Friday, May 7, 2010

Who is Romulo Lumauig -- Going to Congress (part2)

The series of massive street demonstrations of the students, joined in by farmer groups, business and other sectors of the citizenry, have made me doubly conscious of what was happening in Philippine Society.  The thrust of all these rallies/demonstrations, obviously was the demand for meaningful reforms in our body politic.   I recalled the prayer of Father Pacifico Ortiz, (SJ) – his invocation prayer at the opening of the Session of the 7th Congress, where President Marcos was present, to deliver the traditional State of the Nation Address (SONA).   Father Ortiz’s invocation prayer warned of the conditions of the country at the time, which he called a “Social Volcano” that may erupt anytime, if the ills of the country were not attended to.  The series of street demonstrations occurring in various places of the country, was manifestation of the discontent and grievances of almost all sectors of the citizenry.  Obviously, these lamentations that echoed all over of the land, was effectively articulated by the student sector, who were directly or subconsciously briefed in their classrooms studies.  The media described the series of street marches from January to March 1970 by students, farmers, and reportedly joined in by the leftist organization, when they stormed the gates of Malacañan, as well as their demonstrations in front of Congress – as the first quarter storm (IQS).
The events that were unfolding almost everyday, not only in Manila but even in the provinces and the country-side, stirred further my innate feelings which had been lingering for some time., to look into the roots of national discord.  Commencing perhaps in my childhood days when I was reading the newspapers reports that, our countrymen with imperialistic appetites were the source of the pressures which today threatens the unity of the Filipino people.   As I grew into adulthood, I myself had witnessed the division of the Filipino nation, driven by passionate discontent and legitimate dissent.  Consequently, discerning all these events that were happening in the country at the time, I decided as the theme of my maiden speech in Congress, “The New Colonialists”.  I delivered my maiden speech on 7 March 1970, following the bloody street demonstration of 30 and 31 of January, where several of the young demonstrators were mortally wounded.  I said in my speech, that “I agree in principle with those who identified colonialism as the source of our discontent.  But I believe that accusing foreign-inspired colonialism is like beating a dead horse.  We have been an independent nation for 25 years now, and if we still allow ourselves to be dominated by outsiders, then we have nothing to blame but our shameless stupidity or our woeful timidity.

I continued and I said – “I see therefore, not the vintages of the past, but its reincarnation.  Yesterday, colonial exploitation wore a white face and was imported.  Today, it wears a brown face, and is home-grown.  When I speak of the untrustworthiness of the Filipinos with power, do I include the Legislators in the roll of the new colonialist?  I do not intend to take refuge in the alibi of being a freshman in Congress.  I am now a member of Congress, and even as I stand here, I am aware of the fact that voices raised in protest against the institution must necessarily involve me.  If we are to believe in the legitimacy of the nationwide outcry for congressional reforms, among others, and if we are to believe in the logic of there being no reason for reform unless guilt were present, then let us be honest in  admitting that,  collectively or individually, we are not,  to say the least, completely innocent . . . .”

Quoted from the “Newsette” dated March-April 1970, Official Organ of the PACD, describing the maiden speech – had this to say “. . . so substantial and meaningful was his speech that it reprinted in the Philippine Free Press, a magazine that rarely if over prints privilege speeches from a notorious Congress or elsewhere.

Indeed, Rep. Lumauig has reasons for attacking the new colonialists in our midst, many of whom have been referred to as Stonehills.  He was right in assailing certain Filipinos who “deliberately combine political power and economic wealth to assume an ever expaning and ever ascending position of dominance over the rest of the affairs of our countrymen.”

