The Philippine Star
Ex-solgen: 1987 Constitution better than draft federal charter
The proposed federal constitution drafted by President Duterte’s consultative committee on Charter change is a step backward and could even endanger the country’s democracy, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said yesterday.
Hilbay, who served during the previous administration and is a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, believes the 1987 Constitution is better than the draft federal charter.
“To be honest, I’d say the current Constitution is actually superior over that particular draft. The language is not very tight. I cannot see any major improvement that cannot be remedied by ordinary legislation or by amendments,” he said in an interview with ANC.
The constitutional law professor explained that many provisions in the proposed charter are actually redundant.
Hilbay cited for instance the provisions on national territory, which supposedly have expanded definition.
“The language of the draft federal constitution on national territory is too soft for me. National territory is already established in current charter; there’s no need to create a new definition,” he stressed.
He also pointed out that the portion defining territories by historical rights and legal title may create “monsters of interpretations.”
Hilbay said he considers the transitory provision in the draft charter as the “most problematic” because it gives the President the constitutional license to exercise all powers.
He also warned that under the draft federal charter, the sitting president can declare martial law anytime.
“If you give the president power to declare martial law because he believes there’s lawless violence, you’re giving him prior license to declare martial law anytime,” he explained, saying the martial law provision is the “most dangerous part” of the draft charter.
Hilbay suggested that the provision on martial law under the 1987 Constitution is much better as it has safeguards to prevent abuses that plagued martial rule under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
President Duterte declared a state of lawless violence throughout the country after a fatal bombing in his hometown Davao City in September 2016.
The Chief Executive also declared martial law in Mindanao in May last year after Islamic State sympathizers laid siege on Marawi City. Congress extended this declaration until the end of 2018 purportedly to quell the remaining threat of terrorism.
Meanwhile, a group of Church leaders yesterday voiced opposition to the proposed shift to a federal form of government, saying there is a “sinister” motive behind it.
The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) alleged that the proposed federal charter would “pave the way for a one-man rule” and grant Duterte the power to “exercise monopoly of the executive, legislative and judiciary powers of the government.”
“There is a monstrous threat to democracy and human rights unfolding in our midst. This comes as President Duterte’s government forcefully rams down the Filipino people’s throat the proposed federal charter that will supersede the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” the group said in a statement.