Duterte party leaning toward presidential federalism
The PDP-LABAN, President Du-terte’s political party, is leaning toward a presidential form of federal government, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said on Thursday.
“Behind the scenes, we are already firming up the particular model and constitution that we will propose,” Pimentel said in a press briefing on the sidelines of an international conference on federalism in Makati City.
“If we choose to remain unitary, we will have to shift to parliamentary. If we go to federal, then most likely we’ll have presidential. Those are the guiding principles the party is working on,” Pimentel, also president of PDP-Laban, said.
He said Congress would be ready to tackle the constitutional changes by January after finalizing the Duterte administration’s first national budget.
The Philippines currently has a unitary presidential form of government.
“The main idea is to break up the one and only center of power in a unitary form of government. Let us have a multipolar Philippines where there are many centers of power so that, hopefully, there will be economic progress in the regional centers,” he said.
Pimentel said he would propose that lawmakers devote three days of the week to convening as a constituent assembly and working two days as a legislative body.
A plebiscite on the constitutional amendments is expected to be held alongside the midterm local elections in 2019.
Pimentel belied the notion that amending the Constitution would be a means to allow President Duterte a term extension.
“The advantage of starting early—he and his supporters can’t be accused of having a political agenda. This will in no way be connected to extending terms because you’re starting very early,” he said.
Pimentel assured the public that debates and discussions on federalism and related topics “will be open, transparent, consultative and participatory.”
In his speech, Pimentel welcomed foreign participants to the international conference to an “exciting Philippines” and addressed some of the issues raised against federalism.
“The argument that poor regions in the country would lose their assistance or subsidy from the federal government is without basis,” Pimentel said, noting that a new conditional fiscal transfer system would be introduced.
“These transfers will be program-specific and cannot be used for other purposes. We will use these conditional transfers to promote national purposes and set standards in various devolved fields like health care and education,” he said.
Pimentel said the PDP-Laban proposal of an 80:20 revenue sharing scheme in favor of the regional governments was not cast in stone.
“We will first determine what exclusive powers we will give to each level of government and what concurrent powers are shared between them. Only then can we come up with a final formula on revenue sharing,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.