President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his proposal to hasten the process for a shift to a federal form of government so that he could be replaced, Senate President Vicente Sotto said Thursday.
Sotto also told a media briefing after Constitutional Commission chairman, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, turned over to him the draft of the Federal Constitution.
President Rodrigo Duterte wants a new transitory President with the upcoming shift.
At this juncture, Sotto asked the President, “are you abandoning us.”
“He did not answer me,” Sotto told reporters, adding the first step for them after receiving the draft of the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution was to go for a constituent assembly.
In related developments:
• Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the draft federal charter’s provision for the creation of a transition commission was crafted to allow Duterte to be the first president of the envisioned federal government.
He slammed the transition commission provision in the proposed federal charter crafted by “Duterte’s Consultative Committee” tasked to review the 1987 Charter to give way to a federal form of government.
“The creation of a Federal transition commission is a devious innovation by Duterte’s consultative committee to assure the transition of President Rodrigo Duterte as the first Federal President since he is not prohibited from running in the first elections set on the second Monday of May 2022,” Lagman said in a statement.
• Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, head of the ConCom said he would not endorse federalism if it lacked an anti-political dynasty provision.
Political dynasties wield a lot of political and economic powers under the current Constitution and could gain more if the shift to federalism pushes through without such a ban, Puno said.
“I will not endorse that kind of federalism for obvious reasons,” he told ANC.
While waiting for the official transmission from the Palace of the draft Federal Constitution, Sotto said he would provide each senator a copy before the weekends to allow them to study the proposal.
“The first step I will be doing is I will be distributing copies to the members of the Senate and talk to the chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, Senator Francis Pangilinan,” he said.
He said it would be easier to separately review the document before they discuss it.
He will then call for an all senators caucus to discuss how they will go about the proposal and how they will include it in the schedule of the Senate, Sotto said.
Responding to the query if they have time to discuss the draft Federal Constitution, Sotto said: “We will have to make time. The way I am hearing it from ConCom and the President, this is indeed a priority.
He said the constituent assembly had to be convened first to tackle the draft federal constitution.
The constituent assembly, he said, is the fastest way to review the Constitution because its members are the senators and congressmen who only need to pass a resolution to convene the body.
Puno and ConCom member former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. agreed that ConAss was the best means to amend the Constitution.
“We thank the Senate President for receiving us and for the assurance that this draft constitution will be properly considered as inputs when the Congress hopefully convenes as a constituent assembly and consider revising our Constitution to effectuate the shift from a unitary government to a federal government,” Puno said in his opening remarks.
“We acknowledge that the power to revise our Constitution through the constituent assembly lies with the Congress of the Philippines. We are here to assist Congress when it engages in the task of revising our Constitution,” he said.
Pimentel said the constituent assembly should vote separately so as not to diminish the vote of the senators.
Meanwhile, Senator Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the subcommittee on BBL, guaranteed that as a “good soldier, we’re just there to make sure that these measures are constitutional, those measures would be passed and be ratified into law.”
He said the underlying theme earlier in all the discussions was constitutionality.
“So when it was taken up, I had explained to the President the pros and cons. This was the Senate version. That was the House version and what are the possible outcomes if we choose the Senate version and the House version,” related Zubiri.
“At the end of the day, the President just said, ‘Is it constitutional?’ And he asked the legal luminaries who were there,” recalled Zubiri of the meeting with the President Wednesday night to submit the final draft of the Federal Constitution.
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