Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Con Ass is Dead, Long Live Cha Cha!

It is now clear that Speaker Joe de Venecia misjudged the mood of the people. Filipinos are apathetic but not apathetic enough - they will object and go to the streets when they see wanton display and brazen abuse of power. Watching JDV, et al. on ANC last Saturday, it almost seems that they are desperate (Manolo Quezon in his column described them as "weepy") to change the Constitution. The House leadership has since withdrew their 72-hour ultimatum and more diplomatically "requested" the Senate to approve a Resolution calling for a Consitutional Convention. But lest anti-JDV opponents think that they have won, the Man of the House, the Godfather of Backroom Politics has come out with another gambit: I'll scrap Con Ass if you call for a Con Con.

While most opinion makers in Manila would rather just demonize the House members, I for my part would like to find explanations for their "brazen" behavior. Certainly, there are bad eggs in Congress but I refuse to believe the "one-dimensional" portrayal of Congressmen by media as "pure evil." No one person thinks he is evil (most especially politicians) and there must be underlying reasons that make otherwise rational individuals to act so brazenly.

For one, I suspect that most incumbent congressmen are not ready for elections in May 2007. It may be that most of them bought Speaker Joe's "PI/no-election scenario" hook, line and sinker. Having been promised that there will be no elections come May 2007, many may have been complacent in their constituency work and neglected their "fund-raising" activities. Thus, the rather "weepy" look of most congressmen during the presscon called by JDV last week. Understandably, JDV is combative because he may well lose the Speakership if he doesn't deliver on his promise to his House colleagues.

If it's any consolation, Speaker JDV succeeded in "polarizing" politics along Pro and Anti Cha Cha adherents. Before the aborted Final Push, the usual "People Power people" had no compelling political issue to use to bring the people out to the streets. Before the aborted Con Ass, our Senators were just sitting on their asses and were just ignoring the repeated requests of the House for them to Cha Cha. All the Senate have to do to defeat Con Ass is to do nothing.

It is weird but I have yet to meet anyone who is against Charter Change. Almost anyone who oppose Cha Cha claim that they are not against amending the Constitution per se but that they feel now is not the right time and suspect that it will be used by the powers-that-be to extend their reign. Cory Aquino used this line in 1997 when she rallied People Power in Luneta to oppose the Pedrosa-led Pirma. Ten years later, Cha Cha opponents are still using the same line to justify their opposition to Cha Cha. So the question to current anti-Cha Cha forces then is, when is the right time? Or more appropriately, who is the person you think should be in power for you to say that now is the right time?

At least, the coming May 2007 elections will be an issue-driven campaign (hopefully) and any candidate will have to decide on where he will stand on the issue. This country has not had an issue-driven campaign since the U.S. Bases Treaty issue. Now, senatorial candidates will be supported by local kingpins based not only on their winnability but also on their stand on the Cha Cha issue. Reelectionist local politicians, most of whom are in favor of Cha Cha, will have to explain to their constituents why they are for amending the Constitution. Voters will be forced to think and listen to both sides of the debate. The May 2007 elections may well prove to be a referendum on Cha Cha.

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