Sidestep but no retreat

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.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

81 thoughts on “Sidestep but no retreat

  1. Watchful Eye–

    The specific part of the Constitution that is being defended by the Churches, whatever their actual motives, is the part that says every 3 years ALL the Members of the Lower House, all the Mayors and Governors shall be elected by the people in regular democratic elections. And likewise half of the Senators as national officials. This Right of Suffrage is under dastardly attack by some who want to deprive the People of it, and in the long run Unicameral Parliament, to restrict that right to elect only their local representatives.

    The rally on Sunday is certainly in defense of these rights. Which are partisan political rights.

    To defend the Constitution is to defend these rights.

    Perhaps Teddy Boy said it best when he said what happened last week was that the people saw HOW things would be under a Unicameral Parliament. The behavior of the House became the best argument against it.

    We are witnessing the BIRTH of Philippine Political Conservatism in the 21st Century.

  2. UPn student, I agree with you about the anti-Sedition Law not having been formally abrogated by the Supreme Court, nor have the crimes of rebellion and insurrection. They can only be struck down in the course of adjudicating an actual case, properly brought before it by a real party litigant, wherein their consitutionality is in issue. Until then, it remains in the books.

  3. UPn and Bencard, I’m actually referring to the so-called “implied repeal” of part of an inferior statute for being inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution promulgated subsequent to the statute. As posted above there are in fact three constitutions promulgated after 1932, and all three of them have fully guaranteed an individual’s right to free speech, peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances and other cognate rights.

    Besides, by consistent holdings of the Philippine SC, these preferred rights (also referred as intellectual liberties) may not be stifled except under the clear and present doctrine that the courts have developed. Should the language employed be loathsome or offensive, the remedy is not “enforced silenced” but more speech in the free market of ideas. Therefore, if the bishops are not making any sense (and attract only a handful of adherents), because JDV and Villafuerte make more common sense, what practical purpose would then be achieved by subjecting them to subsequent punishment? Rotten ideas don’t get sold in the public square.

  4. Your points well-taken DJB, pero ang aki’y eto … wala bang karapatan manindigan ang isang pari o sundalo without being labeled partisan? Kulang ba ang kanilang pagka-mamamayan dahil sa kanilang istado? Ang mandaranbong ay completo and karapatan, pero sila hindi?

    Also, pls expound more on “Philippine political conservatism”?

  5. unicameral/presidencial would be the worst possible system for us. We would end up like Zimbabwe. a corrupt president supported by lemmings from rural districts. the opposition wins the big cities but is a permanent minority.
    with regard to people pwoer-who would replace GMA? Noli-would they give him a chance. even GMA is better than Lacson or Honasan, either of whom could win a snap election.