The clean-cut and handsome solon points out -  “All of us are guilty either of commission – the commission of injustice and the omission of not having responded appropriately.  The privilege who sought the dominance of their will, the underprivileged who opted for convenience and temporary palliative rather than hold on to their dignity and sacrifice for more enduring benefits – all are equally guilty . . . “

Incident in the meeting of the National Economic Council (now NEDA)

As acting Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Economic Affairs, I was an ex-officio member of the National Economic Council (NEC) and my counterpart from the Senate, was Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, the Executive Director of the NEC, was a former Dean of the UP College of Business Administration.
A week before the NEC meeting, I sought an audience, with the Commissioner of Public Highways, Baltazar Aquino.    I requested for funding support in the amount of P270, 000.00 to finish the approaches of the newly built steel bridge over the Ibulao River, the first of its kind in Ifugao.   The old rickety wooden hanging bridge connected the main national highway from Nueva Vizcaya to Ifugao, particularly to the famous Banaue Rice Terraces, which we were assiduously promoting as a tourist destination area. 
Highway’s Commissioner Baltazar Aquino told me, that the Office did not have anymore funds for that purpose.   He even called the Budget / Accounting people of his office to bring their records, and to see if there was any possible amount to accommodate my request.   The Budget people came in, and showed me a long list of accounting and financial statements pointing to a zero balance in their budget accounts.   I left the Highways Office very much disappointed and wondering how I can get money to finish a bridge – a life line conduit, which could bring progress to the province.
The following morning was a regular meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) and former precursor of NEDA.    As Chairman of the Committee on the Economic Affairs of the House of Representatives, I was an ex-officio member of the National Economic Council.   For the Senate, it was the late Senator Emmanuel Pelaez.   Former Dean of the UP College of Business Administration.   Gerry Sicat Chaired the National Economic Council.   

The Council went over the agenda items for the meeting and acted accordingly.   But when it considered the item of the San Juanico Bridge Project, I noticed it carried a budget of several million pesos.    When I saw this, I pointed this out to Senator Pelaez, who was seated beside me.   I told him, “Mr. Senator, noon kalian lang, a few days ago, I went to see Highways Commissioner Baltazar Aquino, and requested for a little amount about over two hundred thousand pesos (P200, 000.00) to finish my bridge and he said there was no more money in the Public Highways Office for that purpose.”   Commissioner Baltazar Aquino was present in that meeting, and he was sponsoring the action on that particular item of the Agenda.   Senator Pelaez commented, “Pangit naman yan, maliit lang pala ang hinihingi mo bakit hindi ka binigyan?   Pa suspend mo na lang muna, ang consideration ng item na ito” – (referring to the San Juanico Bridge) which I did.   Chairman Sicat, who was presiding over the meeting suspended the proceedings together with Commissioner Aquino. They approached me to withdraw my motion to suspend, as the project was that of the First Lady.   I told Commissioner Aquino,  “When I went to you, you said you have no money at all – here you give several million pesos”.    I did not withdraw my motion to suspend and the meeting adjourned.
That afternoon, at about 5:00 pm, I was already in the Session Hall of the Congress.   The session was going on, when the Session Hall Aide approached me, saying, “Your brother Governor, Gualberto Lumauig is on the phone and he says it is important that you talk with him.”   The telephone was at one corner of the floor, and when I picked it up, my brother blurted out, - “The President (FM) called and told me what you did in your meeting at the National Economic Council this morning”.   I explained to my brother what happened, and he must have related the same to FM.    Anyway, in the latter part of the session proceedings, the Legislative Aide approached me and said, “Speaker Villareal would like to talk to you”.    I approached the Speaker at the restroom and he said, “Mulong”   , (that is how he called me) punta ka raw sa Malakanyang ngayon”.    I immediately understood and I said, “Yes, Mr. Speaker” and I hurriedly left for Malacañan.
At Malacañan, I was ushered by Sec. Clave to the President’s Office, who was still attending to
two (2) visitors.   When the visitors left, the President saw me and beckoned me to get near, and he said, “Ah Congressman Lumauig”, (with a smile) and in Ilocano said in a soft conversational tone – “Apay met nga pinasuspend mo tay project ni First Lady, ket iyap apura tayu tay pannakalipas na”.    For a moment I was speechless, for I was taken aback.    For all the while, I expected a tense scolding from the President.   But instead, he was there smiling.    I was sort of overwhelmed.    Then again, he added, “What’s your problem anyway?”.    Slowly, I related that incident with Highways Commissioner Aquino.  Still smiling, he asked Sec. Clave to call Budget Commissioner Sychangco.    Sec. Clave called Commissioner Sychangco but the latter was out of his office.   So the President quickly scribbled a note on his Memo-Pad, and told Sec. Clave that it be brought to Com. Sychangco.    The note directed Com. Sychangco to release the amount of Three Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos, (P350, 000.00) for the completion of the Ibulao steel bridge in Ifugao.    Then FM added, “You can have that note and see Com. Sychangco tomorrow”.    I took the note and thanked the President for it.   As I was about to leave, again in a fatherly tone, he asked me, “What really made you oppose / suspend the particular item in your NEC meeting?”    For a moment, I hesitated to answer – but then I also thought, I could not hide the truth of what really happened.    So lamely, I disclosed that it was really Senator Pelaez who told me to move to suspend consideration of the San Juanico Bridge item in the Agenda.    Then he sort of flared up and said, “What? Why did he do that when I just recently approved his request for the electrification program of his hometown Medina, in Misamis Occidental?”   As quickly as he raised his voice, he toned down and he gave me a parting advice, to attend to my legislative duties.

