September 16, 2006

GMA’s Chacha: recipe for dictatorship

Proponents of Charter change (Chacha) have been quite busy lately with the two-pronged tactic of a “people’s initiative” petition and the convening of the Lower House of Congress as a “constituent assembly” without the concurrence of the Senate. The antics of the government-sponsored pro-Chacha group “Sigaw ng Bayan” and Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s minions in the House of Representatives (HOR) are so blatantly illegal and equivalent to the basketball violation “forcing through”, they could be easily dismissed as both laughable and contemptible. But these Malacañang maneuvers are no laughing matter.

The remaining quarter of 2006 is the last chance for Chacha proponents to introduce the wide-ranging changes they want before the May 2007 elections overtakes them and dictates the tempo of Philippine political life.

The Chacha Express Train, as Mrs. Arroyo so confidently named her all-out effort to revise the Constitution, appeared to be in serious trouble just before her July State-of-the-Nation Address at the opening of Congress for it had ran up against formidable opposition.

Aside from the unperturbed anti-GMA movement that looked on Chacha as the preferred means of the Arroyo regime to legitimize itself, there was the categorical anti-Chacha stand of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the new anti-Chacha alliance, One Voice, apparently backed up by sections of Big Business, the elite Ateneo de Manila University, the Society of Jesus community and a motley crowd of very well-heeled people.

But now the Arroyo-de Venecia tandem, apparently emboldened by the abject defeat of the second impeachment move in the HOR and tantalized by the prospect of a winner-take-all outcome if the Chacha campaign succeeds, is making its last-ditch effort to get what it wants.

It is taking advantage of the lack of a massive educational campaign that dicloses what is really at stake in GMA’s Chacha and ergo the relative quiescence of the public in the face of what constitutes a looming Palace coup d’etat.

The Arroyo-de Venecia clique is also taking unfair advantage of having its political enemies under constant fire, not just metaphorically, but in actuality through all sorts of legal suits from libel to rebellion and through physical elimination by way of summary killings, massacres, abductions and torture.

Much has already been said about how the two-pronged Chacha attack, “people’s initiative” and “constituent assembly” are clearly an Arroyo-de Venecia game plan and therefore all talk about Chacha reflecting a groundswell from the grassroots is a lot hogwash.

Despite all the efforts of the GMA-de Venecia combine to create an illusion of a pro-Chacha bandwagon -- 6.8 million signatures, a series of full-page paid ads and a run of TV spots – there is no palpable excitement much less public clamor for it; instead there are concrete examples of fraud, manipulation and the cynical use of public funds for the spurious signature gathering and expensive media ad campaign.

What is more important at this point is to draw attention to and thereby expose for all to see that GMA’s Chacha is fraught with danger from the proposed extension and concentration of political power in the hands of Mrs. Arroyo even as it is clothed in the rhetoric of political reform and economic renewal.

Simply put, GMA’s Chacha will create an unelected unicameral interim Parliament that is packed with her subalterns and loyalists from the incumbent members of Congress, members of her Cabinet and some others she will have the free hand to appoint.

Party-list representatives, at least the progressive and independent ones who are a whiff of fresh air in a Congress filled with opportunists, will lose their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to be in Parliament.

The 2007 elections are unlikely to be held, being left to the discretion of the interim Parliament itself whose fat asses have the privilege of having their terms of office extended from three to five years. Thereafter, they can continue to run for office with the lifting of term limits, and thus spare themselves the hassle of having their spouses, offspring, siblings and assorted relatives engage in a rigodon of who runs for Congress, governor, mayor, etc.

The incumbent President and Vice President are assured of their stay in office till 2010 despite a supposed shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system. The incumbent President retains all executive powers as President and merely delegates what she sees fit to the interim Prime Minister. Moreover, it is the incumbent president who nominates the interim Prime Minister who will then be elected by the members of the interim Parliament.

To top it all, a second Charter change, will take place through the convening of the interim Parliament within forty-five days from the ratification of the proposed GMA constitutional “amendments”, to further propose another round of “amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution”. This is a carte blanche for the all-powerful GMA-de Venecia clique to mangle the basic law of the land as they see fit or as their vested interests dictate.

There is no other course of action than for the people to reject GMA’s Chacha so that legal moves being utilized by its proponents to achieve their malevolent objectives will not prosper; in particular, the “people’s initiative” petition in the Supreme Court and the illegal convening of a constituent assembly in the Lower House of Congress without benefit of a Senate vote.

Because they have not the fear of God in them, we must try to instill at least the fear of the wrath of a people fed up with lies and of being screwed by their supposed leaders in broad daylight. Let us fight to stop GMA’s Chacha in its tracks.###


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