  6. Tuesday, November 21, 2006
    News Flash Arroyo interview reveals – Erap toppled
    Monday, February 27, 2006

    NEWS FLASH: MILITARY COUP TOPPLES PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT (with help from Communists and Leftists)
    Mike Arroyo, in his own words.
    Credit should go to Mike Arroyo THIS is a season of remembering those exhilarating days in January last year when Joseph Estrada, accused of betraying the trust of the Filipino people who elected him president, was ousted three years and five months short of his term.Believing in giving credit to where credit is due, we are reprinting here again excerpts of the interview with Mike Arroyo by the eminent Nick Joaquin on his role in the ouster of Estrada, which paved the way for his wife’s takeover of the presidency.
    The interview appeared in March 5, 2001 issue of Philippine Graphic.
    “She had really left the Cabinet at the right moment: the timing was perfect. If she had tarried a moment longer, she would have been too late for EDSA: she would have made it there as an opportunist. And as for the ill-feeling in Metro Manila, we tackled that by going back to the door-to-door campaign: she went from barangay to barangay explaining her motives, outlining her program. And it worked. Then came the impeachment trial, and from there, tuloy-tuloy na.”There was a time honestly, when I felt I erred in advising her to resign from the Cabinet. The masa in Manila apparently wanted her to stick it out with Erap.
    And when she started attacking him, everything fell on us – grabe!- everything! But I told myself: it’s now or never; if we lose here we’re totally destroyed and it’s goodbye to her political career – but if we win here, she becomes President! So we really fought.
    “We got all those Erap tapes from Ramon Jacinto and distributed them all over. We bought one million and a half million copies of Pinoy Times to give away so the public could read about the Erap mansions and bank accounts.”And when EDSA happened, we texted everybody to go running there. EDSA, EDSA: everybody converge on EDSA! Panalo kung panalo. Patay kung patay! Jinggoy had already announced what they would do to us if they won.
    “Chavit Singson had Plan B involving elements of the military to strike the first blow. They would kindle the spark by withdrawing from the government, and one by one others would follow: Class ’71 would also withdraw, then Class ’72, and so forth. But General de Villa warned that the timing had to be precise because one untimely move against the government and the military would automatically defend it. The move must be made at what De Villa called a ‘defining moment.’
    “You see, General De Villa had his Plan A, which was better than ours, because his was focused on the Chief of Staff and the Service Commanders. At past one o’clock p.m. January 20, Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes defected but we knew that already the night before, when negotiations had lasted until the small hours. By past 2 a.m. we knew Reyes had been convinced to join. His only condition was: Show us a million people on EDSA so it will b easier to bring in the service commanders.”And they asked when the crowd was thickest; we told them: from three to five in the afternoon. So they agreed to come to EDSA at around that time. But while hiding in their safehouse, they got reports that General Calimlim could not be located and their first thought was: “He’s out looking for us!” So they decided to rush to EDSA right away. When they got there, why there too at the Shrine was Calimlim! He had been looking for them all right, but join to join them, not to arrest them!”Our group there was a back-up strike force. In fact, it was our group that won over to our side the PNP first. If Panfilo Lacson had resisted, he and his men would have been repelled: there would have been bloodshed, but not on EDSA. In every place where Erap loyalists had a force, we had a counter-force to face it, with orders to shoot. And not only in Metro Manila. Carillo had already been sent to the provinces; and in Nueva Ecija, for instance, we had Rabosa. This was a fight to the finish. That’s why those five days that Erap was demanding were so important. He was counting on counter-coups and baliktaran.”I was negotiating with Pardo up to three o’clock in the morning: niloloko lang pala kami. But I told him point-blank: “If by six o’clock this morning you haven’t given us the resignation letter, we will storm the gates of Malacañang!’ But they insisted on more talk: with De Villa up front, and my back channel debate with Pardo, which even became a three-way contest, with Buboy Virata pitching in.”But the threat to march to Malacañang was for real. And so was the danger of bloodshed. I wasn’t telling Gloria everything: I didn’t want her alarmed. So she didn’t know about the orders to shoot.
    “UPDATE: oh yeah there were communists and leftists too who participated in this: Crispin Beltran, Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino Liza Masa, Rafael Mariano and Etta Rosales.
    UPDATE: the difference between estrada and arroyo is that erap at least was democratically elected (won by a landslide), whereas Arroyo stole the presidency TWICE. One in 2001. The other during the 2004 elections.

  7. Oh well, PeeDee, if that is really teh version of Mike Arroyo Everyone has its own version. As far as I know I did not received any message from him when I went there to EDSA. I saw my college buddies and we were just suprise to see each other there. And they told they were just there on there own. And Im 100% sure that my officemate in Intel Makati did not received any text message from Mike Arroyo.

    And Peedee you can belieev what you wanted to believe. But yoy can not force your belief on us. Like it, I dont believe at all that Gloria stole the presidency twice.

    At the same time that you claimed Erap won by landslide, Gloria got more votes than him when she won the vice presidency. She taking over from Erap is mandated by the consitution. There was indeed a question on teh leaglity ofr Erap resignation. But this has long been settled in the SC. If find the SC decision controversial then it shoudl have been challenged right there and then. But clearly Gloria did not stole the presidency she took over from Erap legally.

