Charter change: The most repugnant term in the political discourse

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The pork scam, even with all its association with luridness and evil, is not the most repugnant term in the country’s political discourse. It plays second fiddle to another term. You know what the most repulsive and repugnant term is? Charter-change or its many guises and forms.

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As a stand-alone term and devoid of context, charter change, or cha cha as we call it now, is not intrinsically bad. A constitution is a living thing despite the efforts of legal conservatives to place it in a time warp. It has to be interpreted according to the times and the current realities, not out of a rigid and constructionist mindset.

So what made Cha-cha such a horrific initiative in the Philippine context? Easy answer. Power-hungry politicians who want to be president-for-life, or presidents who want to violate what is – to most Filipinos—a sacred text in the Philippine Constitution: that the president should serve a single term of six years.

When President Aquino recently said in a TV interview that he is open to a charter change initiative that would allow him to seek another term, the nation reacted in disbelief. Was he joking? Was he under the weather? Was he fed poison by his legal and political advisers? We don’t know his motivations and state of mind during that TV interview. But we are sure of one thing. He is oblivious to contemporary political history.

And from that interview setting, he failed to see the reaction of his most implacable enemies. A chance for EDSA Kwatro.

What Filipinos have not forgotten is the end-days of the Ramos presidency. His political shills had floated a charter-change initiative, obviously to pave the way for an amendment to go around the one-term provision in the presidency. Which would then allow Mr. Ramos to run for a second term.

We all know what the reaction was. All political, civil and religious groups set aside their differences to abort Mr. Ramos’s planned cha-cha. The popularity of Vice President Joseph Estrada, then the president-in-waiting, made sure that there was a massive attendance at a big Luneta rally. But it was the political, business and religious elite that delivered the strong message to Mr. Ramos— pursue cha cha at your own risk. Even the military which was served by Mr. Ramos before his election to the presidency aired rumblings about the term-extension plans of its former chief of staff.

The political group backing the cha cha was so unnerved by the mass protest that it fielded a sure loser, Joe de Venecia, as pre-sidential candidate.

Some parallels are worth noting.

Mr. Ramos’s claim to fame was a shot at economic tigerhood. Indeed, an international news magazine had a cover story on Mr. Ramos’s supposed accomplishment—move the country into the ranks of newly-anointed economic tigers. It turned out that it was a puff-up piece with very little basis in reality. The 1997 financial crisis did not really hit the Philippines as hard as it wrecked Thailand but the specter of interest rates soaring to 36 percent showed that the economy under Mr. Ramos was still not that strong to withstand regional meltdowns.

It also turned out that the emergency steps taken in the early years of the Ramos administration to solve a crippling power crisis was anchored on an emergency law that favored the power producers over the consumers. Its provisions provided for the long-term screwing of the consumers, in a setting that charges one of the highest electricity rates in the region. There is still mass suffering today due to the EPIRA.

The allies of Mr. Aquino have invoked the same line of reasoning—that right now there is no substitute for Mr. Aquino, the miracle worker so loved by the Davos crowd. Growth rates have been both high and steady. Credit upgrades have come from the raters. While our FDI is still niggardly compared with what our neighbors get in form of direct investments, it is still an improvement from previous administrations.

Like Mr. Ramos, Mr. Aquino has earned the applause of the foreign economic publications, especially the parachuting journalists who have not looked beyond GDP growth and credit upgrades. This question was never asked. Is there a sad sidebar to all these glowing figures and upgrades?

And Mr. Aquino’s shills say this too: Look at the anemic field of presidential hopefuls.

Even with double-digit growth rates, even with a field of presidential hopefuls dominated by pompous jerks, even with all the applause from the multilateral institutions, the allies of Mr. Aquino should know this: Filipinos won’t accept a term extension. And that they want a new president after the term of the incumbent is duly served – even if that incumbent were a saint.

When a president oversteps the bounds of tolerable indiscretion and misrule, they get agitated and they topple that president through street protests.

The implacable enemies of Mr. Aquino are now excitedly watching every progress on the term-extension initiative. If no sane mind puts a stop to it, the enemies can easily stir the perfect storm called EDSA Kwatro.

mvrong@yahoo.com

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14 Comments

  1. Pnoy unfortunately violated the constitution. And instead of being apologetic about his violation, he came out and threatened the Supreme Court of clipping its power. He accused the SC for overreaching its boundaries. Look who is overreaching its powers. It is Pinoy who paid our senators and congressmen in impeaching Corona. It is Pnoy who encouraged De Lima in defying the SC`s TRO on GMA`s rigth to travel. It is Pinoy who did not pursue our claim to Sabah. And many more. In summary we no longer need an incompetent, arrogant, divisive, and vindictive President. We need to change leaders. In 2016. Will the PCOS let us do the change? The answer is how to make the PCOS credible?

