• Lawmakers agree to ConAss for shift to federalism

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    Congress has agreed to start deliberations on proposed changes to the Constitution to allow shift to a federal form of government, according to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

    “What I only remember, because there is a lot, I remember that one was federalism—that we need to start already,” Alvarez said following a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting.

    “We and the Senate leadership will meet on when we can convene into a constituent assembly,” he added. “Maybe early next year. But the committee hearings will already start.”

    Under the 1987 Constitution, the country is a unitary presidential and constitutional republic.

    The Constitution provides three ways by which it may be revised: through a constituent assembly, wherein Congress convenes to propose amendments; through a constitutional convention, the delegates of which the public elects, and directly by the electorate.

    Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and ABS Party-list Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera earlier filed a resolution calling for a constituent assembly to propose changes to the constitution by adopting a federal form of government.

    One feature of a proposed federal constitution recently presented to the House Constitutional Amendments Committee is the division of the country into 18 regions.

    Under the draft charter, the 18 regions are the following: the National Capital Region, Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Negros Island, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccksargen, Caraga, and the Bangsamoro region.

    These regions will have an 80-percent share of revenues and taxes collected by local government units (LGUs) or federal government agencies, while the federal government will have a 20-percent share.

    Each province, city, municipality and barangay (village) “shall have the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees and charges as provided by law subject to such limitations as the Federal Congress may provide, consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy. Such taxes, fees and charges shall accrue exclusively to the LGU concerned.”

    During the opening of the 17th Congress’s second regular session in July, Alvarez urged his colleagues to exert more effort in paving the way for the proposed shift to a federal form of government.

    He said federalism would somehow “take a little time” because their proposal to form a constitutional commission that would study and draft a new constitution was pending with Malacañang.

    “Now if for instance by the end of the year the request has not moved, I have to talk to the Senate leadership if we could already convene into a constituent assembly and be the one to designate a working committee to help in the drafting of the new constitution,” Alvarez said.

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