Federalism a 'leap to hell', 1987 Constitution 'best in the world', says Davide

Kat Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2018 10:31 AM | Updated as of Jan 17 2018 03:44 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. on Wednesday said a shift to a federal form of government would be a "leap to hell", saying there is no need to revise the 1987 Constitution as it is the best in the world.

"A shift to federalism is a lethal experiment, a fatal leap, a plunge to death, and a leap to hell..." the former chief justice said during the Senate's first public hearing on charter change.

Davide, who was among those who drafted the current 1987 Constitution, also rejected proposals to amend the Charter

He said the Philippine Constitution is the best in the world as "it contains sufficient provisions against abuse of power and guarantees people's participation in governance including the use of people power."

"I will not hesitate to assert that our 1987 Constitution even if imperfect, as none is perfect except God, is the best in the world, the best for our country and our people not just of this generation but even for generations yet unborn," he said.

"It is the only Constitution I know of which is pro-God, pro-Filipino, pro-people, pro-life, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-poor, pro-human rights, pro-women, pro-environment among others."

"This is the Constitution I am willing to die for," he added, echoing his vote for the final draft of the 1987 Constitution.

Members of the Philippine Senate are currently holding hearings on the proposal to amend the Constitution and shift to a federal form of government. 

This, after the House of Representatives adopted Tuesday a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

If the House version is passed into law, the present Congress will be dissolved and the Senate and House will be replaced by an interim parliament. "It will also allow the President to run for re-election after a 5-year term."

'NON-LETHAL BUT VITAL'

For his part, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel admitted that some parts of the Constitution do not need revision.

However, he insisted on the need to revise the 1987 Constitution to change the current structure of government. He also backed joint hearings on Charter change but that both chambers of Congress should vote separately.

"The voting of the two houses of Congress should be done separately otherwise the 24 senators, even if they are to act as one, would suffer fates worse than those who were swallowed by the Fukushima tsunami some time ago," he told senators in a hearing on constitutional amendments Wednesday.

In his opening statement, Davide praised the present Constitution as it institutionalizes that "public office is a public trust meaning all government employees are servants of the people." 

He also noted that the 1987 Charter remained the same for 31 years despite efforts by former presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to revise the Constitution via people's initiative.

"This 1987 Constitution has achieved an unsurpassed record of PERMANENCE. As explained by Justice Isagani Cruz in his book Constitutional Law 2000 page 7, permanence means the capacity of the constitution to 'resist capricious and whimsical change dictated not by legitimate needs but only by temporary passions or occasional infatuations of people with ideas or personalities,'" he said. 

Instead of overhauling the entire constitution, Davide said laws can be passed to either correct imperfections or to enable provisions within the highest law of the land.

"A massive majority of its provisions have not been implemented. There are provisions that need laws to give life to them," Davide said.

Both Davide and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said any change to the Constitution should be done through a constitutional convention. "The argument that constitutional assembly is cheaper than the constitutional convention is a cheap argument," Puno said.

Under the law, the public will have to elect delegates to the constitutional convention whose sole mandate is to amend the constitution.

But on Tuesday, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution. This means Congress will convene as a body that is eligible to draft a new charter.