Thursday, November 9, 1972

In the morning, Col. Moy Buhain (aide-de-camp to Speaker Villareal of the House of Representatives whom I had periodically served as economic adviser) dropped by to talk to me about the latest draft of the Steering Council. Obviously, he had already seen Speaker Villareal since our last talk. We were speculating on what will happen to the leaders of the country in the new political setup.

I told him that my understanding is that the President has a timetable to have the new Constitution approved by the middle of January so that Congress may no longer have to convene.

“What about Vice President Lopez? Right now he is in limbo. And what about (Senate President) Puyat? The other senators? And the speaker?”

“Theirs are problems as yet unresolved,” I replied. “Under the scenario under preparation, however, all of them would be members of the National Assembly. And there is a good chance, from my reckoning, that the President might want to have Speaker Villareal be the Speaker of the new Assembly,” I added.

Insofar as Lopez is concerned, it may be that after a while, the President would give up his post as president under the new Constitution. Already he has removed what few powers the president has left in our draft Constitution. Why did he have them transferred to the prime minister, as Atoy Barbero was telling me yesterday, so that all the powers are now vested in the prime minister? One possible answer is that he might then offer the presidency to Vice President Lopez, we conjectured. After all, under the Marcos Constitution, the president will now be elected by the Assembly and no longer directly by the Filipino people.

I went to the session hall in the afternoon. Some 40 delegates were scattered all over the session hall, chattering and flitting like birds lost in the wilderness.

No one seemed to know what was happening. The delegates were just whiling away their time. The reason? The Steering Council has decided that it was not ready to meet the 166-man body until Monday, four days from now.

Now, everything is the Steering Council! The Steering Council of 34 people decides everything while the rest of the 316 delegates are left guessing on what is happening, whiling away their time in speculations and small talks.

Greg Tingson, the famous evangelist, came to me, apparently bothered. He said, “Caesar, you and I profess Christian precepts. How shall we defend our actuations in this Convention?”

I was visibly troubled. Should we or should we not be in the provisional Assembly to be able to do what we could for the people at a time when we are needed most?

“It is apparent to me that this government has cast the die. There is no turning back. Should we not support it, abhorrent though it may be? Because if it fails, I foresee a revolution.” I was rationalizing; indeed, I was trying to convince myself.

“This is true,” Greg agreed readily. “For the sake of the country now, it should not fail.”

“But how can I join a dictatorial regime? I believe in human rights. I just cannot. I have pledged to fight all dictators in the world.” I was getting excited.

But if Marcos or Enrile should be out of power, Greg thought, the military would take over. We would then have a military government. Might not a transitional constitutional dictatorship be preferable to a military junta?

Between the devil and the deep blue sea? Is this now the situation of the country? Our fate is sealed?

The evil wrought on the country by the Steering Council is incalculable. However, be it said, its members are quite frank about what is happening; they keep on saying defensively that we cannot really express our own sentiments because the President wants this or that provision and that his will must be done.

It is quite true that, so far, some of the reforms of the President are laudable. I agree with Greg Tingson that these reforms may not have been done without martial law. But are these really worth the deprivation of our human rights? I do not think so.

It does not matter, of course, whether we want it or not. Martial law has been proclaimed and it looks like the state of emergency is here to stay.

My fundamental grievance against Marcos has to do with the violations of the human rights of dissenters and the creation of a climate of fear all over the land. Froilan Bacungan defended the action of the President last Sunday, telling me that if we can forget our personal interests and think only in terms of society and the country, then the deprivation of our freedom is well worth it.

In other words, instead of being bitter, Ninoy Aquino should just think of his incarceration as the sacrifice he is making for his country? And this should go for all others in the stockades, including ourselves, if we were arrested? Does this really make sense?

But the other problem that really bothers me is the fact that the President has practically staged a coup in the Convention. He has literally dictated some provisions of the new Constitution. This is indecent, immoral. And was it necessary? We have already given him—under duress—all that he wanted in terms of political power. Was it still necessary for him to impose his will on the other provisions? Unbelievable as it may seem, we now believe that it is, indeed, true that he has gone over the whole draft of the Constitution, provision by provision, and made corrections in them in his own handwriting.

