At noontime, I went to a meeting called by Senator Liwag, which was attended by the remaining Nueva Ecija delegates.
My brother Rebeck, really, is the one who represents Nueva Ecija—with Sed Ordonez, Emmanuel (Noli) Santos and Ernie Rondon. I actually represent the first district of Rizal—that glamor district comprising Quezon City, Makati, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Caloocan, Pasay, Navotas, Malabon, Parañaque, Las Pinas, Pateros and Taguig. Nevertheless, I am a native Novo Ecijano.
The agenda: the transitory provision.
Simultaneously, Alberto (Bert) Jamir, Iniong Santillan and Decoroso (Cosoy) Rosales, among others, were also meeting at another room of the Army and Navy Club to discuss the same subject.
Liwag read to us four documents written by four delegates. In the first of this, the writer said that he was going to vote for the transitory provision because he has no right to remove representation from his district in the interim Assembly. In spite of everything, he may yet be able to champion the cause of his constituents in the Assembly. Moreover, even if the delegates voted on creating the National Assembly in which they, themselves, were included, ultimately, by the ratification of the same by the people, the authority of the people would be stamped on it.
The second document said that the author will vote against the provision because actually it does not represent the real will of the people. It is not conducive to their welfare.
The third document stands for some kind of a compromise—but in the end it is for voting in favor of the transitory provision.
The most interesting document, however, was the fourth one. It sounded like it was written by a judge of the Supreme Court. The document said that there are two questions involved—one of principle and one of pragmatism.
The basic question has to do with principle. Are we convinced that the provision will be for the welfare of the people? Do we believe that this is the right thing to do? Does it not run counter to any other declaration previously made by us in the Convention?
If these criteria were not decisive enough, we should resort to pragmatism. We should find out if our vote will be decisive on the matter. In other words, will the provision pass anyway, with or without our vote? Or will our vote be decisive—can it change the decision of the Convention? If our vote is not decisive anyway, then a “No” vote will only make us vulnerable as well as ineffective. We should vote “Yes” then so that we can salvage any chastening influence that we might yet wield in the Convention or in the National Assembly.
Although he said that he would abide by the decision of the majority, Liwag gave the impression that he felt that we might as well vote “Yes” on this transitory provision if only as a matter of pragmatism—but then, he himself was not certain that this martial law is a sincere commitment to the welfare of the people.
Apparently, Noli Santos has already made up his mind to vote “Yes.” Like most delegates, he is somewhat afraid to vote otherwise.
In the same manner, Rebeck seems inclined to vote “Yes.” He said that there is really no alternative.
Sedfrey Ordoñez, however, said that, in principle, he will vote “No.”
On the second point raised by Liwag, namely, the compensation of the delegates in the Interim Assembly, he made a surprise proposal—that the delegates should receive only compensation equal to what we are now receiving as delegates. To him, it would be immoral and unprincipled to accept a salary higher than what we are now getting because then we would really be taking advantage of our position to benefit ourselves. We should not unduly profit from the creation of the position.
One delegate suggested that it is also stated in the Constitution that there should be no other interests on the part of the congressmen but that actually many of them are carrying on many other interests. And in the New Constitution, it is clear that the members of the interim Assembly would really not be able to practice any profession. This will be a full-time dedication, for them, to the National Assembly.
I opined that some big-time professionals in Manila, including Sedfrey Ordoñez, Sig Siguion-Reyna, Mateo (Mat) Caparas, Enrique (Ikeng) Belo, Juan (Johnny) Luces Luna and others would probably rather resign as members of the National Assembly than give up their lucrative law practice. My statement was not contradicted by Sedfrey.
I didn’t commit myself to any position on this point. I felt that it is, in fact, not the main issue. It is whether we should vote “Yes” or “No.” I related the story of Braulio Yaranon who was told that if he were to vote against the transitory provision, he would be a hero but he would be hanged.
In the afternoon, while I was on the 13th floor, Lito, Raul Roco’s aide, passed by. I asked him about Raul. He said that Raul, who has gone underground, is safe although he has been sleeping in different places. He has met with Raul eight times already, he said. He added that Raul is determined not to yield.
I told him that I have been trying to reach Raul to let him know that if I were in his shoes, I would give up and go to the stockade because my chances of survival would be better there. I said that the times are abnormal but that Raul Roco has still many more years of creative service to render to the country. He should not unduly risk his life in the next few weeks.
Lito said that Raul is engaged in “consolidating his forces.” I tried to pin Lito down on the meaning of “consolidating his forces.” I was relieved to know that he did not mean that he would join another outlawed group, much less the NPAs. If he was thinking of joining the NPAs, I would advise strongly against it.
Shortly before I left the session hall, I got a really big surprise. One of the young activists who has been attending the Convention sessions for quite a long time already as an observer came to me and said he wanted to give me an advice.
Ray Tan—he introduced himself—said that, paradoxical as it may seem, most of the activists and radical students feel that we should vote affirmatively on the transitory provision.
But why? I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
Ray said that he had gone to many areas and communicated with many youth groups and that the common consensus is that it is better to have as many people as they can trust in the new Assembly.
But why? Ray felt that, in any case, some of the reforms that the president seems to be introducing are somewhat along the lines of what we ourselves have been advocating, particularly, land reform.
I asked him how much his contact is with students. He claimed that it is a broad one. He said that actually the students that he is in touch with are the remnants of the different leftist groups—the leaders, that is to say, who have not been arrested and detained.
He asked me also to convey this message to other conscientious delegates whom they can trust—particularly from my Independent-Progressive bloc. He felt that I am one of those the activists trust. He conceded that this is really a strange suggestion—coming from the activists—but that, in any case, he wanted me, particularly, to hear it.