Shift to federalism proposal: no elections in 2019

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) — Incumbent representatives and senators will have their terms extended until 2022 as members of the Interim Parliament during the transition period to a federal system of government,  according to the proposal presented during the hearing of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday

Also on Tuesday, the plenary passed a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The term of office of the incumbent representatives and half of the 24-member Senate is supposed to end on June 30, 2019.

Aside from the legislators, the terms of offices of governors, mayors and local legislators is supposed to end by then.

But if the proposed shift to federalism is ratified this year, the May 13, 2019 elections will be called off and all elective officials with terms expiring on June 30, 2019 will continue in office until June 30, 2022, when the first set of officials under the Federal Republic of the Philippines will be elected.

“There is an extension, pero with public support. Kailangan natin magprepara sa bagong federal form of government… The new election will coincide with the end of the term of President Duterte in 2022,” ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) quoted Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, as saying.

Duterte’s six-year term ends on June 30, 2022.

As proposed, the present Congress shall be dissolved upon the adoption of the Federal Constitution whose plebiscite for ratification the committee wants to be held simultaneous with the May 14 barangay elections this year.

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Under the proposed Transitory Provisions, the Senate and the House of Representatives “shall be replaced by an interim Parliament that shall exist immediately and shall continue until the members of the regular Parliament shall have been elected and assumed office” in May 2022, the Sub-Committee 1 on the Review of Articles VI, VII & X, chaired by Davao Oriental Rep. Corazon Malanyaon reported.

The proposal states that members of the interim Parliament “shall be the incumbent Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and by appointment of the President, the Members of the Cabinet with portfolio.”

Malanyaon told MindaNews in a telephone interview that these are mere proposals and are still subject for discussion.

The report is silent on what happens to the elected local officials during the transition period. But Malanyaon said “what is applicable to the national is applicable to the local.”

She added tht if the proposed shift to federalism is ratified within 2018, the May 2019 mid-term elections will no longer push through and the next elections would be in May 2022 under a Federal Constitution.

The sub-committee proposed a shift from a unitary to federal form of government, from Presidential to Parliamentary with the President as Head of State and Commander in Chief and the Prime Minister as Head of Government.

The proposed Federal Republic of the Philippines will have five states: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Metro Manila and the Bangsamoro.

Also under the Transitory Provisions, the interim Prime Minister shall be elected by a majority vote of all the Members of Parliament and shall be a member of the Cabinet.

But the incumbent President, in this case President Rodrigo Duterte, “shall exercise all the powers and functions of the head of state and head of government under this Federal Constitution until the election of the next President and Prime Minister in May 2022.”

Duterte, under the same proposed transitory provision, “shall appoint the new Cabinet from among the Members of Parliament” and will have “supervision and direction over the interim Prime Minister and Cabinet.”

The first regular election for President of the Federal Republic of the Philippines is proposed to be held on the second Monday of May 2022. The President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of five years.

The term of office of the Member sof Parliament was not indicated in the report but during the discussions in the Committee hearing, several suggstions were made: a five-year term with a maximum of two terms; four-year term with a maximum of two, and no term limits. l
The proposal states that the incumbent Vice President, in this case Leni Robredo, “shall continue until 2022 to exercise her powers and prerogatives as Vice President under the 1987 Constitution.”

There is no Vice President in the proposed Federal Republic.

Also under the Transitory Provisions, the seats allocated to party-list representatives “shall be filled by election in accordance with Republic Act No 7941 or the Party-list System for the May 2022 national elections. Thereafter, Parliament shall enact a law on party-list or sectoral representatives under this Constitution.”

Under a Federal Republic, the sub-committee proposed the retention of a bicameral legislature with a Federal Assembly of “not more than 300 members unless otherwise provided by law,” 80% of whom shall be elected by plurality vores and 20% elected through party-list system of “registered federal or regional sectoral parties or organizations” that will be elected at large.

It also proposed that the Senate be composed of 15 members, at three senators from each of the five states.

The House Committee proposal differs from President Duterte’s vision of a Federal Philippines. He told MindaNews on Friday that he envisions a Federal Philippines with no Senate and no party-list representatives but a national assembly composed of only about 50 representatives.

Duterte also said “there will be no suspension of elections and there will be no term extension especially for me.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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