Report on charter change to be tackled in forum

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By Arjay L. Balinbin

POLICY experts and Congress officials are set to launch at a forum on Friday, April 5, their policy report on prospects and proposals for charter change and federalism.

The report is a product of a series of learning sessions on constitutional change and federalism held last year, from May to September, by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), in partnership with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) and the Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO), according to a briefer by Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco of the Ateneo Policy Center and the IAG.

Ram Toledo, Communications Manager of the IAG, e-mailed a copy of the briefer to BusinessWorld last Friday, March 29.

The forum will tackle several issues from the said learning sessions regarding constitutional change and federalism in terms of governance and human rights, fiscal arrangements, and transitional processes and mechanisms, among others.

In a phone message, Mr. Toledo said the forum aims to provide analyses of “the state of the federalism agenda” of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration and the “current proposals.”

Officials who are expected to attend the event are CPBRD Director-General Romulo E. M. Miral, Jr., SEPO Director-General Ronald R. Golding, and Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism.

On governance and human rights, Mr. Yusingco said the first panel will discuss the notion of the ruling elite and how their interests might be affected by constitutional change; the failure of the 1987 Constitution to break the overconcentration of power in the presidency; whether there are smaller and more predictable reform solutions that could resolve the problems that have been identified; inter-governmental relations (IGR) which is the lifeblood of a federal system; and implications of charter change and federalism on the Filipino people, particularly on their civil and political rights.

As for the fiscal arrangements, which will be tackled by another panel, among the issues to be tackled are whether regions still have a share in the national taxes or if they will simply get block grants; the necessity of fiscal equalization mechanism under a federal set-up; whether constitutional change will address the right issues, especially infrastructure and inefficient bureaucracy; whether federalism will make Filipinos take advantage of what they have; and whether it will distribute economic growth across regions.

The transitional processes and mechanisms will be tackled by the third panel. The discussion will focus on how the transition process will be managed.

Other questions that could be discussed during the forum are: “What should the scope of constitutional change be? What substantive changes might be required to the constitution? How should the process be structured and designed to balance elite inputs and public participation? Should Congress be convened as a Constituent Assembly? How can any reform process ever be truly robust and inclusive when there is a glaring disconnect between majority of Filipinos and the national charter?”