A comparison of Cha-Cha proposals: From federalism to foreign equity

MANILA, Philippines – The 17th Congress is currently reviewing the 1987 Constitution in an effort to overhaul it.

The main goal is to shift to a federal system of government, but there are various proposals on how to achieve it.

Also included are other amendments that seek to alter the country's political and economic set-up,  eliminating political dynasties and revising rules on foreign ownership. (READ: Is there a need to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution?)

Here are some of the topics covered by the proposed changes in the 1987 Constitution. 

The following draft constitutions and documents are the basis for this article:

This will be updated as soon as other full proposals or draft constitutions are available. (READ: Duterte appoints 19 members of Charter Change consultative committee

Federalism: National level

In RBH 8, the roles of the President and Vice President (VP) as well as those of the Senate and the House of Representatives would largely be retained, with some amendments.

But the PDP-Laban and House proposals would limit the role of the President only to areas having to do with national defense and foreign affairs. Meanwhile, the position of Vice President would be abolished, with PDP-Laban and the House differing on what happens to the VP during the transition.

The House of Representatives would become the Federal Assembly, the sole body crafting the laws of the land. The Assembly would seek the concurrence of the Senate, which could only review bills and not initiate them. The Senate and the Federal Assembly together would be called the Parliament.

The Prime Minister, as head of government, would have most of the executive powers. He will be chosen among members of the Federal Assembly.

During the transition to federalism, the President would either have temporary legislative powers until the new Federal Congress is convened in 2019 (RBH 8) or would work with an interim Parliament until the next elections in 2022 (PDP-Laban and House).

In all proposals, the incumbent President and Vice President would remain in their posts until 2022. (READ: No term extension for Duterte in our proposal – PDP-Laban think tank)

Federalism: Regional level

The Philippines would either be split into 18 regions (in RBH 8), 11 regions (PDP-Laban draft), or 5 states (House proposal). 

In all proposals, areas of legislation between the federal Congress/Parliament and regional legislatures would be delineated. A House subcommittee even proposed concurrent powers between the two levels.

Meanwhile, PDP-Laban and the House subcommittees laid out a process of transition for regional governments, which begins with the enactment of a new Regional/State and Local Government Code.

There would be an interim regional government called a regional or state commission, composed of current governors and city mayors. Guided by the Regional/State and Local Government Code, they should pass an Organic Act or State Constitution within a minimum of 5 years to formally organize their respective regions. 

In RBH 8, the Regional Governor and Vice Governor would be directly elected, and the Governor would appoint members of the Regional Assembly. It's the reverse in the PDP-Laban and House proposals: the Chief Minister or Premier would be chosen by the Regional or State Assembly, members of which would be directly elected by the people.

Anti-dynasty law 

All proposals would push for the immediate passage of an anti-dynasty law as soon as the new system of government is set up. (READ: New constitution must directly ban political dynasties – former SC justice)

The 1987 Constitution had instructed Congress to come up with a law banning political dynasties, but nothing has been enacted since. (READ: Congress, not Constitution, is the problem – Monsod)

The PDP-Laban draft charter would make this restriction "self-executory" by setting up the rules in their constitution itself. In a nutshell: candidates within the 2nd degree of consanguinity or affinity of each other – including the spouse – could not run together at the federal level (President, PM, Senator or Assemblyman) and within the regional/local levels. 

GROWTH. Ortigas Center. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

GROWTH. Ortigas Center.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Foreign equity

The "60-40 rule" and similar ratios imposed on foreign ownership or equity of corporations and in other industries such as education, mass media, and advertising would be retained in RBH 8's draft constitution, but it could be overridden by future laws.

The PDP-Laban and House proposals would remove these provisions altogether, leaving it to Parliament to decide on such matters.

SUPREME COURT. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

SUPREME COURT.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Judiciary and other courts

The composition of the Supreme Court would be untouched. However, the 3 proposals differ on the retirement age of its justices: 65 years old (House subcommittee), the current 70 (PDP-Laban), or 75 (RBH 8).

The Court of Appeals would be distributed to the regions, but set up differently in the 3 proposals.

A House subcommittee proposed the creation of a Constitutional Court. It also suggested the abolition of the Judicial and Bar Council – the body that vets and gives a shortlist of SC nominees. In RBH 8, the JBC would remain, but with each house of Congress having one seat each. Right now, Congress has only one seat in the JBC.

On the other hand, during a recent Senate hearing on Cha-Cha, a former SC justice wanted nominees to the High Tribunal to be confirmed by the congressional Commission on Appointments.

The House also wants to erase the clause in the 1987 Constitution that it interprets as "judicial overreach". This move is seen as clipping the judiciary's powersRappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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