Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Hey I am stealing somebody else’s column again, and again, it is from someone I have differed in the past. Fr. Ranhilio Calangan Aquino and I have the San Beda campus common to both of us, yet in a free society discord can always happen.

But today it is one of agreement.

Aquino’s article in the Manila Times, “That curious ambivalence in our national life”, is short and sweet. Moreover, it is a refresh everyone needs after a political battle so intensely fought. I am reprinting it verbatim:

“The leading candidate, Mr. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., has garnered over 30 million votes and it is well-nigh impossible for the trend to be reversed.

“I am not going to repeat the hackneyed “Vox populi” line because I know that it is not true that the voice of the people is the voice of God. God spoke through prophets and sages many times to excoriate his people for the choices that they were making.

“But we have opted for a democracy, and in the months, weeks and days preceding the elections, we loudly protested our defense of democracy, enjoying its blessings and exercising its privileges and prerogatives to the hilt.

“In our system of democracy, each man or woman not disqualified by law casts a vote — and each goes into determining who the leaders of the country will be. So does our Constitution ordain, a constitution that we made binding on ourselves by ratifying it in 1986.

“But now it seems that many refuse to accept the results of the democratic process, deeming the choice made evil, unwise and immoral. There have been calls for protest actions. But protest against whom? The 30 million who voted for the leading candidate?

“It might as well be a protest against the system we have at present. And that could very well be the case: that we find the system of universal suffrage so flawed because it allows characters we consider unfit for public office to be elected. If so, what alternative do we offer? Is it one that will have the leaders chosen by a “congress of the enlightened”? But who will determine who the enlightened are?

“Even if calls for “EDSA Tres” come to naught, I find it disturbing that some among us — many of whom should know better — are prepared to trump the constitutional system and install a person of their liking extra-constitutionally.

“We did this in 1986, and the fruit of the tree of rebellion is — well, ambivalent. The moment we set aside the Constitution, do we set aside all of it? For if we do, then no one should be heard to complain later about the violation of rights and liberties that the Charter guarantees.

“It is true of course that the nation was divided by these elections, but all elections do that.

“It is not without reason that in parliamentary procedure, when a matter is to be submitted to a vote, the chair calls for a “division of the house.”

“The more challenging task at hand is to take our protestations at opting for a democratic way of life seriously and upholding the Constitution and the laws. After all when robbers break into our homes, or worse, hurt or murder our kith and kin, we call on the protection and the vindication of the law. It never pays to fell the trees in the forest of the law!

“What we can all be is vigilant citizens, for the most perfidious of betrayals of public trust occur when the citizens acquiesce to them.

“And if we are so minded about changing the configuration of our political life, then let us be willing to discuss Charter change, because, thus far, whenever proposals to amend or revise the Charter have been introduced, they have almost always been met with howls of protest and shouts of disapproval.

“A parliamentary system will make the leader of the dominant party the prime minister who then must have the charism and the leadership potential to win the confidence and trust of his party-mates.

“Do we want that? I know I do which is the reason that for the longest time now, I have favored charter change!

“There is so much ambivalence in our national life and what we need is to abide by the demands of rationality and good sense.”

Freedom from what?

Fr. Aquino hit the nail on its head. In fact, he took ideas forming in my mind, when yesterday, a day after the elections and media is blaring a BBM-Sara landslide, I woke to the question, okay what’s next.

Rebuilding our country post-pandemic should start first with a system change.

Former President Diosdado Macapagal became the Chairman of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. This was a unique twist in our history. Sometime before 1965, he is shown above delivering his State-of-the Nation-Address, when Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was Senate president and Fernando Hofileña Lopez Sr. was speaker of the House of Representatives.

I will no longer detail here how incompetent a Constitution that the Edsa revolution gave us that it is so fraught with motherhood statements of freedom and liberty, yet it is so difficult moving forward with it without bumping against guarantees of human rights.

It is as if liberal democracy were the balm to our economic challenges and one ideology that will sustain our ever-growing 110 million population. Everywhere else in the world we see this American implantation result to more problems than solutions, especially when it does not melt into the local culture.

We do not even have to look at the mirror. Take Myanmar for instance. How can liberal democracy even breathe when an authoritarian order is in place? There will always be a conflict in a situation like this.

