THE CONSULTATIVE Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution unanimously approved on Tuesday, July 3, a draft Federal Constitution, almost five months after the body appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte first convened on Feb. 19.
In a briefer sent to the media, ConCom said it “hopes to submit the draft to the President on or before July 9 — as originally planned — in time for the SONA (Mr. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address) on July 23.”
Highlights of the draft charter, according to the briefer, are its definition on National Territory, provisions on political parties, the ban on political dynasties and turncoatism, and the establishment of a Democracy Fund to finance any given election campaign.
The draft charter also proposes 18 regions — 16 federated regions, the Bangsamoro and the Federated Region of the Cordilleras — as distinguished from the existing 17 regions in the present system under the 1987 Constitution.
National Territory, in Article I of the draft charter, is defined thus: “The Philippines has sovereignty over its territory, consisting of the islands and waters encompassed by its archipelagic baselines, its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the continental shelf, and its airspace. It has sovereignty over islands and features outside its archipelagic baselines pursuant to the laws of the Federal Republic, the law of nations and the judgments of competent international courts or tribunals. It likewise has sovereignty over other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.”
“The Philippines has sovereign rights over that maritime expanse beyond its territorial sea to the extent reserved to it by international law, as well as over its extended continental shelf, including the Philippine Rise. Its citizens shall enjoy the right to all resources within these areas,” reads Section 2 of Article I.
On political parties, the draft charter said, “Every political party shall be registered with the Federal Commission on Elections which shall require that the political party submit its constitution and by-laws, platform, principles, policies and general program of government, a verified list of national officials, members of the executive board or its equivalent, and the heads of its regional, provincial, and highly urbanized city chapters.”
“Financial contributions from religious organizations, foreigners and foreign governments, and illegal sources are prohibited,” Article V on Suffrage and Political Rights also read in part.
Section 7 on turncoatism has such provisions as follows:
“Members of any political party elected to public office are prohibited from changing political parties within their term of office.”
“Candidates and officials of any political party are prohibited from changing political party two (2) years after the election and two (2) years before the next election.”
“Those who violate the foregoing provisions shall be: (1) removed from the office to which they have been elected; (2) barred from appointment to any government position for one electoral cycle; (3) prohibited from running for public office in the next election; (4) required to return any party funds they used for the campaign. The Federal Commission on Elections shall initiate the appropriate proceedings in the proper court.”
“No political party shall accept any member in violation of sub-section (a) and (b). Any violation thereof shall be a ground for the cancellation of its registration.”
“The Federal Republic shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties to prevent the concentration, consolidation, or perpetuation of political power in persons related to one another,” Section 8 under Article V read, adding:
“Persons related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, as described above, are prohibited from running simultaneously for more than one national and one regional or local position. However, in the event that two or more members of the same family are running, the member who shall be allowed to be a candidate shall be determined by the drawing of lots.”
Section 6(c) of Article V read “There shall be a Democracy Fund, which shall serve as a repository of campaign funds. The Federal Commission on Elections shall administer the Democracy Fund and promulgate rules and regulations therefor. The Federal Commission on Audit shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine and audit all funds pertaining to the Democracy Fund.”
The draft charter also said citizens contributing from P10,000 to P100,000 to the Fund, and corporations, partnerships or associations contributing P100,000 to P3 million to the Fund “shall be allowed a full credit against income tax due for the taxable year coinciding with the elections in which such political party or presidential candidate (supported by the citizen or corporation) participated.”
Section 6 (g) read, “Unless ordered by the Federal Electoral Court, all information pertaining to the contributors and the amount of their contributions shall be deemed confidential and shall be made available only to the Federal Commission on Elections, the Federal Commission on Audit, and the Internal Revenue officials for purposes of regulation, auditing, and tax credit, respectively.”
“The draft covers basically all the problems faced by a citizen in this country,” former Senate leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. said when sought for comment.
“Therefore, (the citizen) economic, social, and political rights are protected and (he) can already participate in determining the future for himself and for this country,” he added.
“All the basic principles, which we have approved today, I have absolutely no reservations,” retired associate justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura said.
“I believe that this first draft was arrived at honestly, independent of any personal motives, and insulated from any political bias,” said lawyer and ConCom member Rodolfo D. Robles when also sought for comment.
Despite every member having positive comments with their approval, some have their reservations towards it.
“I voted yes, with reservation. That’s all I have to say,” ConCom member Atty. Victor S. de la Serna said in his short speech before the committee.
In Executive Order No. 10 issued by Mr. Duterte in 2016, the ConCom shall have six months to finish drafting the proposed federal charter. — interviews by G.M. Cortez