Political reforms: Out of the box or right inside the box?


This refers to a number of articles published in the Manila Times on the Lipa Declaration including its full text, which some have referred to as an out of the box solution to achieve political reforms.

More than ever, great awakenings of citizens continue to unfold, realizing that at the root of our people’s sufferings is politics.

An out of the box solution, espoused by the Lipa Declaration is worthy of careful discernment and scrutiny. Here, a number of fundamental questions come to mind.

Is there an intent to replace the present national leadership with the so-called National Transformation Council and if so through what means? The declaration explicitly provides that “ . . . we call upon the National Transformation Council, (Hereafter the council), to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal political conditions.”

Assuming that there is that means by which the Council can legally assume the task of restoration, what shall the council do during the interim period, from the time it replaces the present government until the next elections? Will the council also launch or announce new and major policy programs or laws, make significant appointments to government offices, enter into major contracts, among others?

What’s the timetable to achieve the objectives?

Who comprise the Council? Are there covenanted documents or by-laws that regulate the Council?

Prescriptions for reform in our kind of politics span the most abstract, which arises from a highly complex examination of our circumstances that demands conversion to new values and change of heart, a re-ordering of our priorities, the reshaping of the culture of utang na loob, reviving delicadeza, etc., to the very simple yet concrete, derived from a practical inquiry, as a first step, into the evil we must seek to neutralize. I will not demean any and would submit that all have merits but any of these must be done within the existing framework of our democratic institution or inside the box, so to speak.

That box is our Constitution.

Any amendment or revision in the Constitution is an issue subsidiary to the more essential question of good faith or the lack of it. The kind of respect and adherence to the supreme law of the land by those in power gives us a clue as to their motivations for charter change, hence, along this line it is a big no-no.

As through what legal means the National Transformation Council, albeit endowed with good faith, will bring itself to recognition and in part oversee the formulation of a new Charter can be the bigger question and subject to very contentious debates.

A genuine commitment to reform translates to a deep concern for the poor many. Many are poor because of dirty politics. Politics is dirty because of corruption.

The nation’s problems may not after-all be as complicated as we think it to be – at least 40% of our annual budget (taxpayers’ money) is lost to corruption, 30% is automatically appropriated to debts repayment.

Hence, for every peso, only 30 centavos go to public services – on education, healthcare, housing, in our judicial system, infrastructure and many others.

Thus no solution may in be sight to our demands for free education with more schools/teachers/books, better healthcare benefits for all, improvement in our justice system, world-class public infrastructure and many more unless and first and foremost we confront corruption head on, that should bring back that stolen 40 centavos to where they belong.

Three (3) necessary structural reforms come to mind and are underway – the enactment of a national law banning political dynasty through people’s initiative which the constitution provides (www.kapatiranparty.org), the passage of the people’s freedom of information law (www.ifoi.ph), and the abolition of the pork barrel system, also through people’s initiative (www.facebook.com/cebu.summit).

Among the many innovations in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, one facet of the fundamental law stands out among the rest, and this is the right given to the people through people’s initiative—in directly proposing and enacting laws or approving or rejecting any act or law, subsequently enshrined in RA 6735.

The initiative to legislate the prohibition of political dynasty is a first in the history of RA 6735, which affirms the principle on sovereignty. The first may be difficult to organize and undertake but, if we as a people shall succeed, the next ones should be easy. What Filipinos need to do is to exercise this right, to make this people’s initiative law work for them, and to take affirmative action for the common good.

Every Filipino needs to know about this initiative.

What follows the institutionalization of crucial checks and balance in government is the creation of a more conducive climate for business to flourish, to mean more State revenues for public services and jobs creation for our people. Jobs mean income to be flowed back into the economy for businesses to grow, which again means more State revenues for public services. Growth in government revenues eventually lead to reduction in income and consumer taxes, to mean more disposable income flowing back into the economy for businesses to grow more, which again means more State revenues for public services.

What follows is a government’s moral leverage to re-negotiate debts repayment to longer term periods, to mean more available funds in the annual appropriation for public services.

The 2016 election is just around the corner. The filing of candidacy is even much closer, on October 2015.

The people’s initiative against dynasty was launched as early as in October 2013 with the 2016 elections in mind, and we still have enough time to mount a referendum within the first half of 2015, provided that the required number of signatures is met, at the latest by January 2014.

It was Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General, who propounded: “Most faults are not in our Constitution but in ourselves.”

As I wish well the National Transformation Council and all its supporters in their pursuit for reforms in part through Charter change, I also invite them to support in parallel this initiative and make the present Constitution work.

If we work fast, if we work hard, if we work smart, and most importantly if we work together, this first-ever people’s initiative can be achieved in good time. It will signal the dawn of radical changes in Philippine society, for there can and there shall be subsequent exercises of this very powerful constitutional right to institutionalize other needed, genuine reforms that the very leaders of this nation for decades have denied its people.

Norman Cabrera is the president of Ang Kapatiran Party.


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1 Comment

  1. Claro Apolinar on

    The president of Ang Kapatiran Party, Mr. Norman Cabrer, brought up very good questions. But he does not seem to feel the urgency of removing our present head opf state and head of government, Mr. Benigno Aquino, who is causing our Republic to deteriorate instead of helping make it stronger. Yes, after his disastrous first 20 months or so in office, during which the economy declined because he cancelled and suspended projects and programs started by his predecessor,, Mrs. Arroyo, our economy regained its growth pattern which was established by Mrs. Arroro using the country’s “sound fundamentals” and the central bank’s correct stewardship of our money supply and the central bank incredibly faihtful remittances pf pur OFW heroes. But let no one forget that the GDP growth under Aquino is not because of his efforts.
    And his Daang Matuwid is baluktot.
    And his chase after corrupt senators, congressmen and officials is limited to people of the opposition parties and has avoided touching top leaders of the Liberal Party and his Cabinet!