MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on constitutional amendments is set to vote on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution put forward by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Federalism and Constitutional Reform on Wednesday, February 19.
After 3 hearings, the committee will now be voting on the draft resolution of both houses (RBH) proposing amendments to the 1987 Constitution. If approved at the committee level, the RBH would then be brought to the House plenary, where it must garner a three-fourths vote, or at least 227 out of 302 members.
For the measure to successfully hurdle both chambers, the RBH must also be approved by 75% of all members of the Senate voting separately from the House.
What are the amendments proposed by the IATF that are contained in this draft resolution?
Fiscal strengthening of local government units
Proposed amendment: The IATF proposed to revise Sections 6 and 14 of Article X to provide local government units a just share in all national taxes and to empower regional development councils (RDCs).
Currently, Section 6, Article X states that local government units will have a just share in the national taxes as determined by law.
In the proposed amendment, the just share for local government units stipulated in Section 6 will be based on population, land area, equal sharing, financial needs, organizational capacities, and resources.
This will be sourced from all national taxes based on the second year preceding the current fiscal year. The share will automatically be released to the local government units.
Meanwhile, Section 14 of the same article mandates the President to provide for RDCs, which will facilitate administrative decentralization. This aims to strengthen the autonomy of units and accelerate economic and social growth and development of these units.
The IATF wants to incorporate the formulation, implementation, and monitoring powers of the RDC in the Constitution. Representatives from non-governmental organizations will now also be included in RDCs.
Local government units will be mandated to allocate 5% of their just share in national taxes to the RDC. Further, Congress will also allocate funds for RDCs.
Rationale: The reformulation of Section 6 will constitutionalize the Mandanas ruling, which allowed the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local government units to be taken from all national taxes, not just Bureau of Internal Revenue collections but also Customs duties and other Bureau of Customs collections.
The IATF said that this action requires a constitutional amendment instead of mere legislation since the Constitution guarantees a just and fair share of LGUs in the IRA.
On the RDC provision, the IATF argued that outputs submitted by the RDC only served as "mere recommendations" that do not hold in policy-making. In addition, the approval of RDC proposals before being endorsed for funding from the national expenditure program requires a "highly centralized procedure."
The IATF initially proposed that the RDC be transformed into the Regional Development Authority (RDA), arguing that it will establish "effective regional governance mechanisms" that will empower authorities at the regional level.
However, during deliberations, lawmakers and local government units expressed apprehension over the creation of the RDA. They spotted potential conflicts between members that could arise from the creation of the RDA and raised the concern that funding the RDA might take away from resources allotted for LGUs.
The IATF has since revised its proposed amendment to remove the creation of the new body, retaining instead the Regional Development Council.
Political party as democratic institution
Proposed amendment: A section will be added to Article V promoting the development of political parties as democratic public institutions.
Political parties will be freely established and open to all citizens who take part in the party's program, constitution, and discipline.
They will have their own democratic system when it comes to internal decision-making and active citizen participation.
Party officials and candidates for public office will be nominated and selected through democratic processes. These may include marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
Parties will pursue public education and promote democratic values in society.
Further, political parties will provide for the equal representation of women candidates in every election.
The state will be proactive in ensuring that marginalized and underrepresented sectors may organize into political parties.
Rationale: The IATF argued that instead of political parties, political leaders are the principal players in the country's "political contests." Thus, the IATF said, parochial interests replace party interests, therefore weakening governance.
The task force added that political parties may have no clear set of platforms and programs come elections. Thus, the proposed amendments aim to establish "genuine" political parties geared for citizen participation and membership across sectors and governed by democratic principles.
Regulating campaign finance
Proposed amendment: A section on regulating campaign finance will be added to Article V of the Constitution. In all elections, the state will regulate campaign finance of political parties and candidates, both from public and private sources.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will regulate all election campaign-related expenditures and contributions. Meanwhile, Congress will update laws on election expenditures.
Financial contributions from religious organizations, foreigners, foreign governments, and illegal sources will be prohibited.
A Democracy Fund will be established, which will serve as a repository of all campaign funds and contributions.
