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Jose J. Roy

Jose J. Roy
(1904 – 1986)

In the national elections of 1946, the first President under the Republic of the Philippines was to be elected. The candidates were Sergio Osmeña of the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Manuel A. Roxas of the Liberal Party (LP). In the congressional race, the first district of Tarlac was contested by three Joses: Jose Cojuangco and Jose Palarca, both from Paniqui, and Jose de Jesus Roy, a struggling lawyer from Barangay Rizal, Moncada.
Roy’s brilliance as a public speaker was unheard of prior to the campaign, but as a lawyer he had ample training in rhetoric in the halls of justice. His fellow candidates had deep resources, but Roy offset this disadvantage with his mesmerizing speeches, and also enjoyed the support of Horacio Morales, then Tarlac’s most influential figure. “J. J.” Roy won overwhelmingly.
Jose J. Roy had previously pledged to give way should Morales finally decide to run for Congress. Thus, on Nov. 21, 1948 during Horacio Morales’ birthday celebration, Rep. Roy announced that he would not seek re-election the following year. The plan was that Horacio would serve for only one term, after which he would go for a senate seat. With Roy’s announcement, the crowd went wild with jubilation. They were beaming with pride for his rare display of statesmanship. Exhibiting unity before their constituents was a rare occasion unparalleled to this day.
But then, as destiny would have it, Horacio died of a heart attack at the age of 41, while playing tennis in Gerona on Feb. 7, 1949. This happened barely two and a half months after announcing his plan to run as the congressional candidate for the first district of Tarlac.
With Horacio’s demise, Roy once again became the Liberal Party’s official candidate under the leadership of Elpidio Quirino. Roy went on unimpeded to hold his congressional seat for sixteen consecutive years. [He would in time be considered one of the greatest performers ever in the history of the House of Representatives.]His sterling performance deservingly earned him a senatorial seat in an election where only he and fellow NP senatorial bet, Tecla San Andres Ziga, won.
J. J. Roy was destined for greatness. In the days when only the rich could afford a well-rounded education, Roy came from humble beginnings. With determination and perseverance, he worked during the day and studied law at night. He also honed his oratorical eloquence as a public speaker by imagining as his audience the ants and roaches in his boarding house in Manila.
One day when he visited Moncada, to the surprise of his friends, he was seen and heard delivering a speech to the goats and carabaos in a field. When asked by one of them, Florentino, if he had lost his mind, he retorted: “My friend, Tinong, if you must know, I am a very shy person when it comes to public speaking. And I often find great difficulty standing in class answering recitation questions, not because I do not know the answers, but because I am overwhelmed by stage fright. These animals standing before me are my imaginary classmates, professors and constituents. How else can I overcome my fears if I do not practice? ”
Working his way through college in the University of the Philippines, he graduated with an LLB degree in 1930. With his command of Spanish, English, Tagalog, Kapampangan and Ilocano, he was able to support himself through law school by working as an interpreter in the Public Service Commission. [This way, he made it easier for his father Macario, a variety store owner in Tarlac city, to support his mother Marciana and five siblings named Henrieta, Alfonso, Ernesto, Conchita and Manuel.]
After graduation, he continued working at the PSC where he later became one of only three Special Attorneys specializing in transportation. Then in 1936, the mining boom came. Roy expanded his practice to become a corporate lawyer. Organizing mining corporations made his name such a byword in mining business circles, that no less than Pres. Manuel L. Quezon often invited him to the Palace for consultations.
Anyway, back to Roy’s student days. He had political ambitions that early, but he was a realist. He knew that the political leaders in Tarlac were all wealthy and it would take a miracle for him to succeed. It was therefore essential for him to excel in public speaking. After finishing law and passing the bar exams, he entered his profession armed with booming eloquence and the confidence of a seasoned public speaker.
Then the 2nd World War broke out. Roy fled dangerous Manila with his family in 1942, seeking refuge first in Binangonan, Rizal, then in Santa Isabel, Kawit, Cavite, where wife Consolacion nee Domingo from Laoag, Ilocos Norte, children Jose, Jr. aged 9, Vilma 8 and Ronald 7, would be safe and treated like family by Kawit’s mayor himself, Marcelino Velez. It was in Kawit’s library where Roy often found himself absorbed in a self-study of banking, economics, finance and agrarianism. It was “going back to school” which he would never regret, as it would arm him with a dose of knowledgeability that would impress his good friend Manuel Acuña Roxas.
In 1945 after the war, the members of the newly convened Congress of the Philippines elected Roxas President of the Senate. Then in the following year, the first national elections were held. The presidential candidate of the Liberal Party was its very founder in the person of Roxas. Roxas persuaded Roy to run for Congress, and the latter agreed only after being promised that if they won, Roxas would consider signing into law a bill that envisioned a productive working partnership between landlords and their tenants. [This bill would eventually come to be known as the Rice Crop Sharing Law, whereby 70% of the harvested yield would be given to the tenant-farmers and 30% to the landowners in all rice-producing regions in the country.] After studying the matter, Roxas found Roy’s agrarian reform ideas meritorious. Parenthetically, the elections were the bloodiest in political history. To Roy, his victory was most memorable because he was the only Liberal Party candidate who survived the NP landslide in Central Luzon.
By 1953, Roy had already displayed in Congress the mastery and skills of great parliamentarians like Gladstone, Disraeli and Winston Churchill, whom he idolized and imitated. His well crafted diplomatic entreaties, however, could not dissuade his fellow Moncadenian and friend, Governor Antonio Lopez, from running as his next political opponent. At that time, Lopez was the incumbent governor of Tarlac and a protégé of President Elpidio Quirino.
Moncada, for the first time, found its solidarity being fractured between two beloved sons. Lopez had a strong following being a former mayor of Moncada and governor of Tarlac. Roy garnered the majority in all the towns of the district and assumed his third term as congressman under the presidency of Ramon Magsaysay.
In 1957, in his re-election bid for a fourth term, Roy found himself being challenged by Rizalino E. Lopez, a younger brother of former Gov. Lopez. Once again Moncada was divided, but it eventually gave Roy his most resounding victory. This particular election year marked the end of the political power of the Lopezes.
In later years, in a display of political magnanimity and statesmanship, Roy recommended to Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos the appointment of Engr. Rizalino E. Lopez, his erstwhile political opponent, as Administrator of the National Electrification Administration (NEA).
In 1961, Diosdado Macapagal led the Liberal Party to victory against Pres. Carlos P. Garcia (NP) who was running for re-election. With the platform of anti- corruption, the Liberals expected a clean sweep of the entire slate. In this particular election, Rep. Roy was one of the eight senatorial candidates of the ruling Nacionalista Party. Although perceived to be doomed along with his partymates, he rode on the wings of victory. His impeccable record in the House proved everyone wrong as only he and Tecla Ziga survived the LP landslide, earning for him accolade for being “indestructible”. [In law school, Tecla was the valedictorian while he was the salutatorian.]
But then, the NP ranks were now in disarray. It was NP Sen. Jose J. Roy who, seeing a need for re-grouping and revitalizing the party’s leadership, slowly started to make his move to beef up the shallow bench of the organization. Political expediency and pragmatism compelled him to rekindle his friendship with members of the Liberal Party, the organization that had started him up in politics.
His initial targets for recruitment were LP Sen. Ferdinand E. Marcos and LP Tarlac Gov. Benigno Aquino, Jr. Both gratefully begged off, although Marcos hedged somewhat when he said, “Manong Joe, I have a feeling I’ll soon be taking you up on your tempting offer. I’ll remain open to the idea. You know, destiny may yet join us in a common quest.” It was at this point that Roy, the astute politician that he was, profoundly sensed that it was only a question of time that Marcos would join the NP, then trounce Macapagal in a face-off as its candidate for the presidency.
During the nomination convention of the Liberals in 1961, the choice was between Pres. Macapagal and Sen. Marcos. It was a bitter wrangling session between the two and their respective followers. To avoid splitting party loyalties, a gentleman’s agreement was forged. Macapagal pledged to serve for only one term (four years) should he win the presidency, after which he would support Marcos’ bid. The harmonious solution ensured Macapagal’s party to victory.
