Angara summarized his position on what to change and what not to change, in several major points whilst replying to the panel of interrogators who asked a variety of questions to elicit the views of the three participating candidates (which also include House Minority Leader Francis Chiz Escudero of the Genuine Opposition and KBL's Oliver Lozano who both expressed essentially liberal, Big Government positions that I discuss only briefly at the end of this post).
ON WHAT NOT TO CHANGE Angara opposes the attempts of the Palace and its House allies to radically transform the current political system along the lines of a Unicameral Parliamentary or Unicameral Presidential system. I think he believes as many "natural" conservatives do that this is essentially a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic that only gives the politicians a new game to play that won't actually change the course of the Ship of State and only lead to a more expensive and powerful government, even if it makes elections a little cheaper. Moreover, as I've pointed out during the anti-chacha wars of 2006, such a switch to a unicameral parliament will deprive the people of their right to directly elect the national leaders and concentrate power in nationally unelectable back-room politicians like Jose de Venecia, Luis Villafuerte and Butch Pichay.
Next, on what changes he would advocate he mentioned three major reforms:
(1) LOCAL GOVT AUTONOMY Angara wants to push the issue of local government autonomy which is a key conservative position that essentially reduces the power of the national government. He did not expound on this very much but I think it would include an amendment to take away from the Palace its stranglehold on the government's finances, for example by ensuring that the Internal Revenue Allocations (IRA) go directly to local government units without being at the mercy of the Chief Executive, a form of centralized control that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has raised to a grotesque art form. This goes to the heart of what is wrong with the Executive Dept. setup we now have under the 1987 Constitution and could lead to a fruitful federalism.
(2) REFORMING THE ACTIVIST JUDICIARY Angara wants to do something to rein in an essentially out-of-control and power-besotted Judiciary. In particular, the Supreme Court meddles in everything from the economy to politics to social issues. Its most despicable expression was seen in the judicial putsch of Hilario G. Davide during the 2001 Edsa Dos coup d'etat on the Presidency, when he abandoned the Senate Impeachment Trial of Joseph Estrada, and illegally and unconstitutionally swore in the Vice President. Throughout the last twenty years the Court has been involved in various interventions on business, the economy, and whatever suits the fancy of a bunch of unelected judges who've dispensed with the idea of impartiality as cold, neutral justices.
The Manila Times columnist Tony Lopez put it like this--
Another pernicious provision of the Cory Constitution is the power of judicial review of the Supreme Court and courts under it.I could not agree more!
“Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government,” says Article 8, Section 1 of the Cory Constitution.
Under the 1935 Constitution, the Supreme Court could only review the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, law, ordinance or executive order or regulation in question. It couldn’t rule on political questions. This enabled Ferdinand Marcos to impose his strong-man rule because martial law was a political question.
To remedy the situation, the Cory-handpicked framers of the 1987 invested courts with the power of judicial review or what is known as determination of “a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.” The result is that courts went beyond their jurisdiction and their competence.
This provision made the Supreme Court very powerful and resulted in what Chief Justice Reynato Puno himself has described wryly as the “judi-cialization of politics.” Conversely, in my view, it resulted in the “politicization of the judiciary.”
Judicial review also meant judicial interference in matters of purely business or economic interest. Thus, the Supreme Court could order the relocation of a Taiwanese petrochem plant from Bataan to Batangas or vice versa, nullify the bidding for the Manila Hotel and award it to a losing bidder in the name of national patrimony. It also got the high court enmeshed in a shipyard bidding and many other economic issues. And if we are not careful, the courts might just outlaw globalization one of these days.
This made justices and judges businessmen and entrepreneurs and even economists. It also made them politicians as well. It made the judiciary the strongest of the three branches of government. Note that it was the Supreme Court en banc, not People Power 2, that installed Gloria Arroyo as president in January 2001.
(3) ECONOMIC REFORMS Angara wants to concentrate on reforming the "economic provisions" of the 1987 charter which he says basically cast in concrete certain allegedly nationalistic and patriotic concepts regarding foreign ownership of land and business enterprises. His point is a subtle but reasonable one. He does not explicitly call for the abolition of these provisions and protectionist measures, but insists that the country ought not to have its hands tied. We ought to have the flexibility to adopt, adjust or abolish them according to the needs of the country and people via normal Congress legislation. He points out that all the countries in our region, including China, have learned how debilitating PROTECTIONISM actually is, saying that instead of 2.5 billion dollars in foreign investment here, we could achieve many multiples of that if we learn the same lesson.
Finally, when asked what mode of Charter Change he favors, Angara replied that he believes in charter changes essentially via Congress acting as Constituent Assembly, which is also how the United States with its bicameral Congress and federal state system, has done it during the last two hundred years and 27 Amendments to its own charter. I like this far better than the position taken by Chiz Escudero for a Constitutional Convention, which I believe would only lead to the liberal madness of radical, wholesale changes imbued with the delusion that we can solve our problems by designing a more perfect government (i.e., bigger, badder government). A Concon is equivalent to giving birth to the Nation, and really ought to be done but once in a nation's lifetime. We've done it at least four times already (1899 Malolos, 1935 Commonwealth, 1972 Marcos and 1987 Cory)! A fifth time can only result in another 80% solution with a different set of imperfections. A Constitutional Convention will always attempt to re-invent the wheel.
In contrast, Chiz Escudero and Oliver Lozano expressed classical liberal positions with a populist flavor that I consider to be mere pandering to the masses in the tv audience whilst upholding protectionism that benefits only the existing elites. As such they probably won the on-air debate forum. Their ideas were noble sounding, but unsound. Escudero's opposition to charter change on the basis of opposition to, and perhaps justifiable distrust of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo represents a poverty of Statesmanship. Meanwhile, I see a poverty of Logic in Oliver Lozano's sound bite that allowing foreign ownership of land will result in Filipinos being squatters in their own country. Ahem. But they ARE squatters in urban ghettoes now on land owned by Filipino elites and feudal lords that keep us from participating in and benefiting fully from globalism. I think Angara answers their objections to chacha by opposing the radical changes in political system and government structure that we saw in 2006 whilst offering a cogent intellectual challenge to the prevailing liberal, centralized Big Government philosophy in the form of greater local autonomy.
Angara did not make it to the Magic 12 in the Feburary SWS survey of the Senate race. Pity, but I hope even if he doesnt win that his ideas will.