Enrile warns federal transition paves way for dictatorship

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 22) — There are not enough safeguards against dictatorship in the current proposal for a federal government, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile warned on Monday.

Enrile, an architect of martial law in the 1970s, pointed out that the transitory provision of the federal proposal allowed the transition commission to hold executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

"There is no appeal except the goodness, integrity, and restraint of the transition commission," Enrile told CNN Philippines' The Source.

A federal proposal by the Constitutional Commission first listed a 10-member transition commission, to be led by the incumbent president. A version forwarded by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo controversially leaves the Vice President out of the line of succession if the president dies or is incapacitated.

"Suppose the President dies during the transition... suppose those 10 people will say, 'We cannot do it in the time frame that the proposals have envisioned,' and they prolong it, what would happen to the country?" said Enrile. "Either you become a civilian dictatorship or a military dictatorship by necessity."

At 94, the former defense minister is seeking a comeback at the Senate — after having posted bail amid his alleged involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam.

The discussion on federalism is one of the factors that prompted him to file for candidacy, Enrile said. He also said he was against a provision that the shift to federalism would be irreversible.

However, Enrile would not categorically say whether he was for or against charter change.

"I am for anything that will make something better for the country," said Enrile. "It could be beneficial if you remove some of the more burdensome features."

Enrile to scale down Senate campaign

While Enrile said he could still "physically manage" a Senate bid, he also said that he would change his system of campaigning.

"Probably I will not join rallies. I will not join caravans," he said. "But I will go to the people and visit them in the markets, malls, in their houses. I will go to radio stations and reach the people through the media."

He also said he would not make use of television commercials, and that he would only use "whatever I can raise out of the finances of my family, and whatever other people can donate."

"I do not have enough financial logistics," Enrile added.

The former senator is accused of getting ₱183 million in kickbacks in the pork barrel scam, where alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles supposedly funneled ₱10 billion from lawmakers' funds into bogus non-government organizations.

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan allowed him to post ₱1 million in bail for plunder and graft charges last year. His camp argued he was in poor health and too old for detention — although he now maintains he is both physically and mentally fit for another Senate term.

Enrile's critics say that if he can manage another Senate run, then he can manage to do the time in detention. He said he regained his vigor after taking up an exercise regimen when he was released.

"You may laugh at this, but it's my fate in my maker," Enrile said of his long life. "He can make it short, he can make it long."

"Maybe if I was not released from that place, I would be dead by now," he added.