Wednesday, October 01, 2014

President Diosdado P. Macapagal - "The Poor Boy from Lubao" (1961- 1965)

"Certain marks of colonization are still manifested by the people. I have arbitrarily identified these marks as dependence and subservience." -  Dr. Pura Santillan-Castrence (1905-2007)

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Hi All,


In our search for understanding of the perennial predicament in our homeland, a visit to the history of how our past presidents led or, more aptly, ruled provides us some historical insights; that is, allow us to discern patterns and trends that we of subsequent generations can identify as permeating our so-called national leadership, then and now.

In retrospect, the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal gave me some memories of which I felt the beginnings of my conscious political awareness; I was 15 and a college freshman then.

To cite a few experiential events, during Pres. Macapagal's term, which I never forgot:

  1. My passbook savings account lost roughly 50% of its purchasing power from peso devaluation, i.e. from P2 to P3.90 exchange to $1.00;
  2. it was a period when there was buying out and hoarding of our coin currencies (5-10-25 centavos), 
  3. my first experience of having to walk from Legarda to Mandaluyong due to a strike by jeepney drivers for rates increase; and 
  4. we were marched, one Sunday at ROTC, from the Luneta to the Rizal Coliseum to rally about our Philippine claim on “Sabah (North Borneo).”

As we come to learn a bit of economics later, we understand the havoc a currency devaluation brings us; as our Philippine peso has devalued several times, though now euphemistically under a “floating currency exchange rate.”  At the time and by his first month in office as president, Macapagal removed currency exchange control as promised to official U.S. and local American businessmen-backers. The hoarding of our coins was also a byproduct of the this deregulation and/or due metal prices, melting the coins for their nickel and silver contents.

Knowing that Pres. Garcia’s nationalist stance (supported by Sen.Claro M. Recto), i.e. implementing regulatory economic controls and the  “Filipino First Policy” earned the hostility of the U.S. and its resident Americans who wanted to forever keep their colonial military and economic prerogatives in our homeland; and the typical, quiet opportunism of the rich Chinese, Macapagal promised that if elected he will rescind both. Thus, Macapagal won after obtaining electoral support from the Americans, as later confirmed by Joseph B. Smith, CIA-operative in his 1976 book “Portrait of A Cold Warrior - Second Thoughts of A Top CIA Agent.”

As earlier mentioned, in his first few weeks at Malacanang, President Macapagal proclaimed his faith in free enterprise, unregulated currency exchange and foreign investments. He then rescinded both exchange controls and First Filipino Policy of Pres. Garcia. He essentially ignored the facts that during the short-lived nationalist, preferential and protective economic policy of Garcia, native Filipino entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in new fields/industries, i.e. chemical manufacturing, metal fabrication, electronics, etc. Looking back to the early 1970s, I realize that I personally benefited from the Filipino First Policy. I was an engineer in a technologically progressive, 100% Filipino-owned chemical manufacturing company that was established during President Garcia's administration.

I.P. Soliongco wrote a series of articles about our post-WW2 presidents from the years 1946 to 1971, the year of his death. His articles though dated are so alive and resonate in the thinking Filipino mind, given that his critical analysis and observations are so relevant, 60+ years ago today.

In the following article, Soliongco wrote about what he saw as the hypocritical character of Macapagal and his subservience to U.S. foreign policy and American (and Chinese) economic interests in the homeland.


- Bert
PS.
Macapagal's daughter Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became 14th President (2001 to 2010). She proclaimed then she will rule like her dad; she did and with much worse and wider long-term disaster for the native Filipino majority and their future generations. I will cover later.

Click below to read my previous blog posts on our post-WW2 presidents:

President Manuel Roxas A. Roxas (1946-1948)


President Elpidio R.Quirino (1948-1953)


Presidents Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay (1953-1957) & President Carlos P. Garcia (1957-1961)


President Diosdado P. Macapagal (1961-1965)


President Ferdinand E. Marcos  (1965-1986) - LATER



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 “Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent” – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-1881)


THE ”POOR BOY FROM LUBAO”
Written by Indalecio P. Soliongco, Editorial Writer/columnist, Manila Chronicle
Edited by Prof. Renato Constantino


A friend of ours told us this story. At a party given by one of the members of the diplomatic corps, among those present were Congressman Diosdado Macapagal of Pampanga and an American businessman whose powers of perception seem to be more than the ordinary requirements of business.


