Diary of Augusto Caesar Espiritu

Wednesday, November 29, 1972

Headline at the Express: “Delegates Approve Final Charter Draft. Signing Tomorrow.”

The paper repeated its report yesterday that the delegates approved the charter draft without any dissenting vote. But this was a patent lie. How could such a deliberate misleading of the people be done by the Express?

The Bulletin Today headlined “New Charter Draft Passed.”

In both papers, on the front page were big items: “FM Warns of Insurgency by Rightist Elements,” the Express said. The Bulletin talked about “Peril from the Right.”

In the afternoon, I returned to Camp Aguinaldo. When I entered, I saw Gerry Barican, a UP student activist, being questioned by an officer. Gerry asked me if I was a visitor. I said “Yes.” Having said this, I felt it was awkward to stay longer. I decided to go and meet Colonel Miranda who had signed the summons for my interrogation.

I was shown into his office.

It was a fairly young man, somewhat tall, in casual polo shirt, with an honest, pleasant face, who stood up when I entered.

“I have come to introduce myself. I am Caesar Espiritu.”

“No, I should be the one to introduce myself to you because I know you.”

The officer told me that we belong to the same church. He said that at one time he had read that I was the speaker at the Cosmopolitan Church, but he was not there when I spoke.

This must have been Independence Day 1971, when there was a combined service of several churches in Manila and I was the speaker.

I told him that I had already been interviewed and allowed to leave. I added that I thought that the basis for the investigation was my letter that had been taken from Rev. Haruna.

He showed surprise that I knew that my letter had been taken.

“Well,” I said, “I know somehow about it.” I added that after a few days, when the letter did not come back, I presumed that the Army had mailed it.

He laughed.

“I thought it was not important and that, therefore, it should have now been received by the addressee,” I was being facetious.

“It got stuck here.” He laughed heartily.

“Well, since you are a professing Christian, I can more easily explain to you what I was telling your investigator yesterday,” I said.

“I am somewhat active in ecumenical Christian movements, not only nationally but internationally. In the last few years, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, after Vatican II, have become more and more liberal and progressive. I am in continuous touch with them. My views have been inspired by these contacts.”

I told him that I was vice chairman of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), with headquarters in Geneva, from 1964 to 1968. Although I am no longer a member of the Student Christian Movement in the Philippines, when WSCF people come around from Geneva or Tokyo, they look for me. Thus, when a preparatory seminar of the Asian Leadership Development Center was held here by the Asia Committee of the Federation, they naturally asked me to help in the arrangements. At the end of a ten-day preparatory seminar in the Philippines, as the delegates proceeded to Tokyo for their four-week seminar proper, I sent out three letters through the participants. It was the third letter that was captured from a Japanese pastor.

“Why did you send out letters through friends?”

“Simply because mails are much faster from Tokyo or Hong Kong than from Manila,” I said. “So naturally, I do send many of my mails through friends who pass through Manila.”

There was another officer who was listening in as we talked. As I kept on looking at him, he moved forward to join us.

“I know of no subversion that I have committed except subversion of the status quo, with all its injustices and oppressions.” I was warming up, encouraged by their apparent lack of hostility.

The two officers encouraged me to talk and gave me the impression that they were in agreement with what I was saying. It was getting to be a monologue. But then I could hardly stop. I remembered how St. Paul nearly converted King Agrippa. I wanted to make use of the opportunity to tell them of the imperative necessity of instituting fundamental changes in social structures. I spoke of the need to protect human dignity and to foster greater equality, to struggle for justice both nationally and internationally.

Colonel Miranda interrupted and asked me if I had heard of Silliman University. He said the university is having difficulties in looking for a president.

Why did he bring up the subject of Silliman University?

“We thought you would be the president of Silliman,” he said. “That was what we had heard way back in early 1961.”

“I was quite young then. I think I was offered the presidency of Silliman because of the TOYM award I received in 1961 in the combined fields of economics and education.”

“You would have been the youngest university president in the country.”

“But Dr. Jovito Salonga, who had just been elected congressman at the time, had counselled me that it may not be wise for me to accept the presidency, because, in his own words, I would be away from the ebb and flow of events, which are centered in Manila.”

The problem, I thought, was that some people in the military were, in the 1960s, suspicious of new ideas. During those years, I was held in suspicion for quoting Arnold Toynbee and Bertrand Russell on the need for greater achievement in man’s relations with his fellowmen, as well as on the need for actively searching for peace. “To be able to look into the eyes of a human being and see in him the flattering image of yourself,” or something to that effect was what Norman Cousins had thought was the urgent purpose of education.

