Wake Up, Philippines!

Virtual Rallies and Cyberactivism vs Con Ass

Posted in Charter Change, Cyberactivism, Internet by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Carlo S. Ople

I was just reading the latest articles on the recently concluded Anti Con-Ass rally on Inquirer.Net. According to the police, this rally had the lowest turnout, around 6,000 based on their estimates.

The organizers, on the other hand, claim that they had 13,000-15,000 warm bodies. You got to ask yourself the question: despite all the outrage this issue has generated, why only 15,000 people went to the streets?

I’m sure there are varied reasons but at the end of the day the measurement of success for events like this is the number of participants. Sadly 15,000 is not representative of the majority of the Filipino people and can easily be dismissed by the politicians pushing for Con Ass.

However, the good news is that on the Internet, we have almost double the number of the people who went to the rally sign up on the “Stop Con Ass Now” cause on Facebook. As of this writing, there are almost 28,000 sign-ups on the cause.

With that in mind, I came up with this short article explaining the strengths of Cyberactivism and why it should be taken seriously not just by the proponents, but also by politicians and organizers who want to provide a platform for the citizens to be part of a cause.

Physical Rallies can be Inconvenient
Let’s face it, life these days is hard. Missing a day of work means a salary deduction or a lost vacation/sick leave. The reality is a lot of Filipinos will not “pay” to be part of a rally by missing work. I think this was the biggest hurdle a lot of office workers had to face in Makati when they wanted to join the rally last night. This was the sentiment of several colleagues I have here in the office.

Rallies also need a convergence point. You physically have to be in one spot on a specific time to be able to make the effort count. This literally makes the rally limited since those who are outside of Manila, especially those in Visayas and Mindanao, cannot participate because they won’t buy a plane ticket and fly all the way here to protest Con Ass.

Virtual Rallies, on the other hand, are completely the opposite. All you need to have to be part of it is to have access to the Internet. The good thing these days is that there are more than 10,000+ Internet cafes spread all over the Philippines and most of them charge very reasonable and affordable rates.

There are a few cafes in Davao that charge as low as P5/hour. By going to the worldwide web, you transcend the inconveniences brought about by physical rallies. You’re still counted and your part of the movement without having to spend that much time, resources, and effort.

Physical Rallies end when they’re finished

This, I think, is the biggest weakness of physical rallies. When the crowd disperses, the event ends, especially if there were only a few or an average number of attendees. Other succeeding rallies are usually treated as separate efforts and they don’t really all add up in terms of metrics.

And that I think is one of the strongest qualities of Virtual Rallies. The moment a person joins, he’s in it for the long haul. The count is cumulative regardless of the time and space. As long as the website is up and running, people will be counted. That’s the reason why the Facebook Cause against Con Ass is already nearing 30,000 sign-ups. Imagine if we give it more time? That number will continue to grow and eventually might even end up more than 100,000.

What is more effective in pushing for a cause? An unsure attendance of 6,000-15,000 in a rally in Makati or a virtual representation of more than 100,000?

Organizers of the Anti Con Ass Campaign should really take Cyberactivism seriously. Given the right firepower, the Facebook approach might actually be more effective in the long run.

Carlo Ople is the main author of New Media Philippines (http://newmedia.com.ph), a blog that aims to help Filipinos maximize and realize the potential of New Media. Apart from being a blogger, Carlo also serves as a Marketing Manager for one of the leading online gaming companies in the Philippines. He is also a freelance digital marketing consultant and has worked with various politicians and business owners expand their reach and influence through the use of social media. Read more about him at New Media Philippines (http://newmedia.com.ph)


Lacson urges ‘tax revolt’ vs. Charter change

Posted in Charter Change, house of representatives by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Maila Ager
First Posted 14:26:00 06/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has called for a “tax revolt” against efforts by allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to amend the Constitution.

Businessmen and citizens should not pay taxes until there are clear signs that Charter change proponents have abandoned and until Arroyo steps down from office in 2010, Lacson said.

“Aside from being a protest move, this would ensure that our taxes will be safe from the propensity of officials of this administration to perpetuate themselves to power by dipping their hands into government coffers,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Lacson said the Arroyo administration used taxpayers’ money to cheat in the 2004 presidential elections and in the 2007 mid-term elections.

