Category: congress

con-ass for federalism, NO! con-ass for BBL, YES!

read edilberto c. de jesus’s Con-ass for federalism?

The shift in political structure is major surgery. What benefits will federalism bring, and by what means will they materialize? Which limbs or organs will the surgeons amputate? What foreign elements will they implant?  How much will the operation cost? How long is the expected period of convalescence? The doctors prescribing the cure have not yet given a comprehensive explanation of the process to the patient.

…  Federalism, for instance, seeks to address the disparity in regional development and prosperity. The taxes extracted by the national government from the regions and the often tardy and inequitable flowback of budgetary resources to local government units present only one source of disparity.  It also stems from the difference in God-given resource endowments among LGUs and the stewardship practiced by their respective political leaders, many of them during decades of dynastic rule. Political restructuring will not magically give poor, badly governed LGUs more natural resources or better leaders.

Research has demonstrated that even if they retained all the 2015 revenues they raised, 88 of 93 provinces (95 percent), 87 of 152 cities (57 percent), and 1,937 of 2,044 municipalities (95 percent) could not support even half of their operating costs.  National-government efforts to improve the fiscal position of the poor LGUs through the 1992 Local Government Code have not succeeded. Success can come only if the richer LGUs, whose control over their resources federalism will reinforce, voluntarily agree to share their wealth. Changing systems will not necessarily displace current LGU leaders or their political priorities.

The benefits of the change are hypothetical, but the higher cost of running a federal system is inevitable.  Education Secretary Leonor Briones, once the national treasurer, has expressed doubts that the government can sustain these costs.

The experience of other countries gives us more understanding also about the risks of undertaking a systems overhaul. The first risk is the constitutional change process itself, which erases anything good in the old constitution and leaves a blank slate on which anything can be inscribed. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, and former chief justice Artemio Panganiban have both sounded this warning, which has led other analysts to prefer the piecemeal amendment of the Constitution, focusing only on provisions that have become dysfunctional.

This fear also reinforces the argument that an elected constitutional convention (Con-con) should craft a new constitution rather than legislators convened as a constituent assembly (Con-ass). Even if we naively assume that serving congressmen will robustly resist the temptation to promote personal interests, they would likely be more prone to focus on immediate political concerns. A Con-con would allow for a more diverse, deliberative body that will have a better chance to take a longer-term, more inclusive perspective to produce a constitution to which unborn generations of Filipinos will be subject. Is this not worth the investment in a Con-con?

read satur c. ocampo’s Differing views on con-ass may check federalism rush

…the larger concern over Charter change and the proposed shift from unitary to a federal system of government is the meagerness of the information made available to the public on what the precise proposed changes are. What is made known is that there are two drafts submitted to the House: a Resolution of both Houses filed by two congressmen, and a draft constitution for a federal system prepared by the PDP-Laban – the ruling party led by Pimentel as president and Alvarez as secretary-general.

read al s. vitangcol lll’s Charter changes must broaden the power of the people, not of politicians

I got a copy of the draft Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines, as proposed by the federalism institute of a major political party.

… The proposed amendments are all in broad strokes and generalizations, making it subject to various legal and technical interpretations. What is obvious is that “preference for Filipinos” was removed from the National Economy and Patrimony article. How about foreign ownership of our lands?

read florangel rosario braid’s Are we ready for constitutional change?

… it is generally known that in countries with a federal structure, each state would have its own laws (and constitutions which would complicate the administration of justice. Imagine having different ways of dealing with concerns such as death penalty, divorce, abortion, and similar controversial issues. An example is the United States with 51 states and with varying policies on certain issues.

The shift to federalism would involve expense of billions of pesos in the setting up of state governments to support the cost of human resources, infrastructure, and additional layers in the bureaucracy.

read frank e. lobrigo’s Visible roadblocks to federalism

Rappler reported that as of the end of June 2017, the Philippines’ foreign external debt amounted to $72.5 billion. Converted into pesos at P50 to $1, it comes up to a whopping P3.625 trillion — roughly equivalent to the country’s annual national budget. Alongside this foreign debt is the domestic debt reported by the Bureau of Treasury at P4.152 trillion as of August 2017. With the administration’s “build, build, build” economics, the external debt should be expected to balloon in due time.

