Monday, November 14, 2005

Comments on Jesuit guidelines on Philippine political crisis

Comments on the the Jesuit guidelines on the Philippine political controversy:

1. Bringing out the truth cuts both ways. It is a given that we all should work at finding out the truth. In the meantime, GMA is presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. GMA critics charge her with election fraud based on a wiretap. Wiretapping is illegal in the Philippines. So, there are two possible illegal acts here, the alleged election fraud and wiretapping. We need to know the facts regarding this illegal wiretapping because this has serious implications on our civil liberties and the Machiavellian way of assuming political power. If it could happen to the President then it could happen to any citizen, and even worse, the vulnerable and weak in society. This is a serious implication, which the "progressives" in civil society, academia, media, church, etc. are silent on. This is a terrible omission on their part.

2. Justice is multidimensional. Seeking out the truth is only one aspect. Another important aspect is procedural justice, which is the process of arriving at the truth, reaching a decision, and acting on the decision reached. The election fraud charge could have been resolved by: a) GMA resigning, b) another People Power or coup det'at, and c) impeachment by Congress. Options a and b were rejected by GMA, which is her prerogative, by majority of the Filipinos (no People Power), and the Armed Forces respectively. Impeachment was the logical, next, and most feasible alternative. However, as a friend observed, the opposition Congressmen who led the impeachment/prosecution panel were also the ones in charge of the defense of ERAP during his impeachment proceedings. On both occasions, they bungled the job (despite their educational credentials and their dominance in Congress during ERAP's presidency). Let's face it, impeachment is both a legal and political process. If the opposition and their allies had a weak case, they should not have hurriedly filed the impeachment complaint and should have prepared better. The Filipino people are not stupid and will not confuse legal and political ineptness on the part of the opposition with the administration's political machinations.

There should be a way of proving GMA cheated AND finding out who authorized, organized, funded, and conducted an illegal wiretap without sacrificing the economy. All these, not only GMA's ouster, should constitute the fixed pie of justice in this case.

3. Headless opposition. As FVR noted, GMA may not be our ideal president, but there are currently no alternatives in the opposition. The opposition is headless, disorganized, inept, and lazy. They are also vulnerable. Cory, aside from being retired, has her Hacienda Luisita agrarian reform and massacre debacles (including the killing of union leaders). Bro. Eddie has his Zoe TV station legal woes. Drilon and Dinky Soliman are being attacked for their insincerity. The Senate is so unproductive that I am amazed that they are not ashamed of it. Drilon and the UP Law Center charged GMA of graft and corruption on the Northrail project, a critical transportation project for Central Luzon, but they misidentified the Chinese proponent-corporation. Nestle, which Ex-DTI Sec. Santos headed previously, is tainted by the killings of Nestle union leaders. Ping Lacson is in trouble because of the alleged kidnapping, murder, and drugs accusations, and possibly espionage in the U.S. because of his protege, Michael Ray Aquino. Makati Mayor Binay is hindering business activity in his own city by co-organizing allegedly paid-for rallies. The Makati Business Club calls for GMA's resignation without consulting its members, while its Executive Director is allegedly a Canadian citizen. Congressmen are concerned more with their pork barrel and political dynasties. The Left, well, what can I say?

Do you think that persons and groups of contradictory political persuasions, who are now united in their attempts to oust GMA, will be able to solve our political and economic problems? They are their own worst enemies. The Philippines has been spared from catastrophes this year, but not the biggest catastrophe of all- inept and lazy professional politicians and amateur politician wannabes.

