MANILA Former chief justice Reynato Puno, chairperson of the Consultative Committee (Con-com), which is tasked to review the 1987 Constitution, on Tuesday said the panel will be blind to any political personalities in crafting measures that affect politicians and dynasties, even President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself.
It was Duterte who formed the 20-member Con-com, which is composed of lawyers, academics, and other experts to draft a new charter that will be submitted to Congress for approval.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said Duterte does not think that political dynasties were wrong and would rather leave it to the people to vote for whom they want in office.
The President has two children who have been elected in office: Sara Duterte-Carpio who is Mayor of Davao City and Paolo, who was Davao City Vice Mayor until he resigned in December last year.
Last week, Con-com voted to prohibit second-degree relatives from succeeding each other in office and limiting the number of positions they can hold to only two one national and one regional or local, under the federal system of government.
Con-com member Rueben Canoy also pointed out that the regulated prohibition would affect Duterte.
It is ironic that the person who created this committee will be the first victim of our provision, Canoy said.
Duterte has repeatedly said that he would step down once a new constitution establishing a federal form of government is approved.
Greater interest of the people
In a press conference at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Puno said that Duterte himself told the Con-com to do what is best for the people.
The Executive Order as well as the instructions given to the committee are to the effect that the committee is an independent body and the President simply told the members to do what they think is for the best of the people, so that is what we are doing, Puno told reporters.
We are not focusing on any particular person or entity. We are doing this for the greater interest of the people, he added.
Asked if Duterte needed to specifically support the anti-political-dynasty provisions, Puno said that once the draft of the new Constitution is finalized, it will be forwarded to the President.
After we shall have reexamined and revised the '87 Constitution, we shall be forwarding this to the President. I assume there will be discussions and we'll see what will happen, Puno said.
Puno further said that the Con-com members wear blinders as they review the Constitution.
We are looking at the system as a whole and as I said, when we consider or study or propose to amend or revise some provisions of the Constitution, our mind will be focused on how to improve the system."
" In other words, our stance is always to be personality blind. When we think of the system we don't think of a particular person, Puno said.
If we amend, strengthen the provisions of the Constitution, we'll not be doing this for any particular person, he added.
Asked what ConCom would do if the Congress, as a Constituent Assembly, rejects or waters down the anti-dynasty provisions, Puno said: We will cross that bridge when we reach it.
Puno, however, said that the body was ready to defend the proposed new Constitution before both chambers of the Congress.
Puno earlier described the anti-political dynasty provision as sine qua non or a prerequisite the adoption of a federal-presidential system.
If you adopt a federal system, it essentially means that you will be giving a lot of powers to constituent units, states or regions or provinces and municipalities. Right now, if you have these powers cornered by these political dynasties, and if you federalize, you will not only be giving them these powers, you will be giving them what is the equivalent of sovereign powers. How can you do that without first regulating political dynasties? Puno said.
Oppositors of federalism including Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide argued that one of his main issues is that federalism will lead to greater control by political dynasties.
Oppositors free to attend
Puno said that individuals and groups opposing charter-change may submit their proposals or attend the Con-com's en banc meetings.
They (oppositors) are free to submit their papers and they are free to appear before this committee."
"More or less we know the objections of those who are opposed to charter change especially those who are opposed to the shift to federalism, Puno said.
Puno made the remark when asked for a reaction to Vice President Leni Robredo's suggestion for ConCom to include anti-federalism groups in its deliberations.
He, however, said that it would be best for the ConCom to first finish its draft, which will be the basis for discussion.
Ultimately, we shall be calling on them when we have already finished the draft of the Constitution. Right now, most of the objections are based on fears and speculations and so perhaps the proper time would be when the committee has finished its work, Puno said.
Con-com Senior Technical Assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso said the body is targeting to complete the draft of the new Constitution by April 30 instead of the original target, April 20 due to the Holy Week break.
Generoso, meanwhile, said that the Con-com hopes to have approved a draft Constitution to be submitted to Duterte by July 19, before he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA). (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency