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.

Wednesday, November 8, 1972

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

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“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.

Thursday, October 5, 1972

Some five delegates are already in the army stockades. In the haphazard enumeration by the government-controlled paper, The Daily Express, the last two delegates named were Ramon (sic) Espiritu and Jose Mari Velez of Rizal.

As I entered the session hall, Joe Feria met me. “I was afraid you were already taken in.” And Charlie Valdez added, “You better go up because there is so much speculation inside the session hall about you.”

True enough, as I entered, there was some excitement on the part of the delegates who were thinking that I must have already been arrested. Jun Catan was saying that if it were true that I was arrested, then they would have taken the wrong man because he knows that I am a fair-minded man. Moreover, I am not really a man of such means as to be able to finance subversives. Twice he told me that he had said this to Roberto (Bert) Oca.

Delegates Pedro (Pete) Valdez and Manuel (Maneng) Concordia were quite concerned. Sergio (Serging) Tocao had allayed their fears by telling them that last night we were together until almost 10:00 o’clock so it could not be possible that I have been taken in because usually arrests are staged at night.

Some fuzz ensued upon my entrance. Many delegates rose to meet me. Abe Sarmiento, Con-Con vice-president, who was then presiding, had to bang the gavel: “Please! May I request all delegates to please take their seats and listen to the Speaker.”

I felt guilty that my entrance caused some disorder in the hall because many delegates started milling around me. They seemed genuinely happy to see me.

I had to keep on telling the delegates in a light vein, “By the way, my name is not Ramon.”

Later, in the afternoon, I met Celso Gangan. He said there is a difference between the high level criticisms and statements such as I was making and the low level ones that have been made by some people. “I am sure they would not arrest you because you have been taking a high level in your discussions,” he said.

Small comfort.

President Macapagal later told us that in the Planning and Administrative Review Committee a decision has been made to create a group that is smaller than the Plenary Committee but large enough to be democratic and to ensure support by the plenary. Such a body, he said, will be composed of the executive officers of the Convention, namely, the president, the president pro tempore, the vice-presidents, the chairman and members of the Steering Council, the chairman and members of the Sponsorship Council and the floor leaders. This would amount to something like 126 people.

These people would go over or write entirely the draft of the New Constitution, using as bases (1) the drafts already approved on second reading, (2) the consolidated provisions, such as the provisions on the national economy adopted by the chairman and officers of the 12 committees under Ramon (Monet) Tirol, and (3) those provisions which shall have been written out by the Steering Council based on the committee reports, after such reports shall have been harmonized.

There seems to be merit in what Macapagal is proposing. This would probably enable the Convention to finish its task by January 13, 1973.

He has a valid point when he said that all of the delegates, irrespective of their individual views and convictions, are interested in finishing a good Constitution as soon as possible so that the Constitution can be presented before the Convention fizzles out.

In the evening, I went over President Marcos’ book, Today’s Revolution: Democracy. I had read the first two chapters last year but, in the light of present developments, there is a need to read the book again, particularly the more practical chapters in the middle portion and the last chapter entitled “The New Society.”