ADVOCACY MINDANOW: Con-Con not Con-Ass

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 September) — Indeed, there are many reasons why we need to take another look at our Constitution, not only those pertaining to the economic provisions, but including the political and the whole gamut of our basic law that need alignment with the realities of the fast-clipped pace of world advancement.

NOT CONGRESS — Despite being a congressman myself before (or maybe because I was one before), I do not trust Congress to do a constituent assembly (Con-Ass) notwithstanding how many times Speaker Belmonte shall swear to high heavens that Congress would support only those that will deal on economic reforms. There is a need for a comprehensive review, not the knee-jerk type. Even the timing will be put to a question now that President Aquino is nearing term end and the surfacing of naughty suggestions of lifting of term limits (although I have no doubt that they cannot hack it, even if they want to.) Let’s do this, as they say, “with feeling”.

MY FORMULA– Let President Aquino leave a legacy to the Filipinos. He can call for the convening of a constitutional convention (Con-Con), the delegates to be elected in 2016 to coincide with the national elections. This way we separate the men from the boys: those more political to run for public office and the less political to the con-con. If done simultaneously with regular elections, lame ducks rejected in that election by the people don’t get a second option and inflict themselves on the people. Then let the con-con be convened as soon as the new president also assumes office. That way, an honest-to-goodness cha-cha can be done. This may take more time and more resources. But there’s no other better way if we want to reform as a nation.

CANADIAN CHAMBER — The topic discussed during the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in its Davao luncheon meeting (Aboitiz executive Bobby Orig, as Davao chief) a few days ago framed the reasons why we need to open up our constitution. ACCRA Law Senior Partner Eusebio Tan, the resource speaker walked through some laws to illustrate.

RESTRICTIVE — For instance, the retail trade law that is supposed to protect Pinoy small businessmen, is more breached than observed. Look around your favorite Chinatown areas. Even the practice of professions that are reserved only for Filipinos needs review in the light of globalization. This is ancient. The 60-percent rule on Filipino ownership of corporations is also subject to review. This is not only restrictive; we see this also being “layered” to circumvent it. Including those businesses 100% reserved for Filipinos.

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VS TERRORISTS –I read with keen interest the statement of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah warning the whole world that if we do not wipe out the Islamic jihadists fast and quick, they will be knocking on our own doors in no time. I wonder if our Philippine authorities will now take his advice to heart. If the report is accurate that the BIFF and ASG have announced their alliance with the dreaded Islamic State (IS) group that is responsible for barbaric acts of slaughtering and beheading non-believers of Islam, then it’s time to do some real action on this.

CEASEFIRE — The problem however for government now is that we have a ceasefire agreement with the MILF and we are still nurturing the environment conducive to the peace process with the pendency of the work on the peace agreement. An all-out attack on the BIFF and ASG stronghold will surely inflict its collateral damage on the peace process.

EMBEDDED — We know that extremists are tactically embedded in Muslim communities and this is their effective protection from punitive military operations. A surgical attack, even though how carefully executed will definitely result to civilian casualties, including displacements. Of course, we know that some civilians provide them actual sanctuary and support.

LEAKED — We even heard of instances of prior planned military ops being prematurely leaked and passed on to high value targets to avoid being cornered. I was told of one operation in Lanao to get bomber-terrorist Marwan, an internationally-wanted Indonesian, but the raiders returned to base empty-handed because the targets were tipped off ahead of time. And the reason for this is understandable. Under the ceasefire agreement with the MILF, no military operations can be done unless prior coordination is done with the MILF. The result is obvious.

Perhaps, when the time is ripe, it will put to a good test whether the MILF is capable of governing and policing the Bangsamoro area and rid it of those dregs of the land.

DUPLICITY? — On the other hand, there are doubters who see the duplicity of it all — believing that the BIFF is an instrumentality of the MILF and it (BIFF) serves a good purpose of doing pressure tactic on government and at the same time becoming a “fallback position” for the MILF when things do not turn out as expected in the peace process with the government. The reasons are obvious! Let’s see if the doubters’ speculations turn out false. Or true.

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PINOY SOLDIERS — We hope we are getting accurate and timely reports on what’s happening to our UN peacekeeping Filipino soldiers out there in Syria and now, from the latest news, are under siege holding their ground and refusing to surrender their firearms to rebels. The initial reports make us mighty proud. Pray that this does not have a tragic end. (Latest reports from Philippine officials said the Filipino UN peacekeepers had escaped their outpost in Golan Heights which was besieged by Syrian rebels. – Editor)

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Advocacy MindaNOW is a syndicated column of Jesus “Jess” Dureza who worked in Malacanang in various capacities and is now president/chairman of the Philippine Press Institute, a national association of newspapers and publications. You may reach him at [email protected])

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