Hobson’s choice

The Speaker, every chance he gets, keeps emphasizing the point that he’s “turned the tables” on the Senate. He hopes that no one will notice his tactical move to move for a Constitutional Convention won’t be revealed for what it is: a Hobson’s choice.

The choice isn’t between a failed, because dangerous and alarming, House attempt at unilaterally proposing amendments by means of a constituent assembly that tried to sideline the senate, and a constitutional convention meant to deflect attention from the House and pin down a slippery Senate. No. There is no real choice at all.

Either way, the objective of the House remains: a unicameral parliament with a vaguely-defined power-sharing arrangement between a future parliament and the present president, all of whom resent the electorate. The proposal may enjoy support among representatives, even governors and mayors, and even a large portion of the public; but opposition to that particular proposal undeniably also exists on a large scale among the public and in the upper house. That the objective remains paramount is shown by the attempt of the president’s lawyer to get into the act by proposing appointed constitutional convention delegates (which is not an illegal proposal, but merely politically expedient).

Dave Llorito has a blog entry I find myself agreeing with in large part. His point is, the past year has underscored a message different sectors of society have slowly, sometimes clumsily, tried to send: no short cuts. This is a message that I agree has been sent to every side of the political divide. Indeed, there seems a consistency in public behavior, on the whole, over the past decade.

For those of us who wanted the president to immediately resign, the public’s message was: let us first find a way to hold her accountable, and let the charges be presented and the evidence weighed. Precisely the same message the public sent in 2000-2001 with regards to President Estrada.

When impeachment was attempted, the public showed a willingness to see the process through, and even desired it push through: and didn’t like it when the process didn’t prosper. But the corresponding message was, if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

In between, when the military regime change option reared its head, there was a backlash against it in terms of public opinion -but government’s reactions, too, provoked a backlash, with various executive stratagems receiving heavy criticism. Whether a 1989 style coup, or a 2001 style withdrawal of support, the public said no.

the public gave the 2nd impeachment the benefit of the doubt; and when it again didn’t prosper, opinion again indicated a third attempt after May, 2007 remained on the table.

The consensus, as it existed, was: until you prove her guilt according to constitutionally-ordained means, she will stay until 2010 but not a day longer than her present term.

With the various avenues for constitutional change, the public has seemed willing to tolerate all of them, but only to a certain point. The so-called “people’s initiative” stumbled and fell under the weight of overwhelming official support but underwhelming public interest; it expired at the doorstep of the Supreme Court. Though there is talk that that the dead may walk and sign again.

Constituent Assembly rumbled on for over a year but provoked widespread opposition only when its first consequence clearly became the postponement and possible cancellation, of the May elections, and when the public finally came to grips with the fundamental attribute of parliamentary government, which is to deprive the electorate of having a direct say in the election of the chief executive. Congressmen wanted to avoid bothering with elections. The absence of even mitigating circumstances to provide the benefit of the doubt, is what Inquirer editorial for today focuses on to clarify precisely what caused public offense, and why. Ellen Tordesillas recounting a possible lapsus senilis last Monday only compounds matters.

And so here’s the difference: which is that the ones proving more obstinate in the face of public opinion are the administration and its allies. The very minimal standards of democratic adherence public opinion demands -don’t move around elections, let everyone say their piece even if you have the numbers to shut them up, accept it when you’ve lost and try better next time within the bounds of what public opinion permits- are being flouted by the administration, whether in the House, the Palace, or the provinces. If you resent the fact it makes someone like [insert the name of the opposition member you like to hate here] look like a democratic hero, you have no one to blame but the ruling coalition.

Therefore, if any national consensus exists, it isn’t along the lines of whether the constitution should be amended or what means should be followed, but instead, that there are certain non-negotiables that both administration and opposition are required to submit to: elections always, with a national vote for the chief executive; no abuse of the powers of numbers; no restrictions on debate and no short-cuts in procedures; no rushing; no going beyond the bounds of the democratic process. Period. For everyone.

If the unicameral option was being weighed in the past, I do believe opinion has hardened against it. This was understandable enough for those with memories of the Batasan Pambansa, but is significant considering many people today can’t remember that far back.

