The Authority in Constitutional Law

Manila Bulletin, September 21, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Authority in Constitutional Law


SENATOR Arroyo, Madam President, Mrs. Gonzales.

I Kept the Faith, the title Senator Neptali Gonzales gave to his compilation of speeches resonates in his character and in his life for "Nep" as he was fondly called by his close friends and associates, never wavered in his faith in God, his country, his causes.

The imposition of Martial Law was, for Nep, his moment of choice; it was his moment of truth. He was then the incumbent congressman of the 1st District of Rizal. The easiest thing for him to have done was to collaborate with President Marcos which almost everyone did at that time or just coast along, ride with the tide, in short, stay on the sidelines and do nothing after all fence sitting was the most fashionable then. It was convenient for most and very safe.

But that was not Nep. In character and in form, Nep took on the mantle of the Opposition without trepidation. A pacifist by temperament and character, Nep abjured the use of violence and force. He was not a revolutionary. He made that plain and clear for everyone to know but he was a democrat and a libertarian at heart. Nep was unequivocal and clear in his advocacy. There was no room for double-speak lest the people could be misled. He was foursquare against Martial Law and dictatorship. He would fight it openly anywhere but he foreswore armed struggle and the use of force.

For Nep, the Constitution is freedom's last without, not revolution. Thus his moral certitude was anchored on his unswerving constitutional faith. If all the elective officials at that time had only half his moral courage and philosophic clarity then President Marcos and his dreaded Martial Law would not have gone very far.

So it was that Congressman Gonzales who was among the handful of Opposition leaders who clandestinely met and organized despite the odds, and who, by their acts of bravery and skill and perseverance, worked painstakingly to dismantle the edifice of Martial Law and its injustice.

In the first election of the interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978 called for by Mr. Marcos, the Opposition fielded a 21-man slate in Metro Manila under the banner of Laban. It was led by Ninoy Aquino who was then in prison, Soc Rodrigo, Monching Mitra, Ernie Maceda, Anding Roces, Neptali Gonzales, Nene Pimentel, Tito Gungona and many others.

On the eve of the election, a successful but provocative barrage clearly indicated a landslide victory for Laban. When early results were counted, Laban was leading by a large margin over the KBL Marcos ordered the Comelec to stop the counting with only 30% of the votes counted and posthaste proclaimed the KBL candidates as winners. Neptali Gonzales like Ninoy was cheated in the counting.

This did not deter Neptali Gonzales from running again in 1984. He was warned that he would be cheated again by the autocratic regime but Nep ever the democrat, believed firmly that participation in elections was necessary if democracy was to be given a chance. …

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