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De La Salle Philippines is a network of Lasallians in the Sector of the Philippines established to facilitate collaboration in the Lasallian Mission and the promotion of the spirit of faith, zeal for service and communion in mission that together, are at the heart of the journey of our Founder, John Baptist de La Salle.

De La Salle Philippines is committed to building up educational communities that demonstrate commitment to young people, especially those who are poor, by providing them with access to a human and Christian education that enables them to participate in the transformation of society.

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Namfrel position supporting the holding of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls as scheduled on May 14, 2018

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he National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, the organization that started nonpartisan citizen monitoring of elections in the world in 1983, urges Congress to no longer postpone the holding of the two polls.  The Commission on Elections announced that these polls are scheduled on May 14, 2018, and preparations are underway for holding them in over 42,000 villages throughout the country.

“Free and fair elections are a precondition of democracy and they promote social, political and economic development”, according to the Bali Declaration by the Asian Network for Free Elections, of which Namfrel is a founding member.  Having regular elections is an exercise of and in democracy and the current set of barangay officials, who have been in office since 2016, would need a fresh mandate from the people they serve.  In a truly functioning democracy, regularly renewing the mandate of elected officials is an exercise of good governance.

Barangay elections

In a survey among Namfrel provincial and NCR-level chairpersons, many expressed that it is high time for voters to judge the performance of the barangay officials and to replace erring ones via the ballot. Postponing the elections, which Congress has twice done already, “brings about a sense of caution and instability” among the village officials.

Those surveyed coming from Mindanao rated most municipalities in their respective provinces as safe to hold elections; and martial law, which is currently in place, do not seem to be an obstacle in holding the polls.

Namfrel cautions that despite the supposedly non-partisan nature of the barangay polls, mayors and other influential political personalities have pre-chosen or preferred candidates, making it difficult or almost impossible for anyone to contest against them and still hope to win.

Owing to dislocation of residents and the already stressed situation in Marawi city, Namfrel supports the position of the COMELEC to delay holding elections.  The organization is very pleased with the approach that COMELEC has taken, which is to assess the situation on the feasibility of holding polls in the city within the next three months.

The war on drugs waged by the government and the allegation that 40 percent of village officials are involved in drugs are destabilizing factors.  It has painted all the village officials to a corner where they are forced to draw a list of residents within their barangay who are suspected of involvement in drugs. They get the ire of the residents (voters) for forcing to come up with a list, on the one hand, and being tagged by the government as one among the 40 percent, on the other hand.

Sangguniang Kabataan polls

Namfrel observed that the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) has been used by adult politicians for their purpose, and such has impeded in the role of the youth body in serving the interests and welfare of their constituents. “The SK is a tool for corruption and the youth are trained early on how to be corrupt,” opined one chapter officer.  Some are of the opinion that the SK should be abolished altogether, citing that while in the Declaration of Principles and State Policies in the constitution cites the contribution of the youth in nation-building, such intents could be better realized elsewhere like in schools or in larger civil society.

Republic Act 10742 passed in 2016 introduced new features.  It prohibits those related within the second degree of consanguinity and affinity with any elected officials from seeking any position in the SK — an anti-dynasty provision.  It also created the Local Youth Development Council, and requires leadership training of all SK officials on good government and fiscal transparency.

Challenges

Namfrel sees independence and quality of the contest as key structural challenges facing these two elections.  The contests are generally seen as a fair territory where politicians, especially local officials, have an easy reach over. They have to establish a symbiotic relationship with thebarangay and SK officials, if under the present polity they are to serve the people well.  Until the operational, fiscal, and relational structures are modified, the transactions between and among them would largely be driven by partisan political interests.

Only certain kinds of individuals are cut for out for this type of work and have the appetite for such relationships.  The environment under such elected officials as the barangay and the SK, do not necessarily attract those with a higher intent to serve the village resident, but not willing to go through the rigors of political patronage.

This exclusivity appears to also extend to women, who comprise less than 20 percent of the candidates and elected officials at the barangay.  Although this statistic holds true for all elective posts, the challenge is not only directed at more inclusion of women, but importantly in the creation of a political environment where village residents and voters see a wide range of leadership types and skills through broadening the base from which voters elect candidates and inclusion of women.

Request to the COMELEC

To have a better understanding of the political and electoral environment around these two elections, Namfrel requests the COMELEC:

  1. Require all candidates to submit a one-page resume that would highlight their skills and capacities, and respond to two key questions: a) what motivated them to participate in the elections; and b) what they see as key challenges when they get elected and get to actually perform their role; and publicize these pieces of information.
     
