Duterte warned: Be careful in federalism shift

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2016 01:01 PM

One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte should think twice before changing the form of government from unitary to federalism.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart with Karen Davila, Atty. Christian Monsod said the reason behind the push for the shift must first be debated upon before the method of changing it is discussed.

He said, the criticism is that power and capital are centralized in Manila, but he asks, "do you need federalism to [change] that?"

"Let’s look at that, look at the Constitution, look at the local government code, look at the mining law, look at the education law, and so on and so forth. Can we do this by ordinary legislation so that we do not put at risk the social justice and human development provisions of the Constitution?," he said.

He lamented that local legislatures aimed at social reform have loopholes in themselves because lawmakers who authored them looked after their own interest.

"All of them have loopholes for the landowners, for example in agrarian reform, you can distribute shares of stock instead of land. Without distribution of land, there’s no agrarian reform," he said.

He said the same may also happen when the bicameral Congress convenes as a Constituent Assembly to create and ratify the new Constitution.

"If you do by particularly Con-Ass, congress is dominated, 70%, by political dynasties. These political dynasties, as I said, have been impervious to change. After EDSA, nag-backslide na agad yan, right? They always think about their own families and clans’ interests," he said.

Monsod added, the administration should further study what kind of federalism would fit the Philippines best, instead of adapting the system in other countries.

Duterte in his State of the Nation Address said he preferred the French model, where the form of government is federal parliamentary. Monsod however corrected this and said France is categorized as "unitary, semi-parliamentary."

"We have to be careful when we say things like that. It might mislead the poor and our ordinary people because they have so much trust in the president," he said.

"When he goes into territory when you really need deep thinking on what we need as a form and structure of government, I think he listens too much to sporadic advice from people, and that should not be the case," he added.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The present Constitution, he added, already gives local autonomy to group together, coordinate and cooperate on what they do, like how the Negros provinces did.

"A whole region can say that—that we want to pool our resources together so we can test not just what power they can use, but whether they have the capacity for it," he said.

Proponents of federalism say, the system would boost competition among states in attracting businesses, Monsod fears, changing the Constitution may put the social justice provisions at risk, with poorer provinces being pushed further into poverty under a federal government.

"Those who are strong like Central Visayas, where do you think the foreign investor will go? They will go there. The poor provinces may become poorer because they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the capability, the governance," he said.

He added, boosting competition may be done through legislation and not necessarily charter change.

"The constitution does not say anything about sharing of revenues; it just said equitable sharing. Change the mining law. Change the IRA in the local government code. 40:60? Change it to 60:40; change it to 80:20. You don’t need to change the constitution," he said.

Monsod emphasized, the change in the Constitution will be irreversible.

"If we are now banking on the promises of federalism, what if we’re wrong? What if the diagnosis is wrong, and it’s the people who suffer because the social justice and human development provisions have been changes? You cannot reverse," he said.