By Genalyn Kabiling
The proposed shift to federalism could still be attained within President Duterte’s term, Malacañang expressed optimism Monday despite noticing the congressional moves towards the goal were “slow.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo maintained that the President has not abandoned his federalism initiative even after he called for swift amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“The President is optimistic that it will because he knows that federalism will help the development of this country. It’s a matter of, I think, time on the part of Congress to do it,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing when asked if they were confident the federalism could be passed under Duterte’s watch.
“We have to ask Congress why it is moving slow,” he added.
Panelo explained that Duterte made a push for amendments to the Charter’s economic provisions in case the federalism bill does not hurdle Congress.
“The President is a very creative person. If he feels that one method is not practical or cannot be realized, he goes to another mode. What is important to him is certain provisions of the Constitution must be amended. And that is the judgment call of the Congress,” he said.
The President, in his visit to Cotoabato City last Friday, dropped hints that he might resort to amendments to the “not all” but a few economic provisions of the Constitution.
Duterte made the remark as Congress has yet to pass a draft federal Constitution that seeks a shift to a federal form of government.
The House of Representatives has crafted its draft federal Constitution that retains the presidential form of government but allows Congress to create federal states as well as lifts the term limits of lawmakers. The Senate, on the other hand, is not keen on pursuing the proposed Charter change for now.
Panelo explained that Duterte’s latest comment does not suggest he was dropping his federalism move. He said Duterte has advocated federalism since he assumed office in 2016 although Congress has not yet approved the proposal.
“He’s just expressing an idea. It depends how members of Congress would take it,” he said.
“Perhaps what he is saying is that it takes too long for Congress to act on it. You must remember that he has been advocating for a revision of the Constitution at the inception of his presidency and Congress knew that. But Congress hasn’t taken serious moves to make it a realization,” he said.
On the President’s Charter change pitch, Panelo said Duterte has long wanted to ease foreign investment restrictions in the country.
“He mentioned during the campaign about the entry of foreign investments. there is so much restrictions, he wants to liberalize them,” he added.
Asked if the President disapproves the draft federal Charter pending in the House of Representatives, Panelo said Duterte did not say anything about it.
“What he wants is that the Constitution be amended the soonest,” he said.