Battle of experts looms in charter review

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2018 10:08 AM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee is set to begin Monday formal discussions on a proposed constitution, but facing strong opposition from other legal experts concerned over a shift to federalism.

Much of the criticism has come from former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and lawyer Christian Monsod, who warned against tinkering with the constitution they helped craft in 1986.

They have since joined a coalition opposing charter change for fear of further entrenching political dynasties and other “irreversible” effects of moving to a federal government.

"They accuse other people of self-interest, but I think it is also self-interest to put vanity before national interest," politiical science professor Julio Teehankee, a member of the consultative committee, told ABS-CBN News.

Teehankee said the present constitution was “the product of both constitutional trauma and constitutional nostalgia.”

“Trauma in the sense that most of the framers of the 1987 constitution overreacted to the abuses created by the Marcos authoritarian regime,” he said.

Monsod had also warned that the proposed federal constitution prepared by the ruling PDP Laban party’s think tank was tailor fit for Duterte.

Critics have drawn similarities between the president’s leadership style and that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, for whom Duterte has repeatedly expressed admiration.

NO LACKEYS

"How can it be tailor fit for the President when there’s nothing there that talks of a no-election scenario... that the President will be president for a 10-year transition period?" said Interior Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the PDP Laban Federalism Institute.

"Let’s have a respectful discussion. Let’s talk on the merits."

Teehankee acknowledged the need for an effective communications strategy to counter negative propaganda questioning the motives behind the committee’s efforts.

"It is disheartening and it is a great disservice to this country if the issue of charter change and...the federal alternative is weaponized for partisan purposes," he said.

"This constitutional review goes beyond the issue of being pro- or anti-Duterte and this is a process that will affect the Filipino people and future generations to come. It is not only for the interest of one political faction or one political interest."

The Department of the Interior and Local Government will help promote awareness of federalism and in public consultations and subsequent plebiscite on the proposed federal constitution, said Malaya.

He said it would be "unfair" to consider the consultative body’s output as a "Duterte constitution" on the premise that it was the President who had formed the committee.

"They are not lackeys or stooges of this President," he said, noting the recommendations would be "the result of a commission of highly respected people who will not put their credibility on the line."