CHA-CHA, YES! CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY, NO!

Akbayan, in principle, is for charter change—but definitely NOT through a Constituent Assembly!

 Rep. Jose de Venecia and Rep. Nachura would like us to believe that a “practical, economical and fast” mode of constitutional change is preferable than a meticulous and well thought out process of refashioning the basic law of the land.  Their further insistence on a Constituent Assembly before 2004 fuels more suspicions from the public already fed up with graft, scandals and horse-trading emanating from the House.

 There is now a growing consensus that the Constituent Assembly track is self-serving.  For instance, incumbent congressmen would be rewarded with additional three-year terms without the benefit of elections.  Those who seek meaningful changes in the constitution cannot afford to entrust the reform process to the type of lawmakers who require bribes just to attend deliberations on the national budget, or to lawmakers who brazenly defend colleagues possibly entangled in heinous crimes. The honor or integrity of the House, simply put, is too tainted to ignore—the House itself has become THE political issue.

 We are for a Constitutional Convention.   By any measure, a Constitutional Convention promises to be more fair, transparent, and participatory.  Our trust goes to delegates whose only interest and mandate is to examine and deliberate on the merits and demerits of our basic law.

 Finally, we are also for a shift from a presidential to an appropriate parliamentary form of government.

 The substance of an elitist presidential form, however, is no different from that of an elitist parliamentary form.   We stand for a parliamentary system that is pro-people and pluralist in substance.  Programmatic political parties should replace trapos.  The political power of local warlords and all sorts of regional kingpins should be clipped.  The hegemonic whims of US foreign policy, the IMF and the WTO must not hold sway over this parliament.  We need to tear down political barriers that restrain the political participation of citizens and marginalized sectors in national and local governance. 

 A Constituent Assembly is a sure-fire track towards an elitist parliament and bad governance.  A Constitutional Convention holds greater promise for a democratic constitutional reform process.