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Would Change do us Good?

They’ve been trying to do it for over twenty years now; and they can’t seem to actually do it. If I remember right, as far back as the Ramos administration, legislators have been trying to change the Constitution, the 1987 Philippine Constitution, that small book with a yellow cover that we used as textbook in our Pol Sci subject in college. The Constitution was barely a decade old by then. Did they hate it that much? Is the Constitution really that unlikeable? Back then, they wanted to shift the system to parliamentary. In the Estrada administration, another attempt was made. This time, the campaign for economic reforms started to buzz. During the Arroyo administration, similar attempts were made. Sigaw ng Bayan people’s initiative was even campaigned for amendments. This movement was later rejected by the Supreme Court. In the Noynoy Aquino administration, they were at it again with the intentions to shift to federalism. In the following administration, the President, Rodrigo Duterte himself pushed for charter change. There were significant movements, but we’re still here, still the same Constitution. Now, we’re under the Marcos Jr. administration, they’re at it again. In case you didn’t notice, right after the Cory Aquino administration during which it was drafted, lawmakers and/or some groups have been trying hard to change it in every administration that followed. As much as some people want to modify it, there are people who want to maintain it as much. As a result, all attempts at changing the constitution have been unsuccessful, and as such have become a waste of time. Maybe, it would have been better if they had focused their efforts on more productive endeavors. Well, maybe, they had not been completely useless. I suppose the past propositions exist in files in the Congress and the Senate which could serve as literature to learn from at the present and in the future.

In the time of President Ramos, there was People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) (which was dismissed by the Supreme court for lack of enabling laws, but you have to admit that it’s one clever acronym for advocacy). In the term of President Erap, there was CONCORD or Constitutional Correction for Development (another clever acronym). There was the Sigaw ng Bayan Initiative which was also dismissed by the Supreme Court. It seems that the SC doesn’t like signature campaigns. Then there was the Constituent Assembly which was sometimes poked fun at because it was sometimes shortened to Con Ass. In the term of President Duterte, there was a ConCom or constitutional commission which came closest to actual change in drafting the proposed Bayanihan Constitution. Whatever happened to it? Well, buzz has it that even political allies opposed the changes. (if you ask me, through its history, the most clever names were PIRMA and CONCORD.)

Usual proponents are congressmen and senators, especially those who push for federalism. Usual opposition are their colleagues themselves, congressmen and senators. But then they are usually joined by religious groups, left-wing groups and sometimes, business organizations. There had even been times that opposition to charter change had amassed hundreds of thousand of people in rallies, as if changing the constitution is a heinous crime in itself.

Usual reasons for change have been economic reforms and shift to parliamentary or federal form of government. They say that what’s holding back the nation’s economic progress are constitutional provisions that limit or prohibit foreign companies from owning property in the Philippines; so they opt to go to Thailand or Vietnam. They also say that a unicameral, parliamentary, federal form of government would be better for the Philippines. Usual oppositions have been fears that politicians would insert provisions to extend their terms and protect their interests. Does that mean that all incumbent politicians have sought or presently seek to extend their terms in office? There have also been complaints that charter change is not timely. Through the two decades, it has never been timely. When will it be timely?

Looking back and weighing the arguments of both sides, those in favor of charter change seem to present a more sound proposition. Opposition has seemed to be based on fears, paranoia and a questionable concept of timeliness, without presenting a constructive proposition for concerns raised by the other side in business and bureaucracy. On the other hand, how certain is it that provisions on foreigners owning property would push the nation’s economy? Maybe, that has been a safeguard from another bigger problem. How certain is it that the nation would fare better in a unicameral, parliamentary, federal government? We may have forgotten what happened after the last time they tried that.

Colossians 3:10: “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”


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