4. Debate now. The Constitutional debate is not being rushed. Discussions started almost immediately after the implementation of the 1987 constitution when various sectors of society began noticing the negative impacts of some aspects of the constitution. During FVR's presidency, the debate heated up. Many think it was bad timing because it would've favored FVR, but hindsight now provides us with the regret of an alternative future. The point is that on every occasion the possibility of amending the constitution was raised, select groups immediately opposed it. Why are those who profess to work for democracy so adamant against discussing and debating constitutional amendments? Shall we let this opportunity for constitutional amendment (and possibly shortening GMA's rule) pass? A parliamentary form of government is not a panacea to the nation's ills, but it addresses an important structural aspect of a country's developmental strategy- the political and legislative sector. Again, as FVR noted, a parliamentary form of government also provides for the development of leaders from all sectors of society; since it is cheaper to gain political power. Vested interests are not the monopoly of GMA and her allies, it seems.

The future is uncertain with globalization, "war on terror" (??), and "natural" disasters (actually natural phenomena affecting human settlements). Self-defeating politics are only an added misery. Too many people in the Philippines and in the world live in poverty. In the U.S., living wages are declining so working here will become increasingly difficult. The same may be true in Europe. If the Middle East autocrats don't shape up and their oil runs out, their economies may not be resilient enough to hire more migrant laborers. While economic migration is now the norm for a number of us middle class, middle-aged Filipinos, it is developing the Philippine economy that will enable us to live meaningful lives at home. We need to tackle poverty everyday and not let the politicians waste our time entertaining us with their clownish behavior. The poor are desperate and poverty is one antecedent to political upheavals and violence. While we have been weathering the external shocks of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, ERAP and GMA?, oil price increases, etc., a catastrophe such as a massive earthquake, another Pinatubo, a tsunami, drought, or a pandemic hitting a populated area could easily send the country in to chaos. All it takes is one massive "external" shock. Are we prepared?

I suggest reading the Hyperwage Theory of Thads Bentulan/Streetstrategist at the Businessworld on how to tackle poverty (I have parts 1-26 on e-file).

