Thursday, November 30, 1972

On the day of the signing of the Constitution, the headline of the Daily Express was “FM tells the Military: I want Free, Open Discussions on Charter Provision.”

What lie! What double-talk! Hitler seems to be alive again! But many people were somewhat comforted by these pronouncements of President Marcos. Being allowed to open the window of freedom somewhat after having been deprived our civil rights for more than a month now, is great.

We do not really value our freedom until we are deprived of it. Then we understand why throughout the ages, men have fought for their freedom as an important ingredient of human dignity.

An air of excitement was in the air at the session hall. The delegates, in spite of everything, seemed to exude a sense of history—whether a famous or infamous one, the future will tell.

The roll call of delegates for individual signing of the Constitution in English and Pilipino was somewhat unruly. President Macapagal kept on banging the gavel, asking the delegates to sit down.

Sig Siguion-Reyna whispered, “Macapagal should have shown this force a little bit earlier, not now; I myself thought that he should have at least presided over our meeting last night if only because it was the last session, but, sadly, it was Vice Pres. Abe Sarmiento who did.”

There were some congressmen who had entered the hall. Speaker Villareal was there, and so were Congressmen Sanchez and Caram and Solicitor General Titong Mendoza (UP Law Class ’52) who had phoned the Con-Con that I had been taken into custody by the military. Yesterday, Titong told us he had a conference with Justice Undersec. Taling Macaraeg (Class ’52) about my arrest. Taling’s suggestion was for Titong to guarantee me and take me into his custody.

Sig Siguion-Reyna learned last night that our colleagues in detention are to be released for one day today during the signing of the Constitution. He said he wanted to make sure of this so he had relayed the message to President Macapagal.

True enough, before we could finish our conversation, Nap Rama, who is detained at Fort Bonifacio, dramatically appeared at the session hall. He is no longer sporting the same macho hairdo. Rather, his hair is somewhat dishevelled and bears the untypical look of not having been creamed for sometime. How un-Nap-like! He also sports a mini-mustache now.

Two minutes later, Joe Mari Velez, also an inmate of Fort Bonifacio, appeared. Unlike Nap, Joe Mari is wearing a thick mustache curved sideways at the edges. He came in a blue t-shirt, looking quite healthy.

Nap Rama’s usual swagger seemed to have deserted him. After only two months in Fort Bonifacio! Joe Mari, on the other hand, looked defiant.

Joe Mari immediately told me that the news in his camp is that I have also been taken. He gave me the unnerving information that if I have not yet been arrested I would be—very soon.

I could hardly catch my breath. I thought my ordeals are over.

Both Nap and Mari expected me to join them soon—and in the isolation stockade of Fort Bonifacio, not in the relatively more comfortable Camp Crame stockade.

My heartbeats pounded like a gong.

Nap said that they had long expected me to be detained because their information was that I was marked by the military from the beginning as an enemy of the regime.

He talked about their own ordeal. In the first two days, the military had really sought to break them. The soldiers had put barbed wire fences higher than their windows all around their barracks. Poor Nap does not know until now precisely what he is being apprehended for.

Nap sounded desperate. Like the others, he seemed resigned to the present political situation. He will cooperate, if necessary, if this would give him back his liberty.

I inquired about his SSS loan and the reported foreclosure of his mortgage. “Yes,” he replied sadly. He has received a telegram saying he has ten days within which to pay the loan or else his house will be foreclosed. That is why his house is now for sale.

Nap did not sound bitter but he was clearly on edge. He said that it is ironical that the same reforms that we have been fighting for seem to be now under implementation by the martial law regime.

I inquired about Teddy Locsin. Teddy, Nap said, is quite bitter. Teddy says that he had fought so much for these reforms and now the military has put him in prison rather than awarding him a medal for his crusade.

Romy Capulong was with me while I was talking to Nap.

Nap gave us the shocking information that our meetings at Pepe Calderon’s place had been completely monitored by the military.

God! I gasped.

Could it be that some delegates went there with tape recorders in their pockets? After all, Romy said, in some of the meetings there were 30 or 40 delegates in attendance.

Still, I could not imagine how anyone in our Independent-Progressive group could have betrayed us.

Romy thought that it was possible that either one or two delegates who were present during one of our meetings could have done it; after all we also have counter-infiltration on the other side.

Out of sheer curiosity, I asked Romy who they were, and Romy said, “I don’t want to tell you because it might poison your mind and especially because it may not be true. But someday I will. One of these is a woman,” he said tantalizingly.

I overheard a delegate saying that Joe Concepcion and Tito Guingona were in the Steering Council room on the 13th floor and that they were waiting for President Macapagal.

“You better go down already,” Joe Feria told me. “I am just fetching Macapagal.”

President Macapagal was, for a while, busy entertaining Speaker Villareal, who had come in shortly before 11 o’clock. In the meantime that this was happening, Titong Mendoza came along looking for a copy of the new Constitution.

While Titong and I were in Macapagal’s room, I noticed former Central Bank Governor Cuaderno lying on his side on the couch, writhing in pain. Nobody seemed to be looking after him; nobody seemed to mind.

I was alarmed. I ran towards the governor and fell on my knees.

“Governor, is there anything wrong? Are you sick?”

“It’s my asthma.”

“Shall I call a doctor?” I asked. I gathered from his murmur that a doctor has been sent for.

“Air, air,” he murmured.

I opened the windows.

The doctor took long in coming. I thought it was heartless of many delegates to see him there and not to do anything to help him. Of course, they had other excitements today, but….

Then came the Convention doctor; we were not sure, however, of his competence. I was hoping that a physician delegate would come. Then Tony Velasco, himself a medical doctor, came in.

I went to the session hall looking for Dr. George Viterbo; I trust him most.

Two minutes later, Tony Velasco was in the session hall, doing what everybody else was doing—asking for the autograph of delegates. He asked me to sign his copy of the proposed Constitution. “But what, about Cuaderno? What have you done?” My concern was great.

“Oh, it is only asthma. The doctor is taking care of him. The medicine has already been brought in.”

President Macapagal was already with the detainees when I arrived. Tito Guingona and Joe Concepcion, among others, were asking him to make representation on their behalf with President Marcos.

President Macapagal kept on saying, “Yes, yes, yes, I will take it up.”

“I think tomorrow is the best time to discuss this,” I chipped in. “President Marcos will be in a good mood; this will really be good for national unity.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Macapagal nodded in agreement.

Joe Concepcion wanted Macapagal to do more than this. He kept on asking whether or not they would be allowed to see President Marcos tomorrow. Macapagal said he could get another clearance for them. Of course, he would not talk to the President about any single one of them. He could only ask that all delegates be invited—including those under detention.

The detainees present were Joe Concepcion, Tito Guingona, Ernie Rondon, Bren Guiao, Pepito Nolledo and Natalio (Taliox) Bacalzo. Nolledo was standing at the back, somewhat lost!

Joecon whispered to me that the one in most pathetic condition among them is Nolledo. He seems to be on the verge of a breakdown.

Ding Lichauco is, likewise, not in good shape. He has contracted pneumonia and was taken to the hospital this morning. He is in a pitiful state. He has no children and his wife, Nita, is now alone.

Macapagal bade the detainees good-bye. “You know it’s good to meet with you… even just to be together for a while,” he said. “But I must now go up and attend to the Convention.”

Bebet Duavit arrived as Macapagal was leaving. “Here is the man who can help you,” he said as he left.

