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When the present reads like the past

/ 05:20 AM October 02, 2020

History can be depressing when one reads the present like the past. The current squabble over who should be House Speaker is not new. It comes in cycles, often at the start of a new president’s term. Contrary to popular belief, Ferdinand Marcos was not the first and only Philippine president to win reelection, in 1969. Manuel Luis Quezon was reelected in 1941, after the Constitution was amended in 1940 to allow him to run for a second term.

Marcos had a keen sense of history and kept a diary as notes for future reference. He wrote daily, and what we have extant are complete years from 1970-73. By 1974, some months would go missing, and the diary entries trailed off until 1984. We do not know if Marcos continued writing daily, but the writings have since “disappeared.” Did he just miss out on certain days and months, busy with other matters?

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The entries relevant to current events begin on Jan. 6, 1970. Marcos wrote:

“[Ramon] Monching Durano [V], [Constantino] Uging Navarro, [Floro] Floring Crisologo, [Mohammad] Ali Dimaporo and [Jose] Joe Alberto came to see me as they want to change [Jose B.] Laurel as Speaker of the House. He has been criticizing me again and so has his brother, [Salvador] Doy Laurel, who wants to run for President in 1973. I have given permission for them and their groups which would be controlling, not to attend the caucuses called by Speaker Laurel.

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“However, we would have more problems if Laurel is deposed as Speaker. But we will keep him after we have clarified the position they (he and his Cepo [Congressional Economic Planning Office]) have taken on the apparently socialist and communist policies they are pronouncing under the guise of nationalism and the unjustified criticisms of his brother.

“The same is true in the Senate. Sen. Jose Roy, President Pro Tempore, seeks the presidency. In the coming constitutional convention we must make the VP the presiding officer of the Senate if the bicameral system is retained.

“But the presidency of the party should go to Roy now.

“It is unhealthy for the members of Congress to depend on the President to decide their internal problems like the election of the presiding officers.”

Unhealthy as Marcos said it was, the reality, then as now, is that the president does have a say in the situation. Speaker Laurel and Senate President Gil Puyat asked Marcos to support their candidacies. Marcos met with them individually or in caucus to figure out who had the support of the majority. He had to maintain unity within the Nacionalista Party.

On Jan. 14, 1970, Marcos presided over a caucus:

“Have told the congressmen we should keep [Jose B.] Laurel as Speaker in the whole morning and afternoon caucus. All the workers for the junta were for Laurel after I told them I was.

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“But the junta and I, first, had to announce for the consumption of the public that we could not intervene in purely internal matters of the House, unless the House members themselves asked us to personally intervene.

“After this, I called a conference of Cong. Ramon Durano, Nicanor Yñiguez, [Mohammad] Ali Dimaporo, [Constantino] Uging Navarro, [Jose] Joe Alberto, [Emilio R.] Miling Espinosa, and [Floro] Floring Crisologo to tell them that inasmuch as they are the leaders of Ex-Speaker [Cornelio] Villareal, it was their duty to inform him of my decision and that the most ideal situation would be for Villareal to withdraw. Then I asked Villareal and Laurel to come into the conference room and notified each in turn of my efforts to prevent an open fight.

“A committee of six, three from Laurel’s side (Majority Floor Leader [Marcelino] Veloso, Asst. Floor Leader [Rogaciano] Mercado and [James] Chiongbian), then three on Villareal’s side ([Nicanor] Yñiguez, [Jose] Alberto and Ali Dimaporo), was organized to prepare amendments to the rules of the House.”

By Jan. 20, 1970, the issue was resolved. Villareal withdrew and Laurel remained Speaker. Marcos noted: “Villareal graciously withdrew but his supporters swear that if Laurel does not remain loyal to me, they will topple him. Met the congressmen who all wanted releases and appointments.”

Then as now, all contenders for Senate President and House Speaker know what is recorded in Marcos’ diary: “There is only one elector [they] have to campaign for and win—and he is in Malacañang.”

When will we stop reading the present like the past?

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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