He said businessmen could opt to hold on to their corporate dues until after the deadline of filing of certificates of candidacy in November while income tax payers have until April next year to see if Charter change proponents would abandon this move.

It will also be known by November if Arroyo would run for Congress in her home province of Pampanga, he said.

“At that point, we can already see a brewing scheme not only to prolong her power stint but also to change our form of government,” Lacson said.

When a new and acceptable president is elected in 2010, taxpayers could show the new leader their goodwill by paying correct taxes.

In the United States, Lacson said taxpayers also went on a similar “revolt” to protest government spending on less essential programs earlier this year.


MILITANT SOLONS WARN: SC ruling won’t stop constituent assembly

Posted in Charter Change, house of representatives, Supreme Court Decisions by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Maila Ager
First Posted 14:06:00 06/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Supreme Court’s dismissal of a petition against House Resolution 1109, which seeks to convene a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, could embolden its proponents to push through with their plan, militant lawmakers warned.

Without deciding on the legality of HR 1109, the high tribunal on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano and his daughter, Evangeline, saying it was premature to question it.

“It doesn’t close the issue. Proponents of con ass [constituent assembly] will continue their initiative, the Lozano petition as no relevance on what they’re pushing for,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo said in a phone interview.

Representative Teodoro Casiño, also of Bayan Muna, said HR 110 proponents could put a spin on the decision to make it appear that the Supreme Court upheld the resolution, while in fact, the petition questioning it was dismissed on a technicality.

“They could say that since a petition against it was dismissed, it could mean that there’s no more hindrance to convening a constituent assembly,” Casiño said in a phone interview.

“Lozano’s petition was designed to fail so that its dismissal can be used to justify Lakas-Kampi’s next step which is the immediate convening of the House constituent assembly,” Casiño said in a separate text message.

Anakpawis party list Representative Rafael Mariano said the dismissal would “incite Ms Arroyo’s allies to force the situation and convene her self-serving constituent assembly.”

“After the SC’s favorable ruling, Ms Arroyo and her minions will be more aggressive and desperate to convene a fake constituent assembly and perpetuate themselves in power. The people should not let their guard down,” Mariano said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, the main author of the resolution, said the dismissal was anticipated.

Echoing the view of Constitution expert, Father Joaquin Bernas, he said that HR 1109 did not by itself convene Congress into a constituent assembly.

“There will be justiciable issue only when con ass is actually convened and specific amendments (are proposed),” Nograles said.

Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino, another proponent of HR 1109, said that Lozano’s petition was premature since there was no actual convening of the assembly yet.

Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, a member of the Liberal Party, welcomed the tribunal’s decision.

“This should also be a warning to Representative Antonino that his plan will not work. The dismissal of the case of Lozano will now force the proponents of HR 1109 to either convene con ass to create the judicial controversy or to just forget HR 1109 and have it archived. The LP hopes that the proponents choose the later,” he said in a text message.

Muntinlupa Representative Rufino Biazon said the decision was expected, saying that a “justiciable controversy will only happen if the House actually convenes itself into a con ass and the Senate disagrees.”

Gabriela partylist Representative Liza Maza said HR 1109 remained as mere “expression of the House” and that there was no controversy yet as long as there was no move to convene.

“Lozano should be told not to resort to legal adventurism on this very important issue,” Maza said.

Representative Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan partylist said the Supreme Court “avoided Malacañang and the House majority’s trap of ruling on the political question” by dismissing the “nuisance case.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Manuel Roxas and Richard Gordon said the court’s ruling was expected because the constituent assembly has not been convened.

“Expected na namin yun kaya nga hindi nga kumikilos ang Senado [That’s expected. That’s why the Senate is not moving],” Enrile said.

Roxas said the Senate legal department was instructed to prepare in case the constituent assembly is convened, even as senators agreed in a caucus early this month not to act on HR 1109.

He said a mere announcement of the date for the convening of a constituent assembly could be enough grounds to question the matter before the court.

Some congressmen pushing for Charter change want to convene the assembly immediately after President Gloria Maapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.

Gordon warned pro-Charter change lawmakers that the Supreme Court would rule against a House-only constituent assembly.

