Until now, I have yet to choose what to write on the field labeled as President on the ballot come May 2010. But as of now, it is a toss up between abstain and Chiz Escudero.

Hours before his supposed bombshell, my curiosity prompted me to call a friend who is working for a political marketing firm connected to Senator Chiz Escudero. I asked if they have any idea what would be in store for the said Senator’s press conference that morning. My contact said that they’re not anymore connected to Sen. Escudero. “But you are frat brods, ” I told him and he retorted, “I support him in my personal capacity but I really don’t know what he is supposed to announce today.”

That is very unusual as that person is very much willing to share political information to me as a quid pro quo to me sharing the things I know.

So while I’m at work, I took time to refresh three Philippine news sites (abs-cbnnews.com, gmanews.tv and inquirer.net) every now and then as I don’t want to be left behind about this. And then, the headlines graced Sen. Escudero’s shocking pronouncement that he is resigning from the Nationalist People’s Coalition, his party for the past 11 years.

At first, I don’t know how to react. Instead of dousing water on my curiosity, the information spawned more questions. Does Danding know? How about the NPC leadership? What would Chiz do now? If he runs, who’ll be his machinery?

That confusion continued until the evening news interview between Ted Failon and the senator. But that time, it wasn’t about Danding or the NPC any longer, not even about Chiz’s presidential plans (or the lack of it) or his machinery (or the lack of it again) anymore. My final confusion on the issue is why the senator, known for his courage, isn’t answering Failon’s questions in his trademarked bravery and straightforwardness. Is it because answering it frankly would hurt Danding and the NPC?

I am happy that Chiz, still my favored presidential candidate (Noynoy as far second and the others farther), is the first one to categorically state his position on critical working class issues like labor contractualization. It is way better than Aquino’s motherhood statements, Villar’s non-committal stance and Erap’s demagoguery.

But I’m still finding it hard to fully support him because there seems to be something hidden behind his evasion of Ted Failon’s questions. And when I chanced upon a well-known law dean yesterday, he informed me that his contacts are telling him that Escudero is still a presidential contender.

Yes, I believe that Chiz is still running but, for now, I’m still leaning to abstain. Not until he is courageous against Danding and NPC as he is against Gloria and Lakas-Kampi.

1. Estrada would only add to the scores of oppositionists who declared and manifested their intent to run. This further divides the votes against the administration and an administration candidate winning means that no legal prosecution against Gloria even after her term will prosper.

2. If the law would eventually allow Erap to vie for the presidency again on the premise that he is not a “sitting president”, it means that Gloria can again run after another regime. And the cycle goes on. Imagine how laughable our nation will be.

3. Even if Estrada wins, what will stop the Arroyo-appointees-dominated Supreme Court from issuing a post-election decision nullifying his electoral victory? This will be very chaotic and will rationalize Gloria’s declaration of a martial law.

The possibility of the Supreme Court being dominated by Arroyo-appointees has been the subject of political discussions for several months now. And since then, I’ve been trying to look for someone to support though I know I don’t have a say as I am not even a lawyer nor a politician.

I still would like to support someone so as to provide the necessary antagonism as Gloria is expected to simply pick the one who can deliver the needed political vote for her continuous reign at the Palace. One of the most awaited political decisions (though an actual legal controversy and a case of merit are yet to happen) of the Supreme Court would be the procedures for a Con-Ass; Gloria’s preferred mode of charter change and one of the methods to prolong her hold to power.

With this, I’d prefer that the next SC Justice be very vocal of his view on how the Constitution provides Congress the power to amend the charter. And that is how I’ve been conducting some research on the issue.

Only recently, I’ve heard that CA Associate Justice Hakim Abdulwahid, in a session of grilling by the Judicial and Bar Council, said that, “The voting should be separate. In local legislation it is separate. Moreso in respect to charter change.”

That for me is courageous as he knows that it could spell the end of his aspiration for a seat in the high tribunal. And given the situation and the number of seats that would be vacant, that is, in my opinion, enough to support Justice Abdulwahid’s bid to the SC.

And as I research about him, I have read that other people and groups are supporting Abdulwahid. They have varied reasons though but it is the 10 Muslim Congressmen’s mention of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Accord that caught my interest. They cited that the said agreement provides that it shall be our national policy to have at least one SC Justice and at least two CA Justices from among the qualified jurists in ARMM. Further research informed me that the first and only Muslim appointed in the SC was Justice Abdulwahid Bidin back in 1987, Cory’s time.

