Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms.  This article was published in Business Mirror, August 16, 2006 edition, p. A6.

I have been following the series on systems of government in The Explainer on ANC. A week ago, the topic was the separation of powers and system of checks and balances.

The Explainer said America’s Founding Fathers had little faith in the innate goodness of politicians. Consequently, they created a tri-partite form of government with a system of checks and balances to prevent the inevitable corruption that comes when power is concentrated and left to its own devices.

“That was a smart move,” I thought. “It was a step in the right direction.”

So I called the office of Charter change advocacy to ask why they wanted to replace a system that aims to restrain that vile human tendency, corruption, with one that will rely solely on the virtue, moderation, and honor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her House of Representathieves.

A recorded voice answered, “Hello. You have reached the Singaw ni Bangaw call center. Password please.”

I was staggered. I am neither a singaw nor a bangaw so how am I supposed to know their password? What could it be? Could it be one of their slogans? Like, “Our name is legion, for we are many” or “This nation will be great again?”

“Nah,” I told myself. “It would be stupid for an organization that advertises itself as a people’s democratic holy crusade to continue associating themselves with words uttered by Satan and Marcos.”

“Open Sesame” crossed my mind but that password into Ali Baba’s cave was a bit too close to home. I looked for something else. I needed a word that would capture the essence of the people’s initiative. It didn’t take long to find it. Astro-turf.

Astro-turf is a carpet that looks like grass minus the grassroots. Just like the so-called people’s initiative.

I spoke the magic word, “Astro-turf.” And, lo and behold, a familiar voice came on the line and said, “Welcome to my Enchanted Kingdom. You may ask your questions now.”

And so I did.

“Who will choose the Prime Minister?” I asked.

“Lakas and Kampi,” she replied. “Under my proposed constitution, the people will surrender their right to choose a leader to my parties. Rest assured my parties will choose wisely.”

I said, “Let me get this straight. Lakas and Kampi, not us, will decide who will spend our tax money?”

“Yes,” she said. “But let’s look beyond personalities. My system will be based on strong political parties exercising oversight over me and my Cabinet through a Question Hour. Furthermore, if, for some reason or another, my parliament is unsatisfied with me, they can replace me at any time with a no-confidence vote. There will be no more EDSAs because, instead of the citizenry forcing me out of office through people power, my parliament will decide my fate by voting on it among themselves. We call it constitutional democracy.”

I reminded the lady that the correct term for that exercise was party caucus—not constitutional democracy.

She ignored my remark and kept on talking, “For too long our country has been dominated by an oligarchy that has kept our people mired in poverty. The oligarchy’s front men in the Senate and in the opposition obstruct progress by digging up things I buried a long time ago. Their ghoulish behavior does nothing but cause gridlock and destabilization.”

“I thought that was called checks and balances,” I replied.

“Well, you’re wrong,” she said. “And, even if you are right,” she added, “it wouldn’t make any difference because, under my system, my parliamentary majority will determine what’s right or wrong, what’s just or unjust.”

“What about the Supreme Court?” I asked. “Oh, they’ll be around,” she said.

“As a co-equal body with the same powers they enjoy under the present Constitution?” I wanted her to tell me what checks and balances would be left under her Constitution. But she cut me short.

“I said they’ll be around. And that’s the end of that,” she said.

“I have one last question, if you don’t mind,” I said.

“Fire away,” she replied. “If I decide to support your Charter change initiative, where do I sign up?” I asked.

“You don’t have to,” she said. “I’ve already done that for you.”

Hello hellogarci. Goodbye oligarchy.