I had an article which was excerpted from my Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard which came out in the Chronicle magazine. I came out against the “Anti-Subversion Bill,” which was then in the process of being passed by Congress. I had written this immediately upon my arrival back in the Philippines after four years of studies in law, politics and political economy at Harvard, even mentioning that when I was in London, I had heard lousy Commies orating to their hearts’ content at Hyde Park, with overzealous anti-communists heckling them. My LL.M. essay was entitled “The Legislature and Control of Political Heterodoxies” and my Ph.D. discourse was on freedom and national security.

Harvard is famous for its defense of freedom, I told Colonel Miranda; it is a great institution, and it is concerned with greatness, and we alumni are proud of her achievements.

The other officer’s name is Major Arceo. He was quite sharp. He said that they distinguish between advocacy of violence and the expression of ideas. He said that my views are well-known. They have never doubted my integrity and my loyalty to democratic institutions.

“Your name was never in our list,” they said. “You have never advocated rebellion or subversion. Your interview now is mere routine.”

“Why then did you say in the summons that this is an investigation interview in a case of subversion in which I am involved?”

“It’s just a slip.” They were on the defensive now.

I told them I had asked for one hour to arrange my things, send cables, have my clothes packed, etc.

Colonel Miranda threw his neck back in laughter.

“Really? No, we had never meant to get you. We have never doubted you at all.”

But why am I here, I kept on thinking.

Then I added that I did not know of any political subversive in the Convention. I said that the nearest to a Marxist, if any, would be Boni Gillego. But then, I said, he would be the most harmless Marxist one could meet. In fact, I think he is a democrat with a social conscience; I don’t think he would hurt a fly, I said emphatically.

They nodded in a noncommittal way. An awkward silence ensued.

“Where is Boni Gillego?” They broke the silence.

“I have no idea.”

Colonel Miranda asked me if I had seen Sonny Alvarez. I had hardly answered “No,” when he turned to Major Arceo.

“I understand that Sonny Alvarez was seen at the Intercontinental two weeks ago.”

“By whom, by our people?” asked Arceo.

“No, by some other people.”

“Perhaps he did not know that he is wanted,” Arceo suggested.

“Why should he be wanted?” I asked. “Alvarez is a good man. He believes in the need for minimizing injustice in society just as I do. He is involved in our struggle to democratize our social and economic institutions,” I said in rapid succession.

Another awkward silence followed.

“Some of the officers in the military were my students,” I changed the subject.

“Who?”

“Gen. Guillermo Picache, Gen. Crispino de Castro and some colonels and majors and captains, too.”

“How was General de Castro?”

I told them that when General de Castro was still a colonel, he was my student in the Master of Laws course. One day, as I was conducting a pre-bar review class, Colonel de Castro burst in and excitedly said, “I need your help.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Confidential,” he had smiled.

I approached him.

“I have been asked by the military to answer Recto’s speech which was delivered yesterday. But after one year with you, I have become pro-Recto.”

We laughed.

I told the two officials about two Serranos, both captains, who were my students. One of them was the late Boni Serrano, of Korean War fame. I made them understand that as a professor I have been democratic. Democracy means essentially diversity of ideas, I said.

They agreed. Major Arceo kept on assuring me that the military understands these matters and does not arrest people simply because of their ideas.

“There is a difference between advocacy and expression of ideas,” he said. “We are familiar with your writings, you have never advocated the overthrow of the government.”

“Why am I here then? Was it because I have taken views contrary to those of President Marcos? Was it because I stand foursquare against the violations of human rights by the military?” I asked in succession.

Again they were on the defensive.

“Every promising young man in the country has a file in the NICA. In fact, even President Marcos has a file. The NICA follows up all the activities of all promising people in the Philippines,” Arceo answered reassuringly.

“But insofar as you are concerned you have absolutely nothing to worry about,” he added.

“We have never suspected you. As far as we know, you have never been in the list,” Col. Miranda confirmed.

We parted in friendly terms. They were courteous and respectful. And intelligent, I thought, not the witch-hunting type.

But by what luck, what chain of circumstances kept me from being denied my freedom? Did I ward off being detained—again by the skin of my teeth?

Surely, I was wanted. Did I outtalk them? Did God touch their hearts? This was my second lease on liberty!

I felt both triumphant and unnerved. It was a sobering influence.

