TO become a dictator, there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to impose a nationwide martial law or declare a revolutionary government. All he has to do is to ask his robots in Congress under the leadership of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to speed up the railroading of the charter change (Cha-Cha) express and keep the people in the dark on what it is all about.
The two Congress leaders have already floated the idea of the term extension of President Duterte and the lawmakers, and the possibility of no elections (No-El) in 2019. It is my view that the term extension for lawmakers is merely a sweetening for lawmakers who are always motivated by self-interests, to push them into approving the charter change to make it ready for the scheduled plebescite this coming May or in May 2019.
The greatest beneficiary in any charter change is President Duterte whose term (assuming that the PDP-Laban version will be adopted) will be extended by another five years with a fresh election under a new Charter and with right to reelection for a term of another five years.
Yet, the greatest danger to our democratic existence is the adoption of a new Constitution in these perilous times, whether the system is unitary or federalism, whether it is presidential or parliamentary. As one of the modes of amending or revising the 1987 Constitution, the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) can abolish all constitutional offices like the Supreme Court, Congress, and all constitutional commissions, postpone the elections, and grant the President the sole power to appoint new national or local officials.
The question whether the Senate and the House will vote jointly or separately can be brought to the Supreme Court by any interested party. But an administration-friendly Supreme Court as demonstrated in the Marcos burial and Sen. Leila de Lima cases is expected to rule in the direction of where the wind blows.
Pro-Duterte forces are banking on the alleged popularity of the president, hoping that any constitutional change will be approved in a plebiscite by a pliant people. This is not to mention the mobilization of all national and local officials who will also benefit from term extensions, to campaign feverishly for the approval of a new Charter.
However, the best laid plans of men sometimes go awry. There are certain imponderables like the effects of a derailed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train), which imposes arbitrary excise taxes on fuel, adding severe economic hardships on the already impoverished masses.
The year 2018 is a crucial year. On this historic juncture, two roads are open for us to choose – the road to dictatorship or the road to democracy. – Democrito C. Barcenas
Fiesta Señor, not Sinulog
Cebuanos should not forget that the religious activities are the important part of the feast of the Sto. Niño. Also, the celebration is not called Sinulog but Fiesta Señor.--Benhur Dantes
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2018.
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