Ensuring Our Future Today: Strengthening Our Political and Security Systems

Article excerpt


(Speech of Former President FIDEL VALDEZ RAMOS, Chairman, Ramos Peace and Development Foundation (RPDEV) and Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), Symposium on "Ensuring Our Future Today" in Commemoration of the 42nd Foundation Day and Alumni Homecoming of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), Tejeros Hall, AFPCOC, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City 1235H August 12, 2005.)

AS an alumnus (Class #3) of this premier defense and security think-tank, I am honored to be asked to participate in this 42nd Foundation Day of our National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP). Like our country, the NDCP has lived through many turbulent periods in our contemporary history.

Over these past four decades, we Filipinos have endured economic, political and social crises.

We have also rejoiced in transcendental triumphs of the national spirit notably in our expulsion (in February 1986) of an authoritarian regime through a peaceful, incomparable "People Power" revolution that won the admiration of the global community.

Thus, the theme the NDCP leadership has chosen for this Foundation Day, "Ensuring The Future Today," reflects its appreciation of how crucial is the watershed we Filipinos have reached today in our journey toward nationhood.

My own feeling is that if we are to ensure a better Filipino future if we are to attain the political and economic stability we long for we must organize no less than a new political system for our country without further delay.

For Filipinos, the presidential system is like an old pair of shoes comfortable and familiar, although now worn out and almost falling apart.

But Constitutions rather than being engraved in stone must reform as the needs of the nation change. The truth is that every Constitution is the mirror of the political culture of its time.

Much as the house of the nation is constantly being remodeled to accommodate new families, so must its Constitution change to suit new situations, new needs, new hopes.

It is in this spirit that I have long argued that it is time we reexamined the Charter written in the aftermath of the "People Power" revolution of February 1986.

Why Charter Change Has Become Necessary

Why I believed for so long that Charter change has become necessary?

Because, in my view, the inefficiency and inflexibility of the presidential political system have begun to affect the daily lives of our people especially the poor.

Consider, for instance, how twice in the last 19 years citizens have had to invoke the intervention of the Armed Forces and the National Police in the political process. In so doing, our nation then ran the risk of protracted constitutional crises and even bloody civil war.

Consider also how political parties formed around populist personalities, instead of coherent programs of government have made sheer popularity and not intelligence, competence, or experience the best qualification for public office.

Because of basic problems like these, the case for constitutional change has I do believe become wellestablished.

After years of deterioration, presidential democracy has become a downright hindrance to our countrys progress. Our people now see not just individual leaders but the political structure itself as responsible for the way we have fallen behind our neighbors in the worlds fastest-growing region.

And this loss of faith has resulted in a lack of confidence in this countrys future. Already more than eight million of our countrymen and countrywomen have "exiled" themselves in 130 countries.

But, we who are your seniors must assure our young people that there remains still a large reservoir of hope for our beloved Philippines.

The failure of presidential democracy

Over 200 years ago, the American Founding Fathers trying to establish democratic government on their vast and diverse society deliberately designed their constitution to prevent strong central government. …