Political reforms aren’t forthcoming any time soon. The perfect opportunity to institute them was just after the 1986 “revolution” when Cory Aquino established a revolutionary government after she was installed as President. Unfortunately, this was wasted because the commissioners to the Constitutional Commission basically reinstated the political system in place before the 1973 Constitution was ratified. There were no objections raised to what amounted to the wholesale dismantling of the political structure because the allies of ousted President Ferdinand Marcos were the subject of witch-hunts which had them defending themselves against the immense power of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) which could simply issue a writ of sequestration without question and due process being accorded the person or the juridical entity.
The two-party system in place after 1946 had a revolving door in between. Defectors from either party formed a single file in each direction; in and out. That didn’t work either because Congress proved to be the stumbling block to any reform-minded President. This was Marcos’s frustration which was why he organized the 1971 Constitutional Convention. The result was a parliamentary system after the French model with the President as the Head of State and the Prime Minister as the Head of Government. It can be concluded that Marcos wanted this adopted because he could stay in power longer and nominate his successor. Unfortunately, the global economy was not ideal for the economic strategy he pursued. The oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979 put the US in stagflation and the Philippines was in hock with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) for development funds. The political opposition made the situation worse with the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983.
In his Inquirer piece “The reform we need”, Cielito Habito laments how the Philippines’ political parties “are not solid organizations grounded on principles, but loose groups mainly built around personalities.” Changing this situation is difficult under the present system. Habito points out “the stark reality in Philippine politics” where “only candidates possessing large sums of money could ever stand a chance of winning political office”.
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The ideal, of course, is for political parties to be democratic public institutions upholding a firm and distinct set of values and philosophies, based on which voters can form reasonable expectations on what their leaders would stand for once elected. There should thus be no place for political turncoats or “balimbings.”
We have seen the results of the 1987 Constitution on the present political landscape. We are running out of qualified leaders. The political benches of both sides are shallow. What we have now are mediocre legislators who have no idea what they’re doing because they lack the experience and qualifications necessary for public office. Just look at the potential candidates for President and Vice-President. Then look at the present crop of future leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives. There isn’t any one rising star you can pin your hopes on because no one has even come close to the level of a Juan Ponce Enrile or Miriam Defensor Santiago when it comes to governance. There is also no one like Serge Osmeña who, despite not having a college degree, was intelligent enough to actively participate in the affairs of the Senate. Imagine how in this election cycle, the senior members of the upper chamber would be Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla. Not exactly the ideal when it comes to leading an august body with a history of men with gravitas.
History has a way of making the public realize the deficiencies in the system. The post-Marcos history of the Philippines is about to end — if today’s Opposition is wiped out in May 2022. But our biggest problem is we will be left holding the bag in terms of their acts of omission and commission. The public was fooled into believing they were the good as opposed to Marcos being the devil incarnate. To this day, the jury is out on Marcos because history is not yet done with him or the Opposition. The true reckoning is about to come on May 2022. Thus our biggest problem is how do we move forward specially at a time when we are in the middle of a global crisis where the only certainty is uncertainty.
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