Perhaps the regime figured that enabling Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to extend her immunity by allowing her to run as representative of her district and then become prime minister is less costly politically — with less chances as well of inviting an upheaval — than postponing the 2010 elections or declaring martial law, without completely closing its doors on these options.
By BENJIE OLIVEROS
MANILA – After months of playing coy and testing the water, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s minions in the House of Representatives led by House Speaker (read: Stooge) Prospero Nograles have finally rammed through House Resolution 1109 providing for the convening of Congress as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution with both houses of Congress voting as one.
The penultimate drama, perhaps played to lure the public into complacency, was the withdrawal last month of sponsorship of the resolution by Rep. Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur. The drama reached its climax with the midnight passage of the resolution on Tuesday, June 2, perfectly timed on the last week of the Congress’s session.
The administration party, which has recently emerged from a merger of Lakas and Kampi, explained the railroading of the charter change (cha-cha) resolution with the inane excuse that it just wants the Supreme Court to rule with finality on the supposed constitutional gray area of whether, in a constituent assembly, both houses should vote as one or separately. They probably thought the Filipino people are so stupid that we would accept such an silly excuse. It is no different from a criminal who fires a gun at a person and explains in court that he never intended to kill or injure the victim — he just wanted to see if the victim would die after being hit.
In the first place, the Supreme Court could not act on the matter if the Senate sits on the resolution and if nobody files a petition before the High Court. Well, of course, the Arroyo government has erstwhile Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano who immediately filed, on cue, a petition before the Supreme Court to declare House Resolution 1109 as unconstitutional. In effect, this pulled the rug from under the Senate, which was planning to block the House resolution through its inaction.
It can be recalled that it was also Lozano who filed the weak impeachment complaints against President Arroyo in 2005 and 2006 to preempt the filing of the stronger complaints. Lozano’s action enabled the administration’s underlings in the Lower House to dispatch of these with ease.
If the Supreme Court acts on the petition, there is no need for Arroyo’s allies to guess which way the decision would go. The decisions of the High Court on crucial matters such as on the question of “executive privilege,” which practically gave government officials a way of concealing anomalies by invoking this “right,” and the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement, leave no doubt as to whether the Arroyo government would get a favorable ruling on the matter. The erudite positions of Chief Justice Reynato Puno are easily drowned by the vote of the majority in the High Court who are beholden to Arroyo. If and when the Supreme Court issues a decision, would the Arroyo government merely pat each other on the back and wait till after the 2010 elections before Congress convenes itself as a constituent assembly? Of course not, because this would provide them with the legal weapon to pursue their evil designs.
Second, with or without a Supreme Court decision, Arroyo’s allies could always push through with its threat to convene itself into a constituent assembly, regardless of whether the Senate would participate or not. Our most Dishonorable Congressmen have already determined, through the resolution, that both houses of Congress would vote as one. They could say that they would stop if a restraining order or injunction is issued by the Supreme Court while swiftly dispensing with its order of business. Anyway, they could always use their numbers in railroading the lifting of term limits or providing for a shift to a parliamentary system, in removing the restrictions on the operations of foreign corporations, and in repealing the safeguards on human rights in the 1987 Constitution. By the time the Supreme Court issues its decision, it would be moot and academic.
In the unlikely event that there is conflict between the decision of the Supreme Court and the manner by which the constituent assembly proceeded, the Arroyo government could always proceed with Plan B: declare martial law just like what Ferdinand Marcos did when he did not get what he wanted from the 1971 constitutional convention: a shift to a parliamentary system — as it had been his last term — patterned after the French model with a strong president and a prime minister as figurehead. So he did it the surgical way: he declared martial law then reconvened the constitutional convention that mandated a shift to a parliamentary system, installed himself as president. And the rest is history. (Does this not give you a sense of things to come?)