Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Term Extension Scenarios

I am reproducing below an interesting article from ABS-CBN, which is a collection of scenarios it gathered in the course of reporting on the charter change issue and term extension of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The words in italics are my comments. Here it is:

Scenario 1: Shift to a parliamentary system

The House of Representatives will convene a constituent assembly and proceed to amend the Constitution without the Senate. They will approve a change in the form of government from presidential to parliamentary, and lift the restrictions on foreign capital enshrined in the charter. They will then ask the Commission on Elections to hold a plebiscite. A case will subsequently be filed before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court approves the actions taken by a Senate-less constituent assembly, the plebiscite proceeds, and the administration makes sure the amendments are ratified by the people. Instead of presidential elections, parliamentary elections will be held in 2010. President Arroyo runs for a parliamentary seat in Pampanga, wins, and is chosen as prime minister.

Unless MalacaƱang manages to fill the Supreme Court with appointees who can be persuaded to follow an absurd view of our bicameral legislative structure under the Constitution, it is highly unlikely this scenario will happen. A Senate-less constituent assembly is so patently illegal that only those willing to commit political suicide, or confident that they could get away with it (Supreme Court justices included), would take this position. Although we already have congressmen who took this path, they still have so much to hurdle, legally and politically.

Scenario 2: Senators cooperate

The House of Representatives will convene a constituent assembly with some administration senators. Although the senators who will join the constituent assembly will not be enough to meet the three-fourths vote requirement in separate voting (18 senators), their presence will somehow “legitimize the process.”

The charter amendments approved by the constituent assembly are then subjected to a plebiscite. The Comelec and the Supreme Court go along with the actions taken by the constituent assembly.

If senators join, which appears to be farfetched right now, the House will pursue joint voting to avoid the problems of separate voting. The issue then on the modality of voting will be brought to the Supreme Court.

Scenario 3: Martial Law

The House of Representatives convenes a constituent assembly without the participation of the Senate. There will be street actions, but violent incidents organized by elements against democracy take place. President Arroyo will then have a basis to declare martial law.

Commenting on scenario three, Soliman said this can happen if the protests are not organized. “It [martial law] will make us vulnerable to infiltration and manipulation. When we act, we must be organized,” she said.

It's possible that con-ass congressmen, in tandem with MalacaƱang, are taking this direction, given their insistence to pursue a clearly illegal act of proposing amendments to the Constitution without the Senate which, as we are seeing, is continuously galvanizing the public to pour into the streets in protest.

Scenario 4: Shift after Elections

The House of Representatives convenes as a constituent assembly, a case is filed before the Supreme Court, but the process takes so long that it is overtaken by the 2010 elections. Charter change fails. Nevertheless, Mrs. Arroyo runs for and wins a congressional seat in Pampanga. But as soon as the 15th Congress is convened in 2010, charter change is approved, and there is an immediate shift in the form of government from presidential to parliamentary.

Congresswoman Arroyo becomes Prime Minister.

This is interesting, and there are indications that it might just happen, given former DOJ Secretary Gonzalez's view that President Arroyo will run for a parliamentary seat and aspire to become Prime Minster if and when the Constitution is amended, and the president's close political allies in Pampanga are hinting or encouraging her to run for Congress.

(With a report from Carmela Fonbuena,

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