A ‘sham and a shame’
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2019 - 12:00am

One of the main reasons why Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) was elected President last 2016 was his advocacy of a federal form of government. Majority of Filipinos really believe that federalism will be more appropriate and advantageous to our country primarily because of the topography or the surface features of our country which has numerous islands. Indeed, by having several sovereign “states” in the various regions of the country, confederated for the purpose of presenting to the world the appearance of a single State, said “states” which are essentially autonomous and independent, will become more progressive, prosperous and peaceful. This kind of government is best exemplified by the United States of America (USA), the German Federal Government and the Swiss Confederacy.

Under the American Federal Union, the federal authorities have the power of enacting laws and issuing orders which are binding directly on individual citizens. The other mode of the federal union is that exemplified by the Old German Confederation where the federal authorities solely represent the government to the world.

Pursuant to the American form of federalism, the federal Congress of the American Union is a substantive part of the government of every individual state. It makes laws which are obeyed by every citizen individually, executes them through its own officers and enforces them through its own tribunals. The primary difficulty here is there may be disagreements between the constituent governments or between one or more of the local governments and the federal government as to the limits of their respective powers. The citizens owe obedience to two governments, its own state and the federation. To solve these difficulties, the constitutional limits of each authority must be precisely and clearly defined; and if there is any dispute, a federal Supreme Court of Justice will decide.

It seems therefore that the US federal form of government is more suitable and appropriate for our country in order to avoid all these difficulties. And of course it will take a lot of time for our people to learn and discern all these intricacies of the system. It is therefore imperative that steps be taken at once to start the shift in our form of government.

In this connection, PRRD has indeed taken the first step. He has created a consultative committee (concom) to draw up a draft that will ultimately result in the shift to the federal form of government. In fact, the concom has already done its job and submitted the draft last July 2018 yet. Unfortunately, no further action has been taken by the PRRD government in this regard. Instead, the House of Representatives under the leadership of new Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo adopted a “Resolution of Both Houses” (RBH 15) proposing a shift to federal form of government which the concom chairman, former chief justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno, has branded as nothing but “sham federalism.” Puno specifically described said resolution as follows: “What they established is a unitary system without the ban on political dynasties and with unlimited term of office. They did not establish a federal government and its constituent States. They did not divide the powers of government between the two. Hence, they are peddling a unitary government dressed as federalism. It is a sham and a shame.”

Another concom member former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the foremost advocate of federalism said that the resolution passed by the House was “good for Gloria not for the country.” Obviously, he was referring here to House Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.   

It must be pointed out in this connection, that changing our form of government from the present unitary, presidential system into federal form can be done by revision of our present Charter or a re-examination of the entire document to determine how and to what extent it should be altered. Such revision may result into a total change of the Constitution or merely an alteration of the key provisions of our Charter with the end result of having a federal constitution.

Under Article XIII of our Constitution, such revision may be proposed by (1) Congress, upon a vote of three fourths of all its members; or (2) by a Constitutional Convention called by Congress through a vote of two-thirds of all its members ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the registered voters in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of said revision (Sections 1, 3 and 4 Constitution).

Amendments to the Constitution or the alteration of one or a few specific provisions of the Constitution, may likewise be directly proposed by the people, through initiative upon a petition of at least 12 per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. This amendment through peoples’ initiative shall be authorized only within five years following the ratification of the Constitution, nor oftener than once every five years thereafter (Section 2, Constitution). However, because changing the form of government into federalism entails revision of the Constitution, the same cannot be done through peoples’ initiative.

Obviously RBH 15 passed by the Lower House of Congress is not according to the foregoing provisions of the Charter. This crucial revision is quite important and must therefore be done constitutionally. And what is quite alarming here is that PRRD seems to be so quiet and thus appear to sanction this move. Moreover, if ever he reacts to it one way or another, it may be another “joke.” So let us pray more fervently for our country and our people.

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Email: attyjosesison@gmail.com

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