Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: June 2019
Thursday, 27 June 2019 14:06

The end of ABS-CBN?

THE ABS-CBN franchise ends March 20, 2020, nine months from today, unless the 18th Congress decides to renew it. Which means congressmen who are in the pocket of the franchisee could now carry out their end of the bargain or extract more concessions. It is often whispered that the grant of congressional franchises is one of the more lucrative rent-seeking occupations in the legislative process. The Lopez family, which owns the franchise, is in a bind. They may already have paid a down payment. But they are in a very weak position. For one, the Deegong doesn’t like them. And he owns Congress. The President from the very start has shown a marked distaste for the oligarchs and their kind, aggravated by their arrogance showing a clear bias for the Aquino candidate and preferential TV/radio time for PRRD’s opponents when DU30 was the presidential candidate in 2016. The President has a long memory.

So, the Lopezes perhaps may hope for DU30 to just go away — disappear, before the nine months is over. But this is wishful thinking. The Deegong is healthy and totally in control of the political structures of this country. So, where does the Lopez clan go from here?

But first a background on the franchise. According to House Bill 4997 introduced on Sept. 11, 2014 by Isabela Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao, “ABS-CBN’s first franchise was granted on June 14,1950 under the name Bolinao Electronics Corporation (BEC).” In its various corporate rebirths, it became ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. in 1967 and eventually ABS-CBN Corp. in 1986. The Aggabao bill has been pending since the 16th Congress when it was rushed, as the congressional atmosphere at that time during the PNoy regime may have been favorable to the franchisee. But it didn’t pass muster.

Forty-seven years ago, at exactly midnight on the day the Marcos martial law declaration was announced on Sept. 22, 1972, government troops seized the corporation and its affiliates and imprisoned its president, Eugenio “Geny’”Lopez, Jr., the son of the founder. The airwaves which they dominated fell silent.

Prior to this, the Marcos and the Lopez families shared a storied past which started in the early days of the republic. The politician Fernando “Nanding” Lopez, Sr. started his career as mayor of Iloilo City right after the war. Parlaying wealth and influence, he won as senator but was later recruited as President Quirino’s vice president and later reelected to the Senate. In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos got him as his vice president for two terms — a convenient marriage of old wealth and political power. “By the time martial law was declared in 1972, the Lopez family fell out of Marcos’ favor and was targeted by the dictatorship because of their denunciations of Marcos’ alleged corruption. They were also targeted due to their family’s political influence, being members of the entrenched oligarchy. The position of vice president was dissolved, and the Lopez family was stripped of most of its political and economic assets.” (Wikipedia)

The older Lopez brother, Eugenio “Eñing” Sr., was the businessman in the family who founded the Lopez business empire. This deadly combination of politics and business symbolized by the siblings, defined and nurtured this symbiotic relationship becoming the template for the Philippine oligarchy. Their later mistake, as proffered in countless political literature was to disparage the emerging political chrysalis that was the consort to Ferdinand, who as a young Manileña living with cousins in the residence of House Speaker Pro tempore Daniel Romualdez had a status “higher than servants and lower than family members as a poor relative” (Wikipedia). The old money Lopez brothers were urbane, highly educated and for the older one, Ateneo, UP and Harvard, but they were no match to the emerging greed of a ‘conjugal dictatorship.’

When martial law was declared, Marcos held Geny Lopez hostage using him to pressure the Lopez patriarch into giving up the clan’s business crown jewels – Meralco and ABS-CBN. The latter was a potent asset as it had the dominance of the airwaves used to expose government corruption on one hand, and on the other, intimidate political opponents and extract business concessions from government contracts advancing their business interests. At the beginning of martial rule, the Lopez family with their political and economic bully tactics never did get the sympathy of the populace.

Geny, who escaped prison in 1977 and went on exile in the United States, returned after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, took over the helm of the media corporation and started rebuilding the company, or what was left of it after the 14-year takeover of Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto. By then, political dynasties and a new set of oligarchy had been introduced into the playing field eating into the domain of the Lopezes, but the return by Cory to Geny of ABS-CBN preserved the Lopez competitive advantage.

And the family went back into their old ways. Using ABS-CBN and its affiliates to gain advantage in business and politics; accumulating politicians in their pockets and binding their wills to theirs. But in the process established itself among the country’s well-run companies. In fact, “…in 2002, Finance Asia ranked ABS-CBN as the 8th best-managed company in the Philippines in its ‘Asia’s Best Companies 2002’ survey.” But they never forgot to whom they owed a debt of gratitude in recovering their business “crown jewels” — the Aquino-Cojuangco family.

ABS-CBN went beyond the boundaries of their government-granted franchise. Writ large in legislative service is the dictum, “The primary objective of all grants of franchise is to benefit the public; the rights or interests of the franchisee, are secondary.” This the Lopez Group conveniently ignored and with ABS-CBN as its primary tool supported to the hilt Cory’s inept son to win the presidency in 2010, glossing over his glaring errors and bungling mistakes. In 2016 they went for the PNoy’s alter-ego, Mar Roxas and alienated the Deegong. Big mistake!

Today, the tables are turned. ABS-CBN’s franchise is up for renewal for another 25 years. The 18th Congress convening in July will give the franchisee, the Lopez Group, barely eight months to convince Congress that they deserve to operate in the next 25 years. True, the power to grant franchises or extend the same is vested in Congress. But truer still is that behind Congress is the man they have heaped scorn on for long.