Amid the federalism frenzy among its advocates or proponents, no one is explaining to the public how a federal government with a diminished share in the national income pie will deal with the humongous foreign and domestic debts. No one is explaining how the constituent regions will equitably partake in the debt burden.  Any default on the foreign external debt will negatively impact on the economy. The country ably deals with its loan obligations because of the fusion of incomes from the affluent regions even with the concomitant fiscal dispersal to the nonaffluent ones. The vaunted economic progress under a federal form of government might just be buried neck-deep in the foreign and domestic debts.

read luis teodoro’s Conspiracy 2018

Effecting the shift is one of the Duterte campaign promises that seems to be following his timeline, unlike his pledge to end the illegal drug problem within six months. No one can blame the more skeptical for suspecting that that’s because everyone in the regime stands to benefit from what its own people would decide should go into the amendments or even into a new constitution, since the plan, as announced by Mr. Duterte’s henchmen in Congress, is to convene that body as a constituent assembly rather than to call a constitutional convention to which delegates would be elected at large. The expense of the latter has been invoked to justify the former. What’s closer to the truth is that the regime is not going to risk the election of non-regime friendly delegates to a convention.

read artemio v. panganiban’s What Alvarez wants, Alvarez gets

… four hurdles to speedy Cha-cha. The first is the “thinking” Senate, which, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, cannot be dictated upon, not even by the President. The senators will not agree to decide in only three months. Neither will they assent to joint voting, especially if the Con-ass would abolish the Senate.

The second is the Supreme Court, which may not go along with a joint vote. But if it does, the first obstacle would be simultaneously hurdled.

The third is the lack of popular support for federalism. The latest opinion surveys show either ignorance of or objections to it. Verily, the proposal is still vague and complicated. Of the several models floated, none has gained traction. If at all, they merely added to the confusion.

… The fourth: The 1987 Charter requires the plebiscite to “be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.” Can the speedy Con-ass comply with this tough timeline?

what alvarez wants, alvarez gets?  but why?  because alvarez wants only what president duterte wants?  but  in september 2017 the president practically begged congress to pass the BBL asap, he would be certifying it as urgent.  and we know what happened to that: the president was ignored.  sey ng ilang representante at senador, unconstitutional daw kasi ang BBL, (because?) the relationship of an autonomous bangasamoro region with the national government would be asymmetrical, correct me if i’m wrong, and in that asymmetry allegedly lies danger of secession, que barbaridad!    

que awful indeed.  unthinkable even.  IF true.  pero kahit sabihin pa nating true, for the sake of argument, then go ahead and do a con-ass — but a con-ass properly done, i.e., separate voting (let’s have some thinking, please!) and a con-ass dedicated solely to amending / addressing provisions pertinent to BBL and the imagined secession scenario.

NOT a con-ass meant to fast-track a shift to federalism on grounds that such a shift would make BBL moot and academic.  please, no.  BBL is a matter of justice — we have debated it enough.  alvarez’s desired shift to federalism is another matter altogether, to decide which requires, nay, demands, all the trappings of a constitutional convention (a duterte campaign promise, btw) and, necessarily, an engaged media in the service of an engaged people for the sake of informed votes come the plebiscite.  it’s the only acceptable way to go.

calling out congress #passBBL #no2revgov

it’s great that the war in marawi is practically done.  we all need breathing space from the killings and destruction, the misery and loss.  we need to stop and take stock, seriously consider how to prevent pre-empt more war in mindanao.

in two speeches, before and after hapilon and maute were taken down, the president was unequivocal: federalism is the only way to keep the peace.

“The MI pati MN has been hanging on to the range of their forces. They are cooperating with government, fighting alongside with government forces, but they are hoping that what they have been asking for centuries will be given.

“If we fail to come up with a reasonable counter proposal, then I assure you that there will be fighting everywhere in Mindanao. For then, the mainstream rebel groups would now be joining with the extremist groups.  …their common determination, their dream is … magkaisa itong lahat against the Republic of the Philippines.  And I have it in good authority that they will declare an independence. They would declare an independent Mindanao.” [oct 12]

“… it would be easy if we agree na mag-federal tayo.  kapag hindi, talagang sasabog ito, because then i would predict that the MI (and) MN would now join with everybody in, and there are aplenty…. armas. mahirap talaga tayo magsurvive as a nation, the republic, intact.  hindi ko kayo tinatakot….  sinsasabi ko yan noon pa sa kampanya. bec i know that it would create division and eventually maybe a breakage. ang mahirap nyan kung papasok na naman yang mga UN at … makialam … then if they recognize a belligerent state now, then you would have to treat it as an independent entity. yan ang delikado diyan. once makialam itong mga united nations … we would be reduced from the … yugoslavia, before, then you have serbia, you have so many city states, the balkan states, watak watak na sila, kanya kanyang state …”

