Charter change: why and for whom?

Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 9, July 8, 2004, Thursday.

Use and develop our natural resources and develop them for posterity. They are an inalienable heritage for your people. Do not traffic with your citizenship. – Manuel L. Quezon, Code of Citizenship and Ethics

House Speaker Jose de Venecia expected his dream of parliamentary-federal government to come true by 2007, but the President said something in her inaugural speech that upset his timetable. She said, “By the time I step down from office in 2010…”

Joe de Venecia countered with a tempting compromise, “[She] can be both
President and Prime Minister at the same time from 2007 to 2010. This can be done. We can put a transitory provision that the President can be the concurrent prime minister. ” Of course, this can be done. It’s been done before. Marcos put transitory provisions in his constitution and made himself President and concurrent Prime Minister from 1977 to 1981.

But the President is not so easily enticed. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported her spokesman as saying; “…it was the ‘preparations’ for the adoption of a new system of government, and not the shift itself, that would be completed within her term.”

Arroyo and de Venecia have different interpretations of the transition, but both of them believe that the Constitution must be amended.

But how, why, and for whom?

There are those, like de Venecia, who want to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly. One of their columnists argued that, “The method of changing the Charter via a constituent assembly is the cheapest, most efficient way of getting constitutional reform done.” What the columnist says is true and at the same time terrifying, when one realizes that a constituent assembly means trusting senators and congressmen to act on our behalf when they amend our Constitution.

Others prefer a constitutional convention. Sen. Juan Flavier said, “A constitutional convention, composed of delegates elected by their fellow citizens, provides a forum for an intelligent discussion, profound study, and dispassionate debate on the proposed remedies to perceived Charter defects.” His argument is what terrifies the advocates for a constituent assembly.

Whether we like it or not, whether the Charter is going to be amended through a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention, the advocates of globalization and global security will dominate the convention.

They will do everything to effect the following amendments 1) Foreigners will have the same rights and privileges as Filipinos to own land; 2) Foreigners will be given the same rights and privileges as Filipinos to exploit natural resources; 3) Foreigners will be given the same rights and privileges as Filipinos to engage in any business; 4) Foreigners will be allowed to establish military bases in the Philippines.

The above amendments are the whys at the bottom of all the other whys for Charter change and the compelling reason for those who promote a constituent assembly rather than a constitutional convention.

In a constitutional convention the arguments for amendments to the so-called economic and security defects in our Constitution will be scrutinized. The proposal for a parliamentary system of government without checks and balances versus a presidential system with its checks and balances will be debated within the context of the proposed amendments above. The proposal for federalism will also be placed in the same context.

Constitutional amendments should not be guided by expediency. We are where we are not because of defects in our constitution but because of the stupidity, corruption and failed policies of those who are entrusted with it. Changing our Constitution to leave our country defenseless against foreign investment does not address the question of what got us here in the first place.

If we must have Charter change let’s make sure we are amending the Charter for the Filipino— not for the foreigner and his Pinoy sidekick.

The philosopher Jack Handy says it best, to wit, “I hope if dogs ever take over the world, and they chose a king, they don’t just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some good ideas.”

No comments yet.