FORMER Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, now Chief Legal Counsel of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., went back to the Senate on Wednesday as a resource person of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes tasked to review provisions of the 1987 Constitution and proposed amendments.
Staying for two hours, Enrile, 98, exchanged views with senators led by presiding committee chairman Senator Robinhood Padilla, sharing his recollection of the September 21,1972 declaration of martial law during the term of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., stressing it was “done to deter the rise of communism in the country.” He was then defense secretary and chief implementer of martial law.
At Wednesday’s Senate panel hearing, Enrile confirmed supporting pending proposals to restore provisions of the 1935 Constitution in any new charter amendments, citing the one that subjects all judges to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
He asserted that the 1935 Constitution was better than the present one in terms of “ensuring accountability,” because then, Congress could hold people accountable “for every peso that it appropriates.”
Moreover, Enrile recalled that during his incumbency, “Only a few prosecutors were bad eggs,” ruing that now corruption is “rampant” with government having “virtually no control” over how the funds appropriated are spent.
Summing up the hearing, Padilla, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, noted that “the panel gained more inputs on strengthening the Philippine Constitution, including beefing up the country’s defense against the threat of invasion and rebellion.”
Padilla also acknowledged gaining insights from the resource persons led by Enrile; human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares; Demosthenes Donato of Tanggulang Demokrasya Inc.; and Professor Malou Tiquia of Publicus Asia.
Padilla added: “Ang araw na ito ay kontrobersyal. Itong araw merong nagse-celebrate, may ibang klase rin ang selebrasyon. Hihingin natin ang opinyon ninyo katulad ng opinyon at paglalahad na binigay sa atin kanina [ni dating Sen. Enrile],” Padilla told Colmenares, Donato and Tiquia at the hearing, after listening to Enrile’s views.
(“Today is a controversial day because different groups commemorate it differently. We are asking for your opinions, in the same way that we sought those of former Senator Enrile).”
Padilla was referring to the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in 1972, where Enrile played a major role. Colmenares was among those who opposed the declaration in 1972.
During the hearing, Enrile said it would be better to restore some provisions of the 1935 or 1973 Constitution, which allow the President to declare martial law if there is an “imminent threat” of invasion, insurrection or rebellion—unlike Sec. 18, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution where martial law can be declared only when these events are occurring.
“Aanhin mo ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo (What use is martial law if the threat has come to pass)?” asked Enrile.
Enrile also favored clarifying the provision of the Constitution on the voting of the Senate and House of Representatives. He favored both houses voting separately. “Let us decide separately on any national issue of grave import. It cannot be joint voting, magiging minority ang Senado (because the Senate will become a minority). That is part of the checks and balances of the Constitution if you do not know it yet,” he said.
“They must be separated but coordinated,” he explained.
On the appointment of judges and members of the Judiciary, Enrile favored a return to the system where all presidential appointees are subject to confirmation, so Congress can exercise its function of exacting “accountability” for public funds it appropriates.
“Having been a participant of the government under the 1935, 1973 and 1987 and all Constitutions of the Philippines… I’d rather we go back to the system under the 1935 Constitution,” he added.
On the other hand, Colmenares said he is not in favor of shifting to federalism, pointing out that it is no guarantee of progress. He cited the case of Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries. “Look at Somalia, Somalia is federal,” he said.
In his presentation, Colmenares also pointed out the reasons why previous attempts to amend the Constitution have not succeeded – including the attempts by some lawmakers to insert their “personal interests.”
“Ang ating kahirapan ngayon ay hindi nagmula sa Konstitusyon. Kaya ang pag-amyenda sa kanya ay hindi solusyon (Our poverty now is not due to the Constitution, so amending it is not the solution),” aniya.
For her part, Tiquia stressed the need to make sure national progress will include all areas, not just Luzon or Metro Manila.
“Hindi lahat ang dapat mangyari sa bansa natin dahil sa Luzon o Metro Manila dahil ang utang ng bayan, Muslim ang nagbabayad, Bisaya ang nagbabayad (Progress should not be limited to Metro Manila or Luzon. After all, even Muslims in Mindanao and residents of Visayas help pay our national debts),” said Tiquia.
“Hindi dahil lahat na development nasa Luzon, equal na ang ating bansa. Mahirap yan… Kaya kami nandito, gusto natin ipagpatuloy ano ang solusyon sa ating problema at ang solusyon na yan ay systemic (Not all development is in Luzon; it should instead apply equally to all areas. That is why we are here – we want to find solutions to our systemic problems),” she added. -30-
Image credits: Nonie Reyes