Duterte's Speaker bet: Federalism ASAP on agenda

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2016 08:13 PM | Updated as of May 17 2016 10:29 PM

Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA - Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte's bet for House Speaker in the 17th Congress on Tuesday appealed to the public to give federalism a chance, even as he revealed plans to submit it to a plebiscite during the 2019 mid-term elections.

Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez said amending the Constitution to shift to a federal form of government is one of the incoming Duterte administration's legislative priorities. The others include revival of the death penalty and the freedom of information act.

"Iyung advocacy ni Mayor Duterte, federalism, changing the form of government from a unitary to federal form of government," he said. "Basically, siyempre mayrong mga different states who (will) compose the federal Republic of the Philippines, but again this is subject to more discussions. Kung mayroon tayong constitutional convention o kaya constituent assembly, doon makikita iyung set-up whether parliamentary or presidential form of government. We are targeting by mid-term elections, mai-submit itong draft ng Constitution to the people for plebiscite."

Alvarez also downplayed the belief that federalism will reinforce political dynasties. "Hindi naman siguro, dahil kahit naman sa unitary form of government lalong tumaas na dumami pa."

Current House Speaker Sonny Belmonte has also expressed openness to Duterte's proposal to shift to a federal form of government. Belmonte will be in his last term in the coming 17th Congress.

Belmonte, however, said the proposal requires a lot of study.

He also emphasized that richer areas of the country have to share their assets with the rest of the country.

Data analyzed by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed that of the country's 81 provinces, there are about 20 that depend heavily on their shares from pooled revenues of local government units—the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). There are 20 provinces that earn only anywhere from P2 million to less than P60 million a year, based on 2014 data from the Bureau of Local Government Finance.

Meanwhile, only 10 provinces made at least half a billion pesos on their own. The National Capital Region alone made P62 billion in terms of income in 2014.

DEATH PENALTY, FOI

Regarding the planned restoration of the death penalty, Alvarez said he agrees with Duterte's plan. "I subscribe to that. Okay naman, parehong patay. Hanging, firing squad, lethal injection."

Alvarez also dismissed criticisms against the death penalty. "It is not a way to deter crime but the facts reveal that tumaas iyung crime, so ano ba ang solution nila diyan, especially sa heinous crimes? Siguro kinakailangan natin death penalty diyan."

On the proposed freedom of information law, Alvarez said, "FOI, we are in favor. As far as I know, iyung FOI bill tapos na sa Congress, ifa-file na lang ulit at siguro majority of the congressmen ang pumirma. Tignan natin, basta ako personally, I support that bill."

Alvarez also reiterated his claim that he already has secured a majority of the incoming congressmen to ensure his election as House Speaker.