A business case. The lack of one is the big elephant in the room that the whole debate around the Constitutional Reform agenda seems to be tiptoeing around. Constitional Reform is a textbook replacement problem. See it from a Project Management Lifecycle (PMLC) perspective and this becomes quite evident.
Most PMLC schools of thought (management consultants tend to develop different flavours of it for their respective consulting brand quackery) define five key lifecycle stages: Propose, Investigate, Design, Build, and Test. For big implementation projects, initial funding approval is conditional on the basis of a solid business case to proceed.
The Investigation stage is usually the most crucial stage. It is where user requirements and solution options are identified, itemised, articulated, and costed. Any evaluations of the options presented on the basis of their benefits (or, more broadly, added-value) can only be in the context of the cost of the whole exercise.
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The bottom line of any change initiative in the Philippines — reduction of poverty — is something nobody in the National “Debate” seems to have any disagreement on. Say then that the benefit part of the business equation is “reduction of poverty”. What are the options then to consider for the cost side of the equation? Obviously there are two broad options:
(1) Do nothing (i.e. continue using the current Constition for the foreseeable future).
(2) Change the Constitution
The first costs nothing. The second will cost us in terms of:
(2.a) The actual administrative costs of organising the movement, convening the investigation and design forum, and implementing (agreeing and ratifying) the new charter.
(2.b) Continuity costs in terms of disruption to governance and distraction of a population that tends to fixate on political circuses (as if elections every six years isn’t an already costly distraction in a Third World society like ours).
(2.c) Risk profile; i.e., is the problem with Filipinos really to do with the nature of our politics?
In short, there is only one benefit of any real consequence in the bigger scheme of things and two options and their costs against which this one benefit should be evaluated against in a proper cost-benefit analysis.
The obvious question when replacing an asset (our current pseudo-US-style Presidential system) then becomes quite simple:
Have we already been using this asset in its existing form in an optimal way?
Specifically, does this current system offer us enough room to move which we simply refuse to or lack the brains to harvest?
* * *
We need to be careful and make sure we don’t gather up unhealthy momentum that may reduce our ability to remain reflective and introspective about certain belief systems that could be starting to snowball. The holding up of Presidential Systems and Oligarchs as strawmen or bogeymen should be avoided and we should, instead, remain focused on the whole point of such exercises and initiatives lest we ourselves get blinkered by our own zealous agenda-driven rush towards an as yet uncrystallised solution that could deliver ill-understood outcomes.
Perhaps for our own benefit, as Ben Kritz points out, we need to encourage people who are opposed to constitional reform to come up with more modern and more robust arguments to make sure that a balance is maintained and that the constitional reform agenda is not perverted by unhealthy popularity.
Answering the question of whether we have exhausted all efforts to derive as much value as we can from the current system of governance is the key to anyone who opposes Constitutional Reform coming out as an intelligent challenge to it. This is what I mean when I cite the opposers’ need to modernise their approach and leave behind the old moronic style of politicising the debate the way relics of 1980’s thinking like Ellen Tordesillas do by insulting the intelligence of the public in the way she applies quaint scare tactics that tend to work on the smallest minds of our society.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.