Sunday, April 23, 2006

An oversight on oversight

The people send their representatives to Congress not just to make laws but also to see to it that the laws they make are not useless, wasteful or harmful and are being applied according to the purposes intended. The first congressional function is called legislation and the other is known as oversight.

The scope and complexities of modern government provide a compelling argument today for the oversight function of Congress assuming greater significance than mere lawmaking. Congress, in the performance of its oversight role, is understood, among other things, to make sure:

1. The policies or laws so made are executed according to the congressional intent and that any rulemaking authority lawfully re-delegated to the executive branch is used in pursuance of such intent
2. Every expenditure of public money counts (by preventing abuse, dishonesty and waste on the part of the executing agency)
3. There are ample and flexible opportunities for midcourse assessment of legislative or policy goals and priorities so as to allow for corrective actions
4. Individual rights are not transgressed by the execution of the laws
5. Grievances, feedbacks and criticisms (such as by the constituents, the media and the academes) of policies made are appropriately addressed.

Thus, it may be an oversight for the Philippine Supreme Court to imply in any way - as could somehow be gleaned from its newly promulgated decision in Senate of the Philippines v. Eduardo R. Ermita - that the constitutional authority for congressional oversight stems only from Section 22 of Article VI of the Constitution. For there is a wide range of specific constitutional basis from which the oversight authority of Congress is directly derived, such as: a) The power to reorganize the government bureaucracy (including the executive and judicial agencies), b) The power of taxation , c) The power of appropriation, d) The power of impeachment, e) The power of confirmation, f) The power to declare war, g) The power to raise and support the armed forces, and h) The power of inquiry and investigation (into the operation of the executive branch to examine current policies and formulate new, or improve on existing, ones).

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson wrote as a young scholar in his 1885 treatise Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics (in the first known use of the term congressional “oversight”) in this manner:
Quite as important as legislation is vigilant oversight of administration. It is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees. It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the wisdom and will of its constituents. The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function. (Italics mine)
As shown in the foregoing, the power of inquiry provided under Section 21 of Article VI is just one specific source of the totality of the congressional oversight authority. In this case, the power of inquiry is employed as a tool to carry out the oversight function just as the subpoena and contempt powers are availed of as mechanisms ancillary to the same function. It is not therefore correct to suggest that the oversight power is of lesser consequence than the power of inquiry.

Section 22 of the same Article VI is one other source of the oversight authority of Congress. The Supreme Court in the Senate case, adopting the characterization of then constitutional commissioner and chairman of the Legislative Committee Hilario Davide, calls Section 22 as the provision on “Question Hour”. Such interpretation is not mistaken except that this section, it should be noted, underscores more the interdependence of the two political branches of the government than their separation (hence, its rather non-obligatory or “discretionary” nature by contrast with Section 21). The same section acknowledges the privilege of the heads of the executive departments to appear, with the consent of the President, and be heard by Congress on matters pertaining to their departments (as, for example, in a request by a department head for enhanced powers or greater funding for his department).

In the overall scheme of the oversight function of Congress, Sections 21 and 22 of Article VI are not only complementary but, to borrow Davide’s words, “very, very essential” to each other.

In my humble opinion, in the light of the constitutional conception and overriding reach of congressional oversight, the Supreme Court lacks firm grounding in the following explanation it has provided in the said Senate case:
Sections 21 and 22, therefore, while closely related and complementary to each other, should not be considered as pertaining to the same power of Congress. One specifically relates to the power to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, the aim of which is to elicit information that may be used for legislation, while the other pertains to the power to conduct a question hour, the objective of which is to obtain information in pursuit of Congress’ oversight function.

When Congress merely seeks to be informed on how department heads are implementing the statutes which it has issued, its right to such information is not as imperative as that of the President to whom, as Chief Executive, such department heads must give a report of their performance as a matter of duty. In such instances, Section 22, in keeping with the separation of powers, states that Congress may only request their appearance.

Nonetheless, when the inquiry in which Congress requires their appearance is “in aid of legislation” under Section 21, the appearance is mandatory for the same reasons stated in Arnault.
Now, given that “in republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates” (James Madison, Federalist No. 51), one wonders why the congressional committees easily backed off (unless of course the committee members have been clueless what’s in their wallet) when President Arroyo upon a claim of executive privilege issued Executive Order 424 and the Senate itself immediately repaired to the Supreme Court to complain as if its subpoena and contempt powers were suddenly whisked away by the order like candy bars snatched by a “schoolyard bully.”

