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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary below)

FROM THE INQUIRER

By Solita Collas-Monsod: 'DAANG MATUWID' OR 'DAANG KURAKOT'


Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO It’s now official: Mar Roxas is the Liberal Party’s candidate against Jojo Binay for the presidency of the Philippines. “Daang matuwid” vs. “daang kurakot.” The straight and narrow vs. the crooked and corrupt. Country first vs. family first.I liked the way P-Noy endorsed Mar. He decided on the basis of what he knew rather than on the basis of what he could hope for. That’s P-Noy’s forte: giving a message through story-telling, so the audience is never bored. What I learned about Mar, that I didn’t know until yesterday (through P-Noy’s story-telling), is that Mar forbade his family from going into the BPO (business process outsourcing) enterprise so that they could not be said to have taken advantage of a program that he had designed. That was an example of Mar’s integrity. Compare that with a cake-giving program for constituents’ birthdays, with the cakes bought from a member of the family. Or a 13-percent cut from every approved infrastructure project undertaken under your administration. No contest.It turns out that mababaw ang luha ni Mar. That’s more on the personal side, but it is endearing. He was all choked up when he mentioned his dead brother Dinggoy, who was the politician in the family. Mar became a politician not because he wanted to make money, but because he was carrying on family tradition—from his grandfather (President Manuel Roxas) to his father (Sen. Gerry Roxas) to himself (through Dinggoy). Does that make him a member of a political dynasty? Of course not.A political dynasty occurs when members of a family serve in various political elective positions simultaneously or on a takeover basis. But there are “fat” dynasties—that a vice president, mayor, senator and congresswoman, for example, are serving simultaneously is the epitome of a fat dynasty. And there are “thin” dynasties, where a mayor “gives” his position to his son or daughter, while he runs for (and wins) another elective position (congressman or governor).I also liked the way P-Noy brought up the fact that Mar was much lower in the polls than Binay. No bewailing it, just the observation that it is up to the Filipinos to work to change that, if they know what is good for them. And a willingness to work to change that. That’s a good message.The question is: Is P-Noy’s daang matuwid worth continuing? Or is it a flop, and we should all return to the tried-and-tested daang kurakot, which has kept our country so behind its neighbors? My answer is: It is worth continuing, warts and all. And of course it has warts. But then, nothing is perfect. One thing is sure: Our country’s international reputation is at its highest.P-Noy, in his State of the Nation Address, gave his administration the highest marks. Is this inconsistent with the finding of the Movement for Good Governance (MGG), of which I am nominal chair, whose evaluation of this administration’s performance concludes that it is, in the Inquirer’s description, “lackluster”?
Again, the answer is no. Why not? Well, because P-Noy was comparing his performance to the performance of his predecessors. And, let’s face it, he did pretty well on that basis. Highest average real GDP growth rates, better results in the fight against corruption, better quantity and quality of employment, etc., etc. I refer you to the Sona. All these, not just anecdotal, but backed by solid empirical evidence.READ MORE....

