ConCom OKs draft of proposed federal constitution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — The Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the Constitution unanimously approved on Tuesday a draft of the proposed charter that allows for a shift to a federal form of government.

The 22-member committee created by President Rodrigo Duterte plans to submit to him the final draft on July 9, in time for his third State of the Nation Address on July 23.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will then transmit the proposed revisions to his allies at the House of Representatives.

"He will encourage his partymates to study it very closely, and if possible, to pattern the proposed revisions after what the [committee] has recommended," Roque said in a press briefing.

He said the executive understands that any change to the Constitution should be approved by Congress. He added that the ConCom's draft will surely be considered by the House of Representatives as it is composed mainly of the administration's PDP-Laban party.

"We have a supermajority in the House. I think at least in the House it will be very persuasive. We're hoping it will be equally persuasive in the Senate," Roque added.

ConCom's proposals will be submitted to either a constitutional commission or a constituent assembly, which will draft a new constitution.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who heads the ConCom, hopes a plebiscite to approve the proposed charter will be held in the middle of next year, separate from the 2019 midterm elections, so the public can focus on its merits.

The Social Weather Stations survey for the first quarter of 2018 showed only 25 percent of Filipino adults have been aware of the federal system, while 75 percent only knew what it is upon answering the survey.

The shift to a federal form of government was among Duterte's campaign promises, aimed at providing more autonomy and faster development in the regions.

Proposed changes

Puno said the current unitary system failed because the national government has too much power.

"Federalism is not just delegation of powers but equitable distribution of powers between the federal government and the government of constituent regions," Puno said.

Under the ConCom's draft constitution, the country will have 18 federated regions based on the current number of regions, including the Negros region.

Puno said each region will have the power to impose and collect certain taxes, and approve their own budget.

"The division assures the regions that they will not only survive but they will be economically viable and sustainable in their journey from unitarianism to federalism," Puno said.

The President will still be chief executive with a four-year term and can be reelected once. Under the present Constitution, the President can serve for six years with no reelection.

Voters will choose a president-vice president tandem, the draft states.

Meanwhile, two senators will be elected from each of the 18 federated regions under the draft charter.

The draft also states President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo should step down from power on June 30, 2022, dispelling concerns over an extended term for any of them.

The draft constitution also bans political dynasties. Once approved, only one member of a political family, at least within the second level of affinity or consanguity, will be allowed to run in one national or one regional position. A sitting politician cannot be succeeded by his wife, sons, or daughters.

ConCom member and former Associate Justice Antonio Nachura said the committee is open to accept changes according to Duterte's liking, except for one - the removal of the anti-political dynasty provision.