My column yesterday was Christmas tragedies. Read Tony Abaya’s column Consuelo’s Stimulus where he says the real economic hammer blow’s going to be on the electronics exports sector, and he calls for scrutiny of public spending. See also Lito Banayo’s column, Gloom. For the global situation, see 8 really, really scary predictions in Fortune. And the administration, besides embarking on borrowing money at a time when people aren’t inclined to lend (for its stimulus package, and here the ongoing investigation of the Fertilizer Scam is extremely relevant), is frittering away its remaining political capital on Charter Change.
Let my put forward two concepts I’d like to return to, in the near future: “Honest Graft” vs. “Booty Capitalism”. The American Tammany Hall politician George Washington Plunkitt called it Honest Graft: to my mind, this was the model for Filipino politicians during the American era. What followed, the innovation under Ferdinand Marcos two generations later, was what has come to be called Booty Capitalism. A column by Clarence Henderson back in 2001 put it all in the context of Philippine business. This topic comes to mind as the President’s poised to go off to Qatar, as part of her (and every president’s need to conduct economic diplomacy) but piqued my interest because there’s also news of the plans of San Miguel Corporation to aggressively expand in the power and energy sectors and telecoms, too (tie this in with Transco’s privatization, and the ability of power lines to carry data, as well as provisions existing in infrastructure such as the MRT to carry data through the power lines) and how this can all be aided or hindered depending on the attitude of the administration to such potential investments and expansions. It seems the two groups poised to establish a strong presence in the power industry are the Aboitz and San Miguel groups, squeezing out the Lopezes (and here, an interesting alliance is in the making between Roberto Ongpin and Eduardo Cojuangco’s interests).
The President’s husband, for his part, is in hot water in the United States, according to the scuttlebutt, fueling even greater speculation on the various firms in which they’re alleged to have pecuniary interests (an “A List” that includes everything it seems from Chevron to Ashmore. See Why was there no Mike in Manny’s fight? and Diarrhea in the Air and FG’s costly bout with diarrhea . And then tie this in with Charter Change, where there was also talk that the President’s sons have been courting first term congressmen to hop onto the Charter Change bandwagon.
Meanwhile, as the President’s preparing to go overseas, in Makati City, the protest rally versus the House’s moves to propose amendments is set to take place today. While being portrayed as the showdown, or, as Doronila puts it, a test of the remaining viability of People Power, it may be more realistic, as Ellen Tordesillas points out, to view the Makati protest today as the “opening salvo” in what may have to be a sustained confrontation. The timeline for forcing through Constitutional amendments stretches into the first quarter of next year, at a minimum.
You cannot find a more eloquent explanation of why it matters to go to Makati City today, than what caffeinesparks has written in her blog.
Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, however, said it would be best for the House to sit down with senators to discuss convening a Constitutional Convention (Con-con) because the upper House has declared its openness to it. “We’re banging our heads to the wall,” he told the committee on constitutional amendments. “If we have our own way, our own separate way, we’ll get nowhere.” The committee, chaired by La Union Representative Victor Ortega, has already decided to suspend deliberations on Speaker Prospero Nograles’s House Resolution 737, which seeks to allow foreigners and foreign corporations and associations to own land. “Next week, we’ll vote on what committee thinks and whether to have amendments or not,” Ortega said after the panel wrangled on which mode should be adopted in proposing the amendments.
Or then again Ortega could simply be tipping the ruling coalition’s strategy, and thus, Puno might just be telling the truth. Veteran newsman Ding Gagelonia in fact thinks the Palace is poised to push forward a Convention -but before 2010, and possibly appointive in composition, as trial ballooned by the President’s personal lawyer and possible Supreme Court nominee, Romulo Macalintal- and indeed, according to the Star (December 6), the President’s pet party has it all planned out:
Kampi spokesman Jose Solis told The STAR in an interview the other day that the installation of the chief justice would be done once they succeed in amending the Charter through a Constituent Assembly, which he said is just 14 votes short of the needed approval to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly. “If the people will approve the shift of the parliamentary system during the 2010 elections, the chief justice may act as the head of state because by that time the term of President Arroyo will already expire,” he said. He said the Chief Justice may sit as the head of the head and may call for a general election for the new members of Parliament. “Within three months the chief justice may call the election for the members of Parliament and once convened they can elect the Prime Minister,” Solis said. He said however that the installation of the Chief Justice is only among the options they will tackle once they convene into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. Solis said as of Friday they have already gathered 173 signatures but their political game plan may be derailed after Speaker Prospero Nograles announced his full support to Constitutional Convention as the mode to amend the Constitution.
Note: the above includes scenarios and a situation that most definitely goes beyond merely amending the existing Constitutional provisions on land ownership and foreign participation in businesses. Another factor to consider is the wrangling within the ruling coalition might also include jockeying for advantages for particular leaders. Rep. Villafuerte, for one, is widely seen to want the Speakership very badly, and that there is a corresponding move to offer the current Speaker, Nograles, a seat in the Supreme Court as a face saving way out of office. For those interested in the legal niceties of the whole issue, the report in the Sun Star puts forward the constitutional interpretation of the President’s pet party:
Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte bared this recently, anchoring his arguments on his interpretation of the intent of Article 17, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.” He believed that so long as the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote is met, it is enough to start the process of proposing amendments because the Constitution does not mention the words “House” and “Senate” and merely states “Congress.” “It is not the institutional representation that they make. It is as members of Congress, because in proposing amendments or revisions, the Senate and the House, as an institution, cannot act as members of Congress in that context,” Villafuerte, proponent of the resolution calling for Congress to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) to propose changes in the Charter, said. He also admitted that his interpretation would be enough to force the Supreme Court (SC) to finally rule on the issue of whether Congress should vote jointly or separately in proposing amendments. According to him, the Constitution clearly delineates Congress’ legislative ordinary function from its power to amend or revise the Constitution and therefore, there is no need to seek the Senate’s concurrence if it does not want to participate. Villafuerte, however, told Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez, who engaged him in a plenary debate Monday night that “it will require the participation of the Senate, if they are so willing to participate.” “But what if they (senators) do not (agree to Con-ass)?” Golez asked to which Villafuerte replied, “We should not impel the concept of three-fourths of all the members of Congress.” He added that when it comes to amending or revising the Constitution, there is no institutional participation. “It is the participation of congressmen and senators acting as members of Congress for the purpose of exercising not a legislative power as in the bicameral system but in exercising a constituent power for proposes of amending the Constitution.” Villafuerte said the framers of the 1987 Constitution adopted a procedure, which “conforms to a unicameral system but adopted in a bicameral system.” Golez, who is also the spokesman for the House minority, said by forcing his issue, Villafuerte was offering a “very creative interpretation of the Constitution.” “That to me is quite shocking,” he said. “Because when we speak of constitutional change by Congress, we are talking of institutional intervention, not individual intervention.” “This is very misleading,” Golez said to which Villafuerte replied, “The word whole is equivalent to the word all just to distinguish from voting separately and as a whole.” Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, however, said it would be best for the House to sit down with senators to discuss convening a Constitutional Convention (Con-con) because the upper House has declared its openness to it.