Flashback: Laurel’s self-sacrifice to unite the Opposition in 1986

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

“No sacrifice is too great,” Salvador “Doy” Laurel declared on Dec. 12, 1985. He had fought Martial Law since 1972, forming the United Nationalist Democratic Opposition for the cause. A big battle unfolded when the dictatorship suddenly announced a presidential election by January or February 1986. Laurel was to be UNIDO standard-bearer. But other opposition factions had their own presidential choices, including the widowed Cory Aquino.

The following statement encapsulates the painful process Laurel underwent for the sake of unity and a chance at victory. Today’s candidates can learn rich lessons from this, and his 1991 memoir, Sworn to Serve:

“Last Sunday, December 8th, I brought to you the sad news that the opposition had failed to unite despite my willingness to give up my presidential aspirations for the sake of unity.

“I was willing to forego the presidency and give way to Mrs. Cory Aquino if she would only agree to run under the banner of UNIDO, the dominant opposition party in the country today.

“This condition was rejected and I was left with no choice but to file my certificate of candidacy the next day as mandated by the UNIDO National Convention last June 12.

“The other day, Mrs. Aquino told me that she has reconsidered her decision and is now willing to run under the banner of UNIDO. This development, although a most welcome one, was also most painful and puzzling for me. I was being asked a second time to give way – after I had already filed my certificate for the presidency.

“But I do not wish to question or inquire. What matters is that my original condition has been met.

“So this time I bring you ‘glad tidings.’ Consider it as my Christmas gift to our people. In the interest of unity which is the key to victory, victory which will dismantle the dictatorship and bring about the establishment of a truly just and democratic order, I wish to announce that late last night I withdrew my certificate of candidacy for the presidency and that, together with Cory, we filed also last night, our certificates of candidacy both under the banner of UNIDO, she for the presidency, and I for the vice presidency.

“I know that this is a painful decision to many of my supporters who honestly believed that I pose the stronger challenge to Marcos, and that my labors in developing and nurturing the UNIDO as the dominant opposition party deserves not only recognition but preference.

“But like my late father who gave way to Magsaysay 32 years ago, I believe that personal and group interest must yield to the national interest.

“I now ask UNIDO leaders and followers all over the country to support the widow of Ninoy Aquino, remembering that Ninoy, until his unofficial execution last Aug. 21, 1983, was UNIDO’s National Vice President for External Operations.

“Let me conclude by thanking all those who have toiled and struggled with me and never for a moment wavered in their loyalty and commitment. We must all do our part, no matter how painful, if we are to win back our people’s freedom and honor. This is the primordial objective we never lose sight of. This is the primordial objective to which Cory and I now pledge ‘our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor.

“May God Almighty continue to guide us.”

Epilogue: Aquino and Laurel were cheated. A civilian-military uprising put them in office. Laurel went on to fulfill one of his life goals, to serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs.


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