  2. Collect data on number of women and other differently-gendered individuals candidates and eventually elected, for each barangay, disaggregated by type of election, and publicize them.
     
  3. Publicize all election results for all candidates, not just those who have won.  The data should be disaggregated by barangay and by type of election.
     
  4. Publish all statements of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) of all candidates, including a list of those who failed to submit them; disaggregated by province, municipality and barangay.

For its part, Namfrel will mobilize its chapters to field election observers in some of the barangays throughout the country.

Opening Statement of Christian Monsod on the Senate Hearing on Charter Change, February 1, 2018

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OPENING STATEMENT – Senate Hearing on Charter Change
February 1, 2018

 By Christian S. Monsod

 Your Honors,

 Thank you for inviting me to this hearing.

On the questions raised in your invitation, may I start with the issues of process before talking about the issues on substance.

On Procedure

 On the issue of a constituent assembly vs. a constitutional convention. I agree that a constitutional convention has more merits, like more people who have studied the Constitution.  But I believe that a constitutional convention of delegates elected by district will likely be dominated by the same political dynasties in the present Congress and may not be any more trustworthy.  The fact is that the dynastic rule of an estimated 200 clans in our country is so deeply entrenched in our culture and political system today that the assumption that a constitutional convention will have a different profile is a leap of logic. The same illogic can be said about the assumption that changing the structure of government will change the behavior of our politicians.

In a Constituent Assembly,  my position is that it should be a separate vote. I concur with the reasons already expressed hear by legal experts - that the Constitution provides for a bicameral Legislature with each chamber having its own rules, prerogratives and responsibilities and that, based on the principle of hierarchy of laws, charter change should at the least be treated the same as ordinary laws.

May I add two more reasons:

- Firstly, under the Rules of the House of Representatives, Rule XX, Section 142 states:  “… the adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the constitution shall follow the enactment of bills”, which is, of course,  means separate meeting and separate vote. This may have been overlooked by some people.

Secondly, there is a least one precedent on the vote. There are 2 other provisions where the Constitution prescribes a vote of “all the members of the Congress”, without specifying whether joint or separate,  namely, Art. VI, Sec. 28 on tax exemption and Art. VII, Sec. 19 on the grant of amnesty. In 2010, Pres. Aquino granted amnesty to now Sen. Trillanes and others and he had to replace Proc. 50 with Proc. 75 to correct, among others, that there was no “concurrence of a majority of all the members of the Congress.”  Proc. 75 was approved in separate meetings and separate voting -- by the House on Dec. 13, 2010 and the Senate on Dec. 14, 2010.

A solution of joint session and separate vote is not prohited by the Constitution. It is the joint vote that is critical.

(c) On the issue of whether a Resolution by both chambers can limit the powers of a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention,  my answer is that a ConCon or ConAss has plenary powers to take up anything, even a new constitution, and this being an extraordinary power given by the Constitution, no Resolution by the Congress can limit that power. The only way  that amendments or revisions can be limited is through the prudent restraint of the Constituent Assembly itself. And the question is, are our legislators  capable of doing that, I think our answer is: No, because that is not the culture and our historical experience with our politicians.

I have been asked if the Constitution is just an over-reaction to the Marcos dictatorship and was written in anger.

What I can share is the mood and context of the 1987 Constitution --- it was one of celebration and of hope. It was a historic moment of solidarity when the rich and the poor got together in a peaceful revolt and we promised one another a new social order. That is why, according to former justice Cecilia Munoz-Palma, the heart of the Constitution is social justice.  That is why the Constitution can be described as “affirmative action” to correct the injustices of the past to the poor and to dismantle feudalism that has been impervious to change to this day. 

It is also a Constitution of Limitations -- as all constitutions are – to  make sure that the abuses and wrongs of the past are never repeated – which includes the oppression of colonizers where, for example,  the 1935 Constitution was amended to give Americans parity rights. Moreover, we could not change our exchange rate without the approval of the President of the United States even after our independence.  This resulted in a foreign exchange crisis in the 1950s.  Hence the constitutional provisions to ensure that our economy is safely and firmly in Filipino hands. The “never again” provisions also apply to the Marcos dictatorship with its human rights violations and a disastrous economy where we did not recover our per capita GDP of 1983 until 2002 or about 20 years.

