Federalism: Boon or Bane?

The latest draft is an improvement over the Con-Com but it still falls short of the parameters set by the President because it doesn't even have a provision for the proposed federal regions

The Duterte Initiative

One of the major items of the campaign platform of then candidate Rodrigo Duterte was the shift to a federal parliamentary form of government. Duterte primed his presidential campaign on a listening tour in 2015 to determine the sentiments of Filipinos in the regions about a change in the form of government. 

Duterte appointed a Constitutional Commission to come up with a draft Constitution which supposedly sought the inputs of various sectors in the country. The resulting draft was not much different than that which was produced by the PDP-Laban Federalism Institute which was then the administration party. 

This left the Con-Com draft dead in the water because of the expensive nature of its proposed structure which is not scaleable in practice given the duplication of functions. It actually adds to the problem of bloat in the government bureacracy instead of streamlining the same towards efficiency and effectiveness. 

The House of Representatives proceeded to pass a draft Constitution after the change of leadership from former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to that of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

The latest draft is an improvement over the Con-Com but it still falls short of the parameters set by the President because it doesn't even have a provision for the proposed federal regions. It also maintains the present bicameral legislature and lifts term limits imposed on Senators and Congressmen. It doesn't address the oft-repeated need for the lifting of ownership restrictions on foreigners in domestic corporations. 

About the only substantial provisos are the imposition of a two-party system and the election of the President and the Vice-President on a one-is-to-one basis meaning votes are counted for the tandem thereby eliminating the election of either of the two from different parties.

Philippine Constitution - 1899 and 1973 Parliamentary not Republican 

The Philippines has had previous experience with a parliamentary form of government. The Malolos Constitution, which historically is the first Philippine Constitution, adopted a parliamentary form of government similar to the Spanish Cortes. Unfortunately, the parliament was never established as it was overtaken by the outbreak of the Fil-American War. 

In 1971, President Ferdinand Marcos convened the Constitutional Convention to amend the 1935 Constitution which was drafted and ratified during the American colonial period. 

The Con-Con was anteceded by martial law being declared in September 1972 which caused the delay in the final draft being submitted to Malacañan. The draft was ratified in 1973 under controversial circumstances where the constitutionality of certain provisions were questioned before the Supreme Court. These petitions were all dismissed and the transitory provisions took effect. 

The 1973 Constitution provided for the President as the Head of State and a Prime Minister as Head of Government. The Prime Minister was nominated by the President and installed by majority vote of the members of parliament which was the Batasan Pambansa. The parliament was limited to 200 members unless otherwise stipulated by law increasing the number in accordance with the principle of proportionate representation. 

This structure provided for better coordination between the Executive and the Legislative in terms of the laws which needed to be passed since the Cabinet members were also members of parliament and subject to scrutiny by their peers in the chamber. 

Marcos favored this over the bicameral legislature which he had difficulty with during his first term because of the intransigent nature of the opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate. For good measure, Marcos still retained his decree-making power, meaning the President could legislate by executive fiat in case the members of parliament could not pass important proposed legislation for whatever reason. 

The 1973 Constitution did not provide for the election of a Vice-President. The constitutional line of succession passed to the Speaker of the Batasan Pambansa who was designated Acting President until an election for President could be held and a winner duly proclaimed. 

It was only in 1983 that a resolution sponsored by then MP Arturo Tolentino was passed as Batas Pambansa Blg. 643 providing for the position of Vice-President under the 1973 Constitution and abolishing the Executive Committee. The amendment was ratified in a national referendum held in 1984. 

The 1973 Constitution simplified representation in the parliament by doing away with the old Congressional districts and replacing them with one representative per province and chartered city. The sectoral representatives were elected at large and it was generally under the initiative of the President. 

To be continued...

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About the Author
RG is a seasoned international trade and sales and marketing professional who also dabbles in writing. He was a contributor to Business World in the mid-90s and is also a tech geek.
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