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The Life and Times of Emmanuel Pelaez Nelson Navarro

Published: 31/12/2009 - Filed under: Features » Archive » 2010 » January/February 2010 » Great Reads » Features » Great Reads »

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This 22-year political biography of a former Philippine vice-president is instructive because it is not just the story of a life. It is also a recounting of the tumults of post-war Philippine politics. The life and times of Emmanuel Pelaez are set against the backdrop of feudal patronage and the violence woven into the fabric of Philippine society. This book helps explain the periodic outbreaks of violence that have wracked the country, such as in the massacre of close to 60 people in Maguindanao province last November.

Pelaez was a preternaturally talented farm boy from northern Mindanao who did brilliantly in law school, and was catapulted straight into the House of Representatives in 1954 and the Senate and vice-presidency in the decade that followed. He was an idealist and reformist. Pelaez represents what can be described as a “third force” in Philippine politics: he eschewed the feudal practices on one extreme and the radicalism of the Left on the other.

His attempts to bring about a moral and centrist politics based on principle rather than violence, patronage and fraud, were continually challenged. He was roundly defeated in his 1964 bid for the presidency and was the target of an assassination attempt in 1982, after which he famously asked: “What is happening to our country?”

Author and journalist Nelson Navarro deftly weaves together the details of Pelaez’s roller-coaster life. This biography chronicles an important chapter of the country’s rocky road to democracy. It is also a pleasant read.

Sheila S Coronel

To purchase the book, call 63 918 906 81

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