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May 04

Newsbreak’s coming expose

Pick your headline: Shades of Marcos, SC says of Arroyo’s 1017: Dispersal of rallies, arrests, raid illegal (Inquirer); “EO 1017 constitutional” (Manila Standard-Today); 1017 gets Court’s nod: But rules certain provisions illegal (Manila Times); “1017″ constitutional but actions illegal: Tribunal slams arrests, ban on protests (Malaya).

Also, the PCIJ blog report on the decision, with this quote from the Chief Justice’s concurring opinion:

Some of those who drafted PP 1017 may be testing the outer limits of presidential prerogatives and the perseverance of this Court in safeguarding the people’s constitutionally enshrined liberty. They are playing with fire, and unless prudently restrained, they may one day wittingly or unwittingly burn down the country. History will never forget, much less forgive, this Court if it allows such misadventure and refuses to strike down abuse at its inception. Worse, our people will surely condemn the misuse of legal hocus pocus to justify this trifling with constitutional sanctities.

That’s it, in a nutshell: the executive has tried to push the envelope; the courts must must step in to strike down “abuse at its inception”.

Big news ahead, as Newsbreak exclusively reports: ‘Cheating’ Operators to Come Out Soon.

In the punditocracy, my Arab News column for this week is Filipinos Don’t Like Arroyo, but Don’t Back a Coup. The column has one typo which changes the entire sense of the piece:

These questions are tempting to address, but they depend on one given which doesn’t exist at this point in time — an executive branch of government poised to perpetuate itself in power at all costs, even at the cost of democracy and the constitution.

Should, instead, read,

These questions are tempting to address, but they depend on one given which does exist at this point in time — an executive branch of government poised to perpetuate itself in power at all costs, even at the cost of democracy and the constitution.

My column for today is What’s in it for you, which is based on a recent blog entry, but has this addition:

After all, the only assurance you have is not on paper or in the system. The only assurance you can have depends on a single assumption: that given absolute, unlimited, unquestionable power, a coalition, any coalition, can be trusted-and expected-to use its power only for the public good, never for its own, selfish interests, and surely not for the benefit of its political allies. In other words, all you have is faith.

Faith in whom? Don’t think in terms of the administration coalition. Think of any coalition. Because democracy is not about a particular group holding power forever. It is also about the probability that one day, today’s minority could be tomorrow’s majority. Either side can’t be given what those in power today wants. Because no one, no group, should have such complete, unquestionable, power. To surrender that power to one individual or group is madness and reflects a lunatic attitude toward governance.

Would you hand anyone, in the administration or the opposition, today’s leaders and, perhaps, tomorrow’s leaders, too, a blank check?

Manuel Buencamino examines claims that the parliamentary system as practiced by neighboring countries (specifically Malaysia, which is viewed, despite having a population 1/4 the size of our own, as a model to emulate) will lead to continuity in policies. He says this isn’t true, and gives concrete Malaysian examples. I’d add, if you want to see the presidential system at work, look at Indonesia.

The Nation of Thailand has an editorial that makes for relevant reading: Structure politics to fight corruption: To implement reforms successfully and root out Thaksin’s graft-prone legacy, we must learn the right lessons. In My Liberal Times, he discusses how an international conference shows how media can help make official development assistance graft-free.

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day. Interesting reading from The Nation: The struggle for a free pressL World Press Freedom Day is a time for reflecting that an effective media requires constant nurturing, and Media intimidation: a view from the front: “I have never seen anything like it,” one Western diplomat told us recently. In Slate: Fighting Words: Bush vs. the press vs. Bush. Speaking of Americans, US Senate asks RP to hunt newsmen’s killers. Journalist and blogger Promdi has some harsh words for the President -because of her harshness to the press.

Hot Manila is back with a look at Charter change.

Slate on Could MSG Make a Comeback? The changing fortunes of an unloved additive.

