Friday, September 26, 2014

War's End

From a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez:

“The day came when American soldiers landed in Iloilo.  They were welcomed everywhere while the Japanese soldiers fled to the mountains of Antique and Capiz and the shores of Aklan.  Pocket groups of stragglers dug in and made a valiant but futile effort to thwart the advance of the Americans.  The Japanese Imperial Army faded into the night and lingered only as a memory of a senseless war.   

“Our family went back to our residential house in Barangay Quintin Salas in Jaro and found it in ruins.  The guerillas used the house as its headquarters and Japanese soldiers targeted it, as they abandoned Iloilo City.  After the Japanese fled, the guerillas stripped the house of whatever useable furnishings they can lay their hands on and left the house in shambles.  In the days that followed, Sergio and I went back to the farm to see what remains of our property.  Everything looked normal and even the pile of harvested palay called tumpi looked untouched, slightly leaning to one side probably because of the wind.

“We went about our business and went home for lunch.  Unknown to us, there was a Japanese soldier hiding inside the tumpi waiting for a chance to get away.  Realizing that there was no way he can slip away undetected, he decided to end his misery, took out a match and burned the pile of palay with him in it.  The people soon realized what happened and they stood guard around the tumpi

“It was a pitiful sight, knowing that a man was burning inside.  The smell of burning flesh lingered in the air for hours.  The straggler likely thought that it was the best that he could do.  If he got caught, who can say how the bitter guerillas will treat an enemy?  In the town of Barotac Nuevo, the angry populace butchered all the Japanese soldiers they could find except for the cook who was able to flee.  To the Japanese, there is honor and nobility in taking one’s life in the face of defeat.

“Life was coming back to the Iloilo City.  Residents returned from their mountain lairs.  It was time to pick up the pieces of their lives.  American servicemen mingled with the natives freely and a brisk barter trade flourished for lack of credible currency.  Filipinos snatched up American goods including cigarettes, K-rations, coffee, corned beef, balls of cheese and, yes, chocolates.  These were the memories of liberation days. 

“Warmed by the euphoria of peace, children were like unbridled ponies, running all over the place.  This was how it was when our youngest brother Mario, at 7 years of age, was hit by a military jeep driven by an American soldier.  We rushed him to a hospital where doctors announced that his arm must be opened up.  He died of an overdose of anesthesia.  His death was so unnecessary, so meaningless, at a time when war had finally ended.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Brutality of War

This is a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez on the brutality of members of the Japanese Imperial Army during their occupation of Panay island in 1942-1944.

“I remember an old sea captain who was captured during a lightning raid of Japanese Imperial Army forces on our village.  An evacuee, he was hopeful that the soldiers would spare him because of his age.  But they somehow got wind of his son who was an ROTC cadet at the Colegio de San Agustin in Iloilo City and who was one of the guerillas who broke the Japanese blockade in the Corregidor Strait as they brought rice supplies to Bataan aboard the SS Regulus.  The ship was later sunk by the Japanese but they blamed the aging seaman for the involvement of his son and turned to him for revenge.

“At 12 years of age, I witnessed with my own eyes the indescribable abuses and atrocities of the Imperial Army which lingered in my memory.  I saw how the invaders, young and vicious, would tie a prisoner to a post and beat him with whatever was at hand until he died.  The methods of torture used by them were so barbaric that it defied description.  Suspected guerillas were kidnapped never to be seen gain.  Women were raped and food supplies were sequestered with force.  It was the height of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  I developed a hatred for violence and abhorred the thought of bloody confrontation.  But if the situation presented itself, I would fight back with all the survival instincts I had learned during those dangerous years.

“In the course of the war, heavy fighting broke out in Barangay Buntatala, the last barrio of Jaro across the river from the town of Leganes and a village away from the place where the family evacuated.  The guerillas controlled the bridge effectively stopping the Imperial Army from marching north towards the towns of Leganes and Zarraga.  Although possessing much superior firepower, the invaders were stymied by the guerillas, and fighting raged on for days. 