While I don’t think a majority consensus in favor of Federalism yet exists, I do think even those supportive of it have been disheartened by the manner in which Federalism was waved around by the President last year, but dropped in its constituent assembly gambit by those you’d think would have supported it, the members of the House. It just shows how far apart the priorities of the professional politicos and even their constituents, remains.

It’s also significant the President’s allies in the House are proclaiming the convention option dead (while pinning the blame on the Senate, of course) because the House and Palace both know that their Achilles heel remains the credibility of the Commission on Elections. If, for example, the May 2007 elections turn out to be marred by fraud, that will tar and feather those elected -including convention delegates. And if the manner in which the administration has attempted people’s initiative, and then constituent assembly (both valid methods except invalidated by the means used to accomplish them), a convention composed of delegates whose election is in doubt, would be dead before it could even begin its work.

Which would close off every possible option for regime survival, and extension.

Last night, on Pia Hontiveros’ show, Palace functionaries apparently proposed joining the Sunday rally, which not only boggled the minds of those planning to go, but raised the temperature again. And so, the Palace is pleading for the rally not to push through. I think it will achieve the opposite -convince people to attend, anyway. Ahead of Manila will come the Negrenses who will dispel Rep. Nograles’ assertion that if anyone is upset, it’s only people in Metro Manila. Read the Visayas and Mindanao papers.

Let me restate some principles of People Power I believe have been proven over the past year, as I’ve mentioned in the blog in the past:

1. Those who were the targets of People Power in the past, cannot call for it in the future;
2. Those who benefited from People Power in the past, cannot deny it’s use by anyone else;
3. People Power is peaceful, and anyone who advocates violence can never call for it, or expect anyone to follow them;
4. People Power is led from the front, and not from the rear; leaders and followers march together otherwise it’s not People Power.

These explain, partially, to be sure, why after it was widely assumed that fatigue had set in, there are those prepared to march once more. But not all. Bong Austero, for example, remains less bothered by congressmen than he was by Renato Constantino, Jr.

In Cebu City, Raymund Fernandez puts forward a sober proposal (in essence, what Sylvia Mayuga calls “People Power updated”):

The drive for constitutional change now rests solely on the proposal to append the election for constitutional convention representatives to the coming general elections in 2007. That these elections are happening (bar the ever-present possibility of a coup) has become academic. The only question we must now ask is whether or not we can have credible elections at that time.

Now would be a good time for those occupying the highest positions of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider resigning for the good of our country. It is, after all, clear beyond the shadow of a doubt they cannot facilitate elections without raising doubts about their partiality. Too many questions have been raised of their integrity by members of the Armed Forces, no less, who risked court martial for their claims. And while the content of the “Hello, Garci” tapes may arguably not be admissible in court, they have found too many believers who cannot be discounted entirely.

The chances of this development are admittedly slim. They should have resigned the first time the “Hello, Garci” tapes came out. The fact that they did not is clear proof they will hold on to their positions no matter what. It seems equally clear GMA will not rid us of them. Such a move would certainly place administration candidates at a disadvantage. And any disadvantage now for administration candidates could prove fatal in the coming elections given their current standings at the surveys. Thus, it is too early for us to be entirely happy with the current developments despite the fact a victory has been scored with the death of Cha-cha and Con-ass.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

66 thoughts on “Hobson’s choice

  1. Manolo,

    I actually agree with you that there were outrage. It was there in my comment. I recognize it. What we really disagree is wether outrage is coming from majority of the peopel or not. I believe based on the number of peopel that I talked with here in new york city and in the Philippines that it is not.

    Its a good thing that you clarify what is the rally on Sunday all about. And i know that its just a rally. But of you read some of the comments from rabid anti Arroyo in this blog. they are expecting or hoping that it will turn into a people power. This is my concern on how you promote the “outrage” as a majority sentiment. I am having a feeling na ginagatungan nyo ng husto ang mga tao. It like “you are outraged, Im outraged. “Alam nyo marami tayo”. Lets get something of our outrage and baka eto na ang panahon para mapatalsik si Gloria”….. I really dont like the it! I feel something is very wrong with it.

    And also, everybody knows that is was already a trademark of the anti Gloria and opposition to use a simple event like rally and convert it into peopel power. There was that religious procession kuno pero hawak hawak naman puro politcal placards. I even feel that opposition did not work so hard on the impeachment to simply impeach Gloria. Its all press releases to incite people to do people power.

