Duterte hints at shift in approach to charter change

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2019 07:37 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday hinted at a possible shift in the approach to amending the Constitution, saying he might just opt to seek a revision of its economic provisions.

Duterte made this announcement as he faced stakeholders in the Bangsamoro region days before the Jan. 21 plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a measure that, if approved by voters, will establish an autonomous Bangsamoro entity with greater political and economic powers.

“Much as we would like to change anything there. Pati ‘yung atin dito (Even ours here). We have been used to it. We are the people governed by elections. And we elect leaders. The leaders must be the choice of the people. I am sure that with that --- the fundamentals provided by the law and hopefully if you can amend the Constitution, not all, but a few of the economic provisions and some,” Duterte said in a speech at a peace assembly in Cotabato City.

Duterte did not give details about his plan, but he noted that this would be his next priority once the BOL is ratified.

“Well, I do not want to discuss it with you now because ‘yun na ang sunod natin and hindi na ninyo problema ‘yun (that will come next and that is no longer your problem). Yours would just really be to ask for the law that will further enhance the governance of the Bangsamoro law.”

Duterte had formed a consultative committee that crafted a proposed federal charter that will replace the 1987 Constitution, but the group has expressed dismay after its proposals were set aside by the House of Representatives led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The administration has been pushing for constitutional amendments that would pave the way for its envisioned shift from a unitary to a federal form of government, which Duterte believes would help stir progress in the countryside.

Instead of adopting proposals of the Palace-backed committee, Arroyo came up with her own charter change proposal that, among others, removed term limits for lawmakers and rules seeking to stop political dynasties from thriving.

Some senators slammed such controversial provisions in the Arroyo draft charter, saying it would be “dead on arrival” in the upper chamber.

Arroyo has since left the task of revising the charter to the next Congress, as the midterm elections drew near and the current Congress is still busy prioritizing the already delayed approval of the 2019 national budget.

Duterte has pitched the federal form of government as an antidote to the country’s inequality problems. He said giving more powers to local governments would empower people in the countryside and better address their needs.

But delays in the crafting of the proposed federal charter, as well as strong opposition from various groups, have triggered doubts as to whether the shift to federalism could still be achieved under the Duterte administration.