CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews) — If we shift to the federal form of government at this time, it’s unlikely that things will change for the better. The traditional politicians (trapos) who dominate government today will also be the dominant trapos of tomorrow.
And the patronage-dependent voters of today, who make it possible for trapos to dominate, will be the voters, along with their clans, who will support the same trapos tomorrow and keep them in power.
Without reforms or a change in attitudes, charter change won’t do much good. Electoral contests still won’t involve bona fide political parties to identify, recruit, train, or prepare promising leaders for responsible positions.
Without coherent platforms or programs of government—to help people decide who should be in office—voting would still be a matter of guesswork or, worse, cash-exchange transactions.
We need proper political parties as institutional mechanisms for nominating worthy candidates. Their absence has turned our political system into a maelstrom of transactional confusion and horse trading.
It’s a terrible blot on our politics that no less than the country’s immediate past president, head of the then ruling party, is in jail awaiting trial for plunder—a heinous crime against society. It is compounded by the prospect that the loot amassed by the Marcos plunderers will finance forthcoming campaigns.
The twisted values spawned by the Marcos clique and its Martial Law-Kilusang Bagong Lipunan Party inheritors remain embedded in our body politic, such that one wonders whether we can ever cleanse the system and attain a modicum of decency and good government.
Any thought of changing our system should be preceded by a grand effort to truly enfranchise and empower Filipinos. This means that even if it’s not election season, which is about the only time Filipinos are made to feel important, they can still voice out their expectations and be assured of some action at some foreseeable time—because “all government authority emanates from them.”
We have to be realistic. We have got to stop thinking that all we need to fix our problems is to do some rewriting—like the proponents of Charter Change seem to think.
They have this simplistic view that the weakness of our political or economic system stems from “defects” in our Constitution and the shortcomings of the presidential form of government.
It’s a debatable contention at best, just as it is debatable whether all the blame for the crises in our society today should be dumped on the wishy-washy ways of P-Noy.
Is it really the system or its operators? The causes of our national malaise are myriad and anyone can just as likely argue the case for or against dumping P-Noy and Company.
Getting rid of P-Noy and his barkada now may satisfy certain egos but it’s not likely to impress many people outside the partisan crowd. On the contrary, it will just complicate matters as it forces us to deal with self-appointed Diogenes-types with serious credibility problems.
In the countryside today, there’s a sense that We, the People, are being toyed around with while the conditions essential for any political system to be effective remain unaddressed. People do need to be really enfranchised. Without their active participation the state structure can only be a shaky platform for wealthy oligarchs with questionable legitimacy.
Common sense tells us that, like a New Year’s resolution, a Constitution or a political system is only as good as the deeds people do to fulfill its mandates. No matter how well-crafted it may be, it can do little good if people do not act out its precepts, intents, or purposes.
The key elements here are “people” and “deeds.” People must “do” or act out what they resolve to do. Unless they do, nothing changes or improves, the status quo simply continues, or worsens, but no peace or justice or order will ensue, and the laws are just printed matter in the library.
We already have a Constitution which summarizes our paramount wishes for our society. It expresses what we propose or resolve to achieve for our nation. When we ratified the present one in 1987, we laid out the ideals and principles we hold dear and restated the sovereign rights the Dictator trashed and suspended.
Now, almost three decades later, instead of raising questions about how it has performed, or to what extent it has impacted upon our social consciousness — so that from the lessons learned we may know better how to make any Constitution work, Cha Cha proponents would rather have us jump to conclusions — their conclusions, and their prescriptions on what to change and how to do the rewrite.
From the Cry of Balintawak to the two EDSA revolutions, we have had five constitutions. None of them resonate in our collective consciousness.
It’s time we learn to act out our resolutions and stick to the agenda.
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor ofGising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]