The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Congressman and Senator

Majority Floor Leader

Although the November 1953 election had been fought fairly it had not been without incident. Nanang and his brothers campaigned hard for Arturo and as they did, so they became aware of his tenacity and fearlessness in the face of the opposition.

Shortly after his re-election as Congressman Arturo M. Tolentino was given the position of Majority Floor Leader, a position he has to hold until he entered the Senate four years later and one which, though less glamorous than that of Speaker, he preferred and enjoyed.

This was a very senior position for such a young man and inexperienced politician. But my father’s reputation of toughness had earned him the respect of President Magsaysay. As he took his seat in the House of Representatives that day he glowered at the assembled members and said, “I warn you gentlemen, I was once a champion wrestler and weightlifter!”

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The duties and responsibilities of Majority Floor Leader and the reason Arturo M. Tolentino’s selection was neatly explained in an article by Manuel Martinez in “Tempo” October 7, 1983.

“Tolentino was often involved in great intellectual battles and feared for his parliamentary prowess. That is why he was elected floor leader at a very young age.

In legislation, the majority floor leader, not the Speaker or the presiding officer, is the key man around whom the parliamentary process revolves. The majority floor leader is the lightning rod, the clearing house, the yeoman and work-horse and spark-plug, the whipping boy if he does not watch out, the beast of burden, and center of attention. Only the tough are chosen as floor leaders.

And so Tolentino discharged his function with awesome skill. And so it came to pass that there was born a saying, given as wise advice to newcomers to the House and later the Senate, where he was floor leader! ‘Neophytes should observe two things above all. First they should learn parliamentary rules by heart. Second, they should pray not to tangle with Tolentino in a floor debate!”

It was not my father’s intention to run for the Senate. He was confident of re-election as Congressman, had already been nominated by his party for Manila and already started his campaigning when he was nominated for the Senate.

He left the decision to his party leaders because he was unsure of which route to choose. The party leaders agreed to allow him to accept the Senate nomination.

Many of the candidates were asked to make financial contribution for their campaign expense. My father did not have sufficient funds. He remembered when I asked him how he managed this financial difficulties.

He said:

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"I have never forgotten the generosity of Senator Oscar Ledesma who paid my contribution and will always be grateful to him. As a sign of my appreciation, I saw to it that I was with him during the division of candidates into campaign teams and strongly endorsed his policies in my speeches.”

The Nationalista party had a strong Senatorial ticket. In fact, the only casualty that might occur was thought by some leaders to be my father. Their concern turned out to be unnecessary for when the returns came in, Arturo M. Tolentino was second behind Gil Puyat.

“Where did you get all these votes?” Amang Rodriguez, the party president asked him.

“I have a secret army,” my father replied laughingly. “All over the country there are thousands of lawyers who were once my student and thousands of high school graduates who studied my text books.”