House pursues shift to federal government

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House pursues shift to federal government
Rodriguez revealed that the committee report adopted with modification the proposal in the draft constitution of the Puno commission.
Facebook / Rufus B. Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is pursuing the shift to a federal form of government that was proposed by the consultative committee headed by retired chief justice Reynato Puno and earlier approved by President Duterte and the previous Congress.

The committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, has included in its report on proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution the shift to a federal form of government, which was already approved by the House plenary during the 17th Congress in 2018.

This is contrary to an earlier report that the panel would no longer pursue the proposed shift to a federal form of government because it is supposedly a “hotly contested and divisive issue.”

Rodriguez revealed that the committee report adopted with modification the proposal in the draft constitution of the Puno commission.

The House panel’s move to continue efforts to shift to a federal system was made despite the earlier pronouncement of Duterte that he is no longer pursuing his proposal to change the form of government that could further divide the country.

“We have considered the Puno draft in the committee deliberations and we will also consider it in the plenary debates in relation to the four sets of proposed amendments,” Rodriguez told The STAR.

He said their report is proposing the creation of federated regions and election of senators per region.

“The election of senators by region is a feature of federalism: the rule of subsidiarity. We adopted the proposal of the Puno draft to have federated regions. While it proposed 16 regions, our committee decided to have only nine regions,” he bared.

The House had approved on third and final reading in December 2018 the resolution that seeks to shift the Philippines to a federal system of government after a 224-22-3 vote that met the required three-fourths vote.

The House under then speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo swiftly approved the draft constitution of the Puno commission, with only a few changes.

The draft constitution, which was reportedly approved by the President in July 2018, sought to create 18 federated regions, including federated regions of the Bangsamoro and Cordillera.

But the Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) No. 15 removed the specific number of federal states and proposed that a federal state may instead be created upon a petition addressed to Congress by contiguous, compact and adjacent provinces, highly urbanized and component cities, and cities and municipalities in metropolitan areas through a “resolution of their respective bodies.” 

The latest House proposals by the Rodriguez committee instead proposed only nine regions and the election of senators by region.

The report also adopted the proposal for election of the president and vice president as one ticket to ensure a united leadership in the executive branch.

The panel likewise kept the proposals to change the term of office of House members, local officials and senators to five years with two reelections.

Just like RBH 15, the latest committee report proposed the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses, including mass media, public utilities and schools.

But the panel dropped other proposed amendments in RHB 15, particularly the proposals to remove the anti-political dynasty provision in the 1987 Constitution and to cut the terms of the president and vice president to four years with eligibility for reelection for another term.

The committee report, which was approved by the panel in executive session last Dec. 11, is set for deliberations in the House plenary sitting as a constituent assembly (con-ass) next month.

“Our committee will push for discussions in the plenary sitting as a constituent assembly by first week of February on our four sets of proposed amendments. Every representative will be given the chance to interpellate on our committee report,” Rodriguez said.

“Our committee is open to receive individual amendments to the proposed four amendments. Our proposals are not final and will always be subject to the 3/4 votes of all members of the House,” he added.

Rodriguez explained that the House may initiate the amendments in the Charter as a con-ass without the need for a joint session with the Senate.

He said that under the current Constitution, the House would transmit the approved proposals to the Senate for their own deliberations.

After the two chambers have approved the proposals, the Commission on Elections would then be asked to schedule a plebiscite for the ratification of the recommended changes by the people.

Rodriguez reiterated his appeal to senators to consider supporting the measure, which he said was endorsed by the President.






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