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Lawmakers present draft Charter for federal PHL

Two lawmakers from the House of Representatives have filed a resolution which calls on both houses of Congress to convene in a Constituent Assembly to discuss revisions in the 1987 Constitution, as part of the move to shift to a federal form of government.

During the House Constitutional Amendments Committee hearing on Wednesday, ABS Party-list Representative Eugene De Vera and Pampanga Representative Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr. presented their draft of their "Proposed Constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines," already attached to their resolution filed on August 2.

In their resolution, the lawmakers stressed the "urgent need" to propose revisions in the current Constitution that would make it "adequate to exigencies of government and bring unity to various sentiments and interests" of the Filipinos.

They also said it is "more expeditious" and "less costly" to form a Constituent Assembly than a constitutional convention where delegates have to be elected and a budget of approximately P8 billion is needed.

In their 80-page draft Philippine Federal Constitution, the lawmakers proposed that the government will be composed of two levels: a federal government which is presidential in form and with a bicameral legislature, and a regional government which includes a Regional Assembly and component Local Governments.

The President will still be elected at large, holding the same powers as in the 1987 Constitution.

The legislative branch, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, will have a few changes. The Senate will be composed of at least two to six senators per region and will be elected at large.

Regions with more than five, six, seven and eight million residents will have additional one, two, three and four senators, respectively.

Senators who obtained the lowest number of votes in their region will only serve for three years, while the rest will have a full term of six years, during the first election after the ratification of the federal Constitution.

In the succeeding elections, senators voted at large for each region will serve for six years.

The Federal Supreme Court will retain the powers vested upon it by the 1987 Constitution.

The Federal Philippines, on the other hand, will have 18 regions, each governed by a Regional Governor and a Regional Assembly.

Particularly notable in the draft is the "Bangsamoro Region," consisting of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Local government units will still be governed by the provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991, unless provided otherwise by the Federal Congress.

The Duterte administration has been pushing for a shift to a federal form of government as a means to address issues particularly in strife-torn Mindanao.

The House panel hopes to approve the draft charter by November and submit it to the plenary by January 2018. —KG, GMA News