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?


Monday, October 30, 1972

A group of delegates were talking. Cosoy Rosales was saying that we should introduce as amendments those provisions we had approved on second reading before the Steering Council coup. He asked me to help prepare the documents so that we could all cosign.

I met Celing Fernan when I went over to the other side of the hall. I seldom see this very good and intelligent colleague because his seat is at the far corner of the hall. We were close friends at UP and at Harvard. We have had so many struggles together, especially at Harvard. I have a special fondness for him.

We reminisced over the past and dolefully mused over the terrible things happening at the Con-Con. He was also appalled and repulsed by the new developments. I confided to him that it is now my ambition to be out of the country during the next few years; I do not relish the thought of living under a dictatorship.

I also informed him that Pete Yap feels the same way and that, in fact, he would like to write Ambassador Tensing Brilliantes in Geneva to see if he could help us. Celing surprisingly expressed a desire, too, to work in one of the United Nations agencies. He said he would also be interested because insofar as he is concerned, he has no more ambition in life. His only concern is the welfare of his six children.

Cosoy and Celing had both voted “No.” They are good men. They have decided not to join the interim Assembly. We are proud of them.


Saturday, October 28, 1972

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah! We are going to be rich!

Pedro (Pete) Yap was gloomy.

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

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

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

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

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

He said he is also thinking along the same lines.

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

Pete agreed. “Perhaps Tensing can help us.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nene looked at me quizzically and smiled.

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

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