ALSO By Mahar Mangahas: One more year as leader


The term of office of Benigno S. Aquino III as president of the Philippines is for six years, not five. The Filipino people are entitled to one more year of service from him. Mid-2016 is when the people can start judging him for what he has done. It will only be the start because, like any other president, P-Noy will surely be rejudged many times, for a long time to come.Last Monday’s State of the Nation Address was P-Noy’s last scheduled speech to a joint session of Congress. Not his last speech as president; just the last before this captive audience. (Luckily I was abroad, and didn’t have to listen to it in one sitting. I read it later; it was very interesting.)The Sona was a time for P-Noy to assess the current situation, and state how he will lead the country in his final year. It is fair for anyone to comment on what the speech included and excluded.
Personally, I would have liked a mention of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), since 2015 is their target year. With the transfer of unachieved MDGs, particularly those of poverty and hunger, to the Sustainable Development Goals, it would also have been nice to hear the government’s plans toward the SDGs (see “Remember the future,” Opinion, 6/20/15).Anyone may agree or disagree with P-Noy’s priorities. But what all should acknowledge is that his job is to be our leader for one more year.The people give President Noynoy Aquino high grades. It is the job of a president to serve the people as a whole, rather than any one of us individually. The bottom line is the people’s collective satisfaction with a president’s performance. This has been regularly measured by scientific opinion polls ever since the time of President Corazon Aquino.It so happens that every single one of the people’s quarterly grades for P-Noy since 2010 has been Good (meaning net satisfaction of +30 to +49), if not Very Good (+50 to +69), with one exception. That exception was his net +10, or Moderate (+10 to +29), in the post-Mamasapano survey of March 2015. A grade of Moderate is clearly positive (see “Flying, floating, or sinking?”, Opinion, 4/11/15). His grade became a Good +30 in June 2015. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Next President: ‘Hollow man,’ ‘blank slate,’ ‘bad news’ or ‘next Marcos’?
[An academician and veteran activist, Bello described Roxas as a “nice guy” and “harmless.” He said Roxas was “clean but, unfortunately, hollow.”]


(From left) Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte FILE PHOTOS
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello is disappointed with the four potential presidential candidates in next year’s general elections and he has an uncomplimentary tag for each of them.
For Bello, President Aquino’s chosen presidential candidate, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, is a “hollow man,” Sen. Grace Poe is a “blank slate,” Vice President Jejomar Binay is “bad news” and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is “the second coming of the Marcos regime.” “My great disappointment with all four candidates comes through clearly since our country really can come up with better people,” Bello said in an online interview on Saturday.
A former staunch ally of President Aquino, the Akbayan leader cut his ties with the administration coalition in March over what he considered a Malacañang cover-up of the Jan. 25 clash between police commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 police officers dead. He also disagreed with President Aquino over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional, the retention of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, all of whom he described as “dead weights.” Bello also resigned as Akbayan representative in the House of Representatives. Hollow man An academician and veteran activist, Bello described Roxas as a “nice guy” and “harmless.” He said Roxas was “clean but, unfortunately, hollow.” “He reminds me of passages from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men,’ especially the lines, ‘Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion,’” said Bello, a senior analyst for Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. He noted that Roxas did not speak up on a number of issues, particularly agrarian reform, security of tenure for workers, overseas Filipino workers and greater income equality.
“So whose interests does he actually represent, except [those of] the Makati Business Club, which loves him? He will maintain the social status quo, and this is why he’s harmless,” Bello said. According to him, what the country needs is a President “who will attack vested interests and not one who will protect them.” Bello also described Roxas’ record as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and previously of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Transportation and Communications under President Aquino as “rather thin.” READ MORE...

ALSO By Reynato Puno: Our system stinks


The history of governments tells us the lesson that the best government that can handle diversity is the democratic form, but more specifically, the federal-parliamentary species of democracy. More than any form of government, the federal government can best handle diversities driven by differences in culture, religion, language and geography because of its high threshold of tolerance to minorities. A contrario, unitary states where power is too centralized in the national government have failed to deal with the diversities inherent in people. In the graveyard of democracies you will find interred unitary states more than federal states. Undeniably, we have a unitary form of government where power is centralized in the national government. In fine, our experience under a unitary-presidential form of government runs to 80 years now. The question is: What has this unitary-presidential form of government brought to our people? One. We have a government where power is tilted too much in favor of the Executive. Not infrequently, the Executive has reduced the Legislature to a rubber stamp. In the authoritarian years of the 1970s and 1980s, the Legislature and the Judiciary were seduced to surrender their independence to the Executive. Arguably, the biggest abuse of power in our tripartite government has been committed in our Executive branch. Two. At other times, however, our Legislature has been captured by a party different from the party of the president. Often the result is deadlock between the two branches. The spectacle in these stalemates is not edifying. Not infrequently, Congress will wield its power to investigate in aid of legislation. It will summon the president’s men suspected of violating the laws of the land to embarrass the administration. The Executive will strike back with its own low blows. The public is treated to a pintakasi where in the end we see not gamecocks but the welfare of the people dead on the ground. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Daang matuwid’ or ‘daang kurakot’?


