IT seems that Sen. Robin Padilla has set himself the task of proving his fitness to chair the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws. While I do not doubt the determination of the good senator to prove his worth, I still wonder why such a vital committee was assigned to a neophyte who has virtually no exposure to law.

His committee has invited some experts though, and it can be expected that, without proper advice, he will be confused even more by the many suggestions he receives.

I want to propose respectfully that he set his sights firmly on the revision of the Constitution. I have frequently written in past posts that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ran on the platform of federalism. The matter should at least be given a hearing. It was disappointing enough that no mention of it at all was made in the President's State of the Nation Address (SONA). I am sure he would not like people to get the impression that he merely "used" the organization of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas for his campaign. It contributes to the maturation of the Philippine political system for presidents to act in accordance with the party platforms on which they ran.

Skeptics repeat the line: "Kahit anong Saligang Batas, nasa tao 'yan." What that damper on initiatives to rewrite the Constitution miss is the fact that structures condition the behavior of the functionaries and officials of government. There are structures that canalize human conduct and channel official actions constructively. Structures condition behavior. That is equally a truism. The present system, for example, of tolerating dynasties or of allowing the flourishing of political butterflies has stunted the maturation of Philippine politics. Where institutions and norms are in place that promote the formation of parties as institutions of democracy and that make turncoatism politically costly will make politicians take parties more seriously. And a self-executive constitutional provision on dynasties will address this plague about which everyone complains but hardly anyone likes to do anything meaningful and effective about.

The work does not have to start from ground zero. There is the draft of the Puno Committee constituted by President Rodrigo Duterte. That can be a starting point. My own inclination is for Congress to convene a constitutional convention composed of both elected and appointed members. After all, the Constitution is silent on the composition of a constitutional convention.

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I suggest extreme caution with regard to laws protective of the economic interests of Filipinos as well as provisions allowing the participation of foreigners in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources. The requirements of intergenerational responsibility or equity must be considered for while it might seem that a more liberal policy serves our present purposes well, we may be prejudicing the interests of future generations.

It is true of course that Sen. Robin Padilla does well by listening to law deans, law professors and those who are recognized experts — or those who hold themselves out to be experts. But he ultimately must make decisions as will the other members of his committee. This is where it is of vital importance that his staff – which usually consists of young lawyers — be assisted by mature consultants who can be counted on to advance no interest other than that of the nation.

I am cautiously optimistic that Senator Robin will do a good job — but he must learn, and he must learn how to learn!

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