It has been pointed out that one of the reasons that the ConCom Draft for charter change (aka constitutional reform) retained many of the worst elements of the current presidential system was because it was drafted by a group of elderly people. This is not to say that the old cannot be in touch with modern realities or that the young have all the answers, but what it does mean is that when one spends his or her entire professional life, living in one system without exploring those in other nations, a sense of complacency derived from familiarity beings to overwhelm any instinct of curiosity for that which is new or borrowed from models used by other nations.
And yet, as elucidated in the chart above, the Centrist Proposals Draft, People’s Draft and to an extent the PDP-Laban Draft all convey the vital importance of combining federalism with parliamentary governance and an end to constitutional restrictions on foreign direct investment. This clearly means that the authors of these drafts actually bothered to study the success of parliamentary and economically open models among countries with a far better track record of governance and sustainable high living standards than The Philippines.
Because far better options than ConCom as well as the almost equally bad proposals which recently passed the House of Representatives are readily available, it is nothing short of negligent that when constitutional reform is discussed in relation to The Philippines, it is often done only in reference to the ConCom proposals which are so similar to the current system that they actually barely merit any discussion at all.
In this sense, charter change that looks to the past is in many ways even worse than no reform at all. This is because revisions to the current 1987 Constitution that neglect the fundamental necessity of parliamentary governance and a new economic model will nevertheless be presented to the public as a profound change, thus making further reforms in the near future less easy to instigate as many will have been fooled into thinking that all of the necessary reforms were covered by an ineffective proposal such as the current House proposals or the even worse ConCom draft.
This is why young Filipinos as well as young OFWs ought to take ownership of the charter change process in order to stop old people who have become complacent about the utter failures of an old system from stealing the future away from those who understand that one of the reasons that Singapore and Malaysia have experienced better economic conditions is because they have more efficient, effective and intellectually superior parliamentary political systems to that which is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution of The Philippines.
And yet unlike the authors of the ConCom draft, President Rodrigo Duterte himself shows no desire to cling to the old. Even at his comparatively advanced age, he seeks to welcome the new by explaining how people should not obsess over the end of one’s life or that of a loved one but instead to take a more philosophical and circumscribed approach to the matter.
One thing that Duterte has injected into every element of his public life is reason and rationality. Whether discussing how to handle his hysterical opponents or how to handle constitutional reforms, Duterte is often a voice of reason in a sea of hostility. Duterte spoke of death in the following way,
“We’re getting old. Me, they said I am dying, of course I will die someday. There’s no problem with that. Death should not worry anybody. It’s inevitable and it can happen any day so what is there to talk about”.
This is a statement that every person in the world should hear. From young children scared of the dark to an old person scared of the darkness of one’s final years, one should not romanticise death, fear it, nor artificially hasten its arrival. One ought to live a life of personal moderation guided by ethical pragmatism rather than the polar extremes of greed and narcissism or on the other hand the extremes of self-harm and overwrought nihilism.
Duterte’s ability to touch on personal issues from his position as President makes him unique among world leaders. While a good world leader can live an opulent lifestyle and not offer any personal council to his people, there remains something special and deeply endearing about a leader who goes out of his way to open minds, hearts and eyes to the broader truths of reality that can help to enlighten an entire nation.
This is also the attitude one should take regarding the death of a long ailing political system. There is nothing uniquely Filipino about a system that takes the most inefficient elements of US style governance and combines them with a very different economic model (a more closed and hence worse economic model) than that of America. Likewise, there is nothing specifically Singaporean about a unicameral democratically elected parliament, except for the fact that Singapore has shown how this system can work to deliver a thriving economy, a safe society, good education and immense job opportunities to south east Asians.
Beyond this, far from the 1987 Constitution being a guardian of the cultures of The Philippines – such an argument foolishly confuses objective economics and objectively good governance with the more metaphysical concept of preserving unique cultural characteristics. As Singapore is arguably even more multicultural than The Philippines because of the more pronounced differences between ethno-racial and religious groups, it would be foolish to think that somehow economic openness is a threat to maintaining one’s unique cultural characteristics. In Singapore, Han Chinese Singaporeans, Indian (Tamil) Singaporeans and Malay Singaporeans both maintain their unique cultures and cooperate in the public economic and social sphere.
In Singapore, the English language serves as a common economic and social unifyer, while the country’s education system also teaches Mandarin, Tamil and Malay. There is no reason why The Philippines cannot emphasise the importance of good English as an international and cross-communal asset (an existing asset that some Filipinos seem not to even care about) while also teaching regional languages with the same emphasis that is currently placed on Tagalog.
When Lee Kuan Yew was faced with the reality that his Singapore was being kicked out of Malaysia, he famously shed a tear as he had worked so hard for unity. But rather than allowing himself to be enslaved by past goals, he adapted his action steps and worked to turn Singapore into a first world economy in a remarkably rapid period of time. Young Filipinos should look to the young Lee Kuan Yew of the 1960s rather than to the old men who drafted ConCom. Whatever the intention, ConCom is a weak document written by those who cannot admit that the system in which they made their careers is no longer fit for a future generation of Filipinos.
By contrast, while Rodrigo Duterte is not a young man, he clearly understands that the future of any society is built upon the hard work and intellectual enlightenment of the youth. It is therefore time for young Filipinos including OFWs to take charge of the question of charter change as it will effect their lives more than the authors of ConCom who on the whole have most of their life behind them rather than in front of them.
The young should not be complacent about the matter of constitutional reform because this moment represents the best opportunity to give young Filipinos a future that is better than the past. With Duterte making the most out of an old system, it is time to prepare for a new system that can guarantee a healthy future for the new political mentality that Rodrigo Duterte has so painstakingly created.