Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: January 2021

JAN. 20, 2021. The world was riveted to their TV sets for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Earlier that morning, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania were seen sneaking out of the White House for the very last time. Marine One helicopter flew them to the Joint Base Andrews for departure formalities, consequently breaking the 150-year-old tradition of outgoing presidents playing host to the incoming tenants of the White House — the residence of every US president since John Adams in 1800.

Days before, Trump hinted to the Pentagon his desire for a big send-off, appropriate for “the greatest American President of all time” (his words). But at Andrews Air Force Base, only his family and a handful of supporters appeared. He had his 21-gun salute honors but no adulating MAGA — Making America Great Again — hordes he was accustomed to. No Air Force jet fly-by, no trooping of the colors and the grand farewell speech was scrapped, just an off-the-cuff remark of how great his administration was. The last sight of the man was on board Air Force One for his last flight out as the President of the USA, or Potus, and commander-in-chief of the most powerful country in the world to his home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida where his own neighbors objected to his residency. By noontime, upon Joe Biden’s oath-taking before the chief justice, Trump reverted to Mr. Donald J. Trump, ordinary American citizen. Hence, the ignominious exit of a president in disgrace. This undiscerning and unread president “went far beyond the pride that goes before a fall.” Hubris was his ruin.

No frills send-off

Future historians will note that the top echelon of his government led by Vice President Mike Pence, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the obnoxious Sen. Ted Cruz, among others chose to decline his invitation to his valediction. Instead, they graced the inaugural at the Capitol Building — which only two weeks before saw its debasement by the Trumpists MAGA, Proud Boys, Militia and the white supremacists.

It will be recalled that these sycophants were the very same powerful Republicans who after Trump’s defeat at the polls enabled him to weave an “alternative world of facts” of massive election fraud purportedly stealing the election from him. Such are the vagaries of politics when iniquitous politicians calculatingly drop the old for the new. Cruel but pragmatic, a surreal drama unfolds choreographing the transition of power as it can only happen in America. Absent such smooth and bloodless transfer of power, then the alternative would have been a spectacle of tanks and armored vehicles in the streets — just like in many Latin American, African and Third World countries. But this is America. This is not supposed to happen, although how close it was in that attempt at the US Capitol on January 6. As an American cynic profoundly declared with a hint of America’s arrogance that disfigured the concept of democracy that has been peddled for generations to countries abroad, “We do this to other countries, not to ours!”

A study in contrast

The split TV screen followed Air Force One climbing from the tarmac as if reluctant to carry the heavy burden of a failed president within. Right then the new regime practically began — even when the new president’s power was still to be constitutionally consummated at noon. President-elect Biden’s class act was to allow the sight of Air Force One to fade into the horizon before the split-screen reverted to full panorama following solely the motorcade towards the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, thereby writing a painful finis to an unrestricted free media exposure for what was once the cynosure of reality TV.

It is only apt that President Joe Biden started his inaugural day with a Catholic Mass. Only the second US Catholic president, after the assassinated John F. Kennedy, he had much to thank the Lord for. The most important perhaps was that the American version of democracy survived the four years of the unworthy 45th president, his tenure blighted by his numerous prevarications culminating in that unprecedented treasonable presidential act inciting his base — an unthinking mob — to attempt to destroy the American temple of its political ideals and values — the Capitol.

The inaugural speech

Expanding the democratic space was the recurring theme of President Biden’s address, setting the tone for his government. And to think that the word “democracy” does not even appear anywhere in the US Constitution, whose ideals are simply encapsulated into the opening lines, “We the people.”

Biden will need to burrow deeper into his faith to draw strength from, to confront America’s problems — foremost of which are to arrest the spread of a pandemic that has killed 410,000 Americans surpassing American battle deaths of World War 2 and reinvigorate the economy.

And most of all, he needs to heal and lead a polarized people by inviting them to invest in his vision for America and the world articulated in this inaugural address.

Biden has inherited a country torn by a rise of racism and white supremacy thought to be long dormant but resurrected by a political charlatan concocting his own recipe blended in a dangerously volatile social cauldron of populist political extremism and domestic terrorism. This is Trump’s legacy. To fashion his own, Biden must destroy Trump’s. Finding himself at his twilight years of public service, he faces a dauntless and humbling task that will severely test a lifelong experience in the service of a flawed government.

