Chartering change (II)

MY FOUR CENTAVOS - Dean Andy Bautista - The Philippine Star

Analyzing the results of the recent Pulse Asia survey in respect of the proposal to review the Constitution, I posit three observations: 1) there is resistance to Charter change if there is a perceived personal agenda behind it; 2) the pros and cons of any proposed change should be comprehensively discussed with and clearly communicated to the people; and 3) whether we should amend the Constitution is no longer a question of if, but more of when (timing) and how (mode)?

Several earlier columns have been devoted to this topic. Let me summarize what has already been said. The Constitution can either be amended or revised. Simplistically stated, a minor change requires an amendment while a major change would necessitate a revision. If we draw an analogy between Charter change and car maintenance – amendment would be like changing oil while revision would be similar to an engine overhaul.

An amendment may be proposed in three ways: 1) by Congress acting as a constituent assembly upon a vote of 3/4 of all its Members (i.e., “Con-ass”); 2) a Constitutional Convention which is called by Congress by a vote of 2/3 of all its Members (i.e., “Con-con”); or 3) through a People’s Initiative where a proposal is submitted by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, and every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein. The latter is an untried and untested mode.

On the other hand, a revision of the Constitution may only be undertaken thru Con-ass or Con-con as it would necessitate a full-blown review of the document.

The main argument in favor of Con ass over Con-con is cost. You do not need to pay for a separate election of delegates, offices and staff. And pessimists would argue that in an election, the relatives of the politicians would win anyway, so why bother? On the other hand, the Con-con’s main appeal is greater focus by the delegates on the important work of fixing the fundamental law of the land.

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Fresh review: I submit that it is high time to craft a Constitution that is not reactionary, devoid of a personal agenda and one we can truly call our own. The 1935 Constitution was essentially foisted upon us by our American colonial masters with a system of government patterned after theirs. The 1973 Constitution was heavily influenced by martial law conditions and the agenda of perpetuating oneself in power, while the 1987 Constitution contained several provisions in reaction to the latter.  

Aside from the obvious editorial lapses and missing words or phrases, focus should be on the economic provisions.  Many are complaining that the 1987 restrictions do not reflect current technological realities (the internet and the cell phone were not in existence when the Constitution was passed), impair our global competitiveness (even our capacity to compete with in the ASEAN region is impeded) and hinder our ability to attract foreign investments (in 2013, Vietnam attracted $8.9 billion in direct foreign investment as compared to our $3.8 billion). There is also the need to review our current political structure.  Is a parliamentary system of government more appropriate for the needs of 21st century Philippines or will it just spawn more abuse?  Should we further devolve power into the regions and adopt a federal form or will this just lead to greater disunity and impact our national competitiveness?

My four centavos is to convene a hybrid Con-con (similar to the one created in Thailand) composed of elected and appointed delegates, with the latter being experts and practitioners in different fields. This way, parochial concerns will be tempered by academic theory and commercial reality. Not only to save on costs but to forestall any allegations of a hidden agenda, the election of delegates will coincide with the 2016 national elections. I know that people were turned off by the slow (and expensive) pace of the 1971 Con-con but the solution to that would be to create a body that would have a fixed term of three years which includes the time to agree on the changes and fully explain them to the people.

Please note that the electorate holds the final check as any changes to the Constitution shall only be valid if ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite. To again save on costs, we can hold the latter during the 2019 elections.

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BRAFE 9 Golf: The 9th edition of the annual golf tournament in honor of Bro. Rafael (BRafe) Donato FSC was held last Monday, October 6, at the Malarayat golf and country club in Lipa City, Batangas. The event raised additional funds for the Foundation for Sharing La Sallian Education (FSLE) which provides scholarships to those qualified but not able to afford to study in La Salle. So far, 25 students have benefitted from the BRafe scholarships, nine of whom already graduated. Tomorrow would have been the 78th birth anniversary of BRafe.

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Congratulations: Dr. Dante Arranza will be inducted today as president of the Filipino-American Physicians of Washington state (FAPWA). His inspiring career mirrors that of many Filipino doctors in the US. He graduated BS Biology at the UP Los Baños. He then pursued medicine at the UE-Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center. Upon passing the Philippine medical board, he took his residency training in internal medicine at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center and then moved to Washington state. Dr. Arranza is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine and is board certified in Internal Medicine. He is married to fellow Dr. Liezl Arranza and is blessed with 2 kids.

In existence since 1991, FAPWA’s membership has unselfishly volunteered their time and services in charitable endeavours. Activities include conducting medical missions, donating medical supplies to rural hospitals in the Philippines and active participation during the Philippine Independence Day celebrations in Seattle, WA.

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“By changing nothing, nothing changes.”

 –Tony Robbins

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Email: deanbautista@yahoo.com


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