President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Consultative Committee (Con-com), which is tasked to review the 1987 Constitution, voted on Tuesday to adopt a presidential federal form government as among the constitutional revisions.
A total of nine members present voted in favor of the federal-presidential system, which was proposed by Con-com member Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
Aside from Pimentel, those who voted for a federal-presidential form were Con-com chairman and former chief justice Reynato Puno, Antonio Arellano, Virgilio Bautista, Roan Libarios, former Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Randolph Parcasio, former Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, and Laurence Wacnang.
Con-com member Ranhilio Aquino was the sole member to vote for a parliamentary form. He also presented the parliamentary system proposal before the panel.
There were eight who voted for a hybrid or mixed form of federal government, proposed by De La Salle University Political Science Department Dean Julio Teehankee. This model has features of both presidential and parliamentary forms.
Those who voted for a hybrid form were Arthur Aguilar, Eddie Alih, Ali Balindong, Ferdinand Bocobo, Susan Ordinario, Rodolfo Robles, Edmund Tayao, and Julio Teehankee.
Under the committee’s rules, the votes should reach the majority votes of the members present, which is 10 votes.
A run-off vote was hence conducted, which involves Con-com members voting by raising their hands.
Eleven voted for a presidential form while seven voted for a hybrid or mixed form.
Alih and Balindong changed their votes from hybrid to presidential while Aquino changed his vote from parliamentary to hybrid.
The deliberations lasted for eight hours which started 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Votes for a presidential and hybrid forms were nearly tied before Puno, the last member to vote, announced in his speech that he was for a presidential form as he had “reservations” for the two other forms proposed.
“I respectfully submit that the British model (referring to the parliamentary form) is not for us…I am not prepared to gamble with a hybrid form of government,” Puno said.
Puno said that adopting the hybrid form of government would incur a lot of risks, stressing that the country could not afford to take risks.
“We all want meaningful change, but this change cannot be hinged on chance,” Puno said.
“I therefore vote for a presidential system of government. We are familiar with the presidential system,” Puno said in his explanation of the vote.
Puno said that while the presidential form is patterned after the structure of the United States, it will remain uniquely Filipino.
In his presentation shown before the panel took a vote, Pimentel said that a federal-presidential form is “more familiar” and therefore easier for Filipinos to follow.
Pimentel’s proposal sought for the creation of 12 federal states for the Philippines and reiterated his proposition that Sabah be made as the country’s 13th federal state.
He said that Metro Manila would not be converted into a federal state but would remain as federal capital.
“I’d like our people to remember that Sabah is ours,” Pimentel said during the second Con-com meeting.
“When we speak of the Republic of the Philippines, we are not only talking about Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, we are talking of Scarborough, Spratlys, Benham Rise even Sabah is ours,” he added.
He, however, pointed out that the issue of ownership of Sabah should not necessarily antagonize Malaysia and use methods recognized by the United Nations for purposes of settling disputes between and among sovereign nations.
The Philippines has been claiming Sabah as part of the Sultanate of Sulu that was leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1878. In 1963, Great Britain transferred Sabah to Malaysia.
Pimentel’s proposed federal-presidential system also sought for a total of 87 senators in the Philippines.
Each of the 12 federal states should have six senators, another six from Metro Manila, and nine senators from overseas to a total of 87 senators.
He said that there was basis to increase senatorial representation to allow the inclusion of more Muslim senators.
Despite the increase of senators, the revenue shares of federal sates and local government units (LGUs) would increase, he said.
His model also proposed that the Supreme Court structure be retained.
The central, federal government will retain control of national defense and security by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
There will also be one basic curriculum applied to all federal states. PNA