LESSONS FROM PHILIPPINE PRESIDENTS- MACAPAGAL TO MARCOS (2)

Diliman Way

Homobono A. Adaza

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”– Mark Twain

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” – Howard Zinn

It always gives me immense pleasure to revisit the past and write about it. It is one of my passions and obsessions in life. The past teaches us a lot of valuable lessons which can guide us in our journey through life. All of my ten published books tell the story of my life, my principles, my vision, my ideals, my commitments and my values. They are all narrated and defined in four books of speeches from Freedom Is For the Brave to A Time For Decision. They were all written and publicly delivered during crucial and dangerous times in our history – the Marcos martial law years and the Cory Aquino early years in her presidency.

Many of those speeches are controversial, then and now. The six other books involve documenting the events of our time from President Marcos to President Benigno Aquino III, correctly dubbed as Pnoy. The six books started with Leaders From Marcos To Arroyo to Capturing the Moments. The writing and publishing will not end there. Not later than March 2021, with God’s blessings, two books will be published which are collections of my columns in Manila Times and Facebook – tentatively titled Controversies In The Time of Corona Virus and Duterte Sound and Fury.

This column will land in the pages of one of those soon to be published books, including selected comments of those who have read the columns. So let us resume examining lessons from our Presidents after President Carlos Polistico Garcia.

President Diosdado Macapagal: He hails from Lubao, Pampanga. No wonder, he caused the passage of the Land Reform Law. Why? The province of Pampanga which is in Central Luzon is the center of revolutionary movement in the Philippines. The peasants in Pampanga and the rest of the country have been demanding for land they can cultivate and call their own since time immemorial. Rebellions have started in Pampanga spreading throughout the country.

Socialism germinated in Pampanga as an alternative to free enterprise democracy and the pressing demands of peasants for social justice. Leading the movement was Pedro Abad Santos who organized the Partido Sosyalista Ng Pilipinas. Later, he joined Crisanto Evangelista to organize the Communist Party of the Philippines. During the Japanese Occupation, Luis Taruc, another Pampangueño, organized a guerrilla group – Hukbong Magpalaya Ng Bayan, nationally known as the Huks. It later graduated into a revolutionary movement with Taruc as its Supreme Leader – Supremo.

Macapagal who topped the bar examinations lived in this kind of environment. He pushed not only for land reform but also an economic development program that would benefit the less fortunate among the citizens. Like other Presidents, he launched an anti-corruption campaign topped by the investigation conducted by his Secretary of Justice Jose W. Diokno, later to be Senator, into the highly questionable criminal activities of businessman Harry Stonehill on his Manila Bay reclamation project. Stonehill kept a Black Book which was confiscated during one of the raids of his residence and business offices containing names of prominent public officials.

To a certain degree, the Stonehill affair misfired as some of the prominent names included in the list vehemently denied any involvement in the Stonehill bribery and corruption activities.

The most outstanding objector was Vice- President Emmanuel “Maning”Pelaez whose name was included in the list. Pelaez in his whole career as public official was never tainted with graft and corruption. He denounced Macapagal for borrowing his honor. He resigned as Macapagal’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs and bolted the Liberal Party to join the opposition Nacionalista Party.

Like other anti-graft and corruption campaigns of other Presidents, Macapagal’s much ballyhooed graft and corruption drive floundered. He even had more trouble in the Liberal Party National Convention in 1965. In 1961 during the Liberal Party National Convention, Macapagal promised Ferdinand Marcos that in 1965, he will not run for re-election if Marcos would withdraw his bid for the presidential nomination in the Convention.

Marcos withdrew his bid for the presidential nomination in view of the promise of Macapagal. The latter went on to win in the election.

Macapagal whose biography is titled MACAPAGAL THE INCORRUPTIBLE was defeated by Marcos in the 1965 elections on the issue that he was not that incorruptible after all.
President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos: Among Philippine Presidents from Diosdado Macapagal to Rodrigo Roa Duterrte, the best President of our country is indisputably President Marcos based on the following parameters – brilliance, vision, programs and goals, accomplishments, commitment to country and the people, reorientation and re-education of the Filipino.

I was a strategic and strong critic and opponent of Marcos but he never stopped trying to conscript me to his camp – offering me the position of Court of First Instance (now the Regional Trial Court) Judge in Manila after the 1965 presidential elections, asking me to run in the 1978 elections under the banner of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), the political umbrella of Marcos composed of the Liberal and Nacionalista parties and others, with the assurance I would top the elections beating former Vice-President Emmanuel “Maning” Pelaez in the region. Of course, I said, “No”.

Towards the end of his term he enticed me to join him in the most complimentary terms, saying, “You know Pañero, you should join me for several reasons. We both graduated from the UP College of Law. We dream dreams for our people. You are an ideologue and so am I.” And after a short pause, he continued, “And on top of that, we are two of a kind.” He hit the bull by the horns except there are major differences between us in style, choice of options for the country, character and integrity. So as usual, my rejection of the offer was immediate and final.

