Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: July 2018
Wednesday, 25 July 2018 11:47

Federalism Cha-cha going nowhere?

“MORE Pinoys oppose Cha-cha, Pulse Asia” went PDI’s screaming headline. “Senators on Monday warned the administration against forcing the amendment of the Constitution and federalism on the nation after the latest Pulse Asia poll showed that 67 percent of Filipinos opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s priority political enterprise.”

This is fake news. But, so what? Then we will just have to work harder to add to the 33 to 48 percent of Filipinos who already approve of Charter change. But in the end, they will have to pass judgment on the changes to the Constitution through a plebiscite, anyway. And this is the constitutionally mandated democratic process, no more, no less.

But if the Senate refuses to participate in the process using the criminally concocted Pulse Asia figures as an excuse (the real figures: 48 percent in favor, 37 percent against, 15 percent don’t know), then they are dangerously playing with fire. But this time, they may contend not just with the wrath of the timid voters, but a deadlier foe — we the frustrated passionate advocates who have been pushing for these changes for so long, led by a leader who by the way is a minority president himself, voted in by only 16 million voters out of a population of 110 million. Using the same logic, DU30 has only the acceptance of 15 percent of the population of the Philippines. But he is the legitimate president.

We can play along with numbers until hell freezes over, but this point is irrelevant. All surveys are mere snapshots of a moment. These are not immutable numbers beating the federalists to capitulation. This will even motivate us more. But if the 23 senators, refuse to perform their mandate, then they will provoke us to weaponize our motives. And God help us all. This is not a threat; this is a promise!
The Senate, their puppeteers among the oligarchy and the traditional political dynasts have always closed ranks when the status quo is threatened. And there is no greater menace that disturbs their equanimity than revising their elitist 1987 Cory Constitution.
While dismantling the communication and electrical power monopolies then President Ramos initiated PIRMA in 1997 and aroused the fury of Cory, who summoned her old sentimental ally, Cardinal Sin and the Catholic hierarchy. The Protestant Ramos never had a chance. There were other attempts, ERAP’s Concord in 1999 (he was cut down by impeachment and incarcerated); and GMA’s shift to federal parliamentary and a liberalized economy proposed by her 2005 ConCom, did not pass muster and derailed too by the Senate.

These past presidents’ motives were suspect, attributing to them a desire to extend their presidential terms; the same tactics are being used now from that old familiar playbook. But the accusations can’t gain traction as only the Deegong was transparent on his promise to shift the country’s system to federalism through the revision of the 1987 Constitution, announcing it from the get-go of his candidacy.

But the ugly hydra heads of the political dynasties, the oligarchy and the Catholic hierarchy have emerged openly, gathering their forces to once again thwart a legitimate act of the populace.

But what is this unholy triumvirate really protecting? It is the status quo, the unitary-presidential system. This is the type of government that has existed in the Philippines for a century from the time the Americans imposed on us their concept of republicanism and democracy.

The system’s main feature is a political structure where power and authority are concentrated in the national central government (the Center). The regional and local government units (LGUs) are subordinate and exercise only such powers allowed to them by the Center. There is a massive transfer of resources to the Center and the decision as to their uses and applications. Critical revenues directed centrally and collected locally are invariably expensed from the top; detached from the actual needs below. Planning and programs for the communities are characterized by a top-to-bottom approach divorced from the realities on the ground; and impairing gravely the decision-making process.

This subservience of the LGUs to the Center, stifles local initiative and resourcefulness, perpetuates dependency and reinforces traditional political patronage relationship and stunts local development. This explains the proliferation of political dynasties permeating 70 percent to 80 percent of Congress and the LGUs. Empirical evidence shows the poorest provinces are controlled by political dynasties some of which have existed for generations.

Complimentary to the unitary system is the presidential type of government with three distinctive branches. In theory, the executive power is vested in the president who is the head of government and the state; legislative powers is entrusted to a bicameral Congress consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives; and judicial power is conferred on a Supreme Court and the lower courts created by law. But in practice, our present system is characterized by intermittent gridlock between and among the two houses of Congress and the presidency, especially when these elected leaders all come from different political parties.

As head of the executive branch, the universally elected president to whom vast powers are vested reigns supreme. But the path to the presidency is fraught with distortions to the democratic process. The biggest one is the “ingrained corruption” in the very expensive nationwide elections where the presidential candidate must depend on a network of local governments and personally oriented, not ideologically directed political parties. The presidential candidate must trade the future largesse of his office for the support of these political parties and LGU executives. And the billions needed to fund this endeavor open an aperture for the moneyed few and the oligarchy to surreptitiously invest in a presidential run. When successful, they exact their pounds of flesh to recoup their expenses through regulatory capture and other modes of corruption.

All these are enshrined in the 1987 Cory Constitution. And this is what we, a motley alliance of parliamentary federalists, hybrid-presidential parliamentarians, liberal economists, social market economists — all agents of change — must dismantle. And we must work together, now!
Published in LML Polettiques
ON Tuesday, July 10, 2018, Philstar.com came up with a news item: “SWS: Duterte’s satisfaction rating plunges across all areas”

Wednesday, July 11, The Manila Times bannered on its front page, “SWS poll: Duterte’s rating suffers 11-point drop in Q2”

Friday, July 13, PhilStar has this on its front page: “Duterte still most approved, trusted gov’t official —Pulse Asia.”

