NCE enough people realized that the real objective of the House Majority was to have No Elections in May 2007, powerful religious, civil and political forces quickly united to oppose the unilateral Charter change moves. This happened spontaneously. The threatened postponement of the May 2007 elections to November, if ever, was the tipping point issue that galvanized Public Opinion against the House of Jose de Venecia.
A noteworthy lesson is that the holding of regular elections is a touchstone issue with Filipinos that is perilous to tinker around with in any self-serving way. Though most Filipinos may not understand the intricacies of the Constitution, they DO know that it grants them the sovereign power to elect national, provincial and local leaders in regular democratic elections. They understand that their consent to be governed by anyone elected to represent them, has a definite expiry date that cannot be changed by its recipients. Filipinos apparently understand and wish to strictly enforce the Constitutional concept of term limits. In this case, June 30, 2007 is a drop dead date for all incumbent Members of the Lower House, who must stand for re-election, if eligible, in the May 14 elections.
After it became clear to everybody this past week that the House Majority was serious about postponing the May 2007 elections to November, all Heaven broke loose and one by one the Churches all stepped up to the plate to say they would hit the proposals with a million prayers in massive rallies and demonstrations this week. Religious muscle defends the right to vote.
There is a broader lesson. The proposed switch from a Bicameral Presidential system to a Unicameral Parliamentary form of government may be unratifiable at plebiscite because the people will never give up the right to vote for their national leaders and be satisfied with just electing local and provincial officials.
Because of all the attention focussed on the arithmetical philosophy of the Charter change provision, the Unicameralists have been able to successfully obscure and distract the public from seeing the real effects of a switch on the exercise of the right of suffrage in the Philippines: no more voting for national leaders like the President, Vice President and the Senators.
As more and more people realize that this would be the practical consequence of supporting the switch to a Unicameral Parliamentary system, the opposition to it will only solidify and grow among the people, in my opinion. For they have little else but their vote -- at least until they discovered they could also vote with their feet as OFWs. But the Churches -- which I regard as faith-based mass organizations -- have withdrawn their support for the kind of wholesale revision being proposed by the House, and its heavy-handed reliance on "having the Numbers" in order to have their way. The Public saw and tolerated that juggernaut behavior in the House impeachment battles of the last eighteen months but will have none of it in a matter that goes beyond political partisanship and affects everyone's Right of Suffrage in a substantially unacceptable way.
I think those who support a Unicameral Parliamentary form of government for the Philippines have to convince the Filipino People to give up their Right to Vote for national leaders and to give it to those who are now their Congressmen. This could be an impossible task for they must also contend with the historical fact that no people in history have ever willingly surrendered the democratic right of national suffrage once they had attained it.
Bullseye Analogy - Jose de Venecia and the House Majority demand that the Senate agree to a Constitutional Convention and pass a Resolution to that effect within 72 hours -- or else they will continue with that unilateral Constituent Assembly this week. Senator Serge Osmena's analogy describing this House demand deserves to be immortalized. He likens the House Majority to a rapist that demands his victim marry him within 72 hours or else he will rape her again!
The Senate has called the House's bluff with such bemused reactions as Serge Osmena's, as well as dead-serious warnings from Sen. Dick Gordon of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments that the House is courting the public's anger over its moves. No Senator is expected to grace the opening of the Con-Ass, except possibly for the self-described "insane, ballistic, homicidal, suicidal, frothing-at-the-mouth" Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago. Which would of course complete the absurdity of the whole thing.
By the way, Nagueno in the Blogosphere has a noteworthy post on the ironic dedication of Bicol Congressmen Edcel Lagman, Luis Villafuerte and others to chacha in a time of calamity for their home districts.
Amando Doronila, with misty eyes, thinks this is a sign of life for people power. Other places call it Public Opinion, Doro.
The exasperation of Founding Father Joaquin Bernas, SJ, over the House's exploitation of their "oversight" in the Constitution's charter change provision is still fun and instructive to behold.
MLQ3 describes the pickle the House finds itself in and only barely succeeds in hiding the schadenfreude in his One Voice, but using H.L. Mencken for the delicious purpose.
Cox & Forkum (editorial cartoonists) commemorate Pearl Harbor this year with a citation of John Lewis long, thoughtful and provocative essay, The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism viewed from the lessons and parallels of that earlier struggle with Japanese militarism and its conquest of Asia and China. The post is a reaction of course to the Iraq Study Group report released this week. David Broder (Washington Post) describes the White House and British reactions to the report.
Updates from Senate Hearing on Con-Ass
Justice Vicente Mendoza gave a nice little lecture on the exercise of the Constituent Power at the Philippine Senate this morning. I am glad to see that Philippine Commentary over the last few weeks might actually meet with his approval for agreeing with his points...
Senator Ralph Recto opened up an interesting line of questioning that revealed a century of amazing experimentation with both bicameral and unicameral forms of the legislature of parliamentary, presidential and dictatorial forms. The discussion is joined by Justice Vicente Mendoza and Juan Ponce Enrile. No country has had such a bewildering history of constitution making, amending, revising and changing!
But Sen. Ralph Recto definitely gets it about the central political issue that has defeated Con-Ass--the threat to take away the national vote.