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When is it time?

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2017 - 12:00am

I am amused by those who say that “it is not prime time for constitutional change yet.” I wonder just when it will be time. As they say in Pilipino “aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?” That is my answer to the statement once made by former president Benigno Aquino III. He was not expected to change the Cory Constitution then or ever. That is not his problem or so he thought. He is now regarded as having been the worst president the Philippines ever had.

That was until President Digong came around. He was their man with a platform that would change their everyday lives. The fear of another Smartmatic PCOS elections drove Filipinos into the streets and then into the voting booths. They were not going to allow the failed elections of 2010 and 2013 to happen again It was bruited about that the Smartmatic-PCOS type of election was also applied in the 2016 elections but Digong’s votes were overwhelming. He could not be cheated.

This time Filipinos understood what was at stake. By change, it had to be so widespread it could only be covered by a new constitution that would transform the country from a presidential system to a parliamentary federal one. At first Charter change was meant only to amend parts of the Constitution. But it was more than that Filipinos became aware that meaningful change could not be achieved without their active participation. That is what President Digong means when he says you have to help. Ironically it was the dismal failure of the Aquino government that intensified the people’s support for Duterte. The contrast was like black and white.

That is why it came as no surprise when President Digong drew in such huge crowds. Filipinos finally understood that it was in their hands to make real change possible. It had to be all encompassing to achieve what is called “an even playing field.” One of the arguments given by lawmakers was the people do not understand constitutional change. They don’t if it is constructed in legalistic and academic language.

It is the persona of President Digong that made it possible for the crowds to come and give him their support.

He was like a rock star for whom the crowds were able to steam off their anger and dissatisfaction. Never before did we have a candidate who communicated by cussing and the audience responded with clenched fist and chanting his name Duterte, Duterte, Duterte. It was wild but happy that here was someone who belonged to them.

That was the key to President Digong’s victory. He was able to express in simple terms what change was needed. Once in a press briefing at the STAR with Liberal presidential candidate Mar Roxas he said – “who cares for  a new Constitution – it is only a piece of paper.” Hd didn’t know a constitution was for.

Millions, including myself would not read what foreigners called a baroque constitution too wordy and complicated to touch the heart of Filipinos. By and large, government was for the top one percent of Filipino society.  Why should they be interested? I think a short constitution like Mabini’s Decalogo with appendices for lawyers and experts can do the work.

The big enemy of such a change in a new structure of our society is time. As I had said in a previous column, the kind of enthusiasm the people gave him would soon fizzle if he did not move fast enough. The preservers of the status quo are already creeping in. He has made many changes and followed the program he promised – his war on drugs, corruption and crime are on despite criticisms from Western media. But a return to the status quo is imminent unless he moves quickly. That means severing himself and government from the traditional politics with money and power at the center.

So to the question of when is it time I don’t think he has any choice but to assume revolutionary powers to get that new constitution moving. That is the only way he could block the oligarchical elements from creeping in.

If we leave the making of a new constitution to Congress it would be a grave mistake. Simple. Why should those who enjoy the money and power attached to the status quo vote for their own demise?

That is why I think it is a mistake to leave it to Congress being the source of traditional politics.  We could start by creating a panel of wise and respected men and women led by a man like former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

I have made a diagram of a political scenario by putting at the top a picture of the more than one million who attended the rally on May 7 as the symbol of people’s sovereignty and the bottom half for the implementors with President Duterte and former Chief Justice Puno’s pictures and my last column entitled– If we want it, waiting is not an option.

Now the question is whether Filipino voters can break  their penchant for voting the country’s famous dynastic political clans, or business tycoons, or celebrities or will it finally choose a new brand of politicians. They can do that with a system change.

 The country’s recent achievements could easily be undone with the return of the tainted political model of the past. Their revenge against Aquino was to make Digong’s victory unassailable. I was in most of his rallies and felt the palpable strength of his style of campaigning.

I’ve received an autographed copy of The ASEAN MIRACLE Catalyst for Peace by Kishore Mahbubano and Jeffrey SNG. I have not read it yet but the words in the introduction are true.

“In an era of growing cultural pessimism many thoughtful individuals believe that different civilizations - especially Islam and the West cannot live together in peace. The ten countries of ASEAN provided a thriving counter-example of civilizational coexistence. Here 625M people live together in peace. This miracle was delivered by ASEAN.”

Here, too, our President Duterte played a major role by making friends with China and asserting that from here on the Philippines will have an independent foreign policy.”

 

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