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A Con-con at the start of the new administration

THERE are three ways by which amendments to the Philippine Constitution may be proposed. One is by Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members. Another is by a Constitutional Convention (Con-con). The third is by People’s Initiative, whereby a proposal is approved by at least 12 percent of the total number of the country’s registered voters, and by at least 3 percent of the votes in each of the nation’s congressional districts.

Of these three, a Constitutional Convention appears to be the best choice. Its members will have to be elected, unlike the Constitutional Commission (Con-com) that drew up the present 1987 Constitution, whose members were appointed by then President Corazon C. Aquino.

In the weeks leading to the start of the Duterte administration on June 30, there has been much discussion on changes that can be achieved only with constitutional amendments. Foremost among these is the establishment of a highly decentralized form of government, aimed at speeding up the development of many regions of the country that appear to have been left behind.

A federal form of government is proposed to achieve this. The federal government could be led by a president, as in the United States, or it could come with a parliament led by a prime minister, as in many European countries.

A federal form of government would give the regional governments greater autonomy in making economic and political decisions. The Bangsamoro people could have their own autonomous region, as provided in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that was left hanging in the last Congress. But so could all the other groups in the country that share a special bond, like the Cordillerans, the people of Northern, Central, and Southern Luzon, the Bicolanos, the East, Central, and West Visayans, the Northern and Southern Mindanaoans.

There will be other amendments. The House of Representatives in the last Congress sought to ease the restrictions on foreign investments by adding to each restriction the phase “unless otherwise provided by law.” But this would have given future Congresses unwarranted power that would not subjected to ratification by the people.

It is only proper that the move to amend the Constitution take place at the start of a new administration. Previous attempts were made towards the end of an administration, raising suspicions that the incumbents who were barred from reelection just wanted to remain in power by constitutional revision. That this present move for Charter change is being pushed at this time shows that it is truly aimed at reform to bring about a better system of government for our country.