• Constitutional convention, not constituent assembly


    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    IF there is to be a revision/amendment/addition to our Constitution, it should take place not through the efforts of the current legislature but through elected representatives of the people in a constitutional convention. Any other way, particularly putting the task in the hands of our current legislators with their track record of representing dynasties, moneyed politics, oligarchs, railroading of bills and other such unworthy and distrustful elements and ways, would be a travesty of the people’s will.

    Some of the devious or downright stupid reasons given for having a constituent assembly composed of the present legislature is that it would save money and time. No Constitution should be arrived at hastily and in a shortcut manner to save time or money. Saving time and money are flimsy and silly reasons to rush at changing what would be the fundamental law of the land. It risks enacting laws without open and free debate, full participation by the public as necessary for a fundamental law to be arrived at for generations to come. With all the pork barrel allowances and other huge budgetary items for whatever that money has been found for, worthy or unworthy as these may be, enough money should also be found andmade available to go through the exercise of having a genuine constitutional convention with representatives from all over the archipelago freely elected by the citizenry. This is the only way that changes should be made in a Constitution that will be accepted by the people.

    Note that in the Lower House there is a minuscule opposition that is constantly steamrollered over as the majority blindly follows the leadership’s misplaced priorities. What then can one expect when it comes to debating constitutional issues? The same thing, the opposition will be steamrollered, the voting rigged and manipulated using the spoils system and other political quid pro quos for acquiring votes to get what the majority wants, including term extensions, no anti-dynasty provisions and federalism, whatever this last concept means to the public which so far is vague, menacing and impractical.

    Those who will compose the constituent assembly have already stated that federalism is the answer to our problems. No study of the context that will support it has been made, or the peculiar circumstances that may or may not allow it to succeed in this country at this time has been argued. All that is heard is that federalism is what we need and therefore will be imposed via the constituent assembly without any explanation, study, or even a clear definition of what it is and how it will operate. More than ever under these circumstances do we need a constitutional convention of duly and freely elected representatives to tackle constitutional change in a reasonable and comprehensive manner. A Constituent assembly under present circumstances will not be able to deliver that.

    As for the time element, is the rush for the sake of the present legislature and the present administration? Constitutional change is the work of the public through its duly and freely elected representatives for the express purpose of constitutional change. Whether it is needed or not needed is for such a body elected for such purpose to tackle at its own reasonable good time. So, it is best that such a body only have one purpose and not mix it up with political considerations and benefits. With the constituentassembly this is unlikely to happen.

    A Constitution is a reflection of what a society is, how it sees itself, what it means to be. It has to be the work of the majority of that society finding its voice in the people it designates to make its will known and followed. That makes it imperative that freely elected representatives make up such a body that will be tasked to tackle constitutional change.

    After which, the people will either ratify or not ratify their work in a referendum. As someone said of attempts to make the present legislature the body to work on the Constitution “kungsilasilalang, hindi kami sasama.” Note that this is the public take without even considering federalism in the mix.


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