How Democracy Was Lost by Augusto Caesar Espiritu (Book)

How Democracy Was Lost: A Political Diary of the 1971-1972 Constitutional Convention was a book written by Augusto Caesar Espiritu and published by New Day Publishers in 1993. Espiritu was a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. The book contained a tribute by Jovito R. Salonga and an "about the author" section by Ricardo S. Soler.

Here's the author's Preface for the book:

"This diary was written in 1972. That was 21 years ago. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, to quote Charles Dickens. In many parts of the world, social undercurrents were threatening the existence of established institutions.

Manila, the capital, was exuding an uneasy air of hope and peril. Demonstrations and other forms of nontraditional protest were increasing in range, frequency and belligerence.

This was not surprising. The social volcano was finally erupting.

There was a beautiful provision on social justice in the 1935 Constitution, but it had not been able to effectuate a more just society. The distressing gap between the rich and the poor had spawned unbridgeable chasms among the people.

Seeing the gathering storm at the start of the 1970s, and craftily taking advantage of the growing instability of the social order, a president, consumed by an overweening desire to continue in power after the expiration of his second term, made more than full use of all the legal and extra-legal powers of an imperial presidency to change the fundamental law in order to perpetuate his rule. The military was the most decisive instrument he utilized to achieve this end. Indeed, the authoritarian ruler had foisted what hopefully would not turn out to be a dangerously irreversible development: the politicization of the military.

Thus, it was at the time this diary was being written, storm clouds were gathering in the Philippine horizon. Confrontations, violence and brutalities were getting to be a daily fare in the streets of Manila; arrests, threats, bribes and blackmails were being resorted to with increasing frequency in the Constitutional Convention.

This diary had to be hidden in Malate, then in Cubao, and finally at the UP Law Center, where it was "lost" among the voluminous proceedings of the Convention deposited there by delegates who had reason to fear their falsification by those who, on the end, upon dictation of Malacanang, wrote a Constitution intended to crown a would-be-dictator. Later these papers were transferred to BF Homes in Quezon City, where they were cared for by an aged mother who has since passed away.

This diary covers only the fateful last three months of the Con-Con, during which the 1971-1972 Constitution, with its infamous transitory provision, was passed. Necessarily, therefore, it does not refelct the total performance, i.e., the totality of conduct, of the 316 delegates, including those who come so alive in the following leaves, some of whom have also since passed away. Many more events might have transpired, reflecting the views and actuations of many other delegates. They do not appear here for the simple reason that I did not have direct knowledge of them. This diary is an account only of what I had actually witnessed. Consequently, I could not write much about delegates whose seats were actually far from mine in the Convention Hall. Conversely, those who were near me - Sedfrey Ordonez was actually my seatmate; Gary Teves was just one seat ahead of me; and Augusto (Bobbit) Sanchez and Jose (Joe) Feria were one seat behind - are quoted most in the pages of this diary.

The American Constitutional Convention in the 1770s was an "assembly of gods", as Jefferson had written from Paris to John Adams in London. Beyond doubt, that was a brilliant gathering of reason and creativity. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to be as generous in my assessment of the actuations of the Filipino delegates who met at the Quezon City Hall.

One note of caution is warranted: It is important to bear in mind that from the perspective of 21 years after the fact, the conduct of some delegates which might seem reproachable at that time might have been since redeemed by their later sacrifices in resisting the repressions of the Marcos regime. Conversely, there might have been some delegates who had fought the Marcos coup in the Convention - for coup from above it was - who had, in their last metamorphosis, immatured with age, so to speak - or is it the other way around? However, we might view their later actuations, the one certain thing was that they were pragmatic: these delegates made peace with the deposed regime and reaped great rewards for their volte-face. Compassion should lead us, however, to remember that even the Bible did not hide the human weaknesses of our greatest Christian heroes.

