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Constitutional Convention: Nakakahiya! February 26, 1972

The Constitutional Convention:


By Edward R. Kiunisala

February 26, 1972WHEN the history of the 1971-1972 Constitutional Convention is finally written, one dominant, if not domineering, figure will undoubtedly emerge: Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. Even during the pre-Convention days, he was already the center of controversy; he w as accused of buying delegates, of handpicking the charter’s body’s officers. He was accused of trying to control the Constitutional Convention.

True or not, the fact remains that no other political personality has been the cause of so much dispute and discord in committee meetings and plenary sessions of the Convention as President Marcos. No other issue has been more explosive and expensive than Marcos. If the Convention is as politicalized as it is today, we have only Marcos and to a certain extent Mrs. Marcos to thank for it.

All this is easily understood in the context of the significance of the Convention to the people—and to Marcos. To the former, it is the key to a better, more decent life. To the latter, it is the last hope for staying on in Malacañang. Some progressive delegates, however, believe that it is impossible for the people to have Marcos—and a better life, too. So, they want him banned from running again for President or, if the parliamentary form of government is adopted, Premier.

Marcos cannot be expected to agree to this; he seems determined to prove his critics wrong. But to do that, he has to get the control of the Convention. And that’s what he has apparently done since pre-Convention days. It appears as if he has succeeded in converting many delegates into becoming tuta—to lick his boots. It is an open secret that many powerful committee in the charter body are controlled by the tuta of Marcos.

There are no LPs or NPs in the Convention; there are only pro-Marcos delegates and anti-Marcos ones. While many delegates were elected as NPs, LPs or Independents, many of them now consider themselves Marcos-NP, Marcos-LP or Marcos Independent. Between the pro-Marcos group and the anti-Marcos one is the so-called “floating force,” sometimes called the Independent Independents.

The Manglapus-Guingona group constitutes the hard core of the so-called anti-Marcos faction. While it counts with 120 members, it is a highly disorganized group, with no machinery nor money to counter the pro-Marcos forces. In committee as well as plenary votings, the pro-Marcos forces usually win. Even in the campaign to win over the floating force, the pro-Marcos forces, with all those “reasons” behind them, enjoy every advantage over the anti-Marcos faction.

It’s not surprising that behind many clashes in the Convention is the Marcos issue. Take the case of Delegate Augusto Syjuco, Jr., of Rizal, who tried to force the discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution in the plenary session. For doing that, he nearly lost his seat as vice-president for Luzon.

Or take the case of Delegate Jose Mari Velez, who moved for the inclusion of the Ban-Marcos provision in the report of the committee on executive power; he almost got into a fist fight with another delegate.

Not only that Delegate Jesus Barrera, after rising on the issue of collective privilege to move for the immediate discussion of the Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the object of a black propaganda campaign.

Delegate Napoleon Rama, too, for having authored a Ban-Marcos resolution, is now the target of a committee move to disqualify him as delegate.

Delegates Ceferino Padua and Mary Rose Jacinto-Ezpeleta were nearly ousted from their committee positions for being so outspokenly in favor of the Ban-Marcos resolution.

The name of the game is “all-out force or all-out friendship.” In local lingo, this is “santong dasalan o santong paspasan.” If you can’t be bought, you can be terrorized! Those who are afraid might as well sell themselves. Those who can neither be bought nor terrorized have to do without and “face the music.”


Rama, Syjuco, Ezpeleta, Barrera and Padua refused to be terrorized—and they are now the subject of a vilification campaign and all sorts of threats. If Rama doesn’t keep quiet, according to one tuta, he is going to be disqualified. If Syjuco, Ezpeleta and Barrera don’t foe the Malacañang line, their family businesses and interests will suffer. If Padua does not hold his horses, he will be ousted from his committee position. To them and all those who are in favor of the Marcos ban and who cannot be bought, it is santong paspasan.

