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Sep 27

Christian Monsod’s solution

Christian Monsod has given me permission to extract some useful points for discussion from the paper he presented during a meeting with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP). I’ve mentioned some points he mentioned to me after the meeting, but here are some things he said during the meeting.

His first contention is that the present crisis was one “waiting to happen” for the following reasons:

(1) Every president after the 1992 elections (Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo) weakened rather than strengthened the electoral process, principally the Comelec, by the appointments of dishonest and incompetent appointments and the use of government institutions (like the military and police) and government resources for partisan political gain. The main objective is to control the Comelec not to modernize it. In the process the modernization program was either set aside or bastardized as a means to corruption. Arroyo was not the first nor will she be the last to try to control the Comelec.

(2) The scenario of a re-electionist president was largely unforeseen in the Constitution, more so of an incumbent president facing an uphill battle for re-election. With the vast powers of the presidency, a culture of impunity, including electoral misconduct, a compliant Commission on Appointments, and a president especially proud of being a “hands-on” executive, the stage was set for the crisis.

(3) On top of these, the opposition was laboring under the mindset that it could duplicate EDSA 2, long after the paradigm has ceased to be a good model for removing a president. In other words, the politicians and even well-meaning national players failed to read the signs of the times. It seems the people have become more discerning on how and when to use of people power ahead of their leaders. But the agitation and calls for resignation were sufficiently loud and serious to bring the crisis to a chronic stage.

Monsod believes that the genesis, or origin, of the present crisis, which was bound to happen because of the above, was a specific event: “the contentious canvassing of the 2004 elections,” but when it was hoped that the combined actions of prominent personalities on July 8 of this year, the effort failed. Monsod explains two reasons behind the failure.

The first involves the reasoning of those who concluded the President must resign:

(1) by “just by listening” to the tapes and combining it with the circumstances of Garcillano’s appointment, the president can be pronounced “guilty” in the private courts of individual consciences as having engaged in electoral fraud.
(2) Her apology was tantamount to admission of guilt.
(3) Regardless of her guilt or innocence on the garci tapes and in jueteng, she has lost the moral authority to govern

The second involves the failure of certain institutions to act according to expectations:

– the military chose to be neutral
– the CBCP chose to issue moral guidelines than engage in political activism;
– the local government officials chose to support the President.

He makes some other observations:

“With the return of democracy and such innovations as the party-list system, it is hard for people to understand why street rallies are still the first option for some and the appeal venue for others who are outvoted in legitimate forums or ruled against by .the judicial process. Perhaps, that is why, to some extent, EDSA 2 continues to be a divisive event in our history, unlike EDSA 1, which was driven from the grassroots by an informed citizenry outraged by injustice.”

He suggests that,

“The Arroyo crisis is not perceived as an issue of grave injustice or of high morality (“all politicians cheat”). It is widely perceived as an issue among politicians and the leadership elite, almost all of whom are equally unattractive. It has no direct relevance, or at the least, people do not see that a cheating or dishonest president cannot at the same time effectively address the “gut” issues of the people – poverty, high prices, medical care, housing- and, therefore, not worth the risk of street warfare. Look around you, how many local politicians are unbeatable in their turf even if they are dishonest because they manage somehow to deliver the right services to their constituents.”

Monsod told me himself, and his paper says it, too, that he is uncomfortable with people talking about “morality” as a reason for demanding the President’s resignation. It is too subjective, according to him. And besides, who should judge the moral fitness of a president? My own understanding of what Monsod means, is that if you want a President to resign, it must be according to concrete facts, arrived at through constitutional processes. Or through a means that has some sort of empirical basis to support it -not a survey commissioned by a private firm, or what you yourself believe, but something that comes from the grassroots, involving every level of our government.

He does, however, make this observation about the President’s “apology”: Monsod says, “The “’ am sorry’ gambit of the President also failed for obvious reasons, at least to the middle class. It may have made a favorable impact on those who wanted some closure to the issue but solidified those already opposed to her. It was carefully worded in anticipation of the impeachment proceedings, and rightly so from hindsight, and was too legalistic to mean anything. Perhaps, more importantly, it was not supported by dramatic reform moves.”