    Eh kung matino lang sana si Erap eh di hindi naki pagtake over si Gloria….

    On the second time. Maybe she chaeated she still have more votes than FPJ, There were pre election surveys and post election surveys that showed she was indeed winning.

    Come to think of it Pee Dee, That opposition has been planning all along how to mount another Peopel Power. It has been two years. Kung bilangain mo pa yung desperate attemt ni Erap to get back the Presidency, it has been more than that 5 years…. May nangyari ba?

    Patunay lang Pee Dee that Poeopel power can never be planned at all!!!!

    O di kaya kay hindi makopya kopya ng magtaong katulad mo ang EDSA Dos, Dahil di nyo talaga naiintindiang tunay na kahulugan nito.

    Or pwede ring you totally dont believe on it kaya wala talgang nagyayari sa attempt nyo for another people power?????

    Anyways good luck na lang sa mga susunod nyong plano ng people power. At sana planohin nyo ng mabuti para naman kung totoo man na napapalano nga ang people power!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Such a non convincing statement “I went there to EDSA. I saw my college buddies and we were just suprise to see each other there”. what a Micky Mouse reply to make!

  9. Abe… “implied repeal” can result in “totally-true jail-time” where one, charged with violating the anti-sedition law, needs to wait until after that person is found ‘not-guilty’ or the anti-sedition law is found unconstitutional.
    .. People are in Philippine jails right now despite “freedom of expression” being in the 1987 Constitution, e.g.
    Francisco Nemenzo, Former UP President and Professor Emeritus

  10. DJB, Anna,

    Found the case. It was in Bagong Bayani vs. COMELEC.

    The decision included the deliberation in the COnstitutional Commision that fdrafted the present Charter.

    Therein stated:

    “MR. VILLACORTA. When the Commissioner proposed “EXCEPT RELIGIOUS GROUPS,” he is not, of course, prohibiting priests, imams or pastors who may be elected by, say, the indigenous community sector to represent their group.

    REV. RIGOS. Not at all, but I am objecting to anybody who represents the Iglesia ni Kristo, the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church et cetera.”

    Furthermore, the Constitution provides that “religious denominations and sects shall not be registered.” The prohibition was explained by a member of the Constitutional Commission in this wise: “[T]he prohibition is on any religious organization registering as a political party. I do not see any prohibition here against a priest running as a candidate. That is not prohibited here; it is the registration of a religious sect as a political party.”

  11. Anna,

    I still remember the events at the House of Representatives the other day. I’m not sure but I’ll try to consider your Presidential unicameral.


    I hope you’ve read the Concom provisions.

    THe Majority members went against the likes Turncoatism, Multi party system, and wanted a constructive form of a vote of no confidence, etc….

    The problem there was that as a WHOLE; all of those provisions would create a stinking spoiled dish fit only for them to consume.

    The only saving grace of House recommendations already published right now is that it doesn’t go against a multi party system.

  12. Thanks loads, Justice League.

    One great eye-opener.

    ““[T]he prohibition is on any religious organization registering as a political party. I do not see any prohibition here against a priest running as a candidate. That is not prohibited here; it is the registration of a religious sect as a political party.”

    Anyway, didn’t a pastor run in the last presidential election?

  13. justice league: I still think that multi-party system is an ill-advised accomodation of the Filipino’s penchant for factionalism which, in turn, leads to bitter division, disunity and scattered energy. Everybody is marching to a different drumbeat among so many, instead of to only two separate and well-defined ones. This is a cultural idiosyncracy that oftentimes impel our brothers to form their own separate political group whenever the decision of their original organization runs counter to their ambition or objective. Tayo-tayo, sila-sila. Result? No real mandate for any president; no uniform agenda of governance; no collective responsibility for non-performance and malfeasance.

    If we can, why don’t we try not to foster this eccentricity, and start by reforming the system that enables it.