Policymaking on the part of Congress is well-nigh plenary. It is then axiomatic that the presumption of acting responsibly and constitutionally is strongly in its committees’ favor precisely because of the equivalent breadth of the oversight function in the policymaking process. This function preponderates over against the possible invocation of the so-called “executive privilege” - one that has yet to find expression in the explicit language of the Constitution.

Very clearly, executive privilege can only be invoked by way of exception. So when the executive officials fail to show that the privilege is “of such high degree as to outweigh the public interest,” as the Senate ruling describes it, in the disclosure of the supposedly privileged information, congressional oversight, as a general rule, will trump an appeal to the supposed privilege. In that event, contumacious defiance and refusal to disclose the information sought or needed by Congress for legislative purposes renders the withholding official liable to its contempt process and the attendant punitive measures. Indeed, Congress, acting through its committees, need not rely upon the all-too-measured judicial pace to exercise the ultimate power of oversight and thereupon employ the necessary enforcement tools. As to those so covered, respect for the Rule of Law demands reciprocal engagement at the minimum. On the other hand, the traditional media (and the cyberspace) ought to encourage an open and spirited discourse on the issues to secure a political system that is based on a regime of constitutionalism.

Lastly, and if only as an aside, the quote in the Senate decision from Alexander Hamilton which says “Decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man, in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished,” should have been very unflattering to President Arroyo who has decided to guard her executive secrets. Hamilton during the constitutional convention was known to be an unabashed monarchist.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Insurgent Pinoy generals, US too

There’s enough documentation to go by which to conclude that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes mutinied against the government of President Estrada in Jan. 2001 such as one when the general declared to his president in a news conference that “on behalf of your Armed Forces, the 130,000 strong members of the Armed Forces, we wish to announce that we are withdrawing our support to this government”.

But Gen. Reyes at that time was of course also defecting with the heads of the Philippine army, navy and air force as well as with Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado; and so with Estrada’s closest aide Philippine National Police Director-General Panfilo Lacson and other key presidential men such as Interior Secretary Alfredo Lim, Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla, the National Treasurer, the Internal Revenue Chief and many department undersecretaries and heads of bureaus, all according to then Vice President Arroyo “resulting in [President Estrada’s) permanent disability to govern and serve his unexpired term”.

The defection en masse was the culmination of months of massive street protests capped by the collapse of the impeachment trial; and since it succeeded in establishing a new regime, what otherwise would have been a punishable mutiny became a collective messianic act.

It is of no moment that after a successful people powered coup Arroyo immediately reverted to the status quo ante by taking oath under the 1987 Constitution or that the Supreme Court committed the faux pas of taking cognizance of Estrada’s belated challenge to Arroyo’s ascension to the presidency and demoting People Power II to no more than an exercise of free speech. The fact remains the motivation behind both is exactly to affirm the legitimacy of the new rule.

Fast forward. Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim’s version of “withdrawal of support” from President Arroyo’s government launched in Feb. 2006 has not for now resulted in the same happy ending for him. His enterprise apparently a fiasco, Lim, the commander of the elite Scout Ranger regiment, has exposed himself and his comrades to possible prosecution under the laws of the regime he failed to unseat.

In the U.S. at the present, what appears to be President Bush’s drive to save defense secretary Rumsfeld could in fact be a battle to save the falling persona of the commander in chief.

There has been a slue of rare protestations (not since Vietnam) from six generals for Rumsfeld to step down over the flawed management of the Iraq war. The most strident of such withdrawal of support came last month from Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton who was in command of the training of the Iraqi military. Eaton did not mince his criticism by calling Rumsfeld “not competent” to head the Pentagon. This week, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs wrote in Time, “the cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood.” A week ago, the highly regarded four-star general Anthony Zinni called for Rumsfeld resignation. The other insurgent generals dissatisfied with the leadership of Rumsfeld were Charles Swannack and John Batiste who commanded the 82nd Airborne and the 1st infantry division in Iraq, respectively. Still another general, John Riggs, speaking on National Public Radio on April 13, 2006, accused Rumsfeld of creating a climate of “arrogance” and demanded that he “step aside”.