Why do I relate these incidents? They reveal a lot about Marcos – as a man and as a leader.
Vision: The plans show vision and brilliance – that he had dreams for our people, he had ideological moorings, he imbibed the tradition of excellence and the aristocracy of the mind characteristic of the UP education during his time and mine though a generation separates us, and the expertise of a Sun Tzu warrior exemplified by the number one rule of warfare, knowing yourself and your enemy; a hundred battles, a hundred victories.

As proof of brilliance and the aristocracy of the mind, possibly in whole history of the presidency, Marcos assembled the best and the brightest in his Cabinet.

Like President Garcia’s Filipino First Policy which is the main pillar of his presidency, Marcos had a more encompassing vision framed in his New Society, obviously with roots in the many visions of American Presidents – Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, John Fitgerald Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society.

Nationalism: New Society has a very nationalistic strain. It tried to replicate the Meiji era in our country – creating big enterprises and putting them into the hands of Filipinos. Marcos placed the coconut industry in the hands of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco with the creation of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and UNICOM and created COCOFED, a confederation of coconut farmers placed in the hands of Zamboangueña coconut magnate and politician, Maria Clara “Caling” Lobregat.

The banana industry was handled by Antonio “Tony” Florendo. The man created a huge banana plantation using prison labor from the Davao Penal Colony (DAPECOL). The sugar industry was controlled by Marcos’ college buddy, Negrense Roberto “Bobby” Benedicto.

Telecommunications remained with the Jose Cojuangco, Sr., of PLDT, though there were continuing rumors that majority of the stocks were already bought by the Marcoses.

Media was in the hands of the friends of Marcos – Benedicto, Duavit and Lopez, other than the government television stations. Marcos had complete control of media. In the words of First Lady Imelda Romualdez in her trying to persuade me to leave for the United States before the snap election in 1986 on the excuse that I was sick, ”You know Homobono, we are in complete control of media so we can make the people believe that your sick.” In rejecting her request, I replied, “Ma’am that may be true but the problem is – you cannot convince me that I am sick.” For poor guys like me, there are some things in life that are priceless like – honor, character, integrity and love of country.

Marcos tried to re-orient and educate the Filipino. Seminars were conducted on the national and regional levels re-echoed down to the province, city, town and barangay levels. The seminars were highlighted by the burning of the monster representing the evils and sins of the past to the cadence of the singing of Mabuhay Ang Filipino. It is a journey of renewal.

Infrastructure: Marcos designed an all encompassing infrastructure program similar to the twenty-five years to fifty years plans in the initial stages of the Soviet Union. He built dams, highways, bridges, farm to market roads, piers, airports, improved the railways in Luzon and planned for a railway system in Mindanao.
Other Presidents just followed the Marcos plans until today.

Export zones and steel: President Marcos created export processing zones in many parts of the country under a new entity, the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA). Prominent among them are those in Olongapo City and in Villanueva and Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental operated and managed by the Philippine Veterans Industrial Development Corporation (PHIVEDIC).

He also laid the basis for a steel industrial with the Iligan Steel Mills of the Jacintos and the locating of the Philippine Sinter Corporation at PHIVIDEC which is a spin off of Kobe Steel Corporation of Japan. Sinter is the basic component for the production of steel.

People’s programs: Concerned with the need of people to be supplied with staple food, Department of Agriculture under Secretary Bong Tanco initiated the Masagana 99 program for growing of rice and corn. For the first time in the history of the country, it became an export country for rice and corn. It also encouraged the growing of vegetables in everyone’s backyard labeled as the Green Revolution. It promoted throughout the country an irrigation program resulting to expanded agricultural development.

It organized a back to the barangay program to decongest the cities and develope many areas in the countryside. It established stores which offered basic commodities with controlled and subsidized prices known as Kadiwa stores.

Health Facilities and Cultural projects: Marcos put up some of the best hospitals in the country – Heart Center, Kidney Center, Lung Center and Children’s Hospital. Regional, provincial and city hospitals were also improved.

Marcos also built centers for development of culture and the arts – Cultural Center of the Philippines, Film Center, Folk Arts Theatre, a center for studies and development of arts and letters in Mt. Makiling and the Philippine International Convention Center.

Political initiatives: Marcos amended the Constitution through a Constitutional Convention of elected delegates from the various congressional districts. In the amendments, Marcos changed the political system from a presidential to a French type parliamentary system.

He also initiated the beginnings of a federal system by creating thirteen regions in the country by way of dispersing government powers to the regions instead of concentrating everything in Manila.

He also created a Center for Strategic Studies based at the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. In an effort to reorient and re-educate the bureaucracy, Marcos established the Development Academy of the Philippines under the control and supervision of the Ministry of Education.

Marcos also helped organize the South East Asia Treaty Organization to cement relations of the Philippines with neighboring countries in our region and have a defense umbrella for the Philippines and our neighbors.

We stop at this point on President Marcos. There is more to say and write about him in the third part of this series, remembering this line – “in the plains of hesitation bleached the bones of countless millions.”

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