The Constitution and climate change

The Constitution and climate change

Freepik infographic courtesy

First, one trending topic at home has been the paramount proffer of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile that he favors throwing away the 1987 Constitution and pushing for charter change now – but only through a constitutional assembly.

“Let’s change the Constitution, but let’s do it through a constitutional assembly,” said the 98-year-old Enrile during the continuation of the hybrid hearing of the Senate Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes on Wednesday, coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the nationwide imposition of martial law.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Robinhood Padilla, is listening to experts’ views, reviewing and studying the possibility of amending or changing the 1987 Constitution, written by 48 members of a Constitutional Commission appointed by then President Corazon Aquino in 1986 following her ascension to the presidency.

Earlier on, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, said the “imminent danger” prerequisite for the declaration of martial law should not have been removed from the Constitution 1987 and any amendment should include the restoration of this phrase.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces may place the Philippines or any part of the country under martial law only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

“What the 1987 Constitution did is to remove the phrase ‘or imminent danger thereof,” the 92-year-old Mendoza said during the fourth hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, adding “In my view if you remove that, that will mean you cannot declare martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus until the war is already actually in the country which is not a practical solution.”

Enrile, who was at one time Secretary of Justice during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, told the Senate committee: “Charter change is imperative, it’s needed now.

“But we do not need a Con-con (Constitutional Commission), that would only cost a lot of money. Congress can do it. Why do we have to hold an election and pay the salaries of people who may not necessarily understand the problems of the nation because they have not experienced these problems?”

While acknowledging that constitutional experts should be consulted, Enrile said he prefers to have public officials elected by the people, “who have to live with the present Constitution and already have an intimate grasp of problems facing the nation” to amend the fundamental law.

At the same time, he personally favors maintaining the presidential form of government but giving the elected President of the Republic a longer term of office that is to be determined by a constitutional assembly.

“We need to amend the Charter because it is a source of our problems as a nation, and it retards our progress. As long as we have the present Constitution we will remain where we are,” he stressed.

Asked as to how Charter change could help curb corruption, Enrile replied: “You cannot change the character of the Filipino through Charter change, but you can open up the country to development. The problem of corruption is a question of law enforcement. If you jail the corrupt and seize their ill-gotten wealth, the problem will stop.”

According to Enrile, some of the provisions of the 1987 Constitution check the nation’s forward steps.

Many analysts appear to agree with Mr. Marcos’ chief legal counsel, stressing the present Constitution actually favors only the rich and allows them to invest as much as 60 percent in mining, agriculture, transportation, and so on.

Analysts note the rich make lots of money here, but they bring the profits elsewhere.

“We should have an investment policy that will protect not only the rich but also the poor. We can control the foreigners but not the rich Filipinos who control our politics, the judiciary, the executive branch, and even the police and the military. While the present setup works to their advantage, the nation suffers,” Enrile added

PBBM addresses UNGA
Second, on the same day that Enrile was submitting for consideration a possible change of the charter in the Senate, the 65-year-old President Marcos had just finished addressing the United Nations General Assembly where he tackled debating topics like climate change, peace, and stability, as well as food security.

The first leader of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who delivered a statement at the high-level general debate, President Marcos called climate change the greatest threat affecting nations and that its effects are uneven and reflect a historical injustice.

Said he: “Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb more carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the 4th most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change.”

The President said this injustice “must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now. We accept our share of responsibility and will continue to do our part to avert this collective disaster.”

At the same time, the President pushed for climate financing from developed nations in his first major speech before world leaders, urging that the “historical injustice” caused by global warming be rectified

The Philippines is among the developing nations — responsible for just a fraction of greenhouse gas emissions — that are pushing their case for more funds from industrialized countries that have prospered for more than a century.

He also called on those countries to cut their carbon emissions and transfer climate adaptation technology to the most vulnerable nations.

“The effects of climate change are uneven and reflect a historical injustice…This injustice must be corrected, and those who need to do more must act now.”

Well played, Mr. President.


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