Friday, October 27, 1972

Oka Leviste and I met at the Sulo. Tony Velasco came late, as did Inggo Guevarra’s representative. Aying Yñiguez also dropped by.

We met to consolidate the provisions on trade, tariff and commerce and on foreign loans and investments. I then reorganized and integrated the whole article on the national economy, dividing it into five parts—namely, (1) development planning, (2) industrial and commercial policy, (3) agriculture and agrarian reform, 4) monetary and credit policies and (5) public finance. Under the last section on public finance, I grouped budget and appropriations, taxation, public works and audit.

While we were meeting, Sonia Roco (Raul’s wife), Mely and Lito came in. After some pleasantries with them, I went back to my table with Oka, Inggo Guevarra’s representative, and the two secretaries. Soon afterwards, who do you think should appear? Raul Roco and Sonny Alvarez!

What a pleasant surprise. Sonny was grinning; he was spoiling a crew cut. Raul was jubilant.

I was overjoyed to see our “outlaws.”

Sonny told us that he had set the wheels in motion for his freedom. Celso was to meet with Enrile. Also, Father Reuter was supposed to talk to Enrile. Meanwhile, Manong Tony Raquiza was going to see the President.

It was past 1:00 p.m. when I entered the Philippine Sugar Institute building. Oka was speaking at the time. I gave the papers to him. “Thank you, Dr. Espiritu,” he said. Then he announced over the loudspeaker: “Dr. Espiritu has just submitted the draft on economic and fiscal policy.”

I then withdrew to the aisle and accosted Manong Tony Raquiza who was about to leave. I pleaded with him to go to the President on behalf of Sonny. Manong Tony said he had talked to Sonny but he had not seen the President since martial law.

“Well, Sonny needs to be saved; in fact, Romy and Raul have already been removed from ‘the list’ through the efforts of Enrile,” I said.

“And they have been even more critical than Alvarez,” Manong nodded understandingly.

            Manong Tony paused for a while, then continued: “Some of Ninoy’s friends from Tarlac may be Communists, but not Bren Guiao. Bren is not a Communist. And I also want to help Rondon; he is not a Communist either.”

I pressed him to see the President. He promised he would try to see him tomorrow.

Before the Steering Council dispersed, Charlie Ledesma announced that the members of the new Steering Committee of Marcos loyalists should now get their refined sugar.

I know of course that I am not a member of the inner circle; if anything, I am some kind of an enemy. Nevertheless, I jokingly asked my friend, Charlie: “May I also get one?”

He was quite busy looking at the Steering Council members; he did not hear me.

“Can I also get one?” I repeated; it would have been awkward for someone not a member of the “inner circle” to be standing by and not speak. Charlie still did not hear me.

So I uttered in a louder voice for the third time, “May I get one also?”

“Oh, yes, yes, you may get,” was the nonchalant reply.

I froze. Charlie had been friendly with me in the past. We used to recite the poems of the Romantics whenever the sessions were boring. We both love Shelley and Byron and Wordsworth… And of course I did not need the sugar. I was being flippant—because we used to be “comrades.”

Celso Dans, a reporter of the Daily Express, was then eating at the hall. He asked Charlie, “Sir, may I also get one?”

He was swiftly rebuffed: “There are not enough packages.”

I felt somewhat ill at ease. “I did not know that you did not have enough,” I said, returning my package.

“Oh, no, no,” Charlie condescended, “you may get one.” And in the same breath he called out to Pepe Abueva, “Doctor, please get your package.”

We walked towards the elevator. Chito Castillo put his arms over the shoulders of his comrades in the new Steering Council: “Mabuti sa economics, tapos na tayo. Ginawa na nila Caesar.”

Tony de Guzman reacted swiftly in a high pitch: “Ah, hindi, hindi... wala ‘yan.” He did not know that I was just behind them.

Chito pulled him aside. “We were just utilizing the brains of Caesar,” he whispered to Tony.

Tony then saw me as I stepped into the elevator to join them. He asked in quick succession: “How much did you shorten the provisions? Did you remove those that should he subject to legislation?”

Was there a note of contempt or of condescension?

“It’s hard to generalize,” I replied. “Why don’t you read what I have prepared?”

There was an awkward silence.