He has other things to say, but with limited space, let’s focus on where Christian Monsod thinks we should go. I will quote that portion in full, in italics:

I don’t believe in many things but I believe in three things that are relevant to today’s situation, based on personal experience.

Firstly, I believe that there is a statesman in every politician and it is up to us to find it, through every means that our imagination can bring us. Even a Marcos refused to send loyal presidential guards to EDSA.

Secondly, I believe that the collective judgment of the people is more often correct when they choose to make it known. And that the poor and uneducated often see with more clarity and discernment what the basic issues are. But they too learn from experience. The 1998 election vote was a successful peaceful revolt of the poor against the rich, except that they chose the wrong champion. But because of that, it could not be exactly duplicated in 2004.

When we were organizing Namfrel from 1984-1986, it was easier to recruit the poor than the rich to take the risk of protecting the ballot. In the 55 provinces I helped organize, the poor would immediately volunteer because it could mean the end of the dictatorship. The rich would ask for guarantees – is there insurance if something happened to them, can we help their families get a visa to the U.S. to put them out of harm’s way, etc. And the only unit that withdrew from pollwatching nationwide was some areas on the Makati side of the villages, although they went back to the trenches latter when the stakes were again explained to them again.

Thirdly, I am a great believer in the bureaucracy. I know most of you are not. In 1991, Comelec people, many of them involved in electoral manipulation during the Marcos regime asked to be given the chance to prove that they can deliver credible elections in the 1992 synchronized elections, and they kept their word. After the elections, the comelec central office had a net public approval rating of +64, More important the field organization which really delivers the elections had a net approval rating of +67, higher than central office. They were proud of themselves and, for a while, we believed that, in the little world of the comelec, it was possible to reform even the most damaged institutions. Unfortunately, every president after Cory Aquino changed all that and very few are left of those who made possible the 1992 elections. Can it be done again? I am sure it can. Allow me to tell a story that I think is timeless. (“Sangang ilog.”)

With regards to his three points, above, I generally agree with Monsod, and his words remind me of things I have written of in the past, particularly his second point, which reminds me of my insistence that every election has a logic of its own, which we have to try to understand. His third point, with my limited exposure to the bureaucracy while working for the President, is something I agree with, too. You can obtain a lot more by viewing our civil servants and the contractual employees of the State not as the enemy, but as allies who share the same aspirations as you and I.

I am not entirely convinced of what Monsod says next, but they are his views, and are a good basis for debate and further thinking. Let me quote them in full, in italics:

Want to accomplish something do-able step by step that has nothing to do with grand designs for political restructuring and revolutionary councils?

Let us lobby hard with the President and the opposition that we are running out of time in modernizing the electoral system and revamping the Comelec, that there is a need for a transparent process to appoint 2 commissioners now and 2 more in February 2006 if we are serious about reform, that it is time for Abalos to exit from the Comelec through the most expedient means possible including impeachment because a reform program is at great risk of not being achieved while he’s there. That would immediately result in a majority of 5 of good commissioners by February 2006, and we would be on our way to restoring the credibility of the institution.

Let us lobby, using our expertise in specific concerns for policies and programs that represent “gut” issues to the people. You can get involved with the right support groups as I am sure many of your have already done. I can give you examples from my own experience in three areas – energy, agrarian reform and electoral reform, but I will take too much of your time.

Finally, why don’t we encourage people to go back to their barangays, run for barangay tanod, volunteer for committees and help make your barangay more effective in delivering basic services. I am happy with mine, especially as a senior citizen. The return of the barangay system is the only meaningful legacy that Marcos left, perhaps unwittingly, and whether you like to believe it or not, most of them are working well around the country. They perform executive, legislative and judicial functions and the barangay elections, involving over 300,000 officials with as many as 1 million candidates, is the most important election in this country today, the results of which, by the way, are released by the end of the day. Help make the barangay system work and you will have the closest thing to a functioning democracy at the grassroots, without constitutional change.

I personally believe Mr. Monsod has too much faith in the President, and to put so much faith in her is to allow the clock to run out, so that by 2010, you do not have a graceful exit for her, but a Macapagal-Arroyo President for Life fully entrenched. However, the closing paragraphs of Monsod’s statement keeps me confident that there is a a new, interesting, development taking place, independent of the tired old faces and political dogmas of the past, and it will come -if the young people decide to take on the job.

