RETIRED Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Wednesday reiterated his call for Charter change, saying the country should shift into a federal system of government.
Puno, lead convenor of the newly formed “Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa,” said the 1987 Constitution should be amended, noting that the architects of the Constitution has “failed to adjust our form of government to our changing needs.”
“Our present form of government caused the majority to be deaf and dumb to the distinct needs of the minority, and gave them arrogance to impose uniformity despite the pluralism of the people,” Puno said during a summit dubbed “Securing the Country’s Future” at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City.
“Everyone seems carried away by the idea of choosing the captain of the ship while few have bothered to examine the seaworthiness of the ship and the state of the ocean,” he said.
The group affirmed that a unitary form of government “has failed our country for the longest time.”
“Our experience under a unitary-presidential form of government runs for 80 years now. The question is, ‘What has this unitary-presidential form of government brought to our people,” Puno said.
The former chief justice cited the imbalance of powers among the three branches of government and between the national government and the local government units and autonomous regions.
“We have a government where power is tilted too much in favor of the Executive. Arguably, the biggest abuse of power in our tripartite government has been committed in our Executive department,” Puno said.
“Consequently, almost all of our presidents have been subject of impeachment, but none has been successfully impeached. Our democracy has collapsed under one president. We have a very strong president who has too much power,” the former chief justice added.
He also criticized a supposed “powerful” judiciary for failing to do much that what is expected, but too little is given.
“We do have a very powerful court theoretically but reality will reveal that the independence of the Judiciary is insufficiently insulated with our Constitution,” Puno said.
According to him, the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona shows how unequal the Supreme Court is to its political counterparts, an inequality that mocks its role as the guardian of the Constitution and as the bastion of the rights of our people.
He said political safeguards enshrined in the Constitution, such as the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights, and the Ombudsman have failed to meet the ‘expectations’ expected from them by the people.
“The disquieting questions are: have we solved, nay dissipated violations of human rights? Have we controlled the runaway corruption in government? Have we produced a bureaucracy based on meritocracy? Have we checked the plunders committed on the money of the people,” Puno asked.
The group said they see federalism “as the best hope to our distinct minorities to be allowed self-rule,” referring to Muslims in Mindanao.
“Diversity, is in truth, the touchstone of democracy,” Puno said.
“The best form of government that can best handle diversity is the democratic form of government but more specifically, the federal-parliamentary species of democracy,” Puno said.
“The unimpeachable data show that the federal-parliamentary form have fared better than the unitary presidential form of governance. Federalism challenges the will of the majority, and the rights of the minority will flourish,” the former chief justice added.
Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. joined Puno and former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, former Budget and Finance Secretary Salvador Enriquez Jr., former 1986 Constitutional Commission member Rene Sarmiento, former University of the Philippines President Jose Abueva, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and economist and author Calixto Chikiamco in the event.
Leaders from various sectors – from the political arena, business, church, labor, farmers, youth, academe, nongovernment organizations and cause-oriented groups, professional associations, indigenous peoples, and other sectors, including some former delegates from both the 1970 and the 1986 Constitutional Commission drafted a statement urging the Congress and the President to form a Con-Com and providing members thereof.