At 7:15a.m., Sonny Alvarez called up. This was an unexpected call from a dear friend over whose safety I am concerned.
Sonny is one of the most committed delegates to the Convention. His concern for the poor and vulnerable sectors of society is genuine. And his social vision is broad. It is for his convictions that he is under suspicion by the military—as a leftist.
An excellent debater, Sonny has impressed many of us at the Convention. He is my alter ego at the Convention.
Sonia Aldeguer and Raul Roco are the two other closest and dearest friends with whom I have spent long hours of discussion and fellowship.
When martial law was proclaimed, Sonia was in Rome; she is a novice of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. Sonny and Raul both went into hiding immediately after martial law was proclaimed.
Sonny said he was coming to see me in the house for some advice. I told him that I was about to leave for Rizal Park to jog. We could meet there. He agreed.
I waited for more than an hour but Sonny did not appear. Upon returning home, I was informed that he had come to the house and left word that he was proceeding to President Macapagal’s house. He was once—when still a UP student—an aide to Macapagal.
On the way to the meeting at 10:15, I met Toto de la Cruz. Of the three men in the Con-Con special group, Toto is about the closest to Sonny. Sonny wanted to know if there is any way by which he could be made to vote without endangering himself. Toto replied that he is not sure how this could be done but that, in any case, he is going to think about it and consult the other two.
At the economic, group meeting, we made quite a bit of progress in integrating the different provisions. After a while, we decided that we had worked so much—from 10:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and so we were going to adjourn to meet again on Thursday. We decided that Ding Quintos and Manong Raquiza should definitely be there so we could discuss the provisions on agriculture and natural resources and land reform. Preferably Teresita (Tessie) Flores should also be there so we could also listen to her draft provisions on social justice. We also decided to invite Celso Gangan to discuss the report of the Auditing Committee and Ben Campomanes and Fanny Cortez-Garcia for their drafts on foreign loans as well as monetary and credit policies.
We did gain much headway today.
Upon our adjournment at 2:45 p.m., I received a call from one of the Con-Con secretaries, Miss Perfecto, saying that Cecille Guidote, Sonny’s fiancée, had phoned and left a cryptic message: I am supposed not to have heard from anyone; I have not spoken to anyone.
I did not quite comprehend the full impact of the message, considering my earlier discussions with Sonny. I was under the impression that he wanted me to do something to enable him to vote.
At the session hall, before we started, I asked President Macapagal whether Sonny had seen him and he answered that he had but that their meeting was inconclusive.
Macapagal was optimistic. We added that the opportunity to vote that was given to Romy Capulong and Raul Roco is not specifically limited only to the two of them, so he (Macapagal) could always interpret this to mean that Sonny could also be allowed to vote.
Macapagal was not sure whether Sonny would want to vote “Yes,” though, “considering his ideological persuasions.”
I am, of course, very happy for Romy Capulong and Paul Roco, of whom I’m very fond. But I could not see the relevance to Sonny of the lifting of their warrants of arrest. And of how ideological persuasions could influence him one way or the other.
I suggested to Macapagal that, perhaps, he could talk to the three new powers—Francis Zosa, Toto de la Cruz and Ven Yaneza.
He replied that it is not necessary to talk to the three because any one of them would be sufficient. He felt that of the three, the one most flexible on this matter is Francis. He repeated that it is a matter of Sonny’s own decision.
I gathered later that their discussions were indeed inconclusive.
I looked for Toto. “Toto,” I said, “I understand that it is better that we assume that nothing has been said, that I didn’t tell you anything, that we didn’t hear from Sonny.”
“I do not know but I gather that this is the best thing under the circumstances.”
“All right.” He was greatly relieved.
The meeting then started at the session hall. Ikeng Corpus stood up to say that the Sponsorship Council had been meeting under the chairmanship of Delegate Prof. Augusto Caesar Espiritu, who has the matter under control. Some applause followed the commercial.
I talked to Celso, the closest among us to Sonny. He had not seen Sonny at all lately. I told him that I had heard from Cecille. Celso is afraid that in two days’ time, the option would run out so in this brief period, we should find ways of helping Sonny. So we went to the office to phone Cecille. To my surprise, the answer that we got was very negative.
