Senate elections and systemic political reforms

Senate elections and systemic political reforms Featured

LESS than 50 days from now, the PRRD regime will have come to pass. I have been critical of many of the President's policies and acts of commission and omission. For one, he should have taken proactive steps to resolve an ethical dilemma on the Pharmally scandal — after his people, evidently with his acquiescence, were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. His response instead was to double down. But I have also praised him for his accomplishments. He will leave behind much needed infrastructure projects. His Build, Build, Build program is vital to the economy's future take-off. Although it has cost our government an arm and a leg in the light of the pandemic that ravaged us economically, still, these investments will yield positive results for the next generations, far into the future. But we will leave it to history to pass final judgment on his six-year watch.

Failed political reforms

PRRD understood fully well the ideological profile of the PDP-Laban, the left of center political party that adopted him, and that of the Centrist Democrats (CDs) that supported him. That the roots of the problems of poverty, corruption, impunity and injustice which have plagued Philippine society for generations are traceable to systemic anomalies in governance. That some of the solutions are to be found in political reforms and systemic overhaul of a dysfunctional unitary government. Centralized authority and decision making have to be dispersed to the periphery where the people most affected are best allowed to solve their own problems as seen in their best lights.

He allowed baby steps with the creation of the BARMM — which was to be the template of an eventual federal government. He envisioned a parliamentary government, requiring the revision of the 1987 Constitution. Too bad, he dropped the ball on the more important promises he made during his candidacy. Worse, he presided over the PDP-Laban's messy political suicide — not even an honorable hara-kiri.

Lessons learned

A critical lesson learned from the Deegong's regime is that charisma and a proclivity to intermittently display alpha-male behavior dear to the Filipino masses passing off as a display of "political will" is not enough. A president needs to build a real constituency with his various authorizing environment, particularly the executive's co-equal branch, and play along with the real power behind the systemic changes — starting with the revision of an anomalous constitution. This is the Senate's prerogative. He did inordinately well installing his sycophants in the Senate — PDP-Laban senators imbued with the language of political reforms — Go, Bato and Tolentino, along with Pimentel, scion of the party founder. But it was too late in the day to change the Constitution. Even his Charter Change Consultative Committee (2018 ConCom) peopled by renowned constitutionalists, the likes of Reynato Puno, Nene Pimentel, Antonio Nachura and Reuben Canoy, among others, didn't make a dent with a Senate bent on preserving its prerogatives.

It is therefore imperative for the voters this time around to install not only a president who would go for structural reforms but also senators who will put into law the process of revising the 1987 Constitution. Currently, the three leading presidential candidates (by latest trending polls) are Bongbong Marcos (BBM), Leni Robredo and Isko Moreno. BBM and Leni both professed to push for the changes in the 1987 Constitution but are not clear on the exact formula on the "what and how." BBM's priority is to clear and rehabilitate the Marcos name. Charter revisions is not a priority for him. Many speculate that he will indulge in "historical revisionism" to present an alternative narrative to what the five administrations post-Ferdinand had proffered.

On the other hand, Leni's antecedents and core base are the remnants of the Liberal Party whose prominent actor professed from the very start in 2010 that not one word of his mother's constitution be altered. Leni herself is ambivalent. Both BBM and Leni have yet to present in no uncertain terms a road map on how to bring about political-economic-social reforms short of motherhood statements.

Isko coming in third seems to be the candidate who understands the need for Charter revisions and has a vision for the country on systemic changes which include a federal-parliamentary government in lieu of a unitary-presidential one and institutionalization of political parties, strongly condemning the perverted party-lists.

What needs to be revised

I have been writing in my columns ad nauseam on what needs to be changed. With the required smattering of motherhood statements, I reprint the Centrist Democrat's (CD) credo (please visit our website A preamble sets the tone for the CD positions; our core value of human dignity, guided by principles of Christian and Muslim social teachings.

"Political, economic and social order must be so logically designed that the dignity of each person is protected and promoted. An atmosphere of freedom is a prerequisite upon which human dignity is enhanced. Self-determination by everyone, an essential component, is the impetus for collective expression toward the development of a just society."

"To be more specific the guiding principles are simple: 1) a strict adherence to democracy and the rule of law; 2) a parliamentary government based on program-oriented political parties; 3) a decentralized state structure with regional autonomy and local self-government, leading towards federalism; and 4) a 'social market economy' with a well-functioning open market, protected by a strong state."

Current Senate profile

If they adhere to their party's positions the four PDP-Laban senators (Go, Bato, Tolentino and Pimentel) could provide the backbone for Charter revisions, joined by Imee Marcos, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano and Bong Revilla.

This bloc going for Charter revisions already comprises three-fourths of the incumbents; with Cynthia Villar whose vehemence against federalism and Charter revisions are well documented, joined by Grace Poe and Nancy Binay. But as always among traditional politicians, negotiations and deal-making are a legitimate part of lawmaking although the sordid pragmatic bartering of their beliefs and integrity are a stock in trade. It is thus incumbent upon the voters who are adherents of systemic changes in the government structures to recalibrate their assessment of their favorite senatorial candidates. We need the 19th Congress to pass laws calling for a constitutional convention for the revision of the 1987 Constitution.

2022 senatoriables

Of the current crop of 20 Senate bets, many of whom are tradpols trending up in various polls, eight carry advocacies antithetical to the CD position. Among these are Loren Legarda, Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Jojo Binay, Win Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Herbert Bautista and Dick Gordon.

Those whose advocacies are congruent with Charter change and Centrist Democratic positions are four: Migs Zubiri, Robin Padilla, Risa Hontiveros and Gibo Teodoro.

The remaining eight on the list are either ambivalent or uninterested in such issues. Among these are Raffy Tulfo, Mark Villar, Gringo Honasan, Jinggoy Estrada and half-brother JV Ejercito, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Guillermo Eleazar, and Harry Roque Jr.

This columnist is in no way endorsing or disparaging these candidates. In the next columns, I will be describing in depth their positions relevant to my advocacies. Similarly, I ask readers to email me their preferences and why.

Read 533 times Last modified on Thursday, 24 March 2022 12:14
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