Mr. Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, July 12, 2006 edition, p. A6.

Dear One Voice,

One of your conveners explained to me why you’re against charter change. He said, “If the pro cha-cha forces win, their proposed constitution will grant the unicameral parliament the power to make changes in the constitution without the need for ratification. Their triumph, to paraphrase Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s infamous gloat, will mark a glorious day in history, when instead of participating directly in constitutional change, the people will be watching, from the sidelines, the killing of popular democracy through voting in the halls of Constitutional Democracy.”  That convinced me to support your group one hundred percent.

Your colleague also told me you were looking to make the 2007 election an indirect referendum on Mrs. Arroyo. I said, “That’s nothing new. All mid-term elections are referendums on the ruling party.” But he said, “It’s a way out of the political impasse.” And that floored me.

One Voice is going to turn the 2007 election into the Final Battle? Where is the battleground, the 12 Senate seats, the 200-plus congressional districts, and thousands of local contests. too? Or is it limited to the House and Senate races? What will be the basis for claiming victory? And what is the prize you will win?

Will Mrs. Arroyo resign if she’s totally repudiated in the 2007 election? What if she doesn’t? Is it certain that she would be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate? What if the House does not impeach or if the Senate acquits, are we out of the political stalemate? And God forbid that the 2007 election does not produce a clear rejection of Mrs. Arroyo. What happens then?

Now what if Mrs. Arroyo sweeps the election? Are we supposed to accept her victory as a pardon for her cheating and cover-up? Does an election victory ever make a wrong thing right? It would if you believe that unity under any circumstance is better than fighting for justice and a just society.

I hope that in your desire to hold a credible election, you have not considered convening all political parties to commit to a “no cheating compact.”  That would be a waste of time, if not utterly naive. When did “honest election” deals ever prevent a cheater from cheating? Besides, an agreement like that will only be used against you if you cry foul when the inevitable cheating occurs.

It’s foolish to assume Mrs. Arroyo will not cheat or that you can prevent her from doing so. You know she’ll do whatever it takes to win in 2007. The stakes are so high she already appointed eight of Garci’s lieutenants to crucial Comelec posts in regions IX, X, XI and XII. You also know that Mrs. Arroyo has a sophisticated, well-oiled, cheating machine while you, on the other hand,  still have to create counter-measures and hope they work  on their first time out. Knowing what you know, why are you still challenging Mrs. Arroyo mano a mano? What gives?  I know you will answer “All the more reason for everybody to work doubly hard.”  So I will repeat to you the wise words of your chairman’s wife, “Get real!”

The allegation of cheating in 2004 is not frivolous.  If it were, Mrs. Arroyo wouldn’t have resorted to EO 464. She wouldn’t have chosen political impasse over answering the charges against her.

The peaceful way out of our political mess is for Mrs. Arroyo to clear up the question of her legitimacy. If she does that, the crisis will be resolved and the country can move forward. But until then, please cut the crap. An indirect referendum is not a way out of the stalemate. It’s an opening for Mrs. Arroyo to escape accountability. Why do you want to facilitate her getaway??

Your loyal supporter against charter change only,