Robin’s Senate panel gets more inputs on strengthening Charter

September 21, 2022 PS Jun M. Sarmiento 239 views

THE Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes chaired by Sen. Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla on Wednesday gained more inputs on strengthening the Philippine Constitution, including beefing up the country’s defense against the threat of invasion and rebellion.

At the Senate panel’s fifth hearing, Padilla received insights from resource persons including Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile; human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares; Demosthenes Donato of Tanggulang Demokrasya Inc.; and Professor Malou Tiquia of Publicus Asia.

“Ang araw na ito ay kontrobersyal. Itong araw merong nagse-celebrate, may ibang klase rin ang selebrasyon. Hihingin natin ang opinyon ninyo katulad ng opinyon at paglalahad na binigay sa atin kanina (ni dating Sen. Enrile),” Padilla told Colmenares, Donato and Tiquia at the hearing, after listening to Enrile’s views.

Padilla was referring to the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, where Enrile played a major role. Colmenares was among those who opposed the event in 1972.

“This is not a debate. We are not going to debate. What is better is to learn from one another. Let us respect each other’s views because everything that will be said today will become part of our collective knowledge,” he said.

During the hearing, Enrile said it would be better to restore some provisions of the 1935 or 1973 Constitution, which allow the President to declare martial law if there is an “imminent threat” of invasion, insurrection or rebellion – unlike Sec. 18, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution where martial law can be declared only when these events are occurring.

“Aanhin mo ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo (What use is martial law if the threat has come to pass)?” asked Enrile.

Enrile also favored clarifying the provision of the Constitution on the voting of the Senate and House of Representatives. “Let us decide separately on any national issue of grave import. It cannot be joint voting, magiging minority ang Senado (because the Senate will become a minority). That is part of the checks and balances of the Constitution if you do not know it yet. They must be separated but coordinated,” he said.

On the appointment of judges and members of the Judiciary, Enrile favored a return to the system where all presidential appointees are subject to confirmation, so Congress can exercise its function of exacting “accountability” for public funds it appropriates.

“Having been a participant of the government under the 1935, 1973 and 1987 and all Constitutions of the Philippines… I’d rather we go back to the system under the 1935 Constitution,” he added.

On the other hand, Colmenares said he is not in favor of shifting to federalism, pointing out that it is no guarantee of progress. He cited the case of Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries.

“Look at Somalia, Somalia is federal,” he said.

In his presentation, Colmenares also pointed out the reasons why previous attempts to amend the Constitution have not succeeded – including the attempts by some lawmakers to insert their “personal interests.”

“Ang ating kahirapan ngayon ay hindi nagmula sa Konstitusyon. Kaya ang pag-amyenda sa kanya ay hindi solusyon (Our poverty now is not due to the Constitution, so amending it is not the solution),” aniya.

For her part, Tiquia stressed the need to make sure national progress will include all areas, not just Luzon or Metro Manila.

“Hindi lahat ang dapat mangyari sa bansa natin dahil sa Luzon o Metro Manila dahil ang utang ng bayan, Muslim ang nagbabayad, Bisaya ang nagbabayad (Progress should not be limited to Metro Manila or Luzon. After all, even Muslims in Mindanao and residents of Visayas help pay our national debts),” said Tiquia.

“Hindi dahil lahat na development nasa Luzon, equal na ang ating bansa. Mahirap yan… Kaya kami nandito, gusto natin ipagpatuloy ano ang solusyon sa ating problema at ang solusyon na yan ay systemic (Not all development is in Luzon; it should instead apply equally to all areas. That is why we are here – we want to find solutions to our systemic problems),” she added.