Alvarez: Time to 'dismantle' 1987 Constitution

Alvarez: Time to 'dismantle' 1987 Constitution
Alvarez again made a push for federalism in his speech opening the third regular session of the 17th Congress.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) on Monday hit critics of the proposed shift to a federal system of government, claiming the 1987 Constitution has caused an uneven distribution of wealth in the country. 

At the opening of the third regular session of the the 17th Congress, Alvarez listed the achievements of both houses of Congress. He then said that a bigger task lies ahead: “dismantling” the Constitution for “robbing” the rest of the Philippines of its “chance to fully realize its potential for growth and development.”

READ: How the draft charter distributes power to federated regions

Supporters of the move to a federal system say that this will give regions more funds and more say in development plans although it has been argued that the Local Government Code has delegated many of the national government's powers to local government units.

"We gave it a head start of 30 years. Has it successfully produced a virtuous cycle that led to prosperity and opportunity for all? Or has it proven itself to be an extractive institution that benefits some at the expense of the many?" Alvarez said.

"Yes, bad people are also responsible for the mess that we are presently in. But to miss the bigger picture and fail to understand the role that institutions play in the puzzle of prosperity and development for our nation will seal our fate and preserve mediocrity as status quo. We have to do something about this,” he added.

READ: Draft constitution promises bigger revenue share for regions 

In hundreds of hours of speeches, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that the Philippines must overhaul the 1987 Constitution and shift to a federal system of government to address the country's widening wealth gap and empower regional governments.

The country currently employs a unitary form of government, with much of the power emerging from Manila although many functions have been devolved to local governments. 

READ: Why the draft charter's transitory provisions are raising alarms

Attempts to amend the 1987 Constitution have generated mixed reactions from people, with critics accusing third-term House members of trying to extend their stay in power, or of seeking to prolong Duterte's single six-year term. Alvarez himself has been proposing postponing national elections set for 2019, saying Congress can instead use the time to focus on charter change.

But Duterte has repeatedly said he would prefer to cede power early. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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