Secretary Antonio ‘Tony’ Raquiza: outstanding lawyer and legislator

3

“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

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Second of a series

How can you disagree with that? I gently nodded my head and contemplated the wisdom of that observation—even more, the insanity of the planners of the LRT. I said to myself, why not monorails on the side of the streets, so the beauty of the avenues would not be spoiled, just like most of the cities in the Commonwealth countries. But environment, history and aesthetics are the least of the concerns of Philippine government officials. They are concerned more with graft and corruption so they can enrich themselves!

Raquiza and I saw each other as the months rolled by. He regaled me with stories about what he did when he was Secretary of Public Works and Highways. One of the crowns of his achievements is the Guadalupe Bridge, the one that joins Mandaluyong City and Makati City. President Marcos ordered him to finish the bridge on schedule. He finished the project 30 days ahead of schedule. And to think that Raquiza is a lawyer, not an engineer! Raquiza was a workaholic who wanted to finish a job at the earliest opportunity. He could do it because he was an excellent manager.

Other than being a pretty good manager, he also had an amazing flair for drama, just like a million-dollar trial lawyer. This was shown in the case of the Iloilo airport. The contractor lagged behind schedule. In his capacity as Secretary of DPWH, he took over the job of finishing the airport since the contractor filed a case against him with a motion to declare him in contempt. Raquiza asked his lawyers to delay action on the motion for contempt until after the airport was finished. When the work was finished and the Iloilo airport was already functional, Raquiza asked his lawyers to schedule the contempt motion.

On the day of the scheduled hearing, Raquiza appeared and told the court: “Your Honor, I plead guilty to contempt and I am ready to receive the sentence of the court. But before the Honorable Court sentences me I would like to tell the court that I did the contumacious act for the people of Iloilo. Before the airport was finished, I know that the Honorable Court who comes from Manila took no less than 18 hours to arrive in Iloilo City. Now that the airport is finished, thanks to the immediate and responsive government action, it will only take you 45 minutes to reach Iloilo City. With that manifestation, I am now ready to be declared in contempt of court and I am prepared to serve the sentence.”

“Secretary Raquiza, you don’t expect me to declare you in contempt for doing an excellent job in the service of the people. The motion to declare you in contempt is denied for lack of merit, with the warning you should not do it again,” the presiding judge said to a thunderous applause of the audience in the courtroom.

Raquiza did not leave the comment of the court unanswered. Like the raconteur that he was, he replied, “Yes, your Honor, I will not do it again because I am not going to construct another airport for Iloilo.”

The presiding judge and the audience almost died laughing at the Raquiza riposte.

That is Raquiza, the excellent manager and dramatic performer! His flair for drama was always present in the performance of his job.

At the height of the popularity of the Marcos administration, there were rumors that Raquiza made a lot of money from contracts in his department. He took the accusations in stride by making categorical denials, always making an emphatic invitation to his detractors, “Why don’t you file a case against me?” No one dared but the boys of presidential candidate Serging Osmeña at the start of the 1969 presidential campaign in the famous or infamous Haruta case. After the preliminary investigation, the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

As if to prove a point, Raquiza invited me on a trip to his hometown—Piddig, Ilocos Norte. Before we reached his hometown, we dropped by at another town, Vintar, where in the rest house bordering a river, Raquiza was treated like a foreign potentate. When he was seated, someone was fanning him, another one removed his shirt, and still another one started massaging him! I told myself that all these attention given him was a demonstration of how much he was loved and respected by his constituents. After all that attention and the people were setting the table for lunch, he took me aside and said, “You know, Bono, it is in this river,” pointing to it, “where I really started my political career.”

“How Manong?” I asked him.

“Well, when I started my campaign for a seat in Congress, I was not known by my constituents. Wherever I went, the perennial question of the people was, ‘Who is this Raquiza?’ It was not easy going at the start. Some people were thinking I was aloof and unreachable. Others thought I was a token candidate. Vintar presented me with a brilliant opportunity. The government hired men to deepen the river by removing stones from the riverbed and depositing them at the bank of the river. On one occasion, I stripped myself down to my briefs and joined them. After working for a while gathering stones, I asked the ones near me whether they knew me. They asked me who was Raquiza? I told them he was running for a seat in Congress in the coming elections. Nobody knew me, and one or two said, I must be a token candidate as I was nowhere in sight. Then, I started introducing to them who I was and started telling them why I was running for Congress. They applauded me and from then on the going was easy. You know, in a province, stories travel fast. It is this kind of approach that produces results. I got resoundingly elected!”

