Constitutional Convention Or Malacañang Kennel?
January 22, 1972–IS it true that Malacañang has given or is offering “10,000 reasons” per delegate to the Constitutional Convention to vote for the parliamentary instead of the presidential system?
“A reliable little bird was head to say this,” went a prepared statement to the press by 10 delegates.
There were a series of conferences with Malacañang, ending in a dinner on the eve of the voting by the legislative powers committee, the statement elaborated.
“In that January 6 dinner, is it true that the Three Kings—or a King and a Queen—distributed 10,000 reasons to each of the delegates in order to change their minds?”
The statement located the “headquarters of the (Malacañang) tutas” in one of the rooms on the Manila Hotel’s fourth floor.
The statement raised another question:
“Is it true that these tutas are receiving weekly allowances from Malacañang?”
A Cebuano delegate “identified with the Nacionalista Party” was called one of the Malacañang tutas in the statement, which went on:
“This delegate, who is now so vociferous for the parliamentary system, shouted himself hoarse during the campaign and over the radio for the presidential system, but now he is the spokesman for the parliamentarists.”
The statement was signed by 10 delegates from Cebu—Fr. Jorge M. Kintanar, Natalio B. Bacalso, Marcelo B. Fernan, Pedro L. Yap, Jesus Garcia, Napoleon G. Rama, Antonio Bacaltos, Oliveros Kintanar, Andres R. Flores and Antonio Y. de Pio—who said they had nothing but respect for proponents of the parliamentary system “who were for the system because of conviction.” But it’s one thing to believe in the system….
“But these newly converted parliamentarists are of different color-they are mere tutas who dance and sing to the tune of Malacañang. They pose a danger to the….Convention and might yet frustrate the desire for change and reform of our people.”
Is the statement true or false? It was denounced as part of a sinister campaign to turn the Constitutional Convention into a “hate-Marcos” one to suit the purpose of Liberal politicians who nurse presidential ambitions. The Liberal victory in the last senatorial election would indicate that if the presidential system were retained, Marcos, if he were not disqualified from running for a third term by the new Constitution and should run, would get the political licking of his life. As a presidential candidate Marcos would be a sure loser. But if the parliamentary system were adopted, then Marcos could run for Parliament in Ilocos Norte, win—and be elected Premier through bribery of the members of Parliament, who would be no better than congressmen, or out of a sense of gratitude on the part of those whose election he had financed with private funds and, as President still in 1973, with government funds. As the richest member of Parliament, Marcos would be sure of election as Premier by a corrupt or corruptible majority of that body, which may be expected to rise to no higher moral level than the present House of “Representathieves.”
The parliamentary system, if adopted by the Constitutional Convention, would mean Marcos in Malacañang till hell freezes over. Unless he, not to mention Mrs. Marcos, is disqualified from being elected to the Premiership by the new charter.
Is the statement about the “10,000 reasons” given certain delegates by Malacañang for supporting the parliamentary system true or false? There are those who sincerely believe that the parliamentary system is preferable to the presidential, but it is one thing to believe, another to be bought; one thing to be a parliamentarist, another to be a tutaist. One is human, the other merely animal. The law creating the Constitutional Convention limits membership in it to human beings. Dogs cannot or should not be members of the august body. Dogs belong in a kennel, not in the Convention.
Twenty delegates have demanded that the signatories to the “10,000 reasons” statement prove the allegation.
Father Kintanar has accepted the challenge.
We shall see whether the Constitutional Convention is a gathering of human beings conscious of their duty to the Filipino people and determined to perform it to the best of their ability, guided only by Reason—not “10,000 reasons”—or a dog-house.
If a dog-house, it is a damned expensive one. One hundred pesos per day per dog, plus P3,000 a month in allowances…..The Minimum Wage for human beings is only P8 a day.
The Politicalization of the Constitutional Convention
By Edward R. Kiunisala
January 22, 1972–MANY considered it the “last hope” of the impoverished masses—the “magic key” to peace and progress. In an atmosphere of deepening national crisis, it would be called upon to rewrite the fundamental law of the land and provide the blueprint for a better, more meaningful life for the Filipino people. The faith of nearly 40 million Filipinos was pinned on the Constitutional Convention.
The delegates to the Convention were to be men of honor, courage, dedication, wisdom and vision. Certainly, men of less stern stuff have no place in such a body, charged as it is with the sacred duty of charting the national destiny. When the time came to choose them, some 10 million electors voted in a remarkably free and fair election.
A good number of “independent” candidates were elected, including priests, journalists, technocrats, professors, economists, political scientists, youth activists, labor leaders and retired high government officials. It was a “promising start” for the Constitutional Convention, said one political observer. Although many party-backed candidates won, it was believed that these delegates would assert their independence upon assumption of their exalted office.
But, alas, as the opening date of the Convention drew closer, more and more delegates were invited or crawled to Malacañang. The public did not know what transpired there, but could guess. The Malacañang meeting marked the politicalization, that is, the tutaization, of delegates. Reports spread that President Marcos wanted the Constitutional Convention to extend his term by two more years or, failing that, to change the form of government from presidential to parliamentary to enable him to become the first Prime Minister.
