“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
Third and last of a series
IN 1978, President Marcos called for an election of members of the interim Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). I responded to the challenge because almost all the leaders of the national opposition based in Manila agreed not to contest the election for, in the words of President Diosdado Macapagal, participation would legitimize the Marcos regime. I did not agree with that assessment. I organized the first regional opposition party, the Mindanao Alliance, which gained headline treatment in the Marcos tri-media.
While the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) and the other parties were in the process of forming their respective lineup on the regional level—since the election of members of Parliament was regional and block voting—Raquiza tried to persuade me to join the KBL lineup for Region X—composed of the Northern Mindanao provinces of Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Agusan Norte and Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Camiguin. The KBL slate was formidable, being composed of Vice-President Emmanuel “Maning” Pelaez of Misamis Oriental, Governor Carlitos “Totoy” Fortich of Bukidnon, Congressman Edelmiro “Edel” Amante of Agusan del Norte, Congressman Constantino “Oguing” Navarro, Sr. of Surigao del Norte, Congressman Democrito”Deo” Plaza of Agusan del Sur, Congressman Henry Regalado of Misamis Occidental, Congressman Jose P. “Joseling” Neri of Camiguin, and delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention Antonio R. “Tony” Tupaz. The Mindanao Alliance slate had only three known figures—resigned Deputy Minister of Public Information of the Marcos administration Reuben Canoy of Cagayan de Oro City, resigned Commissioner of Customs Rolando “Roling” Geotina, this writer and the rest—a doctor, lawyers, a priest and media personalities.
When Raquiza met me, as detailed in my book, Leaders from Marcos to Arroyo, he immediately said, “You have no money and no organization, how do you expect to win? If you run with us, as a young man with tremendous talent, you can even upstage Pelaez in the region and land on top of the elected slate.”
I answered, “Manong, I have already organized my regional party, which has been headlined in the Marcos media. If I join you now, I will lose my integrity because people will think I have sold out to Marcos. So despite the odds, I will take my chances with the people and the Opposition. I am convinced we will win.”
“OK, I will protect your votes. The President is waiting for me to inform him whether you are running with us. Since you are not, who do you suggest to replace you?” He replied.
“Our law partner, Edel Amante, who is an intelligent lawyer and a very persuasive orator,” I replied. Raquiza endorsed my recommendation to President Marcos and Amante was included in the KBL slate.
The Mindanao Alliance slate barnstormed the region and we were welcomed as liberators wherever we went. Huge crowds attended our rallies. Our victory was expected. The unofficial results showed that out of nine seats, we won eight and the lone survivor of the KBL slate was Vice-President Pelaez. However, after a week the results were overturned.
The Comelec proclaimed eight KBL candidates as the winners and the lone survivor of the Mindanao Alliance was Reuben Canoy. Since I was number two in the unofficial returns, I was edged out from the winning circle.
But President Marcos was not deceived by the false returns shown to him, so he called Vice-President Pelaez to Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines in the presence of Secretary Raquiza, who called me up after the meeting with Pelaez and President Marcos. Immediately after that Palace meeting, Secretary Raquiza called me up by long distance phone to meet him at the Lumbia Airport, in Cagayan de Oro City, as he was flying in from Manila on the plane of Congressman Roque Ablan. I met Raquiza at the airport. As I welcomed him upon arrival, I asked him, “Manong, what brought you here?”
“I am sorry, Bono, but I cannot protect your votes as I promised. You are only my friend but Marcos is my leader and whatever he says goes,” he answered with genuine sadness.
Then he related to me the story that took place that morning when Marcos confronted Pelaez in his presence about the results of the interim Batasan elections in Region X.
“You know,” Raquiza continued, “I had to borrow Alikabok’s (referring to Congressman Ablan) plane to fly here immediately to tell you the real story because you are my friend.”
“Manong, I’m very grateful,” I replied, moved by such demonstration of friendship from a high-ranking official of the Marcos regime.
“I’ll just file a protest with the Comelec,” I continued.
“Do that!” Raquiza answered.
This is how the story went in that confrontation between Marcos and Pelaez earlier that morning, as detailed in my book, Leaders from Marcos to Arroyo, in the presence of Secretary Raquiza.
A few days later, after the results of the elections in Region X were published in the Manila dailies, Marcos called Pelaez and Raquiza to Malacañang. Marcos confronted Pelaez.