“Sa ngayon, ang malinaw ang dapat gawin ng ng Kongreso kung gusto nilang mag con-as na sila-sila lang, pati yan ay ibabasura ng Korte Suprema sapagkat paulit-ulit naming sinasabi ang Congress ay two houses. Hindi kayang gawin ng lower house, yung pagbabago ng Saligang Batas [It’s clear, if the House wants a constituent assembly by itself, the Supreme Court will rule against it. We have said repeatedly that Congress has two chambers. The lower house alone can’t amend the Constitution],” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. welcomed the SC ruling as “good news.”


Useless one without the other

Posted in Charter Change by Erineus on June 14, 2009

By Isagani A. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:10:00 06/14/2009

I BLAME the current controversy on the planned constitutional assembly (con-ass) to an ambiguous provision in the Constitution of 1987 that the Constitutional Commission of 1986 drafted with all supposed care and erudition. That questionable rule is found, incredibly, in Art. XVII on Amendments and Revisions of the great document reading partly as follows:

“Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or (2) a constitutional convention.” (Emphasis supplied).

The body that approved it consisted of an impressive membership headed by a former justice of the Supreme Court, Cecilia Muñoz Palma, as president, and veteran legislator and law practitioner, Ambrosio Padilla, as vice president. It included a former and future chief justice, Roberto Concepcion and Hilario G. Davide Jr., two future justices of the Supreme Court, Florenz D. Regalado and Adolfo S. Azcuna, three-time Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr., the estimable Blas F. Ople, Lorenzo Sumulong, and Francisco Rodrigo from the Senate, respected civic leaders like Christian Monsod and Jose Nolledo, and Joaquin G. Bernas from the Catholic Church, among many other public figures.

Any one of them could have easily recognized the obvious weakness of the above-cited provision that is now invoked as the basis of the independent action being plotted in the lower House against the Senate.

Speaker Prospero Nograles and his conspirators are arguing that pursuant to the Constitution itself, any change in this fundamental law may be proposed by the House of Representatives despite the non-participation of the Senate. Even if the senators were to join their colleagues in the lower House, they would be outvoted with the required three-fourths vote coming exclusively from the lower House, where the required concurrence could easily be exacted from the mostly obedient cohorts of Malacañang.

True, if we go by the clear wording of the constitutional provision now invoked by Speaker Nograles and his flunkies. The required three-fourths concurrence does not distinguish between the members of the lower House and the members of the Senate, but can simply come from the lower House as “Members of Congress” who alone can propose to change the Constitution. This interpretation conforms to the accepted norm that the clear meaning of a provision must be found in the document itself, in its language that best indicates the intendment of the framers when they adopted the rule in question.

According to Father Bernas, however, that distinction must be inferred from the fact that Congress is a bicameral body consisting of two separate chambers that must act together unless the contrary is indicated. This is exemplified by the approval of bills where the two chambers act in tandem as equal partners in a dual legislature, without the necessity of the Constitution indicating their togetherness in the performance of their common acts. That is the reason, he says, why it was not necessary to clarify in Art. XVII, Sec. 1(1) that the required 3/4 concurrence of the members of Congress meant the separate participation of both Houses of Congress, to give validity to their common decisions. Otherwise, the action alone of the House of Representatives to propose the Con-ass without the Senate would be like a wedding with the bride but not the groom.

That is a plausible theory, except that Art. VI, Sec. 23 (1) cautiously says that “The Congress by a vote of 2/3 of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war.” Art. VII, Sec. 9, carefully provides that, in case of a vacancy in the Office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a member of Congress who shall assume office “upon confirmation by a majority vote of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately.” Upon the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus under Sec. 18, “the Congress, voting jointly, by vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session” may revoke the presidential acts.

Is the proposal to amend or revise the Constitution less important than the above situations where the reaction of the members of the Congress voting jointly or separately by majority or two-thirds vote is specifically indicated? It is true that a bill granting a tax exemption under Art. VI, Sec. 28(4), and the declaration of amnesty under Art. VII, Sec. 19 are subject to the concurrence of all the members of the Congress, without more from the fussy Commission. I do not believe, however, that such simple process can be expected on such an epochal question as the amendment or revision of the Constitution.