Mene mene tekel upharsin. I can see the handwriting on the wall, similar to the one that appeared during Belshazzar’s feast.

I feel like crying, uttering a cry of anguish, like Othello, as he proposed to strangle his sweet wife: “But the pity of it, Iago. Oh, Iago, the pity of it!”

As some delegates were saying, it was indiscreet to have these notes of the President on the Constitution seen by several delegates. But did he even have to do it?

Even Lolo Baradi, a former ambassador and a loyal Marcos man, could not stomach what was happening.

“On All Saints’ Day, during the Cabinet meeting, the President made a slip on TV,” he told me. “He had asked Sec. Abad Santos, ‘what about the constitutional provisions on the judiciary? Are they already prepared?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ was the answer of the secretary. ‘We are preparing them.'”

The President was also reported by Lolo Baradi to have said: “I have some boys who are working with the Convention.”

Ikeng Corpuz has also seen the TV show and he and Lolo Baradi were laughing at these slips by the President. Obviously, Marcos did not realize that the TV was on when he uttered the incriminating remarks.

Moy Buhain had said this morning that he also saw this TV faux pas of the President. Or was this intentional? Come to think of it. Could it be that he had really wanted everyone to know that he was actively interfering in the writing of the Constitution? And thus intimidate every prospective oppositionist?

Ikeng Corpuz came to me and sat beside me. “You should now try to get your economic amendments in… I have read the provisions in the draft Constitution and I can not distinguish heads or tails in the article on the national economy,” he sighed.

Ikeng Corpuz is a good man but he really glosses over many things. He was obviously trying to compliment my understanding of the economic situation by supporting the provisions on economic policy that I have written. At the same time, he is also trying to impress me that he does understand their full import. But his actuations in the Convention have not been very consistent. Nevertheless, we have a certain attachment to each other.

Inggo Guevarra was in despair when he saw me. “There is nothing at all about industrial development in the new Constitution,” he wailed.

I had a dramatic meeting at the elevator with the delegate in real limbo—former Ambassador Eduardo Quintero, who had exposed Marcos’ payola in the Convention and had paid for his honesty by being framed by Marcos. Marcos had ordered dollar notes “planted” in his home. I’m sure history would proclaim him as one of the heroes of the Convention.

He saw me first and greeted me. He was with his daughter, who was obviously pleased to see me. I think they were happy over the fact that I had visited Quintero twice at the hospital.

About five army troopers were immediately behind Quintero, which suggested that Quintero is still under guard or some kind of house arrest. He looks somewhat stronger than the last time I saw him at the hospital. However, like Inggo Guevarra, he, too, may have arrived too late to vote. The voting had already closed sometime last week.

In the evening I attended the party given by Ting Jaime at the Club Filipino on behalf of the Philippine Chamber of Industries for Jess Tanchanco (our long-time Philippine Chamber of Industries first vice president) who has been appointed administrator of the National Grains Authority.

Several past presidents of the Philippine Chamber of Industries were there.

Don Fernando Sison, secretary of finance in the Macapagal administration, greeted me by saying that I looked pale and too thin last week at the meeting at the Hilton. (Ever since I heard that I would be arrested, my ulcerative colitis has worsened.)

In the course of our talk, we heard from Don Fernando that, perhaps, a general amnesty for political prisoners was forthcoming on the 15th of November. I thought that this would be a wise move on the part of Marcos. It would somehow heal the bitter division in the country caused by the incarceration of so many political prisoners.

Marianing del Rosario opined that many of Marcos’ reforms seem to be getting the support of the people. He does not like a dictatorship, Marianing said, but he might even support him in his drive for reforms. He thought Marcos would succeed with his “democratic revolution.”

“And if he fails?” I asked.

“If he fails, that is the end of all of us.”

Even Don Fernando said that if Marcos did well—and if he were to run for election later—he would support him.

Don Fernando mentioned that the President, during the Cabinet meeting, which was televised, had asked the Cabinet members whether the Constitution was already finished. He and Marianing were saying that the President did not hide anymore his interference with the framing of the Constitution.

“I take off my hat to the President,” Marianing said. “He is a brilliant man—for weal or for woe. During that Cabinet meeting, he showed such complete grasp of everything happening in the country. This was clearly shown in his discussion of the problems of each department.”

