Federalism, Con-Ass top 2018 House legislative agenda: Alvarez

MANILA -- Top-billing the legislative agenda of the House of Representatives for this year are changing the three-decade old Constitution by convening Congress into a constituent assembly and shifting to a federal form of government.

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, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a television interview on Wednesday.

Alvarez earlier said both houses of Congress would convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) in January to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution for a federal government.

He said if the Con-Ass pushes through, the proposed federal charter could be submitted for referendum simultaneously with the barangay elections in May this year.

The Speaker said he is confident that the House supermajority would give its backing for the Constituent Assembly.

He, however, expressed doubt if the Senate has enough numbers in support of the proposal as he appealed to the sense of patriotism of senators.

He said the senators are concerned over the political implications of the possible dissolution of the Senate in a federal set-up, noting that this should not be a cause for concern since they could still be eligible to run for election to the new legislature.

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

Alvarez noted that the two chambers could have some disagreements over the issue of either voting jointly or separately in a Constituent Assembly. He said he prefers that the assembly vote jointly.

Alvarez also said the timetable of the forthcoming 2019 mid-term elections may be affected if the Filipino people accept the federal form of government.

May transitory provision. Nakalagay doon na yung mga elected officials na mag-e-expire yung term, hindi ba, kung kailan sila due for elections, iba-iba (There is a transitory provision. It states the expiration of the terms of the elected officials. It says when they can run for another election. It varies)," Alvarez said.

"So depende talaga iyan kung ano yung mapagkakasunduan doon sa Constituent Assembly, (It depends on what will be agreed upon at the Constitutent Assembly) Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the federal setup proposed by the PDP-LABAN retains the position of the President, who would act as head of state, and introduces the position of a Prime Minister, who would be the head of the government.

Source: Philippine News Agency