  14. Bencard, a genuine mandate cannot be achieved by taking away the people’s right to vote directly for their national leaders. A better option would be to introduce run-off elections to ensure that the national leadership reflects the will of the majority (as opposed to a significant minority). As for a uniform agenda of governance, there is no short cut to authentic deliberation among the various factions. The kind of railroading we have witnessed in the House is not a substitute which is why even after passing the resolution, the majority in the house had to eventually back-track. Collective responsibility assumes genuine representation. Right now, Gloria, being an illegitimate President, is on her own.

  15. Bencard,

    Then you should work for the 2 party system in our Presidential setting because a 2 party system in the proposed Parliament will be a disaster upon us.

  16. nonongg: The Chaplain Corps is NOT a violation of the separation of church and state.

    Why? Admittedly Im unfamiliar with this corps. Is the corps funded by taxpayer money? Are all religions represented in the corps? For example, do we have a Muslim chaplain? If it is funded by taxpayer money, and if only one religion is represented, Id say it’s an ‘establishment of religion’ issue.

  17. Such a non convincing statement “I went there to EDSA. I saw my college buddies and we were just suprise to see each other there”. what a Micky Mouse reply to make!

    PeeDee said this on December 13th, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    I am not here to convince you. No one can. I just wanted to let you know. Obviously you can never ever relate at all to peopel power . Now I undertand why you have to cut and paste the article….

  18. cvj: who said about taking away the people’s right to vote to attain a real mandate? Mandate in a democracy can only be had by a vote, don’t you know that? “Authentic deliberation” is not precluded by a uniform agenda for governance. Such an agenda can only be arrived at after deliberation. I don’t think our government is totalitarian yet.

    I don’t buy your “run-off election”. It is expensive, duplicative, wasteful and unnecessarily dilatory. Let’s not live beyond our means.

    Almost everytime you make a comment, you take a nasty swipe at the President. What has the lady done to you personally to bring out that kind of hate? Do you know her as a person beyond beyond what you read or hear from her other enemies?
    I don’t know how you can expect to write with credibility when everybody knows where you are coming from – intense hatred and bitterness.

  19. Rego,

    yes it is funded by taxpayer money but a chaplain is not necessarily a Catholic Priest.

    I don’t know with our corps but one thing I know of is when the US preparations for the Iraq invasion were underway; a muslim imam who I believe was a part of their chaplain corp was sent to administer to the Muslim soldiers.

  20. bencard,

    as you know i am strongly in favor of runoff elections. when the indonesians established democracy, they looked at the philippines to see what lessons could be learned about the democratic process. they saw how no philippine president has had a majority mandate since 1969, and established runoff elections. there is such a thing as being penny wise and pound foolish.

  21. bencard, the complete phrase i used was ‘taking away the people’s right to vote directly for their national leaders’. Delegating that right to the legislators would mean that it is the politicians’ preferences, and not the people’s, that will be followed. When it comes to a uniform agenda for governance, anyone who watched the railroading of the Con-ass resolution, would have gotten a taste of just how authentic the deliberations in parliament would be.

    Just to clarify, it is not hate i feel towards Gloria (that feeling i reserve for George W. Bush). The more accurate term would be disgust. She is a product of the middle class revolt in 2001, and I voted for her in 2004 expecting her to be different in terms of upholding the values of civil society. Instead, she betrayed those values, corrupted civil society, and damaged the social contract. Her actions continue to weaken our institutions. Anyone in the middle forces who has a well grounded survival instinct would share in that disgust.

  22. Come on, Roger, either wake up or fess up: everyone knows totally revolted most people were to see congressmen desperately struggling to advance their personal interests. Don’t go blaming religious leaders for something the congressmen brought upon themselves. After all, religious leaders have been ignored lots of times before. But why do you think GMA & JDV backpedalled this time? This time, they went too far: the prospect of People Power is REAL. And we all know why that is.

