Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said the administration should consider postponing the mid-term elections in 2019 if it is determined to push the proposed shift to a federal form of government.
A postponement, he added, would be practical as Congress has a full plate with several administration measures, such as Charter change, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the 2018 General Appropriations Act.
“We have to work double time in passing these pieces of legislation,” Alvarez said at a news conference with House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas.
This would be difficult, he said, since many legislators would be preparing to file their certificates of candidacy by October ahead of the start of the campaign season in February 2019.
By end of the year, Alvarez said it would be hard for Congress to attend to the proposed shift to a federal system through Charter change, even if legislators prepare a timetable for this.
Alvarez confirmed receiving a copy of the draft federal charger prepared by the consultative committee, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
Puno had handed Alvarez a copy of the 91-page document at his office.
Fariñas, for his part, said the Con-Com’s function in preparing the draft charter was merely “recommendatory” and said Congress will have the final say.
“[The Con-Com knows that its function is] just recommendatory. They are only advisory,” Fariñas said. “It is only the Congress that can propose amendments to the Constitution. Precisely, they are called the advisory commission,” he added.
Fariñas said the House would take up the matter as soon as it receives the copy of the proposed draft from the Office of the President.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, said he saw no need to earmark a budget for a plebiscite on the new charter, since it would be held alongside local elections.
Also on Wednesday, a group of bishops opposed a shift to federalism, saying it would pave the way for one-man rule.
“There is a monstrous threat to democracy and human rights unfolding in our midst. This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte’s government forcefully rams into the Filipino people’s throat the proposed Federal Charter that will supersede the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum said in a statement.
The group said it was “alarmed and highly apprehensive” at the way the government appeared to be rail roading Charter change, and said it suspects “something sinister” behind the rush to form a federal system.