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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

Dear Mr. President,

First of all, my congratulations on your victory! Despite all the naysaying, the intimations of cheating, the
charges of vote buying, our electoral system has worked and democracy has triumphed once again on our
shores.

Now that you have won, you have my allegiance as a loyal citizen of the Republic who believes in the sanctity
of the vote. This has been one of the most contentious Presidential elections in recent history. One fact
remains clear though. Ordinary citizens are sick and tired; sick and tired of being fed the same pap time and
again and never ever seeing any improvement in their lot. But we must all be happy that they have expressed
their dissatisfaction and resentment through the ballot.

Having said that, I must remind you that allegiance is a two way street. Once given, it must be earned and must
be taken in the context of a Social Contract. Unwritten though it may be, a Social Contract underpins relations
between those who govern and those who are governed. In modern, capitalist democracies, the Social
Contract is this: the governed consent to pay their taxes and give up certain freedoms in exchange for a
government that can give them an even chance to fulfill their full potential while being honest, hard-working
citizens. The results of this election prove that citizens do not believe that this has happened in any meaningful
way. THEREFORE YOU MUST HIT THE GROUND RUNNING. There is no time to waste.

Even a superficial observer of our political and economic system can pick out what the matter is with it and
what the true cause is of our failure to progress. Our political system is oligarchical and our economic system is
monopolistic. Other people more knowledgeable and more experienced than I have said it before but it bears
repeating over and over again until somebody listens: OUR SYSTEM MUST BE OVERHAULED.

Here are some suggestions, in no particular order of importance.

1. Let us go back to a two party system. The 1935 Constitution can serve as good starting point.
The 1986 Constitution is very much a flawed instrument because it was mainly a reaction to
Marcos. It is more of a meddling constitution rather a basic law. A Constitution should be a
statement of principles which we should all live by, while at the same time be flexible enough
for reinterpretation as times change. Among other things, the nationalistic provisions of the
Constitution are anachronistic and should be removed. They have served only to cement the
oligarchy’s hold on the country’s resources and kept ordinary citizens mired in poverty as a
result.
2. The two parties should serve as clearing houses where individuals who wish to enter public
service can work their way up and gain experience.
3. Our leaders should have minimum of education and experience, the latter of which should
increase the higher up the political ladder they go. This way the electorate are guaranteed that
they shall be served by experienced political leaders. By the same token, they should be well
compensated, in line with the private sector. This way, the best and the brightest can be enticed
to serve in government.
4. If a politician elects to run for higher office, he should automatically vacate his current position.
This should restrain reckless political adventurism as any politician will have to think twice about
running for higher office since he will not have his old position to serve as a cushion in case of
failure.
5. Neither should a politician be allowed to hold another job in the private sector whilst holding
political office, as our movie stars have been doing since time immemorial.
6. A fair system of campaign finance underwritten by the government should be instituted so that
our political leaders are not beholden to interest groups.
7. Let us have a unicameral house; no Senate, only a Congress. The Senate has proven itself to be
more of a hindrance than a help.
8. Terms for elective positions should be four years, with a cap of 8 years for the President. The
current three year term is completely counter-productive, as our politicians try to recoup their
expenses on the first year, raise money on the second year and run again on the third year.
9. The President and Vice-President should be voted in as a team and not separately. The latter
institutionalizes instability.
10. A minimum amount of attendance should be required of our congressmen. Absences in excess
of the maximum should be punished with automatic expulsion.
11. The pork barrel system should be totally abolished. The job of a Congressman is to craft laws,
not get involved in infrastructure projects.
12. The judiciary should be streamlined. Certain types of cases should be kept in arbitration and not
clog the courts. The Supreme Court should be confined only to judging questions of
Constitutional import. It is a travesty that even collection cases have to go all the way up to the
Supreme Court.

In general, the least government is the best government. Government should be in the business of
providing its citizenry with the physical and social infrastructure they need to flourish. Therefore
government should get out of competing with the private sector and should concern itself with
building roads, bridges, airports, ports, roads, communications and health, education, security (both
internal and external).

With my best wishes,

Roberto Cuenca