Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: July 2019
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:39

Federalism in its death throes? (Part 4)

Part 4: Framework for federalism

IN last week’s Part 3, we proposed enacting four laws (the preconditions) prior to revising the 1987 Constitution. Once in place, a framework for federalism can be written in the revised Constitution as a constitutional pathway even beyond the term of President Duterte. Federalism as a solution for the systemic deficiencies in the country requires the collective energy of its adherents and the commitment of the bureaucracy to inform and educate the great masses of our people on its nuances and advantages. The messaging should give substance to what was once a formidable slogan cloaking it with a pragmatic step-by-step process.

To reiterate, federalism is the type of government where power and authority are not centralized but shared between the national central government (federal) and the regional governments (states). This system allows states to develop themselves the way they see fit based on their culture and specific conditions. Some areas of public life are under the control of the federal government (security and defense, money and coinage, diplomacy and foreign affairs, etc.). Some are left to the states (education, revenue generation and taxation, franchises licenses, and permits, etc.), and some are shared (raising taxes, borrowing money, criminal justice, etc.). These are all to be guaranteed in the Constitution.

Federalism is a multi-step process that must be clearly written in the Constitution. We can’t just legislate federalism or just write in the Constitution that we are a de facto Federal Republic tomorrow. What can be written is the framework, the road map as it were to attain the Philippine Federal Republic; beyond the term of DU30 and even in the next decade or so. So even with the Deegong gone from the political scene, we will have planted today the seeds of our Federal Republic.

Creation of autonomous territories

The Centrist proposal’s version has its roots on the concept of autonomy, subsidiarity and self-determination. Initially, we allow the existing provinces and highly urbanized component cities to evolve first to an autonomous territory with the decision to group themselves coming from the grassroots level (pinatubo). “Self-determination” is central to this decision. In other words, the citizens within a contiguous territory, with common language and culture must decide in a referendum that they become completely autonomous. Petitions are then passed by their local legislative assemblies.

Once a referendum is passed, within a year, parliament (or Congress) must enact an organic law defining the autonomous territory’s land area, powers, obligations and sources of revenues (taxes), mindful of the components’ economic viability. The autonomous territory then writes its own constitution to be approved in a plebiscite by its own people.

The Philippines may eventually end up with from eight to 12 federal states. Parliament can’t impose on the current provinces and cities but can give general guidelines on how states are formed based on criteria to be embedded in the revised Constitution (i.e. common culture, language, custom, contiguous areas and economic viability). Therefore, it is necessary that these contiguous provinces and cities need to negotiate among each other.

If three-fifths (60 percent) of the provinces and component cities of the Philippines become autonomous territories, then the Federal Republic of the Philippines is created.

Congress recently enacted into law RA 11054, an Organic Act creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The BARMM also adopted a parliamentary form where the executive and legislative bodies are fused. It could be the template by which autonomous territories can be created all over the country not by the sufferance of Congress but through the revisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Mode of changing Constitution

A critical consideration in the writing of the new constitution is the participation of Congress. Under the current 1987 Constitution only three modes are allowed: people’s initiative (PI), constituent assembly (ConAss) and a constitutional convention (ConCon).

1. PI is eliminated as the constitutional changes being contemplated are not mere amendments but a revision of the 1987 Constitution.

2. ConAss will involve the members of Senate and Congress writing a constitution. With 80 percent of congressmen and senators members of political dynasties and allies of the oligarchy, the finished product will be highly flawed.

3. The third option therefore, ConCon, could be the better alternative, provided a combination of elected delegates is balanced with the appointed chosen delegates of the President.

Most of these elected delegates would be the moneyed few, members of political dynasties whose clans and family interest take precedence. The chosen appointed constitutional experts even from the marginalized sectors — who could never afford and win an electoral campaign, can counter and balance these dynasts — and give the presidential agenda a chance to be debated and pondered upon well.

Case for federal-parliamentary system

Empirical evidence shows how countries under the presidential system have serious problems of corruption, development and peace. Consider the following:

1. Nine out of 10 countries in the 2015 Transparency International Corruption index’s most corrupt/least transparent countries are under a presidential system, with Iraq the lone exception that has a federal-parliamentary form.

2. And five of these are ranked the least peaceful nations in the world, according to the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI).

3. Similarly, in nations with the highest Terrorism Index, more countries have a presidential form (Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, the Philippines) while the rest have parliamentary governments (Iraq, Pakistan and India).

With our unitary-presidential system, the Philippines ranks among these countries: Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Libya, Iraq, Venezuela and Guinea-Bissau; followed by Syria, Yemen, Central Africa Republic, Ukraine and Libya.