After that lesson in politics from a tried and tested politico, we proceeded to Piddig, his hometown. When we arrived at his residence, I had the surprise of my life. His house was not a mansion, as most houses of Filipino congressmen, governors, members of the Cabinet, and city mayors are. Raquiza’s house, as I vividly remember, was made of light materials with nipa as its roof and bamboos for partitions. The house was simple; the man was even simpler. The rumor that this man had amassed wealth while in office is a lot of hogwash, I told myself.

Before Marcos declared martial law, Raquiza was tasked by Marcos to do two strategic jobs—negotiating an agreement with the original Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the original commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). In the case of the CPP, I placed Raquiza in touch with one of my closest friends, Francisco “Dodong” Nemenzo, Jr., who was rumored to be one of the members of the Central Committee of the CPP or its presidium, and who later became president of the University of the Philippines. It was that contact that made possible an alliance with President Marcos and the CPP. Raquiza’s task was successful in bringing about that historic alliance.

In the case of the MNLF, the Raquiza approach was successful in winning the original commanders of Chairman Nur Misuari for the Marcos administration. In effect, the MNLF was defanged because of the successful mission of Raquiza. Tony Raquiza did not only make possible the Marcos presidency, he also helped remove the strategic hindrances to the Marcos administration. Raquiza was one to produce miracles because the impossible only exists in the mind.

When Marcos called for a Constitutional Convention to frame a new Constitution, Raquiza was always a continuing participant in the floor debates, considering his friendship with President Marcos.

Then, martial law was declared in 1972. Despite warnings from friends, among them delegates to the Constitutional Convention, like Augusto Caesar Espiritu, UP law graduate and also one time editor of the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines, that I should go back to Mindanao to escape arrest, I ignored the warnings because with Secretary Raquiza as my client, why should I be arrested?

I was wrong! I was arrested in Dec. 1972 and stayed in the Marcos political prisons for one year, six months and 11 days—in the HPC gymnasium at Camp Crame and, later, at Ipil Rehabilitation Center (IRC) at Fort Bonifacio, despite Secretary Raquiza.

It took almost two years for Raquiza to lobby with President Marcos for my release. In one of the many conversations between Raquiza and President Marcos prior to my release, the last one was most memorable as detailed here.

“Mr. President, may I ask for the release of Homobono Adaza, who has been detained for almost two years. You have already released those who attempted on your life like Eddie Figueras, there is no more reason to keep Adaza. Besides, he has helped us in the past,” Raquiza pleaded. The help that Raquiza was talking about was my appearances for him in the Haruta case and for Totoy Antonio in the Batanes case.

“Figueras and the others are known factors, therefore, they are no longer dangerous. Your friend is an imponderable factor. That makes him dangerous. We cannot release him,” Marcos emphasized.

The day after this conversation took place, Raquiza visited me at the IRC, my place of detention. Teary-eyed Raquiza said: “Bono I am afraid you cannot be released just yet. According to the President, you are an imponderable factor and that makes you dangerous. I even told him that he has already released those who attempted on his life, why not release you? He was insistent in keeping you here. But I will not stop continuing to beg him for your release. We’ll just have to wait for the proper time.”

“It is all right, Tata. As the Ecclesiastes says, for everything there is a season. My season has not yet come,” I replied with firmness, as at that stage, I was waiting for another few months because if I did not get released in two years, I would have escaped.

The following day, my name was called over the sound system with instructions for me to go to the guardhouse. I was told I would be brought to Camp Crame to wait for instructions. I seriously thought I would be transferred to a more restricted place of confinement. At Camp Crame, I was told by General Cicero Campos that I was ordered released by the President together with 20 others, including Angel Banking and Simeon Rodriguez, published as members of the old CPP politburo and a niece of Marcos, Raquel Edralin, also bruited about as member of the Central Committee of the CPP-NPA.

Obviously, President Marcos played a trick on Raquiza, as he could not refuse a persistent request of a man, more than others, who was responsible in making him President of the Philippines.

As soon as I was released from detention, I joined a law firm in Manila where Raquiza was a senior partner. I had to join the law firm because, in the words of Raquiza, “This is the best way not to be arrested again.” And he was right!

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3 Comments

  1. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Former Secretary Raquiza indeed is worthy of emulation and highest respect. We need people like him in the midst of almost none under P-Noy’s administration. God bless the Philippines.

  2. The last time spoke to Secretary Raquiza in the mid-80s., he was working on a program to eliminate poverty in the Philippine Islands. It was a big challenge for a man in his 80’s but for those who knew him well, nothing was impossible for a little man with a big heart like Secretary Raquiza.He was a Legend

  3. …indeed, good leaders are few… they are refined, precious and outstanding!! Nice story….proud to be from Ilocos norte!!!