Nothing could be more silly than this rigmarole our leaders are playing insofar as revising the 1987 Constitution is concerned.
Everybody and his mother knows that what the president wants, he gets from the House of Representatives.
Conversely, what the president does not want, the HoR will not deliver.
Especially so when the Speaker is a first cousin. More so when a Deputy Majority Leader happens to be the president’s son.
By a vote of 301 to 7, HB 7352 calling for a Constitutional Convention was approved early last week, in a vote that could only be described as overwhelming.
Rep. Sandro Marcos of Ilocos Norte was one of the principal authors of the bill and preceding resolution.
Yet, the Senate President does not see the obvious signs, preferring to hold on to an earlier disclaimer from the president that charter change is not a priority.
Of course the president will not expose his hand publicly in a measure that is assuredly contentious, given the holders of the “sacred grail of 1987” will always find excuses to defer change, and anchor their objections not to the economic provisions contained therein (except the Left) but to the possibility of changing the political system, and supposedly with the insidious purpose of removing term limits.
That has always been the cry of those opposing charter change — “No” to term extension.
Then again, we must remember that a Constitution is not written for today; it is written for a long period in the nation’s life.
But seriously, pray tell, what is so great about the current political system?
Aside from its social justice provisions which must be retained, there is not much the political system provided for in the 1987 Constitution that has succeeded in alleviating the age-old poverty of numerous Filipinos.
The same holds true for the 1973 Marcos Constitution.
It was perhaps better when the fundamental law was written during the Commonwealth period, with the best minds of the country led by the “Seven Wise Men,” the likes of Recto and Laurel, who led the convention.
In all of the 36 years running towards 37, what the present political system has promoted is the complete control of our politics by family dynasties and economic oligarchs.
Even our party list system which was meant to give greater voice to the marginalized has been bastardized.
Add to this the capture of party-list seats in the HoR by wealthy contractors, wheeler-dealers, vested interest groups and the usual progeny of established dynasties.
Do we expect mere legislation to correct these ailments?
We have a chimera of growth, not development, and a little reprieve from the recessionary headwinds swirling all over the world only because we have the children and parents of the poor and middle class working their asses off in foreign countries to support extended families in the Philippines.
Absent that and our currently low per capita income levels compared to even Vietnam and Indonesia shall plunge to abysmal depths.
Truth is, we are able to import our food requirements on the back of perennial domestic shortages because the dollars our OFWs send back to their families fuel our consumption-driven economy.
Taking advantage of the demographic winter in many rich countries, our government even prides itself in the population being in a demographic “sweet spot” where many of our young brawns escape life in the farming countryside, and our young brains depleting our medical, engineering and technical talent pool.
Yet we give in to the simplistic rationale of cha-cha proponents that what ails the economy are the restrictions imposed by the 1987 Constitution.
China and Vietnam have restrictive provisions as well.
Land for commercial use can be leased to foreigners for the same number of years that we allow.
Condominium units can be purchased by foreigners in Danang, just as in BGC.
Neither China nor Vietnam are democracies in form such as ours, but then again, as Cory Aquino famously said, “democracy pays no dividends.”
Yet these countries reap multiples in foreign investments compared to the little that we attract.
The other lame reason given by those against charter change is that we should first pass laws that will address the current economic ills we are tormented with — inflation, low job creation, food insecurity.
To which I say: these problems can be addressed not by more laws but by the proper implementation of existing laws.
These problems are not caused by bad systems, but by bad practices of the people assigned to implement laws.
It is not economics, but bad politics that ails this country.
The culture of impunity is the result of bad governance and the rule of the entitled.
Corruption so gross, and the inefficiency in public service it brings is the result of bad politics.
A justice system that is flawed, favoring the rich and privileged and unfairly treating poor nobodies is also the result of patronage politics brought about by a failed political system.
And despite trillions of pesos in the budget where before billions sufficed, we have a woeful lack of infrastructure compared to many of our ASEAN neighbors, where priorities are skewed to favor the entitled.
The balderdash that lifting economic restrictions will cure our backwardness sucks.
But we cannot just catch a few crooks under this system.
Even when the evil they do are exposed by media, the justice system tarries and tarries and finally gets bought, and worse, the corrupt are re-elected by a terribly mis-educated electorate.
For as long as ours is a land where the leaders are chosen in easy to manipulate elections and government is of, by and for the rulers and the billionaire puppeteers who control them, we will continue to be hounded by mass poverty and gross inequality.
Let me add this: even if we lift economic restrictions, even if we launch Maharlika after Maharlika, for as long as our politics promotes and protects vested interests and fosters a rent economy, we will be where we are.
And as time goes on, things will get worse.
Which is why, especially in a time of worldwide economic storms that will impact negatively on our economy, our president should spend his political will on telling our people the ugly truth — that we need to change the way we practice our politics.
But that requires systemic change through a revised Constitution.
And together with giving the green light to a Constitutional Convention, our president must dispel any suspicion that he is out to prolong his stay in power, by stating that he was elected under the 1987 Constitution and will abide by the term it provided, just as Cory in her time dashed the whispers of family and bootlickers who wanted her to run again under a new charter framed by her appointees.
The Cory constitution of 1987 was a reaction to the 1973 Marcos Constitution. Both were forged under non-democratic periods: Marcos’ under martial rule; Cory’s during her revolutionary government.
Marcos railroaded the 1973 charter by decimating the political fortunes of the opposition; Cory appointed the framers of her Constitution.
In previous articles I have offered my thoughts on a better political system that would promote efficiency in governance at less public expense.
Our proposals may be too radical to the holders of power, but they will benefit our people and promote better government.
For starters, we should at least ask our people some basic questions:
Do they prefer to retain the presidential system instead of a parliamentary form?
Do they prefer this multiplicity of political parties, or would they prefer a two-party presidential system where conventions to choose candidates promote healthy competition that in turn curtails the proliferation of dynasties?
Do they prefer to elect senators by nationwide vote, or by regional vote, where every region is equally represented?
Do they prefer to elect executives from president to mayor separately, or as a tandem?
These could be the starting points of a debate on our decrepit politics, and not confine the debate to economics.
Properly explained to them, I am confident our people will appreciate the need to change the charter and cure its malfunctioning political provisions.
But the president, who I believe has no plans of extending his term, should formally so declare, even as he endorses the crying need for political reforms.
After all, without sound politics, we will never have a good economy.