The ghosts of Benigno Ramos and Valentin de los Santos are on the loose!

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at Feb 11 2015 11:30 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2015 07:30 AM

His rise to the Presidency was never anchored upon, much less spurred by, long held and calculatedly nurtured personal ambition.

His candidacy was not attended by the usual mandatory, preparatory quid pro quo alliance building, drumbeating, hoopla and ballyhoo. The Presidency of the Philippines was never in this young man’s antennae and wildest dreams, notwithstanding the fact that he comes from a long established and serving political family and clan. It would seem that even the candidate’s earlier sally into politics (first as representative and later as senator) was perfunctory compliance with family tradition and may have been nipped before the bud, and for all other clan members with political ambition as well, had his illustrious father not been assassinated.

His eventual candidacy was hatched as a sentimental consequence of his mother’s demise, as we all know and, of course, also as an accidental escape from the then prevailing Liberal Party’s inferiority complex. The ensuing clamor, partly orchestrated and mostly not, is more a reflection of the electorate’s sentiment and temperament--an unadulterated reverence for his mother’s memory--than of the candidate’s qualities. His decision to finally accept the burgeoning popular draft came after many days of much introspection, within himself and among his siblings, evincing early self-doubt and reluctance. But the publicly noted reluctance itself surfaced as a sterling quality not lost upon a discerning electorate--an uncanny endorsement enhancing his candidacy. And the clarion call morphed into a challenge, the challenge into an obligation and the obligation into an opportune patriotic responsibility that could no longer be shirked. To do good by the people and serve them well in good conscience had become unavoidably convincing. And so the candidacy became reality. A good man, the better candidate was up on the hustings!

It is most probably the only Presidential run in Philippine politics with the least amount of build up and campaign time. But it was also another election with much democratic competition and many candidates. Nonetheless, the most immediate gift that Noynoy Aquino’s victorious candidacy bestowed upon an ailing and hurting country was the prevention of the return to political power of a convicted criminal. Of course, Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada publicly exists today and continues a renewed political presence courtesy of a disgraced and malevolently calculating President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who blessed him with a questionable pardon, subsequently shored up by a morally indolent Commission on Election and members of the judiciary.


Benigno S. Aquino, III won by a plurality of 42% of the electorate (certainly a world of a difference over President Fidel Ramos’ well under a quarter of the votes cast in the 1992 elections, 23.5%.) In an also-ran second place was the convicted President Estrada with 26%+. 58% of those who cast votes in the 2010 elections was not for this President. A lingering opposition to a President by plurality is therefore normal and understandable, even healthy. However, when his term ends at noon in June 2016, he will leave behind a country, very much improved from its status on the day he took over its stewardship. This is undeniable.

Irreversible empirical data abound. A vibrant and improving economy, albeit with still limited national beneficence, steadily on the go. The social legislation on Reproductive Health and an expanded Conditional Cash Transfer program for the poor, enhancing attempts abating the unrelenting onslaught of poverty are both in place. An international reputation as the “sickman of Asia” redeemed and repaired. Unprecedented financial credibility and favorable ratings in the world’s capital markets are positive dividends engendered by sound fiscal management practices.


On the top of all these, we find the most dramatic of accomplishments in the fight against graft and corruption, the seemingly incurable disease eating up the national soul as well as its pocketbook. It is now expected that in terms of public morality, the country will never be any worse again, in the least, and hopefully, has began to effectively overcome the scourge of the past. What with a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court impeached for undeclared multi-millions in hidden assets; a former president arrested and detained without bail on charges of corruption; the arrest and detention without bail of three incumbent senators also for graft and corruption. The same with dozens of high level bureaucrats and elected officials. Truly, never before! Even the incumbent Vice President, a declared candidate for the Presidency in 2016 and a reputed friend of the President’s family, now on the precarious dock for monumental white-collar crimes. Who knows, maybe in a matter of weeks, Jejomar Binay, too, will finally face an indictment for plunder with unbailable incarceration.

