Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: May 2019
“No one is that indispensable.”
— George Will

First word
WASHINGTON Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author George Will wrote this withering argument for term limits that will make even our most entrenched officials (Drilon? Sotto? Lacson?) blush.

Will issued the opinion in 2008 when Michael Bloomberg, the108th mayor of New York City, thinking himself indispensable to the city, decided to seek the revision of a New York City law, which limited mayors to two terms.

Bloomberg and term limits
The law had been enacted by referendum and then reaffirmed by a second referendum.

Bloomberg thought the law an intolerable impediment to his continuing as mayor for another four years in what he called “tough times.” But the times were always in some ways tough also for each of Bloomberg’s 107 predecessors.

Will wrote:
“Advocates of term limits argue neither that political talent is irrelevant nor that it is ubiquitous. Rather, they argue that talent is not so scarce that the benefits of rotation in office must be sacrificed in order to prolong indefinitely a talented person’s tenure in office. And they argue that the benefits of churning the talent pool exceed the costs of limiting tenures.

“Bloomberg’s supporters say term limits are undemocratic — but also that the City Council should alter the limits (which apply to council members) by statute rather than submit the change to a public referendum.”

Bloomberg’s rewriting scheme did not prosper. Term limits are still alive and well in NYC today. Bloomberg just returned to his pastime as billionaire owner of Bloomberg News.

Elsewhere in the US, the New York Times has reported that 37 governors, 15 state legislatures and 9 of the 10 most populous cities have term limits, which remain popular with the people who imposed them. Recent ballot initiatives to alter them, including one in California, have failed.

George Will is also an ardent advocate of legislative term limits. He published the book Restoration, Congress, Term Limits, and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy (New York, 1992) to make his case.

Will says that some of the arguments against term limits are more amusing than sound.

They say that political novices are too susceptible to the wiles of lobbyists, and that term-limited legislators, worrying too much about their next jobs and too little about their current ones, are constantly in campaign mode, thinking of the next election rather than the next generation.

They also argue that novices are only capable of small-bore projects and legislation, and that it takes veteran and senior legislators to fashion legislation and policy-making that will impact the future.

The strongest argument for term limits is the fact both in the US and in the Philippines, Congress is a very unpopular and hardly respected institution. In both countries, citizens are talking about throwing the rascals out.

Even so, politician persist in trying to revise the term limits law without seeking the permission of the public that enacted it. This in itself, says Will, is a powerful, indeed sufficient, argument for term limits.

Revision by sophistry
In our case, the political class, the Supreme Court and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have combined to emasculate the term-limit provisions of the Constitution by sophistry, i.e. through a tortured reading of the Constitution.

They have pounced on the word “consecutive” to pervert the meaning of the term-limit provision to allow almost lifetime tenure for senators, as though they are like justices of the Supreme Court.

The SC ruling in Socrates v. Comelec and a legal opinion by the Comelec legal department have become the dubious standard for this deceptive attempt to avoid the term limits.

Many senators are today serving patently illegal terms without being formally challenged, because of the assumption that any court challenge of their election will be summarily dismissed owing to the SC ruling and Comelec decision.

Consequently, there is an acute and compelling need for a full resolution of this conundrum.

No debate on term limits
This situation has happened because there has never been a serious debate on term limits in this country.

There was no public debate when the 1986 Constitutional Commission deliberated and passed the term-limit provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

There were no public discussions of term limits when the people were asked to ratify the new Charter on Feb. 2, 1987. That day, the Charter was ratified and went into effect, when some 16 million Filipinos voted “yes” to the new Constitution.

There was also no public discussion of the interpretation of term limits that the Supreme Court and Comelec were secretly cooking away from public view.

There was no attempt whatsoever to submit to the people the pretzelized interpretation of term limits by the SC and the Comelec.

Consequently, termed-out senators have run with abandon for extra terms in Congress, without getting their hands slapped. Some are now even enjoying their fourth terms in the Senate.

These jokers even have the hypocrisy to reproach others for betrayal of public trust.

A debate for the ages
It is in this light that I say it is time for the nation to finally debate the issue of term limits, so that the people can at last be heard.

We could model this debate after France’s recent “Great National Debate,” which took place over a period of three months this year to consult the French people on major national issues that had divided the nation. The debate led to 10,000 local meetings, around 2 million online contributions and 100 hours of presidential talking.

The debate was launched by President Emmanuel Macron as a response to protests by “yellow vest” demonstrators over living standards.

The term limits issue is similarly such an issue for our people and our nation. All citizens will want to take part the moment we open this debate. They will have an opinion one way or the other, the moment you explain the issue to them.

In this debate, we should hear the opponents of term limits in the Senate, the House, the high court, and the Comelec on their case for vitiating the constitutional term limits in the way they have.

We should hear from the living members of the 1986 Concom whose hedging has served as fuel for the perverted interpretation of the Constitution.

We should hear the overstaying or termed-out senators argue with a straight face on how indispensable they are to the work of the Senate and the House.

We should hear Senior Justice Antonio Carpio defend his ponencia in Socrates v. Comelec, and explain why he personally opposes term limits.

We should hear the Comelec legal department defend its disastrous opinion on term limits.