Monsod concludes,

Let me close my saying that I too, in my heart, am convinced that the President was involved in the manipulation of the results of the 2004 elections. But my head tells me that if she is going to be removed, and if the solution is to unite rather than divide the nation and allow us to emerge with stronger institutions, then it should be done with full observance of due process with as much hard evidence as possible and shared by as many citizens as possible.

In other words, we need soft hearts and hard heads, and must be willing to talk and listen even to those to whom we may have already closed our minds. After all, that is what seeking unity is all about. And even if we don’t fully succeed, consciously making the journey is half the battle won.

And if our leaders (whether it is an Arroyo, or a de Castro or somebody else) do not respond positively, then we have to try again and again, as we have done before, until we get the government we deserve. I think that is called faith.

There is hope. The rule of law belongs to all of us, and not the President or her defenders. The law will, like the truth, set us free.

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  1. urbanodelacruz

    bravo to Chris Monsod! I am in total agreement with his analysis. and with his prescription.

    I also believe that our salvation lies in improving governance in our barangays. (they could become the incubators for new leadership.)

    bravo!

  2. blog.awbholdings.com

    Mr. Monsod is putting too much trust into barangay leaders. Purportedly, the barangay elections were cancelled because of lack of funds. What the people should know is that these barangay leaders (most of them) are actually part of some politicians’ campaign machinery. So why allow them to be elected out?

    His observation about local leaders being elected “because they manage somehow to deliver the right services to their constituents”, despite being dishonest, is partially true. It also shows that we have the wrong set of values really. Integrity is no longer a Filipino value.

    We put too much emphasis on the youth. We should not expect much since we are not really teaching them the right things, the right values.

    Mr. Monsod is convinced that the fight is for the long haul. That is true. That is, if another GMA lackey files a Trojan horse impeachment complaint next year. We keep on emphasizing process when we had already seen that there is a problem with the so-called process.

    What was the most revealing in Mr. Monsod’s presentation was the story about NAMFREL 1984-1986. The more of the same, that’s what we have now. The people will only move if their interest is at stake. We don’t have patriots anymore.

    It is the poor that will save this country. The elite and middle class knows that. I guess that is why the poor remains generally poor. I have read so many comments here and they say there is no class prejudice. They should read their comments when talking about the poor, and then think again about class prejudice.

    Let us all work to reform the COMELEC and the election system. Mr. Monsod wants to impeach Abalos. Then let’s do it. Hopefully GMA can be bullied to appoint good people to run COMELEC. Deep in my heart she would be pragmatic at this, and will try to appoint her own people when she knows she can get away from it. This is what we should guard carefully.

  3. Carl

    Christian Monsod makes good points. Of course, they may not resound with those whose minds are already closed, or those whose intentions are other than altruistic. There are those who believe that the government we deserve is the one wherein they rule (to quote Fr. Bernas: “Monarchy is the best form of government, as long as I am King.”). That is where a lot of problems emanate (GMA and her detractors are all guilty of this).

    I agree that the barangays provide a comforting lifeline to ordinary folk. I have witnessed this many times. They may serve as vehicles for some local politicians, but the fact is that they generally deliver. That’s the bottomline for most people.

    Let me add that not everything Marcos did was wrong (he even had an energy policy which the Cory government ignored). That’s also why the 1987 Constitution is fatally flawed, because it was a knee-jerk response against everything Marcos did. The 1987 constitution is not objective and sober and has opened the country to endless politicking and gridlock, the antithesis of dictatorial rule (neither extreme is desirable).

    I don’t believe that Mr. Monsod has too much faith in the President. He just accepts the fact that, since she is in the seat of power, she is in the best position to effectuate change. He is only hoping for the best, after all he has no choice. Mr. Monsod must also hope that GMA’s detractors will become more objective and cooperate for the good of all. I hope Mr. Monsod can help us to soberly assess our situation and to come up with changes that can lead to a more progressive Philippines.

    Thank you for this interesting and enlightening piece, Manolo!

