abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak: Early last year, Chief Justice Reynato Puno was chosen as chairman of the Council for Moral Revolution, a brainchild of former Arroyo ally Jose de Venecia Jr.. Puno eschewed De Venecia’s proposition as he did not want the independence of his office compromised.
“I wish to thank you and the others for electing me in absentia as Chairman of the Council for Moral Revolution…While I agree with the need for moral transformation of all of us, I regret to decline the position in view of the inhibitions of my office as Chief Justice,” Puno wrote the former speaker of the House of Representatives.
However, on Monday, Puno launched the “Moral Force Movement” (MFM) to a cheering crowd of students, religious organizations, and members of the judiciary.
One reason for his sudden turnabout is the fact that the MFM has no politician in the group. Puno tapped civic and religious leaders instead to be the convenors of the movement.
The MFM core group is composed of the following personalities:
- Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chair Henrietta de Villa;
- Far Eastern University (FEU) Law school Dean Andres Bautista;
- retired Brigadier General Jaime Echeverria, president and chair of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO);
- Dr. Milwida Guevara, one of the leaders of the Movement for Good Governance (MGG);
- Emerito Nacpil, retired bishop of the United Methodist Church of the Philippines from 1980-2000;
- Marixi Prieto, chair of the Philippine Daily Inquirer;
- Noorain Sabdula, one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines in 2008;
- Monsignor Gerardo Santos, president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Puno for president?
But with only three months left before the deadline for the filing of the certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections, speculations will inevitably crop up that Puno’s moral force is actually a vehicle for his impending presidential campaign.
De Villa, however, belied the MFM would support eventually support Puno for president. “It’s (MFM) not pushing for Chief Justice Puno. We’re pushing for moral values,” she told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in an earlier phone interview.
De Villa added that the MFM, while open to support from other groups, is cautious in engaging other organizations openly endorsing candidates in next year’s elections.
FEU’s Bautista said that if Puno decides to throw his hat into the political ring, he will have to disengage from the MFM.
Puno has sought to convince the public that he has no political ambition. He said in his speech on Monday that a “social movement, not a political movement” is the panacea to the country’s problems.
MFM not apolitical
The MFM describes itself as “neither pro- nor anti- administration, but it is not apolitical and neutral since it will stand up for political righteousness.”
Its objective is to see “transformational leadership” in 2010 through a voter’s education program. MGG’s Guevara said that their main benchmark for the credibility of candidates is their track record – how many promises they kept, how many they broke.
The focus will not be on specific issues, such as the debate on the reproductive health (RH) bill, for instance, or charter change. The MFM core group and its members have their own views about these.
Santos, in particular, led the CEAP in an interfaith rally against charter change in 2008. He also signed an ad on CEAP’s objection to the RH bill.
With limited funds, the MFM will bank on the strength of volunteerism to achieve its goals and implement its programs.
PDI’s Prieto said that in case they have to seek help from other organizations, it will not be in exchange for anything since they do not want to be “indebted” to anybody.
The MFM has started to gather possible volunteers. On Monday, it made the attendees during the launch sign a “commitment slip” to MFM.
They were asked what help they could offer, from something as specific as becoming a PPCRV, MGG, or NAMFREL (National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections) volunteer to something as general as not electing anyone “who bribes, cheats, lies, nor tolerate anyone who does.”
An incumbent chief justice’s involvement with a movement is not without potential controversy since it could raise questions of impropriety.
However, Atty. Marlon Manuel, coordinator of the Alternative Law Group, believes there is nothing wrong with having a chief justice mobilize people to push for better governance.
“He also heads a branch of the government,” Manuel said, which means it’s also his duty to push for reforms.
A Court of Appeals (CA) justice, who asked not to be named, said that it is unlikely that judges will see something wrong with the chief justice’s work with the MFM, including the involvement of religious organizations in the movement.
He said there is nothing wrong if Puno cites the need for a moral force. Religious organizations are also free to back him up.
FEU’s Bautista said Puno is merely exercising his duties as a citizen.
“First, you have to look at Chief Justice Reynato Puno…He is also a citizen like you and me,” he said.
The MFM has emphasized that “Chief Justice Reynato Puno convened the Moral Force Movement as a private citizen concerned about the deterioration of Philippine society.”
Puno should inhibit?
If the leaders and members of the MFM are involved in cases that are before or are brought to the SC, one query that could come is: should Puno inhibit himself?
This issue could come up in the case of PDI’s Prieto. Her family’s company, the Sunvar Realty Development Corp., was recently sued by the Office of the Solicitor General for allegedly using the land formerly owned by the National Power Corp. (NPC) in Makati City.