Least corrupt countries (the better ones)

In contrast, all of those in the top 16 “least corrupt” nations are under a parliamentary system, with the exception of the United States (presidential-federal); and these are also the 16 most prosperous nations in the world. They lead in curbing corruption and ranked high in human development in the 2015 UNDP human development index. These countries are Denmark, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, Germany, Ireland, the US, Iceland, Luxembourg, the UK and Australia.

Empirical evidence shows that a federal form is definitely better than a unitary system. But clearly it also suggests that a parliamentary system is superior to the presidential form in many criteria of government performance.

Postscript

Last week’s SONA was a total disappointment to the fed-parl advocates and political reformers. DU30, the last hope of the federalists was eloquently profound in his silence on the revision of the Constitution that could usher in badly needed systemic reforms. I will just quote Senator Drilon: “…the non- inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest…Those who have plans to revive it this 18th Congress should better think twice. It will be an exercise in futility.” Thus spoke the head of the opposition in the Senate. In the end, the Yellows won!

And from the Deegong himself, after his SONA: “…federalism is complicated…it will not happen during my term.” The last nail in the coffin. Federalism is dead, please don’t send flowers.

Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 11:15

Imagine

THERE are things that we seem to be unsure of as a nation, and that is the answer to the question — are we better off now than we were four years ago? Clearly, the answer there would have been yes. Unfortunately, there are some, if the surveys are to be believed, around 3 percent who disapprove of PRRD’s work and 11 percent undecided. A staggering 85 percent trust and approval rating was achieved by the chief executive, a first among all post-EDSA presidents and at such a point in the term of office.

Duterte is not perfect. He loves to joke around even in presidential addresses. He is not from Luzon. Hence, he behaves differently. He is not one of them. Check out his behavior, his mannerisms, his expressions, his ways of dressing up, no presidential demeanor at all. He is just a mayor who never wanted to go out of Davao City because it meant a repackaging, less authenticity and dealing with the oligarchs on their terms. But when the going got tough, he made the jump, hard as it was. But the voters saw in him what was not present in all: he is uncouth, Bisaya, mayor, with a strong political will, brought Davao from the throes of anarchy to what it is today. He saw in them their image of a true leader. And when the mandate has been duly given, no Bikoy or the propaganda line of 25,000 deaths can undo that single democratic act.

Thirty-two issues were highlighted by PRRD in his fourth SONA: fight against illegal drugs, corruption, restoration of the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, as well as plunder; PhilHealth fraud; contributions of GOCCs; reform of Customs; Hotline 8888; Boracay cleanup; Manila Bay rehabilitation; third telco; Bangsamoro; communist rebellion; education from K-12 to ALS; sports development; MSMEs; rescheduling the barangay elections from May 2020 to October 2022; creation of OFW, water and disaster resiliency departments; WPS; fishing deal with China; Reed Bank allision; poverty reduction; wage hike; tax reform; delivery of government services; water shortage; land use policy; Metro Manila traffic; agriculture; coconut levy fund; energy sources; and national security.

What was interesting was the time he spent stressing the obvious to the members of Congress: corruption. Not having the Congress under his control when he started out in 2016, today PRRD has control of both houses. His speaker has been elected and seemingly, the 15-21 agreement holds at the House. In the Senate, 10 of the 12 proclaimed winners in the May 2019 elections have taken their oaths and chairmanships have been approved. In the 93 minutes of his speech, Duterte kept calling out corruption and alluding to the enemy being us. When he included plunder in the restoration of the death penalty, the audience was eerily quiet. When he joked about the epicenter of earthquake being Congress, the laughter was a guarded one. When he referred to the 63 Custom employees and probably it is better to ask them to report to Congress, another silence.

It was a president saying to Congress, in no uncertain terms, that they were part of the problem. The “in your face” barrage to Congress will hopefully result in a less greedy, more for-country legislature in the remaining three years of his term. Imagine if we had a parliament? Then we can have a unified body addressing the issues of the day without much delay and politics because the agenda would be one: clear, precise and time-bound.

The following day, PRRD met with the various local governments, directing them to do their jobs and giving them 45 days to clear their jurisdictions from illegal structures blocking roads and thoroughfares, essentially restoring order and setting the ease of doing business protocols, particularly on the three-day release of permits, licenses and renewals. Again, this is the only time in his term that PRRD can call out his local chief executives. We hope to see the catharsis he mentioned: “Catharsis is what we, individually and collectively, need to do today — not tomorrow but today. Self-purgation followed by the resolve to do what is right and proper, is good for the nation’s health.” Imagine if we had a federal form of government, the head of government at the national level would not have to do these things because the regional heads would have to act or they get booted out. They would always have an excuse, pointing to central government for delay, money and for not being able to perform their jobs.