Because then if there is a status of belligerence given to them, then it becomes very, very, very serious for all of us. …  And the Americans will realize to their sorrow that they have been too myopic in this thing. [oct 16]

the president has not mentioned the draft BBL (version 2017) transmitted by the palace to congress in mid-august and which the senate prez and house speaker promised will be passed by yearend, na tila di gumagalaw; anyway walang balita except a tidbit from ANC‘s  Bangsamoro and Beyond: A National Conversation taped oct 5 and aired oct 19, na meron na daw itong more than a hundred signatures sa lower house.  totoo?

tila walang sense of urgency sa legislature, and this might explain why the president is antsy, seeing destab plots, and threatening  revolutionary government, by hook or by crook?  revgov na lang, kung walang BBL by yearend, para makapag-chacha para makapag-shift to federalism para maibigay sa MI at MN ang matagal nang inaasam na regional autonomy for muslim filipinos?

naguguluhan ako, at siguro ang lehislatura rin, dahil back in july 2016, his first month as president, this is what the president said:

If majority of Filipinos vote against federalism in a plebiscite, President Rodrigo Duterte will throw his support behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), he said.

“If the Filipino nation in a plebiscite would not want it, I am ready to concede whatever is there in the BBL law. We will see to it that it will pass,” said the Philippine president on Friday, July 8 during a gathering of Muslim leaders in Davao City.

Duterte said he is eyeing a “framework” on federalism to be ready by the end of 2016.

“Towards the end of the year, we can come up with the framework,” he said. The framework could entail a “reconfiguration” of territories of ethnic groups like the Tausug, something desired by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari.

okay lang naman kung BBL muna, i can’t imagine why not. calling out speaker alvarez and senate prez koko, paki-explain why you guys aren’t bothered by the president’s fearless forecast of war in mindanao if BBL does not happen.  (i know, i know, they’re all on vacation.)

of course, puwede ring plebiscite muna to vote on a new charter that provides for federalism and a truly autonomous bangsamoro region, why not.  balita pa nga ng rappler, meron nang draft constitution na naisumite ang PDP-Laban Federalism Institute sa lower house.

… a draft Constitution that would govern the Philippines under a federal system of government. The draft is the result of research and consultations done by a group of experts gathered by PDP-Laban president Aquilino Pimentel III through the institute. 

i always figured that it’s the president’s call, as he’s so astig.  but, yes, he needs the cooperation of congress, whether for the BBL or the new charter, and congress is proving to be uncooperative, even recalcitrant.

come on, guys!  kaysa naman mag-revgov?  or is that the goal.  argh.  these trapos.

#passBBL #no2revgov

andy bautista wins? who loses?

interesting that it is pro-duterte peeps who are protesting, questioning, criticizing the dismissal of the impeachment complaint vs comelec chief andy bautista, yet it is also the pro-duterte majority in the house of reps justice committee that dismissed the complaint on mere technicalities re sufficiency in “form” because, you know, they have to be strict and follow the rules daw; and yet they refused to entertain a correction of the form (which is NOT disallowed) and at once dismissed the complaint even when the rules entertain a dismissal only upon a finding of insufficiency in “substance.”  check out rules of procedure in impeachment complaints, rule iii, section 4, 17th congress.

the big surprise, however, is representative edcel lagman, who is known to be an oppositionist — he is against the drug war, voted against the death penalty, martial law in mindanao, and the CHR budget cut — but who belongs to the super majority pala. he voted, too, to dismiss the case.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of those who supported the dismissal of the case against Bautista, said there is no rule allowing a complainant to amend his verification and his complaint.

