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Ten months to win people to new Charter

The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) that drafted a proposed federal constitution to replace the current 1987 Constitution has proposed many changes in the structure of government, built around the idea of giving more power to the regions to govern themselves.

The committee proposed the creation of 18 regions – the present 17 regions plus a new Negros region. Each region would have authority over its socio-economic planning, land use, financial administration, tourism and investment, public utilities and public works, economic zones, land use and housing, sports development, etc.

The central government would retain authority over national security and defense, international relations, national socio-economic planning, international trade, customs and tariff, monetary policy, citizenship, immigration, naturalization, basic education, elections, science and technology, law and order, the justice system, inter-regional infrastructure and public utilities, etc.

Collection of certain taxes would go to the regions, including real property, franchise, environmental, and road users taxes. The federal government would continue to collect income, excise, and value-added taxes, and customs duties, but the regions will have a share of this income. There would be an equalization fund, equivalent to 3 percent of the annual national budget, to help the poorer regions.

Two of the 18 regions would be the already established Bangsamoro and Cordillera which have special powers and special structures of government. The rest would have similar officials – a regional governor, deputy regional governor, and regional legislative assembly.

The bicameral legislative system would have a Senate composed of 36 senators – two for each region – instead of the present 24. The House of Representatives would have 400 members instead of the present 297. Of the total House membership, 160 would come from the political parties; 80 would represent marginalized sectors.

The federal executive department would retain the present system of president and vice president, departments and bureaus.

These are only some of the provisions of the proposed constitution drafted by the Consultative Committee headed by former Chief Justice Renato Puno, whose members were all appointed by President Duterte. Its proposed draft will be submitted to the President before July 9 in time for his State of the Nation Address on July 23.

It must be stressed that the Con-Com draft has a long way to go. The President and his advisers may find a need to revise some of the proposed provisions. He will then submit it to Congress meeting as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) and the congressmen and senators are bound to have their own views on many of the provisions proposed by the Con-Com.

Whatever the Constituent Assembly finally approves, it will be submitted to the people for ratification. Between now and the proposed date for ratification in May, 2019, there are 10 months during which there will be extensive public discussion on various provisions – in forums of all kinds and in the media.

In the latest surveys, the federal system of government was not well received by most people. The Duterte administration thus needs to carry out a more effective effort to win the people to this prime advocacy of President Duterte in the next ten months.