  4. acidboy

    ..and the monsods looks like a fun couple, too! hahahaha!
    i guess if you really want to change things around, the old formula of shouting your head off in the streets will not do. maybe the idealists out there should heed the call of public office and see what they can do to improve our lot.

  5. djuara

    no one is above the law but in our present situation it is the powers that be which/who defines what the law is supposed to be as they view it.

    christian monsod has specifically identified the why? and the how? on the present situation GMA is in yet with no concrete solution but the aspiration of a don quijote in confronting the present dilemma.

    adressing problems with one eye warps one’s understanding of reality.

    one only need to look back and analyze how and what GMA and her ilk did just to make sure the impeachment process in congress would fail, im sure monsod isn’t blind to take note of what GMA did.

    yet here is his thesis, that reforming, modernizing the comelec must be strongly lobbied to convince GMA? and the opposition?

    isnt’ the opposition the minority? what about the majority? which has more convincing power the majority or the minority?

    dreamland, utopia that is where monsod belongs
    with ramos/de venecia shouting charter change (as ive anticipated a bastardized concept of the french parliamentary form of govt) and GMA and co making sure she stays on to 2010 and beyond i really wonder what is monsod up to?

  6. sleeping with who

    I love it when people say or refer to a prime minster and a federal system is wrong. Is is not more democratic that more than one person actually weilds the power.

    I just cannot work out where all those democratic countries went wrong….

    OPEN ZEE EYES…. SYSTEM HERE NOT WORK…

    SYSTEM THERE WORKS….

    YET people from this system say it is wrong…
    AND
    YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEM..

    PLEASE write 10 reasons why it is wrong..

    And i will give you 1000 reasons why the system here is broken…

  7. joselu

    I think Christian Monsod is a wise man.when he was in Comelec he was able to inspire the people there.
    I like what he said because it shows that he is a real thinking man who is not out to condem or judge anyone w/o the proper proof and to do it w/in the system.
    He is a person who will be listened too by the administration and the opposition.
    Yes, the barangay level is very important.It is the base and the training ground for higher position in goverment.In a way it’s laike a laboratory.If you can be honest I true in simple things, chances are you will be able to do the same in higher responsabilities.
    I think christians Monsod strenght and faith is indipendent of whatevers are.
    I think, anyone who will commit a wrong will do it anyway.
    The real question is if I will focus only in the wrondoing using morals & righoutness.
    Or will I look deeper & try to understand the roots and work on them.
    I have an impression that many times when we become such a moralistics, panicing, frustrated society. It’s really because we get so confussed and lose faith in ourselves,then we are just another addition to the problem.
    I think change will come.It will come proportionaly to how we dicipline ourselves, to how we can learn to chart a clear direction of from where we are & what we want to do.when we can really learn to talk & listen to each other.
    I think we are really being challange w/ a game of nerves of steel & much innovative thinking that will have nothing to do w/ what are the obviois things flooding the media & airwaves.
    The real dreamer sees things other can’t even imagine and knows how to get there & does not allow himself to be pulled down by the noise & confussion around.
    I don’y know if you guys noticed that from day 1 of this nighmare PGMA has always stuck to her programs of goverment.Infact,she has given her Cabinet secs.more dicision making powers so she can focus on her programs.
    I think she is working to be able to give the basic services that is goverments obligation.
    let’s not close our minds that an extremly unpopular president is not capable of delivering.
    Let’s leave the moral stuff to other people.
    We are lay people.Our obligation is to be exsamples of honesty & fairness in anything we do.
    I think it is our obligation to inspire the frustrated & the discouraged.We must not just simpatize w/ them.

