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

BY SARA SOLIVEN DE GUZMAN: DUTERTE'S CHOICE - CON ASS FOR CHARTER CHANGE


AUGUST 1 -By Sara Soliven de Guzman Last week The Philippine Star celebrated its 30th anniversary with a big bang. Realizing that times have indeed changed, the vision for the coming decade, 30 from Revolution to Evolution clearly tells us where The Philippine Star is headed to. Building its foundation on the onset of the People Power Revolution, the newspaper is now entering the hi-tech, digital age. If my father, the late Maximo V. Soliven co-founder of The Philippine Star were alive today, he probably would be equally excited at the same time anxious because he was never a “techie”. He wrote his columns using his old and reliable manual typewriter enjoying the clicking, clacking, and tapping sounds it made. He also loved the smell of freshly printed newspaper that brought back memories of the old past. I wonder what he would have said after listening to Duterte’s SONA last week. I can just guess that he would have loved it. As his close friend and veteran journalist Nelson Navarro said: “I thought I wouldn’t sit through President Duterte’s first SONA but I did. For one hour and forty minutes. He had so many adlibs and it was a tour de force performance none of the previous presidents would have even thought of or gotten away with…Nobody prowled or was allowed to prowl the corridors before or after to play Joan Rivers’ fashion police. This was the exact opposite of the yellow callow days and what a great relief. No finger pointing, no brickbats, just zingers on crime, drugs, corruption…The three ex-presidents were mentioned in passing and the absent one, well, was deservedly ignored as if he was not from this planet… What a revelation that we could have been spared the puffy dramas and self-serving commentaries that once filled the dead air of SONAS past.” He continues: “What this spectacle brought to my mind was James Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington, the everyman who suddenly became president and got to speak his mind to the nabobs of power, reducing them to utter absurdity but with the lightness of satire that was truly lethal because the accuser did not exactly accuse or play hero… I loved best Duterte’s great heart for the common people, the Muslims, the rebels in the hills, the squatters, all the outsiders of our country who have simply been shut out of the equation but without whom no real country can be built or expected to arise. Was it laying this message too thickly? I don’t think so. It was long due and just the very fact that he held that huge hall full of flattened egos and the great masses out in the electronic void was, for me, a most exhilarating and liberating moment. If only a few hearts were touched like mine I know it would never have been a waste of time.” * * * The president has now expressed his preference of the CON-ASS mode for charter change noting primarily the expensive cost of a CON-CON and the time element. If he chose CON-CON, he may be too late to include it in the 2017 budget (estimated to be five billion pesos), the earliest may be 2018 which means the CON-CON may only begin the process of reviewing the constitution for revisions by 2019. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - A mockery of the law


AUGUST 1 -The Commission on Elections tried to stop the abuse of the system, but the judiciary had the final say and refused to go along. Using legal acrobatics, the courts repeatedly rebuffed the Comelec and turned the party-list system into the travesty that it is today. Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act, passed in March 1995, is the enabling law for the constitutional provision on party-list representation. The wording in the Constitution is brief and vague, giving lawmakers wide leeway to craft the enabling legislation. But RA 7941 is specific: the party-list system should allow Filipinos “belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies” to become members of the House of Representatives. RA 7941 specifically bars religious groups from participation. Also barred in 1998 were the five biggest political parties, with their size determined through the number of House seats garnered at the start of the 10th Congress. The enabling law also required each party-list nominee to be a “bona fide member” of the organization that he seeks to represent for at least 90 days prior to election day. A look at certain groups and individuals approved for party-list representation shows how these requirements have been ignored. Several groups are thinly concealed fronts for major political parties and influential religious groups.
READ MORE...

ALSO CRIME DETENTION CENTERS: Filled to overflowing


AUGUST 4 -The photographs and video footage tell the story: men, shirtless because of the heat, packed like sardines as they sleep in makeshift detention centers, or cooking their evening meal about a meter away from others who dip into water pails as they take a bath. The detention areas are so cramped some inmates take turns sleeping on precious space. The images have become common in local jails, where persons who have been arrested or surrendered as part of the crackdown against the drug menace are held. Some are quickly freed for rehabilitation. Those charged with heavier offenses face a longer stay as they await trial and the possibility of being freed on bail. Local jails all over the country have always been congested. The problem has progressively worsened as jail facilities failed to expand and keep up with rapid population growth and the increase in the crime rate. Now, with the government focusing on the war on drugs and criminality, all local jails are overflowing with detainees. If many of the thousands of suspects are convicted, the problem is expected to aggravate congestion in national prisons. Like local jails, the Bureau of Corrections has been plagued for a long time with inadequate prison cells. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Bobit Avila - From con-con to con-ass to con-com?