Last week, Delegate Raul Manglapus, head of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, found himself in hot water, too. His only crime was to entertain the Ban-Marcos issue in his committee after it had been referred to it by the Convention’s steering council. Manglapus created a subcommittee to discuss the Ban-Marcos question and the sub-committee agreed to include such a ban in Manglapus’s committee report.

If the Manglapus committee includes the Ban-Marcos provision in its report, the Convention, in a plenary session, will have to take up the proposition ahead of the report of the committee on transitory provisions, the last item to be taken up by the Convention. The pro-Marcos delegates do not like this; they want the Ban-Marcos resolution taken up together with the report of the committee on transitory provisions. But the delegates in favor of the Marcos ban know if it is not included in the Manglapus committee report, it may not be taken up at all.

The steering council has referred the various Ban-Marcos resolutions to four committees, namely, the committee on transitory provisions, the committee on legislative power, the committee on executive power and the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms. The committees on legislative and executive power have already finished their reports and the pro-Marcos delegates have succeeded in deleting the Ban-Marcos provision in all of them. The committee on transitory provisions, being dominated by pro-Marcos delegates, is not likely to include the Ban-Marcos provision in its report.

Which means that the Manglapus committee is the only hope of those in favor of the Marcos ban. They have tried to force the issue on a matter of collective privilege only to be overruled. They appealed the chair’s decision to the entire body but they were outvoted. When they asked for a nominal voting, they were outvoted. They tried to have the ban included in the report of either the committee on legislative power or the committee on executive power, but they lost. The pro-Marcos delegates seemed to be always many steps ahead of those in favor of the Marcos ban.

But unlike other committees, the Manglapus committee is composed mostly of the so-called Progressive-Independents. These are in favor of the ban. Of 43 members, 23 belong to the Manglapus-Guingona group. It is, therefore, in this committee that the Marcos ban is likely to be taken up favorably—getting the pro-Marcos delegates worried. Since Manglapus cannot be bought, something else has got to be done. Santong paspasan na!

Last week, word leaked that some delegates planned to file a resolution to ban Manglapus for public office “for having violated the election law.” But Manglapus was not to be easily intimidated. He fought back, saying that the Ban-Manglapus move was a gambit “to put me on the spot, confuse the issue on the ban on former President and blackmail me into persuading progressive delegates to withdraw their support of the presidential ban resolutions.”

Continued Manglapus:

“These delegates (pro-Marcos) would now rake the old overspending charge against me and I am pleased that they have given me this occasion to recall the following facts about the case:

“1. When I ran for the Senate in 1967, the uniform ceiling on election expenses for senators and congressmen? The total of one year’s salary of the office. At P600 a month (the pre-war figure set by the Constitution) this total was P7,200.

“2. The electoral tribunal found that I had actually spent less than that figure. However, they charged to my expenses a television contract entered into without my intervention by some of my supporters which, as the decision itself states, was never paid. It had to be written off in the books of the television station.

“3. The decision, issued just before my term of office in the Senate expired in 1967, was roundly ridiculed by strong sections of the daily press and by weeklies like the Philippines Free Press, as a hypothetical farce.

“4. Noting the strong public reaction against the decision, both the Liberal and Nacionalista Parties invited me to run for reelection on their tickets in 1967 and again in 1969 when Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who was then running for President, very kindly suggested publicly that I be a common senatorial candidate of both Liberal and Nacionalista parties. I declined these offers.”

Manglapus went on to say that he ran as delegate for the Convention in 1970 and was “vindicated… without LP or NP support by voters of the 1st district of Rizal, who were best informed about my case because of the concentration of mass media in that area.” Manglapus pointed out that in that election he got more votes than did any other delegate in the entire country.

After the Senate decided his case, said Manglapus, “the very senators who voted against me in the decision” amended the law so that a solon who earns P32,000 a year, instead of P7,200 “in my time,” may spend the equivalent “not of one year’s salary as was the rule in my time but of the total salary for their term of six years or P192,000!”

The “ceiling” is now reasonable, said Manglapus, but even so he wondered how many candidates in the 1971 elections were able to limit themselves to the new ceiling.

“Compared with others,” said Manglapus, “I was an underspender.”

