January 20, 2006

All wrong

Some people sometimes do the right things for the wrong reasons. Others claim to be doing the right things for the right reasons, when all the while they are merely trying to cover up for doing exactly the opposite, the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her die-hard supporters and sycophants, her reluctant backers and the more opportunistic ones, belong to the second breed.

GMA exhorts the people ad nauseam to "forget politics and move on with nation building", then pushes hard for charter change purportedly in order to replace the rotten presidential system she points to as the cause of our problems with the . She thinks the people are stupid enough to forget, at her bidding, that she has thrived in such a political system and now personifies the treason, plunder and bad governance (“walang kwentang gobyerno” in Filipino) that invariably goes with it.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos is campaigning for an early charter change (“chacha”) purportedly as a means of clipping GMA's powers, if not totally unseating her from the Presidency, in a "constitutional" and "orderly" manner -- a noble goal, indeed, were it not for the fact that FVR, during his own term, had pushed for “chacha” in a thinly-veiled attempt to keep himself in power by amending the constitution to extend his term.

Speaker Jose de Venecia, the self-proclaimed "Peacemaker", "Great Compromiser", and finder of "win-win" solutions, is resigned to the fact that he could never be elected President in a presidential system but could be Prime Minister in a parliamentary system and retain this post as easily as he has gained and held on to the House Speakership through much wheeling and dealing.

In truth, the wrong reasons for revising the 1987 Constitution are plentiful. According to the lawyers group Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL):

“Pres. Gloria Arroyo's proposed revision of the 1987 Constitution goes beyond the 'seven points' mentioned by Speaker Jose de Venecia, as it substantially impacts on the political, economic and human rights of the Filipino people. To wit:

1. Pres. Gloria Arroyo will remain President, with more executivepowers, until 2010 with or without the 2007 elections.

2. The safety mechanism (in the 1987 Charter) that checks the Executive's powers to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is taken away; and

3. The economic revisions proposed go beyond the mere 'easing of restrictions on foreign investments' as it grants aliens the right to own lands in the Philippines and exploit natural resources, both rights previously reserved to Filipinos under the 1987 Constitution. Worse, it opens to foreign ownership the operation of public utilities.

These 'revisions' virtually overhaul substantial provisions that protect the peoples' economic and political rights under the current Constitution.

Pres. Arroyo is deluding the Filipino people by withholding the fact that under her proposed Constitution, she remains in power until 2010, with more powers than she currently has through the grant of power to dissolve the Parliament and deletion of provisions that will check her martial law authority.”

CODAL summed up its reading of the real intent of Mrs. Arroyo’s “chacha” as a “brazen attempt to attack the economic, civil and political rights of the Filipino people through the complete revision of the 1987 Constitution” and as “a recipe for dictatorship by a president whose mandate to stay in power is under question.”

For its part, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), the umbrella alliance of progressive cause-oriented organizations that has been at the forefront of last year’s campaign to oust Mrs. Arroyo from power, said that “chacha” is not the answer to the deep and intractable problems of Philippine politics and society.

Mrs. Arroyo’s push to amend the charter, allegedly to bring about the substantial reforms our people have been crying out for, is nothing but a grand deception. In truth, it will only deepen the rut of poverty, backwardness, huge income and social inequalities and continuing political and economic crises that have been the bane of the Filipino people since colonial times.

The Arroyo “chacha” is an obvious ploy, not only to deflect all moves to question GMA’s legitimate and legal hold on the presidency, but to further consolidate it with the end in view of entrenching her clique’s dominance in the country’s political landscape far beyond 2010.

More ominous are the economic revisions that are touted as innocuous and meant only to boost foreign investments in order to stimulate the growth of the economy and the upliftment of the people’s standard of living. In reality, such proposed changes take away any semblance of protection of our national patrimony and sovereignty and institutionalize, at the level of the basic law of the land, the highly destructive and controversial neoliberal policy framework of liberalization, deregulation and privatization.

In other words, GMA’s “chacha” portends the sell-out of our national interests, lock, stock and barrel.

No less worrisome are the proposed changes that will scuttle the categorical nuclear-free and foreign bases-free provisions of the 1987 Constitution and thus harmonize it with highly controversial and contentious provisions of the pro-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Supplies and Logistics Agreement (MLSA).

Finally, in a bid to totally eradicate the remaining civil libertarian provisions of the 1987 Constitution that are a legacy of the struggle against the Marcos fascist dictatorship, GMA’s “chacha” tries to undermine civil and political rights, so far surreptitiously, by qualifying the basic right to freedom of expression with the word “responsible”.

Coupled with government moves to pass a draconian anti-terrorism bill, the door will soon be wide open for the Arroyo administration to interpret what is “responsible” as well as who is a “terrorist”. A regime as anti-people and undemocratic as Mrs. Arroyo’s (recall the “calibrated preemptive response” policy and the spate of unsolved political killings of social and political activists as well as documented cases of human rights violations against entire civilian communities perpetrated by government forces) and one that is still fighting for its political survival clearly wishes to utilize “chacha” to cow the people and its opponents into acquiescence.
Thus Mrs. Arroyo and her minions may wish the people to dance to the tune of the “chacha” but when their heinous plot is exposed, they will find themselves rejected wallflowers. Or worse.

Jan. 20-21, 2006


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