Meanwhile, President Bush himself is losing his own initiative as two-thirds of Americans, by recent polls, disapprove of his handling of the Iraq war. The blows are being thrown directly at Rumsfeld but his boss is painfully absorbing the shock.

What if Gen. Lim had first officially tendered his resignation (or retired) and then openly demanded for withdrawal of support from the Arroyo government? The mutiny in the U.S., staged as it is by retired generals, falls well within the free speech clause, even if it doesn’t pass.

Do you get that one, Sirs?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mutinous Acts?

Isn’t the story of Saul one of mutiny?

Saul was a devout Jew and as such he was a persecutor of the church. He felt that Jesus’ followers were a threat to the Jewish religion. Thus, "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples," he went to the Jewish high priest for a warrant to arrest any seditious rabble-rousers and supporters (of the New Regime) in the synagogues of Damascus, where the Gospel teach-ins were attracting more converts.

As Saul approached Damascus with plans to seize the destabilizers who "belonged to the Way, whether men or women" and "take them as prisoners to Jerusalem," he balked at his plans because of a revolutionary vision that totally changed the direction of his life, initially by conspiring with a rebel named Ananias.

Luke describes what happened in Acts (Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16 and 26:4-18), and Saul (now Paul) himself mentions them in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Corinth (Galatians 1:16-21; 2 Corinthians 11:22-23).

The Christian revolution was not an immediate success. But today more than 2 billion adherents believe that the ends justified Saul’s transgression.

Acts 9:1-28

Saul's Conversion

1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"

"Yes, Lord," he answered.

11The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" 22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.[a]

23After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

26When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

28So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

Monday, April 10, 2006

People Power and moral consistency

What has emerged here and in other forums then and now is that revolutions are experienced differently by different participants according to their roles in the process and that the outcomes may be manipulated even by non-revolutionary actors to achieve self-serving objectives other than those conceived by the true rebels.

For example, while now we know the outcome of People Power II is mere “personnel change,” there are those who have given thought to the interpretation (myself among them, and also mlq3 it seems) that one of the objectives of People Power II was the attainment of a systemic change. A post of mine, more or less contemporaneous to the events, would reveal this personal perception:
It should be noted that the ‘system in place’ was illegitimated as the people’s consciousness about the fundamental crack in the system was hastened by the education provided by the impeachment trial through the intercession of information technology and, of course, the ubiquitous media. The realization that the government has been criminalized by the likes of Atong Ang and Dante Tan, that the malevolence of patron-client complex is not a leftist concoction after all, that the people’s representatives in the legislature personified by the ‘Dirty 11’ [the eleven senators who voted during the impeachment against the opening of the envelope believed to contain evidence incriminating Estrada] would openly pursue narrow selfish interests at the expense of salus populi, and that establishment icons like retired Chief Justice Andres Narvasa and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza could mock and manipulate the legal and judicial system through all the legalistic chicanery at their disposal, all contributed to the illegitimation of the ‘system in place.’

Through people power, the people collectively aspired to overthrow the system via the symbolic ouster of Erap, whom they perceived as the man at the helm of the status quo ante. The people revolted with the full knowledge that Erap is not the only enemy. They saw that the real enemy is the ‘system in place.’
Now, fellow blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo claims that during People Power II “People power was the cover for military mutiny and coup d’etat” among then Vice President Arroyo, General Angelo Reyes and other elements of the military.

I cannot buy DJB’s speculation as among the first things to remember is that Arroyo was a Mary-come-lately to People Power II. Recall too that there were mutinies of sort from the civilian sector of the population. One that immediately comes to mind was the resignation from the cabinet by Mar Roxas, or the unorthodox, ergo mutinous, “initiation” of the impeachment proceeding under the auspices of Manny Villar. These rebellious acts, if I recollect correctly, antedated the supposed military conspiracy to withdraw support from President Estrada, and thus should be considered as essential component of the gathering ensemble of the people power movement Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her husband Mike Arroyo and General Angelo Reyes were not party to - at the formation.

