Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Cebu Declaration: Defining the First Steps toward National Transformation


THE CEBU DECLARATION:
DEFINING THE FIRST STEPS TOWARD NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION


ENCOURAGED BY THE SUCCESS OF THE FIRST OPEN ASSEMBLY CONVENED IN LIPA CITY, BATANGAS BY THE NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION COUNCIL ON AUGUST 27, A.D. 2014 / DHU AL-QA’DA 2, A.H. 1453, WE WHO BROADLY REPRESENT THE CITIZENRY, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF DELEGATES FROM THE VISAYAS AND MINDANAO, HAVE GATHERED IN CEBU CITY ON OCTOBER 1, A.D. 2014 / DHU AL-HIJJAH 7, A.H. 1453 TO PROCLAIM OUR SUPPORT FOR THE LIPA DECLARATION AND TO PROPOSE CONCRETE AND IMMEDIATE STEPS TO TRANSLATE THE DESIRED OBJECTIVE OF NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION INTO A VIABLE PROGRAM OF ACTION.

WE NOTED WITH GREAT PAIN THAT WHILE THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CRISIS AND ITS POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC EFFECTS CONTINUED TO DEEPEN, THE NATIONAL POLITICAL LEADERSHIP CONSISTENTLY FAILED TO SHOW THE WILL OR THE CAPACITY TO RESPOND TO THESE ILLS IN ANY APPRECIABLE MEASURE.

ASIDE FROM THE GRAVE PROBLEMS WHICH PROMPTED THE LIPA ASSEMBLY TO CALL ON THE PRESIDENT TO IMMEDIATELY STEP DOWN, VARIOUS NEW ISSUES HAVE SINCE EMERGED, TO WHICH THE INCUMBENT ADMINISTRATION HAS FAILED TO ADEQUATELY RESPOND.  THESE INCLUDE:

    1)   THE EXACERBATED TENSIONS AMONG THE COMMUNITIES OF MINDANAO AND THE SULU ARCHIPELAGO CAUSED BY THE FAILURE OF THE AQUINO ADMINISTRATION TO ADEQUATELY CONSULT ALL THE CONSTITUENCIES AND STAKEHOLDERS IN THE PEACEBUILDING EFFORT, THUS REVIVING THE ATTRACTION OF ISLAMIST EXTREMISM;

2) THE TOTAL FAILURE, IF NOT DOWNRIGHT REFUSAL, OF THE AQUINO REGIME TO COMPLY WITH A DIRECT ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT TO FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST ALL THE LAWMAKERS AND MEMBERS OF THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT AND THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT WHO WERE INVOLVED IN THE GRAVE MISUSE OF THE PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FUND (PDAF) AND THE DISBURSEMENT ACCELERATION PROGRAM (DAP), BOTH OF WHICH THE COURT HAD UNANIMOUSLY DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL;

3) THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF ANY OFFICIAL EFFORT TO REFORM THE AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM, WHICH WAS THOROUGHLY CORRUPTED AND DEBASED BY THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS (COMELEC) IN ITS EFFORT TO PRODUCE “MACHINE-MADE” AND “DE FACTO” HIGH GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DURING THE 2010 PRESIDENTIAL AND THE 2013 SENATORIAL ELECTIONS, BUT WHICH THE ADMINISTRATION IS ONCE AGAIN PREPARING TO USE IN THE PROJECTED 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, WITHOUT RESTORING THE SAFETY FEATURES AND ACCURACY MECHANISMS WHICH THE COMELEC HAD ILLEGALLY REMOVED IN THE PREVIOUS TWO ELECTIONS;

4) THE UNPRECEDENTED YET UNPROSECUTED AND UNPUNISHED CORRUPTION IN THE TOP LEADERSHIP OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE (PNP), WHICH HAS THOROUGHLY DEMORALIZED THE PNP RANK AND FILE AND SUBSTANTIALLY ERODED PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR AND CONFIDENCE IN THE LAW ENFORCERS;

5) THE ARBITRARY IMPOSITION OF UNREASONABLE TAXES ON THE POOR, INCLUDING THE SMALLEST SARI-SARI STORE OWNERS AND SIDEWALK VENDORS, ON THE VARIOUS PROFESSIONS AND ON ALL RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC HEARING OR ACCOUNTING, OSTENSIBLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF RAISING REVENUE TO SUPPORT GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS, BUT IN EFFECT FEEDING THE ADMINISTRATION AND NOMINAL OPPOSITION POLITICIANS’ INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR CORRUPTION; 

