Reform from above?

The Russian Czar Alexander II said “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for it to abolish itself from below”. The line came to mind as I’ve been reading a couple of papers sent me by a Russian scholar, Dr. Victor Sumsky. He’s here for the International Association of Historians of Asia conference. We hope to meet sometime after the conference concludes.

The Prophet Of Two Revolutions
One of the papers he sent is on Rizal, titled “The Prophet of Two Revolutions,” which discusses his influence on two revolutions, those of 1896 and 1986.

Rp Dilemma
But the paper that interested me the most is another one he sent, “Reform or Revolution? The Unresolved Philippine Dilemma.”

Since this blog will be inactive over the next couple of days (I’ll be attending a conference on the peace process), I hope you’ll download his two papers and take a look at them. Much meat to chew over.

Today, the papers weigh in with their versions of the Supreme Court’s decision: see what the Philippine Daily Inquirer (“The Oct. 25 decision did not rule on the adequacy of RA 6735, but the separate opinions of the justices revealed their stand on the issue”), and Malaya (Ignacio Bunye: Supreme Court decision “will not stop us, however, from our advocacy that we need fundamental reform in order to remove the remaining stumbling block towards our competitiveness.”), the Manila Times (Gabriel Claudio: Supreme Court’s decision “formally activates the constituent assembly mode for changing the Constitution.”), and the Manila Standard-Today (Gabriel Claudio: “This is probably all that the administration allies in Congress were waiting for, to go all-out for a constituent assembly.”).

Legion rejoices over its defeat. One Voice suggests government moves on.

President’s allies engage in target practice on administration trial balloon.

Cayetano pulls the rug from under Arroyos’ feet.

Jaime Augusto Zobel’s prescription for economic growth.

Landmark case in America: “the soapbox is not liable for whatever the speaker has said.” Blog joy.

In the punditocracy, my Arab News column for this week is Arroyo Depending on the 39% of Undecided Voters to Remain Passive. This is an elaboration of my thoughts in an earlier column published prior to the most recent Pulse Asia survey. Note the Palace is irritated with the survey results.

The Inquirer editorial is all for a fixed term for the AFP chief of staff. Conrado de Quiros clearly states the difference between Honasan-led coup attempts, and last February’s effort at a military “withdrawal of support”:

Unlike the RAM coups of the past, the February “withdrawal of support” was not a messianic act, it was a pragmatic act. It was not an act of adventurism, it was an act of desperation. Its leaders did not mount it because they wanted to; they did so because they were forced to. Nobody else would or could do it, people power having gotten powerless, or too tired, to oust someone who stole the vote and the crown. The very people who mounted Edsa People Power II themselves were importuning them to do it.

Unlike the RAM coups of the past, the February “withdrawal of support” was not a coup in the traditional sense; it was an extension of people power. It did not rely on a few individuals to carry it out; it relied on the nation to do it. If it were a coup, it would have been the most popular coup in the world, in every sense of the word “popular.” Hell, it was so openly advertised they even tried to get Generals Generoso Senga and Hermogenes Esperon to join it. The real coup, in every sense of the word too, happened well before, wreaked by GMA with the help of Garci.

Incidentally, see reports on the military brass being angry an initial report exonerating accused officers was leaked, and how the chief of staff is out for blood.

Manuel Buencamino takes a look at the informal huddle between the Philippine and American presidents in Vietnam.

Jojo Robles says the anti-billboard backlash has proven to be B.S. Bong Austero is all agog over Philippine Idol, but wonders if the qualified will really win. Marichu Villanueva says taking creative license with the national anthem is illegal.

The anatomy of addictions, dissected in i-Report.

The blogosphere has Comelec AKO reacting to last night’s The Explainer.

Ellen Tordesillas is suing the President’s husband.

Confessions at 7:00 AM outs herself! She’s Marichu S. Lambino and will be blogging under her own name from now on!

Katataspulong blows the whistle on what he considers racketeering on the part of civil servants obsessed with racking up legal fees.

Mga Diskurso ni Doy reproduces an interesting strategy paper on the coming elections. An intriguing outline appears in Trel B, of a national situationer from July, discussed in the Center for Strategic Studies.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Manuel L. Quezon III.

