The “Reform Philippines Coalition” on Wednesday presented to Malacañang its proposal for a shift to a federal form of government.
The group, together with the members of the Christian Bishops and Ministers Association of the Philippines, submitted the proposal following a media forum on proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution.
Greco Belgica, a member of the coalition, criticized the unitary system of government and vowed to push for a federal system.
“Even before President Duterte assumed his post, we’ve been fighting against the pork barrel, pushing for the re-imposition of death penalty and for the amendment of the Constitution for a federal-parliamentary form of government that follows biblical laws. God has laws… His laws apply to every human,” Belgica said.
“The Reform Philippines Coalition are groups of Christians, lawyers, bishops and pastors who believe that God’s law in heaven applies here on earth…We already submitted this proposal to Congress and Senate and we’ll also send it to President Duterte,” he added.
The group is supporting Duterte’s decision to amend the charter through a Constitutional Convention, wherein a body separate from sitting legislators are either elected through popular vote or appointed to make the amendments.
A Constitutional Convention is one of three ways to amend the 1987 Constitution. The other two are through Congress convened as a Constituent Assembly and people’s initiative, or a signature drive.
“Rewrite the Constitution through a Constitutional Convention; a constitution reflective of the true sentiments and cultures of the Filipino people, and expressive of their faith in God,” the group said in its proposal.
The group is pushing for constitutional provisions on sovereignty, hierarchy and submission, ethics and standards, oath and sanctions and succession and continuity.
“In a nation whose overwhelming majority of people are Christians, the Preamble should be a Covenantal Confession of their faith in God. Indeed, ALL ‘States’ is inescapably religious!” the group said.
Bishop Rey Santillana threw the bishops’ group’s support behind Duterte’s push for federalism.
In defending the President, Santillana cited a bible passage: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
“Our beloved President was elected by 16 million Filipinos and we believe that because he was installed in Malacañang to be our President, this is the will of the Lord,” Santillana said.
Jeremiah Belgica echoed this and urged the public to support the plan of the Duterte administration to shift to a federal system of government.
“We believe that the Constitution is only as good as its people and the flexibility of our Constitution should be given much leeway for future generations to come,” he said.
“We are requesting, we are encouraging the lawyers, law students, lovers of the law, citizens of the Philippines to rally behind the constitutional reform in our country,” he added.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism since the presidential campaign in 2016, saying it would bring peace with Muslim insurgents and would be the country’s last chance to end armed conflict.
He has also reiterated his willingness to cut short his six-year term, once a new system of government is adopted.
The President earlier warned that the situation in Mindanao was becoming worse.
“We have no choice. We know the dangers and they can project more or less what will happen if something goes awfully wrong…Apparently, Mindanao is becoming lawless,” he said.