My amendments on the national economy as well as that on the National Assembly were filed today.
There was so much discussion on the powers of the Steering Council—which are more or less plenary—and the apparent deempowerment of the Sponsorship Council. Serging Tocao, a member of our Sponsorship Council, was enraged by the fact that the Sponsorship Council was being made a second-class council by the Steering Council when, under the rules, it is the Sponsorship Council that is supposed to write the Constitution for voting on third reading.
I thought the discussions were really a waste of time. I raised the question of whether or not we might still introduce major amendments to the provisions that have been written by the Steering Council if we thought that our amendments would improve the provisions already written. From the way my remarks were handled by Ikeng Corpus I got the feeling that the answer is no, we are not really strong enough to push through anything in the Convention. In other words, the situation was more or less hopeless.
“Verzweivelt aber nicht ernst” (desperate but not serious), this is how the Austrian people laugh off their national problems. But our situation is verzweivelt und hoffnungslos (desperate and hopeless).
Corpuz read the words of the resolution granting all the powers to the Steering Council. He said we ourselves had given them to the Council.
“Under duress,” I cried out. But everyone seemed resigned to the fact that we are now rewriting the Constitution the way Malacañang wants it.
Jesus (Jess) Garcia, a Marcos loyalist, leaned towards me and whispered that I should not be too vocal about my views because if I did not sign the Constitution, and if I did not vote with the majority, I would surely be arrested by the military. He swore that he has seen with his own eyes my name and that of my brother’s (Rebeck) among the list of 32 people who are supposed to be detained.
Again I hear I am going to the stockade. This is getting too much—everyone expects me to be arrested! But one consoling thing has come out quite clearly: there are many Marcos people—my political opponents—who, out of respect, for me, are concerned for my safety.
Joe Feria was also skeptical about our ability to change anything in the draft of the Steering Council, considering that during the voting on the Toto de la Cruz resolution vesting all powers on the Steering Council, only 12 had voted “No.” In other words, we are not really united in the Sponsorship Council. The majority in the Sponsorship Council have been so frightened that they voted with the tutas.
I suggested that a liaison committee be created to work through our amendments with the Steeling Council and also to find out just what provisions are special ones for Malacañang which may no longer be amended. It would be inconceivable that, as claimed by the Steering Council members, we may no longer change any provision. We thought that perhaps, Malacañang is interested only in some provisions, not in all, and that the Steering Council is using the name of Malacañang to get a carte-blanche to write the whole Constitution. I suggested that the group be headed by Ramon Encarnacion, with Noli Aguilar, Serging Tocao and Bongbong as members. These are also Marcos people but they are not in the Steering Council.
Justice Barrera soon joined our tete-a-tete.
It was established by Jess Garcia and Ikeng Corpuz that, actually, the contact man of Malacañang who reports there regularly is Bebet Duavit but another guy who is discussing the draft provisions with President Marcos is Tony de Guzman.
“Small wonder Tony has been lording it over in the meeting of the Council,” Joe Feria said. “He has been chairing some of the meetings of the Steering Council, with some technicians and experts of Malacañang and Congress in attendance.” During the meetings, Tony de Guzman would say, ‘Well, gentlemen, I am sorry to say that I don’t think we can discuss this provision. To be frank with you, this is a ‘martial’ provision.”
The meaning, Jess the “loyalist” explained, is that actually President Marcos had gone through the Constitution provision by provision, and actually made corrections in his own handwriting in the first draft that was presented by the Steering Council. That is why Tony de Guzman cannot allow any discussion on certain provisions.
“I saw with my own eyes the copies with the handwriting of the President,” Jess was getting excited now. “Amendments by substitution can really not be entertained. And if they are simply new paragraphs, or if they are new concepts, they would still not be accepted because these new provisions would then have to be taken again to Malacañang for clearance.”
Jess advised that I might as well save my energy by refraining from making substantial amendments.
What, throw in the towel?
“This is the reason why the Sponsorship Council can not possibly be taken into the confidence of the small group, the Steering Council –because the handwritten corrections of the President are there,” admitted Ikeng Corpuz.
Ikeng Corpuz and Joe Feria said that, anyway, we from the Sponsorship Council are luckier than the Steering Council members because it is really the latter who have been ordered to prepare the draft the way Malacañang wants it. In other words, we have been saved the ignoble job of putting down in writing what Malacañang dictates.
Some comfort! It is quite true that we are in a slightly better situation than the members of the Steering Council. This was apparently public knowledge and that was the reason why Atoy Barbero laughed in amusement when in all seriousness I had stood up to discuss the possibility of amendments.
I accosted Atoy Barbero as we were going out. I asked him to be frank with me and tell me what articles or provisions in the Constitution are negotiable or may be amended and what not.
“The economic provisions and the form of government are not negotiable!” he growled.
“This can not be true,” I persisted. “Insofar as the national economy is concerned, the Steering Council –or even the President– should be willing to accept new ideas. This has nothing to do with power –which is what he wants.”
“The only important thing on the national economy is that it should be thrown open to foreign investments. This is what the President wants,” Atoy’s tone was definitive.
He added that insofar as the form of government is concerned, the powers of the president have been scrapped and all the powers have now been vested on the prime minister.
Jess Garcia intervened. “So you see it is only you (Atoy) who was right all the time on the system of government we should adopt. During the debates, while the delegates were split on whether to adopt a presidential or a parliamentary system, you had the guts to stand up and say that what is most desirable is a dictatorship.”
“Several weeks later, in his speech opposing the ‘no reelection’ provision on the president, Teroy Laurel adverted to the maverick resolution of one of the delegates advocating a dictatorship,” I concurred.
Atoy shrugged his shoulders. He went down with me to the secretariat to look at my amendments. He warned me that insofar as amendments by substitution are concerned, they are out. But I informed him that I have my second alternative amendments on the national economy. He responded by saying that if they would strengthen the article concerned and if they would not lengthen it entirely, they may be considered.
I assured him that they would not lengthen. And, I said, he can throw away my nationalistic provisions—what can I do?—if the government really wants an open policy on foreign investments.
I was earnestly asking for Atoy’s help. He was good enough to promise that he is going to look over my second alternative amendments by substitution in which I had sought to incorporate all our committee ideas on the national economy. I would, however, try to find a way to insert on the record my amendments by substitution not only on the national economy but also on the declaration of principles. I believe that in the latter case, we are expressing a philosophy of government and we should at least express our views and have them on record even if we knew that they would not be accepted.
This may be a footnote to history. During my talk before the Sponsorship Council this morning I mentioned that I still feel like putting on record, for the benefit of the next generation, my thoughts on this matter even if I may no longer be heard by my colleagues in the Convention.