House Speaker de Venecia said over the weekend that if his campaign for a shift to the parliamentary form of government fails, there would be no hope for the country, and “we might as well migrate.”

The Speaker was talking to reporters after that “historic” meeting of the national directorate of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democratic Party, in which he, former President Fidel Ramos and Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and assorted Lakas denizens were all smiles as they decided—or thought they were deciding– the fate of the nation.

I have news for the Speaker. Millions of Filipinos aren’t waiting for him, Ramos, Arroyo and Lakas to either fail or succeed, but are already leaving the country, while a full one third of the population wants or intends to migrate.

The survey firm Pulse Asia found last October 2005 that from a previous high of 26 percent of those they surveyed in July last year, 33 percent intended to migrate as the year was ending. Pulse Asia also said that the number of those who say they would stay in the Philippines no matter what happens had declined– from 52 percent to 37 percent during the same four-month period, or a 13 percent decline representing 7.5 million more adults who now want to leave the country.

The usual media response to most Filipinos’ wanting to migrate is condemnation. The conventional assumption is that those who’re leaving or who want to leave are either dollar-hungry, unpatriotic, or both.

This blanket assumption is at least unfair. There are three categories of migrants as far as their reasons for wanting to leave are concerned. The first is composed of those who’ve tried to survive here and to provide their families with some kind of predictable and fairly comfortable future, but who have discovered that it just can’t be done, given the limited opportunities for stable employment or even a small business. In this category belong most contract workers.

In the second are those hungry for order and predictability, who want efficient government, an honest police force, good schools, and the assurance that they will be rewarded for good work. In this category belong the professionals from the middle class who migrate to the United States, Canada, and some of the European countries.

In the third category are those who’re just after a comfortable life, which they think they can get through the high earnings they anticipate in foreign climes. In this category belong those young professionals who, right after graduation, get on the next flight to the US, Canada or Europe. A great number are in the health professions, including doctors and nurses, but among this group are also those skilled workers who, after training in a technical or vocational school and a bit of experience, hie off to a job somewhere else on the planet for the sake of dollars, euros or yen.

To these three categories, however, we must now add a fourth. This is the category of criminals who have made their fortunes in various scams and illegal activities. They are drug dealers and gambling lords, but among their number are also politicians and big bureaucrats who have been plundering the public treasury for years.

They suspect that there will be a day of reckoning, in which not all their expensive lawyers or paid-for judges can get them off the hook, or when they can no longer conceal their plunder through the usual devices. After all, for all his guile, power and wealth, Ferdinand Marcos was eventually found out, wasn’t he, while, for all his bluster, Joseph Estrada’s under trial for plunder?

That is why corrupt generals as well as congressmen, crime syndicate lords and other big criminals keep green cards and passports handy, and have even bought homes abroad. After all, you never know when the next people’s uprising will come, what form it will take, and to what extent the next one will exact accountability.

What’s ironic is that this very group is itself responsible for the increase in the number of Filipinos who, either out of economic need, greed, or a quest for order, are rushing to the nearest airport. It’s these people who have, singly, together, or in conspiracy, pretty much ruined the country through their corruption, greed, and bad governance.

I’m fairly sure that among this last group—those who have green cards and their passports within reach– are congressmen, some senators, governors and mayors, civilian and military bureaucrats, and maybe even some members of the Lakas directorate itself.

All these worthies are committed, as De Venecia and company have never tired of telling us, to the shift from the presidential to the parliamentary form of government. That shift, De Venecia, Ramos, et. al. have never concealed, is meant, among other aims, to prevent another People Power uprising from happening, supposedly because it will make changes in government institutional—theoretically it can happen once the majority in parliament lose confidence in the government—rather than through direct people’s action. De Venecia and company have of course steered clear of saying that the very opposite can also happen: no change in governments can ever take place if the majority is in cozy agreement.

Could it be that the subtext of de Venecia’s “we might as well migrate” is the fear of another people power– which the next time around may not be as benign as People Power 1 and 2 were– if the shift to a parliamentary form doesn’t happen and the presidential one remains?

And could part of the subtext of that statement be that only in a parliamentary system can the same political class be assured of control over the political system forever and ever? Why this anxiety otherwise, this determination to effect the shift regardless of the people’s resistance to constitutional amendments? Among the reasons could be that of delaying another day of reckoning a la EDSA 1986 and 2001—when, depending upon the degree of public outrage, they may all, like Marcos in 1986, have to migrate.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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