The case is pending at the Makati Regional Trial Court. In case it reaches the SC, Prieto believes that it would not raise questions of impropriety on Puno.
“The MFM is a movement, it’s not about personalities,” she told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
Dean Antonio La Viña, head of the MFM secretariat, told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that everything has to be done by the rules. He said there is really no clear cut rule on inhibition. He said “the strategy is to stay away from issues that could come to the court or to stay above the fray.”
Bautista believes Puno will do the right thing if and when these issues come up before the Supreme Court. “If and when such an occasion arises, he will know what to do,” he said.
But Vincent Lazatin, convenor of the Supreme Court Appointments Watch, took a different viewpoint.
“It is wise for the chief justice to inhibit,” he said, as his “special relationship” with the group amounts to identifiable ties.
Movement for Good Governance
Community Organizing Workshop
April 18, 2009
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Hardin Creekside Resort
Participants will learn more about MGG and how to mobilize their communities in support of MGG’s goals. Please see MGG’s community organizing manual for an idea of what to expect. If you’re interested in attending and/or if you have any questions, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pass on this invitation to anyone whom you think will be interested. Recruiting 10 million citizens for change is a tall order and we need all the help we can get! Hope to see you there.
* How to get there
If you’re commuting: Take German Espiritu bus line on Edsa Northbound. The Balagtas terminal is right in front of the resort.
If you’re driving: From Metro Manila, take the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLE) going to Bulacan. Exit on the Bocaue Gate of the NLE after the Marilao Gate but before you reach the Bocaue Toll Barrier. After exiting, turn left going to Bocaue. When you see a 7-11 convenience store on your right, you have reached McArthur Highway. Turn right on McArthur Highway going to Balagtas. You will pass the Balagtas Municipal Hall and get to a busy forked junction near the Balagtas public market. Follow the larger road on the right (McArthur Highway). When you see, on your right, the Meralco branch office at Balagtas, turn left on the private road across Meralco and just after the Ultra Mega Supermarket. This private road will take you to Hardin Creekside. View map
Abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak: A new movement in search of 10 million voters who will support reform-oriented, pro-good governance candidates in next year’s May national and local elections was formally launched February 3.
At least 300 citizens–professionals, workers, urban poor, youths, former government officials–met at Robinsons Galleria Tuesday evening for the official launch of the Movement for Good Governance (MGG).
“We are looking for 10 million Filipinos who will elect in 2010 a new government we deserve,” declared former Finance Undersecretary Milwida Guevara, chief executive officer of Synergeia Inc., an NGO working to improve access to basic education.
In an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak, Guevara said the MGG seeks to “enable people to come together so that we can have 10 million votes to support good candidates” in next year’s elections.
‘Juana Change’ on YouTube
The seeds of the MGG social marketing campaign were actually planted last year with the launching on YouTube of four videos of “Juana Change,” a character played by actress Mae Paner. The short clips seek to promote love of country, fight corruption, and promote good citizenship.
Three new short videos were premiered that evening at Indiesine, Robinsons Galleria’s cinema for independent films, which also served as a fund-raising activity for the MGG.
Paner, who has appeared in some TV commercials, was the star at the launch. Wearing a small garterized umbrella on her head, a “Juana Change” T-shirt, and red pants, she asked the audience: “Juana Change (Wanna change)?…. Ang sagot, Juana Change din (The answer is also wanna change).”
She said the videos were produced free of charge by concerned citizens of the Convergence Team, which includes scriptwriter Rody Vera and director Sockie Fernandez.
“We in the Convergence Team are part of the MGG. Our goal is to serve the country. Our objectives cannot be achieved by just one brave person. We need many brave citizens. If we are many, then we can do a lot in 2010,” she said.
From virals to grassroots
Susan Quimpo, a member of the team, said it was time to shift the MGG’s campaign from the virals to the grassroots. As Paner told the audience at the premiere night, “We want to go national, we don’t want to be just in YouTube.”
Paner said she initially thought that the Juana Change scripts were too harsh, but scriptwriter Vera told her they merely convey the “truth” about what’s happening in the Philippines.
The key messages of the first four videos are:
She said the sharing of the videos has been able to generate interest in a movement for change, but it needs more supporters and funding.
“We’re glad with the result of Juana Change. Because you’ve forwarded the videos, they’re being discussed, and so there are many of us here today,” she said. “We want to continue but we need your help.”
“Juana Change is one of the stalwarts of the MGG,” said Guevara. “We use satire, all forms of strategies to be able to drive home the message that we deserve better.”
