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EDITORIAL: RevGov: A dangerous idea

LEST the more idiotic of our people still insist on prompting the President of this forlorn Republic to declare a revolutionary government as a panacea to the ills that our society face today, made even worse by this same government that pretends to be our savior by unabashedly discarding away our established democratic principles, may we take the liberty of reprinting a memorandum issued by Ateneo de Manila President Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., to the whole Ateneo University Community that might as well be addressed to the rest of our society: RECENT calls for a revolutionary government (or RevGov for short) by some of President Duterte’s supporters may be motivated by a misplaced desire to hasten reforms. Proponents argue that reforms are frustrated by vested interests that continue to benefit from the status quo. Meanwhile, an increasingly frustrated population demands better public transportation, efficient and faster internet and mobile services, more affordable housing, a corruption-free government and decent work, among many other aspirations. The RevGov advocates are essentially tapping on growing discontent with the slow pace of much needed reforms in both our political and economic spheres. Perhaps unwittingly, they are in turn fueling an under-appreciation of reform gains and an over-emphasis on reform barriers. However, the RevGov proposition has a key weakness—it has a very simplistic theory of change. It contends that concentrating power in the hands of a few would give them the means to execute the key reforms necessary to move the country forward. But by centralizing power in the hands of a few, RevGov directly undermines democratic institutions and the economy. Indeed, our very own experience of years of authoritarian rule during martial law compels us to reject any moves to establish a RevGov. Concentrating power in the hands of a few lies at the very heart of what ails our politics and economics. RevGov is unlikely to solve that. Rather, it risks reinforcing it. International experience with revolutionary governments suggests that uncertainty and unpredictability often characterize these regimes. The economy, even law and order, may recover initially, but these and social values suffer eventually. More critically, studies also show that revolutionary leaders are much more likely to engage in violence, in mass killings, compared to non-revolutionary leaders. Many revolutionary governments do not transition to democratic institutions. Instead, they remain stuck in authoritarian rule much to the detriment of the general population and their aspirations for true change and inclusive development. The question Filipinos are facing now is whether authoritarian rule trumps incremental democratic institutional reforms. Our answer to this is a resounding “no”. We must always preserve the democratic values and institutions we enjoy today that many before us bled and died for. Indeed, it is worth noting that Ambisyon Natin 2040, the country’s long-term development vision, which was approved by President Duterte under Executive Order No 5, actually puts forward a strategy marked by building institutions and strengthening governance. The fundamental theory of change and progress that underpins Ambisyon remains loyal to democratic and participatory institutional reforms. It does not contemplate any moves to destroy these very same institutions when things become challenging. RevGov offers an old narrative that our people have endured before. Almost twenty years of authoritarian and corrupt rule under Marcos left our economy devastated. We took almost as long, if not longer, to repair and rebuild our institutions since the dictatorship was toppled. Our youth, brimming with enthusiasm and energy for the future, beckons us to move forward, not backward. They trust us to preserve democracy, not destroy it. As we celebrate and commemorate the lives of our nation’s heroes today, let us resolve to embody in word and deed the ideals that they lived and died for. In the same spirit of St Andrew, the apostle, whose feast we celebrate today, we listen to Christ who sends us to become bearers not of messages that harp on how bad or hopeless we are. We are called not to be apostles of bad news. We are called to be bearers of the good news of our redemption, however halting and messy at times that can be. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

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