Parliamentary, unicameral, but not, in the short term, anyway, Federal. Former president Ramos and Speaker Jose de Venecia in their showdown with the President (so the scuttlebutt goes) read her the riot act, firmly told her to stop mucking about with the question of the speakership, and have reiterated that they have her by the short and curlies. A new Constitution, tailor-fit to suit Ramos and de Venecia is ready, the House will push it forward, public pressure will be generated to force the Senate to allow itself to be abolished, and it seems the President’s hold on the Supreme Court doesn’t faze either FVR or JDV.
While Ramos, de Venecia, and their favorably-inclined intellectuals (such as Alex Magno) are opposed to Federalism, the new Constitution will most likely provide for Federalism to be introduced in the future, say within ten years. This will at least secure public support in Mindanao and the Visayas, and once the new National Assembly convenes, the teeth can be pulled from Federalism.
The message: his (FVR’s) way, which offers the prospects of getting rid of the President before 2010 (she can run for parliament but she won’t be prime minister), assures her, anyway, of a graceful exit, and defuses the prospect of things reaching a potentially bloody conclusion on the highway.
It’s hard to think, in the face of the Speaker’s strong support within the House, the increasing isolation of the Senate, the specter of the Vice-President possibly sitting in the Palace should the President suddenly go, and the continuing inability of either the administration or the opposition to turn the tide, how people will not gravitate towards FVR’s solution as the easiest way out. It will even be peddled as the best way to get the country out of the rut it’s in.
What cards does the President have left to play? She can continue to dispense patronage, but it will only be to further fatten the war chests of people not too fond of her. As for loyal lieutenants, the President’s camp is losing them, slowly but surely: Bobi Tiglao was eased out, whether by the Ramos cabal in the Palace (Bunye et al.), or a combination of the Alcantara-Aboitiz business combine (as Max Soliven recently suggested). Tiglao was the last True Believer in the President, which leaves her only with the retired policemen (Ebdane, Mendoza) as her “enforcers.”
The President has been unable to extend her writ beyond the perimeter of the Palace. She needed to establish a beachhead in the House. However if, after considering, then dropping, Rep. Ronnie Puno, the best the President could dredge up as her candidate for the Speakership was Rep. Prospero Pichay, then of course the congressmen would opt to retain Jose de Venecia as Speaker. The clock is ticking, and everyone else, whether the President or the opposition, is scrambling to try to do something to fend off the Ramos Solution heaving into place. D Month is January, when the House will embark on convening Congress as a Constituent Assembly.
Fidel Ramos will then call for a “new People Power” in February, to mark the 20th anniversary of the original People Power and to help propel his new Constitution while stealing the thunder from the opposition.
The best general fights it out on the battlefield of his own choosing -that is, if he has to fight a battle at all. FVR and JDV early on staked out the battlefield as taking place in Congress, not in the streets. They have the army. They have a cause. They can afford to duke it out with the Senate because the public seems comfortable with restricting possible venues for a fight: and a legislative fight is one the President is ill-equipped, either tactically or operationally, to win.
The only “if” remains the military at this point, and the President (who may have lost another battle but surely still believes, and will try, to win the war) and to a certain extent, Cory Aquino, who, after all, headed off the Ramos Solution during its first incarnation: but then again, FVR has learned from the experience, much more, it seems, than everyone else.