88 thoughts on “Reform from above?

  1. Gabriel Claudio .. you CANNOT FOOL US ALL THE TIME …









    TRAPO !!!

  2. “Unless something is done by those who desire some sort of political change, the political odds remain firmly stacked in Mrs. Arroyo’s favor.”

    For that to happen, the best thing to do , for the opposition and its allies in the civil society, is to come up with a rallying figure other than Estrada….a figure that has a reputation and ability to exceed what Glorya has accomplished.

    rego said this on November 23rd, 2006 at 11:23 pm


  3. justice league, arbet,

    If there is a sufficient People’s Initiatve Law then how come the people are wondering what the heck it’s all about? A PI enabling law should provide for information dissemination, education on PI, make it mandatory to be taught in high school (e.g., Phil Constitution subject) that includes practical exercises (community petitions, letters to congressmen).

    mb, if it is apparent that the lack of a sufficient law makes it impossible to undertake a ‘compliant’ or a credible PI, is it more reasonable to have a moratorium/boycott all PI undertaking, challenge, instead, the SC ruling the enabling law as ‘sufficient’?

  4. rego,

    Thanks for bringing up the issue about GMA’s ‘accomplishments’– precisely the reasons why she should be booted out of Malacanang as soon as possible.

    Record high hunger incidence; mortality rate of the poor who get sick is 80%; high infant mortality; unemployment/underemployment, record high underpaid,abused OFWs; record high extrajudicial killings; high corruption rating; etc

    ERVAT ‘solved’ the fiscal crisis, passing it on to family-households who are now in severe fiscal crises — no money for food and medicine; much less for school.

    JPEPA– work for toxic waste exchange deal — illustrates the deceitfullness of GMA’s accomplishments — show growth acceleration, hide the deadly costs. She gave China largescale mining concessions in exchange for lower tariff on Phil products China does not need.

  5. Kaya patalsikin ang mga trapo mula sa kampo ni Gloria at opposisyon. Parehong kampo may trapo. WANTED bagong politiko.

  6. Q3 should run for a congressional position so he can demonstrate his ability to manage pork-barrel and to work productively with the many players (trapos and non-trapos) of the House of Representatives.

  7. It will be interesting if deQuiros runs, too, but he appears (to me) as an obstructionist and I am afraid he will slow down whatever productive stuff comes out of Congress.

  8. JM, JM,….if you want to be so negative about GMA and refuse to see what has been done, i can do nothing about that. Yet there is also no way for you to shut the eyes of those people who can see very what has been done.

    And I m not claiming that Gloria has solve all the problems of teh country. And I am not saying too that she shoudl not be prosecuted for any crimes or law violations that she allegedly comitted.

    All I m saying is that she has acoomplishments and there are people like me who wanted to recognized that and give her credit for. Kumpara mo naman kay Erap…and even Cory.

  9. One major item that everybody (GMA, senators, congressmen, governors) do not speak enough on is how to lessen corruption at the local level (local meaning for contracts at the provincial- and city-level). It is this day-to-day grinding corruption that harass many more of the citizenry (including the small- and medium enterprises, the business-sector that creates the most jobs). It is also the issue that seems to result in the most deaths to media people.

  10. people that can’t see anything right about the present government are people with unbelievable insatiability.

    PI for snap election? Go ahead make my day!

    did Dinky’s BWM able to take off, if at all? Exactly how many members does one voice have? If Cory and Drilon failed to provide the tipping point , I don’t know with this one.

    the fact that GMA is till standing is because these groups are but the vociferous few.

  11. JM,

    Sorry but just because there is a law doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will know about it though ignorance of one doesn’t excuse anyone either.

    There is a law penalizing the killing of dogs for dog meat but if you ask the beer drinkers who view dog meat as a delicacy; they don’t know about that law.

  12. James,

    What is the correlation of the membership of One Voice have to do with the fact that GMA is till standing?

    One Voice has members that are supportive of PGMA!

    Oh my, Soliven just died!

  13. jm, there’s my entry on how pi can be used without violating the law or its spirit. but, when i proposed it, it was shot down as too expensive. it’s really a logistical nightmare when applied on a national scale.

