January 30, 2009
Democracy Forum Questions Need for Charter
Wilfredo Villacorta addresses the forum. Left to right: Dr.
Neric Acosta, Atty. Chito Gascon, Atty. Marcial Magsino, Former
Sen. Franklin Drilon, Mr. Siegfried Herzog and Rep. Jun Abaya.
In light of the administration's continued proposal to amend the
constitution, the National Institute
for Policy Studies
(NIPS), with the support of the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF), held a democracy forum on
30 January 2009 in Manila to study the issue. “Would changing
the charter bring change or would it be more of the same?”
was the question the forum tried to address.
Liberal Party of the Philippines
(LP) president and 1987 constitutional commissioner, Atty. Jose
Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon started off the discussion
by explaining that liberals do not oppose change. In fact, they
are always at the forefront proposing reforms. However they study
proposals from the fundamental perspective of whether it will really
He agrees that perhaps it is time to revisit
the present constitution as it is the longest
serving Philippine charter without any amendments.
But he cautions that this is not the time as present initiatives
look to benefit those currently in power.
Atty. Marcial Magsino, governor for the greater Manila area of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
also shared the same sentiments. He questioned whether the president’s
interest in changing the constitution is indeed for economic provisions
or simply to hide her motive to extend her immunity beyond her
Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, 1987 constitutional commissioner, closed
the discussion by repeating the forum’s sense that charter
change now would strengthen the status quo. He stressed again
that it should be done at the proper
time. He cautioned people to remember how the last
constitutional convention legitimized Marcos’ dictatorship.
“Liberalism as a political philosophy
has its roots in the fight for constitutions
to protect people from the arbitrariness of kings and
queens,” said Siegfried Herzog, FNF resident representative.
“Effective governance therefore is not among the
overriding functions. Limiting power and protecting individual
liberty take precedence. These by nature impose
constraints on governance,” he added.