Saturday, November 18, 1972

The special 34-man body met. Erning Amatong asked me to sit beside him because anyway, many of our ideas coincide. He was sweet.

But Fidel Purisima sat beside us, too. The harmony was broken. He told me that there are 15 members from the Steering Council, 15 from the Sponsorship Council and 4 from the panel of floor leaders in this Committee.

During the discussions, I introduced an amendment in the article on Civil Rights to abolish the death penalty. Bert Misa opposed it. Roger Panotes has a similar resolution. Cefi Padua wanted to support us halfway by saying that the death penalty shall not be imposed unless otherwise provided by law.

Naturally, we were defeated. The idea of introducing humaneness into our legal system could not be understood by the delegates.

In the course of the ages, man has done away with some of his brutality, I said in my speech. In the past, we hanged criminals and burned witches at the stake. But now we have grown more civilized. We understand the sacredness of human life. Besides, we say the modern penal system is based primarily on the reform of erring individuals and the protection of society. It is no longer primarily aimed at punishing or destroying criminals. And besides, did not Apostle Paul write, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord”?

I added that Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s best-known hangman who had dispatched 400 people in his career, remarked after his last execution: “The death penalty never once acted as a deterrent.”

We lost miserably, in spite of my oratory.

Dr. Aruego wanted an amendment by deletion to omit the provision on habeas corpus because he says the same matter is mentioned among the powers of the prime minister. By mentioning this in the Bill of Rights, this would leave open the possibility of interpreting this as allowing other agencies to suspend, likewise, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

I do not agree with him. The Bill of Rights is an enumeration of the individual’s rights against the government as an institution and against all majorities and officials—in fact, against society. Nevertheless, Cefi Padua seemed to have been swayed by Aruego. Of course, they lost miserably too, even as I have often lost miserably.

Vic de la Serna filed some good amendments. One of them has to do with providing periods for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Naturally, they were quickly voted down without any discussion simply because he was not there. And, the way things were running, these would have been quickly shot even if he were around.

There is a provision that free access to courts shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty. This was amended initially so as to read, “Free access to courts and other government agencies shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.”

This was readily accepted. And it is a good amendment. I noticed, though, that the decision to accept or not to accept seemed to be coming merely from Tony de Guzman, who was presiding, in representation of the Steering Council.

Then I introduced an amendment to add: “The State shall provide free and adequate legal assistance in all cases when, by reason of indigence, they are unable to defend themselves or enforce their rights.” Actually, this came from the original civil rights report.

In my explanation, I said that most of us, during the election campaign, had felt that the lack of legal assistance was one of the major grievances of the citizenry. There is inequality in the administration of justice. There is need for the poor to be given equal rights with the affluent.

“We were not insensitive to this,” Tony de Guzman interrupted. He brushed aside my explanation.

“I only wish to strengthen the sensitivity of our delegates,” I responded lamely.

Serging Tocao stood up abruptly. He was enraged. “I do not understand why we are discussing this. This is not a right. We are supposed to be talking about rights. This is an obligation.”

I immediately rejoined: “A right does not exist in a vacuum. There are no rights without correlative obligations.”

Peps Bengzon intervened, saying this was not necessary. This was a matter for legislation.

Roding Ortiz also opposed—but on legal grounds. He said that this was already provided for in the Ombudsman article.

We lost in the voting. But even Ikeng Corpuz, who was presiding together with Tony de Guzman, voted in favor of my amendment.

There was some measure of success, however, because I garnered some seven, eight or nine votes, which is big enough by my present standards. These days I am modest in my ambitions. As one of the “vanquished” in the Convention, I have been so used now to getting only two, three or four votes in the Committee. Today, there seemed to be a sizeable number of people who agreed with me. Nevertheless, I lost.

But I shall not be deterred. I shall appeal in plenary.

Finally, as I was leaving, I heard Ikeng Corpuz say that we are now taking up the amendment on social and economic rights. I heard him announce that the authors are Teroy Laurel, Noli Santos, Caesar Espiritu and others. He said that Laurel and Santos were not there so he asked me if I would like to sponsor the amendment.

This was what differentiated prewar Constitutions from the modern Constitutions of democratic nations, I said. The ideas of social progress and of social and economic rights find emphasis in postwar democratic Constitutions. In fact the UN documents to operationalize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are two—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are also the ILO Conventions.

Peps Bengzon intervened: These ideas are spread in the different provisions in the new Constitution. My response was that they are so scattered as to be ineffective.

A call for a vote was made. I lost miserably.


Friday, November 17, 1972

Surprise! Instead of the 166-man body meeting, the meeting was of a small group of 15 people each from the Steering Council and the Sponsorship Council and 4 floor leaders to go over the amendments.

Apparently, this morning, there was an organizational meeting. These 15 people from each of the councils were appointed and they were to start meeting in the afternoon.

Noli Santos told me that he had nominated me, together with Magtanggol (Tanggol) Gunigundo, to represent the Sponsorship Council but there were objections because some delegates had said that I was too independent-minded. This was a compliment, but I told Noli that I was not keenly interested in joining this group anyway. After all, in the words of Munding, this is now lutong macao.

