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Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes
« on: March 25, 2018, 12:12:57 AM »
Opening statement of Ia Isidro, Chairperson of AKMA UP, during the public consultation of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes in Baguio City:

Good morning, Mr. Chair. I am Maria Meryl Isidro from the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines North Luzon.

Duterte’s 2016 campaign has two imperatives, first is his promise of Peace and Order and federalism. We’ve seen and felt the effects of Oplan Tokhang under its massive implementation, and now we face, the threat of an undercooked constitutional change in fulfillment of a campaign promise.

Federalism in its basic sense, regardless of the model, moves under the concept of economic development through decentralization of power. In essence, local autonomy will give regions power to decide and redistribute resources amongst themselves, under the assumption that they are efficient and functional enough to know the needs of their constituents. This brings us to the point of conjuncture, the stakeholders. In the course of Charter Change, we see Duterte, the main proponent, the House of Representatives, allies of the president, who are so keen on rushing this that they want to omit the senate in the process, and the questionable integrity of the Consultative Committee under Reynato Puno. Dito natin makikita, na sa lahat ng proseso na ito, may nakakalimutang importante ang administrasyon, ang tao, para kanino ba natin binabago ang konstitusyon? Sino ang makikinabang dito?

Our first point of non-negotiation is the need for a Constitutional Convention. It’s costly and time consuming, but when we think about it, what’s the rush? If we really want to maximize the people’s participation, tutal para sa amin, para sa atin naman to, bakit hindi natin sila hayaang bumoto? This is essential and critical to our democracy. Mr. Chair, what we fear is that, the people present in a Constituent Assembly, will only be forwarding their own agenda. Smokescreening their primary motive, term extension. Because of the wide influence of the President in the House of Representatives, we feel that a Con-Ass will only operate as a form of formality with predicted and manipulated outcomes. However, considering a Con-Ass, the House and the Senate should vote separately. Magkahiwalay silang magpasa at magdeliberate ng mga batas, magkahiwalay rin dapat silang boboto sa pagbabago ng konstitusyon. Sa ganitong paraan, makakasiguro tayo na hindi lulunurin ng numero ng House of Representatives ang ating senado. Kaya ng apo tayo bicameral, for checks and balances.

On the basis of economic development and decentralization, I believe devolution of powers is already present in our Local Government Code of 1991. Kung gusto lang naman natin taasan ang Internal Revenue Allocation ng LGUs, maaari naman natin itong amiendahan na lamang. Kung parehas lang din naman ang punto ng pagbibigay ng mas malaking budget sa mga LG na mas nangangailangan, hindi na natin kailangan ng pederalismo, kailangan lang natin pagtibayin yung already existing mechanisms natin such as Local Government Code under the 1987 Constitution. What I mean to say, Mr. Chair, is that hindi pa nga natin nakikita ang full potential ng 1987 Constitution, pinapalitan na natin ito.

Under the proposals of the subcommittees of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, we see federalism as a smokescreen to their real agenda. First, the extension of terms of all government agents, second, granting excessive powers to the president, third, limiting the rights of the people, fourth, removal of the 60-40 rule on National Economy and patrimony, and institutionalization of warlordism.

All the proposals specifically state that the elections under the new constitution will be in 2022, at the rate we’re going, if this is passed before the 2019 elections, there will no longer be elections for 2019. This means term extensions for everyone. This will prolong the exercise of power and privileges of undeserving public officials and deprive the deserving and aspiring public officials the ability to serve their constituents. Apart from this, the proposals allow for the president to run for office again in 2022 as if his first term and for reelection in 2027 under the new constitution. This means that Duterte can be president from 2016-2032. We’re looking at a possibility of 16 years under Duterte.

Also under the new constitution, we see huge chunk of power awarded to the president. The president will have oversight powers of all the branches of the government – including the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman. The incumbent president will also have the power to dissolve the interim parliament or the congress. If this is so, who will be our legislator? Should we see a comeback of presidential decrees? This is the functional importance of the separation of powers in our current constitution.

In the proposed constitution, free speech is qualified into responsible exercise of speech. This is vague, to whom to we give the task of defining responsible exercise? Free speech should be free, Mr. Chair, it should operate without inhibitions.
Late President Carlos P. Garcia’s 60-40 rule on National Economy and Patrimony ensures that 60% of the countries resources are Filipino owned. Under the new constitution, this rule will be removed altogether allowing for an open economy. Given our context, na ngayon palang with the 60-40 rule, natatalo na ng sibuyas ng Tsina ang sibuyas ng Benguet at ang bigas ng Pilipinas sa bigas ng Vietnam, we are exposing ourselves to a market which we are not competitive enough for.

The new constitution also awards absolute control of the police and security to the localities. In the case of Alfred McCoy’s (1993) Anarchy of Families, we see that prominent political families are able to create their own private armies. This provision allows for the institutionalization of that case.

The administration’s half-cooked proposals on Charter Change are unacceptable to the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines. We strongly oppose President Duterte’s Charter Change. If we are really serious about this mode of change, then it shouldn’t be as rushed as it is today. We do not rush the passage of laws, so why would we do it in the creation of a new constitution? There are prerequisites to an applicable model of Federalism, a series of meaningful discussions, deliberations and consultations. We, the youth, refuse to be collateral damage in the process of simply fulfilling a campaign promise, and a projected legacy. We will resist Duterte’s charter change.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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