get to have an accurate assessment of the man and historians in the academe will write history as it should be written without bias, fear or favor.

Beginning: Ferdinand Marcos during his time was a legend in the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. Topping the bar examinations while his conviction of the crime of murder was on appeal in the Supreme Court is an outstanding achievement. Nobody before and after him had done it, so the legend is well deserved. But it did not end there. As the popular story goes, he acquitted himself in the Supreme with his brief and arguments. And this added luster to the legend.

On his acquittal, there is a story that has gone around for sometime – that Marcos was not acquitted because of his brief and arguments, he was acquitted because Justice Jose Laurel, Sr argued for his him with his fellow justices and the story is authenticated by the son of Justice Laurel, the late Vice-President Salvador “Doy” Laurel who is my valued treasured friend.

Here is how the story goes. In the inner deliberation of the Supreme Court, the majority voted to affirm the Marcos conviction. Of course, the penalty was death. Justice Laurel, however, argued passionately with his peers, saying, “Convicting this young man will not bring back to life Julio Nalundasan. He is dead. This young man is brilliant and if allowed to live, he may one day become President of our country. Killing him is a waste. Let’s acquit him for the sake of our country.”

The argument was telling, Marcos was acquitted and the rest is history.

Evolving events: It was fun watching Marcos evolved into a national figure. As congressman with his ambition to become President of our country, he spotted Imelda Romualdez, niece of then Speaker Daniel Romualdez one evening at the gallery of the House of Representatives. Enticed by her enchanting beauty, Marcos courted her with lightning speed and the whirlwind romance bloomed into marriage. Imelda became his secret weapon in the journey to the presidency.

My first personal encounter with Marcos was in the campaign for presidential nomination of the Nacionalista Party for the 1965 presidential elections. While campaigning for delegates in Cagayan de Oro City, a Pelaez stronghold, I was tasked by the President of the Misamis Oriental Bukidnon Bar Association (MOBA) to invite him to be luncheon speaker of MOBA. This was his diplomatic reply, “Pañero, please tell them I’m deeply honored by this invitation but I can’t accept it as I’m in the thick of my campaign for the nomination. When I become President, I will be here, if invited.”

I was quite impressed by his reply. He showed determination and confidence – that he will win the nomination and eventually be elected President. It showed the three main components of a UP education – excellence, aristocracy of the mind and trained outstanding leadership.

Convention: Among the five contestants for the nomination, Marcos was a newcomer to the Nacionalista Party (NP). He left the Liberal Party when President Diosdado Macapagal failed to honor his commitment in 1961 that Marcos will be the party’s presidential nominee in 1965. The commitment was made because Macapagal was threatened by Marcos challenge for the presidential nomination of the Liberal Party in 1961 – in exchange for the withdrawal of Marcos.

Usual among traditional politicians, Macapagal did not honor his commitment. Marcos then went to the Nacionalista Party with Speaker of the House of Representatives Pepito Laurel as his sponsor.

When Speaker Laurel brought Marcos to Senate President Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Sr.. President of the NP, Amang was supposed to have whispered to Pepito’s ear, “You have brought the Devil to the party.”

Marcos was a long shot for the nomination. The party favorite was Macapagal’s Vice-President, Emmanuel “Maning” Neri Pelaez of Medina, Misamis Oriental. Pelaez had the support of most of the leaders of the NP – Party President Amang Rodriguez, Secretary General of the Party, Congressman Constancio Castañeda; most of the known Provincial Governors of the Party: Perdices of Negro Oriental, Eulogio Rodriguez, Jr. of Rizal, Vicente Duterte of Davao, Alfonso Dadole of Misamis Oriental and lot many more.

If anyone analyzed the political components of the NP, it was then almost obvious Pelaez would win the presidential nomination. Pelaez was more handsome than Marcos, better and more persuasive speaker than Marcos, more brilliant and a better intellectual than Marcos and a gentleman warrior as against Marcos who had no limits to his strategy and tactics.

Like Sun Tzu in the Art of War, Marcos knew his opponents. He quickly signed an agreement among the contenders that none would buy votes and talk with any delegate on the floor of the convention.

The other contenders observed the essence and spirit of the agreement but Marcos, the strategist and tactician that he was, interpreted the agreement literally. He personally did not buy votes but his trusted leaders did.

Conscious of this massive vote buying that was done by the Marcos forces, I told Pelaez, in a one and one conversation with him in his bedroom, “The Marcos boys and girls are buying votes. Even some delegates from Mindanao are waiting for your money. If you don’t fight back, you’ll lose the nomination.” The principled and idealistic man that he was, Pelaez answered, “If that is what it takes to win the nomination, I’d rather lose.” And I told myself, this man must have read Louis Fischer’s Gandhi who he quoted as saying, “Bad means never make for good ends.” In the interplay of principles, Marcos won and Pelaez lost.

Marcos, the warrior that he was, offered the Vice-Presidential berth to Pelaez. The latter refused to accept while he was nursing his wounds from the principled defeat. Marcos roundly defeat President Diosdado Macapagal, the man who dishonorably failed to redeem his promise to Marcos in 1961 that he would give way to Marcos in the 1965 presidential elections, as he did..

President Marcos always did something for a reason in his journey to the presidency – married Imelda, an intelligent beauty from the politically powerful Romualdez family, joined the Nacionalista Party to become Senate President, a powerful stepping stone to the presidency. Every step was planned as necessary steps to be President of the country. The journey was amazing as detailed in his impressive biography, For Every Tear A Victory written by Hartzell Spence. (HAA)

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