Page last updated at 08:10 Asia/Manila, Thursday, 06 October 2016 PH
Before changing the Constitution, which is relatively an irreversible process, it would be advisable first to test the feasibility of autonomous federal states by fully implementing the Local Government Code under the strong leadership of President Duterte during the next six years. If there are imperfections, the Code can be more easily amended than the Constitution. As Atty. Monsod quipped in the aforementioned interview: “The Constitution does not say anything about sharing of revenues; it just said equitable sharing. Change the mining law. Change the IRA in the local government code. 40:60? Change it to 60:40; change it to 80:20. You don’t need to change the Constitution.” As regards shifting to a parliamentary system, which is a completely separate and distinct issue from federalism, my opinion is that a parliamentary form of government needs a strong party system. There will have to be real parties that are differentiated from one another in ideology. As President Duterte is the first one to realize, the “Balimbing” culture of Philippine politics militates against the party system. Until we have an authentic party system, it would be foolhardy to adopt a parliamentary form of government. We cannot possibly make a parliamentary system work with politicians changing parties more often than they change underwear (a Duterte-like hyperbole!). I hope that there will be others from the 1986 Philippine Constitutional Commission who will speak out on this very important issue.
In the next six years, it would be desirable to encourage the LGUs to more aggressively implement the provisions of Chapter 4 of Book 1 (Basic Principles) of the Local Government Code of 1991. This has to do with the relations with people’s and non-governmental organizations, such as cooperatives and social enterprises. Sec. 35 of Chapter 4 states that “local government units may enter into joint ventures and such other cooperative arrangements with people’s and nongovernmental organizations to engage in the delivery of certain basic services, capability-building and livelihood projects, and to develop local enterprises designed to improve productivity and income, diversify agriculture, spur rural industrialization, promote ecological balance, and enhance the economic and social well-being of the people. To my knowledge, there are very few LGUs that have taken advantage of this provision to attain inclusive growth with the help of NGOs and now, with what are called social enterprises, i.e. businesses organized for profit but whose main mission is to contribute to the solution of a community problem such as eradicating poverty, protecting the environment or improving the quality of basic education. For LGUs who want to get advice on this very important strategic move, I suggest that they get in touch with some of the experts on the implementation of the Local Government Code. Among them are: Justice Alberto Agra (firstname.lastname@example.org), Atty. Dindo Garciano (email@example.com) and Jose Bengzon Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org). These are among the leading authorities on how LGU heads can accomplish a wide range of development goals without having to depend on the National Government. Because of his commitment to federalization, President Rody Duterte can be expected to give his full support to the thorough implementation of the Local Government Code with the least interference from Imperial Manila. This is the only way we can be sure that we shall be nurturing during the next six years the enlightened, honest, and decisive leaders that can guarantee the success of federalization in the medium-term.
It would be more realistic that in the next two years, we focus on amending only the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution in order to jump start a quantum leap in the amount of Foreign Direct Investments, especially in such very capital intensive sectors as public utilities, infrastructures, transport and communications. Our formerly very nationalistic neighbors like Indonesia and Vietnam are aggressively opening up more strategic sectors to foreign direct investors. We are going to be increasingly left behind in FDIs if we do not amend our Constitution to allow more foreign equity in these sectors. President Duterte has expressed his willingness to have these restrictive provisions in the Constitution removed through a Charter Change (Cha-cha) to be implemented by Congress. This process was already at an advanced stage during the last Administration. Although I am sure the extreme left would have strong objections, President Duterte has more than enough support to accomplish what former Speaker Sonny Belmonte tried hard to push forward but failed because of the unwillingness of the last President to amend the Constitution. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.