“The deafening roars of bazookas and the staccato sound of machine guns and rifle fire filled the air with terror, and forced the people to flee to safer grounds.  The enemy was everywhere while their reinforcements were already tramping the rice fields towards the battle site, killing every one they encountered with their bayonets and samurais.  The soldiers were on a murderous rampage, angered by the resistance of an inferior force.

“The whole family fled into the rice fields, merging with the terrain with only the tall stalks of rice as cover.  It was raining hard when suddenly I spotted a group of soldiers coming our way.  There was no time to hide, and communicating with hand signals, we burrowed into the mud and prayed to God to save us.  We held our breath for a long time as the soldiers, afraid to lose their footing in the paddies, passed our group who were just a few meters away buried in the mud like mudfish.  

"Breathless seconds passed before we lifted our heads from the mud and gulped for air.  By this time the soldiers were already hurrying away unaware of our presence due to the noise from the rain and the wind.  Our faces were full of mud but we were triumphant for evading the enemy yet another time.  We were thankful to God for saving us for the umpteenth time.  We crawled along the rice paddies and slipped away to safety.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Condolence Letter of Dr. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

September 8, 2014

Dear Doctora Pacita and family,

On behalf of our family and the Arroyo cabinet, Mike and I express our profound condolences and offer our fervent prayers on the passing of our esteemed Raul Gonzalez, my Secretary of Justice.

His decades of public service, especially in upholding the rule of law in our land, have left a legacy of justice, stability, and development in his constituencies, the national government, and the Republic.

We most admire and appreciate particularly his staunch defense and advocacy for what was just, rightful and lawful in the face of partisan and even subversive agitation as well as media attacks.

His mettle was on full display during destabilization attempts and in the 2004 congressional canvassing, when he stood his ground against efforts to delay and derail the election tally and provoke a constitutional crisis.

Raul was so devoted to the demands of state and politics that sometimes they stood in the way of his family life and affection.  I fondly recall times when Doctora Pacita would phone him while he was at a cabinet meeting and, to the amusement of the cabinet members who observed it, Raul would whisper into the cell phone to cut short the conversation so that he could return his undivided attention to the meeting.

If the phone calls from Doctora Pacita he would parry during cabinet meetings were amusing, a more alarming conflict between his devotion to duty and accommodating the concerns of his family about his health came to a head when his children visited me one day to ask me to fire him in order to save his life because they feared that if he continued his work, his serious kidney condition would kill him.  That was the time when a kidney transplant was prescribed for him.

Seeing how he loved his work, though, I felt that if I accepted his resignation, that would kill him, too.  So the compromise I thought of was to force him to go on an extended leave of absence for surgery and recuperation.  He went on leave as I urged him to do, but he returned to work much earlier than his family and I judged to be for the good of his health.

Though he went back to work earlier than for his own good and our peace of mind, we surely cherish the extra years that his forced leave of absence and his transplant allowed him to serve his country some more and then give his time to his family before last night, when Mama Mary called him to join her Son for her birthday.

In his own way, the man who argued and orchestrated our cases before Congress and court was most solicitous and caring toward kith and kin.  I saw firsthand how he helped his sons in public service achieve success in their careers.

I was literally witness to the special 45th wedding anniversary he and Doctora Pacita celebrated in Iloilo City, and I still have the beautiful blue gown they gave me to wear for that occasion.  No one knew then whether Raul would reach their golden anniversary.  We thank the Lord that Raul's extra years stretched until their 50th anniversary and beyond, and gave the opportunity for their whole family to travel together, including the grandchildren.

May the memories of those extra years of Raul's life after surgery soften this moment of sorrow.  This is our prayer as we join the Gonzalez family in sympathy.  May the memory and legacy of Raul the fond father of the family and the consummate public persona lift our spirits, inspire our lives, and advance our Republic as he had always sought in his time with us.

God bless Raul and the Gonzalez family.

With deepest condolences,

(signed) Gloria

Friday, September 12, 2014

Condolence Letter of President Aquino

Malacanan Palace

September 9, 2014

Dear Dr. (Pacita) Gonzalez,

In this period of deep personal sadness for you and your family, please accept my sincerest condolences.