Where will the Lopez family go from here? They can start negotiating for the transfer or sale of ABS-CBN lock stock and barrel to one friendlier to the current regime and not entirely antithetical to the family’s interest, biding their time till the Deegong goes. This is the soft approach. Or initiate legal battles and bury the franchise issue deep in legal cases through delays in the courts while heading off Congress in the timely House Speaker fight. I’m sure the Lopez family has over the decades accumulated IOUs with the courts and with the bureaucracy and some congressional mercenaries are just too happy to oblige This is the hard approach. Whichever way, we are in for a battle royale which will impact the body politic for years to come.
Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 12:06

Team 2022

IT seems that 2022 is heating up early with about 10 names already being floated in trial balloons, whether publicly or privately. The 10 names cover national and local officials, elected and appointed. Two names will soon be added in the trial balloons depending on some events being completed before December 2020, which is 18 months before May 2022. That would make it a full dozen, with some probably sliding down to vice president if trials are not effective or the needle does not move and gain traction.

Interestingly, it was only during the term of former PGMA that we had both the president and the vice president coming from the same ticket. Unfortunately, the vice president then didn’t have the fire on his belly to make a bid in 2010 and continue what PGMA started. There are several lessons to be learned from this incident about securing a candidate for vice president: Popularity is important and not having any higher ambition is critical, but the VP has to be trained and capacitated.

As the Duterte agenda is completed, there will definitely be some that will not be achieved simply because of time restrictions. One thing is clear, though; we cannot depart from the prevailing economic program. We cannot turn around and set aside the achievements made on enhanced frontline services. We cannot change the infrastructure program. We should be thinking in terms of two terms in selecting a president-vice president so there is predictability, stability and sustainability of policies, program, projects and activities.

As we target an upper middle-class Philippines and bring down poverty from 26 percent to 14 percent by the end of 2022, the infrastructure program known as “Build, Build, Build” will remain pending. The Mindanao agenda will not be completed, and opening up the country via amendments to the Constitution or revising the same to secure a future under federalism will have to be considered. Hence, we should not just look for six years but 12 years. Consequently, we need to seriously look at tandems and tickets consciously instead of risking choosing only a president and hoping 2028 would take care of itself.

Why is Mindanao important? Because it is the food basket of the country; 11 of the top 20 poorest provinces are in Mindanao and the commitment of government on BARMM is a commitment that is generational. Thus, a North-South factor will have to be considered in choosing the ticket. Luzon is 56 percent and Mindanao is 23 percent of total registered voters. Mindanaons for both presidential and vice presidential posts won’t work for the interest of the country. But definitely a candidate for the tandem should be from Mindanao to finish the development of the island and continue the glare of official attention on Mindanao.

The horizon is clear. Continuity is needed to achieve economic momentum. There are things that need tweaking, but the high approval rating of PRRD is given in any of the decision points. The war on illegal drugs is a serious undertaking that needs a whole-of-nation approach and not just government. The same is true with poverty. A continuing urgent task is battling corruption. Institutionalizing “Build, Build, Build” is urgent, so that no administration would make infrastructure development the least of its priorities.

There are two scenarios that should carefully be studied: Should the presidential daughter run immediately after PRRD or in 2028? Pros and cons are being weighed. If she runs immediately after, who will be the vice presidential candidate who can sustain, carry on and finish the infrastructure road map? There are two cabinet ranking secretaries who can ensure what we have started will be completed. One is young and the other has wisdom from being a self-made man. If she follows after PRRD, she would share all the “sins of omission and commission” and will be campaigning based on accomplishments as well as issues against PRRD. Following a father has never been done in presidential history, plus she becomes framed by the politics of the father before she can even decide.

If the presidential daughter decides to earn her spurs as vice president first, who has the positive virtues of PRRD from among the names being mentioned for president? Among the elements of a PRRD leadership brand are decisiveness, political will, compassion and empathy. The four cannot be taught. The first two can be situational, but only a local government chief executive understands decisiveness and political will. Compassion and empathy are ingrained, not learned.

In 1983, Howard Gardner, in his book Frames of Mind, wrote about seven types of multiple intelligences in human beings. Gardner argues that there is a wide range of cognitive abilities, and that strength or weakness in one area or ability does not necessarily correlate to another intelligence. Gardner did not mention leadership in any of his multiple intelligences. However, it is easily recognizable that to be an effective, efficient and productive leader, intelligence is quite naturally required.

As such, there is now growing understanding that there are four kinds of intelligences that directly affect one’s leadership capabilities and methodologies to become a successful leadership practitioner. “A holistic approach to leadership requires knowledge, i.e. intelligence, in these areas: physical (PQ), intellectual (IQ), emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ). They are interrelated in that they build on each other as one’s intellectual level increases over time through normal life experiences, academic achievements and professional expertise in our chosen fields.” It has been argued that the order of importance should be SQ, EQ, IQ and PQ. Other quarters even argued that “PQ come before IQ since it is the basic foundation.”

SQ is “the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation.” PQ is personal health and fitness. It is “bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.” The presidency is not an easy job. No one gets out looking young and vibrant. Burn-out is lumped with presidential action.

The country cannot afford another tumultuous presidency. It cannot have a vice president who remains a spare tire for six years. That will be another waste of taxpayers’ money if he or she cannot even assist the ship of state to navigate waves and safely reach shore. Nor can we have a wolf in sheep’s clothing who will, from day 1, plan to oust a duly elected leader. Enough of those days.

We need a 1-2 punch who will work together as a team. A team up that complements each other; one that can read each other because they know one another; a tandem that shares the same vision and mission and that is task-oriented to push the country to a better future for all.

