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Institutionalizing state interventionism, May, 1996

Institutionalizing state interventionism
By Manuel L. Quezon III

WHEN it was inaugurated on November 15, 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines found itself facing a daunting task accomplish the readjustments of the Philippine economy from that of a colony to that of an independent state. As Teodoro Agoncillo put it, “The Commonwealth was conceived as an experiment in self-government, an interim period of adjustment in the political, social and economic, spheres.”

The Philippines, during the American colonial period, operated as most other colonies did. It provided a range of raw materials with goods for its own consumption and that of the colony, not to mention the world. And so while American accomplishments in infrastructure and business were quite extensive, they were found to be wanting from the perspective of nation which aimed to be modern and industrialized.

Two trivial items help to illustrate the state of the Philippines at the time. Five days after the inauguration of the Commonwealth, the commercial transpacific flight from California, inaugurating a regular service which would continue until the outbreak of the war. And yet it would only be under the new government that the railroad line—which had existed since Spanish times—leading to the provinces, was extended to Legaspi in the Bicol region and San Jose, Nueva Ecija. And this, despite such herculenean feats as the construction, thirty years before, of the road leading to Baguio. The reason for this, of course, was the United States was eager to develop a market for American automobiles, but did not particularly care about giving a market to the British, who specialized in locomotives.
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Cory’s Proclamation No. 3, April 19, 1986

Cory’s Proclamation  No. 3

By Napoleon G. Rama

April 19, 1986–OF a sudden a word used by the Corazon Aquino crowd, “revolutionary,” was verboten. Unmentionable. This was when the Aquino Cabinet was mulling over the definition of her kind of government and was scheduling the announcement of Proclamation No. 3, the President’s most important law so far.

There were nearly 2,000 words in Proclamation No. 3, declaring the status and nature of the Aquino regime. Nowhere could one find the world “revolutionary”. And this is a government, all evidence would declare, born out of a revolution. The favored words in the Proclamation were the less muscular “provisional”, and “transition” and “temporary.”

Was the “tough” lady bending over backwards to accommodate her critics? Earlier, the Minister of Justice Neptali Gonzales had dropped the broad hint that she favored the “revolutionary government” idea. What a howl went up from the Batasan Pambansa, both from the KBL and UNIDO MPs to whom “revolutionary” meant “dictatorial”. Of them the one person whose views counted most with the President was MP Cecilia Muñoz Palma, her confidante and closest adviser up to some weeks ago. She gave it straight to the President. To declare her government “revolutionary” and abolish the Batasan Pambansa was to behave no better than Dictator Marcos, Palma said.

It’s not hard to understand the Batasan members’ opposition. The Batasan is a very good-paying job, counting the allowances and the pork barrel doles. Add to this, political power, the name of the game in politics. Being in the Batasan is the best insurance against prosecution or persecution. Without the parliamentary armor, they would be naked to legal or extra-legal process by the dedicated fiscals or foes in the new regime. Palma, though, had honest if shakey reasons for her views.

But to those in favor of a revolutionary government, the issue was simple. It was a revolution that midwifed the present regime. The people’s mandate is thorough change as soon as possible. It cannot be achieve without dismantling the entire Marcos dictatorial government and removing his warlords and lieutenants who had given him aid and comfort and long tenure. People will not understand if the Marcos setup and men were retained in positions of authority. The solution was to cut clean from the old regime, start afresh without any ties to the old evil. The formula is as simple as cutting the Gordian knot.

But how would the other nations receive the revolutionary government to which most nations are normally allergic?

To the new President the dilemma was a formidable one. But it didn’t faze her. The problem uncovers a new side to Corazon Aquino—the ability to walk the tight rope, avoid confrontations through the use of diplomatic semantics, a necessary art for a national leader. She was able to concede to the critics minor points while holding on to the vital ones.

Instead of defining her form of government, she defined the Constitution that would be the basis of that government. And she had a noncontroversial label for it,  the “Freedom Constitution,” which was to be drafted by honorable men to be appointed by her. She gave herself a deadline of from 30 to 50 days to name them.

