Manang Letty: Obsta principiis!



OBSTA principiis was a principle I learned from my teacher, Chief Justice Felix V. Makasiar. Resist the first encroachments. And from civil law gurus, Justices Edgardo Paras, Ricardo Puno and Eduardo Caguioa, possession is 9/10 of the law.

We may or may not have lost Panatag, but the Pearl of the Orient Seas has just lost another gem or jewel, radiant, and of purest ray serene, who agreed with these principles, in my view.

Thank you, Manang Letty (Ramos-Shahani), and good-bye. With the Macoy administration in December 1985, she boldly endorsed underdog opposition candidate Cory Aquino, almost two months before brother FVR was to see the light.

I was to learn more of her. With all due respect, she is the only Pinoy I heard say “august,” accent on the second syllable, when not used as the month. This “august” chamber is often misspoken here. We shared a passion for precision in expression and we both discouraged constituents from asking for financial assistance from senators (my take-home pay was P14,612.50, as senator of the realm, and even lower as a Cabinet member). We used our pork, not toxic per se, properly, for the good of the people.

In 1985-1986, it was my pleasant task, as underdog candidate Cory spokesperson, to announce that Manang was joining us. She formally defected on December 28, 1985, when our chances looked dim. How gutsy and principled of her, the lucky charm.

A week later, after a rousing Manila Hotel speech by Cory, plain housewife, but descended from the Cojuangcos and Sumulongs, and married to Ninoy—osmotic politicians all—and majored in Math and minored in French, I personally got convinced that our seemingly insane adventure had a fighting chance. Oui, there was the risk of winning! Doy Laurel had sacrificed and slid down to Veep and Cory-Doy barnstormed magnificently. People Power with Divine Intervention was on, an inevitability.

When I, a naive tyro, once walked out of the Senate very early on, and came home that evening, she was among those who took the trouble to come to console me, along with Uncle Jovy Salonga and Manong Bert Romulo. Senator Raul Manglapus called. A fine bunch, urging me in effect to say no to snake eyes, but to cool it and take it easy, and live and learn, even if my integrity were questioned. My opinions, anyone could question and ridicule, but not my integrity, I had thought. But, ang mapikon, talo, they told me, an accidental public servant tutored by providential vets.

In our back row then, to my left was Manong Bert, of Universidad Central de Madrid. Across the aisle was Manang Letty, of UP, Wellesley, Columbia and the Sorbonne, and farther to her right, was fellow Harvard man Bobby Tanada. All working our butts off for the motherland.

Manang voted a “critical yes” in 1991 on the bases, differing with us, the so-called Magnificent 12 who had thought the time had come to end our colonial status (some insist we were the Malevolent or Maleficent 12 but we remain convinced we voted on the right side of history). When EDCA was enacted bypassing the Senate, with the poignancy of a recantation, Manang joined us in various fora, in protest. She joined and led us, a fellow convenor of Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) and served as our expert advocate for an independent foreign policy. She would not want us to resume being America’s Last Plantation or become China’s New One. Obstaprincipiis!

“Wala tayong laban”–Digong reportedly said. True, we may enjoy the record as the world’s longest walang-laban colony, of Spain, Britain, Spain again, the Kanos, the Japanese, the Ilocanos, and now Davaoeños. Lahi ng mga busabos at alipin. Now 104 million rabbits. But, Vietnam, fewer, routed France and America. In 1979, Vietnam and China fought a border war and lost 30,000 but bloodied China didn’t win. Viet puso we had thought the Maton or Astig from Davao would provide. Instead, in the disputed seas, China came, through the backdoor, and raped our kasambahay. His advice to her? Just relax and enjoy it. Now, China is after the wifey and kulasisis. Same advice, misattributed to the late Senator Raul as the quip was used earlier, all the way to Confucius. To be fair.

Digong rejects all calls from the human rights community to recalibrate his drug war which has become a brutal war against the poor. No prominent drug lord or coddler killed, only riffraff. Little in life, nothing in law, who can use every assistance they can get. I was glad that Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Pat Derian and Amnesty International, among other parties, minded our business here on human rights, not just their own, during Macoy’s reign. “HR” has no borders.

