TWO retired chief justices (CJ) of the Philippines shared their thoughts, at a forum Wednesday, on constitutional amendments.
“It is not the constitution we must amend, but it is the 1991 Local Government Code, which implements, actually, the state policy that ensure local government….The synchronization, distribution of powers in order to improve, really, the status of our local government units.” retired chief justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. said at the forum organized by Colliers International.
He added: “Under the Local Government Code of 1991, Congress is mandated to review the Code, precisely, to see to it that every five years… to reflect on what is wrong and what more will be needed, but unfortunately, it had never been reviewed by Congress.”
Retired chief justice Reynato S. Puno, who heads the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution, said for his part, “Again, go back to the history of the Philippines….We tried every form of giving autonomy to our local government unit. Before, there was no grant of autonomy, and then we thought that this problem of no power on the part of our regions, on the part of our provinces, municipalities, and local government units can be solved by having this Local Government Code….The Local Government Code is not a solution to our problem.”
“In other words, pakitang tao lang na dine-devote yung powers,” he added. (The [distribution] of powers is just for show.)
Mr. Puno affirmed the need to shift toward federalism because the present system “has already brought us in hell.”
“Blame the system… In unitarianism, you have over centralization of powers, as what we have now….In federalism, we have non-centralization of powers, so the Local Government Code, it did not follow this principle of non-centralization of powers,” he said.
“If you have a correct division of governmental power written in the Constitution, not in the Local Government Code….Consider both factors, the system and the people. Precisely, federalism, we will change both,” Mr. Puno also said.
Mr. Davide answered, “We do not have to change our system. Our system is the best system….It’s because we had it since we gained independence….We have that unitary system….It’s not the system, but how it is supposed to be implemented, kulang ng implementation (implementation is lacking).” — Vincent Mariel P. Galang