We should hear our legal community speak out on this issue.

We should hear the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) as it finally breaks its incomprehensible silence on the issue.

And we should hear the classical, legal, political, civic, and real-world arguments on term limits fully ventilated in public, so the court of public opinion can pass judgment.

No more Trillanes
This will be a debate for the ages.

We will hear politicians argue frankly about how indispensable they are to the offices they serve.

We can evaluate patiently the argument of one reader, who tells me that what the Constitution decrees is not a “term limitation,” but a “prohibition to serve.”

Who will be the Filipino senator who will have the courage of conviction to say that he is “indispensable”?

Antonio Trillanes 4th might have the gumption, of course, but he will no longer be in the Senate starting June 30.
Published in News
Wednesday, 29 May 2019 14:01

After Otso Diretso debacle, what next?

I WILL not delve that much into the midterm election results except to surrender to the will of Smartmatic and the Comelec. I reluctantly accede to the “intelligent” voters who have allowed a plunderer to filter through. And I won’t call them stupid or bobo or plain idiots. But for those who sold their votes to the highest bidder, you will get what you deserve. I have learned to accept that for the poverty-stricken, elections are an opportunity to make easy money for the day — and the future be damned! And for the candidates, the phrase — “my opponents are buying votes; I will lose if I don’t” — is just too compelling to dismiss. This practice is so anomalously ingrained in the system.

I will therefore not begrudge many of the unlettered voters for equating a candidate’s qualifications and platform of governance — articulated through a proclivity to entertain by dancing the “budots” well. So, I shall move on and occupy myself with the political issues at hand until the next electoral catastrophe.

With the senatorial winners proclaimed, their sycophants are now throwing their names forward as “presidentiables.” Concocted in the Philippines, this word has not yet been included in Webster’s, but it has gained traction in our political lexicon. The top three senators are automatically accorded this honorific, along with those that occupy the highest offices in the land — vice president, speaker of the House, Senate president and children of autocrats. Also, those wannabees who as their egos dictate anoint themselves as “presidentiables.”

I surmise many of those who welcomed the Liberal Party’s debacle are not exactly enamored with DU30 and Hugpong’s senatorial choices. Individually the Otso Diretso had worthy candidates, but its generic message of hate failed to resonate on the electorate. PRRD, with 80 percent approval rating was not even in the ballot. But an acquiescent Senate is indispensable to the Deegong’s agenda. DU30 got his wish. Our group, the Centrist Democrats for one saw the opportunity with the President to push forward our shared agenda for systemic change by doing away with the 1987 Cory Constitution. Although suspicious and fearful of his despotic tendencies, we are taking the President on faith hoping we are correct. Now the path is clear for the Deegong to push for the revision of the Constitution — and a shift to a federal-parliamentary system with a liberalized economy. This was what the Yellow hordes, the Otso Diretso and their leftist/communist allies have set out to protect.

The process of a shift to federal-parliamentary from the current unitary-presidential will take the three years more allotted to the Deegong; provided some critical reforms are put in place now (“The Centrist proposals — federal parliamentary,” The Manila Times, Jan 18, 2018).

This is the reason why the advocates of constitutional revisions must focus on shaping the debate towards a federal-parliamentary government. The betting and kuro-kuro on “presidentiables” therefore is irrelevant as of the moment. Sara as an heir apparent, Bongbong as a contender, Cynthia Villar as a leading name in the presidential sweepstakes and even Ping Lacson as the dark horse. These are incongruous to the political conversation if the Deegong is to be occupied with the shift to a parliamentary-federal system. The Centrist Democrats will work with the President to implant into the political discourse our proposals, if allowed — all for the good of our countrymen.

On this note, we, the Centrist Democrats, bare our four-decades advocacy. We abrogate the perversion of democracy by an aberrant presidential-unitary government practiced for over a century, that long embraced values of political patronage permeating the body politic. This needs to be overhauled and good practices inculcated over time, safeguarded by judicious laws.

Our Centrist Proposals (Real Change is Here: A Primer on Federal-Parliamentary System, www.cdpi.asia) call for “…the fusion of legislative and the executive powers and vested upon a unicameral Parliament; and ‘Head of the Government’ is the Prime Minister with his cabinet recruited from among the members of parliament. The President is the ‘Head of State’ and is elected from among the members of parliament.”

A unicameral parliament is composed of elected members from the parliamentary districts, plus those chosen on the basis of “proportional representation” by the political party itself. These chosen party members are the party-list within a political party and shall constitute 30 percent of the total members of parliament (MP). The current party-list system as practiced should be abolished. What we envision is that political parties shall ensure that in the 30 percent “party-list,” the labor, peasant, urban poor, veterans indigenous people communities, women, youth and differently abled, except the religious sector, are properly represented — within the party.

A parliamentary government is also called “party government” because of the pivotal role of political parties in parliamentary elections, governance and public administrations. Our current political parties are personal factions and alliances of politicians, united mainly for elections and patronage; they have no mass memberships and no sustainable and exclusive serious platform of government that differentiate them from one another. They are not responsible and accountable for their performance in and out of office.

