MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives is now writing its version of a Constitution that would replace the current presidential form of government with a federal system.
Four technical working groups (TWGs) have been formed and tasked to submit drafts on relevant Charter provisions.
The groups are to present their respective drafts to the committee on rules chaired by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas before the end of the year.
The House and the Senate plan to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) early next year to start working on the planned new Charter.
TWG 1, chaired by Rep. Corazon Malanyaon of Negros Oriental, is assigned to revise provisions on the executive and legislative branches of government, federal and regional powers, states, local government and taxation, and allocation of resources.
TWG 2 handles sections on the judiciary, amendments, suffrage, citizenship and bill of rights. Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro is its chairman.
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Group 3, headed by Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, will write the preamble, declaration of principles and state policies, general provisions, transitory provisions and national territory.
Group 4, chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, is tasked to draft provisions on social justice, labor, education, science, national economy and patrimony, bill of duties, accountability of public officers and family.
The work of the four TWGs is under the overall supervision of Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, who chairs the committee on constitutional amendments.
The newest federal Charter draft was presented last week by deputy majority leader and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and Eugene Michael de Vera of party-list group Arts, Business and Science Professionals.
Last Monday, President Duterte told his congressional allies to start working for a shift to the federal system.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, one of the proponents of federalism, welcomed the President’s plea, saying it would prompt lawmakers to move faster.
He said aside from changes in the political structure, the House and the Senate, convened as a con-ass, should consider proposals to relax restrictions on foreign ownership of land and business “so that the country could regain its competitive edge among other Asian economies in attracting long-term foreign direct investments (FDIs) that would create more jobs, especially in the countryside.”
“Federalism and foreign investments will sustain the economy’s growth momentum and enable the government to put flesh into President Duterte’s vision to disperse growth and development to the regions,” he said.
Citing government data, Villafuerte noted that over the 2011-2015 period, the country attracted just $20.4 billion in foreign direct investments, “which is a pittance compared to Singapore’s $305.6 billion, Indonesia’s $107.6 billion, Malaysia’s $56.6 billion and Thailand’s $42.0 billion.”
“The 40-percent ownership limit is a deal-breaker for foreign investors willing to bring in massive amounts of capital into the country. Even if we amend rules to accommodate more investments, we are still limited by constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership,” he said.
“In this emerging era of regional integration and borderless trade, we need to catch up with our neighbors ASAP, and the way to do it is to do what our more vibrant neighbors in the region have done, which is to open wide their economies to foreign investors,” he stressed.
Aside from Villafuerte, several congressmen, including Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Benitez and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of Cagayan de Oro City, are seeking the lifting of foreign ownership restrictions in their versions of a revised Constitution.
Benitez, Gonzales and De Vera are proposing a federal-presidential type of government with the present two-chamber Congress retained but with senators elected by region instead of at large nationally.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, is advocating the classic federal-parliamentary set-up with a prime minister and a unicameral parliament.