“It was the best thing that happened because… ”

That Sorsogon Representative Salvador Escudero III was locked in a losing battle with cancer was never apparent in our exchange of phone messages starting August 3 when SIM requested this interview. The din in the background suggested he was in a crowded place. “I’m in the market, actually,” chirped the man whom we know for his unassuming ways.  Unlike other public officials with their ostentatious ways, Escudero lived in a modest bungalow in Sanville, Quezon City.

Six days later, on August 9, he sent an SMS saying his wife Evelina would e-mail his answers to our questions.  Noontime of August 12, we learned that Escudero had died in his sleep. He was 69.

Described as one of the most hardworking congressmen in the land, the Sorsogon representative was low-key unto death in all aspects of his life, except maybe in his unabashed and unflinching admiration for President Marcos.

“The greatest president the country ever had,” he would often say of his former boss who appointed him Agriculture minister in 1984.  In several interviews, he would haul out clippings and photos of him and Marcos, and proudly wear his signature red, white and blue Bagong Lipunan polo shirt.

But Escudero was not blind to the excesses of the Marcos regime and registered his disappointments in the New Society beginning in 1975, though his deep admiration for Apo Marcos never wavered.  To the end, he wanted only the best for the martial law president. Last year, he authored House Bill 1134 urging President Aquino to allow Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He was rebuffed.

In this SIM interview, Escudero explains in his own words why he continues to view the martial law years through rose-tinted glasses.  The perception may be skewed, but the sentiment was definitely sincere and heartfelt.

SIM: What was your political affiliation or involvement when martial law (ML) was declared?

Salvador Escudero (SE): I was Dean of the UP College of Veterinary Medicine and concurrently Director of the Bureau of Animal Industry.

SIM: Did you anticipate or expect Marcos to declare ML? How much did you know about ML before it was declared?

SE: No, I did not anticipate it. I knew nothing about it.

SIM: What was your first reaction and course of action?

SE: I was on a trip from Bicol, and when I heard the news about ML declaration, I threw the gun I was carrying. I was afraid I would be caught bringing a gun.

SIM: What do you think were Marcos’ motives or intentions when he declared ML? Was ML justified?

SE: I do not know FM’s motives when ML was declared.  But I think it was justified at that time.

SIM: What were your expectations? Did reality conform with these expectations?

SE: Up to 1975, my expectations conformed with the realities.

SIM:  How has ML affected you personally? Did it change your political path and beliefs?

SE:  Personally, the effects of ML have been positive and did not change any of my political paths and beliefs.

SIM: Some say ML was the best thing that happened to the Philippines. Others call it the darkest period in our history. Which is true, in your opinion?

SE: I think ML was the best thing that happened because Filipinos learned to be disciplined and orderly.

SIM: How should Marcos and ML be judged by history?

SE:  Up to 1975, it was ideal.  Even up to now, the effects of ML are still around.

SIM: Can you tell us your favorite ML anecdote/story?

SE: During this period, I was able to personally see President Marcos up close making historical decisions.

SIM: Any ML personality you can’t forget or forgive?  Which ML figure do you most admire or detest?

SE: I can’t forget President Marcos because I admire his decisiveness and far-reaching vision to make the Philippines an economic tiger in Asia.

SIM:  How do you choose to remember this era?

SE: I will remember all the positive aspects of martial law. Fe B. Zamora

Original article is published on September 1, 2012.

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