AUGUST 4 -BOBIT AVILA
The case for our shift from a unitary form of governance into a parliamentary-federal system will not be an easy one simply because of narrow-minded people. I saw the interview of former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod (he is openly against federalism) on GMA-7 and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno over ANC with Tina Monzon Palma and you will see that Manila based TV journalists are apparently ignorant about federalism… to think these people are supposed to be the intellectuals in our society. I was amused that Tina Monzon Palma was having difficulty formulating questions about federalism in her interview with Puno.
So the first part of this debate is on the method of changing the Constitution. I learned that during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting where all former Presidents met for the first time with President Rodrigo Duterte, he talked about Charter change and got the nod of the former Presidents. I’m sure that former Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III must have simply bowed his head in surrender because we know that he is totally against revising the Constitution named after his mother. So the first issue on the table is whether to change the Charter via a constitutional convention (con-con) or via a constituent assembly (con-ass). I understand that Pres. Duterte originally wanted a con-con, but somehow (did he sense that a con-con could end up being railroaded by his political opponents?) then he had a change of heart and is now looking into doing it by con-ass. Of course, I’m totally against changing the Constitution with only the members of Congress doing the debates because it would move them away from the day-to-day business of getting legislation done in order to let the country move towards a better economic future. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Duterte’s choice – Con Ass


By Sara Soliven de Guzman

MANILA, AUGUST 8, 2016 (PHILSTAR)  AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven de Guzman Updated August 1, 2016 - Last week The Philippine Star celebrated its 30th anniversary with a big bang. Realizing that times have indeed changed, the vision for the coming decade, 30 from Revolution to Evolution clearly tells us where The Philippine Star is headed to. Building its foundation on the onset of the People Power Revolution, the newspaper is now entering the hi-tech, digital age.

If my father, the late Maximo V. Soliven co-founder of The Philippine Star were alive today, he probably would be equally excited at the same time anxious because he was never a “techie”. He wrote his columns using his old and reliable manual typewriter enjoying the clicking, clacking, and tapping sounds it made. He also loved the smell of freshly printed newspaper that brought back memories of the old past.

I wonder what he would have said after listening to Duterte’s SONA last week.

I can just guess that he would have loved it. As his close friend and veteran journalist Nelson Navarro said: “I thought I wouldn’t sit through President Duterte’s first SONA but I did. For one hour and forty minutes. He had so many adlibs and it was a tour de force performance none of the previous presidents would have even thought of or gotten away with…Nobody prowled or was allowed to prowl the corridors before or after to play Joan Rivers’ fashion police. This was the exact opposite of the yellow callow days and what a great relief. No finger pointing, no brickbats, just zingers on crime, drugs, corruption…The three ex-presidents were mentioned in passing and the absent one, well, was deservedly ignored as if he was not from this planet… What a revelation that we could have been spared the puffy dramas and self-serving commentaries that once filled the dead air of SONAS past.”

He continues: “What this spectacle brought to my mind was James Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington, the everyman who suddenly became president and got to speak his mind to the nabobs of power, reducing them to utter absurdity but with the lightness of satire that was truly lethal because the accuser did not exactly accuse or play hero… I loved best Duterte’s great heart for the common people, the Muslims, the rebels in the hills, the squatters, all the outsiders of our country who have simply been shut out of the equation but without whom no real country can be built or expected to arise. Was it laying this message too thickly? I don’t think so. It was long due and just the very fact that he held that huge hall full of flattened egos and the great masses out in the electronic void was, for me, a most exhilarating and liberating moment. If only a few hearts were touched like mine I know it would never have been a waste of time.”

* * *

The president has now expressed his preference of the CON-ASS mode for charter change noting primarily the expensive cost of a CON-CON and the time element. If he chose CON-CON, he may be too late to include it in the 2017 budget (estimated to be five billion pesos), the earliest may be 2018 which means the CON-CON may only begin the process of reviewing the constitution for revisions by 2019.

READ MORE...

Given this timeline, Chacha will not happen in this administration, and it may take decades or so before another charismatic leader enjoying the highest popularity rating and solid mass base to spearhead PAGBABAGO without appearing to promote self-interest, passes this path again.

Understandably, some quarters see the CON-ASS with pessimism claiming that it is not democratic; that it is a sure way to railroad Chacha; or that the legislators will only protect their personal interests. Yet, how could this be undemocratic and viewed as a tool to bully and impose upon the people a desired change, when the constitution itself allows CON-ASS to effect amendments or revisions? Certainly, our legal experts could cite the pros and cons of CON-CON, CON-ASS, or People’s Initiative in effecting Chacha, but the point, as I see it, is the necessity to ride the tide of change being waged by a government that enjoys the trust of almost every Filipino.

