CAGAYAN DE ORO City, May 30, 2011â€”The House of Representativeâ€™s Committee on Constitutional Amendments has started its series of consultations in Mindanao on charter change.
Shift to the federal form of government, allow local government units to deduct their internal revenue allotment before remitting taxes to the national government, depoliticize the judiciary, make mandatory a five-year term of office of all local government officials and allow foreigners to own industrial lands in the Philippines.
These are just some of the suggestions that cropped up during the first leg of the Information Campaign and Public Consultation on Constitutional Change conducted by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, headed by Rep. Loreto Leo Ocampos (Misamis Occidental) at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) last May 27.
National lawmakers and participants to the public consultation agreed that the federal form of government is ripe for implementation in the country, as former Committee chairperson Constantino Jaraula pointed out that 70 percent of the countries of the world are federal.
Federalism is also the answer to the Bangsamoroâ€™s demand for autonomy, said Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, CDO, PMP).
Everyone also agreed that now is the best time to amend the 1987 Constitution.
â€œBut as to the mode of amending it, we will leave that to the decision of the people. This is one of the reasons why we are conducting this public consultation,â€ Ocampos told CBCPNews in a chat after the consultation.
The Information Campaign and Public Consultation on Constitutional Change focused only on four substantive issues, which Ocampos said, are of vital important to the nation: economic reforms, judicial reforms, form of government and local government reforms.
In his presentation, Ocampos proposed the opening up of the country to foreign direct investments in the form of allowing foreigners 100 percent ownership of industrial lands.
He said the Philippines is economically poor because of a dearth of direct foreign investments.
â€œWe need an overdose of direct foreign investments,â€ he said.
Rodriguez, in his presentation, pushed the shift to a federal form of government. But as to a shift from presidential to parliamentary system, he said it is up to the Filipino nation to decide.
He said that while both systems of government have its distinct advantages and disadvantages, what is needed is to take into account the so-called Mindanao conflict into the equation before deciding on the best system to be adopted.
He explained that this is vital because the Philippines, especially Mindanao, can no longer afford another prolonged conflict after the Constitution shall have been amended.
House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo â€œErinâ€ TaÃ±ada said that one of the things that bogged down the Philippinesâ€™ march to development is the highly politicized judiciary, which resulted to a very low confidence level of the people of the countryâ€™s justice system.
TaÃ±ada said there are proposals to create Constitutional courts, which will be tasked to look into issues/cases that affect the Constitution.
â€œThis needs to be seriously looked into,â€ he said.
Rep. Rachel Arenas (2nd District, Pangasinan) presented the local government reforms.
Arenas said there are proposals to extend the term of office of local government officials into two five-year terms from the current three three-year terms.
She also disclosed that some LGUs have proposed the deduction of their IRA before remitting national taxes to Manila.
The consultation, which lasted more than three hours, was â€œa success,â€ according to Ocampos.
He, however, admitted that they are in a hurry to finish the consultations in all 17 regions of the country by September so that the collated results will be presented to the plenary for deliberation as soon as possible, â€œor before 2012.â€
â€œThere is a danger that we will just be wasting our efforts in consulting the nation if we fail to finish this on time because by 2012, members of Congress will not be interested in tackling amendments to the Constitution as they are now focused on their candidacies for the 2013 elections,â€ he told CBCPNews. (Bong D. Fabe)