Dodging concrete demands

Earthquake news (Batanes, Catanduanes, and eastern Bicol) dominated AM radio last night; see the nifty Earthquake Map.

There was an interesting observation made by Jove Francisco in his blog. He noticed that last Friday, the President held a mass oath-taking at the Palace, to which the military noticeable didn’t turn up. This helps explain, perhaps, why the President decided to sit out the Makati rally in the confines of Camp Crame. Read the whole entry, it’s a fascinating peek into what was going on in the Palace last Friday (see also his entry on the arrest of hecklers and continuing nervousness in the Palace; see the related news item, Rains abort unity walk of 77 mayors ).

Have fun with diagrams: See Romulo Neri’s cluttered booty capitalism chart. What’s interesting is his focus is on six captive industries, revolving around Alcantara, Aboitiz, Razon, Tan, and Gokongwei. The bubbles are, apperently, his view of “circles of influence.” For a detailed example, see PAL controls gateways through CAB, say experts.

On to today’s main event. Yesterday Amando Doronila pointed out that Battle arena over NBN shifts to SC. Today, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments, with one report saying it will be a Close call on Neri case. Last night, however, I ran into a former cabinet member with a formidable reputation as a lawyer, and he said that the case was really an open-and-shut one. He was confident the Supreme Court would divide along the lines shown by its decision on prior restraint. While a loyalty vote is possible, he viewed it as improbable. The reason is that everyone knows this will be a decision avidly studied in the schools, and the Justices know they’re deciding a landmark case with near-unbreakable precedents. They wouldn’t risk their reputations on this one.

Last night, the former cabinet member said the sensible path for the Justices to follow, would be to question Neri in an executive session. The news, today, is troubling: Neri a no-show as SC starts oral arguments. One has to wonder if this is of Neri’s doing or a Palace strategy, to deny the Justices information.

Read Fr. Joaquin Bernas SJ’s An E.O. 464 Catechism. He explains what the legal issues to be determined by the high court will be. Particularly relevant is the so-called “Nixon Doctrine”:

Q. Must every claim of executive privilege based on the above enumeration be honored?

A. No. The Court in Senate v. Ermita said that in determining the validity of a claim of privilege, the question that must be asked is not only whether the requested information falls within one of the traditional privileges, but also whether that privilege should be honored in a given procedural setting. Thus it is not for one claiming executive privilege “to unilaterally determine that a duly-issued Subpoena should be totally disregarded.”

Q. Who then determines whether the claimed privilege should be honored?

A. The Court. Thus, for instance, when the Nixon administration claimed privilege for certain tapes about the Watergate break-in, the Court, after looking at the claimed privilege behind closed doors, held that the tapes were not covered by privilege and should be released.

For this reason, our Court also said that “Absent then a statement of the specific basis of a claim of executive privilege, there is no way of determining whether it falls under one of the traditional privileges, or whether, given the circumstances in which it is made, it should be respected.” The lack of specificity renders an assessment of the potential harm resulting from disclosure impossible.

Speaking of E.O. 464… Let’s look at the the demands that have been made by three groups. The CBCP in its pastoral exhortation, the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan of the Ateneo, and the group of former government officials in their statement issued today.

Here are there demands, arranged in terms of their connection with each other:


They are, on the whole, reasonable demands, that address present problems as well as the need for institutional changes. What the demands lack, however, is a timetable (except for the ex-government officials). This is a serious problem, because, as Edilberto de Jesus points out, today, the President continues to be ambiguous if not actually dissembling:

Arroyo made the following points in the interview:

1. Corruption angered her as much as it did the people.

2. As soon as there was talk of anomalies, she immediately took a step to cancel it.

3. As soon as an informant complained to her about corruption, she looked for a way to cancel the project.

4. She only received the report about corruption the day before the signing of the supply contract.

5. She could not see her way to canceling the project the night before the signing of the supply contract because another country was involved.

What she did not say also deserves attention.

