MANILA – Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, chair of the consultative committee (Con-com) to review the 1987 Constitution, on Monday convened the first session of the Con-com at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.
“I urge you to ensure that our federal government will be a strong and sturdy one, possessed with the power to hold together the union in perpetuity and with the energy and the endurance to convert to robust reality the dreams of our people, however long it takes,” Puno said.
He urged the Con-com to devote serious thought on the “architectural design” of the proposed federalism form of government, noting that the design will be to determine the structure of government of the federation.
“Devote the most serious thought on the architectural design of our Federal Constitution before we digress to its details,” Puno said.
Puno also explained that although there were different models of this structure available worldwide, he encouraged the Con-com not to plagiarize and instead create one that would fit the Philippines.
”We should not plagiarize any federal model, for our model should be distinctly Filipino as it cannot be impassive to our past and indifferent to the present,” Puno said.
Puno, meanwhile stressed that the proposed federalism model should be “cooperative” and “not competitive,” noting that many regions will encounter difficult problems to become viable states.
“Some regions will be ready to take full steps to federalism; others will be able to take only baby steps and will need a lot of handholding,” Puno said.
“It ought to be self-evident that the regime that should govern their relationship is what is known as cooperative federalism as opposed to competitive federalism,” he added.
He also pointed out that cooperative federalism should be co-active and that collaborative efforts of each state is to achieve the common goal.
Puno said that he expected debates on the review of the 1987 Constitution to be “hot” but not reach “boiling point.”
“While some of our viewpoints may differ by a mile and not just millimeters, I am confident that at the end of the day, our labor of love will bring forth a Constitution our sovereign people deserve,” Puno said.
Puno noted that it was none other than national hero Jose Rizal who first floated the “federalist idea” as best suited for the Philippines but noted that his dream did not make progress.
“Rizal’s federalism dream never went further than a fetus…I like to believe that after more than a century of incubation, the time of federalism idea has now come to the Philippines,” Puno said.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, for his part, asked the committee to “listen to the Filipino people.”
“This Constitution is not going to be for us but for the brighter future of the next generation of citizens in this country. Let us make this Constitution the soul of the Filipino people,” Medialdea said.
Committee member and former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. urged the Con-com to consult with ordinary Filipinos as well as members of the opposition to get their views on charter change.
Pimentel also urged the Con-com to invite representatives from the women’s sector and indigenous peoples to join the panel.
The Con-com is expected to submit its final draft to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on July 19, ahead of his annual state of the nation address (SONA) on July 23.
Duterte earlier signed Executive Order No. 10 creating a consultative committee tasked to review the 1987 Constitution in line with his proposed shift to a federal form of government, which is among the top priorities of the Duterte administration.
The committee will “study, conduct consultations, and review the provisions of the 1987 Constitution including but not limited to the provisions on the structure and powers of the government, local governance, and economic policies.”
Last Feb. 9, the 25-member Con-com, 19 of whom were appointed by Duterte, held its closed-door preparatory meeting also at the PICC.