JESUS C. SISON: KNP PLATFORM SOUNDS LIKE UTOPIA TO ME

MANILA, February 17, 2004 (MALAYA) I READ a synopsis of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) platform and it sounded and looked like Utopia to me. It is full of noble intensions. It is very idealistic but we all know that effective governance is a mixture of idealism and the practical. The KNP stressed that the fight against poverty is the centerpiece of its platform. It added that with public trust and confidence, the government will be able to move the country forward.

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Perfect. That's what the other presidential candidates are also saying. But like all promises, it is the sincerity of the one making them that matters. Look at what happened to our country, in the late 1930s and in the early 1940s, President Manuel L. Quezon introduced his social justice program to fight poverty. But instead of reducing poverty, the problem increased by leaps and bounds. Now, poverty has become a gargantuan problem.

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Often I think that many of our incumbent and past leaders are just paying lip service to the fight against poverty. That's why instead of poverty being reduced, it has become worse. In fact, many of our public officials were able to improve their financial status, but the problem of poverty has grown worse.

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While certain groups including media have their criteria for the proper choice of a candidate for the presidency, it serves to know that the Constitution provides two main criteria. From Article VII, section 4, we find the need for a) popular support to enable him to muster necessary courage to effect policies that promote the greater good, and b) a strong national executive who can deal effectively with the problems of national survival as well as unite the numerous ethnic groupings constituting the nation.

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The Constitution does not include popularity as a criteria if this is taken to mean popular support. Garnering support through a plurality, not a majority vote as in the present multi-party system, does present a difficulty. Given our fractured political culture, a plurality vote may not save us from being divided by interests and sectors. After the May polis, the destabilization and coup fears may drag on.

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The issue of reelecting an incumbent president deserves a closer look. Presently, the Constitution prohibits the reelection of a vice president who has succeeded and served as president for more than four years. Reasons for the prohibition are: a) the use of the first term (period and working time) for his reelection; b) handicap in the performance of his functions because every act he performs is given a political motivation; c) political use of public funds.

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The no-reelection provision for the presidency is aimed at widening the base of leadership. No man is indispensable in a democracy and "any person, no matter how good he is, may be replaced by others equally good,' the Constitution says. The Charter adds, "The ban on immediate reelection (is) to prevent the President from using his office to advance his candidacy."

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In this light, charter reformers may want to be more stringent in not allowing a vice president who succeeded and served as president to run for president office even if he served below the four-year term. A provision that will require the incumbent to vacate or take a leave of absence during the presidential campaign may help assuage the situation. But unfortunately, the Constitution is silent on whether an incumbent president can campaign and hold office at the same time.

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How about GMA's election bid? True, she has served only three years, and is not covered by the "more than four years" term that would have clearly disqualified her to run for President. However, the expressed aims of the constitution and the situations cited in the ban on presidential reelection (namely use of the office to advance her candidacy, use of public resources, etc.) are clearly surfacing now. In this light, we cannot blame the more critical members of our society from feeling uncomfortable in hearing President GMA publicly saying:"Kandidato ako, presidente pa, doble trabaho."

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Amelita "Ming" Ramos made a surprise visit to the PSC-POC Media group headquarters at the Rizal Memorial Sports complex and told the newsmen that the country's top sports leaders should unite and work together, instead of wasting so much time and energy in intrigues and bickering. Mrs. Ramos is president of the Philippine Badminton Association. She was referring to a recent petition signed by disgruntled NSA (National Sports Association) leaders. She said this was not doing RP sports any good, especially now that the country is in the midst of preparing for the Athens Olympiad in August and the Manila SEA Games next year.

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The usually mild-mannered Ming Ramos chided a small group of NSA leaders who are seeking the ouster of PSC chairman Eric Buhain. She said that she was not even surprised that she was not asked to sign the petition seeking the ouster of Buhain. Celso Dayrit, president of the POC and the fencing association admitted that he submitted the petition for the ouster of Buhain to Malacaņang. But he did not mention this fact when he attended a dialogue with sports leader later. "Cito (dayrit) is like that. If he does not like the person, he will try to kick that person out," she said.

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Vice President Teofisto Guingona deserves applause for his proposal to prohibit politicians and their relatives from aspiring to run as constitutional convention delegates. He added that the Con-Con should be insulated as much as possible from partisan politics. But how can this be implemented? Politics has a way of creeping into every nook and corner of society.

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In his speech before the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa)., Vice President Guingona pointed out that there are many provisions in the 1987 Constitution which remain unimplemented. Among them were the prohibition against political dynasties, promotion of autonomy for local government units, and constitutional provisions that should allow the Philippines to promote self-reliant economy. The trouble with some of our leaders is their propensity for debate. Although they have agreed on the necessity of amending the Constitution, they cannot agree on how to do it.

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Guingona suggested that the Philconsa should initiate a campaign that would require would-be delegates to the proposed con-con to bare their plans for change to the people. I am sure a majority of the people are 101 percent in favor of the ban in political dynasties. But it's almost impossible to implement the constitutional provision because the lawmakers themselves are obviously against it. The implementation of the constitutional provision will definitely be against the interest of the lawmakers. So, they better maintain the status quo.

Email address: jessS-malaya@netexecutive.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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