The Law of the Sea

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


When I heard and saw here in North Vancouver on TV that my father has accepted to be the running mate of Marcos – I was very surprise. I did not have any idea that he was even considering this. I said “you never talked to me about this nor asked what I think about it.” He was silent and realized he missed asking me but he did the others I suppose. He told me that he consulted the family just as he did when he bided for Presidency in 1964.

I said, “I could not believe what I heard and saw on TV. How could you run as vice president when you told me again and again that Vice President is one position you will not aspire for, because a vice president is just waiting for the president to die or be in such a state that he can no longer perform his duties as president.”

Readers must realize that by this time, in 1986, my father was in his mid-70’s but still very strong physically and mentally very sharp. He goes to his doctor for annual physical examination even if he feels good. I heard his doctor said to him, “if I do not know you personally – I will say that the result of this examination belongs to somebody in his middle or late 40.

Tolentino said:

“Actually I had no intention of running in February 1986 snap elections. In fact, I was all set to go overseas on holiday when President Marcos asked me to be his running mate. As I told the reporters, I have no regrets for doing what I did. I knew that running with Marcos would be a drag on me, a handicap. I also knew that he wanted me for to be candidate as his Vice President because he would benefit from my credibility as a public man. I was well aware of that and also that I did not get any advantage from him for running as his Vice President. On the contrary, it would be more of a disadvantage.”

The questions that my father had been asked, more times than he can remember is, “why did you run as Vice President with a man you were so critical of? Why did you not run as an independent or offer your service to the opposition?”

I will try to explain why my father did what he did during what was probably the most eventful period in his political life, 1986 . Hopefully some readers will then understand that his principle have not been compromised; that he is not a hypocrite and that his loyalty has never drifted away from his country and it’s people.

He was at that time 75 years old, with physical age of a man in his forties, but old as far as Presidential candidates are concerned.

The decision by Marcos to offer the chance of becoming Vice President to Arturo Tolentino was not well received by some members of his cabinet.

“When Marcos asked me to join him, I realized that I would be able to take advantage of the KBL. In other words it was a sort of “give and take” arrangement. Marcos benefited from my credibility and I, from the party and it’s finances. When Marcos asked me to run along side him, I saw it as probably my only and last chance of becoming Vice President and I believed better to have a chance than to have no chance at all. If I did not run, what would I have been? Nothing! Just a Member of Parliament until 1990, watching the election.”

Marcos was in poor health and perhaps, because of this, after he was elected he might step down leaving me in the best possible position to help my country and it’s people through the kind of government I had always dreamed of. But even if he didn’t, I would still be of more service to them as Vice President than as an MP.

The press in the Philippines while initially surprised by Marcos choice of VP eventually united in their reaction, as editorials shows.

There is no doubt in my father’s mind that he won the election in 1986. His popularity in early part of 1986 was probably never higher than it was before. If the opposition really were concerned about the results, then the ballot boxes could be opened and votes recounted, for there was provision for this in the laws of the Philippines. Of course this was not what happened.

I asked my father, “Daddy, if you had been able to make it to the palace for the inauguration would Marcos have stepped down for you?” It’s very unlikely”, he replied, moving to his table, he picked up a large envelope, opened it and handed a single sheet of paper to me. It was his oath of office as Vice President, dated February 16, 1986 or nine days before the inauguration which he did not attend. Then, he passed me a sheet of his letter headed paper. On it, typed by his own hands, was his offer to act as mediator during the stand off between Enrile and Marcos.

He continued; “I could not refer to the inauguration in Malacanan as my ‘oath taking’ because I had already done it and Marcos knew that”, he explained, as I read his words “assumption to official duty.”

It was not generally known but Marcos could have officially stepped down after his inauguration, not for Cory Aquino but for his Vice President Arturo Tolentino. Later that morning, he said to me as we were having breakfast, “I knew for certain that Marcos would never have stepped down for me as he had privately promised.”

The Marcos loyalist had been asking him to “take his oath” which they did not know had been done already even before Marcos was taken to Honolulu.

Arturo Tolentino