Wenceslao: Again, federalism

THE Consultative committee (ConComm) formed by President Duterte to craft a new constitution has approved on July 3 its draft constitution meant to shift the government to a federal system. Reaction to it followed two lines, one line putting the provisions of the proposed new charter to scrutiny and the other line rejecting it outright. Both lines have their merits and demerits.

The ideal is, of course, to look into the proposal and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of every provision. A shift to a federal system is a major change and thus should be discussed thoroughly by those concerned. Which brings us to the other line, one that seeks to reject the draft outright. I tend to follow that line, whose logic is that whatever this administration does is worrisome.

But let us consider the first line. We are starting to hear, for example, some people who are questioning some of the ConComm’s proposals. An example is the controversial proposal to give the president dictatorial powers during the transition from the present setup to the federal system. The other one allows President Duterte to run for another term (he is barred from doing so under the present setup).

I am sure there are many other questionable proposals that the opposition can mine from the draft constitution and hurl into the arena of public opinion. At the other side of the fence, the proponents are already harping on the advantages of embracing the proposal, including the division of the country into small states. After all, federalism is the heart of the said draft constitution.

But like what I have already pointed out before, I am suspicious of any proposal to change the 1987 Constitution considering the milieu. The current constitution was crafted after we ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and at a time when progressive and liberal thought blanketed the nation.

Such is no longer the setup now. Under the Duterte administration, progressive and liberal principles are being thrown out in favor of a viewpoint that eschews decency, human rights and democratic practices. Democratic institutions are being torn down. Which only means that provisions of the 1987 Constitution that are products of the lessons taken from the Marcos dictatorship are being excised from the draft constitution.

As I already noted, now is not the time to change the constitution and effect a radical change in the political setup considering that we are not in the best times of the country’s history. This actually is the period where we are closest to a repetition of what happened in the ‘70s and the years immediately before it. To put it in another way, we are closest to imposing another dictatorial rule.

On this, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay is to the point in a social media post that has gone viral. “Ferdinand Marcos,” he said, “exaggerated the threat of communist insurgency to declare a nationwide martial law and then force charter change. What followed were massive human rights violations, plunder of the nation, demise of democracy. We’re seeing a tragic recurrence.”


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