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!