It is merely an idea, but the proposal to change the name of the Philippines to “Maharlika” is “interesting” enough to initiate a constitutional amendment, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.
He made his statement after President Rodrigo Duterte considered renaming the Philippines Maharlika.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said he may have to agree with Duterte on the possibility of changing the Philippines’ name.
He noted that the Philippines would always remind Filipinos of the Spanish colonizers who ruled the country for three centuries.
“While the colonization brought out the best in our ancestors and taught us their values and heroism, those 300 years also influenced our culture and attitude as a people and which we cannot claim as originally our own,” Lacson said.
In his speech in Maguindanao on Monday night, Duterte backed the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ plan to rename the country.
“Actually, Marcos was right. During his time, he was really right. He wanted to change the name to Maharlika [and call it] the Republic of Maharlika because Maharlika is a Malay word and it means more of a concept of serenity and peace,” Duterte said. “But it’s okay. When the time comes, let’s change the name.”
Sought for a comment, Panelo said Duterte does not resent Spain’s 333-year colonial rule, adding Duterte was merely asserting the Filipinos’ national identity.
“He said it [Maharlika] is a Malay word. Since we are Malays, we should have a name identified with us. I agree with him, I like the idea of Maharlika as a name for the Philippines,” Panelo said.
He explained the two contradicting views about the supposed proposal to change the country’s name.
“One, as one of my staff lawyers pointed out, the ‘Philippines’ is mentioned in the Constitution. So if you issued an executive order or passed a legislation renaming it, some constitutional expert might say, ‘You cannot amend that, it’s in the Constitution’,” he said.
The other argument, according to Panelo, is an instance where the name ‘Philippines’ was just established for the time being.
“It could be that it’s mentioned in the Constitution that there’s a law saying, ‘Let it be the Philippines first’,” he added.
Asked if Charter Change would pave the way to renaming the country, Panelo, the President’s chief legal counsel, said: “Yeah, maybe.”
“The Constitution provides that Congress may enact a law that can change the name of the country and submit it to the people for a referendum,” he said, stressing that a mere executive order would not be effective.
“It’s more on the congressional act, I think. It would be better if it’s constitutional, so there would be no question,” he added.
Asked if the President would “actively push” for his idea, Panelo said: “The President’s style is he floats an idea, then somebody gets it.”
In June 2017, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano filed a bill seeking to create a Geographic Renaming Commission to come up with a new name for the Philippines.
House Bill 5867, An Act Constituting a Geographic Renaming Commission to Rename Our Country, aims “to conduct a comprehensive study for an appropriate name that we shall call our nation.”
Under Alejano’s bill, the proposed commission would have representatives from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.
The supposed commission would then be given a year to complete its work and a proposed budget of P30 million from the yearly national budget.
Panelo, however, said it would be more effective if the initiative was directly done through an amendment of the Constitution, rather than a commission.