Changing the form of government from presidential to federal through a constitutional convention is the top priority of the 17th Congress, according to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File

Charter change, federalism top House priorities for 2018
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - January 3, 2018 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The revision of the 1987 Constitution and the shift from a unitary to a federal form of government would be the top priorities of the House of Representatives for this year, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Wednesday.

In an interview on ANC's "Headstart", Alvarez said that he is hopeful that Congress will convene this month for a constituent assembly and submit a referendum for a plebiscite along with the barangay elections on May.

"Pagtrabahuhin lang, walang imposible. Kayang gawin 'yun (Just have them work, nothing is impossible. It can be done)," Alvarez said on his ambitious timeline on the shift of the form of government.

Alvarez noted that federalism is an advocacy of PDP-Laban as a political party so Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III should be present in the joint session to discuss federalism as it is the priority of the Duterte administration.

"I don't see any reason why the senate president will not be working on it also," Alvarez said.

The House speaker added that voting on the shift to a federal form of government should be done jointly by the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"This is a question of patriotism kung ano 'yung tama at kung ano 'yung kailangan sa bayan (and what is right and what the country needs)," he said.

Alvarez warned of a possible cancellation of the 2019 midterm elections if the shift to federalism would be approved as the government would be in transition.

Allowing the senators who will have their terms expired by 2019 to extend until 2022 would be practical for a transitory period, the Speaker said.

"Let’s be practical. Pag nag-shift ka into a different form of government — unitary to a federal — you need a transition government," Alvarez said.

The change of the form of government from presidential to federal through a constitutional convention had been a top House priority since Alvarez was elected speaker in the opening of the regular session of the 17th Congress in July 2016.

RELATED: Death penalty, charter change among House priorities

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