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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.

Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

One-Term Wonder

One of the most significant changes brought about by the 1987 Constitution is the one-term limit of the Presidency. Largely a reaction to President Marcos’ generational occupation of the office, the Constitutional Commissioners deigned it prudent to prevent a twopeat or a threepeat.

One would think that with a one-term limit, a president could buckle down to work and spend his political capital to promote the needed economic reforms, the promotion of foreign investments, the institutionalization of electoral and judicial reforms, the strengthening of the civil service, and the long march to curb graft and corruption in government. It would have been nice to see our economy really take off, and not always simmer on the verge of a fiscal and economic smackdown, to borrow a term from my nephew's favorite wrestling show.

But gauging the performance of the occupants of the office after the enactment of the 1987 Constitution and subsequent to Mrs. Aquino, the political capital always seems spent elsewhere.

While it is true that President Fidel Valdez Ramos did a splendid job of bringing in foreign investments and earning the respect of his peers in Asia, the rest of the world and until February 2004, a place in the Carlyle Group, his political capital was invested in amending the 1987 Constitution with the end view of extending his presidency. But we will never know since Cardinal Sin and Mrs. Aquino joined hands to foil his attempt. And so, off he rode to the sunset.

But unlike the good soldier that he ought to have been, FVR did not fade away. Instead, he extended the national nightmare beyond July 8, 2005 at a steep price of charter change. In doing so, he exacted his revenge on Mrs. Aquino and what he could not oblige Cardinal Sin personally, he inflicted and divided his confrere-bishops.

While it is true that President Joseph Ejercito Estrada won a plurality of the country’s votes, his political capital was spent in nocturnal gatherings with his drinking cronies, cooking up mergers and acquisitions above and beyond his duties as a President, without mind you, stealing a centavo in the nation’s coffers.

His political capital was further spent in the promotion of our country as the gambling haven of Southeast Asia, devising a creative numbers game for the purpose of generating revenues, again without mind you, dipping his fingers on the national treasury.

No small wonder he has consistently maintained his defense that he never stole from the government, only from the poor, the ignorant and gullible players of jueteng and from big shot beneficiaries of those mergers and acquisitions who graced him with their beneficence.

While it is true that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a respected economist and the first two-term president under the 1987 Charter by virtue of a constitutional loophole, her political capital has been a mixed bag.

While she pushed for hardnosed economic reforms and revenue enhancement measures, her political capital in the first term was spent trying to outspend Fernando Poe, Jr. in the last elections and by appointing men of dubious fealty to the Constitution like Mr. Hello Garci to de-institutionalize the COMELEC and by further engaging the military and some generals to alleged partisan electoral manipulation in the South.

While she pushed for the enactment of the EVAT law to save the Republic from a spiraling debt trap and ever widening fiscal chasm, her political capital in the second term was spent in ensuring the dismissal of the impeachment complaint in the House and in the process, compromising her resolve for an economic take-off evidenced by her lackadaisical support for the EVAT implementation. Likewise, her political capital is being spent to change the charter under the guise that this Constitution is defective and unresponsive.

In the light of these evidences, should we scrap the one-term limit since presidents do not use their political capital in earnest and for the commonweal? Do we adopt the parliamentary proposal of Speaker Jose de Venecia which was seconded by the president?

The legacy of Marcos’ abuses of the office of the presidency may have been lost on the present generation. And that is more reason why we must not rely on politicians who speak so eagerly of charter change, vilifying the 1987 Constitution as though it is the Scarlet Letter. On the contrary, there is nothing inherently wrong with the 1987 Constitution, nothing so unresponsive in the charter that a selfless legislature cannot remedy. But alas, we dream!

Whichever way we choose will depend on the historical evidence and perspective that can be explained to the electorate by historians. Manuel Quezon III comes to mind. It is historians like him who have the gift of hindsight coupled with the long view that we must listen to without doubting their motives. To their views we winnow, and from the parting of the chaff from the grain, we can arrive at an informed decision that we can live with proudly and not regret for the remainder of our days.

But until that day comes, we must not speak of the 1987 Constitution as though it is a cuss word. It may not have been written in stone but it is a document forged from lessons learned during our darkest days and of blood shed and lives sacrificed in order for our generation and the next to see the rise of a new dawn.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the 1987 Constitution is that it was a pavlovian reflex to what Marcos stood for. Marcos may have been a crook, but not everything he stood for was evil. The Marcos Constitution could simply been amended, not completely overhauled. They threw the baby with the bathwater.

The 1987 Constitution opened the floodgates for the traditional politicians. Many of them were jobless during the Marcos years. They came back with a fury. And great hunger. They easily slid back into business as usual and the whole corruption cycle was put into motion. And to expect politicians to change is to ask if a zebra can change his stripes.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Punzi said...

Hey Professor! Saw you in ANC last night. Grabe! Hindi na maabot!

6:33 PM  
Anonymous dawin said...


Blame it on Manolo! He recommended my blog re: GMA interview with Soliven to ANC and so, they guested me on that point. Nag-aabot pa rin tayo dito sa ating blogosphere. Malapit na ang last week sa bar kaya tips ulit ha!

Thanks Manolo!

8:03 PM  
Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

Kenichi Ohmae, when asked about term limits (on one of his lecture tours to Manila when FVR was contemplating cha-cha) suggested an analog/tiered approach (i.e.-responding to change) vs. a binary (yes or no) approach. In essence he suggested that:

you can have a second term at the presidency if you garnered +60% of the vote
you can have a third term but you'll have to bring in +75% of the vote

and so forth. this way, really good (and popular) leaders could stay on longer. conversely, it would cost corrupt leaders more money just to keep their seat.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous dawin said...


It's interesting that you quoted Kenichi Ohmae. I remembered our class in AIM studying him and contrasting his theories with Michael Porter.

Ohmae's concept is interesting. I subscribe to the belief that with certian exceptions, things should not be reduced to what you called a binary approach or what I would call Aristotelian proposition.

If the percentage of votes that Ohmae mentioned are to be followed, I am afraid that his proposal may not be feasible bec. we have a multi party system vis-a-vis a two party system.

It would either give rise to the elected president compromising his office by promising favors to the opponents to withdraw, curry their votes, or bribe them outright. With those percentages, the cost of winning may become exorbitant. It may simply be more expensive in the long run.

But I like the concept. It is clearly an example of thinking out of the box.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you will make Metro Manila a better place to live in.

9:37 AM  
Blogger categorically imperative said...

From Joe Pesci's character from With Honors: The beauty of the Constitution is that it can always be changed. The beauty of the Constitution is that it makes no set law other than faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves.

Medyo mababaw ang source ko...nevertheless, Mabuhay pa rin ang Pilipinas!

5:18 PM  
Anonymous dawin said...


Kahit na mababaw, malaman! I agree with the quote in principle!

2:37 PM  

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