Practitioners and scholars of constitution building from across Asia and the Pacific converged in UP on October 3 and 4, 2017 to share experiences in a forum with the theme “From Big Bang to Incrementalism: Choices and Challenges in Constitution Building”.
The forum, hosted by the UP Diliman Department of Political Science (DPS) and the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies’ Social and Political Change Program, was the second Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific, which is co-organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the Constitution Transformation Network (ConTransNet) of Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne.
“Big bang” and “incrementalism” represent two ends of a spectrum of options in constitution building. The forum aims “to enhance understanding of decisions around the magnitude of constitutional change so as to better understand constitution building generally and to inform decisions made by others in the future”.
Forum participants came from and talked about experiences in the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Chile, Argentina, Iraq, Pakistan, Kyrgyztan, Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Taiwan, Mongolia, and South Korea. There was also a talk on the role of the UN in constitution building.
The delegation from International IDEA was headed by its Asia and the Pacific Regional Program director, Leena Rikkila Tamang; and that from Melbourne Law School, by Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders. Together with DPS Chair Maria Ela Atienza, they chaired the sessions on making a new constitution, amending existing constitutions, moving between a presidential and parliamentary system, moving between a federal and unitary state, and deferring controversial issues.
UP Political Science Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chairperson of the of the Philippine Government Peace Panel in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, cited lessons from the discussions applicable to the Philippines. According to Coronel, the arrival of “constitutional moment” in the country is hampered by mistrust of leadership, the question of process, and faulty arguments, among others. Earlier, Philippine resource person, Benedicto Bacani Jr. of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, cited weak institutions and political parties as factors working against constitutional reforms. (Jo Lontoc, UP MPRO)