UNDER ORDINARY times, 2010 is the year we elect a successor to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But the Garci scandal changed all that. Since then — or because of it — the Arroyo administration quickly abandoned its reform agenda in favor of short-term survival.
THE FATE of present efforts to change the constitution now lies in the hands of the Supreme Court — much like how it was in 1973.
Back then, President Ferdinand Marcos managed to get the highest court of the land to endorse what was an anomalous ratification of a new charter he had tailor-made to suit his needs.
THE ARROYO government’s campaign to change the constitution seems to be following a playbook written by a dictator. His name: Ferdinand Marcos.
In 1972, Marcos manipulated, bribed and intimidated key delegates of the Constitutional Convention to grant him extraordinary powers. He dangled a promise to cancel elections the following year and struck a deal with convention delegates that those who would vote “yes” to his extraordinary powers would automatically become members of an Interim National Assembly. He then set up “citizens’ assemblies” to ratify his constitution.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL convention that met in 1971 was formed because of a growing public perception that the country was in crisis and needed drastic change. There was a clamor for a new constitution, particularly in the light of suspicions that Marcos had cheated and spent heavily in the 1969 elections in order to win a second term.
If businessmen, politicians and student activists all wanted a new charter then, it was because they hoped to curtail the powers of the president and to reform what they thought was a rotten political system. The political opposition, in particular, wanted to block Marcos’s attempts to perpetuate himself in power by shifting to a parliamentary form of government.