OPINION: Why we need Charter change in this country
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Sunday morning we were greeted with the sad news that Mr. John Gokongwei Jr., a titan in industry, having founded and run a conglomerate that spanned the areas of property development, food and beverage, retail, air transport, power, media and petrochemicals had passed on to eternal life at the age of 93 yrs old. Big John is the founder of the conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc. Gokong-wei is the third richest man in the country with a net worth of $5.3 billion, according to Forbes. He is mostly credited for disrupting established markets and industries, boldly putting up budget airline Cebu Pacific in 1988 to enable Filipinos to travel at much cheaper ticket prices now managed by his son, Lance Gokongwei.

While he was one of the biggest magnates in this country, however some years ago, I was lucky enough to seat beside him on my flight to Manila. Since I did not really expect that he would talk to me, he was quite unsettled until he introduced himself and asked since my face was familiar to him. I told him that I wrote a column for The Philippine STAR and there he recognized me right away and asked, if I was related to the Avilas that operated the Oriente Theater in Cebu City and I said that I was in this family.

He immediately remembered that time when he operated a theater in competition with my grandfather Don Jose Avila. It was then that he felt very comfortable seated beside me and we talked during the hour-long flight to Manila, especially that I personally knew his close family members who once operated Merry Mart across my Chika-an Restaurant and his sister who managed the Summit Circle Hotel along Fuente Osmeña circle. It was then that I realized that Mr. John Gokongwei, although he was already a famous big businessman in Manila, remained a humble human being that he really was. May God grant him eternal rest.

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Last Saturday morning, we went to the Talamban Elementary School to witness the turnover ceremony of the Don Bernardo  Benedicto Community Center, a sturdy all metal all purpose Center named after Don Bernardo Benedicto, the father of the donors, Amb. Frank L. Benedicto and Consul Enrique L. Benedicto. It was then that the media personalities in our table talked about doing a Constitutional Convention (Concon) since it looks like that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte was no longer keen in calling for a federal system of governance. In our table was Atty. Paul Oaminal, columnist of The Freeman and Cebu’s foremost anti-drug fighter.

Indeed, one of the things we would like to see in a new constitution is a proposal whereby the House of Representatives come up with a law that makes it unconstitutional for those belonging to the Legislative Branch of government to use private hospitals for them and their families. I dare our readers to look into the conditions of our provincial or city hospitals and find out for themselves how lacking these government hospitals are regarding medical equipment and the like. I know of a province near Cebu province wherein they don’t even have a CT Scan machine that their patients have to take a ferry to Cebu in order to avail of this in our government hospitals.

Hence, if under a new constitution, all members of the House of Representatives or officials of local government units (LGUs) are prohibited by law to use private hospitals, we believe that these members of Congress would now focus their efforts to ensure that government or provincial, city or municipal hospitals would be showered with funds by Congress since they can no longer avail or use private hospitals. I’m sure that many of our readers would agree with this proposal.

My thoughts about having a Concon is simply to depoliticize our political system of governance to make more people serve our nation as true political leaders. One way is to limit the members of Congress to a simple salary at around P150,000 without any benefits like a driver or official car. This is one way for our politicians to use public transportation so they would truly know the problems we have in our mass transportation system. Call this wishful thinking, but mind you, it is happening to the European Union (EU) where most politicians use public transportation to go to work. Why can’t we make this come true here? I’m open to more suggestions!

Meanwhile I can only hope that Pres. Duterte long at Charter changes (Cha-cha) as his permanent legacy to help improve the lot of the Filipino people. For the last 30 years we got stuck with the 1987 Constitution simply because the Aquino family did not want to change this Constitution named after their mother. In my book, our Constitution should benefit all our Filipino people, not just the Aquino political family.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com

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