Highlights of the House’s draft federal constitution

Mara Cepeda
Highlights of the House’s draft federal constitution
(UPDATED) Here are the key provisions under each article of the draft federal charter authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 21 other lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Charter change is alive at the House of Representatives.  

Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 15, penned by no less than Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 21 other legislators, is proposing the draft constitution that would shift the Philippines to a federal system of government. (READ: No set number of federal states under Arroyo’s draft constitution)

This draft federal charter has been drawing flak for its provisions lifting term limits of legislators and removing Vice President Leni Robredo in the line of succession during the transition to federalism. 

Following criticism, Arroyo told Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul del Mar to make a motion at the plenary to recommit RBH 15 to the House committee on constitutional amendments, which has placed the Vice President back in the line of succession

RBH 15 was approved on 2nd reading on Tuesday, December 4. Constitutional amendments panel chairperson Vicente Veloso said the House is targeting to pass RBH 15 on 3rd and final reading by February or March 2019.

But it will be an uphill battle because senators already said the draft federal charter would be “dead on arrival” at the Senate.

Found below are the highlights House’s draft federal constitution as compared with the 1987 ConstitutionThe proposed constitutional revisions would only be finalized after 3/4 of all members of the Senate and the House, “voting separately,” move to revise the 1987 Constitution:

Preamble

  • No changes

Article I – National Territory

  • Adds a new phrase that says the Philippines has sovereignty over territorial islands, waters, and airspace “recognized under our domestic laws, international laws and conventions, and judgments of competent international courts and tribunals.”

Article II – Declaration of Principles and State Policies

  • Removes the 1987 Constitution’s anti-political dynasty provision
  • Adds a new line saying the State shall recognize “regional autonomy towards federalism within the framework of national unity and the Constitution”
  • Adds a phrase saying the State “condemns any act of terrorism”
  • The “Government of the Philippines,” not the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is the protector of the people and the State. But the AFP still has the goal of securing the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.
  • Relations between church and State shall be inviolable
  • Adds a new line for the State to give the “highest priority” to the enactment of measures that “protect and enhance” the right of every person to human dignity; reduce social, economic, and political inequalities; and remove cultural inequities by equitably distributing wealth and diffusing political power for the common good.
  • Adds a new line that says the State shall now protect and promote the right of all citizens to “quality education at all levels” and to take the necessary steps to make such education accessible to all
  • Adds a new line saying the State shall “foster the preservation, enrichment, and evolution of a Filipino national culture”
  • Adds a new line for the State to prioritize research and development, invention, innovation, and their utilizaiton
  • Workers will have the right to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiation, peaceful concerted activities, equitable treatment and freedom from discrimination on matters of employment tenure, working conditions, and wage levels. The State will also regulate worker-employer relations.
  • Adds a new line saying the State shall recognize the “distinct cultural and historical heritage of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras in the creation of their respective states”
  • The State shall promote “rural development, higher agricultural productivity, equitable land ownership arrangements, and genuine agrarian reform”
  • Removes the State’s policy to encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation
  • Removes the State’s policy to “ensure the autonomy of local governments”

Article III – Bill of Rights

  • No major changes, just minor changes in style (like from “he” to “their”)

Article IV – Bill of Duties

  • This entirely new section makes it the duty of every citizen to “be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane, and orderly society.”

Article V – Citizenship

  • No changes 

Article VI – Suffrage

  • Exempts “qualified Filipinos abroad under the system for absentee voting” from the requirement to have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place where they propose to vote for at least 6 months immediately preceding the election 

Article VII – Political Parties

  • An entirely new section that brings back the two-party system in the country
  • The first two “dominant” parties which would garner the most number of electoral seats during the first national elections under federalism would be the official parties.

