Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: February 2018
Thursday, 22 February 2018 14:38

EDSA people power – then and now

TODAY is the start of the four-day commemoration of the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986. After 32 years, the euphoria of those days has subsided; the memory of people dancing in the streets upon the news of a dictator fleeing Malacañang into the bosom of his erstwhile sponsor, America, is simply just that – a fading memory.

And the Deegong, who toned down the celebration last year, has at last appointed people to the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC). Foremost among these commissioners are Christopher Carrion, an original of the 1986 EDSA and one of the founders of the Spirit of EDSA, Inc., that over the years has managed to perpetuate its memory. The other is Joey Concepcion, the industrialist son of President Cory’s first Secretary of Trade and Industry, Jose Concepcion, Jr. President Duterte must have thought hard on the symbolism of these appointments, the old and the new; the former, to stamp his imprimatur for the original rationale of EDSA, “…the abrogation of a dictatorship and restoration of democracy…”; and the latter, to pass on the torch to the new face of EDSA, one without its socio-political warts and connotations of failed promises. Perhaps DU30 is sending the message that however one interprets whatever the lessons and recriminations of the past, they must be subsumed to a larger purpose—the emancipation of the Filipino from the shackles of decades-long stark poverty, injustice and corruption.

President Duterte too was a child of EDSA, a derivative of its restructuring. A mere city prosecutor, he was flung into a political life when, upon the refusal by his mother Nanay Soling of an offer to become OIC Vice Mayor of Davao in 1986 by President Cory Aquino, the son assumed the role. History is replete with such twists of fate.

People on both sides of EDSA have interpreted its meaning over the years through the prism of each individual’s deep-seated beliefs, values and biases. Today, the perception of the winners and losers of EDSA are as convoluted as it was in 1986. No one is neutral on EDSA, except perhaps the millennials whose collective ethos have no intimate bond with the realities of those days. Perhaps this is inevitable as the passing of the years must strip away the “chaff from the grain.”

Perhaps, this is meant to be. Many of the participants in the decades-long struggle leading towards those fateful four days are now past their 50s. And the cruel onslaught of age, has decimated our peers, but time has likewise liberated our ranks, septuagenarians and nonagenarians from the prison of the of familiarity of the not so recent past. Thus, we may now look back dispassionately upon those days with a more judicious eye. We are a dying breed and will carry the memories with us to our graves. But our recollections and interpretations of those days have been put in paper. When the corpus is dead, the written words live. These are excerpts.

I am edsa. We are edsa.
(The Manila Times, March 2, 2017)

“I was wrong on my expectations about the ‘restoration of democracy.’ What was restored came with the re-establishment of the rule of an oligarchy and the continued perpetuation of traditional politics – albeit with a new set of personalities.

Many of us in the decades-long struggle for real democracy from the mid-1960s, adherents of parliamentary-federal structure of government, were enthusiastic in supporting Cory Aquino as she was our symbol against the repressive dictatorship. We understood too that she was from the elite and her values therefore were those of her class but we were hopeful that she would transcend these with the outpouring of love and adulation shown by the masses – whose values were not congruent to hers.

A few of us recruited to her administration implored her to continue to rule under the revolutionary Constitution to give herself more time to dismantle not only the martial law structures but the unitary system of government which we then and still now believe perverted the principles of democratic governance. We were no match for the ruling class. Cory surrendered her prerogatives to real socio-economic-political reforms by rejecting the people’s gift – the 1986 revolutionary Constitution. She then proceeded to embed her dogmas in her 1987 Constitution.

This is the Constitution guarded zealously by her son Pnoy that President Duterte and we the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP)…and the majority of the downtrodden Filipinos want to replace; with a federal-parliamentary system and a social market economy (SOME).”

What happened to edsa
(The Manila Times, March 9, 2017)

“The Yellows …
We were all ‘Yellows’ then as this was the color we wore after the assassination of Ninoy, symbolizing our protest against this dastardly act, and our struggle to boot out the dictator Marcos from power and institute real reforms.

