Yesterday, renewed calls for Charter Change came once more into the foreground of our national discourse. No less than a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is spearheading this new thrust. And Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte’s response was beautifully praised, “democracy is already in the recovery room as of May 2010.”
To be honest, I have always been for some change in the charter. I personally find it too wordy that even the most common of us can’t understand. Our most basic law should be something each Filipino could readily understand. It should be simple. It should be filled with wisdom. It should be timeless.
The Charter has flaws and this is recognized by both sides. It is common ground for those both and for and against dabbling with the nation’s basic law.
In recent years, I have been against charter change because one could never trust the powers that be to change it for the greater good, much less have faith that it is the future we safeguard. That tomorrow promises something better.
It isn’t that I do not trust Aquino to write a better charter than his mother; it is that I do not believe we have wisdom enough as a people to do a better job.
This is my second reason. I never really believed that our nation has exhausted the possibilities of the current Constitution. For one thing, a provision of the 1987 Constitution remain unused. The Freedom of Information Act was promised to us, and yet more than 20 years after EDSA, its future remain bleak.
Then there is this.
People believe that by changing the national charter, the fundamental problems of our nation are swept aside. It will still take years to feel the effects, good or bad. Charter change today for example, does not answer the much needed reform in our Education system. That is primarily a function of the department of education, and of experts in the field. Teachers will not magically be smarter; their salaries will not suddenly improve.
Charter change does not magically create more money for the government to use in social services. The poorest of the poor will still have the same health care coverage. There will still be children walking our streets at night. There will still be drugs and crime. In the farthest regions of our nation, bandits will still roam to terrorize the population.
Charter change does not make our police more competent. It does not make them less corrupt. It does not improve their capability to fight crime. It does not make people trust our police. That’s the job of the national police commission, the PNP command, and the Interior department.
Charter change does not change the fact our justice system is flawed. It does not make accusations that our judges sell cases more truthful or less true. And if they are on the take, how does it help change the system?
Some people believe that changing the charter to remove the economic limitations of ownership to be a step in the right direction. As a believer in the Free Market, yes, I agree there should be as few rules and that government should be limited to acting as a referee in the marketplace.
Yet, fundamentally, there is no stopping our current framework to reduce protectionism. The recent debacle of broadband use is an example. There is no basic policy. There are no basic rules set to ensure that telecoms are in their best behavior that consumers are protected.
A third reason that no matter what words we put into the basic law, at the end of the day, it is people who will govern and live in our country. It is we the people who will elect the same congressmen, and the same senators, simply because the bench is that shallow. It matters even less that that bench is shallow, except that it is the those who govern who must govern properly and in the interest of the nation.
There is hardly any difference between a party-list congressman and a regular congressman. They can both be overwhelmed with power; they can both abuse their power.
Bocchi in his work called the “Puzzle of the Philippines,” highlighted that our nation is a low capital investment one. The same fundamental problem exist in our political parties.
At the end of the day really, the answers to our nation’s problems is how to unlock incapacity. We have the tools today to do so. Our constitution does not forbid better training of our national police. It does not prevent us from enacting a better basic education policy. It does not prevent us from creating a nation where healthcare is free. It does not prevent us from creating a silicon valley.
Changing the charter does not make our people less fearful about tomorrow. It does not prevent legislators to view tomorrow shortsightedly. It does not make our religious wiser and less conservative. What it does, is to distract the Nation and the People from the change what we can do today. That change, I believe in the long run can do more to help bring our people out of poverty.
My point is: there are a lot of changes we can make to reduce incapacity in our country. There is a degree of change within the present framework we can enact that makes the world less unequal, more stable, and increasingly sustainable. We are not powerless to do so. And when we have created a more stable environment, with our leaders and our people filled with a little more wisdom, and a bit more responsible, perhaps then, we can begin talking about rewriting our charter to institutionalize what our nation has become, and what our nation hopes to achieve.