True or not, Marcos became the first big issue in the Convention. Many independent delegates denounced Malacañang for interfering with the work of the Convention. The denunciation rose to fever pitch some three days before the start of the Convention, prompting Marcos to change his mind about addressing the opening rites of the Convention.
When, in a pre-Convention pow-wow, the majority of the delegates opted to invite Marcos to be the guest speaker at the Convention’s opening ceremonies, the move angered, if not scandalized, many independent-minded delegates. Seventeen of them staged a walk-out on the opening day of the Convention. It was just as well for on that day, the politicians stole the show. At the rostrum was Marcos, flanked by Senate President Gil J. Puyat and Speaker Cornelio Villareal, a guest, acted as if he were the host. He controlled the proceedings as if the charter body were the House of Representatives.
That “circus” led to yet another circus when the Convention tackled the problem of leadership. Five delegates sought the Convention presidency, namely, former Presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos P. Garcia, former Sen. Raul Manglapus, former Supreme Court Justice Jesus Barrera and Teopisto Guingona, Jr. Macapagal was allegedly Marcos’s pet—and, indeed, at the outset, he appeared to act like one. But he was later to be disappointed by Malacañang. About 48 hours before the election, some delegates who were committed to back Macapagal sought release from their commitment, according to a Laguna delegate, Manuel Concordia, a supporter of Macapagal. Concordia specifically referred to four delegates who, according to him, “reminded me of a condition to their pledge, that is, it could be withdrawn when ‘orders from above’ are received.”
“Apparently such orders ‘from above’ have been received. I could not, in conscience, hold them to their commitment.”
Later, Macapagal himself categorically stated the Marcos was supporting Garcia—a charge which, if true, substantiated the suspicion about the tutaization of the Convention. Said Macapagal:
“It is not definite and conclusive that President Garcia is the candidate of President Marcos for president of the Convention. This proves that there was no deal between Mr. Marcos and me or warrants the deduction that I must have refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos, that is why he decided to support President Garcia as Convention president.”
And what is this “deal” that Macapagal referred to?
“The previously reported deal was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life, whereas the new subject is about the extension of the presidential term. I am incapable of entering into a deal on the contents of the Constitution since that would be a disgraceful act which I will never countenance.”
On the eve of the Convention, Macapagal filed a resolution banning former Presidents and their close relatives, including Marcos and Imelda, from running for the presidency. Many considered it a gimmick for Macapagal to attract independent voters; in the past he had been evasive on such a question, saying that “a candidate for president of the Convention should not take sides on the contents of the Constitution since the primary duty of the Convention president is to impartially reconcile divisive conflicts of views among the delegates and coordinate the activities of the Convention.”
Anyway, Macapagal lost and Garcia won. The Marcosian strategy appeared to be to divert attention and confuse until the “moment of truth” came. At first Macapagal seemed to be his man—but it was Garcia who won. It was a judo tactic—feign distraction, then attack. Up to now, many delegates still become red in the face when reminded of that election.
Was there really a deal? Were there “orders from above?” Those were the questions. Now, the question is: Does Marcos really favor the parliamentary form of government over the presidential? If he does, is it because Marcos wants to be “Prime Minister for life?” Only Marcos and certain delegates are in a position to answer this. But the verifiable fact is that, after the last election, delegates who were staunchly for the presidential type now advocate parliamentary form of government.
Have “orders from above” been issued?
Curiously enough, the pattern of events during the fight for the Convention presidency is being repeated in the battle between the “parliamentarists” and the “presidentialists.” Before the issue on the form of government came to a head in the Convention, many delegates had reportedly been seen in conference with Marcos. Sometime later, the committee on legislative powers surprisingly changed its stand and voted for the adoption of the parliamentary form of government.
The committee on executive powers, too, which originally favored the retention of the presidential type, as of this writing, is veering towards the adoption of the parliamentary form. Even the Rama-Liwag resolution seeking to ban President Marcos and the First Lady from running for the presidency or premiership seems destined to lose in the committee on transitory provisions.
Worse, talk of presidential favors being granted to some delegates is now widespread. Whether true or not, this talk seems to gather credibility in the face of reports that Lualhati, a government cottage in Baguio City, was occupied by a delegate during the Christmas vacation. The Baguio case certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially in the context of what Macapagal had earlier referred to as a “reported deal” which would pave the way for Marcos to become the first Prime Minister of this country.
Editorialized the Manila Chronicle:
“Incidents like the Lualhati case have generated suspicions whenever there are sudden changes of hearts especially when the new Convention decision would favor the President. It is in this light that the public has viewed the change in the committee votes—from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government—with valid misgivings though hoping that the modification was impelled by desires for constructive reforms and not an abdication of conviction for political accommodation.”
Close on the heels of the Lualhati case came the recent change of delegate Jorge Kintanar of Cebu to the effect that 10 delegates recently went to Malacañang and were each given “10,000 reasons” to shift from the presidential to the parliamentary system. Some Convention delegates understood Fr. Kintanar’s statement to mean that some delegates had been bribed P10,000 by Malacañang in consideration for their support of the parliamentary system.
Last week, some 20 delegates demanded the investigation of the Kintanar charge, challenging the priest-delegate to name names. Fr. Kintanar promptly accepted the challenge and promised to name names in a proper committee hearing. The investigation of the Kintanar charge may yet lead to the investigation of still another rumor that certain delegates are on the regular payroll of Malacañang.
Said Delegate Antonio Alano of Batangas:
“While I do not believe that any delegate would succumb to any outside pressure in deciding what form of government our country should adopt, it is proper that we should look into the matter of alleged lobby.”
Delegates Anacleto Badoy, Jr., and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., urged Convention President Macapagal to convoke the committee on privilege to look into the serious charge of bribery. If the Kintanar charge is found to be true, said the two, the Convention should impose “appropriate sanctions.” And Delegate Bren Z. Guiao sought the release of the list of names of delegates who went to Malacañang on January 6 “to clear the names of those delegates who have nothing to do with the so-called Malacañang lobby.”
The persistent talk of Malacañang’s intervention in the conduct of the charter body has to be thoroughly investigated if the Convention is to win the support of the people. Such talk started when delegates started trooping to Malacañang even before the charter body was convened. It gained momentum when Macapagal categorically charged that Marcos had backed Garcia, followed later by the withdrawal of Delegate Felixberto Serrano from the contest for the position of President Pro Tempore of the Convention.
Said Serrano then:
“My heart bleeds to announce to you today that agreeably with my personal knowledge of the events that have transpired in the last few days, the will of this Convention will be subverted by outside political control beyond the power of well-intended and well-meaning delegates to resist and material enough to determine the final outcome of the election.
“I am prepared to announce to you that Speaker Cornelio Villareal of the House of Representatives is the instrumentality of this over-powering, subversive force in our Convention intended to override its free will and better judgment.”
Villareal immediately denied everything. What then, made Serrano’s heart bleed? At any rate, it was an open secret that on the eve of the Convention election a top tuta of Marcos entertained delegates in a hotel suite. The Marcos dog gave to the delegates from “1,000 to 10,000 reasons” in consideration of their canine support for Marcos’s candidates for Convention posts, went reports.
No one in the Convention, except Serrano, whose charges were vague and general, demanded an investigation. But it’s different this time. Fr. Kintanar is reportedly ready to “tell all.” But in all these charges, starting with those of Macapagal to those of Serrano and now those of Kintanar, the common denominator is the alleged move of Malacañang to control the Convention.
If the charges are true, why does Malacañang want to control the Convention? The answer depends on the truthfulness or otherwise of what Macapagal earlier said concerning the “previously reported deal” which “was for me to work for the parliamentary system so that Mr. Marcos could be Prime Minister for life….”
Although Macapagal’s statement was intended to prove that no such deal was consummated between him and Marcos, it did not say, however, whether or not Marcos presented Macapagal with such a deal. In fact, Macapagal said that Garcia being conclusively “the candidate of President Marcos” proved that there was no deal between him and Marcos or that he must have “refused to agree to the deal desired by President Marcos.” That is why, went on Macapagal, Marcos decided to “support President Garcia as Convention president.”
If it is true that Marcos did not support Macapagal because the latter would not agree to the Marcos deal, which was for Macapagal to work for the parliamentary form of government, then Marcos must have been, from the very beginning, against the presidential system. The vociferous advocacy for the retention of the presidential system by some of his allegedly close supporters in the Convention must have been only a ruse to confuse the “presidentialists.”
Or perhaps, Marcos, sensing that the prevalent sentiment of the Convention was for the retention of the presidential system, agreed to go along with the idea on the assumption that the First Lady, if she ran for the presidency, would win. But the results of the last national elections must have jolted Marcos. He must have realized then that he could not make it any more to Malacañang, directly or indirectly through the First Lady. But if he cannot stay on Malacañang as President under the presidential system, he may still go back there as Prime Minister under a parliamentary system.
If these assumptions are correct, then the sudden change of heart of many delegates vis-à-vis their stand on which form of government the Constitution is to adopt is no mystery. They would simply be heeding their master’s voice.
Certainly, the issue on which form of government this country is to adopt should be decided on merit, not on personal considerations. But the fact that, after extensive deliberations on the subject, two key committees in the Convention had earlier decided to retain the presidential system shows that the present form of government is still workable, that there is no necessity to junk it. That some delegates during the present system to be bad, prompting them to reverse themselves and come out for the parliamentary one, is certainly mysterious. What’s the reason or reasons for the sudden change of mind?
That “mystery” is reason enough to look into the personal consideration in the deliberation on the form of government. The question of whether or not Marcos wants the Convention to adopt the parliamentary form should not be ignored. This issue strikes at the fundamental principle of an independent Convention freely exercising its disinterested judgment. If the will of Marcos is to prevail in the Convention, then we should not have held a Convention at all. We should have simply allowed Marcos to rewrite the Constitution by himself. It would be faster and cheaper that way.
But let it not be forgotten that the new charter will be adopted only after the people have ratified it in a national referendum. If the new Constitution is tainted with the corrupt influence of Malacañang, the people are likely judging from the results of the last elections, to junk it. The Convention will have wasted its efforts and time, not to mention the people’s money, drafting a Marcos Constitution. And the people would lose all hope for a better tomorrow.
Said the Free Press in its editorial of June 19, 1971:
“The challenge to the Constitutional Convention is to rise above the level of the professional politicians, which should not be too difficult since nothing can be lower than that, but if professional politicians were to run, directly or indirectly, the Convention, then, as water seeks its own level, the Constitutional Convention will fall to the level of the lowest form of political life in this country.”
