Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Work with Chief Executives and Legislators (1962-1972)

From a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez:
"Antonio 'Yeba' Villegas, the vice mayor who took over after Mayor Lacson’s death, asked me to stay on and continue with my work as prosecutor of graft cases, the unofficial Manila city Ombudsman.  Young, tall for a Filipino and quite talented, he copied the gait and macho ways of the late mayor.  A brilliant lawyer, Villegas indiscriminately stepped on a lot of toes in his desire to eradicate graft and corruption in the city government, much like Lacson.           

"While still with Mayor Villegas, I was temporarily 'lent' to Sen. Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon from Iloilo, as a legal adviser.  Roding and I shared a political heritage.  While my father served as the last mayor of the town of Jaro before it was made a district of Iloilo City, Roding’s father served as the first mayor of the expanded City.  Ganzon was a man driven by his ambitions.  Although his family was not rich, he persisted in his studies and worked his way through law school, as a laborer and a jeepney driver.  Graduating with honors, he topped the bar exams in 1953.  This made him a kind of folk hero and catapulted him to various political positions in the city and finally as a senator of the Republic. 
"Not long after that, I was again lent to Sen. Genaro Magsaysay of Zambales for the same position and likewise taken in as counsel of the Liberal Party while I was also doing part-time work in the office of Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerardo Roxas of Capiz.  In between these jobs, I was named executive secretary of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures, another part-time job under the Office of President Diosdado Macapagal.  When President Marcos succeeded Macapagal in 1965,  I was appointed as an Executive Member of the Board of Censors with voting privileges.
"After Villegas, Atty. Ramon 'Bombay' Bagatsing took over the mayorship of Manila with wounds still fresh as a result of the bombing of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo in 1971.   Bagatsing was from Sagay, Negros Occidental, an Ilonggo like Lacson and me.  The friendship we established was instant, as we were both lawyers and he appreciated what I did, for he also pursued an anti-corruption campaign during his second term as a Congressman of Manila in 1961-1965." 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Exposure to 'Arsenic' Lacson of Manila

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

"While I was working for Iloilo Governor Zulueta, there came an offer I could not refuse.  Manila’s aggressive mayor, Arsenio ‘Arsenic’ Lacson (1912-1962), wanted me to join him, and I bid goodbye to the Iloilo governor.  Lacson was one of a kind.  A fiery political figure and a straight shooter, his grit and courage was legend.  He was a no-nonsense administrator, and called a spade a spade.  His religiously chronicled tantrums were not pretense, and he was a man of the masses.  He spoke from the heart, and had the courage to stand up for his beliefs, principles and advocacies.  Some of his firm views soon rubbed off on me, and we had a productive relationship. 

"Lacson’s favorite picture was the one that showed him walking that macho Lacsonesque walk, in dark pants and printed sports shirt with sleeves rolled up showing muscled arms and with the trademark sunglasses to accentuate his ensemble.  This picture decorated my work table, as it did the tables of Lacson’s favorite lieutenants at City Hall.

"In his desire to cleanse his administration of grafters, I was hired by Mayor Lacson to be the watchdog and prosecutor of erring Manila City Hall employees.  Lacson was a born reformer, and he worked with transparency to demonstrate to his staff what a public servant should be as a guardian of the people’s rights and resources.  Guided by Lacson’s directives, I ploughed through scores of graft cases and prosecuted a good number of them. 

"Lacson got as much exposure in the media as national officials, and he toyed with the idea of a presidential excursion to see how far he could go.  One day in 1960, Lacson and his supporters were stomping through the towns in the province of Bulacan and Nueva Ecija when they were interrupted by a drunken Philippine Constabulary (PC) officer in San Miguel, Bulacan.  The officer pestered the crowd that attended the caucus, and it reached a point when it was useless to continue as the soldier was getting all the attention.  Lacson, fed up with the antics of the drunken soldier, rose, confronted the intoxicated fellow, and asked him to leave.  They stood there, toe to toe, Lacson with hands akimbo, the PC with his .45 caliber pistol.   The soldier slowly lost his composure, probably remembered who Lacson was, and shuffled his way out of the crowd.

