A few thoughts on the move to change the Philippine constitution, and yesterday's much-ballyhooed protest against it.
1. No one wants term extensions
First of all, they're saying that they oppose moves to amend the constitution because they are against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo extending her term in office. "I don't want Cha-Cha because it would prolong her stay in power," said Necitas Feliciano, a 59-year-old garment worker. "We want elections in 2010 so that we can get her out."
This may come as a shock to the people in the streets yesterday, but no one is promoting the term extension that they're protesting. Not the President, not the Vice-President, not the Senate, not the House of Representatives.
President Arroyo has repeatedly and consistently said she will block any moves from her allies to extend her term. No one in congress is even seriously considering the proposal. I hesitate to even call it a proposal because no one is proposing it.
Of course, you can always baselessly accuse people of having a hidden agenda, but then how can anyone get anything done at all? This is all scare tactics. They said the same thing about Erap. They said the same thing about Ramos. They said the same thing about Cory.
2. Those acronyms are horrible
Years of dumbing things down with acronyms like "cha-cha", "con-con", "con-ass", "no-el" trivializes democracy. It's like they deliberately contracted in that manner to make it deprecating. They put labels on things then talk about them so much that people forget what they mean. Now people permanently associate "cha-cha" with extending term limits, which is just silly.
3. Not every constitution is sacred
They pretend like the constitution is something that descended from the heavens and served our republic for a century, rather than whipped up in a few months by a constitutional convention in 1986. The reality is that the constitution does have problems that hold us back.
Here's a fun fact: Every Philippine president in the past 40 years has tried to overhaul the constitution.
4. Shutting down Makati wasn't necessary
The rally that shut down the arteries of the Makati central business district yesterday attracted just 6,500 people. Just how many people does it take to close down Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas anyway? This rally could have been held indoors.
Here's a prudent quote from Lyndon B. Johnson: We must preserve the right to free assembly, but free assembly does not carry with it the right to block public thoroughfares to traffic. We do have a right to protest, and a right to march under conditions that do not infringe the constitutional rights of our neighbors.
It's not so much that I'm a big fan of the Arroyo administration. To be honest I don't even think overhauling the constitution is a good idea. But when the weapon-of-choice is stupidity I feel obliged to come to the defense.