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Congress fast-tracking PHL shift to federalism

Image from CNN Philippines

In the absence of the 25-man constitutional commission (Con-com), the leadership of the 17th Congress on Wednesday agreed to create a technical working group (TWG) that will draft the proposed revisions to the 1987 Constitution to hasten the shift to federalism.

In an interview after the congressional leaders meeting, Majority Leader Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariñas of Ilocos Norte said the TWG will be composed of six to 12 members from each chamber.

Fariñas said the TWG is expected to create a working draft that will be deliberated upon by Congress when it convenes into a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said the 17th Congress will convene as Con-ass early next year.

“We are going to prioritize the revision of the Constitution. We discussed that if we cannot wait for the constitutional commission being created by the President, both Houses of Congress will form a technical working group to present proposed amendments or revisions to the Constitution,” Fariñas said.

“The technical working group will be the one to make inputs for us to have a working draft that we are going to deliberate when Congress convenes into a Constituent Assembly,” he added.

Last December, President Duterte signed Executive Order 10, creating a committee that will review the Constitution. The committee will be composed of 25 different experts from the country. All amendments to the 1987 Constitution are expected to be drafted by the Con-ass.

However, President Duterte has yet to name members of the body.

But House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman and PDP-Laban Rep. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte said the lower chamber has already conducted its information campaign on the proposal shifting the country’s form of government from presidential to a federal system through Con-ass.

Mercado said the campaign seeks to educate the public on the workings and benefits of federal system.

He also said the measure filed in the lower chamber limits its scope on the mode of Charter Change, which is Con-ass.

Con-ass is cheaper compared to the estimated P8 billion that will be spent for a constitutional convention.

Mercado said the manner of voting, which may be done separately by the
House and the Senate, can be introduced as an amendment to the measure during the plenary proceedings.

Since the proposal is in the form of a bill, Mercado said the process is that after the House passes the measure, it will be submitted to the Senate.

Then if it will be approved in the Senate, there will be a bicameral conference. After that, the bill will be submitted to the President for his approval.

Common bills

The leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate also identified 38 measures that will be passed in to law during the second regular session of the 17th Congress. Fariñas said leaders of the both chambers have agreed to pass these measures into law after their meeting on Wednesday.

Present during the meeting are Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III, Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Alvarez, Fariñas, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dakila Carlo E.  Cua of Quirino.

The measures that will be approved by the both houses of Congress this month until October are:

■ Amendment to Republic Act (RA) 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act.  Amending RA 8178 is needed to scrap the quantitative restriction and convert it
into tariffs;

■ Amendments to Government Procurement Reform Act to allow negotiated procurement “before, during, or after a calamity”;

■ The proposed Agrarian and Agricultural Credit Condonation Act;

■ The National Land Use Act, which would seek to classify land use into four functions: protection of land, production-land use, settlements development and infrastructure development;

■ The first package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which was already approved by the House

■ Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act;

■ End of Contract/Anti-Contructualization Act;

■ Salary Standardization Law IV;

■  Ease of Doing Business Act/Fast Business Permit Act;

■  Corporation Code of the Philippines

■  Bill that would prohibit the conversion of irrigated lands;

■  National ID System;

■  Enhanced Universal Health Care Act;

■  Estate Tax Reform Act;

■  Social Security Act Amendments;

Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act;

■  Allowable/Recoverable System Loss Act (electricity);

■  Community Service in lieu of Imprisonment for the penalty of arresto menor;

■  Free School Feeding/Pagkaing Pinoy para sa Batang Pinoy Act;

■ One Town: One Doctor Act;

■ Expand Coverage of Local Absentee Voting Act;

■ Family Code of the Philippines Amendment (default property regime: complete separation of property);

■ Amendment of Fair Election Act;

■Antiterrorism Law (National Security Act);

■ Antihazing law amendments; and

■ Proposal creating the Department of Disaster Response (Public Safety).

■ Measures that will be approved between November and  December are amendments to Public Service Act;

■  Bill creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development;

■  Anti-Discrimination Act;

■  Unified Uniformed Personnel Benefits; and

■  Pension Reform Act and criminal Investigation Act.

In January to March 2018, both houses are eyeing to approve a measure requiring legislative franchise for operating railways; a bill creating the Mindanao Railway Corp./Authority; and a measure extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways to another 25 years.

Also identified as priority bills are the proposed revisions to the Constitution and Bangsamoro basic law and minimum-wage law.

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