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I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

The right reasons

Amending the Constitution shouldn’t be as painful as pulling teeth. Nearly everyone agrees, in the first place, that the one we have now can use a little updating. The most fundamental argument for charter change, after all, ought to be that we want to give ourselves the right to take certain actions, or to do things in a certain way, that wasn’t necessary when the charter was originally written and ratified. And like it or not, things have changed since 1987.

Unfortunately, Charter Change is not the most popular of ideas. Mere mention of it conjures up images of tyrants and no-election scenarios (ironic that – most people against amending the constitution do not balk at playing the NO-EL card as though elections were the most sacred thing to them, when they’re the same ones who routinely try to rouse the people to revolutions that, perforce, make elections pointless). As a result, the intrinsically laudable nature of periodic amendments to the constitution gets buried under an avalanche of populist fear-mongering.

chacha1

Charter change moves which, in the normal course of things, would lead to an updated constitution, ought to go through three phases. First it must be debated upon and proposed (in any one of three ways); second, the proposed amendments or revisions must be subjected to public debates; and finally, the proposed amendments or revisions must be submitted to the people through a plebiscite. One, two, three – and perfectly constitutional.

The problem we have – especially now – is that the anti-charter change contingent doesn’t even want to start that constitutional process. In fact, they don’t even want Congress to talk about it. Now, ordinarily, that wouldn’t be too problematic, except that they’re trying to nip the process in the bud by scaring the public into joining their raucous chorus.

For the most part, anti- moves now drum up this ‘Gloria Forever’ slogan and equate it with amending the constitution. The greatest weapon in the anti- aresenal therefore is nothing other than hatred for GMA. And they have done this so successfully that if you ask ten people on the street why they don’t want charter change, prolly six or more of them will tell you it’s because they hate Gloria ten different ways from Sunday.

Hand in hand with this hate-mongering is the bogeyman of term extensions. Anti- campaigners paint fearsome scenarios of amendments that would allow Gloria to extend her term, or allow her to run again. Most preposterous of all, of course, is the story-line that goes in a parliamentary form of government, Gloria will be able to run as MP for Pampanga and from there mount a run at the Prime Ministership – and voila! a constructive term extension.

Why is that preposterous? It’s fucked up because they’re saying that that scenario will unfold if we change the charter now. But the truth is, the move to a parliamentary form has always been part of the background noise for charter change, and that whenever that move happens, the same course of action remains open for GMA. So, even if they are successful in amending the Constitution only by, say 2013, GMA can still run for MP that year, and become PM soon after. If they amend it only by 2016, GMA can still run for MP then too. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how long she has to wait because no one can land her in jail for another half-a-decade at least. It took us even longer than that to convict Estrada, dint it? And even then, she can always skedaddle to some friendly country and have her proxies run the show for her.

Coming in a distant third and fourth are the political ambitions of grandstanding politicians like Mar Roxas – who, putangina, is a moron by the way – and substantive issues. In fact, I even hesitate to put substantive issues on the list of justifications for opposing charter change because I’ve never heard a single argument along those lines. 

So, the two biggest reasons being forwarded to justify short-circuiting the constitutional process of amending the charter are hatred of the incumbent, and the possibility of a term extension. WHile both are intrinsically flawed arguments, they have nevertheless been incredibly effective. Which, to my mind, highlights two things: those against charter change who routine spout this drivel are engaging in a fair amount of intellectual dishonesty for the sake of effective public persuasion; and that in so acting, they are doing the Filipino people an incredible injustice by forcing us to continue living with an anachronistic charter so that they can advance their own political motivations.

I, meself, am against changing the charter because – by my limited understanding of issues – I don’t think it’ll do any good. I don’t believe we are ready for a parliamentary form of government, nor do I even believe that form to be superior to the presidential system we have now. But just because I believe this way, that doesn’t make me think that I am absolutely right. Hence my gripe about how this whole anti-charter change campaign is being run. I may be against charter change, but damnit, I want the opportunity to have my mind changed through a reasonable and objective discussion of the issues. As it is, all I’m getting from these people who profess to have my best interests at heart are their propaganda. 

It’s prolly too late now, but anti-charter change campaigns should follow an entirely different model.

chachac2

Instead of trying to head off charter change, anti charter change campaigners should let the process initiate and then focus their efforts on convincing the public that the Constitution shouldn’t be tinkered with; and instead of focusing and capitalizing on hatred for GMA, they should make good-faith attempts to present substantive issues for debate so that when the people refuse to ratify the amendments or revisions, they will be doing so for the right reasons.