In the international arena, his predecessor’s cry for MAGA has instead dangerously driven a wedge into postwar alliances and institutions. Thus, Biden is set to repair the damage, signaling that America can be trusted again to abide by its agreements — for one, rejoining the Paris Climate accord and the World Health Organization.

Refreshingly new beginning

His personal appeal was no less poignant. “This is a great nation. We are good people. Let’s begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs urban, conservative vs liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes.”

And reaching out. “To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America.

“We have never, ever, ever, ever failed in America when we’ve acted together.”

As a portent of things to come and his intention to usher in a new dynamic regime harmonizing action with his words, he set out to reverse the dangerous failed policies of his predecessor. He did not opt for mere symbolisms. He signed 17 executive orders hours after taking his presidential oath. Thus, begins the dismantling of Trump’s perverted legacy and the shaping of Biden’s own.


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 20 January 2021 11:14

Where is America going?

AT noontime Eastern Time, Jan. 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Weeks ago, I wrote about the elections, focusing on President Trump’s dangerous behavior, a sad episode in American history. US politics has always attracted global interest, considering the country’s ascendency as this century’s hegemon although the same has been waning since the rise of China. The Philippines, in particular, has a stake in this country not only as its first colony where a perverted version of liberal capitalist democracy was imposed and has taken root, but as America is home to 4.1 million Filipino Americans, 77 percent of whom are US citizens. Some 69 percent of these Pinoys are migrants who have assimilated and continue to enrich American culture in numerous ways. It’s very rare for a local Filipino to claim no relatives in America.

Fil-Am brand of politics

Which brings me to my own six naturalized Fil-Am siblings, who have imbibed American politics. Unlike back home, their politics are defined by their adherence to the partisan codes underlying the two major political parties — three of them are Democrats and three are Republicans, the latter identified not with the mainstream GOP but with the unhinged Trump.

The Democrats (Noel, Kelvin and Shalom) voted not so much for Biden as against Trump. And the others (Tycho, Zelmar and Cyril) leaning Republican, drawn perhaps by Trump’s cultivated brand as a combative maverick outsider deceitfully promising to “drain the swamp,” which has engulfed and corrupted US politics for generations.

Trump’s style of governance is epitomized by his propensity to personalize his fights as political gladiatorial combats in the arena of his choosing. His disagreements predicated on the Filipino Spanish equivalent of “somos y no somos” (you are either for me or against me), reduce discourse as clashes of wills, personality and character. These zero-sum games define the Donald’s approach toward conflict — be it politics, business or his women, resulting in abusive verbal attacks via twitter, his weapon of choice ending in a proverbial bloodbath of litigation. His art of the deal!

Trump captured the Republican Party in 2016 and shaped it after his own narcissistic image, causing irreparable damage to this party of Lincoln and Reagan, degrading it into a caricature of the Grand ‘Ole Party (GOP), with its carcass divvied up among the apostate Trumpists.

America’s political trajectory

I quote from Kelvin, a retired techie and a 30-year US resident. “The Republican Party has finally completed its degeneration having accelerated during the Trump era. It’s likely that there will be two… wings of the party: the traditional conservatives and the Trump acolytes.”

The uncovering of the lie that democracy and equality reign supreme in America may have impelled this disintegration. Trump’s emergence revived the ghost of racism long believed to have been exorcised from the body politic. It exposed white supremacy as simply dormant, awaiting a wake-up call from a political fakir. And Trump used it as a scalpel to tear into the sinews of Republicanism and as a blunt instrument — his MAGA, Proud Boys, QAnon and the Militia supporters — to pound the Democrat’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, culminating in the now infamous Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the Capitol. This backfired, driving perhaps the last nail in the Trumpist coffin. The impact of the GOP’s deterioration could advantage Biden’s Democratic Party now controlling both the House and Senate.

Repairing America

Noel, a 1970 MBM graduate and 20-year US resident thinks Biden should ram through his democratic agenda. “…Biden/Harris [should] demonstrably improve the lives of the middle-class and underclass, without scaring the [millions of Trump voters] lifelong white Republicans [by introducing] a…leftist agenda…” Biden needs to hammer out a compromise with the powerful left-center wing of the Democratic party (Sanders, Warren and Ocasio Cortez) for “…a calibrated social and economic agenda over the next [four to] eight years working with centrist Republican politicians like Romney, Sasse et al.”

