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.


July 14, 1945 Saturday

I am naturally very interested in the former employees of the government. It seems that the administration has considered all former employees as collaborators and as such they were all dropped from the service. Osmeña has somewhat qualified this policy and a few, like the teachers, have been reinstated. But the great majority are still out of public service. Many of them are now suffering, the victims of the injustices of politics. I say injustice because they have been replaced by henchmen of the government moguls. I hope they will be reinstated immediately. My reasons may be seen below.

When the Commission organized the government on Jan. 21, 1942, there was practically no government employee that wanted to reenter the service. But the government had to run and we did our best to persuage them to accept employment. They told us that they preferred to wait because the Americans would be back in less than a year. Anyhow, they said they had already received their three months’ salary. At the beginning, I was rather doubtful myself as rumors were very strong that an American Army and Navy Convoy were already on the way. But days passed, weeks and months passed, and no help was in sight, and in the meanwhile resistance in Corregidor and Bataan was weakening.

The fall of Corregidor and Bataan was imminent — there was no indication that the Americans were coming soon. The employees held out as long as they could. But after they had spent their three months’ salary, most of them could not longer continue without employment. They were now drawing from the little savings they had. As everybody knows, unless a government employee is dishonest, he cannot possibly provide for the morrow. This the reason why I am now convinced that the insurance system of protection for the employees must be converted into a regular pension system. The insurance is just a temporary help; the pension is permanent and provides for the employee when he loses his job, or for his family after his death. With the pension plan we can retire old employees, and the employees will do their best to maintain an efficient record during the period necessary to entitle them to receive the pension. They will be honest as they know that if they become incapacitated or die, they can rest assured that their families will not live in misery.

Going back to the government employees, a few of them engaged in business; but a great majority of them had to work and they were not fit to do anything else. They had to choose between employment or starvation. It is easy to say that for patriotic reasons, he should have preferred to starve and to suffer. But when his innocent little children began to clamor for food, they had to be fed — no explanation could sooth them. What was the poor father supposed to do? He could go around borrowing money or asking help from his friends. His friends may be very accommodating, but this could not continue for a long time because they also are not enjoying abundance. He looks for a job outside the government or any work which had nothing to do with the Japanese. The only pair of shoes that he still has wears out and he has spent his last money. What could he do? He could not go to the mountains leaving his family to starve under the mercy of the Japanese. He did not want to steal for he is a religious and perfectly honest man. What did he do? He went to the office where he had spent the best years of his life. He went there out of necessity; to live, to save his beloved wife and children. He served without the least intention of helping the Japanese since, having been reared in an atmosphere of justice and freedom, he could not possibly ally himself with men for whom such justice and freedom were a mockery. His whole thought, his sole aim was to save his family. Even then, there were many who resisted.

I remember vividly one case and fortunately he is here with us because if I am wrong, he could correct me. I am referring to Mr. Pimentel, our Secretary. I met him one day (during the war) and asked him what he was doing. He said he was not doing anything and, although he was already in dire straits, he would prefer not to work with or under the Japanese. His information was that in six months, the Americans would be back. He said that he had sons in the USAFFE and he did not care to be in any way connected with the Japanese. I knew Mr. Pimentel as a man who was as poor as myself and that he had to work all the time to support his big family. When we parted, I saw the determination in his eyes to continue fighting the Japanese in his own way.

But Bataan and Corregidor were crumbling; they fell shortly. He became convinced that the Americans could not come back in one year. He could not hold out that long so he decided to accept employment. Pimentel’s experience is the same as that of thousands and thousands of government employees — by necessity they accepted employment. In their hearts they did not for a moment waiver in their ardent desire to see the Americans back in the Philippines. They could not give any outward manifestation of their sentiments, as the offices were full of spies and the movements of officials and employees were watched closely. But inside their homes, among their immediate family, they prayed fervently for the victory of America. But many did not stop there. When the guerrillas became numerous and active, most of them joined the guerrillas in one form or another. I say in one form or another because, although there were many who were given official ranks, there were also many who did not want any appointment or sign anything for fear that they would be discovered. After all, they said, the important thing was to render service to the cause of America and the Philippines. No official papers or signatures could be more valuable than that. Like true heroes, real patriots, the material gain never entered their minds.

