The day after

The dissection of the President’s State of the Nation address is well underway.

The biggest thing about the President’s speech is that it marked the end of the Arroyo presidency as it once wanted to be; it marks the end of an effort to provide ideological underpinnings to her administration. The dream of a Strong Republic, one that I felt had great merit, but which scholars such as Jojo Abinales believes the President never fully understood, and thus never enthusiastically backed, is well and truly dead. Her speech marks the end of what every president dreams of: a period during which one builds a legacy, and makes a mark on history. Yesterday, the efforts of President Arroyo to define her term by her own standards gave way to the desire of the political class to redefine and redraw the rules of the game, to insulate themselves from what they fear most: a public and people turned immature, incoherent, undiscerning and indiscriminate by their leaders’ failure to make life better for the people. She no longer leads, she merely goes along with the wishes of the party machine. Newsstand calls it a hollow victory.

Overlooked has been Jose de Venecia’s original inclinations toward the French model, which even he has apparently dropped in favor of a purely parliamentary state of affairs: as he said during one of his long, rambling interviews before the President’s speech, “we will have five year terms! no more elections every two, three years!”

For me: Federalism, yes! Indeed, it seems to me Federalism is the one and only suggestion really cheered by both the politicians and the public, at least those present in the Batasan. It is the one idea that many on both sides of the political aisle find meritorious.

Personally, I believe we cannot abandon the presidency: the reason the presidency has failed in recent years is because the present Constitution fails to provide a mechanism for candidates to receive solid, and unquestionable, majorities instead of pluralities. We are not a pluralistic culture. We only respect numbers, and overwhelming numbers, at that. No president has managed a majority since 1969 (even Cory Aquino’s assumption of power required a revolution). We have lacked leaders with a solid national mandate for 36 years.

Federalism gives to the provinces a greater control over their destiny, and reduces the scope of a national government increasingly unprepared and ill-equipped to respond to local needs in a timely manner. A president under a Federal system would have his duties restricted to foreign affairs, national defense, world trade and inter-state commerce and regulation. That is more than enough, and it is less that what presidents must attend to, now. These things, incidentally, are what presidents like to attend to, anyway. Federalism could limit the expenses for an upper house, by reestablishing the regional basis for senate seats, as practiced from 1916-1935. Again, this is due to my personal view that people like having a bicameral legislature, because they instinctively prefer some sort of balance; but I don’t think people would object to the secretaries or ministers of state coming from the lower house (which is something our politicians dearly wish, and which is born out by the presidential habit of plucking out appointees from the legislature, anyway).

In the pundit roundup in the papers, and in the blogosphere, we have:

Concerning the State of the Nation, Godofredo Roperos says the fact the government is still working is the most important news of all; Expectorants delivers his own State of the Nation prescription; PCIJ reports few surprises in the President’s speech; Unlawyer remarks the President’s closing slogan sounded a lot like Marcos’s New Society slogan; Jove gives a fascinating roundup on his network’s stories on the true state of the nation, as well as background on the speech itself (Rigoberto Tiglao told me last night at ANC that “the President wrote most of it,” which was the party line on such speeches in the past); Punzi was not amused by the cheering; Howie Severino focuses on the floral and botanical symbolism of the event; Edwin Lacierda call’s the President’s proposals a Hobson’s choice (an apparently free choice that is no choice at all); Miron usefully provides links to yesterday’s other important speeches, the Speaker’s and the Senate President’s, and says the speech worked in setting the agenda; 2T says the mountains labored, and brought forth, a mouse; Gari takes a look at the speech from the point of view of an activist; Newsstand finds its language quite tentative.

When it comes to impeachment, the Inquirer editorial comes out strongly in favor of it; Patricio Diaz is in favor of it, too; Bel Cunanan takes a dim view of the impeachment complaint; Dong Puno says the President’s legitimacy has to be resolved; Paeng is unhappy over the way Federalism has become joined at the hip to the President.

Elsewhere, Connie Veneracion opines on the Filipino family and politics; Juan Mercado complains of too many people wanting to save us; Alex Magno points out something the President hinted at in her speech: the efforts of Jose de Venecia to secure debt relief. As Magno explains,

Already, the de Venecia proposal has earned the endorsement of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The prime minister indicated that his government will support the proposed debt conversion scheme once it is brought before the Paris Club.

The essential element of the de Venecia proposal is the conversion of 50 percent of the outstanding debt of the 100 highly indebted countries into a financing program for MDG projects in the developing world. Instead of an outflow of debt service funds from the developing countries, the equivalent amount will be converted into equity in MDG-related instruments. The creditor banks and governments will own the equity resulting from the conversion – although the developing countries, when they can afford it, could buy back the invested equity.

The fund will be used for reforestation, mass housing, irrigation and post-harvest facilities, hospitals and health care programs, schools and computers, clean water projects, infrastructure, ecotourism and other wealth creating projects such as mining, land reclamation and the development of natural resources.

Republika, which seems a promising new blog, takes a look at blogging; And in the comic(s) relief department, check out Bulletproof Vest’s GMA Komiks.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

29 thoughts on “The day after

  1. MLQ3,

    A question: do you think that the senate will go along with a quick (i.e., within a year, according to FVR’s plan) transition to a parliamentary system? It seems that their positions will be eliminated altogether.

    Since many of the senators don’t have a ‘local’ constituency, going along with a parliamentary system where all the elections are local or regional, would mean political suicide. To gain a seat, they would have to campaign against current representatives with a strong local or regional following.

