GEEK TALK: No to RevGov!

Homar Murillo

It was during a live television interview in 2015, the then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte first publicly mentioned his idea of a revolutionary government. Although he was not yet an official candidate then, he said that if ever elected president, he would establish a revolutionary government. He indicated that he would dissolve Congress and padlock the judiciary through extra-constitutional means. He would do this to give way to a federal form of government. He again repeated this threat in one of his recent speeches. He said that he would resort to this draconian move if the communists and other “de-stabilizers” sow public mayhem. Some of Duterte’s ardent supporters like former starlet Vivian Velez and DILG Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III have been floating the idea of a revolutionary government. They have organized a pro-RevGov rally last November 7, 2017 at the Quezon Memorial Circle but it was attended by a handful of participants. They are now planning a bigger rally coinciding with the birthday of Andres Bonifacio on November 30, 2017. As critics and lawyers have pointed out, a declaration of revolutionary government is illegal (unconstitutional) and would automatically mean that Duterte would be deemed resigned and his constitutional successor would take over, which is the vice president. He will also be branded as a rebel and an enemy of the state. Manila Times columnist and former senator, Francisco Tatad, wrote: “A revolution or revolt against a sitting president is always an illegal one, and exposes the perpetrators to the hangman’s noose in case of failure. They take power and receive public obeisance only if they succeed. But a sitting president who ousts himself as a constitutionally elected leader in order to become an extra-constitutional dictator becomes a rebel against the Constitution and the State even if his coup succeeds. He thus invites all sorts of challenges, both armed and unarmed, from various parties, internal and external. In our modern world, it invites economic and other sanctions from mature and responsible democracies.” Duterte has been desperately trying to justify the idea by comparing it to Cory Aquino’s 1986 revolutionary government. He couldn’t be more farther from the target. It’s comparing apples and oranges. Here’s a comparison and contrast between Cory Aquino’s 1986 revolutionary government and Rodrigo Duterte’s proposed revolutionary government. Background Cory was not the sitting president when she declared a revolutionary government. Her defeat in the snap election was perceived as the result of the massive cheating orchestrated by the Marcos Regime. In contrast, Duterte is currently the sitting president with significant margin of votes ahead of the second place candidate, Mar Roxas. Military Support A military-backed popular people power revolt toppled the Marcos dictatorship. It was also supported by the international community. On the other hand, the current Department of Defense Secretary and the AFP Chief of Staff publicly assured the Vice-President that the military will not support a revolutionary government. No Functioning Executive Branch When the Marcos regime was ousted, there was no functioning executive branch. There was a total disarray in the chain of command and there was no clear legitimate successor. Although there was a vice-president, he was also deemed resigned. Now, there is a functioning executive branch and a clear rule of succession is in place. The Vice-President is the legitimate and immediate successor of the president. Power Vacuum The 1986 revolutionary government was a necessary immediate response to the political chaos and power vacuum. The current political situation is relatively stable and there is no power vacuum. Main Purpose The main purpose of Cory’s revolutionary government was to serve as a transition government from dictatorship to constitutional democracy. Duterte’s alleged main purpose the plan to declare a revolutionary government varies. Some of the proponents say that it would be a transition towards federalism. Others say that it would be used as means to purge corruption and criminality. However, critics say that it is only an excuse to remove the checks and balances, giving Duterte free reign to establish a totalitarian regime and escape accountability. Overhauling of Government Cory demanded the resignation of all key public officials (elected and appointed officials). The president then appointed temporary replacements. The same scheme is presumed to be implemented under Digong’s RevGov but the TRAPOS are expected to dominate. New Constitution The 1986 Freedom Constitution was promulgated on March 25, a month after the EDSA People Power Revolution but it was meant as a transitory constitution. A new constitution (1987) was drafted and ratified to replace the 1973 constitution a year later. The transition period was relatively short. In a similar manner, Digong proposes to have a new constitution establishing a federal form of government. However, the transition period is unclear. Violence Cory’s short transition from revolutionary government to constitutional government was relatively peaceful. Digong’s transition is likely to be very violent and probably will result to a widespread civil war because of the highly fractured public opinions among different sectors, including the military. Legitimacy Cory transitioned from a de facto revolutionary president into a constitutional or de jure president under the 1987 constitution. There were numerous coup attempts that questioned the legitimacy of Cory as president but none succeeded. Digong will transition from being a legitimate president into an illegitimate one if he succeeds in grabbing power. He will technically become a rebel and an enemy of the state – the anti-thesis of a democratically elected leader. Ethical/Moral Basis Cory’s revolutionary government is recognized by many as morally justified and necessary because it was primarily for the restoration of democracy and people’s freedom. It was never for a selfish motive. Digong’s proposed revolutionary government is clearly a selfish and desperate ploy to escape accountability. It is a means to usurp political powers, allowing him to have totalitarian control of the state. Stability Cory was resolute to establish a constitutional democratic government. Her term was plagued by numerous coup attempts but the constitution that she promulgated with the help of a transitional revolutionary government is still well entrenched 30 years later. Digong obviously does not have the penchant for constitutionality and the rule of law. He continues to show his contempt for democratic processes. Hence, it is unlikely that his proposed revolutionary government will be stable. Success The success of Cory’s revolutionary government is clearly expressed in its three major achievements, namely, the restoration of democracy, people empowerment and the promulgation of the 1987 Constitution. Digong’s proposed revolutionary government is highly likely to fail because it neither has strong rational justification nor moral basis.