Framers of 1987 Constitution: Charter change, federalism not the answer

MANILA, Philippines – The framers of the current 1987 Constitution said that charter change and federalism are not the solution to the country's current problems.

They also emphasized the need to address issues in the process to amend the Constitution.

In a letter signed by 11 members of the Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, they said that while the 1987 Constitution "is an imperfect document and can be improved," there is a need to address some key questions first.

"Before we move further into uncharted territory, the prior question seems to us, 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?"

The "undiscerning haste" to create a new Constitution through a constituent assembly, said the framers, "will further distract if not deviate from the issues that should remain as our priorities" such as solving massive poverty and deep inequality, eliminating political dynasties, and addressing the blatant disregard for the rule of law. 

They also said that the present Constitution "is not the problem, it is indeed part of the solution."

They added that the Local Government Code "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."

Federalism should also start with realities on the ground, said the framers. That type of government, they argued, would "create an enlarged and bloated bureaucracy" and "reinforce the power of political dynasties and landed elites or existing dominant groups." (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

"Federalism, if combined with a parliamentary system, would certainly falter and fail without sound and stable political parties distinguished by distinct platforms of government without the benefit of a consistent credible electoral system and the support of competent civil servants within the bureaucracy."

The trust and transparency in the process of changing the Constitution should likewise be addressed, they added. (LOOK BACK: Past Charter Change attempts and why they failed)

The transition period to a federalism set-up, for instance, can become terra incognita or "a journey without maps".

"Take one issue, for example, the term limits of elected officials who in fact will be active participants in charter change. This can be a source of concern, raising 'red flags'," they said.

"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," the framers said.

"A new Constitution is not the answer; and neither is federalism; much less through a process such as a constitutional assembly. If we do not trust the process, how can we trust the outcome?" they asked.

The statement was signed by Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, Adolfo Azcuna, Teodoro Bacani, Florangel Rosario Braid, Hilario Davide Jr, Edmundo Garcia, Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Christian Monsod, Ricardo Romulo, Jaime Tadeo, and Bernardo Villegas.

Read their letter in full below.

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Michael Bueza/Rappler.com