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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Every constitution is a milestone

By Rod Kapunan


Every constitution, they say, is a milestone in the nation’s political history.  It is through their constitution that people who have been galvanized by their common idealism make formal their bonding as a nation-state; it being their birth certificate and its significance is on the fact that the document formalizes their determination to cut the chain that has enslaved them from their colonizer.
That milestone was first felt when the Filipino people approved the Malolos-drafted Constitution of 1898, upon which the revolutionary government proclaimed the birth of the new republic.   Although short-lived, it was the first document that embodied our desire for self-determination.  The Philippines became the first country in Asia to proclaim its independence.   It was most significant because it provided the separation of the Church and the State, a principle considered most radical during that period. 
Even if the 1935 Constitution was drafted under the close supervision of our conquering colonizers, it was a milestone for it catalyzed the truth that we have not forsaken our longing for self-determination.  While the 1935 Constitution was short of our  expectations because it appended provisions designed to  keep hold of us,  like the retention of their military bases and the incorporation of the called “parity rights agreement,” that was the most our country could bargain from an imposing colonizer.    
As regards the 1973 Constitution, many have their negative perspectives of that Constitution, for often they were carried by their ideological passion against the imposition of martial law.  But for all their doubts, it was that 1973 Constitution that put to an end the so-called “parity rights agreement,” dared to embark on the most ambitious plan to industrialize, and widened the participation of our people through the “barangay” system of democracy.  In short, the 1973 Constitution almost completed our quest for independence amplified by the exclusion of the appendages made in the 1935 Constitution that denominated us as a neo-colony of the US. 
Finally, the 1987 Constitution is also a milestone for even if its contained bigoted provisions against the government it ousted, it was that constitution that crafted a bold provision banning the establishment of foreign military bases, and the storage and stockpiling of nuclear weapons in the country.  Likewise, the said Constitution inserted nationalistic provisions like prohibition on the right to own lands by foreigners, the restrictions and limitations  in certain areas of investment classified as vital and strategic, including the right to develop and exploit our natural resources and operate the local mass media.
Ironically, it is this constitution that has been most violated, that today it is almost treated as a mere scrap of paper or “trapo”.  Barely four years after its ratification, Mrs. Aquino sought to violate her own Constitution when she joined the march to manifest her opposition to the termination of the US military bases agreement that was to expire in 1991.  Nonetheless, that provision continues to be violated after the Estrada administration signed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 2000.  
Similarly, the Cory Aquino-drafted Constitution also tried to make its land reform a centerpiece to outshine what the Marcos administration has achieved.  Sad to say, it was Mrs. Aquino herself who made a sham of her version of land reform by giving the farmers stock ownership certificates instead of a piece of land.  As a result, agricultural lands were not only reconsolidated to the hands of the landlords and caciques, but many were converted to subdivisions and industrial estates, thereby jeopardizing our food security.  
The same can be said of the Malacañang-certified bills that were enacted to purposely accommodate foreign investors without regard to the provisions of the Constitution.  As observed, how could the country convince foreign investors to come when our own businessman are relocating their production plants to other countries?  That pattern is telling that investment is not the issue, but that something is deeply wrong with us.    As one would say, if local investors refuse to bite the legislated incentives we have offered, it is more doubtful if they would take our invitation even if we amend our constitution.   
At the moment, the reasons why this pretending-to-be-honest government wants to amend the constitution revolve on the following important considerations: First, amending the Constitution could erase the possibility for the High Court to declare unconstitutional the restoration of the US military bases in the country, including the bringing in, storing and stockpiling of nuclear   weapons. 
Second, it wants to give all foreign investors a free hand in their disposition of our economy, including the exploitation of our natural resources.  Some say, the lifting of all economic restrictions on foreign investors plus the restoration of the US military bases here would earn for us the distinction as the only country in the world that sought to be re-colonized.
Third, this administration wants to pre-empt the possible declaration by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional the administration’s misappropriation of public funds through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)
Fourth, by a simple stroke of an amendment in the Constitution, the balkanization of the country would be legalized.   Many believe it is not really peace that is being sought to be guaranteed by the incorporation of that agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into our constitution, but to commit the Republic into permanently honoring the autonomous status of those demarcated areas with an option for them to secede.     
One could already foresee the looming war clouds ahead.  It is likely to encounter difficulty of being ratified or implemented in the Sulu archipelago, Southern Zamboanga, Basilan and portions of Palawan for it remain the stronghold of the MNLF.  Besides, the attempt to wrest the leadership from Misuari by installing a non-Tausug in the person of Abdul Khayr Alonto as chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) only gave Misuari’s followers the opportunity to affirm their loyalty to the Sultan of Sulu.   The reconfiguration of the MNLF’s objective to getting back Sabah at all costs is now sending an ominous signal to this abnormal government that things are not over yet.
Fifth, amending the Constitution would equally give PNoy the opportunity to extend his stay.  It means a new beginning for all those in power.   Whether it be presidential or a parliamentary system, just the same it would give the incumbent President the opportunity to run as though it is his first time to seek that public office.    That goes to his clappers in the likes of Speaker Belmonte who will be blessed to reap the windfall of political opportunism. 
rpkapunan@gmail.com

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