Though your late husband and I may have had our differences, I will never forget, just as our nation will always recognize, the service he rendered during the dark days of Martial Law.  In seeking justice through our legal system, at a time our Constitution was set aside to accommodate the personal whims of a dictator, your husband was one of the many who had the courage to keep the spirit of resistance alive, and by so doing, continued to champion the democratic cause.  His participation, later on, in the restoration of democracy after the EDSA Revolution will always serve as a badge of honor and distinction for him and for your family.

May God grant his soul eternal repose, and may His light and grace comfort you and your loved ones in this time of affliction.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Raul M. Gonzalez (1930-2014)

With gratitude for the gift of 83 years of the life of Raul M. Gonzalez (RMG), his family announces his departure in obedience to the ultimate call of our Creator.  He was a responsible husband and father, an indulgent grandfather, a loyal friend, and a courageous public servant.  Please remember him in your prayers.

Raul Gonzalez has served the Filipino people as an active opponent of dictatorship during the darkest days of Martial Law.  He was the youngest lawyer of Sen. Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. during his incarceration and trial under Military Commission No. 2.  He represented Ninoy’s mother, Aurora Aquino, in an urgent plea to the Supreme Court to invalidate the Military Commission’s death sentence and to transfer Ninoy’s case to a civilian court.

Gonzalez supported the Cory Aquino – Doy Laurel partnership during the 1986 special presidential and vice-presidential elections, and he admired the sacrifice of Salvador Laurel in agreeing to be Aquino's running-mate, for RMG believed that Laurel was more prepared for the presidency.  After the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos thru the February 1986 “People Power” event, Cory Aquino assumed the presidency and appointed RMG as Tanodbayan (Ombudsman), a responsibility he exercised until September 1988.

From 1995 to 2004, RMG served as Congressman of the Lone District of Iloilo City.  He was one of the prosecutors of the House of Representatives during the impeachment trial of Joseph Ejercito Estrada.  From 2004 to 2009, he headed the Department of Justice in the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Raul M. Gonzalez was born in La Carlota, Negros Occidental, on 03 December 1930.  His father, Delfin Gonzalez, was the last mayor of Jaro, Iloilo, where RMG was raised.  He passed away at around 10:45 in the evening of September 7 owing to multiple organ failure.  He died peacefully, surrounded by his wife, Dr. Pacita Trinidad Gonzalez, and their 3 sons and 2 daughters, after they prayed the holy rosary, his favorite prayer, and recited prayers for the commendation of the dying. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Delfin Gonzalez in the Guerilla Movement

From the manuscript of Ken Ishikawa:

“After the Pacific War broke out and the Japanese Imperial Army succeeded in overrunning the last bastion of the US-Filipino forces on the island of Corregidor on 09 April 1941, the Japanese began their expansion to the south. On April 16, the Japanese landed on the island of Panay.  They began occupying the districts of La Paz, Molo, Jaro, and downtown Iloilo City, and started turning schools, civic buildings, and large houses into their garrisons…

“In order to raise the morale of the populace in Panay and to keep peace and order amidst enemy occupation, Tomas Confesor established a provisional provincial government. Because of his background in leading farms and haciendas, Delfin Gonzalez was named by Confesor as his Food Administrator for Jaro and Leganes, referred to by the resistance forces as Zone 9. 

“It was Delfin's duty to make sure that agricultural production continued in his territory despite enemy occupation and that the people living in the area and the guerillas operating in the sector would not want for food.  Delfin travelled across his area through rice paddies, carefully avoiding the dirt roads where squads of Japanese soldiers patrolled.  He would visit outlying farms where crops were being covertly grown.  When he was not travelling, Delfin tended his own farm with crops he used to supply the resistance.  Delfin chose to give the bulk of his harvests to the guerillas and the needy.  His son, RMG, remembers that the family subsisted mainly on lugaw or rice broth, seasoned only with either sugar or  salt, during the length of the Japanese occupation.

“Delfin did not lack for help in providing nourishment for his family; his sons, Sergio and Raul, learned how to forage for food.  They went to rice paddies, hunched, scanning the surface of the mud for mouths of tilapia or catfish.  Their tenants taught them the proper technique of catching catfish without getting stung by their barbs, a skill the boys happily applied in dozens of afternoons along the ditches and mudflats near the farms.  When villagers harvested mung bean in a field somewhere, Raul and Sergio looked for unharvested seeds along with other children and womenfolk.