An imperative for Biden and the new “Department of Justice [is to go] after Trump and all those in his administration and the insurrectionists who broke the law…” Trump needs to understand his acts have consequences and he is accountable for all the transgressions during his four years; not so much as a simple application of justice but as a primordial craving to satisfy the human need for collective retribution. Also, on the pandemic, the human cost of Trump’s irresponsible and criminal behavior resulted in the death of 400,000 Americans — equivalent to 133 Twin Towers. He has to pay for these.

Trump’s legacy

Months before the election, Trump knew that the heavily Democratic mail-in votes would do him in. Thus, his singular efforts to discredit the election and enforcing voter suppression long before the actual voting presaged his defeat. No evidence was shown of the massive election fraud, despite 60 cases brought to the courts and which election his own Attorney General Barr declared as generally clean (for which he was sacked!).

Then the unthinkable. The Capitol breach instigated by Trump was a monumental blunder.

The classic Goebbels-like repetition of a massive lie propelled the mob of MAGA fanatics — giving in to the insurrectionist tendencies of this demented president. But the backlash came fast, immediate and deadly. Even his own allies in the Republican party, his enablers, have realized — too late — that the man was deranged. The second impeachment came swiftly and so were the withdrawal of his Twitter and social media privileges, amputating the communications channels that he uses to incite his base. The possibility of lifelong proscription to public office will eventually separate him from his fanatics. He will exit in total disgrace. But he will not “…go gentle into that good night” nor wither in the vine.

Trumpist mindset

Trump will continue to preside over what Hillary described as the “basket of deplorables,” except that this motley group of zealots has morphed into a more dangerous species collectively terrorizing even the old guards of the Republican Party. The GOP has condemned itself by shamelessly striking a Faustian bargain with these Mephistopheles of a crowd, remaining profoundly silent when their conservative doctrines and their revered democratic traditions were trampled upon. And there is no convincing them otherwise as they live in their own alternative reality — just like their egomaniacal “der leder.”

Zelmar encapsulated the other siblings’ position, Trumpists all, after the second impeachment:

“Tell me exactly what Trump was impeached for and why he should be convicted? Did you even listen to the entirety of his speech? Where in that speech did Trump call for an insurrection or violence?”

“What is going on now in America has long been foretold in Biblical language. ‘the wicked will become more wicked….’

And from Cyril, the conspiracy theorist rock star: “Trump just declassified all the Washington scandals. He is hiding at a military base…this is not over yet, till the fat lady sings!” He still believes as all Trumpists do, that Trump will yet have his second term, that Biden will not be inaugurated today.

Love them or hate them, my Fil-Am family are entitled to their voices. I respect that. They are simply a microcosm of America.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 13 January 2021 09:37

The political economy of vaccines

IN the past, I commended the Deegong for his efforts to contain the pandemic — in contrast to what his counterpart did in America, allowing 370,000 people to die. But this is not about Trump; this is about the political economy of the vaccine. Its scarcity and value, demand and supply profiles, the logistics covering distribution, vaccination and leakages — and for the skeptical, its true utility. And further, to resolve a conundrum. Who has a prior claim to this life-saving serum?

The medieval remedy

When the pandemic struck early last year, the knee-jerk global reaction was to apply an archaic remedy against the plague — the Black Death of the late Middle Ages — lifted from a medieval physician’s handbook. Towns and cities were locked down to prevent the infected not so much from coming in as from escaping out. Not much was known about communicable diseases, proper hygiene, vermin and viruses during this period. Later advances in medical technology broadened our knowledge of public health. After a year of devastation since Wuhan, it would appear that our remedies of choice — sporadic lockdowns and government-imposed arbitrary quarantines — were more destructive than the virus itself. Closing our borders and putting our people in seclusion, the global strategic recourse, resulted in massive unemployment, hordes of homeless and havoc in our economy.

Market-driven choices

The efficacy of vaccinations against a pandemic and its controversial public acceptability were never widely debated, only presumed to be the ultimate tool to impede any and all viral attacks, even as our knowledge of the coronavirus itself and its mutative nature were at best imperfect. This was the predictable treatment propounded by international health institutions — the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, and private billionaire-movers and the Faucis of the world, all suspected of pushing their own agenda while expediently working hand-in-glove with Big Pharma. This fed right into “conspiracy theories” made more believable when the development of vaccines that typically took years of rigorous testing, clinical trials and regulatory hurdles were telescoped into mere months. Cutting corners are dangerously bound to occur when fast-tracking vaccines to market.

