federalization

CHICAGO — It looks like the march to federalization in the Philippines is irreversible.

So what do Filipinos expect to get if a federal system is finally installed?

President Duterte wants to install, if he has his way, the French model.

The French federal model, which came into being after Emperor Napoleon III was deposed, paved the way for the installation of the French Third Republic. This came after the Franco-Prussian war.

Under the French model, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic enacted in 1958, the government exercises executive power, including the power of the purse. It is headed by a Prime Minister, who leads both senior and junior Cabinet ministers.

Appointed by the President of the Republic who is the symbolic Head of State, the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. He “directs or executes the actions of the Government” (article 21 of the Constitution) and in principle sets out the essential political guidelines which, except in the case of “cohabitation (coalition),” of those of the President of the Republic. Cohabitation is resorted to when the Prime Minister is appointed by his party and he does not have the majority, he has to coalesce (cohabitate) with a minority party so they make up the majority in the National Assembly.

In other words, the functions of the Prime Minister are the same as the functions of the current Philippine President.

But the Prime Minister is more powerful than the Philippine President in that all appropriation bills come from the Prime Minister, who submits them to the National Assembly for consideration.

In the current Philippine setting, appropriations measures “originate” from the House of Representatives, which forwards the bill to the Senate for reconciliation with the Senate’s own bill, before it is signed by the President.

Why would Duterte like to shift from presidential to parliamentary government?

I believe there are two reasons: 1) the ease of removing an evil Prime Minister with a no-confidence vote by the parliament; and 2) the decentralization of the power of the executive so that each region retains management of its internal affairs and re-allocation of tax resources in the exploitation of natural resources to each region that would bring about peace particularly in separatist-prone Muslim Mindanao minority.

Why would there be a need to shift from presidential to parliamentary if removal of a President and Vice President could simply be addressed by amending Section 2 of ARTICLE XI (ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICERS) of the current Constitution by removing or excluding the names of the President and Vice President from the list of impeachable officials and can be tried by the Ombudsman without waiting for those officials to be charged in court after the end of their terms?

The time-consuming, counter-productive impeachment process of President Estrada, the graft charges against President Macapagal-Arroyo and Vice President Jojo Binay and former President Noynoy Aquino are too recent to forget that Duterte wants to avoid in the case of the Prime Minister, who could be removed by merely a vote of no-confidence by Congress or National Assembly.

There is no reason why the fund allocations for local governments cannot be increased by simply amending the Local Government Code. The current Congress can do this without waiting for it to be included in the programs of the federal form of government that will be discussed by Con-Ass.

I agree with Lina, who was the only local government official who had the “political will” to have ordered the arrest of several police generals involved in jueteng (illegal numbers game) under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, that if Duterte certifies to Congress that it is a priority to amend the Local Government Code, there would be no problem for Duterte to prevail.

But for me, aside from stripping the immunity from lawsuit of a sitting President and Vice President and decentralizing the tax allocation between the government and local governments, other proposed amendments of the 1987 Constitution are as follows:

1) Deleting the constitutional provision of Section 26 of the State Policies in the Constitution the phrase “AS MAY BE DEFINED BY LAW” after “PROHIBITING POLITICAL DYNASTIES” so that such provision would be self-executing without waiting forever for Congress to pass an implementing law that would be in conflict of their interests.

2) Providing penalty for members of the House of Representatives with censure and/or non-payment of their salaries for at least six months or more when they fail to follow the self-executing mandate of the Constitution to convene shortly after Duterte submitted his report following his proclamation of martial law in Marawi.

Under Section 18 of Art. VII EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Congress should hold a special session “within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law in Marawi” after President Duterte submitted his report.

3) Candidates for members of Congress, President and Vice President and Local Government positions up to mayors, in filing their certificates of candidacy, should submit a clean bill of health, including certificate that they are of sound mind, drug-free, non-smoker, non-alcoholic and a college diploma.

4) The States promote a three-child policy, and for any additional child, the parents would pay a fine, the amount of which is to be determined by Congress.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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