AFTER writing several successive columns on “revolutionary government,” I thought I had already said everything and need no longer say more, without making myself a pain in the anatomy of its fondest proponents. But worrisome talk about the subject persists, despite its demonstrable absurdity which President Rodrigo Duterte’s confusing song and dance—reminiscent of his push-and-pull act (“no, I won’t run, yes, I might, no I won’t”) before he became a presidential candidate in 2016—has failed to dissipate.
A priest-friend from Mindanao recently informed me that in Caraga and other parts of DU30’s home region, some lawyers and politicians appear to have been designated as some kind of “project managers” for the “revgov” campaign, and that there is an alarming rise of violent incidents involving the New People’s Army, which the locals suspect, are being orchestrated to create support for it. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, the President’s daughter, is reported to have called on members of the national mayors’ league to convene in her city to manifest support for the project.
Yes and no
While in Danang, Vietnam, for the APEC Leaders Meeting earlier this month, DU30 was quoted as saying he would defer to the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on “revgov.” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero were earlier reported to have voiced their opposition to it during a briefing they gave to Vice President Leni Robredo. After the 31st Asean and related summits, The Manila Times ran a banner headline story saying DU30 had abandoned his reported plan to proclaim a “revgov.” The story quoted DU30 as saying a “revgov” should be the outcome of a successful revolution against the government.
These, however, have not dampened the spirit of the “revgov” proponents, including those who write newspaper columns while receiving fat salaries and obscene perks from the government, and have been pressing for its launch on November 30. DU30’s announced decision to terminate the protracted peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF and resume armed hostilities instead has strengthened speculation that “revgov” is still very much under consideration. Some analysts believe the CPP/NPA/NDF could be part of the play and that the supposed resumption of hostilities is nothing but a ploy to supply a “casus belli.”
They point out that if DU30 is in earnest about cutting off his ties to the CPP/NPA/NDF, he should have first removed all his communist appointees in the Cabinet and other government agencies. He has not done so.
Although two ranking communist personalities—Judith Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano—had failed to gain confirmation at the Commission on Appointments as Secretary of Social Welfare and Secretary of Agrarian Reform respectively, Leoncio Evasco Jr., the Boholano ex-priest who is now vice chairman of the NDF, remains DU30’s powerful Cabinet Secretary, and Liza Masa, the Gabriela party-list firebrand, head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). There are a few more CPP/NPA/NDF members with the rank of undersecretary.
Evasco remains head of “Kilusang Pagbabago” and its mass-based arm “Masa Masid,” which were supposed to facilitate the transformation of the Philippine bureaucracy into a socialist one, and the operations chief of the Office of the President, a task normally assigned to the Executive Secretary. Without him, DU30’s office does not function at all. Some 18 special agencies had been put under his charge, including the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council when it was still chaired by Vice President Robredo, who was forced to quit after a few months. Last July, retired Gen. Eduardo del Rosario was named chairman of HUDCC, reportedly without the prior knowledge of Evasco.
A few months ago, the “revgov” idea was reportedly broached to the Cabinet. Most of the members thought DU30 was personally pushing the idea, and responded to it with an open mouth; Evasco alone, according to Palace insiders, opposed it, saying the “authorizing environment” did not exist. Evasco reportedly threatened to go on extended leave after that, but eventually decided to take only a couple of days off. It is not yet known if he has changed his position on “revgov.”
What worries my priest-friend from Mindanao is that although the Defense Secretary and the AFP Chief of Staff are reported to be opposed to “revgov,” the average foot soldier whom DU30 has had direct contact with is not in a position to tell what is constitutional from what is not, and will simply follow wherever DU30 goes. And despite DU30’s failure to fulfill all the promises he has made to the men and women of the Armed Forces, and to the rest of the nation, he “remains popular within the camps,” he said.
Martial law remains in force in Mindanao, even after the military successfully ended the siege of Marawi, which began on May 23, and provided the cause for martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. Extending the validity of martial law until the end of December is not open to question because this is the period covered by the proclamation when Congress extended it when the original period lapsed after 60 days. But there is fear that our foot soldiers may be moved to follow orders even without constitutional basis.