Ricky Xavier of the Movement for HOPE, said the MGG’s goal is to “recruit, unite, and organize people and groups in order to build up 10 million supporters who will elect candidates of integrity and competence.”
He said the campaign will use a “multi-level marketing approach” where each new recruit will be asked to bring in 10 other individuals to the MGG.
“If NAMFREL [National Movement for Free Elections] had 500,000 volunteers in 1986, our goal is one million volunteer-citizens by November 2009. This will significantly affect the results of the election,” Xavier said. “We believe that together, and with divine help, we can change the kind of political leadership and governance we’ve had because we deserve better.”
Antonio La Viña, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that one of the challenges of the MGG is how to translate their ideas into action.
“The challenge is to work hard. Having the right motivation, having faith in the people is a good thing, but you have to translate that into action,” he said.
“I don’t think the problem is whether the persons are there, but whether we’re able to translate this urge for change, this desire for change into an organization and into numbers. So I’m not saying it will happen because it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” La Viña said.
However, he said that with new technologies like the internet and mobile phones, it’s much easier now to get people to support a cause.
“And the one thing that wasn’t there in past efforts was technology to connect people to each other. Before, it was very expensive to organize all over the Philippines. Now, with one video, you can get people to come together,” he said, noting that mobile phone ownership has spread to the grassroots.
“It’s a first effort to try to really use technology to reach as many people. Our goal is 10 million voters by end of December, which we can say is a reform vote,” he added.
Philippine Daily Inquirer: A critical mass of 10 million voters is what a new movement aims to mobilize to bring about good governance ahead of and beyond the 2010 elections.
Movement for Good Governance (MGG), a coalition of reform-minded organizations, business leaders and individuals, has three long-term goals—voter registration and empowerment, election reform and leadership development.
But it is focusing on the 2010 elections as a major opportunity to exercise good governance and elect new leaders, the group said in a press briefing on Friday.
The organizations at the core of the coalition are Kaya Natin, Youth Vote, Young Public Servants, Hope, Transparent Election.org, Reform Coalition and RCN Visition 2010.
Some of its key movers are Milwida Guevara, a former finance undersecretary; Guillermo Luz, a former Makati Business Club executive director; information technology expert Gus Lagman; artist and youth leader Jaime Garchitorena; retired Gen. Jose Almonte and comedian “Juana Change.”
According to Guevara, the strength of MGG is how it has put together “a group of ordinary people who want to make a difference, who have hope and who would like to put a claim that this is our country.”
Guevara, president of the Synergeia Foundation which works with local government units in improving basic education, said MGG was not endorsing any particular candidate for president but “it’s possible that via an organic process ahead of the elections, views may converge to endorse a set of leaders.”
With regard to the first of its goals, the MGG will support the registration of young and first-time voters starting this month, mobilize 10 million voters to sign up and support good governance reforms and then organize communication platforms like public debates to help Filipinos understand the issues better and choose candidates wisely.
With respect to election reforms, MGG seeks effective automation to achieve transparent and faster canvassing of voters.
“Let’s use technology not only to prevent cheating but to make the elections more transparent,” said Lagman, of Transparent Election.org, who proposes the uploading of electoral results to the Internet after the manual canvassing of votes in the schools.
Luz said the country must fix the electoral system so that good candidates would be encouraged to run for office.
He said an online system would allow the candidates, voters, watchers the media and even the overseas Filipinos to keep track of poll results.
“Everybody will have power of information at their fingertips and that makes 40 million of us poll watchers, far better than the half a million that Namfrel can put up,” said Luz, formerly executive director of the National Movement for Free Elections.
Lagman, who was also IT chief at Namfrel, has designed a program called “Open Election System” that can speed up the canvassing of votes.
MGG seeks to encourage and empower grassroots and overseas Filipinos to monitor election results in real time and use available technology such as mobile phones and the Internet to protect the sanctity of the votes.
The coalition also seeks to guarantee the ability of overseas Filipinos to participate in and possibly influence the 2010 elections.
On leadership development, MGG seeks to identify, empower and support “progressive political leaders who are sincere and effective in promoting reforms towards good governance.”
“We want to build awareness, get people to run, get good candidates to run, get people to register and get poll watchers from all walks of life,” Luz said.
Almonte, who was national security adviser to President Fidel Ramos, said that the mandate for Charter change must come directly from the people.
To ensure that any constitutional amendments would not benefit incumbent leaders, Almonte has proposed a referendum to be held simultaneously with the 2010 elections to ask the people if they wanted the Constitution amended.
If incumbent officials or those elected in 2010 would not benefit from the changes, Filipinos would likely vote “yes” in such a referendum, he said.