PH heading to 'constitutional authoritarianism' – expert

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 12) — A legal expert who is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution warned that the Philippines is partly on its way to a "constitutional authoritarianism."

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday, former 1986 Constitutional Commission member Christian Monsod said this is clearly seen in the proposed draft federal constitution created by President Rodrigo Duterte's consultative committee.

"There, a transition president, for which the President (Rodrigo Duterte) is qualified to run in the snap elections, has total powers from the time the new constitution is approved until 2022. Whoever succeeds him also has total powers until federalism is finally implemented," Monsod said.

The proposed draft constitution of the consultative committee bars Duterte from running in the 2022 elections. However, it does not bar him from running in the elections for a transition president and transition vice president.

Under the draft charter, the transition president would head the Federal Transition Commission, which shall "exercise all powers necessary and proper to ensure a smooth, speedy, and successful transition" to federalism.

However, these provisions are absent in the proposed draft constitution passed Tuesday by the House, where it guarantees that the terms of Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo would not be extended, and that the President would not be allowed to run again in 2022.

But the same draft charter, penned by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies in the lower chamber, effectively extends the terms of all other public officers until all their successors are elected or appointed.

Threat to democracy?

Monsod also noted how legal cases are used in "going after the opponents of the President," like the drugs charges against opposition Senator Leila de Lima and the quo warranto petition that ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.

While the government has pursued cases against critics of the administration, the Palace maintains that it does not interfere with the judiciary.

In a report by the U.S. Intelligence Community, Duterte was named as one of the leaders in Southeast Asia who pose a threat to democracy and human rights in the region, citing his previous statements where he suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a revolutionary government and impose martial law nationwide.

The Palace had rebuked this as "myopic" and "speculative at best."

Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, after twice having requested for its extension in July 2017 and December 2017. It granted his request in a 235-28 vote, with one abstention.

Congress granted Duterte's previous requests for martial law to be extended, while the Supreme Court thrice upheld the declaration and extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Monsod said the continued push to extend martial law beyond the initial 60-day period set by the Constitution is a "throwback to 1972," during the days of the Marcos regime, when martial rule was considered as the ultimate solution to the country's problems.

"One day, somebody will come and say, 'I'll solve all your problems if you give me total powers.' And we will give it to him. And that's how democracy dies," Monsod said.