How did they serve the cause of America and the Philippines? They served by furnishing valuable information, helping in every way those active in the guerrilla warfare, bolstering up the morale of our people, creating difficulties for the Japanese Army and Navy and the Japanese in general. These employees were the anonymous forces that helped. Their services were equally meritorious.

To cite an instance of how they served. Ironically, this involved Mr. Confesor who seems to have had something to do with the formation of the present government’s policy involving former employees. Sometime in 1943, evidently as an answer to the appeal of Gov. Caram of Iloilo, Mr. Confesor wrote him a letter giving his reasons why he did not care to come down from the mountains and surrender to the Japanese. I was able to get a copy of the letter. It was a well written letter and his arguments were very weighty. It impressed me very deeply so much so that as I had always considered him a close friend of mine, I wanted to discuss the matter with him. Unfortunately I was not able to see him. I said that it was a good letter, but it contained an insinuation against which I must protest. I lost my two copies during the fire in my house and in my office. But I distinctly remember that there was a paragraph or some sentences referring to some speeches we delivered in Iloilo (in March or April of 1943), which in substance say the following: “You better prepare new speeches which you can deliver next July when the Americans will be here.” The insinuations were that (a) we were mere job-seekers; and (b) we were so insincere that we only say what would be pleasing to the ears of our hearers. This is not the proper place to answer such scurrilous accusations. For the present, I must make it of record that I have never been a job-seeker, and that I have always considered insincerity as one of the worst traits a man can possess.

Well, I brought Mr. Confesor’s letter to Manila and placed it in my desk drawer at the office, together with many other important documents. Many employees had heard about the famous letter announcing the coming of the Americans and they were all anxious to get a copy. One day, a clerk of mine entered my office gasping. “What’s the matter,” I asked him. “Sir, they are distributing copies of Mr. Confesor’s letter,” he stammered. I was alarmed; everybody knew what was coming if the Japanese ever found out that a prescripted document like that letter was being copied and distributed in our office. It would have meant Fort Santiago for all of us and at that time the mere mention of that historic fort made everybody shudder. I investigated the matter and I discovered that, as I had just come from Iloilo and suspecting that I had a copy of the letter, my employees went through my drawers and found the copy. They made numerous copies using the typewriter in our office. Each and every one of them became a distributor of the letter and a propagandist of the coming of the Americans. I had to take unusual precautions to cover up that happening in my office. I understand similar incidents occurred in the other offices.

Another evidence of the employees’ pro-American feelings. About 20 employees of an important bureau of the government were arrested by the “Kempetai” (Japanese Military Police). They were charged with being guerrillas and according to the Kempetai, the evidence consisted of a list of “guerrilleros” which they found. The matter was brought up to Malacañan. Naturally a promise was made to the Japanese that the matter would be investigated and proper criminal and administrative action would be taken against the guilty parties. All except the three supposed leaders, were released. I do not know what happened to those leaders, but they were probably released after the usual torture meted out to almost all those arrested.

During the investigation it was discovered that if the guerrilla elements in all the bureaus were to be eliminated, there would have been almost complete paralization of the government. The whole matter was hushed and covered up. I do not recall anyone prosecuted or dismissed from the service for guerrilla activities or connections.

More evidence of the attitude of the employees. Everytime there was a meeting or a parade, attendance had to be obligatory under heavy administrative penalty, otherwise very few attended. The employees offered all kinds of excuses to avoid going to the parade or meeting.

In this connection, I would like to say something about the ex-officers and servicemen of the USAFFE. At the beginning, we were not sure what the attitude of the Japanese to their employment would be. Already we could observe that a good many of them were suffering for lack of means. We were able to convince the Japanese to allow us to employ these men. The argument we used, which we knew could never be true, was that these men sincerely wanted to be with the Japanese because they were beginning to understand that Orientals ought to be together. We devoted much attention to them. We issued orders reinstating them to their old positions and, as to the others who were not former government employees, we ordered that preference in hiring be given to them. I can certify that inspite of all the hardships these men were going through, very few took advantage of our orders. Only those who would otherwise starve unless they earned something accepted positions in the government.

