“WORST draft ever.”
This was how retired judge Meinrado Paredes described the draft federal constitution that the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
This, as Cebu legislators Gerald Anthony Gullas (Cebu, 1st district), Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district) and Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th district) all voted in favor of the draft charter.
The draft federal charter that is proposed to replace the 1987 Constitution was prepared by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 21 other lawmakers. The “Resolution of Both Houses Proposing the Revision of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines” gained 224 affirmative votes, 22 negative votes and three abstentions.
Paredes, a human rights activist during the Marcos dictatorship, was dismayed that the lawmakers included a provision eliminating term limits for politicians.
Salimbangon, however, favored this, saying it was the voters who would decide whether to continue voting for them in the elections.
Salimbangon also supported the provision lengthening the term of congressmen and officials of local government units to four years because he believes three years is too short a period to implement a real sustainable development program.
But Paredes is also against changing the form of government from unitary to federal form, saying the country is not ready for it and it will only strengthen political dynasties.
Paredes said allowing politicians to hold on to power for an indefinite period of time is akin to dictatorships in other countries.
“No one will agree with their action except them because they can benefit from it. They only have self-interest. This is what I foresee with politicians who have no term limits and belong to political dynasties: they will use money they stole from the town’s coffers. If they will win, they will use the money in the next elections. Then they steal again for the future elections,” he said in Cebuano.
In a text message to SunStar Cebu, Garcia said she had been supportive of the plan to change the Constitution even when she was still the governor of Cebu.
“I am just being consistent. I have always supported charter change and the eventual shift to a federal form of government,” Garcia said.
But Garcia and Gullas refused to comment on the controversial provisions of the bill.
While he had yet to read the draft, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Antonio Chiu said: “I feel that while there are many good points about federalism, the necessary safeguards to make federalism successful are not yet in place. These include provisions to prevent political and family dynasties.”
The 1987 Constitution provides, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” The draft charter, however, removed from the sentence: “and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
Salimbangon also favored the draft charter’s provisions to elect the President and Vice President in tandem, saying it will avoid conflict of political agenda; and the return to the two-party system, saying it will “promote party principles rather than personality.” JKV, EOB, KOC, SCG of Superbalita Cebu / KAL