Let’s Move On

Mr. Romano is the founder of the E-Lagda movement. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, April 10, 2006 edition, page S1/5.

In an e-group that I moderate, a membership drawn mainly from the middle class, the debate on Gloria Arroyo’s removal replicates what is said in the media. We’re still hopelessly divided as ever.

It’s not that many are rooting for Arroyo (GMA). Consistent with survey results, only a few express outright support for GMA. Yet, there are those who cloak their support for GMA.  The divide is between those who espouse GMA’s ouster and some who say, “I don’t like GMA, but…”  The latter would invariably conclude with the exhortation, “Let’s move on!”

By that, they mean “leave GMA alone to focus on governance, and let her finish her term until 2010.” They, of course, assume that GMA will govern under the status quo. I doubt if the majoity of them ever anticipated the reckless charge towards Charter change.

Why the indecent haste in shifting to a parliamentary form of government?

GMA’s worst fear is to go down in history the same way Joseph Estrada did: discredited and shamed. She will do anything and everything to finish her “term.”

On June 26 of this year, the opposition is poised to file another impeachment complaint. With the 2007 election just around the corner, many congressmen will be mindful of their reelection bid. And it becomes risky for some of them to be associated with GMA, given her consistently low trust ratings at the polls. The opposition in the Lower House might just get the numbers needed to send the impeachment complaint to the Senate.

Even if she survives this year, the 2007 elections will alter the present configuration of Congress. Going by the prevailing anti-GMA mood reflected in the surveys, we can expect more opposition-leaning solons in the next Congress. And it becomes more likely that she will be impeached in 2008.

The palace-formulated ChaCha (Charter change) is designed to preemptively neutralize all such efforts to remove her from office. The target is to convene the existing Congress as the interim parliament when it opens its session sometime in July of this year. This will hinder, if not completely bar, any impeachment proceeding. And with automatic term extensions for the incumbents embedded in the transitory provisions, GMA is trying to preserve the composition of a subservient Congress until 2010.

When Speaker Jose de Venecia could not get the numbers to transform Congress into a Constituent Assembly, GMA had to resort to a provision of the Constitution called “people’s initiative,” in spite of a Supreme Court ruling declaring there is no enabling law to exercise this right.

GMA’s choice of a metaphor for this initiative—a rain—is ironically quite appropriate. It reveals GMA’s true intentions – to railroad the process and to destroy everything that gets in its way, including institutions and democratic processes.

But I like the metaphor used by Akbayan better. They call it “People’s Initiative of Gloria” or PIG for short. For that is what it has become…“babuyan na talaga”.

Have the majority of the people read the proposed Charter amendment?  How many of us, those considered politically keen, have seen the language of the amendment?  GMA would like us to believe that an obscure advocacy group, without funding support, has sufficiently explained the amendment and managed to convince eight million people to endorse it and sign a petition in a span of two weeks. And GMA and her allies even have the gall to proclaim that “the people have spoken!” What an insult to the intelligence of our people.

What shall we do, then? How do we move on?

The root cause of our present political crisis is the legitimacy of the GMA presidency, which ChaCha does not address.  Worse, the Palace-sponsored ChaCha is part of an elaborate scheme to skirt the issue and window-dress the remaining term of GMA with a semblance of legitimacy.

We need to confront the issue of legitimacy squarely. A leader needs to get the mandate from the people through a clean and credible election.  A snap election is a means to settle once and for all the issue of legitimacy.

And to those who keep asking, “Who is your alternative? Well, the answer now lies in the people’s hands.  More important, this will put a closure to the legitimacy issue.

Charter change is not the answer. The answer is SNAP elections.

If you want to end the current political crisis, I invite you and everyone to sign up in our online petition www.petitiononline.com/no2PIG. We may never reach eight million petitioners but if there are enough decent Filipinos who support this call, perhaps our voice will become a powerful force.

Then and only then can we all truly say, “Let’s move on!”

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