By: Solita (Mareng Winnie) Collas-Monsod

MANILA, AUGUST 10, 2015 (INQUIRER) By: Solita Collas-Monsod August 1st, 2015  - It’s now official: Mar Roxas is the Liberal Party’s candidate against Jojo Binay for the presidency of the Philippines. “Daang matuwid” vs. “daang kurakot.”

The straight and narrow vs. the crooked and corrupt.

Country first vs. family first.

I liked the way P-Noy endorsed Mar. He decided on the basis of what he knew rather than on the basis of what he could hope for. That’s P-Noy’s forte: giving a message through story-telling, so the audience is never bored.

What I learned about Mar, that I didn’t know until yesterday (through P-Noy’s story-telling), is that Mar forbade his family from going into the BPO (business process outsourcing) enterprise so that they could not be said to have taken advantage of a program that he had designed. That was an example of Mar’s integrity.

Compare that with a cake-giving program for constituents’ birthdays, with the cakes bought from a member of the family. Or a 13-percent cut from every approved infrastructure project undertaken under your administration. No contest.

It turns out that mababaw ang luha ni Mar. That’s more on the personal side, but it is endearing.

He was all choked up when he mentioned his dead brother Dinggoy, who was the politician in the family. Mar became a politician not because he wanted to make money, but because he was carrying on family tradition—from his grandfather (President Manuel Roxas) to his father (Sen. Gerry Roxas) to himself (through Dinggoy).

Does that make him a member of a political dynasty? Of course not.

A political dynasty occurs when members of a family serve in various political elective positions simultaneously or on a takeover basis.

But there are “fat” dynasties—that a vice president, mayor, senator and congresswoman, for example, are serving simultaneously is the epitome of a fat dynasty.

And there are “thin” dynasties, where a mayor “gives” his position to his son or daughter, while he runs for (and wins) another elective position (congressman or governor).

I also liked the way P-Noy brought up the fact that Mar was much lower in the polls than Binay. No bewailing it, just the observation that it is up to the Filipinos to work to change that, if they know what is good for them. And a willingness to work to change that. That’s a good message.

The question is: Is P-Noy’s daang matuwid worth continuing? Or is it a flop, and we should all return to the tried-and-tested daang kurakot, which has kept our country so behind its neighbors? My answer is: It is worth continuing, warts and all. And of course it has warts. But then, nothing is perfect.

One thing is sure: Our country’s international reputation is at its highest.

P-Noy, in his State of the Nation Address, gave his administration the highest marks. Is this inconsistent with the finding of the Movement for Good Governance (MGG), of which I am nominal chair, whose evaluation of this administration’s performance concludes that it is, in the Inquirer’s description, “lackluster”?

Again, the answer is no. Why not?

Well, because P-Noy was comparing his performance to the performance of his predecessors. And, let’s face it, he did pretty well on that basis. Highest average real GDP growth rates, better results in the fight against corruption, better quantity and quality of employment, etc., etc. I refer you to the Sona. All these, not just anecdotal, but backed by solid empirical evidence.

READ MORE...

The MGG, on the other hand, was comparing P-Noy’s performance to the performance he had promised at the beginning of his term. Which is contained in the Philippine Development Plan. And the ensuing evaluation is also backed by solid empirical evidence, not generated by the MGG, but by our government statisticians.

So, both points of view are right. P-Noy has done better than his predecessors, and he has also done worse than he promised. But then, no previous president has done what he/she promised.

The next important question is: Who should be Mar Roxas’ running mate? I don’t know who he has in mind, or who the Liberal Party has in mind, but I do have a few suggestions.

For example, how about Leni Robredo? My personal choice.

