OPINION: Draft Constitution proposes to give Duterte decree-making and broader Martial Law powers

Raïssa Robles

Posted at Jul 09 2018 09:35 PM

Now I am convinced that federalism is but a ploy to grant Duterte the same authoritarian powers that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos used to enjoy.

The draft Constitution dated June 30 shows that the Duterte Constitution would be wide open to mischievous interpretations that would enable him to become a dictator. The draft being submitted today by the Consultative Committee contains the same sections and words that I am referring to.

I am zeroing in for now on two sections:

Section 4 of Article XX; and
Sections 1 and 2 of Article XXII of the Transitory Provisions

Section 4 gives the President, in this case Duterte, such overbroad powers—to “take all measures necessary”.

Section 4 reads this way:

Section 4. In case any region fails to comply with its obligation as provided for in the Constitution which seriously undermines the sovereignty, territorial integrity, economy, or the unity of the Federal Republic, the President may intervene and take all measures necessary and proper to address the failure. Within thirty (30) days from the intervention, the President shall report to Congress the actions taken. Congress may take appropriate action on the report by a majority vote of its members voting jointly. If necessary, Congress may authorize the President to take further actions until the crisis is resolved.

It is wide open to mischievous interpretation. At the moment, under our present Constitution, Duterte can only impose Martial Law and use Martial Law powers in case of “invasion” or “rebellion”.

This section will allow him to interpret as he pleases what these words mean -“seriously undermines the sovereignty, territorial integrity, economy, or the unity of the Federal Republic” and “take all measures necessary”.

Remember, Duterte declared a state of national emergency just for one bombing incident in Davao City. No other president after Marcos had done that. Marcos, if you recall, suspended the writ of habeas corpus after the Plaza Miranda bombing.

So I’m thinking, what if the Moro National Liberation Front or a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would declare independence and run their flag up a flagpole?

I would not put it past Duterte to interpret that as seriously undermining the unity of the Republic even if they have no capability of seceding from the Republic.

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Sections 1 and 2 of Article XXII of the Transitory Provisions gives Duterte the power to issue decrees.

In Philippine history, the only post-World War II president who could do that was Marcos. He gave himself that power to make laws and keep amending the Constitution.

Duterte is being empowered to do that by Section 2 of the Transitory Provisions. It reads this way. I have highlighted the part where it says the President can issue “decrees”:

Section 2. The Federal Transition Commission shall have the following powers and duties:

a) To formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government as provided for in the Constitution. The transition plan shall be published in the Official Gazette and in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation, and any digital platform chosen by the Transition Commission; (b) For the proper execution of the transition plan, it shall promulgate the necessary rules, regulations, orders, [[BOLD] decrees [[BOLD]], proclamations, and other issuances, do all acts to implement the same, and resolve all issues and disputes that may arise therefrom….

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What I noticed about the entire draft Constitution is that it does not spell out in detail the steps of transition from presidential to federal.


And he is being given all-encompassing powers to do that.

But what if, like in 1973, we never transition from presidential to federal? What if Duterte just keeps dribbling the ball the way Ferdinand Marcos did from 1973 to 1986?

Marcos was able to persuade most of the 1972 Constitutional Convention delegates to rewrite parts of the draft Constitution so that it was tailor-made for him. He was also able to persuade the politicians of the locked-up Congress to back his new Constitution.

He promised all of them that they would become members of the Interim National Assembly the moment the Marcos Constitution was ratified in 1973.

And so they supported Marcos and the ratification of the 1973 Constitution.

They were all fooled.

Marcos never budgeted nor called for the convening of the Interim National Assembly.

Instead, in 1976 or three years after the ratification, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1033 in which he proclaimed that the Interim National Assembly would no longer be convened. Instead, he called for the holding of elections for members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa.

That is how Marcos used his decree-making powers.

And there is nothing to stop Duterte from doing the same.

You want proof? Read PD 1033 by clicking on this link.

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With this background, please take the time out to read my piece today in South China Morning Post (HK) by clicking on the link below. In this piece, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who is with the Consultative Committee, confirmed to me that the Federal Transition Commission headed by the President (assumed to be Duterte) was being given the power to issue decrees during the transition period.

My SCMP story is entitled. Just click on the title below to read the story:

Draft constitution proposes giving Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers that could let him rule indefinitely.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.