Revving up government: From PH to SMM

Last of 3 parts
TO the oppressed, robbed, scammed and betrayed people of the Philippines, unite: you have nothing to lose but the gross inequities you suffer from. The call to action leads to a peaceful people’s initiative that can bring about constitutional reforms. At this stage of our country’s social metastasis, we need a surgical reboot to launch a revved-up system of governance; an overhaul, not a partial repair; a revolutionary change that requires nothing less than a rewriting of the Constitution.

Time and again, we are exposed to the horrors of malfeasance that come out as if they have become the norm in government. Examples:

– A local government unit (LGU) provides for its constituents relief goods consisting of 20,000 pieces of dressed chicken at P1,233 per piece (total cost: P24.5 million), 10,000 sacks of rice at P5,300 per sack (total cost: P53 million), and 10,000 boxes of sardines at P3,562.50 per box (total cost: P35.6 million). Any fool would know that he has been robbed of millions in exchange for a free lunch. And yet those who are not fools would rather have us see the vast, unplottable, spectrum of truth.

– Lawyer Jayric L. Amil (who shows promise of becoming a good Palace spokesman), speaking for that LGU, was reported to have offered a brief lecture on metaphysics and economics:

“Normal na presyo po ang mga ‘yan noong nakaraang buwan. Masyado po kasing mataas ang demand sa mga produkto ng pagkain tulad ng sardinas, bigas at manok dahil marami rin pong mga LGU at NGO ang pinamimigay rin ang mga ito. Pag mataas po ang demand, mataas din ang presyo. Pero tamang presyo lang po ‘yan.”

On the other hand, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported an average inflation rate of 2.38 for the last five months.

Any taxpayer can speak for generations that are yet to be born, who will eventually pay for public debt (to include government-guaranteed private debt, such as in public-partnership projects), and ask this question: How many in government have made millions from Covid-19, so far?

– Over at the courts of justice, a 61-year-old detainee was also reported to have languished in jail for three years because he could not pay the P2,000 bail. His case: stealing a sandwich (bentelog) worth P20. This Filipino version of real-life Les Miserables suffered a stroke while in jail and could have died were it not for his fellow inmates who rushed to his help.

We have nonagenarians Imelda Marcos, who had been found guilty of a $200-million graft case and ordered imprisoned but later granted bail of P300,000; and ex-senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who was also allowed to post bail for an otherwise nonbailable, multimillion-peso plunder offense. Both are free for “humanitarian” reasons.

The arrest and detention of Elmer Cordero, 72, one of the Piston 6 jeepney drivers who violated mass gathering restrictions during the early days of community quarantine. When asked by certain groups to consider the release of Cordero on humanitarian grounds, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in one of his media briefings that he (Cordero) must face charges against him “regardless of age… old age does not exempt a person from pending charges.”

– Then there is a murderer who gets a presidential pardon, and thousands of drug users who are murdered. One is a convict, the other are suspects.

It is time to limit the delegation of sovereign power to our representatives in government. Here is how:

1. Rewrite the Constitution.
The supreme law of the land must be rewritten (not merely amended) starting with Section 1, Article 2, that says: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” It should instead say something like this: “The xxx is a democratic State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority must be exercised directly by them.”

Our country’s official (or formal) name is Republic of the Philippines. In the sense that the current system of representation has largely failed us, the term “Republic” must go, along with “Philippines” itself. My personal preference is “Soberanya/Soberenya ng mga Mamayan ng Missviluz,” or SMM. Missviluz stands for Mindanao, Sabah, Spratlys, Visayas, and Luzon. An alternative is Soberanyang Bayan ng Missviluz, or SBM.

2. People’s Congress
For the nth time, this column decodes the dream for a People’s Congress. If anything good can come out of this pandemic, it should be this. Zoom meetings and any of their kind have shown us how feasible it is for all citizens to virtually participate in discussions of public policy making. Anyone who has Commission on Elections credentials can sign up, log in, and participate in such envisioned meetings. This innovation in democracy should establish government processes that are inclusive, participative, empowering, responsive, effective and efficient. Let us stop electing members of Congress and start saving on the billions we lose to corruption.

A robust technical capacity is essential, however. State-of-the-art and powerful rotating servers (like what Facebook and YouTube, among other big data sites, have) are needed to host tens, possibly hundreds, of simultaneous committee meetings of a People’s Congress, as described in some of my previous columns. Every citizen who is qualified to vote should also have free internet access.

3. Phase it
We can start with pilot runs. Pick 10 barangay within “Missviluz.” All residents in the pilot barangay can participate in enacting ordinances. Decisions shall be reached not by “dividing the house,” but rather by consensus (see a recommended process which I discussed in a previous column). The People’s Congress at barangay level also elects barangay officials, who are subject to a vote of confidence that can be invoked at any given time by at least 10 percent of the voting population of that barangay. After three years, when workability of the system has been established, the template for direct people participation shall be adopted in all barangay nationwide. The same changes shall follow at the municipal, city, and provincial levels afterwards. The ultimate goal is for the People’s Congress to take the place of the present-day bicameral legislature at the national level. Aside from legislating, the People’s Congress shall appoint the president and all other noncareer executive officials, judges and the hawks that comprise the military establishment. The no-confidence vote mechanism similarly applies at the national level.

For those who seek radical changes of this magnitude — those who believe they have been robbed, scammed and unjustly deprived of human rights — the work ahead is not easy. They need believers. They need numbers. They are up against the robbers and scammers themselves, who are the enablers and defenders of the status quo.

The oppressed can push it or stay oppressed. Plans are dreams, after all, but suffering is not.



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