Earlier today, at around 10:51 am, radio station DZMM said that the Palace was set to issue a statement favoring Charter Change today. During the lunchtime news program of Tony Velasquez and Bernadette Sembrano, word is that the President, in a workshop this morning, directed government agencies, particularly the Department of the Interior and Local Governments and the Department of Budget and Management, to pursue Charter Change by 2009.
What will make this version of Charter Change different is that it will be focused on Federalism, an original component of the administration’s first Charter Change efforts, but eventually dropped in favor of a focus on a shift to the parliamentary system.
Whether this focus on Federalism is meant to muster local government support, and salve the wounded feelings of original Civil Society allies of the Palace, remains to be seen -just as whether this is an effort to put the President’s imprint on this version in contrast to the parliamentary focus of the Speaker who pushed for the previous effort: after all, having solved the President’s impeachment-related problem for 2007-2008, the Speaker is now dispensable (despite warnings from the Speaker that if he falls, she falls, which he said he told her in a one-on-one meeting Sec. Puno denies every happened; see also Datumanong drafted by Palace to replace JDV? But Newbsreak says, detente is the name of the game).
Anyway, here’s the news: Arroyo renews call for Charter change: Panel formed to draft federalism ‘roadmap’ by 2012. See also Arroyo revives Cha-Cha bid, forms federalism panel (the political opening, of course, would be, such a shift would require some sort of transitional government).
I’m inclined, for now, to treat this as a clumsy effort to deflect attention from the Palace’s dilemma over what to do with Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio. But it would be prudent to place the whole thing within the context of a problem identified in Chinese Money Meets Filipino Politics in Asia Sentinel:
With the president out by 2010, however, her hold may be waning as junior leaders look toward their political futures. There are allegations of other irregularities in Chinese deals and critics may find lots of material to throw at newspaper reporters in an effort to chip away at Arroyo’s credibility, despite the country’s solid economic performance in recent years.
Mon Casple in his blog, says the ruling coalition is also increasingly paranoid:
The real rift between the GMA and the JDV camp threatens the solidity of the ruling coalition–a coalition that weathered the political storm of the past three years.
This is compounded by a lot of factors: among them are the continued political challenges coming from the opposition, the inexorable deadline of the 2010 end-of-GMA-term, the wily play of the presidentiables, the US and Western concern over growing Chinese influence, health problems of key administration players, and the flexing of the military’s political clout.
These factors are leading to a growing perception of a lameduck GMA presidency. This may not yet be the case but it cannot anymore be denied that, if no decisive GMA policy decision on the political crisis is forthcoming, the perception will take hold and influence the decisions of the various key players.
Atty. Pulido’s impeachment complaint–however haphazard it may seem to many–acquires significance beyond its original assessment in the light of this current political reality. Considering the political nature of an impeachment process, a significant coalition of legislators in the lower House can seize and railroad the process (only 80 votes needed for impeachment). They can shortcut the process and give it to the Senate.
Such a possibility spooked Malacañang and hence its attempt to hold the line with the ruling coalition majority. It may entail more concessions to the JDV camp. On the other hand, it may also precipitate an ouster move on him. What is clear is the signs of nervousness (and suspicion) that everyone exhibits when looking at his or her neighbor in the coalition.
Shifting loyalties–such is the stuff of transitions and wind of political change.
As the political class’s attention increasingly focuses on 2010, the Palace has to find ways to keep itself relevant to the political class. An effective way is to keep everyone guessing what the President’s real intentions are concerning 2010 and one way is to keep local government officials and legislators coming back to the trough for regular fattening.
A news item like this one, seems innocent at first, Palace looks to add judiciary in Ledac, but becomes interesting in light of what the President is poised to do next year: enjoy the opportunity to appoint a new Civil Service Commissioner, new Commission on Audit Chairman, several Supreme Court justices, etc. An institutional means to circle the wagons over the next couple of years has just been floated.