If the Convention finally decides to adopt the parliamentary system to favor Marcos, the referendum will turn into a political election. The pro-Marcos forces will certainly campaign in favor of the new charter while the anti-Marcos faction will campaign against it. The charter body will have achieved one thing: divide the country, instead of uniting it. It would have rendered a monstrous disservice to the nation and its place in history would be a shameful one.
Man of the Year
by Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
January 8, 1972–There was rice shortage again. Prices were never higher. Unemployment was appalling, lawlessness reigned. Justice was compartmentalized, with one law for the rich and powerful, another law, a sterner one, for the poor and weak. Graft and corruption in the government was more rampant than ever. Demonstrators against the administration were shot at by government troops as if they were game and the President shed crocodile tears. Lip service was paid to reform while chaos if not revolution threatened. Who could challenge the regime? It seemed irresistible, controlling as it did not only Congress but the local governments. How could the Opposition hope to win against the Marcos candidates in the senatorial election? Their victory would be taken as a national endorsement of the Marcos idea of government—and his perpetuation in power. Who would lead the resistance? The privileges of the writ of habeas corpus had been suspended and martial law continually mentioned if not actually threatened. Democracy was going down, down, down. Who would stop the fall? He would be the Man of the Year.
IN a conversation which took place about a week before the Plaza Miranda bombing incident on 21 August 1971, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., said to this writer:
“President Marcos has threatened again to charge me with subversion. It’s a bluff, but who knows?”
“Can he have forgotten so quickly how the Yuyitung affair backfired on him?” one said. But then, one thought, Marcos is not a machine weighing dispassionately the chances of success in this or that adventure but a vain and ambitious man with a great deal of power.
“A very dangerous man,” said Ninoy. He went on to say that he had a feeling of something big about to happen.
Some Ilocano politicians were in the room, among them the young Chavit Singson. They were reporting the steep rise of violent incidents in the North. Army-trained professional killers had been unleashed on the population of Northern and Central Luzon in preparation for the elections in November. They spoke in particular of a certain “Major” whose expertise in the art of assassination had earned him a license to kill. This assassin did not have to answer for his deeds to anyone and could kill at his own discretion. He had done a fine job in the North and was moving south. According to the latest reports then, he was operating in Mountain Province. Soon, they said, he would be in Manila.
They looked apprehensive and had come to Ninoy to see what he could do for them. “Nothing,” Ninoy answered them. He had neither the money nor the muscle to help them with. But he wanted to know for certain if they would stick it out with the Opposition to the end or succumb to the threats of the authorities. So long as they identified with the Opposition they were marked men. He would not hold it against them personally if they backed out at that moment but he did not want to waste time with anyone who would have a change of heart later on. A little reluctantly they all agreed to stick it out to the end. “You are dead men on leave,” Ninoy said. They nodded their heads in acknowledgment of the fact.
“If Singson makes it in Ilocos Sur and Dy in Isabela, I don’t care if we lose everywhere else,” said Ninoy. “Our cause will have been vindicated. These are the two spots most cruelly oppressed by the Marcos military machine. If we win in them, then we know we have pierced his armor. That’s consolation enough.”
That far back, Ninoy Aquino was already drawing the lineaments of the persona he would assume after the Plaza Miranda bombing and the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, when the country tottered on the brink of dictatorship: that of the resistance-hero. Within a week Ninoy would serve as the symbol of democratic man confronted with forces that seek to suppress his individuality and freedom.
Expressing his forboding that the forces of reaction and dictatorship were ready and eager to break out in a wave of repression that would sweep away all our rights and liberties, frankly, he said, he did not know how anyone could meet, with the hope of overcoming, the threat to the Republic.
“The secret is not to be afraid,” one said. Not that one knew for certain that courage overcomes all obstacles but that to be brave and defiant is the only way consonant with human dignity to face tyranny.
A week later two fragmentation bombs were tossed onto the stage of the Liberal Party’s proclamation rally held in Plaza Miranda. Nine persons were killed and 95 others were wounded. The leadership of the Liberal Party could have been wiped out that fateful night of 21 August. Not one politician was killed but many of those who stood on the stage were seriously hurt. One lost a foot and, for a week or so, Sergio Osmeña, Jr., and Senator Salonga fought for their lives on operating tables.
Upon hearing of the tragic event the first thought that occurred to one was that this was the perfect pretext to liquidate Philippine democracy “in the interest of order and security.” The question of who perpetrated the crime seemed irrelevant in the light of the knowledge that only the government had the power to use the incident to its own advantage.
One could suspect the Communists. How often had one heard them declaim that in the confrontation between capital and labor, between the bourgeoisie and the common people, discussion is futile and serves only as an intellectual sport for the upper class, peaceful reform is a pipe dream and society’s contradictions can only be resolved through bloody revolution! The Communist argument is logical enough. There may be other ways to improve social conditions but the Communist way has an impressive record of success. But what one should do is not necessarily what one would do—especially when the conditions are far from favorable. In the present context, a total breakdown of social order could only favor the “fascists”—if one may be allowed to use that term, with its strict historical associations, to designate all who are hostile to and have no use for the democratic way of life, holding it too inefficient—meaning to say, it breeds a climate that is not always healthy for rich thieves.