The year 2022 should not be just a campaign for the next president, rather, it should be a campaign for a strong team that can sustain our growth path, control greed, fight corruption, a nuanced approach to battling illegal drugs, nurture a professional bureaucracy and take care of those in the fringes. We need to elect a team that will be good for 12 years so we can finish what remains pending in the Duterte infrastructure and social welfare plans. Free tertiary education and universal healthcare will see full roll-outs by then. Ease of doing business would have taken root. We need to think long-term and get our politics to be less extractive.
Published in News
Friday, 21 June 2019 11:57

Federalism and human dignity

“Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” -Article II, Sec. 1, 1987 Philippine Constitution

SINCE its inception as a political party, the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) has always been at the forefront of the continuing discourse on federalism.

As one of the active members, and an officer of the organization, I believe that the ongoing dialogues sustained by the support and initiatives of staunch advocates in Mindanao communities with the underpinnings of an enlightened citizenry are on the right tract and necessary. Any discussion, agreement or proposal about federalism that does not involve people, whose sovereign will may not be reflected in it, and whose imprints may be essential for its fruition, is bound to fail. This is why the Centrist position has always been anchored on its advocacy to promote and enhance human dignity as a core value in the design of the political, economic and social order.

Self-determination starts with the individual imbued with freedom and sense of justice embracing a set of doctrines or pillars which support this advocacy. These pillars constitute the ideals of Centrist Democracy in the development of genuine autonomy, the path that leads towards Federalism.

Foremost among these pillars is adherence to a functioning democracy and the rule of law. The leaders “govern upon the sole and intelligent acquiescence of those who voted them to power.” This bestowal of authority carries with it a covenant and a caveat that they are to be servants of the law and not above it. Democracy is not so much as the voice of the people as the rule of law that governs them.

Second principle refers to a social market economy where an educated and well-informed populace engage themselves in a free market system which allows for healthy competition and prevent the proliferation of cartels, oligopolies and monopolies; a market economy with active and vibrant participation of the citizenry in the political life of the community involving a “healthy respect for rules and regulations such as paying the right taxes, recognizing the rights of labor, protection of the environment”; and the role of a strong state to “establish, maintain and protect the competitive environment and ensure a level playing field.”

Third is subsidiarity, the principle which dictates that the power for making decisions should rest on the lowest level structure so that people may decide for themselves on matters that affect them. “Self-determination and being in control of their lives are the features of reverence for human dignity.” What we have now is a highly centralized system of government which “concentrates too much power in the Executive Department” headed by the President, making it ineffective in addressing varying concerns of local government units. Ideally, the latter must be given more control and leeway for self-administration promoting good governance, hallmarks that contribute towards the establishment of autonomous regions, an essential step that leads to a federal set-up.

Fourth is the institutionalization of political parties to make them more responsive and accountable not only to members but to their constituents. There is no mention in the statutes that define the system within which political parties can truly evolve. We need to enact laws prohibiting “turncoatism”, a phenomenon where elected members jump from one party to the other to ensure political survival; laws that regulate campaign spending and introduce legislation to grant subsidy to political parties for campaign and political education purposes.

These principles are embedded in a document collectively called the “Centrist proposals” which contained our proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution. I was privileged to be a part of the process of preparation, edition and in making the document conform to the desires of our people, publishing a book titled “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines,” spearheaded by CDPI President Lito Monico C. Lorenzana with the support of some well-meaning citizens who believe its time has come. While revising the 1987 Constitution, we recommended the aforementioned political party reforms, the enactment of a law banning political dynasties which, if still unpassed, should be written in the revised Constitution as self-executory, the passage of a real, all-encompassing Freedom of Information Act to “enforce transparency in all transactions in government” and electoral reforms that would ensure the democratic will of the people are freely expressed.

In the federal republic that we envisioned, we proposed a timeline with the establishment of a parliamentary form of government to replace the present presidential system and all its attendant ills and inadequacies. Thereafter, in several stages which are now overtaken by events, we proposed the creation of autonomous territories which will comprise the Federal Republic. This proposed constitution had been submitted to the outgoing Congress and the Office of the President that only took a cursory interest on it. Subsequently, PRRD commissioned a body composed of eminent Federalists, constitutionalists and legal luminaries who later submitted a presidential-federal version. With several more proposals coming from several groups promoting federalism and the 17th Congress version concocted by the former President GMA, now Speaker of the House, muddling the seemingly irreconcilable issues advanced by all these parties, the Federalism everyone is talking about may again take the back burner.

There’s a glimmer of hope though when the 18th Congress opens with Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the CDP president and a true-blue proponent of the federal system, taking the floor to advocate for the latter, in a form which could be acceptable to all especially to his fellow lawmakers who are sympathetic to the President’s advocacies.

Federalism may be a complex process but the discussions should never cease. We need a massive political education around the country with the help of like-minded political parties and individuals, “setting aside differences and marching in a single rhythm,” promoting not merely a system but one that empowers people and enhances human dignity.
Published in News
Wednesday, 19 June 2019 12:51

What gives with VIP bodyguards?

THE past three weeks saw the Tulfo brothers’ public roasting over the uncouth and abusive language of their sibling Erwin toward a member of the Duterte cabinet. This seems to be the trademark of the Tulfos, perhaps as a crass display of their alpha attributes, a sense of untouchability due to their political connections and a not so subtle signal that they are a power syndicate themselves — as indeed they may well be as they have acquired a substantial following in broadcast and print media. The siblings have managed to parlay their occupation helping ordinary folk find their voice against callous and unmindful government bureaucrats — a commendable feat. But this time they overdid it when they targeted Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, a bemedaled ex-military general and a hero of the Marawi siege. This generated an ugly firestorm of reaction from the public and an unexpected rage from PMA Cavaliers, a much bigger power bloc whose tentacles encompass the military and police. This prompted a harsh response from top police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde who stripped the brothers of their security details.

