Sunday, February 1, 2015

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 UNIDO

In 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 standard bearer following the historic and colorful nominating convention attended by more than 25,000 delegates and opposition leaders. The momentous occasion was graced by no less than Cory Aquino herself, endorsing his candidacy.

But not everyone was happy with Doy Laurel. Much of the anti-Marcos forces, those who were loyal to the Catholic hierarchy, distrusted him deeply. Unfairly, he was branded as the ultimate politician often seen to be very much like the guy they were trying to get rid of. But perhaps the real reason for this is the fact that Marcos owed a lot to the Laurels, including his life, he would never dare to touch any of them. And so, despite his unblemished record as public servant, and not to mention his lonely effort to forge a unified opposition, Doy Laurel was vilified in public as overly ambitious and an opportunist.

Enter the “saint”

It was opposition leader, Neptali Gonzales who first suggested that Cory Aquino should run for president. But Cory made no bones about the fact that all she wanted was to become the symbol for the restoration of democracy, running for president, she intoned, was a crazy idea. Indeed, she was a novice, unlettered in the art of politics. Then lo and behold, just two days after Marcos announced that a snap election will be held on February 7, 1986, Cory suddenly heard the “voice of God.” To further test the mettle of her alleged divine calling, Cory issued a soaring challenge that she would run for president if presented with one million signatures.

Reality began to unfurl before Doy. Cory Aquino’s political somersault took Doy by surprise. Many times, and in many occasions, Cory denied having any intention to be nominated, much less running for president. At first, Doy was clearly secured with his position. After UNIDO’s stunning victory, the road was open, wide open for Doy Laurel to enter Malacanang. And so it seemed.

Interestingly, the art of politics is exercised best when trends are spotted in time. To counter UNIDO, other opposition leaders were quick to organize the Convenor’s Group, while PDP-Laban and Salonga’s wing of the Liberals ventured a new political alliance. All these groups had one candidate in mind, and that was Cory Aquino.

This development presented a big problem for Doy as some of his UNIDO supporters defected, leaving him increasingly isolated. To avert a split, tedious negotiations came one after the other. Doy, for his part, sincerely believed (and rightly so) he had a better right over Cory or anyone else. But Cory held her cards close to her chest and pretended to be “neutral” all along, presumably on the advice of her cordon sanitaire.

Pressed for time, Doy resigned himself to a higher power. That was when Doy, together with Soc Rodrigo, sought the help of Cardinal Sin. Teary-eyed, seemingly hurt and bruised, Doy Laurel took the Cardinal’s advice in stride. For nearly six years, all Doy ever did was to fight, organize and head the opposition at a critical time when it was foolhardy to do so, now it was time to make the ultimate sacrifice for the nation— he was yielding to Cory Aquino.

Ever the gentleman, Doy Laurel once again reached out to Cory. In this meeting, Doy proposed to Cory that she should run as president with a racehorse, and that was UNIDO, the dominant opposition party at that time. Again, proud Cory vacillated. Left with no choice, Doy Laurel, along with his supporters, marched to COMELEC to file his certificate of candidacy as UNIDO’s standard bearer.

The mother of all promises

Cory Aquino recoiled and agreed to run under the banner of UNIDO. The next day another meeting was set. This time both camps arrived at a compromise, and a pledge that would place Salvador “Doy” Laurel in the lotus land of might have been.

By Doy Laurel’s terse account, (and this was never refuted by Cory Aquino in her lifetime), Cory reiterated her previous offer to Doy: that he would be Prime Minister while she would only be ceremonial President; that she would step down in two years; and that Doy would name 30 percent of the cabinet and the rest would be decided by them as they go along. By nightfall, hours before the COMELEC deadline, Doy Laurel eventually capitulated and extended his hand to Cory. Visibly overwhelmed by Doy’s statesmanlike chivalry, Cory held Doy’s hands and quipped, “Thank you, Doy, I’ll never forget this.”

Unknowing of the awaiting betrayal, he finished his recollection and recouped himself. It was time to move forward. The country must move forward.

In a joke of fate however, Cory did forget and Doy was sluggishly forgotten. Doy, in fact, has recounted in his book Neither Trumpets Nor Drums (1992), the vow that Cory has repeatedly broken:


Cory then turned to my two brothers and said: “i-formalize na ninyo an gating pinagkasunduan.” But Kuta Pito replied: “Hindi na kailangan i-formalize pa iyan. Lalong masakit lamang kapag hindi tinupad.” I reminded Cory that she had already initialed all the items we had agreed upon on a piece of paper at the residence of Teng Puyat: “I still have that piece of paper. Maliwanag na maliwanag na naman an gating pinagkasunduan. Ang mahalaga’y ang nilalaman ng puso.”

Indeed unbecoming of someone later seen by many as apt for sainthood, this depraved behavior, has been retold by other history writers too. Teodoro Benigno in his book, “Here’s the Score” parroted Cory’s words saying, “Babangitin ko pa ba iyang Doy na iyan, o pipitikin na lang ba natin na parang langaw?”

And now these stories have to be told for they have ill-delivered one man to not only solitariness but oblivion. More importantly, the broken and forgotten promise force us to consider the what ifs. What if this promise was given a chance? What if Cory believed in Doy’s mantra that “nation above all”?

Unsurprisingly, the assertive Doy, took the chance to ask these questions to Cory in his lifetime. He valiantly asked Cory, as recounted in Neither Trumpets Nor Drums, and hereby quoted in verbatim:

“‘Whatever happened to all those promises you made, Cory? Why was the Constitution abolished even without even telling me? Why did you appoint me Chairman of the Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the behest loan only to be suddenly abolished again? Why am I now being asked to submit courtesy resignation— just because Joker Arroyo and Concepcion had a shouting match?’ Cory looked down and gave a halting reply:

‘I was told…that the EDSA revolution…erased all those promises…’”

Yes, she was just told. She was told to run and she ran. She was told to disregard Doy and she did. She was told. That’s why it’s high time to tell she was. And this I wasn’t just told.

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