THE usual topics that appear in this space have to give way to a tribute, not to a businessman that would qualify this piece under Due Diligencer, but to a politician. The deviation is timely because today is the 11th death anniversary of Salvador H. Laurel. So much has already been written about him and his achievements as a senator and vice president of the Philippines I see no reason repeating them here.
This piece has nothing to do with what most Filipinos already know about the man who would have been president had he not passed up the chance to lead the country. Instead, his love of country prevailed upon him when he put aside the rare opportunity to be elected president in favor of Corazon Aquino, who was only incidental to the historic People’s Power Revolution in February 1986.
Because this piece it not about the mother and her son, I am not writing anything about them. Like Benigno Aquino Jr., the late senator, Mrs. Aquino, the first woman president, has been overprotective of Hacienda Luisita that she chose the distribution of pieces of paper instead of farmlands to her family’s tenants, who, in effect, were made to shoulder part of the Cojuangcos’ debts. Like his parents, President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd would not touch the family jewel probably because he is one of the potential heirs to the property.
Rather, I am recalling here my brief—as a matter of fact very brief—encounter with Laurel, the president that Filipinos did not have and instead got a woman to lead them after a dictatorial regime that lasted more than two decades.
I could not remember the exact date when a co-worker at The Manila Chronicle and I met Laurel at the corridor of the Chronicle building owned by the Lopezes and where the late Don Eugenio Lopez used to hold office. The “ex-future” president and an editor of the paper were returning to the paper’s editorial office while my officemate and I were on our way to take our break.
After Laurel and Rodolfo Reyes, the paper’s editor, passed by us, I whispered to my officemate. “He is our next president.” That’s exactly what I said as I vividly remember it today.
But I did not know that the more memorable but very much familiar quote was forthcoming from Laurel. Acknowledging our presence, he looked back and said: “Thank you very much.” I translated this to mean he wished my wish would be realized someday.
This very brief encounter with Laurel happened sometime in 1972. As history had recorded, he did not make it to the presidency, one of the reasons, perhaps was Marcos’ proclamation of martial law on Sept. 2, 1972 to extend his rule.
Then came the snap election on Feb. 7, 1986. Laurel, the leader of the opposition against Marcos, was in the news as the potential standard bearer of United Nationalist Democratic Organization, a new political party that he organized and which helped topple the Marcos rule. I told myself my “prediction” that he would become president was about to be fulfilled.
If martial law frustrated my wish for a Laurel presidency, then his gentlemanliness to give way to a woman virtually killed my “he-is-our-next president” prophecy. When he agreed to run as a woman’s running mate for the sake of the country and the unity of the opposition, I presumed he chose nationalism above everything else.
The rest is now part of history and let history judge the direction the Philippines took under Aquino the mother presidency from 1986 to 1992 and how she mistreated Laurel by refusing to abide by their agreement to equally divide her six-year term between them. Her reign, which was good only for the members of the yellowish tribe, resumed after 18 years, this time under the six-year presidency of Aquino the son that would end on June 30, 2016.