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Scrap the presidential term limit

"People became more corrupt because of their miscomprehension of freedom."

 

Putting a term limit to the tenure of the President is undemocratic. Democracy has something to do with the will of the majority to a decision- making process involving the community. It is the will of the majority that gives life to it and such should not be interpreted as a means but an end itself. It does not promise anything like being good or bad but focuses on the decision of the majority of the people.

As US President Lincoln succinctly put it, “democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people.” It is a means for people to resolve their contradictions based on the accepted political tenet that the will of the majority should always reign supreme. Thus, when the majority of the people elect their President, they are deciding on what he can do for the present, and not on what he will do in the future.

Prohibiting the incumbent President from seeking another term is undemocratic because it is contrary to the basic principle for which it stands. Election is about people deciding on whether or not to vote for a certain candidate. When the Constitution provided that the President is prohibited from seeking another term, it is actually the people that are being denied of their right of choice. It diverts the issue from our system of government where the majority should decide whether or not to allow a candidate to serve for another term. This is based on the same principle of putting least qualification to any citizen to run for public office because the presumption is it should be open to all.

Besides, the holding of an election is different from allowing a candidate to seek reelection. When people allow their incumbent President to seek reelection, the people in effect are giving him their vote of confidence. Nonetheless, it is the majority of the people that decide, and not of a man-made law that is often biased, whether or not he must go.

This is more democratic because it is the system that gives the verdict whether or not to extend his public service. Prohibiting him is undemocratic because he is being prejudged not by the people but by a group of entrenched bigots who have their eyes in preventing intruders from encroaching into their turf.

When Russia and China scrapped the term limit for President Vladimir Putin and President Xi Jinping, the two countries in effect discarded the wrong interpretation made by American constitutionalist. That limitation found its way to become universally accepted because the US has emerged as the most powerful nation on earth to impose a term limit to other presidents. To deny Putin and Xi to seek re-election, which saw their country’s phenomenal economic resurgence under their leadership, is to deny their people that important sequel in their history. It is a setback to democracy that is in fact causing today political instability to many countries.

The right given to elected officials to seek re-election is akin to one seeking a vote of confidence, not from a given parliament but directly from the people. To deny him that would equally amount to denying the people their right to express their ultimate verdict. Judging one’s presidency would forever hang in limbo because his term would be cut short. Only his supporters will give him their saving grace to claim he was never defeated or voted out of office.

Of course, the Americans had their reason in limiting the term of their president. Accordingly, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed too long in office from 1933 to 1945, but he did not violate the constitution or broke any law, except the tradition observed by all previous Presidents before him from George Washington to Herbert Hoover, which all sought one reelection. Had he not died in office and opted to run for the fifth term, he would have easily won.

Roosevelt was so popular that he was not only able to rally Americans to fight the war but was able turn the tide of war against its enemies. Roosevelt exhibited extraordinary stewardship as a leader by extricating the US economy from the Great Depression and pushing the country to become the mightiest industrial powerhouse. He initiated social and welfare legislations to stem the onslaught of communism that threatened to engulf their country they call the “Free World.” He created jobs to promote mass employment, introduced the social security system, provided mass housing, welfare, medical and retirement benefits to all American workers, and bravely put a break to the greed of the bankers by introducing the landmark “Glass-Steagall Law” prohibiting banks from engaging in investment or putting up businesses other than banking.

It was more of political jealousy that goaded American politicians to posthumously put a term limit to all who will succeed the man who served their country best. Demagoguery prevailed, arguing as ever that imposing a prohibition from seeking a third term is a refinement to their democratic tradition. They overlooked the truth that it is the people they denied of their right of choice. While re-election refers to the individual, the right to elect refers to the entire members of that given society.

They could not even point what lesson in history the Americans should forget from the administration of President Roosevelt so as to avoid it from happening again or as the malcontent radicals would say, “Never Again.” On the contrary, the Roosevelt era was a milestone in US history where “Pax Americana” reached the peak of its glory.

In our case, after the ouster of President Marcos by the US-installed Cory Aquino, her government embarked on a vigorous campaign to erase from our memory all the traces in what they call the “darkest chapter in our history.” Even if her government enjoyed the blessings and benediction of the hypocritical religious leaders, that did not prevent the people from committing corruption. Denying the incumbent President the right to seek reelection has nothing to do with democracy nor will serve as deterrent to the commission of shenanigans in government. Rather, people became more corrupt because of their miscomprehension of freedom.

We are stacked deep in the mud of corruption and could hardly extricate ourselves from it because many of us consider corruption as part of our democratic process. We have bastardized democracy, such that many of us now believe that a government that is honest is dictatorial. This happens because we have been brainwashed by the wrong notion of equating corruption with democracy just as we equate it to putting a fixed period for our president to serve but not on how to properly apply the rule of the majority. 

rpkapunan@gmail.com

Topics: Democracy , President Rodrigo Duterte , Vladimir Putin , Xi Jinping , Franklin Roosevelt
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