In 1964, Marcos, expecting to obtain the LP’s nomination for the presidency, found himself in a predicament when Macapagal announced his decision to seek re-election, thereby reneging on the gentleman’s agreement. Wasting no time, Marcos called on Roy, his friend whom he fondly called ” Manong Joe “, to inquire if the door was still open, and the latter’s reply was: “Welcome to your new home, Ferdie!”
Marcos was more than welcome to the NP, as Roy was certain that he was the asset they needed to gain the presidency. With newspaper headlines screaming the defection of Marcos to the Nacionalista Party, the nation held its breath. Marcos’ rebellion against his party seemed to excite them, for media made him appear as a victim of Macapagal’s lust for power.
Marcos’ entry into the NP fold was not without opposition from some of its illustrious members, notably, NP Speaker Jose B. Laurel, Jr. and the “grand old man” in the person of NP President and Senate President Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, Sr. Rodriguez was deeply hurt by what he felt was Roy’s “treachery” to him and the party. The heart-rending plaint of Rodriguez was: “Pepe, bakit mo pinapapasok sa partido ang isang Liberal ?! Bakit mo ginagawa ito sa akin ?!”
It took some time, but eventually Roy was able to mollify Rodriguez by explaining that the latter had to make the supreme sacrifice of stepping down from the Senate Presidency so Marcos could replace him — a strategy that would greatly fortify the party’s quest to reclaim the Palace. Roy then proceeded to convince Speaker “Pepito” Laurel, Sen. Gil Puyat and other party stalwarts like Senators Alejandro Almendras, Roseller Lim and Arturo Tolentino of the plan, and pretty soon the Speaker would be swearing in Marcos as a Nacionalista who would, in a matter of days, be swept into the chamber’s presidency.
NP President Rodriguez would eventually be heard saying he was happy to have made that “supreme” sacrifice” — an opportunity for which he would later thank his partymates, Pepe Roy particularly. The “grand old man” of the Nacionalista Party would pass away in 1964.
Fast forward. Jose J. Roy was the the most trusted political ally of Pres. Marcos who would always regard him with utmost gratitude and respect. In the 1967 elections, Marcos unwaveringly supported the re-election bid of Roy who topped the senatorial race that saw LP bet Benigno Aquino, Jr. placing second.
Upon assuming his second term in the upper chamber, Roy was elected Majority Floor Leader of the Senate. Later, he became Senate President Pro-tempore and Majority Floor Leader of the Commission on Appointments. He was expected to eventually assume the senate presidency, but this did not materialize because one year before the presidential election of 1973, Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 by issuing Presidential Decree 1081 that abolished Congress.
Shortly after the declaration of Martial Law, Roy returned to the practice of law by organizing Jose J. Roy and Associates Law Offices, located at 1515 Roxas Boulevard, Manila. Atty. Ronald D. Roy, his son (as of this writing, 78 years old and father of Atty. Jose “Judd” M. Roy lll) was the office’s Managing Partner. J. J. Roy had such a bias for assisting poor people that the office was almost always in the red — but helping poor clients sort out their legal problems was for him a pleasure beyond measure.
From 1984 to 1986, the year he passed away, Roy often reminisced over his contributions to the NP, particularly with respect to the instrumental role he played in Marcos’ phenomenal rise to the pinnacle of political power. He firmly believed “Ferdie” was by far the most brilliant president the country ever had, from Emilio Aguinaldo all the way down to Macapagal.
It was a firm belief that Roy shared with his closest of kin and kith that Marcos was an authentic Filipino patriot and a “heck of a leader” who had at heart the best of intentions in building a “new society” for his people, a “Bagong Lipunan” which became the core vision behind the declaration of martial law. Roy truly believed that the so-called new society would not be established if the escalation of rebellious activities by elements of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Muslim secessionists from Mindanao were not checked, and that placing the entire country under martial law was the only viable way to interdict the rebels. He therefore gave his fullest support to Presidential Decree No. 1081 and wished Marcos well at the earliest opportunity.
