Are we ready to change?

Sometime early this year, February and March, we featured in this column the topic of “Pagbabago 2010.2016”. It is basically a call to our legislators to start the discussion on the need to review the form of government and other economic constitutional provisions. It was a proposal to elevate the awareness and knowledge of our people on what are the different forms of government and what might work best for our country and people. Will it be federalism, parliamentary, the current presidential system, or would it be other forms and modifications thereof?

Perhaps it is more important to start the discussions and debates so we get to better understand the systems and which system will actually work for us. We emphasized that in these discussions, bigger steps will be taken after 2010. That was the proposal when I met some Senators. By 2010, the new President and Congress will see through the review and the molding of the new system that will be fully implemented by 2016. This process hopes to address three main concerns by many sectors: that there will be no changes before 2010 on the rules and the term of the current Presidency; that the new set of leaders and Congress will have a mandate from the people on 2010, whether to form a constituent assembly or have a constitutional convention; and that the elected President in 2010, and members of both houses of Congress will have a full term to complete that will lead a transition, if at all, into a new form of government by 2016. Thus, encouraging greater discussions and debate now will be healthy and if done in phases, the transition would be more realistic and less controversial.

There are pros and cons in doing a constituent assembly or constitutional convention. There may be realities whereby a con-assembly is better than a new constitutional convention. I see that the new congress for 2010 would form itself into an assembly that would work on the constitutional changes both economic and political.

I am not supporting any view, but what I am totally against is a change prior to 2010. In fact, I have asked the help of Presidential Management Staff Secretary Cerge Remonde in considering the idea that it will be good for PGMA to support Pagbabago 2010.2016. This time, with an upcoming Presidential election, each candidate will explain his or her vision of the Philippines Inc. and views on the fitting form of government and the needed constitutional changes.

If the ‘Pimentel Bill’ on Federalism would be the choice, it might just require some time to know what role the national government would play. There might also be more cities that will lobby for a federal state, and I believe that greater decentralization of powers to the regions and local government would be good to create a more enterprising culture. The regions under good leaders will be able to push for a quicker development and will be able to attune to the region’s inherent strengths. One also has to balance this with national priorities.

These things take time. Upon our survey, we found out that Filipinos do not see the benefit of a change in political system if it will be the same people in power. They may be right. The system is only as good as the people who run it, but we need to start somewhere. A better system can still be instrumental in achieving our progress with more effective controls and balance in power.

What is crucial now, with the recession spreading towards Europe and Asia, is that we do not lose the momentum that has been gained. It is important for our Negosyos to have a relatively stable and progressive climate. I do hope PGMA will support ‘Pagbabago 2010.2016’. This will finally give reassurance that she will finish her term in 2010 and see to it that the political and economic reforms are done through a constitutional review.

All these steps can be taken in 2010, but the debates and discussion can start now. Let the debates begin but the institution to review the charter will start only in 2010 and the full implementation will be in 2016.