If the defense establishment and the officers’ corps take a formal position against a “revgov,” but the President and Commander-in-Chief nonetheless declares it, by reaching out to the troops for direct support, the military establishment could fragment. The military commanders could withdraw their allegiance and support from their Commander in Chief, but without the support of the troops such withdrawal, assuming it was possible, would be ineffective. But the more unthinkable option is for the Commander in Chief to go directly to the troops, bypassing the chain of command.
This happened during the 2015 Mamasapano operation when President B. S. Aquino 3rd decided to run the special operation himself and dealt directly with the operating units, but the massacre that followed cannot possibly be used as a model should DU30 decide to stage a “revgov.”
The first thing that stands out is that a “revgov” proclaimed by a constitutionally elected President abolishes his constitutional presidency and replaces it with an extra-constitutional one that answers to no one but himself; it is a naked invasion of the country and a usurpation of its sovereignty, which resides in the people, from whom all government authority emanates. This was never contemplated by any of the men and women who wrote all our Constitutions or any known Constitution for that matter.
In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, the President and Commander in Chief may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or proclaim martial law throughout the country or in any part thereof. This is the extreme security situation, but it does not suspend the operation of the Constitution. With “revgov,” the entire Constitution is overthrown; the weapon of the state against invasion or rebellion becomes a weapon against the state to commit invasion or rebellion.
“We need revgov to go after those destabilzing the state,” proclaim its proponents. But revgov is the very thing that will permanently destabilize the nation, and those proposing it now are among the first destabilizers. They need not look for others; if they want to help DU30 at all, they should turn themselves in, and give him a chance to run a normal constitutional government.
None of us are totally blameless: we have allowed men and women without qualities to occupy positions of power without finding out first of all whether or not they knew for what purpose men and women are given such power.
But DU30 and his minions should realize that should he ever abolish his constitutional presidency, he would provoke a free-for-all. The Liberal Party would be free to proclaim Leni Robredo or Sonny Trillanes as their President; the Ilocanos could proclaim Bongbong, Imee or Rudy Farinas as theirs; the Mindanaoans could have a toss-up between Bong Go, Pantaleon Alvarez, Koko Pimentel and Sara Duterte-Carpio, should DU30 suddenly sign off; even the trolls could choose between Mocha Uson and Vivian Velez.
However the country is worth saving and can still be saved. DU30 suffers from an unfortunate shortage of ideas, which can and must now be repaired. He came into office convinced that by killing mere drug suspects he could talk endlessly of a drug war as the full equivalent of running a government. Even if he were winning this war, which he isn’t, and even if no human rights issues had come up, which is the opposite of what’s happened, the drug war would hardly suffice as the sum total of what he should try to accomplish.
The total transformation of Philippine society—moral, political, economic, social and scientific—is what he should aim for. The scientific alone will require everything from the present and incoming generations. We must summon our best gifts, but also learn from others. I am not embarrassed to want to learn from what Xi Jinping recently said after meeting with US President Donald Trump in Beijing and in Da Nang, and what Vladimir Putin said about the same thing in a recent speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
While Trump spoke about bilateral US-China relations, Xi, according to reports, spoke about the digital economy, quantum science, artificial intelligence—in short, about a vision of the future that is connected and comprehensive. For his part, Putin earlier spoke of the need for a new paradigm for the development of the state, the economy and the society as a whole; a digital economy that will allow innovative models for everything—for business, trade, logistics and manufacturing, education, health care, public administration and communication between and among peoples.
What I’m saying here is that I would like to see DU30’s mind occupied by a large vision of the world as it confronts the future. He cannot do this by concentrating on his drug war alone, and by imagining all sorts of ways to increase his hold on power, without expanding the frontiers of his imagination. He must be able to see that we cannot as a people win the future without revolutionary ideas, but the first thing we must abjure is the current invitation to an indisputably self-destructive revolutionary government.
MILESTONE: Today is the 16th anniversary of Biznews Asia, the most successful business magazine in the country. It is also the 69th birthday of its publisher, Antonio Lopez, a veteran business journalist who used to write for the now defunct Asiaweek, as well as the launch of his book, Power 50 of Business and the Economy, at EDSA Shangrila. Congratulations, Tony.