Chacha: To dance or not?

It is critical that Senators and House Representatives alike initiate a series of dialogues based on their respective constituencies.

Many legislators have finally started to dance to the tune of "Chacha"- the popular term for Charter Change or Constitutional Reform. However, it is apparent that the upper and lower house differs when it comes to the steps and methods in revising the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution presents three modes to change the constitution, either through Constitutional Convention (ConCon), Constituent Assembly (ConAss), or People's Initiative. Currently, Senators and House Representatives are divided on the following issues: (1) whether to go ConCon or ConAss and; (2) should it be ConAss, whether the Senate and House votes jointly or separately. While the mode and manner is crucial, there are also other important areas to consider when it comes to undertaking Chacha.

As duly elected representatives of the people, it is critical that Senators and House Representatives alike initiate a series of dialogues based on their respective constituencies. While the Senate and House's efforts are laudable in conducting public hearings to source out expert opinions on Cha-cha, the engagement to elicit feedback and suggestions should go down at the grassroots level.

The shift to federalism, one of the salient changes proposed under the new charter, is highly influenced by the principle of subsidiarity, where decisions ought to be made at the smallest/lowest level possible. It is therefore only fitting that this principle be applied in seeking out the perspectives of those at the lower strata of society, particularly that most of them are either not informed or misinformed on the key propositions presented under the charter reform drafts.

It is also of great importance that the details of the proposed Federal model be discussed and deliberated exhaustively, e.g. number of states, transitory mechanism. The discussions should focus on putting in place safeguards to prevent the creation of political and economic monopolies once federalism is adopted. Suggestions have been put forward by several groups to pass anti-dynasty, political party reform, and electoral reform laws to complement the transition to federalism. Improving the political system should be done comprehensively and not just piecemeal.

The election of President Duterte into office has tremendously helped in the advancement of the federalism advocacy. While many of our advocate friends in the federalism circles are pushing for its immediate adoption after their decades-long hardwork, we must treat the issue with great diligence, and work towards formulating the most appropriate model with patience.

The road towards creating a federalism model best suited to the Philippines will be difficult, heated, and even divisive. The debates will be tiring, and may appear endless. It took us thirty two years to launch serious discussions on changing our constitution, specifically geared towards a shift to a Federal system of government. Let us not shortcut the long wait by coming-up with a haphazard charter reform draft.

Chacha appears to be an easy dance when you watch YouTube. However, in the case of politics, the right steps and processes of Chacha are difficult to figure out. It is therefore necessary for us to undergo this painstaking exercise so that the purported institutional reform through Chacha will produce the expected behavioral outcomes.

Prior to dancing to its tune, it is important for us to digest the tune, study the notes, and analyze the steps of the political Chacha.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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