By Keith Calayag
The House of Representatives’ draft resolution on charter change is pushing for a decentralized instead of federal form of government, constitutional law expert and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza said on Wednesday.
“I noticed that it is not really federal system that is being proposed and I like it. I was opposed to previous proposals for a change or revision of the constitution to shift to federal system but this one is a more decentralized unitary system of government,” said Mendoza during the House committee on constitutional amendments discussion on the resolutions that seek to amend the 1987 Constitution..
“This one provides for the government of federated regions. It’s no different from the local government code so the sovereignty there comes from the sovereignty of entire nation not individual states,” he added.
The former associate justice said he likes the working draft of the House of Representatives as contained in Resolution of Both Houses 1 (RBH 1) because he is against federalism which for him will only divide the country.
For Mendoza, the dream of unifying the country through federalism is “illusory” because “federalization is an organizing principle to unite the sparring independent units.”
Mendoza also said there is disparity in regions which make them unfit for a federal system.
Under RBH 1 authored by Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, there would be 18 federated regions that would given independence from the national government.
Mendoza noted that the so called “federated regions” do not enjoy greater power than the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“Its autonomy is even less. So, in my opinion, the regions are not even comparable in autonomy to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” Mendoza said.
“It does not event have a police force of its own, so as the federated regions. I submit this should not be called federated regions, but only regions,” he added.
National Union of Peoples Lawyer Chairperson Neri Colmenares, who was also invited as a resource person in the discussion, said he does not see for a need to amend the charter to pave the way for federalism, saying the constitution is not the reason for poverty and the unitary form of government is not decisive.
The Center For Federalism and Constitutional Reform, headed by Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya is in favor of amending the constitution.
“A constitution should be a living constitution and a constitution should adjust to conditions of the times,” he said at the discussion.
Pending before the committee on constitutional amendments aside from RBH 1 are House Conurrent Resolution 1 and House Joint Resolution 3 which both seek to lift the economic restrictions provided in the constitution to open up the country to foreign corporations.