2nd Incident where FM called attention re my Congressional work

Aside from my Chairing the Economic Affairs Committee of the House, I was also made Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the House Appropriation Committee on the Armed Forces.   During one of the deliberations of the Committee on the proposed appropriations of the Armed Forces, the Armed Forces Panel, that appeared before us, earnestly argued, that the AFP budget proposal should be favorably acted upon.    Many of the members of the Committee were former AFP Officers like General Lucas Cauton, Col. Carmelo Barbero and others.    Anyway, when the budget meeting was about to end, I noticed an item in the AFP’s Budget Proposal, an outlay for advance schooling for the AFP Officers in the US, like Fort Leavenworth, Fort Bragg etc.   As the amount was quite substantial, I commented that instead of spending that amount for theoretical studies abroad – why don’t we send instead said officers to Vietnam and study thoroughly how the Vietnamese Army effectively devised a transport system of their personnel and resources, nt by any mechanized devise but by the use of man power and animals like carabaos and mules, how they have mastered the construction of caves, tunnels and underground passages in the war zone, that shielded them from detection by the powerful US Army Forces.    Because of my comment, which incidentally was supported by Congressman Carmelo Barbero and General Lucas Cauton, the consideration of the AFP Budget proposal was suspended.

This incident was quickly relayed to Malacañan, for in the afternoon of the following day, my brother Governor Gualberto, again called me up saying the President (FM) sent word to him re the AFP subject incident.    I told my brother to tell FM, that I will withdraw my comments on the AFP Budget, which I did.   Most likely, he must have relayed this to the President, as I was not called anymore by the President.

Another Incident

Congressional works is not that serious all the time, especially during Committee Hearings.   Some members, who were not able to participate in the plenary deliberation, would rather opt to be more active in the Committee Hearings.   If said hearings are covered by TV and the Media, invariably one can expect much more active participation by the members in the proceedings.   One such event was during the presentation of the AFP Budget Proposal which was held at the AFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.   Almost all the members of the Appropriation Committee Chaired by Congressman Nicanor Ynigez, were in attendance.   The hearing was covered by TV and Radio as well as the Newspapers.   Briefing the Committee was no less than the Chief of Staff of the AFP, Gen. Romeo Espino.   He was pointing out the progress of the AFP shown in the numerous charts before us.   But what easily caught the attention of the Committee members was the program of the AFP on the manufacture of rockets.   He disclosed that, there was an on going AFP program based in Corregidor.   This was the manufacture of rockets, which would add to the weaponry of the AFP.   The nomenclature given to the rocket was “Bong-bong” rocket.   The rockets were of two (2) categories, the small one which had a radius or range of about one and a half mile or more, while the big one, would have a larger range of about two (2) to three (3) miles or thereabouts.   But Gen. Espino quickly added that, a huge amount should be needed to perfect and improve on their rocket project.   In fact, he said, they have already spent a considerable amount on these rockets program which is still in the initial phase.   Hence, they have to spend much bigger amount for the bigger rocket phase.

