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‘1987 Constitution is not the problem, but part of the solution’

05:03 AM January 22, 2018

We, the framers of the 1987 Constitution, are among the first ones to acknowledge that the basic Charter drafted more than three decades ago is an imperfect document and can be improved.

At this important juncture in our history, there now seems to be a rush to amend the Constitution on the premise that federalism provides the best possible path to solve the ills of our society. Before we move further into uncharted territory, the prior question seems to be: Do we need a new constitution at this time? Is federalism the answer to address the critical concerns of our people? What in fact are our priorities?

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Today, our country confronts critical challenges. The principal problems we face are massive poverty and the deep inequality that divides our people. We continue to face the existence of political dynasties that breeds the politics of patronage and personalities. We need to address the blatant disregard for the rule of law and the right to life, and, our inability to “think Filipino” as one people bound by a common destiny striving for a just peace throughout the land. These concerns are urgent and must be our priorities.

The undiscerning haste to draft a new constitution by converting Congress into a constituent assembly ostensibly to overhaul our system of governance into a federal form of government, we are convinced, will further distract if not deviate from the issues that should remain as our priorities.

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Nearly three-fourths of our people are unfamiliar with the 1987 Constitution. Many of the provisions in our Constitution have not been fully implemented. If we dedicate ourselves to ensuring that it is fully understood, observed and implemented, then the principal objectives of the proposed Charter change can in fact be met without having to draft a new constitution.

We believe that the present Constitution is not the problem, it is instead part of the solution. The Constitution in Article X already provides local government units “the power to create its own sources of revenues” in Section 5; are “entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas” in Section 7; and, “the power to group themselves, consolidate, or contribute their efforts, services, and resources” in Section 13. The Local Government Code of 1991, moreover, can be amended and improved to further decentralize power, to allocate resources more fairly and distribute wealth more equitably without having to amend the Constitution.

Finally, there is need to address the question of trust and transparency in the entire process. The transition period to a federal system can become “terra incognita”—a journey without maps. What the country needs most at this time is to deepen our democracy, make our economy more just and inclusive, and ensure that the basic rights of all are respected and a just peace prevails in the land. A new constitution is not the answer; and neither is federalism; much less through a process such as a constituent assembly. If we do not trust the process, how can we trust the outcome?

FRAMERS OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION: Felicitas S. Aquino-Arroyo, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Teodoro S. Bacani, Florangel Rosario Braid, Hilario G. Davide Jr., Edmundo G. Garcia, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Christian S. Monsod, Ricardo J. Romulo, Jaime S. Tadeo, Bernardo M. Villegas

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Adolfo S. Azcuna, bernardo m. villegas, charter change, Christian S. Monsod, Edmundo G. Garcia, federalism, Felicitas S. Aquino-Arroyo, Florangel Rosario Braid, Hilario G. Davide Jr., Inquirer letters, Jaime S. Tadeo, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Ricardo J. Romulo, Teodoro S. Bacani
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