“As if the routine his job demanded of him was not dangerous enough, Delfin would, now and then, get missives from his fellow guerillas inviting him to meetings.  Couriers from Confesor stashed orders and information meant for him in a hollow stalk of bamboo at a grove in a secret location near his house.  Once Delfin has memorized the instructions and the meeting places, he assigned Raul to hide these clandestine papers in the holes in the stilts of their house.  Whenever he set out for these gatherings, he would normally take someone to accompany him. One such companion was Sergio who walked with his father to Tacas to meet guerilla leaders there.

“Delfin knew that his role under Confesor's resistance government doubled the dangers for his family.  Aside from being responsible for his wife and brood of five children, he also had to worry for his sister-in-law Anita, her husband and her two children.  Because of this, Delfin was very careful not to rouse the suspicion of the Japanese.  Through his vigilance and caution, he was able to keep his guerilla and patriotic activities a secret.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Delfin Gonzalez, Last Mayor of Jaro

From the manuscript of Ken Ishikawa:

“During the Commonwealth period, Delfin Gonzalez, the father of RMG, became a leader of the local branch of the Nacionalista Party.  It was the largest, political party in the country.  Its membership included Sergio OsmeƱa, Manuel A. Roxas and Manuel L. Quezon, an illustrious group which had managed to negotiate with the U.S. Senate the terms of Philippine Independence…

“The year 1940 was a divisive one for the Iloilo Nacionalista branch, as the brothers Eugenio and Fernando Lopez engaged in a bitter feud with Governor Tomas Confesor.  Three years prior, in the election of 1937, the Lopezes supported Confesor's governorship bid.  During his term proper, however, Confesor refused to provide the brothers concessions like the lifting of the bridge toll, which was hurting the Lopez-owned Panay Autobus.

“It was in this political atmosphere that Delfin's bid for the vice-mayoralty of Jaro found itself.  Using their political clout, the Lopezes sought help from Manuel L. Quezon against Confesor.  Quezon schemed to remove Confesor's political support from local party mates.  To this end, he sent Manuel A. Roxas to meet with local Nacionalistas.  Roxas came to Jaro and stayed over at Don Maximiano Jalandoni's mansion.  From there, he sent for Pablo Bion and Delfin Gonzalez, who were running mates.  Roxas relayed instructions from Quezon, who was their party's national chairman, to drop Confesor and instead opt for Dr. Timoteo Consing for the governorship of Iloilo.

“Delfin was faced with a difficult choice.  If he did not do as Quezon ordered, he was given the warning that they would not be able to sit as mayor and vice-mayor.  Should they support Dr. Timoteo Consing, they would only be ensuring that Iloilo's economy would fall to the clutches of the Lopezes.  Despite the conditions they were threatened with, Gonzalez and Bion, chose to side with Confesor, and made good their earlier promise to support him.

“Riding on a populist platform, the two charged into the campaign for Mayor and Vice-Mayor of Jaro. They raised their hands and charged with the battlecry “Gugma kontra Kwalta” (Love vs. Money).  The common people of Jaro believed in the changes Bion and Gonzalez promised and gave them the mandate.

“A few months into their administration, Pablo Bion left his political seat, making Delfin Gonzalez mayor of Jaro.  Quezon made true his threat and expanded the territory of Iloilo City to cover Molo and Jaro in 1941.  Jaro lost its status as a town with Delfin Gonzalez as its last sitting mayor.  Delfin would tell RMG to shun the fate of the reed swayed by the wind, and thus
a signature virtue of RMG is loyalty, which perhaps he sometimes bears to a fault.

“Delfin was promised by the incumbents a position as a councilor in the expanded Iloilo city but that never materialized.  Although it was a major blow to Delfin's career as a politician, he did not allow it to bring his family down.  The Gonzalezes would need to stick together as they were going to face a bigger storm; one which brought a rain of bullets, the thundering of artillery bombardment, and the lightning flash of bayonets.”