Siling Labuyo: Moment of Truth for Federalism, Part 2

The opposition and nationalist groups have aligned themselves to coalesce under the leadership of Vice President Leni Robredo. This has probably more to do with the upcoming elections in 2019 than anything else. As for federalism though, I hope this alignment could mean a more nuanced approach to the proposed charter change. Instead of just opposing certain provisions, the opposition should put together a team of like-minded experts to comb through it and flush out the bad provisions. Counter proposals should be put forward for the bad ones. The Duterte admin might ignore this overture but it’s worth a try. VP Robredo should seek an audience with Duterte to come to an agreement to create a bipartisan group to tackle the proposed charter especially provisions considered by the opposition as being “problematic.” This way, Duterte will recognize that the opposition is serious about charter change. As it is, more posturing and focus on the “NoEl” scenario that could cement people’s perception of the charter change – unless this is the agenda all along. Robredo should emphasize that postponement can be agreed upon if the provisions on extension of term-limited officials will be satisfactorily agreed through an amicable solution. Robredo and company need to truly explore if an acceptable charter can be hashed out instead of helping cement a “no cha-cha” attitude by majority of the Filipino. This is where the opposition can really rise above partisanship and give the “best for the country” a chance. Nobody really knows whether this thing will succeed because I believe it is people and not systems or forms of government that commits corruption, frustrate administration of justice, or render justice to every Filipino as stated in their oath of office. Whether it is the current system or federalism, those with bad intent will always try and might succeed but that is why safeguards are important. Remember that both are democratic forms but there are areas of the proposed charter that are worth trying out. Now, former SolGen Florin Hilbay was quoted by the media as saying that the proposed charter is worse than the 1987 Constitution and that there are dangerous provisions that could pave the way for dictatorship based on the experiences during the Marcos dictatorship. He is now parsing the provisions and his comments could be spot on but doing a public discourse through the media is not the same as sitting with your counterparts and discussing these things. Again, this goes back to what I was saying about a predetermined agenda of poisoning the minds of the people. The idea of having four federal supreme courts appeals to me because the current one is already bastardized. Legalization of the quo warranto removal of a chief justice was already done right before our eyes despite the opposition saying this cannot be done. Bottom line, it is not the system that created this but the justices with their hidden agendas. Would a federal supreme court do better? Nobody really knows but having four positions for a chief justice minimizes this kind of gamesmanship to land a chief justice job or to do a “tit-for-tat.” Granted this does not follow the U.S. system and is similar to the Russian’s. But so what? What is the use of the slogan “Pinoy-style” if you cannot adopt something that might suit the Filipino situation? One of the valid concerns here are the duplication of services or offices at the regional level by having its own regional supreme court, for example. But having this layer is a good thing and would de-clog cases at the supreme court with some cases pending for decades before they are settled or adjudicated with finality. The term is “speedy justice” versus “justice delayed.” Now, yes the cost could be duplicative but consider it an investment for the future. If it results in speedy dispensation of justice, less corruption in the judiciary, then it could be worth it. An intangible benefit is the opportunity for lawyers to practice or hone their skills in appearing before the Regional Supreme Court to argue a case. As is, only certain marquee lawyers from Manila monopolizes such trade. With so many regional supreme courts, there’s no way for them to corner this important undertaking. A major change though is the impeachment process. Currently, the Lower House impeaches and the senate tries. Under the new proposal, impeachment is reserved to both houses under a bicameral committee but it is the Federal Constitutional Court and the Federal Administrative Court who do the trial. This makes sense because they are experienced jurists and their judgement is final. Don’t you think having experienced justices will do a better job than politicians like Sotto, Estrada, or Binay? Duterte and Robredo’s offices will be dissolved in 2019 (if approved by the people then), hold an election for the transition leader or president but would exclude Duterte. Robredo can run. This is an important provision because it addresses the opposition’s concern regarding extension of term-limited officials or giving Duterte immense powers as the transition leader. The idea of having a bipartisan transition team headed by the elected transition president – whoever that is sound. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is that some of the regions are not prepared to take on the responsibility of running the federated region comprising of so many provinces. Perhaps true because of the complexity of the new arrangement. But I agree to differ to this logic that none of the current crops of leaders are capable of rising to the challenge, of stepping up to the plate and try to hit a base hit or a homerun. Think of it as just like anything else in life. Getting married is fraught with unknowns but for most Filipinos regardless of their status in life (rich or poor), they jump into it with eyes wide open, crosses their fingers and hopes for the best. Raising a family after all, is a big trial and error. Same is true with the new concept of a regional governor and a regional parliament. This is where current governors or anyone for that matter can take advantage of the new opportunity. Incumbents may not necessarily have an advantage because there isn’t one. Political dynasts will have to compete with their fellow political dynasts in terms of having more resources but a compelling aspect of this is for people with a vision for the federal region could convincingly enlighten Bicolanos how the Phoenix can rise and win the day. The Cha-cha clamor is missing and is currently opposed by a huge majority. That is because of cynicism about charter change versus why this could be the pathway to the promise land. The country has been beset by poverty and corruption for decades since having a democracy. To continue doing it and expect to have a different outcome is lunacy according to Albert Einstein. The Philippine system of government is not truly a democratic one in practice because the country is run by oligarchs. It is really them who has a big stake on continuing their “rule” through surrogates in the current system. More and more billionaires from the Philippines are joining the Forbes list while the gap between the poor and the rich is getting wider. The opposition must look themselves in the mirror and ask if they are truly representing the true will of the people or just being mouthpieces of the oligarchs who contributes bigly to their campaign chests? Step up to the plate and be a transformational leader for this century. The Filipino people would be served better if you can help craft a “Pinoy style” charter that truly is pro-Filipino.