Full steam ahead for government change: From presidential to federal

  • Congress initiates Constitutional Amendment
  • Duterte urged to appoint elders in Con-Con
  • Federal form of government expected by 2018

Since his amazing ascension to Malacañang, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has so far stuck closely to his pronounced reform agenda and if he will have his way, the Philippines will have a new Constitution that will change the country’s form of government– from presidential to parliamentary and/or federal– within the next few years.

The president has announced a two-year time frame for constitutional change, which, this early, has prompted congressional leaders to put in motion. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of the House of Representatives have recently urged the President to form a 20-man group of elders that will constitute an envisioned constitutional assembly, instead of a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) that will entail massive cost to the nation.

Under Philippine laws, amending the constitution may be done through the long, laborious process of electing a constitutional convention, a Constitutional Commission whose members will be picked via an executive order, or, as was proposed during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, through people’s initiative.

Constitutional change or Cha-Cha, had been proposed during past administrations, from Presidents Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Arroyo, but the previous initiatives were eventually scuttled due to serious disagreements on what form it will take, and the public perception that they were mere ploys of political leaders who had wanted to prolong their stay in power.

Alvarez’s proposal requires the appointment of a well-selected group of elders with established reputations as patriotic and non-partisan, and representatives from non-government organizations, the church and academe, who will compose a proposed Constitutional Commission (Con-Com).

The Con-Com will be tasked with studying and reviewing the present Constitution and then drafting a new Charter, which will be submitted to the constituent assembly (Con-Ass) where it will be discussed thoroughly.

Speaker Alvarez said among the elders prominently mentioned to compose the Con-Com were former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., Lawyer Reuben Canoy (founder of Radio Mindanao Network) and San Beda law dean, Father Ranhilio Aquino.

In the Senate, outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon has filed a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to review the 1987 Constitution which was adopted during the term of former President Cory Aquino. Drilon qualified that the emerging consensus in Senate to review and amend the constitution could either be done through Concon or Con-Ass.

Drilon said he expects the shift of the system of government to federal by the year 2020, while Pimentel predicts a new form of government in 2018; two years into the Duterte Presidency.

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