For these reasons, they don’t have loyalty to their parties and migrate to the political party of the winning president. This spectacle is known as “political butterfly.” As proposed, any elective official who leaves his political party before the end of the term shall forfeit his seat and will be replaced by his political party.

A mechanism to replace a prime minister is for parliament to withdraw its confidence and by electing a successor by a “majority vote of all its members.” This “vote of no confidence” is a much easier process of replacing a head of government in a parliamentary system than the current impeachment process of replacing a president.

At the same time that the parliamentary system is being adopted, a step-by-step process creating individual federal states is embedded in the new constitution; a system with clear separation of powers and authority between national government (federal) and the regional governments or local governments (states).

We allow the provinces and highly urbanized component cities to evolve first to an autonomous territory with the decision to group themselves coming from the grassroots. In other words, the citizens within a contiguous territory, with common language and culture must decide in a referendum that they become completely autonomous.

“Self-determination” is central to this decision. Petitions are passed by the local legislative assemblies. If a referendum is passed, within a year, parliament must enact an organic law defining the autonomous territory’s land area, powers, obligations and sources of revenues (taxes).

If 3/5 (60 percent) of the provinces and component cities of the Philippines become autonomous territories, then the federal republic of the Philippines is created.

This election has seen the overwhelming support for the President and his agenda. It is therefore incumbent upon him now to communicate well to the constituency what he wants and intends to do.

Nothing more, nothing less!

For Centrist proposal, please access www.cdpi.asia or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Published in LML Polettiques
Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd said on Thursday there was no chance for the Senate to pass any measure on federalism because Congress would adjourn in less than a month.

Congress is set to resume session on May 20 and will adjourn on June 7. Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and
Revision of Codes, who conducted public hearings on the proposal to shift to federalism, earlier said he would submit his panel report once session resumes.

Sotto, in a media forum, said the federalism measure “will emanate from the House [of Representatives].”

“In the Senate, in the 17th Congress, of course it has no [more] chance [to be passed]. I think there will be a long debate [on federalism] in the [incoming] 18th Congress,” he said.

Sotto said the Nationalist People’s Coalition, where he belongs, had conducted a briefing regarding federalism.

“Are we going to support it or not? And after the briefings that we had, the sentiment of the Nationalist People’s Coalition is, we should study it further.”

“We realized that the transition alone from the present form to federalism would be at least five or even 10 years. I cannot say, I cannot agree that the composition of the new Senate will expedite the shift to federalism. It will depend on its merits,” he added.
Published in News
Friday, 24 May 2019 14:36

Magic 12

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has formally proclaimed 12 senators elected in the May 13 midterm elections after the canvassing of all 167 Certificates of Canvass (COCs), including that from the United States, have been completed.

Elected senators are Senator Cynthia Villar, Senator Grace Poe, former presidential aide Christopher “Bong” Go, returning senator Pia Cayetano, former police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, re-electionist Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, actor and returning senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, re-electionist Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, returning senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and re-electionist Senator Nancy Binay. The new senators-elect will serve for six years beginning noon of June 30.

While some may not be happy with the election results for the senators, this is what the majority voted for. This is what the majority wanted, whether we like it or not.

However, it would have been better if there is an opposition or two among the newly elected senators to serve as check and balance.

With the newly-elected senators, many Filipinos are hoping that there will be better changes for the country. Since most of them have aligned themselves to the administration, we hope that they can help usher better projects and programs for the Filipino people.

As part of the legislative branch of the government, we also hope that they will continue their duty not just as legislators but also serve as a check and balance to the executive and judicial branches of the government.

We also hope that the elected senators will stick to the promises they have made to the people who have elected them. For those elected senators who have wronged the Filipino people, this is your chance to prove yourself to them. You are given another chance to serve the Filipinos, redeem yourself.

Congratulations to our newly elected senators. Remember, you serve the Filipino, not yourself. If you entered the Senate to fuel your own pockets, shame on you! But if you are truly here to serve the Filipino, we wish you all the best!
Published in News
Friday, 24 May 2019 14:24

Bato to exhume death penalty

The moderately quite voice of senator-elect Ronald dela Rosa will upswing its decibel to fortissimo level in his cry to restore death penalty, now that he is comfortable of the 5th senatorial slate.

Capital punishment is inflicting in different methods like firing squad, electrocution, or lethal injection. His call will pass through a 50/50 chance and may experience one, if not all methods of inflictions in both houses. Why? Both the house speaker, former president Gloria Arroyo and Senate president Vicente Sotto III are villains in the capital punishment history; and they both have colossal influence in their respective spheres, unless of course the leadership in both houses will be changed.

Let us open the written history of death penalty in the Philippines and reevaluate the good and evil of the verdict. The first execution was on February 17, 1872 in Bagumbayan wherein three Filipino Catholic priests: Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (Gomburza) were sentenced for subversion in a Cavite mutiny against the Spanish colonial authorities.

Since then until 1961, there were 51 executions including our national hero Jose Rizal on December 30, 1896 and Julio Guillien in 1950 for the assassination attempt to president Manuel Roxas. The youngest of all executed was Marcial "Baby" Ama, at age 16 who was electrocuted on October 4, 1961.

