Diary of Augusto Caesar Espiritu

Friday, November 17, 1972

Surprise! Instead of the 166-man body meeting, the meeting was of a small group of 15 people each from the Steering Council and the Sponsorship Council and 4 floor leaders to go over the amendments.

Apparently, this morning, there was an organizational meeting. These 15 people from each of the councils were appointed and they were to start meeting in the afternoon.

Noli Santos told me that he had nominated me, together with Magtanggol (Tanggol) Gunigundo, to represent the Sponsorship Council but there were objections because some delegates had said that I was too independent-minded. This was a compliment, but I told Noli that I was not keenly interested in joining this group anyway. After all, in the words of Munding, this is now lutong macao.

During the roll call of the members, however, my name was called. It turned out that I was elected a member.

Tio Juaning Borra asked for certain interpositions of phrases in the Preamble approved by the Steering Council. He said that, after all, with the exception of the change of two words—that of “independence” to “sovereignty” and the inclusion of “equality,” the present Preamble is the same as that of the 1935 Preamble. So, he urged that we might as well give credit to the authors of the 1934 Convention. We are basically adopting their Preamble, he claimed.

The note of sarcasm in many of Borra’s speeches cannot be hidden. Borra has been critical of what is happening in the Convention. Unfortunately, he cannot be too outspoken; I hear his son is presently indicted for a serious crime before the courts. How sad! This is the reason why, during the last two months, he could not give full vent to his feelings. Nevertheless, every now and then, his pent-up feelings of bitterness and frustration would suddenly burst out.

When it came to the Declaration of Principles, the committee took up the amendments section by section. When we reached Section 2, a motion was made to reject an amendment by Naning Kalaw, who was not there. The rejection was made almost with a vengeance. But the motion went further; it would reject not only Naning’s amendment but all other amendments that now or in the future may be presented.

I said that, so as not to complicate matters, perhaps the last amendment should be taken up first, namely, the amendment by substitution. I announced that I had filed an amendment by substitution.

To my great surprise, Clemente (Clem) Abundo immediately made a motion that all amendments by substitution should, hereafter, be rejected. Fidel Purisima and Valeriano Yancha, among others, showed so much zeal in joining Abundo in gagging me. I said it would not take long for the body to get my amendment and other similar amendments discussed and rejected—perhaps, only two minutes. But I wanted the body to take it up.

Abundo, Yancha and Purisima would not brook any accommodations. Pacificador, too, was vehemently against giving me the floor.

As I write this diary now, my thoughts fly out to the American Constitutional Convention and what Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania had said: “I flatter myself that I came here in some degree as a representative of the whole human race… I wish the gentlemen would extend their views beyond the present moment of time, beyond the narrow limits of place from which they derive their political origin.”

How different it was during the times of those reasonable men!

Some delegates, like Tony Almedo, urged, “Give Caesar a chance to explain.” Good old reliable Jess Matas was cheering, and so also were those solid, conscientious and progressive colleagues, Noli Santos and Pete Yap.

But the loyalists were bent on mowing down the opposition.

When I was faced with this kind of problem during my UP days, I wrote an editorial in the Collegian, quoting from the nineteenth century English liberal, John Stuart Mill: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would no more be justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, in silencing mankind.”

Far away and long ago!

Peps Bengzon was apparently in charge of the Declaration of Principles. He explained almost in a spirit of cordiality that we should not say that Caesar Espiritu’s amendment has been rejected. Rather, he said, most of the provisions have been substantially incorporated in the draft Constitution; it is only a question of phraseology.

I thought this was deception done so diplomatically. What, was it Alice in Wonderland said? “In a world of the absurd, reason is madness.”

Although Peps was quite conciliatory, I could not help but stand up to say I appreciated those words but that, in my thinking, 70 percent of the concepts in my amendment do not find reflection in the draft of the Steering Council.

Anyway, I had no regrets. I did not really expect any positive response from this group, but I did succeed in inserting into the records what I felt I was happy enough that I was able to do this.

I was surprised at how well-knit the pro-Marcos people are. How eager they are for the kill against anyone who might put a monkey wrench into their conspiracy!

Afterwards, I had a talk with Ben Abubakar and Dr. Aruego. Ben told me that it was Sen. Enchong Sumulong who had wanted to make the present members of Congress members of the interim Assembly, with the present delegates to the convention as ex-officio members. Only when the interim Assembly should constitute itself as a constituent Assembly would it be able to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

Of course these ideas would get nowhere in the Convention; the delegates are now hell-bent on being assemblymen!

I also had a chat with Dr. Aruego. He was a delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention. He had written The Framing of the (1935) Constitution, the authoritative book on the 1934 Constitutional Convention. (Dr. Jose P. Laurel’s notes on the proceedings of the 1934 Convention, were, of course, much more comprehensive and profound, but they are not as easily available as Aruego’s book.)

Aruego said that there is no comparison between the pressures during the 1934 Convention and the pressures now. Recto was not a traditional Quezon man; he had only been with Quezon on the “pro” and “anti” issues on the Tydings-McDuffie and the Hare-Hawes Cutting Acts. The real men of Quezon were Sotto and Cuenco from Cebu.

Although there were also some charges that the Constitution was already cooked up in Malacañang during the 1934 Convention, actually this was not taken seriously because no one believed it. Our present situation, according to Dr. Aruego, is completely different. Everything is emanating from Malacañang.

At the end of a gruelling day, Greg Tingson rode with me up to the Quezon Elliptical Circle. It is so very apparent, he said—the great difference between people with convictions and those without. “This was so conspicuously displayed during the brief meeting we attended this afternoon. While you were talking out of conviction, the rest of the delegates were bending to accommodate whatever was made necessary by political realities.”

But is this wise or right? Aying Yñiguez had told me yesterday that he is making a choice and his choice is grounded not on moral but rather on purely political considerations. “My options are within the realm of political realities and, therefore, my decisions are political, not moral.”

Are all politicians the same? Pursuing to build a bridge even when there is no river?

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