He said the attempt of Paras and Topacio to present an amended verification “clearly shows that the original was defective.”

to think that rep. edcel is a member (for the majority) of the committee on suffrage and electoral reform.  is this a portent of things to come?  we will never know if our votes are being counted correctly?  we will always be under the thumb of the likes of bautista (and smartmatic and their cohorts in congress) whose integrity and love of country are under such heavy clouds of doubt?

the andy bautista issue is a unique one that divides the body politic along different lines from the drug war.

the dilawans, of course, are happy about the junked impeachment complaint.  it means that leni is safe.  imagine nga naman:  if, when, andy is impeached, who knows what evil magic a duterte-appointed comelec chief might wreak in aid of bongbong’s claim to the vp seat.  kahit pa sabihing nasa supreme court na ang kaso, we all know how the system works for ones who are powerful enough.

the duterte diehard supporters in congress, of course, are also happy about the junked impeachment complaint.  it means that andy owes them big, and it means that the very crucial plebiscite on charter change for term extensions and economic liberalization, not to speak of federalism, would happen under andy’s watch, with smartmatic pa rin kaya?

which is to say that the duterte camp is clearly divided.  baka wala pang memo from the palace?  or is this one issue on which they will remain divided.  right now it’s social media ka-DDS vs. the house of reps ka-DDS.  the lines are drawn, the battle is joined.

but wait, there’s hope.  rep harry roque says that the House plenary can still override the justice committee’s decision.  hmm.  kailan iyan?  automatic ba iyan, magaganap within a certain number of days?  or will it be the call of majority leader dear rudy fariñas who is said to be, like the dilawans, afraid that impeaching andy means that leni will likely be replaced by bongbong.  he is also said to be of the belief that if not impeached, andy will resign of his own accord.  magugulat naman ako masyado.

a plenary would be good.  and when the reps vote, dapat ay nominal voting, one by one, let the records show who is for what!  itigil na iyang hiding behind viva voce!

and just in case fariñas won’t do a plenary…  if he does, then just in case the plenary lets andy off the hook…  ngayon pa lang, i’m thinking civil disobedience.  why should we vote when we don’t trust the people behind the machines that will be counting our votes?  what if they held elections and nobody came?

shamelessly sipsip lower house

119 representatives daw voted to cut CHR’s budget to 1K a year.  i wanted to know who these reps are but they have yet to be officially identified.  the official journal of that event has yet to be posted on the congress website (click on legislative functions, then house journals).  will it ever be?

Critics of the decision may want to know the names of those lawmakers, but the chamber only did a headcount, without recording their names.

As Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas explained it: “There is no such record as voting was by ayes and nays.”

umm, we’ll settle for the roll call then and draw our own conclusions.  meanwhile i beg the 119 (maybe less) to please read inquirer‘s editorial Zero understanding of the Charter?  read also philstar‘s jarius bondoc Given House’s reasoning, CHR deserves P1 trillion, and alex magno Backfire.

The House just pulled the rug from under all official pretenses about the rule of law. The legislators have become unwitting parties to those who claim the country has now fallen under a tyranny.

From all indications, the majority of senators appear inclined to restore the CHR’s original budget – and even increase it as a rebuke to the brainless action of the House.

If the House insists on its budget cut, it risks a confrontation with the Senate. That confrontation could bog down the approval of the entire national appropriations act, leaving government without a budget for next year.

The House could not possibly win such a confrontation. It does not have an armory of justifications for taking the action that they did. The CHR may not be the most popular institution around, but there seems to be no public support for lynching it.

More important, a confrontation between the House and the Senate will be a contest between plain pique and vindictiveness on one hand and the properly appreciated demands of statesmanship. In such a confrontation, statesmanship (and thus properly mustered reason) will be on the side of the Senate.

yes, let’s get behind the senate on this.  by katrina’s last count 16 senators including the senate president #StandWithCHR.  sana madagdagan pa.  20 at best, counting out diehards sotto and pacquiao.  but wait, according to harvey keh’s facebook status, even pacquiao wants the CHR budget restored.  hmm.  maybe he got a memo from the palace?  duterte was just joking when he said he wanted the CHR abolished?

sobra naman kasi sumipsip itong lower house.  read philstar’s ana marie pamintuan Budget cut.

… if congressmen weren’t busy licking the boots of their boss at Malacañang, they would be doing justice to their other role in a democracy besides legislation, which is to provide checks and balances to the executive.

As things stand, that function now seems to rest wholly on the Senate. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is behaving these days as if he’s ruler of the universe – and creating a host of enemies along the way – should learn from one of the longest serving of his predecessors, Jose de Venecia.

In his final days as House chief, Joe de V went around wearing a wristband amulet. This, he told us, was meant to protect him from all the backstabbers in the House. As we all know, the amulet didn’t work. Joe de V suffered more stab wounds (all in the back) than that corpse fished out of a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, identified as 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman.

imagine kung wala nang senado.  fair warning to citizens who think a unicameral congress run by the likes of alvarez and fariñas under a federal system is the way to go.  isip isip, mga kapatid.