"The Arsenic was my enthusiastic teacher.  He found an eager understudy and I gladly absorbed all his inputs.  This was an education with free tuition and an excellent professor.  We prepared for the presidential elections, as Lacson immersed himself in the fight.  But he failed to get the necessary numbers among convention delegates who would choose the party nominee, and the front-runner, Diosdado Macapagal, asked him instead to manage the campaign against incumbent president Carlos Garcia.  Macapagal won, and there were talks of a possible tandem in the next presidential elections.

"I continued to work closely with Mayor Lacson in prosecuting erring officials.  I was up to my neck in investigating anomalies and providing legal assistance to the mayor.  Among those I successfully prosecuted were three police majors who were found guilty of corrupt practices.  

"The Arsenic who left behind a deep impression on me died on 15 April 1962.  His death left a void in my world.  I was emotionally devastated because his death was so sudden, so permanent. The mayor who died of a stroke never had the chance to forewarn us of his sudden departure from this world.   We had many plans on the drawing board, so many projects to launch, so much unfinished business to settle.  Many of those projects and plans had to be shelved, a pity because they were so beneficial to the poor of the city."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Initial Law Practice and Governor Jose Zulueta

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

As a budding member of the Bar, I continued to refine my knowledge especially about the procedures and rules of court.  My time spent in the academe as a lecturer of law subjects gave me the opportunity to hone my knowledge of the craft, the many intricacies of Philippine jurisprudence, and the application and interpretation of various edicts.  As much as I loved teaching, there came a time when I had much less luxury to attend to its rudimentary demands.  The call for me to give priority to the practice of law had become clear in my mind. 

I first signed up with the law firm Syquia and Francisco, and after a few years, I had the confidence to go on my own.  My circle of friends in Manila comprised Ilonggos who encouraged me to go solo, and I tapped their enthusiastic support now and then.  My uncle, Feliciano Gonzalez, was chairman of the Board of Censors, a precursor of today’s Movie and Television Ratings and Classification Board (MTRCB), and he invited me to join him as his secretary.          

I also worked with Dr. Manuel Buenafe of the Bureau of Census who recruited me for an advisory position.  It was merely an honorary post but it looked good on my resume, a welcome break for a neophyte.  It was a door that opened other doors of opportunity, and before my Census job was finished, I received another offer, taking me to the next level.

Gov. Jose C. Zulueta (1889-1972) of Iloilo was already in his twilight years as a political leader.  An astute politician respected by his opponents, he was a pillar of strength and a guiding light for the Liberal Party.  During the Pacific War, he was a member of the Executive Committee under the supervision of the Japanese, and he was accused of collaboration with the enemy.  After being cleared of the stigma, he was elected again as Congressman of the 1st district of Iloilo, and was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1945.  He had served as a member of the national legislature since 1928.

At the invitation of President Manuel Roxas, Zulueta assumed in 1946 his former post as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and promptly clashed with rebel groups known as the HUKBALAHAP.  Afterwards, he was elected to the Senate in 1951, and became Senate President in 1953.  After the end of his Senate term in 1957, he ran and won as governor of the province of Iloilo in 1959.

His name resounded in the halls of power since his youthful days not only in Iloilo but on a national level.  Zulueta was a political force to reckon with, and as governor he recruited me as his protégé.  It was a learning opportunity and a productive relationship.  Zulueta used to give me valuable tips and advice that helped me steer out of troublesome waters in the world of political intrigues.  Best of all, he drilled me in the art of statesmanship.  Our collaboration was short but well-spent, memorable and fulfilling. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Teaching and Continuing Education (1955 - 1970)

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

After passing the Bar in 1955, I went back to Manila, to my alma mater, the UST, and taught a number of law subjects.  I also taught at the Far Eastern University (FEU), the then Philippine College of Commerce (now the Polytechnic University of the Philippines), the Assumption College, the College of the Holy Spirit, and the Philippine Normal College Graduate School.

