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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Time to revise the Constitution (3)

The abolition of term limits along with a strengthened two-party system whose candidates are chosen in party conventions would eventually put an end to dynasties and the succession by blood relations which have brought us back to feudal times

In this series on political changes of our Constitution, we have thus far proposed a retention of the presidential form of government, a two-party system, tandem voting for all elected executive officials, the retention of a bicameral Congress, with senators elected not nationally, but through their respective regions, and a six-year term for all elected officials.

We further proposed the abolition of term limits as well as the party-list system, both of which are key elements in the 1987 charter.

The abolition of term limits along with a strengthened two-party system whose candidates are chosen in party conventions would eventually put an end to dynasties and the succession by blood relations which have brought us back to feudal times.

I have an open mind about giving the president a second term of six years, as this would ensure continuity of good policies and good performance, subject to impeachment as a means of removing a bad chief executive.

But if constitutional revision is to be initiated now, Pres. Marcos Jr. must foreswear being a beneficiary of a two-term limit, as this would open him to charges of promoting personal and selfish interest, and that could derail the move to correct a flawed fundamental law.

I do not believe our economy is prepared for a federal system, especially if division will be along ethno-linguistic lines, or according to the present administrative regions, as usually proposed by those pushing for a shift to federalism against our current unitary system.

There will be so many regions which cannot sustain their economies, aside from bloating the bureaucracy even more.

In a previous article in this space years ago, when the Duterte administration assembled a consultative body to study a federal set-up, I posited that for economic sustainability, an ideal division of the country would be for (1) all provinces in Luzon north of Metro Manila as one federal state or province; (2) all provinces in Luzon south of Metro Manila including MIMAROPA as another although Palawan may opt to be part of Mindanao or the Visayas; (3) all of the Visayas as another federal state; (4) all of Mindanao as another, while retaining the (5) BARMM as a special federal state.

But current and foreseeable economic difficulties make this difficult to operate successfully, even if they have relatively equal demographics and competitive economic strengths.

Now to another of my personal proposals which may elicit a howl of protest among our politicians: Abolish the city and municipal councils and the provincial boards.

Replace the local government legislatures by constituting all municipal mayors as the provincial legislature, and the barangay chieftains taking turns as the city or municipal legislature.

Where there are too many towns such as Pangasinan, Bohol and Cebu, the elected mayors could take turns of three years each to form the board.

Similarly, where there are more than 30 barangay captains, they could take turns at the city or municipal legislative boards at 2 or 3 year terms.

Thus, governance would be akin to corporate boards, with the stockholders (in this case the mayors or the barangay chiefs) drafting the policies and approving the programs of the LGU.

This proposal, dissimilar to the US system which we have largely adopted, has historical roots, where the datu or rajah had a council of tribal leaders responsible for their specific territorial jurisdictions.

Thus, the local legislatures would be active managers of their municipalities or barangays, and have a better grasp of ground realities and needs, instead of councilors or board members who meet about twice a week for four to five hours each session.

But to make this effective, we should strengthen our barangays and rationalize their proportionate numbers.

An egregious comparison may be made of Manila, with a population of 1.6 million and Quezon city with 2.7 million.

Yet, Manila has 897 barangays, while QC has 142. This anomaly is a carry-over from the seventies, which should have been corrected by now.

I reside in a Manila barangay with a voting population of less than 400 voters, while a street in Tondo for instance would have 20 times that number of voters.

It should be fairly easy to formulate a more equitable number of barangays in every town or city in the country based on population, land area and accessibility.

With the abolition of elected local legislatures and their substitution by mayors or barangay chiefs, governance would be more cost-efficient and service-effective.

What will happen now to the dispossessed councilors and board members? If they are worth their political salt, they should run in their respective barangays or municipalities.

I would also go for abolishing the Sangguniang Kabataan even if I wade into a lot of objections from bleeding young hearts eager to become future trapos.

Thus, we will have elections every six years where we will choose a president and his vice, a governor and his vice, as well as a mayor and his vice (if we are voters of a component municipality or city).

Add to that a congressman, and two senators. There would only be six names or tandems, five in the case of a chartered or highly urbanized city for the voter to write down.

We can do away with “smart” automation, and save a lot of money.

In the mid-term and not synchronously, we elect our barangay chief and four barangay kagawads for their six-year terms of office.

I submit that the less government officials we elect, the simpler and more effective governance would be.

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