July 22, 2018, 11:45 pm
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The first No-El

I DON’T know what Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is thinking - and I don’t really want to know - but his remarks a few days ago suggesting the deferment of the 2019 elections to 2022 was the last thing proponents of federalism (and a new constitution) needed in their uphill effort to convert a majority of Filipinos to their side. 

I am of course working on the assumption that recent survey findings remain correct - that a majority of Filipinos do not understand Federalism and also are not keen on Charter change. 

I won’t be surprised if, in the eyes of this majority, any move to fast track a transition to federalism or a new constitution is suspect. And if that were true, then a statement like that of the Speaker would only deepen their suspicions and strengthen their opposition to tampering with the current constitutional set-up. 

What was also most disturbing is that no one has been talking about No-El, at least of late. In fact I don’t remember anyone talking about No-El in the last maybe 12 months - and the last one in my memory to have spoken about No-El was the Speaker himself! 

And here he is again, on his own (it seems) raising the No-El scenario when no one else is doing it. In a most untimely fashion. Or a most unfashionable time.

A friend from Davao snickered that the only reason it is the Speaker and the Speaker alone who seems hot in No-El is because it is the Speaker and the Speaker alone who is unsure of being returned to office after the mid-terms! 

In which case, I understand him, but still fail to understand whether he was convinced that such a public position would do the push for Charter change and Federalism any good.

Because it doesn’t.

I am excited to study proposals for a new constitution. I haven’t read the one produced by the Commission organized by the President to come up with a draft, because I would rather wait for whatever Congress (as a constituent assembly) or a constitutional convention will produce. 

I have enough reasons in mind to support a shift to a Federal system because in the early 1990s I helped my boss Enrique Zobel and his Unladbayan group study that option; but I also have as many reasons in my mind to oppose such a shift due to certain circumstances existing today.

My point is, I haven’t made up my mind about Federalism.

But about No-El I have no second thoughts. 

The ideas to me are “Deja Poo” (as some wise guy coined it in Facebook) - a rehash of some bullshit I’ve heard before.

Our recent history is replete with efforts by those in power to extend their stay in power by proposing to postpone elections for one reason or another. And each time we have successfully pushed back.

Democracy is all about letting the People speak through their Governments who carry out the public will. That will is regularly expressed through free, fair and honest elections. And that will is protected by the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Basic Law. 

Any push for No-El, clearly, is an undemocratic effort that cuts off one of the two legs on which the ability of the People to express their will rests. And when, as some will argue, the current environment is one where our rights and freedoms are under stress, then the need to protect the vote becomes all the more critical.

Hence, my negative reaction to the First No-El of the year. Sorry Mr. Speaker: this is one proposal of yours that doesn’t have my vote. 

Just go home and face your voters.
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