Former CJ Puno open to 'evolving federalism'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno is open to "evolving federalism" for regions that are not economically ready to be independent.

"If really the data analytics will show that there are certain regions which cannot make it, that is not an automatic hindrance," Puno told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday. "Those states or regions that cannot make it at this time, will be allowed to evolve at their own speed to become full states."

He also suggested an equalization fund which the federal government could use "in order to help these poor states become viable [or] sustainable states."

Puno is chairman of the consultative committee tasked with reviewing the 1987 Constitution. Findings from his committee could inform Congress' proposals for federalism, which was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte.

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In a Senate testimony on charter change on February 1, constitutional expert Christian Monsod pointed out that only three regions were ready to sustain themselves in a federal format.

Citing the Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022, Monsod noted that only the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon contributed 63 percent of the Philippines' gross domestic product.

"Obviously the other regions cannot support themselves," he said.

Related: Prioritize fiscal decentralization, reform before federalism - expert

Puno said his committee would look into data analytics to determine a sustainable set-up.

"One model would be to have a full stage. Other models will have a half stage. Other models will have autonomous regions," he said. "Depending on the fiscal mapping that will be done, then we follow what is the best model for the Philippines."

Puno wants women and fiscal experts in the consultative committee. At present, Susan Ubalde-Ordinario is the only woman there.

"I also requested to have experts in the economy, fiscal experts, experts on international law and foreign relations, considering that we are facing a lot of problems in this area. Also representatives from the military," he said.

Puno said they will follow up with the Office of the Executive Secretary their request for a wider selection of committee members, adding that a colleague, former Senate President Nene Pimentel, also wanted indigenous groups to be represented.

Federalism is a form of government that provides more autonomy to local government units. However, its critics are concerned that it will empower political dynasties.

Watch The Source's full interview with Puno here.