If there is anger, it was not when we were writing the constitution, the anger is today when we see that the promise of a new social order is not being kept and there are people even blaming the Constitution which has all the provisions to fulfill that vision. The problem is not the Constitution but our legislators who slept on the job to fully implement it. Or when reform legislation was passed, made sure that it was watered down and underfunded. This is the legislature that wants to re-write the Constitution.

That is why the  PDP-Laban version of the constitution is so disappointing, because PDP-Laban was very much a part of EDSA. Why is it pushing for a federal-parliamentary system which they admit does not direcly, but only indirectly, address the twin problems of mass poverty and gross inequalities that is central to a new social order? Moreover, PDP-Laban delegated the re-writing of Article XII on the Economy and Article XIII on social justice and human rights to the FEF (Foundation for Economic Freedom) a think tank of of the academe and business.  

The result is that the social justice provisions in Articles XII and XIII have been replaced by the themes of business. In other words,  social justice is no longer a “compelling principle” of the Constitution, but is just another means to economic growth, like globalization, free trade, market-driven solutions, international competitiveness, increased foreign direct investments.

In Article XII, the references in the Constitution to such principles as  “distributive justice”, the “use of property bears a social function”and  “industrialization based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform” have been deleted (about 7 sections like this) or revised (about 18 sections including reversing the priorities of the economy.  “the just distribution of opportunities, income and wealth, is now secondary to more production and productivity. These changes are based on the FEF proposal that land ownership, the use of natural resources, the operation of public utilities, and the rules on media, advertising and even education are better left to ordinary legislation.  The issue of Filipino ownership would be open to transactional legislation on which the business community is most adept.

Article XIII on Social Justice and Human Rights,  has the most deletions of provisions (other than the articles on the legislature and executive) because the FEF proposed that labor,  agrarian reform, urban land reform and housing, are also better left to the discretion of Parliament.  

Doesn’t PDP-Laban know that if they remove social justice as the central theme of the Constitution, there will be hell to pay from the poor?  As my former colleague Haydee Yorac used to say: Let justice be done tho the heaven’s fall.

At this point, may I raise this question. If federalism and parliamentarism are critical to our future, why is there no mention of it at all in  the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 and Ambisyon2040?

“On October 11, 2016, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Executive Order No. 5, s. 2016 approving and adopting the 25- year long-term vision entitled AmBisyon Natin 2040 as a guide for development planning. According to EO 5, the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 (PDP 2017- 2022) and the succeeding PDPs until 2040 shall be anchored on AmBisyon Natin 2040. EO 5 recognizes the need for a ‘bold vision and effective development planning based on a ‘forward-looking approach that goes beyond a single administration’. It also emphasized the centrality of people in development planning and their aspirations as requisite for the design of government interventions to achieve development outcomes.”

There is no mention that federalism and parliamentarism are necessary to achieve PDP 2017-22 and its Results Matrices 2017-22 (which contains all the targets  and the year-by-year period to attain them -- about 300 of them) and the Philippine Investment Program.

In other words, the "design of government interventions to achieve development outcomes does not require federalism or the parliamentary system.

How does the Philippine Development Plan 2017-22 plan to address the uneven development among the regions?

The Plan espouses in Ch. 3,  a National Spatial Strategy (NSS) that , recognizes, among other things, the very unequal distribution of production and income of the Philippines among its regions –with 3 regions (NCR, Calabarzon, Central Luzon) responsible for contributing 63% of the country’s GDP.  Obviously the other regions cannot support themselves.  The rest of Luzon accounts for 10.3%, Visayas for 12.4%, and Mindanao for 14.5% shares in GDP. 

The NSS  aims to decongest the NCR and direct growth in key centers throughout the country…and seeks to redress spatial and socioeconomic inequalities by linking lagging regions with leading ones, RATHER THAN ADVOCATING THE UNIFORM DISPERSAL OF DEVELOPMENT,  WHICH CAN CREATE DISECONOMIES AND INEFFICIENCIES….The NSS thus forms a network of settlements to maximize the benefits of agglomeration. 

This is how the Philippine Development Plan, through the National Spatial Strategy addresses the problem of unequal development in our country.

With respect to the fiscal decentralization to support the PDPlan, fiscal expert Prof. Rosario Manasan says that fiscal decentralization can be done even without federalization. She can talk also about the consultations conducted nationwide in 2014 where there was consenses on some 20 amendments to the Local Government Code to ensure fiscal decentrailization.