Just the same, he went on, the issue has been revived because of his stand in favor of the Marcos ban. He noted that he was not an original author of the Marcos ban; he co-authored, along with 169 others, the Rama resolution “when I was convinced, in view of strong reports of Malacañang intervention in the Convention, that it would serve to assert the independence of the Convention and strengthen its credibility.”

Manglapus, in his prepared statement, assured the pro-Marcos delegates that he would give fair treatment to the Ban-Marcos resolution but “I should also like to remind those who would try to terrorize me with their ‘Ban-Manglapus’ resolution that while I will treat their resolution with equal fairness in my committee, their tactics cannot make me withdraw my support of any resolution which I consider vital to the independence and success of the Convention.”

“Finally, I should remind those who now threaten me with disqualification from public office for ‘overspending’ that is Marcos, not Manglapus, who has been repeatedly and publicly charged with the real and the criminal overspending of hundreds of millions of pesos, not only of his own money, but, worse, of the people’s money in the 1969 elections to get himself reelected…..

“It is Marcos, not Manglapus, who is publicly suspected of trying to corrupt the Convention. On the other hand, it is Manglapus who, in the words of the very decision of the Electoral Tribunal, ‘did not corrupt the voters’ and who, as the press reported last June, ‘refused to buy delegates’ votes in the election for Convention President.”

The Ban-Manglapus move is a shameless resort to political squid tactics. Its purpose is simply to confuse the issue. The Filipino people are not likely to fall for it. What is saddening is the degeneration of the highest deliberative body of the land into a virtual political convention where issues are decided not on the basis of merit but of political partisanship if not money.


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The Constitution speaks, February 12, 1972

February 12, 1972

The Constitution Speaks

Luningning Cruz
Second-year Student
Quirino High School,
Quezon City

I AM the Constitution of the Philippines. I am different things to different people.

To some, I am a mere scrap of paper—a string of words beautifully woven without meaning, a flow of phrases attempting to articulate a hope too vague to grasp, a litany of praise to some ideal impossible to realize—a piece of paper on which are written only words, words, words.

To others, I am a sacred vessel—the repository of the highest hopes and aspirations of a people, the blessed covenant between the governors and the governed, the master plan of a people’s search for justice and a better life, the nation’s guard against oppression and the people’s ultimate expression of their sovereignty.

I am the Constitution—and I am neither one nor the other of these two opposite points of view.

The Reason Why? Editorial, February 5, 1972


The Reason Why?

February 5, 1972–A PUPIL once asked Confucius: “If the Prince of Mei appointed you head of the government, to what would you first set you mind?”

Confucius replied: “To call people and things by their names, that is by their correct denomination, to see that the terminology was exact.”

The pupil could not believe his own ears. His master’s reply seemed beside the point.

Noting his incredulity, the master said: “You are a  blank. An intelligent man hesitates to talk of what he doesn’t understand, he feels embarrassment.

“If the terminology be not exact, if it fit not the thing, the governmental instructions will not explicit, if the instructions aren’t clear and the names don’t fit, you cannot conduct business properly.

“If business is not properly run, the rites and music will not be honoured, if the rites and music be not honoured, penalties and punishments will not achieve their intended effects, if penalties and punishments do not produce equity and justice, the people won’t know where to put their feet or what to lay hold of or to whom they should stretch out their hands.

“That is why an intelligent man cares for his terminology and gives instructions that fit. When his orders are clear and explicit they can be put into effect.”

The gist of what the philosopher said is that good government is founded on respect for the truth.

Every new year the President of the Republic addresses Congress and the people with what is known as his State-of-the-Nation message. An envisioned by the legislators who thought of this rite, the President is expected to give an accurate description of the situation in his country during the preceding year and his suggestions to improve that situation in the coming year. Congress is expected to learn from the contents of his message and frame laws that are relevant to the conditions he has described. That, at any rate, is how it should go in a responsible democracy.

