Joaquin P. Roces was known to most “street parliamentarians” as Chino Roces, “Tatang,”a casually dressed, kindly gentleman with white hair and mustache.
He may not have looked it, but he was one of the most influential personalities in the country before martial law was declared by President Marcos, being the owner and publisher of the Philippines’ most widely-circulated and respected publications at the time. These included the Manila Times, Daily Mirror, Taliba, and the Weekly Women’s Magazine. He also owned a radio station and a television station.
Although he was born into wealth and social prominence, Roces disdained the privileges and comforts of power. He had a soft spot for the underprivileged, and used his media organization to organize successful efforts to mobilize citizen assistance for those in need. During the killer ﬂoods that devastated Central Luzon in June and August 1972, he had food supplies airdropped to the survivors. When a big earthquake totally destroyed the Ruby Tower building in Manila, Roces was among the first to arrive at the scene to offer help. Earlier, during the 1965 eruption of Taal Volcano, he spearheaded a relief drive for the stricken victims.
When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Roces was among the first he ordered arrested and detained. He would be jailed two more times after that, but he refused to give up. Despite his advanced age and failing health, he was in the forefront of many protest rallies, facing water cannons, truncheons and tear gas bombs.
During the snap presidential elections in 1986, the widow of assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was reluctant to run against the dictator. Roces took it upon himself to convince Cory Aquino to run for president, by pledging to collect one million signatures for her candidacy.
After a civilian-military revolt in 1986 finally deposed Marcos and installed a new democratic government, Roces went back to publishing, but the old Manila Times was gone and he himself was not in good health any more. What’s more, the new government had shortcomings that to him were glaringly obvious.
When President Corazon Aquino conferred on him the medal of the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1988, Chino Roces decided it would be better to be frank with her and offer his sincere appraisal of what needed to be corrected in government. It was an act of good citizenship.
Roces died of cancer in September of that year. He was 75.
PARENTS Alejandro Roces and Antonia Pardo
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Pacita Carvajal / 3
EDUCATION Secondary: Ateneo de Manila
Post-secondary: England, U.K.