Sunday, July 16, 2006

Critical Notes on LnM’s Transitional Revolutionary Government (TRG)

Activist School Film and Lecture Discussion Series
Institute for Popular Democracy
45 Matimtiman St., Teachers’ Village, Quezon City , 14 July 2006

Critical Notes on LnM’s TRG
This presentation is divided into Five parts:

1. Rationale for TRG
2. TRG’s Reform Agenda
3. Proposed TRG Structure
4. Critique of the TRG
5. Recommendations

Rationale for TRG

The TRG was developed in the context of the political crisis. What is the “nature” of the current POLITICAL CRISIS?

According to the ”trapo” Opposition: the country is experiencing a crisis of leadership. President Arroyo “is” the source of the problem.
PROPOSED SOLUTION: remove the President, so as to solve the problem.

According to the Administration: what we are facing is a crisis of the “system” (e.i., the presidential-unitary system of government). President Arroyo is merely a “victim” of this system of government.
PROPOSED SOLUTION: shift to a presidential-unitary system of government through Charter Change.

These propositions from both UNO and the Administration fail to apprehend the real complexity of the crisis;

First, while the President is not the sole source of the crisis, she is nonetheless its most immediate cause.

Second, past events indicate that the crisis goes beyond the mere infirmities of the presidential-unitary system.

Third, though the President can rightly claim that she is a victim of the “system,” one can argue that every Filipino also faces the same predicament.

Rationale for TRG:
President Arroyo is merely the manifestation of a far bigger crisis. What is undergoing crisis is the system of class rule called “elite democracy.” elite democracy – the system of class rule that was created after EDSA I.


1. the dispersal of power among rival factions of the elite, with no central
bureaucracy acting as the sole receptacle of prestige and political authority;

2. the formal existence of various institutions of democratic governance such as a
duly approved Constitution, the enjoyment of civil liberties, the presence of an
independent judiciary and the existence of a well-respected legislature, but where
real political power is concentrated in the hands of a small and exploitative
elite; and

3. the exercise of periodic elections less as a means of enhancing greater popular
participation than as a mechanism for resolving intra-elite competition.

Though relatively “free” elections are regularly held under elite democracy, political power is nonetheless monopolized by the wealthy and the well-born. In a study made by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ),approximately 50% of the members of the 12TH House of Representatives have a net worth of assets between P1 million to P10 million. On the other hand, 42% of the members of the 12th Senate have a net worth of assets between P11 million to P29 million. On the average, the members of the 12th Congress would have a net worth of assets of P21 million for representatives and P59 million for senators.

Average Net Worth of Members of the 12th Congress
Congressmen : P22.0 million
Senators: P 60.0 million

“Five Congresses—the Eighth to the 12TH—have been constituted since the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The legislators elected to these bodies have hardly been representative of those they represent. In that sense, they have not been different from the past, when members of Congress were drawn from a narrow elite in terms of property, education (since 1898, they have been trained mainly in law), and social standing…The sources of their wealth are more diverse, indicating that many more business interests are represented in Congress, which can no longer be described as “landlord-dominated” legislature.

The caciques of old have been replaced by real-estate developers, bankers, stockbrokers, and assorted professionals and business people.” Even if the Opposition get to replace President Arroyo with one of their own, the new administration will still function to serve elite interests. As a response to the crisis, Laban ng Masa has proposed the establishment of a Transitional Revolutionary Government (TRG).

Transitional – it is not meant to be permanent; its tenure should be as brief as possible (at most three years).

Revolutionary – it suspends existing legal restraints created by the elite that hamper the implementation of meaningful social reforms. The TRG’s ultimate goal is the establishment of a constitutional government with a progressive character.

Reform Agenda

Immediate Relief to the Poor
> Regulation of prices of basic commodities.
> Utilization of the cocolevy funds to improve the coconut industry and benefit
ordinary farmers.
> Setting up of feeding centers for infants and children in urban poor communities
and destitute rural villages.

Reversal of Neo-Liberal Policies
> Government to subsidize basic services (e.i., health, education, water, electricity
and sanitation).
> Budget re-channeling from debt service payments to social services, debt audit and
> Protection for local industries and agriculture from unfair global competition to
encourage production.

Reform Agenda
> Rescind all fraudulent contracts with independent power producers.
> Return of Petron to public ownership.
> Break existing oligopolies in the power sector.
> Review and revise labor and wage laws in order to protect workers’ rights.

Land Reform and Rural Development
> Immediate acquisition of big haciendas and subsequent distribution to individual
farmers and farmers’ cooperatives.
> Increased government investments in irrigation, post-harvest facilities and support
> Promotion of cooperative farming and/or joint state-cooperative ventures.

Curbing Graft and Corruption
> Graft cases to be filed against the Arroyo family and other officials of the
> Similar cases will also be filed against officials of previous regimes.
> Revamp and reform within the judiciary.

Military and Police Reforms
> Creation of special courts to prosecute corrupt police and military officials.
> Salary grade improvement within the police and military.
> Human rights orientation for all AFP and PNP personnel.

