Blog Action Day: No to #conass

No to ConAss!

No to ConAss!

It may be late in the day, but I join the many bloggers and Filipino netizens in expressing their rejection, disgust and opposition to the constituent assembly that may suddenly spring to life tomorrow at Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s last State of the Nation Address or SONA and plunge the country into further darkness and misery.

I’m not against Charter change per se, but if it is done with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions still in power, it must be resisted, rejected and opposed for it will most likely result in GMA’s perpetuation in power as Prime Minister, effectively as dictator.

It is a trend that every time a sitting President’s term is about to end, and since the present Constitution prohibits him or her from being re-elected to second term, changing the Constitution itself takes center stage in the national debate and is most often, one of the focus points of the incumbent administration.

The argument that the country will benefit more and really progress under the watch of an authoritarian regime, as we experienced with the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is at best, according to Minxin Pei, “an optical illusion

“Dictatorship Has Given Asia an Advantage.”

No. Autocracies, mainly in East Asia, may seem to have made their countries prosperous. The so-called dragon economies of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia under Suharto, and now China experienced their fastest growth under nondemocratic regimes. Frequent comparisons between China and India appear to support the view that a one-party state unencumbered by messy competitive politics can deliver economic goods better than a multiparty system tied down by too much democracy.

But Asia also has had many autocracies that have impoverished their countries-consider the tragic list of Burma, Pakistan, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia under the murderous Khmer Rouge, and the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos. Even China is a mixed example. Before the Middle Kingdom emerged from self-imposed isolation and totalitarian rule in 1976, its economic growth was subpar. China under Mao also had the dubious distinction of producing the world’s worst famine.

Even when you look at autocracies credited with economic success, you find two interesting facts. First, their economic performance improved when they became less brutal and allowed greater personal and economic freedoms. Second, the keys to their successes were sensible economic policies, such as conservative macroeconomic management, infrastructural investment, promotion of savings, and pushing exports. Dictatorship really has no magic formula for economic development.

Comparing a one-party state like China with a democracy such as India is not an easy intellectual exercise. Obviously, India has many weaknesses: widespread poverty, poor infrastructure, and minimal social services. China appears to have done much better in these areas. But appearances can be deceiving. Dictatorships are good at concealing the problems they create while democracy is good at advertising its defects.

So the autocratic advantage in Asia is, at best, an optical illusion.

The argument that GMA is, at present and the foreseeable future, the best person to lead the country, manage the economy and carry out reforms in government, politics and public institutions is the surrender of any remaining hope in this country and the Filipino people.

GMA had nine years to leave a legacy, nine years to improve the lives of the people, particularly those living below the poverty line and at the margins of society.

Instead, we have an economy that is more dependent on the sweat, labor and sacrifices of OFWs and their precious remittances than ever. Convincing proof that the local economy is still unable to meet the needs of the people and sustain them.

In the more than nine years of the Arroyo administration, our agriculture remain backwards with local farmers still in poverty and their crops being drowned by foreign agriculture imports. Worse, land reform has all but collapsed under her watch. Adding insult to injury, the numerous cases of state abuses, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings with peasant-leaders as victims have risen greatly during her term and such cases remain unsolved to this day.

Fighting corruption has been one of the mantras of her administration. But in all the nine years of her stay in power, she herself and her family had been involved in the many high-profile cases of corruption: the Philhealth cards, the fertilizer fund mess, the ridiculously expensive Diosdado Macapagal highway, the “Hello, Garci” tapes and the NBN-ZTE deal. All of which remain unsolved and the truth hidden from the public all because of her immunity as President and loyalty of her patrons in Congress and the bureaucracy. Transactional politics has become the defining term of her kind of governance.

With all the ghosts of her past now haunting her even more, her political survival has become her primary pre-occupation, not the welfare of the nation. That’s why Charter change is still very much alive and kicking. We just don’t know exactly how it will kick in, but at present, Conass seems to be her option.

That’s why we must stop, resist, reject and oppose any Charter change be it through a conass or con-con, as long as it is done under GMA’s watch.

No to Conass. No more of GMA!

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