Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 18 July 2018


Management experts tell us about the virtue of KISS! –”Keep It Simple, Stupid!” In short, this advice or admonition means “the simpler, the better.” Perhaps, wisdom epitomizes the phrase, “Less is more!”

Application of KISS! to many aspects of living. In general, the KISS! principle works well in simplifying outcomes and getting things done more quickly. It is possible that a simple outcome may create some kind of injustice.

If that injustice could be corrected by other means – like compensation (subsidy) – then the simpler solution makes sense. Often, a problem drags indefinitely for want of a solution, thereby raising costs. Unresolved problems are like being forcibly held up by a gun.

Sometime in the past, my late wife (Dr. Loretta Makasiar Sicat of the UP Political Science Department) and I reviewed many political constitutions of recent years and analyzed them in terms of whether they effectively helped to promote better economic growth (or economic decision-making) among those compared.

In general, we came out with the conclusion that countries with simpler political constitutions – shorter, better written, and less cumbersone in terms of provisions – had much better economic performance than those with longer and more complex provisions. In this sense, we said, “Less is more!”

Wimbledon 2018 semi-final match. The rules of sports provide us outcomes that generally affect the length of time a final outcome is determined. The outcome is the determination of a victory.

Rules in sports could be detailed. Sometimes specific manner of dealing with how to end or accept the scoring system could be problematic. Change in rules is often done through flexible decision methods that are fair and innovative.

We can take the case of tennis as a primary example, especially since the great Wimbledon tournament has just concluded.

A few days ago, on cable TV, I witnessed the riveting long game between Kevin Anderson and John Isner in the grueling semi-final match at Wimbledon. It lasted six-hours and 36 minutes, totally exhausting both players. (In fact, Isner, in 2010, had played an even longer game – the longest match in tennis history, that lasted 11 hours and five minutes.

After the match came the equally exciting, but slightly shorter long game between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. This one, won by Djokovic, lasted more than five hours, though over two days because of curfew.

Tennis scoring is quirky and cumbersome. The scoring system requires the winner to earn two successive points within a game or two games within a set. (For those not familiar, a set is generally composed of six winning games by a player. Each game is scored by points, like, love, 15, 30, 40, and then game!) This scoring appears abstruse to outsiders and renders the game quite complex. The two-point and two-game requirement for a win has led to very long, exhausting games by equally capable protagonists. Very long games also exhaust the spectators.

The tie-breaker was invented to shorten the game of tennis sometime in the 1970s. But to preserve tradition, Wimbledon continues to use a no-tie-breaker rule for the fifth, deciding set, although it had adopted the tie-breaker for the first four sets!

Football penalty shootout. Football, or soccer, has been much more successful in introducing a shorter, more predictable and quicker outcome through the introduction of the shootout to break a tie.

The penalty shootout in football has led to a more heightened, but very quick sense of suspense to the game and has created a great way to end the game. It has immensely provided entertainment, while maintaining the idea of a fair outcome.

The draft federal constitution for the Philippines. In recent days, the committee assigned to prepare a draft by former chief justice Reynato Puno has announced that the draft federal constitution has been finished. It has been submitted to the Congress for possible adoption.

The committee was given by President Duterte a free hand to draft the  federal constitution to be considered for adoption by the nation. The finished draft deserves careful reading and study.

I have tentative thoughts on the draft that in time will be elaborated. Careful reading awaits the document.

My first impression is that it is quite a long document, far longer than usual constitutions that are in effect in many countries. Its length of 82 pages announces the formidable dimension of the details found in the document.

Should some details of law not be relegated to ordinary legislation? That is often a virtue, for they could be amended more easily by law if mistakes are committed and change is desired. Constitutions should be relatively general documents that describe the architecture of government, not the details of provisions.

Why should details of provisions be cast in stone? If some mistakes are committed, legislation should be able to correct them. Constitutions require a higher level of consensus so that they tend to promote permanence rather than flexibility.

Another impression I get is that the draft continues to sustain the restrictive economic provisions of the constitution rather than easing them. It will make the country as difficult to attract foreign direct investments into the country. We are our worst enemy in shooing away useful resources to help us modernize.

Another worrisome provision is the decision to create 16 federal states out of the country, including two autonomous regions, the Bangsamoro entity and the Cordilleras region.

It is my belief that breaking the nation into so many federal states weakens the whole nation, because the breakup will remove the potential synergy we can create from economically viable regions. There is also a high cost to learning a new form of government.

My suggestion of a three-state federal union plus the Bangsamoro state is in conformity with my belief that the solution to the Moro region is essential for internal peace.

The country’s legal system is hampered by many problems. Approving this breakup of the nation into so many federal states weakens it further. The carrying cost for building federal structures in many areas will be costly to the government.

Moreover, the litigations over constitutional issues are likely to rise over the proliferation of new text that describes the nation’s political structure and processes.