Instead of identifying her mandate as coming from the people staging a revolution, she described her source of authority as “the direct mandate of the people as manifested by their extraordinary action”. It wasn’t a revolutionary regime but a transition regime based on a provisional constitution leading to a democratic government.

Of course, she didn’t write Proclamation No. 3. But the verifiable fact is that several conflicting memoranda and drafts were submitted to her. Even her own cabinet was split on the subject. It was she who made the decision and picked the final draft. Choosing the option and making the decision is what matters in the governing of a country. It was the best draft and the best decision under the difficult circumstances.

Like many proclamations born out of compromise, Proclamation No. 3 is not without its flaws. But first note the careful, felicitous wording of Proclamation No. 3—

“DECLARING A NATIONAL POLICY TO IMPLEMENT THE REFORMS MANDATED BY THE PEOPLE, PROTECTING THEIR BASIC RIGHTS, ADOPTING A PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION, AND PROVIDING FOR AN ORDERLY TRANSITION TO A GOVERNMENT UNDER A NEW CONSTITUTION.

It is very hard to quarrel with that kind of policy statement. The WHEREASES were equally non-controversial and factual:

“WHEREAS, the new government was installed through a direct exercise of the power of the Filipino people assisted by units of the New Armed Forces of the Philippines; WHEREAS, the heroic action of the people was done in defiance of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution, as amended; WHEREAS, the direct mandate of the people as manifested by their extraordinary action demands the complete reorganization of the government, restoration of democracy, protection of basic rights, rebuilding of confidence in the entire government system, eradication of graft and corruption, restoration of peace and order, maintenance of the supremacy of the civilian authority over the military; WHEREAS, to adequately respond to the mandate of the people and to achieve a transition to a government under a New Constitution in the shortest time possible and WHEREAS, during the period of transition to a New Constitution it must be guaranteed that the government will respect basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The significant stress is that the authority of the President emanated from the people as manifested by their extraordinary action. The main objective is to implement the people’s will to restore democracy and basic rights and remove the evils of the old regime through a New Constitution to be drafted in the shortest possible time. And there is a stern reminder to the New Armed Forces that under our system civilian authority enjoys supremacy over the military, and before they get ideas, it was the people that installed the new regime and their role was to assist the people in supporting it.

Except for the fumble in the penultimate WHEREAS because of the absence of a verb, hence, producing an incomplete sentence, the premises are sound and persuasive.

The portion of the Proclamation whose consistency can be called into question by political scientists is Article I which adopts certain provisions of the 1973 Constitution and rejects the rest. There cannot be a selective or partial acceptance of a Constitution. To adopt as valid certain provisions in the Marcos “Constitution” is to admit that the Marcos “Constitution” was validly ratified and still in force—a position contrary to that originally held by the present regime which never recognized the validity of the charter. One who accepts as valid a portion of that “Constitution” is estopped from rejecting or invalidating the other provisions in the same “Constitution.”

After admitting that partial validity and therefore the valid ratification of that “Constitution,” one can no longer ignore, revise or annul any portion of that “Constitution” since one is bound by the terms and procedures prescribed by said “Constitution” by which one may revise or annul any provision in it. The Marcos “Constitution” provides that for any of its provisions to be invalidated, annulled or revised, there must first be a constituent assembly (the Batasan constitution itself as such), or a constitutional convention elected by the people, that would draft the constitutional amendments and submit them to the people for ratification in a plebiscite. Thus, the President having recognized the validity and existence of the Marcos “Constitution,” she cannot now arbitrarily nullify, repeal or revise its provisions without calling for a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention and a plebiscite.

Provisions adopted by the Proclamation are noncontroversial articles on National Territory, Citizenship, Bill of Rights, Duties and Obligations of Citizens, Suffrage, Declaration of Principles, Judiciary, Local Governments, Constitutional Commissions, Accountability of Public Officers, National Patrimony and General Provisions. Rejected by the regime are the articles on Batasan Pambansa (abolishing it), the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, Amendments and the Transitory Provisions.

The criteria for the adoption and the abolition of the provisions of the 1973 Constitution are unassaible, even if the fundamental legal procedure raised earlier remains questionable. The Proclamation went on to implement the objectives set forth in the WHEREASES.