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31 Responses

  1. mackyramirez says:

    Rom it’s not the anti-chacha contingent who’s bastardized our democratic processes, it’s the Arroyo regime.

    Tingnan na lang natin ang impeachment, may nag-prosper ba? Wala, kasi kontrolado ito ng mga alipores ni GMA.

    And I’m sure the reasons why majority of Filipinos oppose Gloria’s cha-cha aren’t hinged on “hatred of the incumbent,” alone. ayaw ng tao dito dahil:

    * isusuko nito ang natitira na lang nating soberanya gaya ng pagbibigay laya sa mga dayuhang magmay-ari ng lupa; mga empresa, educational institutions, media atbp; papayagan din nitong muling makapag-base militar ang mga dayuhan sa bansa at magpasok ng mga armas nukleyar.

    * tiyak ding lalamnin ng cha-cha na itinutulak ng mga Arroyo sa Lower House ang pagpapalawig sa termino ni GMA. Para tuloy-tuloy ang ligaya nila at siyempre para makaiwas sa kriminal na pananagutan sa mga mamamayan.

    Sana nakatulong ako.

  2. Marocharim says:

    Rom: based on my limited understanding of the issue, I don’t think that the Constitution was drafted and designed without foresight. Cha-Cha is to plunge the knife to a Constitution that’s just barely a teenager compared to other Constitutions in the world. To be constructive, changing Constitutions is NOT easy, and is NOT a matter than can be spewed forth just like that.

    The substantive issue, to me, is the galling propensity of This Government to change the Constitution for reasons that escape reason; I mean, so what if we’re Parliamentary? Does that change things for the better? Cha-Cha is the same banana, different peel, when it comes to This Government. It is not the Constitution that is our problem, but the people who are supposed to work within the parameters of that Constitution piss on it.

  3. rom says:

    mackyramirez:

    * isusuko nito ang natitira na lang nating soberanya gaya ng pagbibigay laya sa mga dayuhang magmay-ari ng lupa; mga empresa, educational institutions, media atbp; papayagan din nitong muling makapag-base militar ang mga dayuhan sa bansa at magpasok ng mga armas nukleyar.

    * tiyak ding lalamnin ng cha-cha na itinutulak ng mga Arroyo sa Lower House ang pagpapalawig sa termino ni GMA. Para tuloy-tuloy ang ligaya nila at siyempre para makaiwas sa kriminal na pananagutan sa mga mamamayan.

    You raise very good points. But …

    As to the first, you and I might agree that these possibilities you enumerated are bad for us. But, the thing is, we don’t make up the entire country. Believe it or not, there are people who can come up with reasons why these very things you mentioned can actually be good for us. But are we hearing them over the din of this a priori moves to short-circuit the constitutional process of constitutional amendment?

    That’s what I mean. Subject these issues to open discussion and see what happens.

    As to the second, you say that it is certain that term extensions will be part of the package. For the sake of argument, let’s say that they are. So what? The Constitution isn’t amended by a mere proposal. It needs to be ratified in a plebiscite called for that purpose.

    If the term extension is an issue, then campaign against it and campaign as hard as you possibly can. On pleb day, go out and campaign some more, keeping always in mind that there are millions of others out there with probably the same opinion as you – or not. And every one of those people need to be given a chance to express themselves. By killing the process now, before it has even really begun, then supremacy goes only to those with the loudest voices.

  4. rom says:

    Marocharim:

    I don’t think that the Constitution was drafted and designed without foresight. Cha-Cha is to plunge the knife to a Constitution that’s just barely a teenager compared to other Constitutions in the world. To be constructive, changing Constitutions is NOT easy, and is NOT a matter than can be spewed forth just like that.

    See? It’s this kind of thinking that will doom all efforts to improve the Constitution no matter who sits in the Palace. Amending a charter is not killing it. And as to the relative age of the document, how old does a Constitution have to be before it is no longer considered sacrilegious to amend it? The US Constitution went into effect in 1789 and the first amendment was ratified 1791. Forget teenagers! The most influential part of the American constitution was the product of infanticide!

    And yes, amending the Constitution should NOT be easy, but it should be up to the people nonetheless, voting in a plebiscite. Not to a relatively small group of people who are opposed to the idea.

    The substantive issue, to me, is the galling propensity of This Government to change the Constitution for reasons that escape reason; I mean, so what if we’re Parliamentary? Does that change things for the better? Cha-Cha is the same banana, different peel, when it comes to This Government. It is not the Constitution that is our problem, but the people who are supposed to work within the parameters of that Constitution piss on it.

