Duterte’s Con-com picks US-style federal system

The consultative committee (Con-com) tasked by President Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution on Tuesday voted 11-7 in favor of a presidential form of federal government.

The federal-presidential system adopts the current setup of a national government with three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

However, in a federal setup, the country will be divided into federal states with their own legislature and local governments. This system is being followed in the United States.

The panel shifted to runoff voting through show of hands after it failed to reach the majority number of votes from the members who were present.

Eighteen of the 20 committee members attended the session. Those absent were lawyers Reuben Canoy and Victor de la Serna.

Committee members who voted for presidential type of government were chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno,  lawyer Antonio Arellano, Dr. Virgilio Bautista, lawyer Roan Libarios, retired Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, lawyer Randolph Parcasio, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., retired Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, lawyer Laurence Wacnang, lawyer Ali Balindong and Prof. Eddie Alih.

Those who voted for a hybrid or semi-presidential type were Arthur Aguilar, lawyer Ferdinand Bacobo, lone female committee member lawyer Susan Ordinario, dean of San Beda Graduate School of Law Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, lawyer Rodolfo Robles, Prof. Edmund Tayao and De La Salle University Political Science Prof. and former Dean Julio Teehankee.

Before explaining his vote for presidential form, Puno expressed his reservations on the other forms of government, saying that “we shall be incurring a lot of risk” that the country cannot afford “as we start a federal system of government.”

He also described the hybrid option as “a leap to the unknown.”

“We cannot afford a system where we see too many moving parts of the puzzle that  we have yet to capture. We all want meaningful change, but this change cannot be hinged on chance.”

Puno stressed he voted for presidential form of federal government because the country is already familiar with it. The country adopted this system in the 1935 Constitution, 1973 Constitution and 1987 Constitution.

“In our presidential system, executive power is vested solely and exclusively in the President, a president that is directly elected by the people. Legislative power is vested in Congress, in two houses, and judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court and the lower courts established by law. These three branches of government are separate, but they check and balance each other in order to prevent tyranny of any branch,” Puno said.

“We pattern this structure of government from the United States, which has a federal form of government. This structure, characterized by separation of powers, characterized by check and balances, is the best federal government in the world.”

The committee previously voted 9-8-1 by nominal voting in favor of presidential form of government. This meant the winning vote failed to get the required majority.

In the runoff voting, some members changed the votes they previously cast during the nominal voting. Balindong and Alih changed their votes from hybrid to presidential form of government. Aquino, who previously voted for parliamentary, eventually voted for the hybrid form of government. Absent member Canoy’s vote was not counted.

The landmark decision came after comprehensive presentations from committee members on three types of federal government, namely, presidential, parliamentary and hybrid.

Aquino presented the proposal for parliamentary form of government. The presidential type was presented by Pimentel, while the hybrid type of federal government was proposed by Teehankee.

The committee is set to submit the final draft of the constitution to President Duterte on July 19, days before the Chief Executive’s State of the Nation Address on July 23.

Duterte initially chose 19 people from different areas for the Con-com to review the constitution as part of the administration’s Charter-change push as a buildup to a shift to a federal government from a unitary one.  Last week, Bacobo was appointed by Duterte as the newest member of the committee.



Bernadette D. Nicolas

Bernadette D. Nicolas currently covers Malacanang, Consultative Committee tasked to review 1987 Constitution, Department of Budget and Management and Philippine Competition Commission. She has more than 2 years experience of working with a multiplatform media group before transferring to BusinessMirror in February 2018. She earned her Journalism degree at University of Santo Tomas in 2014.