The Cha-Cha train rolls again

Last week, Catandunganons finally got to hear the ideas being promoted by the Constitutional Reform (CoRe) Movement, an advocacy group handled by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Among the reforms discussed during the well-attended forum at the Catanduanes Convention Center last Jan. 24, 2020 were the proposal for tandem voting where the president or governor or mayor would be elected along with his or her running mate, lifting of regulations on foreign ownership of public utilities, natural resources, educational institutions, mass media, and practice of profession, granting of executive authority as well as funding to the Regional Development Councils, and the creation of an auditable “Democracy Fund,” for campaign contributions, among others.

No less than DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has stated that the proposed constitutional amendments could be approved before its prime mover, President Rodrigo Duterte, finishes his term in 2022.

Backers hope both houses of Congress would convene into a constituent assembly and approve the proposals in time for the holding of a plebiscite before the 2022 national and local elections.

And the campaign to convince Filipinos to embrace the proposed changes in the country’s basic law has begun in earnest.

The nationwide drive is being mounted by CoRe Philippines, a project of the DILG’s Center for Federalism and Constitutional Reform headed by Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and chaired by former Masbate Governor and lawyer Vicente Homer Revil.

The group’s advocacy is also grounded on the constitutional reforms being pushed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reforms (IATF), a body composed of 11 national agencies that was created last year by Duterte to coordinate the national government’s efforts to campaign for amendments.

In a statement, Usec. Malaya said the proposed amendments are in line with the President’s vision of removing legal and constitutional roadblocks in reforming the Philippine society and addressing social ills such as corruption in government and widespread poverty.

In the “road show” at the convention center last week, a large part of the discussion focused on electoral reforms, particularly on the tandem voting, with voters expressing concern on not being allowed to vote for a candidate in the tandem who is not their choice.

Certainly, the proposed economic reforms will have a huge impact. Removing limits on foreign ownership of public utilities such as power and water supply, natural resources, educational institutions, mass media, and practice of profession in a bid to increase foreign direct investments will impact many Filipino-owned businesses big and small.

The possible effects of allowing such foreign ownership would have to be carefully studied, particularly with regards to its impacts on small businesses in the countryside including media facilities and schools. The mining industry will surely have a resurgence and lead to grant of mining concessions in unexploited areas like Catanduanes.

Sure, the proposals for a ban on political turncoatism and political dynasties and allowing Regional Development Councils to have executive authority in charting their own course would sit well with the people.

But, the important question is whether the present Congress, whose great hall is occupied by political turncoats and members of political dynasties, approve those very same amendments that would lead to their members’ political demise?

The people will know very well the answer to this question.

And they are also aware that while the CoRe claim that the amendments will address social ills such as corruption and poverty, they also know that there are already enough laws against corruption and for the elimination of poverty.

What is more likely to happen is that, despite opposition, the Lower House will approve the proposed amendments (minus, of course, the ban on political dynasties) and the Senate will give its nod after, of course, exacting their own concessions.

The change will be cosmetic as, after all, a law is only good if it is implemented. And in this country, there are already so many laws that enforcers are finding it hard to implement them to the letter.

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