Don Fernando started telling me his inner thoughts.

He reminded me that at the meeting of PCI’s past presidents last week at the Hilton, the first advice that he gave was for us to adapt ourselves to the situation. Now he is especially advising me to take this stance.

“You have to survive.” He was very fatherly.

He added that this is a matter of survival for all of us, hence we have no choice except to adapt. “Bear in mind,” he said, “that martial law is here to stay with us for some time. I read the transitory provision and it shows clearly that martial law will be with us for many years.”

I suggested that this might turn out to be something like the situation in Spain.

“Yes, insofar as the duration is concerned. It will really take many years. Franco has been there since 1935 but with a very big difference. Franco is still a dedicated man and a poor man. He is a dictator but his major concern is the welfare of his people.”

He stressed that we must adapt and survive knowing that insofar as history is concerned, dictatorships do not really last forever.

“Where is Hitler now?” he asked rhetorically. “Where is Mussolini now? Or Genghis Khan?”

When I asked him how he would have voted on the transitory provision if he were a delegate, Don Fernando replied forthrightly that he would have voted “Yes.” He said he likes to think this is the kind of situation that President Laurel was in during the Japanese Occupation. It is a question of the fundamentals by which one lives, he said. He considers Laurel a hero, not a collaborator; many others were collaborators. He added that he had read the explanation of Pepe Calderon on why he voted “Yes” and it was very good.

He also informed us that many delegates in the Convention, from the time we were discussing the form of government we should adopt, were receiving ₱1,000 each per attendance to make sure that the provision on parliamentary form of government would win.

Really? I never knew this!

Don Fernando said there was so much publicity about people being dismissed from the government for malversing the calamity funds—but these are the small fry. Some people have been dismissed for malversing ₱10 million but the government has malversed nearly half a billion.

“How do you account for the funds? The President has not made any accounting. That is the reason why before martial law Senator Tolentino and others were asking that Malacañang make an accounting.”

“So you see,” he continued, “it is easy enough for the delegates to be paid. There are enough funds.”

He advised me to continue with my journal (this political diary) and have a copy entrusted to someone in case anything happens to me. He said this would not be useful now but it should be extremely useful in the future.


Sunday, November 5, 1972

At the lobby of the Sulo Hotel, I met Jess Reyes and Cesar Sevilla. Jess Reyes said that he had voted “Yes” because he can still speak out as an oppositionist in the Assembly.

Cesar Sevilla was a bit more critical. He is a very conscientious delegate. He deplored the transitory provision and the work being done by the Steering Council. He and Jess, likewise, deplored the fact that the Steering Council has been given absolute powers and that we have only so little time to put our imprimatur into the Constitution being prepared for us by the Council. There was some tinge of frustration on their part although the more dominant note seemed to be one of resignation.

At lunch, Froilan Bacungan (UP Law Center director) was perorating. Perhaps it will be for the good of the country if we forget personalities and personal interests, he said.

His good wife, Monina, was with us. She decried the fact that a tremendous number of government employees have been laid off. I suggested that for many of them, their services were not really needed so that they should not have been given their jobs in the first place.

Froilan agreed with me. He said that the problem was that in the old society, many employees became parasites of other people. I added, in a light vein, that since these employees who were laid off were consuming without adding to the productivity of the nation, we should find a way to compel them to contribute to the gross national product; as it is, they are only contributing to the gross national poverty.

In seriousness, I was thinking that perhaps some mobilization of all unemployed should be undertaken. I suggested to Froilan that this is one of the strategies we might adopt—the strategy of capital formation through excess labor. As a matter of fact, I have for some time now thought that we should build up infrastructures through extensive labor, considering the fact that capital is deficient and manpower is abundant in our economy. I do not see any reason why this should not be done now, where it could not be done before. This can partake of a massive unemployment program—to build up our crumbling infrastructures.

Froilan interrupted me, saying that he knows for a fact now that Titong Mendoza and our former professor, Justice Sec. Vicente Abad Santos, have actually helped persuade President Marcos to institute a constitutional martial law instead of a revolutionary (military) government that the President had originally planned on setting up.