  2. GMA is in a kingmaker scenario and she choose to support the cause of the politicians who aided her during the crisis.

    During these times Ambrose Pierce said it adequately well.

    “REVOLUTION, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. . . . the substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the people were advanced a full half-inch.”

  3. mlq3 says “The biggest thing about the President’s speech is that it marked the end of the Arroyo presidency as it once wanted to be”. I agree, I think she knows she is mortally wounded (“dead meat” as Atty. Ong would say) and is looking for a graceful way out. And if offering Federalism and a parliamentary form of government is her ticket to a graceful exit, my reply would be: “Godspeed!”.

    mlq3’s views on Federalism and a bicameral system, with the Senate elected by regions, are very interesting. He makes very perceptive points.

    In the end, I wonder if this will just be much ado about nothing. The senate seems to be a tough nut to crack on charter change, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. I saw Ping Lacson say on TV that he favored a parliamentary and federal system, but not one initiated by GMA. I know Nene Pimentel has championed Federalism for a long time. However, I doubt whether he would go along with GMA either. Chris Chan makes valid observations regarding those without a local constituency. It would take, as they say, a lot of heavy lifting to budge all these immovable objects. But who knows? Joe de Venecia is one heck of a consensus builder. He may come up with some miracles.

    mlq3 – What’s your head count in the Senate regarding charter ammendments?

    In the meantime, I’m glad the SONA is behind us. We hope for some respite from all the political noise. The next episode should come when the Supreme Court decides on the EVAT.

  4. I like this Flavier fellow you should have watch his interview about charter change. He is cool and included to coolest senator in my book

  5. mlq3, i agree that pgma was not able to weigh in the “strong republic’ ideology under her administration. forgot that she’s governing a weak state after all. obviously, she blinks and was not able to substantiate her call. with the recent development, it has now become obvious that her understanding of a strong republic has become a sloganeering effort. 🙂

    juned, can she be the “queen-maker” rather that a “king-maker”? he he he.

    carl, we can’t be complacent that she will just simply go. i believe that gma, given her character right now, will not just simply go for a graceful exit. i believe, she’s just buying some time para makaresbak. it’s the same strategy she employs the last time when he said that” she won’t run in 2004 election , then the situation becomes a little bit stable, then announce she will run as president as a supreme sacrifice. hehehehe. i think, the lady will fight all the way down if she intends to go down.

    as of last count, 3 senators are willing to support gma call…i heard miriam reiterates it’s “underwear” sound bites on changing the charter.

    what is so pathetic is hearing jinggoy telling: ginang arroyo, ikaw ang problema at hindi ang saligang batas. HUWAG MONG SISIHIN ANG SISTEMA.

    sabi nga namin: SISTEMA ANG PROBLEMA.

    the political noise is not yet over. more to come. as everyone is trying to consolidate and hold their grounds. he he he.

    more to go.

  6. Gari,
    I seriously doubt that…most of the thunder has passed. Even the opposition is now focusing on a “creeping” impeachment – whatever that is. At least they’re getting creative for a change.

  7. mitams, yeah at this conjuncture they are creeping the impeachment…although, some of the opposition is waging a parrallel action. the thunder might have passed but still am waiting for the lightning to strike. he he he

    juned, oo nga…she can go in anyway she wants but hope what i/we wants can contribute in saying adieu…

    masha, sabi nga rin ni archbishop vidal and rosales, HINDI LANG ang tao ang problema. kahit ga-prinsipyo ang mga taong nasa loob ng sistema, they will be eroded by the prevailing values system within. anyway, a good system needs a good people. 🙂

  8. chris: recall that each senator has a constituency of millions, vaguely organized though they may be, and that has to count for something in contrast to the congressmen. personally, i suspect there’s public support for the senate, just as there’s public preference for a presidency. i don’t see how the senate could go along with unicameralism. federalism, maybe. parliamentarism, possibly, since many parliaments are bicameral.

  9. I think we need a bicameral parliament with an upper house elected nationally. This is to counter whatever shenanigans that the lower house can do. That is, if the people can elect better people for it (with the current crop of senators that we have, well…..).

    As we always say in computer science, a problem within a subsystem can affect the entire system, but it doesn’t mean that the entire system should be changed just because there’s something wrong with a subsystem.

  10. I vehemently disagree with your statement that the people prefer a bicameral congress over a unicameral one. In our two constitutions that were written by Con-Con delegates (ergo, elected individuals): 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, both versions of the constitution called for a unicameral legislature.

    The Constitutional changes that created the Senate were done outside the Con con process. The ’35 Constitution was modified by your grandfather in 1940 to let him run again, and part of his reforms was to add a senate that is elected by the entire country. (Is there any other country where you get the ‘top 12’ people elected at large to become legislators?) The current 1987 consti was written by Cory appointments.

  11. Rogelio: in 1935, the decision to go unicameral was pretty close, but it’s a sign of how bicameralism was attractive enough an idea, that in order to sell the idea of two terms instead of one, the sweetener was the senate. definitely you could say, that just as unicameralism was attractive to the framers of the 1935 charter, bicameralism was attractive enough to be approved by plebiscite in 1940 and in toto with the constitution of 1987, however it was written. 1973 is a peculiar case, because what might have been the real intent of the framers was set aside by the marcos draft. note that there were genuine fears on marcos’s part that a plebiscite would have led to an unprecedented rejection of the 1973 charter, which is why he rushed the people’s assembly method, to get the charter approved -and before Congress could convene a session to challenge martial law.

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