Cha-cha for federalism rolls in House
(The Philippine Star) - October 12, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The effort of President Duterte’s allies to amend the Constitution to pave the way for the shift to federalism begins moving in the House of Representatives today when the constitutional amendments committee tackles Charter change (Cha-cha) measures.

Rep. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, committee chairman, said yesterday his panel would discuss proposals to convene Congress as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to do Cha-cha or for the legislative to call for the election of a constitutional convention (con-con) to rewrite the Charter.

“Tomorrow’s hearing will be the start of our full-blast consideration of all Cha-cha proposals. We will have two hearings

this week and two more after the Halloween break,” he said.

Mercado said his panel has invited the measures’ authors and legal luminaries to speak on the proposals.

Among con-con proponents is Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, while Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez filed the first con-ass bill.

Villafuerte said President Duterte should capitalize on his record satisfaction ratings to continue pushing for structural reforms through the shift to the federal system of government.

“The shift to federalism is the only antidote to the overconcentration of political power and economic growth in imperial Manila at the expense of the other regions,” he said.

Villafuerte said the President’s high ratings in the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) show that “he continues to enjoy the people’s massive support, which he can constructively use to realize his administration’s goal of reversing uneven or inequitable growth and finally ushering in genuine countryside development.”

“Federalism will shift to high gear his ambitious, yet doable, agenda of freeing 10 million Filipinos from poverty and transforming our country into an upper middle income economy six years from now, and into a high income one by 2040,” he added.

Benitez said convening Congress as a constituent assembly is the faster and least expensive Cha-cha mode.

Quoting estimates from experts, he said electing a convention would cost at least P7 billion, plus P3 billion for maintaining such a body for one year.

Duterte was initially for the con-con mode but agreed with his congressional allies on Cha-cha after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno presented to him cost estimates.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said he and his colleagues would focus on Cha-cha for federalism after approving the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017.

He said they hope to pass the budget before the end of the year.

He has assured the nation that next year’s outlay would be ready at the start of the new year and that there would be no need for the administration to recycle this year’s spending law. 

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