Some of us are no longer Yellows… Our perception of EDSA and our role in it runs counter to what is now being peddled mostly by those of the recent past administration. Our take is that EDSA is not an Aquino family franchise, nor just a mere booting out of the Marcos family. And this is not a narrative of entitlements of two families.

The Marcos Loyalist Reds…
The hundred yellow ribbons ‘round the old oak tree’ may soon be covered by Red ones as the influx of Marcos supporters slowly inched their way into the political consciousness during the past years from their solid base in the Marcos homeland in the north. This resurgence can be attributed to the tolerance…of President Fidel Ramos, a cousin, who allowed the return of the dictator’s remains under strict conditions agreed to by the Marcos family, which agreement was reneged upon, perhaps, with the quiet acquiescence of the FVR administration. This paved the way for the complete rehabilitation of the family by PRRD who has admitted to his own father’s debt of gratitude to the father Ferdinand and his own fondness for the son, Bongbong. The son also did his part by demonstrating filial love – a trait much valued by the Filipino. On his run for the vice presidency, the Filipino millennial responded in kind. They are a powerful and versatile force that has clearly distorted the equation—partially alienating the yellows.”

I wrote these words in the past. I stand by them. But my children and my grandchildren will have a different take. And it is inevitable and only proper. But I also wrote these in summation:

“Perhaps the colors, Yellow and Red, will lose their significance and everything negative attached to them. Perhaps, the rise of a leader (DU30) who was himself a product of EDSA but tried to heal its wounds is what is needed in this time and age.”

I close my EDSA memories with a tinge of hope.
Published in LML Polettiques
CANDIDATE DU30’s federalism refrain wedded to his crude and brutal street lingo and earthy demeanor resonated among the voters tired of the “same old, same old.” Except for the imprecise but romantic idea of “freeing the periphery from imperial Manila,” nothing much has filtered down to those who could benefit from it the most—the long-suffering Filipino almost half of whom wallow in poverty. Federalism burst into social media propelled by bloggers, academics, pseudo-experts and plain enthusiasts attempting to fill the gaps between the slogan, its definitions and the pragmatic approaches. And the confusion and cacophony persisted as mainstream media, long perceived to be the bastion of the oligarchy and the entrenched elite, were not that keen, even outrightly antithetical, to a change in the status quo that federalism would provoke.

The idea of the regions or states having a greater say in running their lives and developing their areas is appealing and easily grasped, notably by those outside of the center. That the “powers and powerful” in Manila may no longer decide for “the powerless” is attractive to those who live in the margins.

“For much of its history, the Philippines has functioned under a unitary, presidential system of government. But it has failed to meet expectations for a government that could provide the effective and equitable delivery of public goods and services, maintain the rule of law, control corruption, and protect democratic and human rights, including the people’s right to take part in policymaking and to hold public officials accountable for their actions.” (Edilberto C. de Jesus, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 6, 2018)

For the poor, the downtrodden and powerless who are purportedly the beneficiaries of these changes, they have eloquently framed the question: What’s in it for me?

Deliberations on the impact of federalism on the economy has not been as wide-ranging as discussions on the political constructs. These concerns have yet to be disseminated to the wider public reaching those that the internet has not ensnared. The traditional “pulong-pulong” and public fora are still a must but the content must be reformatted with a language that must include economic issues intimate to the lives of the target audience; health, employment, education and dwelling, or HEED, the CDP social market economy mantra.

Private groups, civic organizations, political parties and even the religious sectors are now staking their positions on this debate; not necessarily for federalism and its concomitant changes, but also in opposition to them. This is in fact what is needed, a clash of ideas – the better to refine issues and produce what could be good and acceptable to the greater majority of our people.

The Centrist proposals on the economy are lifted in toto from the Centrist Political Party’s (CDP) platform of government. These were submitted to both houses of Congress as part of their constituent assembly (Con-ass) proceedings. Falling under three major groupings, they form the backbone of the social market economy, the political party’s economic program (refer to the Manila Times series of articles on the economy, October 6,13, 20, 27 and November 3, 2016 or www.cdpi.asia).