    First off, this Government was not the first to propose amending the Constitution. Secondly, every government that has proposed it has been met by opposition founded on approximately the same grounds: fear of a term extension.Third, I don’t think we’re ready for a Parliamentary form of government and I will oppose – as a campaigner and with my vote – any package that tries to bring about a switch.

    All I’m saying is let the proposals be made and let the people decide.

  5. mackyramirez says:

    I agree that there are people who could come up with reasons why selling out our country’s remaining patrimony and territorial integrity by way of amending the constitution can be “good for us.”

    They are the Arroyos, House Speaker Nograles, Cong. Villafuerte and their like minded trapos and boot lickers in the Lower House; and of course, the imperialist interests behind them.

    BUT their so called “reasons” aren’t shared by the majority of the people. I’m sure you know of that fact.

    Rom when people go out of the streets to denounce Arroyo’s cha-cha and the evil motives behind the move, they aren’t shutting down the door to an open discussion of the issue. They are just expressing their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to dissent.

    I’d like to think that you just missed this fact, but it is Arroyo and her ilk who’s perfected to an art the short-circuit-ing of our “democratic” processes just to serve their selfish ends.

    Cheers!

  6. mackyramirez says:

    and oh, I am for discussion of the issue rom, so long as the Arroyo camp wouldn’t play dirty as they have done so in the past.

    But knowing them, I’d prefer mass movement.

  7. BrianB says:

    Jesus Rom, protect your territory. Maski si einstein pa nag-advise sayo.

  8. rom says:

    mackyramirez:

    BUT their so called “reasons” aren’t shared by the majority of the people. I’m sure you know of that fact.

    Many times, we indulge in these worst case scenarios like patrimony being sold out or territorial integrity being surrendered. The world is replete with examples of how certain concessions can be made without necessarily killing the country that gives’em. Why can’t we follow those examples if they work for us?

    And i don’t know for a fact that everyone thinks like you, any more than I know for a fact that everyone thinks like me. Which is why a frank and open discussion of the issues is paramount.

    Rom when people go out of the streets to denounce Arroyo’s cha-cha and the evil motives behind the move, they aren’t shutting down the door to an open discussion of the issue. They are just expressing their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to dissent.

    Oh, you mean like when people say they are pro-chacha they aren’t pissing on the constitution; they are just expressing their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech?

    Anyone can invoke free speech, and of course free speech – and the right to dissent – must be respected. But I am appealing, mackyramirez, to the mental faculties which decide to try to stop the debates on constitutional amendments before they even start. I am asking these people with their big microphones and platforms to allow the process to unfold, rather than inducing an abortion.

    I’d like to think that you just missed this fact, but it is Arroyo and her ilk who’s perfected to an art the short-circuit-ing of our “democratic” processes just to serve their selfish ends.

    So, if they fight dirty, then so must we? I think you missed out on the fact that an eye for an eye leaves the world blind.

    and oh, I am for discussion of the issue rom, so long as the Arroyo camp wouldn’t play dirty as they have done so in the past.

    oh, you mean like rigging the pleb results? i suppose they could try, but considering the crappy job they did in 2007, I don’t really have high hopes for their chances.

  9. rom says:

    brianb:the sooner we stop with this victim mentality – this default belief that the whole world is out to wrest our territory out from under us – the sooner we can begin leaving the handbasket to hell behind.

  10. mackyramirez says:

    thank you for sharing my thoughts that the arroyo camp indeed plays dirty. i’m sure i dont have to remind you now of how arroyo bought our so called ‘representatives’ in congress with billions of taxpayers money handed out in paper bags just to kill the impeachment complaint against her.

    Ilan na nga ba ulit yung pinatay nilang impeach complaint? a pang-apat na.

    Sana nagkakamali ako sa naiisip ko ngayon na may ilusyon kang gumagalang pa sa demokratikong proseso si Arroyo at mga galamay niya.

  11. rom says:

    mackyramirez: you are drawing me into a debate about GMA and her government. that is precisely what I accuse anti-chacha proponents of doing – a tactic to justify not debating substantive issues about amending the charter. And that is how my point is proven.

    😀

  12. BrianB says:

    rom, victim? yes, coz some people still believe in justice. it’s not all about gaming the system. do you think gaming the system is wrong or you thnk it’s right?

    Think about this. Do you actually want to live beside a belligerent state. Give mindanao to the muslims and that’s what you’ll have. I’m sure you can think of a few examples where this thing happened here in SEA alone.

