Alvarez to convene meeting on ‘People’s Initiative for Federal Constitution’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 October) — After several failed attempts in Congress, proponents of the shift to a federal system of government, are now pushing for people’s initiative as the mode to effect that change.

Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Speaker of the House of Representatives from June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2018, is convening a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City on Sunday, October 27, with leaders, including members of the now defunct Consultative Committee (ConCom) that President Rodrigo Duterte created last year to review the 1987 Constitution and propose amendments towards a shift to federalism.

The October 27 meeting was mentioned in the eulogy for former ConCom member and former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr., by Reuben Canoy, former ConCom member and like Pimentel, a former Cagayan de Oro City mayor. The eulogy was written by Canoy and read by his daughter Rhona at the necrological service for Pimentel in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday evening.

Pimentel and Canoy had been pushing for a federal form of government for half a century.

“This Sunday, October 27, 2019, at the instance of former House Speaker Congressman Pantaleon ‘Bebot’ Alvarez of Davao del Norte, we are scheduled to meet here in Cagayan de Oro with our (ConCom) Chairman, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno,” Canoy said, adding that “Cong. Alvarez convened a group of governors and congressmen on his proposal to launch a People’s Initiative for a Federal Constitution. Nene should have been part of this important meeting.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in March 2017 envisioned a Federal Philippines comprising 14 states — seven in Luzon, two in the Visayas and five in Mindanao, with Negros as the seat of the Central Government. The Constitutional Committee created by President Duterte in 2018 proposed 18 federated regions. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Asked if Sunday’s meeting in Cagayan de Oro is the launching of the “people’s initiative,” Alvarez told MindaNews in a text message: “discussion and consultation pa lang with some leaders.”

Canoy said Pimentel’s death is considered by some as a setback to the federalism efforts but “God has a purpose for all of us, and every event has a meaning.”

He added that instead of weakening the federal movement, Pimentel’s death has “aroused public sentiment and strengthened our resolve to carry out the historic political change that must be made now — or the Philippines will remain forever mired in systemic problems that none of our leaders have been able to solve since we became a republic 73 years ago.”

Pimentel was dubbed “Father of Local Government Code” as principal author of the landmark legislation to empower local governments within the framework of a Presidential, unitary system under the then newly-ratified 1987 Constitution.

During the campaign for the 2016 Presidential polls, then candidate Rodrigo Duterte pushed for the shift to a federal system of government. The shift however, can be done only if the 1987 Constitution is amended.

Canoy noted that in Pimentel’s view, empowering the local governments through federalism “would enable the regions to develop themselves, and the nation’s economy to prosper by leaps and bounds — to the point of eradicating poverty, the root cause of drugs, lawlessness, corruption and rebellion.”

“When this happens, our country will have entered a golden age of peace and progress. In gratitude, many will look back and ask the names of those who made it possible,” he said.

The ConCom in its recommendations to President Duterte in July last year, proposed the creation of 18 federated regions with powers to impose taxes and generate their own revenues.

The ConCom said the “least disruptive transition” would be to stick to the present regional configuration of 17 administrative regions plus the Negrosanon Federated Region in Negros including Siquijor.

Of the 18 federated regions, 16 would be symmetrical and two asymmetrical – the Bangsamoro and Cordillera regions.

Concom senior technical assistant and spokesperson Ding Generoso in July last year explained that the Bangasamoro and Cordillera have different designs from other regions because of their “identity-based demands.”

The federated regions will have a regional governor, deputy regional governor and a regional legislative assembly.

The 1987 Constitution provides for three ways to amend or revise the Constitution: Constitutional Convention, Congress convening as a constituent assembly or People’s Initiative.

Section 2 of Article XVII states that amendments “may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein.”

The provision adds that “Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.

In July last year, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, said the House of Representatives cannot use the people’s initiative option to amend the Constitution because a law must be enacted first in order to implement this provision. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)