Ideology, dissent, 3

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, March 27, 2014


WHEN Elpidio Quirino was president, he was blamed by the nation’s media for all the new republic’s ails. They accused him of inadequacy, and incapability to restore peace and order in the country.

When he ran for reelection in 1949, he won in what was considered the “dirtiest” elections of a democracy on this side of the globe. Here, in Cebu, the city saw the emergence of bearded thugs (bungotons) used to ensure EQ’s reelection.

A Cebu newspaper, the Pioneer Press, was perceived as a vicious critic of EQ’s Liberal Party regime. Days before the elections, the editor found a skull at the front seat of his car. It was parked on the sidewalk at the corner of the then Jones Ave. and P. del Rosario St., just a few meters from the Sto. Rosario church and the University of San Carlos.

However, the 1953 elections “undid” these things, and ushered in a new era.

After his defeat to the young Ramon Magsaysay, EQ was never given a chance to relax.

Columnists like Teddy Locsin of the Free Press weekly magazine, Teodoro Valencia of the Manila Times, and Ernie Granada of the Manila Chronicle never allowed EQ to take a breather.

He was placed in retirement at a house in Novaliches that overlooked the vast plain in the vicinity of the La Mesa dam and UP in Diliman. It was to this peaceful retreat that I was ushered in one day to do research for the biography of Apo Pidiong--as he was fondly called by his kin in the Ilocos.

The book would be written by a prominent writer of the time. The week before that, the former president’s private secretary, Fred Mangahas, offered me the research job which I badly needed, too, to keep “body-and-soul” together.

Mr. Mangahas must have recruited me because I was president then of the UP Writers Club. We would meet sometimes on the front lawn of his house. While he was a highly respected public official, he was considered a “rightist.” His son, Mahar Mangahas, now the top guru of the respectable Social Weather Station survey firm, was then still a kid.

At that time, the political hero of the opposition or dissident sector in Diliman and the country was Don Claro M. Recto, a highly regarded legislator and political idol of the left-leaning campus population.

RM’s toppling of Apo Pidiong and the effort to “uplift” the impoverished masses became the central theme of the national vision. The democratic hope was rural reform. RM, it was, who initiated the Presidential Assistance for Community Development (PACD).

Meanwhile, the dissenting group of the national society took advantage of the somehow chaotic political atmosphere. There was the emergence of young, aggressive leftists that later on took the cudgels of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

I like to think that the dissidents’ struggle for ideological identity is aimed at attaining legal recognition in the context of our sovereign nationhood. Thus, CPP-NPA members now will not have to keep hiding from the law.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 28, 2014.

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