  2. I agree with you Edgar. I’m one of the chosen few missionaries, and I can’t do so much. Laypeople are also called by God, with their expertise, talents, skills and resources, to help spread the God News of God’s Kingdom on earth – a Kingdom of peace, understanding, love, compassion, forgiveness, and salvation of all… Social media people should also promote all these Gospel values even if they don’t particularly quote the Bible, instead of being anti-Christians or anti-Catholic. God is love and we are made in that “image and likeness” of love and, therefore, we should all spread the culture of love (not the culture death, intolerance, discrimination, prejudice, indifference…)

  3. I am giveing an answer ehre & please do not interpret this as saying pnoy should be allowed to run for a second term as i dont mean that at all.This author said at the beginning that nothing should be set in stone & i agree wholeheartedly with that. Now lets say you had a brilliant president who did everything exactly right for this country in his 6 year term. He jailed most corrupt officials, he got the most honest competent people around him working for this country for the people of this country. He improved jobs for everyone. He got proper economic prosperity for the philippines. Now lets suppose that president then asked for an extension to continue his good works, it would seem only a fool would then say no to that.
    I think most of you would agree that England is a sound decent country, well in theory our prime minister can stay in office for the rest of their lives. The incumbent government has by law to call a general election at worst every 5 years, if re elected & his party keep him or her as leader they will stay prime minister. There is nothing wrong with that & it works very well in england & the uk as a whole.

    • The political atmosphere in incomparable to the sad state of our country. Cameron creating DAP later found unconstitutional will be heralded by all newspapers and tabloid and I guarantee you that not a day the government will colapse. Did this happened here? Kitang kita na nandudugas ang Noy government subalit galit pa at binubweltahan pa ang Korte Suprema. Now tell me, is that style of government could be applied here? Your thesis loved parliament dont you?

  4. The day of reckoning for the Thief Executive and his evil cohorts will come faster if they insist on cha cha. YES for EDSA 4!!!

  5. I believe that the self serving people surrounding Pnoy will keep on pushing to remain in power. Maybe the next act will be Pnoy stating he has come to the conclusion that Roxas can do it. That Roxas can carry on what he started and trim the SC powers, so he can relax. Maybe he will demand all of his bosses carry Roxas to a lanslide victory in the next election. The following act will have the PCOS machines elect Roxas. Then Pnoy will be able to avoid jail by getting his friends to hold the power. This is really a bad play.

  6. “There is no substitute for Aquino”? Plenty. They are all from LP, and pseudo liberals. Their individual value systems are grounded or founded on deceipt, lies, greed, vested interests, etc.

  7. Cory Aquino? knowing that Marcos was seriously ill, her cohorts too the opportunity and grabbed the Presidency from then VP Arturo M. Tolentino, because of her personal agenda , to keep the Hacienda Luisita for themselves tho it belongs to the poor farmers-the legal beneficiary.

  8. Get rid of these Malacanang sycophants. They know the constitution decrees only one term for the president.

    Is it a ploy to evade a jail term for PNOY because of his abuses re the PDAF and the PDAP? I say let PNOY go to jail to teach politicians that they cannot abuse their authority and power while in office.

  9. Your column is very great, and serious too. I have no wish to make light of it, but PNoy’s alleged “change of heart” regarding Charter Change made me think that perhaps PNoy, the under-achiever, did finally succumb, inspired that he was by the satanic voice: “If at first you have not succeed, try, try, again!” Before such a scenario, we, the Filipino People, can echo back with the force coming from Christ’s voice when he expelled Satan who had asked him to change the stone into bread: “Begone Satan!” and we could well add Erap’s famous punch line: “Huwag ninyo ‘kong subukan!” “sapagkat pagnagkataon, maghahalo ang balat sa tinalupan!”

  10. You’re right. Edsa Kwatro is just standing by. My oh my – this Pinoy – Is he for real? As Mr. Tiglao stated. This Pinoy does not need another term but a jail term.

  11. Very well said and explained to awaken Malacanang and Mar Roxas.

    There days in the Palace are numbered. Let them insist and EDSA 4 will shorten their stay in Malacanang.

    The best option of President BS Aquino is to resign and immediately pardoned by
    President Binay – OTANG NA LOOK KAY PRESIDENT CORY AQUINO.

    It happened to President Nixon by President Gerald Ford. It can happen here to save his face and to escape prosecution after his term.

    This way President BS Aquino makes the “Supreme Sacrifice” for the Country – Cory Aquino said this to Gloria. If she is alive today – Cory will say the same thing to his only son to save him.

    • Anybody BUT Binay as President! I’d rather have Aquino get a second term in his post than have Binay as President. Binay is so corrupt he will pardon/release the three corrupt plunderers Senators (Enrile, Estrada and Revilla) so that he can say he is not the sole most corrupt public officials!
      Binay will destroy the economic and social foundation of the nation being an incompetent and dishonest public official on the face of the Philippine sceneries. Binay was just a small Mayor yet he was able to build his economic empire and family political dynasty. I’d rather have a Aquino anointed guy as President than an unscrupulous demagogue Binay! He fooled the poor people as if he had funded their enjoyable social services provided by the City of Makati NOT Binay! What will you expect from a dubious character and pretentious leader like Binay? Nothing but corrupt government and corrupt minions and followers!