The Arroyo regime is hell-bent on ramming through Mrs. Arroyo’s devious schemes to remain in power, no matter how isolated from and detested by an overwhelming majority of our people. Mrs. Arroyo’s railroading of Charter change (dubbed “Chacha”) will isolate her more and rush her rule headlong to political self-destruction.
When Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency in 1986 (after the Marcos dictatorship was overthrown), she ruled by means of a revolutionary government setting aside the Marcos Constitution. In a year's time, a new constitution was ratified, buoyed by the residual good will for the Aquino regime that had promised to erase all vestiges of despotism and kleptocratic rule.
The outcome of a victorious anti-dictatorship struggle but not yet the fruit of a sweeping social revolution, the 1987 Charter contains fortified restrictions on the state’s use of martial law powers that the unabashed fascists and militarists in government consider problematic in their pursuit of counter-insurgency aims.
There are also certain economic protectionist provisions such as limitations on foreign ownership of land, foreign exploitation of natural resources, and foreign equity in corporations considered Filipino, etc. that foreign big business interests and their Filipino corporate partners want removed.
The foreign bases/foreign troops-free and nuclear-free provisions of the Constitution allegedly hamper US geo-political strategy and tactical operations in the region and the US government has urged their removal as well.
Every regime since Aquino’s has tried to change the 1987 Charter. Each time the incantation is “constitutional reform” in order to bring about “political and economic stability”.
Fidel V. Ramos cited the need to institutionalize "people power" by shifting to a parliamentary form of government, in tacit admission of the chronic political crisis plaguing the country. He also sought to delete the nationalist economic provisions in the Constitution that were purportedly preventing the transformation of the Philippines into a "newly-industrializing country" by 2000. But the people saw through the altruistic and visionary rhetoric and correctly perceived his real motive was to remain in power beyond his term. A massive anti-Chacha demonstration led by the late Cardinal Sin and Mrs. Cory Aquino stopped Mr. Ramos in his tracks.
Next was Joseph Estrada whose Chacha attempt was likewise derailed by a huge protest rally at Makati's premier business district. Subsequently, Mr. Estrada was ousted from power on charges of corruption and abuse of authority without having served even half of his six-year term.
It is Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s turn to dance the Chacha. Her attempts have been too many to count but the serious ones -- a bogus “people’s initiative” and the dubious convening of the current Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the charter -- were highly unpopular and spurred a vigorous and sustained protest movement.
Both schemes were successfully thwarted. The former was adjudged illegal by the Supreme Court; the latter provoked the Catholic bishops to call for a repeat of the Sin-Cory mammoth rally that caused Malacanang to backtrack and call off her lapdogs in Congress.
That was two years ago. The current initiative to convene Congress as a constituent assembly, openly led by House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Mrs. Arroyo’s eldest son Rep. Mikey Arroyo and despite stiff opposition from the Senate, is clearly a part of another Machiavellian plot by the Arroyo clique.
The same all-consuming motivation is still driving this latest attempt to revive Chacha: that is, to hold on to power, pelf and privilege beyond 2010 as well as to inoculate Mrs. Arroyo and her men from prosecution for their innumerable crimes against the people.
Which is why there is such a gross illegitimacy about it; there are only the most preposterous of justifications. For example, the Presidential Son claims that he merely wants to put the concept of a constituent assembly with Congress voting as one (ergo the 24 Senators are overwhelmed by the votes of more than 200 members of the rubber-stamp Lower House) to the legal test in the Supreme Court.
But the bullheaded determination to proceed is obvious in the face of almost universal rejection of Chacha by a broad range and cross-section of Philippine society not to mention warning voices from pro-administration stalwarts -- Congressman Edsel Lagman, Senator Miriam Santiago and El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde -- of an impending political upheaval should Malacanang force through Charter change.
This current push for Chacha is under severe time constraint with only six months left before the ban on any amendment before the May presidential elections kicks in. But the plotters figure they hold the aces with an Arroyo-packed Lower house, a Senate led by a reliable Arroyo ally and a Supreme Court that will decide on any legal challenges to Gloria’s Chacha also dominated by Arroyo appointees.
The Arroyo regime likewise holds as its trump cards the conservative Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the armed forces and the police. The CBCP has hitherto preached against extra-constitutional measures for forcing the removal of the vastly unpopular and despised regime, giving it a dubious moral shield. The military/police top brass have remained firmly loyal to the Arroyo regime and are held in reserve for more drastic and brute-force means to remain in power such as emergency rule, martial law or even a palace coup.
What Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal grievously miscalculate is how much the people and even sections of the ruling elite have come to abhor her continued occupation of Malacanang. And in the end, Mrs. Arroyo cannot count on the military, conservative bishops and even her closest lieutenants to stick by her no matter a drastic change in her political fortunes. Past experience has repeatedly shown how these erstwhile allies could be swayed into jumping from the sinking ship when the people's protests reach a certain critical point.
The anti-Chacha forces are gearing up for a showdown starting with a big mobilization – a prayer cum protest rally – on December 12, Friday next week, at the historic Ninoy Aquino monument on Ayala Avenue. Mr. Velarde is threatening to call for massive protests himself, across the country.
Malacanang is unfazed so far. The stakes are far too high for Mrs. Arroyo’s gang not to try to make a brazen grab for power. Having succeeded once, in the 2004 elections in which many believe Mrs. Arroyo cheated her way to “victory”, they will push their luck.
It is now up to the people to prove them dead wrong. #