The Left is noisy but basically powerless. Were it not for the protection afforded it by the liberal bourgeoisie, the Left would be either dead, in jail or scratching out a bare existence in the mountains. It has neither the talent nor the muscle to command popular respect and obedience. It cannot, therefore, impose its kind of order on the country should anarchy break out and a power vacuum appear. Since constant self-criticism is the hallmark of the Marxist movement, no doubt the Left in this country is fully conscious of its limitations. What to do about them is the question.
The rumor that Ninoy Aquino had masterminded the bombing to rid himself of rivals for his party’s nomination for Presidential candidate spread swiftly throughout the country. The press in time discredited that rumor but what was puzzling then was the celebrity with which the story spread. The bombing and the rumor seemed connected, parts of one clever scheme whose aim was to destroy the Opposition. The Opposition was bombed and the Opposition was to be blamed.
On Monday, 23 August, President Marcos made the announcement that he had as of midnight, Saturday, suspended the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. The reason for this extraordinary measure, he said, was that there was a Maoist rebellion in progress.
Twenty persons had been arrested and were being detained in Camp Crame. All but one of them could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as Maoist. That was an oversight on the part of the President none made a note of the. His suspension of the writ had stunned the nation. The people felt, anyway, that is was not a question of whether he was rationally justified in the action he had taken. The power at his disposal could “justify” anything he did. The question was how far could he go, how far would he go. Hardly anyone believed the President’s words, but everyone paid heed to his power. From the outset it was a contest of nerves between the power of tyranny and the courage without arms of democratic men.
From noon onwards, on the day of the President’s announcement, the hours passed slowly in deathly calm. It was like a foretaste of life under a dictatorship: a life of quiet fear. A little longer the nation might have becomed accustomed to the situation, so easy is it to acquire the habit of obedience!
Suddenly the tense calm was broken. The voluble and tireless Ninoy Aquino began his counter-offensive and the spell of fascism was broken. Wherever he appeared, he carried a submachine gun at a time when no one outside the Administration would have dared be seen with one.
At the Manila Medical Center, the milling crowd at the entrance parted to admit the rotund frame of Senator Aquino come to check up on the condition of his colleagues. He passed by the government troops without even glancing at them, tight-lipped and looking confident of his ability to stand up to the Administration.
It was that picture that crystallized the people’s timid resentment against the Marcos Administration into an unshakeable determination to resist. The people fixed their eyes on Ninoy. If he got away with defying the President, how much better would they—the whole nation—fare!
The Administration caught on fast. Before it could expect the nation to submit, it would have to break the will of Senator Aquino. An object lesson would have to be made of him.
On Tuesday, President Marcos went on television. He laid the blame for the bombing of the LP rally on the Communists, who were planning, he said, to stage a revolution, of which the first act was the bombing incident at Plaza Miranda. He charged Senator Aquino with lending support to the Communist insurgent movement. He had “reliable” information that Ninoy Aquino had frequently met with such Huk field commanders as Dante, Mallari, Alibasbas, Freddie and Ligaya. He brought out a carbine with telescopic sight and a nickel-plated grease gun, which, he claimed, had been given by Ninoy to Huk commanders.
President Marcos presented two men, Max Llorente and Hernan Ilagan, who had been, he said, close friends of Senator Aquino until they discovered what he was really up to. Neither of them spoke a word all the time they were on TV. They just stood before the cameras with blank expressions until the President motioned for them to go away.
The evidence against Senator Aquino, he said, was overwhelming. It was only because he had hitherto “erred on the side of generosity” that he had not yet arrested the senator. But his tone suggested that that was a fault he would soon correct.
A raid on a Communist camp in Tarlac had uncovered a master plan to raze Manila and kidnap or assassinate prominent persons, the President went on. The bombing in Plaza Miranda was merely the prelude to a wave of Red Terror and a general civil war. He warned the radicals that the armed forces could cope with any situation they might create. He asked them to abandon the rest of their master plan, since it had no hope of succeeding, anyway. To avoid a costly confrontation between the Communists and the army, he would not hesitate to declare martial law and crush the insurgents before they had time to stage their planned insurrection.
Once more the Administration had the psychological advantage. People started losing heart. It was rumored that before the night was over, Senator Aquino would be arrested. After him, it would be only a question of time and accommodations in the stockades before all persistent critics of the Administration were in their turn arrested.
Later that night, Ninoy Aquino appeared on Channel 13. For once he looked serious. Opposite him, Juan Ponce Enrile, secretary of national defense, sat, grinning.
“I have been charged,” said Ninoy Aquino, “with the most serious crime against the Filipino people by President Marcos. I have, he has charged, subverted the state and planned the overthrow of the government in a conspiracy with the Communists. I have armed and funded the Huks, he told a press-TV-radio conference earlier tonight. And he hoisted before the people what he asserted was military intelligence information to nail down these charges.
“I say to him now: these are devious lies. I deny them flatly.
“He also hauled up arms I supposedly gave to the Huks. These, I charge him back, are his fabrications. Likewise, he brought before the TV cameras two supposed witnesses against me, one a longtime friend. I tell him: I will confront his witnesses.
