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Friday, July 26, 2024

RevGov redux

"We need to see proof ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ before we suspend our Constitution."

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Last week, social media came alive with reports of, yet again, another initiative to install a revolutionary government under Duterte’s aegis. The initiative was originated by a Duterte support group called MRRD-NECC, whose sole visible representative to date is Makati-based politician Bobby Brillante.

Disclaimers came swiftly from the head honchos of the security establishment without whose support any RevGov initiative would fall apart. PNP chief Gen Archie Gamboa first admitted that he was invited to attend the group’s initial gathering, then quickly followed up with an unequivocal disclaimer of any PNP support for it.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana likewise dismissed outright the idea of any military support for the RevGovers. Not heard from yet as of this writing is the AFP chief of staff Gen Gilbert Gapay, although we find it difficult to believe that at this point he’d break ranks with the rest of the top brass.

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So what in tarnation is going on? Who or what is really behind this weird turn of events? Any educated guess must start by taking the group seriously—whether deserved or not—on the claims they made in their initial media salvo last Saturday.

The group’s key premise is that Duterte is currently deprived of the “necessary powers” he needs in order to fulfill his campaign promises, in particular the enactment of a new Constitution under a federal and parliamentary system. Thus, RevGov is claimed to be “absolutely necessary,” our “last and only recourse.”

The problem with this assertion is that Duterte has certainly not lost any of the vast powers he acquired upon taking office in 2016. If anything, he has wielded them to such extraordinary effect that the more squeamish, especially abroad, have taken to describing him as “authoritarian.”

After appointing most of the Supreme Court’s current members, he has not lost any of his major battles there, up to and including the deserved departure of former CJ Sereno. And in the House, the operation of traditional politics has built him a super-majority that most recently put out of business the country’s biggest—and stridently oppositionist—broadcast network, and today is delivering all the new legislation he needs to fight the virus and revive the economy.

Duterte’s acid test of “not a whiff of corruption” has repeatedly been breached in so many places—from Customs to BIR to the Muntinlupa prison, and now PhilHealth. But people aren’t being fired as quickly as the public would like. Within the Executive—if not other branches of government–there shouldn’t be anyone powerful enough to keep Duterte from keeping his promises.

As for a new Constitution, that job has been finished by the inter-agency task force he created two years ago in order to improve upon the “Bayanihan Constitution” drafted by the consultative committee he too had appointed earlier. The IATF version was already submitted to the Cabinet late last year. What happens to it next is up to—again—the President. He may have the best of reasons for sitting on it, but for sure, nobody is forcing him to sit on it.

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Going now to the policy prescriptions of the RevGovers, we find what is, at best, a haphazard collection of back-of-the-envelope propositions that are stitched together neither by basic economics nor political common sense.

A few of them I can agree with. Strengthening the regional development councils (RDCs) is not only a good way to rationalize the rebuilding of our health infrastructure, but also a good interim step towards federalism. And who can argue with a motherhood statement like “eliminating the ills of society”?

But on the economic side, there’s just too many unstudied platitudes. “Promoting equal opportunities for all”: How do you do that? Creating a commission to take over the country’s “hidden wealth” – what does that even mean? Nationalizing basic utility services: How quickly the RevGovers forget the dark years of inefficient service under government monopolies like NAWASA/MWSS and NAPOCOR, or private monopolies like PLDT.

If we’re being asked to suspend something as important as the Constitution, we need to see proof “beyond reasonable doubt” that justifies such a drastic step. Not to mention a roadmap for rehabilitation that will make the risks worth taking.

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In today’s Gospel (Mt 23: 23-26), Jesus admonishes the “blind Pharisees” of His day to “cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”

These are words worth remembering by those who would suspend our Constitution. Do not neglect to cleanse yourselves first, your own minds and characters. And as you go about that, be humble enough to doubt that you will ever be able, by yourselves, to do so.

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