Group A-Our first priority: Overcoming poverty and underdevelopment

The economy has to serve the people. Nearly half of the population is considered poor and one quarter lead miserable lives below the poverty line, in the fringes of society. This is an unacceptable condition. Human dignity embraces a people’s deep longing for freedom, for being responsible for themselves and their families and for being useful members of the community.

To address this stark condition, job creation through the lifting of restrictions to foreign direct investments and attracting foreign technology is a priority, as local capital has not been enough to create the jobs needed. Here, the role of the State is to provide a supportive framework, spurring inclusive growth and not be a direct participant competing with the private sector in an interplay of free market mechanisms. In the homegrown basic sectors, there needs to be a restructuring and modernization of the agriculture, fisheries and a rethinking of investments in the mining industry; and the reform of progressive taxation policies that shifts burden from income to consumption.

Group B -Our responsibility for the future of our children: Sustainable growth through clean energy and environmental protection

We believe that we are the stewards of the Earth and that we are dependent on its resources and are thus responsible for protecting and maintaining these for the human race. We uphold and shall enforce the 1987 Constitutional provision regarding the responsibility of the State, as the collective representative of the people, to “protect and advance the right of the people to a healthful and balanced ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” We believe that this right does not cover only the present generations but also the generations yet unborn, and that this principle of equity also applies across communities and nations within one generation.

Group C -Fighting for a humane society: Each and every citizen is entitled to live in dignity. This has to be ensured by the State.

Open markets and fair competition, protected by a strong state, are fundamental conditions for a productive economy, in which enough goods and services can be provided for the welfare of all citizens. But they have to be accompanied by effective policies and measures of a socially responsible state in order to create a humane society in which each and any citizen can live in dignity. The State has to ensure decent life for the weak and the disadvantaged members of society. It has to address the manifold present social problems in the Philippines.

In conclusion, these problems have persisted for decades and are consequences of the systemic anomalies perpetuated by the unitary-presidential system and protected through the perversion of the Philippine constitutions. The praetorian guards of the status quo, have always managed to suppress solutions that infringe upon their cherished prerogatives, thus, their vigorous opposition to change. The Centrist Groups (CDP/CDPI/CDA) submit that an alternative must now be put into play – through the revision of the 1987 Constitution towards a federal-parliamentary system underpinned by a social market economy.
Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:32

Valentine vignettes

IN six days, we celebrate a special holiday for millions of couples all over the world. Most are described as young lovers, or lovers, young once. My peers fall under the second category although quite a few are widowers. Kemps, my friend of several decades, is in a category of his own. Long unglued but not divorced from a loving wife, a distance of continents separating them, he could be the envy of perhaps a dozen of my septuagenarian friends not the least of whom are happily married, Dinky M. and Toti M. Admittedly, these are dangerous and pure speculations on my part, which, under these circumstances, lay me open to a good thrashing from their respective fabulously gorgeous mates, Queenie and Emma.

But I am digressing. Of late, I have been writing in this column on political issues, primarily about the march of federalists towards fulfilling a decades-old dream—of a parliamentary-federal Philippines. But today, love trumps politics!

Valentine’s Day, February 14, is observed and fêted invariably within the Christian world. This day harks back to the early Christian era and paradoxically commemorates martyrdom. There is much for psychologists to elucidate the proclivity for celebrating a day of love, especially among the young, equating this with martyrdom and gore. Three St. Valentines, all martyred, speaks volumes of this day for cupid’s labors. Is this an ominous sign for modern lovers? Sigmund Freud may have some underlying answers, but this is not within my expertise to expound.

The three martyrs, all named St. Valentine, lived around the second and third centuries A.D. Valentine of Rome was a priest martyred in 269, but Pope Galesius canonized him in 496, enrolling him in the pantheon of Christian saints.

St. Valentine, Bishop of Terni, in central Italy was born in 226 and martyred towards the end of the third century and could be the same person as St. Valentine, the priest of Rome.

