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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Robin’s Cha-cha tune

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“I am not averse to writing a specific anti-dynasty provision in a new Constitution, because our experience over the past three and a half decades has multiplied dynasties”

After clamming up on his early advocacy for charter change, Sen. Robinhood Padilla now weighs in on the proposal of Speaker Martin Romualdez’ proposal to amend the ‘economic’ provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

But Robin dances to a different cha-cha tune. Other than the economic amendments, he wants to delve into the political.

Long have I written in this space that one genuine legacy the president can give this benighted nation is to initiate charter change.

Let’s face it. This 37-year old fundamental law is the root cause of why politics in this country has further fortified the interests of the politico-economic elite instead of the general public.

Padilla proposes a 4-year term for public officials, stating that three years per elected term is too short. By adding another year to our 3-year electoral cycle, he now gives a term limit amounting to 12 instead of nine years.

I suggest we lengthen terms of office to six years, reducing the all-too-frequent elections that we have in this politics-crazy country to every six years for all our officials.

In fact, through one of his staff members, I sent the senator my series of Manila Standard column articles in 2022 on the subject of political revisions to the present charter.

I am likewise for the adoption of a two-party system which fits a presidential form instead of our crazy multi-party system which has been abused by everyone as a flag of convenience for personal and familial ambition.

Our 1935 Constitution had a working two-party system, where political chaff was somehow winnowed from true grain, where party conventions chose candidates for high office, and dynasties curtailed by inherent party intramurals.

But I am not averse to writing a specific anti-dynasty provision in a new Constitution, because our experience over the past three and a half decades has multiplied dynasties all over the land, and made public service through political office a family business enterprise.

Padilla wants to increase the number of senators to 54 from its present 24. He wants 24 elected nationally, like him, with 30 additional members elected through regions yet to be defined by law.

The 24 would be voted by the nation-at-large for a term of eight years, while the thirty would be entitled to four years. This would create a second-class and less ‘august’ membership caste in the Senate.

I have proposed that we elect 34 senators at two per region, regardless of size or population, representing the present 17 political as well as administrative regions of the country.

Thus CAR, which never had any senator ever, will be represented by two just as populous Regions 3, NCR, 4, 6 and 7 will have.

This even representation would give voice to the less developed because un-represented regions, such as CAR, Regions 2, 4-A, 8, 9, Caraga and BARMM.

Let’s face it. Many of our senators, Padilla included, got elected because of their celebrity status, name recall, dynastic renown, and/or due to loads of money.

Levelling the field, the poorer regions will have voices in the apportionment of resources, even if they may have less of a national constituency, while the present crop of nationally elected senators not only self-perpetuate themselves but in many cases, they legislate for self, family or financial backer interest.

Regionally-elected senators need to spend less to get elected, and are more intimately known to their constituents rather than celebrities who are just ‘idolized’ by TV and movie addicts.

But I propose more. The president and vice-president, as well as LGU executives, should be elected as a team, with no cross-voting.

And to give the position of ‘vice’ its Constitutional importance, let us have our vice-president serve as president of the Senate, and our LGU ‘vices’ to be presiding officers of their councils or boards, but with voting powers, not mere ceremonial figures.

Otherwise, we might as well abolish the ‘vices’.

Here again, I propose a more radical version: let us no longer elect board members and councilors.

Instead, rationalize the number of barangays by territorial size and population so that they can serve as the city or municipal councilors, and let all the mayors sit as the provincial legislature as well.

In big cities and provinces, since there is a six-year term, the barangay chairmen and the mayors can take turns at the local legislature, since in truth, these boards and councils meet only once or twice each week.

This way, too, we will be more serious about electing quality barangay chairmen, as they would legislate ordinances as well.

Look at the election system benefit: we go to the polls to elect a presidential team, two senators for our region, one congressman for our district, one gubernatorial or city team, and one municipal tandem, a total of just six to seven to write in a much, much shorter ballot, both parties represented at the precincts by their duly-designated party inspector.

Menos gastos, mas simple, more representative, and less cumbersome in terms of local legislation.

What to do with our present “bokales y consejales”? Let them run for governor or vice, mayor or vice, or barangay chairmen in a larger, well-defined constituency.

We elect our barangay chairmen for a six-year term as well, but in-between our election of presidential tandems, regional senators, congressmen, and local executive tandems.

Everyone gets six-year terms, limited to two (even three) consecutive elections, except for the president who needs not be entitled to any re-election (though I am not totally averse to allowing a re-election, so a good chief executive can lead uninterruptedly for 12 years).

Let us not close our eyes to cha-cha simply because we do not trust our present crop of leaders. Let us instead actively participate in the discussions, for the sake of our saling-lahi.

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