The Freedom Fighter

During the dark days of the martial law Marcos’ power was absolute. No one dared oppose him. Those who could have were either jailed or dead or had sought asylum abroad and from that safe and comfortable distance – chose to be silent. But not Doy – he went forth risking his life and with his fiery speeches he exhorted the people not to be afraid to come out from the dark and join him in the fight to restore democracy.

Believing that “courage is contagious” he went to every part of the country where he could gather a crowd. At times, armed with only a bullhorn and emergency lights in case of international “power failure” and standing on whatever platform was available he would speak – his booming voice reaching out to the people with his impassioned entreaty for them to pledge with him “eternal hostility against all forms of oppression and tyranny in our country.”

In no time the people came out of the shadows and joined the ranks of the brave opposition.

Through his charismatic leadership he succeeded in organizing the UNIDO (The United Nationalist Democratic Organization), drawing within its ambit, courageous leaders like Cesar Climaco, Soc Rodrigo, Gerry Roxas, Dominador Aytona, Eya Estrada Kalaw, Rene Espina, Mamintal Tamano, Domocao Alonto and his nephew Abul Khayr, Raul Gonzalez, Homobono Adaza and Abe Sarmiento and all significant political parties who were opposed to the dictatorship. The UNIDO was the political party that ended the dictatorship.

Organizing the UNIDO Nationwide

Cebu City – Leading the first freedom March held under Martial Rule. (June 12, 1980)


Doy and Ninoy Aquino were like brothers. Their friendship which began during World War II when Doy’s father was President of the Republic and Ninoy’s father, Benigno Aquino, Sr. was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In Nick Joaquin’s book, “The Aquinos of Tarlac” he quotes Ninoy as having said, “In 1947 when my father died I thought my world had ended. Except for Doy Laurel I don’t recall having any friends then.”

Both ran for the Senate In 1967. Doy under the Nacionalista banner and Ninoy under the Liberal party. They had unwritten agreement that each would support the other in their own bailiwicks. Both emerged victorious.

During the martial law years when Ninoy was imprisoned he would often send messages to Doy through his wife, Cory. When Ninoy was arraigned before the military tribunal, Doy was there to give moral support to his young friend. On February, 1979, Doy wrote a letter to President Marcos asking him to release Ninoy to help unify the people.

When Ninoy planned to return to the Philippines he asked Doy to organize his arrival at the airport. Ninoy wanted an impressive crowd at the airport to prevent any attempts on his life. Ninoy said he would bring with him a group of Foreign press to record his homecoming. Doy spent weeks feverishly contacting his UNIDO leaders in Southern Tagalog as well as his fraternity brothers (Ninoy was also an Upsilonian), to help him.

He wrote Defense Secretaary Juan Ponce Enrile and General Fidel V. Ramos informing them of Ninoy’s arrival and requesting their assurance for his safety. He made arrangements with airport manager Louie Tabuena to allow him to meet Ninoy in the arrival tube.

On the morning of August 21, 1983 Doy led the welcome party which included Doña Aurora Aquino, Ninoy’s mother, Senators Soc Rodrigo, Lorenzo Tañada, Eva Estrada Kalaw and others. The airport was surrounded by a huge throng of welcomers. Ninoy had asked Doy to assemble 10,000 people at the airport but the turnout was about 28,000. As the plane was about to touchdown Doy headed for the tube to meet Ninoy but all the doors leading to it were locked. He banged and kicked the doors but could not go through. He called the guards through the glass windows but they were motionless and unresponsive. He went back to VIP room where Doña Aurora was waiting with Senators and Rodrigo. Suddenly, Ken Kashiwahara, Ninoy’s brother-in-law who was with him on the plane dashed in looking ashen as he announced that Ninoy was shot.

A tidal wave of public indignation swept the nation. And the ranks of the opposition to President Marcos swelled beyond expectation.

Ninoy and Doy Laurel

Childhood friends Ninoy and Doy were the two youngest elected Senators. (1968)

Almost exhausted, Doy finally gets a bullhorn and succeeds in calming down the angry throng outside the Manila International Airport (now Ninoy Aquino International Airport) (August 21, 1983)


Doy’s unquestioned and courageous leadership earned him the unanimous endorsement of his party, the UNIDO. During the UNIDO national convention at the Araneta Coliseum on June 12, 1985 nearly 25,000 delegates attended and proclaimed him the party standard-bearer in the snap election against President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Corazon Aquino, widow of Ninoy Aquino, spoke before the huge assembly endorsing Doy’s candidacy. Five months later, however, she declared her own candidacy causing a major crisis in the opposition – a rift that could cause its downfall and ensure a Marcos victory.

A series of meetings were arranged between the two opposition candidates to iron out their differences but up to the third meeting the impasse could not be broken. Cory, backed by the Convenors group, was determined to run for president. Finally, Doy said he would agree to run as her vice president provided she ran under the UNIDO banner but Cory refused. Doy immediately filed his certificate of candidacy as President at the COMELEC.

From the opposition leader in the Batasan to the parliament of the streets, Doy leads the first confetti march on Ayala Avenue. (September 16, 1983)

The Turning Point

But Cory sent Ninoy’s sister, Lupita Kashiwahara to inform Doy that she had changed her mind – she was willing to run under the UNIDO. True to his word and anxious to keep the opposition united in order to win the snap elections, Doy made the supreme sacrifice of giving up his lifetimes work and presidential ambition to give way to Corazon C. Aquino.

The Cory-Doy campaign vigorously began and on February 25, 1986, they took their oath as President and Vice President of the Philippines at the Club Filipino. Cory issued Presidential Order No. 1 making Salvador H. Laurel Prime Minister. On that day Laurel became the first and only man to hold the positions of foreign minister, prime minister and vice president concurrently.

Doy was unanimously nominated UNIDO’s presidential candidate in the biggest and most colorful political convention in history, attended by more than 25,000 opposition leaders. (June 12, 1985, at the Araneta Coliseum)