Aquino gets new charter. A new Philippine constitution has been drafted and sent to Aquino. It calls for a bicameral, US-style government. It also call for a nuclear-weapons-free Philippines -- a policy that could jeopardize US bases there.
Born out of a revolt against Ferdinand Marcos, a new constitution has been crafted for the Philippines to prevent another Marcos-type regime. The final document, presented to President Corazon Aquino today by a commission that she appointed last May, also grants Mrs. Aquino the presidency until 1992. Thus, a plebiscite on the proposed constitution, expected by January, will be seen by many Filipinos as a referendum on Aquino herself -- since an accurate vote count of last February's presidential election remains mired in controversy.
Even after the constitution is approved, which appears likely, Aquino will continue to run a provisional government until the end of June, when a new legislature would begin to do so. This will have given her 14 months with virtual dictatorial powers, although she operates under her self-styled ``freedom constitution.''
The Constitutional Commission chose to return the nation to an American-style bicameral government with a House and Senate legislature, and Cabinet secretaries would replace ministers.
The commission narrowly rejected a parliamentary system similar to one created by a 1973 Constitution passed during martial law under Mr. Marcos. (That Constitution was jettisoned by Aquino after taking power.) And, in compromises reflecting deep divisions in Filipino society, the proposed document sets forth mandates for land reform, the economy, labor, and similar areas which are vague enough for wide interpretation.
The commission called for ``consultations'' when some policies are put in effect. But the 47-member body was concrete in defining the powers of the chief executive. In fact, the document allows the House of Representatives to start impeachment proceedings against a president with only a one-third vote of the House's 250 members. A 1985 impeachment move against Marcos, which failed because of his party's dominance in the legislature, served as a lesson for the commission. The provision, some analysts say, could destabilize future governments by allowing a minority to impeach. But the actual conviction and removal of a president would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which consists of 24 members elected nationwide.
The president's ability to declare martial law would be checked by a measure granting both Congress and the Supreme Court the right to disapprove the action. Marcos's martial law lasted from 1972 to 1981, although many of its provisions were kept intact until his departure last Feb. 25.