Ex-senator, human-rights lawyer score moves to change govt to federalism

LUCENA CITY—On the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, which ousted strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos from power, a former senator, a human-rights lawyer and a university professor delivered scathing speeches against moves to change the Constitution and adopt federalism as a form of government.

The Quezon chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines rejected any plan of Charter change (Cha-cha) during its annual general membership meeting held at the Royal Palace Hall, Queen Margarette Hotel in Barangay Domoit last Saturday.

Former Sen. Rene A.V. Saguisag was the guest of honor and speaker while San Beda University Professor Carlo Cruz was the resource speaker of the event of the more than 500-strong Integrated Bar of the Philippines -Quezon led by its president Rodolfo Zabella Jr.  The assembly sought to tackle two hot issues being  pushed by the Duterte administration: Cha-cha and federalism.

Saguisag, a human-rights lawyer from 1972 to 1986, dwelled mostly on the events of the four-day People Power Revolution while taking potshots against Duterte, his war on drugs, the present Congress, the imperfection of the Constitution and his reliance on the young to shape the nation better than when he found it.

“No Constitution is perfect and whether any Charter change to be done is through constituent assembly or constitutional convention, as long as the House of Congress led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is an echo chamber of President Duterte, there will be no real change at all,” the senator, 78, who hailed from Mauban town in Quezon province, told the participants of practicing lawyers, judges, prosecutors and law students. Also, present during the assembly were Tayabas Vice Mayor Nick Abesamis, Lucena City councilors Sunshine Abcede and Vic Paolo, former Tayabas Mayor Wilfredo Sumilang and former Lucban Mayor Serafin Dator.

Touching at one point on the issue of Duterte’s war on drugs, particularly his policy on extra-judicial killings where thousands of suspected petty drug addicts have fallen by the wayside, Saguisag said no antidrug policy had ever succeeded whether it was in Columbia, Thailand or the United States.

“This administration does not care at all for due process of law and has no respect for human dignity so it is run just like a Mafia, but I am hoping Digong can still change as everyone of us has defects,” Saguisag said who ended his speech about an often-told story of a young boy holding a bird at his back who asks an old man if the bird is alive or dead. The old man supposedly answered it was up to the boy whether the bird is alive or dead.

“It’s up really to the young to make this country in a better shape than when I found it,” he said, describing his speech as a “sentimental journey home.”

Cruz minced no words lambasting Duterte, saying the latter has not offered anything with clarity about Cha-cha or federalism and the consultative commission mandated to study the process of Cha-cha disregarded the Constitution as its establishment was only promulgated through an executive order and not through Congress.

“This matter about Charter change is purely for personal ambition and political expediency for those in the present administration. This push for federalism will not unite the country, but will strengthen political dynasty in several provinces out of which regional states are supposed to be created,” said Cruz, son of former Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz. He added the present Constitution must be respected as it should “grow with the society it seeks to strengthen.”

During the open forum spearheaded by Zabella, lawyer Cris Buela asked if the country is suited for federalism and Cruz answered him that it will only constitutionalize political dynasty and create little kingdoms in several created states and a Charter change with it “is utter and absolute garbage.”

When Zabella asked participants to raise their hands if they want Cha-cha, nobody did.

Ambushed by the media for interview and asked specifically about the IBP-Quezon stand, Zabella said more than 500 members of their chapter still have to pass a resolution next month but their board of officers last January have already voted against it.

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John A. Bello has written for several national and local newspapers for over a decade and a half covering Quezon province. Aside from writing journalistic articles he also dabbles in literary fiction in both English and Filipino.

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