of Dr. Salvador Araneta
ON JULY 1, 1908, US President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Gregorio Araneta as the First Filipino Secretary of Finance and Justice.
It was the first time a commissionership with a portfolio was given to a Filipino. At that time, the Americans did not believe that a Filipino was capable of understanding and solving problems of finance, but Araneta changed that perception.
How did a boy of modest means achieve this stature?
At age 11, Gregorio Araneta left Molo, Iloilo, where he was born, to venture alone to Manila to further his studies. His father Felix was not a member of the landed gentry. Having 17 children, it was said the he had more children than money.
The lack of money served as a challenge. Away from home, away from parents and siblings, Araneta learned self-discipline, humility and loyalty in an austere setting. He never forgot his family, nor did they. Araneta graduated from the Ateneo with grades that rivaled those made earlier by Jose Rizal and later by Claro M. Recto. He then enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas as a law student. He excelled in all his subjects there.
Araneta found a job quickly. He was employed by the most prestigious law firm in Manila headed by Jose Juan de Ycaza.
Araneta became involved with the revolutionary activities of Aguinaldo when he was defending the case of Don Francisco Roxas, as well as that of Ambrosio Salvador.
However, hell hath no fury than friars scorned! With the government controlled by the friars, justice could not be served.
Araneta became a member of the revolutionary cabinet of Aguinaldo on Sept. 28, 1898. During the Malolos Congress, Araneta was elected first Secretary and was one of those who were tasked to draft the Constitution. By this time, Araneta was considered a wealthy man which became a liability during the struggle of power that ensued between the illustrados and the katipuneros.
As Secretary of Justice, Araneta was able to extend his influence to protect the Filipino clergy from efforts by Mabini to force the local clergy to break away from the authority of the Spanish bishops and form a national church.
On Jan. 1, 1899 Apolinario Mabini reorganized the government and the office of the Secretary of Justice was abolished.
Disillusioned and disheartened by the intramurals among those working in the Malolos government, Araneta crossed over to the American lines and worked for the Americans to prove that the capacity of the Filipino was no less than those belonging to the Anglo Saxons.
He did just that! The Americans offered him the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court twice. Twice he turned it down.
The first time, Araneta gave way to Justice Araullo because he felt that Araullo deserved the position because of Araullo’s seniority. Once again, Araneta was offered the position, but he turned it down because of delicadeza. Araneta would not have even a speck or hint of impropriety dim the brilliant light that he had set aflame.
Araneta chose honor before glory.
To his children, he left a legacy of leaving the Department of Justice and Finance with the recognition that during his incumbency, the judiciary earned the highest esteem of the Americans who doffed their hats saying, “The Philippine bench was even better than that of their own country.”
Araneta taught his children and his students to be passionate about justice, charity and stewardship. Araneta was a master in the art of advocacy. To him, what was important in life was not the possession of money but the command of ideas that shape destinies.
Araneta’s own rule of conduct was never to be disappointed or downhearted in the midst of the greatest adversaries. That was the secret of his success.
Strength and honor
One hundred Masses, the unveiling of a marker, the issuing of a postage stamp, the launching of books: these are the ways a nation will commemorate the birth centennial of Dr. Salvador Araneta, industrialist, intellectual, constitutionalist.
Few among the young will recall the stature of this man, or his contributions to the history of this country. He was that rare combination of a rich man with a social conscience; an entrepreneur who believed that Philippine industry must pull itself up by its boot straps; who put limitations on the creation and accumulation of wealth on the sound principle that wealth must be equitably shared and be used for purposes to benefit the whole and not just a few.
Araneta served President Ramon Magsaysay, just as he served the country as a delegate to the 1935 and 1971 Constitutional Conventions – deciding in the case of the latter to leave the country and exile himself when his country chose to meekly accept dictatorship and a sham Constitution passed by the convention to which he once belonged.
He was one of the prime movers of the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA), the father of the slogan “Buy Filipino”.
He was one of the founders of the Philippine Constitution Association when it represented an effort for constitutionalism devoid of personalism and a far more respected organization than it is today.
He was many things, but in his life he proved himself an exemplar of something sorely lacking, even then and much more so now, in members of his socioeconomic class and intellectual abilities: a man of vision and yet of common sense; a man of learning, dignity, wealth and yet of stubborn idealism and incorruptible honor. A man of principle in a land of moral cowards.
His wealth was used by him to establish colleges and universities for the poor; his economic abilities were channeled toward creating local industries that would keep the national wealth in the hands of Filipinos and give even more Filipinos permanent jobs.
He never allowed personal friendship to deter him from speaking his mind and following his conscience.
He was a rare man; a man with no illusions; a man of honor and strength.
The country does right to remember him today.
When Delicadeza, Integrity Ruled the Day
Years before the National Assembly was inaugurated, Filipinos had to prove their worth.
During the American occupation, Governor General William Howard Taft declared that Filipinos would have to wait a hundred years for that day. He had set three golden rules for the country’s emancipation: that Filipinos should no longer be ignorant, that they should be able to conduct a popular self-government with law and order, and equal rights for all and that they should genuinely desire complete independence. Only then would Filipinos be set free!
The absence of freedom brought about the hungry yearnings for justice and liberty, followed by the sacrifice of countless individuals who together have made our collective history replete with sacrifice and glorious deeds. As we look forward to another milestone in history, the inauguration of the National Assembly which took place on Oct. 16, 1907, the predecessor of today’s legislative bodies, we recall some outstanding members of the country’s judiciary during the beginning of the 20th century.
Araneta, for God and Country
Dr. Salvador Araneta lived “For God and Country.” In his youth and up to the winter of his life, he saw his fellow Filipinos as honest, hardworking, resilient, resourceful, and patriotic.
He knew his Bayanikasan would not be used soon, but he believed it would be, someday.
Together with him, we believe that everyone can rise up to take charge of one’s own destiny and not allow oneself to be relegated to indifference, acceptance and surrender of circumstances.
We can reach the days of glory for our nation. We can rise above the poverty of spirit that can easily dissuade us from taking charge.
Araneta taught his students to be the creator of circumstance, not the creation of circumstance.
Likewise Araneta said: “We need open minds and use creative solutions to interpret the Constitution and other problems. We must not look into the letter of the Constitution, but the Spirit of the great charter over which we must stand guard, to preserve its purity, integrity and democracy.”
For today’s problems we should have a gathering of brilliant minds that possess integrity and have proven their ability to serve the country, not as politicians but as ordinary citizens.
Another constitutional expert and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1987, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. wrote in his column published July 11, 2005 that we could make use of extra constitutional measures to solve problems with regards to Constitutional amendments or reforms.
Fr. Bernas further explained that extra constitutional measures are those, that while they are not provided for in the Constitution, neither are they prohibited under the 1987 Constitution.
In closing, Dr. Salvador Araneta was co-founder of the Holy Rosary Crusade in the Philippines of Fr. Patrick Peyton in 1945, and of the Friends of the Lepers in 1948.
He was a member of the Legion of Mary and he was a Carmelite Tertiary.
He was a member of the Moral Rearmament Movement, of the Knights of Rizal, the Knights of St. Sylvester, and a Knight of the Grand Cross and Lieutenant of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
For all these, our Lady chose to take him on the Feast of the Holy Rosary in 1982.
Dr. Salvador Araneta, thought Filipino, bought Filipino, fought for the Filipino, lived and died, a Filipino. For all these and more – Mabuhay ang Pilipino! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!