MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee buckled down to work Monday with its chairman vowing to produce a federal model that will "hold together the union in perpetuity."
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno urged the 18 other committee members to come up with a federal setup that would be "distinctly Filipino."
"I urge you to ensure that our federal will be a strong and sturdy one, possessed with a power to hold together the union in perpetuity and with the energy and endurance to convert to robust reality the dreams of our people however long it takes," he said at the committee’s inaugural session at the Philippine International Convention Center.
"The time of the federal idea has now come to the Philippines."
Framers of the 1987 Constitution earlier warned federalism would "enhance regional parochialism and factionalism" and lead to the "proliferation of minorities within minorities."
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea urged the committee to make sure the new federal constitution would reflect the will of the people.
The committee plans to have the draft constitution ready for Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 24.
But it remains to be seen whether the President would endorse it to Congress even if the committee was his creation.
House leaders, in particular, are moving ahead with their own proposed federal constitution, making it clear the committee’s work was recommendatory.
Puno’s committee on Monday distributed assignments.
A sub-committee will focus on the creation and structure of states or sub-national governments. It will tackle the distribution of powers between the central and regional governments.
"We should not plagiarize any federal model," Puno said, urging the body to "devote the most serious though on the structural design of the constitution."