MANILA, January 3, 2003 (STAR) by Jose C. Sison  - President GMA may not have realized it, but her dramatic announcement two days before the onset of the New Year that she is no longer a candidate for president in 2004, has completely changed the mood of the nation. From one of seeming hopelessness and sense of drift, people suddenly feel and see a bright and clear future ahead. It is a masterstroke that changes the political landscape and ushers in a new era in which politics will be finally relegated to the background in favor of the national interests. This is the overall perception and expectation of the greater number of Filipinos after hearing such astounding declaration.

But even as the President has taken the lead and set the example, there are still a number of politicians who continue to ascribe political motives and to inject unfavorable political consequences to her selfless and patriotic act. Thus some of them do not believe that she has irrevocably and unconditionally forsaken her ambition; while others who accept her sincerity already see her as a lame duck president and would already like to know whom she will support in 2004.It is really quite difficult, if not impossible to distil politics out of the blood of politicians especially if political exercises like the 2004 presidential elections will still be held.

So the President can perhaps go a step further than merely give up her political ambitions. If ever she has plans of revamping her cabinet, she should choose a new team in the same manner as she arrived at her decision not to run anymore. She should not engage in partisan politics nor listen to politicians of any color or succumb to civil society pressure groups, in making her choices. To completely divorce her team from politics and political pressure, she should have a cabinet composed strictly of non-politicians or persons not beholden to any political bigwig of any persuasion. In fact she has started it with new secretaries in the departments of agriculture and of environment and natural resources. The government of "national unity" that she should form must be devoid of any political consideration because it is highly improbable to have unity in a government mainly composed of politicians or people with political "padrinos" or political ambitions. The president must have realized this when she gave up her own ambition.

On the other hand, our politicians should give all the benefit of the doubt to the president. They should also set aside even temporarily whatever political ambitions that have. In deference to the presidentís decision and to follow her lead, they should act as if there is no 2004 elections. Instead, our political leaders whether in or out of power must concentrate in finding out whether there is really something wrong with our present system or only in the people running it and how it can be changed if called for.

The fact is, ever since we became a democracy, we have only tried the presidential system of government. And over a long period, we have seen and experienced that it has only brought our country to where it is now, still mired in poverty and economic morass. This is the best time to seriously study whether a shift to the parliamentary system is called for. Letís not be afraid of change. A change that should be undertaken after a thorough consideration of the merits and demerits of a new modified system that is suitable to our culture and temperament. A change that is possible only if everybody involved will forget politics and political ambitions in the meantime even to the extent of foregoing with the 2004 elections if need be.

* * *


All rights reserved