Shift to federalism will be disruptive

/ 05:10 AM January 18, 2018

A sudden overhaul of our system from presidential to federal is  like eating uncooked rice. And if you’d ask me, I won’t eat it.

According to the latest news, Senate leaders and a majority of their members have agreed to a shift to federalism by amending the 1987 Constitution.


Our legislators desire to effect these amendments through a constituent assembly (Con-ass) instead of a constitutional convention, which was the mode with which our 1987 Constitution came into being.

This means, the modifications in our organic law shall be affected by none other than themselves. Also, our senators intend to come up with a final draft by next year and have the same voted on through a plebiscite in May 2019, which is just in time for the next senatorial elections.


However, in carrying out said plebiscite, our legislators — for practicality’s sake — are suggesting postponing the senatorial elections.

According to them, such election may only hamper or complicate the intended shift to federalism. As a consequence, those who had been elected in 2013 and 2016, respectively, shall assume a hold-over capacity.

If asked, I certainly don’t agree to all these, particularly the proposed Con-ass to effect the desired constitutional changes.

First and foremost, if our legislators don’t even know that they are under complete prohibition to assume their offices in a holdover capacity as members of Congress, there is but high probability that they are not fit to take on the responsibility attendant to Charter change.

Moreover, as legislators who are supposed to be makers of sound, dynamic and prospective laws, they should have foreseen the impending and irreversible conflicts this sudden transition will bring this country.

Federalism advances independence and not merely decentralization of resources and powers — a principle that is too early for a young state like ours to adopt.

The better and more imperative opinion is for the Philippines to take its time to learn and develop. Our experiences in the past must be more than enough to bring our leaders to their senses that, as a nation, we have a lot of things to learn as a sovereign state.


And even up to this very moment, we are still collectively figuring out how to make our system more stable and sustainable. A sudden shift to a different governance style will certainly disrupt this momentum.

May our legislators and other public officials realize that such a shift is a very crucial move that requires more careful retrospection and projection than mere experimentation. After all, none of us would want a half-baked and short-sighted Federation.

CONRADO BAYUTIN, [email protected]

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, charter change, Con-ass, Con-con, Conrado Bayutin, constituent assembly, Constitutional Convention, federalism, Inquirer letters
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