Sunday, November 26, 1972

We had session this morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. I missed church to go directly to Quezon City Hall. Instead of a speech in opposition, I briefly said that the Constitution, as it was being presented, could stand some improvement so that it may compare favorably with other modern Constitutions in the world. But for the moment, the sense of my opposition was embodied in my amendments by substitution to the whole articles on the Declaration of Principles and on the National Economy. It was for this reason, I said, that I was asking that my amendments be inserted into the records.

It was granted.

The substitute Declaration of Principles was the one previously worked out and approved by the committee headed by Raul Roco. The members of the committee are really about the most progressive in the Convention. I, myself, have given more time to this committee than possibly, to any other one, including my Economic Committee.

I submitted the consolidated draft on the National Economy worked out by the chairman, vice-chairman and sponsors of the 13 economic committees, tinder my chairmanship—on behalf of the Sponsorship Council. I had later on integrated the provisions myself, pursuant to the request of the members of my sub-council.

Afterwards, there was a speech by Manong Raquiza. The gist of his speech is that we should not copy many provisions in the Bill of Rights of the United States Federal Constitution; the U.S. is the most crime-ridden country in the world (sic).

Raquiza is full of praise for martial law. The whole problem is that most of the delegates, knowing him, are not certain about his sincerity. He is a nice guy, all right, but the problem is that the delegates do not take him seriously because he does not seem to speak with conviction. He is the quintessential politician.

I had a brief chat with Sed Ordoñez and Gary Teves. Sed stated that in his interpellation yesterday of Roding Ortiz, precisely he was talking about the effectivity of the Bill of Rights. Is the Bill of Rights suspended during the period of martial law?

My major problem about this new Constitution, I told Sed, is that many of the provisions might conceivably be acceptable during this state of emergency, but a few years from now, when normal times shall have been restored, how could we continue with so many provisions in this Constitution tailor-made for a state of emergency?

I decided, therefore, to interpellate the rebuttal speakers. I raised three questions. One has to do with the powers of the prime minister and the emasculation of the powers of the National Assembly which might be acceptable during times of emergency but not during normal times.

The second thing has to do with the Bill of Rights, with such concepts as general welfare, national security, etc. I would say that in the balancing of national security with individual freedom, the latter should weigh more heavily during normal times even if during periods of emergency, national security might very well be our obsession.

My third question dealt on the national economy. There is really no indication as to the goals that we might want to achieve. We have no grand design of development for the country, no real philosophy undergirding the provisions we are discussing. The delegates writing this Constitution do not really have a clear idea as to what kind of economic reforms should be incorporated therein.

But what did I get for this interpellation? Cold shoulders from the railroading majority!

Gary thought that either one of us who might be able to speak again could ask the question of whether or not the transitory provision is supposed to provide an orderly transition of government. If so, if and when we shall have reached that point where the transitory provision would no longer obtain, whether we can expect the parliamentary government to be restored.

When Atoy Barbero came by to see what I was doing, I told him that the concentration of powers in the prime minister might be better placed under the transitory provision. Atoy was frank. He answered that actually that was the original intention but that, in the meantime, the President had personally transferred this provision to the Article on the National Assembly.

I asked Atoy why the President thought that even after his regime the Philippines would need a strong prime minister, and why we have weakened the National Assembly so much during normal times. Why may the Assembly press only bills of local application? And why do we not provide for immunity from arrest of members of the National Assembly during normal times? And don’t we believe anymore in checks and balances in the government?

“I cannot answer you,” was his laconic reply.

Sed Ordoñez said that he had seen our friends at the stockades last week. It was the second time he has visited them. I asked him what the general condition of our friends is and he said there was a general feeling of despair.

The detainees at Fort Bonifacio have formed some kind of an association and have elected Ninoy Aquino their detention mayor. There are some ten people at Fort Bonifacio.

It is not true, Sed continued, that Ninoy is in Corregidor. Sed saw the son of Soc Rodrigo, who is the roommate of Ninoy Aquino. He said that Ninoy was formerly in charge of the kitchen, but the detainees have deposed him and made him the detention mayor of their group.

This is the way these unfortunate leaders have been spending their time.

I had requested Bobbit’s secretary, Beth Mateo, to help me send some food to the delegates in the stockades. Bobbit said that I could send some things through the secretary of Tito Guingona at Nation Savings Bank or through the secretary of Bren Guiao. I know Bobbit has sent balut to them. Beth Mateo had told me so at the UP yesterday. I should like to be able to send those guys some things, especially considering the fact that both Bobbit and I are not in a position to visit them. We are in the list of delegates for “picking up” in the second round.

I mentioned to Sed and Bobbit that I had heard that Manong Raquiza had a hand in the preparation of the first list of delegates who should be detained. That was what I had gathered from—was it Joe Feria? I told them that I meant to ask Manong Raquiza whether or not this was true.

