Rough cuts | More public debates on Charter Change needed

THE ARGUMENT presented by both the backers and opposition to the proposed shift to a Federal form of government in the Philippines in various public forums is getting more interesting. And their argument is worth listening by all Filipinos who care for their country and the future of the next generation.
Among the anti-Federalism are former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, 1987 Charter framer Christian Monsod, former Senator Joey Lina, and incumbent Senator Richard Gordon among others.
Leading those who are pro-Federalism are former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., top PDP lawyer Raul Lambino and several others.
During a live interview with GMA 7’s morning news program Unang Hirit Davide made known his position in what seemed to be an impassioned speech rather than explanatory answers to mediamen’s questions. As one of the framers of the said Constitution the former top honcho of the country’s high court insisted that the Philippine charter is the “best” all over the world. Davide also argued that that changing our form of government from unitary to Federal could result to imposition of more taxes as the Federal states would be implementing its own taxation system. Hence double taxation is a certainty.
As to the issue of being so centralized resulting to the coinage of the phrase “imperial Manila” Davide told UH viewers and listeners that Federalism is not needed to cure this perceived defect in the system. He argued that the Local Government Code is still very much in effect and that for him it is only a matter of amending the law to correct the system’s deficiency and not the revision of the entire supreme law of the land.
For his part retired Associate Justice Mendoza centered his opposition argument on the strong possibility that Federalism could result to the fragmentation of the nation. Mendoza argued that it could even entice some Federal states to attempt at secession.
Worst, Mendoza believes that it would breed new dictators ate the Federal states and negates the aspiration of the people to put a stop to the rule of political dynasties.
The retired SC Associate Justice averred that it would be easier for local tyrants to aspire for “dictatorship” in their turfs than for a national leader to become a dictator.
On the other hand former senator Lina believes that it is not yet time to shift to a Federal form of government, and that if there are weaknesses in the present constitution these can be strengthened by amending only those provisions that are already irrelevant with the times.
Meanwhile, pro-Charter change retired Chief Justice Puno believes that the passage of time has changed the country’s political and economic landscapes. He argues that the development in the country coupled with the massive changes in the world brought about by the demands of economic globalization and governance necessitate the Charter revision as early as this time.
Many of Puno’s arguments can be interpreted also as an endorsement of Federalism as a form of government that the Philippines must adopt to keep the country attuned to current international trends.
On the other hand, former Senate President Pimentel, the original proponent of Federalism, said during a Senate Committee hearing that a shift to a Federal form of government is the most effective way to address the present inequity in the allocation of the country’s resources. It will also cure the uneven representation of regions in the national lawmaking body.
Pimentel’s argument that in each Federal state every citizen who has the quality of a good leader will have equal chances of getting elected as patronage of national politicians will not anymore be a major factor in winning elections.
This argument we strongly agree because the government in a Federal state will not anymore be beholden or dependent from national leaders for funds to foot local development projects. So, the present ruling politicians in a region or Federal state cannot claim advantage over other potential candidates.
For his part lawyer Lambino, being a leading figure in the PDP-Laban Party, is echoing everything that Pimentel is describing what a Federal form of government as envisioned by his party.
Indeed hearing the arguments of these intellectual giants for or against Charter change and a shift to a Federal form of government is a great learning experience. It is also one big opportunity for every Filipino to make a learned decision when they will be called upon to ratify a new Constitution when the proposed revision pushes through.
Let’s have more public discussions on the Charter change with focus on the planned shift to a Federal form of government.

Posted in Opinion