MANILA, Philippines – Civil society organizations all over the country have drafted and released their own stances on the topic of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his administration’s push for Federalism and Charter Change. The message: a resounding no to Cha-Cha at this point.
While diverse in background, advocacies, and political leanings, civil society organizations have expressed deep concern as to the readiness of the country to implement such drastic change in so little time. In fact, some organizations also raised questions, especially if basic sectors and the civil society have been consulted thoroughly, if at all, about the shift to another form of government.
Some organizations and alliance even pointed out preconditions or policies that the government needs to accomplish first before moving on with pushing for a shift of government format. These preconditions were based from their years of exposure on the realities on ground, interaction and collaboration with basic sectors, and dealing with data and facts on the situation of basic sectors and the country in general.
For example, the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), the largest coalition of social development civil society organizations in the country, expressed their opposition of the recent moves of the government to change the Constitution and vehement opposition to charter change at this point.
“We reiterate our consistent stand that any amendment or change in the fundamental law of the land should be undertaken through an objective, deliberate, and participatory process with the citizens; particularly to protect the interests of the basic sectors and marginalized groups. Thus, we are against the hasty mode by which Congress is pushing Charter Change by convening incumbent legislators into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass). This process will only extend the term of incumbent legislators and lacks transparency and participation by the people,” their statement reads.
CODE-NGO also pushes for an “asymmetric approach” to the shift – “where regional states will not enter into a federal set-up all at the same time, but instead, undertake the process on a state-by-state basis, depending on the proposed state’s accomplishment of certain preconditions.”
These preconditions are as follows:
- the completion of agricultural land re-distribution under the agrarian reform program, the issuance of ancestral domain titles and other asset reform programs;
- the institutionalization of basic good governance systems and practices in the local governments, including measures against political dynasties and, most importantly;
- the assent of the majority of the residents in the area.
Status of preconditions
These preconditions, however, seem far from being met, especially given the hasty timeline set by the administration on Federalism and Charter Change.
For one, the Department of Agrarian Reform has reported that it is still eyeing to distribute more than 472, 450 hectares of land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. It is expected to benefit more than 379,236 agrarian reform beneficiaries.
From 1987 to 2016, DAR had 4.7 million hectares of land with Emancipation Patents and Certificate of Land Ownership Award (EP/CLOA), according to their own reports. These supposedly benefited around 2.8 million agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, the Congress has yet to pass an Anti-Dynasty Law that would prevent political dynasties from monopolizing elective positions both in the local and national levels. As of press time, the Senate version of this bill is still in the committee level, with several drafts being consolidated and substituted in the committee report (as of May 16, 2018).
The two bills filed on the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are still pending with the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. Both House Bills, HB 825 and 3861, are titled “An Act Defining Political Dynasty and Prohibiting the Establishment Thereof.”
As for the assent of the majority of residents in the area, recent surveys proved that even on the battle to increasing awareness on Federalism and Charter Change, the government has yet to get the majority.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey conducted in March 2018 showed that 75 percent of those surveyed are still not aware of the proposed federal system of government.
In the same survey, only 37 percent agree to proposed federal system of government, while 34 percent are still undecided, and 29 percent disagree.
A survey by Pulse Asia around the same time, meanwhile, showed that “changing the constitution” was an urgent national concern for just three percent of the respondents. This percentage was maintained across all but one of the major locations – NCR, Luzon, and Visayas. Mindanao recorded a slight increase with five percent.
The latest update on the attempt on Federalism and Charter Change is Resolution of Both Houses No. 15, which is authored by Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 21 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives.
The resolution indicated that the “President and the Vice President shall be eligible for reelection to one term”, and that “[n]o person shall be elected to the office of the President for more than two terms.”
It did not, however, indicated any term limits for senators and members of the House of Representatives. The document also indicated that the senate president will be succeeding the president, not the vice president. This is an unprecedented proposal, showing a clear leaning of interest in the Congress and its members. You may read more on this document below. – RealTalk, October 2018