We all finally got Duavit to promise that he was going to talk to President Marcos. When the detainees told him that Macapagal had already talked to Marcos, he dismissed Macapagal: “Wala ‘yan.” Macapagal is too proud to talk to Marcos. He only sends letters. He does everything in writing. He said that as past president of the Philippines, he should be in a position to talk to President Marcos for the detainees. Bebet intimated, the detainees should not expect Macapagal to be able to do much for them.

President Macapagal’s ego is monumental, Duavit added. When he and Macapagal were with Flores Bayot, one of Marcos’ assistant executive secretaries (who was in the session hall yesterday; Sed Ordoñez, in fact, was asking me why? What was he monitoring?), Duavit said he had told Bayot, “You tell your President that my President is arranging with the postman for the delivery of the Constitution in Malacañang.” Duavit saw Macapagal’s face light up, he was all smiles, and he seemed to have grown two inches taller.

Duavit promised to talk to President Marcos tonight and follow it up with another talk tomorrow morning.

Joecon and Tito Guingona asked Duavit to tell Marcos that they can help in the implementation of the program of the New Society.

Duavit promised to try to persuade Marcos again, as he had done in the past, to release them. President Marcos had, in fact, told him at one time that Duavit should talk to the military and tell them that he would guarantee them.

But Duavit expressed reluctance to guarantee anyone. “Baka naman e-escape kayo,” he said sheepishly.

“Why not divide the responsibility?” I suggested. “You guarantee X, Ven Yaneza guarantees Y.

            Eh, kung umescape kayo.” Duavit has misgivings.

Tito Guingona then spoke up. “Yes,” he said, “political amnesty is the best.”

In the beginning, the detained delegates present had all come from Camp Crame only and so Tito, Joecon and the rest talked about amnesty for them… because they were presumably not charged with as grave crimes as the detainees in Fort Bonifacio.

But later, Nap Rama from Fort Bonifacio dropped by. They then agreed that the amnesty should include all delegates.

Bren Guiao tried to pin down Duavit on whether he would visit them. How else would they know the result?

Duavit promised to visit them tomorrow.

Later, as we were leaving, Joecon lingered around to talk some more with Duavit. Duavit then said he would tell President Marcos that it would be good for the Rizal delegates to be released because they would especially need to get “Yes” votes from Rizal—the oppositionist district.

What a paradoxical figure this Duavit is! So much a lackey for Marcos, yet warm, possibly even affectionate towards his colleagues—even to those in the opposite side of the political spectrum. Is he a good man at heart—who is possessed? If so, he needs an exorcist! Or is he a marionette? What is he really?

Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw and I invited the detainees for lunch at the Sulo Hotel. Later, Romy Capulong and Raul Roco joined us. Still later, while we were eating, Ric Sagmit came by and spent a while with us, particularly with Bren Guiao.

Everyone has his own story. Bren Guiao said that on Saturday night, he had dinner with Tito Guingona, but Tito did not tell him then—and Bren turned towards Tito reproachfully—what he, Tito, may have already known.

Tito was with General Rialp. Tito had asked Rialp if he was in the list. They went over the list alphabetically. “Letter G… Guiao, etc., no Guingona. You are not in,” Rialp had confirmed.

But in the meantime, the name of Guiao had already been read aloud and Tito did not warn him!

When Bren phoned his house Sunday morning, he discovered that about 40 Metrocom troopers had surrounded his house. So he did not know what to do. Finally, he decided to talk over the phone with the commander. The commander said he was being invited for interrogation. So Bren answered, “I might as well meet you in Camp Crame.”

He thought he would be interrogated, then released immediately, but when he got into the Camp he was not allowed to get out anymore.

Romy Capulong and Raul Roco’s houses were raided at 10:00 o’clock on Saturday—the very first day. Romy and Raul would have been ahead of Guiao in the stockades were they not able to run out of their houses earlier that day.

It was on the sixth day—on Friday—as Tito was talking with Bobbit that he, Tito, was arrested.

Taliox Bacalzo said he was interrogated at the stockade for his radio broadcasts going back to 1949 (sic).

The detainees still kept their sense of humor in spite of their obvious anguish. They were complaining of each other’s behavior, like little children. First, they picked on Pepito Nolledo.

Joecon said that in the first two nights, Nolledo would suddenly go up to his fellow prisoners and ask, “By the way, are you a spy?”

Bacalzo swore that one night, Nolledo came to his bed and stared at him for three minutes without speaking. He (Bacalzo) got scared. After three minutes, Nolledo asked Bacalzo, “Brod, are you a spy?” Bacalzo was terribly shaken!

There was a near fight in the camp. Nolledo was at the lower bunk while the hard-hitting columnist Louie Beltran was on top. One day, Beltran’s watch got lost. He searched everywhere, swearing and cursing as he went. Finally, he found the watch in the bag of Nolledo. Apparently, the watch fell down from the upper bunk and fell right into the open bag of Nolledo.

Nolledo was peeved by the remarks of his friends about him.

“Joe Concepcion’s behavior was worse than mine. He was always crying during the first two days” he attacked.

Joecon blushed. When his children came, one of them rushed to him and cried, so he started wailing also, he explained.

Joecon said that one of the worst things that can happen to a man is to lose his freedom.

I was reminded of my note to Raul Roco on his birthday a couple of weeks ago—that we are prone to take our liberty for granted; it is only when we are denied it that we realize the real value of personal freedom.

Joecon, who is a close friend, then turned towards me and said complainingly that he now realizes who his real friends are…. I did not even visit him!

Of course, they all know that I was interrogated; that I was in the secondary “list,” that were it not for my long friendship with Enrile, I could have been in the stockade with them.

Joecon admitted that the officers of his corporations have been going there for meetings with him every week. I had also learned from Vicente (Ting) Jaime, that Joecon has been getting passes because his mother is sick. Also, at one time, he had procured a pass to attend a board meeting of his company.

The detainees feasted as on nectar and ambrosia. In no time, we had cleaned up the plates. We horsed around for a while in an atmosphere of complete carefreeness.

This was the first time they have had a good meal in weeks. Also the first time that they were in an air-conditioned room.

Tito Guingona complained that the terrible thing in the stockade is like being in a sauna, he said; the gym is as hot as hell!

I asked then why Conception Industries did not install an airconditioning unit there. Of course, Joecon said, if they would allow it for two months, he would have it done. But the gym was so huge.

I told Joecon I did not recognize him because he no longer looked like a bouncing baby. He had lost at least five kilos. Besides he was not wearing his famous two-way transmitter in his belt anymore.

He said that he was dictating on his Philip machine but even that was taken from him. And he was heartbroken because his two-way radio is no longer allowed.

Bobbit Sanchez came later and said that he had talked to Duavit for some few minutes more after we had left. Duavit was supposed to have said he was going to see the President today and tomorrow and the detainees should have an answer one way or the other in 15 days. In any case, Bobbit said, possibly, after the ratification of the Constitution they would be freed.

Joecon wailed “No, no, no, that is too long. Tell us if it is 15 days, it is 15 days. Then at least we can hope. Magpapasko ba naman kami doon?

Joecon then proceeded to mention that he knew someone who was going to commit suicide during the first few days because of the loss of his liberty.

Bobbit reported that Joe Mari Velez refused to be included in the proposed amnesty. He left him in the session hall waiting to be called because he wanted to deliver a speech. Even if there is hardly any audience anymore.

But, he said, the session was already over last night, he would certainly not be allowed to speak. Indeed, it is foolish and senseless waiting to speak when the session is over.

