THE HOUSE of Representatives plans to name an unprecedented 12 deputy speakers, and justified this as part of a “dry run” ahead of a plan to shift to a federal form of government.
Each deputy speaker will roughly correspond to the 11 federal states and an independent capital envisioned by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, a key pointman of President Rodrigo Duterte in the push for federalism through a revision of the 1987 Constitution, said House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte.
“It will be a division of political boundaries. We can’t proceed with the old political boundaries because there is apprehension that some regions will not survive under federalism. You have to regroup them in such a way that there are rich and poor [provinces in each region],” Fariñas explained.
So far, the House has named five deputy speakers representing each political party in the “Super Majority” coalition: Ilocos Norte Rep. Eric Singson of PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu of Nacionalista Party, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro of the National Unity Party and Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo of the Liberal Party.
‘Not a cure-all’
In the Senate, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on Thursday admitted that federalism won’t be a cure-all to the problems of the country, but said it would be a logical step to speed up progress and development.
Pimentel noted that the experience of the country with decentralization or devolution under the Local Government Code of 1991 has generally been positive.
The compulsory sharing of tax revenues has allowed local government units (LGUs) to provide basic services to their constituents.
Still, the country is mired in poverty and underdevelopment, and Muslim and communist rebellions still exist, Pimentel noted.
As for what mode of federalism to adopt, Pimentel said the country could look at the experiences of countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.
President Duterte also wants a French-style parliamentary national government, wherein the head of state is the president and the head of government is the prime minister.
The French model has a bicameral legislature composed of the National Assembly and the Senate.
The prime minister will be the second highest official of the land and nominated by the majority party in the National Assembly.
“We will be federal but at the same time slowly turn into a parliament but retaining presidential features,” the Senate President said in an interview after the lecture.