Anybody for a snap presidential election?

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FRANCISCO S. TATAD

FRANCISCO S. TATAD

IN my column on Monday (“The truths we live by,” MT, October 23, 2017), I wrote about the projected relaunch of the National Transformation Council whose call for national transformation was first aired through the Lipa Declaration of August 27, 2014. The move is inspired by the recent passing of three of the NTC’s moral and spiritual leaders—Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of Cebu, Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, S.J., and Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan—whose death appears to have confirmed to the surviving leaders the need for the NTC to move forward with greater determination, strength and speed.

This prompted one friendly reader to ask rather bluntly, “What gives the NTC the right or the duty to want to ‘transform’ a government that wants to change the Constitution and everything else except itself? Assuming the government and the nation need to be transformed, how did the NTC manage to appoint itself for this particular task? Absent a clear and organized political opposition, does the NTC propose to become the real opposition, and compete for the capture and exercise of political power?”

“How does it propose to avoid being lumped together with those groups which Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, seems inclined to accuse of ‘destabilization?’ How do its moral and spiritual leaders respond to the growing Church-based opposition to the lawless killings and a reported Vatican directive—which appears to be fake news—prohibiting priests and religious from joining political protests?”

Some necessary questions
These are direct and not exactly the most polite questions. Yet they are unavoidable, legitimate, and fair. And since they are coming from a known friendly source, I cannot impute any hostile intention or desire to offend or embarrass any NTC member. The questions deserve to be answered in the same spirit in which they are framed. In the face of conflicting positions on certain issues, we must try to arrive at some common ground; begin with some agreed premises and principles—the fundamental premises and principles of a just and upright society and of an authentic democratic government.

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In a duly constituted democracy, the political opposition has the right and the duty to propose an alternative vision and program of government.This neither suspends nor renders superfluous the right and duty of the citizen to think for himself and carve his own vision of the society in which he wants to live. In the end, the citizen must decide for himself whether or not the state is performing according to his best interests or the common good. Then he must act according to his true conscience. Even the unlettered and the ill-informed may not be deprived of this right and duty; this becomes even more acute as the citizen gets a deeper understanding of what he is legitimately entitled to and what he can pursue as a genuine objective.

The Intengan papers
The late Father “Archie” Intengan, who taught moral theology at the Loyola School of Theology to so many students, produced extensive papers on this subject, but his in-depth analyses of Philippine society always began with its religious and anthropological roots. He never failed to point out that from the point of view of the great Abrahamic religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—God’s purpose for his creatures is their flourishing in the fullness of life blessings. God’s glory, according to this analysis, is the “human being fully alive.” And human beings are fully alive when their lives are guided by the knowledge of God’s plan for their fulfillment. The ethical goal of societal life is the promotion of the fullness of life blessings for God’s creatures.

How does society foster the fullness of life of its members? By promoting their “common good,” the analysis answers. By “common good” is meant the set of conditions of social life—economic, political, cultural, environmental, etc.—that facilitates the fullness of life blessings for each individual and group within society. Included herein are man’s basic welfare, both spiritual and material; liberty; equality; participation; solidarity; and integrity of creation.

Each deserves an elaborate discussion, for which we do not have the time or space now.

Systemic problems
The problems are deep-rooted and widespread.

The economic system is not sufficiently productive to meet the population’s expanding needs, and what a few families own is much bigger than what tens of millions at the bottom own.

The political system remains corrupt, rent-seeking political dynasties maintain their stranglehold on political office at various levels, despite the constitutional ban on political dynasties, elections remain farcical, and violence imposes disadvantages on the honest and peace-loving, the poor and the powerless.

The cultural system is damaged by a decline in reverence for God and his creation; in honesty and concern for the common good; by an increasing hypocritical obsession with wealth, power, pleasure, privilege and fame; by mindless consumerism and imitation of foreign values and fads with totally destructive moral and spiritual content.

The result: massive and widespread poverty and inequality; unbridled and unpunished corruption; naked and unchecked abuse of power; increasing criminality; intensifying social conflict and violence; growing legitimation of the culture of lies and death.

Moral group’s response
A group of concerned citizens, some of them Catholic, Protestant and Muslim moral and spiritual leaders, meeting in Cebu during the Aquino administration, saw the moral, spiritual, political and economic crisis rising, and decided to work together, quietly, without any publicity or fanfare, to develop a program which they could eventually share with the general population.

