By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
In my last article, I discussed a number of the proposed constitution’s repugnant provisions: surveillance without standards, right of privacy as a shield of a public official’s ill-gotten wealth, right of information as non-existent unless legislated, the Supreme Court quo warranto power eroding judicial independence, and voters’ deprivation of their choice for vice president. Technically also, despite his declaration not to run again, President Duterte can still be elected as president after May, 2022, because the prohibition against running applies only in the May, 2022, election and not thereafter.
Even former Associate Justice Arturo Brion observed that the Consultative Committee’s approach “would lead to a bloated judiciary” and “could lead to the unintended consequence of weakening the Supreme Court as the third branch of government, particularly as against the executive,” thereby undermining “the system of checks and balance that underlies our democratic system.”
There are still other detestable features of the proposed constitution.
It is anti-poor. Article 3, Section 17, provides that an accused shall be entitled to bail or be released by recognizance. “Recognizance” is allowing an accused — without resources — provisional liberty in a pending case, not because of bail, but because of a reputable person’s assurance that the accused will be in court when ordered. At present, this is availed of by indigent people.
However, the proposed Constitution requires that indigent persons may be released by recognizance if the risk of flight is low and their offense is probationable (meaning crimes punishable by less than 6 years imprisonment). The latter is not required for rich people.
So if a rich person, who is not an indigent but suffering financial problems, commits frustrated homicide, which is not probationable, and his risk of flight is low, he will be entitled to recognizance. But an indigent in exactly the same situation will not be so entitled because, for him, the proposed constitution requires that the offense must be probationable. The rich goes free. The poor languishes in jail. Nothing can be more abhorrently discriminatory, anti-poor, and anti-human rights.
The proposed constitution is also anti-local government in internal revenue tax allocation.
Under the present 1991 Local Government Code, 60% of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) goes to the National Government and 40% to the Local Government Units (LGUs). Of the amount going to LGUs, 23% automatically goes to the provinces, 23% to the cities, 34% to the municipalities, and 20% to the barangays. Through legislation, all these percentages can be increased.
Under the proposed constitution, although the IRA share of the federal regions or the states is increased to “at least 50%” of the taxes, it has no specification as to how much of the 50% will go to the provinces, cities, and municipalities composing them. The whole 50% will go to the federal region or the particular state government.
This will worsen the country’s existing culture of political patronage. Since the proposed constitution does not provide for an automatic allocation of any specific percentage to the LGUs, they will be at the mercy of the federal region’s governor, deputy governor, and the regional assembly. Intentionally or not, allocations may be delayed or undisbursed through the maneuverings of the governor and the regional assembly. Worse, the floodgates for “palakasan” will be open.
Now, Congress, as a Constitutent Assembly, can pursue charter change. It has a champion in the person of Speaker of the House Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). During her presidency, she also created a Consultative Committee which proposed the 1987 Constitution’s replacement. According to the committee’s chairman, Jose Abueva, in his article “Why Charter Change failed under President Arroyo,” she “decided to push for only one amendment – to change our presidential government with a bicameral congress to a parliamentary government that would be unicameral.”
This is Speaker GMA’s second chance. If she is successful and despite her statements denying interest in the top position, GMA might just be the Philippines’ first prime minister.
Any proposed constitution whether providing for a federal-presidential or federal-parliamentary must be rejected. Even good intentions do not justify the change of the 1987 Constitution. That charter is not the cause of the country’s problems.
This government’s leadership must look elsewhere to find that cause. For starters, why not heed Michael Jackon’s advice by looking at the man/woman in the mirror and tell him/her: “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change”?