MANILA – Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. thinks the move to change our present form of government to a federal system has a good chance of succeeding if the next President pushes for it via charter change early in his term.
Appearing on the Davao City radio show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, Sen. Bongbong backed moves towards federalism as the possible answer to socio-economic and social problems plaguing the country, particularly in Mindanao.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism as an alternative if Congress fails to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Sen. Bongbong is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, the main committee tasked to deliberate on the proposed BBL.
He said the draft BBL is flaw-ridden and vowed to prepare instead a substitute bill that would address the issues raised against the proposed measure despite efforts of Malacanang to push for the passage of the bill without any changes.
“If the next President will do that (push for charter change) he or she has to do it very early on—start the process on the first year (of his term), not on the last. That would at least allay suspicions this is being done to extend his term. So that’s a possibility,” Sen. Bongbong said.
The House of Representatives had tackled the proposal of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to amend the constitution and allow Congress to pass enabling laws lifting bans on ownership of land, businesses, schools and the media but failed to put it to a vote before Congress adjourned sine die on June 10.
“I think they’re necessary. Not because the concept is wrong but because the passage of time changed things and situations have changed so we have to adjust accordingly,” Sen. Bongbong explained, when asked on his stand on charter change.
However, he said speculations on the real agenda behind charter change persists because there is no enabling law providing specific mechanics regulating the power of Congress to amend the constitution acting as constituent assembly.
“I share the fear of the Mayor that we do not know what will be taken up. Once the constituent assembly is called to order, any member of that constituent assembly can stand up and speak on any subject,” the Senator said.
He believes the most acceptable method of charter change would be through a Constitutional Convention where delegates are elected by the public.
“So at least those who want to be delegates can campaign and tell the people what their plans are if they are elected. In this way, it would be clear to the public what to expect from their delegates,” Sen. Bongbong said.
As to federalism, Marcos said it is in theory a good option because it spreads power centers so that if there is a problem in one area it would not affect the entire country.
“Besides, there is recognition that each area is different, with different needs and concerns, and with different assets and capabilities. So you have to treat each one differently, and the best people to determine what is needed in that locality are the people living there,” Sen. Bongbong said.
Marcos said that in fact the country had experimented already on the concept of federalism, with the defunct Interim Batasang Pambansa, which had regional representation, although it was abandoned later on.
“So I think it’s time to revisit the concept and see if it would be the one best suited for the Philippines,” Sen. Bongbong said.