    Mike said this on December 13th, 2006 at 1:05 am

    It ia interesting that when people accuse the house pro chacha reps of self interest that it is implying that once the amendments/revision are done then it will be immediately implemented. You seem to have conveniently forgot that a plebecite will be called for to accept or reject the changes. You are arrogantly now assuming that the people will reject chacha vy concluding it is all avout the self interests of the proponents. The most revealing development is the cbcp statement today that chacha should be the least priority of the congress..these religious facists now dont have the guts to simply say no to chacha cause they will never admit their power based agenda. ans mike if people power is real then why all these efforts to cut off their best expression by having a plebicite to resolve this issue once and for all? Because the anti chacha advocates cant afford to lose. This is why Renato Constantino’s shame is badly misplaced

  23. roger navarro,

    Are you in favor of asking the people first if they want to have the Constitution revised as a referendum alongside the May elections or do you want to call outright an election for ConCon delegates along with the May elections ?

  24. the best and most efficient way is to have a plebecite to determine two basic questions

    1)whether or not the constitution should be changed

    2)if the answer is yes should it be by con-ass or con-con?(if the people chose either option, it should be made clear that the next general election should be postponed till a new constitution is written and approved/disapproved and that the people will be willing to extend all current elected officials expiring in June until it is decided whether the people will accept or reject the new constitution through a second plebecite

    this should be done before the may elections perhaps not later than march since the results will dictate whether we will proceed with con-ass which will now have basis since the people would have spoken and may elections can be postponed or proceed with electing concon delegates instead of the general election in may

    to me it doesnt make sense to make a simultaneous election with public and concon officials since there would be clear conflicting interests. How could you possibly elect officials whose positions may be threatened by the election of other officials?

  25. mlq3, in a society like the Philippines, where most elections, including presidential, are seldom conceded by the losers, run-off elections will not work. If it does at all, it will be as I said, still inconclusive because the loser will never accept its outcome, as it was the first time around. In a two-party system which we had tried and practiced for so long, real mandate (e.g., Quezon, Magsaysay and Macapagal over Garcia), was possible because the principal issues and party platforms were defined and did provide a real choice for the voters. In contrast, a multi-party system is, for the most part, personality oriented and debases elections into “popularity competition” or “money contests”.

  26. Roger Navarro,

    I’ll agree to having a referendum question on whether the people want Charter Change and what mode if need be but I don’t think that the suggestion is the most efficient.

    I would have wanted that the question be placed along with the May elections of public officials.

    Your suggestion would have placed 2 voting activities no matter what the outcome unless the people want Chacha and that it be via ConAss.

    I would have wanted a Constituent Asembly mode to just now involve the “new” legislators elected in May if the ConAss mode is what people want.

    A sensible thing should the ConCon mode is wanted is that the ConCon delegates election be alongside the Barangay officials election.

    The Secretary of Justice has gone on record that ChaCha should be considered a non partisan political activity.

    The barangay elections is SUPPOSED to be non partisan.

    I unfortunately don’t know when the next Barangay elections are to be held. It has a notoriety of being postponed left and right or being wanted to be postponed left and right that I don’t know when is the next.

  27. i dont see how making the determining of chacha and then at the same time having “normal may elections” would be somehow viewed as efficient.

    Let the people decide on whether chacha is desired and what mode. If the answer is no then we proceed with the may elections. If the answer is yes then no elections should be held unless it is for con con delegates. It will make the participants in the con-ass/con-con less pressured to vote issues in a certain way by new incumbents of a regular election. Why subject people who are trying to frame a new constitution to pressures favoring recently elected officials?

  28. There would only be one election expense of the government in 2007. That would make it efficient.

    The election for Concon if needed can be synchronized with the Barangay elections so that would be efficient too.

    If you are worried about pressure to those that would frame a new Charter; why are you not worried of pressures favoring incumbent holdover officials?

  29. the point is not only expense but the avoidance of confusion

    the debates and important implications of whether charter change is needed i think merits a single issue election. It would undoubtedly puzzle many who are asked to vote for officials that they might not want to exist anymore if they are for charter change.

    The difference between lameduck holdover officials and newly elected ones is clear. The lameduck officials still will need to stand for electoral positions once the charter change issue is resolved. Newly elected officials especially the nationally elected ones have a lot more to lose if charter change would happen to abolish their position

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