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As I See It
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
IT was my unscheduled assignment at the airport in Silay. Mayor Oti Montelibano told me, “Ver, we are meeting a very important person this afternoon. He was a former senator of the Republic of the Philippines and a son of the late president who was called the ‘Champion of the Masses.’” I realized that our visitor is Ramon Magsaysay Jr. He arrived with his wife.
My meeting with him was very casual. He reminded me of his father Ramon Magsaysay who was the third president of our country from December 30, 1953 up to March 17, 1957. On the early morning of March 17, his plane was reported missing. For still unexplained reasons, the presidential plane crashed in Mt. Manunggal in Cebu and all passengers and crew were declared dead except for one newsman. The 105th birthday of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay will be on August 31.
I was only five years old when the Great President died, but Tatay Nicolas had stories of his exemplary character which made him the idol of the common tao. The presidents before him, Quirino and Roxas, just concentrated in office and visited only limited places in the country. Magsaysay reached out to his countrymen even in the remote barrios of the Philippines. He would shake hands with the farmers, fish vendors, construction workers, porters, and street cleaners. He did not mind getting his hands dirty.
Just like most of us, he finished his primary and secondary education— this was in the Province of Zambales. At the age of 22, he took up Engineering at the University of the Philippines. He loved to tinker with cars and after school hours, he would work as driver and mechanic. Later, he transferred to Jose Rizal College where he finished degree in Commerce.
During WWII, he became a soldier and later joined the guerilla movement. He was outstanding as a guerilla fighter and his performance made him popular when he joined politics. He was elected representative of Zambales in 1950 and Pres. Elpidio Quirino appointed him Secretary of National Defense. He facilitated the surrender of Taruc of HUKBALAHAP Movement by offering his members land and farm implements.
In November 1953, Magsaysay was elected president on his campaign slogan, “Magsaysay is my Guy.” He defeated Pres. Elpidio Quirino on the issue of rampant graft and corruption, scandalous transactions entered into by the government, abuse of power by the agents of persons in authority, and neck-deep poverty. Quirino was pictured out as a leader with crocodile tail. To a certain extent Pres. Magsaysay restored the people’s faith and confidence in the government.
Political analysts said that Magsaysay spoiled the masses by leading them to expect that the government is like Sta. Claus, the giver of gifts. Later, he became subservient to the dictates of Uncle Sam. He made paybacks to the politicians who supported him in his presidency. To please the masses, he opened the doors of Malacañang Palace to all people from all walks of life.
When Moises Padilla was shot (as alleged) by one of the men of Gov. Rafael Lacson of Negros Occidental, Magsaysay went to our province (as Secretary of National Defense) and had Lacson and his men arrested and jailed.
Magsaysay holding the dead body of Padilla on his lap was compared to La Pieta and that figure made Magsaysay the savior of the helpless Filipinos. Many stories were made about our Guy. He praised the traffic policeman for apprehending his driver who was caught speeding and going through a red light. “As long as I am President of the Philippines, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, powerful or not.”
He did not buy a new car when he was new president. He knew that his people were living in extreme deprivation. The Guy was also for the matuwid na daan. I am remembering him because Tatay Nicolas idolized him so much. My father said, “Magsaysay is not an angel; as a politician, he could be among them.” My father would simply want to say, “Politics should not make poor politicians wealthy. Politics should not make rich politicians King Makers. King Makers should not split politics.”
Politics is not fun. Politicians should not make fun of politics. Politics is not laughter, the best medicine. There are politicians who always laugh but remain sick. They laugh all the time because they are sick all the time.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 14, 2012.