Cabaero: Content first

WHAT is distressing about talk on changing the Constitution is that there is more discussion on procedure and timetable, and less on the changes being eyed.

It is not right for a proposed action with long-term impact to be dependent more on form than content. This leads to knee-jerk and premature positions over the amendments. It is not true, as one proponent said, that the constitutional amendments are to abolish the Office of the Vice President or insert the requirement of “responsible exercise” of freedom of speech. These are still ideas as the final draft on the proposed changes to the Constitution is still pending.

But actions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez tend to prioritize how the House of Representatives intends to make the constitutional changes. He has resorted to threats to convene Congress as a constituent assembly, with or without the senators, and to withhold national government funds from local officials who do not support the shift to a federal system. It is turning out that the main purpose of the Charter change is to move from a unitary to a federal system that divides power between the national and local governments.

There is no nationwide information drive on federalism or public forums to dissect the pros and cons of the shift in government form.

What are being highlighted are the manner of forcing the constituent assembly without the Senate and the requirement for those in government to toe the line and back federalism.

If the reason for a new Constitution was to correct its defects, then it is easy to see that more newspaper inches and media air time are being devoted to how to get there than to what these amendments are to the document.

Alvarez wants Charter change completed in May and the nationwide plebiscite to be held with the barangay and youth council elections in that same month. If the plebiscite approves the constitutional changes, there would be no need for the mid-term elections in May 2019 for President, Vice President, 12 senators, all House members, and local government officials. They all would enjoy term extensions until elections are held under the federal system of government.

If Alvarez and House members were serious about correcting the Charter, then let’s start spending time to discuss the changes rather than rush the process and, at the same time, enjoy the added benefit for those who will have to stay longer in office.

•••

The Sun.Star website at www.sunstar.com.ph will stream live the Sinulog grand parade today, Sunday, to an online audience from different parts of the country and abroad.

The grand parade is the highlight of the website’s special coverage that started with the nine-day novena masses, continued with the foot procession last Saturday, and today’s grand parade. It will end with the awarding of winners Monday.

Replays of the videos may be accessed at the Sinulog microsite at http://cebu.sunstar.com.ph/sinulog.

The website’s coverage is made possible with the support of the Sinulog Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, PLDT, Needs and Solutions, Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, and Sky Cable.
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