Depending on one’s convictions about the Marcos regime, the 1971 Constitutional Convention was either a farce in the country’s history. But with his own good reasons, Fernando G. Bautista, innocent as a child, as he put it, when it comes to politics, who was neither anti-Marcos nor pro-Marcos, but only pro-country and pro-Filipino, strode valiantly into the maws of those tumultuous, violent and uncertain times.
Arguing in the need to rewrite the country’s Constitution when he spoke before public elementary school principals at the Teachers Camp in Baguio, he cited three main reasons: first, there was “just too much politics in the government,” a situation brought about largely by the political system under the existing Constitution; secondly, the Constitution was not sufficiently responsive to the promotion of social justice; and third, the structure of government was of colonial vintage, with most of the authority and powers of government concentrated at the top. More specifically, he felt he could contribute his knowledge and expertise in education and the “cultural communities” as well as his thinking on human rights and electoral process.
It was his very first— and last— foray into politics. Much earlier, during the time of President Elpidio Quirino, he received an emissary from Congressman Ramon Mitra, formerly mayor of Baguio, who informed him that President Quirino was appointing him as acting vice mayor of Baguio as vice mayor Benito H. Lopez was being promoted to mayor. Bautista took no time to reply: “I’m not interested.” Just the same, Mitra sent his car to Bautista that would take him to the house of Speaker Eugenio Perez in San Carlos, Pangasinan. The Speaker, Mitra thought, might be more persuasive.
Ding Bautista went as a matter of courtesy. “Pagbigyan mo na rin,” Nanay had also said. Rosa had grown allergic to politics. Her stepfather, Atty. Victoriano Yamzon, ran twice for the vice mayoralty of Manila and lost each time. In their house in Gagalangin, there was a never ending stream of constituents going in and out, and they seemed always to be feeding people at all hours of the day. A vice mayor in her house would spell an end to her days of precious peace and privacy.
At the Speaker’s house, Tatay and Nanay in mind and his probity in place. “I must tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I’m a teacher and a teacher sees black as black and white as white,” he said. “Can’t you play ball?” the Speaker asked. “I don’t think so, I’m sorry,” he replied. “You’re a rare one,” the speaker said. He was impressed. He was amused at this ingenuous, uncomplicated man.
Being a delegate for Baguio-Benguet to the Constitutional Convention would be a different thing from being vice mayor of Baguio. He would be doing his work in Manila, not in Nanay’s kitchen. (Of course, it would not be exactly the case.) After Nanay had given her blessings to his candidacy, Ding Bautista consulted the school faculty and the many civic, religious and professional clubs he was affiliated with. They not only encouraged and endorsed his candidacy, they also promised to campaign for him in the remote barrios and barangays.
At that time, Tatay Bautista was not only known for “the company keeps” but also for “the company he leads.” In Baguio, he was president of the Baguio Educational Council, the U.P. Alumni Association, the Knights of Rizal, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, the Rotary Club, the Baguio General Hospital Advisory Board, and the Federation of Parent-Teacher Association. On the national level, he was, at one tome or another, president of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, national chairman of the coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations, vice president of the Philippine Association for Graduate Education, and president of the Private Schools Athletic Association (PRISAA).
Nonetheless, it was rough sailing from the time he threw his hat into political arena. The mild-mannered teacher had his face. Not too long into the campaign, rumor was spread that Bautista was spending millions for his bid. The 63-year-old candidate was aghast. Why, even the students in his school were volunteering to do the posters for lack of funds and Nanay coordinating the printing of campaign materials and sample ballots and transportation requirements from her kitchen for lack of an office. After the dust of the campaign had settled, the couple sat down and calculated their expenses and came up with a shocking 50,000, which went mainly to transportation and, Nanay has figured all along, food.
Also running for the post of delegate was Floro Bugnosen whose older brother Jaime was to become mayor of Baguio. Both of them are alumni of the University of Baguio; Jimmy, a full scholar of the University of Baguio with the assistance of Tatay Bautista, finished Commerce and passed the CPA exams. Bautista, a transplant in Benguet, had maintained an unwavering faith in the “potentialities of the Igorot,” which the natives, during the ConCon campaign, sought ton repay in kind. The Alumni of the University were my biggest capital in the election. They were the ones who spent. They butchered their pigs, they slaughtered their last chicken and offered their best tapuy. They insisted that we sleep in their houses and they felt insulted if we turned down their hospitality. Tatay, meron naman kami, they would say, this is the only time we can repay you.”