With the administration’s supermajority in both houses of congress, even the contentious issue of whether the House of Representatives and the Senate should vote separately or jointly may have become moot and academic. And while there is no guarantee until we see it happen, there is reason to believe that the CON-ASS will not do anything contrary to the people-oriented advocacies of the president. Thus, instead of a proposal lifting term limits of elected officials, we might see in the proposed Chacha, a clear provision against Political Dynasties that would no longer need an enabling law from congress. This is very important if federalism is truly the way for the Philippines, otherwise, the federal units might become mini-kingdoms ruled by mini-kings and their relatives. Certainly, the President will not frustrate the people and he will lay his reputation, his life, and the presidency for a genuine Chacha.

Some people think that it would be more responsible for the Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez to guide Congress to submit legislation requesting to form a Commission to develop a Federal-Parliamentary kind of governance, a totally new framework complete with the required constitutional changes. It must be composed of experienced top four Senators, top four Congressmen and top four Private Experts, covering not just lawyers but also experts in Economics, Organizational Structure and Management, CEO Level. This will reduce the time and cost in swiftly producing a complete government model with very little political maneuvering producing a perfect machinery of government and framework suitable for the culture of the Philippines.

At the end of the day, it will be the people who will decide in a plebiscite what is good for the country. Should this process fail because of the feared but purely speculative self-protectionist stance of our legislators, the President, with the support of the people, might do it his way, as he mentioned during the campaign, a fourth but extra-constitutional way of Chacha – a revolution by the people for the people. Abangan!

* * *

The famous icon for Philippine handbags, Cora Jacob, passed away last Friday, July 29, 2016. I have several Cora Jacob bags. They are beautifully designed made out of Philippine indigenous materials and leather. Cora got her biggest break when in 1982, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, who was a buyer for Christian Dior, saw her bags at a trade show she designed for the famous fashion houses of Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Givenchy. What is noble about her work is that she has a heart of gold. She empowers women in the rural areas by training them to design and make bags in order to support themselves. Thank you Tita Cora for sharing your gift and passion to our people. You are a shining star. Her remains lie in state at Santuario de San Jose Parish Hall, Greenhills East until today (August 1).


EDITORIAL - A mockery of the law (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 1, 2016 - 12:00am 4 93 googleplus1 0

The Commission on Elections tried to stop the abuse of the system, but the judiciary had the final say and refused to go along. Using legal acrobatics, the courts repeatedly rebuffed the Comelec and turned the party-list system into the travesty that it is today.

Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act, passed in March 1995, is the enabling law for the constitutional provision on party-list representation. The wording in the Constitution is brief and vague, giving lawmakers wide leeway to craft the enabling legislation. But RA 7941 is specific: the party-list system should allow Filipinos “belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies” to become members of the House of Representatives.

RA 7941 specifically bars religious groups from participation. Also barred in 1998 were the five biggest political parties, with their size determined through the number of House seats garnered at the start of the 10th Congress. The enabling law also required each party-list nominee to be a “bona fide member” of the organization that he seeks to represent for at least 90 days prior to election day.

A look at certain groups and individuals approved for party-list representation shows how these requirements have been ignored. Several groups are thinly concealed fronts for major political parties and influential religious groups.

READ MORE...

Certain wealthy individuals are party-list representatives, enjoying the same privileges and control over public funds as regular congressmen.

The system has become a travesty and a waste of people’s money. Now a president is finally saying enough is enough. Rodrigo Duterte has said abolishing the party-list system is among the changes he wants included in the overhaul of the Constitution. The system, the President said, has become “a mockery of the law,” with moneyed candidates winning party-list seats.

The President should not waver in his stand. There are about 251 regular congressmen and 24 senators who can take up the cause of every imaginable marginalized sector. It’s time to put an end to this failed experiment in marginalized representation. There are better uses for people’s money.


EDITORIAL - Filled to overflowing (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 4, 2016 - 12:00am 2 2 googleplus0 0

The photographs and video footage tell the story: men, shirtless because of the heat, packed like sardines as they sleep in makeshift detention centers, or cooking their evening meal about a meter away from others who dip into water pails as they take a bath.

The detention areas are so cramped some inmates take turns sleeping on precious space. The images have become common in local jails, where persons who have been arrested or surrendered as part of the crackdown against the drug menace are held. Some are quickly freed for rehabilitation. Those charged with heavier offenses face a longer stay as they await trial and the possibility of being freed on bail.

Local jails all over the country have always been congested. The problem has progressively worsened as jail facilities failed to expand and keep up with rapid population growth and the increase in the crime rate. Now, with the government focusing on the war on drugs and criminality, all local jails are overflowing with detainees. If many of the thousands of suspects are convicted, the problem is expected to aggravate congestion in national prisons. Like local jails, the Bureau of Corrections has been plagued for a long time with inadequate prison cells.