Former president Ferdinand Marcos himself knew the loopholes about capital punishment because he himself was sentenced in 1939 for murdering Julio Nalundasan, a political rival of his father, but he appealed and was acquitted. The droll thing in his presidency happened in May 1972 when there was a notorious execution of another trio: Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda and Edgardo Aquino for the abduction and gang rape of the young actress Maggie dela Riva. Not to argue the luck of the other accused, like in the case of Delia Smith a.k.a. Pepsi Paloma; but the execution brought a history of extensive flak against the unmerited conviction.

When freedom was restored, the 1987 Constitution prohibited death penalty. But in 1993 during the stint of Ramos, the Republic Act 7659 restored capital punishment using a gas chamber, Leo Echegaray was executed in 1999.

The revival of capital punishment will surely cast doubt if it hovers in both houses because it was during the time of then President Gloria Arroyo now the Speaker of the House that the imposition of death penalty was suspended through Republic Act 9346 that she signed into law on June 24, 2006.

The commutation into life imprisonment of the 1,230 inmates on death row in 2006 is a silent admission of the government that we have a pale justice system. In rundown, death penalty was buried; can senator-elect Ronald dela Rosa exhume and recycle the system for the drug traffickers?
Published in News
Friday, 24 May 2019 13:30

Media influence during the elections

AS ALWAYS, post-election offers an interesting area for study. The current one tendered the end of dynasties of massive political stalwarts like the Eusebios in Pasig, Ejercitos in San Juan, Hagedorns in Palawan and the Floirendos in Davao del Norte.

But what this midterm exercise offered is how recent narratives parlayed the role of the traditional media against social media and showing that popularity in the latter does not really translate into actual votes. There are greater forces at work than Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey and that would still be traditional media, the trifecta of television, newspapers and radio.

A case I would like to highlight are the actors who appeared in “Ang Probinsyano”. Before he even filed his nth candidacy for nth his position, Lito Lapid was the aging “pinuno” or Romulo of a leftist group fighting exploitation in some mountainous range. Eventually, his character teamed up with Cardo Dalisay in fighting corruption in the government.

But Romulo had to die so Lito Lapid could come out as a real candidate.

“Ang Probinsyano” gave Romulo a Hollywood Western classic death scene reserved only for heroes - charging solo the horde of antagonists on his steed, armed with a single armalite to save his ladylove and eventually, taking his last breath while looking at her. From then on it can be said that Lito Lapid, who has shunned media interviews and would answer only in the dialect in all his terms as a public servant, resurrected as possible real life hero with the death of Romulo. So now Lito Lapid is number 7 in the senate list, number 1 in Palawan, beating Cynthia Villar and number 3 in Quezon Province. Lapid is not even an active netizen.

Other “Ang Probisyano” characters have lost their bid but if one analyzes the characters they portrayed, none was as heroic as Romulo’s.

After leaving public service, the notorious Mocha Uson decided to run for public office through a party-list that calls itself “AA Kasosyo” whose aim is said to be “to help Filipinos particularly overseas workers become successful entrepreneurs”. In recent past, Uson boasted of millions of social media followers whose “likes” obviously did not translate into votes as her party ranks way below - no. 72. The top spot is held by ACT-CIS, a group to be represented by one of the Tulfo brothers who are (traditional) media heavyweights.

But what would probably be the most telling influence of traditional media on voting behavior is that a party called “Ang Probinsyano” is in the 5th place in the race and quite a feat for a group that joined the elections for the first time with practically unknown nominees.

Coco Martin (aka Cardo Dalisay) and Kris Aquino will make a formidable team next time.
Published in News
THE King is dead, long live the King! This was last proclaimed in England upon the death of King George 6th in 1952; except that a Queen succeeded him, his eldest daughter Elizabeth. Originally in French, Le roi est mort, vive le roi! In 1422, King Charles 6th of France died and his son Charles 7th acceded to the throne. The first part of the statement refers to the monarch’s death, the second to the instantaneous transfer of sovereignty to the heir, or the continuity of the concept, as discussed in this article.

Aristotle (384 BCE–322 BCE), the Greek philosopher said it succinctly, “One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day.” Both phrases came to mind the night of the recent elections when several TV talking heads monitoring the results were unabashedly gloating over a happy trend presenting itself when Erap trailed Isko Moreno, his erstwhile ally, in the Manila mayoralty contest. The early hours of the next day would see members of the Estrada family rejected by voters — for mayor and councilor of San Juan, governor of Laguna and more importantly, two siblings from different mothers, Jinggoy and JV, losing Senate candidacies.

In Davao del Norte, the del Rosario political family was eradicated from the scene: Rodney, the governorship, Anthony, the first district congressional seat and a cousin, Tony Boy Floirendo, the billionaire banana magnate humiliated as he lost his reelection bid for second district representative. All crushed by archenemy, former speaker Bebot Alvarez and his henchmen.

