HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants the two houses of Congress convened as a Constituent Assembly in January to finally switch to a federal system of government.
Overhauling the 1987 Constitution will be the priority of Congress next year, the Davao del Norte representative said in a radio interview.
“I would like to propose to Senate President [Aquilino Pimentel 3rd] for us to convene this coming January as a Constituent Assembly and we will form a technical working group, which we will call a Constitutional Commission, so we can help each other in writing the draft of the revised constitution,” Alvarez told radio station dzMM.
His call was immediately met with approval by Pimentel, his partymate in the ruling PDP-Laban.
“Yes, I agree. But we have to agree at this time about the model we will push,” the Senate president said in a text message.
Alvarez said Congress might as well change the form of government to federal from unitary, considering that lawmakers were close to passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will give Muslim Mindanao wider autonomy.
The BBL requires changes to the Constitution, he said.
“Now, if we will amend [the Constitution], why not establish a federal form of government for the whole country so all regions of the Philippines benefit, and not just one region,” the speaker said.
Metro Manila not gung-ho
Alvarez admitted that people in Metro Manila would not appreciate the “importance” of the shift in government.
But lawmakers won’t have a hard time discussing federalism because numerous public hearings have been conducted around the country, he said.
Pimentel said the Senate would focus on federalism after the ratification of the proposed P3.77-trillion 2018 national budget and the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion or tax reform measure.
In a chance interview Wednesday, Pimentel said the Executive branch could come up with a proposed new Constitution. “The President really wants federalism,” he said.
“My suggestion was for him to form his 25-member constitutional commission to help him, but I think he already has an informal study group,” he said.
“If he is ready, he can present his draft because our party, PDP-Laban, we have a draft already. But I want to fix it. If the President has a better draft, we will welcome it so that we would be able to study it,” Pimentel said.
Alvarez for ‘revgov’
Alvarez also backed calls by Duterte supporters to form a “revolutionary government” if opponents successfully block the President’s agenda.
“This is not new. If you will recall during the campaign period, [the revolutionary government]has already been pushed by President Duterte. He said that he will do real change to our country and if he cannot do it because of outside factors then he has the option of establishing a revolutionary government,” the House speaker said.
“He won and the masses gave him this mandate so this means that they are all agreeing with his proposal during the campaign period.”
If Duterte abolishes Congress, Alvarez said he would happily step down “for the sake of the change.”
On Tuesday, Alvarez said in jest: “It’s fine for me. I won’t have a job anymore. Majority Leader [Rodolfo Farinas] and I will just go around. A road trip sounds fun.”