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It’s just a dance

Whenever a President starts talking about amending the constitution, everyone starts foaming at the mouth before the process even starts. The opposition automatically paints the initiative as an attempt to install the President as dictator for life or something. It happened this way under Ramos, it happened this way under Estrada, and now, it looks all set to happen this way again – for the second time – under Arroyo. Which begs the question, when are we ever really going to get around to fixing the damned thing?

Maybe the problem is that whenever people talk about charter change, they always present huge sweeping packages like shifts in the form of government and the institution of federalism, and very truncated time lines. I mean, hello. Whenever you talk about shit like that, you ought to expect resistance because there is no way in hell the ordinary Filipino will understand enough about those concepts in the six or so months that is the usual timetable set by the proponents. Come ON. You try to push that through, in as little time as you’re trying to do it, the perception of railroading becomes inevitable. And once people think you’re trying to pull a fast one, well hell, that’s the start of the end for your initiative.

So maybe, we should start small. A politically neutral tweak here, and a tweak there, Get people used to the idea of the constitution as a dynamic document. And in the meantime, launch the debate on things like federalism – give the idea time to percolate in the public consciousness. Then, when something like a consensus is reached, launch the amendment initiative.

As it is, this federalism move isn’t popular. First off, we know that those bandits in the ARMM support federalism because it brings secession that much closer – and how popular is that? Sure several senators support it too, but that’s obviously a political decision – perhaps motivated by the anticipation of becoming petty kings within their own federal states. I don’t see it as a reflection of public sentiment at all. Of course, public sentiment is a notoriously ignorant and gullible animal, so we must take extra care to ensure that when people vote on this measure, it’s not simply because of who endorsed it.

The way I see it, this debate on federalism – if we’re sincere about it – can easily outlive the Arroyo presidency before any clear and intelligent consensus is reached. We can’t get to that consensus simply because the President and her merry-band of sycophants say that it’ll be good for the country.

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