The Daily Express said today, in an article written by Primitivo Mijares, that the draft Constitution was approved last night without any dissenting vote.
But this was a blatant lie. I had voted “No”; so did quite a number of others.
It is not without reason that my friend Tibo Mijares has jokingly called himself “the Goebbels of Marcos.” There is an element of truth in this.
I was almost lost in my ruminations on the sad fate of the Con-Con when I entered the session hall. As I did so, someone handed me an envelope.
I looked at the man. His face was somewhat familiar. He started getting out the letter inside the envelope and showing it to me. I noticed that it was from the Armed Forces. With some trepidation I began to read:
5th Military Intelligence Group, ISAFP
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
24 November 1972
Subject : Summon for Investigation
To : Dr. Augusto Caesar ESPIRITU
6th Floor, Ramon Magsaysay Center
1630 Roxas Blvd., Malate, Manila
Pursuant to Proclamation No. 1081 of the President of the Philippines in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines dated September 21, 1972, and pertinent implementing General Orders and Letters of Instruction, you are hereby invited to appear before the Office of the Group Commander, 5th Military Intelligence Group, ISAFP at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City on 24 November 1972 for investigation/interview in a case of subversion of which you are involved.
Your immediate compliance is hereby enjoined.
(Sgd.) MARIANO G. MIRANDA
Lt. Colonel PA
The dreaded moment has come at last! I was being “picked up”—as I had half expected for some time now!
I immediately thought of getting in touch with Johnny Ponce Enrile through Edong Angara. Edong was not yet in, neither was Sig Siguion-Reyna, Enrile’s brother-in-law. I asked Cecing Calderon for Johnny’s telephone number. He said Pepe Calderon has the number of Johnny at his house. He gave me Pepe Calderon’s number. I tried calling up Pepe but his phone did not ring at all. I spent more than 15 minutes trying to get Pepe. Then Cecing started to assist me.
Tony Tupaz passed by. I asked him for the telephone number of Edong Angara. He tried to remember the number.
“Why?” he asked.
I told him I had received an “invitation” from the Armed Forces.
“This is probably just an interview,” he dismissed it forthwith.
I showed Tony the paper. “Well, it is only an interview, it is not a warrant of arrest,” he started. But then he kept on reading the summons… “for investigation/interview in a case of subversion.” He got alarmed.
“Bakit ‘subversion of which you are involved?’ Masagwa ito,” he got worried. “Masagwa ito” he repeated.
I asked for the number of Johnny Enrile but he didn’t know. He said I should talk to Edong Angara; he is the one who can help.
“In the possibility that I am taken in, will you do something on the Malacañang front?” I asked.
“Of course, I will go upstairs, Brod.” Tony tried to reassure me.
I called Romy Capulong aside and took him to President Macapagal’s room. I asked him if he knew the phone number of Johnny Enrile and he said that he has no direct line to Johnny. As I was talking to Romy, Cecing Calderon, who had been trying to do something, came in and said, “Nandiyan na si Edong.”
I called Edong aside and led him to the office of Macapagal. I showed him the letter. The first thing that he noticed was that it was dated the 24th of November. Today is the 28th. He asked me if I had made any speeches lately. I answered in the negative.
I started thinking that this might have something to do with my letter that was taken by the military from Haruna. Yes, that international seminar of the Asian Leadership Development Center (ALDEC)!
Edong was locked in thought. Then he started tracking down Johnny. In five minutes, Johnny was on the line.
“I am here at the Constitutional Convention. Nandito si Caesar Espiritu. Meron siyang summons for investigation dated November 24 but he received it only now.”
“Do you want to speak to him directly?” Edong turned to me, handing me the receiver.
“Sige na, ikaw na.” I was in no position to discuss this matter coherently.
They had a short conversation.
“Johnny said that this is just an interview; there is no need to worry,” he consoled me.
Upon my reentry to the session hall, I told Rebeck about it. He advised me to report to the military officer as soon as possible. He warned me that even if it is only an interview, this may take two days. He said many of those who have been interrogated stayed for two days.
