Clever girl!

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The plan for constitutional amendments has been compared to a dance, which among metaphor-conscious Filipinos followed naturally from the use of “cha cha” as shorthand for it. Cha cha DIs have indeed been trying to lure everyone onto the dance floor through various inducements, among them the promise of relief from poverty, which they claim’s the result of a perennial gridlock between the President and Congress. But most Filipinos won’t dance, and it’s not so much because they think federalism and a parliamentary form of government won’t work. It’s because they doubt the motives of their champions.

Before July the result had been a dance floor littered with DIs dancing with themselves, while most of the would-be instructees have left the building. But if you think the dance hall owners and the DIs had packed up and gone out of business, think again. Despite a less than lukewarm public reception, they’ve persisted all these years. They’ve carried the campaign to schools and universities, to business groups and academia, to civil society and the media, where at least the issue has somehow remained alive, if not well and kicking.

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The gorilla in our midst

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It’s tempting to ascribe what the Arroyo government has done — forge a contentious MOA that’s likely to provoke more war rather than usher in peace — either to stupidity, a failure to fully appreciate the situation in Mindanao, or to plain clumsiness. But the temptation is tempered by the suspicion that it knew from the beginning what it was doing — and what its consequences were likely to be.

Among other epithets, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between itself and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) it would have signed last Tuesday had not the Supreme Court intervened has been called treasonous, a betrayal, and unconstitutional. It in fact creates an entity — an autonomous state within an existing non-federal, centralized system — the present Constitution doesn’t sanction. To mean anything, it would require the restructuring of the entire Republic into a federation via the charter change of our worst nightmares.

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