The two fell into a conversation in the course of which the american remarked:” I hear, Mr. congressman, that you are in the forefront of the campaign to send Filipino troops to Korea.” (Korean War, 1950-1953 - Bert)


Congressman Macapagal answered: “ That’s right.”


“Don’t you think , Mr. Congressman,” the American said, “that such action as you urge will mean that many Filipinos would get killed just as many American soldiers now are getting killed?”


Congressman Macapagal appeared offended at these words, our friend reported.


“That is possible,” the congressman answered after a long pause,”but then it is all for the sake of defending democracy.”


“In that case, Mr. Congressman,” the American said,”would it be too much to expect you to be one of the first, if not the first, to volunteer?”


Our friend said he didn't hear Congressman Macapagal’s reply  to this suggestion.


Days later, last Sunday to be exact, the whole world learned of the Pampanga solon’s answer, for the same suggestion was made to him by his colleague, Congressman Arsenio H. Lacson.


“Every Filipino has a job,” Congressman Macapagal is reported to have said more or less,” and mine is to remain in Congress.”


Exactly. And he can hardly be blamed for this attitude. After all, he is not alone. There are many among those who urge the sending of troops to Korea but who have to be here because their jobs require them to be several thousand miles behind the firing lines.  Their critics must understand that these advocates, to paraphrase Hemingway, have that beautiful detachment and devotion to democracy of men who are liberal with lives without being in any danger of death.


Congressman Macapagal, of course, is quite capable of leading a counterattack against the North Korean position at Taejon. We are sure he would acquit himself well and perhaps with a letter of commendation from the president of the United Nations Assembly or receive the congressional Medal of Honor posthumously. But what good will these do?


It is here that he is needed. If he should be prevailed to volunteer, who would speak at YWCA forums to extol the virtues of Syngman Rhee and the devotion to freedom and democracy of the South Korean regime? Who would answer the questions of such exponents of the Third Force as Jose Lansang? And above all, who would write such illuminating essays as that one entitled “ In Defense of President Quirino?” Why, who else but Congressman Macapagal? (8-8-1950)



Poverty as Political Weapon


Vice President Diosdado Macapagal , who once called himself the “Magsaysay with brains,” paid the late President a sincere compliment when he, too, elevated poverty to a supreme virtue and made it a weapon of politics.


Thus, in most of his campaign tours in the backward areas, in those areas where the inhabitants lead a marginal existence, Mr. Macapagal portrays himself as the poor boy who glories in his poverty and who sees in in the underfed and ill-housed a spiritual affinity.  What he says to the rich and how he acts in their presence are, as we pointed out in his place the other day, an entirely different matter and bear no relation to the manifestations of the other facets of his character.


In any event, VP Diosdado Macapagal has made poverty a campaign issue and has used his alleged economic conditions as his favorite gambit. That he has enticed a considerable number of people into accepting his gambit goes without saying. But if these people have allowed themselves to be seduced it is not because they see in him a candidate of exceptional talent but because they look upon him as a projection of their own misery.


Now, there is nothing disgraceful about poverty. It is a condition of life which more often than not cannot be helped. It is therefore,  something to be remedied, not to be glorified. But, as we have said, Mr. Macapagal has chosen to glorify it and to use it for his own personal ends. And so he has painted himself as its champion struggling against the reported opulence of President Garcia.


This why the administration in the person of Secretary Jose Nable challenged him early this week and demanded that he explain the appalling inconsistencies of his poverty. The Secretary wants to know why the VP affects to be as poor as a church mouse when he is in the barrio and why he was as rich as much as a tycoon in such cities as New York, Washington and Rome. What Mr. Nable wants to know, in other words, is where a self-proclaimed poor man like Mr. Macapagal got the money which had enabled him to travel with the splendor of an heir.


But Mr. Macapagal, instead of giving an acceptable explanation, begged the question. He pointed to the expenses incurred by President Garcia in his state visits to Japan and South Vietnam and, with customary self-righteousness, asked for an accounting. These visits, however, are official in nature and as such are not the issue for his long and expensive trip.


Is it true, as the rumors have it, that he was financed by local American businessmen? Is it true that only one American, a phenomenally successful trader and industrialist, was the paymaster of the Liberal Party candidate? Is it true that it was really the Chinese who had helped him out? Finally, is it possible that the VP is in reality a man of fabulous wealth?