I quickly collected the clothes and papers to bring with me to the stockade. I tried to call up the house but there was no answer. Just send a note, Rebeck counselled.
Rebeck coached me on how the questions were directed to those he knew had been previously interviewed and who were subsequently released. The general sense is that the military wants to elicit assurance of voting for the draft Constitution and willingness to help in the building of the “New Society.” He advised that I should take the posture of willingness to help in the approval of the Constitution.
As if in a trance, I went with the soldider who gave me the letter, he with the familiar face.
But he was friendly. He tried to put me at ease. He started telling me in confidence that one of the interrogating officers was a former student of mine.
He introduced himself: Sergeant Rosales. He has been one of our security guards at the Convention for 16 months.
Small wonder, I knew his face. And he showed great respect towards me.
When I arrived, I was introduced to an officer who, later on, told me that he is First Lt. Conrado Gerzon.
He started by saying that the report about me said there was a letter written in blue ink. He then read the name of the addressee and the salutation. I was quite amused. He said the letter was taken from Mr. Haruna.
“Yes,” I said, “I knew Mr. Haruna. He is a Japanese pastor working at the YMCA in Japan.”
I told him that I have many international contacts who come in and out of Manila and that I have the habit of sending letters through them.
He asked me why such code names as Sascha and Karina were used in the letter. Also, why did I write that “some of the brightest and most patriotic citizens were being arrested and that I, too, might be arrested?” The military was puzzled and so he was asked to “confront” me with these.
“In the first place, you are admitting that this letter was yours,” he continued his interrogation.
“Did you know that it had fallen into the hands of the military?”
“Why did you not take it from the military?”
“It was not important, it was routine.”
“What was Sascha?”
I laughed. The lieutenant started murdering the German names and words written in my letter.
“This is Karen in Danish, Catherine or Katharine in English, Katrina in Russian, Katherina in Central Europe. These were the editors of my two books we were putting out, Economic Growth in World Perspective and The Responsible Society.”
My interrogator was somewhat awed by all of these.
“While I am a Filipino and I consider the Philippines my primary country,” I said, “I also think of the U.S., West Germany and Switzerland as some kind of second countries. My friends in these countries are by the dozens. It is normal for me to have good contacts in these countries just as I have good friends in our own country.”
“I thought so,” he said albeit a faint note of suspicion in his voice betrayed his inner thoughts.
“Why did you write that about 13 people have been taken by the military and that one of your brilliant friends was taken that day? In fact, according to your letter, you were advising him, in case he was going to be taken in, not to run away, but to give up peacefully because his chances of survival are better inside the stockade than if he were to be in hiding.”
And why was I writing as if I, too, were expecting to be arrested?
“You put yourself in my shoes. Every day two or three of your close friends are arrested. Wouldn’t you feel apprehensive too? In fact, the whole Convention has been shaken by the arrest of these delegates. Frankly, everyone is somewhat afraid of being taken in.”
“You continued in the letter that international communications have been cut off but that you would send a message, ‘FREE’ or ‘IMPRISON.’ Why?”
“Well, I have been critical of both Marcos and of martial law,” I said. “I’m a Democrat. I believe in individual freedom and human rights. Wouldn’t you feel the same apprehension if you were in my shoes?”
“Yes, I would be,” he said with a show of sympathy. “For a while, I was confused about the air of apprehension in the Convention,” he added.
“Look at the date,” I pursued my psychological offensive. “The letter was written two days after martial law but it was not until one week later that this fell into the hands of the military. This means, I just gave the letter to the Japanese as a matter of routine knowing he was leaving for Tokyo a week or two later.”
Looking somewhat convinced, he grinned and asked me rather sheepishly whether I have taught at the Far Eastern University. I answered in the affirmative. “For several years.”
“I think I was your student.” His whole demeanor had changed.
I was not sure what I should say.
“I was thinking you were familiar but it seemed you have grown older since. Yes, you must have been my student for one year.”
“I think for two years,” he corrected me in his monotone.
I tried hard to put a glint of recognition into my eyes. “Ah, yes, I remember you, but of course, you are much older now.” My mind was in a whirl. I searched for a clue.