Peace Agenda
> The TRG shall recognize the right to self-determination of Moros, lumads and other
indigenous peoples.
> Moros shall be given full autonomy.

Reforming the COMELEC
> The TRG shall revise the Omnibus Election Code to regulate election expenditures.
> Elections will be computerized to curb election cheating.

Media and Education
> A special fund shall be put up to support the production of education programs.
> Radio and television stations will be required to devote at least three hours of
prime time for educational programming.
> There will be licensure examinations for journalists to encourage professionalism.

Drafting of a New Constitution
> The TRG will appoint a 30-50 member commission which will draft a new constitution.
> The draft charter will be submitted for discussion in barangay assemblies.
> A second draft will be prepared, containing the inputs from the barangays.
> The draft will be submitted for ratification through a plebiscite.

The TRG shall consist of:
Governing Council – collective presidency and provisional legislature
Council of Ministers – implementing arm of the Governing Council
TRG Structure
The Governing Council shall be composed of seven (7) to 15 individuals.
All members of the Governing Council shall be barred from running in the
first two elections under a regular government.

Critique on the TRG:

The TRG offers the most comprehensive and people-oriented response to the crisis.
But is it a perfect alternative?

The TRG suffers from two (2) “flaws”:
first, the presence of a strong executive; and
second, the possibility of over-centralization.

Critique 1: Strong Executive
The TRG has the following striking features:
It has no legislative structure.
It remains unclear on what it intends to do with the Supreme Court during the period of transition. Hence, it may be assumed that the TRG will be un-tempered by judicial review.

Critique 1: Strong Executive
What are consequences of this proposed TRG structure?
The country will have a very strong executive which will not only implement political decisions but will actually be the source of all governmental decrees.

Models: Emilio Aguinaldo’s military dictatorship (May 24, 1898-June 23, 1898)
Philippine Revolutionary Government (June 23, 1898-January 21, 1899)

However, a strong executive is not a sine qua non for a successful revolution. There were also instances wherein a people’s uprising was led by a revolutionary legislature.

Models: French Revolution (National Assembly, 1789-1791)
American Revolution (Second Continental Congress, 1775-1789)

Critique 2: Centralization
Second Consequence:
The concentration of power in the hands of a small minority (i.e., the seven to 15-member Governing Council). This setup can be justified by the perceived need for large-scale revolutionary action and long-term political survival. However, revolutions are often characterized by the explosion of spontaneous popular struggles and by the subsequent exercise of local/community power.

Model 1: French Revolution (First Paris Commune)
Model 2: Russian Revolution of 1905 and February 1917 (Soviets)
Model 3: 1896 Revolution

The Katipunan had a preeminent place in the uprising. However, it was also dependent on the people’s spontaneous action, so as to divide the colonial troops and prevent them from concentrating their forces in a single locality.

Military operations were largely decentralized. “Although many encounters were indecisive or ended in defeat for the Katipuneros, the Spanish forces were continually harassed and divided by the many simultaneous and spontaneous risings in different provinces. While not all the revolutionary actions were coordinated by the Katipunan, the Revolution itself had become generalized.”

Renato Constantino, The Philippines: Past Revisited
The 1896 Revolution

The policy of local revolutionary autonomy was not fully repudiated until after the Tejeros Convention. The trend towards centralization was again reversed by the Treaty of Biak-na-Bato. Aguinaldo’s exile in Hongkong resulted in a new revolutionary upsurge, particularly in Caloocan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon Panay and Cebu.

History further indicates: that revolutions are often the result of spontaneous local action; that these actions often lead to the establishment of locally-based forms of social organization; and that these formations are characterized by citizens’ participation and the decentralization and self-management of power and resources.

This emphasis on local action and community practices is brought about by the changes in the operation of power, characterized by its dispersal throughout the social body. “…there are no relations of power without resistances; the latter are all the more real and effective because they are formed right at the point where relations of power are exercised; resistance to power does not have to come from elsewhere to be real, nor is it inexorably frustrated through being the compatriot of power. It exists all the more by being in the same place as power; hence, like power, resistance is multiple and can be integrated in global strategies.”

Michel Foucault (Power/Knowledge) “…we are not seeking to deny that certain practices require the intervention of the political in its restricted sense. What we wish to point out is that politics as a practice of creation, reproduction and transformation of social relations cannot be located at a determinative level of the social, as the problem of the political is the problem of the institution of the social, that is, of the definition and the articulation of social relations in a field criss-crossed with antagonisms.”

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (Hegemony and Socialist Strategy)

Centralization, therefore, can never advance the interests of the citizens and the revolutionary forces for it would: transfer power to a new ruling clique;
and create a “Red bureaucracy” which has a tendency to “degenerate.”


To address the flaws in the TRG proposal, the following recommendations are presented:

1. Expand the Governing Council to include all the members of the LnM National
Council (NC) and representatives of other progressive and anti-elitist parties,
groups or organizations that have taken part in the removal of the Arroyo
2. Limit the role of the Governing Council to that of a provisional legislature.
3. Place executive powers in the Council of Ministers.
4. Establish citizens’ councils at the city, municipal and barangay levels to serve
as alternative institutions of political participation and community governance
(e.g., Konseho ng Masa).
5. Create a committee that would draft a “provisional freedom constitution” that
would take effect upon the proclamation of the TRG.

