‘Bind up the nation’s wounds’; some possible surprises


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

Manila Bulletin’s editorial last May 10 fittingly cited what then president-elect Fidel V. Ramos did in 1992.
The editorial wrote: “Recalling the country’s experience in the aftermath of the 1992 national elections – or exactly 30 years ago – offers valuable insights. After winning only less than 24 percent of total votes cast and leading his next two closest opponents by slim margins, President Fidel V. Ramos reached out and built a broader coalition of active support for his administration’s priorities.”

We know this by heart for as one of then candidate Ramos’ close advisers, we formulated this initiative. We served as FVR’s envoy in arranging meetings with his opponents in the presidential race. These meetings, which we called “amity talks,” were held in our home then in Dasmarinas Village in Makati.

Ramos’ rivals who met with him in our residence were Vice President Salvador Laurel of the NP, Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco of the NPC, and former First Lady Imelda Marcos of the KBL.

We also accompanied Ramos in meeting separately with another presidential contender Senate President Jovito Salonga of the LP as well as with some of our nation’s leading figures who opposed his candidacy, including Executive Minister Erano Manalo of the Iglesia Ni Cristo who supported Cojuangco, and Jaime Cardinal Sin who opposed Ramos.

In the case of Speaker Ramon Mitra of the LDP, we had a one-on-one parley with him in his Makati residence. However, our efforts to meet with Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the PRP did not materialize.
Also in 1992, the political landscape was altered by the emergence of multiparty system. Ramos, who got 24 percent of the national vote, was a minority president. And so no single political party dominated Congress with an outright majority.

President Ramos, however, needed a Lakas-led governing coalition in Congress to shape the national agenda and push his legislative reform package.

Surveying the political factors, we put together what we called a “power-sharing and burden-sharing formula” that led to an unprecedented grand coalition of political parties in Congress, called the “Rainbow Coalition.”

The Rainbow Coalition passed 228 reform laws in legislative-executive partnership that produced an economic miracle for the Philippines in the early 1990s.

In the aftermath of the 1998 presidential elections, which we contested with nine others and where we landed second to Vice President Joseph Estrada, when it became apparent that Estrada’s lead over us was insurmountable, we phoned him to congratulate him on his victory.

As then Speaker of the House of Representatives, together with then Senate President Neptali Gonzales, we also expedited the canvass of the election results to put an end to dangerous speculations then of a no-proclamation scenario before June 30, 1998.

And in a triumph of constitutional succession, we and Senate President Gonzales raised Estrada’s hand as the president-elect of the Philippines.

We write about these in hopes of providing historical insights to our political leaders and our countrymen.
Meanwhile, today, the Filipino people have spoken about the 2022 presidential elections. They chose former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to lead our nation for the next six years.

We know that emotions are still high, following the highly-divisive elections. We hope, however, that we could put aside our political differences and work together for the sake of our country and the Filipino people, especially in the midst of challenges besetting the Philippines and the global community. After all, we belong to one country and share a common destiny.

As have been pointed out, some of our most pressing concerns are the post Covid-19 recovery, the P13-trillion foreign and domestic borrowings incurred due to the pandemic, territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea, and the distant but adverse effects of the war in Ukraine.

We suggested in our column last Sunday, May 8, which we wish to reiterate: that our next president, now former Senator Bongbong Marcos, should reach out to his political opponents, especially those who also contested the presidential race, to immediately begin the process of national healing and reconciliation.
We said previously and we say again now that it will be difficult for our next president to carry out his economic, political and social agenda under a deeply polarized nation, so the first crucial step is to “bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Recruiting in his administration “the best and the brightest” from our political parties, civil society, business, academe, and other sectors of our country should also be accorded serious consideration for Marcos ran under the banner of “unity,” which greatly contributed in catapulting him to Malacanang.
It was a great achievement for the widow, Leni Robredo, to defeat Marcos in the battle for the vice presidency six years ago.

Now, both will make history if after an interval, he names her Ambassador to the United Nations and she accepts in a tribute to Philippine womanhood.