Charter change, shift to federalism among 2018 priorities in PH Congress


Charter change, shift to federalism among 2018 priorities in PH Congress

The revision of the 1987 Constitution and the shift from a unitary to a federal form of government are among the top priorities of the House of Representatives this 2018, according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“Number one is the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly and in revising the Constitution, a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government,” Alvarez told ANC’s “Headstart.”

If Congress can convene by January, Alvarez said the proposed new federal charter can be submitted for referendum simultaneously with the barangay elections in May 2018.

“Pag-trabahohin lang, walang imposible, kayang gawin yun (It’s not impossible if we’ll work on it. We can do it),” he added.

The House speaker also expressed optimism that Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel will support the proposed shift as the latter is the president of the ruling Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan  (PDP-Laban) party, which advocates federalism.

While saying he is confident that the House supermajority will support the constituent assembly, Alvarez, however, appealed to the sense of patriotism of senators who are unsure whether to support or not the proposed amendment of the Constitution.

“This is a question of patriotism kung ano ‘yung tama at kung ano ‘yung kailangan sa bayan (and what is right and what the country needs),” Alvarez said.

During the same interview, Alvarez also warned of a possible cancellation of the 2019 midterm elections as part of the anticipated transition to a federal system.

Noting that the senators have different term expirations, the House speaker remarked that it is only practical to extend their terms until 2022 for a transitory period. He stressed, however, that the matter depends on the decision that will be made by the constituent assembly.

“Let’s be practical. ‘Pag nag-shift ka (If you shift) into a different form of government, unitary to federal, you need a transition government,” Alvarez said.

He went on to say, “Yung senators kasi, ‘yung termino nila, ‘di ba hindi ‘yan sabay-sabay na nag-e-expire. May mag-e-expire sa 2019, may mag-e-expire sa 2022. In fairness, maganda siguro kung ipa-expire mo lahat sa 2022 para wala ka nang utang (The expiration of the terms of the senators are the not the same for all. Some will expire on 2019, while some in 2022. In fairness, it is probably good to expire all on 2022 so there are no more debts).”

In a statement on Wednesday, January 3, Malacañang clarified that the 2019 elections will “push through” unless the Constitution is amended prior to the midterm polls.

Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque also stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s role as the chief executive is to “implement the Constitution and the law.”

“Again, the president always looks to the Constitution as his guiding document. The Constitution sets the date for the next elections in 2019,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“So unless the Constitution is amended ahead of the 2019 elections, it will have to push through,” he added.

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