Salvador H. Laurel

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Salvador H. Laurel

Salvador H. Laurel (born 1928) was a leading member of the Philippine Congress, where he championed legal aid assistance for the poor for many years. He led the opposition to President Marcos during the years of martial law and served as vice-president of the Philippines under Corazon Aquino. However, he later broke with Aquino and lost a bid to replace her as president.

Salvador H. Laurel was born in Paco, Manila, the Philippines, on November 18, 1928. His parents were Jose P. Laurel, former president of the Philippines, and Paciencia Hidalgo. Both his parents came from Tanauan, Batangas, south of Manila.

Laurel went to the best schools in the Philippines and in the United States. In grade school he attended Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit-run institution; for high school he went to De La Salle College, another well-known Catholic school. He then proceeded to the University of the Philippines for pre-medicine and pre-law studies and received the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1952. He finished his Master of Laws and Doctor of Juridical Science at Yale University.

Doy, as he was more popularly known, distinguished himself in his legal career. He authored and edited several publications on the subject of law, among which was the seven-volume Proceedings of the Philippine Constitutional Convention, 1934-35, published in 1970. As a professor of labor law and jurisprudence at the Lyceum of the Philippines, a school founded by his family, he published several articles in the school's Law Review on penal and labor policies.

As a lawyer committed to helping indigents who found themselves litigants in court cases, Laurel organized the Citizens Legal Aid Society of the Philippines (CLASP), which inspired the creation of similar such organizations there and elsewhere. For the creation of CLASP, he was cited as Most Outstanding Legal Aid Lawyer of the World in 1976 by the International Bar Association. He also received the Lawyer of the Year award from the Justice and Court Reporters Association of the Philippines in 1977.

Doy carried on the political tradition in the family begun by his father, who was a longtime congressman and speaker of the House of Representatives. He won a seat in the Philippine Senate in 1967 and kept his post until the declaration of martial law in 1972 when Congress was shut down by President Marcos. As a senator, he authored five "Justice for the Poor" laws intended to reduce the legal expenses of those who could not afford it. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice, as well as of three other standing committees. While a senator, he added special reports to his list of publications, the foremost of which was the Laurel Report on Penal Reforms in 1969. For these accomplishments he was consistently cited as one of the outstanding senators of the Philippines.

Laurel also served the Philippine government as representative to the United Nations General Assembly from 1968 to 1970. As a lawyer-businessman, he continued as chairman of the CLASP and as president and director of various business enterprises, including Dorel Corporation and the Philippine Banking Corporation.

When President Marcos called for elections for assemblymen of the Batasang Pambansa, the unicameral legislature under martial law, Doy Laurel ran and won. While there, he delivered several speeches assailing misconduct in the Marcos government.

He subsequently founded the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO), which served as effective opposition to the president's ruling party, the Kilusan ng Bagong Lipunan (KBL). In the Batasan election of 1984 UNIDO was able to get several candidates elected. With other opposition factions, UNIDO served as critic of the Marcos regime in the halls of the weak legislature.

Opposition to the one-man rule of President Marcos grew from 1983 upon the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino on his return to Manila from self-exile in the United States. In late 1985, Marcos acceded to strong domestic and international pressure to call for snap elections, still confident of his victory. Doy Laurel ran for president under the UNIDO banner. However, on the deadline for the filing of candidacy he forged a unity with Corazon Aquino's LABAN Party and agreed to run as her vice-president.

The February 1986 elections were marred by violence and fraud. Marcos was declared winner by the Batasan, amidst protests from the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL). In the military, a faction led by the defense minister Juan Ponce Enril and the deputy chief of staff Fidel Ramos revolted. People flocked to the streets, surrounding the military camp to prevent reprisals from government troops. The people forestalled an armed battle. Marcos, the long-time dictator, fled to Hawaii. The UNIDO-LABAN team of Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel became president and vice-president of the Philippines, respectively. A new constitution was drafted and submitted to the voters for ratification February 2, 1987.

A split soon developed between Corazon Aquino and her vice-president. In February of 1989 Laurel visited Marcos, then in exile in Hawaii, and requested that the ill former president be allowed to return home. This request contradicted the policy of Aquino and the rest of the government, which demanded Marcos pay back the many millions of dollars that he was accused of stealing from the Phillipine people before he could return. In early December, a coup was attempted against President Aquino while Laurel was out of the country, but failed owing to the loyalty of most of the military to the president. Laurel was bitterly attacked by Aquino for refusing to condemn the coup leaders and allegedly saying they had a "right" to their actions. The President accused Laurel of being part of the rebellion, an accusation he denied. In 1992 Laurel ran for president on the Nacionalista Party to succeed Aquino, but finished fourth. He was appointed by the eventual winner, Fidel Ramos, as Chairman of the Phillipine Centennial Commission to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Phillipines in 1998.

Further Reading

Biographical information on Laurel can be found in The Philippine Who's Who (Manila, 1957). Books by Laurel include: Laurel Report on Penal Reforms: The State of Philippine Penal Institutions and Penology (1969) and This Land Is Mine: A Primer on the New Land Reform Code (Manila, 1972). Articles and reports written by Laurel include: "The Socio-Legal Determinants of Philippine Labor Policy," in Lyceum Law Review (August 1961) and Laurel Report: Central Luzon (Manila, 1971). Articles about Laurel include "Doy Laurel's War on Two Fronts," in Philippine Panorama (February 12, 1984), and Aida Mendoza, "Justice for a Widow," featuring a case handled by Laurel, Woman's Home Companion (May 9, 1974). Reports about the increasing tension between Laurel and President Aquino are in "Aquino VP Ask Sympathy for Ailing Marcos," New York Times (February 4th, 1989), "Rebels 'Have Right' to Act," Los Angeles Times (December 3rd, 1989), and "Aquino Accuses Three of Leading Rebels," by David Sanger, New York Times (December 9th, 1989). Election results are available in "Front Runners Are Nip and Tuck as Phillipine Results Trickle In," by Philip Shenon, New York Times (May 12th, 1992). □