As per Comelec, citizens who contribute an amount between P10,000 and P100,000 to any registered political party or presidential candidate through the Democracy Fund will be entitled to taxable income deductions during that election year.
Further, Congress will provide for a party development fund for qualified and registered political parties for party strengthening and campaigns. These include party work, maintenance, and activities, as well as election campaigns. As such, the fund will be drawn from the annual national budget. The amount will be determined by the number of actual voters in previous elections multiplied by the maximum expenditure per voter allowed by law.
Lastly, the Commission on Audit will examine and audit all funds pertaining to both the Democracy Fund and the party development fund.
Rationale: According to the IATF, Philippine elections are characterized by heavy overspending, including vote-buying and electoral fraud. Thus, the proposed Democracy Fund will "govern the finances" of political parties and candidates.
Proposed amendment: A section that will mandate the state to ensure "strong and cohesive" political parties will be added to Article V of the Constitution.
Party members in public office will not be allowed to change political parties within their term. They will likewise be prohibited from transferring to another political party a year after election and one year before the next election.
Violators will be removed from office, barred from appointment to any government position for one electoral cycle, prohibited from running for office in the next election, and will be required to return any party funds used for the campaign.
Political parties may not accept violators of this provision, and violating this provision may serve as grounds for the cancellation of registration.
Further, political parties will be periodically required to submit to the Commission on Elections an updated list of their members and any changes caused by violations.
Parties are also disallowed from nominating more candidates than the number required for an elective position, except for proportional representative seats in the House of Representatives.
Candidates are also prohibited from accepting nominations from more than one political party, except in aggrupation or coalitions.
Rationale: The IATF said party-switching causes factions within political parties and may lead to splits related to candidate selection for elections. Thus, they proposed provisions that will limit the practice of shifting parties.
Anti-political dynasty provision
Proposed amendment: A section will be added to Article V defining political dynasties and providing penalties for such.
The section defines a political dynasty as the following: "A political dynasty exists when a family, whose members, including the spouse, are related up to the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, whether such relations are legitimate, illegitimate, half, or full blood, maintains or is capable of maintaining political control."
Thus, those who are related to an incumbent elective official as a spouse and within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, may not run for the same position in the next election.
Moreover, they will not be allowed to run simultaneously and hold office for governor and vice governor, mayor and vice mayor, respectively.
Rationale: Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution states: "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law".
Defining political dynasties allows the provision to be self-executory, the IATF said, therefore correcting the lack of an enabling law that allows political parties to persist.
Apart from the IATF's unique proposed amendments, the draft resolution to be voted on also contains the following proposed amendments that were included in the earlier resolution:
The earlier resolution – which was previously approved then recalled – would lift restrictions on foreign investments through the addition of the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" in Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution. This addition will allow Congress to pass a law that would ease foreign investments in the country.
For their part, the IATF provided a more specific amendment, placing the exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources towards sustainable development, including the conservation and protection of the environment, under the full control and supervision of the State.
The IATF also proposed to remove the percentage of equity participation for the operation of public utilities and educational institutions, arguing that such provision may discourage potential investments.
Easing foreign investment restrictions would ensure free competition that would reduce the country's dependence on a few companies and monopolies only, the IATF said. The task force added that it would promote market efficiency, enhance international competitiveness, and generate jobs.
Further, while the initial resolution only added the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to the provision on the acquisition of private lands, the IATF proposed that only Filipino citizens should be allowed to acquire land.
In the draft RBH, the percentage of equity participation and period for co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements would be scrapped from Section 2 of Article XII.
It also adds the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to Section 3 of the same article, which provides restrictions on the acquisition of agricultural lands by private corporations or associations.
The same phrase is added to the section limiting ownership and management of mass media and advertising engagements to Filipinos or Filipino-owned and managed corporations, cooperatives or associations.
The resolution also removes the "at least 70%" equity participation percentage for advertising. To add, restrictions on the participation of foreign investors in the advertising industry may also be lifted upon the passage of a law.
This RBH is not the only one that may soon ease foreign ownership restrictions, since the House of Representatives had just approved on 2nd reading a bill that would allow foreign ownership of public utilities. – Rappler.com
Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.