With Cory Aquino bent on running for president despite Laurel’s presidential candidacy, the opposition was doomed. Marcos was certain to win in a three-way fight.
In the middle of December 1985, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin urged Laurel to give way to Aquino. To save the cause of the political opposition which he worked hard to unify and organize,
Laurel relented and agreed to settle for the vice presidency, if Aquino agreed to run for president under the UNIDO. Aquino reluctantly agreed and, upon the urging of Laurel, the UNIDO gave its full support for Aquino’s candidacy. In turn, Aquino promised to Laurel that she will stay as president only for two years, and eventually resign in favor of Laurel, and that about half of her Cabinet will be Laurel’s recommendees.
Mrs. Aquino wrote her promise on a piece of paper and gave it to Laurel, with the promise that she will replace the document with a formal one after the next day. Doy’s elder brother, Assemblyman Jose B. Laurel, Jr., who was present, said that the Laurels do not need a formal document because the word of the widow of their fraternity brother, Ninoy Aquino, was enough for them.
Ninoy Aquino and Doy Laurel were fraternity brothers in the Upsilon Sigma Phi in UP. Laurel joined the fraternity in 1947, and he invited Aquino to follow suit in 1950. President Marcos, Speaker Laurel, Speaker Yñiguez, Senate President Puyat, Assemblyman Tolentino, Senator Roxas, UP president Lopez, Joker Arroyo, Philippine Bar Association president Eduardo Hernandez, and public interest advocate Louis Biraogo are likewise members of the Upsilon.
With Laurel and Aquino in agreement, the election was now between the Aquino-Laurel team of the UNIDO and the KBL tandem of Ferdinand Marcos and Arturo Tolentino.
There were, however, ambitious politicians waiting in the wings. Former Senator Jovito Salonga, who was abroad for the bulk of the martial law years and whose presidential ambitions were aborted by martial law, was back in the country, and he announced that he was running for vice president. Salonga eventually withdrew because he had no election machinery to support him.
When news of the Aquino-Laurel team-up broke out, some of the petitioners who questioned the special election in the Supreme Court withdrew their petitions. Eventually, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the special election, but the reasons cited by the tribunal were sketchy and specious.
The Aquino-Laurel tie-up created a rift between Laurel and Kalaw. The latter expected to be the UNIDO’s vice presidential candidate, but with Laurel now running for vice president, Kalaw was expected to yield. At first, Kalaw relented, but upon the advice of her lawyers, Kalaw decided to be a third-party candidate for vice president.
Eventually, the Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Marcos and Tolentino the winners of the polls. Voters in Metropolitan Manila, however, protested.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos launched a mutiny. When their coup failed, Enrile and Ramos holed up at Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame and declared their opposition to President Marcos. Upon learning of this development, Cardinal Sin urged the people to surround the two camps to protect the mutineers. Thousands answered the call, not entirely out of patriotism but mostly out of curiosity and entertainment.
The AFP chief of staff, General Fabian Ver, urged Marcos to order an all-out attack against the camps by military forces loyal to the government. Marcos refused to do so, and preferred to relinquish power rather than order an attack against his countrymen.
When troops loyal to the government started joining the rebels, and after Marcos left Malacañang. Aquino seized power in what is now called the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Upon seizing power, Aquino declared a revolutionary government. After appointing Laurel prime minister, Aquino abolished the position. She did, however, appoint Laurel her Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Soon enough, the news media began exposing corruption among Aquino’s relatives. One famous journalist called Aquino’s relatives Kamag-anak Inc. Even her famed Presidential Commission on Good Government was repeatedly accused of corruption.
The military establishment that installed Aquino in office began mounting several coup attempts against her. A protest at Mendiola organized by farmers ended up in a massacre. Aquino comported herself as an icon of press freedom but she sued veteran journalists Maximo Soliven and Luis Beltran for libel. Despite her call for genuine agrarian reform, Aquino practically exempted her Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the program.
As the Aquino presidency dragged on, Laurel was systematically marginalized and ignored by Aquino and her minions in Malacañang. When Laurel protested to Aquino privately, Aquino declared that according to her lawyers, the Edsa Revolution erased all her political promises, including those which she made to Laurel. This compelled Laurel to resign from the Cabinet, and to resume his role as an opposition leader.
Laurel made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1992, where he lost to Aquino’s anointed candidate, Fidel Ramos—Ninoy’s jailer during martial law.
When Laurel was asked if he regretted giving way to Aquino and, ultimately, losing his one big chance to become president, he said, “no sacrifice is too great for my country.”
Laurel’s last stint at public service was his chairmanship of the commission which marked the centennial of Philippine independence in 1998. Six years later in 2004, Laurel passed away virtually unheralded, at age 76. He is buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Though Laurel did not get to be president, his good name has become part of the political lexicon. During every presidential election, many candidates are asked to do a “Doy Laurel” and yield personal ambition for the sake of national interest and unity.
Upon learning of Laurel’s passing, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said, “He gave of himself so completely to the quest and helped recover freedom for the people, not by forwarding himself, but by volunteering to slay his own personal ambition.”
It’s time the historical record recognize the heroism of Doy Laurel, the greatest president this country never had.