    Here it is:

    a constitutional convention makes more sense to me because of these logistical considerations, if you’re going to make such a huge effort, might as well push for a concon.

    but in the end, the government’s decided on conass to prevent a defeat in 2007, so…

  14. mlq3, as a separate exercise, the PI for Snap Elections may be too expensive. However, this campaign can ride on top of the United Opposition’s individual campaigns. It’s potentially a win-win arrangement. In the USA, the Democrats were able to wrest control of Congress on the back of the Iraq War as an issue. (In contrasts, Democrat Candidates who concentrated on local issues, like Ned Lamont in Connecticut, lost to incumbents like Joe Lieberman.)In a similar manner, Gloria’s illegitimacy and the PI for Snap remedy provides both a unifying theme and a mark of distinction to the opposition’s campaign. It also answers the question of what positive steps does the Opposition have to offer.

  15. MLQ3,
    When I worked as a physicist, I was always an experimentalist, as opposed to being a theoretician. I think democracies ought to be grand social experiments conducted in a spirit of discovery and experimentation to determine what really works, which is what really matters.

    For that reason, I’m not so keen on a Constitutional Convention, which would embark upon a Revision of the charter on a biblical scale that might indeed remedy the obvious flaws and hiatuses of the present Constitution but might only come up with another 90% solution that would have its own new problems and conundra.

    Therefore, I favor a vitalized People’s Initiative system that allows the public to get Propositions onto the ballot of regular elections — as many and as often as their moment in History requires and as long as 12% propose it for ratification.

    Also the Congress should get its Act together and select some amendments that both Houses can agree on. They don’t really even have to go through the rigamarole of a constituent assembly and all that. They can easily propose amendments to the Constitution by passing a Joint Resolution of Congress stating the change and giving it to Comelec for plebiscite. simple as that.

    I think that adaptability and flexibility, the ability to change to changing conditions, are what optimize a nation’s constitution, which we really shouldn’t imagine to be a Bible or a Ten Commandments that we want “to get right” for all eternity.

    Rather it should be like an operating system that we fine tune or even radically change as the needs arise.

    A Concon will only create a document of surpassing eloquence and grace. But it might not be much different than what we have now: a Constitution that will ALWAYS need to be changed and improved.

  16. Re: Greenhills gridlock (

    Yes, Ms. Quirino, blame it on the nuns and priests. How you wish it was circa 1963 ( when the area was almost barren save from the two schools (comparing it to this 2005 photo at How about the option of you transferring to another area?

  17. Re: Greenhills gridlock (

    Yes, Ms. Quirino, blame it on the nuns and priests. How you wish it was circa 1963 ( when the area was almost barren save from the two schools… comparing it to this 2005 photo ( How about the option of you transferring to another area?

  18. Charter change advocates led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. has announced plans to file a second motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court on the dismissed people’s initiative petition.

    The proponents are banking on the appointment of a new Chief Justice upon the retirement on Dec. 7 of Artemio Panganiban, who had voted against using the initiative to shift to a parliamentary system.

    Why don’t JDV will just propose an amendment to the constitution on the way of electing members of senate/congress & the presidency (to be the 1st in the world) by allowing anybody presently enrolled in college as the “only electorate”. The elections will be conducted inside campuses of colleges & universities around the nation. School registrars or student body governments will appoint a comelec from the students presently enrolled to become elections officers.

    In this way we might achieve a clean and honest elections. It will also allow the selection of future leaders on the hands of the youth whom we believed the hope of the motherland.

    The country will of course land in the book of records regarding elections. RP has several “Filipino style” events anyway e.g. Martial Law during Marcos time, People’s Power (EDSA I & II), corruptions, etc

  19. PI for snap election????I dont see the practicality of this CVJ because:

    1. Gloria has only 3 remaining years. so why not let her finish her term.
    2. Whoever wins teh snap election has only 3 years of tenure. There will be a problem with “ROI”.
    3. This will create another problem on running for another term just like what happened to Gloria.

