What the ‘summit’ was all about

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2015 - 10:00am

I do not know what to make of the “summit on constitutional amendments” last Wednesday at Club Filipino. But coming as it does after the frustrated attempt to pass the BBL and Grace Poe’s rejection of President Aquino’s wish to team her up with Mar Roxas either as President or Vice President, I suspect that it is motivated less by pushing for constitutional reform than it is on how to escape punishment for the misdeeds of his government. Aquino had told us often enough that he does not want any change in his mother’s 1987 Constitution. Indeed, the present advocacy for constitutional reform comes from the bottom of society. It is a miracle that the advocacy has come to this point.

 A friend called to ask why I did not attend. A number of people there were surprised because they knew I had been espousing constitutional change for many years. They asked whether I was invited. The organizers answered yes but I found no trace of an invitation. Rene Azurin observed there were “personalities that can be traced to Malacanang.” That probably explains why I was not invited.

From where I am the summit seems more a safety net, an escape route for the gathering storm against the establishment of the few that has continued to hold the political and economic power of our country to the detriment of the many. This has been going on since the founding of our republic. Government after government, some intrepid reformers continued the struggle despite the obstacles put against them.

It is only incidental that the awakening of the middle class and the marginalized sectors of our society to unite has gathered force under the movement BayanKo.

This movement is working to make it possible for the marginal sector to have the courage to vie for power. They have realized that their power comes from their numbers but they have not used it.

It is more than just being opposed to the Aquino government and his cohorts. It is about finding themselves and the inherent sovereignty that rests on them if it were to be used to bring about the truly humane society they want.

That awakening happened because his government so badly mishandled sensitive issues like the Smartmatic-PCOS election, the Mamasapano treachery that killed 44 of our best soldiers and the badly conceived BBL, among other things.

These misdeeds now threaten the survival of the nation. Has Aquino finally realized that there is no way out of the tight corner looming at the end of his term? Will he like Marcos before him escape punishment for his misdeeds? Still, we will listen to as many voices as we can. We will soon find out if the Wednesday summit is sincere in its reforms of our politics and governance. There were many good names in the gathering in Club Filipino. One reform they should have tackled is to make certain that incapable and immoral leaders should not be allowed to decide the fate of our country through PCOS machines.

Meanwhile, let us enjoy the show being put up for the benefit of those who would like to believe that saying is the same as doing.

The calling of a Constitutional Convention is a noble task but not through election using a rotten political system or the appointment of those with connections with those in power.

There is another point to consider, and it is the punishment for crime, and whether this will be done by the new government put up by Bagong Sistema.

We need to trace the connections between the organizers of this movement with the Aquino government to know if there is a deeper motive behind it.

The summit for change was a mix of highly regarded personalities as well as some who can be traced to Malacanang.

Nevertheless we should give credit where credit is due. The Puno speech was the saving factor of that gathering. I only wished he could have made it in another audience and organized by more independent personalities.

His call for political power for marginalized sectors is well taken and in line with BayanKo’s objective.

Among the highlights of his speech I am delighted that he did take on the power behind the hosts of the summit. “We have a government where power is tilted too much in favor of the Executive,” he said. He then took up the different abuses it has been guilty of.

He noted the seeming deadlock between the legislative and the executive branches of government but did not pursue on what has been done to break the deadlock through DAP and PDAF.

“Not infrequently, Congress will wield its power to investigate in aid of legislation. It will summon the President’s men suspected of violating laws of the land to embarrass the administration.”

He also defended the judiciary in which he was once the Chief Justice. “We have a judiciary where too much is expected, yet too little is given.”

 “The impeachment of a Chief Justice shows how unequal is the Supreme Court to its political counterparts, an inequality that mocks its role as the guardian of our Constitution and as the bastion of the rights of the people,” referring to the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona who was held guilty by the Senate of alleged “misdeclaration” in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN).

My favorite part of his speech was about the “immoral gap between the rich and the poor.” To me, that should be at the heart of constitutional reform.

“The poor deserve a Constitution where their basic socioeconomic rights can be demanded from the State as a matter of right and not just a right in the papyrus. They deserve a Constitution where their voice in the political branches of government will be their own voice. The powerlessness of the people is the ultimate desecration of democracy,” Puno said.

  I was surprised that there was no mention of the Smartmatic-PCOS elections of 2010 and 2013 that I consider to be the gravest threat against democracy.

Aside from Puno, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, former budget secretary Salvador Enriquez Jr., 1986 Constitutional Commission member Rene Sarmiento, former University of the Philippines president Jose Abueva, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and economist and author Calixto Chikiamco also spoke in the summit.

They claimed that federalism is “the best hope for our distinct minorities to be allowed self-rule” – referring to Muslims in Mindanao. But there were no details on how that federalism will function in the new Constitution.


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