Well, that’s their reason. And as I’m not a legal expert nor a lawmaker, I’d rather support him with a reason as simple as my opposition to the Gloria Forever Plan.

In just a week after Gloria’s cohorts in the House of Representatives (thieves?) passed the Con-Ass resolution, various groups have already launched different forms of protests. To think that I am only watching videos through the internet, these creative protest actions (some may not be as lucky to be projected on television) reminds me of the time when I was still a full-time activist during the height of the anti-Erap struggle on the last quarter of the year 2000.

So I dared to make a list of the different forms of protest I’ve heard and seen:

1. Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) announced that they will siege the houses of the congressmen who voted in favor of HB 1109. They started last June 9 by pelting Quezon City District 3 Representative Matias Defensor’s concrete walls with rotten tomatoes. Another group made the same act at the District Office of Speaker Prospero Nograles in Davao the next day.

2. Sanlakas hosted a prayer intercession parody event in front of the Quiapo Church to cast the evil spirits out of those who railroaded the Con-Ass resolution. Celebrity host Tado Jimenez acts like Moses, complete with a wooden scepter, at the activity. They’ve called their tarpaulin gallery of Con-Ass railroaders as the “Altar of Traitors”.

3. RockED-Philippines hosted a silent protest at the Baywalk in Manila. One of their streamers displayed a bold “Explain Yourselves”-slogan addressed to the evil congressmen.

4. Anakbayan tried and was almost successful in reclaiming Mendiola and the EDSA Shrine as legitimate venues for demonstrations. It seems that the police force were given the instruction to finally practice maximum tolerance as violent confrontations will surely ignite the social volcano.

5. Partido ng Manggagawa used the Metro railroad tracks as a venue for their protests. Using trolleys, they chanted, “Chicha hindi Cha-cha!” Sloganeering and economism rolled into one.

6. The Liberal Party distributed small packs of Boy Bawang at the June 10 Ayala Rally to ward off the “Con-Asswang”. Of course, their Presidentiable Mar Roxas leads the pack.

7. Alab-Katipunan, in the same rally, brandished a colorful placard depicting Arroyo as the “Con-Ahass”. Creative enough for an obscure leftist organization.

8. Confessed Vice Presidentiable Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Pampanga Gov. Among Ed Panlilio and Color It Red vocalist Cookie Chua stars in a supposed anti-Con-Ass TV advertisement. They are still waiting for funding though according to a news report.

9. Anti-Con-ass activists in Cebu were seen wearing protective masks against the H1N1 virus. They just added a simple “No to Con-Ass!” to their health-conscious fashion accessories.

10. Body and face painting is the theme of the demonstration in Cagayan de Oro City.

11. The band Datu’s Tribe led by vocalist Cabring posted a hilarious photo essay protest against Con-Ass on their blog: http://lupitnicabring.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/datus-tribe-contra-con-ass-lego-adventures-3/

12. OFW Noli Benavent created a Facebook cause entitled Stop Con-Ass Now! a day after the resolution was approved. As of the latest count,  it already has more than 73,000 members.

 

this list will be updated every now and then

I am never a real believer of the Supreme Court. I have always seen the “justice” system as a state instrument of either sugar-coated repression or the spectacle of some justice.

I don’t deny though that there are some personalities that could make some institutions work for the people and their rights. I consider the current Chief Justice of the Philippines as one of them.

Despite being appointed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Chief Justice, Reynato Puno continually upheld the rights and welfare of the Filipino people in the context of how the current administration is curtailing it.

Two of the most controversial issues under the Arroyo administration are the spate of extra-judicial killings and involuntary disappearances, and the perpetual attempt to tinker with the Philippine Constitution.

Under Puno’s watch, the Supreme Court of the Philippines stripped state agents of the simplest defense of denial whenever they are being questioned regarding human rights violations through the Writ of Amparo which is very much similar to Latin American countries’ Habeas Data.

Though I maintain that this document is a mere paper, it is still commendable that the SC chose to issue such a promulgation. And even if Philippine Congress has yet to legislate laws against torture and enforced disappearances at the very least, victims of human rights violations are given a legal reference for their defense.

If you think that this Puno initiative made Gloria mad, Puno’s stance on Charter Change will make her a psychotic.

Due to the series of controversies hounding the administration, they have no choice but to hold onto power to hide under the skirt of executive immunity. And the only way to do it is through a charter change of his allies, through a constituent assembly with both houses of Congress lumped as one.