His seven sons also proved to be brilliant strategists and campaign managers. They divided Baguio and Benguet into seven areas of responsibilities and stumped energetically in each one of them. They could speak Ilocano with a sprinkling of Igorot and they won over the people with their warmth and humor and the strength of conviction in tatay. They could stay for any length of the interior and they were treated royally wherever they want. There were 19 candidates for the Baguio-Benguet region and it was stiff fight. Tatay Bautista didn’t sleep on the job. He went around the towns and barrios and the people came to listen to him, never mind that he was delivering his speeches in English. He was never able to pick up the guttural dialect of the mountains. In school and at home, he was always the maestro, speaking to everyone, including the domestics in his house, in the language of the classroom, English.
When the counting of the ballots was over, Tatay came out second, after Floro Bugnosen. Bugnosen won in Benguet, Bautista in Baguio and came in second in Benguet (the ConCon prescribed two delegates from each region). A Protest was filed against Bautista for alleged overspending, but it was a failure exercise. Nobody would believe he had that much money to spend, not those who knew why it took Tatay 20 years after marriage before he could build a house for his family, not those who knew Nanay, a legendary penny-pincher, who always chose to revert the meagre earnings of the school to improvements for the school.
WINNING the elections, however, was just the first hurdle in what would prove to be the most turbulent, threatening and dramatic period in Tatay Bautista’s life. After the elections, he made gruelling pre-convention sorties to the provinces, especially in his bailiwick which embraced Baguio-Benguet, the Mountain Province, Kaling-Apayao and Ifugao. He consulted with the people about issues or proposals relevant to them. There was constant exchange of ideas as well with other delegates, so that he was ever on the road, going up north or down south, joining delegates chosen for their diverse expertise.
“It was most stimulating and interesting. The trips to Tuguegarao, to Marawi, to all the other far-flung places brought the delegates to closer to each other, and I became friends with many of them, the big political names in Manila and Bohol and Cotabato.” It was an awesome crowd for the academician who was never known to be that much of a socializer even in the smalltown city of Baguio.
Come convention time, the camaraderie became more infrequent, even strained. On June 11, 1971, the 320 delegates convened at the session hall of the Manila Hotel, then practically the guesthouse of the Marcoses, and generally proceeded to rip the place up, along with the work they were elected to do.
Perhaps providing some kind of foreboding, former President of the Republic Carlos P. Garcia died shortly after he was elected president of the Constitutional Convention. The body then elected another former President, Diosdado Macapagal, who assumed the task after the customary nine days of mourning.
Outside of the august halls, people were grumbling about their miserable life, the skyrocketing prices of prime commodities and the violence in the streets. People were milling about looking for work, students and workers took to the streets demanding reforms and were met with truncheons and bullets.
“After ten months of working as a body, ConCon has yet to convince the people that it can do the job,” The criticism of some sectors of mass media and the rumors about us have spread like wildfire throughout the nation. Already, the delegates are being called a lot of names: womanizers, gamblers, bribe-takers, puppets. Our motives are being impugned. Our character has been assailed. Our sincerity is being doubted. Our competence is being questioned.”
He deeply felt the criticisms were undeserved as he knew very well, as insider, that most of the delegates were working hard, especially on the committee levels, where much of the substantive work was done. Initially, he was himself assigned membership in six organic committees: education, human resources and manpower development, arts and culture, national integration, health and national language.
On education he submitted a proposal calling for the creation of Commission and Education and the establishment of a complete and integrated public system of free education not only up to university level. The proposal also provided for the creation of a National Board of Education that would set the criteria on acceptance to the free public educational system on the basis of income, property holdings, and number of dependents in order to all income groups.
With his membership in the committee on health, he hoped to see a provision which would take care of the people, specifically the establishment of at least one clinic in every municipality. On arts and culture, he submitted the proposal creating a National Commission on culture to break down the barriers of regionalism and pave the way for the natural assimilation and integration of the varied cultures. In the plenary session he objected to a proposal that would replace the words “arts and culture” with “humanities” arguing that doing so would be allowing the “more definite, more understandable, more identifiable, and more beautiful” arts and culture to be swallowed by a monster called humanities, which oftentimes turns to be “inhumanities.”