To cast aspersion on any delegate was not the purpose of this diary. Rather, this was a recording of events, recognizing and acknowledging what had happened, thereby granting us the possibility in the future of being liberated from the tyranny of our weaknesses and errors. After all, constitutions are really but social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances, no matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem to be at any one time.

The unseen hand of President Marcos in the Convention is one of the great examples of what Friedrich Meinecke, the German historian, has called the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life. Or could it also be that the social, political and economic inequities in Philippine society were inevitably leading up to a process in which anti-democratic forces which could be mobilized swiftly were being nurtured? Such that in the end, the democratic culture became more than normally vulnerable to signs of instability.

The question of forgetting - or rather remembering is, of course crucial. It is necessary that we remember our history and accept our shameful past under the Marcos regime, without evasion, lest we reap a bitter harvest by ignoring its seeds. After all, the abyss of history is large enough to hold a people that lose their bearings and their historical memories.

"We accuse ourselves that we did not witness more courageously, pray more faithfully, believe more joyously, love more ardently," the ten leaders of the German confessing church wrote in the Stuttgart Declaration shortly after the Third Reich had capitulated.

Should we not, likewise, accuse ourselves? The Germans did confront their national guilt. Have we Filipinos done so? Or are we trying to escape the influence of our history by forgetting the tortures, the brutal persuasions, the heroic acts, the unrepentant triumphalism of the martial law dinosaurs who had plundered our country as they set about to build the New Society?

In writing on the framing of the 1971-72 Constitution in which I had participated as a delegate, I am joining the ranks of those who write history from experience. Admittedly, the account is subjective, with my own perceptions and prejudices creeping through the pages of the diary, something that could very well be minimized in the work of the historian who writes, after the passage of time, with distance steadily removing distortions of interests and emotions. But the fact is, in the case of the historian who writes from the perspective of 50 or 100 years, he does not have a personal acquaintance with the life and the atmosphere of the times and with the historical figures about which he writes. The "eyewitness" historian, as pointed out by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., himself one of the participant historians of the contemporary American scene, tends to preserve the full texture of events and to recognize the role therein of confusion, ignorance, pressures, chance and sheer stupidity.

The delegates to the Con-Con were roughly divided into three groups: (1) The pro-Marcos group heirs of the erstwhile pro-Garcia (Nacionalista) group; (2) the Macapagal (Liberal) group, which, for all purposes, became the "antis" in the Con-Con; and (3) the Independent-Progressives, which was a coalition of three blocs, namely, a) the Manglapus faction, consisting of many Ateneo alumni and some radicals in the Con-Con; b) the Guingona faction, consisting mostly of "progressive" businessmen and some young Liberals; and c) my own Espiritu faction, consisting of many young UP alumni and "progressives" as well as "radical groups." At least 50 percent of the Independent-Progressives had not been in politics before, or were rookie politicians.

Towards the last two weeks of the Convention, the Macapagal and the Independent-Progressive groups (both were substantially depleted, with a large number having been converted conscientiously or through financial and other rewards into joining the Marcos majority, while some had gone into hiding and still a few others had been arrested and locked up in the stockades of Camp Crame and Fort Bonifacio) naturally gravitated towards a de facto coalition to stem the irresistible force of Marcosism. In the end, they constituted a handful of lonely delegates who, in mingled rage and frustration, watched helplessly as the Constitution they had laboriously crafted was bastardized by the Marcos shock troops in the Convention.

This diary was written in the hope that, as Polybius had noted at an earlier period, we might learn from the experience - a term, Oscar Wilde says, we like to use for our past mistakes. Now that the long night of repression is but a nightmare, might not the new generation of Filipinos demand that we confront the problem of national guilt for which a cowed, confused and disoriented older generation was responsible?

But could we have really held the older generation responsible? I, myself, am not too sure. But in any case, having learned the lessons of history, the new generation may, hopefully, never forget that as they face the unenviable task of reconstructing a society that was mercilessly savaged, what is ultimately sacred in a moral universe is the integrity of our own souls.