Rhona Canoy .
SO… I normally am not in the habit of diving into hot transient issues, and I’m not about to do that anyway. However, in the aftermath of the Mocha Choca’s dede-pepe brouhaha, I figure my two centavos are worth sharing. Being a child of the concept of Philippine federalism (what with Reuben Canoy and all), the topic is no news to me but I must say I was a bit alarmed that a government megaphone would treat such a critical issue so irreverently.
There are those who argue that it is a successful information teaser, since everybody is talking about federalism now. I don’t know that I agree with this opinion as yet since the current focus is on the content of the video rather than on an intelligent discussion about what should be the topic at hand. And there are those who argue that Uson overstepped the bounds of professional ethics. I don’t know that I agree with this opinion either since I have no clue as to what she was trying to accomplish with the somewhat salacious undertones of that video.
The debate on whether we should go federal or not has been brewing certainly long before the infamous video went viral on social media. That is actually what I have been keeping tabs on. When the move towards charter change (which would be necessary) was first broached, even then there were already heated opinions on both sides of the proverbial line. We know that. We have all already chosen sides. And we fiercely protect whatever justifications we have for choosing as we have. Definitely, people who are familiar with my biological background already know my thoughts on the matter. Many years of exposure to the thoughts and ideas of Mindanao’s greatest proponent of federalism made sure of that.
I’m not here to sell the concept to you. If you want to hear my thoughts on the matter, let’s have coffee, or a large platter of lechon kawali and garlic rice. That for me would be the proper venue because we could have a sober exchange of ideas. Besides, my editor-in-chief couldn’t possibly allow me enough words to discuss the matter in my column. What bothers me is how we are dealing with the issue. Considering how many hundreds of thousands, possibly even tens of millions of intelligent and quasi-intelligent Filipinos there are, it is extremely disappointing how shallowly the issue of charter change and federalism is being regarded. Oh, yes. Shallowly.
It’s not even about which side is right. That is the poorest argument of all since considerations should be made not to determine which side is wrong or right but rather what we should deem to be the best for our country. When proposed changes to the existing Constitution were made public by the President’s appointed constitutional committee, I was a bit puzzled at how specific the objections were. There are those who are going to argue that that’s to be expected. That may be true, but doesn’t that then indicate that we can’t see the forest for the trees? There were specific objections to the anti-dynasty provisions, the transition government, changes to length of elected term, and God knows what else people chose to focus on. Healthy objections, I admit, but severely myopic if not considered against the totality of what is intended.
With all the informational resources available to us, we still choose to wallow in a form of ignorance, depending upon the opinion of people we love to listen to. The influencers. To segue into another favorite argument of mine, we seem to have lost the capacity for critical thinking. Is it because we feel inadequate to formulate our own opinions and views? Is it because it’s easier to accept what is spoonfed to us by people we deem intelligent enough to figure out? Is it because we’re too lazy to be seriously concerned and involved in matters which will affect us all, whether we agree with it or not? And like lemmings blindly following the leader over a cliff and into the sea to drown ignobly, are we so willing to relinquish control and responsibility?
When someone tells me that I’m a fool to believe in the promise of federalism, I really have only one answer: Please tell me, just how wonderfully is our current system of government serving our needs? Oh, you’re going to say that it’s not perfect but it’s okay. But is it really? Or are we just terrified of change? And please don’t Duterte-ize that statement. Every time we elect our leaders, every single time, it should be because we hope for change. For the better. That should be our attitude. And in the end, the whole issue of a change in our form of government or not will be resident in the people who are going to be concerned enough to cast their vote during the plebiscite. Which, by the way, should happen if things work out that way. I’m not sure that I would trust such a major decision to a bunch of self-serving lawmakers who put their own interests above all else.
To put a historical spin on things, I’ve lately come to the conclusion that our form of government and the pseudo-democracy we defend so fiercely were doomed from the very start. I mean, think about it. When the Americans, who were fool enough to believe that we could be trusted to govern ourselves, created the commonwealth, they designed a government patterned after their own. Remember that even at that time, the United States already had a federal form of government. No matter how I try to see it, and after all the reading I’ve done on the matter, I still think that they created the commonwealth to function as a state in their federal system. So even then, there was already a flaw in the template. As a commonwealth, we functioned as a territory of the US, still under their national rule, even if we were allowed to flex our self-governing muscles in a limited way. When they decided that we were no longer toddlers and could be left to our own devices, they simply cut the umbilical cord. Which left us as unsupervised children in a house with an unlocked liquor cabinet. And that’s how we have functioned till now.
Listen, like I said earlier, we don’t have to agree. You don’t have to want a federal form of government, just as I don’t have to want the one we have now. But do the research. And imagine how we could be a better republic. No matter how, be a better republic. We can be amused by, disappointed by, horrified by, supportive of, uncaring about the “pepe dede” issue. It is what it is. An attempt by an individual to engage the public on a sensitive matter. But please look past the effort. We can Pepe en Pilar this whole thing, or we can be intelligent and objective about it. In the end, the choice is always up to us.