A Kabaleyan’s Thoughts…

Cha-Cha, No! Charter Change, Yes!

By Ulysses Raciles Butuyan
Executive Judge
RTC, Tayug, Pangasinan

REPENT all ye who take “Cha-Cha” as the synonym of Charter Change!  The fundamental law is not ballroom music to dance to.

For decades now and despite the barrenly yielding efforts of Edsa I and Edsa II the Philippines has been stagnating as one of Asia’s pathetic pushovers.  God forbid, Edsa III may soon be in the offing!

Of course, we never run out of politicians and, lately, high magistrates to blame, but it may also be our archaic fundamental law that bears the brunt of whodunit.

Now we sense once again a renewed stirring for Constitutional change and, as usual, the skeptics suspect that all that the politicians have under their sleeves is an agenda to mutilate the Charter in furtherance of their personal interests.

This time let’s hope that they have enough sense of patriotism to additionally consider deliberating on the following:

A genuinely independent Judiciary is a vital and indispensable co-equal branch of a truly democratic nation.  Without a strong judiciary, all we get is a government of men, not of laws.  Let no man ever say again that the decisions and rulings of an impeachment court or any other quasi-judicial body are not reviewable by the Supreme Court!  May the fresh amendments make it clear to all and sundry that unauthenticated and purported copies of spurious falsifications supplied by nameless dwarves or picked up from roadside fences are admissible in evidence.

To disinfect the appointment or promotion of magistrates to courts lower than the Supreme Court from any form of political virus, let the power be transferred to the latter, as the President may not always be the best judge to determine the qualifications and fitness of the wannabes.

Fund the Judiciary adequately, not only to compensate justices, judges and court personnel justly and reduce if not eliminate graft and other forms of irregularity in their ranks.  Fund the judiciary adequately and put an end to the exaction of exorbitant court fees, in line with the Constitutional guarantee that citizens should enjoy free access to the judicial system.

Require high and appropriate qualifications for candidates vying for the positions of President, down to the barangay captains, and of Senators and Congressmen, down to the barangay councilmen. This nation has always been short of vision and focus because, unlike judges who must be lawyers, all that politicians need to qualify is the ability to read and write. (Some can not even deliver a speech without employing ghost writers who never charge them for plagiarism.) Elective officialdom must not be the monopoly of entertainers, athletes, infrastructure contractors, hacienderos and dynasty crown-bearers with mediocre academic credentials.

Finally, let there be an honest-to-goodness separation of Church and State.  No government funds and properties should ever be allowed to benefit any church or religious faith.  Let us write finish to the days of statues and figurines of gods, saints and symbols occupying precious space and prominence in government buildings, parks and public places, that cynics perceive as mere pretentions in religiosity, or Muslims and Christians may never find rest.

 (Editor’s note: This article was written by the author for the October issue of Gavel, the newsletter of Philippine Judges Association).

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