If the President’s message does not reflect reality, especially if this is done purposely then the whole purpose of the rite is frustrated. The President is supposed to describe accurately the state of the nation, speaking plainly and holding nothing back that could contribute to his auditors’ understanding of the matters he had discussed. Congress, then, takes it up from there. That is the general idea of this rite where the President delivers a message before both Houses of Congress, addressed to the nation. The reality is something else.

Our Presidents, on these occasions, have inflated their achievements—or claimed imaginary ones—and glossed over their mistakes. They paint a bright picture of the previous year and a still brighter one of the coming one. How they have the cheek to do this before the people who have suffered so much from their mistakes is one of the intriguing mysteries of politics.

LAST week, President Marcos delivered his seventh State-of-the-Nation message at the opening of Congress. The day before, his arch-foe, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., issued a statement to the press which began by asking whether this year, 1972, President Marcos would again exasperate the people with his usual empty rhetoric or would he, for once, do as he has never done on this solemn occasion for the past seven years of the Administration, that is, speak the truth plainly and give the people a true description of the sorry state of the nation?

In 1966, said Senator Aquino, Marcos described the nation as “in crisis and tragedy” and swore to “Make This Nation Great Again.” The people believed him and pinned their hopes on his promise.

In 1967, he rallied the people around his standard for “The Epic of Nation Building.” The people renewed their faith in him.

In 1968, he announced that he would forge the people into “A Nation of Achievers.” He would, of course, be the No. 1 Achiever. By this time the people began to suspect to be the No. 1 Deceiver.

In 1969, his catchphrase was “The New Filipinism: The Turning Point.” A turning point it was all right for “the new Filipinos”—Marcos cronies who became millionaires overnight.

In 1970, he offered “a new heart, a new spirit” and promised to “raise the nation to a bold, new future.” But the nation had had its fill of his promises and vomited out its surfeit of frustration and anger in a student revolt. That was the response to his call for unity. His own troops acted brutally. The only feelings he generated were mounting hatred for him and grief for those who fell in the riots that followed far into the summer of that year.

In 1971, he went on to proclaim, apparently, oblivious of the “credibility gap” that yawned at his feet, “A Democratic Revolution.”

(This led Senator Aquino, among other concerned citizens, to suspect that something “tragic” had happened within the President’s person, probably as a result of his overlong sojourn in the Palace. There were times when one felt it was more charitable to commiserate with the President on his condition than to attack him for his mistakes.)

When the President offered to lead the nation, no one followed, said the senator, except his tuta, who were rejected by the electorate with a sweeping gesture of contempt on November 8, 1971.

The people gave him a taste of a genuine if non-violent revolution.

When the President delivers his State-of-the-Nation message, said the senator, we shall be able to measure his candor by noting how closely his message sticks to the following facts about the Philippine situation:

The President is a man much hated and not in the least respected or loved by his people.

The people: 5% privileged; 95% ill-clad, ill-fed, ill-housed, ill-placed.

The economy: in chaos, and the peso, not floating but steadily sinking.

The officialdom: thoroughly corrupt and brazen in its depredations on the public treasury.

The Republic: its international image the worst ever and its government ostracized by its neighbors. For all his charm, the foreign secretary has not succeeded in getting them to come to an Asian summit conference Mr. Marcos desperately want to host.

The public mood: angry, bitter, vituperative, desperate, because the people have realized that they have reached the end of their tether, they have lost all faith; the President and the country seem beyond redemption.

“In a word, the state of the Filipino nation in 1972 is dismaying.”

So went Senator Aquino’s own report on the state of the nation.

The President complaints of an undeserved “credibility gap” between him and his people. If he would only look at the difference between what he promised the people and what they have been getting in the past seven years of his Administration, the existence of the “gap” would not baffle him so much.

Here in the words of Senator Aquino, are what the President promised the people and what the people got:

Promise No. 1: To bring down high prices and raise incomes.

“What there is: The consumer price index (1955:100) has risen to 235.5, against 149.1 when he assumed office; a full 21% increase in one year. This is way above the 10% critical inflation limit set by the Central Bank charter, while the peso’s purchasing power has constricted to a bare 42 centavos of what is bought in 1955.

