May 13 will come and go. Another set of elections will be completed and the promises we heard during the preelection period will be forgotten, to be heard once more come the 2016 elections. The hopes and expectations we have will remain just that, for the great majority of our voting population still continues to elect officials on the basis of popularity and relationships rather than principles, integrity, capability and true love of country and its people.
The 2010 elections showed some maturity among the majority of the voters, with P-Noy, who stood on a platform of “daang matuwid,” winning over his more seasoned and popular opponents. However, former President Erap coming in second showed that we still have a long way to go before we can say that we have a truly ideal democracy, where the will of the majority prevails and the majority represents the people who truly are able to choose the right leaders.
Perhaps it’s indifference, wrong and misguided values, and poor appreciation of what it takes for the country to move forward, that make us continue to elect candidates who do not deserve to be in public office. Or perhaps it is due to a lack of caring for others and too much preoccupation with self-interest, that we continue to elect officials on the basis of what it means to us rather that what it means to the community and our country. The right answer is perhaps all of the above.
Our democratic system is flawed in that we seem to always elect the popular rather than the qualified in our executive and legislative branches of government. And even with the dramatic changes in government—the ousting of Marcos and the conviction of Erap—all done outside the electoral process, the corruption that prevailed during Marcos’ dictatorial years continues to this very day, albeit at a much reduced scale under P-Noy’s administration. It is because of the pork barrel system, the legislature’s lack of desire to pass the enabling law to implement the antidynasty provision in the Constitution, and the snail’s pace of the executive and the judiciary in prosecuting the corrupt in government that we continue to be beset by the feudal, dynastic and patronage politics that hamper our democratic system and rob our people of a bright future and a way of life free from the bondage of poverty.
Elections will come and go and we may move forward, albeit marginally, for some period of time. It is so easy, however, to slide back to the likes of the Marcos and GMA regimes, and it will only take one election of key officials, raised in the corrupt and flawed climate of politics that currently prevails in the country, for it to happen again.
Our Constitution provides not just the elections to influence and chart the destiny of our nation. The people’s initiative is another means of amending the Constitution that the officials in our three branches of government refuse to implement for their own selfish interests. Article XVII, Sec. 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states:
“Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.”
Effecting changes in the Constitution through the people’s initiative is not easy. The framers of our Constitution have made it difficult for the people to initiate these changes, but it is certainly not impossible. It will take a lot of effort and commitment on the part of the leaders of these reformists to get the numbers needed to effect the changes. But with sheer determination, social networking to provide a vehicle to share knowledge and coordinate activities, and the growing number of young and nationalistic Filipinos who are fed up with the political dynasties, pork barrel system and unabated corruption that prevail in the country, a people’s initiative is possible. We should be guided with the end in mind: a country where the corrupt immediately undergo a speedy trial, get convicted, and go to jail. Not to be spared are those who obstruct justice, as well as their political patrons, and prosecutors, judges and justices who allow themselves to be bought. We need a country where politicians have no access to pork barrel and where political dynasties are banned.
We need a movement that will spearhead this alternative way of effecting the needed drastic changes and reforms in our Constitution that our elected officials will never initiate because of their own vested interests. The time for a constitutional reforms movement is long overdue. We call on our people and youth to start one now!
David L. Balangue is a former chair and managing partner of SGV Co. He is the chair of the Coalition Against Corruption, founder of the firstname.lastname@example.org, and co-vice chair of Namfrel. Comments may be sent to email@example.com.