Federalism bid kicks off with House resolution by incoming Speaker

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte’s bid to shift the country’s system of government to federal form has kicked off, after his foremost stalwart in the House formally moved for a constitutional convention.

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Incoming House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez

Incoming House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez has filed a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to revise the 1987 Charter and replace the country’s unitary system of government, which Mr. Duterte, an outsider to “Imperial Manila” politics, has blamed for the unequal development across the country.

“There is a need to re-examine the Constitution to make it attuned and responsive to present-day realties,” read House Concurrent Resolution No. 01, which has been filed at 12:08 p.m., minutes after Mr. Duterte took his oath of office.

Mr. Duterte had pushed for a shift to federalism when he campaigned for the presidency.

The resolution added that past attempts to push for a shift to a federal form of government had failed because one, they lacked support from the majority of legislators; and two, Filipinos were ill-informed of such proposals.

Under Mr. Alvarez’s proposal, Filipinos get to choose their delegates to the constitutional convention. According to the 1987 Constitution, there are three ways to amend the Charter: a constitutional convention, a three-fourths vote by members of Congress, or a people’s initiative.

According to Rep. Alvarez, studies conducted in the past showed that the federal system “will stimulate and hasten the country’s political, economic and cultural development.”

“[S]tudies have also shown that the federal system will build a framework for peace through unity in our ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, particularly in relation to Muslim Mindanao and indigenous people,” the resolution further read.

For decades, parts of Mindanao has been wracked by a Muslim rebellion, initially led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then succeeded by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In 2014, then President Aquino signed a peace agreement with the MILF, but the road to peace hit a roadblock after Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would have expanded the existing Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). —Raynan F. Javil

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