A protest march shouldn’t lead a government to tremble, but if it does, the trembling says more about the government than it does about the marchers. Even a cursory glance at the protests that have gathered in Washington DC should remind any doubters that in a democracy, protest is part of the democratic process. And the same can be said of democracies, whether presidential or parliamentary, where protests are a part of democratic life.
My column for today is All that glittered was the gold. It was inspired by news of the new budget’s approval. I haven’t seen it, but I did have a chance to refer to the ill-fated proposed 2006 budget appropriations act.
The Inquirer editorial points out the fallout from the Cebu Summit cancellation.
Fel Maragay, in his column, summarizes the tortured and tortuous history of the President’s commitment to constitutional change:
The administration congressmen, led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., have decided to jettison the unpopular constituent assembly in favor of a Constitutional Convention to amend the Charter. The decision has the blessing of Malacañang. The convening of the Senate and House of Representatives into a constituent assembly was the administration’s Plan B after the Supreme Court threw out the petition of Sigaw ng Bayan and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines to install a unicameral parliamentary system through people’s initiative.
I can only shake my head over this turn of events because ConCon was the original position of President Arroyo. She spoke about ConCon repeatedly before the May 2004 elections. And the same position was taken not only by the parties in the ruling coalition but by those in the opposition, as well in the political summits held in 2002 and 2004. The holding of a ConCon was also embodied in the Arroyo administration’s Mid-Term Philippine Development Plan.
Why was the ConCon plan scrapped after Mrs. Arroyo won a fresh electoral mandate? The administration is morally- and duty-bound to explain this to the Filipino people.
In a complete turnaround, the President instead formed a 55-member Consultative Commission in early 2005. The group drafted amendments to the Constitution, which included the adoption of a parliamentary system with a federal structure and lifting or liberalization of so-called protectionist barriers to foreign investments in strategic sectors of the economy.
When the draft of the proposed Constitution was submitted to Congress in late 2005, the next move was for the Senate and House to constitute themselves into a constituent assembly to undertake the task of amending the 19-year-old Constitution. The administration’s plan faltered when the Senate refused to cooperate. Senators could not accept the House’s stand that amendments should be voted upon jointly, not separately, by the two legislative chambers.
This led to the decision to launch a people’s initiative in which Sigaw ng Bayan and Ulap supposedly gathered more than 8 million signatures. But this option turned sour for failing to conform to constitutional and statutory requirements.
Think of the billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money spent on the people’s initiative and Consa campaigns. These were perhaps more than enough to cover the expenses of a ConCon. Also, think of the time and energy wasted on what turned out to be futile political exercises.