Alvarez files federalism bill on first day of Duterte presidency
The first resolution filed on the first day in office of President Rodrigo Duterte tackles a promise he made during his campaign: federalism.
Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, Duterte’s pick for Speaker in the House of Representatives, on Thursday filed his resolution seeking a constitutional convention to put in place a federal system of government in the country.
His resolution was filed at the bills and index service at 12:08 p.m. or a few minutes after Duterte took his oath of office as the country’s 16th President.
In House Concurrent Resolution No. 1, Alvarez urged both Houses of Congress to convene in a joint session to call for a constitutional convention “to propose revision of the 1987 Constitution to establish a federal system of government.”
Alvarez said he filed the resolution because of a “need to reexamine the Constitution to make it attuned and responsive to present-day realities.”
He said a federal setup of government through a revision of the Constitution “will promote political security in Mindanao and thus achieve a lasting peace necessary for the continuous growth of the island and the country.”
The congressman added the setup would “hasten the country’s political, economic, social and cultural development.”
It would also “build a framework of peace through unity in our ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, particularly in relation to Muslim Filipinos and indigenous people,” he said.
According to Alvarez, previous Congresses failed to tackle proposed measures for federalism, which resulted in the lack of awareness among Filipinos about what the system means.
He said a constitutional convention, where voters elect their delegates to represent them in a convention to revise the Charter, “truly reflects the democracy enshrined in our Constitution, particularly the process by which the people, through the election of the delegates, are made part in the decision of changing the fundamental structure of our society.”
Alvarez said any doubts or fears surrounding the proposal would be negated because of the democratic process of electing delegates “to whom the people can put their trust and confidence.”
In an earlier interview, Alvarez said he wanted to amend the Constitution in the first half of Duterte’s six-year administration and put in place a transition government in the second half to pave the way for a completely federal state of the Philippines.
Alvarez said once a federal system of government is in place, there would be no need for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the pet bill of the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III, whose government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism as an alternative to the BBL, the passage of which hit a snag after the MILF, despite the peace deal, got embroiled in a shoot-out with Special Action Force troops in the middle of an antiterror raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015, which resulted in the deaths of 44 policemen.
The BBL seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more politically autonomous and financially stable Bangsamoro region.
The bill, which was killed by the 16th Congress before the election period, had been criticized for its constitutionally contentious provisions intended to create a Moro substate.
With virtual control of the House of Representatives due to his alliances with major political parties, Duterte is consolidating his forces in the Lower House to push for his legislative agenda, which includes federalism, the reinstatement of death penalty for heinous crimes, and the lowering of age for criminal liability among minors./rga
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