There is no question regarding integrity and competence. She has had years of training, under her late husband, Jesse Robredo, and so she, too, exemplifies effective, empowering and ethical (the three Es) governance. She is a lawyer, and she has an economics degree from the University of the Philippines. No corruption has attached to her name. And she has NGO experience in nongovernment organizations. Daang matuwid all the way.

Or how about Vilma Santos Recto?

Her name was suggested by one whose judgment I value highly. Her stint as mayor, and later governor of Batangas, has also proven that she has the right values, as well as the three Es. She has done well in Batangas as far as education and health are concerned. She is a hard worker. Her husband, Sen. Ralph Recto, may be a liability (his reputation is not all that good, especially on the corruption side), but she apparently can hold her own against him. Another plus for her: She is a crowd-drawer.

And then a last candidate, suggested by a former politician who served his country with integrity: How about P-Noy himself?

There is no legal encumbrance to his candidacy. And who better to help ensure that his program will be continued? This is, of course, a long shot.

Let us hope that Mar selects a VP who is like-minded, and who can be counted on to help.

And let us hope that the Filipino people make the right choice. After all, this is actually a no-brainer.


One more year as leader By: Mahar Mangahas @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 04:55 AM August 1st, 2015

The term of office of Benigno S. Aquino III as president of the Philippines is for six years, not five. The Filipino people are entitled to one more year of service from him. Mid-2016 is when the people can start judging him for what he has done. It will only be the start because, like any other president, P-Noy will surely be rejudged many times, for a long time to come.

Last Monday’s State of the Nation Address was P-Noy’s last scheduled speech to a joint session of Congress. Not his last speech as president; just the last before this captive audience. (Luckily I was abroad, and didn’t have to listen to it in one sitting. I read it later; it was very interesting.)

The Sona was a time for P-Noy to assess the current situation, and state how he will lead the country in his final year. It is fair for anyone to comment on what the speech included and excluded.

Personally, I would have liked a mention of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), since 2015 is their target year. With the transfer of unachieved MDGs, particularly those of poverty and hunger, to the Sustainable Development Goals, it would also have been nice to hear the government’s plans toward the SDGs (see “Remember the future,” Opinion, 6/20/15).

Anyone may agree or disagree with P-Noy’s priorities. But what all should acknowledge is that his job is to be our leader for one more year.

The people give President Noynoy Aquino high grades. It is the job of a president to serve the people as a whole, rather than any one of us individually. The bottom line is the people’s collective satisfaction with a president’s performance. This has been regularly measured by scientific opinion polls ever since the time of President Corazon Aquino.

It so happens that every single one of the people’s quarterly grades for P-Noy since 2010 has been Good (meaning net satisfaction of +30 to +49), if not Very Good (+50 to +69), with one exception. That exception was his net +10, or Moderate (+10 to +29), in the post-Mamasapano survey of March 2015. A grade of Moderate is clearly positive (see “Flying, floating, or sinking?”, Opinion, 4/11/15). His grade became a Good +30 in June 2015.

READ MORE...

No other president was so popular, for so long. President Cory Aquino scored Good or better from 1986 to 1989, and got her first Moderate in March 1990. From then up to the end of her term she had one more Good (in April 1990), four Moderates, and two Neutrals (both +7). The SWS surveys were only twice a year at that time. She ended at +7.

President Fidel V. Ramos scored Good or better from 1992 to 1994, and got his first Moderate in March 1995. In 1995-1996, FVR had six Moderates and two Neutrals (+1 and +2). Interestingly, his grades rose to Good in all four surveys of 1997; this is for historians to analyze. In five surveys of 1998 he had one Good and four Moderates. He ended at +19.

President Joseph Estrada started with four Very Goods. Then he had a total of three Moderates and three Neutrals from October 1999 to December 2000, ending at +9, before being forced from office in January 2001.

