House tackles federalism measure
The House of Representatives has begun discussing an 83-page working draft of the “Philippine Federal Constitution,” which its proponents hope will clear the way for the country’s transition to federalism by revising the 1987 Charter through a constituent assembly.
Its committee on constitutional amendments received on Wednesday a copy of Resolution of Both Houses No. 08 prepared by Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and ABS Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera containing their proposed new Charter.
The submission of the draft signaled the start of the House’s push for federalization, which was initially considered to be part of the Duterte administration’s legislative agenda. But this was pushed back in the absence of a constitutional commission that was supposed to be formed by the executive branch.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the House would initiate the federalism measure on its own if the executive did not begin working on it soon.
Some members of the House panel were taken aback by the speed with which the two lawmakers were able to produce the document.
“I am surprised that only two distinguished gentlemen were able to put up a very comprehensive draft such as this,” Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said.
Under the proposed joint resolution of Gonzales and De Vera, government shall be divided into two tiers: a federal state with a bicameral legislature and a regional government with a unicameral legislature.
The federal state will be divided into 18 regions, including a Bangsamoro Region in the Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, to be led by a Regional Governor and a Regional Assembly, according to the proposal.
The Senate and the House of Representatives shall comprise the Federal Congress. But the Senate shall be composed of two to six senators per region, the draft states.
Revenues from tax collection shall be drastically changed in favor of local governments: The federal state will have only a 20-percent share, while 80 percent will go to the regions, according to the proposal.
“It’s good we have a working draft. It can still accommodate improvements,” Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, a vice chair of the panel, said of the proposed measure. “We will study it thoroughly.”
Gonzales and De Vera’s draft would be merged with the work of federalism resource persons Edmund Tayao and Jonathan Malaya, who also have been tapped by the House committee to prepare a separate revision.
Malaya, during the hearing, said the draft should be ready in two weeks. A technical working group will be constituted to consolidate the two working drafts in the next few months, Veloso said.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said the committee should be able to approve the final draft by the last quarter.
The target is plenary approval by January.
Other pertinent provisions in the proposed new Charter include the following:
The preamble changes the aspiration of Philippine society from a “just and humane society” into “a more perfect society.”
It describes the Philippines as an “indivisible, democratic, republican and federal state.”
There shall be a Federal Congress and a Federal Supreme Court.
Executive power remains vested in the President, while the Vice President is still the constitutional successor, each with a six-year term with no reelection.
Constitutional bodies, including the Commission on Elections, the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission are retained.
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