The specific objectives included:

* Building a national economy that allows the State to manage effectively the wealth it owns and creates, and enables all citizens and their families to enjoy lives of austere and social comfort;

* Overhauling the political system to allow the people to choose their best qualified leaders in truly free and honest elections, and such leaders to follow the mandate of the Constitution and the rule of law at all times; strengthen meritocracy in the service, reward honesty, competence and hard work, reduce social conflict, and put an end to extremist violence; and

* Creating a cultural system that promotes the ordering of people’s lives based on reverence and obedience to God, solidarity and subsidiarity in pursuing the common good, and the preservation and enhancement of cultural values and virtues native and unique to Filipinos.

The group saw that the primary danger to the nation was now coming from the very forces that were primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which had begun to aggressively undermine its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations. They decided that nothing less than total transformation of the nation was needed to arrest and reverse the downward spiral.

Electoral proposal
Thus in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, the NTC proposed that the elections be suspended for the time being, to allow a thorough clean-up of the foreign-controlled automated electoral system which, in the deeply held conviction of the NTC leaders, had already wrongfully produced a de facto President and several senators in 2010, and several de facto senators, again, in 2013. The NTC proposed a transitional multi-sectoral caretaker government, whose primary task would be put in the necessary constitutional reforms preparatory to the holding of the next elections.

This did not come to pass, so none of the NTC members took part in the elections. Instead of campaigning or voting for a presidential candidate, I devoted my time and effort trying to question the candidacy of Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares, who under the Constitution, correctly interpreted, is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and therefore not qualified to either sit in the Senate or run for President. Some people considered this effort as an oblique campaign for DU30, beause without it, Mrs. Llamanzares might have become the favored presidential candidate. That may have been the unintended consequence, but there is absolutely no basis to that suggestion.

Every presidential camp then had expected the elections to be marred by fraud, but instead of exerting any effort to prevent the fraud, the presidential players tried to make sure they would be the ones to benefit from it. Given such situation, the NTC feared no defeated presidential candidates would concede defeat, and general unrest could follow afterward. Happily the NTC was proved wrong; with his clever use of the social media, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte quickly overwhelmed the rival camps with the message that he had won a landslide, after mustering 38 percent of the votes counted.

A snap election
Since then, the government has been on a tailspin. The President seems to make a new enemy without sufficient cause every time he opens his mouth, and there is increasing fear he may not last the midterm. If he is not threatening to kill people, he is threatening to declare martial law nationwide, or a revolutionary government, which appears to scare the military, more than the civilians. Meantime his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña, and his daughter Sara seem to have taken the lead in challenging those who want to challenge him on any issue. Honeylet has challenged Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th to something, and Inday Sara has organized a group to confront other groups trying to “destabilize” the DU30 government.

Under the circumstances, the NTC feels the time has come to renew the call for national transformation. But this time, it is no longer proposing a caretaker government as before. As extensively discussed by former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales on my GNN Sunday evening program “Una sa Lahat,” the NTC would like to see President DU30 and Vice President Leni Robredo agree to a “snap election” to allow the nation a fresh start under stable conditions.

I have no favorites to nominate in such an election. But it should give PDU30 a well-earned rest, and Leni Robredo a much-needed respite from the questions of legitimacy that have hounded her since she decided to tell herself and her friends that she’s the country’s duly elected Vice President. This should also put an end to Mayor Sara’s fear of destabilization. That fear is well-grounded, but it is all self-inflicted by her father’s government, more than by its declared enemies, the most dangerous of whom, the Mautes-IS, have just been defeated by our Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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CORRECTION: In my Monday column, I said the late Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, whose remains lie in state at the Loyola Memorial Chapel at Guadalupe till now, had served as auxiliary to Archbishop (now Emeritus) Fernando Capalla in Davao, before his posting as Bishop of Kidapawan. That contains a small error. Bishop D.D., as he was fondly called, was auxiliary to the late Archbishop Antonio Ll. Mabutas of Davao, whom Capalla served as coadjutor-archbishop with right to successor from August 1994. Capalla succeeded Mabutas on November 28, 1996.

fstatad@gmail.com

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