President to place shift to federalism on agenda
A shift to federalism will be on President Duterte’s legislative agenda for his third year in office, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea would submit the President’s legislative agenda to Congress next week.
The House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling for a constituent assembly (Con-ass) that would amend the 1987 Constitution for a change to federalism. The Senate, however, has rejected a Con-ass, unless the voting on proposed amendments will be separate.
Being the bigger chamber, the House insists on joint voting, effectively killing its own Con-ass proposal.
Roque said Mr. Duterte would also push for the passage of the rice tariffication bill, which would allow the liberalization of rice importation.
At present, only the National Food Authority can import rice.
Roque said it was possible Mr. Duterte would discuss the creation of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao in his address to a joint session of Congress next Monday, following the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) by a Senate-House conference on Wednesday night.
He said President Duterte would rehearse his speech in Malacañang on Sunday.
Asked in a television interview on Thursday about the possible content of the State of the Nation Address, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said President Duterte would probably talk about his administration’s plans for next year, his campaign against illegal drugs and crime and program for poverty reduction.
Andanar said the draft federal Constitution was presented during a Cabinet meeting this week but there was no extensive discussion because there were other topics on the agenda.
A Cabinet member, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, warned earlier in the week that the shift to federalism could disrupt the economy.
Not at all, the 22-member consultative committee that drew up the proposed federal Charter for the Duterte administration said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is not like the shift will happen immediately upon ratification of the proposed Constitution,” the committee headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said.
The committee described as “completely misplaced” Pernia’s prediction that the shift would wreak havoc on the economy, saying the transition to federalism would be gradual and orderly.
“Upon ratification of the proposed Charter, everything remains as they are. [The] government and all agencies will operate as usual, businesses will operate as usual, the economy will operate and move as usual,” it said.
“Then, with the participation of all agencies of government, the private sector and other institutions grouped into clusters of different concerns, the transition plan will be finalized and put in place,” it said.
The committee said the proposed transition commission must be formed after ratification to formulate and implement the transition plan.
Puno’s committee has proposed to cut the terms of Mr. Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo to make way for the election of a transitional president and a transitional vice president who will oversee the shift to federalism.
Under the proposal, Mr. Duterte and Robredo cannot run for any position in 2022. Robredo, however, can run for transitional president.
The House has said it will give priority to the federalism proposal during the third regular session.
The Senate is cool to the proposal but has decided to make a stand amid the administration’s unrelenting push for federalism.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters on Thursday that a majority caucus and an all-member caucus would sit next Tuesday, a day after President Duterte’s address to the joint session of Congress.
The senators have been given copies of the draft federal Constitution, Sotto said.
“After the majority caucus, we will call the [all-member] caucus and discuss this,” he said. “After that, we will probably be able to gauge what will be the stand of the Senate.”
If President Duterte pitches for federalism in his speech next Monday, the Senate will treat it as a request but will not use it to pressure the lawmakers to take a position, he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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