Manuel Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, October 4, 2006  edition, p. A6.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas wrote about the absurdity of ratifying a new charter that will be changed even before the ink on the paper it was printed on dries up. He said, “within 45 days from the ratification of the changes being proposed, ‘the interim Parliament shall convene to propose amendments to, or revisions of, this Constitution ….’ In other words, the current proposals will be revised immediately after they are ratified! So why not just wait for a new Congress?”

One leading advocate of charter change can’t even wait for this present Congress to finish writing a new constitution. Speaker  Jose de Venecia introduced  a new party-list concept even before the Batasan could start plenary debates on the changes proposed by the House committee on constitutional amendments.

De Venecia put forward his new idea in a letter to Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Beatrice Foods heiress and  chair of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations. He told her that the party-list system should not be limited to representing the marginalized sectors envisioned by the present constitution. He said, “As conceived under this system (the redefined party-list system), parliamentary representation would be accorded to millions of Filipinos in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australia-New Zealand once a parliamentary government is in place…”  And, he added, “one who is not a politician but has great leadership can gain the support of the coalition and become Prime Minister without having to go through the rigors of district election.”

So, any expatriate Filipino can become premier or president without ever having to set foot in the Philippines or, as de Venecia puts it, “without having to go through the rigors of district election.” Imagine all the wonderful things that can happen if expats were to take de Venecia seriously.

Mimi Miyagi, the retired Fil-Am porn star running for governor of Nevada, could run as an expatriate party-list representative and become  prime minister of the Philippines and governor of Nevada at the same time. As prime minister, she can do away with Powerpoint presentations highlighting mega-infrastructure projects in her super-regions if she delivers her state of the nation address topless.

De Venecia’s party-list idea came from the German parliamentary model, his flavor du jour. Last year his favored dish was modified French parliamentary. He served it to Mrs. Arroyo at the height of the Hello Garci scandal but she didn’t bite.  She knew the  “graceful exit” scenario via a modified French parliamentary model would be nothing more than a forced French leave for her.

De Venecia is not the only one who changes parliamentary models at the drop of a hat.  Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo displayed a similar tendency during her visit to Belgium last month. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye reported that Mrs. Arroyo told the Belgian parliament “there could be no better model than the Belgian parliament where the House and the Senate share equal footing.”

All along I thought Mrs. Arroyo organized and funded the Abueva Commission and the Advocacy group because she was committed to a unicameral parliamentary system. I never imagined the Belgian model could make her waffle.

But seriously, unlike de Venecia, Mrs. Arroyo does not care what form of government her constituent assembly will create as long as they give her a constitution that will allow her to do what she’s not allowed to do under the present one—rule by decree.  In other words, what Mrs. Arroyo wants is for constitutional democracy to hand her the keys to constitutional dictatorship or, as Marcos used to call it, constitutional authoritarianism.

Mrs. Arroyo will not need a parliament once she gets her new charter. She can padlock the Batasan and throw away the key. She is backed by loyalist soldiers and the majority of the country’s 79 provincial governors and hundred-odd city mayors who will be more than happy to see the Batasan excluded from the trough.  That’s why the headlong rush of Batasan members to turn themselves into tomorrow’s bacon never ceases to amaze and delight.