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Former solon warns against dictatorship via proposed federal charter

A FORMER congressman yesterday sounded alarm bells over the creation of a powerful transition commission under a federal constitution proposed by the Consultative Committee.

In a statement sent to this paper, lawyer Neri Colmenares  Colmenares, former Bayan Muna representative, said he noted that the proposed commission would be promulgating a transition plan that could overhaul the entire government and centralize powers on President Duterte.

Based on the proposal, Duterte would be the chairman of the Commission that would have members appointed by him.

Colmenares said Article  XXI Section 2 of the Consultative Committee’s proposed federal constitution empowers it to promulgate “rules, regulations, orders, proclamations, decrees, and other issuances” to implement the transition plan.

Worse, he said, the commission is also granted the judicial power to “resolve all issues and disputes that may arise” out of the plan and the impending termination of public officials as a result of the reorganization.

Colmenares said terminated public officials cannot even go to the Supreme Court to question their termination, “a strange power on a Commission tasked to decide on the validity of the termination order issued by the same Commission.”

This means, according to Colmenares, that Duterte, through the Transition Commission, can practically exercise critical governmental powers replacing the entire government.

Colmenares also warned of the possibility of Duterte declaring all government positions vacant through his Transition Commission.

He said, “Article XXI Section 8 of the Federal Constitution provides that ‘All officials of the government under the 1987 Constitution shall continue to hold their office and exercise their respective powers, under such terms and conditions as may be provided in the transition plan’. This means that President Duterte through his Transition Commission can take away powers of any government office or official and transfer it to his favored few.  Worse, he can interpret this provision to empower him to terminate any government official in consonance with the Transition Plan and appoint their replacements.”

He added: “The fact that Section 9 assures separation or retirement pay for all ‘permanent employees of the government who may be separated from service as a result of the reorganization’ provides no comfort as the entire government will be littered with Duterte appointees.”

Colmenares warned that any semblance of checks and balance in the government would be destroyed if Duterte is empowered to terminate public officials and government employees, including those in the constitutional bodies.

“With his control of the entire goverment, President Duterte will have all the advantages to win when he runs for reelection in 2022. Article VII Section 4 of the proposed Federal Consitution does not prohibit him from running again in 2022. Under the administration of President Duterte the federal constitution is not about federalism.  It is about dictatorship,” Colmenares said.

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