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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines