Today in Philippine History, January 6, 1927, Martin Ocampo, once a Guam deportee, died at San Juan de Dios Hospital

Tuesday January 01, 2013 ()

On January 6, 1927, Martin Ocampo, once a Guam deportee, died at San Juan de Dios Hospital. Ocampo was a prominent part in founding Philippine journalism through his position as manager and publisher of El Renacimiento and La Vanguardia.

Martin Ocampo
(Martin Ocampo (left), Teodoro M. Kalaw (right) and lawyer Felipe Agoncillo who represented the paper in the Worcester libel case.)

El Renacimiento started publication on September 3, 1901 up to January 17, 1910 when it was closed with the execution of the famous Worcester libel case. La Vanguardia started publication when El Renacimiento closed down. It was later acquired by Alejandro Roces and converted into an independent newspaper with Pedro Anuario writing the editorials and a daughter of Ocampo on the staff.

On October 30, 1908, El Renacimiento, published an editorial written by Fidel A. Reyes, its city editor, titled Aves de Rapiña (Birds of Prey), which denounced an American official for taking advantage his office in exploiting the resources of the country for his personal gains.

Although the editorial did not mention names, Dean Conant Worcester, Secretary of the Interior for the Insular Government of the Philippines, felt he was the public official being referred to and on January 23, 1909, filed a 100,000 pesos libel case against the following long time owners, directors, writers, editors and administrators of El Renacimiento and Muling Pagsilang newspapers circulated widely in the Philippines in Spanish and Tagalog respectively:

  1. Martin Ocampo,
  2. Teodoro M. Kalaw,
  3. Lope K. Santos,
  4. Fidel A. Reyes,
  5. Faustino Aguilar,
  6. Leoncio C. Liquete,
  7. Manuel Palma,
  8. Arcadio Arellano,
  9. Angel Jose,
  10. Galo Lichauco,
  11. Felipe Barreto and,
  12. Gregorio M. Cansipit.

It was alleged that for a long time the defendants had been maliciously persecuting and attacking the plaintiff in said newspapers, until on said date, with the malicious intention of injuring the plaintiff. They attacked the integrity and reviled the reputation of the plaintiff, not only as a private citizen, but also as an official of the Government of the Philippine Islands; and with the object of exposing him to the odium, contempt, and ridicule of the public, they wrote, printed, and published in said newspaper in its ordinary number of October 30, 1908, a malicious defamation and false libel, which was injurious to the plaintiff.

   Dean C. Worcester
   Dean C. Worcester
On January 14, 1910, the Court of First Instance for the Judicial District of Manila convicted 9 of the 12, Martin Ocampo, Teodoro M. Kalaw, Lope K. Santos, Manuel Palma, Arcadio Arellano, Angel Jose, Galo Lechauco, Felipe Barreto and, Gregorio M. Cancipit and ordered them to pay jointly and severally, 60,000.00 pesos and costs.

The case was elevated to the Supreme Court of the Philippines and in its February 27, 1912 decision modified the lower court judgment in favor of Worcester and against the defendants Martin Ocampo, Teodoro M. Kalaw, Manuel Palma, Arcadio Arellano, Angel Jose, Galo Lichauco, Felipe Barretto, and Gregorio M. Cansipit, jointly and severally, for the sum of P25,000 with interest at 6 per cent from January 23, 1909, with costs. Lope K. Santos was absolved from any liability under said complaint.

The Supreme Court of the United States of America sustained the decision of the Philippine tribunals. However, Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison pardoned them in 1914.

Martin Ocampo was 75 years old.

Translation of the "Aves de Rapiña" (Birds of Prey)

"On the surface of the globe some were born to eat and devour, others to be eaten and devoured.

"Now and then the latter have bestirred themselves, endeavoring to rebel against an order of things which makes them the prey and food of the insatiable voracity of the former. At times they have been fortunate, putting to flight the eaters and devourers, but in a majority of cases they do not obtain anything but a change of name or plumage.

"The situation is the same in all spheres of creation; the relation between the ones and the others is that dictated by the appetite and the power to satisfy it at the fellow-creature's expense.

"Among men it is easy to observe the development of this daily phenomenon. And for some psychological reason the nations who believe themselves powerful have taken the fiercest and most harmful creatures as emblems; it is either the lion, or the eagle, or the serpent. Some have done so by a secret impulse of affinity and others in the nature of simulation, of infatuated vanity, making themselves appear that which they are not nor ever will be.

"The eagle, symbolizing liberty and strength, is the bird that has found the most adepts. And men, collectively and individually, have desired to copy and imitate the most rapacious bird in order to triumph in the plundering if their fellow-men.

"There are men who, besides being eagles, have the characteristics of the vulture, the owl and the vampire.

"Ascending the mountains of Benguet to classify and measure the skulls of the Igorots and study and civilize them, and to espy in his flight with the eye of the bird of prey, where are the large deposits of gold, the prey concealed amongst the lonely mountains, to appropriate them to himself afterwards, thanks to legal facilities made and unmade at will, but always for his own benefit.

"Authorizing, despite laws and ordinances an illegal slaughtering of diseased cattle in order to derive benefit from the infected and putrid meat which he himself was obliged to condemn by virtue of his official position.

"Presenting himself on all occasions with the wrinkled brow of the scientist who consumes his life in the mysteries of the laboratory of science, when his whole scientific labor is confined to dissecting insects and importing fish eggs, as if the fish eggs of this country were less nourishing and savory, so as to make it worth the while replacing them with species coming from other climes.

"Giving an admirable impulse to the discovery of wealthy lodes in Mindanao, in Mindoro, and in other virgin regions of the archipelago, with the money of the people, and under the pretext of the public good, when, as a strict matter of truth, the object is to possess all the data and the key to the national wealth for his essentially personal benefit, as is shown by the acquisition of immense properties registered under the names of others.

"Promoting through secret agents and partners, the sale of the city worthless land at fabulous prices which the city fathers dare not refuse from fear of displeasing the one who is behind the motion, and which they do not refuse to their own good.

"Patronizing concessions for hotels on filled-in lands, with the prospects of enormous profits, at the expense of the blood of the people.

"Such are the characteristics of the man who is at the same time an eagle who surprises and devours, a vulture who gorges himself on the dead and putrid meats, an owl who affects a petulant omniscience and a vampire who silently sucks the blood of the victim until he leaves it bloodless.

"It is these birds of prey who triumph. Their flight and aim are never thwarted.

"Who will detain them?

"Some share in the body and plunder, Others are too weak to raise a voice to protest. And others die in the disconsolating destruction of their own energies and interests.

"And then there appears, terrifying, the immortal legend:

"MANE, TECEL, JPHAEES."

References:

  1. American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Volume 7, Number 1, January 1927
  2. National Historical Commission of the Philippines (http://nhcp.gov.ph/downloads/)
  3. http://archive.org/ (Decision of Judge J. C. Jenkins of the Court of First Instance for the Judicial District of Manila, Part IV, in the action for damages brought by Dean C. Worcester against the Own- ers, Directors, Writers, Editors and Administrators of the Newspaper Known as "El Renacimiento y Muling Pagsilang.")
  4. http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1912/feb1912/gr_l-5932_1912.html


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