Mandatory health protocols

Health experts, scientists and economists called for government-mandated wearing of masks, social distancing and washing of hands against infections of contaminants, airborne or otherwise. Instituting obligatory health protocols, testing and contact tracing and individual quarantine were much more effective than the oppressive capricious lockdown and general quarantine, throwing economies in disarray.

It was a cinch for the manipulative Big Pharma, global business conglomerates and health institutions to prime the terrified world to clamor for immediate approval of the vaccine as the deus ex machina. Whether the needs are for real or ephemeral, its expected appearance was now an urgent quantifiable demand — necessary balm to alleviate the horrors of the contagion that continue to kill loved ones. Fear of death is the perfect marketing tool.

Supply vs demand

Multilateral institutions — the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations and its adjunct agencies — are opaque about the trillions of dollars of damage this pandemic continues to inflict on the world economy and its true impact on society, particularly those of the developing world. How much vaccine is really required to attain that spectral “herd immunity” sufficient enough to allay the fears, perforce restart and sustain economic activities are fundamentally unknown quantities. Then again, the invisible hand navigating the market will kick in, realigning supply to the demand, with prices leaning towards the short-term advantage rather than long-term value creation.

Conservative guesstimates on when the world economy and social life return to normal range from two to five more years for the former, or none at all for the latter. Left unsaid is the Third World being flung back to the “dark ages.” Truly sad prospect indeed!

On the supply side, the combined world production capacities of the five or so major vaccine developers are sufficient for more than one-third of the world’s population by the end of 2021. “But many people in low-income countries might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination.” (Duke Global Health Innovation Center in Durham, North Carolina.)
The best estimates are for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca to produce a maximum of 5.3 billion doses for 2021. Gamaleya’s Sputnik V may cover another 500 million people per year outside Russia starting 2021 — provided Russia’s 146 million people are served first.

The same goes for China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm for its 1.4 billion people.

Rich countries have priority

But here’s the rub. The richer countries, particularly those in Europe that account for only around 13 percent of the global population, have already preordered half of the existing available doses, with options for additional extra doses covered by ironclad contracts.

The remaining poor may have to rely on “…contributions from Covid-19 vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax), a joint fund for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccine…for low-income countries based in the World Health Organization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in Oslo.”

Some 189 countries have signed up for Covax, with the rich ones pledging to subsidize vaccine access for 700 million doses plus 2 billion more by year-end. The Philippines, a signatory, is guaranteed vaccines for 20 percent of our population, allocated over time but triggered only after the rich countries’ contracts with suppliers are satisfied beforehand.

Unequitable access

It is a given that the vaccine manufacturers are not ramping up their production out of altruism. Public health is big business and Big Pharma is there to satisfy global demand.

Inclusive of “socialist country- produced vaccines” from China and Russia, the profit factor cannot be deleted from the equation. Profit is the imperative for research and development of medicines and cures. Which means even poor countries like the Philippines must compete for supply — at market prices. It is therefore almost criminal for our political leadership not to have anticipated our vaccine requirement. The recent moves to “drop the ball” on the Pfizer vaccine, as intimated by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. “smells of rotten fish.” This is the bane of Philippine political life — rent-seeking and kleptocracy.

Logistics and corruption

It should be obvious that funds are insufficient to vaccinate 110 million Filipinos. If we are lucky, 22 million Pinoys can be vaccinated by 2022, leaving 88 million to play a deadly version of Russian roulette — awaiting the vaccine or Covid, whichever comes first. These times, rent seekers reign supreme, provoking importation and distribution complications causing scarcity and deprivation.

The rich buy at any price in the open market. Those “malakas” employ bribery to jump the queue for government-subsidized vaccines. And the smugglers and kleptocrats survive and flourish in a regime of corruption. They thrive on logistical complexities.

Duterte’s recent nonchalant revelation of the Presidential Security Group’s vaccination is shameful and egregious. This is what is wrong with our system when the top man himself is complicit. These were “smuggled vaccines” as none of our regulatory agencies have green-lighted any for distribution. In Binondo rumor has it that a two-shot Sinovac goes for P34,000. Such are the sordid part of our logistical nightmare — a dose of “kickvac-cine.”

We fervently hope that our leaders follow the rule of law and not go above it and moderate their greed.

Published in LML Polettiques

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 6) — Lawmakers have disclosed efforts to tackle constitutional amendments in both houses of Congress with a hearing scheduled by a panel in the House of Representatives, and a resolution filed in Senate.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., head of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, posted photos of some lawmakers meeting with the caption “gearing up for constitutional amendments.”