These are questions which must be for the answers to them will furnish a clue to the conduct of Mr. Macapagal in the event that he is elected in 1961. The first three questions are inspired by the understandable fear that as president Mr. Macapagal might sing the song of those whose bread he had eaten; the last, by the thought that the man might be devoid of sincerity and intellectual honesty. (12-10-1960)



The American Candidate


If alien luck holds out -and in this only Christian nation in Asia alien luck is almost always phenomenally good- the Americans and other foreigners will have their wish. For if VP Macapagal and that portion of the Liberal Party that supports him capture the administration in 1961, the country will have the dispensation to which all the elements will be in tune with alien interests and temper. This is not a conclusion capriciously arrived at. This is a conclusion which stems naturally and logically from the latest utterances of VP Macapagal -utterances which express with amazing clarity the basic platform of his group.


Among other things, he would improve Philippine-American relations which, according to him, have deteriorated under the Garcia administration. How does he propose to accomplish this? He would allow the conversion of the country into a missile and nuclear station, if Americans and Jusmag-oriented Filipino military officers counsel him to do so. Since he did not say anything about it, the presumption is that he will not irritate the Americans by bringing up such minor matters as jurisdiction, delimitation of the bases’ areas, etc.


Are the alien capitalists and businessmen complaining about the economic climate hereabouts? The VP is out to appease them. He would abolish all forms of control and leave development to what he calls “private enterprise.” Are the aliens complaining that under the present laws they find difficulty in converting their huge earnings into dollars and sending them back home? The VP has a ready answer.

He would give a firm guarantee allowing “the absolute repatriation both of profits and capital.” This should prove attractive to the foreigners, if only for the reason that Mr. Macapagal is probably the first politician of an underdeveloped country to make a pledge of such vast and disastrous implications.


In any event, the aliens have in VP Diosdado Macapagal a presidential candidate who is made to order for their purposes. They should now unite and give him their unstinted support. They can not afford division in their ranks, for against their candidate will be ranged the great majority of Filipinos who, the ungrateful and inhospitable people they have become, are now clamoring for a dominant position in their own society. (11-8-1960)



The Unfinished Revolution


When President Diosdado Macapagal deodorized the phrase “unfinished revolution” and used it as one of his many battle cries for what he called the emancipation of the masses from their poverty-stricken lot, many rejoiced, particularly many from those liberal circles where a fetching phrase has a way of creating a deep and lasting impression.


At the time President Macapagal was using the phrase with happy frequency, the relations between the Philippines and the United States were not, so to speak, in the best of terms. The strain was caused by the petulance of the President over a matter as unimportant as the failure of the American Congress to approve additional war damage payment. And one-side product of his petulance which further endeared him to the many men and women who had tried to read in his early acts and utterances the signs of a truly nationalistic leader was his timely transfer of the celebration of independence from the synthetic July 4th to the authentic June 12th.


And so, the hope of the people who had been  agreeably surprised by the president’s dramatic display of something resembling a desire to shed himself of American influence arose, and for more than two years, these people wallowed in their nationalistic dream. They, too began to use the phrase “unfinished revolution” and much to their credit, they started catching glimpses of some of the basic truths of Philippine history.


But today, the term “unfinished revolution” as used by Pres. Macapagal has begun to be tarnished and is fast acquiring the nature of a shibboleth. Worse, it has begun to exude a dangerous meaning, not the meaning that the liberals and intelligentsia thought it had when first it was used by the president, which was inconclusiveness of the Philippine Revolution which started in 1896 and was frustrated by the superior arms the American invading forces in 1898 and which must needs be completed in our time.


For today, evidence -more or less conclusive- are piling up to show that the term “unfinished revolution” as expressed time and again by Pres. Macapagal refers to the efforts of American monopoly capital to control Philippine economy; efforts which began during the Empire days but which were interrupted by the so-called Philippine independence from 1946 to 1961.
The provisions of the investment bill which the president himself is said to have drafted and which fortunately were rejected by Congress; the prevalence of American advisers to many government office; the curious insistence of the U.S. President and of the U.S. Ambassador in Manila to adulterate beyond recognition  the nationalization of the Retail Trade Act in favor of American nationals; the strange silence of the president on an issue so vital as Parity and the preferential trade contained in the Laurel-Langley Agreement; the refusal of the Macapagal administration to show the quality of guts in connection with the jurisdiction provision of the bases agreement; the sneaky entry of so powerful entity as the Dole corporation; the almost criminal insistence to revive the United Fruit deal; and the unofficial but nonetheless effective adoption of the Philippines First Policy as advocated by the American and Filipino admirers of the Puerto Rican experiment -these taken altogether or separately are testimony to the heroic efforts of the president and his administration to achieve the betterment of the common man by handing over control of the nation’s economy to the Americans and resuming the counter-revolution of the American traders of the Empire Days whose activities were given intellectual justification and ennobled by the writings of Dean C. Worcester and of Dr. Victor Heiser.