Another fact that should be considered. In the last months of the Japanese regime, in view of the dangers in Manila, the food shortage, the financial condition of the government and the paralization of government activities, orders were issued for the release of the employees with payment of a certain amount of bonus. Everybody wanted to take advantage of it. If we had not rescinded our orders there would have been practically nobody left.

There are the men that are now being punished. They are patriots in their own way. Perhaps their services were even more effective than those who now wish to monopolize patriotism. The only thing they were guilty of was that they wished to live, and managed to live. And because they survived the war, they are now branded as traitors; because they were unable and could not possibly go to the mountains, they are being placed on a worst ration than bread and water.

It is said that something is being done — but the process is entirely wrong. A board of inquiry has been appointed to determine whether those seeking reinstatement could be allowed to return. My opinion is that they should all be reinstated and then the Board can determine whether they could or should continue or not. The difference is that in the first case, the employees are being presumed guilty and the burden of proving the contrary is thrown upon them. In the latter case, they are presumed innocent and they could remain in the service as long as nothing has been proven against them.

Justice is all that I demand for them.


September 18, 1942

It is my impression that, since majority of the members of our class are PCA graduates and former Constabulary Os, we are generally in favor to serve as police officers to help preserve traquility for the welfare of our people to help them resume normal lives. Like the provincial and municipal elective officials of Bulacan who are collaborating with the Japanese Adm., their situation had virtually returned to normal with minimum interference from the Jap. Adm.  The fact is at the end of May 1942, the Japanese guards at Malolos POW Camp turned over their duties to the Prov. Sheriff and shortly after public schools opened.  Unlike in Iloilo province where the elective officials headed by Gov. Tomas Confesor refused to collaborate (branding collaborators as traitors) the Japanese appointed Dr. Caram as governor and a new set of mayors to serve sending thousands of troops to maintain order in Iloilo.

Today I learned of some undercurrents among a few members of the class that are not willing to serve in the BC.  This group is led by Maj. Romulo Villaflor, an artillery officer and his followers are non-PCA grads.  What they are trying to do is to fail intentionally the course and like at PMA, be dismissed and not graduate.  I commented to Maj. Villaflor that the Japanese has a strange sense of humor and may not follow what they expected and return them to Capas.  Apparently, he did not believe me.


June 20, 1942

Today, being a Saturday, Bulacan Gov. Emilio Rustia attended the weekend evening Mass with us at POW Camp Malolos. After the services by Fr. Lipana, I invited him in my office to express my gratitude for his medical officers effort taking good care of our sick. There are no casualties so far in this POW Camp, we even increased in number by three since our arrival last April 10.

I had a most enlightening private conversation with the governor about Realism and Idealism. He started saying peace and order in Bulacan have virtually returned to normalcy and this is confirmed by reports of my relatives in Plaridel. He had recommended to Japanese Authorities for the opening of classes in all schools. He said, after a secret meeting of all elected municipal and provincial officials early last Jan., they unanimously decided to collaborate with the new masters as a realistic strategy to serve our people because if they did not, the Japanese would have appointed other individuals who were not elected, inexperienced in public service with selfish ends. He claims their collective strategy appears working as they have good rapport with the Japanese and obtaining conditions in Bulacan looks good. For one thing, we have nothing to complain about as POWs.

Gov. Rustia cited the case of the island of Panay, particularly the province of Iloilo whose elected Gov. Tomas Confesor and his Municipal Mayors chose the Idealistic Strategy of not collaborating to appear patriotic and courageous by trying to fight back. The Japanese appointed a medical doctor Fermin Caram as Governor and his followers who were not duly elected as Municipal Mayors with the result that the Japanese landed thousands of troops to hunt down Confesor and his followers and the entire island still in turmoil. Gov. Rustia believes Confesor’s decision to be idealistic does not serve the good of his people due to lack of logistics and trained military of his own. When Pres. Quezon designated his Exec. Sec. Jorge Vargas to head a group to collaborate with the Japanese before he moved to Corregidor, that was realism.

I thank the governor for that enlightening conversation and after he left, it occurred to me that I also committed the same idealistic notion as Gov. Confesor when I threw my PMA Class Ring at sea (a foolish thing I did) when I was surrounded by the enemy and realized I was a POW. How I longed for that ring that gave me inner strength when I wore it.