The blogosphere has Kerry B. Collison pointing to another extremely relevant article: speaking of Thaksin, the writer says, “don’t forget who got us into this mess.” Same-same, as the Thais would say, with regards to the Philippines.

Bunker Chronicles on the Potemkin villages governments like to put up.

An interesting entry in Challenge and movements, recounting the May 1 rallies in the USA, including a vignette featuring people listening to, and singing, the Internationale in different languages. The blogger sees a glorious future:

This must be a sign or an indicator that the ideological clarifications have sipped in for a time now with all the out counter attacks of debunking civil society, of two line struggle, of the need for a broad united front, of the importance of vanguardism, of the class struggle to mention a few within the international movement. If my observations are correct then a bright future is waiting ahead of us.

Ironically, this ties in with yesterday’s column by Amando Doronila, where he suggests National Democrats in the Philippines are returning to their pre-Edsa strategies and quietly abandoning efforts to court support from the middle class:

In shifting the venue of their marches to Mendiola, the working class and the Left implicitly declared they were taking a path to political and social change in the Philippines different from that of the Edsa-oriented middle class. Last Monday was therefore a reiteration by the Left that its forces, no matter how fractured they were ideologically, had nothing to do with Edsa-type people power movements, that they would not be part of any “tactical alliance” with the Edsa militants and that they would not be used further as the organizational arm of middle-class political movements.

A Bugged Life recounts accompanying a Rock Ed! effort in Olongapo. Rock Ed is a quiet, but interesting, advocacy that’s been going on for some time now.

Only in the Philippines comments, and draws, on dictatorships, then and now.

stepping on poop has great fun proposing a memorandum from Luli Arroyo to the faithful.

MoodieReport (an industry website for travel retail) picks Duty Free Philippines as its website of the week.

village idiot savant points out Davao City is the Most Competitive City for 2005 (Davao City and Baguio City are the two places I always think of moving to, one day).

Under the Talisay Tree returns to blogging!

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  1. peterlavina

    Manolo
    You are most welcome to move here in Davao City.
    In the AIM survey, we ranked low on two drivers – responsiveness to local business and HR development. Both are now being addressed with a number of programs.
    Before Asiaweek closed down, its ranking of the “most livable cities in Asia” ranked Davao City at No. 14.

  2. micketymoc

    Yes, Manolo. Come on down. Hell, I’d vote for you as mayor! 🙂

  3. micketymoc

    Oo nga pala… That Arab News typo? The Luli Arroyo Internet Brigade did it! Bwahahahaha! 🙂

  4. emilie

    The economic provisions have to be changed and we do not have the luxury of time. Whatever form of government there is will not make any difference after all it will be run by the same set of people with the same set of values. I believe that if there will be more capital in this country then chances are more people will be liberated from poverty and the more people will feel their economic significance then the more power they will command. With the change in power dynamics the politicians will have lesser significance. Consequently the working class will seize the national agenda and will be treated better. If it is not amended now when? in 2010? My GOD dont we have enough compassion for the jobless poor people that our hatred alone for one person should take precedence? Are we that selfish? Very sorry if i dont share your values but then I am a living witness to how this country has become so uncompetitive and you can add all the bad adjectives that you want but I LOVE THIS COUNTRY and no amount of dismissive opinion from the other side will change it.

  5. cvj

    Changing the economic provisions of the Constitution on foreign ownership is no silver bullet as far as poverty alleviation is concerned. If the conditions in the country are right in the eyes of foreign investors, they will come and adjust to the rules. More important is a level playing field, supporting public infrastructure, and consistent application of rule of law. For example, much of Malaysia’s economic development was under the ‘New Economic Policy’, from 1970 to 1990, which had its own set of foreign ownership restrictions. Personally, i’m for a more liberal economic framework, but considering the total package we have to swallow to get there, it’s something that has to wait.

  6. manuelbuencamino

    “More important is a level playing field, supporting public infrastructure, and consistent application of rule of law.”

    And this can be accomplished without adopting a form of government that has no checks and balance.