President Gloria Arroyo had no honeymoon. In 20 surveys from March 2001 to August 2004, she got one Good (+30 in March 2004), 13 Moderates, five Neutrals, and one Poor (between -10 and -29) . From October 2004 to June 2010, however, she had four Neutrals (small negatives), 12 Poors, six Bads (-30 to -49) and two Very Bads (-50 to -69). She ended at -17. No other president ever had even a single negative grade.

The Quality of Life involves governance, and other things besides. SWS is concerned with surveying governance, among many other things, since it is part of its general theme, which is the Quality of Life (QOL). Bad governance makes people angry.

It is clear from surveys that P-Noy has governed unprecedentedly well so far.

How he will perform from now on up to June 2016 is something that at least four more SWS surveys will monitor. Will he flop, as his political adversaries hope? Will he coast along, by avoiding controversy? Will he be bold, and possibly achieve greater heights? Let us see.

The SWS survey agenda on QOL includes the working of democracy, which has ups and downs, and cannot be taken for granted. Surveys show that free and fair presidential elections, such as those of 1998 and 2010, have been very good for the working of democracy. Let us watch carefully in 2016.

The economic QOL stresses the deprived over those with average income. Despite steady growth in the Gross National Product, there was a lost decade, starting in 2003, in the fight against poverty, evident in the flatness of both the intermittent government statistics and the quarterly SWS statistics. Hunger, on the other hand, was already low in 2003, but climbed steadily in 2004-2012, and partially recovered afterward (see “Hunger: the recovery continues,” Opinion, 7/25/15).

Indicators of QOL include subjective items like satisfaction with life and personal happiness. Surveys show that these are inversely related to economic deprivation. Involuntary hunger produces undeserved unhappiness.

The QOL is not only static, but also dynamic. It matters to people whether they are improving or worsening over time (see “All-time high personal optimism,” Opinion, 5/30/15). Watch for the new SWS quarterly report on gainers versus losers, and optimists versus pessimists, to be
published next week.


EDITORIAL: Next President: ‘Hollow man,’ ‘blank slate,’ ‘bad news’ or ‘next Marcos’? @inquirerdotnet 01:20 AM August 3rd, 2015


(From left) Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte FILE PHOTOS

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello is disappointed with the four potential presidential candidates in next year’s general elections and he has an uncomplimentary tag for each of them.

For Bello, President Aquino’s chosen presidential candidate, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, is a “hollow man,” Sen. Grace Poe is a “blank slate,” Vice President Jejomar Binay is “bad news” and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is “the second coming of the Marcos regime.”

“My great disappointment with all four candidates comes through clearly since our country really can come up with better people,” Bello said in an online interview on Saturday.

A former staunch ally of President Aquino, the Akbayan leader cut his ties with the administration coalition in March over what he considered a Malacañang cover-up of the Jan. 25 clash between police commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, that left 44 police officers dead.

He also disagreed with President Aquino over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional, the retention of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, all of whom he described as “dead weights.”

Bello also resigned as Akbayan representative in the House of Representatives.

Hollow man

An academician and veteran activist, Bello described Roxas as a “nice guy” and “harmless.” He said Roxas was “clean but, unfortunately, hollow.”

“He reminds me of passages from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men,’ especially the lines, ‘Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion,’” said Bello, a senior analyst for Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines.

He noted that Roxas did not speak up on a number of issues, particularly agrarian reform, security of tenure for workers, overseas Filipino workers and greater income equality.

“So whose interests does he actually represent, except [those of] the Makati Business Club, which loves him? He will maintain the social status quo, and this is why he’s harmless,” Bello said.

According to him, what the country needs is a President “who will attack vested interests and not one who will protect them.”

Bello also described Roxas’ record as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and previously of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Transportation and Communications under President Aquino as “rather thin.”

READ MORE...

“His handling of the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) fiasco, [Supertyphoon] ‘Yolanda’ rehabilitation, and Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) upgrading leaves much to be desired, and I’m being charitable here,” Bello said.

Biggest problem

He said Roxas’ biggest problem in his quest for the presidency, even with the endorsement of President Aquino, was the botched Mamasapano counterterrorism operation.