The third St. Valentine was martyred in the Roman province of Africa. All three appear in the hagiography of Catholic saints and are venerated on February 14. To add to this convoluted cauldron are seven other St. Valentines whose feast days are not on February 14 but fall on various dates: “…a priest from Viterbo (November 3); a bishop from Raetia who died in about 470 (January 7); a 5th-century priest and hermit (July 4); a Spanish hermit who died in about 715 (October 25); Valentine Berrio Ochoa, martyred in 1861 (November 24); and Valentine Jaunzarás Gómez, martyred in 1936 (September 18). It also lists a virgin, Saint Valentina, who was martyred in 308 (July 25) in Caesarea, Palestine.” (Wikipedia)

But the legend of the first St. Valentine performing a miracle healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, the Roman Asterius, is more compelling and romantic. On the evening before his execution and martyrdom, he wrote a note to Julia, which was signed “Your Valentine.” Thus was born the legend of the “Valentine card.” Julia, upon his death, planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave, now a symbol of “abiding love and friendship.”

Part of this legend too is the image of a heart as the day’s symbol that started when the first St. Valentine “cut hearts from parchment giving these to Roman soldiers and persecuted Christians reminding them of their vows and God’s love.” (Wikipedia)

Originally, the day of love was traditionally March 12, St. Gregory’s day, or February 22, St Vincent’s day. The patron of love was St. Anthony, who feast day was June 13. But all these were eclipsed during the high middle ages by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who, again legend says, popularized St. Valentine’s day as the day for lovers and romance in his poem, Parlement des foules, “…For this was on seynt Valentynes day, whan every foul comth there to chese his make” (For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when all the birds of every kind that men can imagine come to choose their mates. Chaucer ca 1343-1400).

A cursory Google search on Valentine’s Day in the Muslim world would be a quaint study in culture and religion. It is haram for a true believer to celebrate and accept gifts on St. Valentine’s Day. “If the Christians have a festival and the Jews have a festival, which is peculiar to them, then the Muslim should not join them in their religion or their direction of prayer.”

In Pakistan, the top Islamic clerical body threatened to issue a fatwa against the sale of condoms following reports they were being sold together with chocolate to mark Valentine’s Day…” (Rachel Roberts, The Independent, February 13, 2017).

In Saudi Arabia, the religious police ban on the sale of Valentine’s Day goods and removal of all red items, produced instead a black market in roses, wrapping paper and red goods (Rachel Roberts).

In Malaysia, raids were conducted in hotels to prevent couples engaging in unlawful sex.

But overall, Valentine’s Day celebration in the Muslim world is beginning to gain traction that “…the celebrations were so huge they were like the Islamic holiday Eid.”(Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, February 28, 2016.)

But nothing compares with the way Valentine’s Day is observed in the Philippines. It runs for three days. February 13 is spent with girlfriends, normally ending in an amorous dalliance with “the secretary” punctuated by a torrid tryst. February 15, the day after the nominal Valentine’s day is celebrated in the arms of the “kalaguyo,” the mistress or the “querida” in a secret “love nest” – especially if the illicit lothario happens to be a government bureaucrat with gray money to throw around. February 14, is of course, celebrated with the legitimate spouse. These three days will tax the man’s prowess – and he is expected to perform. This could be another of those Philippine legends and myths that the macho Pinoy raconteur loves to regale his friends.

For me, on February 14, I spend the day with my one and only legitimate and loving wife, Sylvia. Dinner probably with candlelight complete with red wine and soft music. But the day before, February 13, and the day after, February 15, I may spend with two other maidens, the gregarious Sylvie and reticent Claudia – in the true tradition of the macho Filipino.

But the rendezvous must be before evening falls, as they need to be in bed by 6:30p.m. Instead of wine, they will have to settle for their beverage of choice. Sylvie, three years, nine months, Claudia two years, three months, will need their warm bottles of milk.