Fortunately, from among the local government officials, a new breed got into the mix. Imagine an Isko Moreno, Vico Sotto and Francis Zamora coming in from NCR. Then there are Benjie Magalong of Baguio, Ed Labella of Cebu City and hoping the other two cities, Mandaue (Jonas Cortes) and Lapu Lapu (Ayong Chan) would also shake things up in no uncertain terms. Isabela, Basilan Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman is also leading the offensive in Mindanao, among others. The Duterte effect should rub on the city mayors because clearly it is a path for growth and development.

An elected public official would have to build his first 100 days under the budget of the previous one. If there is no budget left, how would the new local chief executive move? Simple, the formula is there: go after the low-hanging fruit and exercise one’s political will to enforce the laws. Those will get you to do many things and contrast you from the former. This will also give the local chief executive’s team enough time to make sense of the financial records left scattered by the predecessor.

We often talk of economic reform. Pushing the envelope in terms of developing the market. We talk of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution. We keep on insisting that to move forward is to open the economy. If we do, can the present system sustain it? And how do we deal with “the enemy is us” metaphor? It is the extractive nature of our politics that make us weak. We cannot sustain our economic gains if our politics remain to be like what we have today. But the shift to parliament-federal cannot be merely a term issue as suggested by the Speaker. When you start with extending-cutting terms, you destroy the whole advocacy for parliament-federal.

And when the single biggest challenge of our time is not mentioned in the fourth SONA, you wonder if the champion for federalism has just thrown in the towel and closed the door. And the afterthought was really damning.
Published in News
Wednesday, 24 July 2019 15:47

Federalism in its death throes? (Part 3)

Part 3 – Preconditions to federalism
IN last week’s column (“Part 2: Unitary presidential vs federal parliamentary”), I discussed the need for revising the 1987 Constitution possibly beyond DU30’s term. But the shift towards federalism will be realized only when certain preconditions are met prior to the constitutional revisions. And the speed with which these preconditions are put in place will depend much on the application by DU30 of his vaunted political will and the influence he wields with the two houses of Congress. The remaining three years of DU30’s term provide ample time provided Congress acts now.

The four preconditions are: 1) reform the political party system; 2) initiate electoral reforms; 3) pass a universal freedom of information law; and 4) enact a law banning political dynasties.

The first precondition is the total overhaul of our political party system. Whether the Philippines will remain a presidential-unitary government or shifts to a parliamentary-federal republic, political parties are indispensable. They are primarily formed not only to contest elections and hold power in government, but they must possess an ideological core, aggregating the needs and aspirations of a diverse segment of our society. A party must write and adhere to a unique platform or vision of governance with a set of principles and strategies. This vision defines the ideological identity of that party, and members are expected to go by these principles and strategies. Voters must be given a choice as to who must govern them based on what candidates and their political parties stand for. Unlike today, personalities are selected by the tradpols and financiers with the connivance of the oligarchy and lodged in all political parties and presented to the voters to elect from. Popularity, name recall and “winnability” have primacy over principles, ideals and even decency and personal integrity. Whoever wins therefore primarily serves the interest of these few.

Also, we have a political phenomenon that occurs every presidential election cycle — the lemming-like migration of political parties to the winning President’s brand. This “political butterfly” or the “balimbing” spectacle has been the norm in the modern Philippine political scene, stunting the growth of principled and ideologically anchored political parties. This prevents the development of clear party platforms that are the lifeblood of a vibrant democracy, giving the voters choices as to whom to gift the privilege of governance.

The badly needed political party reforms seek to institutionalize political parties based on the above criteria and norms and which will:

1. Penalize “turncoatism” (or the switching of political parties, “balimbing” or “political butterfly”);

2. Enforce transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign financing to eliminate graft, corruption and patronage (corporate and individual contributions); and through

3. State subsidy that will professionalize political parties by supporting their political education and campaign initiatives.

We have currently pending bills from the last few congresses. The Political Party Development and Financing Act (SB 3214, and HB 6551, HB 49, 403 and 159) have been languishing and were archived by the PNoy administration. The current congress can refile these bills.

The second precondition is to initiate electoral reforms that will put in place a system to prevent the perversion of the will of the populace (i.e. rampant vote-buying, intimidating voters, etc.). One of the greatest evils in our democracy is the dominance of the traditional politicians allied to the oligarchy. They rear their heads every election cycle taking advantage of a legal though weak electoral process. The Comelec must be reformed to take on earnestly its sacrosanct role as the “premier guardian of the Philippine ballot,” actively filtering the qualifications and credentials of candidates for public office and the nation’s political leadership, and remove all quasi-judicial work from the Comelec and transfer electoral contests to the judiciary. Electoral reforms in tandem with political party reforms will substantially diminish the oligarchy’s influence in the election process.

The third precondition is the passage of a freedom of information law (FOI) to enforce transparency in all transactions in government (not only through an executive order). This law will allow public access to information (regardless of physical form or format) pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, government research data used as a basis for policy development; and compel transparency and accountability in public service by requiring financial information such as SALNs of public officials and civil servants to be posted in government offices or websites. And even the Bank Secrecy Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) should be amended to allow legitimate agencies to compel public officials and civil servants to show their bank accounts in the Philippines and abroad.

