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Will GMA Keep Faith With Filipinos?

June 26, 2009


Could the Philippines slip back into one-man rule?

This question has been posed to me by several friends these past two weeks with their concerns triggered by reports which have been criss-crossing in connection with:

– the continuing clashes in parts of Mindanao between government forces and secessionist rebels;

– pocket raids of the communist New Peoples Army and;

– fears that the continuing public indignation over the plan of the House of Representatives to convoke a Senate-less Constituent Assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

My friends asked me if the Arroyo regime could, in an extreme situation, use any of these events as pretext to declare emergency rule if not martial law.

I responded in the negative, finding assurance in the very clear words of Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution, to wit:


Section 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.
The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call.
The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.
A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in, or directly connected with, invasion.
During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

This aside, I believe that despite the patent episodes of mis-governance and even betrayals of public trust by the incumbent, the entity in question knows full well that history will lower the boom of ignominy and condemnation if she goes over to the dark side.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, I believe, will keep faith, and make peace, with the Filipino people at her term’s end.


The foregoing considered, I think it appropriate to share with our readers this thought-provoking pieace posted in titled The Dictator’s Handbook by Prof. Paul Collier:

The Dictator’s Handbook
By Paul Collier

Why is democracy failing even as elections proliferate?

A thought experiment sheds new light on why aging autocrats remain so hard to dislodge.
The old rulers of the Soviet Union were terrified of facing contested elections. Those of us who studied political systems presumed they must be right: Elections would empower citizens against the arrogance of government. And with the fall of the Iron Curtain, elections indeed swept the world. Yet democracy doesn’t seem to have delivered on its promise. Surprisingly often, the same old rulers are still there, ruling in much the same old way. Something has gone wrong, but what?
To answer this question, I put myself in the shoes of an old autocrat—say, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak—now having to retain power in a “democracy.” What options do I face? Hard as it is to bear, I have to be honest with myself: My people do not love me. Far from being grateful for the wonders that I have achieved, they may increasingly be aware that under my long rule our country has stagnated while similar countries have transformed themselves. There are even a few cogent voices out there explaining why this situation is my fault. I shake my head in disbelief that it has come to this, seize my gold pen, and start listing my options. I decide to be systematic, in each case evaluating the pros and cons.
–Paul Collier
Option 1: Turn over a new leaf and embrace good government
Pros: This is probably what most people want. I might start feeling better about myself, and I might even leave a legacy my children could be proud of.
Cons: I haven’t much idea how to do it. The skills I have developed over the years are quite different—essentially, retaining power through shuffling a huge number of people around a patronage trough. My God, I might have to read those damned donor reports. And even if I worked out what needed to change, the civil service wouldn’t be up to implementing it. After all, I’ve spent years making sure that anyone who is exceptional or even honest is squeezed out; honest people cannot easily be controlled.
Worse still, reform might be dangerous. My “friends,” the parasitic sycophants with whom I have surrounded myself, might not put up with it: They might decide to replace me in a palace coup. They would probably dress it up to the outside world as “reform”!
But suppose I did it. Suppose I actually delivered good government. Would I get reelected? I start to think about all those rich-country political leaders who over the years have met me, often lecturing me on the need for good governance. I do a rough tally: They seemed to win their own elections only about 45 percent of the time.
So, even if I pull it off, I’m still more than likely to lose power. Best to cheat. But how?

Truth is a terrible thing to waste.
Option 2: Lie to the voters
Pros: I control most of the media, so it is relatively easy. What’s more, my citizens have neither much in the way of education nor good reference points by which to tell how bad things really are. So, I can tell them how fortunate they are to have me as president.
Cons: I have been doing this for years, so people heavily discount anything I say. On balance, though lying seems to be worth doing, I simply cannot rely on it to deliver victory.
Option 3: Scapegoat a minority
Pros: This one works! I can blame either unpopular minorities within my country or foreign governments for all my problems. The politics of hatred has a long and, electorally speaking, pretty successful pedigree. In the Ivory Coast it was the Burkinabe immigrants; in Zimbabwe, the whites; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Tutsi. Failing all else, I can always blame Israel America. I can also promise favoritism for my own group.
Cons: Some of my best friends are ethnic minorities. In fact, they have been funding me for years in return for favors. I prefer doing business with ethnic minorities because, however rich they become, they cannot challenge me politically. It is the core ethnic groups I need to keep out of business. Scare the minorities too badly, and they will move their money out. So, though scapegoating works, beyond a certain point it gets rather costly.

The article is an adapted excerpt from Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, by Paul Collier, professor of economics at Oxford University. Copyright© 2009 by Paul Collier. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.

As some of our readers may perhaps agree, the value of Prof. Collier’s tongue-in-cheek treatise is it can serve as a citizen’s checklist of tell-tale machinations by his society’s leadership which point to its dictatorial inclinations.

If we are ‘street smart’ about such facets of governance then we are forewarned, and forearmed.

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