June 1, 1935
Why they voted against the constitution
By Teofilo G. Gelvezon
AS WAS expected, not all registered voters—including members of the fair sex—cast their votes for the acceptance of the constitution in the May 14 plebiscite. But not all of those who voted no were against the fundamental law itself. An investigation made by the writer in his bailiwick right after the plebiscite revealed many interesting facts. It should be remembered that Guimbal, the home town of the writer, has the distinction of being the municipality in which the greatest number of votes against the constitution were cast in the province of Iloilo.
The first fellow I approached was a third-year law student. “I am not against independence,” he began, “but I am against the constitution. The tremendous powers given to the president of the commonwealth will no doubt pave the way for a dictatorship. For whatever may be the form of government, when monstrous powers are concentrated in the hands of one man, the government where that condition exists is an autocracy. Learned lawyers as well as political scientists, familiar with the workings of government, have sounded a dignified note of warning against executive seizure of power. And what is worse is that the constitution does not provide for any efficient check against the powers of the executive tyrant. Thus, we will have at the head of our government, the president of the Philippine commonwealth—a dictator in everything but name!”
A woman speaks
Next was a woman. “Why should I vote for the acceptance of the constitution when I am well aware of the fact that a vote cast in favor of that document means a vote against woman suffrage?” she asked. “I believe,” she continued, “that no woman who has read the constitution with its unjust and discriminatory provision against her sex will vote for its acceptance. And not only the women. It is likewise proper for men who sympathize with our cause to vote against the constitution. I cannot see a bit of logic in Article V where the right of suffrage shall be extended to women, ‘if in a plebiscite which shall be held for that purpose, within two years after the adoption of this constitution, not less than three hundred thousand women possessing the necessary qualifications shall vote affirmatively on the question.’”
A veteran of the Philippine revolution and an ex-president of Guimbal (hence an influential politician), was next asked by me. “It would seem incredible,” he told me confidentially, “that I, who fought in the fields of battle for the freedom of our country, should vote against the constitution. But I voted against the ratification of the charter of Philippine liberty in order to show Senate President Quezon, who will no doubt be the first president of the Philippine commonwealth, that I am always against him. I could have worked openly for the rejection of the constitution were it not for the fact that had I done so my political prestige would have been at stake. But at any rate, the 65 votes cast in this town against the constitution—more than the votes cast against the constitution in any of the towns in Laguna, the scene of the last sakdal uprising—will give the senate president something to worry about.”
“I had myself registered,” commented the widow of a veteran of the U.S. Navy, “not because I wanted to exercise my right of suffrage, but because I wanted to vote against the constitution. At present I am receiving as pension from the U.S. Treasury the sum of $30 every month. When independence comes this pension will necessarily cease. What will become of my children then? Can we live as comfortably as we do now? Can I educate my children? Don’t you think, therefore, it was but right for me to vote against the constitution?”
Prefers Jones law
One of my co-graduates from high school has this to say: “Independence is good as a political war-cry, but as a practical reality it is most absurd. Why should we blindly follow our self-seeking politicians? As between the Tydings-McDuffie Law and the Jones Law, I would prefer the latter.”
Said a native of this town who is earning a fast salary: “Under the commonwealth government we will have to dismiss many government employees and make reductions in salaries in order to balance our budget. I look after my own welfare first.”
A wage earner: “Independence or no independence, I’ll still continue to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Why should I therefore ask for a change in our political status when it will not in any way add to my material well-being?”
I could go on and on, but the answers already quoted suffice. For example, aside from those already mentioned may be added those who are traditionally against Philippine independence; those who favor a protectorate form of government instead of the one we shall have after the expiration of the 10-year transition period; those producers of materials that will suffer tremendously due to the loss of U.S. market; those who are contented with the present conditions obtaining in the country; the discontented elements who are always apt to take every opportunity to conspire against constituted authority; and, lastly, we might mention those who fear the probable extension of Dai Nippon’s political domination.
It can be seen from the foregoing observations that those who voted against our fundamental law were impelled by purely personal motives. But happily enough, the number of votes cast against the constitution was small compared with that favoring it. And from the result of the May 14 plebiscite, which every Filipino can well be proud of, we can visualize our glorious future as we move forward toward our triumphant and immortal destiny.