WHY would a regional basic law matter?
Jude Acidre, first nominee of Tingog Sinirangan party-list in Eastern Visayas, posed this question as President Rodrigo Duterte formally received an official copy of the draft federal constitution and while the Senate is set to discuss the said document on Tuesday, July 17.
Highlighted in the proposed charter amendments, which were drafted by the 22-member Consultative Committee (Con-Com) headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, is the establishment of 18 federated regions, including the Bangsamoro and the federation region of the Cordillera, with its regional legislature, executive, judiciary system.
Acidre said that “having a single constitution for both tiers of government could amount to a manifest contradiction to the literal and natural guarantees of a federal order.”
“That is the reason why the Bangsamoro would like to have their own basic law -- that is to have a full self-definition of the considerable autonomy that it enjoys. This will allow the federated regions to design their own institutions of government, allocate power among these institutions, and set the term of office and mode of selection for officials, within the general limits and framework provided by the constitution,” Acidre said.
“The regional constitution will have the force of law within the federated region, without prejudice to the supremacy of the federal constitution. It is important that the extent, manner, and exercise of the inherent competencies of a federated region, as may be articulated in a regional basic law, should not reside with either the central or regional government alone to the exclusion of the other,” he added.
An equal opportunity should be afforded to the federated region, or at least to both together, Acidre said.
“Second, a written basic law, ratified by the people of a given federated region, and recognized by the federal constitution will be the best guarantee of its considerable autonomy, which is an essential feature of a federal political system,” said the party-list nominee.
Another reason why a basic law for each region is important is that it will “help define a relationship of meaningful interdependence founded upon a balanced division of powers and resources,” he added.
“The regional basic law, so to speak, will fully express its assent to the federal regime, to such arrangements of powers and resources, necessary to realize its status as a self-governing entity.
“In fact, a regional basic law would guarantee that the power-sharing arrangement between the federal and regional tiers of government should not place such a preponderance of power in the hands of either, as to make it so powerful that it is able to bend the will of the other to its own, thus guaranteeing a truly federal arrangement. The regional basic law will provide a sound protection of the interests of the federated regions against federal intrusion, without prejudice however to the integrity and inviolability of the Filipino nation,” the Tingog Sinirangan party-list leader said.
Though Acidre admitted that not all federal systems empower their constituent units to have their own sub-national basic law or quasi-constitutions, he said “it is nonetheless very evident that if we were to truly uphold the federal system in the proposed constitution, the right to have its own basic law, which has been proposed for the Bangsamoro and the Cordilleras, should not be denied to the other federated regions of the federal republic.”
Banning political dynasties is not enough?
While the proposed federal charter prohibited political dynasties that have long monopolized the country’s elections, Acidre said this is not a guarantee to fix the political system.
“I don’t believe in banning political dynasties. I don’t agree with term limits either. I disagree with imposing a college degree requirement on political candidates for any position,” he said.
While he acknowledged that there is a need to fix our country’s political system, he maintained that “none of the aforementioned proposals prove to be a durable solution.”
“The solution is to make sure there is widened access to the country’s political area, allowing full participation of the best of our best leaders,” he said.
According to Acidre, the “durable solution is strengthening our political parties.”
“Ensure that our political parties are strongly membership-based, participatory and fully democratic in their governance. Government funding should be made available to them, provided that they make a full disclosure not only of their assets but also their membership, leadership, and governance,” he added.
To illustrate an example, Acidre said that if a person wants to run for governor of a province there are two ways for him or her to do it.
“First, he can be nominated by a registered political party. To be able to nominate a candidate for a provincial position, such party must meet a membership requirement of say three percent of the total voting population of at least 2/3 of all municipalities in the province. Not to mention that said nomination must be done in a party convention with Commission on Elections representatives present.
“The other option is for him or her to run as independent, but he or she has to meet a higher nomination requirement of say 5% of the total voting population of at least 2/3 of all municipalities in the province,” Acidre said.
Acidre said a candidate cannot also switch during his or her term.
“If during his incumbency, he or she resigns from his membership, he or she can be independent, and thus he or she will be required to run as independent in the next elections. One cannot run for any position, under a new party, in the first election following a resignation. Likewise, if he or she is elected to a legislative position and resigns his or her party membership, he or she must deemed resigned unless he or she turns independent,” he added.
“For our brand of democracy to mature, we need to widen political participation, not constrict it,” said Acidre. (SunStar Philippines)