Renato Tibon .
“Grudgingly, the President may have agreed with the Centrist position that federalism is a drastic idea whose time has come, yet it has to be translated in a manner that will not cause too violent a rupture in the fragile relationship between the political leadership and the governed.” – Lito C. Lorenzana, CDP founder
WHILE the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) remains steadfast on its stand that a shift to Federal-Parliamentary system of government is vital, if not a life-altering decision for its citizens, it is an incontrovertible fact that politically, it does not have the critical number nor high-level influence to convince a majority of the traditional legislators to adopt it. Yet, it continues to contribute to the political discourse through its immutable commitment to reforms which are heretofore heard only as motherhood campaign platforms by other political parties prior to elections.
There are deeply ingrained misconceptions that are difficult to uproot after decades of centralized rule. People believe that the shift to a parliamentary government will remove the people’s right to elect their President and that the federal system will encourage and strengthen local warlords and traditionally corrupt politicians. Yet it has to be pointed out that our personality-based, presidential form of government and an uninstitutionalized political party system have bred unqualified and incompetent leaders and that it is the “ineffective and irresponsible unitary system and the weakness of the rule of law” that have allowed “warlordism” and abusive leaders to prosper.
Citizens are not exactly enamored with the idea of amending the constitution due mainly to the perception that politicians are wont to prioritize bills that serve to perpetuate their hold to power. Apparently disregarding how the public perceive the hugely unpopular move, a presidential endorsee to the House Speakership already plans to talk Congress into approving an extant measure that will change the lawmakers’ terms of office. According to him, “While we will push for Federalism, I think there is a way that the Senate will agree that we push either for 4 years, no term limit or 5-years, 3-term limit.” I hope this will not backfire and burn all initiatives that have thus far gained some adherents especially in the present 18th Congress.
CDP President and Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez, a seasoned legislator presently serving a new mandate as representative of the Second District of Cagayan de Oro City, with the underpinning of a Congress largely perceived as supportive of PRRD, hopes to strike a modus vivendi among his fellow lawmakers to push for the Federal agenda in its initial deliberations. Cognizant of the fact that federalism is a slow process with perhaps the President considering it a “long-shot,” the legislators can start deliberations based on amendments in Article X of the 1987 Constitution on Local governments which will put more fiscal powers to local governments in order “to balance growth and development between the center and the periphery” (Prof. Adrian Tamayo). Or, with political and electoral reforms, passage of the Freedom of Information Act and the Anti-political dynasty law, pre-conditions deemed to be vital if federalism is to prosper, the lawmakers can subscribe to the Centrist proposals which have the shift to Parliamentary-Federal system of government as centerpiece of its advocacy.
In order however, not to shake the establishment unnecessarily and preserve the “fragile relationship”, Congressman Rodriguez proposed to consider the 2018 Concom Constitution as a “work in progress” confident that a Federal set-up acceptable to the stakeholders would be good for all as a start-up point. Here are some highlights of the proposed Constitution:
• Territorial integrity – Article 1 on the National Territory declares territorial sovereignty including sovereign rights over islands and waters beyond its archipelagic baselines pursuant to laws and decisions by international tribunals, firming up the country’s stand on its WPS claims.
• Human dignity – Sec. 11 of Art. II clearly states that the Federal Republic shall xxx free the people from poverty xxx provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living befitting human dignity xxx while Sec. 13 “values the dignity of every person and guarantees full respect for the person and the right of all citizens to participate in all government processes”.
• “Heed,” representing Health, Education, Employment and Dwelling as principal centrist advocacy is articulated under Sec. 26 of the Bill of Rights as Social and Economic Rights where every person has the right to adequate food, universal and comprehensive healthcare, complete, quality education, adequate and decent housing (dwelling) and livelihood and employment opportunities.
• Political parties – Art. V refers to Suffrage (electoral reforms) and Political Rights which will “ensure the development and strengthening of political parties” as “democratic public institutions”, regulate campaign contribution and expenditures and prohibit changing of political parties (turncoatism).
• Political dynasty – Under Sec. 8 of the same Article V, the State shall “guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties to prevent the concentration, consolidation, or perpetuation of political power”.
Some quarters suggested that an Article on Local Government and Autonomy should be included in the Concom version. We hope to consolidate all these proposals to be incorporated in the version to be submitted by Congressman Rodriguez to Congress.
For want of adequate space, this article will be concluded next week.
(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute with focus on political technocracy. He holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines.)