In Makati, the Binay patriarch, ex-vice president Jejomar lost miserably in his bid for a House seat. His fall from grace was terminal, from his high perch as an erstwhile leading presidential contender, until a flurry of corruption accusations did him in. His ineptitude in disciplining his children could make their internecine political fight permanent. Abigail was reelected as Makati mayor, brother Junjun was obliterated while eldest sister Nancy barely held on to her Senate seat. To complicate matters, Abigail’s husband, Luis Campos, won as congressman of Makati’s second district, further splintering the already dysfunctional family.

Others who have been lording it over local government posts for decades fell in ignominy; the Eusebios in Pasig giving up both the mayoralty and congressional seats; the Tings of Tuguegarao, losing similarly; the religious cult of the Ecleos in Dinagat, trounced; the Osmeñas of Cebu booted out of the mayor’s office and a cousin’s senatorial comeback stopped.

Political dynasticism is dead. Or dying. Or at least fraying at the edges. Until one begins to see that other political dynasties were born in this election. For one, the Deegong’s daughter Sara, and male siblings, Polong and Baste, ran practically unopposed to capture the mayoralty, the first district congressional seat and the vice mayoralty in Davao City. In Davao del Sur, in a political merry-go-round, four traditional politicians surnamed Cagas captured for the father, Dodo, the governorship, congressional seat for the mother, Didit, the vice governorship for the son, Marc, and a board membership for a relative.

Politics in the Philippines as a family business is thriving. And even the party-list system has been so perverted that they have sprouted all over as adjuncts to political dynasties.

But the total wipe-out of the senatorial opposition slate could be a game changer if the Deegong will settle down and put his mind to it. In upending the concept of “checks and balance,” the Deegong has drawn a tabula rasa. And in the next three years he can write into it whatever he wants, before becoming a lameduck president. Paradoxically, he has the support of a great majority of Filipinos. This election has elevated the Deegong to another dimension: to his sycophants, a political demigod; to his detractors, the devil incarnate.

Today his almost total dominance over our political lives has erased the need for a revolutionary government. This election was in a way a coup d’état without the bloodshed and the prospect of a civil war — as the Liberals and some democrats have been imagining.

The installation of two new Mindanawnons to the Senate, joining Koko, Migz and the Pacman, is unprecedented in the country’s history. Two of these are Duterte surrogates: Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa. The former is his political android and avatar rolled into one. He will be his unquestioning voice in the Senate. There will no longer be a serious hindrance to his agenda, if he still wishes to pursue them. The war against illegal drugs and the accusations of violations of human rights and the EJKs will be reduced to a background noise or sterilized by the elevation of his original point man, General Bato to the Senate. As to the third Mindanawnon, Koko, the former Senate president, the son of the party founder and the most knowledgeable Mindanawnon in the Senate, has been consigned (together with the Pacman) to be the tutors of the two others. Koko, independent-minded but loyal to DU30, has been eliminated as a potential “presidentiable” with his showing in the polls, clearing the way for heir-apparent Sara. Perhaps, this gives credence to reports of Koko’s ‘junking’ by Hugpong leaders in the grassroots.

But the main agenda foremost in the minds of foes, friends and allies alike are the systemic changes, temporarily suspended, awaiting the restructuring of the Senate. The key to all this is the abrogation of the Cory 1987 Constitution and its revisions towards the establishment of the parliamentary-ederal System and the liberalization of the economy. This has been partly the cry since the Pirma of President FVR, the Concord of President Erap and the 2005 ConCom of President GMA and even the original PDP Laban position. A complication was recently injected into this mix through the proposals of the 25-man Puno Constitutional Committee calling for the retention of the perverted presidential system towards a nebulous concept of federalism. Surely, the debate can be reshaped by the Deegong towards the presidential-unitary versus the parliamentary-federal (Fed-Parl). On this note, I reintroduce vignettes of the Centrist proposals. Some of these need only the imprimatur of the House and Senate but others needing the revision of the Constitution. To wit:

1. Pass the political party reform bill pending in the Senate these past several administrations, prohibiting ‘turncoats’ and granting subsidy to real ideologically based political parties for education and campaign;

2. Pass the universal freedom of information bill, insuring transparency and good governance;

3. Initiate electoral reforms, regulating campaign spending, vote buying and the election process; and

4. Make the ban on political dynasties executory in the Constitution.

I wrote this in my Times columns back in Jan.18 and Feb. 1, 2018:

“This roadmap to federalism is thus designed to mitigate the shock to the body politic arising from the purging of traditional political practices, first, through the immediate passage of reform laws, now pending in Congress. Furthermore, the critical process of transition to a parliamentary-federal republic has to be in place in the revised constitution so the assurance of its continuity is safeguarded by the constitution itself even beyond the term of the current president.”

The terminal constitutional revision game is afoot. May the odds be ever in our favor.
Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 16 May 2019 12:13

Rise and fall of family dynasties

I am writing this column the day after the May 13 mid-term elections. While the initial results have already come out, I think that a deeper analysis of the results should be done after an interval of at least one week. This will allow a more logical and dispassionate analysis.

There are, however, a few observations I would like to make based on the initial results. The first is that the public is talking about the fall of several political dynasties. However, it should be noted that most of the new winners are also scions of political dynasties. Those few who are not, I predict will start their own family dynasties in the next election.

