People’s Governance, Not Arroyo’s Charter Change

By Antonio Tujan Jr.
Ibon Features
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The current people’s initiative for charter change is itself a mockery of genuine people’s governance because it reportedly involves bribing voters and local government officials—a classic example of graft and corruption.

The shift to a parliamentary system under the proposed charter change (Cha-cha) would “significantly reduce” corruption in the political system, according to House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

De Venecia said that the proposed shift would set elections on a five-year cycle and provide state funding to move the country towards a strong two-party system. He added that a parliamentary government tainted by corruption could fall through a no-confidence vote introduced in parliament. On the other hand, a presidential system offers only the difficult process of impeachment to remove a president.

But the proposed shift to a parliamentary system is a shallow response to a societal problem that is more deep-rooted that government realizes or cares to admit.

Corruption is systemic and a product of the form of governance dominated by a small ruling elite who regard government or public office as an extension of their property or business. Thus, without people’s governance, any mechanism to solve corruption will fail miserably.

People’s governance is the only effective and most comprehensive solution to corruption. Unfortunately, the current Cha-cha drive has less to do with promoting people’s governance and more to do with salvaging an illegitimate regime tainted with allegations of severe corruption.

The current people’s initiative for Cha-cha is itself a mockery of genuine people’s governance because it reportedly involves bribing voters and local government officials—a classic example of graft and corruption.

Systemic Corruption

Stressing that corruption can be minimized by adopting a system that would make it easier to replace a corrupt chief executive is confusing the issue by viewing corruption as an individual act instead of the product of a flawed system.

Corruption is generally defined as “using public power for private gain”. The problem however is that this definition is commonly interpreted in terms of individual acts, focusing on the issue of how “private gain” is made. Instead of focusing on the nature of public power and how it is organized by the ruling elite to fit their interests, thus providing the foundation for systemic and systematic corruption, the focus is on creating mechanisms or instruments to prevent individual cases.

Bureaucrat Capitalism

In the Philippines, corruption is the manifestation of an even bigger socio-economic problem, one that has been described as far back as the 1960s as “bureaucrat capitalism.”

As early as the US colonial era, local bureaucrats were weaned and bribed by colonial masters to uphold a system of foreign domination and exploitation. These “bureaucrat capitalists” partook of the wealth that was extracted by local big business and landlords while upholding the interests of monopoly capital. They used the government as a giant private enterprise in the service of profit. Graft and corruption became integral to the Philippine state.

The most efficient and trusted bureaucrats gained the political and financial backing of the US during the elections. A tradition of subservience was carried on by succeeding administrations. Bureaucrat capitalism reached its acme in the Marcos dictatorship which has become the model of the Arroyo administration.

So it hardly comes as a surprise when there were widespread allegations in 2001 of bribes or pay-offs to lawmakers for the immediate passage of anti-people measures such as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). The big monopolies clearly had the lawmakers in their pockets. And some players in the power sector were ahead of the others in securing deals from the government.

It is also not surprising that President Arroyo and the First Gentleman were accused of stashing away undeclared campaign contributions running to the millions of pesos.

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