The fourth precondition is to enact a law banning political dynasties as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. The immediate passage of an anti-dynasty law will level the playing field and provide equal opportunities to other emerging capable leaders to serve; practice transparent nomination among political parties with candidates willing to contest in the local elections; and most especially, ban the concentration of power to a few dynastic families in the barangay, local and national positions.

These four preconditions will not require the revision of the 1987 Constitution unless Congress, 80 percent of whose members are scions of political dynasties, will again shamelessly refuse to pass an enabling law. Then what should be written during the revision of the1987 Constitution must be self-executory.

If these preconditions are not put in place and we proceed with a transition to a federal government, then we may have a government much worse than what we have now. Consider the scenarios:

a. We will have allowed the same personalities and political parties controlled by dynasties into the federal states, each establishing their fiefdoms, possibly with their own private armies and untrammeled looting of the States’ resources.

b. Control by the local elite and oligarchy of the economy and the political structure will result in regulatory capture of government agencies. This will all be fortified by a patronage system flourishing within a much smaller State area and population.

Once these laws are enacted, we should then proceed to revise the 1987 Constitution toward federalism (with a presidential or parliamentary government). These issues have in fact been debated ad nauseam by Congress for more than a decade. The appearance of the Deegong in the political scene could be the game changer. Never was there a Philippine President who so displayed political impudence as to ram through his agenda down the throats, first of the oligarchy (witness the Ongpin and Prieto business shenanigans), then the inept opposition (Otso Diretso debacle), yet managed to maintain an 80-percent approval rating.

This maverick leader recognizes his political clout. Witness the recent fight for the House speakership where the three leading contenders were all over each other to win his imprimatur. And the public display of canine devotion, kowtowing to the President, with the anointed one bowing publicly to kiss his hand, presages an easy passage of these preconditions into law.

These laws are sine qua non before the shift to federalism (presidential or parliamentary).

Next week: Part 4 –
Laying the framework for federalism
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 17 July 2019 10:25

Federalism in its death throes? (Part 2)

Part 2 – Unitary presidential vs federal parliamentary
IN Part 1 of this series we took DU30’s “Federalism is dead!” with a grain of salt. The Centrist Democrats (Centrists) are unequivocal that PRRD is the linchpin of a constitutional shift from unitary-presidential to parliamentary-federal, his original advocacy. But he may have failed to comprehend that the federalization process may not be realized within his term of office. Also, he dropped the “parliamentary” adjunct after his much maligned “French model” didn’t wash. But he stuck to his overall nebulous idea of federalism; yet long on slogans but short on concepts.

This is understandable for an impatient and driven executive who has the misfortune of being surrounded by some senior political advisers whose appreciation of their jobs does not go beyond the level of sycophancy. This is partly the President’s fault as his stint as a superb local executive, an autodidact in the intricacies of national politics and international relations has confined his recruitment among a coterie of a prosaic circle of associates easily intimidated by a display of his alpha male attributes; thus, inhibiting good counsel.

Meanwhile, the Centrists which have been refining the idea of a shift to federal-parliamentary since the 2005 Consultative Commission (ConCom) of President GMA has produced the Centrist Proposals to revise the 1987 Constitution. This document has not been accorded due importance by the PRRD bureaucracy, preferring instead to divine the Deegong’s perorations and perceptions inaccurately, thus failing to inform, educate and precipitate debate among the masses. The presidential backtracking therefore is taken by the Centrists as a challenge to push through its original vision: a shift from unitary-presidential to parliamentary-federal systems.

For a short tutorial, what we have now is a unitary-presidential form of government where power and authority are concentrated in the national central government (the Center) making the same inordinately dominant. The regional and local government units (LGUs) are subordinate and exercise only such powers allowed to them by the Center, headed by the President. This subservience stifles local initiative and resourcefulness, perpetuates dependency and reinforces traditional political patronage relationships.

In theory, executive power is vested in the president who is the head of government and the state; legislative power is entrusted to a bicameral congress consisting of the senate and the house of representatives; and judicial power is conferred upon a supreme court and in the lower courts created by law. This is the classic separation of the three branches of government handed down to us by our American colonizers. But in practice, our present system is characterized by intermittent gridlock between the senate and the presidency, a clash of super-egos, a systemic anomaly.

One source of “ingrained corruption” is the very expensive nationwide elections where the president, vice president and senators are susceptible to the intrusion of the moneyed class and the oligarchy to finance elections. Such an environment enforces a malicious quid pro quo allowing office holders to recoup election expenses through rent-seeking activities or even outright regulatory capture.

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. Critical revenues directed centrally and collected locally are invariably expensed from the top; detached from the actual needs below.