Former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd plunged into the fray, declaring, “I personally know these Tulfo brothers, including Ramon and Erwin…I believe that they are apologizing because they never expected the gravity of the backlash, coming as it did from the military and the police, the sector that the Tulfos could not afford to fight at this time. It is my opinion, judging from my own experiences, if they would be off the hook without them learning their lesson, they would be back to their entitled and arrogant ways in no time at all!” (KatrinaHallare – @KHallareINQ, inquirer.net/ 10:14 p.m. June 07, 2019.)

This column will not exacerbate further this disgraceful situation except to examine a more intriguing topic behind this incident allowing us a peek at the unholy alliance between the entitled members of the media and the police.

The question begging an answer is what government policies cover the privilege of granting security details or bodyguards to elected and appointed officials, bureaucrats, VIPs and those private individuals who consider themselves important. Or worse, the likes of a daughter of convicted drug lord and herself a drug pusher Diana Yu Uy, assigned a two-man police detail for several years.

Ordinary citizens must have witnessed convoys of SUVs in heavy traffic with car “wang-wang,” restaurants or even private parties and public events where VIPs are easily spotted by the number of bodyguards hovering over them with bulging hidden handguns protruding from under their short barong and their ubiquitous earphones connected to miniaturized walkie-talkies; conveying to observers images of collective self-importance. Are these hundreds of local government officials, senators, congressmen and bureaucrats entitled to freebies to secure them against perceived or real threats. Is the ordinary Filipino compelled to pay for their security. Can they not pay for their own safety with their private or stolen funds?

According to Gen. Filmore Escobal, chief of the Police Security and Protection Group (PNP-PSPG), these individuals are typically allowed at least two personnel from the PSPG. Two is minimum as both are assigned in two shifts. If they want more police personnel, they must submit a request letter to the PNP and get approval from PRRD himself. Private individuals get to be assigned police security too by merely applying and requesting for one. Such request is assessed and vetted and when warranted, the requesting individual is granted two policemen, courtesy of the taxpayer.

The Deegong is known to frown on spending public funds for private purposes as the margin between corruption and rectitude is a thin one. And DU30 has declared that even “a whiff of corruption” would not save a bureaucrat. The use of public funds, as in the case of police salaries for private security for the Tulfo brothers and one of their spouses may in fact be anomalous.

The citizenry will understand and accept legitimate protection for the country’s highest officialdom paid for by the people’s money as they are natural magnet for threats. For this purpose, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Security_Group – cite_note-2 was created and tasked with providing protection to Philippine presidents, vice presidents and their immediate families, even when on domestic and overseas trips.

This tradition of creating an elite group from the armed forces or police of countries dates back to the ancient Greek kingdom of Sparta where 300 Hoplites (the famous 300 Spartans) were the vanguards of its fighting force and also for the protection of the king. In 27 BCE Caesar Augustus of Rome created the Praetorian Guard, culled from the roman legions. Even Hitler had to install the Schutzstaffel, the infamous SS.

In France, every French boy would be familiar with the Musketeers of the Household of Louis 14th, King of France made famous in Alexander Dumas’ novels. The membership of this prestigious King’s Guard was reserved for noblemen. In my youth, we were familiar with the characters of Porthos, Athos, Aramis and their leader Comte d’Artagnan.

In the holy city of the Vatican, they have the volunteer Papal Swiss Guards from Switzerland founded in 1506 by Pope Julius 2nd solely for the protection of the popes. Originally these were mercenaries farmed out to countries in Europe able to pay their costs. Currently, the 100 Swiss guards and recruits must be Catholic, single and between 19 to 30 years old.

The US Secret Service under the Department of Homeland Security is tasked not only to protect the US president, vice president and their families but also all living former presidents, their spouses and children under 16 years old. They have an added mission of “safeguarding the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States.” The US also has private guns/bodyguards for hire called the Blackwater Group. They recruit from among retired former Navy SEAL, Green Beret and other superbly trained US select units. They are farmed out to high net worth individuals and even back to the US government.

A model we can emulate is the Israeli system that recruits only from elite units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Secret Service (ISS) to guard high government officials. These highly prized professionals are in demand to protect international high-profile clients and the “beautiful people” — actors, entertainers and oligarchs. And like the US Blackwater, these are private businesses.

These examples of worldwide elite groups of highly trained bodyguards have for their basic purpose the protection of their presidents, vice presidents, premiers and their families. They later hire themselves out to protect others.

In the Philippines, this is the job of the PSG. But the police was created to protect all its citizens — not individual persons as bodyguards. It’s high time that our government and leadership define the specifics and their role as regards their job as the country’s law enforcers. The Tulfo incident opened the eyes of many Filipinos that the role of the police must not be perverted to serve those who consider themselves as VIPs, or simply people possessing a delusion of self-importance. In this, their arrogance and subsequent humiliation may have served a purpose.
Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 13 June 2019 12:21

What is it with Sara?

AFTER eight seasons, “Games of Thrones” (GOT) has ended. I have been an aficionado of this fictionalized medieval drama set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Not an iota of the tale is true. No facts. Just pure fiction. But even with the presence of dragons and white walkers the episodes were as riveting as any historical narrative from the real dark ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance in the 1500s. The court intrigues and political maneuverings convey universal truths reflective of the practices of that fictional period that transcend time. This is the backdrop against which this column is set.

Sara Duterte-Carpio, Deegong’s daughter, could be a composite of several colorful GOT characters, a scheming Cersei Lannister or a dispossessed Daenerys Targaryen out to regain a throne. In the real world, Sara could dangerously be vulnerable to the guile of her father’s sycophants. She is now being injected into our political consciousness as next in line to the presidency. She burst into the political stage on her own as a no-nonsense mayor who punched a sheriff on TV. A daughter drawn from the same mold but endowed with a demeanor perceived to be a much more finessed version.

