Oka Leviste and I met at the Sulo. Tony Velasco came late, as did Inggo Guevarra’s representative. Aying Yñiguez also dropped by.
We met to consolidate the provisions on trade, tariff and commerce and on foreign loans and investments. I then reorganized and integrated the whole article on the national economy, dividing it into five parts—namely, (1) development planning, (2) industrial and commercial policy, (3) agriculture and agrarian reform, 4) monetary and credit policies and (5) public finance. Under the last section on public finance, I grouped budget and appropriations, taxation, public works and audit.
While we were meeting, Sonia Roco (Raul’s wife), Mely and Lito came in. After some pleasantries with them, I went back to my table with Oka, Inggo Guevarra’s representative, and the two secretaries. Soon afterwards, who do you think should appear? Raul Roco and Sonny Alvarez!
What a pleasant surprise. Sonny was grinning; he was spoiling a crew cut. Raul was jubilant.
I was overjoyed to see our “outlaws.”
Sonny told us that he had set the wheels in motion for his freedom. Celso was to meet with Enrile. Also, Father Reuter was supposed to talk to Enrile. Meanwhile, Manong Tony Raquiza was going to see the President.
It was past 1:00 p.m. when I entered the Philippine Sugar Institute building. Oka was speaking at the time. I gave the papers to him. “Thank you, Dr. Espiritu,” he said. Then he announced over the loudspeaker: “Dr. Espiritu has just submitted the draft on economic and fiscal policy.”
I then withdrew to the aisle and accosted Manong Tony Raquiza who was about to leave. I pleaded with him to go to the President on behalf of Sonny. Manong Tony said he had talked to Sonny but he had not seen the President since martial law.
“Well, Sonny needs to be saved; in fact, Romy and Raul have already been removed from ‘the list’ through the efforts of Enrile,” I said.
“And they have been even more critical than Alvarez,” Manong nodded understandingly.
Manong Tony paused for a while, then continued: “Some of Ninoy’s friends from Tarlac may be Communists, but not Bren Guiao. Bren is not a Communist. And I also want to help Rondon; he is not a Communist either.”
I pressed him to see the President. He promised he would try to see him tomorrow.
Before the Steering Council dispersed, Charlie Ledesma announced that the members of the new Steering Committee of Marcos loyalists should now get their refined sugar.
I know of course that I am not a member of the inner circle; if anything, I am some kind of an enemy. Nevertheless, I jokingly asked my friend, Charlie: “May I also get one?”
He was quite busy looking at the Steering Council members; he did not hear me.
“Can I also get one?” I repeated; it would have been awkward for someone not a member of the “inner circle” to be standing by and not speak. Charlie still did not hear me.
So I uttered in a louder voice for the third time, “May I get one also?”
“Oh, yes, yes, you may get,” was the nonchalant reply.
I froze. Charlie had been friendly with me in the past. We used to recite the poems of the Romantics whenever the sessions were boring. We both love Shelley and Byron and Wordsworth… And of course I did not need the sugar. I was being flippant—because we used to be “comrades.”
Celso Dans, a reporter of the Daily Express, was then eating at the hall. He asked Charlie, “Sir, may I also get one?”
He was swiftly rebuffed: “There are not enough packages.”
I felt somewhat ill at ease. “I did not know that you did not have enough,” I said, returning my package.
“Oh, no, no,” Charlie condescended, “you may get one.” And in the same breath he called out to Pepe Abueva, “Doctor, please get your package.”
We walked towards the elevator. Chito Castillo put his arms over the shoulders of his comrades in the new Steering Council: “Mabuti sa economics, tapos na tayo. Ginawa na nila Caesar.”
Tony de Guzman reacted swiftly in a high pitch: “Ah, hindi, hindi... wala ‘yan.” He did not know that I was just behind them.
Chito pulled him aside. “We were just utilizing the brains of Caesar,” he whispered to Tony.
Tony then saw me as I stepped into the elevator to join them. He asked in quick succession: “How much did you shorten the provisions? Did you remove those that should he subject to legislation?”
Was there a note of contempt or of condescension?
“It’s hard to generalize,” I replied. “Why don’t you read what I have prepared?”
There was an awkward silence.
“What a transformation!” Nene Pimentel shook his head in disbelief, when he heard the story later.