The Assemblyman

The assemblyman doy laurel

With the declaration of Martial Law and “adoption” of the 1973 Constitution, came the suspension of all political activities and the abolition of the traditional two-party system. However, after six long years of authoritarian rule, Marcos resumed elections on April 7, 1978 for the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly). It was the first election ever held under martial rule and a promised step toward political normalization. As it turned out, Marcos had other things in mind. Shortly before the elections, Marcos tried to pull off his biggest surprise by organizing his own political juggernaut, one that would unite all political parties— regardless of creed and color— into a single political party. The Laurels, who welcomed Marcos into the NP in 1964, opposed his plan as this would abolish the Nacionalista Party — a legacy of their late father, Jose P. Laurel.

Marcos, for some reason or the other, backed down for the moment as he would not want an open confrontation with them. At the suggestion of Speaker Laurel, Marcos eventually agreed to organize instead a movement, Bagong Lipunang Kilusan ng mga Nacionalista, Liberal, at Iba Pa, which would serve as a coalition of different political parties.  This was later shortened to Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan or simply KBL.

The Nacionalista Party fielded candidates under the KBL umbrella for the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa. Among the winners in the poll was former Senator Salvador “Doy” Laurel, a vocal critic of the martial law administration of President Marcos.

Doy Laurel, even though a reluctant candidate from the start, ran for the IBP elections with two objectives in mind: (a) to speed up the country’s return to normalcy and (b) the restoration of people’s basic rights and liberties under a regime of democracy. Doy, of course, reckoned wrong. Soon it became clear that Marcos would not lift martial law anytime soon and the IBP was merely a puppet parliament lending democratic facade to his regime.

Even so, Doy Laurel tried to make good use of his time with the Assembly. He introduced bills that would not only benefit his constituents in Southern Tagalog, the region for which he was elected, but the entire nation— country above all else. Of the reported measures he filed, his parliamentary bill calling for the reinvigoration and re-orientation of the educational system stood out to be a Laurel trademark, as it sought to include patriotism —love of the mother tongue in public schools. As Vice Chairman of the Batasan Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Good Government, Assemblyman Laurel once again distinguished himself in office. On record was his active role during legislative inquiries and public hearings as the grand inquisitor, especially on issues like the abolition of death penalty, anomalies in government, and the administration of criminal justice, among others.

Reported the Times Journal on September 19, 1979:

At yesterday’s meeting of the committee, [Justice Minister Ricardo] Puno created a special committee under the chairmanship of Assemblyman Salvador H. Laurel to draft immediately the rules to govern investigation of charges of misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance against government officials and employees and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices law.

But despite his usual legislative ardor, Doy began to feel a great deal of frustration with the dismal performance of the ersatz parliament which was a far cry, as he pointed out, from his heyday in the robust pre-martial law Senate. Much as he would have liked to serve the people with distinction in the fledgling Assembly, he could only do so much at that time. Soon, it became evident that Marcos had no intention of relinquishing legislative powers, much less restore democracy. Apparently, most of the bills he filed did not make much of a headway in the parliament because, for obvious reasons, Marcos too wielded legislative powers concurrently with the IBP. “After two years of seeing all my bills sat on and killed,” Doy mused in his journal, “I had no more patience to waste at the Batasan…I’d go around instead and organize a real opposition. Without an opposition, there could be no parliament—and so the Batasan was not a real parliament.”

All fired up, Doy began to speak out against Marcos and his regime, emitting the day’s most biting sallies in his speeches. Among his earliest fusillade of fires against the regime was his call for the return to the presidential form of government, assailing Marcos’ persistent use of legislative powers through Amendment No.6. Many times, Marcos would bypass the National Assembly much to the chagrin of some independent-minded assemblymen. “We are now in a state of political limbo because our government is neither presidential nor parliamentary,” Doy told his audience at the Manila Breakfast Club in 1979. “We have a system where there is a concentration of legislative and executive power in the hands of one man. Just one man makes the laws although sometimes he allows the Batasan to share the power.”

Marcos soon came to the realization that somehow he could not control the Nacionalista Party as he wished it even though he was the most powerful man in the country. It was time to teach them a lesson, Marcos must have thought.

Then the unthinkable happened. Marcos changed course by converting KBL into a political party. Miffed over the rigor mortis state of the NP, the Laurels, particularly the Speaker’s kid brother Doy, formally broke away with Marcos.

Doy Laurel recounted this episode through Nick Joaquin, the writer and biographer, in Doy Laurel in Profile:

On December 22, 1979, however, members of the Batasan were called to Malacanang. Marcos changed his mind. He gave those present the rules of the KBL as a political party. When I read the rules we asked Marcos,

Since when did the KBL become a political party?

To which Marcos retorted, ‘As far as I am concerned, the KBL has always been a political party.’

But I confronted him saying, ‘I must disagree with you, Mr. President, because the Supreme Court itself, in two decisions, has declared that the KBL, is not a political party.’

I reminded Marcos that in 1978 that the Nacionalista Party even had to ‘adopt’ the KBL because the KBL was not accredited as a political party by the COMELEC.

Exasperated, Marcos said, ‘If the Nacionalista Party does not wish to become part of the KBL, then let it play the role of the opposition.

To which Doy snapped back, ‘So be it, Mr. President, so be it! And he walked out.

In time, the Laurels eventually set up UNIDO which was the umbrella organization of the active Opposition during the last period of the martial rule. With Doy Laurel at the helm of the party, the KBL forces, notable Marcos sycophants, found their match in every election.

On September 16, 1983, Salvador H. Laurel resigned as member of the Batasan in bold protest against the assassination of Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. He was the only assemblyman to do so.

doy laurel

When the power was shut-off to prevent him from speaking during the privileged hour in the Batasan, Doy nevertheless delivered his valedictory outside the building and announced this irrevocable resignation in vehement protest over the assassination of Ninoy. (September, 1983)