“Why did he not resign since being excluded was a damning sign that the President did not trust him? He’s going to collapse under the withering fire of people who will raise these issues in the campaign,” Bello said.

He said it would be disastrous for Akbayan to support Roxas just because of the President’s endorsement and for the party to remain a member of the administration coalition.

“The greater danger facing the party (Akbayan) is its being perceived as obediently tailing behind the Liberal Party (LP). That would alienate it from the left while not endearing it to the middle who would prefer real middle-of-the-roaders,” he said.

Bello said he hoped Akbayan’s “progressive colors will not be completely erased by the yellow brush.”

What does she stand for?

On Poe, Bello said: “I like Grace personally, but she’s a blank slate.”

He said Poe had been a recent focus of attention “simply as someone with a famous name” that could prevent a Binay presidency “since [Roxas] does not have the mass appeal to be able to do this.”

He said Poe was being groomed as an “anti-Binay” rather than as a candidate “with a discernible propeople program.”

“We don’t really know what she stands for at this point,” he said.

‘Bad news’ Binay

With charges of corruption hounding Binay and his family, Bello called the Vice President “bad news.”

If Binay would succeed President Aquino, Bello said, it would be the “second coming of the corrupt GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) presidency.”

Bello scoffed at Binay’s understanding of ordinary people’s daily struggle against poverty.

“Unfortunately, his approach is to say, ‘Hey, I’ll give you handouts like a cake on your birthday; all I want is for you to close your eyes while I also have my cake,’” Bello said.

Marcos 2.0

He said a Duterte presidency “would be the second coming of the Marcos regime, with its disregard for basic human rights.”

“Unfortunately, given the crime wave and the deterioration in effective policing that took place under P-Noy’s buddy, former PNP (Philippine National Police) Chief Alan Purisima, many people are willing to give Duterte’s iron fist a chance and suspend their concerns about due process and human rights,” Bello said.

But he added: “I think that this is still a minority, though.”"

Ex-Aquino supporter

Bello led Akbayan in supporting Aquino in the 2010 presidential election.
Akbayan allied with the LP when its former representative and party chair, Risa Hontiveros, ran for a seat in the Senate in the 2010 and 2013 elections. She lost both races, but she is now director of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

A number of other Akbayan members are also in the government, including Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Joel Rocamora.

RELATED STORIES
Walden Bello cuts ties with Palace over Mamasapano ‘cover-up’

Bayan: If Abaya’s innocent, why not charge Roxas on MRT fiasco?


Our system stinks By: Reynato S. Puno @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:22 AM August 8th, 2015

The history of governments tells us the lesson that the best government that can handle diversity is the democratic form, but more specifically, the federal-parliamentary species of democracy. More than any form of government, the federal government can best handle diversities driven by differences in culture, religion, language and geography because of its high threshold of tolerance to minorities.

A contrario, unitary states where power is too centralized in the national government have failed to deal with the diversities inherent in people. In the graveyard of democracies you will find interred unitary states more than federal states.

Undeniably, we have a unitary form of government where power is centralized in the national government. In fine, our experience under a unitary-presidential form of government runs to 80 years now.

The question is: What has this unitary-presidential form of government brought to our people?

One. We have a government where power is tilted too much in favor of the Executive. Not infrequently, the Executive has reduced the Legislature to a rubber stamp. In the authoritarian years of the 1970s and 1980s, the Legislature and the Judiciary were seduced to surrender their independence to the Executive. Arguably, the biggest abuse of power in our tripartite government has been committed in our Executive branch.

Two. At other times, however, our Legislature has been captured by a party different from the party of the president. Often the result is deadlock between the two branches. The spectacle in these stalemates is not edifying. Not infrequently, Congress will wield its power to investigate in aid of legislation. It will summon the president’s men suspected of violating the laws of the land to embarrass the administration. The Executive will strike back with its own low blows. The public is treated to a pintakasi where in the end we see not gamecocks but the welfare of the people dead on the ground.

