MANILA -- Senators rejecting federalism now will "toe the line" once President Rodrigo Duterte moves "forcefully" for a shift to this new system of government, a member of his consultative committee said Monday.
Duterte’s federalism project has been facing strong opposition in the upper chamber, with several senators questioning the need to revise the Constitution at this time.
House leaders have been more accommodating of the President’s federalism push, a centerpiece of his campaign platform along with his brutal war on drugs.
"Ultimately, nasa kamay ni Presidente Duterte ito," former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. told a forum in Manila.
(Ultimately, it's in President Duterte's hands.)
"Even if the Senate would appear to be independent, but if the President begins to act forcefully, I am sure they will toe the line."
Pimentel and other consultative committee members conceded that a federal shift was not likely before next year’s midterm elections.
Congress has yet to convene as a constituent assembly, the president’s preferred mode of revising the 1987 Constitution, and many legislators are now preparing for reelection.
"I think, given the current trajectory, the timeline for the discussion of federalism will be after the scheduled May 2019 elections," said political science professor Julio Teehankee, who helped draft the president’s version of a federal charter.
But Teehankee urged the public to make federalism—particularly political dynasties—a major election issue.
His group’s draft charter includes a self-executing ban on political dynasties, and no longer leaving it to Congress to pass a law against such families.