“I say his charges are fabrications. And I challenge him to prove they are not.
“I say these are part of a sinister plot to obliterate the Opposition. And his very act is my proof. I say his motive is, far from securing the security of the people and the Republic, rather to secure the politics of his Party. This—again—is proven by his unholy timing.
“He says he has had the goods on me—that I have armed, funded and comforted the enemies of the state since 1965 and 1966. Why did he wait until tonight to unwrap the bill?
“I say that where the black bombers failed to wipe out the Opposition at Plaza Miranda, he would now succeed. This is his motive.
“I tell him: Mr. President, don’t do me any favors. Do your duty—and file your charges against me.
“Your duty is clear. And don’t forget your oath to apply the law evenly—if harshly. I know Lady Justice has worn a peek-a-boo since you came to power, but let Justice be blind once again in my case and let Justice take her full course in the charges you have leveled against me.
“I demand, in fact, Mr. President, that you bring to court—and prove that I am guilty or be shown as the biggest liar in Philippine political life.
“I ask him to charge me formally so he and I can meet before the bar of Philippine justice.
“If I am guilty, I will pay for my alleged crimes.
“If I am innocent, he must face the people and account for the lies, the plots, the smears he has so freely and ruthlessly waged against me. But if this is the price I must now pay for having abided unflinchingly with the faith you have put in me, I say: So be it. It is a privilege, not a sacrifice.”
Aquino stood up. Enrile squeezed his arm and gave him a reassuring smile, as though to say it was all a game, a show, and no real harm would come to him. But Ninoy’s dark expression did not change. If the President was in earnest, he did not like being threatened. If the whole thing was a ploy to save the President from having to make embarrassing explanations concerning the bombing incident and the measures he had adopted, he did not like being used. He walked out of the room without saying a word. We drove to his house in his car.
“Jesus Christ!” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Imagine the canard he is trying to foist. Ako pa ang nag-bomba together with the New People’s Army.”
On the night of the bombing he had not been on stage with the other Liberals. He was at a goddaughter’s despedida de soltera. His absence had lent some credence to the speculation that he had planned the bombing.
“Christ’s sake, this guy is really determined to send me to jail,” he said.
He leaned back in the seat. The ordeal there was over. He looked contented. Now there was no more having to choose. He had flung the President’s threat back in the man’s complacent face and he was happy with his decision. All that remained was for the authorities to pick him up.
“So what? So one or two years in a stockade. At least I’ll died with my boots on.”
Had he plans of escaping into the hills? I asked.
“Ha, oblige him? Nah, I’ll stick it out here.”
If they came for him, what would he do?
“Aba, I’ll go. Christ’s sake! And tell your father not to forget the pocketbooks when he’s brought in, too. I’ll bring in the Philippine Reports and resume my law studies in jail and when I come out, take the bar. This is the only chance I’ll have.”
At this we started laughing.
“ ‘I erred on the side of generosity,’ did you hear that? Boy oh boy, what a shit of bluffer. He’s thrown everything at me, but I’m numb. I told you that even before all this, at the Inter-continental. I’m really numb.”
I asked him about the two witnesses Marcos had presented.
If one added up all the time he had seen Hernan Ilagan, it would amount to three hours, he said. As for Max Llorente, he saved the man’s life once and his skin several times over. This was how the man repaid him!
“The classic Filipino,” said Ninoy. It was a favorite phrase of his. He had used it in previous conversations to describe Filipinos who lived off the fat of the land but refused to pay for any of it.
I asked him about the affidavits made by other witnesses implicating him in the crime of subversion.
“All his witnesses are dead, anyway. Putang ina. Hahahaha. Naku linabas ang mga baril, ayong mga lahat na…. Hahahaha. Jesus, what a farce! Aye, God! Goddamned this guy, he’s good, this Marcos. He almost convinced me I’m a Huk.”
Every day from then on the Marcos Administration hurled a new charge or threat at the senator, who exposed every charge as a lie and met each threat with smiling nonchalance. And yet the threats were real enough. One night the PC ringed his house to frighten his family. Members of the medical staff of the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac were picked up and questioned by the PC, who tried to force them into signing affidavits implicating Ninoy with the Huks. Houseboys and cooks were also arrested. His brother-in-law, Antolin Oreta, Jr., was “invited” by the army and then detained.
That he had had dealings with the Huks, Ninoy did not deny.
“What can I do about that? I have lived in Tarlac where the Huks operate most. The point I’m driving at with my frequent mention of Huks is that as governor of Tarlac I tried to arrive at a condition of peace that was not reached through bloodshed. In my six years of governorship, I don’t think there were more than 21 Huk killings. It was not until Mr. Marcos arrived on the scene that these things began to escalate. From 1966 up the present about 1,500 have been killed. My policy as governor had been to let everyone come to my office and talk things over: Huk and non-Huk, Nacionalista and Liberal. I believed that was the only way I could maintain peace in the province. I told the Huks, ‘This is a free country. So long as you don’t kill anyone this is a free country for you. You can speak against me, attack me in the barrios. Go ahead. I believe in our democracy. You have the right to air your views. If the people should ultimately prefer your system to the one I espouse, who am I to oppose the people?’
“The Army calls this co-existence.
