POSTSCRIPT / July 26, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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GMA's sweeping solution to crisis: Charter change

SHORT & SWIFT: That was a short and swift SONA at the Batasan yesterday.

In some 23 minutes of straight talk interrupted by 33 intermittent applause, President Arroyo told the nation what everybody already knew: that the Philippines has attained enough momentum for an economic takeoff, but is weighed down by a flawed political system.

What to do? Change the system was her simplistic answer.

Delivering her State of the Nation Address before a Congress minus most opposition members, the President boiled down her analysis of the crippling crisis to a flawed system. Then she proposed that the Constitution be amended.

She batted for a shift to a parliamentary system and/or federalism, but left it to Congress, convened as a constituent assembly, to work out the details of shifting from the present system held hostage by power-hungry politicians.

While the lawmakers assembled in joint session and their guests applauded the President’s espousal of charter change, critics assailed her not embarking on a detailed defense against charges of poll cheating and corruption.

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USELESS DEFENSE: I think it was best that the President did not dignify with a SONA speech the faultfinders and destabilizers trying to bring her down preparatory to their taking over.

Anyway, there was nothing that the President could have said that would satisfy partisans who are endlessly railing about her supposedly stealing the presidency in January 2001 and again in May 2004.

The SONA was not the forum for resolving questions over the final tally of the votes. The proper place is a presidential electoral tribunal or maybe an impeachment court if the alleged cheating could be massaged into a culpable violation of the Constitution.

There was nothing the President could have said that would explain away claims that she and her family have been receiving payola from jueteng lords. Her accusers will not listen anyway. Besides, they are not interested in presenting evidence in the first place (maybe because they have none?).

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PARANG MGA BATA: So yesterday we were treated to the spectacle of Speaker Jose de Venecia, a rabid proponent of charter change, almost jumping with joy while clapping, and Senate President Franklin Drilon, who will lose his Senate post in a shift to a parliamentary system, glued to his seat, head hanging.

Even before Congress is dissolved to give way to a Parliament, Drilon could lose his hold on the Senate presidency considering how he had gone out on a limb joining the clamor for Ms Arroyo to resign — and reserving for himself the post of vice president in a power grab.

Walking with his head hanging and his hands clasped in front of him as he trailed the President leaving the session hall, Drilon looked on TV like a pupil coming out of the principal’s office after a disciplinary rap.

That was inside the cavernous plenary hall of the Batasan. How was it in the streets outside? The dominantly oppositionist media will fill you up on that.

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THE CURSE OF TRAPOS: The message of President Arroyo will find resonance in the hearts and minds of Filipinos who have grown tired of the seemingly endless politics pulling the country to the cliff.

Three days before President Arroyo delivered her SONA, we received with the pile of responses to our Post-GMA survey the email below from Wilfredo G. Villanueva, of 42 Carnival Park, BF Resort Village, Las Piñas City.

His email is being printed here, because while he (like 8.8 percent of our respondents) batted for a military junta in a desperate move to whip this nation back into the straight and narrow path, most of his thoughts coincide with those of other respondents.

(Just for the record, because some people have asked me, [1] I am leery of attempts of politicians to tamper with the Constitution, and [2] sometimes I catch myself pining for a military-type regime to run the country while we transition {verb?} to a reformed system.

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FOR MILITARY JUNTA: This is the piece of Mr. Villanueva:

“I am a peace-loving Catholic. I desire nothing more than to be left alone to shepherd my family, and to live life to the fullest. I desire a country. A country with a flag that symbolizes what we are as a nation, ‘… ang mamatay ng dahil sa yo’ haunting me, making me want to act. I love this country because this country is me, because I speak or write and my listeners understand me; my metaphors, my symbols, my humor, my heart. I love this country because of the people in it: patient, penitent, peaceful.

“But God help me please, I want to drive back the politicians to the netherworld. They smell like garbage, they talk garbage, think garbage, act garbage. Please God of peace help me.

“We have tried everything, from bar topnotchers to actors to grieving widows to economists. Nothing works. But I do recall my officemates in 1975 being trucked off by the Metrocom for jaywalking. And of course Lim Seng. That was a window of opportunity. Unfortunately, the sponsors of martial law not only trucked off jaywalkers, they all trucked off the country’s crown jewels. Thieves. It was all an elaborate show to mask real intentions.

“Sir, I vote for a military junta. As a people we grew up too fast. When we were released from Uncle Sam’s left leg like a dog after the Japanese occupation, there were too many people without land and too few people with all the land. Gen. Douglas McArthur land reformed Japan and set up a constitution that until now governs a nation that became an economic miracle in less than 20 years from ruins, including nuclear holocausts in two cities. He could have done the same to us, but the pull of the landed aristocracy cum collaborators were too much for him to handle.

“And so we became independent with all the baggage of displaced provincial folk living along the railways, a people educated for life in the US of A, of fathers and mothers worshipping the Stars and Stripes because they saw the liberation and the handsome GI, and of children living in a world poised for life in tate. And we wonder were all the years of independence went? Almost half of our population is abroad, mostly living as citizens of the same country that miseducated us.

“Sir, I vote for a military junta because the military at least has a code of ethics. The politicians live life from garbage heap to garbage heap, poking with sticks called in aid of legislation at the newest garbage pile, relishing the slightest whiff of a scandal like a child deep breathes a rose petal. At least a soldier will understand why he is being executed at dawn for breaking conduct; politicians can sweet talk (say sorry to) the mangmang na Filipino to perdition.

“As a child, I remember my father loved the military. He was a war child, emerging from the ruins of Paco all soiled, dusty and bearing the blood of his father and brother in his torn clothes, who bled to death of shrapnel wounds from a wayward shell from the Americans in Intramuros. My father knew death, he was a brave soul. That is why he loved the military, both US and the Philippine Scouts, who he worshipped.

“We are not an undisciplined people, we are a people who are confused because we want to be disciplined but no one is willing to discipline us because it gets in the way of thieving.

“We are a wounded people, but before our woundedness comes our immaturity. We need strong-willed fathers who will beat us when we do wrong and hug us afterwards, for we wish to be disciplined in love.

“We have to go back where we stumbled. We are a proud race, from Mactan to Tirad Pass to Bataan and Corregidor, to EDSA we have shown what kind of people we are. We will not take garbage anymore. We will place garbage where it belongs. For now we need to be disciplined.

“And if the military will not rise to the occasion, God help us, we will throw military garbage again, but when that happens with trembling but sure hands we will at least know who to point our guns at, for they wear uniforms.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 26, 2005)

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