I presided over the meeting of the Sponsorship Council, sub-council I, on Economic and Fiscal Affairs. Erning Amatong and Ikeng Belo came along. Serging Tocao thrust himself into the meeting on the ground that he is the assistant of Justice Barrera in the sub-council. He talked about the format of the Constitution. I had to cut him short because our discussion was limited to the major provisions. Ben Rodriguez also came after a while although he is not a member of the sub-council.
The main thrust of Belo’s proposal was to remove “numbers” in the Constitution. We should not talk about 60% or 70% Filipino ownership in agriculture and natural resources, in public utilities, in retail trade, etc., vis-a-vis foreign ownership much less 100% Filipino ownership.
Under the draft provision, agriculture and natural resources should be owned wholly by Filipinos (100%), with 30% ownership by foreigners (70% Filipino ownership) allowed under certain exceptions; all other corporate enterprises in the other reports would be owned 60% by Filipinos. Belo wanted it the other way around—namely, that no nationality requirement be mentioned at all in the business activities except only in agriculture and natural resources. The requirements there would be left the way they are presently provided for in the present (1935) Constitution.
However, he would liberalize it further by providing that although they should be 60% Filipino-owned, the legislature may, by 2/3 vote, increase or decrease the Filipino ownership.
My personal contribution was on the controversial provision on foreign investments. I got the group’s endorsement of my formulation—that foreign investments from any country shall be welcome insofar as they are in harmony with the development plans and policies of the country.
When the Convention opened 16 months ago, there were three distinct factions of delegates: (1) the pro-Garcia or Nacionalista-affiliated or supported candidates which later on constituted the nucleus of the pro-Marcos bloc in the Convention; (2) the pro-Macapagal or Liberal-leaning bloc; and (3) the Independent-Progressive bloc, at least 50% of whom are delegates who have never been in active politics and who profess non-partisanship in their approach to Constitution-framing.
The pro-Garcia (ultimately pro-Marcos) bloc, had a distinct plurality over the pro-Macapagal bloc in the Convention, hence the election of President Garcia, initially, as president of the Convention. (It was only after President Garcia had passed away early during his term that the Convention elected former President Macapagal to succeed him.)
The pro-Macapagal Liberal bloc, on the other hand, had some plurality over the Independent-Progressives, which was a coalition of three factions headed by Raul Manglapus, Tito Guingona and me.
Our Independent-Progressive bloc held a meeting at the home of Pepe Calderon of the pro-Macapagal Liberals. By this time, the pro-Macapagal bloc—their remnants anyway—were, for all practical purposes, in coalition with the few survivors of our Independent-Progressive bloc.
Inasmuch as Erning Amatong and I had arrived early, we got Cecing Calderon to talk about something else: to tell us what he had gotten from Liberal senators, Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga, to whom he had gone this morning.
Roxas had told Calderon: “I have already given out my thoughts to Alfelor and Trillana and Nepomuceno and that is to vote “Yes” if only because the situation is so fluid and we would not foreclose our options by voting “No” now. If we voted “No” now on the transitory provision, we would definitely not be in even if the situation should later warrant our being there. After all, if necessary, you may yet opt not to sign the Constitution, or not take your oath or take your seat in the National Assembly,” Roxas had said.
On the other hand, according to Calderon, Salonga had said that he would like to take a long look at this. In Salonga’s opinion, history would judge the proposed transitory provision in the new Constitution to be the most scandalous provision he has ever read in any Constitution. We should emphatically reject it.
Our other friends arrived—among them, Senator Juan Liwag, Joe Feria, Naning Kalaw, Totoy Nepomuceno, Fr. Ortiz, Cefi Padua, Joe Feliciano. With the eight of us, plus the Calderon brothers, we were ten in all—seven Independent-Progressives and three pro-Macapagal Liberals.
This is all that is left of our combined pro-Macapagal and Independent-Progressive blocs.
The phone rang. It was for Liwag. As he put down the receiver, he announced that Romy Capulong was coming.
Everyone was taken by surprise. Romy is a fugitive. He is in the “wanted” list and is in hiding. We all got somewhat tense.
“Is he not wanted?” Joe Feria asked apprehensively.
Cefi Padua was visibly nervous. “Don’t let him come here,” he twice suggested to Cecing.
Part of our anxiety lay not only in the fact that Romy was “wanted” but that, also, we were meeting in the home of a man who was supposed to be under house arrest.
Romy Capulong walked in, an embarrassed smile on his lips. In spite of our apprehensions, we were all very pleased to see him. Of course, he had been in close contact with Liwag because they are close. I myself was very pleased to see him. In fact, I had precisely thought of asking the members of our group to try to find ways of being able to assist him and Raul Roco financially. I was ready to pass the hat around.
I asked Romy how he was doing financially. Not very well, he said. So I then started asking for contributions. I could not immediately include Sonny Alvarez in our calculations because I do not know Sonny’s whereabouts although he is very much in my mind.
Romy told us some Catholic nuns have been taking care of him and Raul Roco. They gave him asylum in some retreat house. Evidently, according to Romy, some elements of the clergy are very much opposed to what is now happening. They are taking the posture of passive resistance.
