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    Open Forum with Students at Ateneo

    21 February 2017

    Q: My question would be it’s been 31 years since we overthrew the dictator, Marcos. And we have the 1987 constitution to show for it. Is it time for a con-con expanding article 13?

    Q: In countries like Australia, the marginalized are being given government allowances so that they could have equal opportunities to those who are above them. The question is, with the resources that the Philippines has do you think having an equal society like this is possible? And if it is, what is stopping us?

    VP Leni: The first question was, is there time to have a Con-Con and expand article 13. You know I would answer first in the context of is it time to have Constitutional Convention again? And look into revising the constitution. I don’t know if Atty. Hazel discussed this already earlier but a consitution is supposed to be the basic framework containing the values and principles of one country.

    So it is not an instrument that should be or can be ammended at the whim of a leader, at the whim of congress or a group of people. But having said that, the constitution should also be fluid and evolving to keep up with the times. Pero an example of this is the American consitution. Kailan ba iyon pinasa, 1776 and hasn’t been changed since. Mayroon lang silang mga ammendments.

    I’m sure nanonood kayo ng mga Netflix, nanonood din ako. Nanonood kayo ng mga TV series, di ba parati natin naririnig, first ammendment, second ammendment, but iyon nga, the American constitution hasn’t changed since 1776 but in order to keep up with the times, they just introduce ammendments.

    That’s how a constitution should be. If you’re question is, should we change the constitution, I don’t think so. But is it time to introduce ammendments, perhaps. And is it time to introduce, to expand article 13, again perhaps.

    One such section that I think needs to be strengthened is the section on the Commission on Human Rights. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the limited powers of the Commission on Human Rights but they’re merely investigatory and recommendatory, they don’t have prosecutory powers. So parang walang ipin.

    Mag-imbestiga sila, and after the investigation they will send their recommendation to the Department of Justice. Pagdating sa DOJ, that’s another ball game altogether.

    So ang dami-daming mga recommendations ng CHR na hindi na-a-act-upon by the DOJ. So perhaps it is time to strengthen the CHR, give it more teeth by giving it prosecutorial powers already. But having said that also, we also have many constitutional provisions not only under Article 13 but in many other provisions, in many other parts of the constitution, na hindi pa na-e-enact because there’s no enabling law yet.

    One such provision is the provision in political dynasties. It’s been stated in the constitution, that the law should give equal access to opportunities for public service, na dapat ipagbawal na ang political dynasties pero siyang few words after that, as may be defined by law.

    And until now, no such law has been passed yet. I was one fo the authors of a bill banning political dynasties in the 16th Congress, pero if you look at the composition of congress. Marami. In the 16th Congress parang 35 ata kami out of 200 plus members na hindi, who do not belong sa political dynasty. So what are the chances na it will get passed in Congress.

    So there are so many things in the constitution that are not being implemented. Another provision under Article 13 is that, hindi ko na maalala matagal na akong hindi nagpa-practice pero baka maalala ni Hazel, pero nakalagay doon na dapat magbasa ng mga batas to institutionalize more spaces for people participation.

    Mayroon siyang na-mention, local sectoral representation until now no such law has been passed in institutionalizing local sectoral representation. We passed that ordinance, kami SALIGAN, when I was still a lawyer in SALIGAN we lobbied for the passage of a local sectoral representation ordinance in Naga.

    But it is only in Naga who has that particular ordinance. We also pushed for the passing of an empowerment ordinance, but that empowerment ordinance nasa Naga iyon.

    Quezon City also has, I think one or two other LGUs have. But we were trying to pass it in Congress, hindi din nakakapasa. But you know it’s constitutionally provided yet hindi pa din na-implement because no law has yet been passed by Congress. So we can look into introducing ammendments but I think more attention should be given to making sure that all the provisions in the constitution are being implemented already.

    And the second question. You know we started doing a similar thing already with the conditional cash transfer. Alam ninyo naman iyon di ba, iyong CCT iyong 4Ps.

    During the past admnistration, government has allotted a lot of money, I’m not sure how much, na iyong mga poorest of the poor are given cash incentives. It’s been going on we’ve been able to document life-changing situations already para doon sa mga nagbe-benefit sa CCT.