At this juncture, a colleague in the Committee, who is known for his sartorial elegance and his forthrightness and often times colorful language, which he punctuates with comic relief, stood up and in sight of the TV, on a loud demanding voice said, “Mr. General, how much did you get from your big time racket?”   The Committee and the audience let a loud guffaw and the hearing was adjourned.

UN Conference  on the Environment (Sweden)

One morning in my Office at Congress, I received a phone call and the caller refused to identify himself.  All that he said was this, “If you are really interested in Congress to stop the shenanigans in the Bureau of Customs, check now with the Bureau of Customs and find out that shipload of imported luxury items consigned to a big department store in Cebu.  That cargo should merit hundreds of thousand in customs duties if levied upon.”  I told the caller, that it might just be a crank call that he is doing and he retorted – “Bahala na kayo!  Panay kayo daldal sa Kongreso, eto nga at sinasabi na sa iyo, tinatanong nyu pa kung totoo o hindi”, then he put down the phone.  A news reporter Eddie Monteclaro was at my office and he heard all about the phone call.  Then Eddie said – “Baka totoo nga naman Congressman.”

I picked up the phone and called Commissioner Geotina of the Bureau of Customs, and inquired what was that ship unloading its cargo of luxury items in Cebu.   I asked if it was being taxed the real customs duties.  Fortunately, Commissioner Geotina, who+ is a soft spoken person readily answered “Yes, I have a report from our customs people about that ship.  I told Commissioner Geotina to double check on the details about that ship, as it might again explode in the media.  That very afternoon, a story appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper about that ship, and it mentioned that I was going to initiate a Congressional investigation on the matter.
That afternoon, the media were pressing me to disclose if I really do intend to have Congress investigate the Cebu Shipment.  The following morning, the newspapers again carried the news that came out in the afternoon papers.  At about 10:00 am that day, I was notified that Speaker  Villareal’s Office called and requested that I drop at his office.  As I entered the Speaker’s Office, there were several  people  and  two  Southern  Colleagues  in  the  House who were in a huddle with the Speaker. 

After some moments, the people left including the Congressmen.  It was just me and the Speaker.  “Mulong, that was how the Speaker addressed me – yung gusto mong inbestigahan tungkol sa Cebu – ay huwag na muna kaya”.  “Bakit ho Mr. Speaker?”  Itinanong ko.  Then again, sabi ni Speaker, “Alam mo Mulong, dito tayo sa Kongreso ay parang isang pamilya.  Kami na mas nakakatanda sa inyo na mga bata, ay lagi gusto naming na mahasa kayo ng husto sa mga gawain natin bilang mga kinatawan.  So, because you are actually Chairing the Committee on Economic Affairs and Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Trade and Tourism, I have chosen you to represent the House in the 1st United Nation Conference to be held outside New York.  It will be held in Stockholm, Sweden and it is called UN Conference on Environment.  Senator Helena Benitez of the Senate will be your co-delegate to the Conference.  Immediately, I perceived the meaning why I was called by the Speaker.  It was what appeared in the papers about the purported Congressional investigation, which I reportedly wanted to take place.  Anyway, when I was about to Speak, Speaker Villareal with his winsome smile and fatherly pat on the shoulder, said “Mulong, this will be your exposure to International Conferences.”  As it was a Tuesday, he said – “The Conference will commence this coming Monday next week.  Go prepare your travel papers and other needs.  You are entitled to bring one Staff to act as your Secretary.  Then I interrupted, “Mr. Speaker, could I have my wife Linda, as my Secretary”.  Anyway, she is a civil service eligible and a graduate of Philosophy and Letters.  Then the Speaker laughed, stood up and patted me on my back, “of course Mulong, that is what I meant, that you are entitled to a Secretarial Staff.”  We flew to Sweden that Friday.

