I never understood why the political color he chose for himself was a vivid purple. But, of course, it worked. You could always easily spot him in a crowd.
But when the sad news came of his death, the first thing I recalled about Roilo Golez wasn’t his campaign color, it was his stint as postmaster general. It was a different world then, when people actually wrote letters not just to, and from, abroad, but within the country and the city itself. A sign of how things were unraveling then was the regularity with which mail got lost, or took eons to arrive.
Memory is a funny thing. I’d always thought Golez had been appointed head of the Bureau of Posts in the last two or three years of the Marcos dictatorship, but it turns out he was appointed in 1981, when Marcos had inaugurated the “New Republic” and still seemed absolutely unassailable. It only goes to prove that, even in the year Marcos considered the apogee of his power, the rot had already started to show, hence the need to show action in terms of the post office.
I remember how some people took to mailing letters to themselves to see if Golez’s promises were coming true, and the general approbation that followed when letters did, indeed, arrive within the timeframe promised.
But that was the last hurrah of the Marcos administration as far as pleasing the public was concerned; it would start to go increasingly downhill after 1983. The next time Golez became prominent in the public mind would be in 1986. In a retrospective on Edsa some years back, the Inquirer mentioned Golez as “the first senior government official after Enrile and Ramos” to resign. I didn’t realize that, after an interval when Lito Banayo, Golez’s successor, served as postmaster general, he (Golez) returned to his old position and served as postmaster general under Cory Aquino.
Long years would follow in which Golez, term after term, was returned to Congress by his (at first, lone, then, second) district in Parañaque. And he was no notorious congressman. He was certainly not one to lower the caliber of the House during his two sets of three terms each. Indeed, he could be considered an exemplar of a specific period in our national development, the years of the Third Republic when, through their own efforts, people could rise from humble beginnings, and, by dint of a good public school education and passing the required tests, make something solidly professional of themselves.
In his case, the path was opened up by being accepted first, into the Philippine Military Academy, and later, to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He would, like many military-educated members of his generation, then go on to further civilian studies, in his case obtaining an MBA from UP.
The eulogies to mark his passing will provide many first-person accounts of his being respected in the halls of government, and in the many civic societies he belonged to and served faithfully and well, such as the Philippine Red Cross. His political peers will not, I suspect, cast aspersions on themselves by pointing out that he was not a crook. But such is our political reality that it is necessary to point this out, lest anyone think otherwise.
He was also that increasingly rare thing, a gentleman whose affiliations and choices as a politician one could agree or disagree with, but whether it was on questions of affiliation or policy, he was polite, tactful, traditional in the best human and humane sense.
But it was during his last years, when the sum total of his life could be said to have been an increasingly firm, and learned, public concern for the security, dignity and interests of our country, that many will remember Roilo Golez, and rightly so. With his son already rising in the city politics of Parañaque, I doubt if Golez was still interested in chasing votes for himself. But even if he were, he was choosing to speak out at a time when he had none of the benefits of incumbency or convenient affiliation with an administration to provide cover for his advocacy and opinions.
Yet he spoke out — in his own personal style, polite, measured, though increasingly unyielding and firm. And he died, as all Navy men must want to die: hand firmly on the tiller, sure of the path to take to safe harbors.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.