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A defective Constitution

This essay is the third in a series of four which point out the numerous defects of the 1987 Constitution.  Far from being the “best constitution in the world” as touted by one of its surviving drafters, the 1987 Constitution drafted by the 1986 Constitutional Commission is a defective charter. 

In the last installment, it was pointed out that the charter has weak points in its provisions on citizenship, the electoral tribunals, autonomous regions, and multi-party elections for president and vice president.  This installment will take up other defects of the charter.

The 1987 Constitution should not have allowed the president and the vice president to come from different political parties.  When the president and the vice president do not belong to the same party, they are bound to distrust and oppose each other. 

Thus, the president will always suspect that the vice president (from a different political party) is plotting to succeed him at the soonest possible opportunity, a desire shared by the political party of the vice president. Thus, every project of the president, no matter how well-meaning, will always be discredited by the political opposition, in the hope that popular sentiment will force the president to resign from office, or help in the election of the vice president to the presidency in the next elections.

In a situation where the president and the vice president are from the same political party, there will be harmony in the executive department because the president will not be reluctant to have his vice president become his political successor.

Under the Constitution of the United States (US), the president and vice president have to run under the same political party.

Section 2, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution allows the trial of the president by the Senate, after he is impeached by the House of Representatives.  If the president is removed by the Senate, he is succeeded by the vice president.

If the president and the vice president belong to the same political party, then the senators trying the president can resolve the case judiciously, because if the president is removed from office, the presidency will still remain with the same political party. 

On the other hand, if the president and the vice president belong to opposing political parties, then the senators participating in the trial will resolve the case on the basis of political expediency.  This means the senators who belong to the political party of the president can be expected to vote for the acquittal of the president (and in the process keep the presidency for their party), while the senators from the opposing political party can be expected to vote for the president’s conviction (and in the process, seize the presidency for their party).  Under this arrangement, politics will be the main consideration, and the guilt or innocence of the president becomes secondary.  Such an arrangement will make a mockery of the public accountability of government officials.

The bicameral Congress created by the 1987 Constitution was copied from the US Constitution by the 1986 Constitutional Commission without understanding why the American model is bicameral.

At first, the drafters of the US Constitution wanted a unicameral legislature where the individual states will have as many representatives proportionate to their population.  This idea sat well with the heavily populated states of New York and Pennsylvania, but it was frowned upon by the smaller states of Delaware and Rhode Island, which would have limited representation in the legislature on account of their small state populations. 

To address this inequity, the drafters decided upon a bicameral legislature —Congress, composed of a Senate, where each state will be entitled to two senators regardless of their respective populations, and a House of Representatives, where each state will be entitled to as many representatives in proportion to their state population. 

Since the legislative districts throughout the Philippines are, more or less, equitably distributed, there is no need for a bicameral legislature in the country.  Having a senate is impractical because it unduly protracts the legislative process, especially where both the Senate and the House come up with irreconcilable versions of a law.  It is also expensive because more legislators mean additional expenses for the people.  Moreover, a senatorial campaign in the Philippines is more expensive than one for a seat in the House.

The Congress of the Philippines has no titular leader. It is jointly headed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.  They often bicker with each other to show to the public who is the real head of Congress.   

In the US, the vice president is the presiding officer of the US Senate.  That makes the Speaker of the House of Representatives the recognized head of America’s legislature.          

Surprisingly, the Philippines is the only country in the free world with a legislative chamber elected on a national constituency.  Because senators are elected nationwide like the president, all senators believe that they deserve to become president, too.  Thus, senators engage in more politics than actual legislative work­—a good reason for the abolition of the Senate.

The 1987 Constitution’s experiment with party-list representatives is a nightmare.  Although it was envisioned as a means of allowing marginalized sectors to organize themselves for purposes of legislative representation, the system ended up with rich and powerful personalities supposedly representing marginalized sectors.  There was a time when the son of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sat in the House as a party-list representative of security guards.  He was the subject of intense criticism for that. 

Likewise, the 1987 Constitution has too many unnecessary provisions, many of which tend to confuse or dilute the meaning of the more important provisions.  For instance, Section 10, Article XVI which calls for a “policy environment for the full development of Filipino capability” and “the emergence of communication structures” for the “balanced flow of information,” is vague and empty rhetoric.  If it is a state policy, it belongs to Article II, not Article XVI.  

(CONTINUED NEXT WEEK)

Topics: 1987 Constitution , best constitution in the world , political parties
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