“Matotokhang ba ang 1987 Constitution?”, the first of three forums under the 2018 Third World Studies Center Public Forum Series was held at the Benitez Theater of the College of Education, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City on February 23, 2018.
Members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, namely Florangel Rosario Braid, Wilfrido Villacorta, Ponciano Bennagen, and Edmundo Garcia, discussed the process and context in which the 1987 Constitution was drafted, completed and ratified at the beginning of the Corazon Aquino administration. Forum panelists also explained why they were against the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s moves to modify the nation’s Charter.
The forum was moderated by Professor Randy David.
To introduce the forum series launched in time for the commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of EDSA People Power, David said the forum “Matotokhang ba ang 1987 Constitution?” aimed to encourage discussions on the 1987 Constitution, the supreme law of the Philippines ratified soon after the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. He asked if the 1987 Constitution, through Charter Change, would also be discarded, just as the victims of killings under the Duterte administration have been.
Braid explained that when the Constitutional Commission started drafting the present Charter in 1986, they were able to integrate provisions on social justice which reflected the Filipino people’s aspirations and sought to prevent the injustices they experienced during the martial rule of Marcos. While recognizing the flaws in the 1987 Constitution, Braid said she opposed Charter Change because now was not the right time for it and the people were not prepared for federalism. She also warned of the possibility of Congress deleting or diluting many provisions pertaining to human rights and social justice.
Villacorta said that the outcome of Charter Change could not be predicted, but he favored revisions in a Constitution suited for the 21st century, which would make the fundamental law of the land responsive to widespread poverty, corruption, political dynasties, and other social realities.
Bennagen recounted the consultative processes undertaken by the Aquino administration and the 1986 Constitutional Commission immediately after the EDSA revolt. He added that the fate of the 1987 Constitution depended on the shifting balance of forces between the Duterte administration’s pro-federalism apparatuses vis-a-vis those whom he considered to embody the spirit of People Power today.
Garcia explained that the 1987 Constitution could provide solutions to this nation’s problems. He said he opposed Charter Change or the drafting of a new constitution because the administration’s context and process, headed by people and politicians with vested interests, could not be trusted. He also called on the public to continue the heroic struggle, “with both wisdom and courage, by pushing back against the politics of hate and fear, by rediscovering a brave brand of politics, by speaking truth to power, by waging a just peace and not waging the wrong war.”
The second and third forums in this series will feature possible scenarios to be faced by the country’s judiciary and law enforcement agencies during the course of Charter Change and the shift toward a federal system of government. (Fred Dabu, UP MPRO)
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