Happy Valentine’s Day! “Onli en da Pilipins”
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 11:05

Thinking the way the bully wants

The aerial photographs obtained by Inquirer.net’s Frances Mangosing show incontrovertible proof that China’s militarization of its South China Sea outposts is almost complete.

To this latest outrage, another demonstration of Xi Jinping’s contempt for compromise commitments his predecessors entered into with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Duterte administration offered … a collective shrug, combined with a finger pointed in the usual direction.

“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything about these artificial islands, what [do] they want us to do? We cannot declare war — not only is it illegal, but it is also contrary — but it’s also … impossible for us to declare war at this point,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, once a credible lawyer with experience in human rights law and expertise in international law, told reporters.

Among many other dismaying statements he made, he also said this: “Our position is everything found on these islands were already there when the President took over. So let’s not talk of a militarization that happened under the Duterte administration, if there is such a militarization which China denies.”

He should have at least read the news report before opening his mouth. The story quoted Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., former mayor of Kalayaan town on Pag-asa Island, the largest part of the Spratlys occupied by the Philippines, thus: “I flew with HBO before the elections in 2016. We got repeated warnings from the Chinese because we were circling over the islands. I see there are now additional vertical features.”

To this categorical statement from someone who lives in the area, one can add any number of scholarly or intelligence assessments, including from independent institutions, which assert that the Chinese have not only aggressively reclaimed land in the seven reefs they occupy in the Spratlys, they have built military facilities on them.

Not even China denies that new facilities have been built that can be converted to military use; Beijing only denies that the new facilities are military in objective.

Why the official speaking on behalf of the President of the Philippines should prioritize what China says (“if there is such a militarization which China denies”) over the informed judgment of Filipino citizens and indeed of the Philippine military is a riddle.

Why that same official, a lawyer like the President he speaks for, would assert easily disprovable lies (“If the Aquino administration was not able to do anything”) is a mystery.

Why he would think that his answers, and the Philippine government’s position, meet the national interest (“let’s not talk of a militarization that happened under the Duterte administration”) is an enigma.

The truth is: Only Beijing thinks that the alternative is war. To be more precise, Beijing wants us to think that the only alternative to the current state of affairs is war.

President Duterte himself said so. Referring to Xi, China’s all-powerful leader, he said: “His response to me, ‘We’re friends, we don’t want to quarrel with you, we want to maintain the presence of warm relationship, but if you force the issue, we’ll go to war.’”
Tellingly, no Chinese government agency ever denied or confirmed these remarks — and why would they? To hear the president of a sovereign state say these words is victory enough for the Chinese. If the only alternative is war, why would a small carabao butt heads with an enormous dragon?

But in fact, other alternatives exist.

The sweeping legal victory the Philippines won at the arbitral tribunal, in the case the previous administration filed, is proof that other options are available.

It is nothing short of tragic that the first administration to be led by a lawyer since Ferdinand Marcos’ does not believe in the efficacy of the law.

It would have taken time, but Manila stubbornly insisting on its rights recognized by the landmark ruling of July 12, 2016, would have had the support of many influential members of the international community.

Instead, we have the tragic spectacle of the President’s spokesperson, lying about the objective facts, blaming those who actually fought for the country’s best interest, and spreading China’s own black-and-white, war-or-else gospel.

History repeats itself, first as spectacle, then as capitulation.
Published in Commentaries
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 10:54

The brass tacks on federalism

I’m glad state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has moved into the needed objective and research-based analysis of detailed design elements associated with federalism, with a study tackling what could well be the most critical element of the proposed governmental shift. I refer to the fiscal aspects of federalism—that is, the delineation and nature of taxing, spending and borrowing by the national (federal) and subnational (state) levels of government.

PIDS just released the discussion paper “Designing the Fiscal Features of a Federal Form of Government: Autonomy, Accountability, and Equity Considerations” by Dr. Rosario Manasan, its resident public finance expert who has studied government finances over the last four decades. The study merits the attention of all who would shape the fiscal configuration of the federal form of government now being pursued by our legislators, who have made the move toward amending the Constitution by themselves as a constituent assembly.