The midterm administration election triumph could chiefly be attributed to the initiatives of the President these past three years. His “build-build-build” mantra on expanding infrastructure will not yield dividends until starting the second half of his term and beyond. With the propensity for politicians to claim credit for projects in the pipeline, many of these roads and bridges connecting islands, expanded communication and internet capacities, electric power and mining ventures with long gestation and constructions periods will be claimed as theirs by those coming after the Deegong’s time. Whoever heads the future Federal Republic of the Philippines, whether president or prime minister, will be the beneficiary of the Deegong’s work today. The DDS and the sycophants want Sara installed to claim credit and be benefited by these.

What DU30 has done to separate him from past presidents is his use of presidential prerogatives, actions and decisions perceived from different angles: seen by his avid base as acts of “political will;” from his detractors as “abuses of power;” but from the general public as “acts of a leader.”

A case in point is his “Tokhang” and war on drugs. What is interpreted by his detractors and human rights advocates as criminal acts worthy of international attention and world condemnation, is seen as “keeping us safe” by those who live in the communities where these are instigated; but more importantly, seen by the general public as “good governance” preventing the country from deteriorating further. These are what propelled DU30’s approval rating to soar to almost 90 percent.

But what sets PRRD apart is his perceptive grasp of the Filipino psyche. An inveterate iconoclast he is a master at pushing the limits of his discretion but not going over the edge. This is political command at its best. His assaults on God are deflected as attacks against the Catholic hierarchy muted somehow by undercurrents of disgust for these Padre Damasos among us.

And DU30’s unilateral decisions to close and rehabilitate the cesspool Boracay, the cleaning up of Manila Bay and the threat to dump Canadian basura to their waters are at best palliatives and merely symbolic. But they resonate with the audience that matter most — the ordinary Filipino.

This litany of the President’s exploits are just samples reflecting what was promised and a vision of what the next years will bring. And the most crucial is the systemic changes that DU30 has sworn to put in place through the revision of the 1987 Constitution towards a federal parliamentary republic. This is the President’s legacy. The Deegong needs to perpetuate what he started. He needs a keeper to his legacy. Sara is not up to it!

Take it from the words of an OFW political technocrat and an avid social media blogger with a large following, Orion Perez D (FB blog, April 25 at 9:14 p.m.). I quote him verbatim:

“Dagha’g salamat kanimo, Sara Duterte. You made it very clear for me that the Philippines is likely to end up as a freakin’ basket case because you yourself cannot use your brains to do the necessary research and learn more about the advocacy that your own father has been fighting for.

“A year or so ago, I was already aware that you were ‘not yet sold on federalism’… But as late as now, you aren’t just ‘not yet convinced’ but you are actually against federalism, and worse, you base your opposition to it on fake news!

“I staunchly support Rodrigo Duterte because he is pro-federalism and pro-constitutional reform. Just because I support the father doesn’t mean I should slavishly support the daughter especially when she is actively sabotaging her own father!”

What is disturbing is the anointing of Sara as the heir apparent based on bloodline not on the political legacy of PRRD which she disagrees with. The ascendancy of a daughter of a strongman is understandable as the country is enamored with a “can do” president, a maverick and a perceived reformer. The sycophants particularly want a continuation of a reign of a strongman to protect their sinecures and prerogatives. Thus, the longing for an avatar for another six years after this current Deegong has been led to pasture.

But I doubt the Filipino is prepared for another Duterte from Davao. True, Sara has arrived, so to speak, but she is untested. “She lives under the shadow of the king. She dies in the light.” Witness the debacle of Hugpong in Davao del Norte where her anointed were obliterated by Congressman Alvarez, her nemesis whom she had caused to be booted out of a speakership.

This pining for an heir apparent presumably is a longing for the qualities of the next strongman without the political baggage accumulated over the previous six years. One who has the experience and the sophistication of a lawgiver yet can tread the muck of bureaucracy; who is also perceived to be tough on public safety and order; perceived to possess political will in copious amounts. One who understands the evils of “pork barrel” and its corrupting influence. Sceptics would even say we need someone who could himself be perceived as a killer.

And if we are successful transiting to a parliamentary-federal form from this perverted presidential-unitary system, perhaps one who can become an adept prime minister.

The Philippine political horizon has produced names post mid-term elections who could fit these bills of particulars.

One whose head is above the crowd is Sen. Ping Lacson. I have never met Lacson nor have I ever exchanged a word or two with Sara. These two won’t know me from Adam, but I’ve watched and studied them both.

In my version at the end of the “Game of Thrones,” I can see the last poignant scene of Jon Snow, the last Targaryen heir, doing in Daenerys, the heir apparent – and he himself sitting on that throne.
Published in LML Polettiques
MANILA, Philippines — Incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez reaffirmed on Wednesday his commitment to advancing constitution reforms and urged Filipinos to support President Rodrigo Duterte in his pursuit of shifting to federalism.

In a statement, Romualdez, a lawyer who is president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), said federalism would complement the Duterte administration’s efforts to speed up economic growth.

“We will keep our dedication, commitment, passion and the flame burning in pursuing federalism until we reap the real benefits of genuine constitutional reforms for our children and the succeeding generations,” Romualdez, one of the frontrunners in the House speakership race, said.

“I urge my colleagues and the Filipino people to stand behind President Duterte and help push a federal Constitution to create opportunities and for strong economic growth to be felt also by ordinary people,” he added. “The federalism advocacy of President Duterte is a golden opportunity to unlock the doors of peace, progress and prosperity of the country and the people.”

