Paulino Gul­las, My Un­cle

The Freeman - - OPINION -

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.

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