CAMARINES Sur Representative-elect Luis Raymund Villafuerte on Sunday proposed a “grand coalition of parties” in the House to finally push the long-overdue shift from the unitary presidential to the federal form of government via Charter change in the incoming Duterte administration.
But House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of the ruling Liberal Party expressed reservations over the regions that he said were so impoverished to stand on their own financially.
He said it was best for the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to first lay down its cards on how to go about shifting to the new system.
“I think [Duterte] is planning to form a consultative commission, or he has already done that but we don’t know the details,” Belmonte told dzBB radio.
“We really want to know more about it even before the constitutional convention convenes.”
Villafuerte said only a structural switch in government could pave the way for a genuine devolution of powers from the so-called Imperial Manila to the provinces and cities, and which would allow the country’s economic overdrive to truly trickle down to the countryside.
“A grand coalition of pro-administration and opposition political parties to spearhead the federal shift has assumed greater urgency,” Villafuerte said.
Under the Constitution, any amendments to the 1987 Charter could be introduced through one of three modes: through a duly-elected Constitutional Convention (ConCon), Congress convening itself into a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) or a People’s Initiative (PI).
Villafuerte, a three-term Camarines Sur governor from 2004 to 2013, is a stalwart of the Nacionalista Party, which was the mainstream political party that forged a coalition agreement after the May 9 polls with the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, which had carried Duterte to electoral victory.
Villafuerte said “Congress must take the lead in pushing the federal shift via Charter change on the watch of would-be President Duterte who himself champions federalism and who enjoys significant popular support,” Villafuerte said.
“Now is the best time to tackle Charter Change and the switch to Federalism at the onset of the Duterte presidency minus any suspicion of a hidden political agenda.”
Said Belmonte: “I’m not against it necessarily. It’s a question of how you make the regions. Yes, it can be made to work, but it’s not gonna be easy. What will happen to those places that are relatively poor at the moment and dependent on getting their share from the income of the rich regions?”
Villafuerte recalled that the Consultative Commission created by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had discussed the federal shift, but this proposal along with other proposed constitutional reforms failed to gain traction in the face of public suspicion that Charter change was just a ploy for Mrs. Arroyo to circumvent the constitutional ban on her reelection.