May 25, 2018, 8:37 pm
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Alvarez eyes Cha-cha approval before year ends

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez is eyeing the approval of the proposed shift to a parliamentary form of government approved before the end of the year now that House and Senate leaders have agreed to defer discussions on how to vote on the changes.

“We have to finish it before 2019. I think that’s already a long time; that’s already a conservative estimate,” he said in a press conference.

Alvarez said the House will wait for the proposals of the Consultative Commission tasked by the President to craft proposed amendments to the Constitution to pave the way for a shift to federalism.

He said lawmakers will study the recommendations of the 25-man consultative body and the House committee on constitutional amendments which is also crafting its own proposed amendments.

“We’ll also wait for their (Consultative Commission) input so we’ll be able to cover all and consider all inputs,” said Alvarez.

President Duterte has appointed former Chief Justice Reynato Puno as chairman of the consultative committee that will review the 1987 Constitution.

The President also appointed 18 members of the 25-man committee, including former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., retired Supreme Court justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Bienvenido Reyes, and former Kalinga Rep. Laurence Wacnang.

Last month, House and Senate leaders broke the impasse created by congressmen’s plan to introduce amendments to the constitution even without the approval of the senators.

Congressional leaders have agreed to discuss the details of the proposed changes first such as the structure of government and set aside questions on how they will vote on the changes – either jointly or separately.

Alvarez earlier gave up on his proposal to have the 2019 midterm elections cancelled in favor of the transition period to federalism.

He initially planned to hold a plebiscite for federalism simultaneously with this year’s May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections but this might not be doable because of the tight deadline.

He said, however, that “anything can happen” now that Rep. Johnny Pimentel (PDP-Laban, Surigao del Sur) has filed a measure to postpone the May barangay and SK polls to October 2-18.

Alvarez said  Duterte will still lead the government during the transition period since he has a contract with the people for six years which will end in 2022.

“We cannot violate that contract, we cannot terminate that contract by amending the Constitution,” he said.

Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte (NP, Camarines Sur), one of the proponents of federalism at the House, said the government needs to launch a national information campaign to educate the public about the advantages and benefits of the federal system.

Duterte himself has noted the lack of public support for federalism, which Villafuerte attributed to “the dearth of a well-organized information drive on the issue.”

“The information campaign on federalism should start early this year so that the government would have enough time to educate the people about how this progressive form of government would be most beneficial for them, in terms of spreading the country’s economic gains to the countryside and raising rural incomes,” Villafuerte said.

Alvarez said Congress will have to see to it that the structure of government under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be adaptable to the federal set-up.

A principal author of the bill, the Speaker said he also wants to have the measure approved before the House goes on recess on March 23.

“I want the BBL approved before we go on a break so our work will be finished and we can send it to the slow chamber (Senate),” he chuckled.

The House committees on local government and on peace and reconciliation and Muslim affairs are set to begin today its five-week public consultation in Mindanao on the BBL. The consultations will be held in Cotabato City, Midsayap and Davao.

“This long-awaited legislation will serve as the core of a stronger regional government – one that will be stronger than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),” said Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan (PL, Anak Mindanao).

The BBL was supposed to be the legal framework of the peace deal signed during the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The proposal failed to get the approval of Congress amid concerns of unconstitutional provisions and the furor over the Mamasapano clash that killed 44 members of the elite PNP-Special Action Force (SAF). 
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