Draft constitution: Be very afraid
I have a copy of the draft new constitution (as of June 27, 2018) framed by President Duterte’s consultative committee, which he tasked to review the 1987 Constitution. It was signed on Tuesday, July 3, so it is fair to assume that not much could change in the six-day period between the draft and the signed document.
So what are the major differences between the 1987 Constitution and the proposed constitution?
A very important difference is that, right from the get-go, the proposed constitution adopts a federal form of government; it is the constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines. Not surprising, really, because all the members of the committee were pro-federalism also from the get-go.
I want to remind you, Reader, that the March 2018 Pulse Asia Survey showed that the opposition to Charter change went up from 44 percent in July 2016 to 64 percent in March 2018, and the opposition to federalism went the same way, except by a larger margin—from 33 percent to 66 percent.
But, wait. That is not all. The transitory provisions of the proposed constitution have given President Duterte vast powers between 2019 (I assume that the plebiscite will be held in 2019, a reasonable assumption) and 2022. And it also allows him—at least that’s what committee member Julio Teehankee has publicly admitted—to run for President in 2022. Since the new constitution provides for a four-year term plus one reelection, that means he can be our President (unless death intervenes) for a total of 14 years.
He will, of course, be 85 years old by then. But, hey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia is 94 years old. I hasten to add, however, that Mahathir neither drinks nor womanizes. That may make a difference.
What vast powers do the transitory provisions give President Duterte? Well, first, he will be the chair of the Federal Transition Committee (FTC), with 10 other members that he will appoint from a list supplied by a five-person search committee, of which four are also appointed by him. Lutong Macao.
And what does the FTC do? Wow. It will formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government, and it will promulgate the necessary rules, regulations, orders, decrees, proclamations and other issuances, do all acts to implement the same, and resolve all issues and disputes that may result therefrom. PLUS, it will organize, reorganize and fully establish the Federal Government and the governments of the Federated Regions, in accordance with this constitution; and exercise all powers necessary and proper to ensure a smooth, speedy and successful transition.
This transition plan that the FTC is responsible for will include the respective transition plans for the different branches of the Federal Government, the Independent Constitutional Bodies, the Federated Regions and other component units; plus the fiscal management and administration plan, which includes, but is not limited to, resource generation appropriation, allocation and expenditures.
Then, almost as an afterthought, it would also include the establishment of mechanisms for people’s participation in the transition. Gee, thanks.
This power goes on until June 30, 2022, when the first national, regional and local elections will have taken place, and our first elected leaders under the new constitution take over.
Bottom line: As soon as the new constitution is ratified, President Duterte, as chair of the FTC, has unlimited powers—to hire, fire, organize, reorganize, determine what will be the states that constitute the federal system, and how these states will themselves transition. For at least three years. Of course, by election time, he will have set the stage for his own election as president for the next eight years.
Remember the transitory provisions that gave Marcos dictatorial powers? This is the very same thing. There is a term for it: constitutional authoritarianism. This is what Mr. Duterte must have had in mind when he talked of a revolutionary government.
Well, he’s got what he wanted. If the people give it to him, that is.
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