The Manila Times is pleased to announce that former senator Francisco S. Tatad, “Kit” to all his friends, will write a column for this paper beginning Monday. His First Things First will appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. It used to run in another paper until last week.
Mr. Tatad started his writing career at the University of Sto.
Tomas, where he studied philosophy and letters and became literary editor and managing editor successively of the Varsitarian, the students university organ. He first broke into international print as a sophomore when his short story, “A Morning Fare,” which he had earlier submitted as class work, was published by The Asia Magazine, the Hong Kong-based English-language magazine for Asia.
He was paid $150. “It was the best money I ever got from any of my writings,” he recalls. He is the author of at least six books on politics and culture, and one literary novel (The Last Holocaust) awaiting publication.
In 1963, he left college and went into active journalism, first as correspondent of Agence France-Presse, and then as diplomatic reporter and columnist of the Manila Daily Bulletin, at which job he was hailed as the country’s best foreign affairs reporter and analyst.
In 1969, at the age of 29, he interrupted his journalistic career by accepting a Cabinet appointment as presidential press secretary, spokesman, and eventually Secretary and Minister of Information.
He thus became the youngest Cabinet appointee anywhere in the world.
Whenever asked how this happened, Tatad says, “I did not know any better, and the President did not know any better either.” He served for 10 years without any alternates or deputies, except when he had Reuben Canoy, also a writer and broadcaster, as undersecretary for a couple of years. The late journalist Larry Cruz, who became a famous restaurateur later, was his assistant press secretary.
In 1972, at the height of the communist insurgency, he read the proclamation of martial law. Tatad had to face an extremely hostile international press afterward. But in 1975, TIME magazine, in an international survey of rising young leaders, named him, along with the late former senator Benigno Aquino, one of the “150 faces of the future.”
In 1978, he topped the elections in Bicol for the Batasang Pambansa.
In 1980, he had a falling out with Marcos and resigned from the Cabinet, the only one to do so six years before the EDSA revolt.
He returned to journalism and wrote columns for Business Day, Philippine Daily Globe and contributed regular pieces to the International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal (both international and Asian editions) and the Far Eastern Economic Review, among others.
He also published and edited Philippines Newsday, a political-economic daily, which ran for more than a couple of years until he entered the Senate.
He was elected to the Senate in 1992, reelected in 1995 and served until 2001, mostly as Majority Leader to five Senate presidents. The Senate press used to call him “the Moral Conscience of the Senate.”
He has won several honorary doctorates in law, humanities and public administration from Philippine and foreign universities, and has been conferred by the Marawi Sultanate League the title of Sultan a Macalangcap (Bearer of Truth).
He travels the world on speaking engagements, and is known internationally not only as a writer and public intellectual but also as a humanitarian worker for human life, the family and marriage.
He sits on the board of two US-based international organizations on human life and human dignity, the International Right to Life Federation in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the World Youth Alliance in New York.
Although not a lawyer, he was allowed to give the opening argument against the Reproductive Health Law during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
And he says that to this day his argument was simply ignored, not refuted.
He had several personal encounters with Saint John Paul II during his pontificate, and at least once with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his.
He is married with seven children, four of them married, who have given him and his wife ten grandchildren, including twin girls, one-year-old.