By J. Art D. Brion (RET.)
A real test arising as early as the formulation of the implementation of the amended Constitution, may come to pass through the Transitory Provisions. The President may be tempted then, to ensure a harmonious implementation, to reserve for himself powers that cut across those that should rightfully belong to other branches of government.
Indisputably, the change from a unitary-presidential to a federal-parliamentary system is very substantial and cannot be made overnight. The first steps, particularly, will be very critical as they may set the mode, the tone and the pace of how the transition and slide into the full parliamentary system will take place.
Recall that President Marcos, during his time, put in place an amendment to the Constitution – Amendment No. 6 – which gave him continued legislative powers although the Interim Batasang Pambansa was already in place. This effectively allowed him to bypass the Constitution’s separation of powers safeguard.
A similar move that would allow President Duterte to act beyond the scope of the Presidency would taint the amended Constitution and bring on a charge of dictatorship however temporary the measure might be.
Even without an objectionable Transitory provision, a messy “day after tomorrow” scenario might occur if the popular President exits from the scene before the changes under the amendments could fully be in place.
With President Duterte’s commanding presence gone and with the country in transition into a new federal-parliamentary system, political alignments and leadership, among others, could drastically shift, resulting in confusion and even chaos. Without a strong leader during this transition phase, we can only hope and pray that our political landscape does not suffer in the way that the physical landscape suffered in the 2004 movie.
1.Secession. In North America, 13 states originally sought independence from Great Britain, their mother country, in the second half of the 18th century. To achieve their end, they revolted and federated to become the country we know now as the United States of America. The states adopted a federal government, a novel experience at that time, that existed side by side and on equal terms with state governments.
Through the years, the states’ retained sovereign powers were overshadowed by the powers the federal government exercised. In one fateful development, a group of states sought to secede from the union on the question of slavery. When the non-slave states refused, a violent and bloody civil war ensued.
This is the lesson we should not forget as we do the reverse of what the 13 original states did – i.e., convert an already unified structure into a federal one, dictated by the Muslim demand for greater autonomy and by the non-Muslim grievance of having been left out by Imperial Manila.
I cannot help but remember the US secession lesson as some of our current federalists have previously advocated the secession of Mindanao from the Republic through their Mindanao Independence Movement. We should also keep in mind that our current Constitution has already responded by providing for the decentralization of local governments and the recognition of autonomous regions in our country.
Congress, in particular, has responded by establishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that is now being amended, with improvements, as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
In other words, efforts have been exerted to address the Muslim and non-Muslim concerns; remaining disagreements, if any, exist only in the level and timing of the remedial measures and could be fully addressed if only the parties would be more giving and forgiving.
Tomorrow, we shall provide for a federal structure for the nation. Day after tomorrow, despite the best federalization terms we can constitutionally provide, the issue of secession shall at some point again rear its ugly head. This is the lesson that the recent experiences of Spain and Catalonia teach us.
This development should not be surprising as religious as well deep cultural reasons underlie the call for secession; these reasons can hardly be resolved overnight, nor addressed by legal approaches and constitutional adjustments alone. Added aggravation is provided by the influence exerted by our neighboring countries with natural affinity – through religion, culture and aspirations – with those favoring secession.
I hate to see our country thinking of secession only when the day after tomorrow comes. If we federalize without looking forward to this potential problem, then we have only ourselves to blame.
If the demand comes, are we ready then to fight a war in the way the northern non-slave American states did?
If there will be secession after all, will the separating territories simply bring their territory and the covered natural resources with them, and just say good-bye and thank you? Shall the seceding federal states simply leave the existing national debt with us, when part of this debt had been spent for their upkeep and improvement? Who shall retain what, and what shall the time table be?
Or, shall we simply look the other way, as we appear to be doing now in handling the West Philippine Sea affair?
For lack of space, I shall continue with my “day after tomorrow” thoughts in my next article. Readers can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.