Then Senate President Jovito Salonga, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 95, was
the “number one enemy” of the late President Corazon Aquino, the mother of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, when the fate of the United States military bases in the country was up for vote in the Senate in 1991.
Wilson Fortaleza, spokesman of Partido Manggagawa (PM) and a student activist during the late 1980s and 1990s, told The Manila Times that Mrs. Aquino’s strong stand at the time was to maintain and extend the US military bases in the country.
Salonga, a Liberal Party (LP) stalwart, was very strong on his take to put an end on the controversial Military Bases Agreement. He had the support of eleven senators, including then Sen. Joseph Estrada.
Fortaleza said Mrs. Aquino had even spearheaded a rally, with Sen. Richard Gordon in attendance, that strongly prodded the senators to approve the stay and extension of the US military bases in the country.
Aquino even resorted to having a personal meeting with Salonga just to ensure that the Senate under Salonga’s leadership would consider the President’s “official position” on the foreign bases.
But Salonga did not budge.
So the Senate voted against the stay and extension of the bases.
All left-leaning organizations from various sectors demonstrated their solid support to the Senate position.
Salonga’s firm leadership in the Senate was recognized even by former Sen. Lorenzo Tanada Sr. who personally witnessed when the senators made their final discussion and decision on the issue.
But Salonga’s victory on the bases issue resulted in his failure to win the 1987 presidential elections.
Mrs. Aquino supported then Secretary Fidel V. Ramos of the Department of National Defense. Aquino did not even support her strong long-time supporter, then House Speaker Ramon V. Mitra.
Ramos won and Salonga landed 6th in the presidential race.
After his defeat, Salonga continued his old crusade on good governance and against human rights violations.
As the country recognizes Salonga’s illustrious career in public service as a lawyer, law professor, college of law dean, lawmaker, crusader of good governance and protector and fighter of human rights, Fortaleza bade a “goodbye Ka Jovy!”