Article VIII – The Legislative Department

  • Removes the provisions imposing a two-term limit for senators and a 3-term limit for district and party-list representatives
  • Instead of just being able to read and write, senators and members of the House of Representatives will be required to have a college degree. But this requirement will not apply to those already elected before ratification of the new constitution.
  • Each term for lawmakers will be 4 years long.
  • Increases the number of House members to not more than 300 elected from legislative districts. Party-list representatives will still constitute 20% of the total number of representatives, including those under the party list.
  • Reduces the number of Supreme Court (SC) justices in the Electoral Tribunal to just 3, while the remaining 6 seats will be allotted for members of the Senate or the House. The most senior SC justice in the Electoral Tribunal is still chairperson.
  • The Speaker, not the Senate President, will be the chairperson of the Commission on Appointments.
  • Gives Congress the power to increase appropriations for the legislative branch and the judicial department more than the allocations recommended by the President
  • Adds a new line requiring the creation of a bicameral conference committee to reconcile conflicting provisions of the House and Senate versions of a bill passed on 3rd and final reading
  • A new line allows the removal of lawmakers from office “through recall as may be provided by law”

Article IX – Executive Department

  • The president and the vice president must be from the same party and shall be elected as a team. A vote for the presidential candidate will also be counted as a vote for his or her running mate.
  • The president and the vice president will each serve a term of 4 years and will be eligible for one reelection. 
  • Increases the age qualification for presidential and vice presidential candidates to at least 45 years old on the day of the elections. They are also required to have earned college degrees.
  • Like in the present Constitution, the Vice President is next in line should the President die, have a permanent disability, be removed from office, or resign. 
  • Specifies that the President has the power to grant amnesty with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress, which will be voting separately
  • Adds a new line in Section 21 saying that no foreign military bases, troops, and facilities may be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty concurred in by the Senate. If Congress requires it, the treaty will also have to be ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum.

Article X – The Judiciary

  • Instead of a Judicial and Bar Council, a Judicial Appointments and Disciplinary Council will be created to recommend appointees to the judiciary. Ex-officio members include the SC chief justice, SC court administrator, representative from the Senate minority, representative from the House minority, Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairperson, and Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary. The regular members are a representative from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a law professor designated by the Philippine Association of Law Schools, and a retired member of the SC to be designated by the Association of the Retired Justices of the Supreme Court.

Article XI – Constitutional Commissions

  • Includes the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) among the list of independent constitutional commissions. The CHR will have the power to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights.
  • Removes the provision establishing a free and open party system in the 1987 Constitution
  • Adds a new line saying the power of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate and cause the prosecution of election-related crimes shall be vested in the DOJ

Article XII – Local Governments and Federal States 

  • The territorial and political subdivisions of the Philippines are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. But new provisions give these political units the option to become a federal state.
  • Does not impose a specific number of federal states to be established
  • Sets term of office for elective local officials to 4 years, except for barangay officials, “which shall be determined by law”
  • A federal state may be created upon a petition addressed to Congress by contiguous, compact, and adjacent provinces, highly urbanized and component cities, and cities and municipalities in metropolitan areas through a “resolution of their respective bodies.” The resolution must be approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite to be held in the political units affected.
  • In “exceptional cases,” a province may be established as a federal state based on area; population; necessity; geographical distance; environmental, economic, and fiscal viability; and “other special attributes.”
  • A federal state will be led by a unicameral territorial assembly, whose members shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units.
  • Gives Congress the task of passing an organic act that will define the basic structure of government for the federal states
  • Recognizes the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as a federal state
  • Federal states must support the national government in “maintaining the integrity and independence of the Republic and shall comply with and enforce this constitution and all national laws.”
  • When a law of a federal state or a local government is inconsistent with the national law, the latter will prevail.
  • A federal state will have jurisdiction over the following:
    • Administrative organization, planning, budget, and management
    • Creation of sources of revenues and finance
    • Agriculture and fisheries
    • Natural resources, energy, environment, indigenous-appropriate technologies and inventions
    • Trade, industry, and tourism
    • Labor and employment
    • Public works and transportation, except railways, shipping, and aviation
    • Health and social welfare
    • Education and the development of language, culture, arts
    • Ancestral domain and natural resources
    • Housing, land use and development 

