Sunday, August 30, 2009


The late Vice-President and Ambassador Emmanuel Pelaez will always be remembered for his wit and wisdom, and examples are two statements he had uttered which will live long in the lexicon of Philippine government and politics: "What's wrong with our airport?"

These were the words he said when he and his family were trapped for more than an hour in an elevator at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) some time in the 90s. Pelaez had been summoned back to Manila so he could serve as an adviser to the Philippine panel in the then bases talks.

Some years ago, Pelaez was wounded in an assassination attempt and, as he was being wheeled into surgery, turned to his military aide at his side and asked, "What's happening to our country?"

So bitter was the feud between Pelaez and then Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus that some political wags claim that the elevator was sabotaged by NAIA officials close to Manglapus. Their objective, the story goes, was to encourage Pelaez to return to Washington immediately and leave the eloquent Manglapus undisturbed as chairman of the Philippine bases panel.

As such, Manglapus' people kept a close watch on the growing desire of top Aquino administration officials to have Pelaez take over the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and have Manglapus shipped out as envoy to any country of his choice. The gentleman Pelaez, refusing to stoke the feud, told newsmen he came to be a mere "resource person" in the bases talks, and not an active participant.

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