Given that the Upper Chamber, even with Enrile at the helm, is dominated by Arroyo’s political enemies, they have to ensure that the Supreme Court will allow the House of Representatives and the Senate to vote as one. They want to drown the votes of the few senators with the overwhelming number of congressmen, rendering the Senate votes negligible. With Puno at the top, the hope for the Supreme Court to concur to such an idea is less easy.

Though we know that the Supreme Court will be soon dominated by Arroyo’s allies this year after the retirement of a handful of justices, the mere fact that the Chief Justice is against the Constituent Assembly scheme would doom the Gloria Forever Constitution. Such a scenario may induce controversy similar to the Estrada impeachment drama that led to you-know-what.

I chose not to dwell on the Limkaichong case as a lot of people already wrote about it. I chose to write about something that will aid everyone to answer the title of this article.

The Philippine Senate led by its President Manny Villar and Minority Floor Leader Nene Pimentel recently filed a resolution seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to change the form of government from unitary to federal.

I have always advocated charter change as the 1987 Constitution is not perfect. But for any constitutional reform not to be used to prolong this administration’s hold onto power, it should be made only after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation, ouster and/or, which is the worst scenario for me, after her term.

Aside from that, two of the most important phrases of the resolution is problematic; the terms “constituent assembly” and “federal government.”

It is somehow ironic that the resolution blabbers about decentralizing the powers as a pretext for federalism but the process itself is too centralized. For the process (and even the product) of any charter change effort to be relevant to the people, the people should be made part of it. In that case, I maintain that a constitutional convention is still the best method to effect constitutional reform. Best because it is better not just to constituent assembly but also when compared to the people’s initiative, which is a misnomer given the fact that its implementation in the present Philippine context requires a lot of traditional politicians’ intervention.

The most substantial problem of the Senate resolution is that it banners federalism. Federalism is not a panacea and not even a band-aid. For a system to truly work, we must take into consideration everything that will affect the system.

Federalism in the Philippines is being equated to decentralization, a term which is somehow nice to hear as it connotes that something is being too concentrated and it should be scattered. In Pimentel’s mind, one of the most staunch advocate of federalism in the country, this is about power and resources. This is where the phrase Imperialist Manila comes in.

We can’t argue about the fact that for long years already, our national government has been Metro Manila-centric due to its vast base of electoral votes. It is a political culture that tends to prevent the development of the provinces, federalists would say.

But “decentralizing” the power from the national government to the local governments could not be equated to an automatic development of the provinces. Given the situation of local politics in the Philippines, it is just like decentralizing the powers of the Arroyo’s, Marcoses, Cayetano’s and Estrada’s to the Ortega’s, Singson’s, Osmeña’s and more surnames of political clans.

Aside from this problem of political dynasties, most of the local governments in the Philippines is too populist in the negative way. I must agree that for some instances, populism could be positive as it could be tantamount to just doing what the masses want.

Because statistics is not a barometer for socio-political righteousness, populism has its negative side and it is having decisions that may be popular but is not right. It is like buying a hundred boxes of Biogesics because it is very much in demand in your locality than purchasing a medical equipment to cure or prevent a more dangerous disease. It is prioritizing building a basketball court in a barangay that has a voting population of 10, 000 than paving a concrete farm-to-market road where only 500 people could see.

This is the power and resources they want to decentralize. And this could go from bad to worse as we count years of federalism if charter change will push through.

Just like parliamentary compared to presidential, a federal system could really be better than a unitary one. But given the situation that we have here in the Philippines, we should think twice.

Though Gloria Arroyo has every reason to invent stories to divert attention from her scandals, it seems that the rice shortage is not one of them. No other than Kevin Cleaver of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development claimed that there is actually a global crisis on food production.

Further research informed me that as early as August of last year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that the United States’ penchant for biofuel production will cause food shortage. Almost no one, even after the International Food Policy Research Institute issued the same warning, believed Chavez. Some even went to the point of maliciously accusing Chavez of just protecting Venezuela’s petroleum industry.

Too bad that Condoleeza Rice and the United States propaganda machinery managed to sugarcoat this economic maneuver with environmentalist blabber (or should I call it greenwashing?). Now, food riots are happening from Bolivia to Egypt, from Cameroon to Uzbekistan.

Haiti, one of the four countries (together with Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and El Salvador) that were lured to the American “environmentalist” candy during last year’s Organization of American States General Assembly, just suffered four casualties a week ago when food rioters clashed with their police.

Recently, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown awakened from his sleep as he alarmed G8 Chair and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on the effect of biofuel demand to food production. Too late the hero.

The next time the United States government advocates anything, let us not forget to listen to the other side.