“Magsaysay is my Guy”
My generation of law students caught the tailend of a trend which required freshmen to recite from memory a long-winded definition from the 1940 Supreme Court decision in Calalang v. Williams (70 Phil. 734). In that controversy, the petitioner questioned the validity of a regulation banning animal-drawn carriages (calesas) from certain streets in Manila. Among others, the issue of its being contrary to the Social Justice provision of the 1935 Constitution was raised.
The annual September 21 commemoration of the beginning of Martial Law always reminds me of the end of the Marcos regime. To make a pun of it, I was caught on the wrong side of EDSA on February 22, 1986— my father being then a Deputy Minister—and the People Power Revolution left my father jobless and our family in a severe economic crisis. But what I remember most of those four days following the Enrile-Ramos dig-in at Camp Aguinaldo was the almost non-stop playing of Mambo Magsaysay over June Keithley’s Radyo Bandido. While its logical connection with those days‟ events escapes me, I actually enjoyed the song which, I learned afterward, was composed by the brilliant Raul Manglapus. It might also have been Manglapus who came up with the catchy tag-line, “Magsaysay is My Guy,” for the 1953 Presidential election; and Mambo Magsaysay is still, certainly, the classic, gold-standard for campaign jingles, that made The Guy win. The lyrics of the song go:
“(Stanza 1:) Everywhere that you would look/ Was a bandit or a crook/ Peace and order was a joke/ Till Magsaysay pumasok/ (Ref.:) That is why that is why You will hear the people cry/ Our democracy will die/ Kung wala si Magsaysay/ Mambo, mambo, Magsaysay, mabu-, mabu-, mabuhay/ Our democracy will die/ Kung wala si Magsaysay/(Stanza 2:) Birds, they voted in Lanao/ At pati aswang pa daw/ Ang eleksyon lutong Macaw/ Till Magsaysay showed them how”…
Last August 31 was the 111th birth anniversary of President Ramon Magsaysay who, like my father, Badong—and for that matter, the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo—died in a plane crash while in office. I think all three were “men of the masses” who gave their lives in the service of others. But the Magsaysay connection does not end there.
One of the interesting personalities I have come to know in recent years is Mr. Cesar P. Magsaysay, a nephew of President Ramon Magsaysay, being the son of the Presidential brother, Jesus. “Tito Cesar”, as I would like to call him, or CPM, is also the brother of Vicente, a former Governor of Zambales and personal friend of my father. Governor Vic is the father of Angelica Magsaysay-Cheng, the incumbent Vice-Governor of Zambales; and father-in-law of former Zambales Representative Mitos Habana-Magsaysay, with whom I coincided in the 15th Congress. Some years ago, CPM decided to settle in the southern town of Jose Rizal, Palawan, where he is literally breaking ground as a gentleman-farmer, bringing along, and sharing with the community, the technological and managerial savvy that made him a successful businessman.
Of course, this piece cannot be only about personalities. As my phenomenologist-philosopher friends would have it, one should strive to end his ruminations with a “transcendental reflection”. But there is actually something truly transcendental in the Magsaysay legacy: it is to him that we owe what, perhaps, to many, would be the best definition of “social justice”: “He who has less in life should have more in law” (Magsaysay Credo).
Our 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions all mandate the promotion of Social Justice, but without giving any definition. Of course Social Justice is now generally understood to be a more secular restatement of the “preferential option for the poor” of Catholic Social Doctrine; which, in turn, comes from our Lord‟s discourse on the “works of mercy” as criteria for the Last Judgment: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” ( Mt 25:40). As Father Bernas, echoing President Magsaysay, would put it, “social justice in the Constitution is principally the embodiment of the principle that those who have less in life should have more in law. It commands a legal bias in favor of those who are underprivileged.” (Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., The 1987 Constitution, 1996 ed., p. 1059)
My generation of law students caught the tail-end of a trend which required freshmen to recite from memory a long-winded definition from the 1940 Supreme Court decision in Calalang v. Williams (70 Phil. 734). In that controversy, the petitioner questioned the validity of a regulation banning animal-drawn carriages (calesas) from certain streets in Manila. Among others, the issue of its being contrary to the Social Justice provision of the 1935 Constitution was raised.
Upholding the validity of the regulation, the Court said: “Social justice is „neither communism, nor despotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy,‟ but the Humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated. Social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the Government of measures calculated to insure economic stability of all the component elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est suprema lex.”
Thanks to President Ramon Magsaysay, today’s law students no longer have to suffer indigestion from the Calalang definition of Social Justice. (24.IX.2018)