Manuel Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, September 20, 2006 edition, p. A6.

It would be nice if the man who convinced over six million living and dead Filipinos to sign a petition to change the Constitution, Raul Lambino, were to spare us the class war rhetoric and simply limit his arguments advocating charter change to, “Mrs. Arroyo wants the power to rule by decree, so let’s give it to her.”

Unfortunately, Lambino is a talker who loves the tedious language of class war, endlessly arguing that opponents of charter change are elites who seek to “bolster the rule of the political and economic elite that manipulates everything in society, including the choice and election of their favorite candidates seeking public office who will protect their interests.”

Lambino’s Sigaw ng Bayan colleague, Lito Lorenzana, apes him. He says, “The real opponents of Charter change are the elites in the guise of socio-political activists, like wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. They want the senatorial elections to push through in 2007 and keep the current system of government to maintain their control of the entire business and political landscape, where their puppets operate in their favor.” Gee, thanks guys.

But let’s put aside Mrs. Arroyo’s wishes for one moment and ask, why would anyone want to destroy checks and balances? Isn’t it vital for safeguarding  taxpayers’ money from crooked bureaucrats and politicians?  Would anybody, except a thief, welcome a proposal to eliminate locks on doors?

Sigaw says, let’s separate issues from personalities. Okay, but how is that possible when the prime mover for charter change, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, is a personality whose character is the issue?

Nevertheless, I compared both the 1987 Constitution and Sigaw ng Bayan’s proposed charter. I started with their preambles.

The 1987 constitution says its purpose is “to build a just and humane society.” Sigaw’s charter states no such intention.  Can we therefore assume that Sigaw’s legions don’t want a just and humane society?  Maybe. One can certainly point to 6.3 million signatures to support that assumption.  However, I think it makes more sense to paraphrase Mike Defensor and say that “the voice of the voiceless poor,”  all six million of them, is like the female voice in the Garci tape—“it’s their voice but they’re not the ones doing the talking.”

I read the entire Sigaw constitution before I realized I might as well have skipped everything except the transitory and martial law provisions. Those two sections are the only parts that count because, in combination, they are the self-destruct mechanism of the Sigaw constitution.

Sigaw’s transitory provisions allow Mrs. Arroyo to retain all her powers. She can proclaim martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus although parliament is empowered to reject her proclamation. However, Sigaw’s Consitution took away the checks and balances power granted by the 1987 Constitution to the Supreme Court,  to “review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the writ or any extension thereof ….”  In other words, no more legal recourse against collusion between Mrs. Arroyo and parliament on the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the writ.

On top of that, the other constitutional check on the president’s emergency powers—“A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies”—does not appear anywhere in Sigaw’s constitution. Consequently, Mrs. Arroyo can declare martial law,  get parliament’s approval for it, and then turn right around to suspend the Constitution,  shut down parliament and the courts, and rule by decree for as long as she wants.

I can now say, without any reservation whatsoever, that Mrs. Arroyo’s trust or confidence  in her  constitutionalists was not misplaced. She got exactly what she wanted from them—the power to overthrow and destroy our democracy and to rule by decree.

And that, to throw Lorenzana’s words back at him, would allow “the current system of government to maintain their control of the entire business and political landscape, where their puppets operate in their favor.” The singaws ni Bangaw will become the new “somos”.

Is that prospect revolting or what?