Con-Com federal charter enables ‘dictatorial’ powers – lawyers

The Transitory Provisions state that the term of the incumbent president and vice president would end on June 30, 2022 and Duterte is not allowed to run for president in the May 2022 elections. However, he may still run as the transition president.

By TYRA AQUINO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — After three decades since the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte is paving the shift toward a federal government. Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said the proposed charter contains “dictatorial powers.”

The present draft contains major revisions of the 1987 constitution, amending provisions on the judiciary, legislative, and executive powers. It also added new provisions on the transition period.

The Transitory Provisions state that the term of the incumbent president and vice president would end on June 30, 2022 and Duterte is not allowed to run for president in the May 2022 elections. However, he may still run as the transition president.

The transition president will head a ten-member Federal Transition Commission. All members will be appointed by the transition president. The Transition Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, and all living former presidents, as ex-officio members, are also a part of the commission.

The Federal Transition Commission has the power to:
a. To formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government as provided for in the Constitution. The transition plan shall be published in the Official Gazette and in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation, and any digital platform chosen by the Transition Commission;
b. For the proper execution of the transition plan, it shall promulgate the necessary rules, regulations, orders, decrees, proclamations, and other issuances, do all acts to implement the same, and resolve all issues and disputes that may arise there from;
c. To organize, reorganize and fully establish the Federal Government and the governments of the Federated Regions, in accordance with the Constitution;
d. To exercise all powers necessary and proper to ensure a smooth, speedy and success full transition.

In a forum, July 20 at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Colmenares added that the duties of the Federal Transition Commission overlap with the authority of the legislative and judicial branches.

Under the Article III Section 14 of the Bill of Rights, “lawless violence” is added to the grounds for suspending the writ of habeas corpus. The 1987 Constitution allows only two grounds for such suspension: invasion or rebellion.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares says the proposed charter contains “dictatorial powers.” (Photo by Tyra Aquino / Bulatlat)

“What is ironic is that if the Constitution were to be ratified today, the President could suspend the writ of habeas corpus and declare martial law on the grounds that thousands of drug suspects have been killed. Likewise, lawyers, mayors, priests, and activists have been killed. The sheer number of killings already constitutes lawless violence” said Colmenares.

Judicial system under federalism

Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno pointed out that the federal system “compromises the justice system.”

Under the Federal Constitution, the country will have four courts of constitutional jurisdiction: the Federal Supreme Court, the Federal Constitutional Court, the Federal Administrative Court, and the Federal Electoral Court. The decisions rendered by the courts will be final and executory.

However, there are unclear delineations on the jurisdictions of these courts, since the draft constitution does not state which matters should be handled by each respective court.
“What is the future facing the rule of law if two courts can have conflicting opinions and decisions on the same matters, and there is no provision on settling the disputes between the two courts themselves?” said Sereno.

Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno points out that the federal system “compromises the justice system.” (Photo by Tyra Aquino/Bulatlat.com)

Sereno noted that under the proposed system, lawmakers can ask the courts for advisory opinions.

“When there would be a request for an advisory opinion, the court becomes part of the legislative process. What will happen to judicial independence then? There would arise a conflict of interest that will compromise the rights of the people,” said Sereno.

The Consultative Committee submitted the draft to President Duterte last July 9. Duterte has approved and will endorse the draft constitution to Congress, which has appropriated the mandate to revise the 1987 Constitution. ()

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