Charter change, Economy

Cha-cha and the economy

The Makati rally yesterday (June 10) drew in an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 people to protest what former President Cory Aquino described as “a shameless abuse of power” by the Arroyo administration. Organizers warned that the protest would surely escalate in the coming weeks, especially if congressmen force to convene the constituent assembly (con-ass) for Charter change (Cha-cha)

Expectedly, the beleaguered Arroyo administration is now using all sorts of arguments why people should not join the protests against Cha-cha. One major argument is the economy, which it has always used to discourage public demonstration of outrage against the regime’s barefaced abuse of power.

When massive protests broke out set off by the Hello Garci electoral fraud and later by the NBN-ZTE corruption scandal, the tune was that protests would only offset the gains made by the economy.

The country could not afford a political crisis, much less another EDSA. “Ramdam na ang kaunlaran at sayang naman ang umuunlad na ekonomya” was the recurring theme of Malacañang’s defense against calls for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo. The propaganda line was that the economy has achieved a certain level of stability under Mrs. Arroyo’s leadership. Removing her from office, or instigating moves to get rid of her, would put such economic stability at risk.

But as I have pointed out in a previous article, the deceit of economic growth and industrialization that Malacañang peddles has been further exposed by the latest official figures on the state of economy. According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the country is “teetering into recession”. The massive displacements of Filipino workers here and abroad due to the global crunch could not be concealed as well by false claims of economic stability.

Thus, amid threats of intensified anti-Arroyo protests caused by the renewed push for Cha-cha, the administration’s economic managers have adjusted their tune. From stability and “First World status”, what is supposedly at risk now is the “resiliency” of the economy amid the raging global recession.

On the eve of the Makati rally against Cha-cha, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued this warning: the disruptive impact of political events could affect the county’s economic policies and therefore the performance of the economy. Markets have become “edgy” over the past few days because of the looming showdown between the Arroyo administration and its critics and opponents, BSP Governor Armando Tetangco cautioned. Investors in the stock market are cashing in on gains to secure their money, causing the stock market index to drop by 29.47 points.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ralph Recto, meanwhile, appealed to the public last week not to further aggravate the weak economy. With the gross domestic product (GDP) growing by only 0.4% in the first quarter, Recto warned that there is an “economic cost to political instability and political uncertainty”.

Malacañang’s chief economist added that “In this challenging time of the global economic crisis, let us not add more shocks to our resilience. Let us remain focused in our efforts to navigate the economy through this time of global hardship.”

Running out of materials to spin and promote the country’s supposed economic growth, government is now using the precarious situation of the domestic economy to help prevent from further intensifying the public outrage triggered by the railroading last week of House Resolution (HR) 1109 to convene Congress, with members of the Senate and House of Representatives voting as one, into a con-ass

But instead of dampening the people’s outrage, such statements would only further stoke public indignation. The worsening economic uncertainties the country faces are not the people’s fault, in the same manner that HR 1109 that will push for Cha-cha and perpetuate Arroyo to power is not the people’s wishes. What is definite is that the blatant push for Cha-cha to serve Arroyo’s narrow political interests at a time when the hyped economic growth is unraveling spells huge political consequences for the despised Arroyo administration.

Indeed, it’s not the legitimate protests that will aggravate the country’s economic woes. Job scarcity, forced labor migration, poverty, destruction of local industries, and vulnerabilities to the global recession are all deteriorating due to wrong economic policies of the Arroyo administration.

It’s the worsening economic condition of the Filipino people that will feed the worsening political crisis. It is the raging economic crisis, amid the shameless abuse of authority by the Arroyo administration, that would compel the people to thwart the scheme of this regime to prolong its stay in power through Cha-cha.

Charter change

Railroading HR 1109, Con-ass: a scandal far worse than Hayden’s sex videos

A scandal as sensational as Hayden Kho’s sex videos was how Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan partylist described what happened last night at the Batasan where Speaker Prospero Nograles and other Palaka congressmen, with marching orders from GMA, railroaded House Resolution 1109.

But without any intention to downplay or trivialize the abuse suffered by Hayden’s victims, I say it’s a scandal far worse. That is the only way I can describe what the administration lawmakers did to force Congress to convene into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) for charter change (Cha-cha).

I thought that the scandal caused by Hayden’s sex videos could not be outdone for a long time. But the scandal at the House was worse because Malacañang’s cabal did not have qualms doing their Cha-cha version of “Careless Whisper” on national TV, live. There was no “Hayden” camera. Unlike Katrina Halili and the other victims, Nograles and company were fully aware that cameras were shooting.

Pero hindi sila nahiya. At talagang hindi nahiya sa paghubad sa tunay nilang agenda.

Under interpellation, one of the sponsors admitted that the pledge made by HR 1109 not to extend the term of GMA, that the 2010 elections will push through, etc are not guaranteed commitments once the Con-ass starts its work.

May maitim talagang balak mula’t simula ang mga pasimuno ng HR 1109.

The resolution, which was still then un-numbered, was circulated in secret by its proponents to House members for their signatures. Over and over again, it was reported in the media then that the resolution already had a certain number of signatures but the public and anti-Cha-cha House members were clueless about its exact contents.

Then it became HR 1109 and was finally submitted to the House committee on constitutional amendments. There, it was never subjected to a debate, much less to a public consultation. As the minority members of the House noted during the rather brief interpellation of the resolution’s sponsors at the plenary, only three constitutional experts were invited as resource persons (who, by the way, all thumbed down HR 1109) and other stakeholders and social sectors were not invited. If my recollection of the plenary proceedings last night is right, the committee only had two hearings which together lasted for less than three hours.

Then it was rushed to the plenary, where the majority assured the minority that the debates would be held. But only about four hours into the interpellation, a motion was raised to stop the debates and hold a vote on HR 1109.

Apparently, nainip na sila sa sarili nilang moro-moro. The questions and points raised were futile, anyway, since at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. Walden Bello repeatedly talked about intelligent discourse, fair play, etc that the majority is undermining with its motion to vote. But did Bello really expect a great debate?

I remember when GMA first openly advocated Cha-cha. She asked Congress (it was her SONA, I think) to start the “great debate”. To be sure, what happened at the House last night was anything but a great debate.

Itinago na sa publiko, iniratsada pa sa plenaryo itong HR 1109. Mga salbahe talaga.

But as we have proven time and again, what we can’t stop in Congress, we can stop in the streets.

Mayorya sila sa Batasan, tayo ang higit na malaking mayorya sa lansangan.