The inadequacy of Art. XVII, Sec 1(1) would have been obvious to a law freshman but did not bother the experts in the Constitutional Commission of 1986 who should have known that one of the qualities of a good written constitution is clarity. They probably simply copied the Constitution of 1973 that established a unicameral legislature and thought they had done a great job.


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.


Rallyists warned: Beware of swine flu

Posted in Charter Change, house of representatives, News Feature by Erineus on June 11, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Short of telling Charter change (Cha-cha) critics not to attend today’s rally in Makati, Speaker Prospero Nograles yesterday warned protesters of the rising cases of Influenza A(H1N1) in the country.

“I hope that the organizers of this anti-Cha-cha rally will forewarn protesters against hugging and making close bodily contact at this Wednesday’s demonstration because of the clear and present threat of the A(H1N1) virus,” he said, jokingly.

The House leader said rallyists run the risk of contracting the flu virus.

Nograles said he is wondering “what the fuss is about on our House Bill 1109 when in fact, it was clearly printed that we are against any form of term extension, including that of President Arroyo.”

“Does it mean they’re protesting the resolution that doesn’t want to extend the President’s term? Do protesters want term extension? Because resolution is clear that we are against extension of terms. They should support our resolution instead of going against it,” he said.

Even the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) advised yesterday those joining protest rallies in Makati today to bring umbrellas as rains are likely to prevail over Metro Manila this afternoon.

Pagasa senior weather forecaster Robert Sawi said Metro Manila would experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers, mostly in the afternoon or evening.

Western Luzon would have cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms.

The rest of the country, on the other hand, would be partly cloudy with isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms.

“Good weather would prevail over Metro Manila aside from brief rainshowers especially in the afternoon or evening,” Sawi said.

Sawi said they were monitoring two low-pressure areas outside the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday afternoon.

However, he said the slight weather disturbances were still too far to directly affect the country.

Thousands of anti-Charter change protesters are expected to gather in Makati City today to denounce the passage of House Bill 1109 which will convene Congress into a constituent assembly to propose changes in the Constitution.

Critics of the government claim that the passing of the bill is part of a ploy to stop the forthcoming 2010 presidential elections, thereby extending the term of President Arroyo.

Malacañang officials have, however, repeatedly denied such plan. – With Helen Flores


Bernas: They announced they’ll commit a crime

Posted in Charter Change, Congress, Constitution, house of representatives by Erineus on June 5, 2009

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:51:00 06/05/2009

MANILA, Philippines—There is no reason to take House Resolution No. 1109 to the Supreme Court because what the majority members in the House of Representatives essentially did on Tuesday night was to announce that they would commit a crime, constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said Thursday.

“To my mind, the only thing they achieved was that they shot their foot. They did not do any damage yet,” Bernas said in a forum at Ateneo de Manila University.

“What they said was, ’Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to violate the Constitution.’ But they did not violate the Constitution. That is why, to my mind, there is nothing yet to bring to the Supreme Court,” he said.

And if the House tries to bypass the Senate and takes proposed constitutional amendments to the Commission on Elections for a plebiscite, it will be “a fatal mistake,” Bernas also said.

“The amendments can only take effect if approved by a plebiscite, which they have to present to the Senate,” he pointed out.

Commenting on the possible extension of the terms of elective officials, Bernas said the Supreme Court and the military would play a part in pushing it through.

“So how real is the threat of extension? It is real only if the Supreme Court will cooperate … and more so the military,” he said.

The alternative, he said, might be a people power revolt similar to what took place in 1986. He noted that after that revolt, the justices of the Supreme Court were replaced.

“Justices might think of that if ever they are tempted to cooperate in the gang rape of the Constitution,” Bernas said.

Ball in their court

Even House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said there was no reason to question HR 1109 before the Supreme Court because there was no controversy yet.

“Why should I walk into that kind of trap?” he said in a phone interview. “”The ball is clearly in [the House majority’s] court, not mine. I’m not going to make it easier for them by dancing to their tune.”

Zamora said he refused to believe that the proponents of HR 1109 only wanted to trigger a ruling from the Supreme Court on the proper way to conduct a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

“Of course not,” he said. “You can’t call a Con-ass just to drink coffee … Of course, you’re going to discuss amendments.”

He also said the difference in the opinions of the proponents of HR 1109 on what to do next meant that “they were not the masterminds” of the resolution.