It is some members of the Iglesia ni Kristo, Romy was made to understand by the nuns, who became the informers of the military before the proclamation of martial law. The whole INK church, according to them, was utilized by the military to get at critics, leftists and subversives. Of course, this did not jibe with the story that on the day of martial law, more than ten Iglesia ni Kristo security guards and two PC soldiers died at the gate of the Iglesia ni Kristo headquarters at Commonwealth Avenue during a scuffle at which recoiless rifles were used by the troops.
Liwag then gave again an impassioned speech against the transitory provision.
He said that someone who had run (and lost) for the Constitutional Convention was in tears the other day. This man said that he had missed the historic opportunity to prove his loyalty to his people; if he were a member of the Convention now, he would be voting against the provision.
The import of Liwag’s words is that it would be patriotic to vote “No.” Yet, when he was pressed, he seemed evasive and he refused to categorically answer how he would vote. Was the articulate and brave senator trying to hide his fear of being arrested?
Fr. Ortiz kept on saying that while he is thinking of voting “No” he also wants to be sure that there is really no useful purpose to be served by voting “Yes.” In other words, may not being in the Assembly be an opportunity for service to the people? So long as there are possibilities for doing good in the present government, he, too, is not exactly averse to serving.
Joe Feria and Naning Kalaw seemed to have changed positions somewhat. While yesterday Naning was almost ready to vote “Yes” and Joe almost for “No,” today Joe Feria is almost for “Yes” and Naning almost for “No.”
We asked Romy Capulong how he would vote if he could do so, i.e., if he has not gone underground. He said he would vote “Yes.”
Romy added that there was some hopeful news—that the President was fed up and also disappointed with his own “tutas“ in the Convention. His news was that Marcos did not really respect them. It may even be that the President would not be averse to getting people in the government who are more respectable even if they are not his own men.
A drowning man, it is said, would clutch at a piece of straw. But surely, also, one can see the rainbow through the rain?
Romy apparently was convinced that this is true.
As we were going out after our adjournment, Romy’s upbeat mood was not yet exhausted. “So Mr. Feria and Mr. Espiritu, you get prepared to be drafted; it may be that the President will send for you and ask you to join him in his administration.”
Totoy immediately shared Romy’s optimism. The president really respected our group more than his own lapdogs. He said it would be quite important to Marcos to give respectability to his decisions. In fact, he is very certain that none of us would be touched any longer because it is very important for the President that we give him our support.
Since yesterday, Totoy has shown inclinations to vote “Yes”—following the line of reasoning of Gerry Roxas. Cefi Padua, of course, is sure that his name was in the list. He seems ready to vote “Yes.”
The pressures were heavy on all of us. We take our freedom for granted; it is only when it is endangered that we realize that it is freedom, as Harold J. Laski has said, which can give final beauty to men’s lives.
Cicero Calderon is prepared to take a job offered by the International Labor Organization to be regional consultant in Bangkok. This gives him a very good excuse not to join the Assembly. I assured him that from what I remembered, the moment anyone has his appointment papers to work for an international organization, he may be able to leave the country. The question is if the voting were done before he could leave the country.
He said that if the voting were done before he could leave the country, he would vote “Yes.”
Cecing was emphatic, however, that for some of us, particularly me, there is really no choice: we should vote “Yes.” Twice he said, “Caesar is under duress; he would have been arrested were his name not taken out of the list by Johnny Ponce Enrile.”
Pepe Calderon discussed the pros and cons and said that the Metrocom troopers who came to his house were really sent by his political enemy in Nueva Vizcaya. In fact, his daughter twice saw one of the bodyguards of Leonie Perez, together with the Metrocom troopers, in both instances. He could not see why, given this opportunity, he should not be in the Assembly so that at least he would not be oppressed by his political opponents.
Liwag again continued his powerful orations against the transitory provision. But when pressed, he was still very vague and would not give his decision. He said that the only moral decision was a “No” decision. “If we vote ‘Yes’ it would only be because we are rationalizing or justifying our desire to vote ‘Yes'”, he said. But in the end, he still did not give us his own firm decision.
Liwag was lost in his ambiguity and indecision. Our Hamlet was clearly wrestling with his conscience.
Jose (Joe) Feliciano very forcefully attacked “the institution of a dictatorship in the country.” After the impassioned speech, he ended almost in a whimper.
“But these are abnormal times. We are under martial law. We have to take care or our own lives. Therefore, it is impossible to vote ‘No’. We have to vote ‘Yes.'”
Finally, we made a decision to have a written explanation on our vote. Without any discussion, it seemed to be understood that this would be an explanation to a “Yes” vote, particularly because Totoy, who was the one among us most openly for a “Yes” vote, volunteered to prepare the draft. Significantly, no one voiced any objection.
The fear of being arrested was now triumphing over the desire to refuse any traffic with the dictator. Is this then the way submission is finally secured from brave souls?… “But as for me,” Patrick Henry had orated before the American War of Independence, “Give me liberty or give me death.” But that was a long time ago. We all have forgotten this.
Was our little Independent-Progressive bloc—what was left of it (the others have either deserted us or have been bought by Marcos; a few are in prison and some are abroad)—inevitably drifting into an inevitable “Yes” decision? So it seemed!
On the verge of a betrayal? Or so cowed that the primal instinct of survival is fast overcoming the still small voice that had once reigned in their lives?