I am not in favor of political dynasties. I wish there was a law, without loopholes, banning political dynasties. At the same time, I am not surprised about the dominance of families in politics. In the Philippines, and most of Asia, family dynasties are an integral part of society; and, they dominate all sectors – politics, business, education, media and even religion. This is because the family is the basic unit in Asian society, unlike in the West where the basic unit is the individual. I often point out to my friends in business that they condemn family dynasties in politics; but, this is also a dominant feature of the business landscape. All the major Filipino businesses are controlled by families.

There are certain characteristics common to family dynasties in both business and politics. They normally go through three main life stages. Each stage lasts for one generation. Less than 5% of family dynasties survive beyond the third generation. These three main stages are:

The First Generation Stage is where one individual – the founder – exercises total management control of the business or the political group. The Second Generation Stage is in which two or more siblings of the founder have more or less equal management or political control. Here, conflict is inevitable; and, the family can only stay together if they have a conflict management mechanism. This generation can also survive if one sibling is able to get recognition as the head of the family and becomes the accepted heir to the founder. The Third Generation Stage is the Cousin Consortium in which cousins (the children of the siblings) exercise management or political control of the business or politics.

In business, it is a rare family business that survives beyond the third generation. Two examples are the Ayala and Aboitiz family businesses. The same phenomenon applies to political families. Let me cite an example. If each generation is approximately 30 years, then two generations would be equivalent to 60 years. The 1953 elections was approximately 66 years ago. Even then, Philippine politics was dominated by political dynasties. Here is a list of the candidates for president, vice-president and senators. When you read the names you will realize that most of these family dynasties have not survived to the third generation.

There were two major parties in that election. For the Liberal Party, their candidates were Elpidio Quirino for President and Jose Yulo for Vice-President. Their candidates for the Senate were Jose Avelino (Samar); Camilo Osias ( La Union); Geronima Pecson (Pangasinan); Pablo Angeles David (Pampanga); Jacinto Borja (Bohol); Vicente Madrigal (Albay); Salipada Pendatun (Cotobato); and, Jose Figueras (Manila).

For the Nacionalista Party, their candidates were Ramon Magsaysay for President and Carlos Garcia for Vice-President. Their Senate candidates included Fernando Lopez (Iloilo); Eulogio Rodriguez (Rizal); Lorenzo Tañada (Quezon); Edmundo Cea (Camarines Sur) Mariano Jesus Cuenco (Cebu); Alejo Mabanag (Pangasinan); Ruperto Kangleon (Leyte); and, Emmanuel Pelaez (Mindanao).

If we review these family names, how many are still known in present day politics? The only name I can identify is that of Tañada.

The most common mistake committed by families, in business or politics, is that they focus only on managing the business or winning elections. They do not realize that in order to do this successfully it is just as important that they learn to manage family issues which often encroach on the business or the political organization causing confusion, disorder and, in some cases, even collapse. If the family is the entity that will govern the business or political organization, it is very critical that they must have a governing structure just like any other organization.

The common problem is that during the First Generation Stage there was no need for rules or structure because the “word of the Founder was Law.” However, as the siblings grow up and have their own families, this need for rules and structure becomes more urgent. For example, in most successful family businesses, one rule is that in-laws should not be allowed to join the business. Many political families do not follow this rule; and, the result is conflict among siblings.

However, it is very clear that when one family dynasty gives up, the replacement is another family dynasty. When the Soriano family left San Miguel Corp., it was taken over by Danding Cojuangco. The Estrada family has been replaced by the Zamora family in San Juan. Quezon City used to be the domain of the Amoranto family, then the Mathay family and now the Belmonte family.

The result of the dominance of family dynasties in both business and politics is that it stifles competition. It also limits the choices for the consumers and the electorate. The only remedy is to find ways to control the behavior of these family dynasties; especially politicians who have turned Philippine politics into a family business.

Published in News
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 11:18

The dying throes of organized labor

IN my youth, circa the mid-1960s, while working with Raul Manglapus in the Christian Social Movement (CSM), the precursor of PDP Laban, CDP and the Centrist Movements, I had the privilege of meeting some of the prominent names of the labor movement, the peasants and the fisherfolk — Juan (Johnny) Tan of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and Jeremias (Jerry) Montemayor of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). These founders were driven by their desire to better the lives of their members — workers and farmers. With Manglapus, they articulated the Centrist (Christian) democratic principles. These were men inspired by the papal encyclicals of Pope Leo 13th (1891), Rerum Novarum, Graves de Communi Re; Pope Pius 11th (1931), Quadragesimo Anno; Pope John 23rd (1961) Mater et Magistra; and Pope John Paul 2nd (1991), Centesimus Annus. For a hundred years, these encyclicals promoted concepts of social justice, preferential option for the poor, and the value of human dignity, which is the core of Centrist (Christian) Democracy. (This columnist’s The Fellowship of the 300, a book on Centrist Democracy, came out in 2014.)

These were the guiding principles that propelled labor into the mainstream of the national political conversation and championed the growth of organized labor during those decades.