No doubt there would be prosperity of a sort, if and when this plan of Pres. Macapagal is realized. Certainly, there would be more Filipino Gunga Dins in marzotto suits. Perhaps, more enclaves like Forbes Park and Urdaneta Village would arise from what before were ugly marshlands. There would also be contentment of a sort, for the rate of unemployment would decrease.


But unfortunately, an increasing number of Filipinos have become conscious of their history, and these Filipinos are not likely to be contented with the piggery contentment that is invariably the product of complete American domination. Moreover, the Filipino industrialists and businessmen who would be displaced by their American counterparts, the carpetbaggers as well as the agents of American monopoly capital, would join forces with historically-minded Filipinos. Finally, the vast number of Filipino strugglers from the various American economic oases all over the land would be reeking with discontent.


In short, American economic domination is no guarantee that there would be social calm. Protests would be raised, and demonstrations would be staged. And when all else is proved unavailing, revolts would be the last resort. But because of the presence of American bases, such revolts would never develop into a revolution.


But the counter-argument of the proponents of economic Americanization is that if control of the nation’s economy were taken over completely by the Filipinos, the Filipino laborers would be exploited, that they would be paid less, and that, therefore, their lot would be as bad as it is now.
Granted.  But in the event that the Filipino masses could not longer take it, any revolt they plot and fight against their unaided Filipino exploiters would easily graduate into a revolution. When this happens, and surely it will happen, the “unfinished revolution” of 1896, which today has degenerated into a mere phrase for seduction, will at last become real and attain its logical and final consummation. (11-29-1964)



Red-baiting


Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Filipino liberals decided that their man was Pres. Macapagal, for they liked to think that they found in him a leader who was dedicated to the uplift of the lot of the common man and who could assert himself against the known importunities of the American embassy, the state department and the American military.


These Filipinos would so discourse for hours on the nationalistic virtues of the President that even in so intimate a circle as the Civil Liberties Union (CLU) of the Philippines there was a cleavage of views toward the poor boy from Lubao.


The more radical members of the group looked up to him for the deliverance of the nation and literally adored him for what to them was his independent foreign policy. The more conservative members. however, saw through the mask and never relented in their distrust of the aims and motives of the newly elected President.


Today, the radical members of the CLU and the union leaders who saw in Mr. Macapagal a savior whose services they could utilize in attaining real political and economic independence are lost -lost in the fearful thought that perhaps they had misplaced their trust.


First of all, there is the question of the nationalization of the retail trade. This was the handiwork of many liberal-minded Filipinos, and they contributed their just share in its enactment because they were convinced that the placing of the retail trade of the nation in the hands of the Filipinos was one of the effective steps toward the economic millenium.


But their hero, President Macapagal, is still in a daze as to what to do with the implementation of so valid and necessary a law. He is still under heavy pressure from president Johnson and Ambassador Blair, and the signs are clear that he would succumb to that pressure -to the detriment of his countrymen.


Second, there is the president’s suicidal Vietnam policy. The Filipino liberals supported him -many of them are yet for him the expectation that he would change his policy -because they calculated that he would not involve the nation in such disastrous adventures. The massive fact, however, is that he is determined to do so, and t5he only obstacle in his path seems to be the Nacionalista-controlled Senate.


Finally, there is the latest manifestation of Pres. Macapagal’s true and unmitigated character in his interview published in an American magazine which is known for reactionary attitudes.  In that interview, Mr. Macapagal revealed his witch-hunting proclivities when he ascribed to demonstrations at the American embassy over the murders of Filipinos by Clark Field guards to the communists and when he said that the mass media of the country had been infiltrated by communists.


Now, to liberals everywhere, red-baiting which the president has revived as a national pastime is something abominable. It is abominable, not because it is directed at the real communists but because its victims are invariably the liberals themselves. And yet, one of the proud boasts of these liberals three years ago was that under the present dispensation they would be spared the humiliation of suffering for their nationalism and independent spirit.


But there is no question that they are the target of Mr. Macapagal’s self-righteous denunciations. For it is they who are behind the movement of independence from the U.S.A. economically as well as politically. certainly, it was they who inspired and made possible the historic demonstrations which had self-respect and independence for their themes.


Now, their hero is against them and has unctuously denounced them for what they are not and never will be. What can they do?


