NOW that the 25-man Consultative Commission (Concom) is constituted, the serious task of crafting the federal constitution is off to an auspicious start. Although the body is still six commissioners short, I hear from the grapevine that the Deegong may still add more women and some from the indigenous communities.
We have a blend of a disparate assembly of brains, experience and committed adherents who could do justice to the task at hand. I refer particularly to three octogenarian appointees whom I have been acquainted with over the decades. Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the Concom chair was also the chair of the board of advisers of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) which I co-founded with Peter Koeppinger in 2009. Reuben Canoy, a political giant of Misamis Oriental and Mindanao, and a federalism true believer who founded the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) and was a presidential hopeful in the late 1970s.
And one I consider my guru and a good friend since the late 1970s, President Cory Aquino’s local governments minister, Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel. It was my privilege then as deputy minister in the department to help Minister Pimentel work out the intricacies of appointments of several thousands of OICs, from governors to board members to mayors to councilors—the result of President Cory’s termination from government service of all Marcos regime appointees and elective hold-overs after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
At the start of her administration, President Cory deferred to us Mindanawnons the task of restructuring the political leadership in our respective areas, particularly those areas in Mindanao where the PDP- Laban was first established. Thus, we involved OIC governors Dodo Cagas, in Davao del Sur, Polding Lopez in Davao Oriental, Balt Satur in Davao del Norte, Jun Paredes, in Agusan del Sur, Cha Diaz of North Cotabato, Mike Sueno of South Cotabato, Boy Tabios in Bukidnon, Donkoy Emano of Misamis Oriental, Tony Gallardo in Camiguin and Said Pangarungan of Lanao del Sur. They were all PDP-Laban stalwarts.
But Minister Pimentel was particularly concerned with Davao City, as it was the so-called “laboratory of communism” and the headquarters of the “sparrow units,” trained assassins of the CPP-NPA. Through the leadership of the industrialist Jesus “Chito” Ayala, we hammered out a working configuration. Zafiro Respicio a young and impetuous but astute PDP-Laban original was to be installed as OIC mayor. Nanay Soling Duterte, the doyenne of Davao society, with a sterling reputation as a civic leader, and the widow of a former respected Davao governor, was our choice for vicemayor—a complementing counterpoint as the perfect confrère to Zaf Respicio. Both were also acceptable to the Left. I presented the scheme to Minister Nene and to President Coy for confirmation.
At the last minute, however, Nanay Soling declined the post and suggested her son. That was the first time I heard of the Deegong, who was then a prosecutor. Thus, his substitute appointment to vicemayor and the beginning of his political ascendancy. Karma or destiny couldn’t be defined in any other way.
Federalism was not an innovative idea of DU30, although our original PDP, partly founded in Davao with Sammy Occena, Pimentel’s 1971 Con-con colleague, Rey Teves, Cris Lanorias, Zaf Respicio, Cesar Ledesma, etc. were in the forefront of defining federalism.
We have today two separate draft documents and timelines for a federal system, both being considered by the Concom; the PDP-Laban model and Centrist Democracy proposals. The former proposes a so-called hybrid presidential/parliamentary federal model while our latter proposal is a simple parliamentary-federal set-up.
The Concom may have to parse the implications of the two models well as the former wants to put in place a federal system during the incumbency of President Duterte (2022) while the Centrist goes for the establishment of a parliamentary government first (2022) and a gradual shift to a federal system (2022-2028) long after the tenure of President Duterte.
The Concom must hurdle two obstacles; the imprimatur of DU30 who is fixated in a “strong-French model-universally elected president”; and the two houses of Congress, the final arbiter as they are constitutionally mandated to revise the 1987 constitution.
The current fear of the populace now that it can almost taste the texture of the coming change—pagbabago—is that Congress is not exactly trusted to embed into the new constitution their hopes and aspirations; but instead entrench further their prerogatives. Witness their refusal to enact the 1987 Constitution’s prohibition of political dynasties.
Offhand there is no agreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives to break the impasse on the constitutional revision process—of “voting separately or jointly.” The tyranny of the “yellow” minority in Senate threatens to prolong this conflict to a point where events will overtake the constitutional revision process. This minority can and will exhaust the patience of the Deegong, the HoR and the Cha-cha/fed adherents, bringing into centerstage the possibility of a revolutionary government and destabilization.
So finally, our Centrist proposal for a constitutional convention (Con-con) could be the better alternative over the two other modes of constitutional revisions—peoples’ initiative (PI) and constituent assembly (Con-ass)—provided a combination of elected delegates be balanced with the appointed chosen delegates of the President. Most of those running as elected delegates would be the moneyed few, members of political dynasties whose clans and family interest take precedence. The chosen appointed constitutional experts even from the marginalized sectors – who could never afford and win an electoral campaign can counter and balance these dynasties – and give the presidential agenda a chance to be debated and pondered upon well. We propose 40 percent to 50 percent of the latter to compose the Con-con delegates. Congress needs to enact this law.
Those who oppose constitutional reforms can bide their time; we, the proponents cannot. We waited for decades for the chance to reach this point— the possibility of a systemic reboot that will extinguish the underlying multitude of problems that have been haunting the Filipino— stark poverty, injustice and corruption in all levels of governance. We understand too that we have a flawed leader in President Rodrigo Duterte—a petulant, irascible political outsider who intimidates even his allies. But it is a given too that no leader in the past 100 years has emerged with the chutzpah to seriously challenge the oligarchy and the custodians of the status quo.
He is the leader who can escort us to where we should go. Or we all burn!