Congress is blocking Charter change
Because of many years of frustration I was not sure what next to do to achieve Charter change. Then came the idea that we had to have the numbers by civil sectors. The ideal sector would be labor. We had to get labor on our side.
Trade and Union Congress of the Philippines was at that time under the late and former Senator Ernesto Herrera. Firstly, he said we had to support a winning candidate. It seemed that there was no clear picture of who that would be. But before we could decide to whom labor would throw its support Senator Herrera had an unfortunate accident.
We rushed to the hospital and had a last word with him before he died. We had just organized Katipunan which would have supported Charter change. But that was not to be. He was grateful that BayanKo believed in the power of labor.
I am repeating those last words because these were prophetic.
He had just been wheeled out of the operating room and we had an opportunity to listen to him. He said that our immediate task as members of the BayanKo-Katipunan joint effort was to select a winnable presidential candidate who will support constitutional change. It should be a political party able to compete in the political mainstream. That and only that could empower marginal groups politically. (CNP: I agree. The neglect of our poor comes from their own inability to unite and use their power of numbers. That can only be done if we have a strong labor political party.)
Herrera said “I call on all those who seek a peaceful and orderly society that it must be based on equality and justice for marginalized groups. We have to keep this firmly in mind.”
It is memorable to me as the last words of a dying man who lived his life for the cause of labor.
On the other hand, the government’s party was the Liberal party and their candidate was Mar Roxas. He pretended to be from labor by posing as a tricycle driver and carrying heavy bags of rice on his back.
Laborers knew he was playing a big joke and the joke was on them. The task was to convince laborers how Roxas figured in this struggle between labor and marginalized groups and the oligarchy.
Roxas is an oligarch and cannot be expected to push for an aim that would work against his class.
It was at this point that a winnable candidate promising Charter change came into the scene. Rodrigo Roa Duterte was thrust in mainstream politics to take up that role.
These thoughts come to mind with the announcement of the Consultative Committee that they were ready with the draft to review the 1987 Constitution. It would be submitted to Congress.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, head of the Consultative Committee to review the 1987 Constitution, said the special features of the draft federal constitution can put an end to graft and corruption in the country.
He explained that graft and corruption is a systemic problem that can’t be solved by the current Constitution. One day, the president said I want to resign because I’m unable to eradicate the problem of graft and corruption.
Why, because it’s systemic. Bago matapos ang graft case, it takes years because of the police, the judicial system, the case will end but acquitted,” he said.
Puno said the same is true for crime problems nationwide.
“The government agencies, Customs, why can’t we kick out those involved in drugs? Meron daw silang security of tenure, (They said they have security of tenure) the 1987 Constitution, if you remove them, we could start with ground zero, with a new constitution everybody will be out, the meritorious ones will be left,” he added.
The fact is the country’s wealth and power are enjoyed only by few prominent families. The 1987 Constitution is unable to address worsening economic and political inequalities.
“Pinapamana na lang ang posisyon sa gobyerno (Government position is being inherited), it is part of the state planning already. The 1987 Constitution seemingly prohibits political dynasties as may be provided by law but no law prohibiting political dynasties, monopolies, cartels and oligopolies were created since 1987,” he said.
Puno remarked that three-fourths of the total number of congressmen and congresswomen might lose their position if the federal government draft will be passed.
“Itong draft namin strongly prohibits political dynasties kaya ayaw ng mga nakaupo sa Kongreso (Our draft strongly prohibits political dynasties that’s why those in Congress dislike it),” he said.
He also said that the 1987 Constitution is not entirely bad, but it has limited vision of the changes which happened since it was created up to present time.
“The 1987 Constitution is better than the Constitution during Marcos’ regime and the 1935 Constitution, but it’s limited. There’s no constitution that is immune to change, there’s no perfect constitution, all constitutions have provisions for amendments, revisions to cater to the needs of a specific country, we need to adjust, change the Constitution or else we will be the dinosaur of this century,” he said.
In connection with this, Puno clarified that the consultative committee he heads is a “non-partisan commission which is not dictated by any politician including the president.” They have submitted the draft in July to Congress for consideration, he added.
How does that square with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.’s statement that “it is too late now.” This is the refrain we have heard over and over again through the years.
We will never amend the Constitution using the same institutions we have now. It is evident that we need a revolutionary government or strong rule (whatever it may be called) that will bypass the institutions that have blocked Charter change and Congress is one of them.