“In June 1970, the Minimum Wage Law increased the base rates for non-agricultural workers from P6.00 to P8.00 and the agricultural workers’ from P3.50 to P4.75. But he devalued the peso, de facto, and the workers are worse off than where they were.

Promise No. 2: To stop the shortage of rice.

“What there is: We imported 460,000 metric tons in 1971, we are importing ‘a minimum of 350,000 metric tons’ this year (Mr. Marcos’s original bid: 837,000 metric tons) and, likely, will be asked to import again in 1973, the result of willful diffusing of the rice self-sufficiency program to take on the First Lady’s image-building vegetable gardening project, crafted for propaganda purposes as ‘The Green Revolution.’

Promise No. 3: To reduce graft and corruption to a minimum.

“What there is: An Administration swathed in scandalous multimillion-peso and multimillion-dollar deals. Well-etched in the public’s mind are, as Speaker Villareal once listed, the P60 million Namarco-Aguilar, $34 million public works equipment, P80 million Aidsisa-PNB, Nawasa pipes, ACA fertilizer, Lepanto shares, Benguet-Bahamas deals. Involved: the Marcos cronies.

“Graft, corruption and evildoing rather than being curbed, have essayed into new fields, with the protection racket among the latest. The gambling casinos on Roxas Boulevard enjoy powerful protection and, reports have it, yield P1 million monthly to people high in the government. Vice-President Fernando Lopez, a leading Nacionalista, recently gave the dimension: ‘tong’ in government loans, he said, is ‘anything from 20 to 30 per cent.’

“I estimate graft and corruption in the ruling circles today come up to a minimum 3% of  GNP. That’s about P1 billion per annum!

Promise No. 4: To punish those who have enriched themselves in office.

“What there is: Tuta who have built fortunes on the peso devaluation, the money markets, the oil speculations.

Promise No. 5: To stop smuggling.

“What there is: The Walton Report is revealing. Corruption exists, it says, in an ‘all-encompassing and all-embracing manner in all of the country’s 22 ports, and losses on technical smuggling alone amounted to a conservative P1.5 billion annually.’

“Only a few days ago, Mr. Marcos reshuffled key men of integrity out of their posts—like Collector Salvador Mascardo from the M.I.A., where he had been doing a back-breaking job for over 10 years—and put his own men in. The Supreme Court has just put Mr. Marcos’s replacement for Collector Mascardo in M.I.A.—Mr. Artemio Agoncillo—on the block for unexplained wealth!

Promise No. 6: To speed up land reform.

“What there is: In 1969, Sen. Juan R. Liwag complained that despite the fact more than P250 million had been spent, only 5% of the objectives of land reform had been realized. The situation is no better today.

Promise No. 7: To create more jobs.

“What there is: Our unemployed number about one million, 8.5% of our total labor force of 13.2 million, while another five million are underemployed. You have here a staggering index of the poverty level of Filipino society, 1972.

Promise No. 8: To restore peace and order.

“What there is: These nagging questions: Who bombed Plaza Miranda? Where are they? How did it happen in the first place?

“These questions, too: Where are the murderers of Congressman Floro Crisologo? Of Mayor James Gordon? Of Vice-Governor Nicolas Feliciano? Of Governor Juan Alberto?

What about the Lapiang Malaya, Jabidah, Tarlac, Cotabato and Lanao massacres?

“These all happened since 1969, when Mr. Marcos came to office. What there is, in truth, is: crime and criminality on the gallop!

“A PC situationer—given the House of Representatives Committee on Public Order and Security—shows it:

“1. Criminal cases solved dropped from 85% in 1969 to 56% in 1971.

“2. Reported killings totalled 10,945 in 1969-71.

“3. Common crimes—thefts and robberies—shot up from 19,086 in 1969 to 22,360 in 1971.

“4. There is an increase in the number of politically motivated crimes.

“Mr. Marcos has spawned an Age of Violence in our country!

