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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Many citizens and groups move toward securing their national destiny and breaking the cycle of political corruption and patronage. Signing of People’s Initiative vs. pork at Cebu’s Plaza Independencia. Historic convening of Panawagan sa Malalimang Pagbabago at Lipa City on Aug. 27, followed by solemn signing of “Lipa Declaration on National Transformation.”



Our country is in a state of flux and citizens all across our archipelago are moving---it’s very obvious---toward righting the wrongs wrought by bad politics over decades. They are organizing, feverishly organizing activities that they feel would set this hapless nation aright. They want to rescue our country and people from the fatal drift toward a failed state, arrest the widespread corruption and reverse that terrible feeling of hopelessness over our sordid self-centered politics.

They want to restore faith and belief in our severely damaged institutions and ensure a brighter future, prosperity and well-being for their children than the present dim political horizon outlines.  In short, very large groups of our people today want to take their national destiny into their hands---and not leave it to the politicians who care little or nothing for them. They want to break the cycle of political patronage and corruption that has resulted in the perennial question: Who is to lead our people out of the barren desert of arid politics, into the promised land of bountiful opportunities, peace and prosperity. How best to serve our people’s interests?

Sadly for those who would choose to remain unconcerned and uncaring about the plight of this nation, or continue cottoning to the corrupt politicos, they would be left to the harsh verdict of history.  Maiiwanan sila.

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Everything that’s happening these days has been simply incredulous---it reminds me of the three fabled years before the fall of Marcos and pre-EDSA 1--- and it’s not even possible to include all the citizens’ movements in this space. What’s important is to one day tie all these historic peoples’ efforts together into a cohesive whole, for God and country.

Consider, for instance, how President Aquino has suffered a free-fall in trust and acceptance rating in just a year.  From 66% in June 2013 he now commands only 29% as of June 2014---a 37 percentage points drop in just a year! As P-Noy and greedy political allies continue their bully tactics over the Supreme Court, an institution that, while not devoid of its faults, is regarded as the last bastion of the Rule of Law, their perch becomes more perilous.  

As more anomalies about scandalous spending of public funds are being raked up by citizen groups, and as more efforts are being made by P-Noy’s allies to trivialize serious issues such as lifting of term limits, redefining “savings,” No-El, etc. P-Noy’s ratings and those of traditional institutions will continue, like Humpty Dumpty, in their great fall. 

By contrast, great masses of the citizens are moving to be a counter-point to the traditional politicians and their wiles, led by inter-faith leaders and NGOs.

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Consider these movements in the next few days, starting today.  As reported in Manila Standard, in Cebu the Church-backed People’s Congress approved  the final draft of a People’s Initiative that will undertake a nationwide drive to collect six million signatures with a very definite aim. This is to stop President Aquino from REDEFINING “savings,” as his lapdogs in Congress want to do in order to ensure that the ruling LP would have its “election budget” for 2016. Hand in hand, the Initiative seeks to strip P-Noy of his discretionary powers over all lump-sum funds, including the exclusive presidential pork, termed the "Special Purpose Fund" amounting to over P350 billion and the Malampaya Fund of P130 billion.

The Cebu initiative is such a crucial move, as it could shatter the major source of corruption by the Palace of allied politicians, and stop the mindless monkeying with people’s money that should go into critical basic services.

The signing of the People’s initiative is scheduled today at Plaza Independencia in Cebu, led by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, with the President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Atty. Vicente Joyas keynoting the Congress. The 50,000-strong IBP under Joyas has taken a laudably firm stand vs. DAP, which could strengthen the resolve of the Supreme Court to stand firm on its unconstitutionality decision on DAP--- despite the motion for reconsideration filed by the Palace and its unprecedented harassment of the Court.  Another group that has now found its rightful voice is Philconsa, under its president, Rep. Martin Romualdez.

XXX

Tomorrow, Monday, August 25, various citizens’ groups will converge on the Luneta for the anniversary of the Million People’s March, in protest of Congress’ efforts to resuscitate PDAF and DAP in other outrageous forms ---and to stem the administration’s attacks on the SC’s independence. Various civic organizations will be joining this big rally and among them will be government employees and those of the SC and lower courts, who have been quite open in their protests against sallies vs. the court’s independence.  

As Ferdinand R. Gaite, national president of the “Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE),” put it, “As what many Filipinos are seeing again and again, our political system is shot to hell due to political patronage; whoever is in power uses the people’s (not government’s) money to gratify preferred allies and constituents, or even themselves. Never mind the genuinely poor more deserving of such favor…”

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What’s beautiful is that innumerable citizens are organizing parallel efforts. Two weeks ago the group led by Star columnist Carmen Pedrosa launched “BayanKo” to crowd-source the new Constitution and make the people’s voices heard and prevail, not just those of selfish politicos. A week later another group called “Sagot Ko Bayan” gathered nearly 500 professionals at the same Club Filipino hall---with the aim of tracking down use of public funds freely squandered by national and local politicians and breaking the back of endemic corruption.

"Sagot Ko Bayan" aims to organize chapters down to the local level, “to spot corrupt practices and potential sources of thievery in all levels of the bureaucracy.” Sagot Ko aims to subject to a fine-toothed comb government procurements by the bids and awards committees (BAC)  of all government corporations, bureaus, branches as well as LGUs---and spot and denounce padded estimates, rigged biddings, ghost deliveries, substandard products and other anomalies.

A most noble idea, let’s hope "Sagot Ko Bayan" won’t be ningas cogon too.

XXX

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, leaders of various faith communities will be joined by numerous professionals, NGOs and other sectors from around the country, in what's called the “Panawagan sa Malalimang Pagbabago” (Assembly for Systems Change Toward National Transformation). It will be held at Lipa City’s St. Francis de Sales Minor Seminary from 9 am. to 4 pm.  From the Catholic community bishops and archbishops from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be attending.

Photo of Archbishop Ramon Arguelles (courtesy of archlipa.org)

Hosted by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, the national, ecumenical, interfaith assembly will seek to re-establish the moral foundations of a truly viable republic, which has been eroded so much over the decades. Speakers will include Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of Cebu City, “Role of the Church in Transformation Efforts”---Edsa I; Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, “Role of the Church in Transformation Efforts---Edsa II/Hyatt 10;  Rev. Arthur S. Corpuz of United Church of Manila, “Protestant Movement in Transformation Efforts;” an Ulama minister on “Role of the Muslims in National Transformation;”  “Fr. Romeo J. Intengan, S.J., on “The Moral Foundation of National Transformation,” and Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles on “Regime Change and Revolution Now.” 

Former Sen. Kit Tatad will give a national situationer, while CPA/Lawyer and former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong will speak on the “Mockery of the Electoral (PCOS) System.”

The discourses will climax with the solemn signing of the “Lipa Declaration on National Transformation” by the delegates. This will be a most historic occasion.

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