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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cha Cha Or Dirty Dancing?

As a layman, I am puzzled by all these chatter about charter change. Especially when I see House Speaker Joe de Venecia on various talk shows discussing the merits of a parliamentary system. He speaks of the political and economic benefits of a unicameral system which is but sheen to his ambitions for ascending the throne. But that is another story.

I agree that the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution ought to be amended. Those provisions were framed under an atmosphere of nationalism and thus, economic exploitation of natural resources was limited to Filipino citizens. But with the advent of globalization and the recent flip-flop of the Supreme Court on the mining industry, it is quite obvious that the constitutional limitations on the development of the national patrimony have become outmoded.

But if we are talking about the imperialism of Manila and the need to decentralize, does not the Local Government Code (“LGC”) suffice? Was it not the purpose of this LGC to devolve powers, functions, funding from the national government to the local government units? And assuming the LGC does not sufficiently empower the local government units, why not further enhance and amend its provisions? I should think we have had enough time to observe the effects of the LGC on the local and national political structure to tinker and fine-tune it further to be more responsive to local needs.

But if we are talking about shifting from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature, are the laws to be passed under a one chamber body better than laws enacted under a bicameral setup? I can appreciate that lawmaking may be swifter under a unicameral system but swifter does not mean better. Speaker Joe de Venecia speaks of unicameral legislatures found in all Asian tiger economies. But those legislatures are largely kittens groveling at the foot of the Prime Minister. You see that in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand where the parliament rubber stamps the wishes of the Prime Minister.

Moreover, what is the problem with lawmaking anyway in this country? Is it not generally considered a fiat that the Philippines is not lacking in good laws, the problem is their implementation. Our legislature has passed laws that are the sanest, if not one of the most enlightened, in all of Asia, despite electing mediocre people to both Houses. Unlike Singapore, our laws do not allow an administration politician to sue a rival for libel or sedition just because nasty things were said in the campaign and get to bilk the defeated candidate millions for damages. The quality of our laws is at par with First World countries. So, what is the fuss with converting into a unicameral legislature?

When I was studying at AIM, my seatmate then and noted business strategy consultant and Human Relations practitioner, Tita D. Puangco, would remind us the following HR maxim: “Structure follows strategy”. If the strategy of Speaker Joe de Venecia is to convert the Philippines into a tiger economy, does a parliamentary government guarantee the answer to all the ills our country faces today?

In addition, if the presidential system is so unresponsive that it needs to be scrapped altogether, can someone explain why in spite of being in a presidential state of government in the 50’s and 60’s, the Philippines arguably had one of the best economies in all of Asia, second only to Japan? And if one is going to point a finger on the origins of our present state of beggar economy, didn’t the decline of our economy start under the rubber stamp, quasi-parliamentary structure under Marcos? And if one is not willing to blame the parliamentary system for the country’s woes in the 70’s and 80’s, why are we now blaming the presidential system in this new millennium? And if one lays the problem during the 70’s and 80’s at the foot of Marcos, does it not prove that it is not the system, whether presidential or parliamentary, that has foibles but the actors on stage?

I do think amending the charter’s economic provisions must be done posthaste to be competitive in this global village. But the skeptic in me cannot accept the rationale for overhauling the political system. There must be an easier and less expensive manner of addressing the ills of our country.

To date, while the US Constitution has lasted for more than two hundred years with amendments now and then, no Philippine constitution has ever lasted for 50 years. We change it as fast as dancers change their wardrobes in a concert. Dancing to Cha Cha may be dangerous to our health. Perhaps, a slower dance like dirty dancing may suit us better.

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