The U.S. president has the opportunity to serve two four-year terms if he can get re-elected for the second term. The Philippine president serves six years and is then done.
It is striking to me how long it takes for big progress to be made. The U.S. is still struggling from the economic collapse underway when President Obama took office. The Philippines is still a fundamentally corrupt place and Ms. Arroyo is lingering seemingly unattended. These are very large boats, these ships of state.
Every once in a while you can find mention of a new Constitutional Committee in the Philippines but you never find out what the exact INTENT would be. To extend the term of the President? To allow 100% foreign ownership of businesses? To get rid of the Commission on Appointments which is so politicized as to be dangerous? To get more federal in structure? To allow U.S. bases?
People seem to think it is advisable to re-write the Constitution but they won't be candid enough to say why. Not until they've gathered up support for their secret plans.
I rather see the existing Constitution as a good basic document, and I don't like the idea of a heavy-duty re-write. Once the Constitutional Committee begins operating, nobody knows what worms will crawl out of the woodwork. It is likely to be a contentious exercise that further tears the nation apart rather than unifying and building it. The exercise would bog Congress down in about a year of non-productive work when the nation really needs to get things done. Like the RH Bill, Divorce Bill, FOI Bill, Political Party Development Bill, Taxation bills, and other steps to make the nation free, modern and productive.
I think it is better to do a few targeted amendments to the Constitution and get on with the business of improving the way government agencies operate. Especially the courts. Why introduce massive changes to the laws of the land when the enforcement disciplines now are in disarray and laws are substantially meaningless?
Here are three amendments I'd suggest be made:
- Change the amendment process to allow amendments to the Constitution at any time they are properly approved rather than limiting it to one amendment every five years. The five-year barrier means the most important document in the land is not able to keep up with rapid advances in society.
- Permit 100% foreign ownership of businesses under specific guidelines that bar foreign ownership of critical businesses like communications. Include anti-trust provisions that bar foreign dominance in any particular industry. . . like mining. Bring investor money in, but don't allow it to overpower domestic interests.
- Change the term of the presidency to two four-year terms. Six years and out is somehow weak. The President is just getting going then, bam, out. The four-year benchmark is a checkpoint. If the President is doing well, he gets to keep going. If not, get someone in who can. And if he earns four more years in power, he is not cemented in place for so long that he dominates the political landscape and forces out opposition. It's a good balance. Adjust legislator and other elected positions to the presidential four-year cycles.
The core Constitution, which is solid, stays in place and is not vulnerable to surprise or unplanned changes.
The Constitution is open to planned changes to keep pace with knowledge and the demands on an emerging First Class nation.
Allow President Aquino to stand for election for another four year term in the 2016 election. Six years and out is not enough time to seat his progressive changes. If the people disagree, they can opt for the opposing candidate.
Plus, Mar Roxas is still young. He could do with a little more seasoning.