“We need not pattern our democratic institutions with those of the United States, or shift to other governance models of the Western world. Rather, we must evolve our own”
For quite some time now, there has been a growing demand for the lifting of the restrictive provisions of the 1987 Constitution insofar as the entry of foreign capital and the ownership of land by foreigners is concerned.
For the most part, I agree with the concept of an open economy, especially since we have scarce domestic capital to invest in our own country. The oligarchs and the nouveau riche have re-invested the blood of our economy into foreign havens.
Opening the economy to foreign capital without the restrictions imposed by the current charter will not only result in an increase of FDI’s which we badly need; it should also improve the level of technological innovation in out industries.
The main concern on allowing foreign ownership of land is its cost-push effect on the price of real estate. As it is, our real estate prices, especially in the major urban capitals, have been atrociously high and non-competitive compared to some of our Asean neighbors.
But merely pushing for the lifting of the economic provisions that restrict the entry of foreign capital is not enough.
We need to overhaul the political system that remains as feudal as ever in actual practice.
We need not pattern our democratic institutions with those of the United States, or shift to other governance models of the Western world. Rather, we must evolve our own.
This is the reason why I proposed in last Monday’s article, that we do away with administrative models based on the “checks and balance” principle, in fact, too many of such.
Rather, I believe in the more cohesive management principle of teamwork, utilizing well-grounded political players such as barangay captains in policy as well as implementation, or senators distributed according to regions, giving equal opportunity to long disadvantaged regions, in lieu of Metro Manila-centric senators.
The recent moves by Congress to postpone the barangay and SK elections scheduled for December this year actually plays along with the proposals set forth in this series of articles on constitutional change.
Given the president’s current high popularity ratings, the time to effect such political reforms is now, and not later.
If not now, when?
Experience has taught us that revising the charter in the latter part of a presidential term magnifies the opposition to it. FVR tried it, so did GMA, but they ran into a wall of dissent mostly anchored on the suspicion that the president merely wanted to prolong his stay in power.
Erap initiated charter change on his second year, but retreated (unwisely if I may say) after Cardinal Sin and Cory rallied against their “proprietary” opus.
Many would probably oppose my proposal to limit the number of elected officials, such as abolition of the party list congressmen, as well as provincial boards and city and town councilors.
But think of the money we can save, which can be used for better social services, especially in our woeful health and education sectors.
Earlier I wrote about our Manila barangay having less than 400 registered voters, but if its territory was rationalized to cover the area bounded by Taft Avenue to the west, Osmena Avenue to the east, Quirino Avenue to the north, all the way to its boundary with Pasay City on the south, a barangay would have as many as 30,000 registered voters.
This template would thus come up with an approximate 35 to 40 barangays for all of the capital city, down from the present 897.
At present, we have 36 elected councilors, plus one ABC president and one SK representative. Most municipalities in the countryside have only 12 to 14 component barangays.
A strong two-party system coupled with the lifting of term limits for all officials other than the president would in due time curb political dynasties, as party conventions would more democratically choose candidates for office, and reward good performance while cutting short the stay in power of the incompetent and the greedy.
The concentration of power and resources in what is derisively labelled as “imperial Manila”, referring to NCR and nearby prosperous provinces will be more equitably shared if we had equal representation for heretofore “neglected” and marginalized regions.
These proposals would lessen dramatically the number of elected officials, as contradistinguished from a shift to the federal system where we would be electing regional legislatures on top of provincial and city ordinance -making bodies, multiplying what is already a bloated officialdom.
It would even make our voting system less cumbersome and more cost-efficient. One does not need a kilometric ballot to be fed to machines. Voters need write only five or six names; a presidential team, two senators, a gubernatorial tandem; a mayoral tandem; and a congressman for the district. Canvassing would be easier even if done manually.
And prolonging the term to six years, with the barangay elections held mid-term reduces the humongous cost of campaign expenses every three years as in our present practice.
Legislation could be passed to allow the government to subsidize campaign financing for the two parties, such as but not limited to party watchers or inspectors, even media advertising.
Donations by the private sector to include corporations should be done openly, and not sub rosa, given to political parties instead of individual candidates, subject to imposed limitations.
To conclude this series, now is the right time to effect changes in the fundamental law of the land.
There is an Oriental saying that goes like this: When the heavens pour rain, take out your basins and fill it with precious water, for when the rain falls upon sand, it will quickly disappear.
And if we think our restrictive economic provisions are the only hindrance to our growth and prosperity, I submit that our flawed political system that has been much abused by powerful political dynasties and the economic oligarchs as well as gambling syndicates who influence them, is in truth the biggest stumbling block to both economic prosperity and poverty alleviation.
Besides which, there really are no quick fixes for the economy, especially when the whole world is reeling from the after effects of a pandemic that may yet reappear, or geopolitical conflicts.
There is little legroom for the new president or his good economic managers to wade into. No matter what they do, the external economic situation will militate against high growth.
Focus on changing the flawed character of our politics by revising the fundamental law now.
It could well be the greatest legacy of Pres. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.