Saturday, May 25, 2019

Honeyman: Constitutional change

ARTICLE XVII of the 1987 Constitution specifies the ways in which the Constitution may be amended or revised.

Section 1 stated: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
(2) A constitutional convention.”

Section 4 stated: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution under Section 1 shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the approval of such amendment or revision.”

I mention the plebiscite the direct vote of the whole electorate of 55 million people – because so far there is insufficient attention to this need. The plebiscite is important because it engenders a national conversation. So far we are hearing only from those who wish to see federalism happen.

There is a case against federalism. Federalism introduces an additional layer of government. This will be expensive. Decision-making will be unwieldy. Corruption will increase. So say the antagonists.

Those who support federalism need to discuss specifics. What will happen to the police, for example? Will there be Federal police as well as State police. Will there be contention between them?

I hope that the constitutional requirement for a plebiscite will not be ignored. The formation of the Negros Island Region, constitutionally, should have had the approval of a plebiscite (Article X Section 10). But did not.

Will there be state laws?

Last week, the state of Vermont, one of the 50 United States, passed a law which instructed those who sell foodstuff which have genetically modified organisms to specify such on their labeling. Will we have the possibility of similar law-making in the Philippines, where one state may pass a law not passed elsewhere? Legalized marijuana in some States? Will West Visayas be like Colorado?

What about Republic Acts? In the United States, if a federal law is passed which does not have the approval of the State, then that State can mount a challenge in the US Supreme Court. We saw this with “Obamacare,” a new law which caused many more people to have access to affordable health care, to be challenged by many States. In fact, the Supreme Court supported 5-4 the federally mandated “Obamacare.” A close call which could easily have gone the other way.

Former Senate president Nene Pimentel Jr. came to Bacolod last week and spoke about his views on federalism.

Pimentel has obviously given much thought to the federal concept. In terms of funding he mentions 20 percent for the Federal Government and 80 percent for the States. This presupposes that he has considered the role of Federal Government (defense, for example) vis-à-vis the States. We need specifics.

According to Pimentel the State government would have 30 percent. 70 percent would go to the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. Again, we need to understand the responsibilities of the State government and how these dovetail with the local entities. Who would be responsible for building schools? And maintaining them?


Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in the United States.

Once independence was obtained, the States, originally self-governing, banded together to form the United States.

The Philippines is considering the reverse process.

Is this wise?

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