Mar 152013

Assessing Tani in a frame of our struggles


August 17, 1986


          Lorenzo Tanada was born on the day Admiral Dewey and General Merritt were supposed to begin the assault on Manila. Because of bad weather, the mock battle of Manila occurred three days later. Tani, therefore, is as old as American intervention in the Philippines.

And so today, we celebrate not only Tani’s birthday but also the contamination of our struggle against the Americans who robbed us of our newly won independence.

On an occasion like this, we cannot just go though the usual platitudes and adulatory remarks. Enough has been said about Tani. This is not an ordinary get together and we are not honoring an ordinary man. Instead of praise, we need an assessment; we need a critical evaluation of the man within the framework of the struggle we all are involved in.

I met Tani for the first time in 1939, when I was the editor of the Philippine Collegian. I was already an alumnus because I already have an Associate in Arts title. Tani, along with Dr. Gumersindo Garcia ad Prof. Jose Celeste contacted me to ask for my help in the battle for board seats in the alumni Board. They represented the Roxas group that was the rival of the group of justice Yulo and Carlos Romulo. As far as I know, this war his first active involvement in politics campus politics.

It was not until the middle fifties that my association with him became close. This was the period when Recto was engaged in his nationalist crusade.

I would like to share with you some insights resulting from close association with these two stalwarts of the nationalist cause.

Working with Don Claro was an exhilarating experience. He had grasped the workings of imperialism much ahead of Tani. This was born, iron leally from his bitter experience after the war when the United States imprisoned him in Iwahig and charged him with collaboration. Tani was the prosecutor who later became a senator and embarked on a colorful career as fiscalizer, concentrating on graft and corruption.

Very often Don Claro would discuss issues with me over lunch or diner. A gentleman of the old school, hepatized in his taste and habits, he would take me to continental restaurants and discuss questions over sumptuous meals.

I, too, had frequent lunches with Tani In his law office. There he would order a one course lunch from the canteen in the building. I cannot forget the period when he was reducing when we would order sinigang and eat it with crackers. I lost my appetite, just watching him consume this strange combination, but it did not bother Tani, who is no gourmet.



Early years with Tani: Recto and senate sot

By Professor Renato Constantino

August 18, 1986


In 1970 we met in Paris. He was staying at the historic Hotel Luteria, noted for its French cuisine. He invited me to dinner. When I met him at the lobby, he led me out and we walked four blocks from the hotel to a Chinese restaurant.

I am not complaining about the starvation meals that Tani invited me to. I cite this only to demonstrate that Tani is so careful with his money because he earned it with honest sweat; which was perhaps a strong motivating reason for his intense hatred of corruption and misfeasance in government.

In his senatorial campaigns of 1953, ’59 and ’65, Tani was fortunate enough to have been on the same ticket as Nanding Lopez. I handled his propaganda campaign in 1959 and ’65 while I was working with the Lopezes. I can certify that Tani was one senatorial candidate who did not invest in his campaign.

He was accommodated in the sophisticated trailer of Nanding which was a miniature mobile hotel. I included him in all the sample ballot which Lopez ordered. At the same time there were many supporters who donated posters and handbills for him. When Tani was young, his sport was football. As a senatorial candidate his sport was hitchhiking.

Coming back to Don Claro and Tanada.

To his enemies and peers, Recto was an intellectual snob, Tani on the other hand, conscious of the limitations his legal training imposed, was always honest in asking questions and admitting his ignorance of certain issues. Where Recto was Olympian in his attitude, tani displayed intellectual humility.

Recto, at one time confronted two Lorenzo’s in the Senate: Sumulong and Tanada. They clashed on the issue of Filipinization of foreign owned schools. Recto called Lorenzo Sumulong whose father was Quezon’s critic, Don Juan Sumulong, “the conformist son of a non conformist father” And to ridicule Tani, who was a devoted Catholic, he referred to him as the Martin Luther of the Philippines.

There was a streak of naughtiness in Don Claro. This is the first time that Tani will hear of this. After their defeat in 1957, Recto who saw a nationalist in President Garcia, wanted to influence the latter towards a nationalist direction.

The first feeler session was held in my house early 1958.There recto met with Bartolome Cabangbang, the emissary of Garcia. After this, Garcia and Recto had frequent conferences.

Tani was up for reelection in 1959. Recto could know all along that all he could get from Garcia was one sot for Tanada. However, he went through the motions of demanding at least two berths, mentioning Marcelo Balatbat and Pacita de los Reyes as the possible additions.

Tani was worried that Recto’s seemingly intransigent posture might imperil his position in the NP-NCP slate and he asked me to convey his anxiety to Recto. Recto told me to give Tani the impression that his stand was two slots or nothing.

Actually, Tani’s candidacy was already assured but recto wanted to keep him in suspense. “Let him suffer a little” he told me, Of course, Tani got the slots as Recto predicted.

