Proponents of the move to amend critical provisions in the 1987 Constitution have revved up efforts to get Congress to pass their proposed measures and adopt desired social, political, economic, and electoral reforms.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday conducted a briefing for heads of offices of members of the House of Representatives to push for the amendments which were first espoused by President Rodrigo Duterte who has conceded that pushing for a shift to a federal system of government would not be possible before his term ends in 2022.
The briefing was led by DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, project administrator of the DILG’s Center for Federalism and Constitutional Reform, and lawyer Vicente Homer Revil, national chairperson of the newly-launched CORE Movement, a campaign by civil society organizations and individuals pushing for constitutional amendments.
During the briefing, Malaya stressed the need for Congress to adopt the constitutional reforms being pushed by the Cabinet-level Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reforms (IATF), a body created last year by the President to coordinate the national government’s efforts to campaign for amendments.
Malaya said the proposed amendments are in line with the President’s vision of removing legal and constitutional roadblocks in reforming the Philippine society and addressing social ills such as corruption in government and widespread poverty.
“The President wants these social ills – corruption in government and poverty – resolved through clear constitutional provisions that empower our people and local government units, especially in the regions, so they can track their path to progress without relying on political largesse and being restricted in the jobs and businesses that they do,” he stressed.
He said the IATF had proposed amendments that would give regional local government units (LGUs) more share of resources from the national government and more powers to enable them to choose their development tracks.
The current system allows national leaders to control government funds and direct development planning and implementation with little or no participation from ordinary voters and LGUs in the regions.
Malaya said the IATF is also proposing tougher political measures to ensure accountability and transparency in government and among elected officials to curb corruption through the institution of rules that would prohibit political turncoats every election.
Turncoatism refers to the change of political parties, a practice that has been taken advantage of by politicians for their own survival and vested interests.
He also said the move to amend the Constitution should not be construed as a strategy to extend the term of the President.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the chairperson of the House committee on constitutional amendments, has recalled the amendments approved by his committee and agreed to reopen House debate to consider the proposed amendments submitted by the IATF.
Rodriguez received a broader set of proposed constitutional amendments from the IATF, which is led by DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, during Monday’s launching of the CORE Movement in Camp Crame.
Rodriguez said he would push for the reopening of the Joint Resolution approved by the committee in December 2019 so that more amendments could be included for submission to the House plenary.
“We are going back to hear their (IATF) proposals. This is now the DILG, and not only that, the Inter-Agency Task Force for Constitutional Reform is composed of 11 departments,” Rodriguez said. “This is something that we always consider, as it involves the executive department, and this is their proposal, so we are going there.”
“We will also go back to public hearings with the presence of the media so that we will able to assure that this is not secretive, this will not be exclusive to the members, but this will be open to everyone,” he also said.
For his part, Revil said the CORE Movement would push for the convening of the two chambers of Congress into a constituent assembly to consider the amendments in time for a plebiscite before the 2022 elections.
Revil said the CORE Movement fully supports the tough economic, political, and electoral reforms being pushed by the IATF as they embody the President’s vision of a society where leaders are held accountable, and voters benefit from responsible good governance.
He further said that the CORE Movement would promote constitutional reforms as an urgent public concern.
“We believe that endemic social ills like corruption and the massive poverty in our regions are due to the strong legal and economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution that preserve the control over the electoral system by corrupt politicians and their cooperation with greedy oligarchs who control our economy with their control of our politicians and the justice system,” Revil declared.
Malaya and Revil were joined in the briefing by former Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar, Prof. Jose Ramon Casiple, Prof. Eric Daniel De Torres, and Prof. Alfredo Sureta, Jr.
Olivar is a finance expert who took up the proposed economic reforms that would remove restrictions on foreign investments while Casiple is a veteran reform advocate who considers political reforms as a necessity in ensuring the country’s social and economic progress and how the current provisions of the Constitution constrict efforts to make these a reality. On the other hand, Torres and Sureta are both members of the PDP-Laban Federalism Study Group.