Image Source: Rappler

The people have consistently rejected the idea of amending the Philippine Constitution in surveys after surveys, and yet the move to amend that sacred document, in what is commonly called “Cha-cha” (short for Charter change), surfaces almost year after year.

I really can’t understand Filipino politicians’ obsession for Charter change and why the first thing that comes to their mind when a system fails is to dump it and change it, when it is obvious that it fails not because it is defective but more likely those who implement it are the ones at fault.

The latest survey by Pulse Asia showed that 44 percent of Filipinos still do not want the 1987 Constitution amended as against 37 percent who favor Cha-cha. Nineteen percent are undecided, and until they have decided otherwise, that should count with those not favoring Charter change.

Of those who do not agree that the constitution should not be amended, 29 percent said it may be revised in the future. In other words, Cha-cha is not a priority to them at this time. Fifteen percent said it should never be amended.

What is even more telling is that 73 percent of those surveyed have “little” to “no knowledge” of the Constitution. How do you expect these people to vote intelligently when an amended Constitution is submitted to them for referendum?

Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who expressed reservations about Cha-cha, said it simply: “As they say, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” He said what the country needs is a different Cha-cha – character change.”

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Indeed, how can we be so sure that changing the system would be better when it is the same politicians who will be running the new system of government? Until the ills that have plagued the government for decades – corruption, political patronage, cronyism and many more — any kind of system is bound to fail. And then, they will call again for another charter change?

Cha-cha proponents will argue that it is precisely the system that breeds all these flaws, so it should be changed. And they want us to believe that a federal-parliamentary form of government, or whatever combination of political systems, would remove corruption, cronyism, political patronage, etc.? I am more inclined to believe that it is the other way around — that the country’s political system has failed because of the people who run them.

In any case, it appears there is no turning back on the Cha-cha as President Rodrigo Duterte appears hell-bent on amending the Constitution in the first half of his term. In the first place, Duterte ran on a platform of change, obviously including Charter change since he has been pushing for a shift to a federal system, which would be possible only with an amendment to the Constitution.

However, it is not correct to assume that since Duterte won overwhelmingly, it follows that the people approve of federalism. It is safe to assume that Duterte won because he reflected the frustration of the people at the way politicians are running the government, not because he espoused federalism, which surveys have shown people have little or no knowledge about.