The Speaker, every chance he gets, keeps emphasizing the point that he’s “turned the tables” on the Senate. He hopes that no one will notice his tactical move to move for a Constitutional Convention won’t be revealed for what it is: a Hobson’s choice.
The choice isn’t between a failed, because dangerous and alarming, House attempt at unilaterally proposing amendments by means of a constituent assembly that tried to sideline the senate, and a constitutional convention meant to deflect attention from the House and pin down a slippery Senate. No. There is no real choice at all.
Either way, the objective of the House remains: a unicameral parliament with a vaguely-defined power-sharing arrangement between a future parliament and the present president, all of whom resent the electorate. The proposal may enjoy support among representatives, even governors and mayors, and even a large portion of the public; but opposition to that particular proposal undeniably also exists on a large scale among the public and in the upper house. That the objective remains paramount is shown by the attempt of the president’s lawyer to get into the act by proposing appointed constitutional convention delegates (which is not an illegal proposal, but merely politically expedient).
Dave Llorito has a blog entry I find myself agreeing with in large part. His point is, the past year has underscored a message different sectors of society have slowly, sometimes clumsily, tried to send: no short cuts. This is a message that I agree has been sent to every side of the political divide. Indeed, there seems a consistency in public behavior, on the whole, over the past decade.
For those of us who wanted the president to immediately resign, the public’s message was: let us first find a way to hold her accountable, and let the charges be presented and the evidence weighed. Precisely the same message the public sent in 2000-2001 with regards to President Estrada.
When impeachment was attempted, the public showed a willingness to see the process through, and even desired it push through: and didn’t like it when the process didn’t prosper. But the corresponding message was, if at first you don’t succeed, try again.
In between, when the military regime change option reared its head, there was a backlash against it in terms of public opinion -but government’s reactions, too, provoked a backlash, with various executive stratagems receiving heavy criticism. Whether a 1989 style coup, or a 2001 style withdrawal of support, the public said no.
the public gave the 2nd impeachment the benefit of the doubt; and when it again didn’t prosper, opinion again indicated a third attempt after May, 2007 remained on the table.
The consensus, as it existed, was: until you prove her guilt according to constitutionally-ordained means, she will stay until 2010 but not a day longer than her present term.
With the various avenues for constitutional change, the public has seemed willing to tolerate all of them, but only to a certain point. The so-called “people’s initiative” stumbled and fell under the weight of overwhelming official support but underwhelming public interest; it expired at the doorstep of the Supreme Court. Though there is talk that that the dead may walk and sign again.
Constituent Assembly rumbled on for over a year but provoked widespread opposition only when its first consequence clearly became the postponement and possible cancellation, of the May elections, and when the public finally came to grips with the fundamental attribute of parliamentary government, which is to deprive the electorate of having a direct say in the election of the chief executive. Congressmen wanted to avoid bothering with elections. The absence of even mitigating circumstances to provide the benefit of the doubt, is what Inquirer editorial for today focuses on to clarify precisely what caused public offense, and why. Ellen Tordesillas recounting a possible lapsus senilis last Monday only compounds matters.
And so here’s the difference: which is that the ones proving more obstinate in the face of public opinion are the administration and its allies. The very minimal standards of democratic adherence public opinion demands -don’t move around elections, let everyone say their piece even if you have the numbers to shut them up, accept it when you’ve lost and try better next time within the bounds of what public opinion permits- are being flouted by the administration, whether in the House, the Palace, or the provinces. If you resent the fact it makes someone like [insert the name of the opposition member you like to hate here] look like a democratic hero, you have no one to blame but the ruling coalition.
Therefore, if any national consensus exists, it isn’t along the lines of whether the constitution should be amended or what means should be followed, but instead, that there are certain non-negotiables that both administration and opposition are required to submit to: elections always, with a national vote for the chief executive; no abuse of the powers of numbers; no restrictions on debate and no short-cuts in procedures; no rushing; no going beyond the bounds of the democratic process. Period. For everyone.
If the unicameral option was being weighed in the past, I do believe opinion has hardened against it. This was understandable enough for those with memories of the Batasan Pambansa, but is significant considering many people today can’t remember that far back.
While I don’t think a majority consensus in favor of Federalism yet exists, I do think even those supportive of it have been disheartened by the manner in which Federalism was waved around by the President last year, but dropped in its constituent assembly gambit by those you’d think would have supported it, the members of the House. It just shows how far apart the priorities of the professional politicos and even their constituents, remains.
It’s also significant the President’s allies in the House are proclaiming the convention option dead (while pinning the blame on the Senate, of course) because the House and Palace both know that their Achilles heel remains the credibility of the Commission on Elections. If, for example, the May 2007 elections turn out to be marred by fraud, that will tar and feather those elected -including convention delegates. And if the manner in which the administration has attempted people’s initiative, and then constituent assembly (both valid methods except invalidated by the means used to accomplish them), a convention composed of delegates whose election is in doubt, would be dead before it could even begin its work.
Which would close off every possible option for regime survival, and extension.
Last night, on Pia Hontiveros’ show, Palace functionaries apparently proposed joining the Sunday rally, which not only boggled the minds of those planning to go, but raised the temperature again. And so, the Palace is pleading for the rally not to push through. I think it will achieve the opposite -convince people to attend, anyway. Ahead of Manila will come the Negrenses who will dispel Rep. Nograles’ assertion that if anyone is upset, it’s only people in Metro Manila. Read the Visayas and Mindanao papers.
Let me restate some principles of People Power I believe have been proven over the past year, as I’ve mentioned in the blog in the past:
1. Those who were the targets of People Power in the past, cannot call for it in the future;
2. Those who benefited from People Power in the past, cannot deny it’s use by anyone else;
3. People Power is peaceful, and anyone who advocates violence can never call for it, or expect anyone to follow them;
4. People Power is led from the front, and not from the rear; leaders and followers march together otherwise it’s not People Power.
These explain, partially, to be sure, why after it was widely assumed that fatigue had set in, there are those prepared to march once more. But not all. Bong Austero, for example, remains less bothered by congressmen than he was by Renato Constantino, Jr.
The drive for constitutional change now rests solely on the proposal to append the election for constitutional convention representatives to the coming general elections in 2007. That these elections are happening (bar the ever-present possibility of a coup) has become academic. The only question we must now ask is whether or not we can have credible elections at that time.
Now would be a good time for those occupying the highest positions of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider resigning for the good of our country. It is, after all, clear beyond the shadow of a doubt they cannot facilitate elections without raising doubts about their partiality. Too many questions have been raised of their integrity by members of the Armed Forces, no less, who risked court martial for their claims. And while the content of the “Hello, Garci” tapes may arguably not be admissible in court, they have found too many believers who cannot be discounted entirely.
The chances of this development are admittedly slim. They should have resigned the first time the “Hello, Garci” tapes came out. The fact that they did not is clear proof they will hold on to their positions no matter what. It seems equally clear GMA will not rid us of them. Such a move would certainly place administration candidates at a disadvantage. And any disadvantage now for administration candidates could prove fatal in the coming elections given their current standings at the surveys. Thus, it is too early for us to be entirely happy with the current developments despite the fact a victory has been scored with the death of Cha-cha and Con-ass.