The current 1987 Constitution was promulgated during the time of Pres. Cory Aquino when she discarded the 1973 Constitution because “she did not want to derive legitimacy and power from the very institutions that she fought”, saying, she wanted to start anew and break from the “vestiges of a disgraced dictatorship.”
I am just saying this at the outset because the 1973 constitution, to this day, has served us well.
One of the compelling arguments for those trumpeting the federal form of government is that the concentration of power and wealth will now be decentralized such that governance is now done in a regional manner thus making it more convenient and responsive to the immediate need of the people.
So what if the authority will now be localized and to hell with “imperial Manila”?
Are we saying that by changing the Constitution again in order to comply with the requirements of a federal form of government we will finally and ultimately be able to address the country’s political and socio-economic woes?
Can’t we not, for a moment, rationalize that in fact and in truth what has gone wrong all these years that we had been under a presidential form of government is that the people we elected to lead this country did not live up to our highest expectations?
Is the transformation we are expecting from this Constitutional change will also alter completely the character of the people such that peace, tranquility and progress for the nation and the Filipinos will be attained?
Or is the shifting from presidential to federalism only going to be a transition from bad to worse?
And I am not even talking here yet about the enormous expenses to be incurred when it is going to be effected, God forbids.
I had always been pragmatic in my belief that after experiencing the dark days of the Marcos regime the brilliant minds behind the drafting of the 1987 Constitution made sure that what they wrote will do justice to the Filipino people and will be able to stand the test of times.
The 1987 Constitution may not be perfect, but if it is deemed to have failed such that people are calling for it to be re-written, the stark reality is that it is the imperfection of man that has made it deficient.
The election of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency in 2016 has convinced me more than any other time that it only takes a determined, fearless and strong-willed leader who knows his law to make the 1987 Constitution potent and successful.
I find it very ironic that in the same vein Duterte is the very person that is loudly advocating the change to federalism.
It would have served Duterte well had he thoughtfully considered former Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s warning that shifting to federalism was a “lethal experiment” as it did not suit the Philippines and the “people of our generation and even those of the succeeding generations.” Davide happens to be one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
Davide is not only referring to the Philippines being a third world country with more regions poorer than richer, but more so about our nature as Filipinos.
Davide said that if the shift to federalism were to deal with the imbalance created by an “Imperial Manila,” then this could be done by “effectively and efficiently implementing the relevant provisions” of the present Constitution “for strong local autonomy and decentralization.”
With the kind of president that Duterte is, this could easily be done without spending billions to make federalism workable and sustainable in the whole Philippine archipelago.