  13. rom says:

    brianb:amending the constitution is not gaming the system.

    think about this: if the amendment package includes the secession of mindanao – or any provision that might logically lead to that outcome – do you honestly think that it’ll be ratified by the people?

  14. Marocharim says:

    Rom: begs me to ask, what is so fucked up about the Philippine Constitution today that begs for the entirety of it to be changed?

    Hmmm… (reclines on chair, swings around) make that HMMM…

  15. BrianB says:

    You don’t play games with Filipino people, Rom. You can’t expect anyone to be informed. Most Filipinos may just stay away from the issue altogether. What we’ll have are a few Christian fanatics and muslims fighting it out there and then beyond, coz really all it takes is for someone to cry out that Manilans had betrayed US.

    Besides, what amendment is so freakin urgent?

  16. BrianB says:

    Here, the original:

    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=rf36v0epfmI

    from jessica zafra’s blog

  17. Rom says:

    marocharim: as i said, i don’t agree to a change in the form of government, so there really is no argument between us on that score. On the other hand, i’m interested in seeing foreign ownership of property relaxed, i’m interested in seeing voting reverted to being a duty, and i’m interested in de-synchronizing elections. Oh, and i’m also interested in re-writing the preamble (and next i predict that i will be challenged to do a re-write myself).

  18. foreign ownership relaxed? good lord.

  19. rom says:

    jester: the trouble is that most people, by default, associate the concept of relaxed foreign ownership rules with the dispossession of the landless masses. but properly crafted this kind of relaxation can be limited to cover only those lands that are neither accessible to, nor even useful to the less privileged. F’rinstance, if a real estate corporation were to develop a bit of residential beachfront property, under the present constitution, would the net result on the plight of the landless be any different if foreigners were to be allowed to own parcels of that land?

    And besides, foreign can also include people like benign0, who, while they sport foreign citizenships still have Filipino hearts. Altho, i must admit, living on a beach only very slightly mitigates the torture that it must be to live next door to benign0. 😀 LOL!

  20. mackyramirez says:

    actually, even under the present consti, we can say that foreign ownership in the country are already that “relaxed.”

    Brilliant people have thought of ways to circumvent protectionist provisions in our charter like what they did when they passed the Mining Act of 1995, among other rabidly anti-filipino laws passed under the neo-liberal globalization regime.

    (Arroyo too has skirted culpability in violating our constitution when she allowed the permanent presence (they’re still here right?) of US troops in the country when she passed the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement.)

    But if we allow the Arroyo clique to tinker with the charter now, foreigners and their corporations would be given free rein – the constitutional freedom – to exploit and plunder our natural resources.

    Now, any patriotic and freedom loving Filipino wouldn’t want that to happen to our beloved country.

    right? : )

  21. rom says:

    mackyramirez: can I call you macky? 😀

    “relaxed?” that you put that in quotes means they aren’t actually relaxed, are they?

    and the thing with having to rely on ‘clever laws’ is that they tend to undermine the power of the constitution, and reduce the predictability of our legal structure. Low predictability equals greater instability in the investment arena; and greater instability leads to fewer investors.

    Now, if the charter were to create a more friendly environment to foreign investment, there wouldn’t be such a great need for clever laws and we would be able to better avoid the long-term damage wrought by those laws.

    As for plundering natural resources – to be frank, it’s when the administering agencies are in bed with the foreign investors that plunder can occur; defining plunder in this context to mean that we are not getting our due share of the profits generated by the use of our resources.

    That’s not a constitutional issue. That’s an administrative issue. If the administering agency is smart enough and strict enough to ensure that we get maximum benefits from allowing foreign interests to use our natural resources, would that really be cause to complain?

    As a patriotic and freedom loving filipino, I would much rather see foreign investment in such fields as mining to ensure that the natural wealth is brought up to the surface in clean and sustainable ways, than to allow small local companies with minimal expertise and the tendency to cut corners to strip mine my motherland.

    Wouldn’t you? 😀

  22. mackyramirez says:

    please call me macky.

    rom i admire your strong faith in the “system” and the “democratic” processes under this regime that allows ( as you would want to call it) free flowing exchange of ideas on substantial issues that affect the nation.

    Your faith too in this administration is admirable. I just hope it isn’t to late for you to realize that this administration doesn’t deserve even a tiny speck of your support.

  23. rom says:

    Macky: shoot. I thought it was a double post and deleted the other one. The one with the one-word fourth paragraph: ‘sayang.’

