The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Martinez: Tolentino-- end of an era

THE passing away of Arturo Tolentino marked the end of that generation of intellectual magnificence that counted among its superstars such brilliant parliamentarians as Raul Manglapus, Ferdinand Marcos, Diosdado Macapagal, Francisco "Soc" Rodrigo, Lorenzo TaƱada, Jose W. Diokno, Ambrosio Padilla, Rodolfo Ganzon, Emmanuel Pelaez, Cipriano Primicias and its senior statesmen, Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel.

The name Tolentino belongs to the Senate, for it was in that Chamber that his luster attained its fullest measure for many years.

He became Senate president, but that was not important. What he is remembered for is the slambang parliamentary debates, tussles and pandemoniums which he often dominated.

His passing away must have embarrassed the present Senate, for his name again dominated the papers, reminding the Filipino people that it no longer has members ` or leaders ` like Tolentino.

The Senate today is no longer the beacon of brilliance and light but the cesspool of mediocrity and mental retardation.

When Tolentino was still a student at the University of the Philippines a long, long time ago, before World War II, he was such an impressive debater that President Quezon invited him to attend Cabinet meetings!

It was not only his mind that was formidable. Just like Marcos, the UP student, was the national rifle shooting champion and Padilla, an Olympian basketball player, Tolentino was a weight-lifting champion. Manglapus was the oratorical champ.

When elected to the post of Senate majority floorleader, a position that was like a lightning rod since it is the fulcrum on which floor debates turned, he reminded his colleagues in his acceptance speech that he was once a weightlifting champion, and that he would not retreat or recoil from any acrimonious debate or parliamentary bedlam.

Once, in a meeting of 1971 Constitutional Convention delegates in the house of Abe Sarmiento, Macapagal said:

"If intellectual brilliance were the sole criterion for choosing a leader, then it is neither Marcos nor me who should have been President but Arturo Tolentino."

Tolentino also served in the House as congressman, representing Manila's third district, but he did not shine so much there because most congressmen were, and still are, intellectual midgets, and therefore he had no worthy opponent with whom to cross swords in parliamentary debate.

His political career was not only one of the most brilliant, it was also one of the longest, spanning some 40 years, from 1946 to the 1980s.

The last time he ran was in the 1986 snap elections where he was chosen by Marcos to be his vice presidential running-mate.

In his heyday, he was not admired as a Nacionalista who was the most respected and the most withering oppositionist to the Liberal administration of Diosdado Macapagal.

In 1991, he came out with his massive autobiography titled The Voice of Dissent, where he recounted his phenomenal life from his college days to the Senate. In the book, he reproduced some of his insightful writings and coruscating speeches.

He ran for president in the most tumultuous and memorable nominating convention in Philippine history, where his opponents were Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, Senate President Ferdinand Marcos, Sen. Fernando Lopez and Cory Aquino's uncle, Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong.

The winner: Marcos.

Tolentino's name was never stained by any act or accusation of venality or corruption, and even in his most powerful days or when he ran for public office, he was always short of money.

Goodbye and God bless, Mr. Senator.