When asked about this, Garbin said it is House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s directive “to tackle proposed amendments to restrictive economic provisions.” He said a hearing will be held on January 13.

In July 2019, Velasco filed a resolution proposing amendments to economic provisions, particularly easing limits on the foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, mass media, and schools.

Meanwhile, Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald dela Rosa filed on December 20 a resolution seeking to convene Congress as a constituent assembly to introduce amendments to the Constitution. Talks will be “limited to the provisions on democratic representation and the economic provisions of the Constitution,” the resolution states.

It’s too early to tell if these efforts would prosper, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said, noting that a majority vote is needed to convene while a ¾ vote is needed to approve constitutional amendments.

In a constituent assembly, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall convene and decide on constitutional amendments themselves. This is different from a constitutional convention which requires nationwide elections to select delegates who will draft the amendments.

During the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives also approved a resolution seeking a constituent assembly, but the Senate failed to decide on pertinent issues: Whether there is a need to amend the Constitution, and if so, whether it will be done by a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly.

In May 2020, Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, then the chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said the panel was suspending any deliberations on charter change as the country grapples with the coronavirus crisis. The House is now under new leadership following the controversial squabble between Velasco and former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

In December 2019, the panel swiftly approved a resolution seeking to amend the Constitution – but an anti-political dynasty provision and other political and electoral reforms were left out. The committee then recalled the approval in order to consider the proposed amendments being offered by the executive, which included controversial restrictions on political dynasties. The panel last held a hearing in February 2020.

A proposed Constitution that would allow for a shift to a federal form of government has been pushed under the present administration. President Rodrigo Duterte admitted in 2019 that passing federalism — one of his main campaign promises in the 2016 elections — would unlikely push through, due to lack of support from Filipinos. A year later, Malacañang said pursuing reforms to the Constitution is not a priority of the government amid the rising cases of the coronavirus disease, but it has also clarified it will not intervene in the affairs of Congress.

Published in News

MANILA, Philippines — The controversial issue of Charter change (Cha-cha)—or amending and/or revising the Constitution—is once again on the table with the House of Representatives set to resume debates as early as next week.

Some lawmakers have argued that the country’s 33-year old Constitution, which took effect in 1987 under the leadership of then President Corazon Aquino, needs to be amended to keep up with time.

But critics have also questioned the timing of the push to amend the Constitution, especially at a time when the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Concerns that Cha-cha will also be abused, especially when among the amendments being pushed deal with term extension and changing the term limit of lawmakers, have also been raised amid the approaching 2022 elections.

Since the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, there have been several attempts to tinker with the country’s highest law. However, none of them were successful.

One contributing reason? The process.

Amendments vs revisions
In general, two changes can be introduced to the Constitution: amendments and revisions.

An amendment includes basic changes that will not affect the Constitution’s structure, whereas revisions entail changes in the structure.

“Revision will mean a fundamental change in the fundamental law,” Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, former chairperson of the House committee on constitutional amendments and a lawyer by profession, told INQUIRER.net.

Revisions include changing the structure of the government, changing of powers of the branches of government. Thus, a shift from a unitary centralized system of government to a federal government is considered a revision.

Con-ass, Con-con and People’s Initiative
Meanwhile, there are three ways to propose amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution—the constituent assembly (Con-ass), the constitutional convention (Con-con), and the People’s Initiative.

Through a vote of three-fourths of all of its members, Congress can convene into a constituent assembly and propose amendments or revisions to the Constitution. This body will be made up of all congressmen and senators.

Meanwhile, by a vote of 2/3rds of all of its members, Congress can also call for a constitutional convention that will be composed of elected delegates by the public. Further, by a majority vote of all of its members, Congress can also submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.

Under Con-con, the elected delegates will be the ones to introduce amendments and/or revisions to the Constitution.

The public can also directly propose changes to the Constitution through the People’s Initiative.

According to Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution, this entails “a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein.”

‘Vague’ process
Political analyst Rommel Banlaoi pointed out that immediately, there are already problems encountered concerning the process of Cha-cha.

For instance, the Constitution does not specify whether the two chambers of Congress will vote jointly or separately during the Cha-cha process.

“When it comes to joint [votation], the Senate will be outnumbered because there are only 24 of them, so that’s the issue that we still need to clarify,” Banlaoi said.

