Issue of March 4, 2018
Mt. Province

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Term extension

Almost and always, the often repeated reason why the 1987 Constitution cannot be amended or repealed in any manner is the issue on the term extension of elected public officials, especially that of the president. There is this inherent fear from those opposing the revision that a provision may be inserted allowing congressmen, senators, and the president to prolong their term beyond what is allowed by law. This fear is a hindrance to any proposal for charter change.

There had been studies that were commissioned to determine the necessity of changing or amending our Constitution and it reveals that indeed, there is a need to do so. The economic provisions are no longer attuned to the needs of the people, the structure of the government is not in accordance with our traditions, and the setup of our system does not coincide with the geographic composition of our numerous islands.

There is little debate that for our country to catch up with our Association of South East Asian Nations neighbors in terms of competitiveness, we must remove the restrictive and prohibitive articles in our Constitution. Time and again, it had been shown that these provisions are the ones dragging us down. It is these that are causing us to lag behind other countries, resulting in so much “red tape” and corruption in our government.

Still, our people and our legislators persist in maintaining them. Amending the Constitution is associated with the notion that it will tolerate the term extension of the president and most elected officials. What a narrow-minded way of dealing with a problem that calls for a radical solution.

Charter change, asserts those who are against it, may produce another dictator. Especially during this time when we see a president in the person of Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has all the makings of a dictator, amending the Constitution may just be another ruse to prolong his stay. All the indicators are there, they conclude. However, this fear pales in comparison to the much needed reforms that must be implemented via charter change.

If the only argument against amending the Constitution is term extension, then let the incumbents sign a pact that they will not seek any term extension. Let them sign a deed by their own blood that they will not stay a minute more in their respective positions. Transition or no transition, they must vacate. Duterte already started the ante by saying that he will not extend his term. He gave specific instructions to the military and to the police to shoot him if he stays on as President a second longer than what his mandate requires.

Can we believe him? We must if we are to progress as a nation. Can we trust him knowing he reneged on his promises in the past? We should if we are to move forward as a country.

But then again, should we be afraid of term extensions? Many countries, notably the United States of America, allow term extension for their leaders. Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt occupied the White House for three terms whereas former President Barack Obama had two terms.

In our country, we had presidents who deserved more than one term, but because of the provision disallowing an extension, they had to discontinue their rule. A classic example is former President Fidel V. Ramos who fostered a measure of peace in Mindanao, was able to improve the image of the country, and did a good job in terms of economic policies. When his six-year term ended, he had to leave. We were deprived continuity of a good government and we were denied public projects.

Every time a new leader is elected, he scraps what his predecessor has so far done and does his own bidding. Everything goes back to zero when a new president is put in office. This is the more pressing issue that must be addressed.

It will be stressed that prohibiting term extension was included in the Constitution because of the apprehension that Ferdinand E. Marcos may stage a comeback. It is all against the dictator. The dictator Marcos is already dead. Yet we persist in continuing with a Constitution that is directed against a dead man. We cannot live our lives in the past any more than continue to be afraid. It is time to move forward. Much like the fallen dictator who was already buried, let our fears against term extension be buried too. There is so much to improve and so much promise to look forward to.

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