RECENT events underscore the necessity for Charter change. It is about neither the economic provisions nor the form of government that previous proposals had put forward. It is about raising the qualifications for national positions.
To raise the quality of debates and laws churned out by Congress, it should not be enough that candidates for senator are natural-born Filipino citizens, at least 35 years old on election day, able to read and write, a registered voter and a Philippine resident for at least two years before the election.
These requirements are specified in Section 3, Article VI of the Constitution.
The requirements for low-salaried positions in government and private business are far more stringent than vying for a Senate seat, which entails heavy responsibilities for the national good and involves millions, or even billions, of pesos in public money.
An applicant for security guard has to secure clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the ippine National Police (PNP) and the barangay where he resides, but a senatorial candidate does not. These requirements are not provided in the Constitution.
One can just be a popular action star or a sexy dancer who is a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old on Election Day, can read and write, a registered voter, and Philippine resident for at least two years before the election, to become senator.
Except for longer residency and age, the requirements for candidates for vice president and president are the same, as specified in Section 2, Article VII of the Constitution.
In previous elections, the mental capacity and stability of some candidates were questioned, but sadly, were raised only as black propaganda by rival camps.
Isn’t it about time to include medical clearance, including psychiatric evaluation, as part of the requirements for public office? What about court clearance?
If these are required for applicants for employment in far lower positions, why should we require less from those entrusted with millions, or even billions, of public money?
In the spirit of transparency and openness, shouldn’t we also require candidates for national positions to make public their income tax payments? Once elected, their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) should also reflect their business interests and relatives in government.
Recently, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and actress Alma Moreno became favorite (trending) topics in social media networks. Pacquiao was lambasted for his offensive remarks against homosexuals, describing them as worse than animals. Moreno took a beating for her awkward answers to questions on live television interview with Karen Davila.
Pacquiao, an incumbent but absentee congressman; and Moreno, a former city councilor, are both seeking senatorial positions, but have yet to show their mettle in debates and lawmaking. Their stints in the legislative bodies obviously are not adequate for the kind of debates in the Senate. But they are both popular to the masses.
Also recently, the health conditions of presidential aspirants Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Rodrigo Duterte were at issue.
During her proclamation rally in Ilocos Norte, Defensor-Santiago said Marcos would be her ideal replacement should “something happen to me.” She took a leave from the Senate in June 2014, saying she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Last year, she said she had been healed.
Earlier rumored to have throat cancer, Duterte’s health condition became the talk of the town two weeks ago after he skipped a campaign rally, supposedly due to migraine. But unconfirmed reports said he was confined overnight at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City for a mild stroke.
In November, before Duterte decided to run for President, he said his spinal problem would not make him fit for the position. Shortly before filing his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for President in December, Duterte said he may not last six years in office.
“Nakikita ko na (I can see it). I am 70 years old and I can see my life go. Kung ano ang medisina ninyo, yun din ang medisina ko. Wag kang magtanong kung ano ang sakit ko (Your medicine is my medicine. Don’t ask what my illness is). Everyone gets sick and everyone has to go. Ako ay 70. In the long stretch, medyo duda ako kung makaabot ako ng (I doubt if I can finish) six years. Makababa pa kaya ako ng Malakanyang na (Can I step down from Malacañang) vertical? Maybe horizontal. And if I win, inshallah (God willing), I will be the first President to enjoy a state funeral,” he told supporters in an advance Christmas party in Taguig City.
Duterte earlier disclosed he is suffering from Buerger’s Disease, an inflammation of blood vessels mostly in the limbs, traced to smoking.
He is also reported to have Barrett’s Esophagus, a more serious form of gastroesophageal reflux, in which the lining of the esophagus is replaced by intestinal tissue. If not properly managed, Barrett’s Esophagus can progress into a rare cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.
Duterte has denied suffering from throat cancer and lambasted a veteran journalist who wrote about it as a propagandist of his rival candidate in the Liberal Party (LP).
The candidates have refused to make public their health records, so we don’t really know if they are sick or not, and of what ailment. The rigors of the 90-day official campaign will surely be a test on their physical health.
I believe that before discussions on other provisions of the Constitution such as land ownership and the form of government, we should first make sure that the people entrusted with awesome powers to legislate and enforce policies, and decide on more than a trillion-peso annual budget, are highly qualified and of healthy body, mind and soul.