Puno wants to defend draft charter in Congress

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2018 01:51 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2018 01:56 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte’s drafting committee is looking to eventually defend its proposed federal constitution before Congress, its chairman said Tuesday, amid concerns legislators might reject its recommendations.

The committee has agreed to ban political dynasties up to the level of grandparents and grandchildren, a proposal expected to face strong opposition in an legislature dominated by such families.

Its chairman, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, described the prohibition as a "sine qua non" for any federal shift to prevent dynasties from taking advantage of the new system of government.

"Right now, you have this power already cornered by political dynasties," he told reporters. 

"If you federalize, you will not only be giving them these powers, but you will be giving them what is equivalent to sovereign powers. So how can you do that without first regulating or prohibiting political dynasties?"

A draft federal constitution is expected to be submitted for the President’s endorsement in his annual national address in July, following a nationwide public consultation.

"Our intention is to appear before both houses of Congress when we have finished this draft of this new constitution," Puno said. 

"If they wish, they can call on us and we shall be defending the draft of the constitution that we have prepared."

The House of Representatives has agreed to review the 1987 constitution by convening as a constituent assembly. But senators have yet to decide on whether the charter needs changes now.

NO PROPHET

The constitution prohibits political dynasties, but left it to Congress to provide the details in an enabling law.

Last week, Puno’s committee agreed on a self-executing provision banning dynasties —meaning congressional action will no longer be needed — up to the second civil degree of consanguinity and affinity.

"What Congress failed or refused to do in 31 years, the consultative completed in 4 days," said committee spokesman Ding Generoso.

Several congressmen have spoken against any anti-political dynasty provision. 

Even the President, whose family has ruled Davao City for decades, is said to be cool to the idea of such a ban, on the belief that the choice should ultimately be left to voters.

Asked if he would withdraw support from a federal charter that might end up being diluted in a constituent assembly, Puno said: "At this point, I don’t see myself playing the role of a prophet."

Under the committee proposal, relatives up to the second civil degree will not be allowed to succeed an incumbent elective official in the next election.

They also can run simultaneously only for one national and one regional or local position.

EQUALIZATION FUND

National positions will be limited to that of the president and the vice president because the committee agreed that senators will be voted by region or state.

"You may consider it a sweeping anti-political dynasty provision if you consider the implications on the ground," Generoso said.

Another major item in the agenda is the creation of states, which would depend largely on fiscal or economic viability.

Experts believe only 3 to 4 regions are capable of into transforming into full-fledged federal states at this time. 

Poor regions will require support through greater revenue allotments and a so-called "equalization fund" pooled from wealthier states.

"This is one of the more difficult parts... determining how many states or regions should be formed. Based on fiscal data, how many will be viable and sustainable? This requires a lot of study," said Puno, who floated the idea of an "evolving" federalism.

Under this proposal, provinces grouped into regions will have to meet certain requirements before being classified as states.