Today’s entry has to be quick.
Last night Prospero Pichay was on Dong Puno live and I gathered from his statements that his (and presumably, his party mates’) attitude is defined by the following options he says are still on the table:
1. He reminded people that the so-called “people’s initiative” is not dead, it’s appeal remains before the Supreme Court; today, news is regardless of that, the Legion is once more on the march:
Lambino said they would offer a simple legislative reform proposal, which is to abolish both chambers of Congress and pave the way for the creation of a national assembly under a presidential unicameral government.
The national assembly was the original setup of the 1935 Constitution as well as the intended proposal of the 1986 constitutional commission.
“A presidential unicameral form of government was originally envisioned under the 1986 Charter but it was narrowly defeated by only one vote,” Lambino noted.
Under the new political game plan, the still unnamed multisectoral group will formally petition the Commission of Elections to set up signature-gathering stations. After getting the necessary three percent voters’ requirement per congressional district and 12 percent nationwide, a referendum will then be scheduled ahead of the May 2007 national and local elections.
“The first election for the members of the national assembly will be on the second Monday of May 2007 together with the local officials. The people can still directly elect the president and vice president in 2010… it is a simple, specific proposal,” Lambino said.
2. Concerning the strategic retreat from Constituent Assembly to Constitutional Convention, his view is the House can force through a Con-Con even without the Senate (the same legal view as the Con-Ass effort).
On Tina Monzon-Palma’s show, I had the chance to ask Rep. Jaraulla whether they had time to pass the legislation required to call for, and fund, a convention. He said it would be easy for them as they will make the qualifications for a Con-Con delegate identical to those for electing a congressman. This will lead to a huge debate as this is not at all what pro-convention groups want (for example, no anti-dynasty rule, no ban on congressional incumbents running, no prohibition against political party candidates, etc.)
I’d asked Jaraulla why continuous criticisms of the House proposals had been ignored by the House for over a year, including the proposal of some groups that a convention would be the best option. He wouldn’t give a straight answer beyond bowing to public opinion.
On the same show, it became clear from various congressmen (administration and opposition) that what’s taken place is more complicated than a simple retreat and substitution of one idea with another. What the majority did Monday night was postpone the Constituent Assembly for a more opportune time:
But Majority Leader Prospero Nograles’ subsequent motion left open the possibility that Con-ass was alive, ostensibly as a face-saving move. He said the scheduled opening today of Con-ass had been put off to allow the House members to deliberate on Con-con.
Nograles said the move was meant to accommodate “sentiments of the various sectors of society.”
Read Nograles’ statement on the floor of the House:
In behalf of the Majority, I now move to CANCEL, SUSPEND AND POSTPONE amendments to or revsions of the Constitution scheduled to be held at the plenary hall of the House of Representatives at 10 a.m. in the morning of Dec. 11, 2006 as provided for in Resolution No. 197 pursuant to House resolution no. 1450 until such time that may be set at a later date by this House to enable the House members to deliberate on the option of a Constitutioal Convention to effect charter change in accordance with the majority consensus to act towards accomodating the various sectors of society.
The mood according to colleagues covering the House, was ugly during the three-hour plus closed-door caucus held by the majority. One reporter’s information was the the Speaker was on a knife’s edge that night, and came perilously close to losing his position. Defeat is truly an orphan. Rep. Nograles was said to be particularly embittered by having to maneuver the resolution superseding the earlier call for a constituent assembly, but as Pichay’s statements show, there may still be divergent views between Kampi and Lakas.
A production assistant later told Tina Palma that they’d received the highest number of text messages from viewers ever; my impression is that the public mood remains angry. Even the Saturday gambit and its latest mutations have failed to defuse the public’s outrage. Even those otherwise sympathetic to the House are chagrined by how it cut and run.
A consensus seems to be emerging: there is no longer time, if the rules will be followed, to adequately debate and propose a convention. The Senate isn’t at fault on this: it’s position was clear months and months ago, it was the House that ignored them. The PCIJ blog gives a backgrounder on proposals and past convention history.
Administration reiterates ban on government workers attending rallies. Tony Abaya sums up the challenge and opportunity best:
This looks like People Power Revisited, and President Arroyo and JdV and their band of salivating trapos can ignore it only at their own peril. This promises to be bigger and more sustained than the anti-GMA demos of July 2005 and February 2006, which failed to excite the middle-class because they were clearly orchestrated by the trapos of Joseph Estrada and the Communist movement, whom the middle-class have neither sympathy with nor affinity for.
If Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai, Bishop Lagdameo’s CBCP, Villanueva’s JIL, the Protestants’ NCCP, and the other participating organizations can keep their protest action essentially non-trapo and non-Communist, the prospects of attracting the middle-class to join would be better than good, and with it the possibility of rejuvenating this country with a much-needed moral and social revolution.
Philippine Commentary examines the flaws in the unicameralist position. I’ll be writing more about that in the future.
Promdi’s take on brewing debate: the debate isn’t about to go away. No thanks to over talkative senators.