In the United States, when George W. Bush’s second term was drawing to a close, the American people never doubted that they would soon be electing a new set of leaders as provided for by the U. S. Constitution. Bush and his allies in Congress, including his predecessors, never entertained the idea of staying in office longer than what is allowed by law. Based upon this democratic transfer of power, the leading contenders, such as then presidential aspirants Barack Obama and John McCain, would have ample time to let their platform transcend into the consciousness of every American voter. In turn, the American public shall have the opportune time to weigh in their options and opinions as to which candidate is deserving of their sacred vote.
From the time of George Washington in 1789 to this date, American presidents could only serve a maximum of two terms, except, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was elected to office four times from the onset of the economic Depression in the early 1930s to the waning period of World War II in 1945. No matter how exceptional a U. S. president’s performance in office would be, the limit to his term in office is non-negotiable. No ifs, no buts.
In the Philippines, whose 1987 constitution is almost verbatim to that of the U. S. Constitution, Arroyo and her allies, deem for its change for obvious reason. We know that the difference between the two charters points to the fact that the American provides a maximum of two presidential terms with four years in each term, while the Philippines provides only one term of six years. Arroyo, despite being in office for nine years now, simply does not want to let go. Given her limit to stay in office as set forth by the charter, Arroyo’s last arsenal to extend her grip to power is to delimit it by changing it, hence, the Cha-cha.
When the U. S. Constitution was ratified in the late 1780s, despite its now 27 amendments, never in its lifetime was there any thought of changing it. The sanctity of this American document has been kept to this date based upon the notion that it is the foundation and source of the legal authority underlying the existence of the United States of America and the Federal Government. Interestingly, a fledgling democratic country such as the Philippines, has laid out numerous charters as far back as the presidency of Emilio Aguinaldo through the 1899 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines to the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution under Manuel Quezon to Marcos’s 1973 Martial Law Constitution, and to the current democratic one under Corazon Aquino.
Similar to the U.S. Constitution, the current Philippine constitution is far from being perfect. The American founding fathers were acutely aware of its flaws, hence, the compromise was made in the form of amendments or the Bill of Rights that was vehemently sought for by no less than Thomas Jefferson. In the same manner, the Filipino delegates to the Constitutional Commission or Con-com who framed the 1987 Constitution hotly debated several issues leading to Lino Brocka’s walk-out of the Commission before its completion and two other delegates who would dissent from the final draft. Without doubt, blood, sweat, and tears, were poured out into such document that was hoped to finally sustain democratic governance for our future generation. So it seemed.
Such hope is now in peril, however. Given the predilection to power, those who are bent on changing the charter have one thing in mind, to extend the term of their very own “patron”, including theirs. It is no accident that such constitutional ambivalence and maneuvering in the Philippines has left its people into a constant state of political paranoia.
7/30/2009Written by Ron Centeno