While there are no specific bills yet in respect to President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal of a government shift to federalism, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pantaleon Alvarez said that it is still the top priority of the House, on Wednesday.
Alvarez told the reporters “’Yung federalism, kailangan nang maumpisahan na talaga natin, magpupulong kami ng liderato ng Senado kung kailan kami puwedeng mag-convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) (With federalism, we really have to start the discussions. We need to discuss the with the Senate leadership when we are going to convene the Constituent Assembly).”
He said it was during the second Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting on Tuesday night, when House and Senate leaders agreed to it.
The LEDAC was headed by the President who was the chairman of the council.
While the Con-Ass is one of the three ways in which proposals on amendments on the constitution can be proposed. According to Alvarez they are looking at ‘early next year’ to debate about the draft Charter.
“But the committee hearings already started,” he added. He said that the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments created four technical working groups (TWGs) that seek to approve the draft of the new Philippine Federal Constitution by November.
In a statement on May, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) – Lakas ng Bayan wants to adopt a ‘uniquely Filipino’ federalism model with two constitutionally established orders of government. He was present in the meeting.
Earlier this month, it was reported that PDP-Laban had yet to get the support of his colleagues. During the mass oath taking of new party members in Pampanga, Pimentel said “Si Speaker Alvarez walang problema sa kanya sa House. Ako, may problema sa aking House sa federalism, kailangan ko ng tulong ninyo (With Speaker Alvarez, there is no problem with the House. While I have a problem with my house when it comes to federalism).”
Federalism will give more power for local government units, such as: taxes, business regulations and court establishment. Currently with the Philippines in a unitary government system, most decisions and programs are concentrated in the central government.
Duterte signed the Executive Order (EO) No. 10: Creating a Consultative Committee to review the 1987 Constitution last December 7, 2016, granting only six months to finish the constitution amendment.
The shift to federalism was part of Duterte’s platform as a candidate.