Senators push ‘federalism’
Senate resolution likely to lead to changing 1987 Constitution
The Senate might yet pass a resolution calling for Charter change, or “Cha-cha.”
The possibility of amending the 1987 Constitution loomed on Wednesday night when 11 senators signed a resolution that seeks adoption of a federal system to replace the current unitary system of government.
President Gloria Arroyo said revival of Cha-cha is no longer her priority. She added, though, that she is not against any constitutional amendments that will pave the way for federalism.
Through her spokesman, President Arroyo said that realistically there is no time left for her to tackle federalism in her remaining years in office. Her term ends in 2010.
“She [does not oppose] any suggestion on political reforms because the President runs on a platform of economic and political reforms,” Ignacio Bunye said.
Bunye added that Mrs. Arroyo was able to achieve gains in reforming the country’s economy. But, he admitted, the President failed in her initial plan of fixing the Philippine political system.
“Right now, the President is concentrating on further strengthening the economy, but she will let her successor tackle reforming our political system, particularly the adoption of federalism through Charter change,” Bunye said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. filed Joint Resolution 10 proposing the shift from a presidential to a parliamentary government. The resolution was also authored by Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. and Senators Edgardo Angara, Pia Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Amending the 1987 Constitution, Pimentel also on Thursday said, would not result in the extension of the term of Mrs. Arroyo.
“The 2010 presidential elections will proceed as scheduled. There will be no extension or diminution of the terms of elected officials,” he told The Manila Times.
Pimentel filed the resolution also on Wednesday evening.
In the Thirteenth Congress, the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments headed by Angara came up with a report endorsing a shift to a parliamentary-federal system of government. The endorsement, however, was overtaken by the 2004 elections.
Pimentel said he hopes that with Joint Resolution 10, debate on the proposed shift to a federal system would no longer be confined within academe and some organizations.
“My main idea is to bring the matter to the entire people so they could understand the whole issue and make a more intelligent decision,” he added.
Pimentel has been pushing for a federal system of government, except shortly before the 2004 presidential polls when he expressed fears that the initiative of congressmen allied with the administration would result in the extension of the term of the President.
He said federalization would hasten the development of the entire country and dissipate the causes of rebellion, particularly in the southern Mindanao region. The region has been besieged by communist and Muslim insurgencies for more than 30 years.
“The [federalism] proposal will hopefully provide a just and lasting redress of the grievances of the powerless and the neglected sectors of society, like the Moro peoples of Mindanao,” Pimentel added.
The joint resolution seeks the creation of the federal states of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Bicol and Southern Tagalog, Mindoro-Palawan-Romblon-Marinduque, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro, or the state for the country’s Muslim minority.
“Metro Manila will be converted into a federal administrative region along the lines of Washington, D.C., in the United States, or New Delhi in India,” Pimentel said.
– Efren L. Danao and Angelo S. Samonte