Pimentel calls on congressmen, senators to “listen” to the people on proposed shift to federalism

Written by Raynan F. Javil.

Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Q. Pimentel, Jr., a long-time advocate of federalism, urged members of congress to go across the country to conduct dialogues and “listen to what the people are saying” about the proposed changes in the political structure.

“To make sure that the idea is spread and debated throughout the country... I’m suggesting that even if the revision of the constitution will be done by the Constituent assembly, the members of Congress -- House and the Senate -- their committees should go around the nation and conduct public hearings... They should not just revise the constitution according to their preconceived ideas,” Mr. Pimentel said at the sidelines of yesterday’s ANC forum on Charter change.

A Pulse Asia survey released early this month showed that fewer Filipinos support the Charter change at 37%, while 44% are opposed and the rest are undecided.

Mr. Pimentel said the country must formulate a “Filipino version” of the federal government, “recognize the peculiarity of the Sharia law” of the Muslim population and consider the indigenous peoples, especially “their fight for their ancestral domain.”

The former senator noted that creating a Federal State of the Bangsamoro is “very important in the development and in peace of this country.”

He added that the country should adopt the “good features” of the different models of federalism from other countries instead of looking into just one model.

“For example in the US, every federal state has its own Supreme Court. There should only be one Supreme Court in the country,” Mr. Pimentel explained.

Mr. Pimentel, the main author of the Local Government Code that was intended to strengthen the country’s smaller political units, is proposing the creation of 11 federal states with the National Capital Region as the federal capital.

The new Constitution, he said, must also provide for “specific provisions” stopping the emergence of political dynasties in a federal system.

House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, in a radio interview last week, named Mr. Pimentel as one of the initial personalities being considered to be part of the 20- to 25-man Constitutional Commission that will be tasked to draft the new Constitution.

For his part, Mr. Pimentel -- who was a member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1973 Charter -- said he’s “willing to stay at the background and watch the parade,” but if he will be called for another tour of duty: “I will help in whatever way I can.”