The Law of the Sea

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

An Open Letter

the Tribune, Published December 26, 1939

Honorable Jose Yulo
Speaker, National Assembly

My dear Speaker:

I am writing this letter as a private citizen to a public official and not in my capacity as officer of the Young Philippines, of which I happen to have the honor to be vice-president and chairman of the Manila chapter.

The newspapers report a movement, initiated by the provincial governors, to separate the plebiscite on the constitutional amendments from the election next year. This will of course, require legislation, and in as much as you are the head of our legislative chamber, I take this liberty of addressing myself to you in that capacity. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that any legislation sponsored by the Nationalista party separating the plebiscite from the elections would be cowardly, undemocratic and unpatriotic.

It will be cowardly, because it will indicate that the Nationalista party, which took the responsibility of initiating and proposing the constitutional amendments, is afraid to risk a the fate of it’s candidates for office on this issue which they themselves provoked. The pretext that the issue on constitutional amendments should not be confused with local issues is too flimsy a disguise to successfully hide this fear. Practically all municipal councils controlled by Nationalista, and the governors in convention assembled have passed resolutions advocating one or another of these amendments. They have thus added the force of their voice in the supposed “popular” clamor for the amendments. It would be cowardly on their part to now evade the issue.

It will be undemocratic, because the returns will not reflect the true sentiment of the people. The plebiscites on woman suffrage and on the economic re-adjustment bill have shown that comparatively very few voters go to the polls when there are no candidates to elected. It is common knowledge that during plebiscites, when there are no such safeguards like opposition election inspectors, fraud becomes easy. Danger from this source is very great when party in power is interested as in the present case, in the approval of the measure before the electorate.

It will be unpatriotic, because it will mean wasting the people’s money for unnecessary expense which will be required by a plebiscite separate from the elections. The people’s money will be squandered to accommodate those who fear to stake their candidacy on the very issue which they themselves help to bring about.

It is not my purpose to petition that the National Assembly, controlled as it is by the Nationalistas, desist from separating the plebiscite from the election. I only beseech you, as head of that August body, to allow public opinion (not from the officialdom) to express itself upon the proposed separation. May I hope, Mr. Speaker, that your sense of patriotism and fairness will indicate the propriety of such hearing, in case such a bill should come before the National Assembly.