READ MORE...

Three. We have a Judiciary where too much is expected yet too little is given. Our Supreme Court is one of its kind in the world. Theoretically, it is a very powerful court given its expanded power to strike down anything done in our government “in grave abuse of discretion,” a phrase that can include anything under the sun.

Add to that its awesome power to promulgate rules to protect the constitutional rights of the people, a power that is quasi-legislative in character, unusual to be given to a court under the principle of separation of powers. Yet for all the abundant powers granted the Supreme Court on paper, reality will reveal that the independence of the Judiciary is insufficiently insulated in our Constitution. The appointment process in the Judiciary is still infected by the political virus.

Undeniably, it has never been given its financial independence by the political branches of the government. Lack of financial resources is one reason the Judiciary cannot liquidate its backlog of undecided cases.

Four. We have also created in our Constitution the Commission on Audit, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman. We are the only country that has put these offices on the constitutional pedestal. The intent is noble: to establish independent bodies that will assure our people of good government.

Again, whether the performance of these offices has matched the expectations of the people is a good field of empirical study. The disquieting questions are: Have we solved—nay, even dissipated—violations of human rights?

Have we controlled the runaway corruption in government? Have we produced a bureaucracy based on meritocracy?

Have we checked the plunder committed on the money of the people?

Five. There is the immoral gap between the rich and the poor. We do not need to show the numbers for there can be no doubting Thomas who needs to be convinced of this self-evident truth. The immediate need to diminish this gap is beyond debate. Filipinos are migrating to foreign lands.

It is time to reverse the mindset of our masses that the best way to live in the Philippines is to leave it. It is time to show them that their most valuable property is not their passport. It is time to end promises to the poor with nothing but sound and acoustic effects. The poor deserve a constitution where their basic socioeconomic rights can be demanded from the state as a matter of right and not just a right in the papyrus. They deserve a constitution where their voice in the political branches of government will be their own voice. The powerlessness of the people is the ultimate desecration of democracy.

Six. And this is arguably the most urgent problem that confronts our country: The paucity of power given to our local governments, especially the power to govern given to our Muslim brothers and sisters who constitute an identifiable minority and carry a distinct identity because of their different history, religion, language and culture. After hundreds of years, we must imbibe the lesson that under our unitary form of government, they cannot be given the government that they deserve, however much we want to. We ought to recognize that we must allow their diversity to flourish for there is value in diversity.

Diversity is, in truth, the touchstone of democracy. Let us castrate the thought that we know best how to govern them when our relationship with them goes no deeper than the handshake level. We must disabuse our mind of the discarded idea that the sovereignty of a state is absolute, indestructible and indivisible, and, hence, cannot be shared with people and with aggregates of people.

Federalism has exploded the myth that people with distinct identities cannot be trusted the right to rule themselves.

Federalism offers the best hope to our distinct minorities to be allowed self-rule. It is my submission that federalism is best for a nation characterized by diversity.

The Philippines is one of the most diverse nations in the world. It is composed of 7,107 islands. Its people are of the South Asian stock but intermarriage with other races has resulted in a great deal of stock blending. It has about 79 indigenous-ethnic groups, each with a distinct language, custom, tradition and art.

About 80 percent of its people are Catholics. Some belong to the various Christian denominations. Five percent are Muslims but they claim the adherence of 11 percent of the population. Two percent are Buddhists. Another two percent practice folk religion.

But the best offer of evidence to prove that our unitary-presidential form of government has not worked for our people is no other than our consistent mark as a “failing state” by international institutions with no ill motive to downgrade our democracy. We are a basket case.

No wonder countries are now throwing their trash in our backyard. Our system of democracy stinks. Something must be rotten in it.

Reynato S. Puno is a former chief justice. This piece is excerpted from his keynote address at “Securing the Future: A Summit for Change” held last July 22 at Club Filipino in San Juan City.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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