But previous to this was also the rebirth of the truly leftist militant labor that later transformed the movement differently from that envisioned by the moderate groups of FFW and CSM — the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) founded by the breakaway group of Felixberto ‘Ka Bert” Olalia Sr. from the TUCP. Whereas the moderates deemed capital to be the full partner of labor towards the development of man and society, the militants viewed this relationship as confrontational in the classic dictum of Karl Marx, “…you have nothing to lose but your chains.”

The labor force was divided along ideological lines with the militants suspicious and accusing the moderates of having a more than cushy relationship with capitalists and the government. The state with its axiomatic concern for keeping industrial peace heightened its suppression of labor’s method of organizing — along the lines of the European and American tradition. This approach did not wash with the state, particularly during the martial law years of the Marcos regime.

The Industrial Peace Act of 1953 (Republic Act 875), which promoted the collective bargaining agreement, was the initial instrument to regulate workers’ resistance against the inevitable onslaught of capitalism and also as a response to the incipient communist labor movement in the 1950s. This was later amended during the Marcos regime through the enactment of the Philippine Labor Code under PD 442 in 1974. It aimed to streamline and guarantee the right of labor to organize unions, on a one-union-one industry system, but enforced mediation and conciliation as methods of dispute settlements. The intention of the regime was to strengthen the dictator’s hand by entangling the workers’ class actions in a web of legal restrictions; in effect also redefining the workers’ right to strike as a first option, making it an “illegal act.”

The unexpected consequence was the predominance of union bureaucracies and intense rivalries between union federations in organizing CBA rights with private companies, resulting in an ideologically polarized working class. Thus, the more the unions were organized under the lucrative CBA, the more the workers were fragmented. Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia, the son of KMU founder “Ka Bert,” declared before he was murdered in 1986 that “about 85 percent of today’s supposed leaders of the working class are engaged in racketeering.”

This is the current state of organized labor. The ideologically divided workers through their organized unions are easy prey for the political exigencies of traditional politics. A lucrative partnership has evolved between the powerful union bosses manipulating and using their members to extend their influence into the political arena — or at the very least a promise of a seat at the table with the winning senatorial or presidential hopeful.

At the turn of this century, there was still a strong and noisy labor vote that propelled political survivors like “Ka Blas” Ople, who parlayed his 19 years as secretary/minister of labor and employment under Marcos and later Cory, into a Senate seat and the Senate presidency.

The same labor political clout at the polls thrust Ernesto “Boy” Herrera, general secretary of the Trade Unions of the Philippines (TUCP/KMP) to the Senate despite the accusations of the not-so-hidden strings of American funding of the trade union through the CIA front National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

No more. This past election cycle sadly saw the castration of the once vaunted labor vote. This simply reflected the observation of columnists Marlen Ronquillo of the Manila Times that during the “Labor Day of 2019, we saw none of the potency and power of the labor protests of the past,” and harkening back to the glory days: “During those dangerous times, one thing stood out. Organized labor, probably because of its pure, unselfish dedication to the causes of the working man, was respected. The leaders of the major labor centers and federations were nationally recognized names.”

This columnist’s nostalgic reckoning could be construed as the silencing of the labor voice, exposing the myth of a labor vote (much like that of a Catholic vote), and cruelly by inference, the dying throes of organized labor.

I watched carefully the monochromatic campaign of labor candidates lawyer Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and the second senatorial run of his confederate, labor lawyer Allan Montaño, erstwhile FFW president. The dismal election results belie the assumptions of pro-labor candidates that their interests are in consonance with the perception of the voters or even this government’s agenda; unless of course these nonentities and wannabees are not exactly the personalities that represent and inspire organized labor.

On another level, one can’t help conclude also that the messaging didn’t resonate with the voters in general and labor votes in particular; or worse, it simply insinuates that labor’s general welfare is subordinate and may not disturb the mutual interests of this tripartite collusion — the union bosses, the oligarchy which owns and controls the means of production, and an irresolute state. Thus, even during the first half of the reign of the Deegong, his campaign promise to end contractualization and regularization of “endo” never did happen.

The militant labor on the other hand under the united leftist front seems to have held their own through the various permutations brought about by the proliferation of the “party-lists.” These perverted vehicles through which these fringe groups have managed to insert themselves, together with the influx of traditional and newly minted political dynasts, will continue to pervert the body politic or what is left of the remnants of our democracy.

And a corollary. Will the Deegong, with this recent political cosmetics still pursue his advocacies that in the first place propelled him to the presidency — real systemic changes through constitutional revisions? Or will he succumb to his inner traditional political demons, protect his skin and insure the perpetuation of his political seed.
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 08 May 2019 12:03

One last look – before the 13th

THE Holy Week allowed people some time to reflect on coming events that will indelibly shape our country for the next several decades, the national midterm elections on May 13. For such serious contemplation, my spouse Sylvia and I decided to fly to Macau to a favorite hotel which we have lodged in on several occasions, for its strategic location and also because it is one that will not strain too much a senior couple’s budget for a four-day/four-night discounted package. This time, just the two of us, without an entourage of grandchildren with several tons of impedimenta that must include different sizes of diapers, assorted toys, milk and in this day and age, separate IPads and video games. We did the equivalent of “bisita iglesia”combined with the station of the cross from the Hotel Sintra along Avenida de D. Joao IV. Just around the corner from the “Senado” is a calvary-like climb to the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Paul’s. To complete seven visitations as Filipino tradition dictates, we did Grand Lisboa and Emperor Hotel which were walking distance from our hotel and by shuttle bus to the Venetian, City of Dreams, Studio City, Sands, Wynn and for good measure, MGM in the Cotai and Coloane districts.

