Editorial: What did you say, Juan Ponce Enrile?

·2 min read

Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile has said that changing the current Philippine Constitution is “imperative,” and it must be done through a constitutional assembly, meaning the bicameral Congress, as this method would not cost a lot of money.

Enrile, a key figure in engineering martial law in 1972 and instigating the People Power Revolution in 1986, told the Senate panel on committee on constitutional amendments on Sept. 21, 2022 that the current crop of lawmakers “already have an intimate grasp of problems facing the nation.” So they know what to do.

Enrile even blamed the current fundamental law as the “source of our problems as a nation, and it retards our progress.” “As long as we have the present Constitution we will remain where we are,” he told the panel.

Now, it is time to ask Enrile: If these current lawmakers, a supermajority of whom belong to political dynasties, already have an “intimate grasp” of Filipinos’ woes, is there still a need to change the basic law of the nation?

Since the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, it is worth asking the political clans: What have they done in the past three decades?

Sure, they could have done some “good deeds.” But Enrile must be told that the problem is political dynasties, not the current fundamental law.

The late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who filed a bill banning political dynasties in the 16th Congress, said in her explanatory note that the “[1987] Constitution regards political dynasties as evil, because in effect they constitute a monopoly of political power inside a democracy, the Constitution of which explicitly provides that every qualified Filipino should have an equal opportunity for public service.”

Is it a guarantee that a new Constitution would enable the politicians to propel the Philippines to the developed world? The Commonwealth-era 1935 Constitution was changed during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. What happened back then? Did the country progress? Only the Marcos family and its cronies did.

The 1987 Constitution prohibits political dynasties but Congress has yet to pass an enabling law. Enrile knows the obvious answer why there is no enabling law yet.

Santiago’s bill, which defines what constitutes a political dynasty, did not become a law.

“Political dynasties are both results and manifestations of our failure to reform the electoral system, inability to create a sizable educated middle class, and the continuing success of the politics of personality,” Santiago said. “Political dynasties are also problematic for our democracy because they effectively disqualify otherwise highly qualified prospective public officers, create more opportunities for corruption, and generate cynicism about public service.”

Enrile must be told that political dynasties are among the suppliers of societal problems; they also retard Philippine democracy and the nation’s progress. Dismantling political dynasties is imperative.