Let it not be forgotten that Roy was very anti-Communist. Congressman Roy’s authorship of the Anti-Subversion Law earned him recognition by international anti-Communist stalwarts like Gen. Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan, under whose endorsement he once became the President of the World Anti-Communist League. Prior to that, Roy was a Member of the Asian People Anti-Communist League and the President of the Anti-Communist League of the Philippines.
It was therefore not a surprise that his residence in New Manila, Quezon City would eventually be bombed by elements of the CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), along with the New Manila residence of Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., a known anti-Communist fighter himself. These two bombing incidents, only minutes apart, were owned up to by the NPA, and would later be cited as among the reasons for the imposition of martial law.
Between children Vilma and Ronald (Jun passed away in 1999), Ronnie appears to be the more knowledgeable about Roy’s political and professional activities, having worked with his father throughout a substantial portion of his stint in both houses of Congress, as well as in their law office as its managing partner.
He can spend hours recounting anecdotes about his father whose memory he reveres, particularly with respect to matters underscoring his industry, integrity and a humble recognition of himself as a public servant — “isang tunay na alila ng bayan”, as his father would sometimes say. Following are some of those anecdotes, in the words of Ronald.
1) I do not remember the year, but Dad was then the Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee (among other committees). Using my own key, I entered his office thru the back door to take a nap in his small private room. I was very tired, and Dad and everybody else except a guard was out for lunch. I dont know how long I had dozed off when I was awakened by Dad’s angry voice. He was back, blasting away at a Chinese businessman who had tried to bribe him into delaying for just one month the passage of a tax bill on textile imports. I pushed open the door slightly enough to see the visitor scurrying out the main door with what looked like an attachê. Dad was fuming mad as he let out a stream of invective in Tagalog.
2) Rewind to the time Dad was a congressman. The Canlubang sugar baron, Jose Yulo, came to Dad persuading him to be his running mate as he was then to be the LP’s official candidate for president. Dad knew he would easily beat Jose B. Laurel, the NP’s candidate for vice president, but there was a principle that prevented him from accepting the offer: Dad had just left the Liberal Party because of differences with Pres, Elpidio Quirino on matters relating to banking, finance and the like, and he did not wish to appear as an unprincipled opportunist by returning to the party he had just left. Instead, he recommended his best friend from Pampanga, Rep. Diosdado Macapagal.
“But I dont know him, Joe. Why him?” Yulo queried. Prepared for the question, Dad took from me a copy of Macapagal’s Information Sheet containing his sterling qualifications and achievements. Yulo was impressed, but still insisted he wanted Dad as his running mate. Finally, after six weeks, Yulo relented and agreed to meet Macapagal at one of Manila’s downtown restaurants. I sat only a table away from where history was in the making. After an hour, Yulo, Macapagal and Dad rose from their seats and, with their right hands clasped over the table, simultaneously declared: “Agreed!”
To make a long story short, Yulo lost his bid for the presidency but Macapagal won the vice presidency. Before his win was officially proclaimed, Macapagal came to our house to thank Dad, and promised that he would do everything in his power to return the favor regarding anything within the reach of his new office. Dad’s reply, as translated from Kapampangan : “Thank you, Dadong, but the best way you can express your gratitude is to be the good man that you are, and to do your best for your country.” They hugged each other as they bade goodbye. Then as Mac walked towards his car, I mulled: “There he goes, the republic’s next vice president. Hmmm…that could be Dad, the man who denied himself for a principle, the man who might have just keyed his best friend to become a Malacañang occupant some day. Might Fate have chosen Dad to be a king-maker, instead of being a king himself?” [In time, Roy would be labeled as king-maker of both Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos.]
3) Sometime in 1954 when I was Dad’s Confidential Assistant in the lower house, I was a young man given to the “good life” of a millionaire that I was not. Home for me was the five-star setting of fine dining, ritzy cocktail lounges, exclusive sports clubs and the like. I had no qualms about spending my own hard-earned money in high places where doors let me access to opportunities.
