Newsbreak reports that Virgilio Garcillano’s closest associates have been promoted and now enjoy increased authority in the Commission on Elections.
Courtesy of Publius Pundit comes news of Freedom House’s latest rankings of the freedoms of nations around the world. While the country’s rating (“partly free”) remains unchanged from last year, our levels of freedom, according to the group, show a “modest but ominous” decline, and thus represent a “Downward trend arrow due to a spate of political killings specifically targeting leftwing political activists”. The report says,
Although the factors contributing to freedom’s decline in the region varied from country to country, ethnic and religious division stood out as a major problem in some countries – Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Fiji – and a potential source of discontent in others, including Indonesia, which retained its designation as Free. Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of the year’s developments is the fact that three countries previously considered showcases of Asian freedom – Thailand, the Philippines, and East Timor – experienced considerable setbacks.
Yesterday, Philippine Commentary took a look at my Thursday column and reiterates his argument that People Power is harmful to democracy. He and I have argued this point many times, in our respective blogs and in person, and continue to agree to disagree. But let me reiterate and revisit some points about People Power, and in particular its last manifestation, Edsa Dos.
Countries that were born of revolutions have the burden of either succumbing to a permanent state of revolution, or of finding ways to establish a regime that makes future revolutions impossible. But even efforts to make revolutions impractical, impossible, and illegal, can only be temporary, however long the duration. The United States is an example of a country born of a revolution (1776), that changed its basic law soon after establishing itself (the present Federal constitution of 1789 that replaced the previous Articles of Confederation), that reinvented itself in the wake of a Civil War, and again in the face of economic collapse (during the Great Depression) and again in the face of civil strife (The Great Society of the 1960’s). The Bonus Marchers of the 1920s and the Civil Rights campaigners of the 1960s and Anti War protesters of recent years all exercised a limited kind of People Power.
When American officials were skeptical over the Filipino desire for independence, a great demonstration was held in Manila unmatched in numbers until Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983: the invocation was made by Jorge Bocobo. It was a kind of People Power, too. And People Power as a political concept was developed through the “parliament of the streets” in the pre- and post-Ninoy assassination period. The result was People Power as we presently understand it: a non-violent effort at regime change.
That change was accomplished in 1986, totally, and partially in 2001. The problem to my mind is that what took place in 2001 was not allowed to reach its logical conclusion: which was the fall of the existing constitutional order. With Marcos’s fall in 1986 came the fall of the constitutional order he’d manufactured; with Estrada’s fall should have come the fall of the constitutional order born in 1987 but which had failed by the impeachment walkout.
Instead -and this is where Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino and so on will end up being judged by posterity- the great division between the ranks of the Center and the Left, with the Center preferring a constitutional handover (what Philippine Commentary calls a coup d’etat) and the Left and Left-leaning preferring a march on the presidential palace, resulted in the Supreme Court intervening.
As Philippine Commentary correctly points out, the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the Chief Justice to troop to the Edsa Shrine to swear in the Vice-President, means that it cannot properly judge subsequent cases against Joseph Estrada. Worse, it complicated the issue -irredeemably so, it would seem- by inventing a new way for the presidency to be vacated (“constructive resignation”). What Philippine Commentary overlooks is how the people of Estrada himself made the invention possible, by shrouding Estrada’s departure from the palace in as much ambiguity as possible.
We cannot tell if those whom I witnessed march on the Palace on that January day, would have forced Estrada to bow to public pressure and explicitly resign, or if there would have been a bloodbath and perhaps the first lynching of a president in our history; or if the middle forces at the Edsa Shrine would have melted away soon after or even if both anti-Estrada forces would have reunited for a protracted campaign, or if reinforcements from the provinces would have arrived, to plunge the country into Civil War. All we know is that these possibilities entered the minds of Cory, the Cardinal, the Chief Justice, even the military, with or without whispering from the Wormtongues in the then-Vice President’s camp.
What we have had is a classic case of old laws and legal points of view being unable to keep up with how a society and its values have changed over time. The other day on my show I pointed out the following:
The Nuremberg, Tokyo, and Manila war crimes trials all led to the widespread adoption of the principle that an order, even if legal, should not be followed if it contravenes morality. For example, German and Japanese officers and officials were sentenced to be hanged because their argument that they “were just following orders” was not a valid defense for their crimes. [And yet] Art. 231 of our own penal code sounds as if it could have been written by the Nazis: as long as a superior issues an order “with all the legal formalities,” it must be obeyed by an inferior official. This is the sort of rigid requirement of law that led to martial law with all its trappings of “presidential decrees” and “letters of instruction.”
