Senate tackles Charter change

Resolution on constituent assembly for discussion

By Maila Ager
First Posted 10:07:00 09/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Deliberations on a joint resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly to propose a federal form of government began at the Senate Wednesday.

Senate Joint Resolution 10 was initiated by Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel and signed by Senate President Manny Villar and Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Bizaon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Legal experts, led by Father Joaquin Bernas and University of the Philippines Professor Jose Abueva were among those invited at the initial hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.

At the start of the hearing, Gordon clarified that the committee would not yet change the Constitution but the hearing was only meant to “allow discussion or encourage discussion” on the issue and to provide choices for the people.

The committee chairman reiterated his position that any change in the Constitution should take place after the 2010 elections.

Using a power point presentation, Pimentel explained his proposal, particularly the creation of 11 federal states and conversion of Metro Manila into a federal administrative region.

The 11 federal states will be the States of Northern Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Minparon (Mindoro Palawan, Romblon), Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.

In proposing the federal form of government, Pimentel clarified that the present presidential system would still be retained.

He said the president and vice president of the Philippines will still be elected throughout the nations but the two should come from one ticket.

The bicameral legislature, he said, would also be retained where members of the House of Representatives would still be elected by district.

As far as the Senate is concerned, Pimentel said, his proposal would be a “little more out of ordinary.”

From the present 24, Pimentel is proposing a total number of 81 senators — six from every federal state, six from Metro Manila, and nine overseas.

Pimentel expressed hopes that the issue of the contested islands in the South China Sea — the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan islands — would also be tackled in the discussion.

After all, he said, the Scarborough Shoal would fall under the proposed federal state of central Luzon while the Kalayaan islands would fall under the proposed federal state of Minparon.

While he was one of the signatories of the resolution, Lacson told the committee that he was now reconsidering his position.

“I’ve been a strong advocate of federalism, however, recent events and developments have made me rethink my position,” he said.

He particularly expressed apprehension on the manner of voting under the constituent assembly and the possibility of extending the term of sitting officials once this resolution was adopted.

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