Looming Constitutional crisis

The Philippine Star reports the President has agreed to elect a parliament in 2007, after the new Constitution is ratified next year (the blogosphere scoop for this story, apparently, belongs to News Boy). No ifs and buts about it. This means, if it’s true, that after saber-rattling aimed at former president Ramos, perhaps the Palace has decided to cave in. It also means: no impeachment next year. It also means, unless the Senate suddenly caves in, a constitutional crisis as the House will attempt to ram through amendments on its own: the scuttlebutt is, the Constitutional Consultative Commission will submit its proposals to Congress in January; Speaker de Venecia will declare that Congress (specifically, the House of Representatives) is now a Constituent Assembly; the Senate will protest; amendments will be introduced anyway; the Speaker will bring the issue to the Supreme Court… Now how the Supreme Court would vote is another question: but this looming Constitutional crisis is something the lawyers should be preparing for, I think.

The way to derail the de Venecia plan would be to push the candidacy of Rep. Prospero Pichay, but if the Star story has it right, Ramos and de Venecia have had some sort of showdown with the President, and she blinked. Then again, Sun-Sar Cebu reports that some congressmen still think the Speaker should watch his back.

On the other hand, the Daily Tribune goes to town (as it usually does) with a supposed administration security briefing document that outlines the following scenarios:

(1) resignation; (2) leave of office; (3) national government of solidarity, with subheads of “power sharing” which would “also dissipate the credibility of the opposition;” (4) creeping governance, and (5) revolt from within.

(Wonder what a “revolt from within” means? Read my entry on the idea of an autogolpe: you’d think the Palace people read my blog!)

Divide and Conquer, essentially, is what Manila Times columnist (and ABS-CBN Interactive Editor-in-Chief) Dan Mariano says is the Palace strategy with respect to the President’s using Philippine Daily Inquirer Mon Tulfo as a blunt weapon against ABS-CBN:

If Mrs. Arroyo believes that Babao had compromised national security or otherwise violated the law, shouldn’t she have ordered her underlings to initiate legal proceedings against the TV reporter?

Instead, she served up raw intelligence—that other quarters would have quickly dismissed as unverified chismis—to spice up a lunch date with a columnist.

Neither the Inquirer nor ABS-CBN can be described as sympathetic to the Arroyo administration. Were the “disturbing” allegations against one of the network’s reporters, which the PDI bannered, part of an attempt to split the ranks of the free media?

Incidentally, Mariano points to Newsstand’s take on the issue. As Newsstand puts it,

It is “very disturbing” that an intel report can go all the way up the chain of command powered by nothing more than a sighting and a charge of speculation. It is “very disturbing” that the commander-in-chief raises the issue of media collusion with alleged terrorists using nothing more than a flimsy report. Above all, it is “very disturbing” that, to appropriate the unfortunate terms Danga himself used, the Palace now seems ready, using nothing more than a single, speculative source, to provoke that “confrontation” with the media.

The President, Mon Tulfo, Julius Babao, the Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and finally Dan Mariano and Jon Neri: politics meets media, which in turn has old media embracing the new.

There’s more: ABS-CBN got into trouble again for reporting that the Secretary of Justice received information that Gen. Voltaire Gazmin, head of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during President Aquino’s time, had approached the PSG recently with an eye to causing trouble. One faithful reader of this blog (see his comment) felt ABS-CBN had been caught with its pants down peddling an outright lie; but then comes this story in the Manila Times:

“I never named anyone, I am surprised to hear that report,” Gonzalez said in an interview on ANC’s Dateline new program. “It’s unfair to me and unfair to the person.”

Gonzalez’s denial came after abs-cbnNEWS.com reported a former PSG official who was allegedly linked to the recruitment of the President’s guards. The report was based on an interview Gonzalez had with DZMM on Tuesday morning.

Although he mentioned a certain “General Gazmin,” Gon zalez said he could not confirm information about former military generals being linked to destabilization efforts against the President.

“I cannot make that confirmation, because my information is raw,” he said.

So what the Secretary of Justice basically said was that he heard something, but the information was “raw,” but at the same time nothing new, so he says what he said is something he has been saying all along, though he doesn’t say it’s Gospel truth… But if the PSG says they’re clean, then he’s happy, but still insists he;s right:

Brig. Gen. Delfin Bangit, PSG chief, had denied Gonzalez’s statement. He said none of the PSG men had been approached by any opposition member.

Gonzalez praised the statement of the PSG.

“That is a good indication. But I don’t agree that no attempts [will be made to recruit from the PSG], because we know that the retired officials who oppose the President are really trying to influence [the military],” he said.

Mindanao and Old Suspicions is my Arab News column for this week. The punditocracy has the Inquirer editorial (taking its cue from this article) taking the President’s family to task for trying to evade land reform. Michael Tan has a charming column on Filipino burial and funeral practices. Greg Macabenta muses on the difficulties of being an overseas voter.

The blogosphere has Jove Francisco recounting the President’s visit to the cemetery; an englishman in osaka is surprised by a phallic air freshener. Washington Note tackles the crumbling of Senate Republicans and the rising star of the Senate Democrats.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

6 thoughts on “Looming Constitutional crisis

  1. Read that news too about elections in 2007 but it also said that GMA would serve out the remainder of her questioned term until 2010. People want her out but we’re getting a parliamentary form of government instead, perhaps composed of the same type and quality of people that Congress have now. If the impeachment proceeding is any indication, alam mo na kung ano’ng pupuntahan… tsk tsk tsk. As for Ramos and JDV, one of these days, for all their wiliness, GMA will just get the better of them and they will have nobody to blame but their failing instinct.

  2. That is the problem w/ ABS since they wanna be first in the news they tend to invent news at times.I was watching that when it happened.Maybe ANC is a 24/7 news station but credibility does not come w/ it.when I wanna be sure of an item I wait for it come out also on seven.

  3. More than just speculating forever,it seems to me that we must really concentrate on our economy.The peso appears to be doing better & it will surely lighten in no matter what small way our pump prices of fuel.What I’m after is that PGMA can put in place important economic reforms that will help the country in the long run.I think we must make an effort to bring down the political noise.I’m sure that as the economy improves jobs can be generated to ease the burden of the poor.At least the vat law is now in effect.It’s a bitter medicine for us all but it’s also a move that will show the wourld we are serious people & not just a bunch of democratic romantics.

  4. Dear Manolo, you wrote in your Arab news column “While today’s Muslim leaders have no nostalgia for the days of American rule, Filipinos in Manila continue to harbor historical suspicions indeed.” No they do and I do not refer to leaders to get themselves on the headlines in local or national dailies. But leaders at the community level. Way back a decade or so ago I interviewed an old fellow — well respected in his community — who, when told by his grandchild that I was a Visayan studying who was a PhD candidate in an American university promptly asked me: “Ah, when will Datuk Wood come back to liberate us from the Filipinos.” He was a kid when the US army left Cotabato with the promise that they would come back to help keep Moro Mindanao out of the hands of Filipinos. Manilenos and Mindanao scholars who want to embed the “Moro struggle” into their anti-American narrative will of course ignore such episodes. But the fact was a few years after Bud Bagsak and Bud Dajo, Muslim communities were able to find a way to live with the American army because the latter shared their aversion towards their former slaves from the north.

  5. zach: i doubt it.

    jojo: very interesting, and it validates what actually happened, but I avoided it as I didn’t want to speak for the Moros.

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