He was already gravely ill at the time, but President Marcos must have feared him so much that Enrique Voltaire Garcia II was among the first ones ordered to be rounded up and jailed when martial law was imposed in 1972.
In the 1960s, even before student activism gained momentum among the Filipino youth, Garcia was already an outstanding achiever at the University of the Philippines in Diliman: chairman of the university student council and editor of the Philippine Collegian, champion debater, honor graduate. An independent thinker, his 1967 master’s thesis advocated the abolition of the US military bases in the Philippines. He led early protest rallies against Marcos’ undemocratic rule.
After several years of law practice, mostly handling labor cases, he was elected representative of the first district of Rizal province to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. Here he poured his energies into putting forward proposals that would steer the country forward along a nationalist and democratic orientation.
Among the resolutions authored by Garcia was one proposing the immediate abrogation of the Parity Amendment – the product of political and economic coercion by the US government that had the effect of crippling Philippine growth right from the start.
He also authored a resolution abolishing tax exemption for religious and other properties, and prohibiting tax privileges for these, arguing that these only helped “certain religious groups…amass more wealth through tax savings at the expense of the broad masses of our people.”
Among the other measures that he helped to push was a proposal to nationalize the oil industry, and to declare inalienable the country’s mineral resources. After extensive discussions on what system of government would best suit the Philippines, given all the weaknesses already evident in the existing one, a proposal was made by the delegates for such a “responsive, responsible and accountable” system.
What Marcos must have resented most was a resolution that would disqualify any former president of the republic from becoming president or prime minister under the new Constitution, and furthermore barring him (the incumbent) from any term extension under the existing Constitution. Unsurprisingly, most of the nine authors of the resolution, Garcia included, were ordered arrested when martial law was declared.
After a short period of detention in Camp Crame and in Fort Bonifacio, Garcia was released and placed under house arrest (with a dozen guards making sure he would not escape). He had been battling leukemia for some years.
Voltaire Garcia died on March 2, 1973 at the age of 30.