Congress is block­ing Char­ter change

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - CAR­MEN N. PEDROSA

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.

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