Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Serving up Constitutional Kaldreta in the Philippines

So you are the President. For five or eight or twelve years now thing have been humming along nicely and the people love/fear you (circle one). Then you see it. Tiny at first but becoming steadily larger – like an iceberg looming over your prow… term limits.

So what to do? Generally speaking you have three options to avoid giving up power.

You can write a new constitution doing away with the term limits, an increasingly popular route in the developing world, particularly Latin America.
You can suspend the constitution through a state of emergency – a route more common in Africa and parts of Asia.
You can attempt to stay on through sleight of hand… such as when Russia’s Vladimir Putin was able to keep power through arranging the creation of a new “uber-Prime Minister” position concocted especially for him.

As befits a nation with a cultural and ethnic mix of Asia, Africa and the Spanish Empire, former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be attempting to recapture power by mixing together all three strategies in a sort of constitutional kaldreta – a popular dish in the Philippines, involving pieces of chicken, pork and any vegetables you might have handy – stirred up as a sort of gumbo.

Mrs. Arroyo was recently required to step down after nearly ten years in office because of the presidential term limits set in the Philippines Constitution of 1987. Since then she has won a landslide election for a seat in parliament, and built up great influence in that institution. Her new constitutional initiative would suspend the 1987 document, and create a new one… one with a special “uber-Prime Minister” position, ostensibly just for her. The prime minister would effectively replace the president as supreme executive and potentially allow Mrs. Arroyo another spin on the merry-go-round… with the added bonus of shielding her from future prosecution (another iceberg.)

Benigno Aquino, the current President, has assured his supporters that Mrs. Arroyo does not have the support in parliament necessary to push this initiative through… Yet time will tell if a new era of Arroyo may yet bubble up from the kaldreta pot…

–Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez


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