Debates on Federalism begin

jayLet the debates begin.

This is what will take center stage from hereon on the challenging road towards revising the 1987 Constitution which for the last twenty nine years established a centralized form of government.

What will happen is a revision, not an amendment of the constitution because it will surgical overhaul of the charter.

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Shifting the form of government to a federal system would entail major changes in the charter.

What will be debated upon preliminary is the manner of changing the constitution. It will either be through a constitutional convention where delegates be elected, similar to what happened prior to 1971.

Another way to change the charter is through a constituent assembly. It would mean Congress will assemble as a body that will be the one to make changes to the constitution on the premise that they are representatives of the people.

The constitution provides that  “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention.”

There are pros and cons to the two ways of changing the constitution.

In a constitutional convention, there is a greater hope (but no assurance) that people who possess the proper qualifications would be the ones to study and propose the constitutional changes.

The downside here is that it may take a longer while to approve these proposed changes.

In a constituent assembly, it is projected to be less expensive as there will be no need for an election of new delegates.

The downside is trust issue: Are politicians to be trusted to tinker with the charter. Are politicians qualified to study the ramifications of changing the constitution. Many of them are there because of the dynamics of political dynasties, therefore not necessarily equipped to do the job of charter changing.

What is important is to allow every view to be heard, so that we – and the people themselves – can weigh all the arguments.

There is a school espousing the view, that we do not need to shift to federalism and merely amend the Local Government Code to give more resources to the regions.

This is an input that should be given serious thought and consideration in the discussions in the months ahead.

Let us all be open to ideas, proposals and recommendations.

This after all is the essence of democracy. (By Atty. Jay I. Dejaresco)



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