Looking back…

“That Political Bypass “ was the title of a brief article about my late and much-lamented father-in-law, J. Antonio Araneta. Writer Hernando J. Abaya was unexpectedly laudatory when he wrote the following piece about Papa (that was how we called him):

“J. Antonio Araneta, a solid citizen, was drafted by Mr. Magsaysay to do a big job, to collect more taxes without which the new administration cannot hope to mount its ambitious program to rout ignorance, poverty, and dissidence. He is doing a good job.  Collections are hitting a record. More importantly, tainted money is shying off the internal revenue office. But Mr. Araneta, like the very few among our public men with guts, has been indiscreet with politicos.  He has had the audacity to say no to them.

“ Some of our biggest politicos are also the least taxed. Mr. Araneta would deny them the privilege.  Again, we may say, very foolhardy. Now the power-conscious Commission on Appointments has “bypassed” his appointment, putting it up to Mr. Magsaysay to reappoint him. In military strategy, the bypass is resorted to,  to attain a bigger objective. In politics, the bypass is resorted to when politicos want to wash their hands of responsibility. A fine way to give the back of your hand to a public official who has the soundest concept of public service.”

The piece was undated, but in the compilation of his articles into the book Looking Back in Anger, (New Day Publishers)  the author sandwiched it between an essay that appeared in the “Manila Daily Bulletin” on 21 May 1954 (The Murders Continue) and another that was published in the same newspaper on 24 May 1954 . I surmise, my father-in-law was unceremoniously bypassed around that time.

However, I am quite sure President Magsaysay held him in high esteem. As I searched for more information about Papa during that difficult period, I came across an item in a government publication about his taking President Magsaysay’s place at an alumni homecoming where the latter had been invited to speak. From Baguio where he was resting, upon doctors’ orders, the President asked J. Antonio Araneta to  take his place and read his speech — a most appropriate substitute because Papa was  an eminent alumus of  De La Salle College. Pres. Magsaysay’s speech was inspiring, he told the La Sallelites that his numerous provincial trips were for a purpose. He wanted “to set the pace, overcome inertia to set little fires of enthusiasm  where they are needed most if our program is to move with the speed it should….”

Mr. Abaya added a paragraph, in parenthesis, probably in 1992, the date of the book’s publication; it was about Rep. Florencio Abad, better known as Butch Abad. He said that Butch Abad gave up his seat in 1989 to accept the appointment as Secretary of Agrarian Reform,… leaving Batanes (his home province) without a voice in Congress. Abaya reminds us that Abad’s colleagues in the Commission on Appointments bypassed him seven times for being “too pro-farmer and pro-people.” They considered Abad much too controversial ,”…and therefore, unfit for that key position.” It was not surprising that he quit, “a disillusioned man.” ( Years later, he served briefly as secretary of DepEd. To his credit, he  continued the “Gabaldon Schoolhouse Restoration Program”  of his predecessor, Juan Miguel Luz).

Hernando J. Abaya ends the article about J. Antonio Araneta  with this sardonic  conclusion: “Now then, has anything changed in our political system, or with our own unique breed of politicos?” I think I can hear a resounding NO!