Office of the Provincial
To Jesuits and Jesuit Institutions of the Philippine Province
With this letter, I endorse to all Jesuits, Jesuit communities and Jesuit apostolic institutions of the Philippine Province, the attached Guidelines in a Time of Confusion and Crisis, produced by our Province Commission on the Social Apostolate. These Guidelines, produced after much discussion and consultation, are an attempt to provide Christian moral reflection on our present national situation of political crisis and confusion.I ask that these Guidelines be read, reflected, and prayed upon, and made the subject of serious discernment, towards action, by individuals,communities, and institutions. They may be shared with others who are seeking direction and guidance in our troubled times.I know that not many will agree with what is presented here: some will judge that the Guidelines go "too far;" others will doubtless think that they do not go "far enough." For my part, I personally believe that these Guidelines offer sound directions to help us "read" our present situation and to orient us in our common search for authentic solutions to the grave problems of our country today. Nonetheless, these Guidelines are not presented as positions that all are compelled to accept and adhere to. If some, in conscience, differ with the positions taken here, let that dissent be presented with civility and intelligence, as input for the continuing task of communal discernment towards what will serve the true good of our country.Let us be united in prayer and deep concern for our country and our people. May the Lord show us the way toward the truth, freedom and justice that our people yearn for. May God bless us with courage and hope.
Fraternally in our Lord,
SOME GUIDELINES IN A TIME OF CONFUSION AND CRISIS for Jesuits and Jesuit Institutions of the Philippine Province
1. The struggle to bring out the truth must go on. The freedom to advocate this struggle must be upheld. The President has not sufficiently rendered an account to the people where serious charges have been raised against her, and efforts to hide the facts only confirm the suspicions of many. Todismiss the concern for truth in the name of stability is to condone the culture of impunity, by which those in power have long been able to commit crimes unpunished, and our people have become cynical - accepting corruption and deceit as normal in our public life.
2. Those who claim that the "rule of law" was triumphant in the recent impeachment proceedings confuse proceduralism with law. While it is true that the procedures of law were fulfilled, the spirit of the law was subverted. Evidence was not allowed to emerge.
3. Peaceful and legal means that protect and strengthen our democratic institutions must be used in the continued search to bring out the truth. In this same spirit, the legislature, especially the Senate, must not be remiss in its oversight functions, to ensure the system of checks and balances setin place by the Constitution. Likewise, care should be taken that concrete actions do not support or strengthen groups with covert anti-democratic, adventurist, or power-grabbing agenda.
4. We respect the decision of those, who, in conscience, have reached a judgment that the President should not remain in office. Part of this process is the moral obligation to seriously consider alternatives that will be truly for the good of the country, and not abet the struggle for power among elite and corrupt politicians.
5. The search for the truth must include a search into the deeper truth of Philippine political life, the factors which make the present crisis just one of a series of political crises that hinder the country's development. It is necessary to listen to, reflect seriously on, and address the concerns of a large majority of people who seem apathetic or whose dissatisfaction does not seem to translate into political action. Some, for example, have lost trust in all politicians, of whatever camp. Others, especially those in the provinces, feel excluded by and resentful of what they perceive to be Manila deciding for the country again. Efforts must be made to address this disillusionment and sense of exclusion, so that our people might be motivated to participate more vigorously in our country's political life.
6. If many of our people seem to be uninvolved or uninterested, it is primarily because of an overriding concern for economic survival during very hard times. The real and urgent concerns of the poor should be given highest priority amidst all efforts to search for truth. Indeed, the search for the truth is integrally linked to the fate of the poor. Corruption and dishonesty have made the lot of the poor worse.
7. Programs and initiatives from both government and the private sector to address the urgent needs of the poor, in fields such as education, health, housing, livelihood, and the like, should continue to be supported,and indeed intensified. This is especially urgent in view of the looming international oil crisis.
8. While there may be reasons to consider amending the constitution for the sake of greater responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of our people, charter change as a diversionary tactic in times of political conflict, or as a means of perpetuating elite democracy, should be rejected. Thus, the rush to change the Constitution, especially through a Constituent Assembly, should be resisted. Furthermore, while major constitutional changes such as parliamentarism and federalism may seem to have merit, their concrete realization and implications should be carefullystudied and discussed, rather than prematurely decided upon.
9. There may be no clear solutions or exit strategies to our present state. But our past history, especially during the Martial Law years, reminds us that we can continue being vigilant and work for truth and justice even when the alternatives are not clear.
Thus, the following courses of action should be pursued:
a. Our educational institutions, parishes and other institutions should become centers for conscientization. Discernment groups must be organized, to combat apathy, to heighten awareness and involvement, and to prepare for future action. We echo the call of the CBCP in their statement of 10 July 2005, to "urge our people in our parish and religious communities, our religious organizations and movements, our Basic Ecclesial Communities to come and pray together, reason, decide and act together always to the endthe will of God prevail in the political order."
b. Conscientization that leads to organizing and reorganizing base groups and forming community or sectoral organizations should be given priority. Such groups can also be invited to deal with local problems, to engage local government, and to do network-building with other sympatheticgroups.
c. These and other groups should be mobilized towards vigilance, monitoring:
· first, the continued effectiveness of government programs for the poor;
· secondly, appointment to public offices made by the President;
· third, acts of apparent retribution against those who are critical of the government and the President;
· fourth, the actual use of pork barrel by legislators and their possible abuse of it for themselves;
· fifth, the preparations for forthcoming electoral exercises, through advocacy for automation, and the continuing task of voters' education;
· sixth, the use of funds that will be made available in the event of a Peace Agreement in Mindanao.
d. Deeper study and reflection on institutional alternatives (such as parliamentarism, federalism, etc.) should be conducted at various levels, from university think-tanks to grass-roots groups.
Albert E. Alejo, S.J.
Miguel B. Lambino, S.J.
Jose Cecilio J. Magadia, S.J.
Antonio F. Moreno, S.J.
Karel S. San Juan, S.J.
Primitivo E. Viray, S.J.
Peter W. Walpole, S.J.
Roberto C. Yap, S.J.