(the above refers to Article 231, Book 2, Chapter 6, of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:
Art. 231. Open disobedience. – Any judicial or executive officer who shall openly refuse to execute the judgment, decision or order of any superior authority made within the scope of the jurisdiction of the latter and issued with all the legal formalities, shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period, temporary special disqualification in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos.
(But makes me wonder about Article 234,
Art. 234. Refusal to discharge elective office. - The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who, having been elected by popular election to a public office, shall refuse without legal motive to be sworn in or to discharge the duties of said office.
Which was the article that got me thinking about the Revised Penal Code in the first place some years back.Sadly, the links dating back to 2004 seem out of date; I’m sad the Today editorial quoting my column has vanished into the electronic ether; hopefully the new comprehensive list of each Inquirer columnist’s columns will solve the problem of vanishing online copies of columns).)
Anyway, now we have our fire-breathing Secretary of the Interior now saying, resistance is futile, as it can get local officials prosecuted for that old-fashioned colonial crime, Sedition. Talk about handing your opponents a campaign issue on a silver platter!
Iloilo City Boy takes up the cudgels for a Third Force in a very persuasive manner. But he ignores the storming of the provincial capitol, which risks transforming the fight in the region into an admin vs. opposition fight. Drilon vs. Gonzales will already imbue a local race with national characteristics; Manila ordering policemen to break down the door of the provincial capitol ahead of a deadline for the courts to intervene, makes things worse. I wouldn’t underestimate the effect images like the police storming of the Iloilo capitol can cause (see Rasheed Abou-Alsamh’s take on it; see Marichu Villanueva who points out Tupas is an ally of Drilon).
I think then, it would be a mistake to attribute all opposition, or reservations, to the idea to “pro” Estrada or “pro” Arroyo people. Even the list he mentions isn’t very different from what the traditional opposition has so far announced. Second of all, a third force would be hard put to run a full slate, anyway. Third, my approach is based on asking these questions:
1. Which slate would at least view impeachment with an open mind, or if with a closed one, then at least in favor of a more democratic attitude, which is, to impeach?
2. Which slate would have an interest in defending the rights of the Senate (and the constituency it represents), in the face of uncooperation, hostility, etc. from the executive?
3. Which slate would be in a good position to derail any future mischief concerning the constitution?
Obviously, on all three counts, any administration slate would be disqualified: it would acquit the President at all costs, if there was an impeachment. It would roll over, die, or wag its tail in the face of executive efforts to ignore the Senate or bend it to its will; and it would participate gladly in efforts to amend the Constitution to build a one-party, unicameral, parliament.
The minimum political consideration is, the country has to be assured of 8 pro-impeachment or genuinely open to impeachment votes in the Senate in addition to the 8 already there. It’s up to the voter to then form a slate out of whoever’s put forward by the existing opposition, or a future third force. But I for one, will not get in the way of the opposition raising its issues against the administration, while we wait for a third force to be put together, announced, and then evaluated by the voters.
The problems faced by Edgardo Angara indicates the primary problem with the Third Force concept until and unless a proper slate is announced: no politician can exist in a vacuum, and the public, for one, essentially views the senate elections in referendum terms. Angara is unacceptable to the traditional opposition; he knows, however, that running under the auspices of the Palace is a political kiss of death; yet if he ran independently it would have to be under circumstances that won’t doom him as an agent of the Palace to subvert the opposition. How could Angara achieve that? Only if an over-all respectable Third Force slate were announced -not before.
Amando Doronila makes a Fearless Forecast and says the elections will prove more of the same -a continuing stalemate, with neither side achieving the edge they so crave. Others, like JB Baylon, who has a radio show, have begun informal straw polls to get the public pulse.
Food for thought by way of the man who coined the phrase and concept, Global Nation, Joey Alarilla, on how Filipino bloggers may mark their best year yet; Convergent Journalism shares his thoughts on the difficulties faced by reporters who blog.
I had the pleasure of meeting Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi last April during a SEAPA conference on “Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace” held in Manila. Now there’s news he’s been slapped with a defamation suit by a Malaysian newspaper. He’s a dedicated and very nice guy. So, by way of expressing solidarity in his time of adversity, as he himself says, Good night and Good Luck, Jeff.