“Our multiparty system within a unitary presidential form of government has created mock political parties which have become mere flags of convenience for personal ambitions”
The Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, chaired by Sen. Robin Padilla, has started hearings on the issue of amending or revising the 1987 Constitution.
The neophyte senator, who topped the recent senatorial elections, stated in the initial committee meeting that “we Filipinos must respond to the call to improve and enhance our Constitution if needed,” while giving assurance that he would “keep an open mind for views, opinions and suggestions to enhance our Constitution.”
This writer has long been advocating the revision of our Constitution, whether in this space or in other newspapers, and in interviews over broadcast media.
So I fully support Sen. Padilla’s call, and it certainly is about time that we take a look at, nay, thoroughly review, the charter which was forged under the unusual circumstances of the immediate post-Marcos years.
Thus, the 48 commissioners appointed by President Cory Aquino drafted a charter where many provisions were reactive to the preceding 1973 Constitution which further amended legalized President Marcos’ dictatorial powers.
And in the euphoria of the early Cory years, little public debate over the 1987 draft submitted by the appointed commissioners preceded public ratification.
About the only single argument that elicited the rushed public approval was that the new charter would hasten the transition to a democratic order.
And indeed the immediately succeeding elections after the ratification of the charter gave the public a taste of electoral sovereignty, from the bicameral legislature in 1987, to local government units in 1988, to the first presidential election synchronized with all other elective posts in 1992.
But succeeding years of democratic governance since 1987 or 35 years ago, have shown many flaws in the charter that now call for revision, or re-writing, and piece-meal amendments will not do.
The 1987 Constitution gave us formal institutions of democratic order, but its implementation and the many laws based on its provisions and restrictions have not given the ordinary Filipino the real substance of democracy, which is people empowerment.
On the political front, we are now ruled by a legion of entrenched dynasties from north to south. Our multiparty system within a unitary presidential form of government has created mock political parties which have become mere flags of convenience for personal ambitions.
This multiplicity of parties has in turn resulted in massive turncoatism or coalitions of convenience, depending on who gets elected as president of the land.
Worse, many so-called parties have become instruments for economic protection and enhancement of economic oligarchies who finance and maintain a stable of toadies in Congress and the LGUs.
The introduction of the party-list system, ostensibly intended to give marginalized sectors of society an opportunity to be part of policy-making, has degenerated into a negation of purpose.
What we now have is a plethora of ridiculously-named parties with little or no defined advocacy, and captured by the political dynasts or the economic elite.
On the social front, there has been little uplifting of the people’s plight.
The poor have become poorer, and the future of their succeeding generations dimmed.
Poverty levels have increased even by the most liberal definitions which official data give out as thresholds of poverty.
Healthcare and education, the most important vehicles towards social upliftment, have been deteriorating at alarming rates.
The economy has become a monopoly of the few, through regulatory capture of the most important industries and services.
The rent economy has become institutionalized by the use of power and influence, and even a well-intentioned but poorly implemented agrarian reform has been corrupted by land conversion and the lack of a cogent land use plan.
Restrictive economic provisions, although liberalized by recent legislation, hardly attracts much needed foreign direct investments, which impacts on job generation and the lack of technological innovation.
There are so many other reasons why we need to revise the 1987 Constitution, but space allows me to shorten my arguments through the preceding paragraphs.
And the time is just right. Revising the Constitution is best done at the beginning of a new president’s term, especially one with a huge electoral mandate. To do it later would merely raise suspicions of wanting to stay in power beyond the terms of reference of his incipient election.
As this will be a series of articles on personal opinions and proposals regarding constitutional revision, I will begin with the method by which we ought to revise.
The present charter gives us three modalities: a Constitutional Convention composed of delegates elected by the people; the two houses of Congress as a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending or revising the charter; or a rather nebulously defined people’s initiative.
The last is tedious and difficult to operationalize, and favors the entrenched political players.
The second similarly favors the dynasts and their economic captors, and will not result in meaningful change, besides the difficulty of getting the 24-man Senate elected by a national constituency to vote jointly with the district-elected House of Representatives, almost a third of which is composed of party-list members who will surely oppose their abolition or reformation.
Those who oppose the election of delegates to a convention point to the expense of another political exercise so soon after the recently concluded elections which would entail much expense at a time of economic difficulties.
We thus propose a compromise: Congress passes, at the request of Pres. Marcos Jr., the election of a mere 51 or at most 68 delegates by regional representation, not by district or province.
We have 17 administrative regions, including the Cordillera (CAR), Region 4-A, as distinguished form mainland Southern Tagalog, NCR and BARMM apart from the numerically assigned Regions 1 (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan) to 13 (Caraga).
Instead of pro-rating the number of delegates according to population, let us give a chance for the smaller, poorer regions to have equal representation.
Thus 3 or 4 elected delegates per region will constitute a smaller convention of either 51 or 68, which will be more effective and time-bound and not be consumed in endless debates as a Congress of 320 members.
We can hold the election of delegates this year in lieu of what Congress shall likely postpone — the barangay and SK elections.
Thus, the Constitutional Convention can begin the process of public consultations, debates, and drafting of a new charter by the first quarter of 2023 and submit the same for ratification before or during the 2025 mid-term elections. (To be continued)