Why a Revolutionary Government is not a good idea

by Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivering a speech. | Photo courtesy of pcoo.gov.ph

A group of overzealous and self-proclaimed supporters of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) that included some incumbent officials of his administration met and launched a drive supposedly to convince him to declare a revolutionary government. PRRD had publicly stated that he had nothing to do with this group. Some members of his cabinet, and military and police leaders have expressed opposition to it.

The expressed purpose of such a revolutionary government, according to the group, is to adopt a new constitution that will provide for a federal system of government. The expressed purpose is limited and precise. The goals implied in the name “revolutionary government” may not be apparent to them. The possible consequences are uncertain and dangerous. The people advocating that kind of government wishes to give up the liberties that most of us who value a life of freedom are unwilling to surrender.

The question that thinking people should consider is whether or not such a revolutionary government will serve as an effective means to solve the problems that drive the group to advocate for its declaration. There was a time when a revolution meant a violent overthrow of an existing order. The government system adopted to achieve its goal(s), formed during or after the struggle is won, referred to as a revolutionary government. It does not fit the governments’ mold during and after the American Revolution for independence from the United Kingdom or the French Revolution of 1789 that overthrew a despotic monarch. Or even the Philippine version of a revolutionary government.

As the president and head of a dictatorial government (05/24/1898), Emilio Aguinaldo changed it by decree to a revolutionary government (06/23/1898) to defend and maintain the Philippine independence that it declared earlier. Note that the dictatorial government did not exist under a constitution, thus the decree power of Aguinaldo. The revolutionary government lived till January 23, 1899, with the First Philippine Republic’s inauguration established under the Malolos Constitution.

The first two revolutions succeeded. The Philippine revolutionary government was replaced even before its declared goals could be reached.

Should a revolutionary government be declared for the Philippines? The following are some arguments against it:

  1. Violate the constitution. PRRD will have to violate the constitution he swore to uphold and protect. PRRD himself will have to set aside the Philippine Constitution of 1987 under whose provisions he, the Congress members, judges, local government officials were elected, and whose powers are defined. A declaration of a revolutionary government will be an outright unconstitutional act. Under no constitution will PRRD govern. Like Ferdinand Marcos, he will be a dictator above the law, or under a body, crafted sooner or later, according to his preferences.
  2. Support of supermajority. PRRD already has powers his predecessors did not have. PPRD enjoys the support of Congress’s supermajority, unlike all past presidents, except Marcos, who did not. Such supermajority has enabled him to declare martial law and extend it more than once in Mindanao. He has the apparent undivided support of the armed forces, which is essential in a revolutionary government. He has an anti-terrorist law. What more can an extreme type of government add that the current government needs to achieve its lawful and legitimate objectives? Under these circumstances, PRRD does not require the inherent authoritarian or dictatorial prerogatives of a government existing under no legitimacy color. His actions now are, or at the least presumed, constitutional. Without insinuating anything to the contrary whatever, what PRRD needs are officials and subordinates in government as “public servants” and have the moral fibers to resist the irresistible temptation of money and the glitter of gold. Be it noted that it would take a reformed and transformed attitude of the people to solve them. It may sound old, worn-out, oft-repeated, and idealistic, but as important as a change in government officials’ ways, the governed themselves will have to change to effectuate a meaningful, enduring, and pervasive change.
  3. “Government of men and not of laws.” The revolutionary government advocates want us to exchange a constitution-based government that we have now with a “government of men and not of laws.” The French revolted against a king who ruled absolutely under the divine right theory of kings to enjoy individual freedoms. The American rose in arms to establish a democratic system of government. The group that has recently moved to have a revolutionary government wants us to go with them in the opposite direction. Why so?
  4. PRRD’s health condition. Given PRRD’s age and reported health condition, a revolutionary government will not last long under his stewardship. Even if he lives long enough to strive to achieve his publicly-declared goal, it won’t be very sure if he will govern effectively given that health condition. The top may be well-meaning, but the underlings do and commit acts that defeat the top’s avowed purpose(s), which is not around.
  5. Problem of succession. There will be a problem of succession. There is no constitution or fundamental law freely-ratified by the people (voters) in a revolutionary government. The sequence can be defined and provided, and the disorder is bound to result in the revolutionary leader’s incapacity or death. It does not matter how you call the leader of the revolutionary government. The bottom line is that he exercises power without restricting a constitution or fundamental law freely ratified by the people. History has numerous records of designated successors who died under suspicious circumstances. The suspicion of replacing the leader earlier than planned by the leader can cause the disappearance of a designated successor’s early demise. And instability in government will be the inevitable result.
  6. No lasting beneficial change. Revolutionary governments do no last long. History shows that revolutionary governments do not last long enough to have properly lasting beneficial change(s). The people will, in due time, revolt against their leaders that lasts as dictators.
  7. Federal system contrary to public clamor. A revolutionary government’s declaration to adopt a federal system of government runs counter to the people’s wishes. As noted earlier, the mandate of a revolutionary government is unconstitutional. The adoption of a federal system will worsen the situation. Earlier in PRRD’s term of office, a commission was formed to study the adoption of a constitution that will provide for a federal government system. The House of Representatives conducted public hearings about it. However, due to public clamor against it, as manifested in the social and written media, the plan was abandoned. To declare and adopt a revolutionary government for the avowed purpose of enabling adopting a federal government system will be contrary to what the general public has expressed. Though the government should not govern based on public opinion, blatantly disregarding it will be political suicide.

Based on the reasons cited, it will not be wise to declare a revolutionary government for the Philippines. Unless, of course, the overriding, though undeclared, the reason is to perpetuate oneself in power. Then, it will be a case of an emotion that supersedes all reasons.

What do you say, thinking people?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.