MANILA The priorities listed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) are covered in the Consultative Committee's (ConCom) draft Federal Constitution.
ConCom senior technical assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso made this remark in a press conference Tuesday, saying there were several provisions in the draft Federal Constitution that could address the country's problems which Duterte wanted solved.
Among the priorities Duterte mentioned in his SONA include solving problems involving rice cartel, the telecommunications industry, environmental protection, disaster management, protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Universal Health Care, anti-corruption campaign, claims in the West Philippine Sea, Land-use Act, and the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Rice cartel, telcos
Generoso said problems related to rice cartel and telcos could be addressed through the federal charter's Section 11 of Article XV on National Economy and Patrimony which states that the Federal and Regional Governments shall regulate and prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires.
It also states that no combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed.
Moreover, Generoso said that the federal charter also provides for an independent Federal Competition Commission (on Article X on Constitutional Commissions) which can conduct inquiry, investigate, hear, and decide cases involving any violation of competition laws upon receipt of a verified complaint, or at their own instance, or upon referral by the concerned regulatory agency, and institute the appropriate civil or criminal proceedings.
So if the President wants a strong body to go after the rice cartel and bring the prices of rice down, the answer is in the draft Constitution by empowering the Federal Competition Commission, Generoso said.
Envi protection, disaster management
Generoso also pointed out that environmental protection and disaster management concerns are provided for in the Article III on the Bill of Rights particularly under the Environmental and Ecological Rights.
Section 28 of Article III states that "every person in every generation has the right to (a) a healthful environment and a balanced ecology, clean air, clean water, clean soil, and clean surroundings and (b) be protected from and seek compensation for damage to environment and ecology that is brought about by illegal and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
OFW protection, healthcare
As for the protection of OFWs, Generoso said that Article XVI on Social Justice has an entirely new section providing the their protection including granting free legal assistance to those who are facing legal problems abroad.
Section 3 of Article XVI on Social Justice states: (e) The Federal Republic shall protect citizens of the Philippines working overseas against inhumane treatment by their employers. Those under investigation, or trial for commission of a crime shall be provided legal representation to ensure the protection of their rights.
Generoso added that under the draft's Section 26 of Article III on the Bill of Rights also lists Universal and Comprehensive Healthcare as among people's social and economic rights.
According to Generoso, Duterte's anti-corruption campaign is also covered in the draft's Article X on Constitutional Commissions which transforms the Office of the Ombudsman to a stronger Federal Ombudsman Commission which will speed up the investigation and prosecution of cases and avoid inordinate delay, which has been the cause of the dismissal of so many cases in the Sandiganbayan.
It also transforms the Commission on Audit to a Federal Commission on Audit which will have extra powers to conduct not only post-audit but pre-audit as well as performance audit.
According to Generoso, the Philippine government also strengthens its claims in the West Philippine Sea under the draft's Section 2 of Article I on National Territory which states that the Philippines "has sovereign rights over that maritime expanse beyond its territorial sea to the extent reserved to it by international law, as well as over its extended continental shelf, including the Philippine Rise. Its citizens shall enjoy the right to all resources within these areas.
The basis for our claim in the West Philippine Sea is UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which gives us sovereign rights or exclusive economic rights over the water expanse covering 200 miles from our archipelagic baseline, Generoso said.
He also slammed critics who remarked that the phrase "West Philippine Sea" was not made exclusive under the draft charter saying that doing so would actually limit the country's claim.
When we talk of the 200 mile exclusive economic zone we're talking of all sides--north, east, west, south. And to put West Philippine Sea exclusively will be to limit actually our claim, Generoso said.
Land Use Act, Bangsamoro
Generoso also emphasized that the ConCom draft has economic provisions which require the Congress to immediately pass a Land Use Act. Moreover, it also gives the federated regions the power to define uses for their land.
Section 8 of Article XV on National Economy and Patrimony states that: "Congress shall enact a comprehensive federal land use policy that shall provide the minimum standards for the Federated Regions in the rational, holistic, and just approach for the allocation, utilization, development and management of the country's land and water resources.
Finally, Generoso said there also a number of sections in the proposed draft Constitution providing for the recognition, among others, of the Bangsamoro Organic Law as it may be passed by Congress.
So all of these are part of the proposed Constitution. The priority agenda of the President is actually covered by the ConCom Draft Constitution, Generoso said.
Last July 9, Duterte approved the ConCom's draft Federal Constitution in toto except for its transitory provisions. The ConCom amended them last July 17 upon Duterte's request to allow the election of a transition president to lead the shift to a federal system of government.
At present, Duterte has yet to endorse the draft Federal charter to Congress. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency