Wake Up, Philippines!

Method of Madness: Declaration of Independence

Posted in Charter Change by Erineus on June 14, 2009

By Patricia Evangelista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:16:00 06/14/2009

“WE ARE not pro-administration. WE are for anyone who is good for the country.”

So says Bessie Buencamino, of Mahal ko, Bayan ko.

(MKBK), an organization composed of “God-centered, enlightened, compassionate, nation-loving people” that “seeks to disseminate correct values.”

Their “anyone good for the country” appears to be solidly President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Buencamino is a classmate of President Arroyo, along with the group’s convenor, Doctor Evelyn Kilayko. These are the same women behind the 2005 advertisements splashed across national newspapers that announced “We prefer GMA to chaos” at the height of the Hello Garci scandal.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the ads accounted for 12 percent of all the political ads for this period, making the group the top advertiser with spending of over P3 million. Last year, Kilayko’s group placed full-page newspaper ads calling for “truth not rage” at the height of the $329.48-million ZTE broadband deal controversy.

In the last few weeks, the “Mahal Ko, Bayan Ko” movement placed ads in major Metro Manila newspapers calling for a shift in government, just as the House of Representatives decided to convene itself into a constituent assembly.

MKBK has a core group of 30 moral and upright citizens. They want Charter change, and they want it now. The presidential form of government, says Buencamino, inevitably “breeds megacorruption.” Asked by ANC anchor Tony Velasquez whether she was implying the current leaders within the presidential system were corrupt – or perhaps megacorrupt – Buencamino takes offense. “Do not put words in my mouth.”

It is a stunning sort of argument to change an entire system of government. If the presidential system is the culprit behind billions of pesos of corruption, it is a marvel why MKBK refuses to admit there is corruption in the government beyond Buencamino’s mysterious “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Perhaps the good people behind the proposal for Charter change do not understand precisely why they are being painted as rogues and thieves. House Speaker Prospero Nograles admitted that House Resolution 1109 is “generic” with “no specific proposal.” The rush to pass it becomes all the more suspicious, one year before changing an unpopular president. Speaker Nograles – who mistakenly claimed that the voting on the constituent assembly was transparent simply because it was televised – himself is a self-proclaimed advocate of federalism. MKBK believes that a parliamentary system is “the lasting solution to the perennial problem of monumental corruption spawned by the very system we seek to change.” Other proponents claim all they wish for is to create a test case for the Supreme Court to rule on whether the House of Representatives and Senate should vote as a whole or separately to amend the Constitution.

I have nothing against changing the Charter – when I know what is being changed, when I believe the changes are for the national good, when I trust the motives of the people behind these changes. What is offensive is the idea that proponents believe the public will go along with giving Congress a blank check. Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez, a member of Kampi, said that the resolution merely “tells the senators and congressman that let’s sit down and discuss what changes should be done in the Constitution, that’s it.” The rush and railroading in the House is not explained by a need to “sit down and discuss,” a need that can easily be fulfilled after 2010, with a new president holding a new mandate. It does not explain why the gentlemen of the House have to seek separate senatorial approval to change the name of a road in Caloocan, but believe a whole system of government can change while the Senate is forced to sit helplessly by.

HR 1109 was an insult to the national intelligence, and the patronizing advertisements and interviews tossed out by groups supporting this version of Charter change only cement their disdain for democratic institutions. This is a country whose leaders have failed not only the people but the system. HR 1109 is a manifestation of how even the fundamentals of the presidential system – the check and balance of the House and the Senate – can be ignored if the men in power are ruthless enough. The same ruthless leaders will run.

MKBK’s beloved parliament, the same corrupt jackasses will split the profits of a federal system if the Charter changes at the expense of damaged institutions. Yet another Villar will skip his own ethics hearing, yet another Revilla will rail against some vague notion of immorality, there will be water-tossing and pork-barrel snatching, and the grand carnival will go on, only it will have a different name.

There will be no attempt at term extensions, says the administration. I doubt if even its spokespeople believe themselves. If elections are allowed in 2010, and a new president decides that the presidential system has failed, if debates in Congress are allowed to flourish, if there is public discourse and faith in the leadership, then there is no reason why Charter change cannot happen. There is a time, a place, and a process, all of which the Constitution laid out in 1986.

Proponents say the time is now – “If not now, when?” – because this is the only administration that will permit immediate change in the Charter. Perhaps they should ask why.

2010 allows that flicker of possibility that there is one man – or woman – the nation can trust enough to support. I have little faith in leaders and heroes, but there is no other time than 2010 when that leader is needed, if only to force out the dirt of the last administration. This time, it must be the right choice. These next few months, as so many say, will be the tipping point, the moment that will decide whether the country Hillary Clinton so delightedly congratulated “as a beacon of democratic values to the world” will reach back for its independence or toss what’s left to a gang of thieves.



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