MANILA (UPDATED) - A proposed new constitution quietly under deliberation will dissolve Congress and allow President Rodrigo Duterte to wield legislative powers temporarily, raising fears of a Marcos-style dictatorship as the Philippines attempts to shift to a federal system.
Duterte will exercise such powers once the new constitution is ratified and until the new Federal Congress is convened, according to the transitory provision of a resolution pending at the House of Representatives.
The resolution introduced by Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and ABC party-list Rep. Eugene De Vera was filed as early as August last year.
It is different from the proposed federal constitution drafted by the political think tank of Duterte’s party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said Duterte’s “super majority” in Congress could in fact expedite deliberations and have the new constitution ready by May this year.
But Colmenares said there was no assurance the elections would be held in May 2019 and a new federal congress would be convened shortly after that, as proposed in Resolution of Both Houses No. 8.
With the President’s allies now floating the possibility of holding no mid-term elections next year so Congress could finish revising the Constitution, Colmenares said Duterte could potentially exercise legislative powers “'til kingdom come.”
“Dangerous proposal... parang throwback sa Marcos era (like a throwback to the Marcos era),” he told ABS-CBN News.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano warned that the transition period could extend for years as in the case of the 1973 Constitution under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“We would see a repeat of Marcos as we are seeing many similarities already,” Alejano told ABS-CBN News. “Duterte is certainly reading Marcos’ playbook.”
Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque declined to comment on what he described as “speculative.”
“He will implement the Constitution and the laws. If the Constitution is amended by the people, he will also implement it,” Roque said in a text message.
Under the draft, the number of members of the Commission on Elections, Civil Service Commission, and the Commission on Audit will be increased to 19 each.
But incumbent commissioners would serve for only one year from the ratification of the new constitution.
Since the next batch would be appointed by the President, Colmenares said Duterte would “practically control” all 3 independent constitutional commissions.
“Would we allow one person to appoint all 57 commissioners?” Colmenares said. “That’s centralized power.”