Duterte to propose constitutional convention in next 2 years to pave way for federalism

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 May) – Incoming president Rodrigo R. Duterte is proposing to Congress amend the 1987 Philippine constitution by starting within the next two years the process that will pave the way for a parliamentary federal form of government from a unitary type.

Peter T. Laviña, in a press conference at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here Tuesday, said that this is part of  the three-point agenda which the presumptive president would push under his administration.

The other two – battling drugs and criminality and forging of peace agreements with rebel groups.

He said that they will ask Congress to call for a constitutional convention to start with the drafting of a new constitution.

Laviña said that they expect members will be convened by early next year so they can start with the draft and hold national consultation with stakeholders, including Filipinos abroad.

“That will require a wide national consensus beginning with the asking of Congress to call for a constitutional conventional electing our delegates in a democratic way. We will undergo a national study of these proposals,” he said.

Once prepared and approved, Laviña said they will present the proposal to the Filipino people to be voted upon through plebiscite, which is being initially planned either earlier than or simultaneous with the 2019 midterm elections.

He said if things get going in the first few months of the Duterte administration, then plebiscite could be held simultaneously with the Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October 2016. “But of course we have to deal with the new Congress,” he added.

Laviña said that Duterte made it a point that his immediate acts as incoming president would be to ask Congress to pass a law calling for a constitutional convention to start the process by electing the new framers of the constitution.

If push comes to shove, he said only then that new regional states will be set up and ready from 2019 to 2022, the last three years of the Duterte administration.

“The first elections for the federal officials will be 2022. It is a wrong notion that the president will become the president of a new federal government. He will only preside towards that transition, the federal state as well as the regional states by 2022,” he said.

During the constitutional convention deliberations, Laviña added they expect that review on the country’s economic provisions and its foreign relations will also be taken up.

He said the Duterte administration will give “primacy” in crafting new policies for overseas Filipino workers, which he said will create a major shift in the country’s foreign policy.

Although pushing for a federal system, Duterte said that he will respect the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

National unity

Duterte has offered his “hands of friendship” and called for a national unity with rivals, Laviña said, to counter the most pressing problems like drugs, criminality, and corruption.

He mentioned about fighting against external threats that have been rumored to be massing in the Southern Philippines who are advocating for violent extremism.

“We are being threatened by China over West Philippine sea – islet grabbing – there are existing global problems like global warming, human trafficking, properties, and monopolies of big countries over trade relation,” he said.

Duterte’s third agenda, Laviña said, will be forging of peace agreements and establish political settlements with the rebel forces in the country.

He said armed conflicts have to be stopped in order to build peace in the country.

“We need to end the internal conflict that has been attempted to be solved by the past administrations,” he said.

He added that this is Duterte’s “golden opportunity” since the presumptive president is close to the communist rebels but he was quick to clarify that the incoming president is not a member of any communist group.

“The mayor is not close [to the communist group] in a sense that he is a member of the communist party or bring them all to the government or convert the country into a communist state,” Laviña stressed.

The 71-year-old Davao City patriarch will take his oath as 16th president of the Philippines at noon of June 30.