Take the United States. A nation heavily afflicted by the Covid pandemic because it has been in denial that lockdowns, if done strategically, could help mitigate the super-spreaders. Its economy is presently facing stagflation and may even graduate to deep recession, but Joe Biden’s priority is exporting arms to fuel the Ukrainians to a longer war.

What does liberty mean to the Europeans who are at the mercy of Russia for their oil and gas? Who would truly be free from want and fear, when Valdimir Putin tightens the noose around their necks simply by slowly decreasing their exports to Eastern and Western Europe?

Constitutional Convention President Diosdado Macapagal presides over a session of its  duly-elected delegates.

We, Filipinos, have been at war since March 2020 when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte staged the first lockdowns. Some viewed it as despotic, but today we see the fruits of early recovery from Covid-19, that predictions of the presidential election serving as super-spreader event do not seem to be forthcoming.

So where do we start our systems change to a political environment that will more likely boost our economy? To the direction, Fr. Ranhilio is going. I even have a short cut to it.

Let’s have a People Initiative repealing the 1987 Constitution and replacing it with its 1973 predecessor. We only need a minimum of 8 million registered voters.

The 1987 version was the product of the lame Cory Aquino dictatorship. She constituted a Constitutional Commission and anointed 48 national, regional, and sectoral representatives, which included lawyers, entrepreneurs, politicians, landlords, health professionals, religious leaders, labor and peasant leaders, university professors, and journalists. It was chaired by Cecilia Munoz Palma with Ambrosio Padilla as vice president and Flerida Ruth Romero as secretary-general.

 The 1973 Constitution was the work of 320 delegates elected directly by the people from all around the country. It is not true that President Ferdinand E. Marcos wrote the document.

The draft presented to President Marcos by the 1971 Constitutional Convention President Diosdado Macapagal in behalf of all delegates, on December 1, 1972; deemed ratified by Citizens’ Assemblies held from January 10 to 15, 1973, proclaimed in force by Proclamation by President Marcos, January 17, 1973.

Even if the 1973 draft was finished by the Convention for ratification a little over two months after Marcos’ declaration of martial law, it was a product of a verified democratic process.

In fact, that Constitution, belies the claim that Marcos was an absolute dictator.

First, the declaration of martial law was in observance of provisions in the 1935 Constitution. Second, Marcos enforced the 1973 Constitution, instituting the legislative assembly or Batasang Pambansa, and constituting justices of the Supreme Court. Until the end of martial law on January 17, 1981 under Proclamation No. 2045, Marcos shared power with an elected legislature and a completed judiciary.

This is why the Marcos described his regime from September 1972 to its culmination on February 1986, as a constitutional authoritarianism that has a parliament modelled after the French model where the government is accountable to the Parliament, and its President of the Republic is accountable to the people.

A concept of Charles deGaulle, it has a President, directly elected by the people as head of state for fixed term of five years with reelection, but who appoints a Prime Minister, as head of government, performing executive powers through ministers and parliament oversight.

Richard “Dick” Gordon of Zambales was the youngest delegate elected to the 1971 convention, here in the midst of a debate on the floor.

One of its unique features is when the Government asks for a vote of confidence on its programme or makes a statement of general policy. In the event of a negative vote by the absolute majority of votes cast, the government must resign. The President then appoints a new Prime Minister to organize a new government.

A Peoples Initiative on the 1987 Constitution, to be successful, “must have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters therein.”

Overall 8 million votes total is required to pass a Peoples Initiative.

Because of the 3% district requirement, close coordination with the House of Representatives, or in case of opposition its equivalent, is vital.

This is the fastest shortcut I can imagine from the present unitarian cum presidential 1987 Constitution to the 1973 constitution to a parliamentary with semi-presidential nature is this procedure.

Former Philippine President Carlos P. Garcia was sworn in as the President of the Constitutional Convention on the day the convention was convened, but died thirteen days after taking oath.
Garcia was succeeded by former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal who completed the job and presented to sitting Philippine President Marcos, the draft for ratification, on December 1, 1972.

It is a must that the Bongbong Marcos presidency moves on this matter of system change early and deliberately.

An almost 60% super majority votes put him into power.

The Peoples’ Initiative when successful will earn him a form of government that is not just democratic but simpler and efficient.

Under the 1973 Constitution, he stands better chances at completing the unfinished revolution of his father, to make this nation under a New Society, great again.

In his overwhelming lead in this election, the electorate has already given him the momentum, an unprecedented mandate, to achieve this goal.

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