The Centrists want an alternative, a federal form of government, a system with clear separation of powers and authority between national government (federal) and the regional or local governments (states).

The federal government aims to establish a democratic system that recognizes the rights of each region to govern itself and pursue its own agenda of progress and development consistent with the national interest. It will run its own affairs and decide its own destiny without interference from the national government. Federalism emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance, based on the principle of subsidiarity. This means decisions should be made at the lowest level where problems are best solved.

While regional or state governments are designed to be autonomous in state and local affairs, the federal government helps the various regions and states, especially the less developed ones — as in all federal systems in the world.

Federalism emphasizes respect for the socio-cultural diversity of the people and seeks solidarity and cooperation in governance, nation-building, modernization and development. The Constitution will define the powers that may either be exclusive to the federal government, to the states or shared. Universally accepted are federal powers on defense, foreign affairs, currency and coinage and customs and trade.

The Centrists also want to replace our presidential form with a parliamentary government where the legislative and executive powers are fused and vested on a unicameral (or bicameral) parliament; and the “head of government” is the prime minister with his cabinet recruited from among the members of parliament. The president is the “head of state” and is elected from among the members of parliament; and upon taking his oath he ceases to be a member of parliament and any political party.

A unicameral parliament is composed of elected members from the parliamentary districts, plus those chosen on the basis of “proportional representation” by the political party according to the votes each party obtained in the preceding elections. The members chosen by the political parties (party list) shall constitute 30 percent of the total number of members of parliament. The political parties shall ensure that in the 30 percent “party list,” the labor, peasant, urban poor, veterans, indigenous people communities, women, youth, differently abled, except the religious sector, are properly represented. The current “party list” system is a perversion of the German model from whom it was copied. As practiced now, there is no clear representation of the less privileged. This should be abolished.

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

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

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

All these need constitutional revisions and may not be accomplished within the remaining term of DU30. But there are critical reforms which need to be done prior to a shift away from unitary-presidential to federalism with a parliamentary form of government.

Next week: Part 3 – Preconditions to federal-parliamentary system
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 10 July 2019 12:01

Federalism in its death throes?

THE President’s pronouncements that federalism is dead is both true and false. It could be dead in the sense that DU30 may no longer spend his political capital steering its complexities through his remaining three years. But if the 1987 Constitution could still be revised, as he has implied, then federalism could still be realized sometime in the future – but without DU30.

It is a pity that the President has abandoned this campaign promise. Such are the vagaries of politics and the impulses of traditional politicians. The proposition that federalism is not ripe because surveys show it remains unpopular and Filipinos don’t understand the concept is simply inane. The President knew from the very start that this complex idea needed to be explained to the public well as this was his main advocacy – the need for systemic change in governance, decentralizing political power and resources to the regions and bring the decision-making process to the lower echelons of government. And he staked his reputation and presidency on this. Having built a large constituency on federalism and having won the presidency as a result, he now has seemingly given up. Very sad! He failed to translate the idea of federalism beyond the sloganeering and could not inspire his bureaucracy to reach out to the citizenry to paint an alternative to the presidential unitary system that has plagued Philippine society for generations. But perhaps, all is not lost.

It appears that remnants of his bureaucracy continue to push through with educating the constituency despite PRRD’s declarations. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) tasked to shepherd federalism through the local governments and the masses has declared that it can still be done and has relaunched the campaign. This is a brave thing to do and the DILG could pull it off.

For what it’s worth, the advocates of federalism, including the Centrist Democrats (CD), of whom the author is a prime mover, has made it a lifelong commitment to push for systemic change. Oddly, the CD has always maintained that federalism will come in due time only after certain preconditions are met. And these must include revisions to the 1987 Constitution. All these have been disseminated to Congress, to Malacañang and to the public through the Centrist Proposals. I am reprinting in an abridged format the document (please access www.cdpi.asia and download Centrist Proposals).

When this columnist was asked to present the Centrist Proposals to the Malacañang press corps in September 6 2017, I suspect a copy found its way into the hands of the Deegong, and now I’m sure he read it and even perhaps internalized some facets of the proposals. The Centrist Proposals are unequivocal that federalism will take a little more time than DU30’s term allows and even beyond that of his immediate successor. But the ground work has to be laid down now — at the onset of the second half of his term through constitutional reform.

Grudgingly the President may have agreed with the Centrist position that federalism is a drastic idea whose time has come, yet it has to be translated in a manner that will not cause too violent a rupture in the fragile relationship between the political leadership and the governed. Such relationship has been a consequence of generations-long practice by traditional politicians to subvert the will of the citizenry every election using the proverbial “guns, goons and gold.” And to sustain this hold on power, political dynasties proliferated and an unholy alliance with the oligarchy was inevitably forged. This is a culture that grew out of the petri dish of the presidential unitary system — our current governmental system protected by the 1987 Constitution.

