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Nene Pimentel: Shift to federalism possible in 2 years

Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Saturday incoming president Rodrigo Duterte could use the first two years of his term to change the form of government from presidential to federal.

"The first two years should be devoted to revising the Constitution either by constitutional convention or constituent assembly. Under a determined leadership, kayang gawin yun in two years and then the next four years implementation na ng bagong Saligang Batas," Pimentel said at a weekly media forum in Quezon City.

Pimentel's timeline seems to be in sync with the plan of Duterte's pick for speakership, newly elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who said last Friday that he was open to subject a proposed charter to a plebiscite during the 2019 midterm elections.

Apart from the form of government, Alvarez said the constitutional change may also tackle relaxing provisions against foreign ownership in certain businesses and introducing a two-party system to address political turncoatism.

To jumpstart the debate on charter change, Pimentel said he prefers a constitutional convention to ensure "wider participation by the people in a democratic manner" as delegates would have to be selected by the public.

The constitutional convention is one of the three modes allowed to amend the Constitution.

The other two are people's initiative and constituent assembly.

Under the people's initiative, an amendment may be proposed by the people through a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, while under a constituent assembly, Congress may propose amendments upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

Duterte believes federalism would be key to addressing problems peculiar to his native Mindanao like underdevelopment and armed conflict.

Pimentel shared the outgoing Davao City mayor's view, saying a federal state would have the powers to respond as "best they can" to things that their constituents need.

"Under the federal system, the central government would be limited to a few powers like maintenance of law and order, one army, one judiciary with modifications, one educational policy, one flag, and a few other functions. All other duties of government especially on matters of development would now be a function of federal states," said Pimentel in a separate interview with GMA News Online.

While he was senator, Pimentel filed in 2008 a joint resolution seeking to form a federal government but it never took off in the Senate as some lawmakers were worried that it be might be used to extend the term of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was deeply unpopular due to corruption and vote rigging allegations, beyond 2010. — APG, GMA News