The fiscal federalism literature defines four important considerations pertaining to the fiscal configuration under a federal system: One, how must functions and corresponding expenditures be assigned between the national and subnational governments? Two, how should tax and revenue powers be delineated between the two (e.g., what kinds of taxes must be reserved for one or the other)? Three, what should be the nature of financial transfers from the national to the subnational government units? And four, what conditions should govern borrowing by the subnational units? Space constraints allow me only to touch on some of Manasan’s key points here; the full paper has to be read to grasp the rationale behind them.
Published in Commentaries
Monday, 05 February 2018 16:38

Will Filipinos stand up for Ombudsman?

SINGAPORE — Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang’s preventive suspension is genius. It is indubitably not legal. But it could be made legal.

In April 2010, Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza held a bus of Hong Kong tourists at gunpoint. He asked to speak to then Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III, before whom his case was pending.

He cursed him for extorting P150,000. He shot eight hostages.

In March 2011, President Benigno Aquino III removed Gonzales for “inordinate and unjustified delay.” Mendoza’s case was pending for nine months. (Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned before her impeachment trial, replaced by just retired Justice Conchita Carpio Morales.)

Gonzales challenged Section 8(2) of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 allowing the president to remove a deputy ombudsman.

The Supreme Court’s 2012 Gonzales decision split 7-7, upholding Section 8(2) by default (but ruled 14-0 Aquino had no “substantial basis” to remove Gonzales).

The Constitution’s text and structure can collide with great intellectual beauty.

Renowned textualist Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio invoked the Constitution’s Article XI, Section 2: removal of all nonimpeachable officials is prescribed by law.

Since the deputy ombudsman is not impeachable and Congress passed Section 8(2), the high court must enforce it and not question its underlying policy.

Justice Arturo Brion countered, structurally, that the Ombudsman cannot be independent if her deputies can be removed by the president. When the Constitution was drafted, authors such as Christian Monsod emphasized insulating Ombudsman personnel from the president, given Marcos-era abuses.

On reconsideration in 2014, the high court revoted 8-7 that Section 8(2) is unconstitutional. Brion’s philosophy won by one vote.

In 2017, Carandang announced that bank accounts of President Duterte’s family showed tens of millions of pesos in transfers. He never elaborated.

The President never waived bank secrecy. The Anti-Money Laundering Council denied disclosing bank records.

Carandang was suspended for spreading false information. This time, Morales cited Gonzales and ignored the president’s order.

A new Supreme Court decision may reverse doctrine. But the Constitution requires an “actual case,” a real conflict to force the high court to rule again.

All bluster aside, this is why Carandang’s suspension is genius.

It is clearly illegal. But if one is ready to bear the consequences, this is in fact how to force the Supreme Court to revote Section 8(2), setting aside whether an unconstitutional provision still exists.

Remember, the Constitution itself does not explicitly say who may remove a deputy ombudsman.

Six from Team Carpio (including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno) and five from Team Brion are still on the bench. If two new justices — Francis Jardeleza, Benjamin Caguioa, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam — join Team Carpio, Section 8(2) could be legal again.

But I prefer a third theory: stability.

At some point, it is more important that a rule is clear and agreed than what the actual rule is.

Beyond politics, no dramatic change in our national values merits a revote after only four years. It is prudent to respect Gonzales given our many other legal dilemmas from martial law to Charter change. Worse, the perceived conflict of interest — precisely what Gonzales cautioned — is so great the President could end up wrong even if he is right.

Morales recounted to me how she indignantly became Ombudsman after a predecessor told her she was too old for the job. But she is far from too old to inspire millions of idealistic young Filipinos, including dozens of new Ombudsman lawyers. When our most beloved lola retires this July, a woke new generation honors her 47 years in government service.

Law ultimately turns on the conviction of the people who live by it.

