ConCom chairman and former chief justice Reynato Puno explained the “essence” of a federal structure was that it can no longer return to a unitary structure. The provision is contained in Section 4 of Article XXI on Amendments or Revision.
"Yan ang essence ng itong Federal Constitution e. Makikita mo din yung provisions na yan sa ibang Constitution (That is the essence of this Federal Constitution. You will see provisions like that in other Constitutions),” Puno told reporters in an interview in Pasay City.
“Kung halimbawa kung gusto nilang hindi na Federal Government, papalitan lang nila yung buong Constitution (For example, people no longer want a Federal Government, they can just replace the entire Constitution),” he added.
ConCom senior technical assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso allayed fears of some lawyers that the form of government could no longer be changed.
”You can change the form of government but it still has to have a federal structure. It can be federal-parliamentary. But you cannot return to unitary,” Generoso said.
Asked if there are other constitutions with similar provisions, Generoso cited that of the country’s longstanding ally, the United States.
“But it is expressed in another way,” he said, noting that the US constitution allows only amendment-not a revision - “which means that the federal structure of the US government can never be changed.”
That is why for over 200 years, the US has remained federal, he said.
He added that in the case of the Philippines, revision is allowed, although there has to be some safeguards so that the permanence of the Republic is guaranteed.
Generoso cited one section in the ConCom draft that cannot be amended to preserve the permanent and indissoluble nation.
Section 2 of Article XI on Federated Regions and the Bangsamoro, and the Federated Region of the Cordilleras states that “all regions are permanent and indissoluble parts of the Federal Republic of the Philippines. It is prohibited for anyone to advocate, demand for, or support the secession of any Region from the Federated Republic.”
This section cannot be changed, Generoso said.
“Deleting this section or revising it could allow a region to advocate separation from the Republic,” he explained. “Do we want that to happen?”
“What we are protecting is the permanence and the indissolubility of the republic-ensure that the regions cannot break away and the nation does not break apart,” he added.
We are foreseeing a time when a region might decide to get out of the republic and say, ‘we are now independent,’” Generoso said. “That cannot and should not happen.”
“Also you cannot amend the provision that says we are a democratic and a republican state. Do you want us to someday change that so that we are no more democratic? We are just ensuring that the nature of our state being democratic and republican cannot be changed,” Generoso explained.