6) THE UNRESOLVED ELECTRIC POWER CRISIS WHICH HAS BROUGHT ABOUT THE MOST EXPENSIVE ELECTRICITY RATES IN THE WORLD AMID EXTENDED POWER OUTAGES THAT THREATEN TO THROW BACK THE COUNTRY INTO A LITERALLY DARK AGE, AND FOR WHICH THE ONLY SOLUTION IMAGINED BY THE ADMINISTRATION IS THE GRANT OF EMERGENCY POWERS TO PRESIDENT AQUINO.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THESE, AND RECALLING ALL THE POINTS RAISED IN THE LIPA DECLARATION, WE CALL UPON THE NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION COUNCIL:

1)      TO NOW PURSUE ALL NECESSARY AND AVAILABLE  LAWFUL MEANS TO COMPEL PRESIDENT AQUINO TO STEP DOWN AT THE SOONEST POSSIBLE TIME;

2)      TO IMMEDIATELY ORGANIZE AN ALTERNATIVE GOVERNMENT, CONSISTING OF MEN AND WOMEN OF INTEGRITY AND PROVEN WORTH, IN ORDER TO ASSURE THE NATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY THAT PRESIDENT AQUINO’S REMOVAL AND THE PROSECUTION AND IMPRISONMENT OF EVERY CULPABLE MEMBER OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR CORRUPTION WILL NOT CREATE A POLITICAL VACUUM;

3)   TO INITIATE SUFFICIENTLY EXTENSIVE CONSULTATIONS WITH THE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY AND OTHER CONSTITUENCIES IN SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES IN ORDER TO ARRIVE AT AN AUTHENTIC CONSENSUS ON HOW TO SOLVE THE LONG-FESTERING INTERCULTURAL PROBLEM IN THE AREA, FREE FROM UNWARRANTED INTERVENTION BY ANY FOREIGN INTERESTED PARTY;

4)   TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT THE CALL AND EFFORT OF concerned citizens to establish a People's Truth Commission to discover and reveal the accountability and any consequent liability of HIGH OFFICIALS OF the AQUINO administration, arising from its massive MISUSE of public funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program that has been ruled unconstitutional by unanimous vote of the Supreme Court;

5)   TO CAUSE THE IMMEDIATE FILING OF CRIMINAL CASES AGAINST ALL THE SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN, MEMBERS OF THE CABINET, THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT AND THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INVOLVED IN THE MISUSE OF THE PDAF AND THE DAP FROM 2010 TO DATE, AND TO USE WHATEVER PUBLIC PRESSURE IS NECESSARY TO MAKE ALL THOSE INVOLVED IN THESE CASES TO IMMEDIATELY VACATE THEIR RESPECTIVE POSITIONS;

6)   TO VIGOROUSLY SUPPORT THE EFFORTS OF CONCERNED CITIZENS TO INFORM THE PUBLIC THAT AS LONG AS THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM REMAINS AN INSTRUMENT OF ELECTORAL SABOTAGE PERPETRATED BY CORRUPT OFFICIALS OF THE COMELEC IN COLLUSION WITH DISHONEST POLITICIANS, ELECTIONS ARE HARMFUL TO DEMOCRACY AND TO THE PEOPLE;

7)      TO AMPLIFY THE CALL OF THESE CONCERNED CITIZENS FOR SYSTEMS CHANGE TOWARD NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION AS THE ONLY REALISTIC MEANS TO ABOLISH THE UTTERLY CORRUPT COMELEC, ESTABLISH AN HONEST AND CREDIBLE ELECTORAL BODY, AND CARRY OUT OTHER REFORMS NEEDED TO RESTORE THE INTEGRITY AND CREDIBILITY OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS;

8)      TO ORGANIZE PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THE PNP RANK AND FILE IN THEIR CALL FOR A THOROUGH CLEANUP OF THE PNP AND AN IMMEDIATE CHANGE IN ITS TOP LEADERSHIP;

9)      TO STRONGLY SUPPORT THE CITIZENS’ RESISTANCE TO THE IMPOSITION OF UNREASONABLE TAXES AND THEIR CALL FOR ACCOUNTABILITY OF GOVERNMENT TAX COLLECTION AGENCIES AND OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, IN THE COLLECTION OF TAXES AND THE APPROPRIATION AND SPENDING OF GOVERNMENT REVENUES FROM TAXATION

10)  TO ORGANIZE A PANEL OF EXPERTS WHO WILL CRAFT A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO ADDRESS THE COUNTRY’S ENERGY REQUIREMENTS IN A MANNER FREE OF BIAS FOR ANY PARTICULAR ENERGY SOURCE AND TAKING INTO PRIMARY CONSIDERATION THE INTERESTS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND THE CONSUMERS RATHER THAN THOSE OF THE VARIOUS ACTORS IN THE POWER GENERATION, TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION CHAIN.

