BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO
THE surnames of the LP martyrs are, sadly, nowhere in the new government.
President Benigno Aquinoc 3rd has laid down the moral basis for governing. Integrity, compassion for the common man, the disavowal of things identified with power and the arrogance of power.
This, and the conduct of her immediate family especially the sisters, has resonated with the public. The polls, which gave him a stratospheric positive rating, had essentially validated what is the sense at ground level.
Now the question is this: Can the Aquino administration add something more to further prop up the high moral ground of his leadership? Nothing much at this point. Except the recruitment into his administration of people related/identified with the original Liberal Party (LP) martyrs. Two LP leaders who were assassinated just two years or so before Ninoy’s own martyrdom: Cesar Climaco and Jose Lingad.
Old-time LP leaders, those who kept the faith with Ninoy even as he languished in solitary confinement, have asked me to pose this question: Why is there no one with the surnames Climaco or Lingad among the appointees?
Is there no one deserving among the present-generation Climacos of Lingads? Or, is the current LP leadership not looking back at contemporary history enough? We can only hope that the answer is the first and not the second.
For background, here is what makes the case of adding a Cli-maco or a Lingad to top-level appointees a must.
During the long stretch of Ninoy’s imprisonment, most of his die-hard supporters lost faith. Some even opted out of that commitment for a pact with Mr. Marcos. Others retreated into indifference. Some moved into unproblematic havens.
The areas outside of Metro Manila had been particularly hostile and hazardous places for those identified with Ninoy. But not for Joe Lingad and Cesar Climaco.
Joe Lingad was the de facto leader of underground cells opposed to Marcos in Central Luzon. From Ninoy’s initially year in prison, through the years in solitary confinement and throughout the Boston years, he was in touch with “Kong Pepe,” his name for Lingad.
Ninoy was particularly moved after being informed that Joe Lingad was approached by Mar-cos emissaries—and was asked to join the Marcos government—but rejected the offer outright. One of the truly rare piece of information that cheered him up in his lonely prison cell.
On Ninoy’s prodding, Joe Lingad ran for Pampanga governor in the first local election after the declaration of martial law. He had the perfect running mate, Jose “Senseng” Suarez, a Brahmin and University of the Philippines-trained lawyer who had long cast his lot with the anti-Marcos struggle.
The two won but the Commission on Elections, as it was the practice then, proclaimed the losers. In mid-December of 1980, Lingad was assassinated along a dusty roadside in San Fernando, the capital town.
He was about to win his electoral protest.
Cesar Climaco also won as mayor of Zamboanga City, the maverick-dissident who was both colorful and charismatic. Before Marcos declared martial law, there was an unaltered, though unofficial, ranking on the two most charismatic politicians in the country. Always on first place was Ninoy. Always on second place was Cesar Climaco.
But Climaco was also a man of impossible courage with a long history of anti-tyranny and despotism. He was also assassinated before Ninoy’s own martyrdom for keeping the democratic faith alive in the darkest years of martial rule. And in a place that the most dedicated international human and political rights crusaders dared not monitor.
You might want to ask this question. What is the use of invoking the past martyrdom?
The LP was the winning party in the May 2010 elections because it promised change and it invoked a great legacy. It is the party of freedom fighters, those who laid their lives so that the country would be free once more. It is the party of the martyrs: Lingad, Climaco and Ninoy Aquino.
The son of Ninoy and Cory is now the president. The next of kin of Joe Lingad and Cesar Climaco should join him in the new government. This would further burnish the pro-democracy, anti-despotism narrative of the LP.
It would be great symbolism.
If we remember the stories on why the current executive secretary was chosen by President Aquino, there was this angle of Ninoy’s close friendship with Paquito Ochoa Sr., the father of the new Little President, who was then mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan.
During the darkest and most brutal years of martial law, during his years in solitary confinement, Ninoy corresponded with Joe Lingad and Cesar Climaco on keeping the faith and continuing the struggle for what appeared to many then as a lost cause. It was the bond of the heroes and martyrs.