Paulino Gullas, My Uncle
Even I knew very little of my uncle, the younger and only brother of my father, who founded the The Freeman newspaper in 1919. Who was Paulino Gullas?
From a few old documents, research studies, and stories gathered and passed on to us from our own family as well as people who knew him personally, I learned that Tio Paul was a brilliant man. He was a lawyer of high standing, well-respected in legal and political circles and in the whole community.
He initially took up Engineering at the University of the Philippines, in Diliman, as one of the pioneering students of the state university’s College of Engineering. He didn’t stay long in that course, though. He shifted to Law, which later proved to be a wise decision – he topped the bar exams in 1916, with a rating that would be surpassed only more than two decades later.
Soon he would enter politics as a representative in the Seventh Philippine Legislature, while the country was under the sovereign control of the United States, from 1925 to 1928. He was then appointed by Assemblyman Hilario Abellana to represent Cebu in the 1934 Constitutional Convention.
When Tagalog became the National Language of the Philippines on December 30, 1939, my Uncle was one of the most vocal opponents against the move. He argued that there are more Visayan-speaking people in the country than Tagalogs. It was under his initiative that Cebuano was presented as an alternative national language.
During one convention of the Nacionalista Party, of which he was a member, my uncle opposed the move to amend the Constitution to allow the President to seek reelection and have the presidential tenure changed from one six-year period to two four-year periods, among others. The sitting President at the time was President Manuel Quezon. With his stand,
Tio Paul risked being ejected from the party. Fortunately for him, party officials moved too late in calling for his ouster, as his membership credentials as a Nacionalista were already signed.
This speech of Tio Paul is in the archives of the Philippine Free Press, and was described as the key speech during deliberations on the proposed constitutional amendment. It received a “flutter of applause” from the minority that was against the reelection amendment.
“This is a free country; I shall speak and vote as a free man. This resolution permitting the reelection of the President with a shorter term, with retroactive effect, is couched in general terms. The purpose is clear.
“This resolution is indeed a tribute to the leadership of President Quezon. I have voted for that leadership. I am following that leadership. But I shall vote against the resolution; for, in principle, I voted against it on the floor of the Constitutional Convention; because the constitutional precept prohibiting a presidential reelection was inspired by President Quezon, and the Constitution containing such prohibition was unanimously approved by the Convention and overwhelmingly ratified by the Filipino people. I am voting against the resolution because I wish to be consistent with myself….
“Only a few days ago, a straw vote conducted by the Free Press, a non-partisan and widely read weekly in the Philippines, was concluded. The result was against reelection. Of course, it is not an absolute indication of how the public will vote. But it clearly shows which way the wind blows. It is a barometer of the sentiment of the people. Like a finger on the pulse, it counted, as it were, the heartbeats of the nation.
“If it is not sufficient, two months ago, a debating team from the University of the Philippines
It was this same highly principled, eloquent man who founded The Freeman.
I believe The Freeman is my uncle’s most lasting and tangible contribution. His colorful, albeit short-lived political career may fade into oblivion; but as long as The Freeman exists, his memory lives on.
Inspired by the little that I knew of my uncle, and after seeking the approval of his wife, Tia Gilda, and my father, I revived The Freeman in 1965, to continue and honor Tio Paul’s legacy.
To this day, however, nothing is known of what happened to Atty. Paulino Gullas. The last time his wife saw him was when he was picked up by a group of Japanese men towards the end of the Second World War. He was never seen again.