MEANS and  ENDS

Federalism, decentralization, parliamentarism, are means. It is the ends that drive the means., not the other way around. According to the President, the purpose of charter change is to improve the quality of life of all filipinos, especially the poor. That was also the articulated purpose of all six previous attempts at cha-cha. All failed – 2 struck down by the SC and 4 withdrawn for lack of support. They were all perceived as driven by self-intereest -  in short, that they were all about power.

Quality of life is about addressing the core problems of mass poverty and gross inequalities. It is also about the daily insecurities of ordinary people on criminality, drugs, the inadequacies and red tape of government services, corruption at the frontline. Which can be addressed by the powers of government today, as shown by the example of Davao City, at the micro level.

PDP-Laban admits that the shift is a complex and lengthy process with its uncertainties. That is why its time line to complete the shift is at least 11 ½ years including 1 ½  years to enact a  new Regional and Local Govt Code that in effect is a revised 1991 LGC.

If the plebiscite is held in May 2019, the transition will end at the earliest in 2030. During the transition, with “existing” local govt officials (i.e. those elected in 2019) constituting the Regional Commission with both executive and legislative powers until the organic laws for each region are enacted,and the regional officials are elected.  That's the carrot for them to deliver the votes for the chacha train – a term of 11 years from 2019-2030.

According to the summary of the PDP-Laban draft:

(1) in the transition to a more decentralized system of governance, we need a popularly elected presidency to hold and unite the country and ensure that the transition to federalism will be successful, an arbiter of disputes between the federal and regional governments and among regional governments.

(2), we need an effective president to deal with powerful countries like China and the United States, as well as to effectively compete in a globalized world economy;

(3), we need a president who can decisively address the numerous national security problems and natural disasters;

(4), a pure parliamentary system without strong political parties can be unstable. It will take time to build strong political parties. We need a president to ensure that there is no gridlock in our political system.

 I believe that the president being refered to is President Duterte.

President Duterte has said that he would step down when the shift is approved – that would be 2019, his tem ends 2022.  Can he resist the call that he alone can make sure that the shift will be successful? But what if he dies before his time – he will be 85 by 2030? He has the same ailments of seniors like me. What will happen to the country with a constitution tailored to his  personality, preferences and style of governance?  That's the problem when we place our destiny in the hands of  one person rather than on institutions.

During the transition period, legislation will be enacted to enable the regions to develop the human and resource capability to stand on their own. As we know, 14 of the 17 regions cannot stand on their own because of lack of financial or organizational, or human and natural resources.

 I may not aganst federalism per se. But at the right time where the pre-conditions for its success are present. Because a messed-up structural change is virtually irreversible and may lead to the ruin of our democracy. I submit that there may be an alternative to consider rather than an immediate structural change by 2019

The question is: if the regions can develop through legislation the competence, financial and organizational capacity and the human resources to qualify as a federal state, why the need for federalization now?  Besides, federalization without sovereignty as provided by the PDP-Laban draft is nothing more than an enhanced multi-level unitary system, which is already mandated by the Constitution and only needs reforms through legislation, such as an “equalization fund”, a change in the sharing of the IRA, and a better designed and coherent expenditure assignments, tax assignments, inter-govermental transfers and improving the capacity and creditworthiness of subnational units.

So, instead of a premature structural shift to a federal-parliamentary system, why  not start enacting now the fiscal decentralization and other legislation that will already devolve more power and resources to the 14 poor regions and LGUs? That may be a more productive exercise than a chacha.

In addition, why not also enact an anti-dynasty law up to the 4th degree of relationship and applicable to the 2019 elections to demonstrate the sincerity of our legislators about real change. Enacting laws  against their own interest is the best way to earn the trust of our people. Once the dynastic system has been replaced by a strong political party system, the anti-dynasty law can be amended to apply only to a 2nd degree relationship.

If the reform legislations are not passed or do not work, they can keep on trying because a messed-up reform through legislation can be corrected, unlike structural change.

If the reform legislation and fiscal decentralization work, and the 14 regions are able to stand on their own, that would be the right time to consider a shift to a federal-parliamentary system, initiated by the regions in a bottom up approach rather than dictated from above as presently envisaged. That is really the better way to federalization – strong states getting together to form a strong union that can successfully stand up to our enemies and successfully compete in a globalized world.