    If I am not mistaken, you wanted snap election to resolve your claim of illigitimacy of Gloria Presidency. But there are more practical solutions to this. For one, you can just go the Supreme Court. And this should have been done early on. Not after 3 years!

    Also not everybody share your belief that Gloria is a bogus president. If we go by the numbers, only Erap constituents. So it is not a majority.

  20. Well, it will be unfortunate, but at least a good sector of the population can join in the excercise, that is why it will be a unique way to elect officials. The Philippines is unique in so many ways anyway.

    One good example is, if you are reported to be corrupt, you can leave RP and go to other country to enjoy your loot.

  21. mlq3,

    The initiative you had presented should have been undertaken at the time — tamang oras at paraan. GMA’s continued stay costs more than many realize. The damage she wreaks on our institutions which took generations to build is unquantifiable

  22. jm,

    People’s Initiative was invented so the People could directly change the Constitution and not depend on elected officials such as Legislatures or Executives. Or Concons.

    PI is a modern innovation of the 1987 Constitution. It’s BETTER in several ways than a CON-CON. Faster. Sleeker. More democratic. And a proven thing in America. Also, unlike a Concon, where the irresistable urge is to reinvent everything, PI makes seemingly small changes, but many and often.

    PI does assume a more intelligent and empowered electorate. ConCons were our grandfathers’ way of bringing all the heads together in one place to lay down the Law.

    But I think Constitution making is like giving birth to a Nation. We really only ought to attempt it once, or rarely. Heck we’ve already done it four times. Isn’t it a bit much?

    Better the approach of successive approximations to the Ideal, even starting from the Imperfect.

  23. camry… mas mahalaga ba ang boto ng istudyante kaysa iyong boto ng kaniyang magulang na nagtatrabaho para makapag-aral sa kolehiyo ang mga katulad mo?

  24. DJB said:

    1) I think that adaptability and flexibility, the ability to change to changing conditions, are what optimize a nation’s constitution, which we really shouldn’t imagine to be a Bible or a Ten Commandments that we want “to get right” for all eternity.

    2) People’s Initiative was invented so the People could directly change the Constitution and not depend on elected officials such as Legislatures or Executives. Or Concons. (or unelected officials like the SC, if I may add).

    The adaptability and flexibility of a written constitution is made possible either by judicial fiat or through the amending process. The value of judicial fiat (via judicial review) is derived from the difficulties to make the constitution adjust to “changing conditions” by formal amendment. Hence, the easier it is for the amending process (the “constitution of sovereignty”) to operate, the lesser it will be to rely upon the wisdom or folly of the members of the Supreme Court to allow the needed adjustments. By the same token, the easier it is for the people directly to propose those adjustments, the lesser it will be necessary indirectly to do it through their representatives.

    If the people had their way, what do you think would their answer be to this question: How much power would the people wish to retain so that their intentions are not thwarted either by the individual proclivities of the members of the Supreme Court whom the people have not elected or by the people’s elected representatives who, most of the times, represent interests other than the people’s? If the last statement is considered questionable, then how come that in the general scheme of things the people – the large majority of the people – always find themselves at the end of their tethers?

    How could a nation’s constitution be optimized then? Wouldn’t the SC think twice declaring a law favorable to the people (e.g. one that provides a realistic minimum wage) confiscatory or unconstitutional if the people can easily overrule the court’s decision by amending the constitution to remove the constitutional objection? On the other hand, would Congress dismiss on technical grounds an impeachment strongly favored by the people if Congress knows the people can easily remove those technicalities by directly amending the constitution?

    Indeed, if we created a constitution for the people, by the people and of the people, there would be no need, for example, for mlq3 to expend so much time and effort to find a way to un-elect a sitting president whom majority of the people perceive to have betrayed their rust, or for that matter for the people to force the issue via the parliament of the streets.

    I therefore agree with DJB to the extent that we just have to trust the wisdom of the people by making the “constitution of sovereignty” easier to function. But can we expect a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention to get it right first in the first place?

    Or would we rather rely upon a clique of activist justices to discover from time to time certain interstices in the law or the constitution, either to fill them in or not for the same purpose?

