Tuesday, June 27, 2006

One voice, one nation

The lesson learned from the two great upheavals in the Philippines is quite unmistakable: people power, the triumphant march of the “politically active,” purporting to represent the silent majority, is incapable of undertaking any coordinated action in the absence of a clear and manifested position about the goals and visions the movements have aspired to achieve and to which the leading participants, self-appointed or otherwise, could be held accountable. The route One Voice (whose membership includes the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; seven other bishops and archbishops; clerical activists; leaders from the academe, NGOs and the business community; electoral reformists; and political pundits) has chosen to pursue can at least be seen as an attempt to avoid this vacuity from taking place again.

One Voice five-point proposals are as follows:

1. Discontinue the present “People’s Initiative.”
2. Implement a Social Reform program now.
3. Hold elections in 2007 as scheduled, as an indirect referendum on the term of the present administration and implement genuine electoral reform now.
4. Hold a Constitutional Convention—not a Constituent Assembly or Con-Ass—after the 2007 elections assuming that there is an authentic clamor for it.
5. Exert a collective effort to rebuild the trustworthiness of democratic institutions.

No frills, the focal point of the proposals boils down to: The legitimacy issue of the Arroyo government triggered by, among others, the “Garci tapes” scandal, should be resolved via the 2007 mid-term elections with such elections considered as an “indirect referendum.”

Meanwhile, between now and the 2007 elections (the referendum), the following conditions according to the proposals should take place:

a. The discontinuance of the drive to amend the constitution through People’s Initiative.
b. The implementation of a social program, if any.
c. The implementation of genuine electoral reform.
d. The exertion of a collective effort to rebuild the trustworthiness of democratic institution.

After the 2007 elections, if there is an authentic clamor for Charter Change, hold a “constitutional convention” of delegates elected by the people for the purpose (not a “constituent assembly,” where Congress, in lieu of elected delegates, doubles as the constituent body to propose revisions or amendments to the Charter).

I have certain concerns about One Voice proposals.

First, are there mechanics in place on how to get the Arroyo camp agree to the proposals in some binding form, i.e., make President Arroyo issue a counter-proposal (such as how in her view the COMELEC body should be reconstituted and the electoral system modernized within the existing framework) or acceptance in a similarly clear and publicly manifested fashion?

Second, if pre-election conditions b, c and d are met (especially through “collective efforts”) to some perceptible extent, isn’t the fragmented opposition being pigeonholed to a no-win situation or practically relegated to a “nuisance” status, the incumbent being better-positioned to take full credit for them?

Third, given the limited timetable (barely a year), how can compliance with such gargantuan objectives as implementation of social program or genuine electoral reform, not to speak of the abstraction of building the “trustworthiness of democratic institutions” be reasonably quantified?

Last, while the political issue of Arroyo’s legitimacy is decidedly national in scope, aren’t the 2007 elections, especially in the Philippine setting, essentially local?

Granted that the multitude is not capable of undertaking any coordinated action, its various components (One Voice is one) have the means for such action. But first to force the issue, an even wider spectrum of these “minorities” should coordinate, and the fundamental commonalities having been determined and shared, act as one voice for the silent majority.

Specifically, if the main idea behind the One Voice proposals is to give Arroyo the opportunity to obtain a fresh mandate from the people and thereby resolve the question of legitimacy, isn’t referendum via “snap elections” a more direct and democratic process than, say, a resignation (voluntary, forced or constructive), ouster via a military-backed people power uprising, Supreme-Court selection, or an “indirect referendum”?

The now long-embattled President Arroyo should welcome the idea of a presidential snap election - the loose equivalent of a confidence vote in a parliamentary system, no less - that would render nugatory the second impeachment proceeding. Aside from the opportunity to wiggle out from what many think is her lameduck predicament right now deeply traumatizing the country (by resolving in an electoral exercise the lingering question of whether the tape scandal is a minor lapse in judgment or not), it would certainly be propitious for Arroyo as a presidential candidate again to raise the level of the present political discourse. For one who has a single six-year term of office liable to the vagaries of people power, she gets another chance to woo the electorates by distinguishing anew her political and economic platforms from the largely vague and disparate positions of her opponents. On the other hand, the diverse components of the opposition could grab the prospects to redefine themselves and what they stand for as one meaningful alternative.

Direct referendum could be a win-win proposition for the nation as a whole.


Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

I have inadvertently deleted the comment of mlq3 on the above blog entry hence I am reposting it here together with my reply thereto.


my understanding of one voice's proposals is that it's very conditional: that to have a chance for a credible election, you need at least 4 comelec commissioners with decent reputations. then, you need both sides to be willing to fight the elections out as a referendum on gma. then, the public has to be vigilant, even to the extent of a 1985 elections type scenario as a last ditch effort. it's not easy all around.

if the people vote vs. gma it would be shown in at least 79 pro impeachment congressmen (i think everyone assumes an anti gma sweep in the senate).

personally, in private i've asked many people in politics why a simple referendum couldn't be an option. the standard answer i get is that even if one were held, it wouldn't be binding on gma.

while i do think the public is less interested in impeachment and would prefer a snap election, it seems terribly difficult to have one: again, the politicians say you would have to have an amendment, then a referendum to approve it, and only then, a snap election -which is why an indirect referendum actually seems more possible, to me. mlq3



I’m sorry if my concluding punch line has created some ambiguity about the message I intend to convey.

What I really mean is direct referendum via snap election which to me is the middle ground between those who want GMA ousted peremptorily (e.g., preferably via PP uprising) and those who want to cling to “procedural democracy” (i.e., adherence to constitutionally mandated elections timetable and/or observance of the numbers game formula the same constitution prescribes in a pre-termination process called impeachment). I t seems that critics of One Voice are seeing from the proposals a more favorable bent towards the latter than the former aside from affording Arroyo vital breathing space between now and the 2007 elections while taking some oxygen off of PP.

Snap election will therefore mean a temporary suspension of procedural democracy in the nature of the “1985 elections type scenario,” if need be, to give the deeper tide of democracy the chance to find its natural course. (The potential votes by the sovereign’s representatives in the second impeachment are expected to be at odds again with what reliable surveys of the sampled population have been indicating.)

For the sake of the country GMA must dare to take this gambit. For example, Alan Garcia of Peru has shown that surveys can change dramatically during the campaign if clear lines are drawn between what the contending political parties represent in terms of political and economic platforms (e.g., market democracy vs. social democracy). And closer to home, didn’t GMA overtake the early lead of Roco, and then of FPJ during the campaign in the last presidential elections?

One possible sore spot of a snap election is what to do with the vice-presidency. The office is also personal to Noli de Castro but if he prefers to join the fray then fine – that is, both the office of the president and of the vice president would be at stake in the elections. Otherwise Noli will remain vice president of whoever will win the snap election.

Once the legitimacy issue is resolved, the Filipino People can now rally behind the programs of the candidate obtaining the fresh mandate. Or, the winning candidate may even take a step further by forming a “unity government” (that takes into account such social and economic programs One Voice is proposing) to enable RP to compete better first with its neighbors, and then globally.

June 28, 2006 3:01 PM  
Blogger Abe N. Margallo said...

… on the right track

Liberals, Nacionalistas
plan to combine for 2007

(Manila Times Internet Edition, Jul. 1. 2006)

By Ronnie E. Calumpita, Reporter

SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Friday confirmed that his Liberal Party (LP) has been discussing with the Nacionalista Party (NP) a possible coalition in the 2007 elections.
Drilon said the proposal was the idea of Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, the LP chairman, who recommended that the party under Drilon and the NP under Sen. Manny Villar could form a “political third force.”
The Liberals and the Nacionalistas were fierce rivals in the two-party system before martial law.
“I assume the discussions will soon be under way,” Drilon said. “I believe both the LP and the NP share a common vision in instituting much-needed reforms in our present political party system.”
He noted that both parties espouse the establishment of ideology-based politics that will finally address “the ugly politics of personalities and patronage” prevailing today.
“We should choose our leaders on the basis of the platform of government they can offer,” Drilon stressed.
Sen. Ralph Recto, a Nacionalista, said the coalition would strengthen its senatorial, congressional and local lineups in the 2007 elections. The talks, he said, could be finalized “between now and December.”
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. welcomed the LP and NP discussion on a coalition. “The projected coalition is a good move for short-term political gains,” he said.
Pimentel shared Drilon’s concern for the dearth of political substance and the heavy reliance on popularity to win an election.
“It is, however, a reflection of the lack of specific platforms that differentiate one party from the other. That is why political parties of the country are essentially weak and victory in partisan contests relies more on the personal popularity of the candidates than on party platforms,” he said.

…. but I still think the LPs and the NPs as well as other groupings of like persuasion should gun for direct referendum via snap elections.

June 30, 2006 12:00 PM  

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