Monday, September 19, 2005

Sounding Board : The Charter change foreign lobby

First posted 11:51pm (Mla time) Sept 18, 2005
By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the September 19, 2005 issue
of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

THE MORE NORBERTO GONZALES TRIES TO explain his lobbying contract with
an American law firm, the more ridiculous he looks. "Ridiculous,"
however, is not enough to characterize what has been done.
"Treasonous" might come closer.

The first task which the contract gives to the American lobbying group
is to "(s)ecure grants or congressional earmarks for support of the
Charter change initiative of the President of the Philippines, which
would reshape the form of government in the Philippines from its
current structure into a parliamentary federal system." Gonzales tried
to cover this up by suggesting that what was more important in the
contract was the task of seeking a "capability enhancement program for
the Armed Forces of the Philippines." The paragraph on capability
enhancement, however, comes almost as an afterthought; or more
correctly, as a camouflage.

What is being sought is the opposite of the patriotic efforts of
Filipino leaders' lobbying in the United States Congress, in the early
'30s, for a more honorable Independence Law. MalacaƱang owes it to the
Filipino people to disclose the full story behind this act to subvert
the independence of local efforts to revise the fundamental law. The
Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to information on
matters of public concern." Foreign involvement in the revision of our
Constitution is a matter of paramount public concern. It cannot be
said that the subject is one of those matters to which public access
to information may be limited. The subject does not involve "state
secrets regarding military, diplomatic and other national security,"
even if it involves principally the political aspirations of certain
public figures.

Significantly, there is this constitutional rule about financial
contributions from foreign governments: "Financial contributions from
foreign governments and their agencies to political parties,
organizations, coalitions, or candidates related to elections
constitute interference in national affairs, and, when accepted, shall
be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration
with the Commission, in addition to other penalties that may be
prescribed by law." The proscription of financial contribution to
political parties from foreign governments is designed to insulate the
electoral process from foreign interference. Accepting such
contribution comes close to being treasonous.

The evil becomes magnified when the intended object of interference is
the re-crafting of the fundamental law. If acceptance of contribution
for such object is not explicitly prohibited by the Constitution, it
is not because the Constitution does not see it as an evil but rather
because the evil is so obvious that no thinking person can miss it. In
fact, this is so obvious to many current high-ranking officials that
they have quickly joined in the chorus singing that they know or knew
nothing about it.

As if the sin could be covered by making it private, Gonzales has gone
on to say that public money will not be spent but that money will come
or has come from private individuals. Does a government acquit itself
from a criminal liability simply by enticing goons to do a crime?

I am not saying that the alleged private contributors are goons. They
may be perfectly honorable, if misguided, individuals. But we should
be told, under the right to information on matters of public concern,
who these private individuals are. Are they Filipinos or are they
foreigners? What are their own private interests? This is a matter
that is crying for a public confession and not just a simple
acknowledgment of a lapse in judgment.

If there is anything that we should learn from this caper, it is that
this administration cannot be trusted with orchestrating the revision
of our Constitution. For reasons of its own, whether honorable or not,
it is dead set on forcing a switch to a parliamentary and federal form
of government. The constitutional revision enterprise is a solemnly
sovereign one. It should be insulated from influences that can imprint
on the fundamental law directions that do or can undermine national
interest. We know from our experience in the electoral process that
money can be dangled to deaden consciences. Foreign money should not
be allowed, much less should it be sought, to influence popular

Betrayal of public trust was the leading accusation against Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo in the impeachment proceeding against her. That
accusation has not been cleared. It has merely been swept under the
rug by a subservient House of Representatives. Now comes this appeal
for financial assistance from a foreign government to subvert the
solemn sovereign task of revising our Constitution. If she had nothing
to do with it, she should disown it promptly. If she is its occult
author, she should rue it publicly.

Several years ago, when the renewal of the Philippine-US Bases
Agreement was the issue, senators stood tall to oppose the President's
desire. The nation cheered. Revising the Constitution can be more
significant and more far-reaching in its effect than the fate of the
US Military Bases in the Philippines. Forces within the current
administration, in their desire to have their way in the amendatory
process, are bent on drowning the Senate in an avalanche of House of
Representatives votes. This is a moment when once again senators
should stand tall

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cine Europa Film Festival

Now in its 8th year, the Cine Europa Film Festival is eagerly awaited by
all aficionados of European cinema.

Organised by the Embassies of the European Union Member States and the
Delegation of the European Commission in Manila the festival will take
place at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, EDSA cor. Shaw Blvd. (easy access by
MRT, plenty of parking available) from Thursday, Sept. 22 to Sunday, Oct
02, 2005.

Please find attached a draft flyer with the screening schedule and a brief
synopsis of each films. I have also attached some more information about
the German film "Kroko". Films will be shown in the original language
with English subtitles.

Admission is free!

Opening night on Thursday, Sept. 22:
Invitation only!

Please tell your family, friends, neighbours, badminton partner, fellow
choir members, gym buddy etc. about Cine Europa 8 and encourage everyone
to come and watch the films.

For your information, after Manila Cine Europa 8 will move on to Davao
(Oct. 07 to 09) and Cebu (Oct. 14 to 16).