On the Roll – but Until When?

After junking the second impeachment complaint by sheer number of votes of the majority coalition, the Macapagal Arroyo administration is now ramming through its charter change initiative. Striking while the iron is hot, the administration is throwing all caution into the air to steam-roll its agenda.


The Macapagal-Arroyo administration and its allies in the House of Representatives seem to believe in only one principle: strength in numbers. They junked the second impeachment complaint dubbed as the “people’s complaint” not because it is lacking in substance, for they refused to even take a look at the seven boxes of evidences, but because they have the numbers. Rep. Edcel Lagman was right when he said that the second impeachment complaint was dead on arrival. Not because it is a mere rehash of the charges brought before the House last year but because as Rep. Prospero Nograles pointed out, impeachment is really a numbers game. In the first place, the genuine impeachment complaint was not even considered last year as the House voted to take up only the Lozano complaint, which it also readily dispensed with.

Emboldened by this victory of sorts, it is now ramming through its charter change initiative in much the same way. After seeing that the petition of Sigaw ng Malacanang, euphemistically called Sigaw ng Bayan, would encounter rough sailing, as it still has to pass through the approval of the Supreme Court, the Macapagal Arroyo administration is now banking on its most reliable henchmen, the representatives of the House.

Responding to the call of the times (i.e. the need to start building up their campaign kitty), the majority coalition in the Committee on Constitutional Amendments easily, without benefit of discussion, passed a resolution to transform Congress into a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending the 1987 Constitution. The House still needs to approve the resolution in a plenary session. But unless one wants to bore oneself to death listening to official arguments repeated over and over again, there is no need to monitor the plenary session to know how the voting would go.

Desperate measure

The political will and decisiveness the Macapagal Arroyo administration is exhibiting does not emanate from a vision of progress. It is a desperate measure for survival. The Macapagal-Arroyo administration is not trying to move on, it is trying dig in.

By rejecting the impeachment complaint, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration wishes that the crisis of legitimacy hounding it would simply go away. By pushing for charter change, the government hopes to bury the crisis along with provisions of the 1987 Constitution which protect the national patrimony, safeguard against the return of a dictatorship, and promote human rights

With its charter change initiative, the administration hopes to hit two birds with one stone – the crisis of legitimacy and obstacles to its neo-liberal agenda.

Already it is trying to condition the minds of the Filipino people. The television commercial pitching for charter change tries to convey the message that the political crisis will go away with the shift from a presidential to a parliamentary-unicameral form of government. It even lumps together and portrays the people power uprisings that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and the Estrada administration, and the Oakwood mutiny as symptoms of the problem of the current system of government.

The political crisis enveloping the country cannot simply be attributed to the presidential form of government. But it can be attributed to the one claiming to have the mandate as president.

The people power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship was not the problem, it was the solution. It was in fact a triumph of democracy. The people power uprising that removed the Estrada administration was not an indictment of the system, it was an indictment of corruption.

In a worse state

Unfortunately, now we have both – a dictatorship and corruption that is even worse than before, thus the Oakwood mutiny. And it is not because we have too much of people power, it is because we still have a lack of it.

If successful, the impact of Macapagal-Arroyo’s charter change is much like hitting the Filipino people with lightning more than twice.

With the proposed amendments to the constitution, it would be easier for Macapagal Arroyo to openly declare Martial Law or to continue constricting civil liberties to perpetuate itself in power.

Under 14 years of Martial Law, there were 729 victims of enforced disappearances and 1,500 extra-judicial executions. In the less than six years of the Macapagal Arroyo administration there are already 181 victims of enforced disappearances and 752 extra-judicial executions. Would we allow the Macapagal Arroyo administration to have more powers to continue committing these abhorrent crimes with impunity?

Under the current dispensation, the Macapagal Arroyo administration is already being rocked by corruption scandals left and right. With more dictatorial powers, it would be given a freer hand to dip its hands into the nation’s coffers.

Second, there would be an intensification of the destructive policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization.

The Filipino people are already reeling from run-away prices and rates of basic commodities and services, such as water and electricity all because of the deregulation of the oil industry and the privatization of utilities. The promise of lower rates and more efficient services with privatization has resulted in the opposite. And the proposed amendments to the constitution would result in more privatization.

Domestic agriculture and local businesses are suffering because of liberalization. Because of liberalization, the country was transformed from an exporter to a net importer of rice. Small landowners and peasants are sinking deeper into debt. (Bulatlat.com)

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