Social Perspectives on Charter Change

Manila Bulletin, September 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Social Perspectives on Charter Change


IT seemed timely for the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of Martial Law through a forum on constitutional change. After all, the 1987 Charter was perceived as many as a response to abuses perpetrated during the dark years of the dictatorship. Jean Miralao who is executive director of the PSSC explained that it is an opportune time to hold the forum in view of the revived initiative towards Charter change. The PSSC is governed by a council representing professional social science associations, including the disciplines of sociology, political science, anthropology, communication, geography, psychology, linguistics, social welfare and community development, statistics, demography, public administration, and the Ugnayang Pang-AghamTao. In addition to forums on contemporary social issues, PSSC convenes a National Congress, administers fellowships, conference and research awards, and provides these regular services - publications, a library, and an international linkage program.

Grace Jamon of the Political Science Association introduced all four speakers as being at one time president of their respective associations or chair of the Executive Board of the Council. We were also at one time involved in the drafting or preparation of previous charters. Pons Bennagen and myself were members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission; Pepe Abueva, recently appointed member of the Consultative Council for Charter change was secretary-general of the 1971 Constitutional Convention; and Dondon Paderanga Jr. was member of the l999 Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reforms.

Dr. Abueva's paradigm of Charter change showed the need for a shift from a "soft state" or bad governance to "strong state" or good governance. The structural changes involve moving from oligarchy of powerful families and economic interests to an autonomous state under the rule of law; from powerful military/police to civilian authority over military-police; from elitist/exclusive/weak and dependent citizens to representative/inclusive/empowered citizens; from unresponsive/inefficient/ineffective to responsive/efficient/effective; unaccountable to accountable; from marginalized/poor, and indigenous peoples to peoplecentered/human-rights based. Also; from inaccessible/secretive/corrupt to accessible/transparent/ honest/ trustworthy; from domination by powerful state/MNCs to globally interdependent/autonomous/competitive.

Dr. Paderanga presented the draft of the 1999 Preparatory Commission under President Estrada which focused on eight topics - exploration, development and utilization of natural resources; land ownership; public utilities; trade and competitiveness policy; practice of profession and educational institutions; mass media and education; bureaucracy; and the amendment process.

Among the reasons given for Charter change were the perceived bottlenecks in the implementation of provisions; difficulties in economic management because of changes in natural endowments (some resources are no longer available), changing world environment, restrictions on executive discretion, and the fact that there are too many guarantees and where outcomes are sometimes mistaken for processes and principles. …

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