Federalism or Dictatorship: What’s in ConCom draft federal charter?

Maria Romero
PUBLISHED July 6, 2018 02:33 pm | UPDATED July 6, 2018 09:41 pm
Graphics by Mark Renacido

(Inside Manila) Now that the draft federal constitution is already approved by the Consultative Committee (ConCom), critics and defenders of our constitution have been asking: are you pushing for federalism or dictatorship?


Charter change has been President Rodrigo Duterte’s battle cry since he was Davao City mayor. Now that it’s almost happening, it seems like the favor is on him because instead of a total government reboot, the proposed charter will allow current officials to run for the same position where they were elected.


Under the projected constitution, President Duterte will be given all the necessary powers over the three branches of the government - executive, legislative, and judiciary - to avoid dismemberment of the federated regions from the state. Moreover, his power will also allow him to extend his term after 2022 if he desires so.


Julio Teehankee, chairman of the ConCom’s sub-committee on political reforms, told The Chiefs aired on Cignal TV’s One News last Wednesday that all current officials will have four-year term and will also be given one possible reelection should the new constitution takes effect on 2022. But, he clarified that there will be no term extension for officials during the transition period.


If this happens, President Duterte could run again under the federal republic for another four years and then another reelection for a term that would end in 2030. If he won, he will have the second longest tenures as president next to late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ regime that ran for more than two decades.


ConCom chair retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said during his speech on the draft charter hearing that the proposed presidential step-in powers would be “awesome” and “all-encompassing”.


However, these troubling influences granted to the president were condemned by critics such as former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. In a social media post, he said that the real motive behind the persistent push for charter change was to extend Pres. Duterte’s term. He reiterated that serious attempts to change the constitution have always been about term extension and the only successful in executing that scheme was Marcos through bribery and coercion.


Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, also questioned the Duterte administration’s thrust for federal shift because too much presidential power and term extension are dangerous combination that might only lead to "trojan horse" dictatorship.


Other political restructurings


According to Teehankee, the proposed charter orders that a president and vice president must be elected by tandems. It also bans political dynasties up to second degree of consanguinity and affinity.


Two senators will come from each of the proposed federal regions to be governed by local officials under parliamentary system. Regional governors and vice governors will be chosen by regional assemblies composed of members elected by the people.


He explained that the Federal House of Representatives will increase up to 400 and the party-lists will be replaced by 160 positions allocated through a proportional representation system.


In the first “electoral cycle”, half of the said 160 seats will be reserved for five marginalized sectors namely peasants, workers, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, and fisherfolk. For the first 12 years, the 80 available seats will be occupied by members who would want to form their coalitions based from the five identified subdivisions and the other half will be open for other sectors. People will then be encouraged to provide tax-deductible funds for the political parties that they support through democracy fund system.


Teehankee firmly explained that federalism will not break the country into “mini-republics”; instead, it will give each region the equal opportunity to craft their own development. He insisted that "federalism is based on the principle of self-rule and shared rule. It’s shared rule, not shared sovereignty."


Contrary to to the leaked copies of the draft charter that have been circulating the internet, Teehankee confirmed that the draft has not been released. It will be submitted first to the president on July 9 before it become available to the media and the public.


This government system transition would cost P44 billion to P72 billion, according to government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

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