SIX years or so ago, at the beginning of the B.S.Aquino 3rd administration, a group of Filipino individuals, convinced that Smartmatic’s 2010 automated presidential election had failed to produce a de jure government, but only a de facto government without a genuine constitutional mandate, nor a perceivable attachment to the common good, committed themselves to work for systems change.
This happened in Cebu, and included some leading members of the Catholic episcopacy and clergy, some Protestant pastors, some leaders of the Islamic faith, and a number of substantial laymen, a couple of whom had previously served in the Cabinet. The group did not reveal the names of its members; every member was free to reveal his or her own membership, if they so desired, but no member could disclose the names of other members.
The group saw regime change was needed to replace the de facto government. But they saw it only as a first step toward meaningful system change. They believed that if Aquino were to be pushed out of office, he should be succeeded not by anyone named in the Constitution, but rather by a non-partisan civilian council whose task would be to provide the necessary support for systems change. Once these reforms were in place, the nation could then proceed to elect and constitute a new government. No Smartmatic.
Some tough questions
Utopian? Far from it. But, how could this group compel Aquino to step down? Assuming their right as concerned citizens allowed them to call on the de facto president to step down, and assuming further he would heed their call, how would they proceed to install a non-partisan civilian council to replace the constitutionally-mandated individual successor? They would probably need the military to intervene, but that could mean a coup, which would put finis to their transition scheme.
In 2013, Aquino presided over the election of 12 new senators. An entire community of election transparency workers demanded that Smartmatic be finally kicked out. But instead of that happening, Smartmatic found itself in a far stronger position after Lord Mark Malloch Brown became its new international chairman and had one private meeting with Aquino in Malacañang.
Brown was no stranger to the Aquino family. He first came to the Philippines as head of Sawyer Miller, a US-based political consulting firm, which helped Mrs. Corazon Aquino run against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap election. That was a disaster, but the military mutiny afterward made Cory a revolutionary president.
Brown is said to have written Cory’s September 1986 speech to the joint session of the US Congress. He later became a deputy to UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, member of the British House of Lords, and not the least, an associate of George Soros, the international promoter of “color revolutions” whose latest reported accomplishment was Ireland’s referendum vote lifting its 35-year-old constitutional ban on abortion.
The electorate never had a chance. Aquino’s official candidates took 60 percent of all the votes, even in opposition bailiwicks where nobody knew them; the “approved” non-administration candidates got a measly 30 percent even in their own bailiwicks, while the “Independents” ended with 10 percent even in their own hometowns.
The need to move
As the de facto government grew in size, the group began to feel an urgent need to move.
In 2014, I was invited to join the group. My first minor contribution was to propose that the group be called National Transformation (rather than Transition) Council. On August 27, we convened our first national assembly in Lipa City, with Archbishop Ramon Arguelles as host. I presided over the deliberations. The late Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, S.J., moral theologian and former Father Provincial of the Society of Jesus, helped me draft the Declaration.
With us were the late Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop emeritus of Cebu, whose statement as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in February 1986 provided the “moral basis” for the EDSA revolt; Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, also a former CBCP president; the late Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan; Fr. “Archie” of course, numerous priests and religious, Protestant pastors, some imams and ulama from Mindanao, and some formidable laymen.
The declaration revisited
Some quotes from the “Lipa Declaration: A Urgent Call for National Transformation”:
“A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations.
“Unbridled and unpunished corruption and widespread misuse of political and economic power in all layers of society have not only destroyed our common concept of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, legal and illegal, but also put our people, especially the poor, at the mercy of those who have the power to dictate the course and conduct of our development, for their own selfish ends.
“Far from preserving and defending the Constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent president has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the Judiciary, taking over the Treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process.
“President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has also damaged the moral fabric of Philippine society by bribing members of Congress not only to impeach and remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice but also to enact a law which disrespects the right to life of human beings at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the Constitution but above all of the moral law, the customs, culture and consciences of Filipinos.
“Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and has become a danger to the Philippine democratic and republican state, and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.
“We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.
“We call upon the National Transformation Council to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal political conditions….
“We call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the constitutional ‘protector of the people and the state’ to extend its protective shield to the Council and not to allow any armed group to sow violence, disorder or discord into its peaceful ranks.”
Overtaken by events
This call was echoed and re-echoed in subsequent assemblies. From Lipa to Cebu to Butuan to San Fernando to General Santos to Davao and back to Lipa again. But it was ultimately overtaken by events. The biggest political fiesta known to the Filipino voters intervened. The presidential elections. Five candidates vied for the presidency. All candidates seemed to believe there would be massive cheating, but no one seemed ready to do anything about it. Since no one would probably concede defeat to anyone, we shied away from the polls altogether. This was a mistake.
Candidate Duterte outsmarted all his rivals by exploiting the social media to his full advantage. His opponents had to concede. Two years later we learned how millions of voters were micro-targeted by Cambridge Analytica to respond favorably to its psychological stimuli.
But how DU30 won is no longer in issue here. How he’s running the country is. At the NTC, we agreed that PNoy was “the worst President we ever had.” But what happens, I asked half-jokingly, if PNoy should turn out to be the lesser evil? None of my friends found it funny, but it turned out to be painfully prophetic. A number of people who have since gone back to the Lipa Declaration have declared that Aquino’s crimes against the nation paled in comparison to those of DU30’s.
DU30 vs Aquino
Aquino got China’s goat with his provocative anti-China statements. But DU30 has outraged and dishonored his countrymen, and possibly even China itself, with his slavishly pro-China stance and statements. He has surrendered valuable parts of our territory to China, and made himself an individual Chinese “protectorate.” He shows no shame in saying that Xi Jinping will protect him against any move to oust him from office.
Aquino bribed members of Congress to impeach and remove the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on a non-impeachable offense. He corrupted Congress and destroyed the impeachment process.
For his part, DU30 ordered the SC justices to remove Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno in gross disregard of the separation of powers, and even though the justices did not have the right, the duty or the power to remove an impeachable officer who can only be removed by death, permanent disability, resignation or impeachment.
Eight to nine justices voted to declare her appointment null and void ab initio as though the President’s power to appoint a chief justice were subject to confirmation or review by the justices.
By this act alone, DU30 turned the Constitution and the Supreme Court into political corpses waiting to be buried.
At the first sign of corruption, DU30 fires his “erring” underlings. This leads some people to believe he will not tolerate corruption. But no charges are ever filed against the dismissed officials. For instance, Wanda Teo resigned as tourism secretary after it became known that her office had authorized a P60-million ad payment to her brother’s TV outfit, without sufficient documentation.
Is Wanda facing any charges after her resignation? It appears there is another P60 million the DOT has paid to the same firm, but which the Commission on Audit will not know about until next year. Wanda’s case seems to be one of the more benign ones. What about the multi-billion peso deals involving favored individuals?
And how about the extrajudicial killings? Some people seem ready to believe the number has declined, fewer bodies are showing up in the ghettos and slums. The more terrifying story though is that the killing continues, but the bodies are just thrown into the sea in the dead of night.
Within 11 days last October, the Council lost several of its old pillars—Fr. “Archie” Intengan, Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Pueblos, Jerry Ocampo, our prodigious blogger; and many have since followed who never had the chance to publicly affirm their membership in the Council.
But the more permanent and destructive death is the death of our Constitution. We must revive it and let it bring life-nourishing sunlight into our institutions. We need a new beginning. We need to be born again. No decent government can hope to flourish under the present conditions, so we will have to address President Rodrigo Duterte, and also Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, in the language of the Lipa Declaration.
Yes, but with some moderation. I will now appeal to our President and Vice President to summon the vast reserves of their patriotism and announce their joint resignation in order to pave the way for a snap presidential election. I hope and pray that any number of my countrymen will join me in this appeal. / BY FRANCISCO TATAD ON