During the roll call of the members, however, my name was called. It turned out that I was elected a member.

Tio Juaning Borra asked for certain interpositions of phrases in the Preamble approved by the Steering Council. He said that, after all, with the exception of the change of two words—that of “independence” to “sovereignty” and the inclusion of “equality,” the present Preamble is the same as that of the 1935 Preamble. So, he urged that we might as well give credit to the authors of the 1934 Convention. We are basically adopting their Preamble, he claimed.

The note of sarcasm in many of Borra’s speeches cannot be hidden. Borra has been critical of what is happening in the Convention. Unfortunately, he cannot be too outspoken; I hear his son is presently indicted for a serious crime before the courts. How sad! This is the reason why, during the last two months, he could not give full vent to his feelings. Nevertheless, every now and then, his pent-up feelings of bitterness and frustration would suddenly burst out.

When it came to the Declaration of Principles, the committee took up the amendments section by section. When we reached Section 2, a motion was made to reject an amendment by Naning Kalaw, who was not there. The rejection was made almost with a vengeance. But the motion went further; it would reject not only Naning’s amendment but all other amendments that now or in the future may be presented.

I said that, so as not to complicate matters, perhaps the last amendment should be taken up first, namely, the amendment by substitution. I announced that I had filed an amendment by substitution.

To my great surprise, Clemente (Clem) Abundo immediately made a motion that all amendments by substitution should, hereafter, be rejected. Fidel Purisima and Valeriano Yancha, among others, showed so much zeal in joining Abundo in gagging me. I said it would not take long for the body to get my amendment and other similar amendments discussed and rejected—perhaps, only two minutes. But I wanted the body to take it up.

Abundo, Yancha and Purisima would not brook any accommodations. Pacificador, too, was vehemently against giving me the floor.

As I write this diary now, my thoughts fly out to the American Constitutional Convention and what Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania had said: “I flatter myself that I came here in some degree as a representative of the whole human race… I wish the gentlemen would extend their views beyond the present moment of time, beyond the narrow limits of place from which they derive their political origin.”

How different it was during the times of those reasonable men!

Some delegates, like Tony Almedo, urged, “Give Caesar a chance to explain.” Good old reliable Jess Matas was cheering, and so also were those solid, conscientious and progressive colleagues, Noli Santos and Pete Yap.

But the loyalists were bent on mowing down the opposition.

When I was faced with this kind of problem during my UP days, I wrote an editorial in the Collegian, quoting from the nineteenth century English liberal, John Stuart Mill: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would no more be justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, in silencing mankind.”

Far away and long ago!

Peps Bengzon was apparently in charge of the Declaration of Principles. He explained almost in a spirit of cordiality that we should not say that Caesar Espiritu’s amendment has been rejected. Rather, he said, most of the provisions have been substantially incorporated in the draft Constitution; it is only a question of phraseology.

I thought this was deception done so diplomatically. What, was it Alice in Wonderland said? “In a world of the absurd, reason is madness.”

Although Peps was quite conciliatory, I could not help but stand up to say I appreciated those words but that, in my thinking, 70 percent of the concepts in my amendment do not find reflection in the draft of the Steering Council.

Anyway, I had no regrets. I did not really expect any positive response from this group, but I did succeed in inserting into the records what I felt I was happy enough that I was able to do this.

I was surprised at how well-knit the pro-Marcos people are. How eager they are for the kill against anyone who might put a monkey wrench into their conspiracy!

Afterwards, I had a talk with Ben Abubakar and Dr. Aruego. Ben told me that it was Sen. Enchong Sumulong who had wanted to make the present members of Congress members of the interim Assembly, with the present delegates to the convention as ex-officio members. Only when the interim Assembly should constitute itself as a constituent Assembly would it be able to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

Of course these ideas would get nowhere in the Convention; the delegates are now hell-bent on being assemblymen!

I also had a chat with Dr. Aruego. He was a delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention. He had written The Framing of the (1935) Constitution, the authoritative book on the 1934 Constitutional Convention. (Dr. Jose P. Laurel’s notes on the proceedings of the 1934 Convention, were, of course, much more comprehensive and profound, but they are not as easily available as Aruego’s book.)

Aruego said that there is no comparison between the pressures during the 1934 Convention and the pressures now. Recto was not a traditional Quezon man; he had only been with Quezon on the “pro” and “anti” issues on the Tydings-McDuffie and the Hare-Hawes Cutting Acts. The real men of Quezon were Sotto and Cuenco from Cebu.

Although there were also some charges that the Constitution was already cooked up in Malacañang during the 1934 Convention, actually this was not taken seriously because no one believed it. Our present situation, according to Dr. Aruego, is completely different. Everything is emanating from Malacañang.

At the end of a gruelling day, Greg Tingson rode with me up to the Quezon Elliptical Circle. It is so very apparent, he said—the great difference between people with convictions and those without. “This was so conspicuously displayed during the brief meeting we attended this afternoon. While you were talking out of conviction, the rest of the delegates were bending to accommodate whatever was made necessary by political realities.”

