Economic managers' doubts prompt Duterte to consider public feedback on proposed federal charter

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Malacañang is asking for your feedback on the proposed federal constitution. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — President Rodrigo Duterte is now asking the public to send their feedback on the administration's proposed federal constitution, following apprehensions expressed by the country's economic managers.

"The President will consider the comments of the people and can improve the draft accordingly before officially transmitting it to Congress," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced in a press briefing Thursday.

He said the Palace still considers the proposed constitutional change that allows for a shift to a federal form of government as "a very good draft."  It was submitted by the 22-member Consultative Committee (ConCom) created by the President himself.

Roque added that Duterte was "fully satisfied" with the proposal, but doubts cast by some Cabinet members led the President to consider the public's thoughts about it. 

"To be candid about it, it started when his own members of the Cabinet expressed apprehensions over the economic aspect of the proposed draft.  So that's what prompted the President to be open to suggestions and criticisms on the proposed revisions as submitted by the Consultative Committee," Roque said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia previously said the Philippines was not economically ready for the shift to federalism. Roque said officials may soon discuss this in a Cabinet meeting.

READ: Even the Finance Chief is 'confused' with shift to federalism  

How to send your feedback

The Palace offered various ways for the public to make their voices heard.

"They can send their feedback either through the Office of the Spokesperson or through the Presidential Communications Office or just to the Office of the President. It can be in writing, it can be by e-mail or they can come personally if they want," Roque said.

He added that the Department of Interior and Local Government is also spearheading the conduct of roadshows to disseminate information on federalism and ask for the people's feedback. 

This, however, does not mean the Palace is opting for a people's initiative in introducing changes to the Constitution, instead of the Congress, Roque said. The present Constitution states amendments may "be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters." Roque said no Cabinet member has expressed preference for such mode of changing the charter.

Duterte 'fully committed' to campaign promise

Roque said the President remains "fully committed" to federalism, a promise Duterte made during his 2016 presidential campaign.  Duterte believes it would pave the way for more equitable distribution of wealth and political power throughout the regions and bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

Roque stressed there is no timeline set for the shift to a federal form of government, although the President has said he would step down in 2019 if the federal charter is passed.

While members of the House of Representatives have expressed support for federalism, some senators said charter change is "good as dead" at the Senate. Roque, however, said the Senate as an institution has not made its final decision.