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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Time to revise the Constitution (2)

“Given our current situation, with voter education quite sparse, dynasties entrenched all over, and the lack of ‘mature’ political parties, I vote for retention of the presidential form of government”

This is our second article on the subject of the 1987 Constitution, and our proposals for political reform.

But first, to be au courant, let me give short shrift to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s recommendations regarding Sebastian, Serafica, et al.

Was a single grain of sugar imported under the scuttled SRA Order 4? NO.

Did the government lose a single centavo out of SO 4, where no import permits were granted? NO.

Did Sebastian go beyond the authority granted to him by Malacanang as Agriculture Secretary PFM Jr’s COS and SRA Chairman’s representative? NO.

And if no sugar was imported, and government did not lose a single centavo, did Sebastian, Serafica, et al. gain pecuniary benefits? NO, unless the senators or Malacanang can prove that money changed hands.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros is right, when she called Sebastian et al. mere “fall guys.”

Fall guys to prove what? Nothing.

• • •

Now, on to our series.

Last Monday, we proposed the election of three to four delegates by regional voting, to comprise a convention of 51 or 68 members purposely to review and revise the 1987 charter.

If such elections can be held this year, the convention can organize and begin work as early as January 2023. No Smartmatic machines need be employed. Comelec can do manual voting, where voters need write only four names.

Now to go to my proposals: First, do we go presidential or parliamentary?

Given our current situation, with voter education quite sparse, dynasties entrenched all over, and the lack of “mature” political parties, I vote for retention of the presidential form of government.

I actually prefer the French semi-parliamentary system, where the nationally elected president as head of state retains powers over defense, national security and foreign affairs, while day-to-day affairs are handled by a prime minister from the same party appointed by the president.

In which case I propose a hybrid system where the public elects by tandem voting a president and a prime minister, similar to our nationally elected vice president, except that his powers are properly defined.

Team work, not the current system of “checks and balance” kuno, where the VP merely waits for the president to die or resign, factually or “constructively” (as in the Supreme Court decision on Erap and GMA).

In this manner, political parties may opt to choose in a convention a highly popular presidential candidate regardless of experience or particular expertise, and team him up with a highly capable vice president cum prime minister.

This will nurture party discipline as well as political maturity.

The average Filipino will want to retain his power to elect the head of state and head of government, and not delegate the same to his elected representative in Congress or parliament, as in a full parliamentary form.

Thus do we propose this hybrid where the people choose their top leaders, but the party winnows in convention the chaff from the grain.

If we prefer a presidential system similar to the present, I propose that the VP, elected in tandem with the president, be automatically Senate President, similar to the US model. Not a mere spare tire, and at the mercy of the president’s appointive power in his Cabinet.

The Senate will be composed of 34 members, two each representing their administrative region. This was an idea proposed by 2022 presidential candidate Isko Moreno Domagoso and Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia.

So for the first time in our political history, there will be two senators elected by the people of the Cordillera Autonomous Region, just as the predominant Metro Manila will elect the same number.

Our Muslim population will always have two members in the highest policy-making body of government, just as the Warays and Bisaya of Region 9 will have two senators, their first opportunity to be so represented since the time of the late Sen. Decoroso Rosales in the fifties.

Why, even populous Cebu and Region 7 have no senator since Serge Osmena seven years ago, a political anomaly, just as Caraga (Region 13), has never had one.

The majority of our senators are from Metro Manila, though some claim they are descendants of ancestors from other ethno-linguistic parts of the country, even if they are not conversant in the language.

Again, since I prefer the retention of the presidential form, I also propose that we go back to the two-party system.

After all, what we have right now are virtually two coalitions: the pro-administration, and the opposition, the latter having been decimated to virtual insignificance during the term of whoever is elected president.

Let us simplify the choices, like our favorite sabong past-time of choosing between the meron and wala, or cara y cruz, or the pula’t puti of the carnivals of yore.

And abolish the party list system, which is a mockery, as presently operationalized, and which will remain so if we retain them.

Let them join any of the two parties, and fight it out in party conventions. Or they can choose to run as independents, minus the campaign financing which we also propose for the two-party system.

This is one reason why revising the charter should be done by a convention elected for the purpose, and not by Congress as a constituent assembly, almost a third of which are current party-list representatives.

Tandem voting must likewise be the rule in all executive positions, whether the president and his/her vice president, the governor and his/her vice-governor, the mayor and his/her vice-mayor. Teamwork is always more efficient than the current system of cross-voting.

The practice of shifting parties, a.k.a. turncoatism, should be absolutely banned.

If a politician wants to resign from his party for reasons of principle, he will have to apply with the opposing party, or remain an independent, but forfeit the rest of his elected term.

The president alone will have a term limit of six years.

All other elected officials will have no term limits to their similarly six-year elected term of office. This strengthens the party system, just as it prevents family dynasties from perpetuating themselves through otherwise incompetent bloodlines.

If a representative is doing well by his constituents, why replace him as term limits expire?

Before the 1987 Constitution, we had effective and respected congressmen who were elected until their deaths, but their constituents kept voting for them.

A good mayor or governor will have time to implement his programs, and see them through fruition, or plan some more according to resources, and implement the same.

(To be continued)

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