INVOKING THE AID OF ALMIGHTY GOD THE MOST GRACIOUS AND MOST MERCIFUL, AND REPOSING OUR TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN THE FILIPINO PEOPLE, WE PRAY THAT ALL THESE MAY COME TO PASS SOON.

DONE IN CEBU CITY, THIS 1ST DAY OF OCTOBER A.D. 2014 / 7TH DAY OF DHU AL-HIJJAH A.H. 1453.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Lipa declaration: An urgent call for national transformation



August 27, 2014 11:47 pm
Adopted on August 27, 2014 by groups demanding the resignation of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
We are Filipino citizens of different personal, professional social and economic backgrounds and political persuasions and religious beliefs. We have gathered here in Lipa City on this 27th day of August A.D. 2014/ 2nd day of DHU AL-QA’DA A.H. 1435, under the auspices of the National Transformation Council, to reaffirm our deeply held convictions and beliefs about the common good and our highest national interests, in the face of the most pressing challenges.
We invite all our compatriots everywhere to reaffirm with us the same convictions and beliefs.
We believe that:
A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very political forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations;
Unbridled and unpunished corruption and widespread misuse of political and economic power in all layers of society have not only destroyed our common conception of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, legal and illegal, but also put our people, especially the poor, at the mercy of those who have the power to dictate the course and conduct of our development for their own selfish ends;
Far from preserving and defending the constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process; President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has also damaged the moral fabric of Philippine Society by bribing members of Congress not only to impeach and remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice but also to enact a law which disrespects the right to life of human being at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the constitution but above all of the moral law, the customs, culture, and consciences of Filipinos.
Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and had become a danger to the Philippine Democratic and Republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.
We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd, and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.
And we call upon the National Transformation Council, (Hereafter the council), to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal political conditions.
The role of the council will not be to succeed President Aquino, but solely to prevent the total destruction of our political system, and to rebuild and nourish its institutions back to health so that all those interested could join the political competition later, without the dice being loaded in anyone’s favor.
Like a crew whose task is to put everything in order before a commercial carrier, which had earlier developed some problems in midair, is cleared again for takeoff, the council’s duty will be only to repair the battered tripartite system and to make sure that the people are once again able to freely and intelligently elect their own leaders.
In this connection, we welcome the council’s proposal to open broad public consultations on the need to modify and strengthen the presidential system or to shift from the Unitary / Presidential system to a federal / Parliamentary System, endowing such structure with:
A totally independent judicial department, free from any kind of intimidation or bullying by either the Executive or the Legislative Department, and with the sufficient wherewithal to clear the backlog of the courts and fast-track all cases;
A merit-driven, professional civil and military service;
Totally transparent government budgeting, procurement, disbursement, accounting and auditing systems and procedures; and
An irreproachably independent and completely dependable electoral system, free from the virus that has corrupted the Automated Voting System Since 2010.
Whatever the final form of government the citizenry decide to adopt, absolutely indispensable are the integrity and independence of the courts, and the existence of an incorrupt electoral system by means of which we, the people, are able to freely and intelligently choose our own leaders in free and honest elections. Without these, we cannot speak of a normally functioning democratic and thus we fully support the council’s position that until we have such a fraud-free electoral system, we should refrain from holding any farcical election. But once we have it, we should encourage the best qualified men and women in the country to participate in the open electoral process so that together, we could put an end to the stranglehold exercised by the corrupt and incompetent political dynasties upon our elections.
Finally, we support the council’s proposal that with political reform there must go hand in hand comprehensive economic reform. With one strong voice, we must now say a vigorous “NO,” as Pope Francis has suggested, to an economics of exclusion and inequality, coming from a misguided vision of the human being and of society harmfully acted upon through myopic laws, policies and programs.
As the council prepares to embark upon the necessary reforms, we call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the constitutional “protector of the people and the state,” to extend its protective shield to the council, and not to allow any armed group to sow violence, disorder or discord into its peaceful ranks.
Adopted in Lipa City, this 27th day of August A.D. 2014 / 2nd day of DHU AL-QA’DA A.H. 1435.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 'revolution' begins in Batangas