Levity and irony often carried the day for Delegate Bautista who also found himself constructing his lofty visions on rickety resources. “I don’ know whether to call it funny or what, but we were compensated P100 a day if present at the sessions, and we were limited to P3,000 every month to pay for staff and suppliers. It wasn’t enough. Some of us had two or three researchers, besides those who help in hammering out the proposals and resolutions and speeches” Tatay Bautista was assigned a room cum office and he brought in three staff members, including Victoria Bernales Uvas, who was a gold research gold medalist in UP.
He could have made do with monthly stipend, but he did not reckon with the expenses¬— the principal ones — that had to do with constituents approaching him for money for anything from bus fare back to Baguio or to bury a grandmother. He also needed the wherewithal to be able to accept the many speaking engagements all over the country. He was then simultaneously president of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) and the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), and their invitations kept him busy. But he would be invited to speak at something as unexpected as police conventions.
At the ConCon itself, however, he felt he wasn’t utilized well enough. He had hoped to get the chairmanship of, at least, the education committee, but he did not know that these things involved horse trading and pulling of strings. Instead, because he was observed to be always punctually on time for the assembly, whether there ten or 300, and was never absent, he was designated to lead the signing of the national anthem and to select the person to recite the morning invocation. “I become a little despot. Everyone came to me and begged to be the morning invocator.” He was having a taste of power and the ridiculousness of it all did not escape him. Leading the national anthem, using the pitch or the pianist (if he was around) to set the key, he prompted the delegates to sing, in the bravura finale line, “ang pumatay nang dahil sa iyo.” An affronted delegate, Edgardo Angara, reprimanded him. “Why did you change the words?” he inquired. And Nanding Bautista replied impishly, “Hindi naba kayo nagsasawa, palagi na lang tayo ang namamatay?”
It did not take him long to realize that the convention was not running as independently or as correctly as it should. “I got the distinct feeling that we were continually being watched or espied on. During the sessions there were picketings outside and bombings inside. There were rumors that some of the delegates had been ‘salvaged’. There were talks of scandals, as some delegates were said to be gambling or bringing women onto their hotel rooms in the evenings.”
Because of the constant threat of the activists and anti-Marcos protesters in front of the Manila Hotel where they had permanently pitched their tents, the ConCon was moved to the Quezon City Hall, where it wasn’t that much impregnable either to dissidents and saboteurs. The place was bombed once and on another instance the electric power was cut off.
Not sure how long before the ConCon could wind up, under circumstances, Ding Bautista called his gangmate from the old days, Esmeralda Roxas of the five sonorously named sisters, who lived in Teachers Village, a short distance from Quezon City Hall.She readily consented to Ding’s plan that he build a self-sufficient studio-type dwelling on the lot adjacent to her house. Ding Bautista spent some P15,000 for his temporary lodging, which solved for the ever-supportive and patient Nanay the inconvenience of communicating everyday to Quezon City from a house in Macaroni, Makati, off Buendia.
President Marcos imposed martial law all over the land in September of 1972 to perpetuate himself in power, an ambition that the ConCon was not inclined to pamper. The first elected president of the convention, former President Carlos P. Garcia, a democratic stalwart who would have opposed martial law, died even before the assembly could start. Another former President of the Republic, Diosdado Macapagal, who succeeded Garcia, was crippled by martial law and chose to keep his head low, often appointing his deputies to preside over the sessions. Other political leaders were either intimidated or swayed by Malacañang.” I was expecting Teroy Laurel, Ramon Tirol, and Abe Sarmiento, the very outspoken delegates, to assert themselves and speak up, but they did not.” Raul Manglapus and Salvador Araneta, apparently forewarned, fled the country; others went to the hills; others simply disappeared. A Quintero, a staunch opponent of the parliamentary from of government that Marcos wanted to install, who was forced into exile after fat envelopes containing wads of money were planted his pigeonhole and his house.