Cecille was very tense. She was absolutely determined that it is best that nothing should have been heard, that no one knows what is happening and no one knows where Sonny is.
“It is best that we leave it at that,” she said with finality. “Anyway, the voting would have nothing to do with Sonny’s liberty; it will not guarantee Sonny his freedom.”
Of course, she is right. It is his freedom that is important. The others are of little consequence.
Cecille added that she is almost desperate. And her phone is tapped.
I felt sorry for her. I wonder if she was speaking on her own out of her concern for Sonny? Or was this Sonny’s own decision?
Celso and I were also getting desperate ourselves.
“How long will he continue in hiding?” Celso asked gloomily. “He cannot be hiding forever.”
In bewilderment and near depression, Celso and I parted. I proceeded to my meeting with two business partners, Dr. Ricky Soler and banker Ting Orosa, Jr., at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Ting was in a light mood. “Honorable Delegate, we have not met for a long time.”
I answered, “Yes, Honorable Orosa, that is so.”
Ricky bantered, “He has been in the stockade.”
“I was presenting myself but they wouldn’t take me,” I quipped.
We were introduced to the Marketti people from Belgium who were having a meeting with Ricky. They left after a while.
A minute later, Ricky received a long distance call from Col. Freddie Ablan. He is in Singapore on some business negotiations. Apparently, a joint venture is being organized by Freddie Ablan and Sig Siguion-Reyna with the people from Belgium. Ricky was hoping our Consultasia management group would be able to do the project study on the matter.
We continued talking in a light vein. But Ting was getting fidgety after a while.
“You know, Ricky,” he said with some apprehension, “all hotels are now bugged.” His last words trailed off into a whisper.
He emitted a soft, nervous laughter.
Ricky insisted, quite proudly, that his office was not bugged. But Ting persisted in a trembling whisper: “All hotels are now bugged, Ricky.”
Ricky stood up and said triumphantly. “You want to be sure that this place is not bugged? I’ll show you.”
He walked briskly towards his desk. We bent to look under it. And we nearly froze in fright. A bugging instrument, precisely was right there—planted under Ricky’s desk! The telephone speaker was firmly stuck there!
Ricky was visibly shocked. Ting turned pale.
We calmed down after a while. Then we continued our discussion. We felt that perhaps there would be no more tapping instruments in the room. I showed them the two Grandjean memos on our proposal to float bonds in Europe.
Ting is one of our ablest bankers. The banker’s banker, some people say. It is such a pity that he was not able to leave the country in September. He could have gone with Grandjean in Zurich to Wuttke and other bankers to work on the government’s bond project.
Ricky responded that Ting should have no difficulty leaving; he (Ricky) could make the arrangements with Colonel Salientes—the undersecretary of defense. He was very sure he could get a clearance from the DND for Ting provided Ting receives a cable from abroad saying his presence is necessary at a business meeting of a given date.
“But I can not make the same offer for Dr. Espiritu.” Ricky gave me a whimsical look and smiled.
Ting answered that this was not even necessary because the closest man to the President himself, namely Bobby Benedicto, is working on his clearance papers. Nevertheless, he said, it seems almost impossible to leave. It is not easy to get a clearance to leave now even on a legitimate business trip.
We somehow got to talking about the possibility of my taking a business trip, too. Ricky repeated that I should not attempt to apply because my name was previously in “the list” and that according to Sig Siguion-Reyna, it was only removed by Enrile. Ting seconded the advice saying that at the moment I should not apply for a clearance for a business trip because the military are suspicious of me.
“What makes you think this way?” I asked in apprehension.
“This is a fact; I heard this.”
“Why? Why this?” I persisted.
Ting suggested that when I was president of the Philippine Chamber of Industries, and likewise when I served as a member of the National Economic Council, I must have made statements which were critical of President Marcos. He therefore advised me not even to attempt to apply.
“Perhaps, after a while, after things shall have quieted down, the military would allow you to leave but at the moment, you should really stay put,” he warned me.
I felt unhappy about these confirmations by my two partners that it would be difficult for me to secure a clearance for business travel. It was some comfort, however, to hear Ricky confirm that I was no longer in the DND list.