Why not a second term?
First of all, to the Air Force family led by Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, my deepest condolence on the loss of six of our airmen who perished in the crash of a S-70i Sikorsky helicopter last Wednesday. It is a grim reminder of what our flight instructors used to emphasize to us at the PAF Flying School—the air, unlike the land and the sea, is so unforgiving of error. The tragedy comes just a week before the Air Force marks its 74th founding anniversary.
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Going through some of my earlier columns written in August 2014, I found this one relevant to the presidency of Benigno S. Aquino III. It is titled “Why not a second term?” Here are some excerpts.
“The 1987 Constitution provides that the president and vice president should be elected by the direct vote of the people for a term of six years beginning at noon of June 30 following the day of the election and ending at noon of the same date six years later. The President shall not be eligible for re-election.
“Our presidential system of government is actually based on the American model that divided the governing structure into three ‘allegedly’ equal and coordinate branches—the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. This separation of powers was in response to the example of a monarchy that placed much of the governing powers in the hands of a few. But according to historians and political scientists, this separation of powers has ‘an inherent tendency toward inertia and stalemate.’ One of the three branches must take the initiative if the system is to move. The executive branch alone is structurally capable of taking that initiative… It is the presidency where the action takes place and the man who holds the power shapes the destiny of our nation.’
“If we look around the region we see that the head of government—president or prime minister—is provided with sufficient time in office to carry out national plans and programs for growth and development. In the case of Indonesia, it has a president chosen by direct vote of the people for a term of five years with the option to run for another five years. In the case of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, they have in place a parliamentary system of government that has allowed the ruling political party’s continued stay in power over the years. In Singapore and Malaysia, the People’s Action Party and the United Malay National Organization, respectively, have provided the leadership in government since Independence. This represents continuity of more than 50 years under one party.
“Aside from the issue of leadership, perhaps what is needed is more stability and continuity in our government. There is still more than 20 months left in President Aquino’s term but already, political developments have taken over much of our attention. Considering that there are very few substantial issues that divide the political parties vying for power, we should not feel too disappointed with the conduct of the whole exercise. But it is also important to keep in mind the mediocre quality of some of the personalities who somehow feel that they are entitled to lead the nation. And I am reminded of one of the more quotable statements attributed to my favorite US President, Harry Truman, that goes like this: ‘My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician.’ After a brief pause, he added, ‘And to tell you the truth, there is hardly any difference.’ In a way, we have a lot of piano players among our local politicos.
“Somehow, I am not too sure about the wisdom of holding elections every three years as is the case of congressmen and local officials. I think that three years is too short a time for anyone to be really effective in his job. Four years seems like a reasonable period for elective local officials. In the case of the presidency, there must be a way to keep a good man in office beyond the present six-year term. One of the main reasons Malaysia and Singapore have been able to maintain a high level of growth and development is that they have had continuity in leadership, leading to greater focus on strategic objectives.”
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I never met PNoy, never interviewed him, never set foot in Malacañang during his time in office. I saw him from a distance. Perhaps this is an advantage. You see more of the good and the bad in the person instead of getting mesmerized by the good that is achieved or blinded by the bad judgment calls. And I thought we could use him for a couple of more years.
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