Just shortly before the interim Batasan Pambansa election in 1978, Marcos brought the LP and the NP to the abbotoir and assembled his own political party, the Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan, under which all traditional political parties could join so long as they marched in the jackboot of the KBL. Originally conceived merely as an umbrella organization, the KBL was formerly known as Bagong Lipunang Kilusan ng mga Nacionalista, Liberal, at Iba Pa. But less than a year after its founding, Marcos discarded all pretenses and turned KBL into a full-blown political party; its name was then shortened to Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan or KBL.
During the 1960s, and even earlier, only two major political parties—the LP and the NP—alternately roamed the corridors of power, no third party could muscle in, especially in pursuit of the presidency. Ferdinand Marcos put this to a stop right after martial law was declared. In turn, by virtue of the 1973 Constitution, Marcos abolished the two-party system and controlled all political activities throughout his rule.
But during KBL’s conception, Marcos, pulling out all the stops of endless call for a “national unity movement,” actually failed to rouse the Liberals and some of the hardliners of his own party, the Nacionalista Party, one of them was Salvador “Doy” Laurel. Interestingly, despite his being with the Marcos Administration in the pre-martial law Senate, Doy was never a blind follower of any leader. His loyalty belonged to the country and his own. But he also took up some public postures in line with the administration, as his tentative position on martial rule indicated. Still and all, Doy always believed in the Lincolnian phrase —he said so explicitly many times—“With malice toward none, with charity for all”
I had had a hard time getting people to run as opposition candidates. I had started organizing the Lakas ng Bayan—not as [a] party but as an opposition group in Metro Manila and some key cities like Cebu and Cagayan de Oro. Homobono Adaza of Cagayan de Oro and Hilario Davide Jr. of Cebu were for it. But the people I expected to support it came out against it: Macapagal was against it, Gerry Roxas was against it, Salonga was against it. Ninoy announced he would not run while he was in jail. I was told they had signed an agreement not to participate. Later, at the instigation of Tanada, Ninoy withdrew from the agreement — but by then it was too late. (Emphasis mine)Divide and rule
The cry of election boycott in 1978 sprang from the throat of ex-President Diosdado Macapagal, one of the old guards of LP. Convinced that participation would only legitimize the Marcos regime and that clean and free elections were impossible, LP President Gerardo “Gerry” Roxas simply echoed Macapagal’s skepticism. So was Senator Jovito Salonga. But Homobono Adaza, the Golden Boy of Cagayan De Oro politics, differed with his elders from the Manila opposition. In answer to Macapagal’s argument, Bono Adaza would say: “You know, Mr. President, the Philippines is not the United States or Great Britain. It is a developing country where legitimacy means possession of power. Marcos said we could attack him indiscriminately for sixty days without any case filed against us. We should respond to the Marcos challenge because cowardice is infectious but so is courage… I will participate, with apologies to all of you, by organizing a regional party,” Adaza’s solitary voice, however, fell on deaf ears. True to his words, Adaza was among the first to organize a regional party in the country, the Mindanao Alliance (MA), which quickly accepted the Marcos challenge to participate in the elections. MA, though centered in Northern Mindanao, would later be a major component of the opposition under the umbrella of UNIDO.
This policy not to get involved in the 1978 national elections triggered an exodus in the LP, with most of its key officers defecting to the KBL. Gerry Roxas, however, would try to hold the LP together through newsletters and personal contacts with its remaining members, but ostensibly maintained distance from Aquino’s LABAN. In no time, the Nacionalista Party too was consigned to limbo, and would later on split into two factions: the Laurel Wing and the pro-Marcos Roy Wing. With the implosion of the traditional political parties, and the lack of central leadership in the opposition, regional parties and ragtag opposition grouplets soon appeared like mushrooms, particularly during the 1980 elections. From that time on, Philippine politics under the Marcos regime was never the same.
The Great Spoiler
Having failed to forge a national opposition ticket, Doy soon plunged himself into a Hamlet-inspired dilemma: to run or not to run. Torn between party lines, Doy even up to that point wanted to test whether Marcos’ word was as good as gold. But upon the advice of his Kuya Pito, whose opinion he revered highly, Doy eventually reached a decision and finally threw his hat into the ring. Even so, if Doy was ever anything, he was a party man: “I decided to run as a Nacionalista under the KBL umbrella and I decided to run in Batangas.”
