- The administration of present President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte hastens the shift of the current system of government from unitary to federal, as seen by Jose Rizal back in 1899
- The Philippine Constitution Association (PHILCONSA), a group aiming to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution, invites speakers during some of its meetings so they can thoroughly teach about federalism
- Chief Justice Reynato Puno discusses four different models of federalism
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno talked about federalism during the meeting of the Philippine Constitution Association Monday, July 11, at the Manila Polo Club and went on discussing four models of federalism that other countries have.
According to Chief Justice Puno, the proposed shift to federalism is triggered by the failure of the last Congress to pass the Bangsamoro (Basic) Law. The BBL was perceived as constitutionally infirm for it grants powers to the Bangsamoro which can only be granted to a state in a federal form of government.
“This lead to a more exhaustive and critical examination of the responsiveness of our unitary government and the limited autonomy that the local government units have,” the chief justice said.
“Today we hear the threats of division coming from some of our Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao, just as we hear more and more grumbles of discontent from our local government units in Luzon and Visayas with their lack of power to effectively govern. The result of which is their political, social, and economic mal-development,” Mr. Puno added, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte decides to solve this by shifting to federalism, one of the political agendas of the national leader.
Mr. Puno said that one of the least dissected areas of the proposal to shift to federalism is the nature and extent of power that we should allocate to our federal court vis-à-vis a federal government and vis-à-vis a federal parliamentary form of government.
The following are the main models used by most countries today on how to allocate judicial powers in a federal form of government as explained by Mr. Puno:
1. British model
The British parliament is composed of two Houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The executive and legislative powers are used together and given to the parliament. The Prime Minister is the all-powerful official as head of government while the President is the head of the state discharging ceremonial functions. It is the prime minister who governs and rules and the president merely acts on vested rule.
Who has judicial power? Who decides cases? Cases are decided by different civil and criminal courts and other special tribunals, but appeals of these cases, when appropriate, go to the House of Lords for decision.
In the British system of justice, the courts do not have the power to strike down an act of parliament as null and void. The foundation of the British government rest on the principle of the sovereignty of the parliament that exercises the executive and legislative powers and the judicial power through the House of Lords. The parliament in the British system cannot be diminished by the courts because the courts do not have the power to interpret the law and annul statutes coming from the parliament.
This is based on the sovereignty of the Parliament.
2. American model
The US model of a federal form of government is not parliamentary but presidential. In the American federal government, executive power is lodged in the president. Legislative power is given to Congress composed of a House of Representatives and the Senate.
Judicial power is given to the Supreme Court. These three powers are clearly defined and they have to be exercised independently by three separate branches of government. The exercise of each power is defined by the principle of checks and balances. Unlike in the British system, the US courts are given the power to interpret the constitution and as laid down in the case of Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court has the power to strike down as null and void a law passed by Congress or an act by the President.
The principle of separation of powers and the principle of checks and balances are spelled out in a written Constitution of which the British people have none.
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The US government is founded on the supremacy of the Constitution. There is no branch of government or person above the Constitution.
3. French model
The French government is a result of a turbulent and tumultuous political history. France has been described as the laboratory of political experiments. In the field of constitution-making, France holds the Guinness World Record because since 1789, the country has had no less than 12 governments and at least 13 constitutions.
The constitution of the 5 Republic of France came into force in December 1950. France, at that time, was falling apart. It was losing its territories. France was run by a helpless government under a hopeless constitution. At that time, the war hero, Charles de Gaulle, emerged. On his demand, he was given the full power to rule by decree for six months in order to save France from disintegration and to install a new Constitution that will re-balance the powers of government and give France an effective government.
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This constitution is distinctly French in its flavor. It is a hybrid that is a cross of the British and American model. It is a mix of parliamentary and the presidential forms of government. The goal of President as head of state is given enormous powers more than the Prime Minister.
The Constitutional Council is independent. Its competencies or what we call as jurisdictional power are very different. Their Constitutional Council is equivalent of our High Court. It has four distinct functions: it supervises the election of the President and the conduct of referenda (in short, it serves as their Commission on Elections), it must be consulted on the conformity with the Constitution of organic laws before their implementation, it must consulted by the President regarding both the existence of an emergency and the measures he propose to deal with it, the rulings may be soaked by the president, prime minister, or the president of either house with regard to the conformity of the constitution of an international agreement
This Council has no power to enforce its decisions. Its opinions are merely advisory. In short, what they have is the power of preview. They believe that the power of preview removes the abuses from the exercise of the power to review.
In times of emergencies, the government acts as one and speaks with one voice.
4. German or Russian models
Their judiciary is given both the power of review and preview. There is a medley of two powers. The objective is to be able to achieve the greatest efficiency of government.
Chief Justice Puno noted that these models of federalism are all contextualized to the needs, culture and history of each country and added that we must have a Filipino federal form of government.
The chief justice also acknowledged that there are other models on how judicial power is allocated in a federal form of government. The models used in communists and socialists countries need to be studied also in the course of the country’s shift to federalism.
The 22 chief justice ended his discussion stating that Jose Rizal, Philippines’ national hero, eyed the country to have a federalist form of government as early as 1899. - Kami, Media