'Too many politicians, not enough federalism experts'

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2018 09:55 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped former Chief Justice Reynato Puno as head of a consultative body on charter change.Composite/File

Too many politicians, and not enough federalism experts in the consultative commission.

That is what Ranjit Rye, a political science assistant professor at the University of the Philippines, said of the 19 people named by President Rodrigo Duterte to be a part of the consultative body on charter change.

"Kailangan talaga may eksperto dito, hindi lang legal experts, para sa akin mas importante pa yung marurunong sa economics, iyung fiscal aspect ng federalism hindi pa ko kumbinsido na kaya natin these experts," he said.

The commission, which takes its mandate from Executive Order 10 issued by President Duterte on December 2016, is led by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who made his mark as an activist in the judiciary.

Puno will be joined by another retired justice, Bienvenido Reyes, who prior to becoming a career jurist, was a legal counsel to many firms.

Another retired justice joining the commission is two-time lawmaker turned Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura, who also served as the dean of Arellano University Law School.

Other academics in the commission are legal luminary and San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean Ranhilo Aquino, De La Salle University Professor and former dean Julio Teehankee, and University of Santo Tomas professor Edmund Tayao.

Another academic is Virgilio Castillo Bautista, who served as president of the University of Baguio from 1992 to 2004. An educator by profession, Bautista is also an active volunteer in Baguio City, organizing community activities from time to time.

For Rye, they may not be enough. 

"Hindi lang legal experts, para sa akin mas importante pa yung marurunong sa economics yung fiscal aspect ng federalism wala pakong hindi pako kumbinsido na kaya natin these experts," he said.

"While I'm satisifed with the membership ang feeling ko lang mas marami sanang inimbitang eksperto talaga. Kung ang trabaho ay pag-aralan, sana naman maging mas inclusive itong komisyong ito in encouraging other institutions...by themselves magkukulang talaga sila sa mga eksperto. Hindi ito madaling usapin, kailangan dito marurunong talaga sa institutional design."

For Rye, what is lacking may be as bad as what the body has too much of: politicians.

Topping the list is veteran lawmaker and martial law fighter turned former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who has long advocated a shift to a federal form of government. 

Aside from Pimentel, other politicians joining the commission are former lawmaker Laurence Wacnang who represented Kalinga province in the 11th, 12th and 13th Congress and Pangalian Balindong who represented Lanao del Sur's 2nd district in the 10th and 14th Congress before serving as a deputy speaker in the 15th Congress.

Other former government officials joining the commission are Victor dela Serna, former mayor of Tagbilaran City; Roan Libarios, former vice-governor of Agusan del Norte and congressman of the province's 2nd district. 

Duterte's emphasis on having a constitution that does not leave Mindanao behind cannot be more obvious by having many Mindanaoans on board.

Aside from Balindong, Pimentel was also a former Cagayan de Oro City mayor. Libarios, 59, was vice Governor of Agusan del Norte. Lawyer-businessman Reuben Canoy is among the founders of Radio Mindanao Network and is an author of several books on Mindanao. 

Eddie Mapag Alih was a former chancellor of the Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi. Randolph Parcasio, 61, is the spokesperson of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari. 

A lawyer by profession, Parcasio also chairs the MNLF peace implementing panel and was the chief negotiator for the faction during the peace negotiations with the government. 

Antonio Binas Arellano is an appointee of President Duterte to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and was part of the government's negotiating panel with communist rebels.

Rodolfo Dia Robles is meanwhile a graduate of the San Beda College of Law and the 1967 bar topnotcher. 

The lone woman is Susan Ubalde Ordinario, a lawyer and like Duterte, Pimentel and Aquino, a federalism advocate. She hails from Catanduanes and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1999.

Another businessman who made the cut is Arthur Aguilar, who previously served as chairman of the National Renewable Energy Board. 

Under Executive Order 10, the commission has 6 months to study, conduct consultations and review the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, including but not limited to the provisions on the structure and powers of the government, local governance and economic policies. 

For Rye though, whatever the output of the commission is will still be subject to the will of Congress, who under the constitution, is tasked to be the one to propose amendments to the constitution for approval by the electorate.

"Di pa klaro yung relasyon based on the agreement between the House and the Senate that just transpired. Many of the initiatives will come from the two bicameral institutions. The credibility of this commission will be seen in how influential they will be eventually defining this discourse on charter change," he said.

"There's no assurance that these proposals that the commission will propose will actually be followed. However, if the commission as a consultative body on this particular initiative whatever they propose will have some weight and be considered by congressmen and senators, the commission is credible not just because of its members [but] because of the broad network they are able to engage."