Currently, there are 301 members of the House. This essentially means that, should the chambers vote jointly, a majority of House members can easily make the decisions during the Cha-cha process as there are only 24 senators.

“It’s a perennial issue. Until now it has not been resolved yet so I think there is a need for Congress to really enact a law to clarify the process. We need a law to clarify the process of Con-ass, Con-con and even People’s Initiative,” Banlaoi said.

In an interview with reporters on Thursday, January 7, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco seems amenable to both houses voting separately for the charter amendments.

“We should vote separately; we cannot vote jointly. We have to resolve that once and for all,” Sotto said.

“Later on, Speaker Velasco sounded like he was amenable with the idea of voting separately. Bottomline, the ending, I told the President, ‘3/4s vote to approve any amendments through a constituent assembly,’” the Senate President added as he recalled a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte back in November 2020 attended by some senators and congressmen.

However, the two chambers voting jointly or separately is just one problem as another issue deals with cost and practicality.

Banlaoi said that Con-ass, Con-Con, and People’s Initiative all have their strengths and weaknesses.

He said that while Con-ass serves as a quicker process, it could also make way for a “President’s Constitution” if most Congress members are aligned with the President.

“Constituent assembly, it’s quicker to do it because you already have existing Congress to be the delegates. You don’t need an election for that because there are already elected officials to do it,” Banlaoi said.

“The disadvantage of a constituent assembly is if the majority of the members of the Congress are supportive of the current administration, then you will end up having a Constitution that will reflect the agenda of the current administration,” he added.

Meanwhile, Banlaoi said that while Con-con can be beneficial in terms of having various members of the delegation, this could also take more time and financial resources.

“People’s Initiative is also longer, slower but it’s more reflective of the sentiments of the people because it is initiated by the people. However, in our experience, People’s Initiative in amending the Constitution is difficult to pursue,” Banlaoi said.

People’s approval
Once the amendments have been approved under Con-ass or Con-con, the next step will be the national plebiscite.

Here, the proposed amendments and revisions have to be discussed with the public for them to be able to make an informed decision in their vote to approve or disapprove the Constitution.

Banlaoi said all platforms—including mass media and social media—should be utilized in educating the public.

“Majority of the voters (public) should approve or disapprove the proposed amendments or proposed new Constitution. It has to secure the majority votes,” Banlaoi said.

“If you have a community of informed citizens, you can make the right choice during elections, during referendums, or during the plebiscite,” he added.

Banlaoi said the public should be informed and monitor the issue of Cha-cha “because the provisions in the Constitution will affect their lives.”

“The Constitution is the law of the land and any law that will be passed will affect the lives of the people whether this law will cater to the vast majority of the people or will only cater to the few,” Banlaoi said.

“The law legalizes the state’s practice—whether the state’s practice will improve the lives of the people or aggravate the lives of the people—so that should be their concern,” he added. [ac]

Published in News
Wednesday, 06 January 2021 09:29

Wishes that should and shouldn’t come true

OVER the years, I claim expertise at crafting beautiful and well thought out year-end resolutions — on weight loss, smoking, alcohol intake and diet — that I adopt seriously for a day or two and promptly discard. Thus, I save myself from undergoing similar experiences of friends who forge their own lists, religiously sticking to them for weeks and even months while putting themselves under tremendous stress, anxiety and panic attacks, before surrendering to the inevitable. A lesson well learned every year is to avoid the same mistake. Do a list, if you must, but give them up after a day. I think it takes courage, humility and perseverance to give up early — as I always do.

But I was inspired by my 1960s classmate Dr. Alvin Babista’s daughter, Ophelia, who did the Keto diet of high fat (fish and steaks) and veggies, low carbohydrates (rice and bread) and going into a state of ketosis regularly. She lost 90 kgs in less than a year. I attempted the same routine and for good measure, I threw in intermittent fasting protocols; no breakfast before 9 a.m., fruit juices and salads for lunch, no alcohol, no sex, and a meager dinner before 6 p.m. On to bed by 9 p.m. for prayers and sleep “…Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep…” for 6 to 8 hours. I take two full glasses of water upon waking up, then do my Salat al-fajr “…Allahu Akbar Subhana Kal-lah hum-ma wabi hamdika…” I take a full glass of water before every meal and another 3 to 4 glasses to replenish my electrolytes during the day. After a few months, I ended weighing in at 247.50 lbs. I started my routine at 247.80 lbs. I lost a grand total of 3 ounces!

