Friday, September 30, 2005

EO 464 Fallout and the Constitution

The pratical effects of EO 464 are being felt right now. Government officials scheduled to appear before 3 Senate hearings were unable to attend presumably because they failed to get pemission from the President.

Senator Francis Panigilinan is calling for a dialogue between the Senate and MalacaƱang because according to him
“We cannot allow the situation to deteriorate into a constitutional crisis,”.
I don't see why we can't. The Philippine Constitution is only 20 or so years old, a lot of its provisions are only being fleshed out. The question on when an impeachment proceedings is deemed to have been initiated was only decided by the Supreme Court last year.

This new EO by the President will test the limits of Presidential power. I can see the logic of the President reviewing with the summoned Cabinet members what he/she can discuss in Congressional hearings. I can see how members of the executive branch can be forbidden to testify on matters of national security unless the hearings are in closed session. I just cannot see how the President can forbid Cabinet members from appearing in congressional hearings without just cause.

Dialogue between the executive branch and the legislative branch might resolve this matter earlier and with less acrimony but it will not resolve this conflict with finality. Other presidents, can raise this matter again. The best solution is for the Supreme court to render a decision.

This is the reason why I do not support constitutional change, at least not in the process that is being undertaken. We have not yet plumbed the depths of this constitution, and yet we already want to change it.

Furthermore, the proponents of constitutional change right now want to completely revise the constitution. They want to propose a brand new spanking constitution that is bigger and better than this old one. Yet, I have not heard that the members of the constitutional commission are infallible, they can still make mistakes.

The present constitution was ratified in 1987, many of those who supported it were conscious of its many shortcomings. Yet it was ratified because the Philippines needed a constitution at that time. I fear that this kind of all or nothing proposition will again be the fate of the constitution today's ConCom is crafting. That Filipinos will again be forced to accept or reject a document that is good but flawed.

If we need to amend the constitution, I propose we adapt the American model, that we can only vote for one amendment at a time. that way, people who want for example a parliamentary system but do not want a federal form of governance will not have to vote yes to a constitution that have a federal form of government just so we can have a parliamentary form of government.

This way, we can be sure that the Filipino really wants that feature in our constitution.

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