Bobbit said that Joe Mari said he would stay in the stockade even if it meant staying indefinitely. Joe Mari is very bitter.

One of the delegates whispered that part of the bitterness lay in the fact that Voltaire Garcia had voted “Yes” in the transitory provisions when he could have voted “No” because he was only under house arrest (after he had already been released from the stockade).

In fairness, however, I knew that Voltaire fell ill in the stockade; I had seen how pale and thin he was when I met and embraced him upon his release.

“I am worried about Voltaire”, I had told Ding afterwards.

“So am I,” he said. He had watched Voltaire as he entered to vote.

Raul Roco said that we should really understand that the environment of Joe Man and Nap Rama in Fort Bonifacio is different from that in Camp Crame. In Bonifacio there is a group of defiant people like Ninoy Aquino, Pepe Diokno, Chino Roces, Teddy Locsin. This is the reason Joe Mari is defiant; he has been influenced by his environment.

Taking a cue, Joe Mari made a doomsday statement. Based on their reading of history, he perorated, they would either be executed or they would one day seize political power.

“Correct, correct,” Bobbit Sanchez nodded in assent.

“Except that Nap Rama seems to have a different frame of mind,” I teased. “Nap has acquired a Camp Crame mentality. He has shed his Fort Bonifacio mentality.”

“True, true,” the naughty Bobbit blurted.

Poor Nap flushed and we laughed freely. What was it Thomas Gray had written in his Elegy in a Country Churchyard?

            We look before and after
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught…

Nap quickly recovered his composure and took over with a vengeance. Last night, at 12:30 past midnight, he had received a call from President Macapagal. Awakened by the call, he abruptly got up. This is it, he thought. I’m going to be executed. He fell on his knees to pray.

Of course I remember that Nap was a seminarian. I could imagine him reciting his Hail Marys:

Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee….

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour…

Joecon butted in. He recounted how President Macapagal had called him up after the call to Nap. The result was that he had hardly slept because Macapagal talked for three hours—until 3:30 in the morning. Either Macapagal was incoherent or he was just too sleepy, Joecon confessed, but he didn’t understand what Macapagal was talking about. That was why he rang up Joe Feria to find out what this was all about.

Joecon added that Nolledo had excitedly woke up Ding Lichauco.

“Ding, Ding, si Macapagal.”

Ding jumped out of bed. “Nasaan ang punyetang Macapagal?”

Nolledo explained that Macapagal was on the phone talking to Joecon. Several minutes later, Ding got up again and shouted, “Nasaan siya? Nasaan ang punyetang Macapagal?”

Joecon explained that it was Macapagal who was arranging for this one-day freedom and they should be grateful.

All the delegates then started their litany of complaints against Ding, his picayunes and foibles. Affectionate complaints against a comrade in suffering?

Ernie Rondon quipped that Ding Lichauco is so used to royalty he had decorated his bed with different varieties of blankets so that his bed looked like a royal bed.

They were all afraid to get near him, they said, because he is irritable. (Not to mention the fact that he was a boxing champion at Harvard?)

            Katakot-takot ang punyeta at punyetero,” Joe Concepcion and Taliox sighed. “Talo pa si Quezon.”

They were picking on Ding now, but all of them respect him as a patriot, a nationalist, one of those rare guys who really have the courage of his convictions. At the back of their minds they all knew this and respect Ding for it. But this did not deter them from getting more and more juvenile.

“I am one of Ding’s friends but many times I can not talk to him.” I was now contaminated by their degenerate mood. “Do you know that at one time, when I was with Joe Romero at CEPO, Ding appeared? Upon seeing his friend, Joe, without any provocation, he said: ‘Romero, if the revolution should succeed, your head will roll.'”

“I’m sure he was kidding,” I added, “but do you know how Joe took it? He was visibly unnerved.”

“But wait.” I was not yet through. “Upon seeing me also there, he went on with his offensive: ‘Also your head, Caesar.'”

“But enough of his good qualities. Let us talk of his foibles.”

Little Bobbit was a teen-ager again, in his barkada mood.

“Okay,” one of the detainees said. “Do you know that whenever Ding received his food, he would eat without making any gesture of sharing it with the rest of us?”

“This is only a cultural pattern; after all, he had spent seven years at Harvard, where this is the norm,” I was now defending Ding.

Still, barbarian Taliox from the wilderness of Cebu could not understand this. In a burst of mischief, he said: “But then when somebody else is eating I notice that Ding would even steal some cookies from this somebody.”

“Oh, come on.”

Everyone laughed.

Poor Ding. These friends had to make merry. And they just happened to pick on Ding because he was not present. They seized the opportunity of making fun of him because they would otherwise have been afraid to say these things to his face.

In the process, our friends forgot their sorry plight—for a moment, at least. Indeed, for a moment, they were like little children. And the rest of us, too.

My heart went out to these friends. They were a pathetic sight. We had fun, of course, while it lasted. It was really a celebration—a celebration of their temporary freedom. And I was happy that we made them happy, thanks to Joe Feria and to Naning Kalaw, who had taken the initiative to organize this dinner.

Our eyes were moist as we escorted them back to the long line of Constabulary guards who were all heavily armed, as if Joecon and Taliox, Bren and Pepito and Tito too—these harmless peacemakers—would not run away at the explosion of a bawang firecracker.

Raul Roco, as usual, pretended to be nonchalant.

“At least, these guys do not have to pay for their gasoline,” he said. He had the look of a shyster as he laughed. Typical.

Tito Guingona, however, looked so forlorn. He was a study in brooding silence. He was desolate.

“Everyone is in revelry, Tito,” I comforted this man who has been a sincere and gallant partner in our struggle for decency, fairness and freedom. “You alone seem so despondent.”

Tito lifted his eyes and spoke his parting words: “Do not forget us, Caesar.”

“Forget? Tito, how can we forget?”

Our hearts went out to our colleagues as the soldiers came forward; they were to be returned to the stockades.

“Do not lose hope!” Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw and I chorused as we waved at them.

Not lose hope? Did we really mean what we said? But today, the 30th of November, 1972, did we not really lose hope ourselves? On this day of infamy, did we not bury our dreams?

The Con-Con is over. Finished.

“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith,” Paul had written to Timothy. But as for us, did we tight the good fight, really, or did we simply capitulate?

The Constitution has been bastardized. Authoritarianism has been legalized—but surely not legitimized! Where is that acceptance by the population of rulers imbued with superior moral, intellectual and political capabilities which Antonio Gramsci says, is the hallmark of legitimacy?

Up to now, our democracy, at best, has been a fragile one. But even this as yet imperfect—because clientelist and elitist—democracy has been cruelly snatched from us by this coup from above. Will the political institutions of this fragile democracy someday be restored, perhaps even nurtured to ripen into an authentic democracy? But democratic institutions can only be sustained if they are part of a democratic culture; even free institutions may not create a free society. Can we look forward to a time when the next generation may be able to cure the defects of a facade democracy and really see a participatory society with the incandescent idea enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence—that all men are created equal—at least approximated?

But even these reflections should be set aside for now. At the moment, one anxiously wonders whether this dark night of repression that has descended upon all of us will last for a long period? Or is this going to be a mere aberration in our 70 years of constitutional development—a nightmare whose memory will vanish soon enough?

But vanish it, perhaps we should not. For if we fail to remember our past, pride will dominate our politics and history.

I now close this diary of the Con-Con which depicts the strands of a complex fabric of contradictions—of indecency, bad taste, dishonor, betrayal, cowardice—compounded by some acts of selfishness, too, even of sparks of courage among a few.

