Strengthening multilateralism

By Florangel Rosario Braid

Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid
Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

The Consultative Commission appointed by President Duterte to draft revisions on the 1987 Constitution has been at work since February. Those who have gone through the draft would agree that thus far, the draft which is reportedly 75% complete, tackles many of our national priorities and pressing demands of governance. In fact, the Committee headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno has performed creditably and way beyond our expectations.
It has come out with responsive provisions on environmental and socio-economic rights, a strengthened Commission on Human Rights, addressed the need for regulating political dynasties and stronger political parties, and harmonized the article in the 1987 Constitution with existing international laws which firms up,  among others, the Philippine position with regard to the arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
It appears that the first draft would be ready for the third State of the Nation Address next month and that the final draft shall have been completed in August when the Congress convenes and organizes itself into a Constitutional Assembly. The Consultative Commission has been meeting five times a week in order to meet the deadline. It has constituted itself into 12 sub-committees which examined each article in the present Charter, identified gaps on the basis of which decisions on new provisions were made.
Except for the fact that all these reforms would be implemented within a federal structure, these reforms would have been ideal for some future time when people say it is time for constitutional change.
Now, the administration is faced with a monumental dilemma – go ahead with federalism and charter change or would it choose to ignore the people who, in the last survey, said they did not want a shift to federalism and any revision of the present Constitution?
A common view not only by many in the country but also in international circles is that the President is moving towards authoritarianism and also away from multilateralism, a trend which, according to Angel Gurria, former foreign minister of Mexico, is the only way forward.
Which means that we must take a turn from the forces of unilateralism and protectionism which are gaining strength in some countries including ours, through international cooperation.
In fact, constitutional reforms envisioned by the Consultative Commission – equitable distribution of wealth, combating climate change, terrorism and security challenges, as well as enforcing sovereignty and territorial rights are best achieved through global cooperation. And there are more, as globalization and the new information technologies that have increased productivity and wealth, have also brought about new challenges including cybersecurity threats and illicit financial transactions. The latter can be addressed through multilateralism according to Gurria who shows how the combination of our knowledge and experiences through regional cooperation (ASEAN, OECD, etc.) can help achieve inclusive growth.
The recent World Economic Forum (WEF) described 2018 as the year of collaboration and multilateralism. It will hold forums and discussion that would bring together heads of state, government, and international organizations, leaders of business, civil society, academe, arts, and media to “explore “creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”
Gurria reminds us that given the magnitude of the world’s challenges, no country will get far doing it alone – or even bilaterally. It is only in multicultural settings that we will find solutions for today’s complex challenges.
In our country, what appears to be one of the thorniest areas in our foreign relations is that of the West Philippine Sea. President Duterte rightly states that a country like ours cannot go to war against a giant like China. But we can call on our neighbors in the ASEAN and the international community to help enforce the arbitral ruling so that we can regain what is rightfully ours.

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