The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Martial Law 1973

This is what my father told me when I was interviewing him for his biography:

“The declaration of martial law was authorized by the then existing 1935 Constitution and perpetuation in office was provided by the new 1973 Constitution. If blame must be cast it should be at those individuals who allowed the “rules” to be changed. If the Constitutional Convention had been delayed as urged, Marcos could still have declared martial law but could not have extended his term in office beyond 1973.

When martial law was declared I was a Senator and of course I and all my fellow Senators lost our offices because the congress was closed.

But President Marcos appointed me as an ambassador in order to continue my representation of the conference of the ‘Law of the Sea.’

For some reason I was regarded as an expert along this line and because the conference was continuing, I was asked to head the delegation.

I was an ambassador but had no assignment other than to attend the conferences. (Chuckling) I received virtually no salary, just one peso a year! But I had a fancy title! Laughing loudly) “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary!”

My father has a tendency to shrug off his major achievements as being, “no big deal”. I am glad that there are some journalists who believe in giving credit where credit is due, as shown in this article of September 19, 1973 in the BULLETIN TODAY.

Senator Tolentino may never have made it to the Presidency of the Republic, a job he once aspired to, but if his mission to change the UN view on the law of the sea succeeds, he will have left for himself a legacy to his people for which he will never be forgotten.

The Archipelago principle in the law of the sea is vital to our national integrity. It is to Indonesia too and to others who are similarly situated. Only the tenacity of Tolentino made the world take notice of this most important doctrine of the use of the sea bed. He has probably dedicated more than a decade, fighting for this new principle.

Curiously enough, we are opposed by the United States and supported by Red China in this campaign.

The politicians who have anointed themselves as rebels of the new society were still in high school when Tolentino was already considered one of our most articulate spokesmen of civil liberties.

When martial law was declared, Tolentino could have easily retired on some pretext like so many other politicians, but his first thought as he told me early October of 1972 was to be allowed to pursue his UN campaign for archipelago principle in the law of the seas. The President saw the dedication of Tolentino and lost no time in sending him to the UN Assembly. He has been out of the country most of the 12 months attending to nothing else.

He comes home with optimism. The job is not yet done but there is every promise that his dedication will pay off . . . soon.