Issue of January 14, 2018

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Amend the constitution

Pia Hontiveros anchors a news program on the local CNN. Magoo Marjon also anchors his own sports show at the local ESPN. Two things are common here. Hontiveros and Marjon are Filipinos, and CNN and ESPN are foreign media outfits. Considering that the Philippine Constitution requires that the business of mass media should be 100 percent Filipino owned, should not the two stations supposed to be banned? Somehow, somebody found a way to skirt the restriction by allowing CNN and ESPN to operate locally.

This is the problem with the 1987 Constitution. It is very restrictive and yet the violation of its provisions is so rampant that the protection it provides is actually non-existent. Look at the restriction on term limits. Senators, congressmen, mayors and other local government officials are supposed to serve only for three terms. What do they do to extend their stay in power? In between their disqualification, they assign their wives, children or relatives to assume to their post and thereafter, take hold of the same office for another three years. It becomes a vicious cycle which can only be characterized as ridiculous. The supposed safeguard against the evil sought to be avoided becomes irrelevant, if not inane.

So it is with land ownerships. The same constitution prohibits aliens from owning lands of the public domain. However, a straddle of the beach fronts along the best islands in the country will reveal that prime lots are owned by Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Norwegians, Americans and a whole lot of other foreigners who marry poor Filipinos and retire in the Philippines.

Hence, there must be something wrong with our constitution. If none, the restrictive policies could not be violated. As it stands, those that are not allowed to be done directly are easily done indirectly. One is, therefore, prone to ask: “Is it the constitution or is it the people?” It cannot be the people because Filipinos who are tasked to work abroad become law abiding. Why then in our own country? Maybe, it is because the constitution is too lax, too tolerant and too ineffective.

If this is the case, should we not remedy the situation by amending the constitution? Should we not follow the advice that if it is broken, fix it?

There are too many among us who are very conservative and very sentimental. There are those who refrain from touching the constitution. They have this idea that it is being associated with the Aquinos who make it an untouchable document. Time and again, it had been proven that the current constitution is not in accord with the temperament, culture and system of our people. It is, therefore, strange that there remains a staunch opposition to its amendment or repeal. It is time we open up and accept the reality that the only way we can progress as a nation is to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The only argument being advanced by those against constitutional change is the apprehension of term extension by the President and his minions. The fear, however, pales in comparison to what is needed to be done in order to attune the constitution with the inevitable changes that is happening in our midst.

The 1987 Constitution has outlived its relevancy. It was designed to curtail a dictatorship and to revolt against former President Ferdinand Marcos. It demolished everything about him and his policies. That is why it is called the revolutionary constitution. Marcos is long gone and the members of his family are just a footnote of history. Still we adopt the constitution that suppresses them.

It is time to move on. It is time to be more realistic by imposing rights and privileges that are in accord with current situations. We are called upon to build this nation. There is so much to debate upon. Whether or not we are better off under the parliamentary federal form of government, let it be debated upon. Whether or not we should remove restrictive policies in the economic provisions of the constitution, let it be debated upon.

No matter what, no matter how, there must be a change for the better. This change can only happen by choice if we dare to amend our constitution.

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