TWO former chief justices on Wednesday, January 17, expressed contradicting opinions on moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Hilario Davide Jr., who was also a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, warned against charter change, describing this as a "lethal experiment" and "a leap to hell."
He said there is no need to amend the Constitution, because this is the "best in the world, best for the country and best for the people."
“It is the only Constitution I know which is pro-God, pro-Filipino, pro-people, pro-poor, pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-human rights, pro-women, pro-environment, among others, “ Davide told the Senate hearing on charter change Wednesday.
Reynato Puno, on the other hand, pushed for federalism.
He said it is high time that the Constitution is amended because conditions have changed a lot.
“We are a failing democracy. We have to be realistic. Our Congress must really change it,“ Puno said.
Puno said he was in favor of a hybrid constitutional convention, wherein two-thirds of the members are elected and the rest appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
A separate voting by the two houses of Congress and not a joint voting is the right thing to do, Puno added.
He noted that the House has the numbers “and they will overwhelm the Senate.
Former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel, who has been known to advocate for federalism, said some questionable provisions in the proposed federal form of government will have to be addressed.
He also pushed for the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) first.
Davide agreed, saying the Bangsamoro could serve as a model for federalism. If it succeeds, then the government can proceed with the shift to a federal form of government, he said.
Puno again disagreed, saying the Bangsamoro could not serve as a template.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, who was also present, expressed support for federalism but at the same pointed out the need to strengthen the institutions.
“Very weak ang ating mga institutions and even our security is very weak. Hindi po agriculture and Metro Manila. Sino mag e-establish ng mga bilihin. Paano ang mangyayari sa mga career officers natin na madi-displace? As far as I am concerned, I am for federalism but
dapat pagtibayin natin ang mga institusyon,” Bautista said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, who chairs the committee on constitutional amendments, said they will follow the will of the people and will not block moves to amend the Constitution.
He said, however, that they "will definitely oppose any term extension.”
Meanwhile, Puno said the Senate cannot be compelled to act on the House resolution calling for a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court still does not have jurisdiction to accommodate and decide questions that are political in character. The issue that we are talking about is a political question,” he said.
If the Senate does not act on the House resolution, Puno said "the resolution is lost and you cannot be subject to a writ of mandamus." (P.S. Jun Sarmiento/SunStar Philippines)