“I call it survival. Moreover I have extreme faith in our democratic way of life. I firmly believe that exposed to both the democratic and Communist ideologies, the people will opt for democracy.
“When the Huks complained about bad roads, I immediately repaired them. When the Huks said a landowner was abusive, I immediately approached the landowner, and if the Huks were speaking the truth, I asked him to mend his ways. The landowners have called me a radical but all I did was ask them, ‘Which would you prefer? To negotiate with the Huks or get your head chopped off?
“The Army called it co-existence. Well, they can call it anything they want, but the Army was happy then. There was peace.”
As for his frequent meetings with the Huks, he had arranged these meetings not to solicit Huks support for his candidates but, on the contrary, to ask the Huks not to interfere in Tarlac politics. One such meeting had been at the request of Danding Cojuangco, the President’s right hand man, who was then running for governor, according to Ninoy.
To deprive the Liberals of support from any sector, the Marcos Administration continued its smear campaign against the spokesman for the Liberal Party. The charge of Communism dangling over Aquino’s head kept the Chinese, for one, from giving him any aid. The memory of the fate of the Yuyitung brothers was still fresh in their minds. To deny the Liberals American support, President Marcos invited a New York Times correspondent to interview him. He repeated his charges against Ninoy and said that if the Communists fielded a candidate in 1973, meaning Ninoy Aquino, he would be compelled to field his wife, Imelda, as his party’s candidate for President.
In answer, Ninoy said that eight years of Marcos are enough and to inflict six more years of Imelda on the country would be unthinkable! Addressing himself to the President, Ninoy said:
“If Mr. Marcos is fielding his wife in ’73 just to stop Ninoy Aquino, I’m telling him now, I’m not running. Keep your wife home, Mr. Marcos, do not tire her out with a gruelling campaign. I would like to spare her the hardship. I will not run in 1973, so long as Imelda’s doesn’t run either. Let Imelda and I make a blood compact, vowing not to run in 1973 as Presidential candidates.”
Asked to comment on Ninoy’s proposal, President Marcos answered:
“I refuse to comment on a speech by a comedian.”
Ninoy Aquino’s audacity and defiance bore fruit on November 8. The Liberal senatorial candidates swept the elections. In Ilocos Sur, Singson won as governor and in Isabela, despite the presence of Task Force Lawin, Dy won as well. Ninoy’s cause had, indeed, been vindicated. Even the poorest and most downtrodden emulated the example he had set. In Tarlac, the barrio folk themselves went out to protect the ballots they had cast, forming long processions to escort the ballot boxes to the municipalities. The senator had given a new lease on life to the democratic idea, which cynics had dismissed as an empty catchphrase incapable of firing anyone’s imagination, let alone convincing anyone to risk his life for it. The “people’s victory,” as Ninoy called it, of November 8 proved them wrong.
Because he stood for the people’s will to resist tyranny, drawing upon himself all the fury of its wrath without flinching, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., did more than anybody else to make that victory possible and is, therefore, the Man of the Year 1971 in the Philippines.
By Teodoro M. Locsin
January 8, 1972–IF you are enjoying your constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against you, to a speedy and public trial, and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is no thanks to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court upheld President Marcos’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, that is, of these constitutional rights, placing us all completely at the mercy of the President. The President did not act arbitrarily when he suspended the privileges of the writ, ruled the court. Did he act correctly? The court would not say. But not arbitrarily, said the court. He had his reasons—as if we do not all have our reasons for violating the law when we do. So there went our liberties, thanks to the Supreme Court.
And after our liberties—the Supreme Court itself, with the imposition of martial law, for which the Constitution provides the same grounds as for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus?
Under the Constitution, the President “in case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it… may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
But who is to say whether the constitutional justification for the suspension of the privileges of the writ exists or not?
Just the President?
That would be to insert, as previously noted here, an instant-destruct mechanism in the Constitution. There might as well be no Constitution at all. For all the President would have to do, under such an interpretation of the charter, is to say that there is invasion or insurrection or rebellion or imminent danger thereof and public safety requires the suspension of the writ—or the imposition of martial law—and that would be the end of the Constitution and all our liberties. The constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus are the same as those for the imposition of martial law, which is the law of war, which is now law at all but the law of sheer force. War is legalized murder, and when murder is legal, how can it be said that there is any law at all?
The Supreme Court, reversing an old ruling under which it inhibited itself from inquiring into the grounds for the Presidential suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus in the name of separation of powers, was satisfied in the present instance that one of the constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ did exist, namely, a state of rebellion. But the court would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension, also existed. That was for the President to judge, correctly or otherwise, according to the court, which thus abdicated its power of judgment to the Executive.
The logic of this decision is appalling. Logically, all that’s needed, in the view of the court, for the suspension of our liberties is the existence of a state of rebellion—limited or otherwise—and the President’s judgment that public safety requires the suspension of the privileges of the writ. Under such a ruling, the privileges of the writ might have been constitutionally suspended the last 25 years, for there had been a state of rebellion in Central Luzon all those years. Due process depended all that time on the discretion of the President, whoever he was.