At this writing even a brother-in-law of the President had come out with a front-page attack on the Promulgation, zeroing in on the authority of one person, the President, to make such Proclamation and constitute a constitutional body with “handpicked” palace appointees. “Mrs. Aquino,” Alejandro Lichuaco said, “for all her immense popularity, cannot claim to having been empowered by the people to write a new constitution. Much less can the appointees…” Even Marcos, he argued, did not abolish the Constitutional Convention of 1973, composed of delegates elected by the people. Marcos realized that a Constitutional Convention or body made up of his handpicked men would be ridiculous, Lichuaco added.

Like Palma and the rest, the President’s brother-in-law damns the revolutionary nature of the government, the essence of Proclamation No. 3 for all its cautious language. And this is the core of the issue.

The critics don’t seem to have fully assessed the extraordinary dimensions of the problem confronting the President. Marcos had been entrenched for 20 years. Most of his men in the Batasan, and local governments and bureaucracy had been there for 20 years. The apparatuses of Martial Law had been there for at least 14 years. Over these decades Marcos and Imelda had also set up their own organizations and secret networks outside the government. The “Constitution,” the laws, policies and many offices of government under the Marcos regime had a common purpose: to prop up, strengthen and prolong his dictatorial regime. The plunder of the nation started two decades ago. Never has the world seen greed as devouring as Marcos’s and never has history recorded a loot by anybody so great as his. No surprise the national treasury is empty, the national economy in extremis.

For smaller problems, a revolutionary government or the exercise of unencumbered power by the President had been required. Even the old 1935 Constitution recognized emergency situations and thus provided the President with extraordinary powers. What was contemplated then was mostly natural or short-lived calamities. What we have now is a 20-year old calamity.

The clear mandate of the people was for change, and urgent change. The problem is that under the circumstances you cannot institute change without first dismantling and demolishing the entrenched apparatuses of dictatorship and removing the entrenched accomplices of the dictator. If the President had to follow the normal constitutional and legal procedures contemplated by the law to be followed under normal circumstances, that change may never happen or it may come too late.

The hair-curling problems of the nation calls for quick, firm and tough decisions. And that is exactly what the President has done in decreeing the Proclamation. The wishy-washy decisions and the tedious procedures will not do under the present conditions of the nation. All constitutions in the world recognize extraordinary situations calling for dispensing with the niceties of law.

Besides, the Proclamation provides only a provisional constitution which has to be debated publicly, ratified by the people and if need be, revised and amended by the proper body elected by the people. It’s an emergency constitution. The Proclamation provides for elections for government officials. One emergency situation that cannot be helped is that the government does not have the money to hold elections now.

If it is admitted that President Aquino’s support from the people is “immense”, as seen here and the world over, she can represent better and speak for the people in a representative system of government than the abolished Batasan many of whose members cheated or shot their way into it.

It would be unfair to compare her and her government with Marcos and his regime. First, Marcos in 1972 changed or transformed a democratic government to a dictatorship. Aquino is dismantling a dictatorship in order to install a democracy. Aquino had been fighting for the basic freedoms and human rights. Marcos had been defending and fighting for a despotic government. In equating Marcos with Aquino, the critics subvert their own case.

Bernard Shaw said that those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Critics are a dime a dozen. To be one all that is needed is delusion of intelligence and wisdom. To make the best of a bad situation, to restore their lost freedom and dignity to the Filipino people and give them hope for the future requires an extraordinary person, and such a person her critics are not. Corazon C. Aquino is.

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.
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Constitutional Convention Or Malacañang Kennel? Editorial for January 22, 1972

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, January 22, 1972

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.”

Continued Concordia:

“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.

Why?

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.

Report on the Plebiscite, April 5, 1947

REPORT ON THE PLEBISCITE
April 5, 1947

The struggle to preserve the purity of the franchise is a never-ending one. At the times and places described below, the forces of genuine democracy seem to have lost the battle to forces of arrogance and corruption. There can be only one answer. Let those who truly believe in honest elections resolve with increased firmness and determination to fight for them, in spite of temporary defeat and discouragement.—The Editor.

