Later on, President Marcos made it difficult for Doy Laurel to get included in the NP senatorial line up for 1967. It didn’t help Doy that the First Lady saw him as a potential troublemaker for the Marcos administration. Marcos even offered Doy the Justice Department portfolio, if Doy agreed not to run for senator. Laurel refused and he later got the party nod for his senatorial run. He placed fourth among eight winning senatorial candidates.
Laurel was a vigorous debater at the Senate, and he crossed party lines to support worthwhile legislation. As usual, President Marcos was displeased.
A rift between President Marcos and Speaker Laurel ultimately pushed the Laurel brothers to become staunch critics of the Marcos administration. Only Ninoy Aquino was more critical of the regime.
In 1971, student activists in the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman erected a barricade around the campus and declared their opposition to Marcos. In response, troops from the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command (PC-Metrocom) prepared to attack the campus.
When Senator Laurel and Senator Kalaw learned that PC-Metrocom troops planned to attack UP from its eastern gate, Laurel and Kalaw went to the campus and convinced the troops to hold back for the sake of sobriety. Although some PC-Metrocom operatives still entered the campus from other gates, the Laurel-Kalaw initiative gave then UP President Salvador P. Lopez time to negotiate with President Marcos for a peaceful dismantling of the barricades.
Unlike Ninoy Aquino, Doy Laurel was not among those arrested by the military in the aftermath of martial law in September 1972. Laurel, Roxas, Kalaw and two other senators from the political opposition tried to convene the Senate in January 1973 but Senate President Gil Puyat refused to cooperate. As a result, the 1973 Constitution overtook events.
Since the 1973 Constitution called for a unicameral legislature called the National Assembly, it was the 1973 Constitution, and not martial law, which abolished Congress. Anyway, the unconvened National
Assembly was replaced with the Batasang Pambansa in 1976.
In 1978, Marcos convinced Laurel to run for a seat in the Interim Batasang Pambansa as an NP candidate for the southern Tagalog region under the pro-administration political umbrella called the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). Laurel won but he was in for a disappointment—almost every member of the Batasan was a KBL man, and the sole “opposition party” in the assembly, the useless Pusyon Bisaya, was just for show.
In 1980, the Laurels left the KBL and reorganized the NP as a political opposition party. Under Assemblyman Doy Laurel, the NP won the gubernatorial races in Batangas and Misamis Oriental.
The NP victory in 1980 prompted Doy Laurel to organize the fragmented political opposition under one group—the United Democratic Opposition led by Jose Laurel Jr. from the NP and Gerry
Roxas from the LP. Later, the group was renamed the United Nationalist Democratic Organization or UNIDO. After Roxas passed away in 1982, Doy Laurel was installed as its undisputed leader.
On Aug. 21, 1983, Doy Laurel organized a mammoth crowd to welcome Ninoy Aquino at the Manila International Airport. Sadly, Ninoy was assassinated upon his arrival at the airport.
Laurel tried to denounce the assassination in a privilege speech at the Batasan, but the assembly refused to let him do so. In disgust, he resigned from the Batasan to focus his attention to unifying the opposition.
Ninoy’s assassination made Doy Laurel the visible leader of the opposition. He was also its logical leader because everyone who knew Philippine politics was aware that Marcos owed a debt of gratitude to the Laurels. Moreover, Laurel was incorruptible, and the fact that he chose to oppose Marcos rather than join his administration—Laurel could have had any post he wanted from Marcos, and could have been the heir apparent to the strongman —confirmed it.
When Laurel was asked why he willingly risked his life and the safety of his family each time he spoke against martial law, he replied, “during times of national crisis, it is better to be silenced than to be silent.”
Together with Kalaw, Laurel united political opposition groups in the country under the UNIDO for the 1984 Batasan elections. Only Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tañada and Joker Arroyo opted to boycott the polls.
Despite the odds, the UNIDO won one-third of the Batasan seats. This victory confirmed Laurel was ready to run against Marcos if the latter called for a surprise presidential and vice presidential election.
In June 1985, the UNIDO proclaimed Laurel its candidate for president at the party’s national convention at the Araneta Coliseum—the biggest indoor political gathering in Philippine history. It was clear that Laurel was ready to run against Marcos, even on short notice.
Laurel was authorized by the UNIDO to select his running mate for vice president. Manila Assemblywoman Eva Estrada Kalaw, who won in the 1984 Batasan polls, was the likely choice.
In November 1985, President Marcos called for a special election for Feb. 7, 1986—about a year and a half before the expiration of his current term. To warrant the special election, Marcos submitted to Batasan Speaker Nicanor Yñiguez a letter where he announced his “resignation,” and his decision to continue discharging the powers of the presidency until his “successor” shall have been elected. In view of that “resignation,” the Batasang Pambansa paved the way for this “snap election.”
Several petitions were filed in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the snap election on the ground that there is no vacancy in the presidency to warrant the special poll. Among the petitioners were Philippine Bar Association Eduardo Hernandez, and public interest advocate Louis Biraogo.
Despite those petitions, Laurel was determined to run against Marcos. To Laurel’s surprise, Ninoy’s widow, Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, decided to run for president, too. Since Aquino had no campaign machinery, many saw her as a nuisance candidate who will divide the votes of the opposition.
Doy Laurel asked Aquino to run for vice president under UNIDO to avoid dividing the votes of the opposition. To Laurel’s disappointment, Cory insisted on running for president. To be continued