OUR PEACE: A brave new Constitution

ZAMBOANGA CITY (18 January) — Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Puno recently raised a strong case for the revision of the 24-year old Philippine Constitution, particularly pushing for reforms in the provisions on the judiciary and elections. Coming from a legal luminary who during his stint initiated major innovations in the Philippine court system, Puno’s clamor should be received with more than serious reflection, unlike the dismissive reaction that immediately came from Malacanang.

Other quarters have also pointed to the need to undo protectionist provisions that curtail or limit the entry of foreign investments in the local economy. On this note, once xenophobic China’s rapid economic growth in the past three decades mostly came after it opened its doors to all kinds of foreign businesses.  Like China, the Philippines has had a surplus of human labor, millions of which we have been exporting in the form of OFWs because our national economy cannot absorb them at all.

The public mood on Charter change appears to be swinging in its favor, after tremendous opposition to several attempts in over more than a decade.  Although the Constitution may at first glance look relatively young, its revision now is made imperative by its innate defects or flaws plus a fast-changing world and nation.

Mindanao’s gritty, intractable conflict could well find a lasting and workable solution from a modification of the political system through Charter change.  There has been a strong clamor in Mindanao for a federal form of government, one that will enable Muslim dominated provinces to exercise maximum political autonomy without breaching national sovereignty and territory. There are Christian sectors, too, who chafe at Manila’s heavy, tight-fisted hand and see a federal system as a means to achieve faster, more equitable social and economic development of this most underdeveloped and neglected of regions in the country.

Many of the most progressive nations, like the United States, enjoy a federal form of government.

The decades-old demand for secession and independence by progressive elements of Mindanao’s Muslims, which they have muted since the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in 1973, should not be allowed to dilute or obscure the wisdom behind federalism.  Even so, any nation’s Constitution is not just an arbitrary collection of principles and basic laws.  It should justly, deeply and fittingly give expression to the layers and layers of history, beliefs, traditions and cultures of the people.  When it fails to do that, it becomes a tool for their repression rather than freedom.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Wally Wee writes for Peace Advocates Zamboanga)