  8. joselu

    I think Christian Monsod is a wise man.when he was in Comelec he was able to inspire the people there.
    I like what he said because it shows that he is a real thinking man who is not out to condem or judge anyone w/o the proper proof and to do it w/in the system.
    He is a person who will be listened too by the administration and the opposition.
    Yes, the barangay level is very important.It is the base and the training ground for higher position in goverment.In a way it’s laike a laboratory.If you can be honest I true in simple things, chances are you will be able to do the same in higher responsabilities.
    I think christians Monsod strenght and faith is indipendent of whatevers are.
    I think, anyone who will commit a wrong will do it anyway.
    The real question is if I will focus only in the wrondoing using morals & righoutness.
    Or will I look deeper & try to understand the roots and work on them.
    I have an impression that many times when we become such a moralistics, panicing, frustrated society. It’s really because we get so confussed and lose faith in ourselves,then we are just another addition to the problem.
    I think change will come.It will come proportionaly to how we dicipline ourselves, to how we can learn to chart a clear direction of from where we are & what we want to do.when we can really learn to talk & listen to each other.
    I think we are really being challange w/ a game of nerves of steel & much innovative thinking that will have nothing to do w/ what are the obviois things flooding the media & airwaves.
    The real dreamer sees things other can’t even imagine and knows how to get there & does not allow himself to be pulled down by the noise & confussion around.
    I don’y know if you guys noticed that from day 1 of this nighmare PGMA has always stuck to her programs of goverment.Infact,she has given her Cabinet secs.more dicision making powers so she can focus on her programs.
    I think she is working to be able to give the basic services that is goverments obligation.
    let’s not close our minds that an extremly unpopular president is not capable of delivering.
    Let’s leave the moral stuff to other people.
    We are lay people.Our obligation is to be exsamples of honesty & fairness in anything we do.
    I think it is our obligation to inspire the frustrated & the discouraged.We must not just simpatize w/ them.

  9. acidboy

    djuara,
    imho, mr christian monsod is in no position nor is he obligated to give any plan of action to improve on something that he is not part of anyway. so don’t shoot the messenger.

    at least some people, a learned one at that, is giving out his ideas for us to discuss- that is the true essence of democracy, not channeling your angst in edsa.

    i’d rather spend my days in “dreamland” with the likes of monsod, even de venecia and fvr for that matter. at least kahit papaano they think of ways to move us forward, ulterior motives or not. what i cannot stand are people who always complain, complain, complain and yet they do not put anything on the table except their tired, smelly laway.

  10. jj blue

    Great ideas… but if 1992 elections was clean and credible then we would had a Miriam Defensor Santiago as President not FVR! …For a president to manipulate and corrupt almost every institution of government then there must be something wrong with our current system. It should be changed! There are just too many loopholes in the current one! Getting rid of the current president is not entire solution but just the beginning of it!

  11. Carl

    Good points, jj blue. I also believe FVR stole that election from Miriam. Magaling lang si FVR magdiskarte. And he wasn’t stupid enough to leave tapes. Anyway, not knowing the truth then didn’t shatter us. Maybe because we’re already damaged goods, anyway.

    I totally agree, getting rid of GMA is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to change the whole system.

  12. joselu

    yes, FVR was magaling ang diskarte & Miriam was not an FPJ and that made a major differnce.
    GMA’s dilema was that she was going against an FPJ who was supported by Erap who would do anything to get back at GMA.
    I think she won. If she did cheat it was more because to make the margin more convincing because if she won w/ less than half a mill votes or much less it won’t be convincing enough.
    Maybe in the final analysis of this she won by a small margin talaga.
    Honestly guys.I really don’t think we would be better off if FPJ won.
    You can just imagine the squabbling that would have happned.
    I hope we learned our lesson on the importance of insulating election from clowns, magicians & stars.
    we are to blame too, just because it’s a democracy, it’s also everything goes, the more the merrier, popularity & name recall counts.
    One thing I like about a parlamentary system is that there will be no national positions w/c means no big spending & it eleminates pay backs.Electing a PM will be made by representatives.In a worst scenario damage is controlled and not like what happen now that an entire Nation is affected the economy is affected.

  13. sleeping with who

    Remember who started all this since Marcos, Cory and her constitutional group. After seeing how bad it can get with a single person always in power what happened, GIVE IT TO CORY.. All the power once again in one person, then it went to FVR then Estrada, not GMA.

    Two major things i have noted here is one not a single policy platform for any political group, it is all about people.

    The second is that the term is 6 years, That is so long with out an option to continue or shorten. JUST 6 YEARS.

    The only way to make someone do good is to let them get the prize twice, or they really wont try once they have it the first time. Shorten the term if they cant fix the problem in 4 Years – 6 is not going to help.