    Which prompts me to ask: ano – o sino – ang sayang?

    personally, I wonder why people so often mistake faith and adherence to democratic principles as faith and adherence to this specific administration. maybe it’s because people have been trained to think in the simplest of all possible terms. After all, everything can be reduced to “are you with us, or against us?”

  24. Bencard says:

    rom, i do have exactly the same frustration. some people (pinoys in particular) often seem to judge your worth depending on whether or not you subscribe to their point of view. some even go so far as to speculate that you have “sold” your principles for espousing a belief different from their’s.

  25. mackyramirez says:

    wait im not bullying anyone to subscribing to my beliefs. All im saying is that if you’re still a believer in this administration’s adherence to ‘democratic’ processes, then fine by me.

    Just don’t say you weren’t warned when this admin does yet another trampling of the processes that you hold dear.

    That was it. Kaya sabi ko, sayang.

    Happy Xmas!

  26. rom says:

    macky: warned? Ok. 😀 and a merry christmas to you too!

    Oh, and I’ve got to get back to building my ark nao … 😀

  27. I’ve talked to quite a few foreign businessmen who said they would prefer to own land for their businesses but when pressed for an answer if they could achieve the same output if they only leased the land, the discussion would usually end up with an admission that they actually prefer to own real property only.

    The usual reasons are it is cheaper to build and maintain their own houses than live in hotels or condos which are very expensive in the cities, but are wanting in many facilities when their businesses are located in remote areas.

    I’m not sure if that reason goes for all the other investors. But in THAT case, I would allow foreigners owning RESIDENTIAL LAND.

    Now, do we really need to change the constitution just to sell houses and lots to foreigners?

    In mining, it’s a different thing. Usually, adjacent lands to mining sites are bought (or leased) to secure the mine from intrusion once commercial viability is determined post-exploration. Small miners usually dig from the fringes of a site after a substantial deposit in the area is confirmed. Some mines also enter into contracts with landowners for purely profit-sharing schemes without seeing any activity even until much later. The strategy is to limit the available land that may be contracted by competitors. In any case, the land can be LEASED without having any effect on their operations or bottom lines. No need to buy the land.

    Ditto for corporate large-scale plantations and livestock farms.

    If they can package a very tempting offer to buy land, they can do the same to lease it.

    Sec. Favia has already signed a contract to lease one million hectares of agricultural land to China. (http://www.newsbreak.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3855&Itemid=88889066) Over at Manolo’s, someone said it’s the size of about three Visayan provinces. Newsbreak says its 10% of all our agri land. I can’t imagine selling three provinces to ONE foreign buyer if the China contract had allowed a sale. How much would the Japanese buy? Two million hectares? The Americans, four million? How much would Spratlys fetch? How about Sabah? Could we sell the whole of Mindanao to UAE?

    Look, who will guarantee we’re not selling huge parcels of land to someone, say, a Mr. William Saunders or a Ms. Jane Ryan, Raul Gonzales?

  28. And rom, re your reply to jester about foreigners owning beachfront properties, if you don’t know it yet, many of the popular high-end island resorts are covered by 25-year leases and this doesn’t stop determined investors from attracting jet-set clientele from visiting the resorts.

    Andy Soriano has leased Amanpulo to the Indonesian Aman chain and yes they are profitable even if they do not own the island. Ten Knots, which used to own Manila Garden Hotel (later Nikko, now Dusit) operates El Nido. Ten Knots is a Japanese company. Another Japanese company runs Club Noah, also in Northern Palawan. The same with those in Busuanga, Coron, Puerto Galera, and several others. They do not need to own the land to be profitable, after all it’s the profit that counts.

    It’s not a question of taking away land from the natives. On the other hand, it is more beneficial if the locals earn from the lease at the same time, get employed by the lessees. Many farmers in Calabarzon became instant millionaires after selling their lands to industrial subdivisions and EPZAs about two decades ago. Where are they now?

  29. Slip of The TonGuE:
    …and this doesn’t stop determined investors from attracting jet-set clientele to visit the resorts.

  30. rom says:

    TonGue-tWisTeD: welcome to the smoking room. You’ve raised quite a number of points that make one think. That’s a good thing. And, to my mind, a better approach than the current one used by anti-charter change proponents.

  31. I am anti-charter change. Partly because I doubt if it’s really foreigners-owning-lands as the real purpose. As I explained, foreigners will invest, whether or not they owned the land.

    FYI, I have been a regular “smoke-r” long ago. But I have been busy lately.

    Happy holidays!

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