The scuttlebutt today, concerns NGO sources confirm the gearing-up of the Palace effort to push forward Constitutional amendments. The preparations are being done stealthily, which is why no concrete confirmation can be obtained. But what is being said is disturbing enough but not so stealthily that a plausible explanation can’t be made later on: for example, in Makati, a banner was spotted announcing a “barangay meeting” for Saturday, but no information on the banner as to what the meeting’s about.
A. On Saturday, it is expected that the President will announce that she is calling for synchronized, nationwide, Barangay assemblies to approve Charter change -and that those assemblies will instantly convene and pass whatever resolutions are required. The questions to be propounded or resolutions to be asked for might include support for unicameralism. The Department of the Interior and Local Government will take charge of the effort. I have received from one person in Quezon City that in the case of their barangay, the assembly will be on Sunday, March 26, at 9 am (as noted above, the sign in Makati says Saturday, so it seems its a weekend affair for the various barangays). Another barangay in Las Piñas, when called, said the assembly for March 25 has been reset to April 8 -Charter change though, according to that barangay, is not on the agenda. A barangay in QC has also confirmed their assembly is on April 8.
B. Provincial officials are already busy collecting signatures. A variation says provincial governors are undertaking the task of gathering signatures. The logistics involve 40 to 400 signature-gatherers per town.
An NGO describes the efforts as follows:
[W]e’ve also received info from Southern Tagalog and Panay that the DILG is in an all-out campaign for signatures for their cha-cha… they’ve assigned barangay coordinators and signature solicitors who are given the quota of 40 signatures each. Depending on the number of voters, they have anywhere from 40 to 400 signature solicitors.
the copy of the petition to the comelec that they are circulating calls for a shift to a unicameral-parliamentary government with:
-the incumbent president (gma) and vp continuing to exercise their powers until 2010,
-the formation of an interim parliament to be composed of the incumbent vp, senators, congresspersons and members of the Cabinet who are heads of executive departments,
-no set date for the election of the regular parliament; instead it merely states that “the interim parliament shall provide for the election of the members of Parliament”, and
-the interim Parliament convening within 45 days from the ratification of the amendments “to propose amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution consistent with the principles of local autonomy, decentralization and a strong bureaucracy”.
The purpose of course, is to be able to argue that there is public support in the provinces for Charter change on the administration’s terms. There will be no debate. Only a parade of steamrollers. And the Constitution envisioned, as the loopholes above show, will ensure that the present third-termers in the House will have term limits lifted, and no one for the administration will have to face the public at the polls in the near or medium term future.
Update: a source says a foreign visitor in a meeting was supposedly told by DILG Sec. Ronaldo Puno that actually, what could be proposed in the assemblies is something as radical as abolishing the Philippine Senate. Then the by now unicameral Philippine legislature could modify the Constitution further at its own pace and pleasure.
Anyway, in the news….
Yesterday’s administration trial balloon -to establish a government monopoly on jueteng- resulted in a blood-curdling story by the Inquirer:
Interior chief to run gov’t ‘jueteng’ . Blood-curdling because, as the Interior Secretary is poised to lead the campaign for Charter Change, arming him with almost inexhaustible supply of funds sourced from gambling would simply have been too conveniently-timed. Other papers say the government’s backpedaled: Puno: DILG will not operate STL and Palace heeds anti-govt-jueteng calls so that Govt stops local lotteries.
Now this is the kind of story that gives media critics ammunition with which to take pot-shots at the press: Dress code used to browbeat press. The question isn’t why the Presidential Guards have to remind the press about the dress code, it’s why the press doesn’t have enough respect for the President and the Palace to obey the dress code. That dress code has been in force for years. And rightly so. Jove Francisco, part of the Palace Press Corps, blogs about it.
In Thailand: the other day, Thai protesters pour into Bangkok’s business district although Number of anti-Thaksin demonstrators “exaggerated.” In the Nation, this commentary: Premier is pushing for a late goal to take it into extra time. And this amusing story: Thaksin era beset by evil omens.
And just a sampling of Filipinos who have been charged with sedition in the past. Among other reasons, this is why I seriously believe sedition is a crime that’s incompatible with our present circumstances:
Fr. Jacinto Zamora
Fr. Jose Burgos
In the punditocracy, my Arab News column for this week is Black T-Shirts and the Political Controversy. In his column, Lito Banayo suggests everyone just wear blue.
Patricio Diaz argues that the role of media is unappreciated.
Greg Macabenta appeals to overseas Filipinos to follow the debate on Charter change, and warns that Filipinos abroad are about to be deprived of their hard-won ability to participate in elections from overseas.
Amando Doronila wonders why more people aren’t marching against the President.
Tony Abaya concludes his views on revolutionary governments -apparently, so long as they’re not Communist-led, or participated in by unreprentant socialists, they’re good and even necessary. Personally, at this point, I think the real question is not whether the country needs Socialism, but rather, how much.
The Inquirer editorial tackles the killing of dissidents; the Manila Times editorial tackles the raid on the 168 mall.
In the blogosphere and online, Pajamas Media points to an article by Stephen Hayes, Saddam’s Philippines Terror Connection. This is the latest round in justifications for the Iraqi invasion (and essentially, an indictment of the President’s pulling the Philippine contingent out of Iraq). An interesting article in Slate is Christopher Hitchen’s My Ideal War: How the international community should have responded to Bush’s September 2002 U.N. speech.
PCIJ covers former president Estrada’s appearance in court: Estrada takes the stand and Estrada denies receiving kickbacks.
Ellen Tordesillas discusses the new US Ambassador and reduced American assistance to the Philippines. She quotes extensively from a report in Manila Mail DC Online.
A splendid exchange of views on press freedom is taking place at Sassy Lawyer’s. Highly illuminating.
maetrics points to the forum Libertas, which in turn points to the fears of Warner Brothers that the film “V for Vendetta” might cause trouble among American youth.
Quote of the day:
During the debate on the Executive Power it was the almost unanimous opinion that we had invested the Executive with rather extraordinary prerogatives. There is much truth in this assertion. But it is because we cannot be insensible to the events that are transpiring around us, events which, when all is said and done, are nothing but history repeating itself. In fact, we have seen how dictatorships, whether black or red, capitalistic or proletarian, fascistic or communistic, ancient or modern, have served as the last refuge of peoples when their parliaments fail and they are already powerless to save themselves from misgovernment and chaos. Learning our lesson from the truth of history, and determined to spare our people the evils of dictatorship and anarchy, we have thought it prudent to establish an executive power which, subject to the fiscalization of the Assembly, and of public opinion, will not only know how to govern, but will actually govern, with a firm and steady hand, unembarrassed by vexations, interferences by other departments, or by unholy alliances with this and that social group. Thus, possessed with the necessary gifts of honesty and competence, this Executive will be able to give his people an orderly and progressive government, without need of usurping or abdicating powers, and cunning subterfuges will not avail to extenuate his failures before the bar of public opinion.
-Claro M. Recto
Valedictory address before the Constitutional Convention, 1935
[The Philippine Constitution Sources, Making, Meaning, and Application, the Philippine Lawyers’ Association, p. 540].
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