Citizens, officials uneasy over constitutional reforms

Catandunganons, including Acting Governor Shirley Abundo, expressed concern over some of the constitutional reforms presented in this Friday’s Constitutional Reform Convention (CoReCON) at the Catanduanes Convention Center.

They especially referred to the proposed straight-ticket or tandem voting electoral reform, explaining that it restricts the freedom of choice and infringes on the voters’ rights.

“I feel their, nararamdaman ko ‘yung fear nila… Sa akin, valid din po yung mga worries ng mga botante na kung ganyan na sa isang tandem, meron kang ganyan na “‘di type, ‘yung isa, type mo.” Ma-dedeprive kami dun sa boto namin, at mapipilitan kaming bumoto dun sa ayaw namin just because magkatandem,” Abundo said in the open forum.

The acting governor added that despite being a seated official, she was still a voter, and “[n]ag-iisip din po ako kung sino ‘yung gusto kong iboto.”

Former Camarines Sur vice governor Fortunato Peña and CoReCON guest of honor explained that not having tandem voting will lead to discord between elected officials of different parties, citing President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo as an example.

“Kung pinili mo ako, gusto mo ako maging mayor, suportaran mo ako buda ang aking vice mayor, kairiba ko. Ta kung ilalaag mo ako dyan, dai man ako magiging effective ta su vice mayor ko, suwail sakuya, de dai ako pigtabangan,” he stated.

Peña added that tandem-voting had been very effective in other countries, claiming that the compromise of voter preference was “[f]or peace and continuity.”

Mandanas ruling

The former vice-governor also allayed fears that implementing the Mandanas decision would cause even more considerable fiscal strain on Local Government Units (LGUs).

“[T]a kung ngunyan nita ini i-implementar, madederail ang satuyang budget. Magkakaigwang ning harangkawon marhay na budgetary deficit. Kaya ngunyan pa sana, tig-luluway-luwayan na ‘yan gabos,” Peña explained.

In 2018, a study conducted by a trio of Ateneo researchers noted that executing the Mandanas decision while implementing a federal system of government would result to Php 40.6 billion-deficit for regional governments.

“[S]abi kang mga economic managers ni Presidente Duterte, si Department of Finance, Budget, ang sabi ninda [sa] petition sa Supreme Court, i-implementar ini sa 2022. Ta nganing igwa kitang supisyenteng panahon para mag-adjust kita ning satuyang budget,” the former vice governor said.

The Mandanas ruling, released in July 2018, effectively extends the source of funding for LGUs, including but not limited to Value-Added Tax, excise taxes, and tariffs and customs duties.

Other reforms being advocated by Peña include removing regulations on foreign ownership of public utilities, natural resources, educational institutions, mass media, and practice of profession to increase foreign direct investments, adding executive authority to the Regional Development Councils, and the creation of an auditable “Democracy Fund,” for campaign contributions, among others.

CoReCON is part of a nationwide drive to promote constitutional reform and solicit suggestions from Filipinos by an inter-agency task force headed by the DILG and 11 other national agencies.

Last week, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said there would be enough time for the Senate and the House of Representatives to let constitutional reforms happen before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends in 2022.

Año said he was confident the move to amend the 1987 Constitution could pass plenary debate as Congress prepares for deliberations on the committee report endorsing economic amendments which were earlier approved by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendment.

Año said he was also confident that with the help of administration allies in the Senate, the Upper Chamber would also open discussions and eventually approve moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Among the broad package of social, political and economic reforms in the Constitution being pushed are a ban on political turncoatism and dynasties, opening up specific trades to foreign investments.

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