“What a transformation!” Nene Pimentel shook his head in disbelief, when he heard the story later.

Thursday, October 26, 1972

The members of the various economic committees met at the Sulo. Present were Oka Leviste, Gary Teves, Estoy Mendoza, Artemio Lobrin, Celso Gangan, Dolf Azcuña. Leo Castillo from Davao also came to get a free meal. Domingo (Inggo) Guevarra’s representative was also there.

Gary didn’t want to come because after yesterday’s vote, he thought there was no point in having to discuss these provisions. I persuaded him to come, though.

Some questions were asked by our economic thinkers. Why should we still meet?

I told them that we might as well finish our work and submit this to the Steering Council. Oka Leviste, with Tony Velasco, has been dishing out to us, since yesterday, his consuelo de bobo that although it might be the Steering Council sponsoring it now, the ideas would still be ours. In fact Tony Velasco has tested the limits of credibility by suggesting that in his extra-sensory perception (ESP), the different groups are meeting about the same things and are all converging towards the same results.

Hogwash! Strange things are happening indeed to what I had thought were sane people in the Convention.

Chito Castillo twice peeped in because, apparently, an ad hoc subcommittee of the Steering Council was going to meet on the economic provisions—that is, Chito, Oka and three other members of the Steering Council. Oka assured us that our own group would constitute the hard core of the subcommittee. Chito agreed. Et tu, Chito! From their point of view, we are to become the nucleus of the subcommittee on economic affairs of the Steering Council.

We actually made progress, except that we were not able to discuss the provisions on agriculture and land reform.

During the meeting, Celso begged to leave at 12:00 o’clock noon to go to Enrile, he said, to surrender someone. He told me privately that he was with Sonny Alvarez last night and that they were looking for me. He said Sonny was finally able to vote.

I was very glad to hear this.

Wednesday, October 25, 1972

The discussion was on a resolution filed by Toto do la Cruz that the 166-man body designated (by who else?) to write the Constitution should authorize the Steering Council, as its ad-hoc committee, to prepare the first draft. And what about the rest of the delegates? Placed in the ice box!

During the interpellations, Toto said the meaning is that, hereafter, the whole Constitution would be written by the Steering Council, to be submitted to the 166-man body for ratification. Also, the Steering Council and this body may change any provision already approved in plenary session on second reading.

It was made plain during the interpellation that this would mean that we would be in the situation where we were during our pre-Convention meetings. In other words, the Con-Con, through the Steering Council of the 166-man body, would start all over again. All our work of the last 16 months in the Con-Con would be set aside—although they would be “taken into consideration.” All our efforts and all the expenses of the government were for naught.

I wanted to stand up and fight what I felt was a conspiracy to frustrate the people’s will. So the Convention is no longer the representative of the people. It is now a rubber stamp of Marcos!

One problem was that last night Sonny had phoned me and requested me to meet again with Toto this morning. It might be too late if I were to see him only in the afternoon.

I knocked on Toto’s door at the Sulo Hotel. Toto answered from the locked room that he was busy. Instead of opening the door to let me in, he asked me to call him up from the lobby.

Could Toto have a girl inside? Did I unwittingly disturb some romancing inside? But no, it seems more likely that he was in his room with some other Marcos boys preparing the stage for today’s golpe. Could this be the mystery room of the Rasputins where the fate of a nation is being decided?

Over the telephone, Toto told me he was busy. I could only talk to him this afternoon at 3:00 p.m.

I was quite disappointed; I had travelled to Quezon City Hall in the morning just to talk to him. Nevertheless, I swallowed my pride. Remembering that he is somewhat close to Sonia Aldeguer, one of my three closest friends in the Convention, I suggested that perhaps I could ask Sonia to send her vote by cable from Rome where she is in a nunnery and confirm it upon her arrival? He replied this would be a wise move.

I repaired to my room to phone Sammy Occeña in Davao. Sammy said he had voted already. He was firm. In conscience he could not vote “Yes.”

“Good for you!” I hung up.

I tried hard to contact Sister Digna or Sister Elizabeth to tell either one of them about my talk with Toto de la Cruz.