Congress – September 22, 1972 Friday evening when Martial Law was announced.

Before lunch time, speaker Villareal sent word, that I have to join their group, that was going to see President Marcos at the Palace that afternoon.   Speaker Villareal, together with Congressmen Barbero and Joaquin Titong R. Roces were to leave for Russia, on an official mission, the following week.   A week before, I arrived from an official trip from Russia and other Eastern European Socialist countries, as Chairman of the House Committee on Economics Affairs.   My mission was to see the prospects of having trade with the socialist countries.    When we arrived at the gates of Malacañan, I was surprised to see, that all the guards were in combat uniform and fully armed.   They even had to inspect the trunk of Speaker Villareal’s car, where I rode with the Speaker.
When we went up the stairs of Malacañan, there were armed guards by every door, in combat gear.   As we were ushered into the study room, we were met by Secretary Jake Clave who told us, that the President was still in the other room, as he was being interviewed (telephone) by US overseas media.   After a while, Mrs. Imelda Marcos came out and greeted us.   She said that FM was still busy answering queries of media from abroad (overseas interview).    Sometime thereafter, FM came out smiling saying “sobra naman yung mga Media abroad, paulit-ulit nilang itinatanong kung mag Martial law daw tayo.”    Congessman Mike Barbero, a former Colonel in the AFP, who was beside me, was listening intently and he whispered in Ilocano “Romy – agpaysun san”.   FM who must have noticed Congressman Barbero whispering to me, blurted out – addressing Speaker Villareal “Oh Compadre, Mr. Speaker how are you in the House?   Have you finished with our economic measures, as I intend to call Congress for another Special Session tomorrow?”    Speaker Villareal responded, “Mr. President, tapos na kami, yun sa Senado lang ay magtatapos na rin sa pagkat, mamaya   mag meeting yung Conference Committee of both Houses sa Hilton.    Sinama  ko si  Congressman Lumauig dahil siya ang House Representative  sa  Conference Panel doon sa Economic Bill na  naiiwan.”    FM said, “Mabuti naman.”   

Gayun pa man, inutusan niya si Sec. Clave na  tawagan  si  Senate President Gil Puyat, para makausap
niya.    Noong binigay ni Jake ang telepono kay FM, agad tinanong ni FM kay Senate President Puyat, kung tapos na ang pending measures sa Senado at idinagdag niya na “Nandito sila Speaker Villareal at sabi niya na tapos na raw sila sa House – dahil pag hindi pa, balak kong tawagan uli ang Kongreso for another Special Session bukas.”    Malamang nasabi ni Senate President Puyat na tapos na sila – kaya sabi ni FM, “mabuti naman”, at  ibinaba ang telepono.   Tinanong ni FM si Speaker Villareal kung pagkatapos ang mission nila sa Russia, ay dadaan pa sila sa America.   Sabi ni Speaker Villareal na malamang dadaan siya sa Washington.   Sabi ni FM, “pakisabi mo sa mga kaibigan natin doon, na huwag silang mabahala sa epekto ng pagtatapos ng Laurel-Langley Agreement, sa pagkat maayos na natin yun.  
After the talks, FM stood up and the rest of the group stood up.   It was a clue for us to leave.   When we were proceeding to the stairs, FM pulled me aside, and asked, “How were things going on in Ifugao?”   I answered, “Mr. President, not much, only that what I informed you the other day, about a group of armed men were spotted to have passed the town that night and were sighted, to be proceeding to the nearby mountains.”    Then FM said, “Don’t you worry, perhaps those were our men….”    I was puzzled with that statement.
As we were descending the stairs of the palace, Congressman Barbero sidled up to me, and inquired what FM told me.   Congressman Barbero added, “Did he tell you, that he was about to declare Martial Law?”   I answered, “FM did not tell me anything about Martial Law.”
From the palace, we went back to Congress, and it was about 6:00 pm when we reached there.   I disembarked from the car of Speaker Villareal and told him, that I was proceeding straight to the Bi-cameral Conference Committee meeting at the Hotel Hilton.    When I reached the hotel, I noticed that there  were  many  MetroCom  personnel  around  the hotel and were all in battle gear.   The hotel was literally   surrounded  by elements  of  MetroCom  and other army contingents.   As I entered the lobby
which was already full of soldiers, I proceeded to the elevator as the Bi-cameral Conference Committee was to meet at the upper floor.   A few of our staff members of the Bi-cameral Conference Committee met me, to tell that the meeting will not go through as Senator Benigno Aquino, my Senate counterpart in the Bi-cameral panel was being fetched by the military.  Seeing all the military people around, I easily understood and hurried back to the House, where with other Congressman with glummed face, waited for the inevitable.

