House to tackle federalism next

MANILA, Philippines -  Federalism will be the next order of business at the House of Representatives after tackling the death penalty.

 Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez hopes President Duterte will soon appoint the members of the constitutional commission – which may be led by retired chief justice Reynato Puno – for purposes of shifting to a federal system of government.

 The 25-man body will be tasked to revise the 1987 Constitution leading to replacement of a highly centralized presidential government with that of a federal and parliamentary system where Congress will be converted into a unicameral body.

 “After we passed the death penalty bill, I’m just awaiting the appointment of the commissioners who will be tasked to draft a revised constitution,” Alvarez said, following his submission of a draft executive order creating the body composed of legal luminaries.

 The Speaker said Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – will be convening into a constituent assembly (con-ass) that will study and scrutinize the draft charter the con-com will submit to the lawmakers.

 Among the proponents of con-ass were Reps. Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental and Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, whose pending resolutions have been incorporated into one.

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 “Once they (con-com members) finish the draft constitution, we can convene Congress into a constituent assembly so that we can begin the debates,” Alvarez said on the proposed shift to a presidential-unitary form of government to a parliamentary-federal system.

 Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte shared Alvarez’s sentiment, saying it is about time Congress intensifies its deliberations on Charter change to propel the country’s economic growth by ensuring equal distribution of government resources nationwide. 

“The shift to a federal system will spell inclusive growth, which means spreading from imperial Manila to the countryside the benefits of being one of Asia’s fastest growing economies,” the former three-time governor stressed.

 Villafuerte sits as vice chairperson of the House committee on local government.

 He said the 2017 national budget signed into law by Duterte in December provides the government with an “auspicious start in realizing its inclusive growth agenda, with federalism providing the guarantee to sustain it.” 

Republic Act 10924, the first General Appropriations Act under the Duterte administration, has “the hallmarks of a budget for real change that would help the government transform the economy into a truly inclusive one that could be felt by Filipinos.”

 He said the benefits of the nearly P500-billion internal revenue allotment for 2017 and the additional P24.6-billion local infrastructure under the Local Government Support Fund would spread not just to the capital, but to other urban centers across the country.

 This year’s GAA allocation of P486.9 billion for IRA – which corresponds to the 40 percent share of local government units of the national internal revenue taxes – represents a 13.6 percent increase in the previous fiscal year’s IRA share of P428.62 billion.   

 He said the IRA’s increase is much higher than the growth of the 2017 GAA of 11.6 percent.