    Also, when there is a lot of theft in your neighborhood, the last person you should go to for advise is the neighborhood thief because he will tell you that the best way to secure your valuables is by leaving your doors unlocked.

    Shift to a unicameral parliament ? Ano tayo tanga?

  7. jhay

    Kudos to the Supreme Court on its decisions, there is still hope as long they will not bow down (all the way) to the Palace’s will.

    I just wish that they will step up their pace and come out with decisions more quickly.

  8. vic

    Davao City is a lovely place. Been there twice. From the sky you still can see her lush green forest and lot of empty space in the city. My Brother left me a lot of rosters and a few empty lot just in case someday, I too may want to move over there. Manolo, you won’t regret it.

    I still convince on my own, given a chance and a national debate (no shoving down on people) the benefit of Parliamentary System. It is unicameral with a built check within the Parliament (the duty of the oppositions) and the daily televised Question and Answer period more than enlightened the public on the issues of the day. And the threat of dissolution and election at anytime (instead of impeachment, that you have a very rough experience) will keep the Govt. of the day on its toes and be square and fair if they want to return the next time around. It works pretty good up here in Canada and given the right politicians it may work good over there just as well. Study it, modify it, debate among yourself and in the end it is you the people who have to decide if it is right or not. thanks

  9. Carl

    In the end, everyone will agree that our present constitution is shot full of holes. People just cant agree on fixing it because nobody trusts anybody else. It’s the crab mentality all over again.

  10. Dominique

    Thanks for the link, Manolo. A number of other Davao-based blogs (previously undiscovered), wrote about this, too. Folks might want to visit mydavao.blogspot.com for some of the sights in the area.

    Regarding the comments on #4 and #5 (Emilie and CVJ), it’s instructive to look at the recommendations of the AIM study. One of the reasons the top cities were successful as they were was because they did not rely so much on national government for support for programs.

  11. Jon Mariano

    Carl,
    I haven’t really talked to anyone who doesn’t like to amend the constitution just because he doesn’t want it. Usually the conversation goes back to doing the changes the right way and at the right time.

    The right way being doing it with a constitutional commission with members who knows what they’re doing, and the right time is anytime as long as it’s not hurried. These two things are still subject to interpretation and each has his own take what they are but given that general guideline, most Filipinos (I think) will not resist it. I would support it myself.

  12. manuelbuencamino

    Vic,

    In a parliament, the majority rules, The ,omprity can oppose all they want but it comes down to a vote in the end. In Gloria’s proposed Constitution, her extra power is appointing her cabinet to the parliament plus thirty others of her choice.

    The Question and Answer period is just another way of letting off steam. Remember the parliamentary debates and question and answer periods in the British Parliament on the Iraq War? Did they change Blair’s poicy t all?

    Also, question and answer periods are effective when there is a free press. That means a press limited only by libel and slander laws which are not restrictive. In the proposed constitution, freedom of the press was defined to include “responsible”.

    The threat of dissoluion and election at anytime is more theoretical than practical. This threat exists depending on the composition of a parliament. In one party or one coalition parliaments like Singapore or Malaysia, this threat simply dos not exist.

    Something even worse about this threat is this: The ruling party can call an election anytime and specify the length of campaigning before any election. Usually a ruling party calls for an election before a mandated general election to catch the opposition off-guard. They call the election when they are riding high on the polls and they give a very short campaign period. The tactic is resorted to when a ruling party foresees tough times ahead.

    For example if they forecast a tight financial situation around the time of the mandated general election, they will call elections while they still enoy a good economy in order to avoid facing the electorate when the crisis hits.

    The better system is presidential, Just compare Canada to the US. There is no better comparison. Both former British colonies. Both English speaking and both with a minority speaking some other language. Both rich in natural resources. Both very liberal democracies. Which country is more advanced and powerful?

