“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;” If
by Rudyard Kipling
First of a series
ANTONIO Raquiza was not just an outstanding lawyer and legislator; he was a man with many accomplishments and qualifications. As governor of his province, he was outstanding; as minister of Public Works and Highways, he was one of the best; as a weaver of stories and dreams, he had no match; and as maker of a President of the Philippines, he probably had no equal.
But he was a very simple man. Though a perfectionist, especially with his speeches, he was not difficult to please. Like Vincent van Gogh, the great painter, he had a lust for life—from durian to beautiful women.
It was a friend of mine, Federico “Jun” Tabora, who introduced me to Secretary Raquiza, who wanted a young lawyer to represent him in the then headline grabbing Haruta case.
This was a case where Raquiza, the Secretary of Public Works and Highways, and the whole membership of the Reparations Commission based in Japan were charged with graft and corruption for allegedly having received money from a Japanese construction company to undertake a public-works project in the country. Raquiza took the recommendation of my friend that I am a good trial lawyer, having finished my law at the UP College of Law and been tried and tested in the best courts in Mindanao.
That was how my friendship with Raquiza began. I was proud of him as my client and he was proud of me as his lawyer. It was almost a mutual admiration club between him and me. Admiration reached the highest levels when he learned that in a meeting of lawyers of the defense in the Hurata case, presided over by Don Quintin Paredes, former senator and one of those knocking at the gates of the Nacionalista Party to be its presidential nominee years before, Don Quintin said: “Since you entrusted me to choose the lead counsel in this case, I chose Adaza, the Benjamin of the House.”
Raquiza congratulated Tabora for recommending me to him as his lawyer.
Nineteen sixty-nine was an election year. Marcos was running for re-election. If the hearings at the Manila Fiscal’s Office continued until the week before the elections, it was the feeling of knowledgeable politicians that Marcos could have lost to Sen. Sergio Osmeña, Jr., the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party. As one of the sharpest politicians in the old school, I have never known someone as good as he is. Being like that, he knew the catastrophic consequences to Marcos and the Nacionalista Party, if the hearings on the preliminary investigation would continue on a daily basis until the week before the elections.
So Raquiza asked me to move for postponement of the hearings to a date after the elections. It was not an easy task since Osmeña was represented by giant legal luminaries of the Liberal Party, from Sen. Jovito “Jovy” Salonga to Sen. Estanislao “Taning”
Fernandez. When I asked Salonga for the postponement of the hearings, he told me to ask Fernandez, since according to Salonga, Fernandez was really the one handling the case. I knew Salonga did not like Serging Osmeña. The principal reason, I believe, was that Salonga felt he was better qualified to be President of the Philippines than Osmeña. I also shared his belief.
When I asked Taning Fernandez for the postponement of the hearings, he asked me what Salonga said. I told him that Salonga said that it was up to him (Fernandez). So when I moved for postponement, the Osmeña panel did not offer any objection.
The hearings were set after the elections. Osmeña raged after knowing the postponement of the hearings. The rest is history, Marcos got re-elected.
Raquiza, who was at the Manila City Council Hall during the move for postponement, patted me at my back, like an excited warrior, and said, “Bono, excellent job. You will be rewarded.”
One fine morning after the re-election of President Marcos, Raquiza asked me whether I would accept an appointment as Judge of the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) in the City of Manila. The position was honorable—then coveted by ambitious young lawyers as stepping stone to the Court of Appeals and, later, to the Supreme Court. I rejected the offer immediately without a second of reflection.
“Why?” Raquiza asked me.
“Manong, I cannot live on the salary of a CFI judge. If I accept the job, you’re asking me, in
effect, to be corrupt. I can’t do that,” I replied with noticeable vehemence in my voice.
“Then what do you want?” he replied.
“Ask the President to appoint me Secretary of Justice and I will send every grafter in this country to jail. If I can’t do it in a year, I will hand in my irrevocable resignation. If I can’t do it within that time, nobody can,” I answered his question with my usual bravado.
Raquiza almost died laughing and said: “He will not do that! Once you become Secretary of Justice, you will be knocking at the gates of Malacañang.”
I laughed with him.
All conversations about rewards and appointments ended there. Raquiza never mentioned appointment to government positions again. That is how perceptive he was.
As if to compensate me for my performance as his lawyer, he told Congressman Roque “Alikabok” Ablan, Jr. to engage my services as counsel for Rufino “Totoy” Antonio in the famous or infamous Batanes election case. I accepted the case because of Raquiza’s recommendation.
Totoy Antonio was pilloried by the local media for having allegedly terrorized the 11,000 voters into voting for him because of his boys riding Suzuki motorcycles on the islands of Batanes. His opponents claimed that the Suzuki boys used guns before and during the elections, even in the polling places. Florencio Abad, Sr., the head of the reigning political dynasty of that province, whose wife was the incumbent congresswoman and Antonio’s opponent for the lone congressional district of Batanes, had the full support of the usually biased Manila media. Media painted Antonio as the head of a criminal gang terrorizing the province. But in the hearings before the Commission on Elections, this claim was proved untrue because there was not a single bullet hole in the polling places, neither was there convincing evidence that the voters were terrorized.
Soon after the Batanes case, the burning of Ora Este and Ora Oeste burst into the front pages of the country’s national media where the son of the colorful congressman of Ilocos Sur, Floro “Floring” Crisologo, was charged with having burned two villages of that province. Again, on the recommendation of Secretary Raquiza to Congressman Crisologo, I was engaged as one of the lawyers of Crisologo’s son, Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo, to argue the case in the Supreme Court on the question of venue of the trial.
