The Palace said Friday that Congress should heed the advice of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno
about the proposed federal charter, saying the public might end up rejecting the draft charter approved by the House of Representatives if they did not.
“Congress should listen to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and open themselves for amendments
. That should be considered,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing Friday.
“Otherwise, there might be the danger of people rejecting the proposed amendment to the Constitution. That would be a waste of people’s money.”
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte himself vowed to campaign against the ratification of a proposed charter if it was “against the interests of the people.”
“Should Congress introduce amendments to the Constitution, when they meet as a constituent assembly, and it is against the interest of the people, he will campaign against the ratification of that proposed draft of the Constitution,” Panelo added.
In an interview with ANC, Puno, chairman of the Consultative Committee, said the committee members agreed not to endorse the House resolution, calling it as a disaster for the country’s democracy
“They did not create a federal government. They did not create districts. It’s a bogus federalism
... Congress will have a monopoly of power in creating these states,” he added.
The Palace-backed committee even agreed to inform the public about the defects and deficiencies of the House draft.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading its version of a draft federal charter, which is significantly different from the draft prepared by Puno’s panel.
Among its controversial provisions are the removal of the ban on political dynasties, lifting of term limits for lawmakers, and adding “lawless violence” as a ground for the declaration of martial law apart from actual rebellion and public safety.
The proposed charter also requires college degree for those who aspire to be president, vice president, senator or congressman in the future unless they have been elected to those positions under the 1987 Constitution.
“The process followed by the House in proposing the change in our Constitution is defective. They were treating the Constitution as if it is a piece of ordinary legislation,” Puno said, adding that the
House draft failed to mention the Bangsamoro and Cordillera regions, which he said was “a fatal omission.”
The Puno-led Consultative Committee’s draft charter proposes 18 federated states with powers to impose taxes and generate their own revenues, mandatorily banning the establishment of political dynasties in the country.
The President has been promoting the shift to a federal form of government to address the country’s economic issues, power unevenness, and armed conflicts in Mindanao.
Duterte had earlier announced that he would step down from his post once the proposed federal charter has been ratified.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, however, defended the House draft, saying it was the most practical and cheapest way of amending the 1987 Constitution.
“While we respect the observations made by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, they are sadly misplaced,” Veloso said.
He said the House version to push for a constituent assembly was more practical than a costly constitutional convention with elected delegates.
Veloso, a former Court of Appeals associate justice, also said their draft was a “compromise solution” that offered a gradual and progressive system of federalizing the regions.
Puno’s proposal for 18 states was just too expensive, he said.
“The Consultative Committee version attracted so much attention from the economic managers because it’s very expensive,” Veloso said.
He also defended the removal of term limits by saying it would not prohibit the reelection of “outstanding public servants and legislators.”
“The argument that the House only acted in its best interest by removing the term limit provisions of the 1987 Constitution is absurd,” he said, noting that the 1935 Constitution did not provide for term limits either.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, said the Senate would not be rushed into acting on the House draft charter.
“There is a consensus amongst senators, whether in the majority or the minority, Charter change and the proposed shift to federalism hve far-reaching and serious economic and political consequences, and therefore cannot be rushed,” he said in a statement.
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the proposed Charter change was “dead in the water.”
READ: Ex-SC chief slams ‘bogus federalism’