    Bistado na eto ng mga tao, manolo! lalong lalo na ang yung sinsabi mong great undecided. Ang feeling ko nga, the oppsition has totally destroyed the credibilioty of a rally that people dont believe on it anymore as just a from of airing valid greivances.

    On manueverings on EDSA2, eh ganon naman talaga lagi sa Pilipinas eh. lahat ginagapang ng mga politiko to use at their own advantage. From a simple death of Flor Contemplacion to the victory of Manny Pacquia laging may politikang pumapasok. Alam lahat na nag titreasure ng EDSA especially those people who went there spontaneously na meron talgang mamolitika doon especially Mike Arroyo sa EDSA Dos, The oligarchs and Enrile sa EDSA1. But to dismiss EDSA 2 as orchestrated by Mike Arooyo alone is totally disgusting, horrible, and very insulting to the sensibilities of those who truly believe in the power of peopel power. Everybody knows that Mike Arroyo alone cannot make a people power or even Cory Aquino or Cardinal Sin….As i have pointed out matagal ng nag plano nag opposition ng people power that is why they holding so tight on to Erap para may panimulang masa kaagad. Pero wala nangyari di ba. Kasi hindi nag paplano ang people power.

    On EDSA 3, honestly I cannot relate much in your last two paragraphs. I can agree with you that the two people powers did meet the expectation of the people. But can cannot agree with you thats is why there is EDSA3. I believe the people response to that failed expecations from two peopel powers is by never resorting to people power anymore as a way of solving our problems. And that is why I belive that there will never be people power anymore. And that is why people like me who are authenetic veterans of two peopel powers would just love to reminisce the glory days of the two peopel power
    becuase that is all we have now. Memories! And that is why peopel liek me will resist anything that will destroy the reputation of the two peopel powers. ( Thats is why I hated Cory soooooo much now dahil feeling ko binababoy na nya ang peopel power)

    And that is why Manolo peopel are saying ” No more short cuts. Period!

  2. Yes CVJ, I am among those who will be render less powerful if the proposal on indirect voting will materialized. But compared to those known powers players you know and verybody knows what I mean.

    I do prefer direct voting. But my attitud ehere is this. There are others who prefer indirect voting too. Kung marami sila di pasensya si “ako”. Pero kung marami naman “kami”, pasensya sila…. eh ganyan lang naman ang buhay sa demokrasya di ba ? Hindi naman palaging yung gusto ko ang masusunod yung gusto ng kamaihan ang masusunod.

    That is why Im not outraged. Of course I dont like the way the majority congress did recently in the senate. Bu that was just it. I dont like it , I dont agree with it I dont condone it.

    But definitely I am not outraged

  3. Rego said: “That is why Im not outraged. Of course I dont like the way the majority congress did recently in the senate. Bu that was just it. I dont like it , I dont agree with it I dont condone it.

    But definitely I am not outraged ”

    So why did you join Edsa2? Eh diba majority of the senator judges said no in opening the envelops? Why were you “outraged” then?

  4. DJB,

    Hindi ko yata magets ang conspiracy theory mo? Why zero out Davide. Panganiban was there too. An dfrom what i understand sya pa nag ang ponentia di ba.

    You dont agree with the consructed resignation? So how will you take that action of Erap leaving malacanang? Di ba malacanang is the official residence of the President. Kung mag alsa balutan sya anong ibig sabihin noon?

    I may agree with you na maaring merong naging conspiracy between militray and Mike Arroyo. But then nauuna ang mga tao pumpunta sa EDSA eh bago nag desisyon ang military. Di kaya they were inspired by the the numerous people that went to EDSA and decided to give the people what they want? A change in leadership nga.

  5. Natatawa ako sa inyo….short cut nga yung ginawa nyo nung EDSA II for ousting a duly elected president. Now that the situation is different and much worse: where are you? Protecting and hiding your asses from the mistake you did in 2001. Aminin nyo na, you were just used by power hungry government officials.

  6. ay aparc sparc ….. walang nakakatawa, wag malilito….at wala ring nag dedeny…wala ring inconsistency

    simple lang yan, i had my outrage then in EDSA 1 and 2, I learned that solving the country problem (especially about leadership) through emotionalism ( which to me peopel power is really an emotional approach rather that objective) is is not working. That why I dont wamt want people power anymore. Learning is a process naman di ba and sometime you learn from your mistake.