Our actuations in the Con-Con reflected vividly the tragedy of man in his pride and his vulnerability.

I remember that 27 years ago, the philosopher Karl Jaspers had addressed his fellow Germans in searing terms, whose words I can not now exactly recall: “We did not go into the streets when our Jewish friends were led away; we did not scream until we, too, were destroyed. We preferred to stay alive on the feeble, if logical ground that our death could not have helped anyone… we are guilty of being alive.”

I feel guilty of being free; thousands are in the stockades, some of them tortured. And two of the “super-radicals” at our Asian Leadership Development Conference (ALDEC)—with whom I had some violent quarrels on the night that martial law was declared—have been shot and killed, I heard.

Could a certain respect for higher principles above our own personal existence have saved our people from so much pain and suffering? Don’t ethical and moral dimensions in political decision-making count anymore?

Should not our people—perhaps the next generation, who knows?—not confront our national guilt someday?

Will this story of guilt and betrayal someday be unravelled and the judgment of history brought down upon our heads? I, for one, hereby vow that at the very first opportunity, when the dawn of freedom shall have brightened again the skies of our darkened land, I will have this diary read by our people. They have a right to know how their delegates performed and behaved at the Con-Con during the decisive last three months of its tragic life; our development, whether for progress or retrogression, is blurred enough by too much anonymization.

Withal, some halting doubts assail me as I close the Con-Con story: What if martial law was not declared? Could the Con-Con have framed a Constitution that would have brought about basic changes in our social structures, minimized inequality in wealth and political power? Could we have conquered massive poverty among the people or accelerated growth that would ameliorate the harshest aspects of poverty of the present and bears the seeds of decreasing inequality in the future? If those of us who call ourselves democrats have had our way in the Con-Con, could we have ushered in a more just society, a more participatory polity?

I do realize even as I close this diary that this is one of those great “ifs” in history. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder: Could the Con-Con really have effected a social revolution through constitutional means in response to the desperate need of our people for greater social justice, if only some of us, myself included, had stood up for the harder right instead of the easier wrong?

Of course there is no way to test the big decisions of history, as the Czech writer, Milan Kundera, says, because there is no way to go back and see what the opposite choices would have brought. Indeed, how can we know for certain that those of us who had experienced detention or been suppressed in the exercise of our freedom of expression during the Con-Con would not follow after the footsteps of our oppressors if it should happen that someday it may be our turn to wield political power? Would we not, then, precisely fulfill the role set by Paulo Freire in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed?

I do not really know what to think of these things; perhaps I can never know. Indeed, often in life we have to face serious and difficult questions where no one really knows the answers. But it does not really matter, as Max Frisch has once said; the important thing is to raise the questions nevertheless. Then, in the end, everyone must answer in his own way. Some, no doubt, would answer with their own lives.

Manila. Three hours past midnight of November 30, 1972.


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.


Monday, November 27, 1972

The headline of the Daily Express today was “Second Reading Vote Today on Draft of Proposed Constitution.” The subheading is “Charter Reflect Spirit of New Society.”

I had a brief chat with Johnny Remulla and Jun Davide.

“There is no more oppposition in Cavite,” Johnny declared triumphantly. “Governor Bocalan is in the stockade while Senator (Tatang) Montano is out of the country. Tatang Montano was one of those to be arrested on the first day of martial law for smuggling and/or gunrunning.”

That left Johnny, indeed, the virtual ruler of Cavite.

I had thought that today we could start with our interpellations. I was about one of the few more interpellators who could not be accommodated yesterday because we adjourned early. However, when the session started in the morning, Roy Montejo moved that all other interpellations on the draft Constitution be submitted in writing to the Secretariat no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 28 for insertion in the journal.

I whispered to Sed Ordoñez, who was sitting beside me, “They have just killed my interpellation.”

I then dictated my interpellation to my secretary, Olive:

“We have divided the provisions of the new Constitution into those that are meant to be transitory in character and those permanent and enduring. I understand that the transitory provisions are meant to be merely provisional—that is to say, in the interim; that because of extraordinary circumstances certain powers are vested in certain officials. Is this the rationale for the concentration of executive powers which, ordinarily, we would not write among the permanent provisions during normal times?

“The members of the committee have been instrumental in convincing the majority of delegates that a parliamentary system of government is desirable for this country. The transitory provision, according to the draft Constitution, shall effect priority measures for the orderly transition from the presidential to parliamentary system of government. Does this mean that after the transition period, we shall then revert to the parliamentary system?

“If so, why the grant of extraordinary powers to the prime minister after the transition? Should these powers not be effective during the transition period only? Why should all the powers of the presidency be vested in the prime minister during normal times? Why not limit this grant of extraordinary powers during states of emergency? Again, why should veto powers be given the prime minister during normal times?

“As a corollary, there has been a diminution of the powers and responsibilities of the National Assembly under the draft being presented to us. I grant that during periods of emergency the power of Congress or of the Assembly may be greatly weakened, the reason being that these are abnormal times. But why, after normalcy shall have returned, should the National Assembly be allowed to pass only bills of local application? And what can be the justification for the deletion of the traditional immunity from arrest of its members during normal times?

“In the same manner, let us talk about civil rights. In the long history of constitutionalism, the most fundamental problem is that of striking a balance between national security and individual liberty. During normal times, however, democratic politics have tended to give greater weight to the fundamental liberties of citizens—not only of freedom of thought and speech, press, and worship but with all those freedoms that make human life human—the freedom to work and play, the freedom to laugh, the freedom not to be afraid. I find the predilection for being obsessed with national security understandable during abnormal times—during states of emergencies. But should we institutionalize the doctrine of national security and correspondingly diminish our vigorous support of civil liberties in the permanent provisions of the Constitution—after the national emergency shall have been over?

“Finally, we have a thick draft of the Constitution consisting of 92 pages. I find no more than eight pages given to the provisions on the national economy. And yet all of us agree that problems of national economy are among the most compelling problems of our people, and that indeed, the mediocre performance of the economy may put at risk the survival of our fragile democracy.

“What is our grand design for development? Is it not necessary to work for a fundamental restructuring of the world economy and a radical restructuring of social, political and economic institutions internally if we have to achieve development?

“And most important, is not social justice the overarching goal of development with which economic growth and self-reliance must be integrated to enable our people to attain a higher quality of life? Make their lives more human under the stresses and opportunities of growth? In other words, how do we effect radical changes in social structures so as to liberate the poor and the weak in Philippine society from their age-old bondage? What plan do we have for social reconstruction?”

Consummatum est,” I said as we filed out of the session hall at 9:40 p.m. today.

“Consummatum est,” echoed several delegates behind me, among them, Jess Matias and Erning Amatong. “We have just put the last nail in the coffin,” Erning said.

The elevator was getting to be full and I was the last one to enter. I asked quite innocently, “Where are we going?” A voice from behind said, “Very appropriate question—’Where are we going?’—Where else but down?” And still another delegate spoke: “Caesar, why do you ask such a question? Of course we are all bound to go down.”

The delegates were taking in stride the tragedy that has just struck. Filipinos are adept at double talk and the use of humor to hide their wounded feelings. Yet the note of fatalism cannot be hidden from their remarks.

The draft Constitution for the Republic of the Philippines was approved on second reading by a show of hands. Several of us—many from our Independent-Progressive group—abstained or voted “No.” But naturally, it was approved just the same.

But let us review the events of this day of infamy.

