Public service for Salvador H. Laurel was not simply a birthright.
Though born to a grandfather (Sotero Remoquillo Laurel) who was a delegate to the Malolos Convention and Undersecretary of the Interior of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government and a father (Dr. Jose P. Laurel) who became a delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Philippine Senator and wartime President, Vice President Doy Laurel’s laurel shone even more illustriously when he carved for himself an indelible mark of selfless patriotism that is solely his.
Needless to say, despite joining ill-infirmed Philippine politics, Vice President Laurel, keeping the lessons of his forefathers, held on a puritanical self-abnegation at all levels of his political and professional career.
Despite the invitation of a rewarding private legal practice, Vice President Laurel, then a young brilliant lawyer, founded the Citizen’s Legal Aid Society of the Philippines (CLASP) which offered pro bono legal services to indigents, as if directly delivering justice to the doorsteps of the needy and oppressed. And to ensure the success of his crusade, he ran for the Senate in 1967 and won decisively. In keeping with his campaign promises, Senator Doy Laurel authored, among others, five (5) “Justice for the Poor Laws” or simply “Laurel Laws.”
In the “hallowed” halls of the Parliament, he resigned in 1983, as a Member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in full grip of the despotic government – the sole man in recent history to have done so. Later, instead of capitalizing on the convenience of the ties that bind his family and the Marcoses, he stood against tyranny, at his own expense and called on for a united strife to end the Marcos dictatorship.
And who could forget when Vice President Laurel defied the unanimous nomination of UNIDO members to give way to Cory Aquino in 1985 for the ultimate interest of the country? He was a step from the presidency he yearned for so long, yet when the time came to choose between himself and the welfare of his beloved Philippines, he was willing to give up the first any time. In the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as its Secretary, a position deemed by others as lowly of his qualifications, Vice President Laurel dismissed all negative impressions and focused on improving the foreign landscape of the country. His “larger independent world” perspective while keeping his “Philippines should always look for friends” mantra was a sweet compromise that brought the country back to the ASEAN Summit.
The National Centennial Commission (NCC) was another story; however, this demanding and controversial stretch as chairman in the nationwide celebration of our independence, another lowly position for such a statesman as seen by many, was what Vice President Laurel calls as his “last measure of full devotion” for his beloved country. Without any compensation, a condition he volunteered, Vice President Laurel, with fervor and great honor, revived the country’s pride and nationhood.
Indeed, if there was one lasting legacy that Salvador H. Laurel had left for the younger generations to emulate, it is his unconditional devotion to his native land. True that this nationalistic love may have been colored by his regal past, but it also true that this love was given honorable hues by his uncontroverted selfless and patriotic acts.