In all these legal engagements, Raquiza proved he was not one to hesitate recommending a lawyer to his friends to handle controversial cases, if he knows that the lawyer has the ability to appropriately handle them. And friends of his, in more cases than one, never failed to accept happily Raquiza’s recommendation because Raquiza himself, a graduate of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, was an outstanding trial lawyer.
A legendary story told of Raquiza as a trial lawyer is that Ferdinand E. Marcos, an outstanding trial lawyer himself, never won a case against Raquiza in the military courts after the Second World War. But in one case, Raquiza almost lost to Marcos because the president of the court martial that tried the case knew Raquiza as a philandering husband and the president of the court, a Colonel Reyes, was a very devout Roman Catholic.
During the trial, every time Raquiza objected to the questions of Marcos directed at the witnesses, Colonel Reyes always overruled Raquiza. When it was Marcos’ turn to object to questions of Raquiza directed at the witnesses, Colonel Reyes sustained all Marcos’ objections. As a gifted trial lawyer, Raquiza realized that if the trend of the trial continued, he would lose, for the first time, the case to Marcos. So Raquiza conducted a discreet inquiry into the person and character of Colonel Reyes. Raquiza found out that Reyes was a very devout Roman Catholic, attending mass every day and, most of the time, taking communion.
In the next hearing, while arguing and perspiring in the presentation of his evidence, he brought with him his biggest rosary, which he concealed over a handkerchief in the right side pocket of his pants. Dramatically, he pulled the handkerchief to wipe his forehead and the rosary fell on the floor. The eyes of Colonel Reyes were transfixed on the rosary.
Raquiza, who was also a church-going Roman Catholic, knelt on the courtroom floor, lifted the rosary and with all the passion he could muster, kissed the crucifix. Thereafter, all the objections of Raquiza were sustained; all the objections of Marcos were overruled. As expected, Raquiza won the case and Marcos lost.
This kind of creativity and sense of theater in Raquiza must have impressed Ferdinand E. Marcos. It must have been this kind of outstanding performance that endeared Raquiza to Ferdinand Marcos, especially with the emerging developments in the politics of their province—Ilocos Norte.
Raquiza and Marcos were elected congressmen representing different congressional districts of Ilocos Norte after the Second World War. While both of them finished at the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, Raquiza was more endearing to the people than Marcos despite the fact that Marcos topped the bar examinations and Raquiza did not. Raquiza had winsome ways with the people. In the real sense, he was a man of the people—easy to approach and always listening to people’s problems; ready with a smile and humorous stories; embracing everyone, not just shaking their hands.
During Marcos’ bid for re-election, he requested Raquiza to help him in his bid for a second term.
“Tony, please help me in my re-election bid. Without your help, I’ll surely lose the election,” Marcos begged Raquiza.
“But I’m also running for re-election,” Raquiza replied.
“You’re a sure winner, everybody knows that. Leave your district and please campaign for me,” Marcos said with urgency and desperation in his voice.
Raquiza left his district to campaign for Marcos. True to the statement of Marcos, Raquiza ran away with his re-election and Marcos won because of Raquiza. This is how much Raquiza was a sucker for friendship. For the sake of friendship, Raquiza would even give his life away. It is not easy to find a man of that orientation and temperament, in any generation.
Still on the sacrifice Raquiza made in the name of friendship with Marcos. In the first attempt of Marcos to make a bid for a Senate seat, the Northern Alliance—composed of leaders in Northern Luzon—held a convention to select the senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party. Raquiza, the most popular and approachable politician, was nominated to represent the Northern Alliance in the LP senatorial slate.
Raquiza, in consideration of higher national interests, declined the unanimous nomination and declared on the floor of the convention to thunderous ovation:
“Ladies and gentlemen of this convention, allow me to thank all of you for your unanimous trust and confidence in me. I will win as senator because of your unanimous endorsement and support but I cannot become President. Let us send someone to the Senate who one day will be President of the Philippines, my friend and your friend—Congressman Ferdinand E. Marcos!”
Ferdinand E. Marcos became senator, later President of the Senate and, eventually, President of the Philippines, thanks to Secretary Antonio “Tony” Raquiza. There are not many men, in this country or any country for that matter, who make this kind of noble sacrifice for love of country. Raquiza is one of the very few of his kind, especially in our time when love of country has lost its meaning, not only among politicians but also among our people.
Raquiza has a wonderful record in Congress, not only in terms of significant laws passed but also in the Ciceronian nature of his speeches. One of the very significant laws passed by Raquiza is the Raquiza law. Not so many know this law. This is the prohibition of cutting trees without permission from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The inspiration of this law, Raquiza told me, is what he learned in one of his trips to Israel.
During that trip, he learned that an American philanthropist donated a hospital to the Israeli government. The condition of the donation—it had to be built in a specific spot in Tel Aviv, the capital of the country. Unfortunately for the donor, the spot chosen had a centuries-old tree. The donor insisted that the tree be transferred to another location and the hospital built on the designated spot. The Israel government refused the request and the hospital was built in some other location.
Raquiza told me he learned a very important lesson on the preservation of the environment and an acute sense of respect for history. Almost all politicians in this country never learn this lesson. These politicians are responsible for illegal logging that has led to horrendous floods and unlimited destruction of the environment. It is these politicians who need to be destroyed if this country is to be saved from destruction—self-propelled or otherwise.
This deep concern for the environment and history as well as aesthetics was shown to me by Raquiza as we were crossing Taft Avenue on our way to the Manila Hotel.
“You know, Bono, whoever planned to construct a light railway transit (LRT) on Taft Avenue must have lost his sense of balance. Imagine, you have to cut centuries-old acacia trees—for what? Just to spoil the view of Taft Avenue! Could you ever imagine the French government allowing the construction of an LRT on Champs-Elysees? That is not only spoiling the environment and a historical landmark, that’s an aesthetic disaster!”