MANILA - Paradise for politicians, hell for the people.
This was how former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. described the scenario if the administration succeeds in changing the 31-year-old charter and adopting a federal form of government
In a Charter Change forum at the University of Santo Tomas on Friday, Davide said politicians motivated by self-interest will be the primary beneficiary of a new federal government.
"What is being promised in this charter change is not actually federalism alone but a so-called new paradise for politicians," he said.
"It simply means new benefits for our politicians—these rude politicians who primarily want fame, power, and fortune. For the people, this new paradise would be hell," he added.
Davide said this "paradise" will extend the terms of incumbent officials, lift term limits and allow a president to seek re-election, and lift restrictions on the president's power to proclaim martial law.
The Philippines' former top judge also warned against lifting the citizenship restrictions in the national patrimony and economic provisions of the Constitution and leaving everything to Congress.
"[This] would end up in the outright surrender of the Philippines to foreigners at no cost to them. It would open the Philippines to becoming a colony of a foreign power or just a province of China, according to the President," he said.
Davide, who was part of the commission that drafted the 1987 charter, reiterated that the Constitution needs no amendment. Although the charter is imperfect, it is still the best for the country, he said.
He blamed Congress' failure to implement key provisions of the Constitution which would have guaranteed power-sharing between the central and local governments.
"Power-sharing between the central government and the political subdivisions are already assured and mandated, not denied and impeded, by our Constitution," he said.
"On the contrary, they are impeded or hampered by the failure to fully implement the Constitution. If more are needed, simply amend the Local Government Code," he added.
Davide urged the students who attended the forum to stand strong against "Cha-cha," which he calls a funeral dance to the grave and to hell.
'OPEN YOUR EYES'
In a phone interview, House Speaker Alvarez countered Davide's sentiments, saying charter change is needed by the Philippines to catch up with developed countries.
"Isa pang g*go yan si Davide. Nag-aargue siya doon sa panahon na ipinanganak siya, iba na ang panahon ngayon. Nahuhuli na ang bansa, marami nang kailangan baguhin diyan sa Saligang Batas na ginawa niya, ayaw niyang ibuka yung mga mata niya,” he told ABS-CBN.
Alvarez, a strong proponent of federalism, welcomed campaigns against charter change, saying they are prepared to counter it.
"Umikot sila (critics) kasi demokrasya naman ito. Mag kampanya sila, kami naman na pro-charter change ay iikot din at syempre magpapaliwanag din kami sa taumbayan...," he said.
Alvarez said Congress is now waiting for the output of the Consultative Committee on Constitutional Amendments so they can review it and decide what gets sent to the electorate for ratification. --report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News