Last Sunday, I had advised Sister Digna to leave things as they are. Anyway, Sonia could not come home. I said she is lucky because she need not be forced to vote “Yes,” as she might be if she were around; there are rumors that she is also in the “secondary list.” But just in case Sonia might want to vote, we might, perhaps, arrange it such that she could cable her vote and say that she was confirming it upon her arrival. After all, Toto said it could be done.

I phoned Caling Lobregat to get the telephone number of Sister Digna. Caling told me she had talked to Sonia last night and Sonia said she had voted “No.” Caling suggested that we should capture Sonia’s cable and try to persuade her to change her vote to “Yes.”

I poured cold water on the idea. “I think we should respect her decision.”

I spent more than an hour trying to get Sister Digna or Sister Elizabeth on the phone but the number Caling gave me was apparently wrong. Then, I gave up—quite happy that, anyhow, Sonia had already voted “No.”

I talked to Mrs. Ferrer also to give my advice to Raul Manglapus in the U.S. to send his vote along the line of what I was going to tell Sonia. She said she would explain this to Manny Peña.

I sent word to Sonny’s secretary for him to call me up between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m. But his call didn’t come.

When I entered the session hall, Toto was already on the floor.

How could I now argue with him publicly? It was crucial for me to first, be able to talk to him about Sonny. But this was now no longer possible. I may now have to cross swords with Toto. Still, it would be difficult to come out strongly against his proposal—an outrageous proposal foreordained to pass because of numbers. What a pity! This was clearly a conspiracy.

It was unbelievable, but true. Oka Leviste said there was no choice. But I could not vote for this deliberate frustration of our will—the unceremonious junking of the decisions taken by us in the last 16 months.

This was one of our darkest hours in the Convention. I went out of the session hall during the voting without casting my vote. I was informed later that only 12 people voted against the outrageous resolution for the body to surrender all powers to the Steering Council.

There was some lame opposition to the resolution from Julian Locsin and Ikeng Corpuz. The surprising thing was that it seemed that the Sponsorship Council has been decimated. It is supposed to be the largest body in the Convention. What about the committee chairmen and vice chairmen? Why did they not utter any word of protest?

This could not be true, I told some friends. But Oka Leviste said this was true. Once more, he said that the Constitution has already been drafted in Malacañang.

In the meantime, the 12 committees on economic affairs have been meeting under my chairmanship. One might ask, what for? The answer, perhaps, is that the Steering Council might yet, hopefully, adopt most of our ideas, coming as they do from the committee chairmen, vice chairmen and representatives to the Council.

Am I being hopelessly unrealistic?

We should still go on and finish our work and then submit our draft to the body. If it is turned down—as very possibly it would be—then we could place on record that those were the provisions that we had wanted. We should then be speaking to the future and no longer to the present; the present is beyond redemption. We shall then explain to history that this was not our will and that insofar as our will was concerned, we wanted the provisions approved by our committees in the economic grouping.

It was like dying a little, I thought; the whole machinations in the Convention were making us die a little.

Friday, September 8, 1972

Ikeng Corpuz was delivering a “bomba.” He said that it was wrong to ban Marcos and his spouse. He argued that this is a question of civil liberties, and civil liberties have to do with individual rights rather than conjugal rights.

Ikeng Corpuz is a curious man. He is a former congressman and is much older than many of us in our bloc. He is unpredictable, in many ways. In the early days of the Convention, and in fact, even before the Convention, he had somehow found his way into the Manglapus camp. I think he had voted for me during my “primary” fight with Tito Guingona because of the fact that we were at Harvard Law School together. I remember him most as having been shocked that our Harvard exams were held during Holy Week. “Ano ba ang mga tao dito, Hudyo? he had uttered. Now he has been going around with and seeking the support of the Marcos people for his bid for the chairmanship of the Sponsorship Council. He has somehow drifted towards the camp of the politicians. He is really an old politician with a politician’s heart, generally of good intentions even if the strength of his convictions might be suspect.

Nevertheless, unpredictable as Ikeng might be, he is nothing compared to the enigmatic Oka Leviste, who is just about the most unpredictable man in the Convention. Romy Capulong said that Oka has been eased out of Manglapus’ Christian Social Movement for having voted “No” to the ban-dynasty resolution, as well as for many other reasons. Ramoning Diaz jokingly added that Oka’s credibility is sometimes below sea level.