All in the name of “separation of powers”! Such separation a lone stands between due process and arbitrary rule, between the rule of law and the rule of men, between democracy and dictatorship. The powers of government are distributed among the legislature, the judiciary and the executive to avoid concentration of powers in one, which is the essence of dictatorship. The legislature enacts laws; the judiciary adjudicates, and the executive enforces the laws. Legislators legislate, judges judge, the executive executes—and the rights of the individual are preserved. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Surely, there is not need to cite examples from history, recent and ancient, to support this proposition. Only saints may be entrusted with absolute power—but only because they are not interested in it. Our congressmen, judges and Presidents are no saints.
It is for the courts, then, to do the job of judging; it’s their proper function. While the courts are open, they should be open for business—it’s none of the business of the Executive to do it for them. To vest the President with judicial powers is to go against the principles of separation of powers while the courts can exercise them.
What are courts for if not to judge?
Why should they let the President do what they should do while they can do it?
In what way does public safety require such abdication of power by the courts?
Is somebody guilty or suspected of rebellion? Of violating the Anti-Subversion Act? File the proper charge against him in court. There must be some evidence against him to justify, if not prosecution, at least suspicion. Suspicion must be based on something, otherwise it is stupid or insane, and should the rights of citizens rest on such a base? If there is no evidence at all, how could the suspect be suspect? Of what? Judgment that is arbitrary is no judgment at all, so suspicion for no reason at all is not suspicion but the vagaries of a wandering mind.
But birds of a feather flock together, it will be argued. How about guilt—by association? There are Communists—and Communist fronts, serving, wittingly or not, the purposes of the Communists. Following that argument, the Civil Liberties Union, whose membership includes justices of the Supreme Court, may well be suspect, having demonstrated with alleged Communist fronts against the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. And there is former Sen. Lorenzo Tañada of Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism—should he not have been arrested without warrant and jailed on suspicion of serving the cause of subversion? Look at his “suspicious” associations! But how would charges against him stand up in court, if courts performed their proper function? If he was not arrested and jailed, it was only because it was not to the convenience of the Administration—and no thanks to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court satisfied itself that one constitutional ground for the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus existed, namely, a state of rebellion, but would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ, also existed, yet went ahead and upheld the suspension. A decision, one might say, that stood on one foot, not on two. A lame one. And our liberties limped along with it.
This is not to question the integrity of the Supreme Court but merely its judgment. Why such a decision? No less than President Marcos himself said early in 1971 that “last year, we broke the backbone of the Huk or HMB movement in Central Luzon with the capture of Faustino del Mundo, alias ‘Commander Sumulong,’ and Florencio Sala, alias ‘Commander Ponting,’ and with the death of Pedro Taruc, HMB chief, during a gunbattle with government troops. Successes against the New People’s Army were likewise significant. We captured several NPA commanders and forced that organization to go into further hiding. Our latest intelligence reports indicate a major dissension within its ranks arising from some failures of its leadership.”
And Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Garcia, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, said in an article in the June 1, 1971 issue of the Journal of Commerce of New York that “insurgency and subversion are not serious problems of the government….It can be safely stated that peace and order in the Philippines can stand favorable comparison with other countries of the world.”
And Gen. Manuel T. Yan, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told the press that the grounds for the imposition of martial law—the same as those for the suspension of the privileges of the writ—did not exist.
Yet the Supreme Court said that the President acted in accordance with the Constitution when he suspended the privileges of the writ while refusing to say whether he acted correctly or not, leaving it to the President’s judgment whether public safety required the suspension or not. So long as he had reasons for acting as he did, he was within his rights—right or wrong. There must be separation of powers, so let the President be the judge!
So much for the refusal of the Supreme Court to say whether public safety required the suspension of our liberties, a constitutional condition for the suspension. With our liberties went the principle of separation of powers, which the court invoked in upholding the President’s act, thus investing him with judicial powers through their abdication by the court. While invoking the principle, the court scrapped it. The Executive became the Judge—while judges were still around. What kind of separation of powers is that? Consolidation of powers in one man is the truer term.
If we are enjoying our constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against us, to a speedy and public trial and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is, to repeat, no thanks to the Supreme Court. As a New Year greeting to the Filipino people President Marcos announced last week the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the country, effective as soon as the Quezon City court ruled on the question of the legality of the arrest without warrant of persons accused of violating the Anti-Subversion Act. The suspension would be lifted regardless of the decision of the court; the government was merely waiting for the court to decide, it was explained, so as not to make the decision academic before it could be handed down.
If not a trick, why did the President decide to lift the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus? Former Senator Tañada had announced that he would go to the Supreme Court to question the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ. Assuming for the sake of argument that the suspension of the privileges of the writ as justified last year, is continued suspension still justified? There was a state of rebellion then as there is a state of rebellion now—limited rebellion in either case. The existence of such a state made the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ constitutional because not arbitrary although not necessarily correct, according to the Supreme Court. Whether public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ—another constitutional condition for the suspension—the court would not say. Now, if the President had not lifted the suspension of the privileges of the writ and the question of their continued suspension had been raised before the court, how would the court have decided? In view of the continuing state of rebellion, would the Supreme Court have once more upheld the President, refusing to look into the question whether he was acting correctly or not, whether public safety indeed required the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ? With the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, the President spared the Supreme Court the possible embarrassment of having to pursue the logic of its decision upholding his suspension of the privileges of the writ to its ultimate absurdity, keeping the privileges suspended until the last Huk or subversive is dead.