It’s refreshing to see the Senate attempting to hold a sober hearing for a change, although Dick Gordon doesn’t ask questions very well or preside over committees adeptly (snapping at Sen. Angara is the usual crap we don’t need to see). I have to add, only, that I found myself, surprisingly, in agreement with John Osmeña’s brief roundup of his proposals, which involves a regional approach, with autonomy for about 15 regional governments and a corresponding limitation of the chief executive’s responsibilities to national defense, foreign affairs, communications, finance and transportation (which I have proposed many times here and elsewhere). He said such an approach would solve, for itself, the question of whether to retain the presidency or place executive power in the hands of a prime minister. the consensus among those who testified seems to be that the House cannot go it alone, and that several issues need to be resolved with regards to a Constitutional Convention: when and how to hold it, etc.
In his testimony, Fr. Bernas said the country needs to calm down, and that Congress would be wise to ask the public if they even want a convention. Christian Monsod presented the One Voice position on the matter: before anyone asks anyone anything, trust in the electoral process has to be restored. Pablo Garcia is against a referendum, saying leaders should lead and propose amendments “if indeed they are necessary.”
Justice Mendoza suggested the May 2007 elections can serve as a referendum on charter change, or after the elections, Congress can hold public hearings. He doubts whether such a question (to change the Constitution or not) could be asked in a referendum -what is explicitly stated in the Constitution is asking if the public wants a convention or not. Bernas, in response to Angara and Enrile, says it works this way: Congress, if it can decide on whether or not to hold a convention or directly propose changes, can do so; but if it cannot make up its own mind, it can throw the question to the public by way of a plebiscite question involving a convention. He reiterated 2010 is the best time to ask such a question.
Recto tried to get a summary of our various legislative systems but Justice Mendoza proved woefully confused.
I can only offer up my own personal experience in this regard, having talked to students, teachers, civil society and professionals in Baguio, Lucena, Bacolod, Cebu, various parts of Metro Manila: there is no “clamor” although there is a widespread feeling among those who have studied the issues, that proposals have to be made but even then, no consensus exists on specific proposals.
The only consensus I can see is in terms of public opinion: and public opinion is more defined in terms of what the public does not want, than what it actually wants. What does the public not want? Cancellation of elections is a no-no. I sense resistance to proposals to deprive the public of the right to directly vote for the chief executive. I did sense an impatience with bicameralism until recently: the House’s moves have alarmed the public over the prospects of unicameralism. What does the public definitely want? Nothing to do with the Constitution: jobs, less crookedness, and some sort of stability.
As to the question of Dean Andy Cautista on ANC’s coverage, which echoed Jimeno’s arguments: when is the right time? The right time will be when a national consensus is reached. That process can’t be rushed. Recto began proposals to amend the 1935 Constitution further in the 1950s and it was in 1971 when it finally bore fruit, because a national consensus finally existed. Jumping the gun is what has harmed the cause of those pushing for amendments. The reaction of some Thai academics to proposals for their own new constitution is informative: a constitution is about more than setting rules for politicians.
As to the Palace position, the official stand is that they remain behind ongoing efforts to propose amendments -and in fact, never wavered. The House will force them through remains its party line, too. Obviously, the Palace is still in the game, as shown by its using PAGCOR, which is strictly under executive control, to snatch the Quirino Grandstand away.
Colleague Ricky Carandang sent me his fearless forecast and kindly gave permission for it to be reproduced in this blog:
This is where I think this is headed.
The Senate ignores the JDV deadline, in effect calling his bluff.
This obliges him to go through the motions of convening the House-initiated Senateless constituent assembly. At this point two thing can happen.
First, because of the public’s opposition to the whole idea, JDV fails to muster the 195 member majority that he beleives is needed to pass amendments. In which case Chacha is dead.
The second possibility is that GMA throws the weight of her office behind the effort and they get the 195 votes needed to pass revisions ijn the House. They go to the Comelec and ask that a plebiscite be scheduled. At this point the senate steps in and tosses the ball to the Supreme Court. I believe that the Court will not only issue a Temporary Restraining Order, it will uphold the Senate’s view that both Houses must participate in a constituent assembly. A slam dunk against the House. In which case Chacha is dead.
I speculate that the failure of Chacha would lead to a reconfiguration of the power dynamics in the House. JDV is likely to blame GMA for Chacha’s defeat and turn on her. GMA would muster her KAMPI loyalists in the House and there will be a fight for the Speakership between JDV and the KAMPI nominee. JDV will lose.
The midterm election in May will push through. JDV will lose his seat in the House to Benjie Lim.
Agence France-Press on recriminations over the postponed Cebu Summit.
Overseas, Gen. Pinochet passes away. Read the Guardian obituary.
In his column today, Fr. Joaquin Bernas SJ dissected the issues clearly and soberly. BenCyrus G. Ellorin lists some of the larger issues involved in the proposals themselves, while Rita Linda V. Jimeno is alarmed over the prospect of the House’s moves turning off the public to the idea of constitutional change. Though in terms of her advocacy for changes, the problem lies in her insisting only her group is genuinely for change; the difficulty is precisely that her group claims a monopoly on reform; it means others advocating reform are stuck between a rock and a hard place: accepting their version hook line, and sinker, leaving no room for consensus but instead forcing an all-or-nothing choice, which is no choice at all. Jarius Bondoc echoes Jimeno and says the House proponents of amendments have killed prospects for constitutional change. He ignores the culpability of people like himself in squandering an opportunity that might have been unstoppable if it hadn’t become so patently self-serving for the ruling coalition.
Randy David on Sunday said the congressional goings-on are a sideshow.
Jojo Robles says NEDA Secretary-General Romulo Neri, who owes his job to the Speaker, is a disaster.
The Inquirer editorial delves into the postponement of the Cebu Summit, a decision Amando Doronila says is a major black eye for the country (he also points out People Power is back in play, so reports of its demise turn out to have been exaggerated).
The blogosphere also has many reactions to the postponement of the Cebu Summit. Foreign Service Insider says, as a member of our diplomatic service, says the abrupt postponement “is simply unheard of.” Cebuano bloggers in particular, have a lot to say. See the reactions of Cold Soba, of crisel eslao, of Pain Killer, of light up, light up, you have a choice and of Cebu Bound. Writing from Davao, Promdi says terrorism was the reason, but government couldn’t admit it.
Ellen Tordesillas recounts the RC Constantino brouhaha; missingpoints reacted to what happened, as does stone’s site. Other bloggers react to what the House has been doing, including the Speaker’s latest gambit. See Philippine Politics 04 and Philippine Commentary, as well as Daily Musings and the Philippine Experience. On the other hand, RG Cruz seems to think the Speaker was clever.
Diobolically Clever Musings, and Crazy Dagupan, A brief but interesting entry by joeydaninja helps illustrate why the issue’s made the administration nervous. It’s offended even those who up to now were willing to give the national leadership the benefit of the doubt. The World According to Julie, a night editor at ABS-CBN news online, illuminates how people reacted -and why.
Overseas, History Unfolding weighs in on the Study Group report on Iraq.
For reference, here are some documents: