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Testing the waters

Bencyrus Ellorin

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – Lord Acton

 

THE moves to install a revolutionary government is no doubt motivated by power and more power.

In president-centric Philippine politics, the head of state, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the country’s top diplomat, is the primus inter-pares in a supposedly balanced political system.

Because of our experience with the Ferdinand E. Marcos dictatorship, wherein Congress, supposedly the maker of laws, have become a stamp pad; and the president enacted laws through Presidential Decrees; and the Supreme Court a puppet of the dictator, the 1987 Constitution put in place several provisions to check the powers of the president and the co-equal branches – the legislature composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the Judiciary composed of the Supreme Court and lower courts.

Let me belabor what is taught in basic political science or even araling panlipunan. The executive headed by the president executes the laws and policies set forth by Congress; Congress enacts laws, among them laying down the policies of the government; and the Judiciary interprets the law.

Example, if the current policy of the state, as mandated by a law enacted by Congress prohibits death penalty, the president, even if he does not like it, has to abide by this law. And the courts can only mete the maximum penalty imposed in our Revised Penal Code or as provided by special laws.

In the 1972 Constitution, Congress and the Court cannot review or set aside the declaration of martial law and the lifting of the writ of habeas corpus.

But in the present Constitution, the president has to report to Congress the declaration of martial law, and Congress can lift or extend military rule after 60 days. The Supreme Court can review the basis for the declaration of martial law and may set aside such declaration if it deems the basis for military to be unconstitutional.

Perhaps realizing that the exercise of the most potent of his power, declaring martial law and lifting of the writ of habeas corpus, President Duterte and his men thought their power is not enough. Thus, they entertained the idea of declaring a revolutionary government.

For this to have a mantle of reasonability, the president and his men are saying that the opposition party — in fact, the ruling party it annihilated in the 2016 elections — is destabilizing his government, along with armed rebels, specifically the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

This scenario is difficult to believe as 1) it gives too much credit to a party annihilated in the last election; 2) it gives too much credit to an armed group, long declared by the AFP as emaciated band of armed bandits.

So they need another scenario. They blame the ruling elite — the oligarchy — for delaying key reform agenda.

They are now accusing Congress of sleeping on the moves to change the Constitution to usher in a federal form of government.

They tried this narrative and called on the people to come to the streets to call for a revolutionary government to push federalism.

But then again, the people cannot connect the failure of Congress to usher in federalism. What is the super majority of the president’s party in the House for? What is their super majority in the Senate for?

Instead of wasting its time witch-hunting the opposition and co-equal branches of government with threats of impeachment against the Ombudsman and the current impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes, Sereno, Congress should work for federalism.

They also justify revolutionary government with Cory Aquino’s declaration. Wrong. Cory Aquino was put in power by the bloodless revolution at Edsa in 1986. Declaring a revolutionary government was necessary to change the Marcos Constitution. Otherwise, there would be a continuation of dictatorship, with the new president making laws through presidential decrees, so on and so forth. That revolutionary government was truly liberating and empowering as it resulted in a new constitution with strict accountability and checks and balances provisions.

Duterte was elected by 38 percent of the voters in 2016. He has enormous political capital. The Constitution has provided him with enough power to pursue reforms he wants.

If the people not heeding their call to the streets for the revolutionary government last Nov. 30, 2017 reveals anything, it was that the people knew better and value democracy more than they assumed.

But Malacanang is whily. Perhaps as iwas pusoy mechanism, the official line was against the Revgov. In grand Pontius Pilate fashion, it insinuated it would listen if the people resoundingly call for blood.

The water has been tested. They should back off now tinkering with checks and balances mechanisms in our Constitution.

As it turns out now, the country is not in need of a president with more power, but one with more leadership.

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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