POSTSCRIPT / January 3, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Draft charters favor Duterte staying on

THE DRAFT federal-parliamentary constitution that President Duterte endorses for adoption would give a hint of what he plans to do when his term ends in 2022 – whether he would step down as he should or hold on despite his promise not to “stay one minute longer.”

It is sad that one cannot rely on the word of President Duterte. Even on major policy matters, it is expecting too much for him to be always telling the truth.

Before Duterte are two drafts: one written by a 22-member committee chaired by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno after five months of nationwide consultations, and another one, a Resolution of Both Houses of Congress No. 15 (RBH 15), passed by his supermajority in the legislature.

Both drafts would revise the 1987 Constitution and replace the present presidential-bicameral setup with a federal-parliamentary regime for a total reset of the government system and a revamp of the ground rules of the game, including those on term limits.

We assume that aside from the two working drafts from which to choose provisions suited to his post-2022 agenda, the President also has mental notes for how the final edition of the ‘’Duterte Constitution” should read.

Both drafts call for cutting up of the nation into several regions, each one effectively dominated by the local political dynasty, enjoying expanded powers of taxation, lawmaking, security, managing natural resources in the area, and other regional concerns.

It is a giant leap backward after the country has unified its ethnic or tribal divisions into one nation to now divide it again into inchoate regions on the basis mostly of political criteria in the distribution of power and opportunity.

In both drafts, the bicameral Congress will be replaced by a Parliament whose members (some of them appointed by the President in the RBH 15 version) will elect the Prime Minister from among themselves.

It is not yet clear what the role of the President would be, if his position/title is carried over. In some parliamentary setups of other countries, the President is a largely ceremonial chief of state, and the Prime Minister the head of government.

We assume that in the mixed or hybrid regime that Duterte is likely to push for adoption, the strongman would end up as the head of government, or the real prime power, whatever title he would allow the Congress as a Constituent Assembly to give him in a post-2022 scenario.

* Draft charter OK’d by Congress hit

THE FEDERAL Constitution drafted by the House (RBH 15) has drawn multisectoral flak for being “dangerous, anti-Filipino, anti-youth, anti-NGO, and anti-democracy.”

On Tuesday, Laiko Warriors — a group of individual businessmen, lawyers, doctors, media practitioners, professionals – voiced its objections after a meeting Dec. 19 with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo. This could be a hint of the Church’s taking an active position on charter change and its implications.

The measure was filed in the House Sept. 19 and approved on second reading on Dec. 4, with only three session days allotted for plenary debates. Although hounded by questions of lack of quorum, the House approved it on third and final reading on Dec. 19 after abruptly closing the debates. Why the hurry?

Its speedy approval was remarkable as it came after Arroyo said in August that there was not enough time to follow Duterte’s timetable and make good his campaign promise to shift to a federal form of government.

Laiko Warriors assailed the removal of the anti-political dynasty provision of the 1987 Constitution and the lifting of term limits in the draft charter passed by both houses of the Congress.

Alex Lacson, president of the Pilipino Movement for Transformational Leadership (PMTL), a coalition of faith-based organizations from the Catholic, evangelical and Protestant communities, said:
“The removal of anti-political dynasty provisions shows that (Speaker Arroyo) is not a leader of the people, but only of the politicians, especially the political dynasties.”

Dr. Marita Wasan, president of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, said: “The removal of term limits for senators and district and Party-list congressmen shows that the main agenda of Arroyo and her colleagues is to perpetuate themselves in power. Lalo lang lalala ang problema ng ating bansa.”

Victor Gutierrez, founder of the Families for Truth and Justice, questioned the wisdom of increasing the number of House members from 250 to 300 district representatives and of Party-list representatives from 50 to 60 under the draft Constitution.

Patrocinio Cablao, secretary general of People for Truth and Democracy, said the dropping of the state policy in the Constitution to encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations is “clearly anti-people and anti-democracy.”

The group hit Section 26(1), Article VIII, of the draft which gives Congress the power to increase appropriations or budget allocations for the legislative and the judicial departments more than those recommended by the President. Joffe Almoro, national president of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, said the “self-serving provision” was prone to abuse.

Ricky Xavier, founder of the People’s Choice Movement, said the raising of the age qualification for presidential and vice presidential candidates from at least 40 to 45 years old on the day of election is “anti-youth” because “58 percent of voters in 2016 were aged 40 years old and below.”

* * *


Ding Generoso, former spokesman of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) on Charter Change chaired by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, texted this clarification upon reading above  “Postscript”:

“Neither draft proposes a shift to parliamentary form. Both the ConCom and House drafts retain the current Presidential form with bicameral Congress. The ConCom draft proposes 18 Federated regions with a set of powers and their own Executive and Legislative Assembly.

“The House draft does not have such provision. Instead, it leaves everything to Congress under a scheme where provinces apply to be recognized as a Regional State and Congress enacts a law recognizing them.

“The ConCom draft cuts short the term of Duterte. Six months from ratification he will call for election of a transition President and Vice president who will preside over the transition.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 3, 2019)

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