    Constitutional changes should be made by referendums not by any government in any country at any time, with a min 66% YES TO CHANGE OR CHANGE IS NOT MADE.

    Actually apply the election laws, i did not see a single person disqualified for illegal advertising?

  14. sleeping with who

    I have given up of negativity wala ABS-CBN… This web site or others, News papers..

    Everything from today on must be full of positive thoughts and solutions..

    Dont worry i will not be going to church either…

    I have just hit my limit of BULLSHIT.. It is time to change and the only way to do that is to change it myself. Since no one else will..

    I will start my own blog about positive things we can do on a daily basis, as a person and as a community..

    I will come back and tell you all where i am… There will be no backstabbing, no hidden power plays, just things i have done and things you can do to improve the situation we have found ourselves in.

    All sugestions welcome from you all.. But no negativity na lang..

    Love the world,

    What am i happy about today.. I AM ALIVE and feel revived..

  15. acidboy

    sleeping,
    i totally agree with you on the lack of political platform here. i bet you if you ask the members of lakas-nucd what christian democrats stand for they will just point to the direction of the nearest chapel. and if you ask lp members what is the meaning of liberalism kakamot lang ng ulo iyan. so goes for all the members of all political parties. maybe except for the party of eddie gil- at least they know where they stand- cancellation of all debts to be paid by eddie and the promotion of good quality wigs.

  16. R Velasquez

    How about for the sake of political stability, going back to a 2-party system? I’m quite disappointed that in all the talk about charter change, no one has mentioned or has suggested reverting back to a strong 2-party system. Our current multi-party system has been given 18 years to work. What we have gotten so far are 18 years of political instability. It’s time that we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a 2-party system as against the current multi-party system. One thing is clear, things have not gotten better under the current multi-party system!

  17. acidboy

    unless somebody who leaves the 2-party system is dragged out to the street and gets shot, i don’t think politicians who have been spoiled with their paru-paru antics can ever be satisfied with a 2 party sytem. a shame, really, but what do you expect from these maggots?

    one thing gma was right is about how the present political system is rotten to the core.

  18. jorgec

    “Monsod told me himself, and his paper says it, too, that he is uncomfortable with people talking about “morality” as a reason for demanding the President’s resignation. It is too subjective, according to him. And besides, who should judge the moral fitness of a president?”

    How’s this for a barometer: Salus populi suprema lex esto – the welfare of the people is the highest law. Consider: does one actually believe that GMA is acting in the best interests of the people?

  19. Rizal

    Federalism is the answer. Let the regions decide themselves. Have a limited National government. Let experimentation rule.

  20. MJ

    If we’ll follow what Monsod is talking about nothing’s going to happen to us because all of those proposals defends on the president’s approval. He talked about due process with regard to removing the president but how can he do that when Gloria keeps on putting obstacles every step of the way to prevent? He talked about reforming the Comelec under the president who has been caught manipulating it. He said he believed in the judgment of the poor but stated that they chose the ‘wrong champion’ ignoring the fact that this champion of the poor has not served them his full term. For him, the peaceful revolt of the poor may have been successful but they lost the war because for the rich of whom Monsod belongs their champion was the wrong one.

  21. yana

    sir,
    i am doing a paper about the commission on elections for my senior research paper. can you please post the full copy of that paper Mr. Christian Monsod presented. The ideas of Mr. Monsod will be very much beneficial for my thesis paper and i totally agree with him that the country needs concrete reforms especially in our electoral process.
    Thank you

  22. mlq3

    yana, i’ve emailed mr. monsod asking him for a copy, will send it to you in turn.

  23. darkhammer

    Sir, I’d like to ask permission to repost this in my blog. I’ll include a link back to your entry.

    Thanks. 😀

  24. mlq3

    no need to ask permission, darkhammer. a link always suffices!

  1. Manuel L. Quezon III » The buzz

    […] Winnie and Christian Monsod, whose views I have put forward in this blog from time to time, are of the same view as people like Bong Austero: in the heat of the moment it’s very tempting for those against the President to tag them as supporters of the President, or her apologists. They are not. I repeat, they are not, have never been, and should not be considered lackeys or unthinking hacks or apologists of the President or her coalition. […]

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