    It’s similar to the one being done in Australia, Canada. This particular program of ours is being patterned after a program in Brazil, but it’s been working. Pero is it enough, of course not. Can we still expand it? Yes. If we expand it, will we change, transform more lives? Yes. But government has to be more efficient in the use of funds.

    This is a continuing challenge for us. Kaya ba ng gobyerno, palagay natin kaya. If we look into the controversies surrounding PDAF, billions of pesos have been wasted due to corruption. Kung iyong perang iyon binigay nalang sa mga mahihirap, it could’ve changed the lives of so many people already.

    So if the question is, will we be able to afford it, definitely. But it is the responsibility of government to ensure that we spend efficiently our resources so that we will have enough money for programs such as this.

    Q: You said earlier that the 1987 constitution was one of the best regarding fighting for human rights and social justice. As a student who is unfamiliar with the intriciacies of the Constitution and frankly too lazy to read, what are the articles that say sets us apart from other countries in regard to fighting for human rights and social justices?

    Q: What is the role of the future scientists in helping social justice and human rights? Because scientists are always behind when it comes to social justice and human rights, because almost polsci or law majors are concerned with this topic. So what if there are scientists who want to help or contribute social justice and human rights. What can we do aside from working abroad and be hired by other countries as scientists?

    VP Leni: The first question was what are the provisions in the Constitution that sets us apart from other Constitutions. First of all, I think we are one of the first, one of the first if not the first country who had a chapter in the constitution in social justice and human rights.

    Sumunod na lang sila sa atin. But we have to understand where we were coming from in 1987. The 1987 constitution was born out of our shared history, of experiencing or going through the horrors of Martial Law, of going through tremendous violations of human rights.

    So it became a necessary part of our constitution, to assure us and to make sure that in the future, no such violations will again occur. But of course that is a debatable question at this point in time. Having said that, if you go through Article 13 there is an enumeration there of what are issues of social justice and human rights that the constitution has to protect. Mayroon sa health, dignity of women, labor. Pero I think one of the more important parts of Article 13 is the set of sections on citizen engagement and people participation in governance.

    For a very long time, parang hindi iyon kinikillala. Pag sinabi nating government, iniisip lang natin iyong mga nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno. But the 1987 Constitution paved the way for more citizen participation. Parang the concept was government should give seats at the table for direct people participation. And if you look into LGUs who gave real spaces for people participation, it’s been very, the rewards have been fruitful. Pag iyong ordinaryong taong binibigyan ng upuan sa lamesa. The lesson here is usually the best solutions come from the people who undergo those problems. I think this is very transformative in that way. Because in 1987 we could not think of any other constitution na mayroong mga ganoong provisions.

    If you recall what happened in South Africa, di ba nagkaroon sila ng apartheid, pagkatapos noon ginaya nila. Magagalit na ang South Africa sa akin. Ayaw ko na sabihin na ginaya nila. Pero nagkaroon na din sila ng provisions on social justice and human rights. So bakit nagkaroon? Also because of their shared history of the cases of human rights violations, on the absence of social justice. So ang atin, parang, I think I said it in the speech, na the constitution is not just a set of laws, but it’s our story. And Article 13 is there because of the history that we underwent.

    Iyong scientist, you know, I don’t know if you’re familiar at all with Project Noah. Ang mga Project Noah, the people there are scientists from UP. And Project Noah has been very transformative also as far as ensuring the safety of our people are concerned.

    We’ve had a lot of lessons already from Typhoon Yolanda, and Project Noah came about after Typhoon Yolanda. So ang sinasabi ko lang dito parang, sinasabi natin na mahirap for scientists because we always look at science and technology as a separate area from the rest.

    Pero science and technology should be intimately ingrained in every aspect of governance and our lives. Marami sa agriculture, maraming matutulong sa upliftment of the lives of our people. Ang science and technology will make lives easier for our people. Pero kailangan siyang isipin na hindi hiwalay, kailangan siyang i-integrate in every aspect of our everyday living because I think that’s the way things should be.

    Posted in Transcripts on Feb 20, 2017