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The Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung launched a new series of policy papers on Institutional Reform, last April 22, just one day after the Supreme Court’s decision on the party-list participation and the height of the discussion about a house resolution that aims to amend the charter regarding economic provisions.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Prospero Nograles graced the event. He stressed the importance of institutional reform. According to Speaker Nograles, the Philippines should “revisit the constitution because it is reactionary as many provisions are inconsistent.” He emphasized that the multi-party system and the party-list system are inconsistent with the presidential form of government. In amending the constitution, he noted that the “constitution is not for lawyers but for ordinary people to ratify.” Speaker Nograles then mentioned that the constitution should contain the intention of the people, of the masses.
Dean Antonio La Vina of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) started the launch of the Institutional Reform (IR) papers with his opening remarks. He said, “we like a free discussion, that’s why there’s no media, our goal is to make our policy makers know that it is possible that we support them with academic papers and studies”, taking in consideration the need for these papers to be carefully discussed especially by legislators because these transcend beyond recommendations. These are useful tools that they have to consider in drafting their policies that certainly affects the country.
Speaker Nograles said that he is proud, that “his” school has taken the lead to supply policy makers with useful and independent data and research on the relevant issues regarding institutional reform. Dr. Dennis Gonzalez, Associate Dean of the ASoG clarified that institutional reform does not necessarily mean constitutional reform, however many reform proposals would require also constitutional amendments. He stressed that the papers are done in an academic setting and do have an independent view. However, the expectation of ASoG is that these papers influence the debate among policy makers.
Dean La Vina also shared what the Ateneo School of Government is doing from educating and training politicians to providing studies such as the IR series quoting that “the IR series is constitutional reform at the content level.”
House Speaker Nograles then stressed the need of a closer working relationship between congress and the academe. He also mentioned that there is a particular interest of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung to contribute to stronger political parties and strong legislative bodies. “Congress is the heart of democracy”, he said because the elected members of Congress are supposed to represent the people.
Eight (8) papers tackling several issues or advocacies, from constitutional reform to globalized services were presented. Dr. Edna Estifania Co presented a paper entitled “Is there a Party in the House?” which explains the importance of proportional representation and the nature of the party list as a political party. According to Dr. Co, “proportional representation is vital for party lists.” Mr. Novel Bangsal in his paper entitled ‘Digital Convergence: An Argument for Constitutional Reforms’, explained the significance of digital convergence to poor countries. Dr. Alvin Ang presented the impact of restrictions to ownership in public utilities. Other papers presented were “Inititating Change? People’s Initiative as a Mode of Changing the 1987 Constitution” by Ms. Joy Aceron and Mr. Francis Isaac, “Are Two Better than One? Revisiting Philippine Bicameralism” by Former Bukidnon Representative J.R. Nereus Acosta, “Extraordinary Measures- Constitutional Powers in Times of Crisis” by Dean Antionio La Vina, Anna Liza Su and Edgar Bonto, “Globalized Services: Towards Liberalization of Professional and Educational Services in the Philippines” by Mr. Jaime Singson and “Islam and the Shari’a in a Proposed Bangsamoro Federal Islamic State” by Ms. Anna Su.