Or am I under the illusion that I had won the battle? Was not the military successful in instilling fear into my heart and overdone caution into my actuations? Damn it, I just want the military off my back!

Several delegates rushed towards me when I entered the session hall. The news had spread.

What transpired in the interrogation? Was I going to be detained? Senator Liwag, Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw, Bobbit Sanchez—these were among the friends who met me with concern for my safety as well as for theirs.

Johnny Remulla—even him—felt sorry for me. He told me that this noon, he was at the office of Solicitor-General Titong Mendoza and Titong had already heard from my classmate Joker Arroyo that I was taken into custody yesterday. “In fact, they were speculating,” Johnny added, “that your best friend and classmate Titong would be your prosecutor and Joker your lawyer.”

I was taken completely by surprise. How could this news have travelled so fast?

“Titong confirms that you have absolutely no communist leanings,” Johnny Remulla said. “But Titong said, of course, Caezar is a human rights activist and civil libertarian and has been espousing the need for greater justice in human relationships and of active solidarity with the poor. He is a practising Christian and this is the influence of his faith.”

I met Tony Tupaz at the aisle and asked him how come even Titong already knew about it. He did not answer the question directly; instead, he informed me that he even told Speaker Cornelio Villareal yesterday that I had been arrested.

These days I don’t know whether to believe or not anything Brod Tony Tupaz says; nevertheless, I still consider him a friend.

The Speaker was concerned, according to Tupaz; he immediately phoned President Marcos about it.

It is more likely that Nimia Arroyo of the Manila Times, who was covering our session, was the one who had spread the word around. Nimia is a loyal friend, a former staff member of mine when I was editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian at UP. She must have phoned her brother, Joker, a human rights lawyer and my classmate. Nimia saw me being taken by the military; we had looked into each other’s eyes as I was being led away by my military escort.

I sat down with Sedfrey. He told me that he was with Sen. Jovito Salonga yesterday and that he had told him that I was arrested. He said that Jovy Salonga was very much concerned about me.

But then I had calmed down. I kidded some of the guys that I had just taken my oral examination and that I think I passed the exam with the grade of “meritissimus.”

The delegates were milling around until 6:00 p.m. Apparently I did not miss anything by arriving late from Camp Aguinaldo. Nothing was happening. Everyone was killing time, waiting for the printed copies of the Constitution to arrive. Finally, at 6:00 p.m. we dispersed, without having done anything.

We returned at 8:00 p.m. There were no printed copies available either but Munding Cea then made a motion to go through with our nominal voting.

But of course, this is anticlimactic. Everything is just a formality. The real voting—on second reading—took place two days ago. The perversion of the Constitution has already been done.

Fourteen people voted “No.” The most sensational vote was that of Nene Pimentel who was standing before the microphone waiting for his name to be called. When his turn came to vote, he started to deliver a speech….

“Because of the adulterous…” his voice trailed off as presiding officer Abe Sarmiento banged the gavel. “Your vote,” Abe ruled. “What is your vote?”

Nene Pimentel continued to explain his vote but Brod Abe ruled that he should make known his vote first. Pimentel shouted, “I refuse to vote on this travesty of a Constitution…”

I heard later on that this was shown on TV.

Everyone is full of admiration for Nene’s guts, So am I. Now we are all the more afraid for him.

Some Independent-Progressive delegates who had wanted to vote “No” decided to vote “Yes” when they saw me being returned to the session hall by a soldier. They were clearly intimidated.

“Raul Manglapus has exiled himself abroad. Tito Guingona is in the stockade. And you came in escorted by a soldier. How do we vote now?”

“I cannot really give you much advice. Vote according to your conscience. I would vote ‘No’ if there is no danger of so doing, ‘Yes’ if there is,” I counselled lamely.

My Independent-Progressive group was downcast. Defeat was in everyone’s eyes.

Johnny Liwag was among the first to capitulate—he who had made so many speeches in our group meetings in the last few days on how “the blood of our children would be upon us.”

“Yes!” his voice had resounded in the session hall.

The rest followed suit.

Jess Matas’ voice faltered as he meekly voted “Yes, with mental reservations.” Then he threw himself on his chair to commune with his soul.

Everything went on so fast. It was so evident that the majority was really “steamrolling” the approval of the Constitution, even on third reading, which was really no longer decisive.

Still, many who have voted “Yes” on roll call today vowed that they would not show up for the signing of the Constitution tomorrow.

“We’ll get lost,” I proposed.

“Yeah, let’s get lost,” whispered more than a dozen sad voices.

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