Maybe it should be pointed out anew that impeachment is also a coup d’etat, albeit a constitutional one. It is in effect an un-election process through proxies, the objective of which is to pre-terminate the term of the office of the official sought to be impeached. The un-electors (the people’s representatives in Congress) are therefore obliged to make a faithful reading of the true will of their principal. Ultimately, the issue to resolve in such a proceeding is whether the public official in the dock is entitled to continue serving the mandate first given to him during his election.

True Erap obtained about 11 million votes but the constitution provides a mechanism called impeachment for a midcourse revisiting of that mandate if the ground therefor exits. The proxies could be seen as bastardizing the constitutional process, if not the system itself, if they openly betray the people’s will as could be gleaned through the various media available for expressing public opinions. I think, in this regard, the Filipinos deserve more than we give them credit for, particularly in terms of the level of political sophistication they have achieved since the first people power. We should at least trust their wisdom of knowing that what is sauce for Erap is sauce for Gloria, or for any Erap or Gloria wannabes waiting in the wings. I do believe that at very least Filipinos are capable of achieving this moral consistency.

We’ll see, if the second impeachment against Arroyo is filed in July.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The other way to kill the rats

As a swipe at “Asian authoritarians,” the April 4, 2006 editorial of Financial Times has attempted to explain why the notion of democracy as a western product “that should no longer be ‘exported’ to east Asia” is misplaced:
Flawed individuals and constitutions, not inappropriate political philosophies, are to blame for the latest crises afflicting the democracies of south-east Asia. The problem with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippine president, is not democracy but the way she subverted it by secretly talking to an election official during vote-counting in 2004 and refusing to explain herself when damning recordings of her telephone calls were leaked.
The criticism about the “flawed” character of Arroyo has firm grounding. However, the editorial in the main indicates how uninformed Financial Times is of the philosophy of “people power” undergirding the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines. Still, I find FT’s condescension explicable over against the shabby treatment by the Philippine Supreme of the conception of the power in Santiago v. COMELEC (March 1997).

The Santiago decision, I believe, has failed to pay full obeisance to the institutional groundwork of people power democracy as laid down in the Philippine Constitution.

It should be noted that the 1987 Constitution, a product of People Power uprising, under the very first section of the article on Legislative Department, has reserved to the principal, the sovereign Filipino people, a provision for initiative and referendum as an express legislative power-sharing mechanism co-existent with that so delegated by the same sovereign to the agency of the Legislature. This is a fundamental drift from a purely representative government that cannot be simply brushed aside.

“That our constitutional regime,” I have once elaborated, “could now be said to have accommodated people power democracy as having been integrated in our borrowed form of republicanism finds support in Article XIII, Sections 15 and 16 of the Constitution defining the role and rights of people’s organizations separately from the right peaceably to assemble or to petition the government for redress of grievances as well as in Article VI, Sections1 and 32 in relation to Article XVII, Section 2 thereof reserving to the people the power of initiative and referendum.”

My views in the foregoing somehow reflect the minority opinion of the then Justice Panganiban in Santiago as well as the cogent reasoning of the late senator Raul Roco who was an intervenor in the case.

Panganiban was passionate in his dissent. He wrote:
Initiative, like referendum and recall, is a new and treasured feature of the Filipino constitutional system. All three are institutionalized legacies of the world-admired EDSA people power. Like elections and plebiscites, they are hallowed expressions of popular sovereignty. They are sacred democratic rights of our people to be used as their final weapons against political excesses, opportunism, inaction, oppression and misgovernance; as well as their reserved instruments to exact transparency, accountability and faithfulness from their chosen leaders. While on the one hand, their misuse and abuse must be resolutely struck down, on the other, their legitimate exercise should be carefully nurtured and zealously protected.
The majority in Santiago also ignored the plea of Roco during his sponsorship of Republic Act 6735 (or R.A. No. 6735, also known as the Roco Law), the enabling law under dispute for the people’s initiative to amend the constitution. Roco argued:
Under the 1987 Constitution, the lawmaking power is still preserved in Congress; however, to institutionalize direct action of the people as exemplified in the 1986 Revolution, the Constitution recognizes the power of the people, through the system of initiative and referendum.