The impatient and imperious President Marcos had given the ConCon a deadline to come up with the new constitution: November 30, 1972, National Heroes Day. There was little heroic about the haste that ensued. In October no draft was ready as yet for submission to the people for ratification, so the ConCon body split up into two expedite the work and draft. On the first day of November not even half of the draft was done, so half of the body was selected and divided again into two works on the draft. After a week, still no go. Eighty members were chosen and split into two – still no success. Finally, 20 members, like the proverbial few good men, were selected, Ding Bautista among them. They divided themselves according to areas to work on. Ding was in education, human rights, territory and preamble. In one week’s time they were able to come up with the draft – just in time for the deadline.
Macapagal was president and Sotero Laurel was president pro tempore and there were four vice presidents. But it was Abraham Sarmiento of Cavite, one of the vice presidents, who presided on almost all of the formal sessions of the ConCon for some 15 months until the final draft was approved. Changing his mind about him, and given the circumstances, Delegate Bautista thought Sarmiento was “the champion, the real hero, the true architect of the new constitution.”
There was a clause in the draft saying that the new Constitution would be tried by the same assembly (“Meaning that after the Constitution is confirmed in a plebiscite we would have to stay on as legislators”); but martial law had practically broken up and scattered the whole body. “It was then I understood why Gualberto Duavit [former executive secretary of Marcos] was in the ConCon. He was there to liaise between the body and the Malacañang.” The draft of the new Constitution was retified in January of 1973. It was summarily discarded when Cory Aquino was swept to power on the strength of the so-called EDSA revolution 13 years later. A new Constitution was written, but the 1988 Constitutional body practically copied the 1972 Constitution, the significant changes being mainly on the question of political parties. Bautista, then keeping his distance, was glad to note that provisions on education were adopted toto.
Ding Bautista went back home to Baguio foreswearing further associations with ConCon, or politics for that matter. But politicians knew, with a peculiar perspicacity, the extent of his potential clout and influence in the mountains he had chosen to call home. During a Rotary meeting in Baguio, Duavit and Antonio de Guzman, the congressman from Bauang, La Union, sidled up to him and said that Apo Marcos wanted to see him. He could make you mayor of Baguio, they whispered into his ear, or an ambassador without portfolio. (“How’s that?” he asked, not understanding what ambassador without portfolio meant.) He would not tempted at all. “Why me”” he asked, disingenuously. “I’m getting on in years. Matanda na ako.: After his bout with political fame and the ambivalent prestige as a ConCon delegate, Ding Bautista hold hid illusions or disillusions. “I prefer quiet and peaceful life of a teacher,” he says. And he has never entertained the notion that he alone can do Baguio. “If I think I can do something for Baguio, then others can also do it.”
THE THOUGHTS OF CITIZEN, EDUCATOR AND DELEGATE FERNANDO G. BAUTISTA
Do away with graft and corruption and with too much politics. Let us have fewer elections – one term only for the president. Let the President concentrate on his duties serving the nation. Let us have judiciary and remove our politics in our courts of justice. Let us have unicameral or one-house Congress. Let us have a greater autonomy for our city and municipality governments. Let us entirely do away with political dynasties. And let us not have one family controlling the powers of government.
The present government policy to adopt the same curricula and instructional materials throughout the length and breadth of the country disregards entirely differences in social environment and cultural heritage. Under the present set-up there is little or no adaptation of some instructional materials to local conditions. For example, textbooks intended for the Christian Filipinos contain materials and practices, like pork-eating and wine-drinking, which are contrary to the beliefs of the Muslim Filipinos and other ethnic groups. Furthermore, textbooks glorify Christian heroes, like Jose Rizal, Lopez-Jaena, Mabini and Bonifacio, but there is no practically mention of Muslim and other tribal leaders who had also contributed to the struggle for the independence. If they are mentioned at all, it is usually in connection at all, it is usually in connection with banditry, piracy, headhunting, and smuggling, and these instructional materials tend to subordinate the cultural minorities to the Christian world. Hence, these textbooks only serve to deepen the rift between Christian Filipinos and their cultural minority brothers.