Indeed, every election cycle the governed are free only to elect those selected by this unnatural partnership between the tradpols and the oligarchs. This practice of selecting a menu of candidates for the country’s leadership is the biggest anomaly and deficit of a democratic state that we claim the Philippines to be. Whichever side wins, traditional politicians and the oligarchy remain at the top and in control. Political power shifts only between the two faces of the same coin. DU30 perhaps may be the only leader who broke away from this prototype.

Generations and decades of this dysfunctional symbiosis between the traditional politicians and the oligarchy have entrenched systemic practices perverting good governance. And the President steeped in the lore of traditional politics himself understands that the legacy he is now crafting will result in the ultimate destruction of the very system that allowed him to survive and flourish in the first place. He said so himself. And this is a noble act. He understands too that to destroy the old and usher in a new system of governance, he needed to apply the very tools of that system. This is his paradox. Assault the ramparts of traditional politics with the apparatus and the demeanor of a traditional politician. To make a good omelet, he needed to break a few eggs. But this has to be calibrated. Don’t go yet for the big enchilada — federalism. Go for the doable, the currently possible which the CD have always maintained from the very start is the right path to eventual change. There are preconditions to federalism. This will be discussed in detail in a coming series of articles.

In essence, CD proposals seek first to erode the fabric underpinning the current presidential unitary system. Clarita Carlos, an eminent UP professor and author has detailed this in her book, The Deficits of Democracy. Stark poverty, corruption, inefficiency and rent-seeking activities within government; the inaccessibility of the poor and the disadvantaged to a perverted justice system; and the general environment of malaise and a host of others are a systemic rot embedded in our type of government festering in the body politic.

These are the problems confronting our country today. The next articles in this column will lay down the doable parameters upon which the groundwork for federalism must be put in place. But first, the President needs the concurrence of the two houses of Congress.

Fortunately, the results of the midterm elections allowed him the opportunity to influence to some degree the two chambers of Congress from whence the legal framework for systemic changes must emanate. The Lower House may prove to be more malleable as the current fight for leadership are all headed by personalities who have displayed canine-like devotion to the Deegong. The Senate may be a little trickier as the term of many senators goes beyond his. And then there is the cliché that every senator once seated assumes an aura of self-importance and affectations of independence.

The agenda for systemic changes has a high probability of passage while we have a president endowed with tremendous political capital, however tainted and fractured it may be, and has the political will to act decisively. But this President’s enormous political capital as in anything that is valuable is likewise fragile and could erode. Therefore, the need to act now and fast before his presidency descends into that “lame duck” period, a bane to the powerful who must adhere to legitimate constitutional constraints where political power becomes almost illusory.
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 03 July 2019 13:56

Reed Bank, KAPA atbp.

SCANNING the headlines and social media the past three weeks, one can’t help being dumbfounded at how we have gone overboard on the Reed/Recto Bank incident. From where I sit, I see the Philippine government preventing “making a mountain out of molehill”; and conversely, the opposition frantically elevating to an Everest size one that is already a mountain. Methinks this is an extension of the elections where the opposition Otso Diretso was obliterated. They needed to find another issue against their bete noire, the Deegong. And in the process transform this maritime faux pas to polarize the country, the DDS and fist pumpers on one side against the yellow hordes on the other, leaving the majority of our people perplexed as to where we are all heading. First blood was drawn by the opposition (and some allies) suggesting government should invoke the US-Philippine Military Defense Treaty (MDT) on the sinking of the Gem-Ver. The thesis of the opposition is that this is a gross infringement of Philippine sovereignty and therefore, in indignation, the President must defend our honor.
 
And where was the President in all of this? Practically on the sidelines weighing his options before wading in. This could be the prudent move. I don’t often agree with the “mouthslinger from the south,” quick to the verbal draw replete with curses and p—–ina. But this time, he tamed his inner demons by his momentary silence. But the Yellow forces would not allow him an inch, accusing him of playing to his new Chinese friends against the better interest of his countrymen. But they are wrong. Deegong was following his playbook and a tactic that could give him better hold of his sensitive relations with China. Dealing with a bully does not call for a linear response, as the President knows very well, being adept at the craft of intimidation himself.
 
If memory serves, during the tragic Rizal Park hostage crisis of PNoy in 2010, an ex-policeman hijacked a tourist bus and with the intervention of the Filipino “elite kuno SWAT,” resulted in the massacre of eight Chinese citizens. As this was with full TV coverage for several hours, an international uproar ensued. And what did the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, do? He was “silent” — except for a formal protest through proper channels. This is diplomacy. Similarly, the Deegong may have understood its nuances, commenting only when things are clearer.
 
