OPINION: A Constitution is not city charter

Teddy Locsin, Jr.

Posted at Aug 08 2016 11:27 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2016 11:28 PM

It is not a city charter but a constitution of which we speak, and yet city charters have not been changed to address the evils of city government. There is worse corruption and bigger stupidity in local governments than in the national government with the singular exception of Davao under Duterte. 

Local governments have been more resistant to reform than the national government. And not just here but in the United States where states’ rights advocates still demand a subordinate place for the Negro. And yet the charter and control of local governments are within the power of congress to improve. 

I sat in the LEDAC under GMA discussing corrupt practices in the national government that were far worse in local governments. I proposed a reform of local governments by legislation and executive action. The entire table erupted in laughter. The president remarked: “Somebody here is not interested in getting re-elected.” 

And yet the issue is not a change in the charters of local governments. 

The issue is not a change of the general law governing them; law that strongly empowers them to abuse and only weakly holds them to account. 

No.

The issue is the constitution of a unitary state in which alone can reside the power to correct local abuses. Local governments cannot decide the propriety of their own abuses. The first principle of government, said John Locke, is that no man can be judge in his own case. 

The present Constitution reposes in a central government an adequate power to correct local abuses. The same Constitution is now to be substituted with a federal constitution that will immensely empower local governments by making them the indispensable, indestructible and “unreformable” components of a federal, worse yet a parliamentary government. Thereafter, no other power will co-exist with the local states to discipline them and to stop them.

A national parliament cannot do it. The localities will decide electorally the composition of the national parliament.

I myself am inclined to the shift for only one reason: it is the lifelong dream of the last living hero of the democratic struggle—Nene Pimentel whose democratic credentials outweigh that of anyone else living except possibly…well…the one you are reading now. I will help by every means within reason. 

However, President Duterte himself is the best argument for the current constitution. 

It is under this constitution that he was elected president possibly in the teeth of electronic fraud. 

It was under this constitution that Duterte made a Wild West city in the south the model of a well-run city. 

Nothing in this constitution stopped Duterte from becoming the best mayor in our history. On the contrary, it was this constitution mandating greater local autonomy that empowered him to be that greatest mayor. 

Starting with these facts let us now approach the proposition to change the devil we know with a devil we don’t. But keep in mind that parliaments and federalist governments abound in darkest Africa. 

So let the debate begin. 

But let us approach the task with the respect and circumspection that the task demands, given the unmatchable courage, intelligence and integrity of the people who wrote this Constitution—and of the revolutionary nation that threw out a corrupt dictatorship to adopt it.

It is of a constitution that we speak—and not a city charter.