charter change

[Newspoint] Blaming the innocent constitution

Vergel O. Santos

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[Newspoint] Blaming the innocent constitution

Marian Hukom/Rappler

Once the constitution is laid open for touching, it becomes indefensible against the worst contaminations. Our troubles lie not with our constitution, but precisely with the people who want to mess with it.

Another plot is afoot to amend the constitution, and it is based on the same presumption as before — that we have been made stupid enough by desperation to finally agree to it. The strategy this time around is to help us ease ourselves toward such presumed suitable stupidity, in case we haven’t achieved it yet.

Constitutional change is promoted as the quick fix for all our troubles, and those troubles are portrayed as chiefly economic; thus, all manner of economic prognostications are foisted on us simple folk who are thought also too simpleminded to understand them. I bet some of those proponents don’t understand them either, and are only going along for what’s in it for them, not for what’s in it for us. 

In any case, the campaign deploys theoreticians who argue from oversimplified and patronizing assumptions: Let’s be nice to foreign investors; allow them wider, even full, ownerships in enterprises and native resources and they will come in droves; they will set themselves up on our shores, create jobs for our jobless, and bring us prosperity. 

These prospective capitalists don’t really expect any largesse, only fair and sensible standing regulations and a corruption-free environment. But you can trust our officials to go overboard at the prospect of self-gain once the favor is returned. Our history is so replete with cases in evidence these arguers for charter change are forced to divert the argument toward theory and away from facts — such facts as these:

The constitution underwent its first change, a wholesale messing up really, after it had been in more or less fine service for longer than a generation. Ferdinand E. Marcos set the stage for it by intimidation and bribery as he prepared to make himself dictator. In fact, he signed the new constitution two months after proclaiming himself martial-law president, and put it into force the following month, after declaring it ratified, not by the normal popular vote in a plebiscite, but by “citizens’ assemblies” he had decreed to be organized in every barangay.

I guess inspired by England’s constitutional monarchs, though obviously not in their gracious acceptance of a ceremonial, if unifying, role in a modern-day democracy, Marcos himself chose to remain medieval. Propped up by American sponsorship, he reigned by torture, murder, and plunder for 14 years, until the people rose up and booted him out, although by then he had looted the nation into bankruptcy and was flying away to exile with his $10-billion plunder. 

A rewrite of the Marcos constitution was, therefore, a moral duty for the succeeding presidency of Corazon Aquino. No moral duty or any other such honorable cause, however, has prompted any of the attempts to touch the constitution after that — not in Fidel Ramos’s time, not in Gloria Arroyo’s, not in Rodrigo Duterte’s, and certainly not now. 

Ramos’s motive seemed more self-righteous than self-serving, though. Toward the end of his term, he called for a constitutional shift to parliamentary system in an apparent attempt to frustrate the presidential ambition of the former actor Joseph Estrada, a character of suspicious intent and dubious capability. Ramos failed in his plot, and Estrada succeeded in his ambition, but only to be ousted himself at midterm as a plundering president by a popular rising, as in Marcos’s case.

Unlike Ramos, Arroyo and Duterte were self-interestedly motivated. They plotted to keep power in a restructured system of government in order to escape prosecution, for corruption, and, in Duterte’s case, for mass murder in addition. All the same, both have gone unpunished even under the present constitution, and that’s because the constitution has not been given enough chance to work, being honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Those moments in our recent past reveal two things that should make us proud and at the same time offer lessons particularly useful today.

Revelation one: We have not proved so stupid, after all, not in the least, as to allow any tinkering with our constitution, having seen through the deceptions by its insistent proponents. In the present case, the deception consists in us being made to believe that only the economic provisions will be touched — “updated” ostensibly to present-day realities. The only reality that really matters now is that once the constitution is laid open for touching, it becomes indefensible against the worst contaminations.

Revelation two: Our troubles lie not with our constitution, but precisely with the people who want to mess with it, like the dictator Marcos. And aren’t we lucky to have his own son to keep us constantly reminded by his mere presidential presence? – Rappler.com

1 comment

Sort by
  1. ET

    Thanks to Vergel Santos for another enlightening and inspiring article. I agree: “Unlike Ramos, Arroyo and Duterte were self-interestedly motivated.” And how shall we add President Marcos Jr.? More likely to Arroyo and Duterte. I also agree: “We have not proved so stupid, after all, not in the least, as to allow any tinkering with our constitution.” But how about now? Will the Filipino People not be tempted by the P 100 per signature incentive? (Note: plus other incentives.) Lastly, I also agree: “Our troubles lie not with our constitution, but precisely with the people who want to mess with it, like the dictator Marcos.” But can I add? “… like the dictator Marcos and his son and nephew.”

Summarize this article with AI
Download the Rappler App!