As cited in Section 1, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, Congress does not have plenary powers since reserve powers are given to the people expressly. Section 32 of the same Article mandates Congress to pass at the soonest possible time, a bill on referendum and initiative, and to share its legislative powers with the people.
The Supreme Court, speaking through then Justice Davide, ruled in Santiago that while R.A. NO. 6735 “intended to include the system of initiative on amendments to the constitution,” it is however “unfortunately inadequate to cover that system.” The inadequacy however was more of a defect in style or in form, but enough to consign, in the language of Davide, “the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of initiative (to) remain entombed in the cold niche of the Constitution until Congress provides for its implementation.”

It would have been easy for the Supreme Court if the will was there (as in the infamous concoction of “constructive resignation”) to give its imprimatur for the institutionalization of people power by reasonably filling in the interstices in the law. The will was wanting obviously, prompting Justice Panganiban to speak loudly of his frustration: “With all due respect, I find the majority's position all too sweeping and all too extremist. It is equivalent to burning the whole house to exterminate the rats, and to killing the patient to relive him of pain . . . we should not thereby preempt any future effort to exercise the right of initiative correctly and judiciously . . . Indeed, there is a right way to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reason.”

The restrictive, if not anti-people power, route taken by the Supreme Court in Santiago, would be quite understandable in the context of the political milieu still obtaining at the time decision was handed down. Amending the constitution through people initiative that would have allowed President Ramos to stay in office beyond his single term of six years was then seen as a haunting reprise of the dirty tricks Marcos had employed to perpetuate himself in power. That in a nutshell explains the promptitude on the part of the majority to “burning the whole house to kill the rats.”

But lo, am I arguing for the reversal of Santiago so as to provide for a free passage for Arroyo’s cha-cha train to a dreaded Marcosian trek on the basis of such a reversal? No. I mean Hell No! Here’s why: This piece is an earnest call to Chief Justice Panganiban to adhere to his intellectual honesty and consistency by leading his robed brethren, if the appropriate petition is brought before the Court, to join him in his dissent in Santiago and uphold the constitutional mechanism of people’s initiative and thereby “(institutionalize the) legacies of the world-admired EDSA people power.” The Panganiban Court must declare in due time the loco motive of Arroyo’s charter change in the same way that Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion in Javellana v. Executive Secretary has in good conscience taken judicial notice of the ludicrousness of the citizens’ assemblies that supposedly ratified the Marcos constitution.

Simply put, derail and kill the rotten rats of the unabashedly self-serving Arroyo initiative but save and keep the house of people’s initiative and People Power. To quote Panganiban anew: “. . . we should not thereby preempt any future effort to exercise the right of initiative correctly and judiciously . . . Indeed, there is a right way to do the right thing at the right time and for the right reason.”

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Humala or himala

Manuel L. Quezon III blogs, “The lack of clarity as to what comes next . . . has the middle class and others in mortal terror of a state of general disorder and lawlessness,” as if to say only a miracle (himala) could save the middle class from the dire consequences of venturing into the unclear and uncertain.

In A season to be jolly, my inaugural entry in Red’s Herring, I suppose I have put forth the following observations relative to mlq3’s angst:
The lesson learned from the two people power upheavals is clearer now: a change of the personalities of the political leadership without replacing a failed system in place is no transformation at all. Now people power practitioners are critically thinking through their alternatives; hence, they are not taking the streets precipitately or lending warm bodies to form the “hooting throng.” The hesitation seems not one borne out of fear or frustration but more as an exercise of superior wisdom.

The Great Beast just does not want to be hoodwinked quite easily into entrusting again its fate to a supposedly better agency. This time, the sovereign particles refuse to serve as mere cannon fodders: they want to be a part of the process of transformation going forward. This way of behaving - instead of emaciating “people power” as even some well-meaning political observers suggest - fortifies the essence of the power because not only that it confronts the system in place according to the system’s own framework, it minimizes the likelihood of violent confrontation. Hence, the good reason and a season to rejoice.
The Filipinos have actually three choices for a change process today:

1) Personnel change
2) Regime change
3) Radical restructuring of the political, social and economic order.