Report from Iloilo

March 12, 1947

To An American Friend:

The plebiscite is over. For the next 28 years you will have equal rights with us in the development of our country. As the saying is, “The people have spoken.” In this case, however, it seems to me that this means, “The people who compose the Board of Election Inspectors have spoken for the people who did not vote.” Let me explain.
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Primer on the plebiscite, October 21, 1939

October 21, 1939

Primer on the plebiscite

Q.—What are the bands playing for?

A.—To get you out to vote in the October 24 plebiscite.

Q.—What are we voting on?

A.—On an amendment to the Constitution, or rather the ordinance appended to the Constitution.
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United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939

United Behind Quezon

July 15, 1939–“AYE!” With a tired roar that echoed hollowly in the dark bowl of the Rizal basketball stadium in Manila, one night last week, the Nationalist party convention approved the proposal to amend the Constitution, so as to allow the reelection of the President.

“Nay!” A half-hearted and scattered cry in opposition went up, after hours of resounding but futile debate.

An undisputed majority sent up an “Aye!” again, the following morning, approving another amendment, to revive the old senate.
The “Nay!” was even weaker.

For three days and nights last week, the party which rules the country met in the stifling shadow of a gathering typhoon to deliver itself of a series of historical mandates to its members in Malacañan, in the Assembly, in the cabinet, in every important office of the government. The mandates, expressed in resolutions, were to:

1. Change the Presidential term from one six-year period, to two four-year periods;
2. Revive the old bicameral legislature;
3. Create an administrative body to take charge of all elections;
4. Revise local governments to make them more, responsible and efficient (presumably, along the lines of the Quezon plan for appointive mayors and governors);
5. Readjust the three-year terms of assemblymen, provincial and municipal officials, so as to make them fit the new four-year presidential term;
6. Reaffirm loyalty to the coalition platform, including independence in 1946;
7. Request President Quezon to call a special session of the Assembly;
8. Ratify Presidential and Assembly action on the JPCPA report;
9. Congratulate President Quezon for his social justice program, and to request him to remain in office (that is, take advantage of the reelection amendment);
10. Congratulate Party President Yulo for his handling of the convention;
11. Increase the representation of governors in the Nationalist executive commission, from five to 12, thus putting them on a par with the Assemblymen.

The Sheep and the Goats

The convention was opened formally by Speaker Jose Yulo, in the afternoon of July 6. The morning had been devoted to the dry, and unexpectedly confused, routine of approving the credentials of the delegates. Every assembly district had been allowed three delegates, outside of the assemblymen themselves, and the provincial governors.

However, in many cases, the assemblyman and the governor concerned had not been able to agree on the delegates to be chosen, and had each appointed a separate set of three. This mix-up was unsolvable at the last minute, and the party heads decided to recognize everyone. Speaker Yulo, as president of the party, was reported to have signed the credentials of about 900, instead of the original 500, delegates.

But this large-scale hospitality had its limits. Efforts were made to exclude delegates known to be hostile to the amendment proposals. Paulino Gullas, a member of the 1934 constitutional convention, a delegate from Cebu by appointment of Assemblyman Hilario Abellana, faced ejection by party officials at the last moment. But the ouster had started too late; Gullas’ credentials had already been signed together with the others.

It was needless however to separate the sheep from the goats. The overwhelming majority of the delegates were under implicit specific instructions to vote in favor of the amendments. Several assemblymen opposed to the movement, among them Abellana, had not even bothered to attend the convention. The La Union assemblymen, reported to be antis at first, heatedly denied any convictions along that line.

Even Mrs. Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay, the daughter of that stolid revolutionist and oppositionist, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, and herself a Popular Front candidate once upon a time, loudly proclaimed in advance her intention to vote for the amendments. Mrs. Suntay is a member of the Cavite provincial board; she campaigned for Manuel Rojas, the rebel Nationalist candidate for the Assembly, last year, and has apparently joined the now controlling Rojas branch of Cavite Nationalists.

The only opposition was expected from Lanao Assemblyman Tomas Cabili and his three delegates. Cabili, the only member of the constitutional convention who refused to sign the Constitution, apparently was now, by an ironic turn of fate, its sole defender.

