CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 26 January) – Before Congress succeeds in railroading the shift to federalism, its proponents should be asked to produce whatever empirical evidence they have of its desirability, acceptability, and viability.
Given such a momentous proposal, no credible studies and surveys have been undertaken or made generally available. Yet the proponents make preposterous claims about how urgent it is to rush Charter Change.
How many Filipinos express a desire for such a radical change?
It’s important to question what’s going on because it’s not clear how it will really benefit society. The only thing one can be sure of is that the people behind federalism (mostly trapos) will benefit most from a federal system.
In other words, those who already rule the regions and provinces and cities and municipalities today will be the oligarchs and dynasties controlling the federal states tomorrow! Going federal will ensure that they will remain in power indefinitely.
Change requires a period of adjustment, especially systemic change. To familiarize society and get people adjusted to the new order will take time. Who do you think will run things while everybody else is adjusting to it?
The adjustment period is what the trapos refer to as the “transition period.” Now they’re making noises about suspending elections during the transition. After consolidating their power, who’s to say they won’t do away with elections altogether?
It’s a sinister gambit: Change the whole system and load the dice to favor the incumbents and their dynasties while the process of change takes place.
Note that they’re not even bothering to launch a credible information campaign. Their real motives are hidden from view. In control of the House, gamblers that they are, they know the saying “the House always wins.”
Do they care that people still have no clear understanding of what they’re proposing? Do they know that even the 1987 Constitution is familiar to just about one-third of the population? Combine that with the poor enforcement and compliance with the Local Government Code, and you have a citizenry that is powerless and groping in darkness of ignorance.
Bottom-line: Philippine society is not ready, not capable, of making federalism work properly. Not if they can be roundly manipulated and driven towards unfamiliar territory where only the driver knows what to expect.
It’s not too late to open opportunities for a hands-on experience of autonomy. The people need familiarizing on the basics of governing themselves.
Unless initiated and familiarized with the processes of autonomy, they won’t develop a feel for self-governance. They need to be rescued from their condition of powerlessness. Now, not later. It has been a quarter of a century since the enabling law (the Local Government Code) has been on the books. It is unconscionable that Congress should superimpose a new system on one they haven’t made to work.
The root of the people’s powerlessness, even in their own small community (barangay), lies in the poor enforcement of the Code. It is exacerbated by the people’s inability to perform their mandated role (due to the government’s failure to orientate and educate them on it).
They need to be empowered first; at the least to be inducted into the ranks of the barangay government—in which there is a moribund parliament awaiting activation, their Barangay Assembly.
Unless the people are initiated in local governance, they will be helpless against trapos. The trapos are practically unbeatable from years of playing political monopoly. Their dynasties will lord it over the federal states and districts. They will prevail.
Seasoned manipulators that they are, they will fill flood politics with their dynasties and surrogates. They will exploit the resources of their districts. They will control the wealth of the community as never before. They will abuse and misuse the powers delegated to them by the people.
There’s every reason to expect them to do so. They are adept in the uses of political power. They’re routinely engaged in social manipulation to suit their purposes. They’re already spoiled by it. So they’ll keep on doing it.
Unless the administration has political will to implement this Local Government Code effectively and properly, no way can the electorate choose reliable, competent, or honest candidates during elections. For three reasons:
- Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code expressly prohibits partisan campaigning and voting during barangay elections; but, as in all previous elections, it will be shamelessly ignored, violated, and bastardized.
- This non-partisan nature of barangay elections is habitually violated by candidates of every stripe and—just as in past elections—the voters won’t be able to do anything about it, nor can the NAMFREL or the PCCRV and other so-called election watchdogs.
- The incumbents at national and local levels, the main instigators of election violations, are aided by conniving officials in barangay precincts. Being in power, they have the means and the guns and the goons.
So there you have it: Voter ignorance of Constitutional issues, combined with their apathy, compounded by their amoral view of vote-buying (and vote-selling!), would only make a travesty of this administration’s drive towards charter change.
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific and the PPI-UNICEF awardee as outstanding columnist. He is chairman/convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]