The real question is: Can Morales’ adoring fans ever turn from crucial national issues, such as Isabelle Duterte’s debut, James Deakin’s video with Bongbong Marcos and whether Mayon volcano is in Naga, to ponder trivialities such as institutional independence and Morales’ legacy?

Published in News
After Imelda Marcos’ not guilty verdict in New York in 1990, the codictator repaired to a Filipino pub for a victory fête. Filipino supporters came in humongous droves. To say that it was SRO was an understatement. Media recall: “Hindi ka makahinga sa dami ng tao.” (It was impossible to breathe with the number of people inside.)

That was 1990. Note the major elements of the narrative: Marcoses, multitude of supporters. In 1990, many Filipinos had not learned their lessons from the profligacy of a family regime that thieved them of the basic necessities of life. Today, that is still where we are.

We often hear the idiom “Imperial Manila.” I live in Mindanao out of choice. Mindanao keeps me grounded. It is my lens of the world, and yet it has not narrowed my view of the world which I have traversed quite a fair number of times. The quality of life in Mindanao is nowhere near Manila’s harsh dog-eat-dog world. Mindanao is tranquility. I can create in it my center, not a margin.

What is the genesis of the term? When Manila inundated Mindanao with an ocean of migrants beginning in 1913, “colonies” were established. The first were in Pikit, Silik, Peidu-Pulangi, Pagalungan and Glan in Cotabato. The official language of that project was “to lead to an amalgamation and Filipinization of the Moros and pagans and thus remove the danger of a possible separation of Mindanao.”

That sounds bizarre. It meant Manila looked down upon Mindanao and that the standard of society was only Manila’s, medieval by today’s expansive global canons.

In 1926, the US Congress was deliberating on a bill authored by New York Republican Robert Bacon to separate Mindanao from Manila. The paramount leader of Cotabato, Datu Piang, wired Bacon gleefully: “Allow me to congratulate you on a bill for the separation of Mindanao from the government in Manila. Long have we hoped and long have we prayed that the people of the United States after conquering us would not turn us over to those who do not understand us.”

Was Datu Piang politically correct? Unlettered by Manila standards, he was. He had native intelligence. One’s culture and how it is received by the centers of power is a yardstick of the center’s bigotry.

Ninety-two years later, federalism echoes in the country stage-managed by a president who comes not from the imperial center but from remote (by Manila’s reckoning) Davao.

Is federalism the answer? That’s not the pivotal question. The more fundamental one is: Is Manila still imperial?

Our state formation in the last hundred years has in fact seen the fruitful export by Manila to the provinces of its devious political trade. What Manila has created—dynastic families—is now firmly entrenched in the country’s 42,036 barangays.

What used to be behind-the-scenes deceit Imperial Manila had generated among lawmakers is now successfully replicated in all our political centers. Why does one Cebu congresswoman walk and talk like a screaming poodle? No need to ask.

There is no more Imperial Manila; there is Imperial Manila all over the archipelago.

Rodrigo Duterte, locally bred from that same imperialist mold, was legally elected. But was the 16 million who elected him discerning of the oligarchic roots of his family and all it incriminates? The answer is no.

We must hark back to that victory party of Imelda. We elected a president from a city where the mayor, vice mayor, city councilor (January, Paolo’s second wife; yes, even with his resignation, his own nuclear family is still in power) are all Dutertes. Were there no other candidates who qualified? No, because we have not yet learned to discern evil from good governance. Dynasties and the wealth they generate from public office do not factor into our political morality.

If we replicate the fragmented polities where we used to be in the 14th century, then we must still be in the mind of the Dark Ages. Dynasties keep us in poverty. That singular point alone must keep us in sober assessment. We haven’t yet.

Filipino dynastic governing is being judged. The verdict cannot be federalism.
Published in News

The owner of the Uniwide group has sued former senior executives of the once-lucrative retailer and former officials of the Land Bank of the Philippines for allegedly defrauding him of nearly P4 billion in assets.

In a complaint for qualified theft and estafa, businessman Jimmy Gow claimed that the unlawful acts of Jaime Cabangis as chief finance officer of Uniwide Holdings Inc. led to the company’s eventual bankruptcy.

