People’s Initiative: Is the new game in town worth the candle?


bu-op-icons-sarahIt seems clear, especially now that we have yet another Aquino for a president, that the dream of a democratic political field is still a tough and necessary task.

The pork barrel system is still alive and well in government despite a year of people’s incessant clamor for its abolition; and the Supreme Court’s decision on the unconstitutionality of PDAF and DAP. One can only conclude that Mr. Noynoy Aquino has made a rubber stamp out of Philippine Congress. His forceful and defensive presidential address against the unconstitutionality of DAP, and his subsequent drive to change the meaning of “savings” altogether, in order to maintain his own presidential pork, indicates his resolve to undermine and eventually weaken the Supreme Court, a branch of government which he has identified—with much passive aggression—as an obstruction to development.

Damn the people, do you say?

Blood Rush’s precedent piece describes the act of “Vivos Voco” (which literally means “I call on the living”), and argued that where autocrats rule, they call on the living. It must be added that autocrats do so by appealing to the people’s deepest aspirations, and connecting the same with a monolithic national agenda. When is a national agenda for development monolithic? It is easily detected in its concrete effects: massive profits for a minority on account of the majority’s massive labor. The monolithic national agenda that has shaped governance in this nation, since the U.S.-sponsored establishment of the Commonwealth, has recruited inconstant, indolent, and inefficient leaders from the economic elite who, in turn, have succeeded in expanding their sources of economic and political profit by making a business out of government service. That is bureaucrat capitalism loud and clear, as much as it is nasty and deadly.

Confronted by the persistence of bureaucrat capitalism and its attendant politics of patronage, it is tempting and even convenient for some to attribute the same to people’s incapacity to live by the democratic rules of civil society. “Due to the conditions of their existence, the masses are unfit and lack a feel for the game of democratic reform.” Needless to say, that line is less a clear-headed reflection on people’s dispositions than an apology for elite rule. It is not telling anyone anything that mainstream corporate media have not told everybody about: the brute character of the masses; their undue sense of immediacy marked by a lack of sense of the future; and their tendency to capitulate to all forms of corruption. It is all a publicity drive that is being transmitted by the spin doctors of the Aquino government in order to make up for the latter’s indolence and incompetence. No doubt such sleazy publicity also functions as cover up for the regime’s massive pillaging of public funds.

When there is an observable tendency for people to surrender to the mechanisms that make for a corrupted social system, what might the human sciences through social criticism contribute? A deification of the ruling elite through a desecration if not total defilement of the people, the same species that constitute these spin doctors’ liberal democratic enterprise? What the yellow crew of defenders of the Aquino regime have yet to realize is their own bankrupt sense of the game. The people whom the regime posits as hapless players in the slow-moving phase of the nation’s development are almost always off tempo, so they say. We are either too early or too late for them. Too early to file an impeachment complaint against the president, no compelling evidence to implicate their Master. Yet weighed down by well founded indictments such as betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution on account of DAP and EDCA, and recently, the trashed impeachment complaint that exposes the hidden pork in Congress, the Aquino regime drumbeats charter change for term extension.

When a president makes a rubber stamp out of the legislature , and clips the powers of the judiciary, he must be doing it for something. To get ahead of the game in which he deems he is almost losing? And dictatorship through a term extension is a way to win as if People Power I, or the French Revolution for that matter, never happened? And of the too early birds that double up as late comers in this regime’s self-serving analysis of social dynamics, they are taking too long to realize the potential and actual fruits of Aquino’s brand of reform. Rubbish.

Lately, the Aquino regime reveals itself as not having the game under its own skin. It hardly even knows its practical way to the game’s future, much less, a sense of history of the game. What is more castrating than failing to embody the game that one claims to be a family legacy?

But who’s gaming?

That line of reasoning which sees the masses unfit for modern forms of governance fails to realize that the social field is not interpretable in a mode of analysis that merely uses scraps of psychology and applied linguistics to reinforce a crude theory of reception and a pseudo-ideology critique that reduces the persistence of a social order to only one factor: people’s insatiable appetite for their own oppression. How can anything be more absurd than blaming the people when the real culprits continue to commit crimes against society with impunity?

The corruptible character of “civil society” is rather symptomatic of an enduring crisis of a backward pre-industrial economy whose political and cultural structures are controlled by foreign policies issued by an imperialistic force that aims at economic and military expansion on account of its own crisis. The people have been forced to play a game in which the ruling class of imperialist US, in cahoots with the local ruling elite represented by Mr. Aquino, are bound to bring the populace to chaos and general confusion. How so? It is becoming clear, from all kinds of evidence, that these powerful forces want us to draw direct correlations between dictatorship and development. “In the hands of an Aquino, it shouldn’t be so bad.” It is precisely in this manner that dictatorship, reform, and economic development are knotted together to form an ideological loop evocative of fascism. As for the yellow cheapjacks, they will, of course, go on talking about reform-in- democracy in such a highly stylized manner of gibberish.

