And about fleeing from a singer in dead of night
By Raïssa Robles
There were only two senators I covered who I continue to respect to this day. One of them is Senator Vicente Paterno.
I am honored to attend the launching of his autobiography tomorrow. And I urge you to read it.
His former chief-of-staff Kathy Moran gave me an advanced glimpse of his memoirs published by Anvil.
I must say, Paterno doesn’t mince words and makes some startling revelations. For instance, why he left Meralco; why he has never forgiven the late industrialist Vicente Madrigal; why he didn’t see eye-to-eye with then Senate President Jovito Salonga; and how he fled in the night from the temptations of a young singer who was about to be offered to him while he was the Public Highways Minister.
Paterno’s autobiography is like following Philippine history through the life of one man. I don’t agree with everything he said but it makes a fascinating read.
I promised Kathy I won’t say much but she said I could quote some excerpts:
On former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo:
“I hope that before the end of Pnoy’s term, GMA may be tried judicially and sent to prison for enough years to partially pay for her crimes against the Filipino people. Her most damaging crime was to corrupt and seriously damage the institutions of our democracy—the bureaucracy, the legislature, the judiciary up to and including the Supreme Court, the Armed Forces, and some local governments, most notably in ARMM. Her husband must also be tried and imprisoned for his own crimes against the Filipino people.”
On what others thought of him as Ferdinand Marcos’ Public Highways Minister:
“And here are contractors reportedly talking about me over beer in Nueva Ecija: “Hindi namin maintidihan yang si Paterno. Marami na tayong isinubok.
Ayaw sa lahat na inalok natin. Ayaw sa pera. Umiilag sa babae. Ano kaya, baka lalake?”
“Maghintay na lang tayo. Bagyo lamang iyan. Lilipas din.”
On how his mother obtained antibiotics she secretly sent to American internees during the Japanese Occupation:
“I knew about Mother’s purchases of medicines during the Japanese Occupation because I met her supplier of much of the antibiotics which she was sending to the American internees. I would meet him when he came to our Mendoza St. house with parcels of the medicine strapped to the bike. His name was Joselito Yao, a young relative of the prominent Chinese businessman Yao Shiong Shio. Joselito was born and had lived his youth in Quezon province, and so spoke Tagalog with a distinctive Quezon accent.
Joselito and Mother got along well. He became Mother’s preferred supplier. Mother had helped Joselito one day on a problem he encountered with the Japanese authorities, and he never forgot it. Joselito was on his bike when he was stopped by a Japanese official, who inspected the parcel on his bike and suspected him of having stolen it. Joselito and his bike were brought to a place on Azcarraga Street where he endured interrogation. He was told to produce a credible person who could verify his story. Being new in Manila, he did not have many contacts he could call on the telephone. Hesitantly he phoned our house, and told Mother his plight. Mother did not hesitate and immediately replied that she would come to vouch for him. She arrived posthaste in our vehicle, an elderly matron dressed in her saya to present herself and assure the Japanese that she knew Joselito to be honest and law-abiding and that she was
vouching for him.
Joselito often recounted to his family and friends that he owed Mother his life because of that act. After the Japanese occupation Joselito founded United Laboratories, or Unilab. That company became the largest medicines manufacturer in the country, establishing subsidiary enterprises in Thailand and other ASEAN countries. The young Joselito had become the highly successful businessman––Jose Yao Campos.”
I would have wanted to read Paterno’s assessment of the late dictator and thief Ferdinand Marcos. But he did not include that. He merely said:
“I left the Marcos cabinet in November 1980 because I wanted no part in the anomalies that his cronies were bent on perpetrating.”
Still, what Paterno does include is worth reading. Especially the section about coping with state corruption as a high government official; how he picked up the pieces after leaving the Marcos cabinet by going into the retail business; and how he was shocked into becoming a member of the Marcos opposition.
Why is Paterno so blunt and so frank about his life?
Because he wrote the book especially for his grandchildren to read even when he is gone.