‘Con-Ass’ and the people’s wrath

Jun. 14, 2009

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
BusinessWorld Online Posted By Davao Today

The anti-charter change (cha-cha) and anti-Arroyo forces had barely a week to mount the muscle-flexing protest yesterday in Ayala Avenue, Makati City, and in major urban centers nationwide. They achieved a big measure of success by gathering thousands in Makati and thousands more in various cities and big towns. They displayed broad participation by working people, civic, professional and artist groups, Catholic and Protestant churches, opposition leaders, and government officials and military/police officers critical of the Arroyo regime.

Earlier mini-protests erupted in parts of Metro Manila and “viral” protest spread as well in the Internet, giving a foretaste of what could lie ahead for the Arroyo clique as it schemes and buys its way to staying in power beyond 2010.

A vast majority of the people have had enough of Mrs.Arroyo and her ilk. The crimes of her regime just keep mounting despite the many times that she has been caught red-handed. She has ignored calls for accountability by the people, by the political opposition, religious and business leaders, and even by the international community appalled at rampant human rights violations.

Shamelessly, Mrs. Arroyo has clung to power; she has refused to resign. She has used emergency rule and other draconian measures including extrajudicial killings, militarization of rural and urban poor communities, illegal arrest and detention, and filing of trumped-up criminal charges against her perceived enemies, to prevent her ouster through popular uprising.

Mrs. Arroyo and her clique have come up against constitutional term limits that make her stepping down from power a given. She could appoint a loyal and pliant presidential candidate for the national elections in 2010 and utilize all the dirty tricks in the books (and some she has invented) to make that candidate “win” in order to buy political insurance for herself and her cohorts. The same way she preempted every impeachment move by buying off the “honorable” members of the House of Representatives; the way she squelched every investigation into anomalies of her administration by appointing a subservient Ombudsman; and the way she stopped every attempt to open inquiry into corrupt government deals by her hold on the Supreme Court, majority of whom are her appointees.

But obviously that isn’t enough to ensure protection from being haled to court once she loses her presidential immunity. Similarly, she cannot predict where the political winds may blow once out of power; political debts can be easily forgotten or overtaken by the pressing concerns of the new administration, whose own interests may no longer coincide with that of Mrs. Arroyo.

This is the real reason for the desperate, despicable, and brazenly unconstitutional move called “Con-Ass,” recently railroaded by Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives, by the mere expedient of a majority vote on House Resolution 1109 sponsored by no less than Speaker Prospero Nograles. HR 1109 empowers Congress to convene as a constituent assembly in order to revise the Philippine Constitution by two-thirds of all congressmen and senators voting jointly. And since the more than 200 members of the House vastly outnumber the 24 members of the Senate, this bogus Constituent Assembly can be convened and make revisions in the charter even without a single senator participating.

The illegal and fake Constituent Assembly, packed by Arroyo allies whose compliance to her marching orders are ensured by millions worth of incentives, will undertake the shift to a parliamentary system from the current presidential system. In this way, Mrs. Arroyo can run as a representative in her congressional district and manipulate her way into becoming prime minister later on by simply buying off the majority of members of parliament.

Time and so many legal impediments seem to make this scenario untenable. Still, all the moves of Mrs. Arroyo and her allies constitute an undeniable trail of deception, lies, maneuvers, buy-offs, and quid-pro-quos that point the way to this as the major ploy of the Arroyo clique.

Despite Mrs. Arroyo’s posturing that the merger of the two political parties loyal to her, the Lakas-CMD and Kampi, is proof positive that the 2010 presidential elections are pushing through as scheduled, the truth is, such a merger party is precisely what Mrs. Arroyo will use to bamboozle the opposition once she moves to get the prime minister position in a new parliament.

For someone supposedly so focused on the business of running the country, Mrs. Arroyo has noticeably gone on frequent sorties into her hometown and adjoining towns, part of the congressional district in Pampanga where she will likely run for congressperson. Now why should a former president of the country be interested in running for the lowly post of a congressperson if this isn’t the stepping-stone to the most powerful post in a parliamentary form of government?

Will the fear of the people’s wrath give pause to Mrs. Arroyo and her evil cabal of plotters? At this point it is clear that this hardly is the case. The Arroyo clique has taken an important lesson from the Marcos dictatorship on what are crucial to achieve their Machiavellian designs. First is to secure the backing of the United States government (it will give the “democratic” imprimatur to the recycled Arroyo regime via Con-Ass and shift to parliamentary system). Then ensure the loyalty of the military and police generals; the blessings of enough voices among the church hierarchy and big business; and the chorus of servile “ayes” from so-called parliamentarians and local government officials fattened by pork barrel and other perks.

The Arroyo clique is betting that the elite classes who rule this country and the lone Superpower, the US of A, can be enticed to see things its way; that is, the Arroyo clique’s narrow interests as key to protecting and upholding their own immediate and strategic interests. For example, apart from changing the charter in order to make possible Mrs. Arroyo’s continuing hold on the reigns of power in this country, Mrs. Arroyo uses as bait constitutional amendments that will allow foreign investors to acquire ownership and control over all natural resources and economic enterprises to the extent of 100% and to sell out the economic sovereignty and national patrimony of the Filipino people.

US and other foreign military forces are to be allowed unrestricted stay and operations in the Philippines not just by means of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) but by constitutional fiat. Many of the constitutional provisions against the basing of foreign military forces and nuclear, chemical, biological, and other weapons of mass destruction on Philippine soil are under threat of being excised from the basic law of the land. The Arroyo regime also wants to remove the constitutional restraints on martial law, emergency rule, and violations of human rights. It seeks to undermine guarantees of civil and political liberties in the Bill of Rights achieved in the wake of the people’s victory over the US- backed Marcos dictatorship.

One lesson that the Arroyo clique has obviously failed to learn is that the inevitable ending for dictators and would-be dictators in this country and elsewhere in the world is the dustbin of history. The people’s wrath and courageous, persistent mass struggles will definitely see to that. (June 12, 2009, BusinessWorld Online Posted by Davao Today)

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