Last December, the House of Representatives — voting 224-22, with three abstentions — approved on third and final reading its version of a federal constitution under Resolution of Both Houses No. 15, of which Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is one of the principal authors.

Romualdez, the House independent bloc leader during the 16th Congress during the Aquino administration, also renewed Philconsa’s commitment to defend and protect the 1987 Constitution.

“Let us join hands to maintain the pristine supremacy of the Constitution,” said Romualdez, who will serve his fourth term as Leyte congressman in the incoming 18th Congress.

According to Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), the 58-year-old Philconsa remains very supportive of the President’s federalism initiative.

“I am proud to say that the Philconsa has become the premier marketplace for the healthy and vibrant exchange of ideas, perceptions and insights on constitutional issues affecting public interest,” he said. “We have been doing this consistently with our aim to incite and stimulate awareness, respect and obedience to the Constitution.”

“The Philconsa is a classic paragon of democracy,” he added. “It encourages everyone to say his piece, and out of this composite of ideas, insights and impressions, we hope to reach a consensus on what is good and what is best for our country and our people.”

Aside from Romualdez, among the legal luminaries of Philconsa are retired Court of Appeals Justice Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro as chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno as president emeritus.

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ON the heels of the recently concluded midterm elections another political circus has come to town. We are never given a respite. But looking from another’s point of view, it never ceases to entertain us. It is often said that in the Philippines, political circuses have been elevated to the equivalent of pornography. We watch disgusted, not as actors or participants, but in some way fascinated by the spectacle laid before us. And the mere act of watching fuels the supply. And we barely have a choice as the tri-media are drawn to it like moths to a lamp. And social media has of late been initiating the dissemination of these phenomena encompassing everyone with a device attached to the internet, including the masses, through the veritable but almost passé word of mouth.

This current political porn is played out by certain types of politicians not for sexual arousal but purely for personal excitement in pursuit of power. I refer to the porn stars now parading themselves to public scrutiny but directed mostly toward an audience of one — the President himself.

These are the winning politicians now gunning for the two most powerful positions after the presidency: Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) and President of the Senate. These two positions are the most prestigious and power-laden in the government hierarchy. Ranking only third in succession after the vice president who holds no power except only when the president is incapacitated or dead.

Congress has the power of the purse and technically controls the flow of monies — that in effect fuels the lifeblood of governance. The top honchos of each chamber therefore could have the handle on the levers of power — if we define political power as the ability to influence the course of events, their logical and desired outcomes and the behavior of the citizenry through the crafting of laws towards the overall health of the nation.

In our republican democratic system imposed on us through a century of American tutelage, Congress is one of the three branches of government, which, along with the judiciary and the presidency, provide the mechanism for checks and balances to maintain proper governance and the oneness of the nation.

Offhand, with the expressed and constitutionally protected powers of Congress, it could be perceived to be potentially more powerful than the presidency itself. The power to pass any law and appropriate any amount and the power to create any position in government; these are not within the powers of the presidency. Congress even has the power to remove a sitting president. But as advanced by Ross Cohen, an American history and political scientist, “… [the power of] Congress is fragmented. The President is not as powerful as the Congress in many respects, but his/her power is concentrated. It creates a unique balance of power that ensures no one person or institution ever becomes too powerful for too long, while still enabling a strong central government to react to the needs of the day without getting too far from the will of the people. This is the genius of the US Constitution”.

The Philippine experience is somewhat different from that of America’s almost 400 years of practice. The Philippine president has over the decades taken more powers from Congress and the unitary-presidential system has reinforced and centralized power in the presidency, all conveniently protected by the 1987 Constitution. In some ways congressional powers have been castrated although the positions of House speaker and Senate president are still residually very powerful. A caveat, however, is that they must be allied to the president and must have his support. The president’s web of alliances is extensive in both houses and the presidency’s tentacles reach out to the dynasties in the local government units (LGU). And it is the dynasty that gets a congressman enthroned.

More especially in the lower house, with its large numbers, the anointment of the president is a sine qua non for the speakership. Thus, the obsequious demeanor of the leading contenders towards the president and his very traditionally politicized family. We have the sorry display therefore of former speaker Bebot Alvarez who. despite a fresh electoral mandate after vanquishing his political foes allied to the president’s daughter, had to display mendicancy toward Sara, who in the first place was instrumental in his dethronement. Seeking a reconciliation, he was rebuffed. Now playing lamely to the first family, he declared that he was “giving up his ambition” if the president’s newly elected congressman son Polong desires the speakership.

We have Lord Velasco, a young but hard-nosed politician who went through two political parties, Lakas-Kampi-CMD and NUP but jumped to the winning PDP Laban and now parlaying a close relationship to the president’s family as his launching pad.

Reportedly leading the wannabees with 153 endorsement from his peers is the darling of the oligarchy and an old hand in Congress and scion of a political family, congressman-elect Martin Romualdez, of the Romualdez-Marcos clan. These last two contenders could sustain the contest with sufficient funds as the fight could become expensive, shamelessly buying congressional votes — as intimated by Alvarez. But in the end, it will be the Deegong’s imprimatur that counts.

It’s a little bit different at the Senate as there are only a few members, and therefore they must work out as a collegial body relying on negotiation and compromise. But the President’s nod is still a valuable asset what with the current set of new faces from the President’s coterie. The importance of the Senate is that it could be a stepping-stone to the presidency. So far in the storied history of both houses, only Ferdinand Marcos, Senate president in 1963-1965, made it to the presidency. None from the speakership (Ramon Mitra, Joe de Venecia and Manny Villar) who vied for the presidency.

