Monday, March 03, 2008

Noli is Not Prepared to Be President

I read with some bemusement last Sunday's newspaper headline about Vice President Noli de Castro's statement clarifying that he is "prepared and not preparing" to be president. The question that instantly cropped to mind is: is he? Is Noli de Castro truly prepared for the presidency? Does he possess the educational training, policy-making experience and political savvy to be able to set aright our skewed political system? Does he have the moral fortitude to fight off the various vested interests who are sure to "collect" their "just rewards" should they succeed to oust Gloria. I mean the late Senator Roco was as politically astute and willful as they come but even he failed to eradicate the syndicates at DepEd. I am not impressed and I am not at all convinced that Kabayan Noli will be able to meet these expectations. I mean, I cannot recall Kabayan having made a stand on any issue. His track record as a senator was lackluster and his performance as the nation’s “Housing Czar” is not exactly impressive.

Like many Filipinos, I have been glued to the TV watching closely the events unfolding in Manila: the Lozada "kidnapping," the ensuing Senate investigation, the Cory-led mass at Baclaran Church, Lozada being mobbed like a rockstar, the CBCP statement, etc. Last Friday’s inter-faith rally was the biggest I have seen so far since EDSA Tres. But it should also be pointed out that it was far from the one million crowd predicted by some opposition personalities. We will know in the coming weeks whether this will gain momentum or eventually fizzle out. The question on everybody's mind right now seems to be: is MalacaƱang’s "luckiest bitch" finally running out of luck? But watching all these “dramatic” developments, I felt none of the euphoric anger commonly associated with People Power but only deep anguish for our country. The image of people in yellow singing "Bayan Ko" (with their eyes closed) did not move me but only made me laugh (it was so contrived) and I thought to myself that this time the theme song should not be "Bayan Ko" but "Yellow Submarine." In hindsight, EDSA I and EDSA II have made suckers out of all those people who trooped and heeded the call of the bishops for "change." After two People Power "revolutions," corruption is still pervasive, public office is still largely limited to people with money and pedigree, and government service in general still sucked. The only thing that changed were the politicians caught stealing from government. Today, “People Power” is so discredited that the Catholic bishops had to invent a new word for it - "communal action."

I am hesitant to join a third People Power because I am afraid that, as before, it would only be hijacked by the politicians. Prohibiting them from climbing the stage and speaking during rallies is well and good, but this will not exactly prevent the likes of Maceda and Drilon from eventually assuming important positions later on. Ousting GMA is actually the easy part. It is the thought of what will happen next that acts as the major stumbling block to another People Power. Will President de Castro (naks!) name Ernesto Maceda to his Cabinet? Binay maybe will become DILG secretary, Drilon to Justice, Lozada to DOTC, Leah Navarro to Tourism, and Senator Jamby to DSWD probably? Who will now be the people behind Noli providing him his "script" to read? After Jose de Venecia has regained his old seat as Speaker of the House, will he still continue his so-called "moral revolution?"

I now believe that People Power for the sake of regime change is no longer tenable and is in fact counter-productive for the country. For example, if we oust GMA today, many people will feel that she has been punished enough. Prosecuting her for the crimes she committed would now become unpopular and public opinion will shift from "GMA is evil" to "kinakawawa naman siya masyado, babae pa naman." This is actually the reason why, despite being found guilty of corruption, Erap continues to be popular with the masses. After his ouster, Erap was arrested and incarcerated (albeit in a "resthouse") and many Filipinos felt that this was too much, that “kinawawa naman siya masyado.” Moreover, People Power deludes us to think that all our problems will just go away if we commit ourselves to doing our "civic duty" (i.e. trooping to EDSA) for just a day or two.

I have been a sucker before, I don’t want to be a sucker again. I have resolved to stay away from EDSA mainly for this reason. The Tagalogs I believe have a stronger word for it: “gagaguhin lang tayo ng mga yan.” I can see that the people trying to orchestrate the next People Power are just engaging in sophistry and are not really offering specific ideas of what institutional reforms they intend to do once they oust Gloria. For instance, I heard a rally speaker say that they want a change “in” men and not “of” men and that they are sick and tired of trapos in government. But how exactly do they propose to effect this change “in” men and eradicate trapos is left unanswered. I have suggested in this blog that one plausible strategy to attain this goal is to limit to just one five-year term (with no reelection) all elective posts in government. But I guess this is too radical for even the most radical activists. Is it because the “outs” who trooped to Makati last Friday are not really serious about truly reforming the system but are only after recapturing the things that the “ins” are presently enjoying?

Someone has defined insanity as "repeating the same action over and over again and expecting a different result." More than twenty years after the first EDSA, a Philippine president again finds herself accused of the same crimes that Marcos faced during his time: graft and corruption, electoral fraud and human rights abuses. To me, mounting another EDSA People Power is just plain insanity. It is very apparent that the problem is not in our people but in our dysfunctional political system. It is a system that forces well-meaning politicians to be corrupt. Today, everyone wants to know the truth. But the sad truth is that we are bound to keep repeating the same mistakes because everyone is only looking out for his or her own interests and not the country’s welfare.

I remember that way back in 1986, Ben Abalos was among the "fresh" faces that Cory Aquino brought in government. Abalos belonged to the "Batch of 1986" or that crop of politicians who fought Marcos and who got their big break only after the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution. Since he looked like a farmer and talked with utmost sincerity, people intrinsically liked him and brought him back into office again and again. But twenty two years later, Abalos is embroiled in an election (Hello Garci) and corruption (NBN-ZTE) scandal, proving the adage that if you stay in power too long you will eventually become the ogre you once swore to destroy. Starting out as idealistic and well-meaning individuals, most of Abalos' "batchmates" are now themselves corrupt and many have established their own political dynasties - the very same things that they fought against during the Marcos dictatorship.

I believe that after more than 20 years in power, it is about time that we replace this "Batch of '86" politicians with a new crop of "fresh faces." The next People Power should be a revolution against ALL politicians whether pro or anti-Gloria. The next EDSA uprising should not stop at ousting Gloria but must also uproot the 500 or so political families (or dynasties) who have held sway over our country since 1986 and, like rabid dogs, have been continually bickering over the spoils of politics. The next EDSA People Power should not be led by Cory or Erap or any of the up-and-coming opposition politician but by a nameless, ordinary Filipino with no political baggage. The next EDSA president should therefore be astute and savvy enough to sheperd this wide-ranging "changing of the guard." How? By doing the following:

1. Replace all elected LGU officials with OICs

2. Call for an election to constitute a Constitutional Convention. To ensure that the Con Con will be apolitical, all individuals who are or have been members of any political party or have won any elective office in the past should be banned from running as a delegate for the Con Con.

3. Ensure that a term limit provision which will prohibit reelection and limit the term for all elective offices to just one five-year term be included in the new Constitution.

Now, is Noli de Castro prepared to pull this off?

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