One can’t help comparing the amenities of Macau with Manila, or for that matter any place foreign or local, with the Philippines. Such is the raison d’etre for travel. It broadens the mind, expands one’s horizons, helps one acquire culture and accumulate bragging rights, and sharpens critical comparative perspectives with our home country, in the hope of improving the same. Also, it’s pleasurable.

Macau has four dozen casinos. This old city is practically a gambler’s paradise, depending of course on which side of the winning baccarat table you sit. With gambling revenues adding more than 50 percent to government coffers, their employment rate is almost approaching full, although dangerously connected to a single industry — gaming. The government therefore, in partnership with the casinos, makes sure that all government services are directed towards the gambler comfortably, but not necessarily happily, parting with his capital.

Shuttle buses to these casinos from hotels, airports and ferries are free. The casino hotels have lavish decor, replete with restaurants, some with exquisite cuisine inexpensively priced — all done to entice gamblers to stay put. If you should lose your money, lose them in your casino hotel than in the competitor’s.

But this is not a treatise on casino gambling, but a discourse about gambling our future on the people we elect on May 13. My focus is on the senatorial race as the coming Senate chamber will decide whether systemic changes can push through. I refer to the Centrist advocacy whose political growth was cut short by the Marcos martial law years, and later stunted by the oligarchic rule post-1986 EDSA through the enactment of the 1987 Constitution. I need not present a dissertation on why we need to shift from the unitary-presidential system we currently suffer from, to the parliamentary-federal system, with a liberalized economy. This has been widely discussed and disseminated in current political literature and social media. Serious attempts at constitutional revisions have been made by FVR’S 1997 Pirma, Erap’s 2000 Concord and GMA’s 2005 ConCom. All failed.

PRRD, who won on this advocacy seems to have his passion for systemic changes through constitutional revisions waning and falling victim to pragmatic politics and traditional compromises. Even his daughter Sara, has publicly contradicted him on federalism, further adding confusion to the main issues at hand. The parliamentary-federalists have begun to question whether the father-daughter politicians are playing a “good cop-bad cop game;” or simply have their messages convoluted and incoherent.

Both are pushing for similar candidates although the daughter is incongruously pushing for 13 candidates for 12 slots. In my Manila Times column last March 13, 2019 on “Dynastic kleptocracy,” I presented a “negatives list” of those who should not be elected. In the forefront are the three accused“plunderer-senators” seeking a fresh term. The second category are those members of political dynasties. I reiterate my position: “True, there are decent individual members of dynasties, but our beef is with the collective malevolence of the concept, the structure and system itself. The biggest myth is the singular proposition that there are good and moral Philippine political dynasties. There are none!”

I am therefore left with a shortlist of those I think have the intellectual fortitude, professionalism and track record for public service that merits these people a seat at the table. I count among them, Sen. Koko Pimentel and former interior secretary Raffy Alunan. These two deserve the trust of the Filipino people to do good by them. I have followed their careers over the years and Koko’s father has been my mentor since I had the privilege of being his undersecretary and joined him in the founding of the PDP Laban almost four decades ago. Koko has just the right amount of arrogance that a bar topnotcher must naturally possess giving him the confidence that he can make a difference. Paradoxically, he also exudes some amount of humility which is borne out of personal disappointments, but I guess instilled in him by his mother.

Raffy, on the other hand, had his teeth cut in the government bureaucracy culminating in his stint as interior and local governments secretary during the time of President Ramos. His expertise in foreign affairs is surpassed perhaps by only a few Filipino diplomats and his grasp of international relations and defense would be an asset to the Senate. No doubt, this has been polished by his training at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

The Otso Diretso has prominent people, with excellent political pedigrees, Diokno and Tañada are venerable political names but could their offspring measure up to the originals? And their Liberal Party have been so degraded and tarnished by the scandals and corruption of the past administration and incompetence of President PNoy himself. And their unwavering defense of the dysfunctional 1987 Constitution and unitary presidential system and the status quo is anathema to the Centrist positions — which call for systemic changes starting with constitutional revisions.

The DU30 regime is not itself exempt from scandals, corruption and ineptitude but the Deegong is far better at projecting himself as an effective macho leader that the unthinking voters want, compared to the clueless PNoy. The current clash between PNoy’s Liberal and the Deegong’s PDP Laban is a classic case of Satan demonizing the devil.

So, this election, judging by the trending polls, we may again have the tired old branded names, scions of thieves and dynasts and assorted entertainers, legislative nonperformers and sycophants of the ruling class. But hope springs eternal that some good ones will filter through. And if not, then perhaps we may again be condemned by the unthinking Filipino voters to Thomas Jefferson’s dictum: “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

Then we may be forced to welcome the alternative: a coup from within or that much taunted RevGov. In both scenarios, only God can help us.
Published in LML Polettiques
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