So, the skeptics among us can deduce that aside from prestige and residual powers, in a corruptible unitary-presidential system, the speakership and senate presidency must be immensely lucrative. Thus, the frenetic kowtowing to the one true power that can grant them their wishes.

But the last three years of Deegong’s term call for him to be above himself, to be a statesman and be presidential. He must therefore choose the Congress leaders who could partner with him truly to advance his agenda — real systemic reforms and changes through the revision of the 1987 Constitution. He must confront the reality of his situation and must rise above the chaos produced by those jockeying for power. For indeed, these skirmishes today are simply a prelude to the next political power construct. And if he is to leave his legacy, then he has to reorient his agenda and implement the details of his strategy for change — his iconic pagbabago!

Or he will forever remain in the minds of his constituency and the coming generations as that colorful outsider, a promdi, dirty-mouthed, God-cursing politician whose vaunted political will in the end amounts to nothing more that hubris.

As a Davaoeño, I pray he is not that.

Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 12:05

In search of leaders for 18th Congress

SOME know-it-alls just don’t get it. Our legislative branch is bicameral, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Their constituencies are different from each other. The Senate has a national constituency, elected at large and individual senators are independent republics, while the House is by district, hence very local in orientation.

The Senate is a continuing body while the House of Representatives is not. The Senate as a continuing body is composed of 12 members while all the House members end their terms after three years. That is why the Senate President remains while the Speaker takes a bow. The Senate President holds on to the gavel until he is removed through a motion made on the floor.

Ours is a deliberative democracy. It is built on consensus and compromise, never a dictate of the leadership. Its power is plenary; no decisions are carried without plenary debate and vote. The heart and soul of the legislative maze is the committee system and the controlling rules committee chaired by the majority leader. Quorum is an operative and controlling principle in any deliberative body. Nothing comes through without quorum, and the rules of the chamber are the holy grail in getting things done.

Congress is made up of three sessions and by noon of June 30, the rite of passage will commence for the 18th Congress of the Republic. Before the 18th Congress can deal with the business of the day, it has to organize and constitute its standing committees and elect their officers. And by the third Monday of July, Congress meets in a joint session to receive the President and listen to his SONA.

The Senate President needs a vote of 13 senators to remain or for another to assume leadership of the Senate. Among the continuing 12, four are with the Liberal Party, who constitute the minority. There were 12 elected in May 2019, two of whom are independent — Poe and Binay. The Sotto group only needs one from the new senators to constitute the majority. If the so-called new Senate bloc doesn’t play its cards well, it could potentially destroy the present majority in the Senate and create a new minority.

Sotto has been in the Senate for 26 years. He has served nine Senate presidents. Sotto is the Senate’s most senior member today. He first entered the legislative body in 1992. He had the support of 16 senators when he assumed the leadership of the Senate.

The argument that the No. 1 senator should be Senate President does not hold water in an institution steeped in tradition like the Senate. The No. 1 senators post-martial law were Salonga (1987), Sotto (1992), Macapagal-Arroyo (1995), Legarda (1998), de Castro (2001), Roxas (2004), Legarda (2007), Revilla (2010), Poe (2013), Drilon (2016) and Villar (2019). Of the 10 prior to 2019, only two became Senate presidents: Salonga and Sotto. Salonga was a hands-down favorite coming from the EDSA People Power revolution. Why is being No. 1 not a good criterion for Senate President? Because being No. 1 clouds the amygdala of the person. She or he has more votes than the sitting president of the Republic. And there is no prohibition for a sitting senator to run for the presidency and return to his or her Senate seat if she or he does not make it. Of the 10 top senators, only Macapagal-Arroyo became president by being elected VP in 1998, president by succession in 2001 and president by election in 2004. The other is de Castro who became VP to Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Critics of Speaker Macapagal-Arroyo voiced their “what can she do in so short a time” objections when she was elected Speaker in July 2018. What her critics can’t handle is the fact that as a former president, she knows what it takes and what is needed for PRRD to succeed with his legislative agenda. PGMA as SGMA was quoted as saying, “I will endeavor to carry out the legislative agenda of PRRD in the lower house.” She has presided over the passage of five major pieces of legislation: BARMM (RA 11054), Rice Tariffication Law (RA 11203), Tax Amnesty Act (RA11213), Universal Health Care (RA11223) and Small-scale Mining Reform (RA 11256). Twelve priority bills of PRRD are awaiting action from the Senate: Security of Tenure Act, Coconut Industry Trust Fund, Department of Disaster and Resilience, Trabaho bill, Fiscal Reform for the Mining Industry, Amending Excise Tax on Alcohol Products, Increasing Excise Tax on Tobacco Products, Reforms in Real Property Valuation and Assessment, Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act, Revision to the 1987 Constitution, and Expanding the Scope of Reformation and Rehabilitation of Children in Conflict with the Law and Strengthening the Social Reintegration Programs. All these in 68 session days, a record in the history of the House.

There is value in having an economist, former senator, VP and president as Speaker of the House. Her work ethic is beyond question, her intellectual powers remain sharp and her ability to get things done complements what PRRD needs to get his reform agenda moving. Do you need to be a lawyer to be effective as Speaker? The answer there is a big ‘no.’ Would one need to be a specialist? Again, no. The Speaker we need for the 18th Congress should be a generalist with advanced managerial skills, can command respect of the 297 members, can reach out and obtain a bipartisan support for a major piece of legislation, has earned his spurs, and labored and toiled in the very institution he has served well. He has to be an elder statesman, someone who can dig deep from history economic models and financial reports to guide the ship of state in the remaining three years of the Duterte administration. The Speaker is crucial to get the budget passed on schedule and secure the legacy agenda of PRRD.

