I AM ambivalent and uncomfortable with this idea of revolutionary government (revgov), having lived through one earlier in my career as a political technocrat; and whose effects have resonated negatively on the body politic even to this day. I’m afraid this could be another formula for disaster. Nothing less than the devil’s journey to perdition.
I am, however, conversant with the compelling arguments in favor of revgov. On one hand, the Deegong is running out of time on his campaign promises; that of dismantling or at least arresting the unyielding grip by the oligarchy on the economic lifeblood of the country that perforce leads to the seizure of the political levers of power. On the other is his perception that the tools granted him under the 1987 Constitution are too restrictive for one whose experience in governance thus far is to act impetuously ignoring the legal niceties.
And more importantly, his exasperation with the traditional republican democratic concepts of check and balance by Congress, many of whom are subservient to those that financed their assumption to power – the business interests and the oligarchy.
DU30 has been psyched by his sycophants that these arguments are enough to take a possible shortcut from the democratic processes and plunge the country into the unknown.
I sympathize with the frustrations of today’s young and the millennials on the slow pace of change– as the Deegong promised during his election campaign. After decades of stasis, Filipinos expect quick and immediate gratification from a populist leader. We had similar frustrations as “parliamentarians of the streets” during the Marcos regime and the subsequent short-lived revolutionary government of President Cory. But the conditions during those times compared with Deegong’s are both different, and paradoxically, similar.
In his book, “The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand Marcos,” William H. Overholt wrote: “Marcos introduced a series of wide-ranging reforms aimed at enhancing economic growth and social equality. He made huge investments to expand the nation’s infrastructure. He improved the laws on taxation and investment, reorganized the management of foreign investment rules, and promised to attract foreign investments and promote exports rather than persisting with import substitution.” Marcos’ early image was that of the benevolent strongman.
Furthermore, “[t]hrough various means, Marcos destroyed most of the old landed oligarchy that had dominated Philippine economic and social life since Spanish times. Marcos also reduced the Philippines’ traditional discrimination against its Chinese minority by providing them greatly increased access to formal citizenship and to participation in sectors of the economy formerly closed to them.”
Marcos, an elected two-term president, had the time to accomplish this. With the genius of foresight, he put in place the infrastructure for his eventual authoritarian rule. He dismantled decades-old political parties and established his ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). He clamped down on the press and the media. He emasculated the old oligarchy but replaced it with his own cronies. More importantly, he seeded the military with his handpicked men that allowed him to unleash his dogs of war from the barracks when he declared martial law.
But Filipinos’ early support for him eventually dissipated, exacerbated by his family’s extravagance and his minions’ abuse of power. Lord John Dalberg-Acton’s admonition caught up with him: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
We helped usher in the Cory regime and booted Marcos out but along the way, the chameleon-like oligarchy simply changed colors. But the greater tragedy, looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, was that the revolutionary government, a gift by the people at EDSA, was rejected by Cory. Instead, she reverted to the creation of the 1987 Constitution, one which allowed the rejuvenation of the oligarchy and its continued hold on the country. Furthermore, the same systemic anomalies were embedded in the same traditional political dynamics similar to the pre- Marcos years.
In contrast to Marcos’ regime of almost two decades, PRRD has had only 15 months in office, although he has been flexing his muscles and practicing how to use his tools against the oligarchy (Bobby Ongpin, Lucio Tan, Rufino-Prieto and Mighty Cigarette capitulations, etc.). And his biggest weapon in his armory is the claimed support of the populace, the ordinary folk, the disenfranchised of society. But for how long can he hold on to them?
By definition, a revolutionary government is a “repudiation or overthrow of an established government by the governed; a radical and pervasive change in the social/political order, oftentimes accompanied by violence”(Wikipedia). But the Deegong already heads the established government. The PDP Laban, his political party has virtual control of the two houses of Congress. But the recent recalcitrance of the legislature, especially the Senate, may derail PRRD’s plan for charter revisions. Unless Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker Bebot Alvarez, his party lieutenants, deliver, they could sink PRRD’s agenda. Then the Deegong may be forced to play his last hand and declare a “coup d’etat on his own government,” castrating both houses of Congress.
But what would be his mechanism for a revgov declaration? “Vox populi, vox Dei,” this romantic principle is simply that – romantic, untranslated in the Constitution. He took out of the table the martial law option as this is limited and strictly defined and DU30 denigrates congressional review. Does he have the military holding his back? But more importantly, to get the majority of the people to buy into his revgov, can he convince the multitudes and guarantee the following:
– The elimination or at least weakening substantially the hold of the oligarchy on the economic and political levers of power;
– The critical and immediate reform of political parties differentiating them by platform of governance based on a set of ideology and penalizing “political turncoatism”;
– Enforce transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign financing to eliminate corruption and patronage, and implement a system of public financing for electoral exercises removing dependence of candidates on big contributors;
– The elimination of political dynasties (including his own family) through a self- executory provision in the Constitution; and
– All of these done through a systemic change beginning with the immediate revision of the1987 Constitution and putting in place a unicameral parliamentary and federal system of government.
If DU30 can pull this revgov off, there is the truism that nothing beats success like success. Then the words of the ancient Chinese politician Wen Jiao will come into play: “How do you dismount from the back of a tiger?”