September 16, 2005

Transition Council

Many of those who remain hesitant about joining the protest movement to oust the Arroyo government, and even many of those who are already convinced of the need for people power still ask, "Sino ang ipapalit?"

There is a wide perception that the reason people are not yet pouring out into the streets is not so much the lack of disgust for the GMA regime but the lack of clarity or consensus on who should lead the new government, or the lack of an immediately palatable or generally acceptable successor.

The situation now is thus different from 1986 and 2001 when a consensus had been reached on who should lead the new government before or as soon as the people massed in the streets, nationwide, in their millions. In 2001, the situation was simpler because GMA presented an acceptable alternative to Estrada, regardless of the preferred or actual manner by which Estrada would be deposed -- resignation, impeachment, or ouster.

This time around the question of who takes over hinges to a large extent on how the Arroyo regime is removed from power. Had Mrs. Arroyo voluntarily resigned or been impeached and then found guilty in an impeachment trial, Vice President Noli de Castro would step in as constitutional successor.

No matter how unpalatable to many of the forces working for regime change, many of whom also aim for instituting substantial reforms in the political and socio-economic system in this country, a de Castro presidency would take over in the natural course of events and the people, the military establishment and other states as well as international public opinion would likely accept it.

On the other hand, with voluntary resignation and impeachment foreclosed by the intransigence and machinations of the Arroyo administration, only a “people power” uprising supported by anti-GMA forces in the military remains as the realistic and viable avenue for removing Mrs. Arroyo from Malacañang.

Those who are calling for the ouster of GMA have made it clear that constitutional succession is unacceptable. “Why go through all the trouble, risk and hardship of people power just so Noli will replace Gloria,” they ask.

Apparently this view is also widely held among the restive anti-GMA groups and elements in the military who would, at some point, be expected to act to realize the withdrawal of military support from Mrs. Arroyo and shift this to the coalition of forces that will establish the new government.

People power should result in the people being empowered to put in place a new government that they trust and support; that will bring about the immediate and longer term reform measures to alleviate the dire socio-economic plight of the majority of our people as well as lead the country towards prosperity and development; and that will institute political and constitutional changes that will result in good governance, a just and lasting peace and the promotion of national interests amidst a foreign policy of friendship and non-interference in the affairs of other countries.

But while people power can oust the GMA regime it may not be able to immediately decide who shall lead or constitute the new, regular government that should take its place.

This is the raison d'etre for the “Transition Council” which the Gloria Step Down Movement (GSM)and a growing number of other anti-GMA forces are advocating. It shall pave the way for democratic elections – clean, fair and with real choices of platforms and candidates -- where the people can decide who should lead the new government.

The “Transition Council” is not yet the new government. It has been proposed that those who constitute it shall be barred from seeking the presidency or have an important position, apart from advisory, in the new government so as to remove all suspicion that they are pursuing vested interests. It will lead the country for a relatively short period of time, i.e. from six months to one year.

In the pursuit of justice as well to demonstrate the needed political will for good governance, the “Transition Council” shall prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Mrs. Arroyo and other high public officials who are party to the betrayal of public trust, bribery, graft and corruption and other high crimes against the Filipino people. At the same time, it shall render justice, including a swift and fair trial, on all outstanding cases of plunder and graft and corruption involving current and previous high public officials.

The “Transition Council” will undertake the thorough clean-up and reform of the electoral system as well massive voter education to lay the ground for the special elections for those who will lead the new government.

The stabilization of the general economic and political situation will be the immediate concern of the “Transition Council”. It must undertake measures to provide immediate economic relief and rehabilitation while laying the groundwork for a strong, self-reliant economy as well as measures upholding the people’s democratic rights and national sovereignty. The following list illustrates the kind of actions that the “Transition Council” can and should pursue:

  • a pro-people fiscal policy that will include the scrapping of taxes that place an intolerable burden on the people such as the expanded VAT
  • a cap on debt repayments and the renegotiation of the terms of previous debts up to and including the cancellation and repudiation of onerous debts
  • a stop to runaway price increases of all basic commodities and services, especially fuel, water and electrical power
  • a stop to the curtailment of the people’s freedom of speech, assembly and association
  • rendering justice to the victims of human rights violations
  • the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The extra-constitutional ouster of the Arroyo regime is not a recipe for disorder and uncertainty. It is looked upon by patriotic and democratic Filipinos everywhere as a golden opportunity to truly empower the people and lay the ground for a new government of unity, reform and all-round progress via a “Transition Council”.

16-17 Sept. 2005


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