Article XIII – Accountability of Public Officers

  • Adds a new line that will include in the list of public officers the directors and trustees who represent the interests of the State in government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters as well as persons appointed to official positions in these entities
  • Removes the phrase “other high crimes or betrayal of public trust” among the reasons to impeach the president, vice president, SC justices, members of constitutional commissions, and the Ombudsman
  • Removes the requirement for the Ombudsman to have at least 10 years or more serving as a judge or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines. Instead, “the Ombudsman must have at least been a judge or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines.”
  • Removes the line saying public officers and employees owe the State and the constitution “allegiance at all times”

Article XIV – National Economy and Patrimony

  • Removes provision saying the State shall “promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform”
  • Instead of Congress being tasked to “create an agency to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives,” the legislative branch will only be tasked “to strengthen the viability and growth of cooperatives”
  • Congress will be tasked to periodically review the social and economic viability of government owned or controlled corporations “as often as may be deemed necessary,” but at least once every 5 years.
  • Adds a new line directing the State to enhance the economic efficiency and promote free competition in trade, industry, and commercial activities. No anti-competitive agreement or abuse of dominant position allowed.
  • Specifies that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will be the central monetary authority unless “Congress otherwise provides”

Article XV – General Provisions

  • Imposes a fixed term “as prescribed by law” for the tour of duty of the chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, and chiefs of major services of the AFP. The president is allowed to extend this tour of duty by just one year in times of war declared by Congress or “in the interest of defense and national emergency as determined” by the president.
  • Removes the line establishing one national police force
  • Removes the line saying the ownership and management of mass media “shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens”
  • Removes the line limiting the engagement in the advertising industry just for Filipino citizens or corporations or associations with at least 70% of the capital owned by Filipinos. Also removes the line limiting the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of entities based on their proportionate share in the capital.
  • Adds a new provision exempting from the payment of taxes and duties all revenues and assets of non-stock, non-profit educational institutions used actually, directly, and exclusively for educational purposes
  • A new line also directs the State to assign the “highest budget priority” to education

Article XVI – Amendments or Revisions

  • No changes

Article XVII – Transitory Provisions

  • Puts vice president as next in line should the president be unable to perform his functions
  • All branches of the government will function in a transitory character until all their successors are elected or appointed and are duly qualified.
  • The term of the president and the vice president will end on June 30, 2022 and will not be extended.
  • Bars the incumbent President from running for the same position during the 2022 elections 
  • Sets the first national and local elections for the new president, vice president, senators, representatives, and local officials on the second Monday of May 2022. They will assume office at 12 pm on June 30, 2022.
  • Upon ratification of the new constitution, the incumbent President and Vice President will continue exercising their powers and functions until the election of their successors.
  • Seats allocated for party-list representatives shall be filled by election in accordance with Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-list System for the May 2022 National Elections. 
  • All existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instructions, and other executive issuances “not inconsistent with this Constitution” shall remain operative until amended, repealed, or revoked.
  • All existing treaties or international agreements which have not been ratified will not be renewed or extended without concurrence of at least 2/3 of all senators
  • All courts existing when the new constitution is ratified will continue exercising their jurisdiction “until otherwise provided by law.”
  • Incumbent members of the judiciary will be in office until they reach the age of 70, become incapacitated to perform their duties, or are removed for cause or by the abolition of their office.
  • Within 6 months after the new constitution’s ratification, the SC, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, and the Sandiganbayan must adopt a systematic plan to expedite the decision or resolution of pending cases.
  • The legal effect of the lapse of the applicable period for the decision or resolution of the cases or matters submitted for adjudication by the courts before the ratification of the new constitution will be determined by the SC “as soon as practicable.”
  • Incumbent members of the CSC, Comelec, and the Commission on Audit will stay in office for one year after the ratification of the new constitution, unless they are “sooner removed for cause,” become incapacitated to perform their duties, or have been appointed to a new term. No member shall serve longer than 7 years, including the service before the ratification of the new constitution.
  • Gives separation pay and retirement and other benefits to career civil service employees who are separated from the service “not for cause” but as a result of the reorganization under the new constitution
  • The constitution will “take effect immediately” upon its ratification by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite and will supersede all previous constitutions.  

Read below the full copy of RBH No. 15:

– Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.