Other respondents include Uniwide comptroller Corazon Rey, Monico Jacob, Cornelio Peralta and Arthur Aguilar.

Also impleaded were former Landbank chair Roberto de Ocampo, former Landbank president Margarito Teves and loan officer Peter Eymard Tamayo. —Marlon Ramos

Published in News

Opposition lawmaker Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano has filed a House resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to fully disclose the loan conditions for all projects under his much-touted “build, build, build” infrastructure program.

House Resolution No. 1612 “strongly urges” Mr. Duterte to disclose the loan terms to Congress “to promote transparency.”

The resolution, which mostly tackled Chinese loans, stressed the need to allow the House and the Senate to review and assess “the possible impacts of such loans to our debt-servicing capacity and national economy.”

Alejano described the so-called “Dutertenomics” as “fueled by such expensive loans mainly from China.”

Alejano noted that while the Duterte administration had revealed its dealings with Beijing for loans and investments, “it has been less transparent about the conditions and potential implications of these loans.”

“In light of a looming debt crisis, if such loans went unchecked, it is up to Congress and the people to put pressure on the administration to shine a light on such proceedings and open the loans up to sensible and informed governmental debate,” the resolution read.

Financial leverage

Alejano pointed out that the country risked “entering into debt bondage with its lenders, especially China.”

He said Beijing could use its “severe financial leverage” over the Philippines by strengthening its claims in the South China Sea.

“The loans could be utilized as a valuable weapon to erode Filipino sovereignty and the conditions of the loans used as a useful negotiating weapon to further Chinese territorial interests in the region,” the resolution read.

Ballooning debt

Alejano said the infrastructure program was expected to more than double the $123-billion national government debt to $290 billion, excluding interest.

If high interest rates are taken into account, the country’s debt could even reach “over a trillion US dollars in 10 years,” the resolution read.

Assuming that a 10-percent interest rate is imposed, the

national debt could reach $452 billion.

This would bring the country’s debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio to 197 percent, the second worst in the world (in layman’s terms, this meant the debt is double the total value of all goods and services produced within the country).

Even if the loan interest was only 5 percent, Alejano claimed the debt would increase by $275 billion in 10 years and bring the debt-to-GDP ratio to 136 percent.

These figures were the same as those projected by political risk analyst Andres Corr in a Forbes article dated May 13, 2017.

Aside from loans from China, the resolution also mentioned “other potential lenders, such as Japan.”

Published in News
This one goes well with limitless terms in parliament, but it won’t pass if former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares can muster enough public support to shame Congress into throwing it out of the agenda for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

In a statement, Colmenares on Sunday slammed a House of Representatives subcommittee proposal that would “enshrine” pork barrel in the proposed federal Constitution.

Budget share

Colmenares zeroed in on the proposal to allocate an “annual share” in the state and federal budgets to each district, as well as the senators and the party-list groups.

The proposal came from the subcommittee chaired by Davao Oriental Rep. Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon.

“It is clear from the provision that an ‘amount’ will be allocated to each senator, each party-list congressman as well as district congressmen,” said Colmenares, who now chairs Bayan Muna.

He said getting some of the supposed pork barrel funds from the federal states’ budgets would defeat the purpose of shifting to federalism.

“Federalism is supposed to disperse funds from the national government to the regions and provinces, but this reverses that purpose,” he said.


Colmenares also said the proposal was meant to reverse the Supreme Court’s Nov. 19, 2013, ruling declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and similar mechanisms that allowed legislators to intervene in the postenactment stage of the budget.

No need to hide

“If this (amendment of the Constitution) succeeds, there is no need to hide pork barrel in the departments since the new Constitution allows it,” he said.

Recalling the pork barrel scam in which legislators allegedly diverted P10 billion in PDAF proceeds to bogus foundations, Colmenares said: “[Charter change] proponents would like to constitutionalize a system that drains public funds to corruption.”

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