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Opinion

The emergence of PDP-LABAN

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

It was in 1982 when I first heard that there was a merger between PDP and LABAN. I asked around how to join and I was told I had to take a two-day seminar. A friend from AIM days, Mon Abad, and I decided to join a seminar in the Cojuangco Building. We found out we were the only ones attending. Mon decided not to continue but I decided to finish the course.

I did not participate in any activity but the following year there was a seismic change in the Philippines. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, which brought people out into the streets. The Batasan Pambansa was also up for reelection. This time there was no bloc voting and delegates were elected by district. But again some districts had more than one delegate, like Quezon City.

How I got personally involved is a story full of strange coincidences. Somebody said that Sonny Belmonte, whom I greatly admired from our Jaycees days in Manila, was planning to run as a delegate and was looking for help. I went to his house for a meeting and it turned out there were only four of us – Sonny, Nap Rama, Billy Esposo and me. Sonny wanted to run in Quezon City but the positions for the four delegates had already been chosen – Bert Romulo, Orly Mercado, Jun Simon and a lady whose name slips me now.

We were discussing where else he could run and he mentioned he had roots in Parañaque. I kept that in mind and I attended another unity conference in Ateneo. There was always some kind of unity activity going on between the left and the right. But nothing eventually happened.

The hot topic that day was whether the opposition should participate or boycott the Batasan elections. I was for participation because Ninoy had said in 1978 we should participate so we could let people hear our message. Cory, the new emerging leader, also said participate.

I met some people from PDP LABAN who invited me to a caucus in Parañaque where they said they would choose their Batasan candidate for the district of Parañaque-Las Piñas. I was surprised that there were outsiders in the caucus like Ernie Maceda and Peping Cojuangco. It turns out the purpose of the caucus was to persuade Jaime Ferrer to run as delegate. Clearly reluctant, he finally agreed.

Our group went home thinking we had lost again because Sonny Belmonte was not chosen. Two evenings later, Toti Ferrer, son of Jaime Ferrer and a friend from our La Salle days, visited me at home. He said people in the caucus told him I had an organized group in the subdivisions. Toti said that they had no group at all in the subdivisions and they were all from the old town. He asked me to take over organizing in the subdivisions. At first I said No, but after a while it sounded exciting. That’s how I got involved and I eventually ended up as the campaign manager of Jaime Ferrer.

I worked closely with Juanito Ferrer, younger brother of Ka Jaime. “Janet” was his nickname and he had a fascinating life. He was in the military and graduated in the first PMA graduating class. During the Second World War, he was an officer of the famous Hunters ROTC guerrillas.

I learned my lessons from our 1978 debacle. The keys were in the watchers and people who would watch the ballot boxes overnight. The watchers should come from areas where the precincts were located so they could not be easily intimidated since this was their neighborhood. Second, they had to be well trained as to the rules of elections and the counting of ballots. Third, they must be the type who would not run away from any form of harassment. We made sure that the ballot boxes were not opened without our presence.

Some places were not so lucky. In Makati  for example, the opposition watchers were intimidated and physically harassed. Ka Jaime Ferrer won the election in our district. More than 50 opposition candidates won. Most came from the UNIDO party and eleven from PDP LABAN. During their caucuses was where I met Nene Pimentel, Tony Cuenco, Zaf Respicio and Douglas Cagas.

Ka Jaime Ferrer was elected Metro Manila chairman of PDP Laban. He appointed me as deputy secretary general for Metro Manila. Many of those who boycotted the elections were now joining us. Some who shifted to participate were Jojo Binay, Rene Saguisag, Bobbit Sanchez and Jun Factoran.

At that point we were not anticipating the snap elections. But rallies were regular occurrences. A meeting was called to organize the rallies. Two persons from each major party or movement were chosen to join the coordinating team. Linggoy Alcuaz and I were chosen to represent PDP LABAN. We were also tasked to lead all rallies from the south.

The opposition was still fueled by volunteerism but it was becoming more organized. Finally, a leader was also emerging who could unite the different forces – Corazon Aquino.

*      *      *

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom: Jan. 29, 2-3 pm. with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. Contact [email protected]. 0945.2273216

Email: [email protected]

PDP-LABAN

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