The day started with Delegate Yuzon proposing to change the first sentence in the Declaration of Principles to “The Philippines is a social and democratic Republic.” He made a very eloquent plea for acceptance of the amendment, arguing that the present wording, “The Philippines is a republican state,” was too tame to suit the progressive orientation of the new Constitution.

Of course, even the German Basic Law speaks of Germany as a social democratic state.

But responding on behalf of the committee, Ikeng Corpuz contended that the amendment would lead to confusion. The Yuzon amendment was lost, but I went over to Yuzon, anyway, to congratulate him for his progressive views.

The amendment of Naning Kalaw, which expresses the sentiment that those who have less in life should have more in law, was inserted into the records. Actually, President Magsaysay had made this as his slogan in the 1950s, the centerpiece of his social amelioration program. The poor guy did not realize that his legal adviser, Prof. Enrique M. Fernando, had taken the idea from Prof. Thomas Reed Powell of Harvard Law School. Insofar as our countrymen are concerned, this slogan is inextricably linked to Ramon Magsaysay; didn’t I see it inscribed at the Magsaysay Center at Roxas Boulevard?

At about 11:13, while we were still in the midst of amendments, Vic Guzman moved for the previous question on the entire draft of the Constitution.

That was not only foolish; it was sordid. Many delegates were furious.

I do not know what was in the mind of Vic. Of course, none of the amendments would be accepted. Nevertheless, he—along with the majority that completely overwhelmed us—could have manifested a spirit of moderation, of fair play, let alone generosity.

“Worse than the executioner is his valet,” Mirabeau had said during the French Revolution. How appropriately exhibited in our Con-Con!

When we started discussing the Bill of Rights, Sed Ordoñez rose on interpellation. He asked if the Bill of Rights was supposed to be operative. The answer of Tony Tupaz was “Yes.”

But was it not in conflict with the transitory provision?

“No, the Bill of Rights would be effective, subject to the transitory provision,” was the deceptive reply.

Double-talk!

“This is a fundamental matter—that of the civil liberties of citizens,” Sed warned. “We should not gloss this over.”

Tony Tupaz reiterated that the transitory provision would not nullify our civil rights; rather our civil rights would be subject to the transitory provision. Tony did not bat an eyelash as he solemnly affirmed his devotion to individual freedom.

In effect, our rights are guaranteed so long as they are not in conflict with the transitory provision, that is to say, with the decrees of the President. In other words, the President may suspend all our rights because we gave him that power in the transitory provision. Das ist klar (that is clear), my German friends would say.

Ramon Diaz has been around since yesterday. Presumably, he is only here to vote “No.” He had abandoned the Convention more than two months ago, right after we lost on the resolution providing for no reelection for the President. In fact, when I saw him, I said, “Ramoning, it is good to see you around; I mean, it is good to see you personally although it would have been better if I were seeing you elsewhere….”

“Yes,” he said, “it is tragic.”

Lolo Baradi and I exchanged some pleasantries in the hallway. Baradi, until the end, professed loyalty to Marcos. Yet…

“I tell you partner,” he said, “this New Society will fall unless the economy is able to pick up. What about the unemployment situation? I was talking with some of my clients and their attitude is not to move. The President has told the businessmen to cooperate, not just to wait and see—but why will the businessmen move when all they hear from the President are decrees: ‘Do this!’ ‘Do that!’ ‘Don’t do this!’ ‘Don’t do that!'”

I looked at this kindly old man quizzically. Here is a good friend of President Marcos disagreeing with what is happening and yet not being able to express openly his true feelings.

During the meeting with the businessmen, he commented, the President should have taken the opportunity to have some dialogue with them. What the Apo did was a monologue.

“Yes,” Lolo Baradi continued in a whisper, “the country will not prosper until we stop these decrees—’Do this!’ ‘do that!’ ‘don’t do this!’ ‘don’t do that!’ business.”

What a pity that men can have good thoughts but have their lips sealed, I thought.

I kept on waiting to pursue my amendments. I wanted to put on record my amendments on the Bill of Rights. Of course, Naning Kalaw has already presented so many amendments which have been recorded. I wanted to read my amendments on the Bill of Rights into the journal.

At 4:30 p.m., Vic Guzman stood up again and presented his motion to vote on the previous question.

What a terrible pest! Why the mad rush? Why not give everyone a chance to present amendments? Of course, these would all be voted down but nevertheless that was the very least that should be accorded the minority—the vanquished minority—us. The sporting idea of fair play, if not the generosity of the victor, is absent.

I thought of a strategy. I went to Edmundo (Munding) Cea and President Macapagal. I suggested that if we should run out of time, the floor leader, Roy Montejo, should move that all the amendments properly filed and not discussed on the floor should become part of the journal records. They agreed.

Munding was happy enough. But I suggested to him that it would be good to wait until the last moment to say this. In the meantime, we should still continue with our amendments.

President Macapagal was somewhat vigorously suggesting the same thing to Munding. “We should give everyone a chance to present his amendments,” he said.

“The amendments would be refused hut at least everyone should be given a chance,” I added.

Even President Macapagal was finding the proceedings repulsive. “Yes,” Macapagal echoed. “At least give them a chance so that people would not say we have railroaded everything…. Let us be somewhat democratic about this.”

We went through the whole ritual of having one amendment after another presented to the body refused by the committee, and overwhelmingly disapproved or withdrawn by the proponents. Whenever it was an amendment which would be quite difficult, a recess would be called by the committee members—Tony Tupaz, Tony de Guzman, Peps Bengzon, etc.—and then they would talk to the proponents. It was almost unbelievable—the way this would be followed by withdrawals of amendments by the proponents.

I started swapping jokes with my neighbors, “Madali palang magpa-withdraw.”

“How?”

“Two words are uttered by the committee people: ‘Isusumbong kita.'”

“Maybe it is not only ‘isusumbong kita,’ maybe it is ‘ipapa-stockade kita.'”

We laughed. Our laughter was tinged with sadness.

How come everybody, no matter how vehement about his amendment in the beginning, later on acceded to the request for withdrawal after a little conference?

“We are in a bullet train—five hours to Osaka,” I said in a loud voice.

“Yeah, make it three hours so we can go home,” echoed another voice.

We shook our heads in disbelief. Out of so many proposed amendments falling by the wayside, only one amendment was passed. This was a proposal by Sensing Suarez on search warrants and warrants of arrest. Under the committee draft, a search warrant and warrant of arrest shall be issued only upon probable cause to be determined by the judge or such other responsible officials as may be authorized by law after examination, etc. The amendment was to delete “or such other responsible officers as may be authorized by law.” In other words, only a judge may issue a search warrant or warrant of arrest under the Suarez amendment. Of course. Surely, not police officers!

The amendment was unexpectedly approved on a vote of 96 to 87.

We were jubilant. How grateful we are even for little blessings. The first amendment approved in two days! I was one of the many who congratulated Sensing for this.

Sensing told us the reason he stood up to thank the members of the committee after the voting was that the committee members also voted in favor although it was formally refused for the committee by Tony Tupaz.

Later, I joined Joe Feria, Bobbit Sanchez, Naning Kalaw, Lilia Delima and Cefi Padua at the terrace.

“What is your stand now?” Jose asked me.

“As of now, if the voting were nominal, I would abstain. If it is by a show of hands, I would abstain or vote ‘No.'”

Lilia then said, “Please reconsider. It is important for us to vote ‘Yes.’ The majority would only be too glad to have us out of the Assembly. They would only be too glad to see us taken to the stockade. Do you know that during the voting on the transitory provision, they were urging me to vote ‘No’ so that I would not be in the Assembly? Why should we play into their hands?”

