The Senate constitutional amendments committee begins today (Sept. 10) hearings on the proposed joint resolution calling on Congress into a Constituent Assembly to revise the 1987 Constitution aimed at establishing a federal system of government.
Sen. Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, said it is about time that the country begins to engage various sectors of the society in a dispassionate discussion and debate about legislative proposals to alter the Constitution.
"We just want to ventilate the issues so that there would be an enlightened citizenry without taking sides. If we amend the constitution after the elections, candidates could use issues such as federalism or other issues of the constitution as focal points in discussions among the electorate. Respective senators and congressmen, who will be voted into office, can probably sit as a constituent assembly in 2011." said Gordon.
Gordon stressed that what was needed was a sober and open discussion on the merits and demerits of the proposed shift to a federal system of government.
"We are looking forward to a sober and open discussion on the merits and demerits of the proposed shift to a federal system of government. Will federalism strengthen our unity as a nation or will it divide us even further?" he asked.
"What will be our rights ad duties under a federal system? In this process of consultation, we have to involve as many sectors as possible because this will ultimately lead to a decision that will change the lives of every Filipino," he added.
Gordon, the youngest delegate of the 1971 Constitution Convention, said he will seek out the widest audience possible, especially among the young people, for consultation and education on the proposed federal system of government. In the 1971 Concon, Gordon voted against the proposed term extension of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Gordon said he would bring the consultations down to the provincial level to educate the people regarding the issue of revising the Constitution as well as get the pulse of the people.
Expected to attend tomorrow's hearing are renown constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, member of the 1986 Constitution Commission and University of the Philippine Professor Jose Abueva, who was also secretary of the 1971 Constitutional Convention.
Other non-governmental organizations also invited to participate include Counsel for Defense of Liberties (CODAL), Konrad Adenauer Stifftung, Coalition for Charter Change, Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, Akbayan Citizens Action Party, Alternative Law Group, Sigaw ng Bayan, Save our Language through Federation (SOLFED), and Filipino Federalist Forum.
The Senate-House resolution seeks to create 12 states, namely: The State of Northern Luzon, The State of Southern Tagalog, The State of Bicol, The State of Minparom, The State of Eastern Visayas, The State of Central Visayas, The State of Western Visayas, The State of Northern Mindanao, The State of Southern Mindanao, The State of Bangsa Moro, and Metro Manila, which will be constituted as the Federal Administrative Region.