Monday, February 26, 2018

Lawyers oppose Federalism

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The Quezon chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has declared its opposition to the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to change the 1987 Constitution for a shift from a unitary form to a federal system of government.

During its annual general membership meeting on Saturday, 38 chapter members who registered for the event unanimously declared their opposition to charter change. IBP-Quezon has more 400 members.

Rodolfo Zabella Jr., Quezon-IBP president, claimed that the entire general membership was not in favor of amending the present Constitution.

“No one is in favor,” Zabella stressed.

He said the organization would soon adopt a formal resolution against the planned charter change of the Duterte administration.

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, who was one of the guest speakers in the event, reiterated his opposition to charter change.

But should the planned amendments on some provisions of the Constitution push through, Saguisag said it should not be left at the hands of the country’s legislators in a constituent assembly.

“Congress is like an echo chamber on whatever Bobot Alvarez [House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez] says,” Saguisag said.

The veteran human rights lawyer said: “This Constitution may not be perfect, but let us make sure that we will not come up with a worst one. Will it be a change for the better? Or will it be a change for the worst?”

Professor Carlo Cruz, a constitutional law expert who was also a guest speaker at the meeting, contradicted the assertion of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno that the victory of Duterte in the last election was a declaration of the people’s support to his federalism plan.

“With utmost respect to the chief justice, I think his mathematics was misplaced,” said Cruz, a bar reviewer and noted law books author. “While it may be true that 15.9 plus million elected this president, the chief justice forgets that more than 25 million voted against this president.”

Cruz noted that the country’s two experiences with a unicameral system were both failures.

“It is a matter of record. So why persist with this nonsense?” he said.

He lambasted the government propaganda that the shift to federalism would unite the country.

“They will actually divide this country,” Cruz said.

Cruz, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz, scoffed at Duterte’s domineering treatment of the Filipinos.

“He [Duterte] speaks as though all Filipinos are afraid of him. I have news for him. That is not true,” he said.

Cruz said Filipinos know when they are being “duped and deceived.”

“Filipinos finally and eventually will fight back,” he warned.

“The people are starting to speak out very vocally against many actions and statements of this administration. If it wants to survive, it would have to hear what the people are saying,” he said.

Zabella said Quezon-IBP would engage in massive information and political conscientization campaign to push the “silent majority” in the province to move and oppose the illegal acts of the Duterte administration.

He recalled that Quezon province has been known as the bastion of the political opposition.

“The silence of Quezon province now is quite surprising,” Zabella said.

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