GMA’s (Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) term expires on June 30, 2010. Correspondingly, the charter bars GMA from seeking reelection so that any attempt by her allies in Congress to extend Arroyo’s term is a clear disregard of our country’s fundamental law. That said, however, knowing Arroyo’s and her allies’ intransigent itch for power, all vicious means to further their reign shall be enervated with irrational impunity through thick and thin - thus the issue on charter change.
Opined by A. V. Panganiban in his weekly opinion, With Due Respect, the simplest way to extend Arroyo’s term is to move the expiry date forward. That date is meant to be June 30, 2011, instead of June 30, 2010, as provided for by House Resolution 550. The beneficiaries of this resolution include the president, vice president, senators, representatives and other elected officials.
The other way to extend GMA’s term is to allow her to run again. This, however, is unappealing for the administration given Arroyo’s dismal ratings based on opinion polls. Undeterred, her allies are not without stockpile of political subterfuge by leading a way to a shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government. An attempt was made more than a year earlier. Under such system, GMA would have predictably won a parliamentary seat and eventually led to becoming a prime minister. And so it seemed.
In Lambino vs. Comelec, (October 25, 2006), the Supreme Court ruled against the proposed system saying it’s a “gigantic fraud.” It ruled that “a shift to parliamentary system could not be scripted via people’s initiative.” GMA’s allies, however, remain unperturbed and forge ahead with the other recourse of changing the charter. This time, the term is called the constituent assembly (Con-ass).
Under this method, any revision done with the constitution “may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.” Such provision, however, raises two political questions. First, should the two houses of Congress convene separately or should they convene together as one body? Second, should they vote separately, or together?
The crucial answers to these questions rest in the hands of the Supreme Court. If the Court held that the Senate and the House of Representatives should convene and vote separately, then the proposed change will get axed as the Senate indisputably disinclined to abolish itself and install a parliamentary system.
That said, Arroyo’s allies in Congress would hope that the Court favors a joint vote – meaning that the three-fourths majority in both houses be computed (238 incumbent representatives and 23 incumbent senators or a total of 261 “members of Congress”). Three-fourths of 261 is 196. Such a total is not difficult to gather, of course, given Arroyo’s son, Rep. Mikey in the helm of soliciting the nod of his fellow members to whatever means possible.
In the meantime, while the maneuvering and bickering in Congress on charter change have now gained momentum, the ‘parliament of the street’ is likewise replete with bellowing anti-protesters who are quick to denounce Arroyo’s allies to extend her term. The anti-protesters contend that the country has rather more compelling problems that require immediate attention in Congress than the ill-timed charter change - including health, education, and continued increase in the prices of various commodities. Further, the continuing global economic decline in which the Philippines is far from being immune has seen a number of OFW’s lost their jobs abroad and are now backed in the country together with millions of Filipinos who are equally out of job.
What is more perplexing is the thought that for us Filipinos, the emphasis between politics and economics reveals the former to be our more consuming passion. This led to the fact that financial crisis seems so remote that oftentimes the subject of debate either in Congress or the Streets is focused toward charter change than the World Bank reports.
In recent days, a World Bank senior economist for the Philippines predicted that the country’s growth this year is 4.2 per cent, remarkably lower than the 7.2 per cent recorded in 2007. The WB official added that “the Philippines will likely see more unemployment next year and money remittances from overseas will come under pressure.” The slowdown in economic growth means a regress in poverty alleviation. Notwithstanding, our preoccupation as a people, be it a politician, a religious leader, a civil society activist, or a plain kibitzer is to tackle a political issue with gusto than the more impacting economic crisis that affect our daily lives.
Who cares about Juan dela Cruz? The hell with him!