Friday, November 21, 2008

Pre-2010 Charter Change: Magnet for Suspicion and Distrust

Any moves to amend the Constitution before the change of political leadership in 2010 will only be met with extreme distrust and suspicion by the people. The proponents of a pre-2010 charter change must take into account the prevailing sentiments of a very significant segment of the population which have very serious suspicions about the motives of those pushing for chacha. It cannot be denied that there is no vocal clamor for charter change from the populace while on the other hand, there is widespread disapproval of tinkering with the Constitution especially under the present national political leadership (not just the president, but the ENTIRE political leadership).

It does not help the cause of the cha-cha proponents that the most vocal about amendments to the Constitution are incumbent politicians, particularly those identified with the present administration. Thus, the product of a rammed-down-the-throat-of-the-people charter change will only be a highly politicized and divisive Constitution which will not be a solution to the country’s problems but only serve to perpetuate the political divide that we are experiencing now.

It does not also help that the proposed method is through Constituent Assembly, where incumbent members of the legislature will be the ones to sit down to propose and approve changes in the Constitution. Proponents of this should make a thorough, realistic self-examination and ask this question: “What is the people’s level of trust of present officials?”

What we need in 2010 is a fresh start. We do not need to carry over the baggage of the political past, the woes and ills of past administrations and the conflicts of politicians of bygone days. That’s why if we are to amend the Constitution, which I will venture to say needs some amendments, it must not happen during the incumbency of the present political leadership. The level of suspicion by the people is simply too high.

Of course, the question now is, if we agree that the Constitution can be improved with amendments, when and how should it be done? If doing it now by constituent assembly will only be met by skepticism and distrust, how and when should it be done?

I think amendments done through a duly elected Constitutional Convention will not have the baggage of a constituent assembly which is perceived to be self-serving. Electing the delegates simultaneous with the 2010 national and local elections or even the 2010 barangay elections (which will be held five months after the national and local elections) will enable the change to happen immediately in order for the new administration to make use of the benefits of the new charter. In other words, a fresh start for the country and the people.

In the wake of the Barack Obama victory which stood on a platform of Change, there is no escaping that charter change may well provide a fresh start for the Philippines. But that change should not be dragged down by a tarnished political past, and suspicions of self serving change. Just like in the United States, the Change must happen with the People playing the most significant role, not politicians who having messianic complexes.

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