“Manny, why did you lose to the group of Canoy, Geotina and Adaza?” Marcos asked Pelaez.
“That is not true, Mr. President. Only two of them won but we have to proclaim these two, otherwise we will have trouble in the region,” Pelaez answered.
“Who are they?” Marcos inquired.
“Canoy and Adaza,” Pelaez replied.
“Proclaim Canoy but not Adaza,” Marcos declared with finality.
This incident shows how Raquiza valued friendship, at the same time saying that friendship has to take a backseat in obedience to the instructions of his leader. Marcos was a friend of Raquiza for so many more decades before I became his friend. It also shows how much he valued his word once he made his commitments. There is hardly any politician in the Philippines who has qualities like these—this time or at any other time.
Years roll by fast when you are busy doing things, especially for the country. In the regular Parliament (Batasang Pambansa), Raquiza became a Member. I was also elected to Parliament representing Misamis Oriental. Brimming with a lot of sense and humor, in the midst of a crowd of friends, they were ribbing him on how he felt about the declining popularity of President Marcos and the mounting demonstrations in the streets of Metro Manila.
One very close friend of Raquiza asked him, “Manong, is it because you are a tuta (puppy) of the President that you unquestionably defend him every time?”
His reply was immediate, raging like an offended lion, “I am not his tuta, I am only his tuting!” (smallest puppy) And he broke into an almost uncontrollable laughter. The crowd burst into thunderous laughter, enjoying the inimitable sense of humor of Raquiza.
Secretary Raquiza never interfered in my political decisions. Except for that incident when he tried to convince me to run under the KBL slate in the first parliamentary elections, he never asked me to change my political decisions. He was a man with deep respect for convictions and ideas.
When the Marcos administration was in trouble with the Opposition in the Parliament, Marcos asked Raquiza to come to the Palace. When Raquiza arrived, Raquiza told me, Marcos immediately asked him a question.
“Tony, how do you solve a problem like Adaza?” Marcos asked Raquiza.
“That’s easy, Mr. President, because the man does not have a house in Manila, his car is a standard Toyota, and he does not have money,” Tony readily replied.
“Did you say he is your friend?” Marcos retorted with a question.
“Yes, Mr. President. I treat him like a son,” Raquiza answered.
“Tony, I’m afraid, you don’t know the man,” Marcos concluded.
I lost track of Secretary Raquiza during the snap elections and the fight on the floor of the Parliament for the national canvass of the election results.
Not long after Edsa I, I went to visit Secretary Raquiza at his Kapiligan residence located at a side street of Araneta Avenue not very far away from the funeral parlors. His residence would have been foreclosed during the Marcos years because he was not able to pay the monthly amortizations to a government bank. Due to his being a member of the Marcos Cabinet, the bank did not dare to foreclose. There were times in my visits when there were no electric lights in the house because somebody forgot to pay the electric bills.
It was not a luxurious residence. It was only a little improvement of that nipa house at Piddig, his provincial residence.
This was how poor Raquiza was—the man who had all the opportunity to make money, at a time when privileged men made money at the expense of the people. Raquiza was not one of them. He was a class unto himself.
In my last visit at his Kapiligan residence, there was only candle light. The atmosphere was eerie, brightened only by the unmatched Raquiza humor. There was some element of profundity in the conversation.
“You know, Bono, do you remember how I gave away to Marcos my berth in the LP senatorial slate?” He asked me.
“I do, Manong. Why the question, Manong?” I replied.
“Well, the past few months I’ve been reflecting on my life. With what is happening to the country today, I cannot help thinking of that incident over and over again,” he continued.
“Why?” I asked him again.
“Without meaning to offend Marcos and his achievements, I think I should not have given way because I could have been a much better President than him,” he concluded.
There was total silence after that. Knowing Raquiza and Marcos, I thought to myself, Raquiza is right!
Raquiza was self-less. He did not take advantage of his position nor grab opportunities to make money, except in the practice of his profession. He was a master of his profession in the art of courtroom trials and the little more difficult art of collection. His flair for theater was tailored to the courtroom.
As I reflect on his brilliance, humility, selflessness, dedication to service and love of country, and how he valued loyalty and friendship, I cannot help remembering with fondness the one-liner on the statue of one of the greatest governors of Illinois, USA, John Peter Atgeld, which reads: “In the great flood of life that is spawned upon this Earth, it is not often that a man is born.”
Secretary Antonio “Tony” Raquiza is that rare of a man!