3. Presidents should drown their relatives



EARLY during the time of President Magsaysay, I happened to go to Malacañang, and saw the Music Room in shambles as though a typhoon swept through it. ``What happened?'' I asked one of the aides.

He laughed ever so hard, ``Monching caught one of his brothers making diligencia. Poor sonamagun, Monching didn't even give him a chance to deny it, he promptly wiped the floor with his ass!''

Monching was that way, he expected his close relations to be like Caesar's wife. He fired his executive secretary Fred Ruiz Castro for endorsing the promotion of his brother-in-law Col. Banzon as an attache to the Washington Embassy.

He canceled the government's contract with shipping magnate Ambrosio Magsaysay, his cousin, even though Don Ambrosio had that contract long before Magsaysay came into power.

His brother Jesus had to go to Indonesia to do business. And his brother Genaro (also called Gene or Genius) had to lie low.

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Even when Monching was already dead, Genius as a congressman, senator and son-in-law of Senate President Amang Rodriguez was scared to touch anything that smelled of money. As President of the Chamber of Industries, I could not get him to co-sponsor any bill that would benefit any industry. But he co-sponsored scores of labor bills.

Monching impressed upon his children the virtue of self-reliance and honesty. His daughter, Mila Magsaysay Valenzuela, is an official of the Manila Peninsula. His son Ramon Jr., a Harvard man, is a struggling businessman, crowded out by the cronies during martial law, and a respected columnist of the Inquirer.

President Diosdado Macapagal was the same way. His sister Lourdes Macapagal Bautista, summa cum laude and bar topnotcher, was forbidden to practice law while he was president. His brother Angel who was his secretary for years, was told to keep away from Malacañang.

Likewise his children competed in the outside world on their own merits, without any help from him. Daughter Cielo is now vice-governor of Pampanga; son Arthur is an official of Sprague and Chairman of Toyota Shaw; daughter Gloria, the Undersecretary of Trade; his son Diosdado Jr. (Boboy), the Undersecretary of Finance.

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In a scandal-ridden and muckraking society such as ours, not a breath of impropriety has ever marred the family of Magsaysay and Macapagal. I am very very proud to have served both presidents.

Both were elected as American boys, but there was never a time of shining glory for the Sun and Stars as in their administrations.

Against American pressure, Magsaysay made Import Controls an instrument of Industrialization, recovered the titles to the baselands with the help of Recto, renegotiated the Bell Trade Agreement, approved the Retail Trade Nationalization Act, and withdrew from the Copyright Union.

Against American pressure, Macapagal claimed Sabah: founded Maphilindo (precursor of ASEAN); changed Independence Day to June 12; raised tariffs to protect our industries; stopped having the US represent us where we had no embassies; changed Dewey Blvd. to Roxas, Camp Murphy to Aguinaldo, McKinley to Fort Bonifacio; and refused to send Filipino fighting men to Vietnam.

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Rightly or wrongly, relatives were the cross each president had to bear -- President Garcia's brother Cosme and son-in-law Fernando Campos -- Marcos' brother, mother, wife, daughter, son, brothers-in-law, cousin-in-law, son-in-law -- Cory's uncle, brother, cousin, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew-in-law, sons-in-law.

Pardon me for living, but Magsaysay and Macapagal never would allow their close relatives to recommend anyone for appointment to any public office, NEVER, NEVER!!

They would never allow their close relatives to practice law, or indulge in legal influence-peddling, NEVER, NEVER!!

Magsaysay and Macapagal would never react to accusations against their relatives with a challenge, ``Prove it!'' or ``File your charges in court!'' NEVER, NEVER!!!

For Magsaysay and Macapagal regarded the Presidency as a sacred trust which like Caesar's wife, must never be tainted by the slightest shadow or suspicion of anything remotely approaching an impropriety. And relatives spoken about in whispers may find themselves exiled to Timbuctu, as far away from Malacañang as possible.

* * *

At the outset of Cory's regime, a guy named Villegas played golf with this Lilliputian relative, and just for goodwill, gave him P40,000 in an envelop. Shorty accepted it without even asking what it was for, not even saying Thank You. Ever since then, he seems to be doing very well without any visible means of support.

After Magsaysay and Macapagal, every President should be required by law to drown his relatives upon assumption of office.