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Theres The Rub

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:08:00 10/09/2008

Filed Under: Elections, Politics, Charter change

To go back to what I was saying last Thursday, I beg to differ from Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang?s analysis that they wrote for Global Source, titled ?Minefields on the Road to 2010.? ?Minefields on the Road to 2010.? [Read story] In their paper, they propose that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will attempt Charter change before her time is up because she has nothing to lose. If it prospers, fine, she can find a way to run again. If it doesn?t, just as fine, at least she won?t be seen as a lame duck.

My position here is that Arroyo will initiate Charter change not because she has nothing to lose but because she has everything to lose. Not because she has something to gain but because she has everything to gain. In the past Charter change did not prosper because she wasn?t its direct beneficiary. Today, she is. She will move heaven and earth to do it. Declaring emergency rule to overcome resistance to it is more than probable. She has two ready-made excuses for it: the war in Mindanao and the economic crisis.

Are we helpless in the face of this?

Not at all. There are a couple of things we can do, which are no-lose propositions. If they work, fine, we?ll have rid ourselves of the greatest bane that has befallen this country since martial law, or since the Japanese Occupation. If they don?t, well at least we will have stopped Charter change dead in its tracks. To this day, I can?t understand why we?ve allowed ourselves to be passive or defensive, content to parry one imposition after another by Malacaang, patting ourselves in the back after we?ve halted them. Or think we do: Those impositions, like Executive Order 464, simply metamorphose into other forms, like ?executive privilege.? It?s time we brought the fight to them.

The first option is suggested by the very thing the political thugs in Pampanga province are trying to do to Gov. Ed Panlilio, which is to oust him by way of recall. That has got to be one of the most mind-boggling acts of deviltry ever to have sprung from the mind of this regime. Yes, this regime, if only by tacit encouragement. If they?re doing this to an ordinary official who has been duly elected but has performed duly poorly while in office (mediocrity is the middle name of local officials), it would already be intolerable. That they?re doing this to an extraordinary official, one who was voted by the people of Pampanga in protest over the pigsty their former governors had turned their province into, and who has performed unduly resplendently raising revenues by 1,000 percent simply by exercising honesty, is just plain obscene.

I?ll get back to that another day. The point here is this: If these people can do this to the duly elected governor of Pampanga, why can?t we do this to the non-duly elected president of the Philippines? If these people can do this to the best governor Pampanga has had in a long time, why can?t we do this to the worst governor this country has had in a long time?

Panlilio?s detractors crow that they already have more than 100,000 signatures asking for his resignation on grounds of incompetence and calling for new elections to be held in Pampanga. I have no doubt that if a signature campaign were undertaken calling for Arroyo to resign and for new elections to be held on grounds of illegitimacy?never mind corruption, treason and the perversion of everything we hold dear, they are derivative crimes?it will get as many signatures as there are people in this country. Without the signature-seekers having to pay off anybody. Indeed, the number of signatures may exceed the population of this country, some people wanting to affix their names to the document 10 times.

The other option flows from this, which is a call for snap elections. Unlike the signature campaign in Pampanga, which simply assumes new elections, you need to push for this explicitly because it is more problematic. My position here has always been for a caretaker government under the Chief Justice to prepare for and oversee snap elections. If the issue is legitimacy, then the Vice President may not naturally step into the President?s shoes: The presidency is not being vacated, it has never been occupied.

Frankly, I don?t know why no group has thought to launch these campaigns. At the very least the first one, given the obdurate legal precedent Panlilio?s foes have just provided the world. To the possible reaction that these things won?t prosper, the courts will shoot them down, my reply is this:

Why ever not? If the Panlilio case can prosper, although it has neither legal nor moral leg to stand on, why can?t this one which has more legs to it than a centipede? If the courts shoot it down, then the injustice becomes patent. I personally think this country?s capacity for outrage hasn?t been snuffed, and can be stoked to crackling fire given a dramatic contrast between Panlilo being punished for honesty and Arroyo being rewarded for dishonesty.

More than that, a campaign of this sort has two things going for it. At the very least, it has the power of articulation. It is not enough that the surveys say most Filipinos believe Arroyo is a fake president and her rule sucks. You have to dramatize it. A signature campaign recalling Arroyo and calling for snap elections makes those sentiments palpable, immediate and urgent. It makes them real. At the very most, a campaign of this sort seizes the initiative.

What do we want to do, wait for this regime to spring Charter change on us and only then spring into action? This initiative pulls the rug from Charter change. If it says anything louder than thunder, it is that the Charter is genuine, the One-in-Charge is fake. The Charter ain?t broke, the One-in Charge is. The Charter doesn?t need changing, the One-in-Charge does.

What?s there to lose, except our collective pain in the ass?

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