The Constitutional Convention:
By Edward R. Kiunisala
February 26, 1972—WHEN 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.”
“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.