We have our own system, our own way

Published March 23, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


Within days of each other, two of the world’s biggest nations decided to extend the leadership of their present officials this month.

China’s National Peoples Congress voted last Sunday to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, thus allowing President Xi Jinping to continue in his position at the end of his second term in 2023. The two-term limit had been in effect since 1982, under the Chinese leader then, Deng Xiaoping, who wanted to prevent lifelong authoritarian rule. Before Deng, China had been ruled for 40 years in office by Chairman Mao.

Then last Monday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – who has been president or prime minister of Russia since 2000 – won another six-year term with a landslide victory against seven opponents, although critics pointed out that a strong opposition leader had been barred from running. At the end of his new term in 2024, Putin will have been in office 24 years, second in length of service only to Joseph Stalin who led the nation for 30 years.

When new United States President Donald Trump first heard of China’s decision on Xi Jinping, he remarked, “He’s now president for life…. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” It is not likely, however, that a country like the US with its historic democratic traditions will go the way of China or Russia, considering the US constitutional amendment in 1947, ratified by all 50 American states in 1951, limiting presidents to two four-year terms.

It is from the US that the Philippines learned and adopted its present political system. We also seem to have made elections a central part of Philippine life, so that it is not just a political exercise; it is also celebrated like a fiesta, which explains why it costs so much money to run a proper campaign.

President Duterte once declared he was ready to stand with China and Russia against the world. This was at the beginning of his administration when he said he wanted a more independent foreign policy, instead of the Philippines’ close dependence on the US.

But it is not likely to follow China’s example of Congress allowing a president for life, or Russia’s example of electing one leader to serve for 24 years. We had one president who was able govern the country for 21 years, but most of those years were made possible by martial law. And the nation has since vowed, “Never again!”

The recent events in China and Russia have drawn our interest anad we wish them well. Their moves to allow their leaders to serve many long years is in keeping with their history and the wishes of their people.

We have our own political institutions, our own continuing system of elections, our own way.