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Like It Is

Let’s split it

/ 05:10 AM December 06, 2018

There seems to be a complete misunderstanding of what a constitution is among some politicians. It is not a document you can cavalierly treat for the moment. It is the most important fundamental doctrine of a nation. It is the bedrock upon which a society is founded.

It must be carefully, thoughtfully, intelligently assessed and produced. It must be examined by all stakeholders: leaders, followers, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, even politicians. And by 54 million registered voters.

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Some 300 professors and academics have called for a cautious approach to revising the Constitution — for all stakeholders to be involved from the beginning, and not be handed a fait accompli they just have to vote on at the end.

I fully agree. The process cannot be rushed. By all means, let’s review the Constitution and consider what better options may be available. Let’s review some of the weaknesses.

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But we need to be given time to put together a well-thought-out document. By May 2019, it is impossible, and shouldn’t be tried, except for the economic sections. The restrictions on foreign investment need to be removed as soon as possible so we can create jobs.

So let’s split the Constitution into two parts: political and economic, and remove the economic restrictions in a plebiscite during the midterm elections. Then concentrate on getting the political changes through before President Duterte’s term ends. That way, maybe we’d get a constitution we deserve that would last for generations, and one that Filipinos can be proud of. You don’t rush that.

As to content, I prefer a parliamentary system. Let the people elect a president (a CEO), and let the parliament elect a prime minister (COO) from their peers — one who then must perform, or be readily replaced, with little fuss, by someone who will.

As to a federal system, it makes cultural sense. This is not a nation, but a grouping of tribes (Cebuanos are quite different from Ilocanos). Giving them back their identity is sensible. BUT, and it’s a huge “but,” any shift would be fraught with practical problems that must be addressed and resolved first.

The first, and least controversial perhaps, is cost. What will a federal state cost versus what we have now? Will we be able to afford it? What must be sacrificed to pay for it? How will the huge difference in income-producing activities be resolved? A few states are rich, but many more are too poor to support themselves. How will that be resolved? A few are well-managed, many are not. How will they be taught to be effective, efficient, dare I say honest and ethical managers?

One partial and sensible solution is to limit the number of states; to just convert the current 17 regions into states is not the way to go. Many aren’t self-sustainable, and aren’t likely to be for decades yet, if ever. Somewhere between four and eight carefully grouped federal states would promise more likely success, and is a far more intelligent way to go.

The last Constitution banned dynasties “as defined by law,” but the law was never passed. Will a new constitution enshrine the ban in gold (not the real stealable stuff, I hasten to add)? Is it the right thing to do?

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Many businesses thrive as families hand them down from one generation to the next. The Aboitizes are a good example; they just lost an excellent leader (he was, indeed a great, considerate leader) who will be replaced by a younger but equally competent person. The Aboitiz groups will continue to grow.

An honest, ethical political family with inbred experience may benefit communities. But how do you instill honesty and ethics through a constitution? That needs to be resolved in a way that can’t be cheated. Without such an explicit provision, the dishonest, dynastic, dictatorial control we have far too much of now is encouraged by a federal system. So a ban seems the practical solution.

But what upsets me most is the consultative committee’s inability to recognize the world we live in, and the future we face. The members’ inability to study the record of countries around them indicates a frightening myopia. They hardly changed a word of the economic restrictions of the 1987 Constitution. They retained them all, when everyone who understands these things said don’t, get rid of them and open up the economy to fair, free and equal competition.

The world has proved that such a system works. We must fight this backward thinking, so I’ll write more on it next year.

In the meantime, let’s remove the economic restrictions in May, and reflect very carefully on the construct of the rest.

E-mail: wallace_likeitis@wbf.ph

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, charter change, federalism, Like It Is, Peter Wallace
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