Personnel change is what happened in the turnover of power during People Power II. The Supreme Court convenient abracadabra: a case of “constructive resignation” it was. Hence, Vice-President Arroyo took office as the constitutional successor of the “resigned” President Estrada. The coup de grace about the immediate return to the status quo ante was the announcement of Arroyo, now president, at her first Vin d’ Honneur two days after: “During my administration democracy and the market will be the guiding principles of my domestic and foreign policies.” She did not want to be a magician, just a “good president,” she would later explain. Arroyo may have breached that last promise, but not her avowed business-as-usual governance approach, i.e., the continuance of the ancien regime, a true revolution in a literal sense as it means a return to the same state of affairs.

Regime change, from authoritarian reign to a democratic republic, is what had taken place during People Power I. The Yellow Revolution ended Marcos one-man rule and the people regained their civil liberties and political rights. But the Aquino government fell far short on social and economic reforms. There was the sense that without social and economic justice, a democratic regime would remain meaningless to most Filipinos. The middle class too felt relatively deprived as the comparable economies of neighboring countries began to transform to a coveted “tiger” status even as these hardworking Filipinos found theirs joined the laggards in the region or in fact slid into a humiliating basket case role. As a result, many decided to opt out of the social arrangement. The self-content economic elites that the Aquino clan represents could not provide them a decent choice to slug it out in their homeland. To many of them the opportunity could not match their aspirations. (Still does as Dawin relates a touchy piece about a rather well-off bossom buddy leaving the country for good “to secure a better future” for his family).

Radical restructuring is a scary proposition, no doubt. However, is any Filipino of note, one who has any chance of being at the helm, entertaining it at all? For one thing, the last presidential elections have confirmed the absence of ideological or substantive wedge issues that markedly differentiated one presidential aspirant from the other. The candidates’ menus were one and the same, in terms of what they want to bring to the table. On the other hand, when China and Russia today are not only embracing the market but inching closer to democracy as well, what alternative can the Philippine Left offer that’s appealing to the middle?

I was not merely engaging in rhetorical verbosity when I urged the following in another entry:
What our communities and the country need today is to act decisively upon certain arrangements on the basis of a national consensus that is motivated not by any sense of defeatism and despondency but out of the awareness that the possibilities are great precisely when together we adhere to the spirit of Bayanihan and the practical realities of interdependence. And the promises of accomplishing what’s hoped could not be any more immense than by going forward with the alternative of mobilizing the great Filipino common sense and trusting the resources and harmony of many minds.

In the context of a socially energizing force that’s distinctively Filipino, one possible alternative proposition . . . to the robber baron, the zaibatsu, the chaebol or [Taiwan's] countryside industrialization model is: whether the gateway to equitable accumulation and ultimately national development could also be accessed by way of the power of consensus of people power democracy that’s willing to learn from the best practices that work and, based on ongoing experience and rising above ideologies, eschew things that don’t, or change even established notions and practices when concrete realities and the complex necessities for change in the service of the common good require.
The point being driven is that revolutionary changes are all-too possible to occur peacefully and within the existing system.

For example, in marked contrast to his pro market rival, Peru’s Ollanta Humala, a former army officer, has pledged in an interview with Financial Times to do the following without “(acting) outside of the law” if he wins the presidential elections scheduled next week: 1) to vary the contracts with foreign investors such as global miners that are currently exempt from paying royalties (Peru has the most productive goldmine in the world); 2) to introduce “21st-century nationalization” by changing the constitution to give the state greater than just subsidiary role in the economy, nationalizing strategic sectors (LAN Chile has a monopoly on air travel in Peru), restricting textile imports from China “to protect small productive companies” and blocking investment from neighboring Chile (from bidding in port concessions); 3) to renege on the yet-to-be-ratified trade deal Peru has agreed with Washington; 4) to not tolerate US military presence in Peru; and 5) to end US-sponsored eradication of coca - the raw material for cocaine, for which Peru receives some $100 million a year US aid - that “prevent us from industrializing and exporting legitimate cocoa products.”

“The constitution gave a lot of power to foreign companies,” Humala was quoted by FT to have declared on the campaign trail. “It created economic growth but not development,” he added. As the frontrunner in Peru's presidential elections, he evokes the confidence that radical but peaceful solutions are possible in his country.

Is anyone in the Philippines who considers himself or herself as an alternative to Arroyo thinking as loud as Humala?