I was pleased to hear this contribution. Would not a constitutional dictatorship, on balance, be more protective of individual rights than a military government?

It is not enough for the government to keep on talking about the private sector being asked to invest in industries, I started lecturing to Froilan. Actually, the government incentives can come in this manner: The government itself should take initiatives. It should, for instance, commission feasibility studies of projects that it feels should be undertaken by the private sector as first-line projects and then the government can tell the private sector that these are the projects that entrepreneurs should put up. It can then invite the private sector to come in and invest in the priority projects, whose conceptual, pre-feasibility studies have already been done and which show viability. The government can say, we are giving you all the incentives in terms of credit and financing and fiscal incentives if you go to these specific projects that we have pre-studied and which we feel are necessary for the country.

In other words, the concept of balanced growth may now be made by the country—under the present state of emergency. Having decided—regrettably and doubtless unwisely—to proclaim a state of emergency, Marcos might as well try to push through our economic development in this way.

Many delegates, including those who were against martial law, concede that a good deal of the reforms so far achieved, such as land reform, hold the promise of being landmarks in the struggle of our people for social amelioration—assuming there is sincerity in both its conception and implementation. This could not be done since the American occupation of the Philippines when the ilustrados were allowed to share political power in the colonial regime.

The big issue, of course, is that many people are living in a climate of fear. Can there be human dignity without freedom in people’s lives?

Froilan countered that we can look at the loss of our individual freedoms in terms of the need for societal progress, with individual interests being subordinated to the general welfare. The important thing, he urged, is the welfare of society.

“Besides,” Froilan argued, “we are only substituting one fear for another. For example, while we may fear the possibility of going to the stockade now—he looked at me in the eye—we were fearing being robbed before; we were fearing gunmen in the streets. But society can now go forward.”

“But what about our human rights, Froilan?” I protested. “Is it not of the very essence of human rights that a hard core of autonomy, integrity and dignity of the individual should not be sacrificed even to the national interest and the welfare of the group?”

Froilan’s response was simply that it is more patriotic to join the government now.

But would we not then only be legitimizing a dictatorial government?

“Given the fact that martial law is here to stay, the constructive thing to do is to join so that one may help in the reconstruction of society,” Froilan insisted. “There is a greater amount of sacrifice involved here actually than if one thinks only in terms of civil liberties, because then, one is thinking not of himself but of the social goal.”

“Your theory implies that we should give up everything for the good of society. But because we are human, we have dignity. And human dignity cannot be given up,” I rejoined. “You imply that ‘collective rights’ are generally superior to individual rights and must be given priority. You think that the concept of human rights reflected in international documents ignores the ‘collective rights’ to economic security of the poor in the Third World. You believe that in periods of fundamental change such as we are now experiencing, leading to what is perceived or claimed to be a more just society, there is a need to emphasize those rights which are essential, to promoting such change and correlatively to deemphasize the other rights, don’t you?”

“Why not? We should all be ready to sacrifice for the country.” Froilan’s voice was firm.

“But should not collective rights and individual rights be promoted simultaneously? Is not a trade-off between them dangerous or even immoral? Is this not the excuse made by dictatorial governments in many developing societies—look at the rationale for Marcos’ declaration of martial law—to repudiate implicitly the political side of the human rights agenda as formal Western liberalism that is a dispensable luxury for a developing society? Is this not what our friend, O.D. Corpuz, has said in his treatise—rationalizing the need for martial law—that individual freedom was enjoyed only by the elites in the early development of present-day industrialized societies—which developing societies can do without?”

Our debate was inconclusive. It was midnight when I went home.

But could Froilan be right? Tossing in bed, I remembered what I once read as a student:

A messenger arrives at the door of a noble Spartan mother during the war with the Persians. “What news, Sir?” she cries. “Bad news, my lady,” he replied. “What then, is the battle lost?” The messenger could not conceal his sorrow. “No, but your sons have fallen.” “And the battle, what of the battle?”

“The battle, my lady, is won.” Beaming, the Spartan mother responds, “Why then, Sir, the news you bring is not bad but good.”

I was getting confused. Froilan had said we should look at the loss of our individual freedoms in terms of the need for societal progress.