February 12, 1972
The Constitution Speaks
Quirino High School,
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.
I am here today, a thirty-six-year-old document that they say must be discarded, an anachronism in this age of pot and LSD, of supersonic jets and rockets to the moon, of activism, of immorality, of unmitigated poverty and shameless wealth, of confusion and strife and despair.
They say, I no longer serve. They say I must be changed.
And so, they have called a new Constitutional Convention—three hundred wise men who will fashion out my replacement and retire me like a piece of discarded furniture.
But now, before I go, before you consign me to the limbo of the unremembered, before you cast me into the black pit of the forgotten, I will speak for the last time; I will have my final say.
You say that I am no longer useful. I say to you that my usefulness depended and still depends upon you. I can be no more useful than the use you put me to. I am simply an instrument. As an instrument, I am neuter, sexless, passionless, unthinking. Like any other instrument, a knife, a hammer, a gun, the pen, the sword, I can be used for good or for evil. You can use me to heal or to kill, to create or to destroy, to build or to tear down. You say that I have failed you. I say that you have failed yourself. For you have killed instead of healed, destroyed instead of created, torn down instead of built. If there has been any failure, it is yours, of the user of the instrument rather than of the instrument itself.
I repeat, if I have failed, it is because you have failed yourself. If I have not worked out well, it is because you have failed to make me work. And if you have failed to make me work, what guarantee is there that you will be successful in making your new Constitution work?
Even now, before my replacement is drafted, selfishness, bigotry and greed, and worst of all, hatred, are already rearing their ugly heads within your present Constitutional Convention. Name one among your present “wise” men who can approximate the greatness of the Rectos and the Laurels who drafted me. Look into the hearts of your present delegates and search in vain for the patriotism and selflessness of that noble breed of men. Instead, what do you see? A group of men whose first act as delegates was to vote themselves P3,000-a-month allowances in addition to their P100-a-day salaries, just like the “Tong-gressmen” and the “Sena-tongs” who at present make your life so miserable.
I do no say that they will not draft a Constitution better than myself. But this I say, they may draft a hundred constitutions, each one a thousand times better than I am, but if you, the people, do not change, if your leaders remain the same kind—if you remain indifferent, callous, lazy, selfish, greedy, uncooperative, regionalistic—the best constitution in the world, or in the Universe for that matter, will not work for you.
And so I do not plead, like a lover about to be discarded, that you keep me. But hear these my last words, which I paraphrase from the great Recto: “The best amendment to the Constitution would be the amendment of your lives, the amendment of your attitudes, and actions, the realization that you are free men, and the resolution to live and act as free men.”
For if you do not change, a hundred new constitution will not help you. And if you do change, perhaps, you will not even need a Constitution.
Thank you and good-bye.