Sed looked at me with some concern. “If the list were longer, you would have been in the list.”

“But ‘they’ would soon be drafting a longer list,” Bobbit said mournfully.

Saturday, November 18, 1972

The special 34-man body met. Erning Amatong asked me to sit beside him because anyway, many of our ideas coincide. He was sweet.

But Fidel Purisima sat beside us, too. The harmony was broken. He told me that there are 15 members from the Steering Council, 15 from the Sponsorship Council and 4 from the panel of floor leaders in this Committee.

During the discussions, I introduced an amendment in the article on Civil Rights to abolish the death penalty. Bert Misa opposed it. Roger Panotes has a similar resolution. Cefi Padua wanted to support us halfway by saying that the death penalty shall not be imposed unless otherwise provided by law.

Naturally, we were defeated. The idea of introducing humaneness into our legal system could not be understood by the delegates.

In the course of the ages, man has done away with some of his brutality, I said in my speech. In the past, we hanged criminals and burned witches at the stake. But now we have grown more civilized. We understand the sacredness of human life. Besides, we say the modern penal system is based primarily on the reform of erring individuals and the protection of society. It is no longer primarily aimed at punishing or destroying criminals. And besides, did not Apostle Paul write, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord”?

I added that Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s best-known hangman who had dispatched 400 people in his career, remarked after his last execution: “The death penalty never once acted as a deterrent.”

We lost miserably, in spite of my oratory.

Dr. Aruego wanted an amendment by deletion to omit the provision on habeas corpus because he says the same matter is mentioned among the powers of the prime minister. By mentioning this in the Bill of Rights, this would leave open the possibility of interpreting this as allowing other agencies to suspend, likewise, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

I do not agree with him. The Bill of Rights is an enumeration of the individual’s rights against the government as an institution and against all majorities and officials—in fact, against society. Nevertheless, Cefi Padua seemed to have been swayed by Aruego. Of course, they lost miserably too, even as I have often lost miserably.

Vic de la Serna filed some good amendments. One of them has to do with providing periods for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Naturally, they were quickly voted down without any discussion simply because he was not there. And, the way things were running, these would have been quickly shot even if he were around.

There is a provision that free access to courts shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty. This was amended initially so as to read, “Free access to courts and other government agencies shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.”

This was readily accepted. And it is a good amendment. I noticed, though, that the decision to accept or not to accept seemed to be coming merely from Tony de Guzman, who was presiding, in representation of the Steering Council.

Then I introduced an amendment to add: “The State shall provide free and adequate legal assistance in all cases when, by reason of indigence, they are unable to defend themselves or enforce their rights.” Actually, this came from the original civil rights report.

In my explanation, I said that most of us, during the election campaign, had felt that the lack of legal assistance was one of the major grievances of the citizenry. There is inequality in the administration of justice. There is need for the poor to be given equal rights with the affluent.

“We were not insensitive to this,” Tony de Guzman interrupted. He brushed aside my explanation.

“I only wish to strengthen the sensitivity of our delegates,” I responded lamely.

Serging Tocao stood up abruptly. He was enraged. “I do not understand why we are discussing this. This is not a right. We are supposed to be talking about rights. This is an obligation.”

I immediately rejoined: “A right does not exist in a vacuum. There are no rights without correlative obligations.”

Peps Bengzon intervened, saying this was not necessary. This was a matter for legislation.

Roding Ortiz also opposed—but on legal grounds. He said that this was already provided for in the Ombudsman article.

We lost in the voting. But even Ikeng Corpuz, who was presiding together with Tony de Guzman, voted in favor of my amendment.

There was some measure of success, however, because I garnered some seven, eight or nine votes, which is big enough by my present standards. These days I am modest in my ambitions. As one of the “vanquished” in the Convention, I have been so used now to getting only two, three or four votes in the Committee. Today, there seemed to be a sizeable number of people who agreed with me. Nevertheless, I lost.

But I shall not be deterred. I shall appeal in plenary.

Finally, as I was leaving, I heard Ikeng Corpuz say that we are now taking up the amendment on social and economic rights. I heard him announce that the authors are Teroy Laurel, Noli Santos, Caesar Espiritu and others. He said that Laurel and Santos were not there so he asked me if I would like to sponsor the amendment.

This was what differentiated prewar Constitutions from the modern Constitutions of democratic nations, I said. The ideas of social progress and of social and economic rights find emphasis in postwar democratic Constitutions. In fact the UN documents to operationalize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are two—the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. There are also the ILO Conventions.

Peps Bengzon intervened: These ideas are spread in the different provisions in the new Constitution. My response was that they are so scattered as to be ineffective.

A call for a vote was made. I lost miserably.