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Duterte willing to cut term, wants transition leader

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he instructed the Consultative Committee that is drafting a new constitution to include an elected transitional president following the adoption of a new federal charter.

“I am willing to cut my term to be co-terminus with start of [the] transition period [which] the committee agreed,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque quoted the President as saying.

The President added that his stepping down would remove all suspicions involving the adoption of a new form of government.

“I am tired. [I am] ready to give it to somebody else,” said the President.

Roque said the President had reversed his earlier position that he could serve as a transition leader until 2022.

“He said he was very tired, he’s old, and maybe electing a transition leader would enable a younger leader to take over,” said Roque.

He said the President asked former Chief Justice and ConCom Chairman Renato Puno and other members of the committee to change the transitory provision.

Roque said he and other Cabinet members were saddened by the President’s sudden announcement.

“He said it with conviction, that’s why I was saddened... And the way he said it was, ‘I’m tired, it’s for someone younger.’ That’s his final decision. From the tone of the President, I knew he meant what he said,” Roque said.

On Monday afternoon, Duterte received a copy of the proposed Federal Constitution of the Philippines prepared by his 22-member ConCom to pave the way for a new federal form of government.

Puno presented the approved final draft in a handover ceremony.

According to Puno, the draft constitution seeks to establish a ‘bayanihan’ form of federalism.

“This bayanihan federalism installs a federal government strong enough to hold together the various federated regions and establishes federated regions that are socially, economically, and politically viable and sustainable,” said Puno, adding that the ConCom “divided the powers of government guided by the Filipino spirit of bayanihan where both the federal government and the federated regions govern the people less in competition but more in cooperation with one another and aligned with the maxim the welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

Puno also enumerated some features of the draft constitution that he thought might particularly interest the President.

The draft constitution introduces a more democratic electoral process as it inhibits the creation of political dynasties and transforms political parties as mechanisms of citizen representation and democratic governance.

“Under this draft constitution, political turncoatism is prohibited, hence, political butterflies cannot flutter anymore from one political party to another to suck their nectar,” said Puno.

Aside from the political aspect, the draft constitution levels the economic playing field, he said.

Puno said the draft constitution banned monopolies and oligopolies that substantially diminish market competition and abuse their dominant positions. “For this purpose, the draft constitution established an independent Competition Commission to stop these monopolies by the moneyed,” he said.

Moreover, the draft constitution also strengthens and remodels institutions of government to fight graft and corruption such as the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit.

The 78-year-old chairman also emphasized that the draft constitution transformed the OMB to a more commission type of office to effectively investigate and prosecute violations of anti-graft laws. Meanwhile, the COA can conduct pre-audits and performance audits to ensure that the people’s money is spent strictly in accordance with law.

Puno also said the draft constitution is pro-poor.

“Socio-economic rights of the poor to adequate food, comprehensive health care, complete education, adequate and decent housing and livelihood and employment opportunities are included in the Bill of Rights as rights demandable against the government. The poor are also guaranteed political representation in the legislatures of the Federal Government and Federated Regions,” Puno said.

Lastly, the draft constitution establishes a lasting and indissoluble nation, because it recognizes the ethnicity, culture, religion, customs, traditions, language and distinct identities of the people in the Cordillera and Bangsamoro, he said.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said with the draft constitution finished, regional consultations will result in a better understanding of federalism and result in greater public acceptance of the proposed shift to a federal form of government.

Pimentel, president of PDP-Laban and one of federalism’s most vocal advocates, said he was encouraged by surveys that show that over half of respondents who were aware of federalism and had previously heard of this system of government were more supportive of the adoption of federalism.

In a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations from March 23 to 27, 57 percent of respondents who stated that they had knowledge about federalism agree with the adoption of a federal system of government, while only 22 percent did not support its adoption. Twenty percent were undecided.

“I believe the numbers make it clear that those who know more about federalism are more likely to support its adoption,” he said.

With the draft constitution now finished, he said we can now have a real discussion about the proposed amendments to the Constitution, particularly the shift to federalism,” he said.

Pimentel was optimistic that the more the public learned about the distinct features of federalism, the more it would be willing to embrace the changes this system of government will bring.

“It is natural for many of our countrymen to fear what they do not understand, to resist change and the unknown,” he said.

He said federalism is really different from what they are used to “but if they see that these changes will benefit them, then they will be more open to them.”

In the same survey conducted by SWS, only one out of four respondents said they were knowledgable about federalism.

Overall, 29 percent disagree with the shift to federalism, a figure lower than the 37 percent who agree with the proposed shift, as well as the 34 percent who are undecided about the issue.

Pimentel said that knowledge about federalism and its benefits was what fueled support for it in Mindanao, where 59 percent of those polled expressed support for the adoption of federalism, with only 16 percent opposed to the shift.

“This is an issue close to the heart of the people of Mindanao––we have been discussing this for a long time—so there is greater awareness of federalism and a greater recognition of what it can do to bring peace and stability to the region,” Pimentel said.

A House leader on Monday batted for a review of the draft constitution’s economic provisions with a view or relaxing the “protectionist” provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“Our protectionist economic policy is an anachronism under the new global free economy or borderless world,” said Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte. “This is why foreign direct investments [FDIs] have remained relatively anemic despite the Philippines’ newfound investment-grade status as Asia’s bright star.”

Villafuerte, a lead proponent in the Congress of the proposed switch to a federal system, made the statement following the recent approval by the ConCom of the draft federal constitution.

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , Consultative Committee , Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque , Renato Puno
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