Former SolGen: Transition commission paves way for revolutionary government

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines,  July 12) — The transition commission to federalism might just pave the way for a revolutionary government, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay warned Thursday.

"What's dangerous with the current draft is that it basically allows the transition government, under this President, to have all the powers of a revolutionary government," Hilbay told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"[He can] exercise legislative power, exercise even judicial powers. He can reorganize the entire government for three years... He can fire justices of the Supreme Court he doesn't want, the current Ombudsman, members of constitutional commissions, governors, mayors."

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare a revolutionary government and clear all government positions if attempts to "destabilize" the government worsened. He later backtracked on the claim.

The Federal Transition Commission is provided for in the draft Federal Constitution prepared by the Consultative Committee (ConCom). The proposed charter was forwarded to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be a guide for Congress as it deliberates on charter change.

There were initial fears that Duterte could spend a total of 14 years in power under the new charter. The draft constitution does not ban Duterte from seeking re-election, and a president under the government is allowed to serve two terms.

But Duterte has urged the ConCom to push for a transition president to be elected by 2019. He has maintained he wants to retire by next year, three years short of his term.

However, the President is also known for changing is mind; he had also publicly proclaimed he would not run for the presidency.

Hilbay, for one, does not buy that Duterte wants to step down so soon.

"I don't believe it," he said. "It's clear what they want simply is to bypass the elections next year and find a way by which they can extend their term."

As Duterte has insisted he will be out by 2019, his allies are not so sure. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez noted he still has a six-year contract with the Filipino people.

RELATED: DILG wants plebiscite for federal charter beyond 2019 elections

While ConCom wants a plebiscite and transitory leader elections by next year, Alvarez wants to postpone elections to 2022. The idea has caused concern that lawmakers will benefit from a term extension.

Hilbay also noted resistance to federalism on the ground.

A Pulse Asia survey from May this year said that most Filipinos were opposed to federalism. The findings also showed that only half of the respondents knew of proposals to change the constitution, and only a quarter had "sufficient" knowledge of the charter.

"The agents of the people are pushing an agenda that the people don't want," he said.

The former Solicitor General said that it was up to the people to stop the charter change train.

"I think if people speak loudly enough to communicate not just to the President but to all of his allies that this is too dangerous... then at some point, these people are going to listen," said Hilbay.