Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Chacha and the Debate between Agency and Structure

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposals to change the Constitution and adopt the federal-type, parliamentary system were vehemently opposed by the Senate the first day it was raised and deliberated in the chamber. This only means that the president's strategy is ineffective and inappropriate for the current situation. This can be said, for several reasons. First, the president implies that the Gloriagate scandal should be swept under the rug and go on with politics as usual. Arroyo not only lost her moral ascendancy to govern the country but also diminished the prospects for governing the country effectively. It is expected that Malacanang’s apologists will face more issues and accusations
in the coming months. This, in turn, could further dissipate the Arroyo administration’s energy hence weakening the president’s competence.
Second, the president presumed that as long as she has a grip on the majority of the Lower House representatives, she could determine the political trajectory of the Senate. This proved to be false. Dead on arrival was the fate of her Charter change proposal when 14 Senators opposed the idea. This scenario magnifies the struggling government who has been having difficulty soliciting the support of both Houses.
Third, furthering a Constituent Assembly instead of a Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution only magnifies Malacanang’s desperation to railroad another political agenda with serious national implications. President Arroyo thought that she could accomplish this since she did it when the Congress passed the six major tax measures she proposed, including the E-VAT which is currently under fire. Arroyo even maintained that Charter Change "is the exclusive prerogative of Congress," and the constituent assembly "may well give our people the quickest reforms." This makes the democratic character of the process as another major question to be straightforwardly resolved. Malacanang must convince the public that our “honorable” senators and representatives are worthy to take the cudgels to change the ultimate law of the land.
Taking the Con-Ass (Constitutional Assembly) path reinforces the notion that the president is planning for a graceful exit. She just cannot afford to follow the fate of his predecessor, former president Estrada, who was removed from power through People Power 2. Hence, Charter Change can pave the way for a so-called acceptable and “sacrificial lamb mode” of stepping down from the presidency. The shift from the presidential to the parliamentary form of governance is envisioned to address the need to empower the local governments. The president’s SONA received a long applause when she said that “"perhaps it's time to take the power from the center to the countryside." The call for a federal Philippines appears to have greatly reverberated over the gridlocks of the presidential system which caused the political distribution of power to be skewed to urban centers. This is contrary to the fact that the president received more support from the rural areas during the 2004 elections.
Senate President Drilon has been arguing that as long as the agents inside the political system continue with their traditional and entrenched way of doing governance, no amount of Charter amendments can put an end to the current socio-politico-economic crisis. On one hand, one of my feisty Political Science professors once argued that structure can greatly influence the behavior of the actors inside the system. People just need to be constrained and be shaped according to preset “rules of the game”. And the greatest rule of the land is the Constitution.
God’s Word is also clear on how people should perceive the government. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Governments must be patterned after God’s standards and righteousness. This implies that any government institution must reflect the nature of its real Creator. But this can only transpire if men and women of integrity, righteousness and justice reign in the government.


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