Behind these historical benchmarks, there still follows the continuing discovery of additional long standing venalities, with roots burrowed deep in past years of untrammeled impunity. Were it not an Aquino Presidency, can anyone imagine what public morality would persist had it been another Estrada presidency? And now comes this coterie of the usual suspects, the incorrigibly vociferous Aquino naysayers and haters calling for his resignation, impeachment; his stepping down, even a forcible downfall by way of manufactured and mercenary civil rage; a coup d’etat when in fact what they are openly promoting is the immediate succession to the Presidency of Vice President Jejomar Binay who stands accused of serial white-collar crimes. Questions of sanity reasonably arise, don’t you think? Non compos mentis! Nuts!


To these charlatans malefactors and purveyors of deception, the sad and tragic slaughter of the National Police’s “SAF 44” in Maguindanao is not martyrdom deserving of honor and veneration. They seize upon this fatal error instead as a Mephistophelian opportunity, by which they vent self-satisfying vituperation, lust for entitlement, greed for power and hate for the President.

Beyond question, the Aquino administration, and the President himself, is not without fault and miscalculation. Concerned critics are in agreement that these could even be many. But from the tenet-- “in good conscience,”--this presidency has never swerved. His person never tainted with graft. His errors are ones of judgment, but certainly, only as in any human endeavor. But errors of intent? President Aquino’s honesty and integrity remain steady as “beyond reproach.” The memory of his parents would not allow it any other way and Noynoy is a loving, obedient son.

And this “coterie of the usual suspects?” To this cast of characters prominently belong the straggling participants and beneficiaries of Marcos’ evisceration of the nation’s moral fiber, shamelessly returning to once more abuse and molest the people’s equanimity. This time, they are joined by irresponsible militants and leftist blabbermouths, jaded publicists, self-deluded ambitious retirees from the judiciary and some self-sanctimonious sacerdotal misfits, sour-graping malcontents whose begging bowls for government largesse remain unfilled, irrationally magnified by imagined personal slights known as “KSP,” that is, ‘kulang sa pansin’ meaning inadequate attention to their unfed and starving egos!


In search of edifying comparables, I am perforce inspired to delve into history and I come up with the Sakdalistas of the 1930s and the Lapiang Malaya of the 1960s. Their leaders were Benigno Ramos and Valentin de los Santos, respectively. In their times, they both ranted against the Presidency and led rafts of civil disobedience resulting in bloody mayhem and death. Attracting the dispossessed rabble and ably rousing them to violence, this duo, separately, was regarded by the rest of the country as being mostly looney tunes and pixilated, no doubt partly patriotic but misguided and psychotic. And ultimately, prone to violence.

Benigno Ramos of Bulacan was a literate, talented Senate employee in the late 1920s when he was dismissed from the service for civil disobedience, participating in anti-government strikes. He was known to have distributed photographs as a gimmicky membership recruitment tool, showing him with President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House supposedly negotiating for early independence. Of course, never in the White House, his photo was a hoax. Senate President Manuel L. Quezon referred to him as a “political racketeer.” Ramos instigated the peasant rebellion in Central Luzon known as the Sakdal Uprising of May 1935. It was quelled in a day by the Constabulary with about a hundred casualties. Ramos fled to Tokyo. During the Japanese occupation, he returned and founded the dreaded Makapili, the Philippines’ murderous quislings.

Valentin de los Santos was a Bicolano cult leader who ran for President in 1957 garnering half a percent of the vote(!) against President Carlos P. Garcia. His fanatical following was known as Lapiang Malaya (Freedom Party). On May 21, 1967, with about 380 followers clad in ragtag blue uniforms with red and yellow capes, armed with bolos and anting-antings (amulets), De los Santos plotted to overthrow the government of Ferdinand E. Marcos, massing and marching from someplace in Taft Avenue, Pasay City. Insanely unstoppable before the Constabulary’s M-16s, it ended in a rout. Several dozens dead and wounded. Instead of jail time for sedition, Valentin was sent to the National Mental Hospital where, reportedly, he was mauled to death by other inmates.

Like Benigno Ramos and Valentin de los Santos, our ‘usual suspects’ will be remembered. They will be, similarly, consigned to the spitoons of Philippine history!

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