Joe Lingad, the planting of a seed
WE cannot let December pass without pausing to remember a dear friend and fellow member of Macapagal’s Cabinet, Jose Lingad -- amateur boxer, loverboy, lawyer, guerilla leader, Governor, BIR Commissioner, Customs Commissioner, Secretary of Labor, Congressman.
He had the cherubic baby face that Joker Arroyo has, and like Joker he was always ready to do battle for his friends. He liked me, and when I quarreled with Fenny Hechanova and Armand Fabella because of their pro-American views, Joe Lingad would say, with finger pointed at them and then across his throat as with a knife, “Say the word, Larry, and... Maliwalu!”
He was referring to the Maliwalu Massacre in the Holy Week of 1951. In revenge for the murder of Captain Nonong Serrano by Huks reputed to be from Maliwalu, nine farmers were executed by men and relatives of Serrano. Lingad was governor of Pampanga and Serrano was his man. So in the closely contested elections of 1951, Lingad was blamed for the massacre, and lost his re-election bid.
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In 1947 Lingad was elected Pampanga governor at age 33, and became Vice President of the League of Governors. While governor, Lingad clashed with Col. Napoleon Valeriano of the infamous Nenita Unit, known for its abuse of Human Rights under CIA’s Ed Lansdale, and was able to have the Skull Unit transferred.
In late 1950, Col. Ed Lansdale was a frequent caller at the Pampanga capitol, for Joe was being groomed by the CIA to be their prime Huk Fighter.
If it were not for the Maliwalu Massacre, if he won the election of 1951, Lingad might have been appointed Secretary of National Defense instead of Magsaysay. And he might have continued on to be our President.
Lingad did the next best thing, he became President-maker. As the political kingpin of Pampanga in 1949, he plucked Diosdado Macapagal from the Foreign Office and ran him as his candidate for Congressman in the 1st District of Pampanga. Macapagal won and subsequently became President. Macapagal appointed the incorruptible Lingad as his graft buster, BIR Commissioner, Customs Commissioner, and Secretary of Labor.
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Lingad was born on November 24, l914 in Lubao, Pampanga. Among his more famous on his mother’s side are his cousins: Salak Brothers of Arayat, Huk Commanders Fonting and Pelaez.
He took up law in UP and Philippine Law School, passed the bar in 1938, and joined the Law office of Assemblyman Eligio Lagman. At 24 he was elected Councilor of Lubao, with the most number of votes.
He was a veteran of Bataan and the Death March, led the guerillas, and after the war upon orders of President Roxas, led the Civilian Guards to fight the Huks.
In 1969, Lingad won as Congressman, garnering 90 percent of the votes in Maliwalu, because he was found to be blameless for the massacre, the perpetrators having been convicted and jailed.
In Congress, Lingad the rightist became left-of-center. He wanted to abolish BSDU vigilantes. to abolish irrigation fees being paid by farmers. He got Congressional leaders to dialogue with Huk Commanders Sumulong and Pedro Taruc. He supported Jose E. Suarez for delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was a revelation and the people of Pampanga liked what they saw.
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On September 21, 1972 under Martial Law, Lingad was arrested, and jailed for three months.
Lingad retired to his fishponds, put up a rice mill and a poultry, and went broke. His house in Manila was foreclosed, his Lubao residence and fishponds were heavily mortgaged. Then he received Ninoy’s letter asking him to run for governor in the January 1980 elections.
He ran for Governorship of Pampanga with nationalist Jose “SengSeng” Suarez as his running mate. The two Joses were cheated by Marcos, and Joe Lingad characteristically fought back, and was about to be accorded a Special Election, when he was assassinated.
I remember Jose Lingad this month because on December 16, 1980, eight years ago, at 8 AM on MacArthur Highway in San Fernando, in front of several horrified witnesses as he was buying cigarets, he was gunned down by a military goon, PC Sergeant Roberto Tabanero, who later died in a mysterious car accident and was silenced forever.
Joe was the first of the political opponents of Marcos to be murdered by the military, as Ninoy, Javier, Climaco were the last. On his funeral, Chino Roces said:
“Grieve not. We gather here today not to bury a man but to celebrate an event -- the planting of a seed -- the seed of freedom and liberation.”
Today no songs are sung in praise of Joe Lingad, the seed that bore fruit and gave us shade. How easily we forget!
December 26, 1988, Philippine Daily Inquirer