Sed Ordoñez commented that between the two Levistes, Jose (Joey) seems to have more credibility. “Except that according to Raul Roco, during the election for committee chairman, Joey Leviste and Sonny Alvarez had run against each other, and it would seem that Joey then dropped all his independent feathers and sought to get the support of the Marcos bloc who were the majority. In fact, for quite a while, he really seemed to have played politics and voted with the pro-Marcos people,” Sed continued.

“But lately, he has been showing some independence again. He voted ‘Yes’ on the ban-dynasty proposal. The real problem is you just don’t really know how his mind works, because while I grant that he strikes me as being a sincere man, the way he has been voting lately makes one wonder,” I rejoined.

My conjectures with Sed were interrupted. My brother, Rebeck Espiritu, gave a speech which was well-delivered. He had explained that his “Yes” vote was really to redeem the parliamentary system and protect it from “that man” in Malacañang.

Thursday, September 7, 1972

This morning, I had a full hour’s chat with President Macapagal. Majority Floor Leader Edmundo (Munding) Cea and Vice Pres. Abraham (Abe) Sarmiento were with us part of the time. I was telling Macapagal that he had delivered a mesmerizing speech yesterday in favor of the ban-dynasty resolution. In fact I heard it said, by some delegates, that that was his finest hour.

I also suggested to Macapagal that there are perhaps two options for us. The first is to just simply freeze the ball and let the Convention work as slowly as possible so that the plebiscite on the new Constitution may only be done after the expiration of Marcos’ term in 1973. This would really, in effect, ban the incumbent. In fact, Convention secretary, Jose (Pepe) Abueva, has also suggested the same thing.

Another possibility, I said, was to declare a recess until January 1974.

We then talked about the transition government resolution filed by Oscar (Oka) Leviste and Antonio (Tony) Velasco. To my great surprise, Macapagal said what was almost unbelievable to me up to then—that this resolution might pass.

For some delegates, the point is, the ban-dynasty provision has already failed anyway; Marcos would surely win. Therefore, we might just as well postpone the election and hold over the positions of elective officials. The bonus is that we, the delegates, would be there in the first parliament. This is the substance and spirit of the Tony-Oka transition government resolution.

Incredible, I said. How can such a self-serving resolution pass? I remember now that Antonio (Tony) Tupaz had told me that definitely this would pass. I had dismissed the idea quickly then. But last night, Pepe Abueva was telling me that this just might pass really, for all we know. Macapagal sadly confirmed this: “Yes, that might even pass.”

This now seems to be a serious matter—where before, only Oka Leviste and Tony Velasco believed in it. But, of course, the come-on is irresistible. Who wouldn’t want to be in the first parliament—without even having to fight it out in an election contest?

 Macapagal did not know that Gary Teves and Adolfo (Adolf) Azcuña all along have been voting independently. Macapagal was quite surprised by what I said about Gary, because Gary’s uncle, Senator Teves, and his father, Congressman Teves, were allies of Marcos. I said, “Oh, yes, all along he has been with us.”

I like the kid. He is sincere and competent; I feel that young people like him should be encouraged and supported. He has voted independently of the way Congressman Teves and Senator Teves have been voting in Congress.

The other politician’s son who has surprisingly been consistently voting with us is Adolf Azcuña. The voting record of Adolf has really been progressive and independent. In fact, although he is an assistant attorney at the Bengzon law office, his record is poles apart from that of Peps Bengzon. In Adolf’s own words, some six months ago, his vote was 85 percent of the time different from that of Peps. Now, again, on the ban-Marcos resolution, he voted with us. He did not have second thoughts about his true colors.

Of course his local political rival, Ernesto (Erning) Amatong, is not very certain of Adolf s persuasions. Is he really independent of his father’s influence, this son of Congressman Azcuña? Nevertheless, Erning is a fair man and he has acknowledged to me that he is impressed by Adolf. He agrees with me that Adolf has been showing himself to be a sincere and independent-minded and conscientious young man.

Erning Amatong, as expected, voted with us. He is an old reliable, really. So did Vincenzo Sagun.

At noon, I went to the meeting of the Independent-Progressive bloc at the home of Pepe Calderon to discuss our options.