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Amending the Philippine Constitution Now is a Must

The Lower House of the Philippine Congress has voted to amend the Constitution through a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con). According to the prime movers of the Charter Change (Cha-Cha), proposed amendments will focus on the economic provisions purportedly to hasten economic development of the country. The fact that the chosen route is through a Con-Con, then it goes without saying, that the whole Charter is on the table.

Opposition to Cha-Cha is getting louder with attendant moralizing (i.e., we have more pressing problems, it is not the right time), partisanship (i.e., opposing for the sake of opposing because they’re not in power), distrust (i.e., will extend their terms to perpetuate themselves in power, the president and the speaker are relatives).

In other words, opposing Cha-Cha is driven mostly by interest groups. The oligarchs want the economic provisions to stay because they want to stay as billionaires and amending it would affect their profit margins. Under the current provisions, the gap between the rich and the poor has become wider. So, keeping it as is, benefits them more than the poor.

The Left does not want the Charter amended because they heard whispers that the Partylist provisions will be eliminated. They can’t make up their minds because on one hand, they oppose EDCA but EDCA is legal. Meaning, they’re anti-American but love the American style Constitution that allows American troops in the country.

Supporters of the defeated presidential candidate opine that there are more pressing problems facing the country like the South China Sea row, poverty and corollary issues like health, education, jobs, kitchen table issues, and corruption. Question -Post EDSA, was there ever a time when these issues did not exist? No. They’ve been around even under a Constitutional democracy. As a matter of fact, one can say definitively that these things thrive under the present Constitution.

Many former presidents tried to dance with the Cha-Cha but were frustrated by opposing voices because they say that “it is not the right time.” Would there ever be a right time to do amendments because population explosion in the Philippines will guarantee that poverty and disparities in health, education, and the high price of galunggong will always be around.

The fear that the politicians will lift term limits is just that, fear. With term limits, politicians find a way to maintain their dynasty by playing the musical chair between the incumbent, spouse, children, and grandchildren. Political dynasty is prohibited by the current Constitution but without an enabling law, politicians are able to skirt the provisions.

The idea behind term limits is to prevent presidents from being the pinuno for life. What is wrong with having people serve on their merits? In the U.S., many legislators from both sides of the aisle have served for decades with distinction. Are Filipinos saying that their compatriots are incapable of serving honorably until they qualify for the Septuagenarian subsidy?

A living Constitution means it evolves and changes over time because the original text or understanding is no longer suited, or its relevance could not be discerned by the framers at the time. Amendments bring it to the present realm, understanding, or values.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times. Abolishing slavery, introduction of the Bill of Rights, right of suffrage for women and African Americans, freedom and equality were amendments that legislators recognized needed to be enshrined as inviolable provisions.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution Preamble has noble intentions. “Build a just and humane society,” is a pipedream because the concept behind it is hard to legislate much less be achieved by the citizenry. Equal opportunity laws have been in the books for a long time but the widening gap between the rich and the poor ensures that such a conceptual society is never achieved where those with more, help those with less.

“Establish a government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good,” is nebulous because the Philippine government is not truly a representative government although officials are elected by the people. When politicians get elected, their immediate priority of reelection drives what they do. Even the “hope of our Motherland,” the youth become traditional politicians the moment power has a chance to corrupt their ideals.

“Conserve and develop our patrimony,” sounds like a bumper sticker because in reality, it is all about “the economy, stupid.” A humane society is one that respects the rights of people and the environment. How many mountains were leveled to fill the pockets of a few? How many corals or marine life were destroyed or poisoned, forest destroyed, people displaced or killed because of greed?

“Secure for ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy,” provides such grandiosity on paper but fails to capture the imagination of Juan. Has the Philippines been truly independent? Presidents will say that they will pursue an independent foreign policy but in reality, it is a policy anchored on a foreign power’s vested interest. Can we call vote buying, election related killings, ambuscades of elected officials, corrupt government blessings of democracy?

“Under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.” Seriously? Why are students still dying from fraternity hazing? Why are journalists being killed for doing their job? Why are there so many incarcerated Filipinos for crimes of opportunity? Why are there millions of Filipinos living in abject poverty? Why are there so many former military people implicated in crimes?

It is time to wake up and realize that Philippine democracy is broken despite its great promise. After 37 years, how much longer should Filipinos experiment before they could secure for themselves the true blessings of democracy? Everything is “blowing in the wind,” as Bob Dylan wrote in 1963. How much more poverty can a man take before you call him a man? How many deaths will it take,” as Dylan asked, before we know that “too many people have died?”

Mountains are already being washed to sea. Injustice is everywhere but we can’t seem to hear their cry. Pollution makes it hard to see the sky in the Metropolis. People are languishing in jail because they were hungry and needed food and shelter. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, and it is changing the form of government to Federalism. Why? Politicians run peoples’ lives, they buy their votes, and they enrich themselves.

In a federal constitutional republic, regions or states share sovereignty with the federal government – an indivisible union of autonomous regions. Each region will always have representation in Congress (or Parliament). Autonomy allows a region to pursue its dreams and be prosperous independent from Imperial Manila, except in areas with federal jurisdictions like defense, immigration and education.

Anytime is the right time to review the effectiveness of the Constitution because amendments or switching to a new form of government is a long-term investment that allows framers to adopt the Charter to what the people need or aspire to uplift lives.


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