Gov. Panlilio’s revelation last week was that after a Palace meeting, he was given half a million pesos in cash. Bulacan Gov. Jonjon Mendoza confirms the account of the Gov. of Pampanga. Their accounts go in the face of denials or conflicting testimony from everyone else who was at the same meeting. An earlier meeting involving congressmen, has led to conflicting accounts, too: Cash gift ‘standard’–House leader: This is when we’ve done something good, he says and Two more congressmen admit receiving Palace ‘cash gifts’. Now the congressional dole outs may have had impeachment immunization in mind (see GMA gets ‘immunized’) but the local government dole outs make sense not only with the baranggay elections but also Charter Change in mind, too.
Gov. Panlilio’s initial response was pastoral, not legal: to take the money and place it in the provincial treasury and use it for good works. But then he seems to have realized that what is pastoral (therefore, moral) is not necessarily legal. Also, considering he’s a reformist governor, it’s a political opening for his critics: Kampi mayor to Gov Ed: Why did you take the money?. So the Governor has said he intends to ask why he was given money without the required voucher, and if Palace can’t explain why he’ll return the money: Panlilio to Palace: Where did P500,000 come from?.
Meanwhile, Neda firm on keeping NBN papers. Konfrontasi with the Senate continues.
Even as Opposition plans to take impeach referral to SC, this is a sensible move: Opposition to boycott impeachment hearings. And this is a long-overdue reform: Noynoy eyes 3-strike rule vs Cabinet appointments.
Senator Joker Arroyo vigorously justified himself in a piece he demanded be published, and his opinions are shared by Philippine Commentary while criticized by last Sunday’s Inquirer editorial and in a commentary by Amando Doronila today.
In his column, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ discusses what an impeachment is and isn’t:
The whole point of the impeachment process is to save the nation from one who does not deserve to be in office. It is not meant to be an instrument of punishment. Punishment can follow in a criminal proceeding if impeachment succeeds or when the official concerned leaves office.
The constitutional rules for impeachment, however, can be manipulated to make the process achieve the precise opposite of its purpose. It can be manipulated to shield an official from a serious impeachment complaint for one year. And this is easily done. All that is needed is one member of the House who is willing to file or endorse a flimsy complaint. This is what all the current brouhaha is about.
(See Philippine Politics 04 for related materials on impeachment and the Supreme Court’s definition of when a complaint gets initiated.)
Justice Isagani Cruz tackles executive privilege.
Randy David says the legal system hasn’t caught up with public opinion:
Thank heavens not everyone hangs by the thread of unresolved legal issues. In the meantime, there are political closures. The fact that GMA or her husband has not been charged or found guilty of any crime does not negate the certainty that the majority of Filipinos have closed the political book on her. Her consistently negative approval ratings in recent surveys attest to this. The rejection of most of her candidates in the last senatorial election shows this in no uncertain terms. The stunning election to the Senate of the detained young military officer Antonio Trillanes IV, accused of leading a mutiny against her government, confirms this closure. Ms Arroyo governs on the sufferance of a nation still recovering from past upheavals. Everyone awaits her last days in the presidency.
There are moral closures too. No one today, not even its most rabid supporters, thinks of this administration as an emblem of good government or of ethical leadership. Those who still see politics as a contest between the forces of good and evil are in no doubt at all as to which side Ms Arroyo is aligned with. No other administration has been as brazen as this one in giving cash to legislators, election inspectors and bishops.
And there are social closures. After Marcos, no other head of government has earned the resolute distrust of the citizenry as much as GMA. Again, survey after survey expresses this. More than at any other time, distrust permeates the whole political system today because of the way she has run the government. She ought to listen to how ordinary folk talk about her on AM radio. She may not sense this now, but it will be difficult for her not to notice it when she finally leaves public office. She will receive none of the lingering affection and awe that Cory and Erap continue to bask in when they are among ordinary people. No one with any hope of winning will want to be associated with her in any future election. That is social closure.
A truly outstanding entry in Ricelander’s blog, on the relationship between politics, politicians, and issues: read the whole thing.