SENTRO Position Paper on Charter Change


Photo by: Jun Santos (Sentro)

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) would like to contribute to the current discourse on transitioning to a federal government and parliamentary structure by highlighting the following arguments.


  1. The vagueness and contradictory nature of the proposals remain subject to serious question. The proponents of the shift continue to promise “self-sustaining local development,” “coordinated and effective exercise of legislative and executive powers,” “development of political parties,” as well as “preventing election of leaders based on wealth, popularity and name recall”. We find this an odd alternative considering there are simpler solutions to such problems other than changing the constituion. In fact, there have been long-standing proposals by civil society, sectoral and progressive groups, that would more effectively address these issues by:

a. Revising not the constitution but doing long-needed amendments to the Local Government Code (RA 7160), to address the inequitable distribution of internal revenue allotments, and decentralization between national and local levels;

b. Passing an Anti-Dynasty Law, long-campaigned for even before the Duterte administration, but continues to be stalled in Congress;

c. The implementation of fair electoral funding laws (as well as recommended amendments to the Fair Elections Act or RA 9006), which could also contribute to fairer and more competitive elections, as well as giving the Commission on Elections more teeth in pursuing violators; and

d. The passage of social legislation such as the Security of Tenure bill (recently passed by the House of Representatives on 3rd reading), alternative minerals management bill, the coconut farmers’ trust fund, gender-based online violence bill, anti-prostitution bill, expansion of the sexual harassment law, raising the age of statutory rape and anti-discrimination bill, reforms on social security policy, universal healthcare and the like—all of which are part of addressing uneven development throughout the country.

  1. There is no correlation between a federal form of government and inclusive development. To this day, proponents of federalism continue to argue that transitioning to a federal structure guarantees more economic activity. With research done by academics and policy advocates in the Philippines and abroad—and for that matter, even our own in-house researchers in the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) and SENTRO—we have found no clear correlation or guarantee whatsoever. The form of government has never guaranteed an automatic shift into equitable economic development. If any, they have only affirmed that government form shifts only normally tend to strengthen already-existing institutional features. If the nature of Philippine institutions already foster anti-development, are we really planning on strengthening those inequalitiesat the expense of selling us a promise of change?
  2. Questionable Changes to the Constitution. There is a very big likelihood of the proposals also opening the floodgates towards making other significant edits to other constitutional provisions outside government structure. More specifically, we are gravely concerned about any changes to the following economic provisions:

a. Article XII, Secs. 10-14: 60%-40% domestic / foreign ownership division and preferential treatment for Filipino labor;

b. Article XIV, Secs. 10-13: Science and Technology provisions, at least those relevant to intellectual property;

c. Article XVI, Sec. 11: foreign investor participation in governing bodies.

While it is not our main intention to question the credibility and standing of our lawmakers, we have already seen burgeoning attempts to redefine and restrict basic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution (such as freedom of speech and freedom of information). That such proposals get a pass in the Lower House does not fill us with confidence regarding the intentions of those who would tinker with our fundamental laws.

Senate resumes hearing on charter change (Part 2)

Posted by ABS-CBN News on Thursday, February 1, 2018


  1. There is little optimism for labor rights protection and advocacy in a federal structure.If global experience is any indicator, a decentralized judiciary and policy making on labor standards do not inspire confidence, consistency of implementation, or hope of protection. 

In the case of federal/decentralized countries such as India and Pakistan, the imposition of national/federal laws regarding labor rights hardly happens, because the local elites would usually invoked “regional autonomy.” In the United States of America (the most well-known federal country in the world), 28 states now have imposed Right to Work legislation that prohibits union security clauses in collective bargaining, thereby weakening the labor movement.

  1. Impunity of local political magnates is pretty much guaranteed.Taking into account the aforementioned likelihood of local political dynasty entrenchment and the weakening of the central government’s incentives towards regulating erring local elites, we see a grim horizon for bottoms-up governance. Local sectoral, civil and political organizations will be left without any recourse or support from any other level of government (considering the very possible invocation of any conflict involving them as a “domestic concern”). In short, peoples’ organizations and civil society groups face the risk of their horizons being further shrunk, as well as their capability to scale up campaigns and advocacies virtually removed.

It is in this light that SENTRO emphatically advocates against the current moves to amend the Constitution towards a parliamentary-federal government. At best, we find the proposals too variegated and vague to inspire confidence and trust. At worst, we see the hand of vested interests and their allies to pervert the spirit and intent of the 1987 Constitution—long promulgated yet weakly-implemented.

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