by ALEX P. VIDAL
“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” - GEORGE EDWARD WOODBERRY
Missing in the pages of our history books was the political exploits of former Supreme Court Justice Raymundo Melliza of Iloilo who ran and lost for vice president of the Philippines to Sergio Osmena of Cebu in the 1935 presidential elections.
Melliza’s (was he related to our colleague, Atty. Teopisto Melliza?) forte was not actually politics. He was an outstanding jurist and civic leader who only rose to national prominence after being handpicked by the comebacking but fading Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite to be his runningmate.
Aguinaldo, who was supposed to retire from politics and preserve his legacy as the youngest pre-world war and first Revolution president, battled and lost to Manuel L. Quezon for Commonwealth presidency, one of the most critical but lopsided presidential races in Philippine history.
Aguinaldo was joined in his obsession to topple Quezon by Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, who also decided to run for president. The result of presidential contest then was like the result of a gubernatorial race today where the winner did not breach the one-million vote barrier. Quezon was runaway winner with 693,332 votes or 67 percent, followed by Aguinaldo with 179,349 votes or 17 percent. Aglipay, 70, wound up third with 148,010 votes or 14 percent. A certain Racuyal, who can be considered today as “nuisance” candidate, finished fourth with 157 votes.
After his resounding defeat to Osmena, who garnered 812,352 votes or 86 percent as against Melliza’s 70,899 votes or 7 percent, Melliza disappeared from the country’s political radar and did not attempt to run anew for a higher position unlike the other political warriors in history who managed to stage a dramatic comeback after failing in their first bid.
Melliza, a pride of the Ilonggos like Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Frank Drilon today, would have been a great president or vice president had he decided to stay put in politics and tried his luck in the succeeding elections. His embarrassing loss to Osmena must have discouraged him from seeking another public office.
His tormentor, Osmena, became the oldest president to hold office at 65 after Quezon’s death in 1944, and the first Visayan to become president of the Philippines. He founded the Nacionalist Party which produced another president, Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1965.
We have many Raymundo Mellizas today who are contemplating on retiring from politics for good after absorbing a gut-wrenching loss in the recent midterm elections. For these leaders, a single defeat means it’s already their final defeat; thus their chances to figure prominently in history pages in the future are buried together with their “no mas, no mas” attitude.
Roger Knapp reminded us of the “never-say-die” attitude of one titanic name in world politics, Abraham Lincoln, who led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crises—the American Civil War.
Had he quit after eight successive electoral defeats, Lincoln would have failed to make his mark in history as the first president to preserve the Union, abolish slavery, strengthen the national government and modernized the economy.
Lincoln was probably the greatest example of persistence. Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. Aside from losing eight elections, he twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.
He could have quit many times but he didn’t and because he didn’t quit, he became one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. Lincoln was a champion and he never gave up. Here is a sketch of Lincoln’s road to the White House as Knapp recalled: 1816 his family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them; 1818 his mother died; 1831 failed in business; 1832 ran for state legislature and lost; 1832 also lost his job and wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in; 1833 borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt; 1834 ran for state legislature again and won.
1835 was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken; 1836 had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months; 1838 sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was defeated; 1840 sought to become elector and defeated; 1843 ran for Congress and lost; 1846 ran for Congress again and this time he won. He went to Washington and did a good job; 1848 ran for re-election to Congress and lost; 1849 sought the job of land officer in his home state and was rejected; 1854 ran for Senate of the United States and lost; 1856 sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention and got less than 100 votes; 1858 ran for U.S. Senate again and again he lost; and 1860 elected president of the United States. /MP