Promise No. 9: To pursue honest tax collection.

“What there is: The Bureau of Internal Revenue is able to collect only 45% of all taxes due the government. It can do a better job, I hold, if Mr. Marcos runs after his tax-evading cronies.

Promise No. 10: To reduce the national budget to spending for essential services.

“What there is: Government overspending is a Marcos hallmark. And this has been dictated more by political rather than economic considerations.

“When the Marcos machinery recklessly spent P900 million in the 1969 elections, the money supply went up by 19.4%. We are now suffering from this fiscal irresponsibility.

“The budgetary deficit incurred in the six years of Mr. Marcos has reached a staggering total of close to P3 billion. This is three times-plus the total accumulated deficits suffered in the nine years of the Garcia and Macapagal presidencies. This is more than double the accumulated government deficits since our independence in 1946.

“Today, the public debt is almost P12 billion. In simplistic terms, this means: the debt of every Filipino man, woman and child is about P317 per head. This is almost half the annual per capita income of the Filipino.

“President Marcos sends to Congress so many requests for projects that he knows fully well cannot be programmed for lack of funds. Now, the department of national defense wants about P1.2 billion. This means the armed forces under President Marcos will get 25% of the budget.

“And what do we give the Department of Labor? We give labor: 0.4%.

“What do we give our state universities and colleges? We give them 1%.

“What do we give social welfare? We give this: 0.4%.

“What do we give agriculture and natural resources? We allocate: 4.4%.

“The national defense budget—since Mr. Marcos—has gone up by 51 per cent. And what about all those intelligence and other funds of Mr. Marcos? Is that essential services-oriented budgeting?

Promise No. 11: No nepotism.

“What there is: An uncle of Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos, Eduardo Romualdez, is ambassador to the United States. Kokoy Romualdez, Imelda’s  brother, is governor of Leyte and special presidential ambassador. Dr. Pacifico Marcos, the President’s brother, is chairman of the Medicare Commission. His uncle, Juan Manuel, is secretary of foreign affairs. And a cousin is the new PC chief.

“Add to these: a sister of the President is governor of Ilocos Norte, a Romualdez nephew is commercial attaché in Vancouver, Canada, a presidential sister-in-law is employed in the Central Bank. There are many, many more.

Promise No. 12: No new taxes.

“What there is: Mr. Marcos wants to impose the most massive array of taxes in postwar history, As of November 1971, 49 tax bills had been reported out by the House of Representatives Way and Means Committee. I understand there are 78 more tax bills pending in the House.

Promise No. 13: Rule of law.

“What there is: Dozens of university professors, students and mass media people clamped in jail after Mr. Marcos suspended the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus—only to have them released much later.

“He played with the law freely!

Promise No. 14: No persecution of political enemies.

“What there is: Ask Vice-President Lopez, his so-called oligarchic enemy. Ask the businessmen who did not support him. Ask my fellow Liberals. Ask the Nacionalistas who did not deliver the votes in the last election.

“My brother-in-law, Antolin Oreta, was deprived of his liberty for 24 days—only to be released after the elections with a simple ‘I’m sorry.’

Promise No. 15: No troops to Vietnam.

“What there is: History is our witness!

Promise No. 16: To adopt a nationalistic policy.

“What there is: The Japanese, Americans and Chinese must be smiling at this. For they, like our students, know better! And, invariably, the standouts are Marcos’s friends.

“In 1969, a fake NEC resolution—No. 23-36—was secretly approved. We suffer the impact of this today: Japanese products in every line of consumer and capital items. Curiously, when Immigration Commissioner Edmundo Reyes wanted the Japanese liaison officer deported, Mr. Marcos stepped in and stopped him. Why?

Promise No. 17: To provide heroic leadership.

“What there is: Mr. Marcos no longer dares walk our streets!

“Given all this, it is time that we face up to our realities, not allow Mr. Marcos to foster his myths.

“The need is for the leadership to make bare our reality, no matter how harsh, and, hopefully, get our people to join in the communal sacrifice demanded by our unhappy situation.”