Meanwhile, Aquino’s Matuwid na Daan ceases to be the only game in town. Of late, the clamor to abolish the pork barrel system has taken on a legal-democratic shape in the People’s Initiative (PI). From a humanist perspective, a law passed through the R.A. 6735 supersedes any constitutional provision that it has declared inferior to its own constitutional claim.

Relative to the any law passed through a constitutional commission or a constituent assembly, PI is more compelling as it operates on the principle of direct democracy, i.e. the people making laws for the people and not just representatives of the people making laws for the people. The former empowers the citizenry to say, “Let’s make laws that will be good for us.”The latter, as configured by representative democracy, entitles politicians to their undying claim: “We know what’s good for you.”

The current call for a PI to abolish pork has been launched in Cebu in August 23. But we hardly heard anything about it from the yellow media. Fortunately, on Facebook, a history professor from a public university describes the event:

“I stood off from my seat, to go to the rest room at the third floor of the mariner’s court and to be able to distance a little and get a sociologist’s view on the whole movement at the floor. My hair stood on my skin as I saw the hall packed-up with all delegates from the different Islands and organizations all over the country. Saw everyone was quite serious and focused… and the opening ceremony came with the Sinulog offering of the USC dance troupe. The speeches said it all. There is an institutionalization of a Noynoy Aquino Dictatorship now, especially with the move to change the charter to extend his term, its intention to cut the mandated powers of Supreme Court and the continuation of the PDAF and the DAP despite SC ruling. The same experience on goose hairs with Ms. Stella Palomo was felt when the marchers came and converged at the Plaza Independecia to sign the PI documents set at the grounds. It was quite an overwhelming event. The people, the church, the social movements are all one against the government and its sustained stubbornness to hold on and justify its wickedness. All the speakers of the different persuasions were one in condemning Aquino’s culpability and arrogance…”

The professor further provides concrete bases for such strong feelings for PI:

“It seems like Aquino’s paradigm of authoritarian rule is another variant from that of the Marcos dictatorship. Everything that we fought against during the time of the dictator is repeatedly done by Noynoy Aquino. We know that the moment they will tinker on the charter it will surely bleed us to hell. This is bad especially that he [Noynoy Aquino] plans to destroy the Supreme Court. A pattern shows that he maintains a motley crew of advisers or defenders from yellow academics, some lawyers, some economists, military mutineers and other professionals from the ranks of yellow partylist AKABAYAN. He asserts his positionality through the use of his tears… And then he lashes his tongue openly against the supreme court. I am afraid that Noynoy will be paying the Senate again to oust the Supreme Court judges soon. He uses “voices” that he heard in his crooked brain to justify an extension of term. He sustains that the poor need him most more than anything else. This new variant of a dictatorship is like governance from a schizophrenic dictator. Noynoy Aquino feels he is the MESSIAH who must circumvent the constitution to sustain his office so that the poor can stand their difficulties…This president forgot about his criminal liability to the Yolanda victims. There is something wrong with him.” (Phoebe Zoe Maria)

Today, on the anniversary of the Million People March against the pork barrel scam, the people will stand up and sign up against all forms of pork. They will do so through the PI or the “Abolish the Pork Barrel System Bill.” The bill needs the support/signature of 3% of voting citizens from all legislative districts in the country. That is roughly 5-6 million signatures against pork. Signing up continues for the rest of the year. It should not be difficult as the CBCP has endorsed it; LGUs have expressed their support; and different organizations have began to mobilize their forces in all parts of the archipelago.

Just how powerful is the PI?

No law created through PI or RA 6735 can be repealed by any other enactment of a law except through another people’s initiative. This particular PI for the abolition of the pork barrel system criminalizes all practices and all parties guilty of perpetuating and sustaining any form of lump sums or discretionary pork barrel in the national budget.

But what makes the PI really compelling is its grip on the construction of a democracy. Who will replace Aquino is a nagging question thrown at his critics and political opponents.

Some even engage in disempowered talk such as the so-called impeachment and people power fatigue. Clearly, politicians who have betrayed public trust and violated the constitution benefit from such expressions of tiredness. But are the people really tired? What on the basis of the social sciences can be said about the human condition? To say that they are tired of laying claim to democracy amidst the glut exhibited by their leaders is irrelevant to a question decisively crafted for empowerment.

One of the pitfalls of national consciousness is the general tendency to embrace the national agenda crafted exclusively by the political elite as the people’s agenda. A radical approach to Philippine history reveals what the Spanish and American occupation of the Philippines meant for our heroes: they must give their lives for sovereignty and dignity. Yet the course of neo-colonial history has also made us understand that it is not only a foreign occupying power that can threaten people’s sovereignty and dignity.

The local bureaucratic elite can stop accumulating economic and political power from public office when the conditions for profit-making in government are eliminated. The PI for the abolition of the pork barrel system will make it harder for the ruling elite to perpetuate themselves through massive looting of public funds. With the success of the people’s initiative against pork, a new crop of leaders uninterested and even opposed to bureaucrat capitalism will emerge to truly serve the people. This way, our political choices don’t always have to be between the devil and the deep blue sea. (

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