READ MORE...

People who support the brutal war on drugs probably won’t care if convicts serve their sentences in crowded, vermin-infested cells with poor ventilation. Modern penology, however, gives as much importance to rehabilitation as the punishment of criminals. Rehabilitation or correction is best achieved in a humane prison environment.

Being held in a jail where inmates are packed nearly cheek by jowl is even more aggravating for the innocent who have been wrongly accused, especially of an offense that can put them behind bars for life. The war on drugs has put a harsh spotlight on the sorry state of the nation’s detention facilities. One positive thing that should emerge from this war is an improvement in the state’s capacity to hold, penalize and rehabilitate offenders.


From con-con to con-ass to con-com? SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 4, 2016 - 12:00am 2 36 googleplus0 0


BOBIT AVILA

The case for our shift from a unitary form of governance into a parliamentary-federal system will not be an easy one simply because of narrow-minded people. I saw the interview of former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod (he is openly against federalism) on GMA-7 and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno over ANC with Tina Monzon Palma and you will see that Manila based TV journalists are apparently ignorant about federalism… to think these people are supposed to be the intellectuals in our society. I was amused that Tina Monzon Palma was having difficulty formulating questions about federalism in her interview with Puno.

So the first part of this debate is on the method of changing the Constitution. I learned that during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting where all former Presidents met for the first time with President Rodrigo Duterte, he talked about Charter change and got the nod of the former Presidents. I’m sure that former Pres. Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III must have simply bowed his head in surrender because we know that he is totally against revising the Constitution named after his mother.

So the first issue on the table is whether to change the Charter via a constitutional convention (con-con) or via a constituent assembly (con-ass). I understand that Pres. Duterte originally wanted a con-con, but somehow (did he sense that a con-con could end up being railroaded by his political opponents?) then he had a change of heart and is now looking into doing it by con-ass. Of course, I’m totally against changing the Constitution with only the members of Congress doing the debates because it would move them away from the day-to-day business of getting legislation done in order to let the country move towards a better economic future.

READ MORE...

During the National Security Council (NSC) meeting, Pres. Duterte said, “It’s time to revisit the Constitution. It’s time to rethink how we look at things. We have different presentations… same wording, everything is the same, due process, human rights, these are automatic. Maybe just a thing or two about the economic prosperity of this nation, so therefore you need to reconfigure the distribution of shares, and bring a Constitution that would serve the Filipino at this time of his life… I do not promise heaven or pure happiness to them. But I can promise you, perhaps, if I succeed, a comfortable life for all.” This is a President who has lived under a unitary form of governance and has come to realize that we can move faster if we cut the bonds from our political masters in Imperial Manila.

Why do we need to support the concept of federalism? Let me count the ways. First of all do you realize the magnitude of our problems when someone assigned by Imperial Manila to be the head of our infrastructure development refuses to listen to us here in Cebu? Take a good look at the Department of Public Works and Highways wherein we have prioritized many road projects and flyovers… yet DPWH officials constructed a P36-million concrete divider along M. L. Quezon Ave. when what we needed there was a flyover? But in a federal form of governance, we can put a Cebuano in charge of DPWH and he would be answerable only to us Cebuanos!

Here in Cebu City when I was in charge of traffic management in the year 2000, I was tasked to come up with a parallel road to Escario St. But alas, the DPWH refused to listen even if we had this road project given utmost priority. Mind you, when we conceptualized that project, traffic along Escario St. wasn’t heavy at all. Today, it is one of the heaviest roads in Cebu City and for as long as DPWH refuses to look into this project, motorists would always suffer traffic congestion in Escario St.

So there is no question that a true-blue Cebuano should embrace the concept of federalism. Unfortunately for us, Cebu Governor Hilario “Jun Jun” Davide III and his father, former UN Ambassador Hilario Davide Jr. have been granted special privileges that one can secure whenever they genuflect on the altar of Imperial Manila… hence they are four-square against federalism. But I would like to see or hear former Cebu Congressman and Governor Pablo “Pabling” Garcia debate with Hilario Davide, Jr. on the pros and cons of Federalism.

In the meantime, the debate in Congress is whether they should adopt a Con-Ass, while Congress is thinking of having a Constitutional Commission (Con-com) which is similar to what happened the last time when the constitution was revised… with the appointment of members of a Con-com. Perhaps we should study the possibility of a hybrid members with half from Con-Ass or members of Congress and the other half appointed to a Con-com by Pres. Duterte so that we can move forward on this issue rather than go around in circles debating each other until we ran out of time… and then it’s too late!


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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