CONVENING Congress into a constituent assembly to propose charter amendments and shift to federalism is the top priority of House of Representatives this year, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Wednesday.
“Number one is the convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly and in revising the Constitution, a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government,” Alvarez said in a TV interview when asked for the top priority of the House in 2018.
Alvarez believes this should be no problem since Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III is an official of the ruling party, Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP), which advocates federalism.
“Kaya I don’t see any reason why si Senate President will not be working on it also,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said that if Congress could convene into a constituent assembly in January, the proposed new federal charter could be submitted for referendum simultaneously with the barangay elections in May 2018.
“Pag trabahuhin lang, walang imposible, kayang gawin yun,” Alvarez said.
In the House, Alvarez said he is confident of the support of the super majority for constituent assembly but said he has no idea if there is enough number in the Senate in support of the proposal.
Alvarez appealed to the sense of patriotism of senators, some of whom have expressed reservations over the proposed shift to a federal form of government.
“This is a question of patriotism, kung ano yung tama at kung ano yung kailangan sa bayan,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the senators are concerned over their political career with the possible dissolution of the Senate in a federal set up they should not be worried because they could be eligible to run for election to the new legislature.
However, Alvarez acknowledged that there could be some disagreements over the issue of voting jointly or separately in a constituent assembly, noting the 1987 Constitution is silent on this issue. Personally, Alvarez said he believes the assembly should vote jointly.
“Kung mayroong mag-question, well of course, justiciable issue iyan, pupunta sa Supreme Court iyan,” Alvarez said.
Likewise, Alvarez said that if a new constitution for a federal form of government is accepted by the Filipino people the timetable of forthcoming elections may be affected, including the 2019 mid-term polls.
“May transitory provision, nakalagay doon na yung mga elected officials na mag-eexpire yung term, hindi ba, kung kailan sila due for elections, iba-iba. So depende talaga iyan kung ano yung mapagkakasunduan doon sa Constituent Assembly,” Alvarez said.
Under the federal setup the PDP is pushing for, Alvarez said the system would likely retain the position of President, which is elected at large by the Filipino people and would act as head of State. On the other hand, there would be a Prime Minister, who would be the head of the government. p: wjg