June 12, 2006

Cha-cha and democracy

The bastardization of democratic processes in this country is epitomized by the current hullabaloo over changing the basic law of the land, what is more commonly referred to as Charter change or Cha-cha.

The de facto President, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has hyped the revision of the Constitution as the magic pill that will transform Philippine politics from a decrepit, rotten and completely anachronistic system to one that is more suited to her vision of an “enchanted kingdom” for the country. She arrogantly used the metaphor of an unstoppable express train to underscore her administration’s unbreakable will to see though Cha-cha regardless of the very real legal and political obstacles that she must overturn in the process.

Such hard-sell, especially in the wake of serious challenges to Mrs. Arroyo’s hold on power since last year, underscores the flimsiness of the grounds being used by the administration to push Constitutional change.

And contrary to initial analysis that Cha-cha is merely a diversionary ploy, it is now exceedingly clear that its main purpose is to keep Mrs. Arroyo firmly ensconced in Malacañang by institutionalizing the status quo and more in the country’s fundamental law.

Cha-cha is intended to sweep aside any and all questions on the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency, preempt any further moves to hold her accountable for impeachable acts, and achieve the unprecedented concentration of power in her hands as the incumbent head of government until, but not limited to, the end of her second term in 2010.

The intent itself is diabolical but the methods used to achieve the purpose are downright illegal, fraudulent and insulting to the intelligence and good sense of morally upright Filipinos everywhere.

In the main, these are: a Malacañang-orchestrated, bogus “people’s initiative” trying to create a bandwagon effect in gathering the required signatures to amend the Charter; a self-serving, pseudo-populist pro-Cha-cha campaign by government officials salivating over term extensions; and brazen attempts to convene a constituent assembly by means of the Arroyo-de Venecia bought and controlled majority in the Lower House of Congress despite the sound objections of 21 out of 23 senators, including those counted as pro-administration.

Less subjected to scrutiny are the administration-backed amendments that can only doom the country to a continued state of poverty and backwardness and tie it to a semi-feudal and un-industrialized economy that cannot feed, give jobs and secure a decent future for its growing population. Included here are provisions allowing foreign ownership of land, exploitation of natural resources, operation of public utilities and the complete liberalization of areas of the economy heretofore reserved for Filipino nationals.

These proposed amendments are guaranteed to endear Mrs. Arroyo to foreign multinational corporate interests, to the neo-liberal gurus of the World Bank, IMF and WTO, to the international credit rating agencies whose main interest is to determine the capacity of debtor countries to service their mounting debts as well as to imperialist governments such as the United States that give the political “good housekeeping seal” to client states like that of the Philippines.

Hardly any debate has been generated, most especially in official circles, about proposals to remove foreign bases-free and nuclear-free provisions in the Constitution. In the era of the US-led “war against terrorism”, the imperialist objective of aligning the country’s Charter and other laws completely in tune with US geopolitical strategy and tactics appears paramount for the US-backed Arroyo regime in so far as security and foreign policy matters are concerned.

Little is said of the proposed amendments that threaten to wipe out civil libertarian provisions in the 1987 Charter, including restrictions to Presidential abuse of martial law powers. These have provided some kind of legal restraint to Malacañang’s gross violations of law, ill-concealed abuse of authority and the increasingly tyrannical means being employed by the Arroyo regime to impose itself and its policies on an aggrieved and restive citizenry.

But it goes without saying that such legal constraints would not necessarily deter a desperately beleaguered regime from resorting to martial rule when its efforts at deception and coercion fail to cow its opponents and quell a defiant people’s movement calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster.

In the recent weeks, the noise generated by the pro-Cha-cha camp has somewhat abated. The illusion of a Cha-cha express train that cannot be stopped from reaching its destination according to the timetable of the Arroyo-de Venecia tandem has been shattered.

The Cha-cha train has been forced to slow down considerably. In some areas, legal monkey wrenching has been successful with the court issuance of TROs and injunctions; certain local Comelec officials have found the courage to act lawfully and not proceed with the verification of signatures; and anti-Cha-cha groups (a majority of whom are first and foremost opposed to the GMA regime) have gone on a sustained campaign despite initial misgivings about Mrs. Arroyo’s real reasons for wanting Cha-cha.

The Senate’s resistance to Mrs. Arroyo’s Cha-cha coupled with the people’s movement calling for ouster continues to be one of the main lines of defense against Mrs. Arroyo’s cynical utilization of Cha-cha to keep herself in power.

On Monday, Independence Day, 4:30 pm, a broad coalition of anti-Cha-cha groups and personalities ranging from Left to Right in the political spectrum, will gather for an inter-faith prayer rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila and major urban centers nationwide. The prayer rally will be ministered to and presided over by religious leaders of the Catholic church, various Protestant Churches, Charismatic Christian groups as well as those practicing the Islam, Buddhism, and Hindu religions.

Organizers are hopeful that the joint action dubbed the “Panalanging Bayan” will leave its imprint on the people’s psyche, contribute to making the Arroyo regime shelve its latest attempt to fool the people, and help build powerful and progressive social forces that will bring about more truly democratic and lasting changes in both government and society.#


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