In earlier columns, I asked whether there was really a pressing need for constitutional revision at this time, given that our country faces many challenges on multiple fronts.
Among these priorities: The war on illegal drugs, which has claimed the lives of more than 4,500. This is the figure of the Philippine National Police while other estimates place the count between 10,000 and 14,000. Those killed are mostly from poor communities.
Extrajudicial and vigilante killings here have also been condemned by international rights groups.
And then, there is the war on corruption. The President announced he was hell bent on ending corruption in government but doubts surfaced after he started reappointing his friends to other agencies after he had removed them for supposedly having a “whiff of corruption” about them.
There, too, is the war on criminality. But killings have become all too common these days—judges, mediamen, priests and local executives are targets.
All these, to me, are the true state of the nation. President Duterte should not gloss over these when he delivers his State of the Nation Address next week.
He uttered many promises when he was still campaigning. For example, he promised to end “endo” or the contractualization of labor. Employers do this so they would not have to pay their workers the wages and benefits due those on regular status.
These problems are worsened by inflation. It is the poor who are suffering! Inflation is the fault of government because it borrows more money than it should just to pay its bills.
When the supply of money printed by the Bangko Sentral expands rapidly compared to the supply of goods and services, the value of money declines.
Politicians say inflation is not caused by greedy businesses or by tax reform, or even the government’s massive infrastructure program.
With inflation getting worse, poverty consequently rises. The poor’s woes are compounded because they are no longer able to afford basic commodities for their daily sustenance.
To my mind, charter change and the shift to a federal system of government are distractions at this point. Government should be focusing on other priorities. And the sentiments of the people, as revealed in a recent Pulse Asia survey, bear this out.
The problem is that President Duterte does not seem to listen to the people.
Lest I am misunderstood, I am all for Charter change. I believe that constitutions are not cast in stone and must periodically be reviewed to correct anomalies and reflect changing times. I also believe in a parliamentary form of government practiced by our Southeast Asian neighbors.
More than that, however, I believe that there is a time for everything.
* * *
Taking into consideration all arguments for and against Charter change and the shift to federalism, I am beginning to doubt the timetable for the plebiscite.
Santa Banana, the Senate and the House of Representatives cannot even agree on what mode they should adopt to change the Charter.
If a constituent assembly is adopted, the next question is whether both chambers of Congress would vote jointly or separately. This issue alone can take so much time to resolve.
There are also contentious provisions in the proposed federal constitution that are subject to debates and discussion. Among these are the proposed cutting short of the terms of the president and vice president to give way to a transitional government.
I ask: Is there enough time for all this before the ratification of the new constitution?
There are good provisions and there are contentious ones. For example, a college degree would now be a requirement for anyone running for president, if only to ensure there would be no nuisance candidates who would run. I think another requirement should be added—a candidate for President must be of good moral character and integrity,
I like the provision that lifts restrictions on foreign investments. This has served as deterrent to the entry of foreign direct investments here.
I would go further, with regard to the requirement for 100-percent Filipino ownership, for example in the media, because there is need for modern technology.
A contentious provision is the creation of four layers of high courts aside from the Supreme Court. This will be a problem for the judiciary.