So that when Speaker Yulo rose to address the convention at the end of the first day, he faced an audience that was in almost complete agreement with everything he was going to say, and he faced, beyond the audience, a nation which had almost always been in complete agreement with everything his party had said.

“The leaders of our party,” he read from a prepared script, “conscious of our duty and responsibility to the nation, have seen fit that at this juncture we should pause and evaluate the progress of our preparation for the day [July 4, 1946], and for the days that are to come thereafter, and decide whether under the surrounding circumstances, the political order that we have established can lend assurance to the accomplishment of the ideals so patiently and reverently waited for by our people.”

Such an evaluation, he continued, has “led our leaders to feel the necessity of the continuance of the present order, particularly as regards the leadership of the man who has laid the foundations of the Commonwealth government, and put into practice the new social justice policies enunciated in our Constitution. Unfortunately for us,” said the Speaker pointedly, “we are confronted by the provisions of our Constitution, which would not permit such an eventuality.”

“Conservative Reforms”

What was the Constitution doing? It “unnecessarily curtailed the right of the people to a free selection of the chief magistrate of the nation,” for it prohibited reelection of the President. It was “depriving the people of the right to change the chief magistrate for a long period of time namely six years, a period of time which, in the hands of an unscrupulous president, may lead the nation to decadence or destruction.”

The remedy? It was “the free and untrammeled exercise of the right of suffrage!”

Only one paragraph did the Speaker of the Assembly devote to the bicameral proposal, which would shear his house of half of its power. “And no less important,” he said, “is the necessity of guarding the nation against the possible onslaught of radical theories, now the preoccupation of many nations—and this can be met by effecting conservative reforms in our legislative body.”

The thunder of agreement that signaled the end of the party president’s exhortation forecast the quick approval of the “reforms.”

Next day however there was unexpected opposition. Cabili had announced he would not speak against the Constitutional amendments. But a foe, far more dangerous and eloquent than the Lanao assemblyman, one who had attacked presidential reelection long and loudly on the floor of the Assembly, had taken his place.

Leading the three delegates from his district, the fiery Batangas gamecock, Eusebio Orense, crowed a challenge. For two days, he and his three men, would strike many a sharp blow against the party leaders. And with him worked Gullas, annoyed by the attempt to oust him.

One of the Batangueños, former Rep. Rafael Villanueva, started the fireworks by challenging the legality of the convention. The delegates had not been appointed, he argued, as provided by the party rules—by municipal and provincial conventions. The objection was swiftly and irrevocably tabled.

Assemblyman Pedro Hernaez, smarting under a recent party snub, questioned the presence of Popular Fronters (Mrs. Suntay) in a Nationalist convention. Again the objection was buried.

The delegates scrambled over one another to file resolutions supporting the Constitutional amendments. A resolutions committee of 36 members, under Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos, had to be named to coordinate all these enthusiastic efforts.

“As A Free Man”

The committee reported out an omnibus resolution for the amendment of the Constitution with regard to reelection and the senate; the revision of local governments “with a view to making them more responsive to the actual needs of the people, thus rendering such governments more responsible and efficient”; and ratification of the coalition platform.

The party rebels made a brave show of speeches against the resolution, when it was submitted part by part to the convention, but they were crushed by a well-organized majority. Orense spoke in vain.

Villanueva denounced the reelection proposal as undemocratic and expensive; he sneered that the Assembly had started the movement in payment of President Quezon’s efforts for their reelection last year. So incensed were the legislators by this accusation that they persuaded the convention to strike Villanueva’s remark from the record.

Gullas gave the key speech for the rebels. “This is a free country. I shall speak and vote as a free man,” he began to a flutter of applause. “This resolution permitting the reelection of the President with a shorter term, with retroactive effect, is couched in general terms. The purpose is clear.

“This resolution is indeed a tribute to the leadership of President Quezon. I have voted for that leadership. I am following that leadership. But I shall vote against this resolution; for, in principle, I voted against it on the floor of the constitutional convention; because the constitutional precept prohibiting a presidential reelection was inspired by President Quezon, and the Constitution containing such prohibition was unanimously approved by that convention and overwhelmingly ratified by the Filipino people. I am voting against the resolution because I wish to be consistent with myself….”