Disparities are wide between the two pollsters’ figures. Apparently, the SWS survey was done from June 27 to 30, yielding a +45net satisfaction rating. SWS still considers this a “good rating” for the President. The Pulse Asia survey, done earlier, from June 15 to 21, registered approval and trust ratings of 88 percent and 87 percent, respectively, for Du30.

Rappler.com tried to explain the disparity in the figures: “The results of a Pulse Asia survey show President Rodrigo Duterte recording his highest approval rating yet — before his controversial remark on God that triggered a public backlash.”

True enough, upon checking, the President’s blasphemous speech was delivered on June 22, Friday, the last day that Pulse Asia conducted its survey. It is therefore probable that his declining numbers were captured by SWS, but not Pulse Asia. Rappler, despite its perceived bias against this regime, could be right after all. You just don’t mess with God!

The Deegong responded quite differently on the differing results. On SWS where the figures show a decline, he proclaimed: “I don’t care. Make it 15. Wala na ako dyan. (It does not matter to me anymore.) It does not interest me at all.” He shrugged off the results of the survey and even expressed readiness to step down from his post.

On the Pulse Asia positive results, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the Palace was grateful for the people’s “continuing vote of confidence” in the President, who remains “the most approved and most trusted top national official today with 88 percent approval and 87 percent trust, respectively.”

“The President views these latest survey results with all humility; however, he is not leading the country for the sake of high or good ratings. The Chief Executive is simply fulfilling his campaign promises with the best interest of Filipinos in mind,” Roque said.

These two conflicting statements are somewhat reflective of the chaotic state of affairs among the President’s coterie of friends and advisers, amidst a pervasive smell of fear induced by a singularly arbitrary president. The cabinet members and his close confidantes simply are incapable of reining in the President.

In the absence of sensible advice from the timid sycophants in Malacañang, we, the ordinary people must demonstrate to DU30 that he can’t just not care about surveys and ratings. These are indicators, albeit snapshots of the moment, of the perceptions not only of his loyalists but that of his greater constituency, the Filipino people. More importantly if only for the sake of the people who have been supportive of his agenda, putting their faith in him and now maybe quite reluctantly, he needs to internalize what’s at stake here. Marami tayong nakataya dito!

Nope! DU30 will not be allowed to cop out and leave things hanging. For one the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), small that we are, became part of the 16 million that gave the president his mandate because of one paramount shared advocacy, federalism — a systemic reformatting of the political structures overarching most of the problems and perversions of our government and society. We reluctantly accepted a traditional politician possessing the political will to transform our cherished but dysfunctional democratic institutions; and even destroy the vestiges of his own kind. This is a paradox, a traditional politician dismantling traditional politics using traditional means. Parliamentary federalism through constitutional revisions was a battlecry we responded to, from the presidential candidate from the very start. We will hold the Deegong to this one single promise.

Its rabid opponents have always used as an excuse that this concept is alien to our culture. Accordingly, majority of Filipinos don’t understand federalism and the constitutional revisions it entails. But this was also true then for the 1987 Cory Constitution, 1971 Marcos Constitution and even the original 1935 Constitution. What we need to understand about the Filipino is that for 500 years of colonialism, they trust their patrons and put their faith in their leaders to do the right thing for them. They will take federalism and Charter change on faith. And you can’t sell them short. They are a magnificently discerning race.

No president ever ran on such drastic promises — not Cory, not FVR, not ERAP, not Gloria, and especially not PNoy. Only this foul-mouthed, irreverent DU30 had the effrontery and courage to push for a radical and systemic agenda. That’s why he needs to be mindful of his survey ratings. He needs the continued support of the citizenry.

We federalists know our priorities. We will try not to hold the Deegong to his populist campaign promises. We will not be drawn into discussions on the broken ones: the continued proliferation of endo; the non-distribution of the coco levy funds to the farmers; and even the rising prices of commodities and the stagnating wages. Furthermore, we will evade arguments of our peso being Asia’s worst performer, the widening trade deficits and the stock market in bear territory and the negative impact of the TRAIN law.

We will give the President the benefit of the doubt as these are problems, urgent no doubt, but symptoms of the presidential-unitary system, which have been our bane for almost a century. The President has four more years up to 2022, his mandate, to look into these — provided, and only provided, that he uses once more his formidable political will to push through the revisions of the anomalous 1987 Constitution.

But we will continue to give him critical collaboration on the war on dangerous drugs that badly needs closure. This can’t just be passed on to the next administration. The president has to formulate clear plans to rehabilitate the infected ones and bring them back productively to society.

After almost three decades in public service, the man is almost burnt out, running on “empty” He wants out. But not yet. And many will agree with our Centrist position: push for the systemic changes and write a federal-parliamentary constitution and put it in place. Then by 2022, leave the presidency and go back to Davao. This is your legacy.
Published in LML Polettiques