This question we can not answer, but if Pres. Macapagal is anything that many a Filipino liberal thought he was, he should have the courage to name names in his provokingly vague accusations.


And if he has the courage of his convictions -in the event that the utterances he has made to his American interviewer were his convictions- then he should use the machinery of justice for the arrest, trial and conviction of the communists in his mind.


This he should do, of only to please the liberal stragglers who up to this minute are looking up to him for guidance to the uplands and if only to prove to his American betters that he was not talking like a fishmonger’s wife. (6-9-1965)



Snooping under DM


One of the many claims of Pres. Macapagal which send his foes and friends into hysterical confusion is his passionate avowals of his loyalty to rule of law. Let there but be the slightest opportunity -the inauguration, say, of a bank or a supermarket or the celebration of some national holiday- and there he is exhorting the multitude to observe the law and venerate the Constitution. And to proclaim to all his belief in the morality of the rule of law, he even set aside a day last month as a day of the law.


These protestations have been accepted, sometimes at their face value, but oftentimes with shakes of salt. The reason of course is not only that the President has rather been careless about the necessary distinction between what is true and what is not, but that he has also formed the distressing habit of saying one thing and doing exactly the opposite. And this, whether through a conscious intent or not, has not been lost among the people, on his critics and admirers, and most particularly on his subalterns.


Under ordinary circumstances, this presidential duality which manifests itself in many an official act is bad enough. But it is a million times more so in those days when, in the increasing bitterness of the campaign, it is reflected in the acts of such intelligence agencies of the government as the NBI, NICA, G-2, the police and of such bureaucratic appendages such as the postal officials.


All these agents and officials have taken a solemn oath, like the president, to uphold the law and all the order, fairness, justice and morality that it stands for, and most important of all, they have pledged to render protection to the citizenry who support them, and preserve their unalterable right to privacy.


And yet, at this time and perhaps for many, many months to come, these agents and agencies, possibly on orders of the president or acting on their own in the expectation of some future reward, have intensified (for they have been at it for sometime now) their invasion of privacy.


In the name of national security and for the alleged ridding the country of communists and other subversive elements, they are utilizing the facilities of the government and the money of the people to enlarge the dossiers (and the word dossier in these parts mean no more than a collection of gossips and derogatory information culled by ignorant and corrupt agents and supplied by the enemies or rivals of the victim) of persons who have been classified by the Liberal administration either as too antagonistic or critical for their comfort.


These persons are businessmen, industrialists, labor leaders, articulate and politically conscious students, newspapermen, teachers, prominent Nacionalistas, disillusioned Liberals, and last but not least, Justices of the Supreme Court.


All these individuals are subject to constant surveillance. Their movements, the people they meet, the places they frequent, and perhaps even the books they read are daily recorded in official-looking sheets of paper which have a way of impressing the naive and impressionable.


But unfortunately, that is not the worst of the immoral and frenetic activities. The letters of many of these people are opened under the very noses of postal officials, read and copied in photostat. The letters are eventually delivered, sometimes bearing the telltale mark of having been tampered with  and also the explanation that they have been received in bad order. But more often than not, these amenities are even ignored, and a piece of scotch tape is the only evidence of official effort to keep the envelop together.


Then, there is the well-known tapping of the phones. All conversations are recorded in the stupid and forlorn hope that something subversive will be uttered. The tapes of these conversations, like the copies of private letters, are then preserved for what are surely evil purposes.


It is this and in the opening of letters that the NBI and the G-2 and other snooping agencies of the government have been most active. Indeed, the situation has become such that the home and office telephones of the Supreme Court Justices, of newspapermen, of labor leaders, and of Nacionalista candidates are tapped 24 hours a day. The only saving grace in the whole sordid activity is that the victims can always avail themselves of the services of the electronic experts who can detect taps.


What is the purpose of all these illegalities? The purpose, one may be sure, is not to gather evidence to convict the persons under surveillance. If that was the purpose, then at the very conservative estimate, ¼ th of the country’s entire population -the decent and respectable ¼ th-  would have been arrested and tried years and years ago.


The purpose, especially at a time when even with undisguised American support the administration is losing ground, is to cow by blackmail and intimidation all possible sources of opposition to the President’s reelection. In other words, the ruthlessness, the mendacities and illegalities of 1965 have begun to cast their ominous shadows in 1964.   (10-17-1964)


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"Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation
are men who want crops without
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
lightning.
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one
or it may be both moral and physical
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Power concedes nothing without a
demand
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. - H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

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