POLITICAL PARTIES & TOP CANDIDATES SHOULD HAVE PROPOSALS FOR CHARTER CHANGE IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS

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POLITICAL PARTIES & TOP CANDIDATES SHOULD HAVE PROPOSALS FOR CHARTER CHANGE IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS

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boholano-thumbAfter the EDSA People Revolt in 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino junked the 1973 Marcos Constitution for his authoritarian regime. She established a temporary Freedom Constitution and created the 1986 Constitutional Commission that framed the 1987 Constitution. While this approved new Constitution established a detailed lofty and idealistic vision for our Republic, it merely restored the old and obsolete Presidential Government and the highly centralized Unitary System and other institutional features. These made it impossible for us to begin to fulfill that new Vision.

Last Wednesday, July 22, I discussed one of our seven challenges in Securing the Country’s Future: A Summit for Change  held at Club Filipino in San Juan, Metro Manila. According to the initiators of the Summit, it “aims to gather some of the country’s best minds to forge a consensus on the need to change the 1987 Constitution through a Constitutional Convention to secure our future as a nation.”

The Summit was initiated by our new advocacy and movement called Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pagasa: A Call for System Change. Headed by retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, our purpose is to address pressing problems and challenges and arrest our decline into a “fragile or failing state.” I am delighted to be one of the seven resource persons of the “Summit for Change,” because I have long engaged in seeking basic and suitable changes in the structure and institutions of our political system.

Certainly, I deeply believe that our 1987 Constitution is ideal and lofty in its Vision for our nation-state: the Republic of the Philippines. This is why I strongly believe we should preserve this Vision that is loftily and broadly stated in these words of the Preamble: “We the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society; and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations; promote the common good; conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.” 

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The vision is articulated further in Article II. Declaration of Principles and State Policies; Article III. Bill of Rights; Article IV. Citizenship; Article V. Suffrage; Article XI. Accountability of Public Officers; Article XII. National Economy and Patrimony; Article III. Social Justice and Human Rights; Article XIV. Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports; Article XV. The Family; and in some sections in Article XVI. General Provisions.

However, unfortunately, despite the ideal and lofty vision in our 1987 Constitution, I repeat that the fundamental law merely restores our obsolete and dysfunctional political institutions that prevent us from fulfilling our vision. And since 1987 no President, except President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has advocated a change of our failed Presidential Government to a Parliamentary Government. But she failed in her advocacy because of her lack of legitimacy and political trust towards the end of her full term in 2015.

So here are my proposed amendments on the structures and institutions of our Republic.

  1. Amendment on “political dynasties.” Article II. Section 26 provides: “The State shall guaran-

tee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” But because so many families have formed “political dynasties” to monopolize elected public offices, elected representatives and senators and the President himself or herself have failed to define by law what are “political dynasties” until now.

So a particular constitutional amendment to Article II. Section 26 must be made. This shall explicitly define what degree of consanguinity and/or affinity among “political dynasties” is prohibited by the Constitution itself.

  1. Amendment on local elections. The 1987 Constitution shortened the previous term of four years to three years for elected local government officers. A three-year term is too short for the incumbents. It increases the cost of running for local office and the temptation to make money in office. A decision should also be made on the new limit of holding local public office to ensure equal access to opportunities for local public service.
  2. Amendment on political parties. As in the advanced democracies, our political parties should have a political ideology, a platform of policies and reforms, members’ duties and obligations, and accountability for the conduct and performance as a political party, and as members of the political party. Political parties may also be entitled to a State subsidy.
  3. Amendment on changing our Presidential Government to a Parliamentary Government.
  4. By definition the Parliament is vested with both legislative and executive powers. A unicameral Parliament is recommended. We don’t need the Senate.
  5. In a Parliamentary Government, also known as “Party Government,” most Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected as registered members of their respective political parties. They shall be committed by law and practice to their party’s ideals and program of government. Voters shall vote for an individual candidate for MP in their parliamentary district and also for the political party those candidates represent. Some seats in Parliament are reserved for the various political parties in proportion to their share of the total votes cast.
  6. “Checks and balance” within the Parliament is exercised in the relations between the majority party and the opposition parties; and in the regular “question hour” when the Government responds to the questions and challenges of the opposition MPs. Interacting with the Government and Parliament are other centers of countervailing powers: business, interest groups, the media, civil society organizations, as well as multi-national and foreign interests.
  7. Parliament shall have as many members as may be provided by law. To begin with, Parliament shall have as many elected members as the present district representatives of the House of Representatives.
  8. Other than the MPs who are elected in the parliamentary districts, Parliament shall also have MPs chosen by the political parties on the basis of “Proportional Representation” (PR), or according to their respective share of the total votes cast nationwide in the parliamentary election. For this purpose 30 percent of the total seats in Parliament shall be reserved for the political parties on the basis of PR. In our Global Filipino Nation, Filipino citizens overseas shall be entitled to representation in Parliament.
  9. Members of Parliament shall be elected, or chosen by the political parties, for a term of five years, with no term limits. Candidates for MP must have a college degree as proposed in regional consultations on Charter change.
  10. The Prime Minister shall exercise the executive power as the Head of Government. He is elected by a majority of all the MPs. He is normally the leader of the majority party in Parliament. As the Head of the Government, the Prime Minister is assisted by his Cabinet of Ministers, at least three-fourths of whom shall be elected MPs.
  11. From among its MPs, the Parliament elects the President who is the Head of State. Upon election the President shall cease to be an MP and a member of any political party. He has a term of five years.
  12. Amendment to change our highly centralized unitary system to a federal system. We have made a great deal of progress towards a federal-parliamentary democracy under the proposed basic law on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. If Congress passes this basic law essentially as it is, President B.S. will surely sign it. This will contain much of the needed additional amendments to establish the other autonomous regions and local governments towards a Federal Republic of the Philippines. We have a Primer on this proposed constitutional amendment: Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines: Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya.
  13. Amendment on the provisions on foreign participation in our economy and education.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has drafted this amendment that can be adopted with necessary changes. The 2005 Consultative Commission on Charter Change also has an amendment.

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  1. Amendment on a new Bill of Duties to complement Article III. Bill of Rights.

Proposed Bill of Duties

SECTION 1. It shall be the duty of every citizen to be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine Flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane and orderly society.

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SECTION 2. The rights of the individual impose upon him and her the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

SECTION 3. Citizens and the State shall at all times respect the life and dignity of every human person and uphold human rights.

SECTION 4. Citizens shall participate actively in public and civic affairs, and contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service, and the vitality and viability of democracy.

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Slogans and personal popularity appeal in national elections. Since 1987 our political parties and presidential candidates have merely sought national political power to win their election by using popular slogans and their personal appeal and their supposed win-ability in political surveys.  Not serious political platforms and offers of policy and institutional reforms.

Benigno S. Aquino III. “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Joseph Estrada. “Erap para sa mahirap.” Juan Ponce Enrile. “Gusto ko, happy ka.”

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What does Senator Grace Poe stand for in seeking the presidency in 2016? Her personal popularity and people’s trust, and her father’s movie popularity? We still don’t know.

Senator Chiz Escudero seems to be banking on his good looks and glib tongue, and his good looking Heart Evangelista. He left his first beautiful wife without their two children.

What will Mar Roxas campaign on beyond his record of public service and continuing the record and reform of President P-Noy. What Charter changes will he propose if any?

My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com (by Jose “Pepe” Abueva)

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