But is this wise or right? Aying Yñiguez had told me yesterday that he is making a choice and his choice is grounded not on moral but rather on purely political considerations. “My options are within the realm of political realities and, therefore, my decisions are political, not moral.”

Are all politicians the same? Pursuing to build a bridge even when there is no river?


Thursday, November 16, 1972

Moy Buhain, that good colonel, was again at the house at about 9:00 o’clock.

He informed me that according to some rumors, the President might yet want an election next year.

I said I would not rule that out. It is indeed possible that next year the President’s popularity might zoom up again and then he would prefer to be elected prime minister rather than continue with martial law. This one year of martial law may be a leeway for him to improve society as well as his chances of staying in power. So while the indications are that martial law may take a while, it might also happen that it may be cut short by the President himself if and when he feels secure enough in his position.

Moy was somewhat apprehensive about the duration of martial law. He was unhappy over the fact that there is no specific time mentioned for the transitory government.

At the session hall, a heated exchange had taken place between Vic Pimentel and Pacificador. These two delegates started challenging each other. Some delegates stood up to prevent them from getting to each other; but I heard some other voices saying, “Bayaan mo sila. Mabuti nga!

Some delegates might just have wanted Pimentel and Pacificador to really come to blows with each other. For some reason, these two do not seem to be well liked in the Convention.

“Look at him strutting around like a peacock,” Sed Ordoñez, Pacificador’s former professor, whispered to me in contempt.

“Wrong, Sedfrey. A peacock is a beautiful bird.”

I had a brief chat with Munding Cea. He said that he cannot in conscience really lead the team of floor leaders. He said this is “lutong macao.” He said we were really instituting a dictatorship in the Constitution.

I am getting to respect Munding more and more for his decency and his respect for democratic processes.

I asked him how I could hest proceed with my plan of inserting my amendments. He said the best thing is not to speak now but to wait until the plenary session. I told him that I do not expect any discussion, much less do I entertain any thought of success. I simply want to have my thoughts inserted in the journal.

We talked about our colleagues who were in the army stockades. He said that not one of the delegates really deserves to be in prison.

The most ideological of them, I suggested, Boni Gillego, who alone among the delegates openly claims he is a Marxist, is really a social democrat. And he is patriotic, I said, and is concerned with fighting injustice, particularly the great and distressing gap in access to goods and services among our people. He mouths some Marxist terms but wouldn’t harm any one.

Munding nodded his head in agreement. “That happens to be his belief,” he said. “But he is not a violent man.”

I also chatted with Gary Teves and Aying Yñiguez. Gary said that Dr. Aruego, like me, is also doing a lot of writing now. He said it would be good for me to talk to Aruego about how the 1935 Constitutional Convention finally framed the Constitution.

Gary complained about the way the form of government has been distorted by the Steering Council. We had fought and won on the matter of changing the form of government to a parliamentary one but now, the government in the new draft is called a parliamentary one but in essence it is no longer parliamentary. It is really a very strong presidential government, with all the powers vested in the prime minister. The prime minister is now much stronger than the parliament.

“Gary, this is really a prime ministerial government,” I commented.

We noticed that Cefi Padua, Bobbit Sanchez and Joe Feria all stood up to question this on the floor. Tony de Guzman was answering all the questions almost mechanically and with great self-assurance. He was transparently showing his belief that the queries were really of no consequence; they were simply rituals to undergo.

Our idea, Gary said, was precisely because of the complexities of government, there is a great need to spread the loci of decision-making to a much wider group of people.

“Now, we have decision-making concentrated in one man. It would have been much more honest if we just made a Constitution for the duration of the martial law. He should have all these powers under the transitory provision.”

“I agree that there is need for a strong executive to hold the country together and lead it to paths of social progress, Gary,” I responded, “but it is also a fundamental principle in a democracy that all great decisions must be shared decisions.”

Gary is right. It would have been somewhat more justifiable if all of these provisions were put under the article on transitory provision—meaning, effective only during the state of emergency.

Aying Yñiguez had batted strongly for a parliamentary form of government but now he was saying he cannot defend it. “I will approve it, I will sign it, but I cannot defend it,” he admitted. “In fact, this is theoretically indefensible,” he added.

“Aying, why should a respectable guy like you, who is close to Marcos, not go to him and tell him: ‘Here in the transitory provision, we give you all the powers that you need. The rest of the Constitution shall, however, be rational with the great principle of checks and balances institutionalized.'”

He replied that this cannot be done anymore because there is really a cordon sanitaire around the President. Not even his father, Congressman Yñiguez, could penetrate this ring to see the President.

I asked him how the Americans look at this. He said that the Americans now approve of this—until such time as Marcos should blunder. He added that the government is really now embarking on a policy that would suit the needs of Americans.

Aying affirmed that the military is as strong as ever. He sensed, however, there is now a division in the ranks of the military between the old and the young. The old composing the leadership in the military, of course, fully support President Marcos. But this cannot be said of young military officers. And the President is aware of this.