    That is why I choose not to be outraged this time….

    gets mo na? sige ka pag di mo pa na gets yan baka mas ikaw ang pagtawanan…..

  7. Democracy they say is rule of the majority. But if the majority becomes a dictator and abuses their “majority rule” just like what happened in congress, then we all have a problem. Its everybody’s problem and its more than enough reason to be outraged else, they will have more than enough reason to be abusive than ever. I guess you just want them to abuse you more.

  8. My issue on questioning the motive/agenda of the leaders versus the real reason of the prayer/for/luck/ prosperity-motivated flock is the sustainability of the issue.

    To keep the fire burning, the ember should be always flamed. I wrote “politically motivated” religious leaders because that’s what they really are. The political motivation is not to condemn what is right and what is wrong. For their own and not for the sake of the people. My goodness sake.

    Deals and no deals have always been their game. So now I am thinking of another agenda. What is it that they like in order to stop prayer rallies? A juicy government position for a congregation’s member? A tax-exemption for some favored firms ?
    Or the freezing of some resolutions that would be soon passed as a law that affect the congregations/church? Or the proclamation of the law suspension. (remember the death penalty and the population control measure).

    The moment they get their objective(and they always do), they become silent again. So is the “flock”.

  9. Rego, as a fellow participant in EDSA and EDSA2, i think the problem was not the people’s ’emotionalism’ during the events themselves. After all, it was emotions as driven by our convictions that motivated us to act. Rather, we in the public lacked follow through afterwards. Once everything was back to normal, we let the politicians revert to their usual form. As the past few weeks’ turn of events have shown, to check the abuses of the State, an actively engaged public sphere (e.g. INC, CBCP, B&W)is needed. We should not let the disappointments of the past numb our sense of justice or else, as freeloaders, we become part of the problem.

    I agree with Ca T that the issue is sustainability in the face of leaders who may waver (or be co-opted by GMA), but that is something that remains to be seen.

  10. rego said:

    “And that is why Manolo peopel are saying ” No more short cuts. Period!”

    this should have been your attitude taken before having thought of joining edsa 2. i abhored erap, but i would have wanted the impeachment process completed more than anything else rather than taking short cuts through text party in the streets. great concert it was at edsa shrine, wasn’t it then?

  11. Speaking of short cuts, the impeachment of GMA should have been allowed to go its full course. But because the process was cut in the bud by the House majority through the sheer tyranny of numbers, in the same way that they tried to ram through the Con-Ass, the question of GMA’s legitimacy won’t go away. In a way, the public outrage is a bit late in coming. It should have come when the first attempt to impeach GMA was cut short. But I guess public outrage has a way of compounding first before it finally explodes.

  12. Cat and cvj, I do not expect direct intervention by the sovereign people in the day-to-day affairs of the government, if that’s what you mean by “sustainability”. I expect the people to intervene directly in matters of immense significance to our public life. Cheating in the elections by a President is one. Railroading of Charter change for a power grab is another. We cannot be going into the streets for every corrupt act committed by our public officials. Sustainability means that we should not stop demanding for GMA to fully account for the “Hello Garci” tapes instead of evading the issue. Sustainability means that we should not stop concerted effort until GMA, JDV, and their cohorts permanently abandon their plot to ravage the Constitution to suit their self-serving agenda. And the rallies are part of this concerted effort, admittedly to be participated in by sinners.

  13. Shaman, by sustainability, i was thinking of a scenario similar to what happened back in EDSA3 when the INC made themselves scarce towards the end. In any case, for now, i’m just glad they are on the right side of the issues.

    I agree that it is not feasible to have direct intervention by the people all the time because we either have our day jobs (or are looking for one). But, as i told Rego above, the public’s mistake after the two successful EDSA’s was to let down its guard. Especially after EDSA2, the weakening of the public sphere was compounded by the entry of civil society into the State and their resulting corruption. (That is why, as i mentioned before, it is important for civil society members to get out of government and go back to their respective advocacies.)

    I believe, that the quality of the State institutions can only be enhanced and maintained if it genuinely interacts with an active public sphere via NGO’s and People’s organizations. Involvement by a broad segment of the public will, in turn, energize these NGO’s and people’s organizations and will prevent them from degenerating into narrow special interest groups.

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