The most favored campaign line brandished by pro-Duterte diehards in the last 2016 presidential elections was ‘Change is Coming!’ Whether the slogan was subliminally conceived to take on a double meaning, its import today resonates louder after the House drumbeat has sounded, announcing the launch of Charter Change.
Amending the 1987 Constitution has always been a mouth-watering political recipe. Even if the lower house of Congress has promised to tinker only with the economic provisions, the tepid public reception the initiative has so far received reflects the resistance the hoi polloi has towards legislative undertakings that can turn opportunistic in the end.
In short, the disapproval towards changing some of the provisions of the Constitution can be directly traced to the lack of credibility on the part of the lawmakers handling the affair.
There is no arguing the Charter has deficiencies, oversights, and flaws. Like any other constitutions, perfection is bound by time and changes. So is the country’s fundamental law which, after thirty-four years, has been exposed to geopolitical movements and realignments.
Updating a constitution is an indispensable aspect of national development. Because it is the mother lode when it comes to enacting laws, keeping it in stride with the times is significant. However, the fear of leaving the repair works in the hands of people with little values makes the act of amending the charter tricky, risky, and even unethical.
While there are remedies to ensure the amendments are confined to certain provisos under a constituent assembly, Filipino politicians are known to introduce clever maneuvers that create complications. If that happens, the purpose of introducing sound economic policies will suffer.
Granting the lawmakers forge a covenant limiting the revisions to economics, there exists no law that prohibits them from reneging on the deal. If politicos can change partisan loyalty at a snap of a finger, there is reason to fear the proposed parameters can eventually go haywire.
Another thing going against Cha-cha is lack of material time. The Constitution states that a plebiscite on the proposed amendments must be done “not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the submission of the amendments or revisions.”
With the Commission on Elections busy revising the voters’ list, preparing the October 2021 filing of certificates of candidacy, printing ballots, and ironing out kinks in time for next year’s presidential polls, surely there is no time left.
Moreover, each chamber of Congress must follow its legislative agenda. Later, the proposed amendments will be reconciled in the bicameral body prior to scheduling and holding a plebiscite. That makes the whole political drama even more complicated.