1. She did not identify the whistle-blower(s).

2. She did not explain the anomalies in the deal.

It is not clear whether the “pag-uusap na anomalya” (talk of anomalies) and the “nagsumbong” (informant) referred to the same source. But her action, contrary to what the trio of Cabinet officials tried to convey, indicated that there was more than just loose talk of anomalies from tattle-tales.

Arroyo could not simply say that she heard talk about anomalies; she knew about the specific attempt to bribe CHEd Chair Romy Nery. Did she learn about other anomalies from other sources? In any case, she must have found both the whistle-blower(s) and the report credible. Despite assurances from her officials that the deal was clean, she eventually (not immediately) cancelled the project.

Let us grant that the confusion about Arroyo’s radio interview arose in part from language problems or from multiple voices interpreting what she said. She can quickly clarify the issue by explaining what she had meant to say in the interview. She knows which pieces belong to the puzzle and how to put them together.

At this point, however, what is important and what will contribute to the complete picture is no longer what she said or did not say, but what she did and did not do.

If she is as “galit sa katiwalian,” why did she not act, agad-agad, to investigate the anomalies and to punish their perpetrators?

Why has she not supported the Senate investigations? Why has she not provided the Senate with the documentation of the deal?

Why has she allowed officials who could shed light on the corruption to invoke E.O, 464?

Why has she not held to account those of her officials who continue to maintain that the ZTE-NBN deal was aboveboard?

There are appeals for the Truth, but no threat of consequences if the demands aren’t met. I respect the position of the bishops that they aren’t the ones who should be making threats, but if that’s the case, it’s incumbent among the groups pushing for a more centrist, moderate, resolution of current problems to come to a consensus on a timetable.

I understand that there are some natural dates and pressure point events that various groups are considering:

1. The decision of the Supreme Court on executive privilege, 3-4 weeks after today’s hearing of oral arguments;

2. Income Tax day in April;

3. The expiration of Gen. Esperon’s extended tour of duty as AFP Chief of Staff in May;

4. Labor Day;

5. Independence Day

6. The opening of the new session of Congress in July;

7. The expiration of the one-year ban on impeachment complaints in October (deliberations, including passing better rules, can begin in July);

8. pressure point event: if the government attempts a “same dog, different collar” tactic to achieve the same purposes as E.O. 464 while formally revoking it;

9. pressure point event: if the administration, even if faced with a S.C. decision clarifying executive privilege, continues to be uncooperative vis-a-vis the Senate;

10. pressure point event: if the administration attempts to revive Charter Change;

11. pressure point event: if members of the economic team resign from the cabinet.

The 6-7 month period from April 15 to October is more than enough time for even the most moderate groups to firm up what they will do, if the President proves more inclined to pursue dilatory tactics.

I believe, in light of the above, the urgent need is for:

1. The middle forces to consolidate and pursue a consensus;

2. And having forged that consensus to consider that while some are more focused on the President, and others on longer-lasting and more wide-spread reforms, the two are not incompatible if their goal is a Reform Constituency that can challenge the Right and the Left not just now, or 2010, but beyond. John Nery puts it this way:

The strategic value of the 2010 elections lies in that deadline; a transfer of power is already in the schedule. The more our aspiring presidential candidates prepare for the May 10, 2010 contest, the more any cancellation or postponement of the elections (say, through a manufactured people’s initiative) will be resisted. No Filipino politician, not even Ferdinand Marcos, has struck it rich by betting against the Filipino’s passion for the vote. So let Mar Roxas hawk more Tide laundry products, or Manny Villar visit more provinces, or Dick Gordon play coy with Cebu’s Gwen Garcia–their ambition serves democracy’s purpose.

At the same time, the outrage over the official impunity and immoderate greed revealed by the NBN scandal must continue to be expressed. Even if people power seems unlikely, protesters must still take to the streets, fill up the churches, organize school forums, reclaim the public square.

It’s possible that such “communal action,” in the Catholic bishops’ hopelessly ambiguous term, may provoke a confluence of events that will lead to an earlier day of reckoning for the Arroyo administration. Well and good. (We must be open to surprises.) But even if it doesn’t, what of it? The important thing is to do our part.

Father Rector Rolando de la Rosa of the University of Santo Tomas asked Lozada and former president Corazon Aquino and the others who attended the Mass for Truth at the university last Sunday to consider the best way to return integrity to government: “the best way is not through a “rigodon” of leaders who are forcibly removed through people power, but through an enlightened, educated and conscientious electoral process. We have 26 months before the next election. We have enough time to prepare ourselves so we can vote wisely. Let us use people power during election time, not only before or after.”

Some extremely thought-provoking entries in the blogosphere: the most thought-provoking being Writer’s Block’s A Comprehensive Proposal for an EDSA Reform. I do think, though, that when it comes to politics, personalities can never, and never ought to be, separated from the issues, because it is a human activity and not a science. Also, getting rid of the Senate is extremely unwise, though the process for electing its members can stand review. I disagree that Federalism goes hand-in-hand with the parliamentery system; it is, to my mind, even better suited to a presidential and bicameral system. As for proposals for the redistribution of wealth, I’ve long advocated the manner in which Britain broke the power of the aristocracy: through Death Duties. The accumulation of wealth in one person’s lifetime, is to be commended; the destructive effects of inherited wealth is what the British looked at and solved, by making it very difficult to pass on fortunes without greatly diminishing them. This democratized Britain in a generation without stifling entrepreneurship.

The following entries look into the various constituencies that are participating, or not, in current events. New Philippine Revolution on current and future configurations (see also an interesting entry of his on the Vatican position). Mon Casiple calls it the “elite dilemma.” Scriptorium asks, is impeachment better than People Power?

pastilan! reproduces a paper that gives us an insight into how the Left view the middle class, and ongoing debates on how to engage it -or co-opt it, or neutralize it. {caffeine sparks} looks at those who proclaim that being apolitical is a virtue. The need to take a stand, but not get used and abused, is tackled by abashet.

Sonnie’s Porch, and What Do We Care?, and Bayen’s Living Room, and I’m A Baby! and Ang Kape Ni LaTtEX express the reasons behind their misgivings concerning People Power. A Simple Life takes up the cudgels for loyalists. smoke has an interesting entry on what she perceives to be a war of political attrition. Peryodistang Pinay on image-making on media.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

316 thoughts on “Dodging concrete demands

  1. anthony scalia, i think they also blame her for bad weather and why they are not “rich” and living in rockwell (lol).

  2. jason born,

    as for Abe and Blair, they resigned as PM, but they stayed on as members of parliament. same with thaksin of thailand

    on Abe still – he resigned, rather than wait to be voted out by the new ruling party

    as for the US Senator, did he quit as senator or as a senate officer (like majority leader, minority leader, committee chairman etc)

  3. Might add, that in a Parliamentary, resignation is not just Voluntary, but could also be forced on the Party Leader by the Membership. If the PM or Premier refuse to resign the Leadership, thereby staying as PM or Premier, the Membership of the Party, if for the best Interest of the Party, may recall the Leader and Replace Him or Her, thereby effectively Replacing the PM or Premier..

  4. vic, those filipinos who are “calling” on pgma to resign are evidently confusing the current presidential form with a parliamentary system. as you pointed out, an out-of-favor PM has no choice but to resign. these people who are shouting “gloria resign now na” are the same crowd who resist a change to parliamentary form. amusing, isn’t it?

  5. Vic and Bencard,

    It very much depends also on the provisions that govern a parliamentary form of government.

    I’m not really against Charter change per se.

    My offer to you Bencard on a discussion on the merits of the previous proposed Constitutional revisions still stands (which obviously on your case is the parliamentary government). Who knows, you might even convince me that they are worthwhile.

  6. @bencard

    all governmental powers emanate from the people. The people reposited these powers to our leaders for safe keeping and useful exercise for the benefit of the body politic without a contract. Such arrangement, makes our leaders public servants. As the term suggests, leaders are servants and the people are their masters. By analogy in an employer-employee relationship, the leaders are employees, the people are employers. thus, when the servants-leaders-employees break the implied terms, with the absence of the contract, the masters-people-employers can demand for resignation.

    A closer and concrete example to prove the validity of the people’s action, pressuring the govt’t via the call for resignation is the case of Nixon. Under pressure, Nixon resigned. Was Nixon’s resignation invalid? Nixon’s presidency’s was fueled by the water gate scandal, particularly the sting cover-up operation he purposely ordered.

    In our case, Marcos was booted out of power based on allegations of massive corruption and abused of state power. Millions of people flooded the streets to pressure him. But it was not the entire voting populace who joined the protest. Was the people’s action, pressuring Marcos an assault to the rule law or ‘invalid’?

    People also lorded over the streets, calling Erap’s resignation, and eventually catapulted GMA to power. Like in the case of Marcos, it was not the entire voting populace who joined the protest. My question would be the same sir.

    I see no evil if we follow what other democratic countries do to their perceived corrupt leader. Pressuring them to step down, so an honest-to-goodness house cleaning can follow. As history would show it, it is even more beneficial to democracy. Had Marcos’ stayed in power, do you think any case would prosper against him. Had Erap stayed in power, do you think he would not be tempted to use the vast resources of the gov’t in supressing the truth. We saw how Marcos weakend all democratic institutions, controlling Congress, abusing the executive power, intimidating the Courts. That’s why the people put their act together to oust him.

    Like Nixon, GMA’s human instinct for self preservation might become her priority. and she might do the same thing, exploiting the coercive power of the state and resources to supress the truth. Which in my opinion, we’re heading to that direction.

    Yes, the constitution fixes the term of the president. In the same constitution, the people is granted the freedom of expression. Although not absolute, part of that expression, is the right to call for their leaders’ resignation, regardless of the possibility, that such action may cause pressure on them.

    opps. the boss is here. For the time being sir, thank your for your rejoinder. Im glad that we’re able to keep our discussion healthy without resorting to adhominems. I’ll post my reply soon on the issue of moral ascendancy.

  7. One of my objections of the Parliamentary Model Proposed is the method of electing the PM, which was not based on the Strong Party System where the Leader of the Winning Party becomes the PM, whether the Leader failed to win a seat(a deputy leader can take the PM duties, until one of the Members of the Party will give his or her safe seat and a by-election will be called). that way there will be no backroom negotiating for anyone to become a Prime Minister, but the voters wish by voting for the Party, either a minority or majority government. A minority government is always possible for multiple parties contesting the government..

    As what was proposed, the PM will be chosen from among the Elected MPs,which again will be opened to Fragmentation among MPs by either “buying” or offering positions to the elected Members for their votes for the PM and again Loyalties to the sitting PM will be compromised by individual loyalties instead of Political Parties. And that will defeat the whole exercise of switching to Parliamentary Form..

  8. good job, jason (i say this sincerely – you remind of my son, jason, who practices with me and with whom i have frequent discussions about anything under the sun – from hip-hop music to descartes).

    yes, the people entrusted the power to the government (acting through duly-constituted “leaders” and agents) but with a written CONTRACT, i.e., the constitution which spells out the terms and conditions of the power grant and the limits of governance, including presidential tenure. political scientists and philosophers, e.g. rousseau, locke, montesquuieu) called it the “social contract”, a.k.a, the CONSTITUTION.

    the term of office, and the involuntary removal, of a president is prescribed by the constitution. it also allows voluntary termination through resignation (with or without reason). nixon voluntarily resigned, on his own volition, because he knew his impeachment and removal was almost a certainty. that was his own call, and if there was pressure, it was from his own awareness that it was a fight he could not win. the same thing could be said about marcos and estrada. in their minds they were mindful of the futily of resistance. there is no duress in one’s own desire to surrender that could render a resignation invalid.

    in the case of pgma, she is secure in her belief that, under the rule of law, there is no valid ground for her involuntary removal. by her declaration and judging from recent events, we know that she is ready, willing and able to defeat any attempt to “oust” her by hook or by crook. that’s why she is still in office and by so doing, she is preserving our constitution, our laws and our democratic institutions – giving us hope that they will endure for as long as our nation exists.

    btw, the social contract between the people and the government, on one hand, and private employment contract between the employee and employer, on the other, are apple and orange, respectively.

  9. edit: the term of office, and the involuntary removal of a president, ARE prescribed by the constitution.

  10. Vic,

    Well I can’t really say much about your first paragarph.

    I also hate to nit pick with you but since we are discussing the effects of specific changes in the Charter, I have to point out that the PM will not be selected only from the elected MPs. Because of the proportional representation of political parties wherein parties can appoint additional MPs depending on their parties performance in the elections; such appointed MPs may also vie for the Prime Ministership besides voting on it.

    But there are other provisions in the proposed Charter regarding parliament that are of questionable benefit to the people.

  11. the proposed amendment is for a return to the marcos-era Batasan Pambansa parliament

  12. justice league,

    what could be those proposed amendments that are of ‘questionable benefit’ to the people?

    in the British parliamentary system, the PM is an MP, so the PM is chosen from Parliament.

    the chief executive not being directly voted into office is not a ‘questionable benefit’

  13. Anthony Scalia,

    I wrote an article/post about the other provisions that I pertain to and I entitled it “Constitutional Oligarchy”.

    You might be able to search for it in a search engine though there is a copy of it here in this blogsite but its been a long time since so I can’t remember what thread it is.

    I suggest you read it first then get back to me.

  14. @bencard

    Thanks for the compliment sir. I decided to engage with you in a discussion on this issue because you can keep our debate within the bounds of decency. You always hold back using adhominems, especially character assassination not unless your foe draws first blood. I also admire your clarity and conciseness of your arguments. That’s why i enjoy your battle of attritions with MLQ in the market place of ideas.

    Back to the issue.

    I submit that the constitution is the written contract between the people and govt. by and large, it did not abrogate the right of the people to pressure the president through the call for her resignation. With the right of the freedom of expression granted by the constitution, i think it reinforced its validity.

    On the other hand, I think you impliedly agree with me on some points. You conceded that the resignations of Estrada and Nixon, and the removal of Marcos from office were valid because in their desire of doing it, they were not under duress. Although their might had been pressure, yet it was still them who assessed and made judgment whether to continue fighting or not.

    That is precisely my point. And this is the case of what has been going on right now in GMA’s embattled leadership. The people, who believe the president is no longer serving them but enriching herself and her family in tandem with her cronies, pressure GMA by asking her resignation. But leaving it to her own volition to decide voluntarily whether to step down or not. The same thing we did to Marcos and Erap. And the same thing the American people and his political opponents did to Nixon. The basis: The right of freedom of expression. As long as the people do it peacefully and within the parameter of the law to which GMA may crumble to the pressure and eventually resign because she sees she will lose the battle anyway. I believe, her resignation will be valid.

    If GMA won’t heed the call, and the AFP and PNP, won’t jump into the fray and turn their back on the president, then the people who have been asking her resignation, including me, won’t have any another option but to wait until 2010.

    Frankly, i believe GMA won’t step down even if the entire voting populace or 80 percent of RP’s population would join the rally. As long as she has the majority support of the Lower House so she can thwart impeachment; and as long as she has the backing of the most crucial element that holds the key of her candy store: the military and the police, she won’t resign. What im hoping to accomplish in joining the call for her resignation is for the military and police to see the true pulse of the nation.

    I rest my case, sir.

  15. good points, jason. and if pgma could hold on till 2010, then we avoid yet another constitutional crisis and upheaval, putting stability to our institutions that others in the outside world can rely on and respect. a country built on a shaky foundation will crumble at the first ill wind that blows. we are are not an old nation by any means but we are not an upstart either. it’s time we think in terms of permanence and predictability in our governmental processes rather than engage in endless and costly experimentation and adventurism to satisfy the ambitions or messianic delusions of a few.

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