PDP-Laban stalwarts admit federalism still unlikely to pass in next Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — Stalwarts of administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipinas–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) admit that federalism is still unlikely to pass in the next Senate, even if it is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We will give it our best shot, pero hindi eh. Kasi 'yung mga nanalo, marami diyan anti-federalism eh,” PDP-Laban president and reelectionist Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III told reporters Wednesday.

[Translation: We will give it our best shot, but no. Because many of those who won are anti-federalism.]

Pimentel had hoped that federalism would be passed in the 18th Congress.

Senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go also said that passing federalism in the next Senate is a “long shot,” admitting that the measure which would divide the country into autonomous states lacks public support.

Sa ngayon kailangan muna i-educate natin ang ating kababayan kung ano talaga ang buting idudulot ng federalism. Sa ngayon it's a long shot, mahihirapan po tayong mapasa ang federalism ngayon,” Go said.

[Translation: For now, we would need to educate the people on the benefits of federalism. For now, it’s a long shot, we will have difficulty in passing federalism now.]

Federalism is among the key platforms of PDP-Laban, which its national chair, President Rodrigo Duterte, also pushed for.

Only Pimentel, Go, Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino, senators-elect from PDP-Laban, openly support federalism, while most of the Senate bets have said that the proposal needs to be studied further.

In the past, however, Senators-elect Pia Cayetano and Ramon Bong Revilla backed a resolution calling for a shift to a federal form of government filed by Pimentel’s father, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr.

But Cayetano was among the 22 who voted against Resolution of Both Houses 15, which calls on Congress to convene into a constituent assembly which would amend the Constitution to usher in federalism.

Attached to this resolution passed in December by the House is a draft federal constitution, which former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the head of Duterte’s consultative committee to amend the Constitution, said is not “real federalism.”

The House’s draft charter also drew flak for several controversial provisions, including its lack of an anti-political dynasty provision, removal of term limits for lawmakers and the lifting of restrictions on foreign investors.

No counterpart measure was ever filed in the Senate, where federalism was declared “dead on arrival” by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a position echoed by other Senate leaders.

The Senate in the 17th Congress also disagreed with the House on how to vote on amendments to the Constitution, insisting that both chambers vote separately instead of jointly, as what the House wants. The Senate is composed of just 24 members, who would be easily overpowered by around 300 members of the House.

CNN Philippines Senior Digital Producer Eimor P. Santos contributed to this report.