1986 “Freedom” Constitution
(Proclamation No. 3)

Article 1, Section 1: stipulates that Articles I, III (Citizenship), IV (Bill of Rights), V and VI of the 1973 Constitution are retained in toto.
Article 1, Section2: adopts Articles II, VII, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV, in so far as they are not inconsistent with the “Freedom” Constitution.
Article IV, Section 1: adopts all existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instruction, implementing rules and regulations, and other executive issuances not inconsistent with the Freedom Constitution.
A revolution is an act of human “freedom.” An upsurge that stifles that freedom doesn’t deserve the title “revolution.” “If I can’t dance to your revolution, I won’t come.”

-Emma Goldman

"Blueprint for a Viable Philippines"

August 11, 2005 @ 9:06 am · Posted by Vinia Datinguinoo
Filed under In the News , Governance

USING what it says are "broad strokes," a group of academic and civil society leaders is recommending reforms in governance to address the country's lingering crisis and "strengthen a nation now perilously hurtling into chaos."

The proposed reforms are contained in a "Blueprint for a Viable Philippines" and cover an extensive range of issues, including the structure of government, taxation, the judiciary, international relations, housing, population, agrarian reform and industrialization, and health and education. The Blueprint describes the failure of existing policies and programs, and points the way to rekindling hope among the public, especially the youth. At the very least, its proponents say, the document hopes to shift the focus of public attention "from personality squabbles to the issues that truly matter."

Two of the Blueprint's main proponents are former UP president Francisco Nemenzo and Renato Constantino, Jr.

The Blueprint does not make any direct reference to the controversies hounding the Arroyo government nor to calls for her to step down. But Nemenzo was among those who had called, as the so-called Gloriagate scandal broke, for the President to resign and pave the way for a "transitional revolutionary government " such as the one that replaced the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

The document traces its roots to informal discussions among the key proponents beginning in mid-2004. Roundtable forums were then held with individuals from government, the private sector, and NGOs. Integrated into the document were platforms and policy papers from the various groups that were consulted.

In remarks made as the document was first made public on Monday, Nemenzo said, "Painfully aware that ideas are worthless without the power to implement them, we offer the Blueprint to all political parties and social movements. They are welcome to adopt it in full or in part."

All the proposed programs, proponents say, aim to "take back the control of our natural resources (natural, manpower, financial, state, etc.) so that we may, with full sovereignty, determine the path of development which will secure the greatest welfare for the greater number of Filipinos."

The following are some of the Blueprint's recommendations:

On the structures and forms of government. The choice of structure and form of government is merely secondary to the need for a strong, autonomous, and willful State. After all, an effective parliamentary system requires the participation of mature political parties and a federal system demands the prior existence of stable institutions. Prepare the ground on which the new forms could grow.

On the national debt. It is no longer sustainable to allot an increasing percentage of the national resources to repay the country's loans. Initiate a comprehensive debt audit. Re-negotiate debts with other governments and multilateral institutions and secure a minimum 5-year relief from interest payments.

On the public finance and fiscal crisis. Tax leakage and corruption constrain government's ability to improve the country's fiscal picture. Shift to a simplified, universal and equitable gross taxation system.

On agricultural development. The agriculture sector is not growing and rural jobs and incomes are not increasing. Complete the implementation of the agrarian reform program and strengthen land and asset reform by bringing back reformed lands into the circuit of commerce.

On trade. Having failed to modernize prior to committing to multilateral trade agreements, the Philippines has become a net importer of agricultural products. Adjust trade policy to the requirements of the country's long-term economic growth. Freeze commitments to further trade liberalization while reviewing the impact of indiscriminate liberalization on the country's economy.

On labor and employment. The rate of unemployment has steadily gone up, as the export of labor has become the government's most favored response to the problem. Manage the overseas employment program so that its worst effects are avoided. At the least, forge bilateral agreements with host countries to ensure the welfare of overseas workers.

On cultural communities and autonomous regions. There is no national program to protect the nation's cultural communities. Constitutional provisions establishing autonomous regions have also remained mere promises. Take concrete steps to actualize the indigenous peoples' rights to preserve and develop their own way of life.

On population. The national government continues to neglect population policy. Address the main issues of unmet needs in relation to desired family size and population momentum.

On health. Public health has remained a very low priority for government. Reverse the decentralization of primary health care and install a real social health insurance system.

On education. The country is simply not spending enough on education. Double or triple the current budget for education. Develop a new curriculum that is strong in history and culture.

On the media. The mass media has played a minimal role in the formation of a mature polity, strengthening a sense of national identity, and promoting national culture. Instead it has become the principal instrument of a consumerist culture. Establish a regulatory and watchdog body that will monitor media abuse and recommend measures to align programming and content with social objectives.

Aside from Nemenzo and Constantino Jr., the other main proponents of the Blueprint are Prof. Randolf David, former UP Diliman Chancellor Roger Posadas, Isagani Serrano of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, and Ma. Victoria Raquiza of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty-Philippines.

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