The very term “cultural minority” underlines the misconception that we Filipinos have for our non-Christian brothers. Although their folkways, sense of values, and patterns of thinking reflect a different cultural orientation, this does not mean that they are inferior or backward. The term is misnomer and connotes a condescending attitude toward these peoples, something contrary to the principle that we are all Filipinos and are equal before their eyes of the law. May I suggest that this subcommittee approve Resolution No. 3436 adopting the term “cultural communities” in the New Constitution to designate those groups of Filipinos who are culturally, socially, economically, and politically different from the Christian majority.
ON THE POLICE FORCE
The image of the police nowadays leaves much room for improvement. The common complaint of citizens, and even of members of the police themselves, is the ever-present political pressure upon members of the law enforcement agencies. Another glaring defect of the law enforcement system in the Philippines is the overlapping of jurisdictions and functions of the numerous agencies empowered to enforce the law, like the PC, NBI, ANCAR, and BSDU. Everyone of them is jealous of its own prerogatives and jurisdictions. Unless the present system is changed, the police force, initiate the the processes of change, the police force will continue to reap criticism and condemnation instead of praise and admiration from the public to serve.
Cooperatives, by increasing agricultural productivity, will spearhead the attack on poverty. They will support progress in the industrial sector. By abolishing share-tenancy farming, cooperatives will correct the inequities in the distribution of wealth. For small farmers and workers this will mean better standards of living and more opportunities for social and economic advancement.
I am not against giving scholarships especially to the poor but deserving students. I rise because of the numerical figures given by the proponent – that two percent of the collegiate enrolment in private colleges and universities and five percent in state-supported colleges and universities shall be exempted from school fees…In my capacity as one involved in private education, I am willing to give scholarships; but let us not set the figure as two percent because time may come when I may be in a position to give more than two percent. Although the proposal says “at least two percent,” the moment it is fixed at two or five percent, the school administrators will simply stick by it. So even if they can afford to give 10 percent or 5 percent, they will not give that.
ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND INSTITUTIONAL AUTONOMY
The private universities and colleges are hindered by bureaucratic regulations, control, and dictation. They are bound by legislative curricular impositions like the impractical 24 units in Spanish, if the private schools were free to make the curricular offerings as per their appreciation of the vital needs of the people and the nation, why even now the language choices of students in private universities and colleges would be varied: some would have the Chinese, Japanese or Russian language as prerequisite for graduation. But considering that 82 percent of the students of the institutions higher learning in the Philippines study in privately owned schools which no academic freedom and administrative autonomy, the opportunities missed by this country are staggering. These institutions, which by nature should have freedom because only freedom can usher in the full development of the creative spirit, have been doomed to routine.
ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
When parents and students chose a non-sectarian private school they opted to have nothing to do with religious instruction. We know for a fact that if parents really wanted religious instruction, they could easily have taken their children to a sectarian school where religion is taught and these religion-oriented schools abound in population centers. Let these parents and students enjoy the fundamental right – religious freedom. Let us preserve the non-sectarian private schools as the last bastion of religious freedom.
ON SELECTIVE ADMISSION TO COLLEGE
If private educators want positive service to the county, they must correct the imbalance in the labor market brought about by an academic- oriented education system. Selective admission to colleges and universities, through a system of examinations, may be the answer to this imbalance. Some kind of screening and guidance should be devised whereby only those with necessary intellectual capabilities may go to college an others who some kind of skill or talent may be trained for our developing industries. This system of admission, will compel, in a democratic and subtle way, high schools all over the country to raise standards and open vocational-technical courses or close down, or give up any ambitions sending their graduates to college. This will also limit the number of students entering college to those qualified, thus insuring that professors will no longer have to dilute or sugarcoat what they teach.
ON THE ROLE OF SCHOOLS
What then should be the role of the Catholic schools – all schools, for that matter, public and private, sectarian and non-sectarian?
First, all schools, especially higher institutions of learning, should gear their circular offerings “to suit them to everyday life, to the needs of the individual, and to the development of the rural areas and the community for the attainment of the national goals. These goals should be directed toward: “Manpower development, food production, land reforms, reforestations, sports and physical fitness, and upholding moral and spiritual values.” One clear way is to offer courses essentially oriented to science and technology…
Second, universities and colleges should evolve a well-prepared program of job-placement for their graduates…. Third, universities and colleges should marshall all available human and material resources in the community in order to help the country in the program of manpower development.
