Duterte never interfered in drafting of federal constitution – Nene Pimentel

Pia Ranada
Duterte never interfered in drafting of federal constitution – Nene Pimentel
The Consultative Committee made sure the 'fears of the people' about charter change are addressed in the draft constitution, says former Senate president Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte took a hands-off approach in the work of the Consultative Committee to draft the proposed federal constitution, said Con-Com member and former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.

“We have a commission that is being given a free hand to propose what we feel would be needed to effect the change from a highly centralized government to the federal set-up we are proposing,” Pimentel told Rappler on Friday, June 22.

“None whatsoever,” he said, when asked if there were any exchanges between Malacañang and the Con-Com while the presidential body worked on the draft charter for the last 5 months.

Duterte’s non-interference, Pimentel said, made the Con-Com members “feel confident that we can propose anything, including, for example, matters that might affect the President and his family.”

The President’s involvement was limited to the creation of the committee, selection of its members, and a private meeting he had with them before they began their work.

“All that Malacañang did was to get these people, we who compose the committee now appointed, we took our oath before him and that’s it,” said Pimentel.

“We started work on our own and we tried to make sure the fears of the people are addressed,” he added.

Con-Com spokesman Ding Generoso echoed Pimentel but clarified that Malacañang, particularly the Office of the Executive Secretary, would ask for updates every now and then on when it could expect the final draft’s submission.

However, there is still room for Duterte’s inputs. Pimentel said the committee wants to submit a “tentative draft” to the President any day from July 4 to 9. They expect feedback from Malacañang.

“If there are things we have to revise, he can send it back and we can work on it in time for his SONA,” said Pimentel.

Public sentiment

One way public fears were taken into consideration, said the former senator, was the early discussions on the regulation of political dynasties.

“For example, allowing the perpetuation of political dynasties, we banned that….The committee decided to limit it only to immediate members of the family,” said Pimentel.

In the proposed charter to be submitted to Duterte, an elected official cannot be succeeded in his post by a family member within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity. Also, family members can only run in the same elections if they run for one national post and one regional or local post.

The Con-Com had observed there was skepticism about federalism because many feared the new system of government would only further empower already dominant and abusive politican clans.

They were shown studies linking the presence of political dynasties to high poverty levels in provinces.

Duterte himself is lukewarm to the idea of banning political dynasties, saying he is for any measure but that he doubts Congress would approve. The President has also said not all provinces dominated by political clans fare badly. He cited as an example his own hometown of Davao City, now led by daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Public apprehensions were also considered when the committee decided to specifically state in its proposed transitory provisions that there can be no term extension for Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo under the new federal government.

Asked why such provisions were laid down, Pimentel said, “It seems to me that there are some rumors that the president and his people are trying to work out an extenson for his term.”

Pimentel said another way public views and even recent headlines influenced the drafting of the proposed constitution was in the wording of  Article I, on sovereignty and sovereign rights.

The proposed article specifically mentions international courts, laws of the sea, and sovereign rights – terms not found in its counterpart article in the 1987 Constitution.

The proposed article is meant to bolster the Philippines’ claim on the West Philippine Sea, something being disputed by China.

The article was finalized amid China’s reported military build-up in the West Philippine Sea and fears of some Filipinos that Duterte is not doing enough to defend the country’s rights against the regional power. – Rappler.com


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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.