Tani ended his stint in the Senate in 1971. After his valedictory address I wrote in my Chronicle column my own appraisal of his career. Let me quote some passages:

“It was during Rectos crusade for nationalism that Tanada realized the inadequacy of his own approach and contributed his humble efforts to the nationalist movement.

“… the pervasiveness of his orthodox education, the influence of his training as an investigator which side tracked him into legalistic inquires, and an innate prudence that prevented him from venturing forth until he was completely sure of is ground and of himself – all these factors made him less controversial than Recto.

“Given the variegated aspects of the nationalist problem, there were many complicated issues which he had no time to learn. On these he would resolutely maintain his silence, reaping thereby misunderstanding and suspicion from quarters that expected him to speak up.

“Tanada is an example of a man who, despite his efforts to rise above the deadweight of tradition, has failed to cross the political barriers between what he knows to be obsolete and what he dimly envisions as the new.”

Today, 15 years later, I would like to make certain emendations to his appraisal. He has crossed the political barriers. His vision of what should be is now very clear.

After the declaration of Martial Law, he frequently visited me while I was under house arrest. Very often he would come from the Supreme Court hearings end would brief me on the course of events and we would have long conversations on the state of the nation.


Economic nationalism the old warrior’s last fight?

By Professor Renato Constantino

August 19, 1986


From the initial legal battles against Marcos, Tani became more and more involved in the struggle against the dictatorship.

Happily, in the course of his experience as a street parliamentarian he became more exposed to anti-imperialist elements. His nationalism became more informed and the civil libertarian in him was reinforced by a deeper nationalist perspective.

While still preoccupied with the dictatorship, he already acquired a clearer understanding of the role of the Americans, the IMF and the World Bank. He decided to struggle with the forces that see the present as still part of the past.

He recently asked me a bit plaintively, “Why are we always on the outside looking in?” This query I interpreted as his realization that the struggle is a continuing one, that the flight of a dictator is not the end of his mission. He knows that the forces responsible for our lack of independence and therefore our poverty are very much around using more sophisticated devices and more attractive personalities than Marcos.

I would like to read to you a portion of a speech once delivered by our honoree:

“…The tragic fact of the times is that the people have left their leaders behind. The leaders are more backwards in their outlook that the people themselves. These leaders do not want economic changes: they only want to patch up our outmoded economic machine.

“They do not want to raise the question of sovereignty…they only want to continue the old patter of dependence, the old system of tutelage. And when public clamor demands action, do these supposed leaders speak up? Even then, they are very careful to dampen nationalist order lest they be misinterpreted by their foreign friends.”

This is a quotations from a speech delivered in 1957 and entitled, A Declaration of Faith. To me it is a commentary on the present.

Tani has fought presidents from Quezon to Marcos. He campaigned for Magsaysay, then fought him; he campaigned Marcos, then waged a long struggle which culminated in the latter’s downfall.

There will be other presidents who will feel his fiscalizing powers. As the prudent and patient investigator. Tani today has temporarily given concessions to politeness and to hope. But I have no doubt that in due time he will galvanize the nationalist instincts that he possesses.

During the long struggle against Marcos, the issue of human rights became the main focus of attention. The present dispensation has presented a democratic façade but seems to be repackaging the Marcos-Virata economic program under the aegis of the IMF and World Bank.

The President says she has to go to the United States because economic recovery cannot wait. It is clear that the issue of the foreign intervention is still very much with us.

I hope that now while the pre-occupation with human rights is not so urgent, the fundamental issue of economic independence will at last be pushed to the forefront. This will required constant, vigilant and vocal critical assessment of the economic thrust of the present leadership.

Let us not fall into the trap of fighting the ghosts of the past to gloss over the more basic but les dramatic economic issues. Democratic gains will be meaningless if we barter away our economic rights.

We must push the question of economic nationalism to the forefront of national consciousness. This is a fight Tani, the old warrior, must lead, with or without the Legion of Honor

I hoe that Tani will make is new commitment hos birthday gift to himself and to the Filipino people. I have no doubt that he will accept the challenge.

The administration has suffered a loss in not taking advantage of his sage advice. But the people are the gainers in his decision to stay with them.

And with the people, this tested warrior will continue helping to raise the struggle for independence to new heights of awareness. He will work with a dedication that becomes more intense with the passing of the years.

In his Declaration of Faith, Tani said:

“The validity of our movement gives me courage; the certainly of ultimate victory gives me tenacity and perseverance: the genuine support of the people provides me with inspiration to continue to struggle.”

Almost 30 yeas later, Tani, you could be saying the same thing of new comrades in struggle and of yourself.

On this, your 88th birthday Tani, I congratulate the people whom you have promised to serve.


The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Jan 28th 2012




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