Monday, April 10, 2006

On De Facto Martial Law

I confess that one of my liabilities is a deep belief in ethics. I also am a believer of democracy, free speech and free markets. In the democratic process of suffrage, I voted for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) after agonizing for months until the eve of the elections when I decided that the precarious state of the economy and the huge debt was the prime factor to consider. I figured then that despite her displeasing characteristics (she lied when she declared that she won’t run in the 2004 elections), she is the most qualified to resolve the problem. In retrospect, after learning the overwhelming torrent of truths pouring out of concealment, the squandering of tax money for her election bid, the inducements of promotion to colluding Generals, the avalanche of election manipulation, it would be a pure understatement to say I was dismayed; horrified doesn’t even come close. I was literally speechless.
Now, my stomach turns whenever I hear the Palace claim that the economy is moving forward due to her determined efforts, as I know that the agonizing economic progress is due to OFW dollar remittances and citizens’ eVat taxes. Of course I was stunned by her self-proclaimed “I am the best” egotist fantasy mimicking a champion pugilist declaration (I am the greatest). I have made many bad decisions in my life, but not as egregious as this one.
Many have labeled Malacañan as a veritable snake pit but I deign verifying this. However, nowadays I hear blatantly fallacious press releases that challenge my equanimity --- the spinning, half-truths and Orwellian-speak --- and the syndrome is turning into a plague afflicting the lower rung spokespersons of the bureaucracy, police and military. I.m convinced that the official information policy is to keep repeating the distortions and deceptions until the public thinks it is the gospel truth.
My gut feeling in the eagerly awaited Supreme Court ruling is that deep-seated debt psyche (utang na loob in Tagalog), a trait wired in Pinoy DNA, will triumph over the fundamentals of justice. The excruciating length of time for a ruling to emerge seems to indicate this.

The menace of economic collapse threatened by runaway fiscal deficit is now receding, alleviated by the expanded value added tax (eVAT). But I fear this nation is headed towards another powerful storm as the President has directed a radical change of course that may squander the gains from eVat, further widen the gap of the political divide and make a shambles of whatever unity the nation has left. Malacañan is railroading a new scheme. The grand strategy is to make a major revision of the Constitution. The prime feature of the change, called Charter Change or cha-cha, is the elimination of the Presidential cum bicameral government and replaced by a Parliamentary unicameral system..

The things in chacha that are unjustifiable and disturbing to me are:
1. The proposal is claimed to expedite legislation by eliminating an extra step (the Senate). The facilitation would also eliminate the checks and balances so frustrating to the putative Parliament members (now in the lower chamber). As a concerned foreigner commented, none of the old, established and real democracies is unicameral. Look at the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and Germany, to name a few. All these countries have two legislative chambers -- usually, with one representing the people and political parties, the other representing the federal states and the provinces
2. The proposal is claimed will reduce corruption. With no more Senate to keep Parliament in check, the claim is hard to swallow.
3. A referendum on the cha-cha is estimated by Comelec to cost 13 billion pesos, a superfluity in our heavily indebted situation where the government owes 40 billion pesos unpaid to our veterans and a fiscal deficit for 2006 is still a whopping 120 billion.
4.The initiation of impeachment at the House of Representatives in mid-2005 was a classic illustration of the tyranny of numbers. The tactics (masterfully televised by ABS-CBN) used to defeat the impeach initiative of the badly outnumbered minority group was unabashed cunning so brazen and barefaced that majority leaders often postpone or demolish debates with sly moves to adjourn or to muddle with parliamentary queries and personal privilege. It was not at first clear why the majority group in the House was so obedient to the desires of GMA (aka Ate Glue by those allergic to her ruling style, the label couched to fit her tuko-like grip on the position). Subsequent revelations made the reason crystal clear: money inducements coming from government funds allocated for other purposes juggled by the Palace. The impeachment process was finally squelched after a sham stage-managed show, one of the neatest railroad schemes I’ve seen in my lifetime.
It is difficult for me to imagine (despite my pride in the fantastic bent of my imagination) how a unicameral Parliament unrestrained by such irritations as an obstructionist Senate and such niceties as comportment, resist such temptations as unlimited “pork”, term limits, perks, and showering patronage to kin and crony. This aspect alone is the biggest single reason why chacha is dangerous to the nation’s health. Heaven forbid that such an apocalypse befall the Philippines as this entails the consequence of a leader, who is widely believed to have cheated, lied and stole in the 2004 polls, leading the nation for as long as she lives. The only good thing I can visualize from the proposal is the demise of political dynasties as the paterfamilias will be the lifetime incumbent in Parliament. And even this is arguable.
The latest shock waves emanating from GMA seem to me like practice runs to an authoritarian regime. Muzzle and intimidate the press (seditious charges), suppress rallys and freedom of speech (these are destabilizers), warrantless arrests, applying scarce police amd military units to protect the Malacañan bunker from a public siege, declaration of a national emergency to coerce certain business firms, and twisting the Constitutional provision of people’s initiative into a “Big Brother” initiative. Indeed an Orwellian Big Sister complete with Newspeak “Who says (Risa) was arrested? She was taken out of danger. She could have gotten hurt." in the incident where Congresswoman Risa Baraquel was arrested without warrant. When Risa was grabbed by her arms and led away protesting, "It was police assistance."
The Constitution mandates that the House of Representatives has the power of the purse and initiates the national budget called the General Appropriations Act. It is not generally known that most of the bills passed by the House are items that change the name of roads or schools, converting municipal/city streets or schools into national roads or schools (to shift funding burden to the national government). People may scoff at such a trivial task for a major branch of government, but the public should be thankful for the trivia --- the task keeps the legislators minds occupied with matters away from acts fleecing the public with more tax laws. But, once in a rare while, a valuable piece of legislation does originate from the House that benefits the whole nation. One of these is the Clean Air Act, yet even this is a copycat watered down version of the U.S. Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act sequel is languishing somewhere in a committee.
The press and TV are fraught with stories that magnify the fractiousness of Pinoy society stemming from distrust of their government. Some branches of government exhibit conduct that erodes confidence. The public often witnesses
defiance not deference, pomposity not civility, haughtiness not humility, arrogance not manners. When politely challenged, the likely retort of the bureaucrat boss is a dare to file the complaint in the Supreme Court. To be fair, the phenomenon is not unique to Pinoy society, the history of human progress replete with such evolutionary events. The recent student/labor turmoil in France and the forced resignation of Thaksin the Thai Prime minister are current events of note. Local media banners an unusual slant on the Thai episode, the report hinting that GMA is more macho than Thai’s Thaksin. The exact headline: Gonzalez's new gem: Arroyo has balls, Thaksin doesn't.


Anonymous said...

Hi Orly,

This is Manila Bay Watch.

You who were once in service, you realize that Gloria will go on with impunity for as long as she has a loyal dog like Esperon, the man who could break or make her, not so much because he is brilliant or whatever but because our military is still very much a subdued military.

Most of your former superiors in the Navy we know didnt have the moral courage to say no to militics, a form of corruption and they still don't have that moral courage to say enough is enough.

I am convinced, it is the younger officers and not the older one who will topple Gloria eventually, if ever they muster the courage to do it.

orly_habari said...

Esperon lacks the wits to dislodge Ate Glue and will fade away to a cozy job courtesy of his patroness. Now that another nitwit has prematurely filed an impeachment complaint versus Ate Glue, she is seemingly safe till 2010. Let us help the Senate keep the vigil against the plunder plans revealed by the ZTE fiasco.