The next best obsession I do at year-end is to forecast what’s in store for us mere mortals next year. I claim no clairvoyance, but I think I have the perspicacity to feel the winds of change and read the political landscape.

I segment these “collective wishes” into three categories.

Wishes that will happen — but should not!

A little more than a year before the presidential elections, name brands are being projected by paid hacks and image makers positioning their “manok” through social and mass media to succeed Duterte to the presidency. Among them is Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who could convert her filial relationship to a presidential run. A popular local executive with nary a national or international standing, she is touted as a female Deegong leading the pack with 26 percent approval rating in the Pulse Asia survey (Nov. 23-Dec. 2, 2020). Bongbong Marcos, coming in second with 14 percent, will throw his hat in the ring if only to redeem the soiled Marcos name as he is expected to.

In a tie with Bongbong is Grace Poe, a hardworking legislator nonetheless counting on the “masa-cultivated” image of her actor-father to carry her through. She does not have any managerial experience or international political exposure to speak of. And then we have Mayor Isko Moreno with 12 percent, simply popular as a local executive who is new, young and excitingly “simpatico.”

And with 10 percent is Manny Pacquaio who has just been installed as PDP Laban president, re-running the 2016 playbook when the Deegong was likewise recruited as party president with no ideological contribution to the left-of-center party save for the sinecures distributed to the leadership. Manny is one of the most popular Filipinos alive, a humble person, a deeply religious individual with a sincere heart and sympathy for the needy, the dispossessed and downtrodden.

But even this early, pundits and PR functionaries are not highlighting the real qualifications and chutzpah required for the presidency and what it takes to lead beyond their poll ratings. What are reflected are simply the voters inane clamor for another political circus.

And the criteria being touted are popularity, celebrity status, ability to attract votes and crowds, and their entitlement to the highest office as children of presidents or progeny of the Filipino version of political royalty.

Bereft of other qualifications than these, they should not run for the presidency!

Wishes that may not happen but should!

In the second category, I would wish for the Deegong to be successful in his much-publicized resolution to stop corruption. But I’m afraid he will not!

“Karamihan diyan sa DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) mga project engineers [mga kurakot] …si Secretary Villar, maraming pera ‘yan…mayaman ‘yan. Hindi niya kailangan mangurakot,” Duterte said.

In the same breath, President Duterte, while also naming congressmen implicated by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, unilaterally cleared the head of this corrupt bureaucracy. This is unconscionable. I am not imputing corruption on Secretary Villar, but shouldn’t he resign now after the President publicly declared DPWH corrupt?

People are wary of presidential statements intended for shock value. His “Duterte Doctrine” of zero tolerance to “even a whiff of corruption” no longer has traction, what with arbitrary exculpations, firing then reappointing to other sinecures — Faeldon, Lapeña, Pompee La Viña etc. It takes more than bravado and sound bites to reinforce his alpha male image as tough against corruption. Nothing will come out of this.

Wishes that should happen, but…

Duterte has done well arresting the pandemic morbidity rates, comparative to America and the European countries. The Deegong’s painful decisions on lockdowns, quarantines and strict health protocols have cut our losses making us relatively safe, until the vaccines are made available. While he’s at it, he may as well finish what he started, crafting his legacy at the twilight of his term. I quote relevant excerpts from my column “Intimations of mortality — an immortal legacy” (TMT, Sept. 9, 2020).

“In a democracy under which we claim we practice, prudent laws are its foundation and the glue that must bind a civilized society. It is imperative that the laws laid down by the government must be followed by all its citizens. The simplicity of the concept of the rule of law is oftentimes made complicated by those authorized to uphold it… allegations of transgressions must be investigated in a transparent manner by structures legitimately sanctioned.

And the President who by virtue of his ascendancy granted by the Constitution is conferred on him its primary guardianship. He must therefore uphold its principles.

From another standpoint, nations with weak leaders breed weak laws and will find themselves in a quagmire of corruption and lawlessness. Nations with prudent laws but governed by leaders devoid of political will to implement such laws may only cripple the primacy of the rule of law. But strong leaders with political will, must understand that all are equal under the dominance of the Rule of Law; none above. President Rodrigo Duterte must aspire to be one of the latter.”

The President’s covenant with the people is at best fragile and the wrong choice between personal ties and public good could have a deadly impact on the majesty of the office of the presidency and more importantly, the “rule of law.”

This wish should come true beginning 2021, before he leaves!

Published in LML Polettiques