I was in school not only to teach but also to take post-graduate courses, and I completed seminars at the Institute of Public Administration of the University of the Philippines.  Those public administration seminars were sponsored by the city government of Manila from 1960 to 1961.  Still at UP, I completed the required seminars on Constitutional and Labor Laws at the Division of Continuing Legal Education.  I also completed a course on Credit and Collection Management through seminars conducted by the De La Salle Graduate School of Business.  Taking the other side of the podium, I also lectured at the UP Law Center, Division of Continuing Legal Education. 

One might think that, after years of study,  one would get tired of the sounds and rigors of school.  But my love affair with the academe started when I realized that you could reach your goals in life through study and more study.  I was attracted to the academe because of its youthful dynamism and its regimented atmosphere.  Studying gave me much pleasure, discovering new ideas and concepts, and doing mental calisthenics alone or with a group.  One had to learn to be always on your toes lest your teachers or students catch you flatfooted.  In school, you stay on a progressive plane of self-development, and the more you learn the more you desire to learn deeper thoughts and profound ideas.  My thirst for knowledge simmered and did not want to cool down.

In the early ‘70s, I left teaching as my world expanded.   My commitments and time no longer allowed me the pleasure of correcting test papers and to look deep into the young minds of my students.  I find students today far different from those I taught.  I see many students today who want to be spoon-fed, and they tend to memorize lessons instead of internalizing them.  But of course students were fewer in the past.  There is at present a tendency for mass education, like the pace of an assembly line.  As a result, students with lesser mental talents are outpaced easily by their better classmates, and teachers often close their eyes to or ignore those weaker ones.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Student Life (1945-1955)

From a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez:
When peace time came, I spent my days wandering in the fields of my youth, finding pleasure in the sights and sounds of the countryside.  In fair weather, I would traipse along the river banks and sometimes dive into the waters in my clothes which caused me to lose several pairs of shoes.  Whenever I got hungry, I would go to the carinderia and charge it to my mother which always surprised her.  
In 1945, I took a refresher course and graduated from sixth grade and went on to high school.  I studied on my own without the help of tutors.  I was transferred to Panay College in the district of La Paz where Uncle Alfredo Gonzalez was the Academic Director.  He was a respected scholar and had written books of philosophical essays called the Bamboo Flower and Call of the Heights and a translation of Jose Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.” I finished my secondary studies there.  I took my pre-law studies at one of the oldest academic institutions in the country, Iloilo City's Colegio San Agustin, which later became a University.  I was a Rector’s scholar and edited the Varsitarian.
In my youth, I preferred intellectual pursuits rather than sports.  But I also liked some socializing.  I loved to dance the current dances.  I learned how to move around in ballrooms and taught some of my Jalandoni cousins the intricacies of the waltz and the swing.
My father, Delfin, was a strong and compelling influence on my political orientation.  He was active in the city’s political intramurals since the 1950’s.  This was at the back of my mind when I decided to become a lawyer.  There was no urging from my parents and it was solely my choice.  I went to Manila and enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) where I finished my law studies in 1955.  I took the Bar the same year and attained a grade of 99% in Remedial Law, and 95% in International Law.
Completing four years training as an Honor Star Medalist, I was commissioned as 2nd  Lieutenant in the reserve forces of the Philippine Military in April 1953 and was given the serial number 0-86095 INF.  After taking the Bar exams, I topped the Judge Advocate General’s examination in the same year, but was disqualified because I was not yet a full-fledged lawyer.  I could have become a Judge Advocate if I persisted.  I was drawn to the military because it was the “in” thing in campus, and also because of the machismo, the pomp and pageantry attendant to its image.  The military had a strong appeal to young men who looked forward to the discipline and adventure it promised.