“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
By Alex P. Vidal
The person responsible for the rise of the Aquinos in national politics was the late former Senator Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, who had also served as Iloilo second district congressman and Iloilo City mayor.
It was the late former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., father of President Noynoy, who started the serious political juggernaut of the illustrious family from Tarlac in Luzon when he became the youngest mayor in the country and the youngest senator in 1967.
Liberal Party’s (LP) Aquino was not qualified to sit as senator based on the age qualification for the position under the 1935 constitution. Born on November 27, 1932, Aquino was only 34 when he was elected, but was 35 by the time he took his oath. Thirty five was the age qualification for senator.
The Electoral Tribunal, composed of court justices and representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives, tackled Aquino’ s case and ended in a deadlock. Ganzon’s deciding vote favored the brilliant politician from Tarlac and paved the way for Aquino’s meteoric rise in national politics. Ganzon’s vote angered President Ferdinand Marcos, who was with the Nacionalista Party (NP).
When Martial Law was declared in 1971, both Aquino and Ganzon were arrested and charged with sedition, illegal possession of firearms, and murder. Ganzon was found guilty of murder while Aquino was found guilty of all three charges.
Hilarion Henares, Jr., who ran for senator together with Aquino in 1967 and lost, recalled that while a battery of lawyers of national stature defended Aquino, “no one volunteered to help Roding. While Ninoy was in isolation in a comfortable cell, Roding was in a crowded cell in Cebu with hardened criminals, in his underwear, soaked in sweat, vomit, urine and feces.”
Henares said Ninoy was rich and his family lived normally. Ganzon, on the other hand, had P2,704 in his bank account when he was jailed, and his 10 children stopped schooling for the duration. “One day his wife realized he was gone and fainted from sheer shock, hit her head on the cement floor: no one helped with the medical bills. She is 80 percent inutile, can’t talk, urinates and defecates with her clothes on. Roding still pays P5,000 a month for her operation,” recalled Henares.
This political utang na loob (debt of gratitude) of Aquino to Ganzon, dubbed as “Timawa prince” and “stormy petrel of the south,” has been mentioned several times in various national dailies during that period until Aquino’s wife, Corzazon, became president via EDSA Revolution in 1986.
“During the snap election,” recalled Henares, “Marcos told Roding that he was a marked man along with Evelio Javier, unless he campaigned for Marcos in Iloilo. My wife and I met him at the house of Eva Kalaw, as we tried vainly to convince Eva to join Cory in Urdaneta. Roding was then agonizing over his decision to join or not to join Marcos, to live or to die, and realizing what happened to his family when he was in jail, he choose to survive.”
“Ganzon campaigned for Marcos for 14 days. He was persecuted by Marcos for 14 years. When he ran for mayor of Iloilo, he won overwhelmingly over the Lopez-Salonga candidate by 10,000 votes; the candidate of Paul Aquino by 20,000; and that of Laurel by 20,500.”
But instead of joining forces when President Ferdinand Marcos, common Martial Law tormentor of Aquino and Ganzon, was ousted by People Power after the 1986 snap elections, President Cory and Ganzon parted ways and traded barbs like arch enemies. As Iloilo city mayor, Ganzon became a constant thorn in President Cory’s administration accusing the first woman president of political persecution and promoting the “illegal” small town lottery (STL) through then interior and local government Secretary Luis Santos.
Ganzon and President Cory became bitter enemies even after they retired in politics and up to their death, they never reconciled.
Without that crucial vote by Ganzon in the Electoral Tribunal, Aquino would not have become senator. Tita Cory would not have been President; Kris Aquino would not have been famous actress; Noynoy Aquino would not have been noticed and would not have been president.
Interestingly, Ganzon’s son, Jeffrey, ran and lost for vice mayor of Iloilo City in the May 2013 elections versus the incumbent, Jose Espinosa III. President Noynoy supported Espinosa, not Jeffrey.