And then the Deegong opened his mouth. “This was just a minor incident and China can fish in the Philippine waters…because we are friends.” Then the s–t hits the fan.
 
Mr. President, this is not a question of friendship. This is international diplomacy where leaders do not speak personally for themselves but collectively for the people. This is not a Davaoeño’s informal concept of “ato-ato ra ni, istoryahan na lang nato ni!” (Let’s just talk informally by ourselves.)
 
“Chinese can’t fish in PH territory” (The Manila Times, headline June 27, 2019). “Letting Chinese fish in PH waters hit as illegal” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, headline June 27, 2019). “The Philippine government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine (South China) Sea because it will violate the Constitution” (Supreme Court Justice Carpio). “Impeach Duterte, Palace dares critics” (The Manila Times, headline June 28, 2019).
 
I will not add to this cacophony and argue for or against except to put in proper perspective the sorry state of the presidency and the knee-jerk response of the President’s men. All the senior people from the foppish spokesman to the normally sober SecDef to the tactless first diplomat (calling VP Robredo “boba”) to the “Uziseros” Cusi and Piñol contributing to the chaos by saying one thing and reversing themselves — to where the President leans. And where is the NSC Adviser Hermogenes Esperon in all this? His silence is deafening. He should be in the forefront wading in the muck. You can’t allow the President to talk his head off by his lonesome. The Deegong needs a “heat shield” to deflect all sorts of criticism and attacks. This is the job of the President’s alter ego on matters of national security.
 
In short, these senior people don’t serve the President well if they remain “loyal yes men” — unable to give good advice to the Deegong, even if such is contrary to his position and inviting his wrath.
 
Enough already! The President’s marionettes and court jesters should just shut up and revert to the country’s pressing problems that impact more heavily on the Filipinos’ daily lives. I refer to a scam that has been ongoing for years. KAPA, a Ponzi scheme, needs the attention of the Office of the President badly as this is eating into the sinews of his primary base — the poor and downtrodden.
 
This onerous money-making scheme plays into the Filipino’s desperate dream of riches, an infectious disease affecting both the poor masses and the greedy, mixed in the deadly cauldron of religion. The “Kabus Padatu-on” (make the poor rich, or KAPA) is a religious ministry spreading in social media, enticing the faithful to invest a one-time donation in return for receiving a monthly 30 percent of the amount for life. There is no way any investment in any facet of the legitimate economy or business can offer that kind of return. What is galling is that this scheme has been known to government authorities. In fact, “…the SEC said it issued an advisory against KAPA as early as March 2017, a cease and desist order on Feb. 14, 2019, and an order revoking its registration on April 3 this year.” The SEC declared that KAPA was in violation of Republic Act 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code (SRC). But there are whispers that local government candidates in the recent elections tolerated this scheme to raise campaign funds. But our law enforcement agencies did not do anything until the recent exposure in the press. DU30 should start cutting some heads off.
 
Similar schemes have reared their ugly head in the recent years. The Legacy Group of companies’ pre-need plans promised doubling your “investments” after a short period of time. The group included rural banks accepting deposits, with company officials dipping their dirty little fingers into it for bogus loans for personal use. Bangko Sentral (BSP) eventually filed charges of estafa in 2009 against the company for offering unregistered securities. What made the scam attractive to others was the inclusion of their biggest victims as a come-on, a former speaker of the House of Representatives who reportedly lost P18 to 20 million.
 
And these swindles keep appearing intermittently among the most vulnerable sectors of our society — the rural folk. Yet our officials are instead occupied in mulling over the nuances of the Reed/Recto Bank incident, whether DU30’s invitation to China to fish in our EEZ constitute an impeachable offense. But what takes the cake are the Senate President’s profound reflections on “…the difficulty of exclusivity (of EEZ) underwater (as) the Philippine fish could come from China…and (conversely) Chinese fish could come from the Philippines.” Deep thoughts, indeed!

SCANNING the headlines and social media the past three weeks, one can’t help being dumbfounded at how we have gone overboard on the Reed/Recto Bank incident. From where I sit, I see the Philippine government preventing “making a mountain out of molehill”; and conversely, the opposition frantically elevating to an Everest size one that is already a mountain. Methinks this is an extension of the elections where the opposition Otso Diretso was obliterated. They needed to find another issue against their bete noire, the Deegong. And in the process transform this maritime faux pas to polarize the country, the DDS and fist pumpers on one side against the yellow hordes on the other, leaving the majority of our people perplexed as to where we are all heading. First blood was drawn by the opposition (and some allies) suggesting government should invoke the US-Philippine Military Defense Treaty (MDT) on the sinking of the Gem-Ver. The thesis of the opposition is that this is a gross infringement of Philippine sovereignty and therefore, in indignation, the President must defend our honor.