FREE PRESS Poll Quoted

“Only a few days ago,” argued Gullas, “a straw vote conducted by the FREE PRESS, a non-partisan and widely read weekly in the Philippines was concluded. The result was against reelection. Of course, it is not an absolute indication of how the public will vote. But it clearly shows which way the wind blows. It is a barometer of the sentiment of the people. Like a finger on the pulse, it counted, as it were, the heartbeats of the nation.

“If that is not sufficient, two months ago, a debating team from the University of the Philippines toured the country from north to south, from east to west. The members of that team will tell you that in practically every town, the home team selected to defend the negative side of the question of presidential reelection. They will tell you that the public reaction in practically every city they visited was decidedly against the reelection of the President.

“What does it all mean? It means that the public wants you to give the Constitution a fair trial. They want the Constitution to reflect the stability, not the instability of our government; they want the Constitution to be permanent, and not transitory; enduring, and not reflecting the passing whims of the leader or party that may happen to be in power.”

The best heads and tongues of the party rallied to the defense of the amendment; sponsored on the floor by Assemblyman Jose Zulueta.

Assemblyman Pedro Sabido eloquently answered the argument that a second term might mean President Quezon’s death, by saying that the life of the nation was more valuable than the life of the President. Assemblyman Gulamu Rasul pledged the Moro people for reelection. But it took golden-tongued Manuel Roxas, drafted at the last minute, to swing the convention behind the proposal with cheering unanimity.

The vote on the proposal was by acclamation. Four delegates, however, were allowed to register dissenting votes afterward; all of them, Orense, Villanueva, Eusebio Lopez and Felipe Dimaculañgan, were from Batangas.

The rebels later denied that Yulo had invited all who had said “Nay” to put their opposition on record. Many who had raised a voice against reelection preferred to remain more or less unknown.

The party went quickly after the four marked men. Convention officials discovered that Dimaculañgan was not a bona fide delegate. Mayor Juan Buenafe of Batangas, Batangas, wired the convention: “The municipal council and the people of this town protest against the appointment of anti-reelectionist delegates. . . . We are unconditionally for reelection.”

Elections in 1939?

The reelection plan however seemed to have suffered a change. The old proposal was to hold the second election in 1941, when Mr. Quezon’s six-year term will be finished. He would then serve for two years of the new four-year term and then resign. However the plan now is apparently to hold the election this year, at the end of Mr. Quezon’s first four years, thus reelecting him for the full new four-year term.

The next morning, the convention took up the remaining resolutions, most important of which was the one on senate revival. Again Villanueva rose to object, supported by Iloilo’s Serapion C. Torre. The success of the unicameral Assembly, they argued was undeniable; why change the system?

But the only successful amendment to the amendment was one leaving the nature of the resurrected senate undecided; the President and the resolutions committee had advocated a senate-at-large. Other factions however wanted one senator for every province, or the revival of the old senatorial districts.

So headlong was the rush toward approval of the resolutions that Zulueta felt obliged to point out that the convention had no authority to change the Constitution; it could only suggest such changes to the Assembly or a constitution convention.

The Yes-men were in the immense majority, and when President Quezon arrived to close the convention, Saturday evening, he was greeted with a spontaneous roar. Moved by the demonstration, His Excellency repeated what he had told the Assembly in May: he was unwilling to serve more than eight years in all; he wanted to follow the precedent of George Washington.

He argued more at length on the need of a senate-at-large; it is believed, in fact, that one strong reason why Mr. Quezon is willing to go along on the reelection proposal is to secure the companion constitutional amendment for a senate.

But the strongest reason he gave at the end of his speech. “The only thing that I am afraid of,” he confessed, “is that after I leave the presidency the country may be divided, not along political lines, but on the choice of my successor. The country is not prepared for a great division among our people.”

There was indeed little fear of division as long as Manuel Quezon was President; the united tribute of the convention proved it once more. And if the Constitution is amended, the country need have no fear until 1943.