By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

POLITICAL CHARTER CHANGE. Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Larry Gadon writes a letter to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday (April 1, 2024) to propose political amendments to the 1987 Constitution. In his letter, Gadon said amending the political provisions of the 1987 Constitution could lead to improved governance and yield greater benefits for the people. (Photo from Larry Gadon)

MANILA – Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Larry Gadon has urged Congress to consider amending the political provisions of the 1987 Constitution, saying such reforms could lead to improved governance and yield greater benefits for the people.

In an April 1 letter addressed to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Gadon said he hoped that lawmakers would also introduce amendments to certain political provisions that have been proven to be “costly and redundant.”

Gadon urged Congress to consider the shift from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government, with the Prime Minister position shared by the Senate President and House Speaker.

“Cabinet ministers would be appointed by the Prime Minister, responsible for daily government affairs and subject to removal by a vote of no confidence,” Gadon said in his letter which was made public on Wednesday.

He also proposed the designation of the President as Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and Head of Foreign Relations.

Gadon said the President, under the proposed constitutional reforms, must have the power to appoint members of the judiciary and constitutional commissions and may recommend the removal of Cabinet ministers.

“The President and Vice President should be elected as a single team, with the Vice President assisting the President,” he said.

To dispel perceptions of extending incumbent officials’ terms, Gadon suggested that the term limit for the president, vice president, and senators should be maintained, “with no possibility of reelection,” adding that the existing provisions on succession should also be retained.

Gadon also asked Congress to consider increasing the number of senators from 24 to 48 to enhance efficiency.

“With fewer committee assignments, each senator can actively participate in discussions, promoting better governance practices,” he said.

He also recommended the term extension of members of the House of Representatives and local officials such as governors, vice governors, board members, mayors, vice mayors, and councilors to six years.

He said triennial elections incur substantial costs, draining billions in public funds and imposing financial burdens on candidates.

“For local executives, the initial year involves familiarizing themselves with office functions and departments, with subsequent years dedicated to project planning, budgeting, and campaigning. Synchronizing local and national elections, except for Barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections, would enhance governance continuity,” Gadon said.

“The extended term should take effect in the 2028 national elections, ensuring that local officials who have served the present three consecutive terms cannot run in 2028 but may do so in subsequent national elections,” he added.

Lawmakers are currently eyeing revisions to the economic provisions of the Constitution to entice more investments and spur economic growth in the country.

Gadon also made several suggestions on economic reforms, saying Congress may also explore reverting ownership, management, and control of public utilities like power and water back to the government, with a transition plan compensating private companies fairly.

He added that Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act should be repealed to allow the government to own and operate energy plants.

“Charter Change is a rare opportunity that demands meaningful changes benefiting our nation and future generations. Let us seize this moment to enact comprehensive reforms,” he told Zubiri and Romualdez. “Additional amendments to political and economic provisions may be proposed by both chambers. The above suggestions are offered for your consideration.”

In January this year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. also expressed openness to possible amendments to the political provisions of the Constitution, particularly on term limits.

Marcos, however, clarified that his priority for now is to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution. (PNA)