Dictatorial design

THE Du30 administration is barely two years in office and it is already plotting to stay in power forever. It does not even hide its dictatorial design emboldened perhaps by what its bullying tactics had achieved especially in the war on drugs.

Project “power forever” is masquerading as federalism, or shifting the form of government of the country from the current presidential system to federal system. The administration is now ramming through the nation this project by hastily changing the current Constitution.

Prior to the push for constitutional amendments, the Du30administration was dangling revgov or revolutionary government to Filipinos to extend its stay in power. Regov received a bland response from the public. Its national launching through rallies failed to generate the expected crowd. Only a few people joined the revgov assemblies and they were bused in by some local officials.

With the failure of regov scheme to catch fire, the administration shifted strategy and now turned to constitutional change to carry-out its evil plan. In the first week of the year, both leaders of Congress announced that amending the constitution is its priority.

Presently two proposals were submitted to the House to change the current presidential system to federal system. One is the Both Houses Resolution No. 8 filed by ABS Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., and the other is the draft Constitution prepared by PDP-Laban Federalism Institute. While both proposals push federalism, their versions differ.

In Both Houses Res. No. 8, there is a President and a Vice President who retain their powers under the 1987 Constitution with a fixed-six year term. The country will be divided into 18 federal states and each region is headed by a regional governor. Regional assembly is vested with lawmaking power. Twenty percent of taxes collected will go to the federal government and 80 percent will go to the regional government. Legislative power is in the hands of Federal Congress composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. Senators will be elected by regions while representatives by district.

The PDP-Laban’s proposal retains the post of the President as head of state but the Prime Minister will head the government. There is no Vice President. The Federal Government will have a bicameral legislature and there are also regional governments in 11 regions. Legislative power is vested in a Parliament comprised of the Federal Assembly and the Senate. Senators are elected by regions. Forty percent of taxes will go to the Federal Government while 60 percent will go to the regional government.

In the timetable of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the shift to federal system will happen this year. Between now and May, if Alvarez would have his way, Congress will work overtime to approve constitutional amendments and Filipinos vote on them in a plebiscite to be held together with the barangay elections in May 2018.

The script of Alvarez will cancel the 2019 elections. In the transition period, the term of all current officials will be extended and Du30 could stay in power beyond 2022.

Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker have agreed on the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) mode of changing the 1987 Constitution. But they differ on the timetable of the change. While Alvarez wanted the changes to be approved this year, Pimentel wanted the plebiscite to be held in 2019, simultaneous with the scheduled elections. Alvarez envisions a No-El or no election scenario where Du30 and his minions will have a free ride to power while Pimentel wanted a longer transition timetable.

Another bone of contention between Alvarez and Pimentel is the manner of voting on the proposed amendments. Pimentel and the senators will not agree to a joint-voting.  Senators are insisting that both Houses should vote separately for this is the essence of a bicameral system.

Disagreement between Alvarez and Pimentel is an inconsequential issue. The fundamental question is does the country need to change the Constitution? The administration is blaming the present Constitution as the source of national woes and shifting to federal system will bring the Philippines to paradise. This is a lie like the one on ending the menace of illegal drugs in six months or planting the Philippine flag on Spratlys riding a jet ski. Changing the Constitution is not the answer to the problems of the country.

The main reason the Philippines is poor and underdeveloped is the existence of a social structure that perpetuates the rule of the elite. The shift to federal system will cement the stranglehold of political dynasties in most areas of the country where they are already well-entrenched. Giving regional governments a bigger share of the country’s revenue will further accelerate the transfer of national wealth to the personal coffers of political dynasties and local warlords.

Looking at the proposed system, it will only add new layers of bureaucracy that will accommodate other elites left out in the looting system. Senators are still around and the regional assemblies will just make the distribution of power among the elite more equitable. If the shift to federal will only add new structure to existing structures albeit with minor changes, what is the point of changing the Constitution?

The obvious answer is power, insatiable and unquenchable hunger and thirst for power of the present administration. This whole project of changing the constitutional is designed to perpetuate Du30 and his allies – Marcos, Estrada, Arroyo, families who robbed and looted the country, in power. If allowed, this is the death of whatever semblance of democracy this country has.

Filipinos must strongly oppose the dictatorial design of the present administration.  Democracy must NOT be allowed to die with thunderous applause but must be defended by any means at all cost.

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