Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cha-cha Changing the Philippine Constitution: Good or Bad

By Joe Espiritu

Last week, a nationwide barangay assembly was held and among the usual topics discussed was the information dissemination of the forms of democratic governments existing in the world today. The speakers presented a comparative study of the forms of government systems and although there was no outright campaign for a change, subtle hints for modification of our present system were evident. 

Many problems will be encountered during the change process, which will follow later. First: the citizenry is not familiar with our present form of government such as the divisions of the government, Administrative, Legislative and Judiciary, its scope and functions, how the officials may be installed or removed from office. This was once taught in the elementary grades but now the subject could be only found in college. And not all of us go to college. 

Even if the parliamentary system is discussed in detail, there will be no basis of comparison since information of the other system has been lacking or even if present, hazy. It will then need an intensive information campaign at the grassroots level so the issues will be properly understood. This will need logistics for time money and effort to be expended. Then, who will put up the logistics? 

The shift to the parliamentary system is an uphill struggle. Aside from lack of information, there will be tremendous opposition. The main stumbling block would be the Senate. Since the parliamentary form of government is Unicameral, that is; there is only one lawmaking body composed of Members of Parliament or MP the Senate will be abolished. No senator will accept that proposition. To stay in saddle, he will have to run as an MP. Which is equivalent to a Congressman. 

It will not be only the senators who will object, there will be o politicians other than senators. Those who make the elective office a source of employment would not accept the change. Take away the pork barrel and nobody will run for any legislative position. The traditional politician spends a considerable amount of money for his election expecting that in his term he will recover his investment. In the parliamentary form, the tenure is not fixed since a change of government may happen anytime before his term of office ends. He may not recover his investment. 

Those who live only for election like political leaders and tribal or clan heads responsible for the distribution of largesse would surely object to the change. A politician unsure of the recovery of his investment will not splurge so war chests would run dry. It would be starvation time for trapos and professional leaders. Any attempt to restructure the government would be resisted by groups with vested interest in the status quo. Suggestions for a change are resisted because they imply an unpleasant variation of hierarchy and an exchange of rituals. 

Yet there are times when systems must change. In a time characterized by rapidly varying external physical and social environment accommodation to and acceptance of change is mandatory if we are to survive and grow. Changes are necessary if adoption to new environmental circumstances is to be achieved. Abraham Lincoln once said; the dogmas of the quirt past are inadequate for the stormy present. 
The Unitary Presidential system imposed on us by the United States when the Philippines had a population of twelve million is no longer adequate for the more than eighty million Filipinos today. As a consequence of the enormous social and technological changes of the last centuries our present system of government is not working well. Persistent rumors of coup de etat, protests rallies and endless political bickering attest to that. Unless we change, the future belongs to those who do.