  25. djb, abe, jm, cjv:

    as i’ve been repeating for a year now, the problem really is, what consensus has emerged? only the broadest possible: something’s gotta give, the system’s in need of change, but change has to be within the realm of the familiar, that is, within a civilian-led democratic process involving elections. those are the parameters, broad indeed, but apparently enough to confine and frustrate some sectors pushing for change.

    do we prioritize refinements to the electoral system, or put economic changes ahead of the rest? do we do incremental changes or embark on a gamble, opting for an unfamiliar system?

    prior to last year, i actually used to argue that unless a totally new constitution was called for, the most sensible and rational method is through a constituent assembly. that was the method that amended the 1935 constitution and it was that constitution that served us the longest and best. but the const. assembly method has been discredited and debased by current efforts, and i don’t think the result would enhance constitutionalism or respect for the law. sure, it might work, and be rammed through, and i’ve also said, it might actually lead to some improvements, not because anything will be done better, but it will be a less frightening way out than anything else being proposed.

  26. A constitution cannot physically embody within itself all the laws, rules, norms, codes, edicts, proclamations, resolutions, legislations, executive orders, ordinances, and jurisprudence that, together, constitute the Law of the land. It would not be possible for a sovereign to promulgate a constitution so complete and perfectly certain in its provisions as to make any extension or interpretation unnecessary. Neither would a sovereign be able to eliminate controversy, disputes, or clash of ideas and interests, or differing claims of truth, rights and justice.

    While a majority of the people can effect constitutional changes whether by PI, con-ass or con-con, it cannot be so tyrannical as to impose changes that are irrational, absurd, indefensibly unjust and oppressive, or patently devoid of right reason.

    A body, which we presently call the Supreme Court, has the final say as to what the Law is. The constitution is not self-executing and its provisions are not automatically applied in every situation without something we call “due process”. Good or bad, depending on whose interest is served, the court’s decision is obeyed and regarded as expression of the nation’s collective will. This is not saying that the same decision could not be criticized, pilloried, or raved upon in the bar of public opinion.

    Whether or not a conn-ass, con-con, or PI could “get it right” in changing the constitution, it “cannot please everybody”, as the trite saying goes. Disputes there will be, for sure, and we will need even that “clique of activist justices” to arbitrate and declare what the law is.

    mlq3, I salute you for advocating a peaceful change (“within a civilian-led democratic processes”) rather than a forcible and violent method by people who have no patience for democracy.

  27. mlq3,
    I concur with your opinion,
    “the const. assembly method has been discredited and debased by current efforts, and i don’t think the result would enhance constitutionalism or respect for the law”

    Part of my letter to our congressman last year,

    “Prejudicial Questions on Charter Change
    Before the so called ‘great debate on charter change’, let us consider the following ‘prejudicial questions’: Hasn’t Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s and her allies’ intensity of self-interests in the proposed constitutional reforms so poisoned the air of debate such that it has fatally damaged the credibility of the chamber’s charter change proceedings? Such that the legitimacy of the new charter would be as questionable as the legitimacy of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? And such that this compounded illegitimacy question would serve as an open invitation for all-out and all-options-open confrontations? (Is it not, therefore, more prudent and even honorable for the honorable representatives of the people to just say and do, ‘Out muna si Gloria bago cha-cha?)”

  28. rego, my suggestion (in arbet’s blog) is for the snap election to be for a full six year term.

    I don’t understand you blaming the Opposition for not going to the Supreme Court ‘early on’. Arroyo was proclaimed in 2004. ‘Hello Garci’ came out middle of 2005. Since then, there have been two failed impeachment attempts. So where in this timeline do you think the opposition should have gone to the Supreme Court? In any case, the value in pursuing the legitimacy issue to its proper conclusion after all this time has not diminished. We need to hold Arroyo to account and send a clear message to future presidential candidates who would want to follow in her footsteps – that they subvert the democratic process at their peril. That would go some way towards undoing the damage she has done to our institutions – not a bad use of the people’s initiative.

    As to the actual numbers of people who believe Arroyo is a bogus president, that can also be determined by way of the same plebiscite (assuming the exercise is fair and honest). If the majority don’t believe (or don’t care) that Arroyo is a fake President, then the PI for Snap Elections won’t pass.

