August 29, 2022

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Constitutional revision bucked

ONE of the framers of the Philippines’ 1987 Constitution urged lawmakers on Monday to refine the post-dictatorship charter instead of overhauling it.

A constitutional revision would take years of transition and could create turmoil, lawyer Christian S. Monsod told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Foreign investors would probably avoid the Philippines while it overhauls power at the regional and local levels, he said.

“There will be a fight among 200 dynastic clans in different regions and each region is supposed to formulate its own rules,” Mr. Monsod said. “If you are foreign investor, would you not wait and see what happens?”

The transition period could dissuade foreign direct investments, Mr. Monsod said, citing a 2018 study by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Senators are seeking to revive charter change talks. Some think the 35-year-old constitution restricts foreign direct investments (FDI).

Mr. Monsod noted that the United States Constitution, which heavily inspired the 1987 Constitution, has been in existence for more than 200 years.

There were 27 changes to the American charter but they didn’t change the structure of the US government, Mr. Monsod said. “They adjust to the times by amendments. I have no objections if there were amendments to refine the Constitution… but you only refine and adjust it.”

Senator Robinhood Ferdinand “Robin” C. Padilla, who heads the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, has been pushing for constitutional change.

“There is one truth that has prevailed, is prevailing and will continue to prevail — this is the truth that Filipinos will respond in times that we are called to improve or put changes in the Constitution if needed,” the neophyte lawmaker told the Senate in a speech last week.

The senator, an action star, has held hearings to gather information on how the charter could be enhanced.

There were numerous attempts to revise the 1987 charter, but none of them succeeded. Mr. Padilla is an active supporter of federalism, one of the key campaign promises of ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The switch to a federal system of government “should be carried out in five phases spanning 15 years to avoid disruption to the economy’s growth momentum,” according to the 2018 NEDA study cited by Mr. Monsod.

The agency divided the shift into five phases, with the transition government expected to be activated in the third phase, which spans three years.

“During this time, the government will be prepared for genuine devolution.”

The first phase, or a year of transition, should be devoted to doing spatial analysis of federated regions and their socioeconomic profiles, accounting of government workforce and functions and mapping of existing laws, regulations and policies, according to NEDA.

“The second phase, or five years of laying the foundation for federalism, must include preparing the regions and rationalizing government structures and functions,” it added. “During this period, a transitional period charter should be adopted and the federal transition commission must be established.

NEDA said the operating five pilot federated regions based on readiness and willingness could be done in the fourth phase for five years.

“During the last phase of the transition, the transition government should be deactivated along with the ratification of the amended constitution. The regional development councils may serve as interim regional governments.”

The 1987 Constitution was crafted a year after a popular street uprising toppled the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. — Kyle Aristophere Atienza