Terms and limits-A A +A
Sunday, August 17, 2014
PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino's statement that he is considering a second term in office to ensure that his political reforms do not end with the conclusion of his first term in office apparently did not sit well with the public.
It also opened up the long standing debate on the need for charter change to accommodate term extension and also introduce significant economic policies involving foreign ownership and citizenship requirements. The 1987 Constitution restricts a single term of six years.
Partylist representatives have accused the President of just trying to extend his term so that he will not be held accountable for the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was declared partially unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Malacanang has appealed the ruling but maintained that the stimulus program was undertaken in good faith. It however asked Congress to redefine savings in the national budget to legitimize the pooling of government funds even before the end of a fiscal year.
Malacanang would do well than to merely dismiss public suspicion that this move is the handiwork of those with vested interest. Public officials should also be reminded of the words of former President Corazon Aquino when she warned former President Fidel V. Ramos from tinkering the constitution, a move that would have allowed him to run for a second term in 1998. "They will say you are right, when you are wrong. They will say you are successful, when you fail, and will insist you are indispensable, although you are just one of 70 million Filipinos who gave you the rare privilege to be their servant but only for your elected term. They will say that nobody can take your place, when what they mean is that they do not want to give up their places."
Hailed as the last barrier in fully opening the economy to foreign business and capital, charter change has been sought and pushed by business, US lobby groups and foreign investors especially in the field of banking, media, public utilities and other vital sectors.
Public positions are public trust. Any change in the charter should be based on its benefit to the public, including the right of the public to be protected against possible abuse. It is, however, difficult to draw the line between private and public interest especially when those who stand to benefit from charter change have managed to hold or are associated with those who are in public position.
With all of the initiatives that have been put in place, there is nothing more pressing than government officials getting their acts together to strengthen governance. By judiciously putting resources where it is needed the most, the quality of life could be improved.
The Constitution can best be suited to the needs of the time, but its function could be better viewed in terms of protecting its citizens. It is in this frame that democracy is enhanced and preserved. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 18, 2014.