“I had two years of law school under you but I did not finish my studies.” He was quite subdued now.
“I am going to say in my report that it was a routine letter that you were writing to your editors in Europe,” he shifted back to the subject of interrogation.
We talked about my friends who have been taken in. I mentioned the names of Lichauco and Guingona. His face lit up when I mentioned Lichauco.
“Is he the one you mentioned as brilliant?”
“Yes,” I said, “he is the one. He was sitting beside me the day he was taken. And he is not a subversive, he is not a Marxist. He is just a nationalist—an anti-imperialist.”
“I am also a nationalist,” I confessed, “and a democrat. That is the reason I’m frequently held under suspicion.”
“Our society is so much in the right,” I lectured. “It is so much easier in our society to be a conformist than to retain one’s integrity. But there is so much injustice in society. We need to alter structures of power, institutions and of economic benefits. We need to be on the side of the poor and the weak.”
“The only difference is that Lichauco is more outspokenly anti-imperialist than me,” I continued. “But I, too, believe in national integrity. I do not like our foreign policy which Recto has called a foreign policy of mendicancy. I believe in justice and equality for all nations, and for all people in our country.”
I told my interrogator about my travels. “I’m invited to something like five seminars, workshops and conferences every year in Europe. In a way, I might be called a nationalist internationalist.”
“Oh, yes, Sir, I remember you were travelling a lot.”
“Yes, I have been attending seminars on international development as well as on human rights.”
“And I believe, Sir, that you are a Recto follower,” my interrogator is now deferential.
I responded by saying that Lichauco was influenced by Recto even more, and so have many of other young people.
He said casually that Lichauco would be interrogated tomorrow.
I cautioned him that they should remember that I consider Lichauco a patriot although I do not agree with all of his views.
Earlier, before my interrogation, Roquito Ablan, an assemblyman who reportedly had access to Marcos’ bedroom, came along with a visitor’s tag. I was surprised.
“Hello, Brod!” he boomed.
“Hi, Brod,” I answered. “Are you the kitchen-in-charge here? Or the detention mayor?”
I thought of Sed Ordoñez’ earlier story about Ninoy Aquino having been ousted as kitchen-in-charge at Fort Bonifacio. But apparently I made a mistake. Roquito is not under detention.
“I’ll see you in the interim Assembly, Brod.”
“I’m not sure about that, Brod.” I chuckled.
He briefly spoke to me in Ilocano and I answered him in Ilocano. He then warmly waved good-bye and breezed away.
“Ammoyo gayam ti Ilocano (so you know Ilocano),” Gerzon said approvingly.
“Bassit (a little),” I replied, then casually proceeded to speak again in English and it was then he said he is from Nueva Ecija.
“Oh, you are my provincemate. Rebeck is your delegate.”
“Yes,” he responded, “Rebeck is my delegate; I come from Cuyapo.”
Our conversation lasted for 45 minutes. In the end, he said that was all. He “invited” me to return tomorrow so he could introduce me to his commanding officer.
“Of course. Would 10:00 or 11:00 o’clock be okay?”
“Oh, anytime at your convenience.” He was casual and deferential.
We were getting to be teacher and student again.
The session was about to adjourn when I returned. There were fireworks because Ambassador Quintero was going to speak.
Tony Sison, chairman, explained the action taken by the Committee on Privileges with respect to the investigation of the famous Quintero expose of Marcos payola in May 1972. He reported that his Committee had found “no scintilla of evidence to prove the charges of Delegate Quintero.” (Quintero had charged that he kept on being sent money in envelopes by Marcos to vote along certain lines.) Sison then moved that all the persons mentioned in the expose, including the first lady, Imelda Marcos, be exonerated of the charges against them and that the case be deemed terminated.
The motion was approved overwhelmingly. This is, indeed, the world of the absurd!
Quintero tried to stand up. He was very angry.
But he was not allowed to speak. By then partisanship was running so high. The delegates had lost their reason.
The session ended almost in an uproar.
Delegates Bongbong and Jaime Opinion were very angry too—at Quintero. Do executioners really get angry with innocent victims?
“They had very guilty feelings,” Rebeck commented.