Monday, December 19, 2005

No to No El (No Elections)

The proposed scraping of the 2007 general elections contained in the transitory provisions of the Consultative Commission’s (ConCom) report for the amendment of the Philippine constitution is at the very best a bizarre idea. Assuming that the intention of constitutional reform is improving the democratic quality of government, then abolishing elections, the heart and substance of democracy, could be called the wrong strategy.

But the very assumption is contentious. At the outset of the Charter Change (Cha Cha) debate many Filipinos question the sincerity of the president’s intentions. To quote Amando Doronila in today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, the project is “an ill-disguised subterfuge to keep her in power until 2010.” This position has become a mantra of GMA-foes of various colors.

On the other side, the offer of a “free” three-year term may be just too tempting for many congressmen and women as well as other elected leaders. Still, expect those waiting in line and already preparing their 2007 candidacy to resist vehemently. These aspiring leaders will be joined by many a vice major and vice governor who just can’t wait to get a shot at the top job. And don’t forget the Senators who haven’t only fundamental political reservations. They would have a hard time to accept status degradation to a simple parliamentarian anyway.

Last but not least in the long list of those who eventually will say “No” to “No Elections” is the most important constituency of all: the people. While most Filipinos make no secret of their revulsion of the political class, I have won the impression that most seem to enjoy the handouts and the circus generally associated with political elections in the Philippine “democraczy.” This said, they will vote for and not against more elections.

In conclusion: While the president has been underestimated by many many times, this time I wouldn’t bet at dime that her No El-proposal will be implemented. The Lower House may say yes, but hardly the Senate. In the end, the plan would have to be presented to the people for popular approval in a referendum.

If the president is really as unpopular as myriad opinion polls make believe, then her ambitious charter change proposal would be doomed anyway.

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