The names being mentioned — Martin Romualdez, Lord Velasco and Alan Peter Cayetano — are lawyers and indeed come from the next generation of leaders. Romualdez is from Leyte, Velasco from Marinduque and Cayetano from Taguig. Romualdez is an old political family dating back to the 1970s. Cayetano is from the 1990s and Velasco is an upstart when compared to the two. He is, however, the son of a former Supreme Court justice and my bias there is that he is from Mimaropa. Marinduque and Mimaropa has not had a Speaker ever. Imagine what he can bring to the province and the region.

But there is one that has not been mentioned and that is Ronaldo B. Zamora, the gentleman from San Juan. Zamora, bar topnotcher in 1969 and TOYM awardee in 1972, started his career in public service in 1978 as a member of the Batasan Pambansa from Metro Manila. He is a former executive secretary to President Estrada, and minority leader in the 14th Congress. Zamora is going on his third and last term in this 18th Congress and won’t be using the position of the Speaker as a launching pad for higher office. Zamora is not a puppet of anyone. Though admittedly a member of an oligarchic family, Zamora has the seniority needed for the position of Speaker. He has 24 years of experience as a legislator. He has the spurs to prove so and understands economic and fiscal issues like the back of his hand. Although a Marcos technocrat, Zamora may just be the compromise candidate for the speakership, a swan song to cap his years in public service.

The last three years of PRRD won’t be a walk in the park. He will have to stay the course and would need seasoned hands to help him get the ship across and ready for the next able hands. No, the idea is not to think of 2022 but of 2022 and 2028. You need 12 more years to finish the plans in Mindanao. Eleven of the top 20 poorest provinces are in Mindanao. Complete the plan for Mindanao, we win the war on poverty in the island.
Published in News
It was the first time in ages that I was out of the country during the mid-term elections as my plane left on May 11 for our family vacation in Europe. So when the results of the elections came I got the news in my Facebook page that the poll surveys showed the opposition Otso Deretso would not make it to the Magic 12 came true. I got back home last Friday and I reviewed all the local and national newspapers and realized that we did not just have a Mid-Term elections, but we had a historic elections that most of the old guard politicians lost their election bids.

A case in point is in Cebu where all the infamous Osmeña’s lost their bids. Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña lost, Senatoriable Serge Osmeña lost and Toledo City Mayor, John “Sonny” Osmeña lost his Congressional bid. Only Jun Jun Osmeña, the son of the late Vice-Mayor Renato Osmeña won his re-election bid. In the 5th District, Rep. Red Durano lost to Duke Frasco, the first time that the Durano’s lost its Congressional bid in 70 years.

In Manila, former President now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada lost to Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno. I had dinner with then Vice-Mayor Moreno in Manila and supported his Mayoralty bid. In Bohol, former Cabinet member Leoncio Evasco, Jr. lost to Arthur Yap. Evasco’s hand was raised by Pres. Duterte. So if there was cheating in the polls, how could one supported by Pres. Duterte lose? There’s more!

In Davao, all candidates allied with former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was ousted as House speaker reportedly at the instigation of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, won the local polls in the province. So in a way, the vaunted “magic” of President Duterte and his daughter Sara failed to work in their own turf in the Davao provinces. So was there cheating in the last elections?

So when he was in Japan last week, Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte made a speech calling for the Commission on Elections to ban Smartmatic from the automated polls. Finally it has happened from the mouth of the President. However, Malacañang maintained that there was no fraud in the May 13 elections. So if you ask me… the President should have made that speech way back after the 2016 Presidential polls. Sure, the President may have won his bid, but what was surprising and disturbing was that the polling surveys showed then Liberal Party (LP) Presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas tailing behind, Vice-Pres. Binay and Sen. Grace Poe. But at the end of the day, he ended up second only to DU-30. How could this have happened?

But then in 2016 Pres. Duterte did not make a speech questioning Smartmatic when he should done so. But our proof came out three months later when Trish Bautista, the estranged wife of Comelec Chief Andres Bautista accused her husband of making so much money it became a national headline. That was the time for a thorough investigation, but alas no one cared and today the former Comelec Chairman Bautista has disappeared, enjoying the money he made as Comelec Chairman. If this was not graft and corruption, I don’t know what it is! This for me was a major question that Filipinos should have demanded as their right to know.

In a media forum Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they could not just blacklist any supplier from public bidding. “We need legal basis to do that. We have to study this thoroughly... But I think it is clear here that the President still wants automated elections. Maybe he just wants a new supplier,” he noted. Wait-a-minute! Why should the Comelec investigate itself? Jimenez probably thinks that Filipinos are so stupid they would accept anything decision that the Comelec makes. If you ask me… there should be an Independent investigative body to investigate the Comelec and Smartmatic and Jimenez should not be a part of this investigation.

At this point, I would like to suggest to Pres. Duterte that he should use the last three years of his Presidential reign to come up with changes that would make a better Philippines. For instance he just said that he wanted the Philippines to be like Japan… this means that we should shift into a parliamentary form of government. Yes, I dare say that it is high time for us to change the 1987 Constitution because it has been 30 years old already and it need changes and that time has really come.

If you ask me, there should be a way to change the Constitution every ten years to ensure a proper political and economic growth of our nation. We know too well that the Liberal Party (LP) refused to amend to change the 1987 Constitution because they were beholden to the Aquino Family who refused to have it changed. There should be no provision where a political family can have a stranglehold of our constitution, which only benefits their family… but not the Filipino people. So Pres. Duterte should not waste his last three years as President or his very high popularity and do the changes now!

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2019/06/04/1923431/pres-du30-should-not-waste-his-last-3-years#3CeqKblTDRi9vkFP.99
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