Sunday, November 5, 1972

At the lobby of the Sulo Hotel, I met Jess Reyes and Cesar Sevilla. Jess Reyes said that he had voted “Yes” because he can still speak out as an oppositionist in the Assembly.

Cesar Sevilla was a bit more critical. He is a very conscientious delegate. He deplored the transitory provision and the work being done by the Steering Council. He and Jess, likewise, deplored the fact that the Steering Council has been given absolute powers and that we have only so little time to put our imprimatur into the Constitution being prepared for us by the Council. There was some tinge of frustration on their part although the more dominant note seemed to be one of resignation.

At lunch, Froilan Bacungan (UP Law Center director) was perorating. Perhaps it will be for the good of the country if we forget personalities and personal interests, he said.

His good wife, Monina, was with us. She decried the fact that a tremendous number of government employees have been laid off. I suggested that for many of them, their services were not really needed so that they should not have been given their jobs in the first place.

Froilan agreed with me. He said that the problem was that in the old society, many employees became parasites of other people. I added, in a light vein, that since these employees who were laid off were consuming without adding to the productivity of the nation, we should find a way to compel them to contribute to the gross national product; as it is, they are only contributing to the gross national poverty.

In seriousness, I was thinking that perhaps some mobilization of all unemployed should be undertaken. I suggested to Froilan that this is one of the strategies we might adopt—the strategy of capital formation through excess labor. As a matter of fact, I have for some time now thought that we should build up infrastructures through extensive labor, considering the fact that capital is deficient and manpower is abundant in our economy. I do not see any reason why this should not be done now, where it could not be done before. This can partake of a massive unemployment program—to build up our crumbling infrastructures.

Froilan interrupted me, saying that he knows for a fact now that Titong Mendoza and our former professor, Justice Sec. Vicente Abad Santos, have actually helped persuade President Marcos to institute a constitutional martial law instead of a revolutionary (military) government that the President had originally planned on setting up.

I was pleased to hear this contribution. Would not a constitutional dictatorship, on balance, be more protective of individual rights than a military government?

It is not enough for the government to keep on talking about the private sector being asked to invest in industries, I started lecturing to Froilan. Actually, the government incentives can come in this manner: The government itself should take initiatives. It should, for instance, commission feasibility studies of projects that it feels should be undertaken by the private sector as first-line projects and then the government can tell the private sector that these are the projects that entrepreneurs should put up. It can then invite the private sector to come in and invest in the priority projects, whose conceptual, pre-feasibility studies have already been done and which show viability. The government can say, we are giving you all the incentives in terms of credit and financing and fiscal incentives if you go to these specific projects that we have pre-studied and which we feel are necessary for the country.

In other words, the concept of balanced growth may now be made by the country—under the present state of emergency. Having decided—regrettably and doubtless unwisely—to proclaim a state of emergency, Marcos might as well try to push through our economic development in this way.

Many delegates, including those who were against martial law, concede that a good deal of the reforms so far achieved, such as land reform, hold the promise of being landmarks in the struggle of our people for social amelioration—assuming there is sincerity in both its conception and implementation. This could not be done since the American occupation of the Philippines when the ilustrados were allowed to share political power in the colonial regime.

The big issue, of course, is that many people are living in a climate of fear. Can there be human dignity without freedom in people’s lives?

Froilan countered that we can look at the loss of our individual freedoms in terms of the need for societal progress, with individual interests being subordinated to the general welfare. The important thing, he urged, is the welfare of society.

“Besides,” Froilan argued, “we are only substituting one fear for another. For example, while we may fear the possibility of going to the stockade now—he looked at me in the eye—we were fearing being robbed before; we were fearing gunmen in the streets. But society can now go forward.”

“But what about our human rights, Froilan?” I protested. “Is it not of the very essence of human rights that a hard core of autonomy, integrity and dignity of the individual should not be sacrificed even to the national interest and the welfare of the group?”

Froilan’s response was simply that it is more patriotic to join the government now.

But would we not then only be legitimizing a dictatorial government?

“Given the fact that martial law is here to stay, the constructive thing to do is to join so that one may help in the reconstruction of society,” Froilan insisted. “There is a greater amount of sacrifice involved here actually than if one thinks only in terms of civil liberties, because then, one is thinking not of himself but of the social goal.”

“Your theory implies that we should give up everything for the good of society. But because we are human, we have dignity. And human dignity cannot be given up,” I rejoined. “You imply that ‘collective rights’ are generally superior to individual rights and must be given priority. You think that the concept of human rights reflected in international documents ignores the ‘collective rights’ to economic security of the poor in the Third World. You believe that in periods of fundamental change such as we are now experiencing, leading to what is perceived or claimed to be a more just society, there is a need to emphasize those rights which are essential, to promoting such change and correlatively to deemphasize the other rights, don’t you?”

“Why not? We should all be ready to sacrifice for the country.” Froilan’s voice was firm.

“But should not collective rights and individual rights be promoted simultaneously? Is not a trade-off between them dangerous or even immoral? Is this not the excuse made by dictatorial governments in many developing societies—look at the rationale for Marcos’ declaration of martial law—to repudiate implicitly the political side of the human rights agenda as formal Western liberalism that is a dispensable luxury for a developing society? Is this not what our friend, O.D. Corpuz, has said in his treatise—rationalizing the need for martial law—that individual freedom was enjoyed only by the elites in the early development of present-day industrialized societies—which developing societies can do without?”

Our debate was inconclusive. It was midnight when I went home.

But could Froilan be right? Tossing in bed, I remembered what I once read as a student:

A messenger arrives at the door of a noble Spartan mother during the war with the Persians. “What news, Sir?” she cries. “Bad news, my lady,” he replied. “What then, is the battle lost?” The messenger could not conceal his sorrow. “No, but your sons have fallen.” “And the battle, what of the battle?”

“The battle, my lady, is won.” Beaming, the Spartan mother responds, “Why then, Sir, the news you bring is not bad but good.”

I was getting confused. Froilan had said we should look at the loss of our individual freedoms in terms of the need for societal progress.

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 15, 1972

The Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA), a private group monitoring the activities of the Con-Con, was meeting at the Sulo Hotel. When I arrived at about 8:25 a.m., Gary Teves was already speaking on the economic provisions in the new Constitution prepared by the different committees of which Gary is the chief technician.

A lengthy discussion was going on, generated by the critical comments of PHILCONSA official Ruben Roxas, that the provisions were quite detailed and would not be enforceable. Besides, he said, policy continuously changes and it would probably be better to leave the economic policies to Congress.

There was also a little speech by Ambassador Juan Arreglado at which he criticized my statement about the need for self-reliant development, with emphasis initially on labor-intensive small industries, utilizing indigenous materials, so as to forestall the need for capital intensity and to plug the hemorrhage of foreign exchange for production components. Small is beautiful? Arreglado did not think so. He suggested instead the promotion of big industries which are capital-intensive, such as those found in the United States. But where will we get the capital? But then why debate with Arreglado?