MANILA, Philippines – The problem is not the 1987 Constitution but the legislators tasked to implement it, said Christian Monsod, one of the Constitution's framers.
Monsod, also a former chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), was among the resource speakers at the Senate hearing on Charter Change on Thursday, February 1.
Monsod said the Constitution was created primarily to ensure that the horrors of the past, especially the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, would never happen again.
"If there is anger, it was not when we were writing the Constitution. The anger is today, when we see the promise of a new social order is not being kept and there are people even blaming the Constitution which has all the provisions to fulfill that vision," Monsod said during the hearing.
"The problem is not the Constitution but the legislators who slept on the job for 30 years to fully implement it. Or when reform legislation was passed, [they] made sure it was watered down and underfunded. This is a legislature that wants to rewrite the Constitution," he added.
Monsod said that instead of shifting to federalism, the government should prioritize fiscal decentralization and a strong anti-dynasty law. (READ: New constitution must directly ban political dynasties – former SC justice)
He also questioned the motives behind the push for Charter Change and federalism, saying that the central idea is about power.
"The President said the purpose of Cha-Cha is to improve quality of life of all Filipinos. That was also the articulated purpose of 6 previous attempts at Cha-Cha. All of them failed. They were all perceived as driven by self-interest. In short, they were all about power," Monsod said. (LOOK BACK: Past Charter Change attempts and why they failed)
He also slammed PDP-Laban for seeking a federal parliament form of government, which he said would not directly address the core issues of the Philippines. He also recalled that the party was among those fighting for democracy under Martial Law. (READ: PDP-Laban 2019 bets must be pro-federalism – Pimentel)
"The PDP-Laban Institute version is so disappointing to us, because PDP-Laban was very much a part of EDSA [People Power Revolution]. Why is it pushing for federal parliamentary which it admits does not directly, but only indirectly, address the twin problems of mass poverty and gross inequalities?" Monsod said.
He added that the PDP-Laban version seeks to put social justice – the core of the 1987 Constitution – in the backseat, and instead prioritize economic growth, globalization, and free trade.
Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the PDP-Laban Institute, countered the claims and said there is nothing to worry about concerning the ruling party's version.
It remains uncertain, however, if PDP-Laban's version would be adopted by both chambers of Congress, as the Senate and the House of Representatives could file their own versions. In the House, there are already varying proposals.
Malaya also accused critics of sowing fear so the public would reject federalism.
"I'm afraid critics of federalism are seeing monsters when there are none. They're using problems or the specter of fear because since federalism is a totally new concept and a totally new concept is not easily understood, they are propagating a lot of fear among people, questioning even motives of those proposing [a] federal form of government," he said.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org