Digong can just tell us, critics, from anywhere, “you do your worst, I’ll do my best.”

Vietnam and Taipei aren’t like us and their leaders may not be talking too much, as ours do. Item: SolGen JC should not speak and say Leni may have committed treason. Vit Aguirre and Sal Panelo can be Digong’s attack dogs, as extensions of his personality. The SolGen is the People’s Tribune. If charged with treason and convicted, Leni could appeal and the non-sandbagged SolGen may have to argue for the reversal of a cockamamie ruling.

Digong accepted a Mercedes from an unnamed donor. He should expose the violator of PD 46 and RA 6713, to correct the donor and instruct others. And has he really been routinely accepting fantastic gifts from Pastor Quiboloy in the way of vehicles?

BTW, greetings, Bday Boy, but the law does not allow you to receive any gifts. And, he should not be impeached but convinced to change his ways. Back to old family values, for instance.

It could be, the fault, dear Brutus, does not lie in American Stars and Stripes, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

May I cheer those who voted NO! to the anti-poor death penalty bill? And am I sad that some solons may havesurrendered their conscience to the Speaker for the cheap price of a committee chairmanship.

Two things I wish my studes would remember, if nothing else. 1) Never surrender your conscience to the state; and 2) Be kind. Manang Letty exhibited both.

Also, it used to be, not to speak ill of a Prez when he was out of the country. Now our problem is how to stop Digong from speaking ill of his local critics while frequently peregrinating in faraway places with strange-sounding names. Leave the dirty linen at home. Ang Daldal! If he’s proper and nice to Veep Leni in person here, why be rough on her abroad? Same to Senator Leila, battered regularly by Digong, and his attack dogs, Injustice Sec Vit Aguirre and Presidential Legal Chu-Chu-Wari-Wari Sal Panelo, something that cannot happen in a truly civilized society elsewhere. For example, Nixon condemned Charles Manson, et al. in 1970, and the White House quickly retracted, saying it did not mean to prejudge anyone.

SolGen Joe Calida may have to consider what position he may have to take on appeal by a possible hypothetically convicted Leila. Joe is not Digong’s tribune, but the people’s.

But Nietzsche said forgetting purposes is the most common form of, okay, shall we say, of innocence, to be kind (Das Vergessen der Absichten ist die haufgste Dummheit die gemacht wird). And forgetting the presumption of it.

Archibald Macleish said when attacked by lies, defend it with truth.We don’t encourage tourists by hiding our EJKS, on which the PNP should report province by province. Sir Bato, ilang libo na nga po ba ang natepok?


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  1. The Truth And Nothing But The Truth: Had then Senator Saguisag & Company not booted the U.S. Bases out of the Philippines, we don’t have problems today about China assertiveness in the South China Sea. That’s what happen when instead of acting for the benefit of the Nation, these senators acted acted for the benefit of themselves- at that time, the issue about the U.S. bases retention is a “hot’ issue and any senator who would oppose would lose re-election. So they let go the U.S. bases! And now, Saguisag is very proud of it? WTF!


    Yonkers, New York
    24 March 2017

    Former Senator Rene Saguisag somehow has managed to cover what looks like the whole “world” with this column of his, “Manang Letty: Obsta princiiis,” in The Manila Times of March 24, 2017.

    As usual, however, he is at his entertaining and enlightening best, and one like me can never have enough of his erudition.

    I can only hope that he lives to be 90 like me, so I will continue to have the pleasure of enjoying more of his perorations.

    Here he pays adoring tribute to “Manang Letty”–referring to former Senator LETICIA RAMOS SHAHANI.

    His tribute is fully justified. Leticia Ramos Shahani is an outstanding credit to the specie Homo sapiens: She was an intellectual GIANT who used her singular intellectual endowments for the benefit not only for the Filipino people, but for humanity in general.

    How I wish there were more of her kind now that the Philippines is undergoing severe stress under a “leader” who neurotically enjoys acting like a Little Tyrant.

    As the perceptive TIME magazine lamented in a recent issue, “Night has fallen on the Philippines.”

    “When, oh when, will the oppressed Filipino people ever see “the dawn break through the gloom of night?” paraphrasing Jose Rizal in his immortal “MI ULTIMA ADIOS.