  29. CVJ,

    If that is the case then Im OK with the snap election then. But still there is another problem with credibility of COMELEC. Im sure you know very well that im have been very vocal about fixing the electoral system above all other options. Same way with prosecuting Gloria with her alleged crime.

    As for the

  30. I’d like to support the proposal for a people’s initiative for a snap election but I am fearful of the unknown. Who will run? Is he/she competent? Would he/she work for genuine reform? Would he/she restore confidence in the government? Or will it be more of the same? Call me cynical but the current crop of elected officials from either the opposition or the administration, in my view, they are all the same.

  31. Rego, i agree with you on the credibility problem of the COMELEC. As i mentioned above (Nov 23 at 4:20pm), in Bangladesh, they were able to use people power to get their chief election commissioner to take leave. If we are not able to do the same over here, then it would take at least the same level of vigilance as exercised by the people back in 1986 together with the proper data transmission and collection logistics to ensure the popular will is reflected in the results. On the latter, we should be in better shape as our telecoms and computing infrastructure is more advanced than it was 20 years ago.

    Cynical, the key to not being too cynical is not to be too idealistic about any outcomes. We have a long way to go towards disciplining our leaders and this process should be viewed as a war of attrition. This time around, the people should not to let their guard down whoever gets the top post. And with the middle forces out of government and back in a revitalized public sphere, we may be better able to act as a watchdog.

  32. cvj, that sounds all well and good but how do we (or I as a particle of “the people”) operationalize these prescriptions (i.e. disciplining our leaders, not let our guard down, act as a watchdog)? Is it too idealistic to expect our next president to be a person of competence, integrity and morality, who will truly endeavor to eradicate corruption, unite the people, stop the killing of militants and media persons, stop jueteng, ensure that economic gains trickle down to the poor, protect the environment, etc.? If it is too idealistic, why bother with a change? If it is not too idealistic, can we expect that of anyone among the current players in the political arena? This may sound like a rant but the situation has gotten truly exasperating. Someone please throw me a bone here.

  33. cynical: “no to PI” may be the proper action for you, and the 2007 elections becomes your next opportunity to log in your vote for changes. And I think you’ll agree that next year, the opposition will again try using Constitutional channels to get GMA out of Malacanang, so “no action” really means let things evolve “in a normal fashion”. Of course, the normal fashion means that GMA will leave Malacanang when her term expires 2010. You’d think, right, that when 2010 comes along, those interested in the Presidency (or congressman or senator seats) will have better “introduced” themselves to the population, and that in fact, the candidates reflect your wishes (eradicate corruption, leadership competency, human rights, etcetera).
    In the meanwhile, your responsibility for your paycheck, career and future never ceases as you participate in the next round of elections.

  34. cynical, having ideals is well and good as that is what motivates us. However, given the historical pattern of reform/revolution and subsequent betrayal, we have to be realistic (and a bit fatalistic) about these things and recognize that we are in a war of attrition. To me, if we are able to leave the place incrementally better so that the next generation has less cleaning up to do, then we would have done our part.

    Operationalizing the above prescriptions requires abandoning apathy and adopting a hands-on attitude towards matters related to governance regardless of who is President. Those with the economic means (i.e. the middle class) should devote some part of their time supporting advocacies (against corruption, for human rights, for social equity etc.). Without generalized involvement by those who can afford to, politicians will default to catering to special interests.

    Personally, I view Arroyo’s stay in office as a continuing crime against the Filipino people whose will has been subverted. For that alone, matters have to be set right. In ordinary crimes such as rape or attempted murder, we usually do not wait for the perpetrator to finish before making an arrest which is why i don’t see the justice in waiting until 2010. If you don’t consider yourself a victim or if you don’t have any regard for the victims, then of course, the sense of urgency will not be there.

    As a practical matter for many people, the decision to support a move to abbreviate Arroyo’s term boils down weighing the downside of keeping her versus the uncertainty of opening up the field to other presidential candidates. Apparently, even after all that has happened, a lot of people still think that Arroyo is a benign enough presence to tolerate until 2010. It takes some insight and a bit of foresight to realize that this is not the case.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.