Former congressman Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, an uncle of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has joined a movement to establish a “transition government” that will be headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno to support the call of the National Transformation Council (NTC) for the country’s incumbent leader to step down, a highly reliable source told The Manila Times on Monday.
According to the source, an active member of one of the groups espousing the idea of a change in government, Cojuangco and lawyer Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. will gather 10 million signatures nationwide to support the call for the President’s resignation.
Now chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee, the former lawmaker from Tarlac province is the older brother of late former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, the mother of Benigno 3rd and wife to assassinated former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
The source said Cojuangco will announce the formation of a transition government on December 3 in Angeles City in Pampanga province.
“Peping and [Villegas] will be the prime movers of the signature drive in support of [the movement]that was started by [Lipa City] Archbishop [Ramon] Arguelles. The main speaker will be [Villegas], who is a grandson of Gen. Miguel Malvar and who supports the transition government that should be headed by Chief Justice Puno.
The time and place of the announcement will be made public soon unless there will be substantial changes,” the source of The Times, who is close to Villegas, said.
Gen. Miguel Malvar was the last Filipino general to surrender to US occupation forces during the Philippine-American War that ended in 1898.
In August this year, Arguelles hosted the Lipa assembly and called on Aquino to quit immediately.
Another assembly was held in Cebu on October 1, and this time, a statement was issued urging the NTC to pursue “all necessary and available lawful means” to compel the President to step down at the soonest possible time and to “immediately organize an alternative government, consisting of men and women of integrity and proven worth.”
According to The Manila Times source, Cojuangco and Villegas, whom he called “the two Joses,” will not back out from their plan to set up a transition government.
The two, he said, decided to join the clamor for an effective change in government in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and other forms of pork barrel funds are unconstitutional.
“But look at what they did. The 2015 budget is riddled with ‘pork,’” the source added, in reference to the observation made by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio. Santiago and Tinio claimed that the General Appropriations Bill and the National Expenditure Program submitted by the executive are awash with “pork” in the form of lump-sum allocations.
“Also, we believe there was a failure of elections in 2010 based on findings that are beginning to crop up just now. The President’s victory, as well as those of other candidates, [is]doubtful,” the source said.
Proponents of the transition government, he explained, will pattern their campaign after the one launched in Thailand where government leaders were replaced. To avert violence once the ten million signatures have been mustered, the Cojuangco-Malvar group will call on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to support the transition government.
“It is their duty mandated by our Constitution,” the source pointed out.
In an exclusive roundtable with editors and reporters of The Manila Times last year, Puno warned of chaos, including a possible military intervention, if the People’s Initiative (PI) to scrap the pork barrel, which he considers as the “last peaceful alternative” against government fund misuse, fails.
Puno also explained that the People’s Initiative was incorporated in the 1987 Constitution as the people’s last non-violent option to bring about changes that Congress cannot deliver.
“[It] is the last peaceful alternative for the people to take charge of their destiny . . . if it failed, we [could]expect the anger of the people to reach a higher temperature.
There will be no other option left,” the former chief magistrate said.
He added that the People’s Initiative provision was created primarily to “take the people out of the streets.”
Puno first made the call for a People’s Initiative against the pork barrel at the height of the controversy stirred by the PDAF and DAP.
He said he was merely reminding the public that they have a “lawmaking-power that is not subject to presidential veto.”
But if the initiative fails either by deliberate efforts of those who want to preserve the pork barrel or by sabotage, the specter of violence becomes a huge probability, Puno warned.
“Kapag binara, baka magkagulo [If this is stopped, there may be chaos],” he said, hinting that there are certain sectors in the military that have become impatient and restive.
When asked if he thinks some people may be planning to take more drastic action when all else failed, he replied: “I would assume [so].”
The military is bound by the Constitution to be “the protector of the people” and this responsibility may be invoked in case violence erupts, Puno said.
But how the military carries out its role as protector of the people “is not explicitly defined,” he noted.
“There is a need for new leaders to come out. As we experienced in EDSA 1, madaling mag-alis ng gobyerno pero mahirap maglagay ng tamang tao [it’s easy to topple a government but it’s hard to put the right people in power],” Puno said.