A night of dialogue in Baguio City
I was invited as a Guest Speaker, in a Forum at Baguio City on 05 March 1971, sponsored by the Commission on National Integration, the University of the Philippines at Baguio and the Mindanao State University.  The theme of the forum was about the problems confronting the cultural minorities.  The venue for the Forum was at the Pines Hotel.

As the Forum was going on, shortly before the noon break, there were noises heard coming from outside of the Hotel.   There were mostly students rallyists, who wanted to get inside the Hotel, to watch and perhaps to participate in the forum.   They have just finished with their picket at the Saint Louis University, and were proceeding to the UP Baguio Campus.  They have to pass by the Pines Hotel before  reaching  the  UP Campus.   The police stopped them at the driveway leading to the Hotel.  The students tried to push their way through, but the police stood their grounds.  There was a lot of pushing and jostling and shouting by the rallyists.  So I got out of the Hotel and approached the police cordon, which stopped the students.  I talked with the team leader of the police and asked if it would be possible to let the students proceed to the Hotel, if they desist from being noisy so as not to disturb the ongoing forum inside the Hotel.
The police team leader said, “That would be dangerous, as they might be again unruly.”  Meanwhile, the rallyists ceased shouting as they watched me talk to the police.  I then approached the rallyists, and they were saying, “Congressman Lumauig, apay dida kami pastriken?  Why do they not allow us to get to the Pines Hotel?”  I talked to them for a while, and they calmed down.   I told them, that the forum was about to wind-up.  After that they, could proceed to the Hotel, and I would be pleased to sit down with them, to know more about their concerns.  They were receptive to my suggestion, but they opted to just proceed meanwhile to the UP Campus.   They said though, that they will try to see me later in the day.  In the afternoon at about 5:00 pm, a young UP lady student showed up at the Hotel and introduced herself as Didi, and requested that she withhold her surname.   We had a long talk. 

It was indeed an interesting exchange of views that I had with her.  I was impressed with her youthful exuberance when she pontificated on the reformed society, that their group forecasted to happen in the country once their struggle for reform is attained.  I was patiently listening to her, and she would ask me if I do understand and sympathize with all that she was telling me.  I replied that, I understand all that she was saying, it was their privilege to think that way they did.   But I did not agree though, I replied, to all that she was describing about the ills of Philippine Society.   There are also a lot of our countrymen who seek reforms.  I referred to the new crop of elected young Congressmen, who are as idealistic as they are, and are also agitating for reforms.  But she did not agree with me.   As it was already getting late, she stood up and begged to leave, as their group was to hold a meeting with the Miners community below the Mines View Park.  She invited me to join them.  I declined, as I told her I was to leave early the next morning back to Manila.  I did walk her though to the driveway of Pines Hotel, and the street leading to the Convention Hall.  We parted fr om there and she said, she would just write me a note before I’ll leave the Hotel tomorrow morning for Manila. 

Early, the following morning as I was about to leave the Pines Hotel, I was handed an envelope with a letter.  I opened the letter.  It was from Didi.  At this juncture, perhaps it would be best that I
reproduce her letter in full.  See next post "letter of Didi".

No comments:

Post a Comment