But then, working in the government gradually changed all that, thanks to Dad’s watchful eyes, a seven-year stint in the Land Bank of the Philippines, and five years in the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice.
It was in that year that I will never forget what he said: “Ronnie, now that you are a government employee, always remember that poor people, like fishermen and farmers, contribute to a fund from which your salary, entitlements and other benefits are drawn. Like myself, alila ka na ng bayan (you are now a public servant), So stop being seen in those places for the rich. konting delicadeza, hijo!” I wish I knew the English term for “delicadeza”.
4) Around a week after Marcos’ smashing victory over Macapagal, the new president and Dad huddled together in a remote spot of our residential lawn. I moved close enough to hear Marcos profusely thanking Dad and receiving the reply, as translated from Ilocano: “Ferdie, do not thank me. Thank the people for entrusting their hopes and dreams to you. Thank God for this great challenge. I trust you will not fail them, so please do not give me a cause for opposing you.” Dad would never find a reason to do so.
5) I once found myself in the Study Room of Malacañang witnessing Pres. Marcos engaged in a tête-à-tête with business magnate Enrique Zobel and my father. Pointing at two stacks of gold certificates laid on his table, the president said, “Manong Joe, Enrique, these gold certificates are my answer to the baseless scuttlebutt that I am a gold thief. I started to trade in gold long before I became a congressman, and I have continued to do so to this day. I have patiently waited for people to claim I have stolen gold from them, but so far none has stepped forward. [Indeed, to this day, official documents of all succeeding administrations show that the strongman did not steal a single ounce of the precious metal, not from the Central Bank, nor from any government or private entity.]
6) I was around when Dad bared to party associates Marcos’ vehement denial that he had received a 20-30% kickback from Westinghouse Corp. in connection with the construction of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. What he owned up to was getting NOT a kickback but a commission from a transaction with the American business company.
Explaining, Marcos said, “Manong Joe, it is normal business practice for Americans to give commissions, not kickbacks. I have instructed Miniong Desini to control Westinghouse’s commission, lest the same ends up in the possession of my political enemies, like the Light A Fire Movement and other leftist groups. I am saving up in the form of investments and bank deposits abroad. As a keen student of history, I feel I may eventually be exiled per force of a Communist takeover, so when that happens I’ll be ready to finance and organize a revolution to return the country to democratic normalcy. ”
7) Dad was NP President throughout the last ten years of his life. He curtly told Marcos he was against the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) concept of uniting the citizens in one movement under one party, the KBL, for being fundamentally undemocratic.
Dad fumed: “Ferdinand, (he would call the president ‘Ferdinand’ at times he disapproved of the latter’s acts) a one-party system is an experiment that will never work in any democracy. The world will see you as a tyrant seeking re-election unopposed. The Nacionalista Party will put up a candidate for president in order to empower the people to exercise their inherent RIGHT TO CHOOSE their leaders. I oppose your one-party ideas not only for the sake of the people, but also for your own good. I will choose a candidate, Ferdinand, and he will surely lose, but I dont care. You see, my conscience will hound me forever if I do not do this.”
Well, the official NP candidate, Bulacan Gov. Alejo Santos, did lose, garnering less than 10% of the votes cast. Nevertheless, he, Dad and their followers remained happy with the thought that they had done the right thing. The loss was an essential sacrifice for a worthy cause. Yes, they knew beforehand that Marcos, whose grass-roots electoral strength was indisputable, would handily win. In fine, they knew beforehand that their political loss would be democracy’s triumph. I pondered: “Take a bow before the colors, Dad.”
8) The foregoing are but some of other character sketches of Dad. But for me the most poignant incident occurred before he turned comatose in a hospital bed, where he hopelessly tried to rally from a series of strokes. As he laid totally paralyzed with eyes frozen in a fixed stare, I held up a newspaper’s front page in front of him and said aloud that Marcos had wrested the lead from Cory in the snap election. Ever so faintly he smiled, then became misty-eyed, certainly happy that his fellow diehard anti-Communist fighter would win. It was good, in a way, that Dad did not live long enough to witness his friend’s downfall.

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