Sunday, September 6, 2015

Opposition to the 1973 Plebiscite

Today is the 1st death anniversary of Raul M. Gonzalez (03 December 1930 - 07 September 2014).  Below is an excerpt of his unpublished autobiography.  He talks about his opposition to the conduct of a plebiscite, under the Martial Law regime, to ratify what became the 1973 Constitution.

“The Constitutional Convention that Pres. Ferdinand Marcos was able to control through intimidation and bribery finished its final drafting, by November 27, 1972, of what was to become the 1973 Constitution.  A couple of days later Marcos issued Proclamation no. 73 for the holding of a plebiscite on January 15, 1973 for the ratification of the Constitution .

“I knew that there was no stopping Marcos once the new Constitution was ratified in whatever manner.  The stopping of the planned plebiscite became imperative in my mind.  I wrote a plea for injunction to the holding of the plebiscite, and filed it at the Supreme Court in the afternoon of December 1, 1972.  I cited the following reasons to support my plea to declare Proclamation 73 invalid. 

“First, Marcos did not have the power to call for a plebiscite as the 1935 Constitution states that only Congress can authorize the holding of a plebiscite. 

“Second, Marcos did not have the power to appropriate funds to underwrite the holding of a plebiscite.  Citing Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the 1935 Constitution, it states: No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in the pursuance of an appropriation made by law.   I asserted that since Congress still existed, only Congress could allocate the 15 million pesos needed to hold a plebiscite. 

 “I hinted at the abuse in the exercise of powers made under Martial Law Proclamation 1081 when I wrote: the extraordinary powers which should be exercised under a valid martial law proclamation should also be limited to those acts and decrees which have a direct bearing to invasion, insurrection, rebellion or imminent danger thereof, nothing more.

“I reasoned that the president was going against the very precepts and principles which allowed him to exercise his powers.  In my motion for an injunction, I wrote: But the question may be raised: if his powers as such are only co-terminus with the existence of the emergency (Araneta vs. Dinglasan) can he still validly exercise such power – even to call for a plebiscite if there is no more emergency as the state itself claims that peace has been restored, that, according to the Secretary of National Defense, ‘the government has already completely dismantled the armed groups in this country’?  Besides, as long as we submit that the Constitution is paramount, then, even the Commander-in-Chief remains bound by it.  Consequently, he may not validly legislate, by decree, to set aside funds of the Treasury in contravention with what the Constitution postulates.

“The third reason I stated in my prayer for an injunction was that the exercise of the plebiscite itself would become null because the people were under duress.  The Supreme Court laid down the precedent when in 1971 Sen. Arturo Tolentino proposed to hold a plebiscite to amend the Constitution.  The Supreme Court said that the voter must be provided with sufficient time for an intelligent appraisal of the nature of the amendment, and its relation to the other parts of the Constitution with which it has to form a harmonious whole. 

“I wrote in my motion that, if in 1971, the Court held the Tolentino proposal to be an improper submission – when we had then a free and untrammeled press, when there was unlimited use of the airwaves in order to reach the maximum number of voters, when there was no prior censorship over media, when people did not have to whisper their inner feelings in bated breaths, when citizens had no fear of an ever constant threat that one indiscreet remark might lead to an invitation to Camp Crame, how much more was the Marcos proposal improper.

“I also pointed out the high stakes involved by asserting that the ratification of the Constitution would likely determine the future of the country for the next 50 years.  I insisted that the people were not in that state of tranquility to properly reflect on the various facets of the proposed Constitution because of the many dangers that are poised to strike them under the veil of martial law.

“My fourth reason was that the 45 days provided by Pres. Marcos was not enough for the public to study and to engage in dialogues and debates on the proposed Constitution.  I saw no reason for the haste with which the government was carrying out its agenda.  Would the State be destroyed if we would not approve a new Constitution in 45 days?

“My fifth and final reason for opposing the holding of the plebiscite was the serious accusation that the Constitutional Convention had been gravely compromised by Martial Law.  I pointed out that, after September 23, 1972, the deliberations of the Convention took a much faster pace, whereas before the arrests of anti-Marcos personalities, matters like deciding on what language the Constitution would be framed took as long as a month.  I underscored the fact that the Convention had been trimmed into a partisan body after members of the anti-Marcos forces were jailed.”