The ban dynasty resolution is the big topic of the day. President Marcos has indicated in unmistakable terms his desire to continue in office even after the end of his second term—beyond the constitutional limit of eight years.
The eyes of the nation are focused on the Convention. The resolutions put to the test the reputed overwhelming force of the Marcos supporters in the Convention.
Since yesterday, most seats in the session hall have been occupied. Absences are few. There is excitement in the air. The wildest rumors of what might happen are rife at the Convention Hall. It seems obvious to many that the political institutions of our constitutional democracy are about to expire; they have been fast crumbling in the past few days.
When I entered the hall, Ramon (Ramoning) Diaz was already introducing his amendment as follows:
NO PERSON WHO HAS AT ANY TIME SERVED AS PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES, UNDER THIS OR THE PREVIOUS CONSTITUTION, SHALL BE ELIGIBLE TO OCCUPY THE SAME OFFICE OR THAT OF PRIME MINISTER. THE SPOUSE OF SUCH PERSON SHALL BE INELIGIBLE TO OCCUPY EITHER OFFICE DURING THE UNEXPIRED OFFICE OF HIS TERM OR IN THE IMMEDIATE SUCCEEDING TERM.
Brief supporting speeches by Jose Mari (Joe Mari) Velez, Dancing Alfelor, Juan (Johnny) Liwag, Feliciano (Fely) Jover Ledesma, Napoleon (Nap) Rama and Jose (Pepe) Calderon followed.
Calderon was especially articulate this time. He received a lot of ovation. He said he had refrained from actually participating in the debates because of his illness but this time he had to speak out because it was necessary.
Some of us were getting anxious, especially when he started getting angry in his speech. He had a heart attack only recently.
He was followed by Naning Kalaw, Totoy Nepomuceno, Romeo (Romy) Capulong, Jose (Pepito) Nolledo, Justice Jesus Barrera, Jun Badoy, Jun Catan and Heherson (Sonny) Alvarez.
Sonny just shared his speech with Jun Catan, asking the body simply to decide on the issue since history will condemn it as a puppet Convention should it place personal ambition over national interest.
In the afternoon, there was a continuation of the speeches in favor of the ban-dynasty resolution, with Teofisto (Tito) Guingona starting out, followed by Raul Manglapus.
Raul, as usual, was eloquent. He contended that if approved the amendment will actively respond to the clamor of the people for meaningful reforms.
Later in the afternoon, the “anti” speeches were heard. The period for the opposition began with former Central Bank governor, Miguel Cuaderno, firing the opening salvo.
The pro-Marcos delegates are smart. They have been using people like Cuaderno and former UP president, Vicente Sinco, with all their prestige and known independence, to “deodorize” their position. But because of their advanced age, these venerable delegates did not really wield much influence in the Convention.
Cuaderno said that it would be unfortunate for the Convention to involve itself in the preelection fight between two major political parties. He said that he regarded the proposal to ban the incumbent president as the last attempt of the presidentialists to retain the vestiges of the presidential system in the new Constitution. (Cuaderno is, like Aquilino (Nene) Pimentel, Raul Manglapus, Joe Feria, Sonny Alvarez, Rebeck Espiritu, Godofredo (Goding) Ramos and me, a parliamentarist.)
Cuaderno was followed by former foreign secretary, Felixberto Serrano, who delivered one of his rare speeches in the Convention.
I have been wondering why such an eminent man like Serrano has not been active in the Convention. He has not participated in much of the discussions. Of course, he belongs to the Garcia (Marcos) bloc, but it would still be interesting to hear his views.
Lindy Pangandangan also spoke against the resolution, followed by ageing President Sinco, who has not only been president of the University of the Philippines and dean of the UP College of Law, for one generation, but was also an authority on constitutional law. He was, in fact, the mentor of quite a number of delegates in the Convention.
But he is quite a very old man now. The pro-Marcos group is shamelessly using him. To use a much-quoted term of Nap Rama, he is being used as one of the “deodorizers.”
Emerito Salva also spoke against the ban. Emerito, for some time, showed progressive leanings in many matters in the Convention. He was one of the isolated Ilocano “antis.” However, according to Magtanggol Gunigundo, Emerito was called at one time by Marcos and the meeting with the President seemed to have had an effect on his general conduct in the Convention thereafter. Now, apparently, he has turned full circle and has joined the ranks of the pro-Marcoses. Whether he is in this new role by force, we do not know.
Salva was followed by Willy Cainglet and then by Salvador (Buddy) Britanico.
Britanico was my student at FEU, where I had taught before UP. He was initially a Macapagal man. Many delegates have complained that he is a little too glib. He has, from the beginning, irked quite a number of delegates from his own West Visayan aggrupation. Early on, he, together with Reynaldo (Rey) Fajardo, has manifested a juvenile delight in raising points of order.
Victor (Vic) Ortega, my brother-in-law, also spoke against the resolution.
Vic was, for a while, identified with the Independent-Progressive bloc. In fact, he attended most of our meetings in the beginning and up to the time that the lowering of the voting age and other electoral reforms were being discussed, he was working actively and closely with Raul Manglapus. However, sometime last June, there were reports in the papers that Vic was among those leading the opposition to the ban-dynasty provision being discussed by the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Manglapus.
Fidel Purisima also spoke against, followed by Rey Fajardo. Rey Fajardo is another guy who has apparently turned full circle. In the beginning, he was a Macapagal man. In the end, it would seem that he has been won over by the Marcos forces. The conversion of Fajardo might have started from the time he was sponsoring the report of his Committee on the Pluralization of Political Parties. This has earned for him the near-hostility of many delegates.
Sonny Alvarez rose for a lively interpellation of Fajardo. His use of the word “balls” soon acquired a humorous vein in the Convention. One delegate joined in the crossing of swords saying, “But Mr. Chairman, there is nothing to hang in the case of Fajardo because he has lost his balls.”
The delegates roared with laughter—unfortunately at someone’s expense. Typical Filipino humor.
Finally, former senator, Roseller Lim, regaled the delegates with his funny stories. He was the last speaker against the ban-dynasty resolution. As usual, he has a certain knack for reducing tension. He has the chic to say and do many things which some of us would not be able to say or do. The day ended quite cheerfully, thanks to Ller.
He also serves who only make the people laugh.