Today in Philippine history, November 18, 1928, Salvador Laurel was born in Paco, Manila

Wednesday November 16, 2016 ()
Laurel and Marcos
(Laurel and Marcos)

On November 18, 1928, Salvador "Doy" Laurel, Cory Aquino's Vice President, was born in Paco, Manila. Laurel was the youngest son of Jose P. Laurel, president of the Japanese occupied Philippines and a justice of the Supreme Court during the American colonial period, and Paciencia Hidalgo, both came from Tanauan, Batangas.

Two of his brothers were political leaders in their time: Jose B. Laurel Jr., who served for three terms as House Speaker, and was a member of the commission which drafted the 1987 Constitution; and Sotero Laurel, who was senator (1987-1992), and a delegate to the constitutional convention which prepared the 1973 charter.

Laurel went to the best schools in the Philippines and in the United States. In grade school he attended Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit-run institution; for high school he went to De La Salle College, another well-known Catholic school. He then proceeded to the University of the Philippines for pre-medicine and pre-law studies and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1952. He finished his Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science at Yale University.

After his admission to the Philippine Bar, Doy Laurel established the Citizens Legal Aid Society of the Philippines, the first organization to provide free legal assistance to indigent Filipinos. He won an international award for this pioneering humanitarian endeavor.

In 1967, at age 68, Laurel was elected senator under the Nacionalista Party (NP). He authored laws which exempt indigent court litigants from paying docket fees, and fees for stenographic notes, and transportation expenses.

President Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law in September 1972. When this led to the closure of Congress in January 1973, Laurel identified himself with the political opposition.

In 1978, Laurel won a seat in the interim Batasang Pambansa representing the Southern Tagalog region. He ran under the NP, which formed a coalition with the pro-administration Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

By 1980, Marcos seemed determined to stay in power indefinitely. This prompted the NP, by then led by the Laurels, to sever its ties with the KBL and to align itself with other opposition groups to form the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). With Doy Laurel as president, the UNIDO became a nationwide political opposition party against the Marcos administration.

Former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was Laurel's staunch ally in the UNIDO. Aquino and Laurel are childhood buddies and, like Marcos, they are fraternity brothers in the Upsilon Sigma Phi of the University of the Philippines.

Laurel led the delegation which was to welcome Ninoy Aquino at the Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983. That delegation included Ninoy's mother, Aurora Aquino.

The assassination of Aquino at the airport inevitably made Laurel the top opposition leader in the country. Under Laurel's leadership, the UNIDO won a third of the contested seats in the election of the first regular Batasang Pambansa in 1984.

Anticipating that Marcos would call a special presidential and vice presidential election to be held in February 1986, the UNIDO held a general assembly at the Araneta Coliseum in 1985 - the biggest in the country's history—and drafted Laurel as its presidential candidate.

To Laurel's surprise, Ninoy's widow, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, announced that she was going to run for president. Sensing that two opposition candidates for president will ruin the prospects for a victory against Marcos, Laurel agreed to Aquino's insistence that she run for president, with him as the vice presidential candidate. This was on the understanding that Aquino was to stay in office for about two years, after which she is to transfer the reins of government to Laurel. Laurel's UNIDO was to manage their campaign.

As anticipated, the special election pushed through. Marcos ran under the KBL, with Assemblyman Arturo Tolentino as his running mate.

Although the Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Marcos and Tolentino the victors, a civilian-backed military uprising in Metropolitan Manila pressured President Marcos to leave Malacañang and installed Mrs. Aquino to power in February 1986.

Mrs. Aquino ruled by decree for a year. During that period, relations between Aquino and Laurel deteriorated because Aquino refused to keep her bargain with Laurel on the flimsy excuse that the February 1986 Revolution erased all her political pledges. When Aquino began embarrassing Laurel in public, Laurel joined the opposition to the Aquino regime.

In the 1992 presidential election, Mrs. Aquino supported ex-General Fidel Ramos, a relative of Marcos and the jailer of her husband Ninoy during the martial law regime. Laurel ran for president but with inadequate funds to wage a viable campaign, his bid to become president was unsuccessful.

In 1998, Laurel served his country one last time, as chairman of the Philippine Centennial Commission. Raps were subsequently filed against him and some of his colleagues in the commission but those raps were eventually proved groundless in court.

Laurel returned to private life and spent most of his retirement in the United States. He died from lymphoma on January 27, 2004, in Atherton, California.

Sources:

  1. Salvador H. Laurel Facts, http://biography.yourdictionary.com/
  2. Remembering Salvador "Doy" Laurel, Victor Avecilla, November 15, 2016, The Manila Standard

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