DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 21 sept) – The proposed federal charter will provide a better and equitable distribution of powers than the current 1987 Philippine Constitution, a member of the Consultative Committee on Charter Change said.
ConCom member lawyer Antonio Arellano said in an interview on Thursday the proposed federal charter seeks to bring structural reforms that would provide a more democratic representation of all the regions in running the country than what is provided under the current unitary setup.
He said the unitary form of government has only favored certain areas and families in the country and widened the gap between rich and poor over the years, veering away from the “very essence of the democracy that we wanted to establish from the time of the First Philippine Republic” established by the 1899 Malolos Constitution.
“Our experience under this unitary setup is such that the power of government was used in such a way that only favors certain areas of the country and certain families and persons,” he said.
He said the unitary system under the current constitution has not lived up to the democratic aspirations of the people because of its failure to share the powers of government, responsibility, and development.
Under the proposed federal setup, Arellano explained that there is better distribution of powers because the federated regions will become “self-reliant and capable of self-governance.”
“The proposal is we still come up with one state but we have a two-tier government structure that the power of governance which is legislative, executive, and judicial will be vested by the people not only in the federal government but also in the federated region governments,” he said.
Arellano said the country will still be under one federal republic and its citizens will elect a President.
He said each regional state would also have an executive branch to be led by a governor who will have his/her own cabinet officials, a legislature and a judiciary.
“Once we become a federated region, the regional director of an agency becomes a cabinet secretary, [the] regional governor is the president of the region, and the regional assembly is the congress of the region. They can make their own laws,” he said.
Under federalism, he said the Senate would have 36 members or two from each of the 18 federated regions unlike in the current setup where most of the senators come from Luzon.
“The 24 senators was the number in the 1935 constitution when there were only about 20 to 30 million people. We are now 110 million, we still have 24 senators. We are just talking about democracy and representation. With more people, there should be more representation so that the voices of the people can be heard,” he said.
Arellano said federalism will make government services more efficient because the regions will enjoy more autonomy in how to spend their money.
Wendell Adrian Tamayo added that the proposed federal constitution gives the federated regions the power of taxation — estate tax, donor’s tax, documentary stamp tax –which the current setup identifies as national revenues but which the national government will no longer levy once the federal government is put up.
“The national government will no longer levy them. It’s now the region,” he said.
He said 50% of the net revenues from the exploration, development and utilization of natural wealth will go to the region and another 50% share from the income tax, value added tax, excise taxes and customs duties co-levied and collected by the national government.
“New taxes? No. It’s the same same pie, but what we did is to look at the powers of government and give those powers to the regions and because the power is now with the region, the money also goes to the region,” he clarified.
Arellano said President Rodrigo Duterte has the copy of the proposed federal setup and it’s up to him when to endorse it to the Congress for deliberation.
“What the president will do is submit or endorse the draft that he wants to them and let them discuss it in Congress and eventually decide what kind of draft do they want to present to the people,” he said.
“We cannot impose it on them but we are discussing it with them and presenting it to them, those who are convinced about the appropriateness and correctness of the document, then they can support it in the House of Representatives and Senate,” he said.
He said the Consultative Committee members are going around the country to explain to the “people what this document is all about and let them decide what is best for the country and maybe try your best to convince your congressmen and senators on the document we think is best for them.” (Antono L. Colina IV/MindaNews)