Most of us decided to abstain or vote “No” if it is going to be a show of hands—with the exception of Fr. Ortiz, Justice Barrera and Nene Pimentel who, we know, are already firm in deciding to vote “No,” in any case.

Our little group was hoping that the voting would be by a show of hands.

Bebet Duavit was at the next table. He agreed with us. Nominal voting should only be on third voting.

We wanted it this way so that our little group could at least abstain if we may not be able to vote “No.”

As we were talking, Raul Roco strolled towards us with an air of nonchalance. He was whistling.

“Are you having any problem?” he asked laughingly. “Why do you have problems? I have no problems.”

“Sit down.” We put Raul on the chair.

He then told us that he had spent many hours of discussion with two “moral counsellors” and both of them had advised him to vote “Yes.” It was meaningless to vote “No” anyway. The important question was what possible harm could there be in voting “Yes?”

“Obviously, we have different loyalties. We have loyalties to our families, our committees, our country, but what harm does it do to vote ‘Yes?’ There could be harm in voting ‘No.'”

I related to this group—the remnants of our once proud Independent-Progressive bloc—the interview with Sakharov which I had read the other night. When asked finally whether they thought that their efforts—which have been putting him, his wife and his family in very great danger—would produce any significant change in Russian politics, Sakharov answered that he did not expect any such changes at all. Then why continue exposing himself and his family to danger? Because for them this is not a political struggle. It is a moral struggle: “We are dissenting, because we have to be true to ourselves.”

Raul Roco straightened up and looked straight into our eyes.

“The time to be true to ourselves has passed—that was during the voting on the transitory provision.”

There was a deafening silence.

Raul confided to us that one of the priests—with a foreign name which I cannot recall—told him it was like the question of Laurel and Abad Santos during the war. But then, Raul said, the analogy is not very accurate. The enemy was clear and specific during the Japanese time. The lines are quite vague this time. Who are we to say that this or that is the enemy?

We asked whether as a condition for the removal of his name and that of Romy Capulong’s from the wanted “list,” he was supposed to vote “Yes.”

“No,” Raul answered. “There was no discussion, there was no such condition. But it was assumed…. it was assumed.”

He laughed. Nervously.

We were all downcast, depressed.

Soon we were voting on the entire Constitution.

Sed Ordoñez stood up to move for nominal voting. As was to be expected, his motion was lost. The majority insisted on voting by a show of hands or by standing up.

Should I vote “No” or should I abstain? I could not possibly vote “Yes.” But what might I expect if, indeed, I voted “No?”

Before I could think through my dilemma or banish my fears, voting was called. Those who were voting “No” were asked to stand up.

I found myself instinctively standing up—to join the “No” voters. In half a second, Joe Feria joined me. But before we could fully straighten up, a sudden loud roar of approval burst out. The overwhelming majority of the delegates had obviously voted for the ap­proval of the Constitution!

We now have a brand new Constitution. A Marcos Constitution. Authoritarianism has been institutionalized. The lapdogs of the dictator were delirious with joy.

I remember that the British Prime Minister Gladstone had called the American Constitution “the most wonderful work struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” Our brand new Constitution is the opposite; it is the most despicable work struck off at a given time by the warped brain and purpose of man, to his lasting disgrace.

What is really this new Constitution that we have approved? It was not the draft Constitution approved by the Convention as such, a couple of months earlier. For all purposes, this is a new Constitution that has been framed by a Convention that has changed its stripes. The watershed was reached during the proclamation of martial law. From then on the Convention has been a transformed Convention. Several delegates have even turned against their own provisions—willingly or under duress.

Of course, the most “scandalous provision,” to use the phrase of (Senator) Jovito Salonga, is that of the transitory provision. It is objectionable on several points: (1) we have constitutionalized a dictatorship; (2) we have affirmed all the proclamations, decrees, general orders and letters of instructions of the President; (3) we have made ourselves, as delegates, beneficiaries of this Constitution by making ourselves assemblymen.

We shall become assemblymen—just like that!

The second feature—the legalization of the decrees of the President, was just somewhat improved upon by the amendment of Ikeng Belo to delete “are hereby confirmed, ratified as valid and binding,” etc., etc.

Part of the objections are contained in my interpellation which will be submitted tomorrow—because we are given until tomorrow to submit our written interpellations. Our oral interpellations have been cut off.

Bobbit Sanchez represents the same 2nd district of Rizal that Bebet Duavit represents. Bobbit informed us that it is now official knowledge in the Convention that Duavit is the high priest of Malacañang in the Convention. He receives instructions from Malacañang and transmits these during the proceedings.

Bobbit Sanchez confirmed that Duavit is presently thinking that only those who would vote for the Constitution on second and third readings should be allowed to be members of the Assembly. And we have just now not voted in favor. We have voted against. We are not going to disgrace ourselves. Whatever else life would bring or deny, one thing is absolutely certain: that we should not break faith with ourselves; that in our own eyes, our honor remains bright.

Duavit spoke. We should bear in mind, he said, that the rules of the Convention have been suspended.

What is the import of the rules being suspended? It is that the majority can do whatever it pleases, precisely because there are no rules.

But this is a perversion of democratic politics. Majority rule demands that the majority should prevail, it is true, but there are two conditions attached to these: that minority rights are not suppressed in the meantime, and that some day the minority might be the majority. In fact, the rationale for a written Bill of Rights in a democratic polity is to ensure that certain basic principles are insulated from the passing whims and caprices of majorities and officials.

Bobbit Sanchez, who seems to be able to gather much intelligence, gave the information that the other thing that Duavit is trying to accomplish is to undo the Suarez amendment, which restricts the issuance of warrants of arrest and search warrants to judges.

It was 9:18 p.m.—quite late in the night—when Duavit quietly, almost innocently asked Vice Pres. Abe Sarmiento, who was presiding, whether the rules have been suspended. He received an affirmative answer. He then quickly proposed to amend Section 16, Article 9, by adding on line 6, the words “unless the National Assembly shall provide otherwise.”

On behalf of the committee, Tony de Guzman accepted the amendment. Three seconds later, Abe banged the gavel to signify that the amendment was approved.

It was 9:19 p.m. No one was paying attention. Many delegates were still coming in.

Duavit then murmured some words. Was he uttering some magical incantations? He seemed to be proposing something… to amend Section 3, Article 4, by inserting the words that were deleted by the Suarez amendment on who may issue a warrant of arrest, “or such other responsible officers as may be authorized by law.”

Tony de Guzman accepted the amendment—which only a few people heard—in five seconds flat.

Chairman Abe Sarmiento asked if there were no opposition. A small, little figure swiftly darted towards the microphone and cried, “Objection!”

It was Bobbit Sanchez. Bobbit of course. Our gallant knight.

“We vote,” said an unruffled Abe. “Those in favor, raise your right hands. Those opposed…. Approved!” He banged his gavel.

It was 9:20 o’clock.

Ano ba ang pinag-uusapan?” one delegate innocently asked. He could have come from Mars.

Joe Feria was shaking his head in disbelief.

Ano, ano?… ito ‘yong amendment ni Suarez? Maganda ‘yon a. Hindi ba inapprove na natin?” Eli Johnson asked likewise in innocence. She could have also come from another planet. Creatures from another planet could have already conquered Earth, and she did not know it.

“This is terrible, terrible!” Rebeck exploded.

