Were they fools duped into boarding the “federalist ship,” and drafting and defending a constitution that would supposedly bring into fruition President Rodrigo Duterte’s oft-repeated claim that a shift to a federal form of government would accelerate the development of the country’s poorest regions? At least one member of the Duterte-appointed Consultative Committee (Con-Com), who helped write the draft that’s now in Congress, is beginning to think so.
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno says this is the “better time” to shift to a federal form of government. He didn’t say what he was comparing today with (a better time than when?). But he did claim that it’s because there’s enough public support to realize it.
Puno didn’t say this because the public opinion polls say so. No survey on what people think of federalism has so far established if there is indeed widespread support for it. The former chief justice instead based this assessment on the results of the 2016 presidential elections, which Rodrigo Duterte won with 16 million votes.
Since Duterte the candidate made the shift to a federal government from the present unitary form one of the planks of what passed for his campaign platform, Puno concludes that his victory indicates popular support for federalism.
About Benigno Aquino III’s declaration in a TV5 interview that he would “listen to his bosses,” we can either (1) assume that it was his demure way of saying that he will indeed seek a second term, or (2) dismiss it as merely an attempt to allay the fears of his Liberal Party mates that, without him, they would have no winnable candidate in 2016 and would have to face the chilling prospect of not having anyone of their own in Malacañang for six years. In either case, it has triggered a contentious debate that could lead to consequences Mr. Aquino may not have anticipated.
CONGRESSMAN Feliciano Belmonte has filed a resolution urging both Houses of Congress to propose amendments to Articles 2, 12 and 16 of the Constitution.
These provisions restrict foreign exploitation of natural resources, and limits foreign investments to certain areas as well as ownership of public utilities, advertising firms and the media, among others. Belmonte says these provisions must be amended to address the continuing poverty in the country despite economic growth by relaxing restrictions on foreign investments.
Constitutional amendments at this time will lead to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s remaining in power, a prospect dire enough to compel immigration to another planet. But there are other threats in charter change about which we should be no less fretful.
Three years after then House Speaker Jose de Venecia launched an attempt through a people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, and despite the opposition of 79 percent of the population today, Mrs. Arroyo’s henchmen and women in Congress are still at it.