Two step con-com for Duterte’s program for change
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Not con-con or con-ass, in my humble opinion the difficulties of the lack of a proper revision procedure in the 1987 Constitution leaves us with a more innovative option not different from how our heroes tackled the problem of making a constitution for nation-building.

The two-step con-com is different from the other two modes of revising the 1987 Constitution. Concom or constitutional commission fulfills the spirit of the campaign of Digong Duterte that led to his spectacular victory the way millions of Filipinos responded to his call.

Concom is an abbreviation for constitutional commission. It is not an appointment but a getting together of like-minded people who want change – change for the better. It is our own version of how to bring a people-led change the way Iceland did but in our own way because of our huge population and the political illiteracy of Filipinos in general. To insist that they should understand parliamentary government with a federal structure is a mistake because there are different ways of understanding these political concepts. What they do understand is inclusiveness and desire to be part of nation-building. They do understand the meaning of inclusiveness which Digong Duterte stood for. His campaign program broke the back of an oligarchic structure fueled by the elite that government was for their exclusive interest.

How do we achieve putting that into reality? I am among those who have advocated for a Revgov because it is a shorter way but it does not necessarily mean that it should stand alone nor does it mean that the present Congress and Senate should be the authors of the new constitution.

The authors of the new constitution should be the people. Duterte brought them in to achieve the confidence to support change. 

It should include various sectors of Filipino society not different from the beginnings of Filipino nation building. We wanted to have a say as well as how to put order to crowdsourcing so it will not be exclusive for the elite, the middle class or the poor. We all stand as Filipinos. 

The next stage is to cull from this crowdsourcing inputs. It is not dependent on academic excellence or being articulate. It must necessarily be imperfectly expressed and as self-serving as politicians are. But in getting people to speak and be counted, we will arrive at the change we want to have. 

Once culled, another committee of more knowledgeable not necessarily constitutional experts but politically literate and patriotic Filipinos committed to change takes over. My own wish is the members of this group should be those who understand the unequal Filipino society and why it gets in the way of progress. Everyone must have a place in this dialogue commensurate to their skills, knowledge and merit.

From this group we move then to a concise but inclusive constitution written down in simple language understandable to all, the crowd as well as the more knowledgeable. I should really say that there is a third but this can come from the second body who are imbued with the democratic commitment so we have a constitution that can be read as a body of principles in a piece of paper understandable to all.

All this will take time and we do not have the luxury of time. More acceptable is if we combine Revgov as well as a democratic approach to nation building. It is possible to use both approaches as I think President Digong is already doing.

Our own history of constitution making demonstrates the procedure.  The members were not selected by a higher group of officials but of Filipinos coming together for a common purpose. But times have changed and we must include not just the educated or wealthy members of society. The modern approach is to crowdsource  from the different sectors of society. In Iceland there were 50 sectors included. We may be driven by the same national motive and it cannot be exclusive or it will not reflect the needs of our times if we have only the elite deciding for the rest of the country. Even if times have changed it is still in the spirit of nation building after our war of independence against Spain.

In the making of the 1898 Constitution, there was a permanent commission created to make decisions when the national assembly was in recess. The Permanent Commission was created to make decisions when the National Assembly is in recess. It functions similarly to a Constitutional Court that other countries have. In the Philippines, it is the Supreme Court that has this function.

“The National Assembly is empowered to elect seven of its members to constitute the Permanent Commission, with the obligation that the Commission choose a President and a Secretary on its first session. The Permanent Commission powers were:

1. Declare whether or not there is sufficient cause to take legal action against the President of the Republic, the Representatives, the Secretaries of Government, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, and the Solicitor General in the cases provided for in this Constitution;

2. Convene the Assembly in extraordinary session in cases when the Court of Justice must be constituted;

3. Act on matters that have remained unresolved in order for them to be taken into consideration;

4. Convene the Assembly in extraordinary sessions when the exigency of the case so requires; and

5. Substitute the National Assembly in the exercise of its powers in accordance to the Constitution, except in the power of creating and passing laws. The Permanent Commission shall meet whenever it is convened by whoever presides over it in accordance to this Constitution.


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