Yan ang sinasabi ko,” Bobbit threw his arms sidewards in a gesture of despair. He was grim. What can one really say to this? Like the dancing bear in Heinrich Heine’s Atta Troll, we are a people who love making speeches about freedom but secretly enjoy being in chains!

Many delegates started asking what had happened. All in one minute. But Abe was already far away on another item in the agenda. The railroad team had worked so efficiently. There was no discussion, no explanation.

Our Independent-Progressive coalition likes Abe but many delegates get exasperated when at times he becomes too cooperative with the establishment.

What is the meaning of the latest action? The clear meaning is that now it is not only the judge who may issue a warrant of arrest as provided for in the present Bill of Rights. It may be such other responsible officers as may be authorized by law. And law may be a decree. Which means, by a decree the President can ask any colonel or major or any other government officer, say, a chief-of-police, to arrest anyone.

It was not until some 15 minutes later that the full impact of the most recent action of the Convention was realized by most delegates. But by then everything was finished.

Cicero Calderon said that Duavit had phoned Malacañang about the earlier deletion of the phrase and that President Marcos was very angry over the deletion.

The Convention is really finished.

Two centuries ago, Vauvenargues said that the greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambitions.


Saturday, October 28, 1972

Vice President Abe Sarmiento looked over a copy of the first draft prepared by the Steering Council. Apparently, the Steering Council already has a first draft of the whole Constitution, only eight days after the golpe.

Adil and Brod Abe summarized the provision which said that the members of the National Assembly would receive a compensation of ₱120,000.00 with other allowances not to exceed three times this amount.

“I was only asking for a salary of ₱72,000 instead of ₱120,000,” Adil said. (He had sponsored this resolution on the floor, but failed to get it approved.) “Plus an allowance of two times this amount. Now, this is three times.” He was exultant.

            Maganda, maganda,” Abe rubbed his hands in glee.

Cesar Sevilla from Leyte protested this would be unacceptable to the people. I joined him, saying that the people would hold the coming assemblymen in contempt in the same manner that they have held our present legislators in contempt, because of their excessive allowances. I told them of Senator Liwag’s suggestion that the remuneration of assemblymen should be limited to the same per diems they have been receiving as delegates.

Adil defended the huge compensation. He said the draft was prepared with the help of Malacañang consultants and of technical experts from Congress. Apparently, it was the feeling of Congress that the salaries and allowances should be increased from its present ₱48,000 plus allowances. But I thought that this huge salary of ₱120,000 plus three times this amount in allowances was adding insult to injury. This would be clearly immoral. In Germany, be it said, the staff allowance of a Bundestag member would provide for the salaries of 2 1/2 secretaries; this is something better than what the members of Parliament in the United Kingdom have for staff allowances which, incidentally, are directly paid to the staff. But what are we now proposing in our poor country, whose GDP per capita is less than 30 times the GDP of West European countries?

“I’m too old to take part in this immorality,” Domi Alonto commented. “Where shall the country get the money to pay for all these?”

Good old Domi. He is a respectable gentleman of the old school.

Delegates by the dozens then rushed towards Adil and Abe. They read and read the provisions amid rejoicing.

Hallelujah! We are going to be rich!

Pedro (Pete) Yap was gloomy.

“Perhaps you made a mistake in leaving the United Nations and coming home to the Philippines?”

I did not anticipate his response: “That’s true.”

He confided that he had thought that while he is still strong he would come back to the Philippines to serve the country. I was surprised to hear that now he regretted having left the U.N. to come back to his country.

Pete Yap is terribly disillusioned. He said he would now welcome working outside the Philippines again.

“I am looking forward to possibilities of working abroad, perhaps, in some United Nations agency,” I confided.

He said he is also thinking along the same lines.

“Ambassador Hortencio (Tensing) Brilliantes had told me in Geneva that you were quite close at the U.N. before.”

Pete agreed. “Perhaps Tensing can help us.”

Brilliantes, in addition to being our permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, will soon be ambassador to Bern and accredited to Vienna. He was elected chairman of the UNIDO last year and is now chairman of the UNCTAD. I was pretty sure he could help.

I told Pete I know someone who may be leaving for Bern soon and we could send a letter to Brilliantes through this fellow. He asked me to be sure to let him know. He would like to send a letter. He was serious.

After the session, I gave Nene Pimentel a lift up to Alemar’s. He was, as usual, very warm with me. He said he would, likewise, want to go abroad if possible.

“I could go around the universities in Europe and ask, ‘Would you like a former dean of a law school in the Philippines to handle a course?’,” I kidded him. Before his election to the Convention, Nene was dean of the law school of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro.

“Or if you are so minded, we could put up a law office…” But Nene Pimentel suddenly checked himself and said, almost with regret: “Oh, but then you are going to join the National Assembly.”

“I don’t think so, Nene.” My voice was firm. “Never!”

Nene looked at me quizzically and smiled.

“I didn’t think you would,” he said gladly.

I went home thinking what a great pity this whole thing has turned out to be. What a mess!


Friday, October 20, 1972

The proceedings were tense; or should I say, shameful?

There were vigorous speeches against the provision by Justice Barrera, Gary Teves and Leonie Garcia. The whole Convention looked with admiration at these three musketeers who have displayed their guts by speaking against what is a foreordained provision and, in so doing, were taking the risk of incurring the wrath of the political gods.

There were many more minor skirmishes. The one thing that sticks to my mind is the fact that insofar as talking or reasoning with the majority was concerned, it was like talking to a wall. There was absolutely no way for them to accomodate another view. They were determined to ram through whatever they had decided.

Teroy Laurel made a brilliant defense of his proposed amendments to the draft. We should not limit membership to the National Assembly to the delegates who would opt to serve, as was provided for in the draft, because this was really making the thing a mockery; it was humiliating.

It would seem from the amount of applause he received and the raising of hands that followed, that the amendment was carried. Indeed, it was announced by Abe Sarmiento, who was then presiding, that the motion was carried.

But then Fidel Purisima demanded voting by tellers. This changed the situation. Many delegates would not express their true wishes because the walls of the session have many eyes: the dissenters would be watched by Big Brother!

In the voting by tellers, the result was 128 to 123 –or something like that– in favor of retaining the original draft provision which states that members of the 1971 Constitutional Convention who opt to serve in the Interim Assembly by voting affirmatively would be the only ones who would be members of the National Assembly. This is cearly immoral, unfair and unjust –but the proponents have made up their minds.

Yesterday, I casually told Ramon Encarnacion that perhaps the President would be a little more reasonable than his own lieutenants in the session hall. I overheard Bebet Duavit was willing to give 72 hours to those who were not present during the voting to signify their intention of voting affirmitavely. I, therefore, went to Duavit in order to persuade him to lengthen this to, say, two weeks, to enable those who are abroad to come back and give their decision. But Duavit said this was impossible. As it was, he was only trying to get them to agree on this 72 hours’ grace, but not as an amendment to the provision. It is going to be some kind of suspension of rules before actual voting on the amendment.

Later, I rose, anyway, to introduce an amendment to extend the time for those who are absent to be able to vote. Before I could complete my first few sentences, however, the floor leader, Munding Cea, cut me off, and on the same theme, said it would be completely unfair and unjust to preclude our colleagues who are not present from voting…

To our great chagrin, Toto de la Cruz, chairman of the Committee on Rules, stood to oppose this.

How could anyone in conscience oppose something like this? Where is our sense of fairness? But then, a people secure in their numbers and certain of their purpose can too easily forget that democracy requires tolerance!