The ‘revolution’ begins in Batangas

August 26, 2014 11:04 pm


After the widely advertised anti-pork rally in Manila bombed on Monday, when the purported “one million people’s march” turned into an ill-disguised pro-Aquino shindig, we need now to turn and listen more to what Pope Francis calls, “the peripheries.” There is where we could be learning more about the real issues that go beyond President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s “pork”.
From Cebu last Saturday, we heard fresh and stronger drums against the “pork,” which kept on coming back like the cat with nine lives, despite the Supreme Court ruling declaring it null and void. Congratulations to Archbishop Jose Palma for hosting the event, and to all the Cebuanos who supported it.
But in Batangas today, the play goes to a higher plane. We shall be hearing the first unified multi-sectoral and interfaith call not just for the permanent abolition of “pork” but for Aquino’s speedy and gracious retirement. This will be a bold call for change, real change, not just cosmetic or superficial change, but “radical” change.
“Radical” is derived from the Latin word “radix,” which means “root.” “Radical change” then simply means change that goes into the root of things. Not merely regime change, but system change, structural change, cultural change.
It begins with Aquino being asked to step down for his numerous violations of the law and the Constitution and his poor performance in office. But it does not end there: it necessarily entails repairing what has been broken, damaged or destroyed, taking out the rot, and reordering the larger moral and political environment.
This is why we say the need is not to “succeed” PNoy now, but to put in a transition team that would fix the system before we seriously consider electing a new government.
These are brave words, on their face. But with Aquino wholly capable of sinking the nation with his flawed vision of morality, the Constitution, and politics, how is this goal to be accomplished?
This question will be put today in Lipa City. And the assembly, organized by the hitherto unannounced National Transformation Council, will try to answer it. Several highly respected moral and spiritual leaders from the various faith communities will try to contribute to this enterprise. I have been asked to keynote, and I look forward to it.
This is the first time such an assembly under the auspices of the Council is taking place. It is also the first time the Council has decided to make its legal presence felt. For the last three years, the Council, whose membership is purely by invitation, has lived a quiet, unseen existence, self-organizing, and holding private internal meetings to reflect on the rapidly changing moral and political environment after Aquino came to office.
Hosted by the Archbishop of Lipa, the Most Reverend Ramon Arguelles, the assembly will listen to chosen leaders of the Catholic Church, the Protestant sector and Islam on the subject of “national transformation.”
These include Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, and former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Most Reverend Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Emeritus of Davao, and former CBCP president; Archbishop Arguelles; Father Romeo J. Intengan; S. J., Pastor Arthur Corpuz of the United Church of Manila; and Dr. Kamil Unda, a Muslim scholar who will be coming with a 100-strong Bangsamoro delegation from the South.
It is a most interesting mix. Vidal was the CBCP president who issued the document “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” on Feb. 13, 1986, which declared that “if the government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so.” That statement, in my reading then as now, provided the moral basis for the EDSA “revolt” that ousted Marcos.
The cardinal was also believed to have advised the embattled president Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001 to avoid a confrontation with the anti-Estrada forces that could result in unnecessary bloodshed. Estrada decided to step down peacefully on Jan. 20, 2001, to pave the way for the takeover by his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who subsequently ruled until 2010.
The cardinal will most likely be asked to share his insights with the assembly on these two incidents involving the stepping down of a sitting president.
Archbishop Capalla, on the other hand, was CBCP president when the late former President Cory Aquino and some bishops called on then President Arroyo on July 5, 2005 to demand that she step down at the height of her perceived “unpopularity.” Capalla was not aware that such meeting was taking place, but as soon as he learned of it, he issued a statement supported by all the bishops, restating the role of the clergy in providing moral guidance to public servants, but acknowledging its limits. He read his statement to the press, but failed to retain a copy for his files.
I am eager to hear him say whether PNoy’s moral obligation at this point is to defend his office or to relinquish it. I am equally eager to see if the host prelate, Archbishop Arguelles, would repeat a statement he had previously made at a press conference, which I had helped to moderate at Club Filipino, saying that the 2016 election offers no possible relief to the nation’s crisis and should be completely avoided.
A spokesman for the Islamic delegation looks at the Lipa assembly as the beginning of a “peaceful revolution.” He says this is the first time his group, led by Muslim leaders Amir Omar Ali, Alim Saranggani, and Kamil Unda, would be participating in an unarmed and non-violent revolution. It could be a watershed.
The word “transformation” seems to have become some kind of “mantra” of late. Even Aquino used the word in his last State of the Nation Address. But so far the Council alone has decided to accept openly the challenge of non-violent revolutionary change. There is need for the rest to catch up.
We need to believe that unless there is a change in men, a change of men would be meaningless; that unless there is a change in the political system, structure and culture, a simple regime change would not yield much fruit.
In Batangas, we could begin something new, something different. Setting aside our own personal ambitions and self-interests, we could begin to think together, reason together, pray together, work together, and in the words of the Prophet Micah, “do right and love goodness and walk humbly with our God.”