  13. RoelM

    manuelbuencamino:

    You forgot to consider the major difference between Canada and the US: latitude. Most of Canada is too far north and too cold, not to mention infertile. Most of Canada’s population is in the south near the US border because of this very factor. Some Canadians jokingly complain that North America should have been divided east-west rather than north-south so they could get a taste of warmer climes. If not for these geographic factors, the US and Canada would probably achieve closer parity in population and power. Anyway, the more relevant comparisons for me are those countries in Latin America, virtually all of whom have had serious political problems with dictatorships, coup d’etats and revolutions leading to breakdowns of democracy.

    I myself am in favor of trying out a parliamentary system for our country because of the numerous advantages others have pointed out. However, one big factor for me, is the failure of the presidential system in our country. It has broken down in the past and is breaking down now. I don’t know see how tweaking the system here and there would prevent future problems, for, it appears to me that the defect is in the fundamentals. Why would we keep a system that has been shown to be a failure time and again in our context and history? We should adjust our political system to fit the needs of our people and not try to shoehorn our people into an ill-fitting system. Correct me, if I am wrong, but I see precious few countries where the presidential system has worked well for a significant amount of time apart from the US.

  14. Carl

    Jon said: “The right way being doing it with a constitutional commission with members who knows what they’re doing, and the right time is anytime as long as it’s not hurried. These two things are still subject to interpretation and each has his own take what they are but given that general guideline, most Filipinos (I think) will not resist it. I would support it myself.”

    Fair enough. Of course, we have to take into consideration a truism that one Chief Executive once said: “If I want to make it appear that I’m doing something about a certain situation, yet I really don’t want it done, I simply assign it to a committee. It will waste away and die a natural death.”

  15. cvj

    “I don’t know see how tweaking the system here and there would prevent future problems, for, it appears to me that the defect is in the fundamentals.” – RoelM, why discount ‘tweaking’ as a solution? In a complex system, sometimes an adjustment made in the right place and at the right time is all it takes. To cite an example that Manolo blogged about previously, Indonesia decided to adopt run-off elections, figuring that the extra expense was worth the stability brought out by a majority President.

  16. vic

    manuel buencamino most of my answer been done by roelM. Military power the US is, but economic power I’m starting to doubt. The U.S. west coasts depend their energy supplies on Alberta alone. The US can not compete us in softwood lumber that it levy punitive taxes on them. Canada has only 35 million pop. on 3.8 million sq.ml. of terr., but we are a member of G8, and remember Canada is some l00 years younger than the US ( by independence). We can change our system of government tommorow and nothing will change except the govt. Maybe Quebec someday would like to separate, but then we are a Democracy, then let if be. Give it another 20 years or so and the US will be looking at the back of China and Canada in economy and Military Power that’s all she’ll be.

  17. vic

    And to the Proposed Cha-cha, the one is entirely different from the one we have. That is why in my comment previous, I noted the selection of the P.M. as defective. Instead of the Leader of the Party who was declared the winner by Majority of Minority, yours is to be selected by the Members. In a True Party system, the people will be voting for the party as per the party promises and program duration of the mandate. Still the voters could vote for the candidate they so desire irregardless of party. In the end it is not really the system per se, but how mature the citizenry for the type of govt. the have. any type will work, given the right players. oterhwise you’ll have to tinker until you have the right system that will work despite the players.

  18. RoelM

    cvj:
    I’m not ruling out all kinds of tweaking and certainly, whatever system a country has, it could probably do with a certain degree of finetuning. Certainly, the French in their 5th republic constitution and the Germans with their Bonn Basic Law did a significant amount of tweaking in order to adjust their political systems to political realities. I just think that we have to do the fundamental constitutional design right, first and foremost.

  19. cvj

    RoelM, the main thing i consider as far as the basic design of our electoral system is: “Do i trust my legislator enough to delegate to him or her the choice of the head of government?” In Canada, UK and a lot of other countries, the answer is ‘yes’. Over here, not yet.

  20. goggle

    Grande sito!!

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