Draft of federal constitution underway at House of Representatives

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte's promise — shifting to a federal form of government — is slowly taking shape as the House of Representatives created groups to draft a federal Constitution.

The House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments has created four technical working groups (TWGs) to draft the new Constitution, a statement from the committee on Wednesday said.

The working groups aim to finish the draft Constitution by November 2017 and submit it to the House committee for discussion and approval, it added. 

Lawmakers also agreed to submit the final draft of the Philippine Federal Constitution to the House Committee on Rules, chaired by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte's 1st District, by December 2017.

Under federalism, certain state powers are divided between a central authority and local governments. Local governments exercise political, fiscal, and lawmaking autonomy in their jurisdictions, while the central government is in charge of the military, as well as overarching state laws.

WATCH: What is federalism?

Southern Leyte Lone District Representative Roger Mercado said the draft Constitution will guide the lawmakers once they deliberate on proposals to shift from a unitary to a federal system.

Discussions on federalism should "focus on providing solutions to the country's economic problems, especially poverty, the peace and order situation, and the fight against illegal drugs," Mercado added.

The first technical working group will handle the provisions on the Executive and Legislative (Articles VI and VII), the new article on Federal and Regional Powers, Numbers of States; and the Local Government and Taxation/Allocation of Resources (Article X). It is chaired by Negros Oriental 1st District Representative Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon

The second TWG  will draft the provisions on the Bill of Rights (Article III), Citizenship (Article IV), Suffrage (Article V), Judiciary (Article VIII), and the Amendments or Revisions (Article XVII). Capiz 2nd District Representative Fredenil Castro will head this group.

The third TWG will draft the Preamble, National Territory (Article I), Declaration of Principles and State Policies (Article II), General Provisions (Article XVI), and Transitory Provisions (Article XVIII). It is chaired by Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez.

The fourth working group will draft the National Economy and Patrimony (Article XII), Social Justice, Labor and Others (Article XIII), Education, Science and Others (Article XIV), new article on the Bill of Duties; Accountability of Public Officials (Article XI), and Family (Article XV).  Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso heads this committee.

The technical working groups were urged to consult relevant government agencies in the creation of the draft and to work with the Constitutional Commission that President Duterte will create to "avoid duplication of efforts."

When the House resumed its second regular session on July 24, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the shift to a federal government is one of priorities on its legislative agenda.

READ: House to prioritize BBL, federalism on resumption of 17th Congress

However, 1987 Constitutional Commissioners oppose the proposed shift, saying the charter is not the problem, but rather the failure of government to fully implement it.

READ: 1987 Constitution commissioners vow to oppose charter amendments