Pastoral Moral Guidelines of Archbishop Socrates Villegas to the Faithful of the Diocese of Lingayen and Dagupan

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FILIPINO CITIZENS AND CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

 

Pastoral Moral Guidelines for Our Catholic Faithful in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

For some time now, the President and his followers have campaigned aggressively for the revision of the Constitution to establish a federal government.
As your pastor, I discern the responsibility to enlighten in the measure that I am able so that the People of God entrusted to my pastoral ministry the Church of Lingayen Dagupan may make informed choices besides participating in the national conversation. We live here on earth as citizens of heaven.

What is a federal government? According to respected lawyers and jurists we have consulted, a federal government creates states or regions from the existing provinces of the country.  The regions that come about as a result of a federalization of the nation will wield considerably more power and exercise a greater share in the sovereignty of the State than the present administrative regions do.  If we go by existing models, the regions will have some form of legislative assemblies and may call for their own tier of courts.  In fact, the powers that the states or the regions enjoy may entail to pass their own laws on matters delegated to the regions or the states.

The prevalence of “may” in this summary, admittedly inadequate description, only points to the fact that choosing a model and a paradigm for establishing a federal Philippines is a task far from easy and definitely not yet fully achieved.  It will certainly not do to transport one model completely into the country.  The crucial question will be: What powers are reserved to the government in contrast to the powers delegated to the states or to the regions to allow for the more efficient, effective, prompt and promising response to people’s needs?  What constellation of powers best empowers the people?  I suggest that all of us get to work on finding answers to these questions.

Be cunning as serpents but innocent as doves. We your pastors in Lingayen Dagupan are not unaware that reconfiguring the government may be used by the unprincipled as a pretext for the extension of their terms of office. There are many who even declare that term extensions are inevitable and necessary.

We find this opportunist and downright morally objectionable.  It obscures the issue: for while the people are made to believe that the shift to a federal government is made with their advantage in mind, what its authors and schemers actually have in mind is circumventing the limits to terms in office established by the present constitution.  I am not saying that this is so, but if it is so, it would be a grave moral wrong and a tremendous injustice.

What ethical norms must govern changing the Constitution?   There is the big issue of the way by which the Constitution is revised.  There are only two ways available when a revision of the Constitution, and not merely its amendment, is in issue: by Congress itself, acting as a constituent assembly or by a Constitutional Convention convened by law. 

It is our moral position that if the outcome is to be a credible draft of a new constitution, then the authors who draft the future fundamental charter of the land must be known for their probity and their intellectual acumen.  They must be free of vested interests that may render suspect their handiwork as a document that embodies their own interests rather than those of the people. 

It is for this reason that it would be preferable to have a Constitutional Convention, not necessarily of elected delegates but of citizens with sufficient civic spiritednessfamiliarity with the law and with the constitution, committed to human rights, and to the defense of civil and political rights, who have the fear of God in their hearts, that should craft the revised Constitution.

What is our Christian duty as citizens?   The first moral obligation of God’s people is to INFORM themselves.  There are enlightened Filipinos who make their thoughts and views known on different media, including social media, free of political affiliations and allegiances, motivated solely by the desire to inform.  People should also raise CRITICAL QUESTIONS particularly when opportunities present themselves such as at barangay or citizen’s assemblies, particularly called for the purpose of disseminating through state-sponsored or other means the proposition of going federal.

It is our moral duty to know the issues.   It is also an obligation of believers to make choices for what is truly just, socially equitable and empowering.  Politicians’ promises should not be the measure.  Careful discernment and enlightenmentcoming from prayerful reflection with fellow believers should.  Which is the reason that taking up social themes in Basic Ecclesial Communities and Catholic organizations is likewise an ethical imperative, and referring to the social teachings of the Church especially as these refer to the principle of subsidiarity, the respect for the dignity of the human persons, its preferential option for the poor and its uncompromising position on the dignity of the human person.

Let us keep in mind that the perennial call of the times is personal constant conversion and reform of mind, heart and spirit. The tried and tested integrity and heroic selflessness of the governed and officials in government is the secret to the progress of the nation. The government is only as good as the people who lead it and the citizens who vigilantly participate in restoring and maintaining the social order.

Let us pray for our leaders in government borrowing the words of Pope Saint Clement:  "Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you."

 From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, January 15, 2018

 

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Invitation from the Movement Against Tyranny

Marc Gepaya

Dear Fellow Lasallians,

We received this invitation from the Movement Against Tyranny [MAT] calling on all freedom-loving Filipinos to gather at the Luneta on December 10, International Human Rights Day, from 4-8 p.m. Because of time constraints to...

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