DILG official lays out blueprint for a dictatorship
Supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte are poised to stage their own version of “people power” today, but theirs has a twist.
Instead of pressuring the sitting president Rodrigo Duterte to step down from office, they will urge him to scrap the present Constitution and bow to the people’s will to form a revolutionary government.
Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III earlier posted a YouTube video that lays out a scenario where a democratically elected leader like Duterte could acquire dictatorial powers straight from the people, ostensibly to curb corruption and swiftly carry out reforms.
Before writing this analysis, I wanted to clarify with Densing what he said in his YouTube video. But he said I could not quote our phone conversation. He said I should interview him in person because he does not know me.
However, he said I could quote what he said in his YouTube video. He also stressed that everything he said in the video and told me on the phone was his own opinion, in his personal capacity and not as a DILG official.
As a DILG official, his main task starting May this year has been to push for federalism. I don’t exactly know how the DILG can justify such an expense when federalism is not something that is currently in place in our Constitution and was not indicated as a budgetary expense for the DILG.
In the video, Densing justified the formation of a revolutionary government as the fastest way to federalism. He indicated that Congress was next to useless in changing the charter in order to switch to a federal form of government because it is in the interest of the politicians to make sure people remain poor.
To Densing the only solution was for Duterte to declare a revolutionary government. Once proclaimed, he said, “our Constitution will be suspended” and will no longer be operational.
Then, he said: "Our President will acquire powers as a revolutionary [leader]. He will run the executive. He will also make the laws.”
“Siya ang magpapatupad ng batas. Siya ang gagawa ng batas.”
(He will implement the laws. He will also make the laws.)
“Binibigyan natin ang ating pangulo na maging executive and legislative at the same time,” he said.
I pointed out to Densing that he was describing the powers of a dictator just like what Ferdinand Marcos had. But I am not at liberty to disclose Densing’s reply to me.
In his YouTube video, Densing said that once Duterte accepts the people’s will to be their revolutionary leader, then Duterte will issue a proclamation where he will enumerate what would happen next.
For instance, Densing said: "Declaration of vacancy of all government positions mula sa vice president mawawala ho yan. Barangay mawawala ho yan.”
“Pagdiniklara, magkakaroon ng bakante ang posisyon sa lahat,” Densing said.
To me, the implication of this is that everyone except President Duterte will be deemed fired from their government posts – from the Vice President, to Congress to the lowly barangay or village captains.
However, Densing claimed in his YouTube video that the revolutionary government will merely be temporary. Meaning, until a new Constitution shepherded by the Duterte revolutionary government is in place.
Densing also assured that the intentions behind a revgov were pure: “We just want to speed up (reforms) so we can enjoy the benefits.”
He added: “Me, as a citizen, it’s important to give Duterte revolutionary powers. I am totally trusting he will use these powers correctly."
"Matanda na po si Presidente Duterte. Hindi niya ito gagamitin para magkaroon ng negatibong epekto sa bayan. Malinaw na malinaw ginagawa niya ito para sa pagmamahal sa bayan.”
You can watch Densing’s video at the end of this piece.
Duterte’s chief propagandist Mocha Uson asked Duterte Wednesday for his opinion on the people’s alleged clamor for him to form a revgov.
Duterte, without batting an eyelash, replied: “Only when tataob na ang bayan [when the nation collapses]. The predicate was, kung tataob na ang bayan.”
Duterte added: “If the ship of state is about to capsize, then that would be the time. Maybe. I would have to declare. Other than that wala akong nakitang rason. Bakit ako magrerevolutionary government?”
Then Mocha Uson added: “But you will not stop the people from their expression.”
Duterte replied no, he would not, because it is the call of the 15 million (later corrected to 16 million) “who voted for me”.
He counter-proposed that a new Constitution should be drafted that would put in place “a strong government” with many corrections such as accountability.
Duterte then said, “Huwag tayong matakot na magka – hindi ako mag-diktador. Ilagay niyo diyan na ako president. Pag ilusot ang Konstitusyon na yan I will cease to be a president.” [Let us not fear that I will turn into a dictator. Put there in the new Constitution that I will be the president. And when you pass the Constitution, I will cease to be a president.”]
Or else, he also said, make the post ceremonial. “At the end of the year will also mean the end. I would have reached the end of my term.”
What do all these rapidly unfolding events mean?
My reading is that first, they are pretty serious about wanting to declare a revolutionary government. But everyone is careful to add that it will be just like the revgov of the late democracy icon, President Corazon Aquino, not like the revgov of the ousted dictator Marcos.
Second, they seem to have hit on a time frame – by the end of this year there must be a revgov in place.
Third, they – including Duterte – are all assuring that Duterte can be trusted with revgov or dictatorial powers. That he will not abuse them but will wield them only for the common good.
Fourth, haven’t we seen this scenario before – where the people clamored for Duterte to do something like run for president. He hemmed and he hawed, but finally gave in to the people’s will.
Fifth, I am especially wary of the following statements Duterte made: “Put there in the new Constitution that I will be the president. And when you pass the Constitution, I will cease to be a president.”
Perhaps, the new Duterte Constitution will use another term in place of the word “president”. Then he will be right in saying he would cease to be president even if he inherits the new title.
And sixth, in Densing’s formula, a revolutionary government is necessary in order to pave the way for drafting a “federal” type of government. He refused to call what he was proposing a “dictatorship” but that is exactly what it is – a one-man rule.
Our nation has experienced such a scenario before. After Marcos declared Martial Law, he illegally assumed revolutionary powers and ordered the ongoing Constitutional Convention to incorporate his proposed constitutional amendments, or else.
The 1973 Constitution put in place a parliamentary form of government. But the dictator Marcos never fully implemented it. Instead, he set up a dictatorship which he called “constitutional authoritarianism” – which is now being advocated for Duterte by his presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
Another bitter lesson of our history is this: In order to get his new Constitution approved, Marcos dangled to members of the pre-Martial Law bicameral Congress and the delegates of the 1971-’72 Constitutional Convention the promise that they would all be the first members of the one-chamber National Assembly.
Marcos fooled them all. He never convened the National Assembly.
Instead, using his legislative powers, Marcos issued a decree creating the “Interim Batasang Pambansa” or IBP years later. Since it wasn’t called the National Assembly, he did not have to fulfill his promise.
The point is, once Duterte declares a revolutionary government anything goes.
Personally, I tend to distrust a politician who keeps saying – trust me. It reminds me of the wolf assuring Red Riding Hood.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.