Ledac green lights shift to federal system as TWGs formed to draft new Charter

By Jovee Marie de la Cruz - AUGUST 30, 2017

Legislative and Executive officials have agreed to start the process of changing the form of government to federal system from a unitary one through a constitutional overhaul.

In a news conference, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said the shift to federal system was discussed during the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting on Tuesday.

“[During the Ledac meeting, we agreed that] we must start to tackle federalism now. We will meet with the Senate leadership to decide when we could convene as a constituent assembly [Con-ass]. Perhaps [we would convene as a constituent assembly] early next year, but we have already begun with the committee hearings [in the lower chamber],” Alvarez said.

Last week the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments has created four technical working groups (TWGs), composed of its members, which will draft the Philippine Federal Constitution.

Each of the four groups will handle specific areas to be covered in the drafting of the new Federal Constitution.

TWG 1, chaired by Rep. Corazon N. Nuñez-Malanyaon of the First  District of  Negros Oriental, will handle the provisions on the Executive-Legislative (Articles VI and VII); New article on Federal and Regional Powers, Numbers of States; and Local Government and Taxation/Allocation of Resources (Article X).

TWG 2, chaired by Deputy Speaker Fredenil H. Castro) will draft the provisions on the Judiciary (Article VIII); Amendments or Revisions (Article XVII); Suffrage (Article V), Citizenship (Article IV); and Bill of Rights (Article III).

TWG 3, chaired by Rep. Alfredo Benitez of the Third District, of Negros Occidental, will prepare the Preamble; National Territory (Article I); Declaration of Principles and State Policies (Article II); General Provisions (Article XVI); and Transitory Provisions (Article XVIII).

Last, TWG 4 chaired by Rep. Vicente SE. Veloso of the Third  District of Leyte, will handle Social Justice, Labor and Others (Article XIII); Education, Science and Others (Article XIV); National Economy and Patrimony (Article XII); New article on the Bill of Duties; Accountability of Public Officials (Article XI); and Family (Article XV).

Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. of the Second District of Camarines Sur said the creation of TWGs  will hasten the  shift to a federal system of government.

The TWG in charge of the provisions on the National Economy and Patrimony, he added, should strongly consider proposals to relax the restrictions on foreign ownership so the country could regain its competitive edge among other Asian economies in attracting long-term foreign direct investments (FDI) that would create more jobs, especially in the countryside.

“We welcome this inspired move by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments to create TWGs that would work on drafting a proposed federal constitution. This will certainly help speed up the process of shifting to federalism and enable us to scrutinize recommendations in an organized fashion,” Villafuerte said.

Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the PDP Federalism Institute, turned over to the lower chamber the draft “Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines”, for consideration by the various TWGs created by the House panel.

The draft Federal Charter was prepared by PDP Federalism Committee Group, which is composed of individuals from various sectors, including academe, civil society and the legal profession.

The TWG members agreed to finish their work by November this year and submit the draft new Federal Constitution to the committee for final discussion and approval.

They also agreed to submit the final draft of the Philippine Federal Constitution to the House committee on rules, chaired by Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas of the First District of Ilocos Norte, by December this year.

Deputy Minority Leader Party-list Rep. Eugene Michael B. de Vera of Arts and Business Science Professionals and Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga have also moved  to change the 1987 Constitution through the filing of his Resolution of Both Houses 8, which seeks to constitute the Senate and the House of Representatives into a constituent assembly to propose revisions to the 1987 Constitution by adopting a federal form of government and for other purposes.

Meanwhile, Philippine Constitution Association President Martin Romualdez said the proposal to shift the presidential-unitary form of government to a parliamentary-federal system by convening Congress into a Con-ass would help change the character of the country’s politics to create fertile ground for true reforms.