Arturo Pacificador would not brook any moderation. Evidently following a “script”, he announced that those absent would be given 72 hours, provided they personally cast their votes in an open session. When some amendments were proposed, such as to allow voting by cablegrams and tegerams or letters, Pacificador, his porcupine hair blasphemously pointing heavenwards, arrogantly gesticulated. “If this is under question, I better withdraw my motion,” he haughtily trumpeted…

So we had to vote….

The tension in the air was very heavy during the voting. The roll call took place. There were 14 “No” votes…

Afterwards, the dominant group made a motion to have our vote considered, for all purposes, as the same vote for the second and third readings.

It seems no quarter are to be given. Like a no-prisoners taken stance in war. In other words, the majority would take what it can –everything– now; why wait?

It was indecent, of course. But decency could not wait any longer. Immediate voting was done –and it passed almost unanimously.

In one stroke, so to speak, we actually voted on second and third readings on the provision in question -and that means then that the provision is finished –passed!

What is done is done. We have failed our people… We were elected to be members of the Convention, not to be assemblymen. The grant of extraordinary powers and the ratification of all actions of the President does not seem to bother the delegates too much. The fact that ours is now a rubber stamp Convention and that the Assembly would be a rubber stamp Assembly does not really matter. What is ultimately important to them, it would seem, is that we are going to be members of the Assembly –so the next area of concern is what salaries we are going to have.

 


Thursday, October 5, 1972

Some five delegates are already in the army stockades. In the haphazard enumeration by the government-controlled paper, The Daily Express, the last two delegates named were Ramon (sic) Espiritu and Jose Mari Velez of Rizal.

As I entered the session hall, Joe Feria met me. “I was afraid you were already taken in.” And Charlie Valdez added, “You better go up because there is so much speculation inside the session hall about you.”

True enough, as I entered, there was some excitement on the part of the delegates who were thinking that I must have already been arrested. Jun Catan was saying that if it were true that I was arrested, then they would have taken the wrong man because he knows that I am a fair-minded man. Moreover, I am not really a man of such means as to be able to finance subversives. Twice he told me that he had said this to Roberto (Bert) Oca.

Delegates Pedro (Pete) Valdez and Manuel (Maneng) Concordia were quite concerned. Sergio (Serging) Tocao had allayed their fears by telling them that last night we were together until almost 10:00 o’clock so it could not be possible that I have been taken in because usually arrests are staged at night.

Some fuzz ensued upon my entrance. Many delegates rose to meet me. Abe Sarmiento, Con-Con vice-president, who was then presiding, had to bang the gavel: “Please! May I request all delegates to please take their seats and listen to the Speaker.”

I felt guilty that my entrance caused some disorder in the hall because many delegates started milling around me. They seemed genuinely happy to see me.

I had to keep on telling the delegates in a light vein, “By the way, my name is not Ramon.”

Later, in the afternoon, I met Celso Gangan. He said there is a difference between the high level criticisms and statements such as I was making and the low level ones that have been made by some people. “I am sure they would not arrest you because you have been taking a high level in your discussions,” he said.

Small comfort.

President Macapagal later told us that in the Planning and Administrative Review Committee a decision has been made to create a group that is smaller than the Plenary Committee but large enough to be democratic and to ensure support by the plenary. Such a body, he said, will be composed of the executive officers of the Convention, namely, the president, the president pro tempore, the vice-presidents, the chairman and members of the Steering Council, the chairman and members of the Sponsorship Council and the floor leaders. This would amount to something like 126 people.

These people would go over or write entirely the draft of the New Constitution, using as bases (1) the drafts already approved on second reading, (2) the consolidated provisions, such as the provisions on the national economy adopted by the chairman and officers of the 12 committees under Ramon (Monet) Tirol, and (3) those provisions which shall have been written out by the Steering Council based on the committee reports, after such reports shall have been harmonized.

There seems to be merit in what Macapagal is proposing. This would probably enable the Convention to finish its task by January 13, 1973.

He has a valid point when he said that all of the delegates, irrespective of their individual views and convictions, are interested in finishing a good Constitution as soon as possible so that the Constitution can be presented before the Convention fizzles out.

In the evening, I went over President Marcos’ book, Today’s Revolution: Democracy. I had read the first two chapters last year but, in the light of present developments, there is a need to read the book again, particularly the more practical chapters in the middle portion and the last chapter entitled “The New Society.”


Thursday, September 7, 1972

This morning, I had a full hour’s chat with President Macapagal. Majority Floor Leader Edmundo (Munding) Cea and Vice Pres. Abraham (Abe) Sarmiento were with us part of the time. I was telling Macapagal that he had delivered a mesmerizing speech yesterday in favor of the ban-dynasty resolution. In fact I heard it said, by some delegates, that that was his finest hour.

I also suggested to Macapagal that there are perhaps two options for us. The first is to just simply freeze the ball and let the Convention work as slowly as possible so that the plebiscite on the new Constitution may only be done after the expiration of Marcos’ term in 1973. This would really, in effect, ban the incumbent. In fact, Convention secretary, Jose (Pepe) Abueva, has also suggested the same thing.

Another possibility, I said, was to declare a recess until January 1974.

We then talked about the transition government resolution filed by Oscar (Oka) Leviste and Antonio (Tony) Velasco. To my great surprise, Macapagal said what was almost unbelievable to me up to then—that this resolution might pass.

For some delegates, the point is, the ban-dynasty provision has already failed anyway; Marcos would surely win. Therefore, we might just as well postpone the election and hold over the positions of elective officials. The bonus is that we, the delegates, would be there in the first parliament. This is the substance and spirit of the Tony-Oka transition government resolution.

Incredible, I said. How can such a self-serving resolution pass? I remember now that Antonio (Tony) Tupaz had told me that definitely this would pass. I had dismissed the idea quickly then. But last night, Pepe Abueva was telling me that this just might pass really, for all we know. Macapagal sadly confirmed this: “Yes, that might even pass.”

This now seems to be a serious matter—where before, only Oka Leviste and Tony Velasco believed in it. But, of course, the come-on is irresistible. Who wouldn’t want to be in the first parliament—without even having to fight it out in an election contest?

 Macapagal did not know that Gary Teves and Adolfo (Adolf) Azcuña all along have been voting independently. Macapagal was quite surprised by what I said about Gary, because Gary’s uncle, Senator Teves, and his father, Congressman Teves, were allies of Marcos. I said, “Oh, yes, all along he has been with us.”

I like the kid. He is sincere and competent; I feel that young people like him should be encouraged and supported. He has voted independently of the way Congressman Teves and Senator Teves have been voting in Congress.

The other politician’s son who has surprisingly been consistently voting with us is Adolf Azcuña. The voting record of Adolf has really been progressive and independent. In fact, although he is an assistant attorney at the Bengzon law office, his record is poles apart from that of Peps Bengzon. In Adolf’s own words, some six months ago, his vote was 85 percent of the time different from that of Peps. Now, again, on the ban-Marcos resolution, he voted with us. He did not have second thoughts about his true colors.

Of course his local political rival, Ernesto (Erning) Amatong, is not very certain of Adolf s persuasions. Is he really independent of his father’s influence, this son of Congressman Azcuña? Nevertheless, Erning is a fair man and he has acknowledged to me that he is impressed by Adolf. He agrees with me that Adolf has been showing himself to be a sincere and independent-minded and conscientious young man.

Erning Amatong, as expected, voted with us. He is an old reliable, really. So did Vincenzo Sagun.

At noon, I went to the meeting of the Independent-Progressive bloc at the home of Pepe Calderon to discuss our options.