Pimentel to Cordillerans: There'll be 2019 elections despite charter change efforts
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Senate’s first hearing on charter change in Northern Luzon on Friday, March 16, was more about reassuring people that the 2019 midterm elections will not be postponed.
“Huwag kayong matakot sa multo na wala doon (Don't imagine ghosts),” said Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who attended the provincial hearings for the first time, to dispel doubts expressed by reactors that revising the 1987 Constitution would lead to the extension of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte and other elected officials.
Talking to a full crowd at the University of Cordilleras’ Main Theater, Pimentel said their political party PDP-Laban had been promoting federalism since 1982.
“Naka-shorts pa si Pangulong Duterte noon,” he said. (President Duterte was still in shorts then.)
He insisted that federalism would involve the provinces in national decision making processes, increase revenue sharing among the provinces, bring peace to Mindanao, and allow representation of different cultures and languages in the country.
“The Senate will not back up such provision [for a no election scenario]. Don’t worry so much about that. Free your mind instead to the other provisions,” Pimentel said.
The Baguio leg was the 4th time the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revisions of codes and laws, chaired by Senator Francis Pangilinan, conducted hearings in the provinces.
Push for bicameral, two-party system: Senator Panfilo Lacson said the opposition to charter change in Baguio is because of the element of distrust.
One of the apprehension is that the proposed new constitution will establish a unicameral legislature.
“Even the renaming of streets had to be done through bicameral,” Lacson said. “We need to come up with more consultations on whether it would be con-con (constitutional convention) or con-ass (constitutional assembly).”
Pangilinan said that in case of a con-con, only 7 of the senators would need to say they don’t like it and the move would not prosper.
“In a con-ass, it would even be harder as you need ¾ of the Senate to agree,” he said.
As for the timetable, Pangilinan said that in a con-ass, you need 60 to 90 days to agree or not. After that, they will still allot time for the campaign and method of voting.
“As for a con-con, if we compare it to the 1971 scenario, we need two years,” he said.
Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan said that if the Constitution would be revised, it should go back to the two-party system, and a law should be passed to stop political turncoatism. The audience applauded loudly.
Cordillera's autonomy is key issue: One of the contested issues in Baguio about federalism is its effect on the quest for autonomy of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
“How about a federal state as envisioned in the revised constitution? Can CAR stand as one federal state? Is the region capable financially and administratively to be transformed into a federal state? What will it take for CAR to stand on its own as a federal state?” asked Pangilinan.
Lawyer Jose Molintas said he is opposing charter change because the particular type of federal state being peddled is unclear. As it is, the provisions for genuine regional autonomy, which include the people’s control of the utilization of natural resources, have been watered down, and under a federalist state, the Cordillerans would become 3rd-class citizens, he said.
Basilio Wandag of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army is calling for an indigenous state under the federal system, where IPs in Luzon would be based in the Cordillera. – Rappler.com
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