Even as a pragmatist and a partisan, Doy never for one second let go of his dream, the dream that fired up all his life: to be of highest service to his country and people. And so the time came when Doy Laurel walked into a No Man’s Land armed with two paramount objectives: to speed up the country’s return to normalcy and the restoration of people’s basic rights and liberties under a regime of democracy. Thus equipped, Doy began his campaign as a KBL candidate in the Southern Tagalog region. Ever the consummate statesman, Doy Laurel, whose powerful oration was then the rage, would start every campaign with an appeal for sobriety.
Reported the Philippines Daily Express on February 28, 1978:
Former Senator Salvador H. Laurel yesterday urged leaders and workers of all political groups to keep the current election campaign at a high level by sticking only to a discussion of valid issues and avoiding personalities… The former senator aired his appeal at a big rally in Lucena City, during which all candidates of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan were proclaimed.
With the old idolization of his father again stirring in Doy’s veins, he pledged, in many KBL rallies, to carry on and intensify his crusade for justice for every Filipino upon his election. He also appealed to the voters for unity and asked them to disregard attempts to divide the people, especially in such a critical time when the country was moving toward political normalization. But Doy also had his few daring moments in the campaign. From the outset, Doy knew the real score. He felt that it was not the right time to go the full route. Thus, in many ways, he played the role of the Great Spoiler and characterized his candidacy as one where he was merely “jog-jogging” along. After all, he intoned, the election was not really a race since there was no real opposition, to begin with. “Because we had no opponents,” said Doy, ”we candidates were reduced to competing against each other— pataasan ng ihi, as they say in Tagalog, or seeing who could piss higher.” Eventually, the word was sent to Doy to refrain from mocking the upcoming polls, allegedly on orders of god himself—meaning Marcos. To this, Doy sneered, “Why not, when it’s true?” Obviously peeved at Doy’s remark, the KBL pontoons, who were staunchly Marcos sycophants, shot back, “Because it doesn’t look nice!”
Indeed, no one came as nice as Doy Laurel in those days. For, here was a man strangely far removed from the common run of KBL clowns who practiced demagoguery on a grand scale just to please the whims of the conjugal dictators in Malacanang. But Doy was no ordinary politician. Once upon a time, before martial rule was proclaimed, he was a highly-respected Senator, whose skills in political swordplay had few equals, whose social conscience, quite rare for Philippine politicians, stirred him to author laws which benefited the poor and the unwanted. Add to this, was the Laurel persona. A known orator in his UP days, Doy always held his audiences spellbound. He had the charisma of the great barrister pleading his cause with the people, punctuating his arguments with intellectual wit and asides.
These were the first headwinds of Doy Laurel’s return to politics.
Excerpts from "UNIDO: The Political Party that Brought Marcos Down."
Burton, Sandra. Impossible Dream: The Marcoses, the Aquinos, and the Unfinished Revolution. New York: Warner Books, 1989
Canoy, Reuben R. The Counterfeit Revolution: Martial Law in the Philippines. Manila. Philippines Edition Publishing. 1980
Joaquin, Nick. Doy Laurel in Profile: A Philippine Political Odyssey. Makati: Lahi, 1985 (Reprinted 2012)
Komisar, Lucy. Corazon Aquino: The Story of a Revolution. New York: George Braziller, 1987.
Marcos, Ferdinand E. The Politics of Transition. Manila: 1978
Laurel, Salvador H. Sworn to Serve. Makati: Salvador H. Laurel: 1990
Laurel, Celia Diaz. Doy Laurel. Makati: Celia Diaz Laurel: 2007
Thompson, Mark R. The Anti-Marcos Struggle. Quezon City: New Day, 1996
Wurfel, David. Filipino Politics: Development and Decay. Quezon City. Ateneo Press. 1988
Interviews by the Author:
Adaza, Homobono. Former governor, Misamis Oriental; former assemblyman, Batasan Pambansa; president, Mindanao Alliance. Quezon City, June 2016
Arrieta, Abundio, Marbella, Winston, Monico, Jacob, Oliveros, Jose. Interview by the author, electronic recording, Makati. Philippines. September 2014