And where was the President in all of this? Practically on the sidelines weighing his options before wading in. This could be the prudent move. I don’t often agree with the “mouthslinger from the south,” quick to the verbal draw replete with curses and p—–ina. But this time, he tamed his inner demons by his momentary silence. But the Yellow forces would not allow him an inch, accusing him of playing to his new Chinese friends against the better interest of his countrymen. But they are wrong. Deegong was following his playbook and a tactic that could give him better hold of his sensitive relations with China. Dealing with a bully does not call for a linear response, as the President knows very well, being adept at the craft of intimidation himself.

If memory serves, during the tragic Rizal Park hostage crisis of PNoy in 2010, an ex-policeman hijacked a tourist bus and with the intervention of the Filipino “elite kuno SWAT,” resulted in the massacre of eight Chinese citizens. As this was with full TV coverage for several hours, an international uproar ensued. And what did the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, do? He was “silent” — except for a formal protest through proper channels. This is diplomacy. Similarly, the Deegong may have understood its nuances, commenting only when things are clearer.

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And then the Deegong opened his mouth. “This was just a minor incident and China can fish in the Philippine waters…because we are friends.” Then the s–t hits the fan.

Mr. President, this is not a question of friendship. This is international diplomacy where leaders do not speak personally for themselves but collectively for the people. This is not a Davaoeño’s informal concept of “ato-ato ra ni, istoryahan na lang nato ni!” (Let’s just talk informally by ourselves.)

“Chinese can’t fish in PH territory” (The Manila Times, headline June 27, 2019). “Letting Chinese fish in PH waters hit as illegal” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, headline June 27, 2019). “The Philippine government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine (South China) Sea because it will violate the Constitution” (Supreme Court Justice Carpio). “Impeach Duterte, Palace dares critics” (The Manila Times, headline June 28, 2019).

I will not add to this cacophony and argue for or against except to put in proper perspective the sorry state of the presidency and the knee-jerk response of the President’s men. All the senior people from the foppish spokesman to the normally sober SecDef to the tactless first diplomat (calling VP Robredo “boba”) to the “Uziseros” Cusi and Piñol contributing to the chaos by saying one thing and reversing themselves — to where the President leans. And where is the NSC Adviser Hermogenes Esperon in all this? His silence is deafening. He should be in the forefront wading in the muck. You can’t allow the President to talk his head off by his lonesome. The Deegong needs a “heat shield” to deflect all sorts of criticism and attacks. This is the job of the President’s alter ego on matters of national security.

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In short, these senior people don’t serve the President well if they remain “loyal yes men” — unable to give good advice to the Deegong, even if such is contrary to his position and inviting his wrath.

Enough already! The President’s marionettes and court jesters should just shut up and revert to the country’s pressing problems that impact more heavily on the Filipinos’ daily lives. I refer to a scam that has been ongoing for years. KAPA, a Ponzi scheme, needs the attention of the Office of the President badly as this is eating into the sinews of his primary base — the poor and downtrodden.

This onerous money-making scheme plays into the Filipino’s desperate dream of riches, an infectious disease affecting both the poor masses and the greedy, mixed in the deadly cauldron of religion. The “Kabus Padatu-on” (make the poor rich, or KAPA) is a religious ministry spreading in social media, enticing the faithful to invest a one-time donation in return for receiving a monthly 30 percent of the amount for life. There is no way any investment in any facet of the legitimate economy or business can offer that kind of return. What is galling is that this scheme has been known to government authorities. In fact, “…the SEC said it issued an advisory against KAPA as early as March 2017, a cease and desist order on Feb. 14, 2019, and an order revoking its registration on April 3 this year.” The SEC declared that KAPA was in violation of Republic Act 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code (SRC). But there are whispers that local government candidates in the recent elections tolerated this scheme to raise campaign funds. But our law enforcement agencies did not do anything until the recent exposure in the press. DU30 should start cutting some heads off.

Similar schemes have reared their ugly head in the recent years. The Legacy Group of companies’ pre-need plans promised doubling your “investments” after a short period of time. The group included rural banks accepting deposits, with company officials dipping their dirty little fingers into it for bogus loans for personal use. Bangko Sentral (BSP) eventually filed charges of estafa in 2009 against the company for offering unregistered securities. What made the scam attractive to others was the inclusion of their biggest victims as a come-on, a former speaker of the House of Representatives who reportedly lost P18 to 20 million.

And these swindles keep appearing intermittently among the most vulnerable sectors of our society — the rural folk. Yet our officials are instead occupied in mulling over the nuances of the Reed/Recto Bank incident, whether DU30’s invitation to China to fish in our EEZ constitute an impeachable offense. But what takes the cake are the Senate President’s profound reflections on “…the difficulty of exclusivity (of EEZ) underwater (as) the Philippine fish could come from China…and (conversely) Chinese fish could come from the Philippines.” Deep thoughts, indeed!

Published in LML Polettiques