Proposed preparatory body to have 24 members, P30M budget
A DRAFT executive order (EO) proposes to allow President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint 24 members to a preparatory study council and spend P30 million to draft a new Philippine Constitution for submission to Congress.
The draft order, obtained by The Manila Times from an informal “federalism core group” working for Duterte, calls for a Constitutional Reform Consultative and Study Council that will conduct consultations and studies and propose revisions to the 1987 Constitution “principally to change the existing unitary-presidential system of government to a federal and semi-presidential system of government; as well as to review and refocus economic policies in the Constitution.”
Over a three-month period, the preparatory council will review existing and new constitutional reform studies and proposals and hold a nationwide information campaign and consultations with various sectors of society with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local government units.
“There is a need to bring the great constitutional reform debate to the people and involve them in the study and formulation, including the appropriate and expeditious mode, of revising the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” the draft EO states.
The council will be composed of not more than 24 members appointed by the President among nominees submitted by any individual, association or organization to the Office of the President not later than August 31.
All nominations must be in writing and accompanied by the following supporting documents, namely: curriculum vitae of the nominee, a certification by the nominee that he or she will accept the appointment to the council, and other materials.
A presidential appointee to the council must be a Filipino citizen, a registered voter, and a resident of the country for at least one year on the day of his or her appointment.
In addition, a council member must be a man or woman of recognized standing, honesty, patriotism and probity, with experience and competence in government or in their respective fields.
Incumbent government officials or employees as well as candidates for elective positions who lost in the last elections may be appointed as members of the preparatory council.
Lawyer and federalism advocate Raul Lambino, one of the members of President Duterte’s informal core group on federalism, is convinced that changing the 29-year-old Constitution is worth all the effort.
“When you are going to change the Constitution in a Constituent Assembly, you will be opening up the entire Constitution. But I am not worried about that. What I am worried about is if we are not able to put the right people in drawing up our Constitution,”
Lambino said during a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times editors and reporters on Wednesday.
Lambino, who helped draft the EO, admitted that federalism would cost the government more money, but said the benefits would outweigh it.
“Since we have to work with Congress, we have to do something, through the council, to ensure that the provisions of the Constitution which will favor the power brokers and other vested interests will not be in place. Besides, I’d rather have a more expensive bureaucracy that is run efficiently rather than a small one which cannot deliver social services to our people,” Lambino added.
Under the proposed EO, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will preside over the initial meeting of the council until such time that it elects a chairman.
The election of a chairman, vice chairman, secretary and other officers from among its members will be the preparatory council’s first order of business.
Plenary sessions of the council will be public and recorded, and it can hold its session and public hearings anywhere in the country to ensure wide public participation.
The Presidential Management Staff, for its part, is mandated to assist in establishing a secretariat for the technical and support staff of the council and is authorized to ask for the detail of any personnel from any government office to assist the body.
The proposed timeframe is as follows: the council will start its work on September 15 and complete its task by December 15. The council will present the draft of the new Charter to the President for transmittal to Congress.
President Duterte initially wanted to call for a Constitutional Convention to amend the Charter, but has since changed his mind. Duterte now favors Charter change through Congress as a Constituent Assembly, to save billions of pesos.