Sabah Issue: Araneta and Sumulong, “Men of Consequence”
Politicians and scholars still relied on Dr. Salvador Araneta’s legal mind, even after leaving public office. The Weekly Nation (Oct. 14, 1968) featured him and former senator Lorenzo Sumulong on their views on the Sabah Issue.
The question of getting back Sabah had been floating around in some circles. Both Araneta and Sumulong were against reclaiming Sabah.
Sumulong was then of the opinion that all views should be heard. Sumulong and Araneta were chosen because both were “men of consequence.”
While a great majority was for pursuing the claim, these “two citizens of known probity” chose to show their dissent and alarm.
Araneta asked: “Should we allow a Philippine joke to become a Philippine tragedy because we are guided by our emotions and not by reason? In the end, we shall realize that our claim to sovereignty rights is illusory and will never be accomplished.”
He warned that we should not go and join the conspiracy of silence and all those who should, have to speak out our minds.
Aside from legalities, Araneta pointed out that we should keep our house in order first. He cited the following problems besetting the country: poverty, unemployment, peace and order, graft and corruption, foreign exchange crisis, juvenile delinquencies, labor unrest, unbalanced budget and subversion in Central Luzon.
“Do we want to compound this with subversion in Mindanao?” he asked.
For Senator Sumulong, “Sovereignty belongs to states, not to private individuals, if at all, the entire territory of Sabah will be claimed by the heirs of Sabah and not as a part of Philippine territory.”
The Sabah Act (Tolentino-Barbers Act) is more of a reaction to the embarrassment caused by Malaysia in Bangkok. And it was Max Soliven, then Manila Times columnist, who referred to Sabah as a Filipino joke.
Araneta further asked, “Is the Philippines ready to be federated with Sabah? Sabah was already an autonomous state within the Federation of Malaysia. Will the Sabah people consent? For that matter, would the Philippines and Sabah be ready to be a federation with other countries like a Pan-Malayan Federation?”
Araneta Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Araneta was relevant yesterday, and remains relevant today and will be relevant tomorrow.
Dean Alejandro Lichauco wrote on his introduction to Araneta’s book, “Economic Re-Examination of the Philippines, a review of Policies Dictated by Washington”, that Araneta tackled problems plaguing the country,like poverty, unemployment, underdevelopment, and he raised awareness by recommending the tools to overcome them.
In 1964, Araneta recommended that special sessions be called by President Diosdado Macapagal to take up the following matters. The following are the bold measures he said must be taken up decisively:
- An Omnibus Tariff Act to correct our colonial tariff system with duties in many instances higher on raw materials than on finished products;
- An Investment Incentives Act to encourage investment in Key Self Generating Industries specifying the areas where foreign capital will be welcomed and only in joint ventures;
- An Act to define the forest policy, provide its implementation, and promote reforestation by private initiative;
- An Act to encourage new exports;
- A realistic regional Minimum Wage Law patterned after that of France;
- An Act to provide liberal credit for the construction by private initiative of low-cost houses;
- An Act to encourage savings and to promote capitalism for all;
- An Act to promote local initiative by the grant of greater powers to local governments; and
- An act to provide incentives so that landlords will voluntarily subdivide their lands to their tenants.
It was also at that time that Araneta sought charter amendments to reform the Presidency to a Presidential term of six years without reelection, to reform Congress, particularly “to place road blocks to the march of the professional lifelong politicians.” (To be continued/PN)