ON THE LANGUAGE ISSUE
Many of us judge our national language as inadequate, inferior or not language but our capacity and ability to use the language that make us think it so. In so doing, we do not realize that it is language but our capacity and ability to use the language that make us think it so. In truth and in all honesty, how many of us have studied and used our languages in the same way that we have done with foreign languages?
I ask you then: When shall we become Filipinos? What language are we identified with? None. We as nation, therefore, are faceless. Or to the people of the world we are Amerianitos or Espanitos. What a tragedy! Merely because of the fact that we refuse to recognize the mandate of the 1934 Constitutional Convention and a decision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines that Pilipino is the national language of the Philippines.
ON THE UNKNOWN TEACHER
Allow me to sing the praise to unknown teachers, among whom I belong. Famous educators plan new systems of education, but it is the unknown teacher who delivers the goods. He lives in abject anonymity and contends with hand-to-mouth existence. Patient in his daily lesson chores, he strives to conquer the evil power of injustice, prejudice, and laziness. He awakens the sleepy, prods the lazy, and steadies the wobbly. He lights many candles, which in later years, hopefully, will shine back to comfort him. This is his reward. Mine, too.
ON STUDENT DISSENT
A study of student dissent on campuses of colleges and universities her in abroad reveals that the causes of misunderstanding and resentment.
President Kingman Brewster of Yale who succeeded in maintaining a peaceful campus advocates the following pointers for university heads:
- Maintenance of the lines of communication to the functions involved;
- Close attention to attitudes with the academic community;
- Willingness to adopt to reasonable demands for change; and
- Determination to put the radicals politically off-balance.
The administration has always desired the setting-up of a more effective line of communication. We are aware that the smooth operation of the university depends, to a large measure, on this phase of institutional responsibility. This is a reliable way for the official leader to feel the pulse of the studentry and the faculty; to diagnose the ills that afflict gripes and grievances and to understand their reasonable demands. With the line of communication property established, the administrator can undertake immediate reforms.
ON PROTECTING FREEDOM AND JUSTICE
I plead to you as graduates of the University of Baguio tojoin me in reflecting on these ten points as probable solutions to some of the injustice and abuses of freedom:
- We must protect and assure the freedom of our mass media. We must see to it that never leaves the control of the people. For this our only vehicle of self-expression. Recently many of us have been witnessing new blackouts – when certain government officials and some powerful individuals attempting to control the mass and media.
- We must rid our courts of those who choose to corrupt the judiciary, those who make a mockery of our justice.
- We must improve the quality of education in our schools. We must make education relevant to our times and needs.
- We must support the legitimate students who go to barrios and holds teach-ins to explain issues and to educate our people. If possible, we as responsible citizens should join hands and hold these teach-ins with the students.
- As responsive and responsible citizens, we should be involved in the protection of the sanctity of our ballots, so that persons representing us are truly the voice of the gun.
- We should demand that the warlord withdraw. We should break up the political dynasties for their loyalty is not the people but to the perpetuation of their own power and privileges.
- We should organize a citizen army of physical, mental, and human strength to stand up together and unite to fight all forms of human abuses and greed.
- We should group together and demand that arms, especially in the hands of the irresponsible and unscrupulous citizen dog the country, be surrendered because guns are becoming a way of life to us.
- We should harness the potentials of our youths, who have been trying to protect us against the critical state of the nation. Let us support them in the uncovering of corruption which has seeped through many segments of our land and government.
- Let us protect our small farmers from land grabbling and from the pernicious practices of feudalistic landlords. The educated leaders should help them secure a place in the sun. Lawyers, especially, should not stand by watch them be defeated by a technically of the law.
Some of you who are finishing high school may be counting on a few of your classmates as true friends today. This relationship usually lasts long, sometimes a whole lifetime. It is this kind of friendship that Byron must have meant when he said, “Friendship is love without wings.” Byron thus suggests that the relationship that flies out of the window on the vibration of a slight earthquake or on the warming brewing storm is no friendship at all. True friendship, whether begun early or late in life, binds more tightly in the face of impending danger. It is built on faith and thrives on mutual trust. In essence, friendship is the end-all and be-all of the life can be called happy.