Can’t touch it

Posted at 06/01/2013 10:44 AM

IS that the kinetic and infectious MC Hammer song and dance? Somebody correct me please but there is no correcting what follows which is breathtakingly brilliant. There is no good reason to change the Constitution in any aspect. There are plenty of well-grounded fears about touching it at all; not least the House of Representatives is all set to set in motion just such a move yet this House is pretty much the one before it: shallow and hungry; it does not read let alone ponder any measure it cannot pocket.

There was a silent scream of anguish when President Aquino said no again to Charter change. I did say that in the remainder of his term, President Aquino might consider changing the Charter in lieu of twiddling his thumbs since he seems hell bent on never passing the freedom of information act that alone can assure us his successor will not undo all he has done in the honesty department—with a parched vengeance at that.

I was wrong. Better no Charter change at all than tinkering with parts.

This is what the change-artists propose: the mastectomy of the Charter to give away the breasts that should be feeding only our people to be fondled by foreigners who pay off the president to let them.

Chief Justice Marshall said this is a constitution we are discussing; not a buffet we are attacking. Even the dishes of a buffet have a common theme; not just a hodgepodge of kakanin.

A constitution is more than its provisions, to be left or taken out at will. They are a seamless expression of national will in a tectonic moment of self-determination never to be duplicated.

That will was shaped by the declaration of martial law with the tacit approval of a foreign power and its exploitation by other nationalities. Remember that handsome Italian thief who defined acquisitions and mergers for the Philippine economy: the First Couple’s acquisitions and Ver’s murders. The rest of the democratic world continued to deal with the Philippine with business as usual. Only Bangkok broke out in riots to protest the declaration of martial law in the Philippines; yet, if I rightly recall, Thailand was under the military then.

All Filipinos believed that the American endorsement of martial law was in retaliation for the end of the Laurel-Langley Agreement which had given Americans equal rights at the time, right after the devastation and impoverishment of World War II, when only Americans had the means to exploit the plentiful opportunities to strip bare our country of all its natural wealth. Boise Cascade had already shaved off most of the forest cover using American Army war scrap. Artillery was used to bring down trees. The end of Laurel-Langley would likely be followed by the termination of the US Bases, it was believed then by the American business community.

The mindset that crafted our Constitution was likewise shaped by the communist insurgency which, in theory, was to be feared for its collectivized economy and Soviet-style justice; but in reality the communists were the only force capable of taming the worst excesses of the Marcos regime by assassinating its worst perpetrators. The United States tolerated not to say encouraged the brutality of the army in dealing with communists or for that matter any other opposition that weakened the military’s ability to cope with the Left.

American tolerance not to say encouragement of martial law was in part payment for our largely symbolic support for its forlorn attempt to recolonize South Vietnam. The total effect was that we were slightly unnerved at the prospect, however unlikely, of a communist victory and terrified that the brutality of the dictatorship’s response to the communist challenge would extend to whatever was left of the liberal opposition. Yet we were exhilarated at the casualties inflicted on the military by whose support and abuses alone Marcos remained in power. 1986 would prove us right.

There was, too, the Muslim secessionist movement which sought to dismember our country but was at least decimating the military who, in turn, were casually eating the brains of Father Favali out of his own skull, just to show you the sort of people Americans liked.

In 1986, we, and we alone, over the opposition of the United States, threw the country into turmoil with riots, thereby stopping a pillaged economy in its tracks. It was a maelstrom of protest, reaching the pitch of fury with the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, from which the Americans feared only The New Khmer Rouge, as Ross Munro called them in a CIA publication, would politically profit.

There was also a profound American fondness bordering on sexuality for Marcos; even if, at the last minute, when US support no longer mattered worth a damn because civilized Europe had formally extended diplomatic recognition to Cory Aquino, the “official” loser of the Snap Election, the US weighed in with, well, whatever it was, it weighed in with. Most of it was the American media rather than the American government.

In 1987, “We the People” adopted a Constitution, reeking with the effects of these experiences, and a couple more that space constrains us to leave unsaid.

It was a constitution we adopted, a singular utterance of national will, and not a laundry list of provisions.

One long Charter consisting of varied themes but all advancing a certain singular idea of nationhood bearing the scars of foreign intervention; expressing a nationalist notion of patrimony; affirming a self-reliant security, and declaring war on dynastic politics to which we traced the Palace struggle for supremacy that took the life of Ninoy Aquino as collateral damage.

Hostility to dynastic politics also expressed the conviction that a constitutional ban would foster a deepening and widening democracy. Together with the constitutional command for a sweeping and searching freedom of information law, the Constitution sought to promote cleaner, more open and therefore more accountable government that kept no secrets from the people.

All these feelings and forces came together in one constitution so that, if push came to shove, our country would—never mind “could”—but would stand, and stand alone regardless, to deliver its promise.

The security of a nation rests best not on the modernity of its arms but on the loyalty of its people to a country whose wealth is for them and not for foreigners; even if the latter generously offer to share with us a little bit of OUR wealth.

It is pinned on the foundation of a government that shows no fear and asks no favors in dispensing justice and government support; and whose laws are just on the books and fairly enforced in the courts.

It is a constitution based on an idea of society which draws no distinction based on wealth or the lack of it, so that some may become rich by intelligence and devotion but none shall be impoverished by chicanery and government connections like so much of the wealth generated by local government positions today.

A government that lifts up the poor as a duty—as a duty, mind you—not as a favor to be repaid by repeated re-election and a dynastic extension of popular gratitude for giving the people a little bit of what is anyway theirs while most of it is pocketed by the mayor or the governor or the president or all three.

A government that protects the rich from extortion, from ridiculous license fees and even more passing under the table as facilitation fees yet without having to pay protection to those who are elected, not anointed, to be servants, not kings, whose children are therefore not princes in the line of elective succession.

A country where all carry their fair share of the burden of the common defense; where the sons of the rich face the perils of battle alongside the sons of the poor; and daughters of rich and poor alike tend to the wounded with equal compassion because everyone’s blood, be he rich or poor, light skinned or dark, is the same color of courage.

All these concerns are woven in the fabric of a constitution from which no thread may casually be pulled without the risk of unraveling the whole, leaving just a rag to wipe away a nation’s aspiration and no longer a constitution to achieve its dream.

Unless we debate the entire Constitution, and search its soul for its meaning and, after long deliberation and deep reflection arrive at a conscious decision to junk that soul for another composed of the spirit of servitude, it is best not to touch any part of it. #