MANILA — Former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. on Tuesday described President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s move to create an Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on federalism as a “calculated” effort to bring talks on federalism and charter change back in the spotlight.
On Monday, Malacañang released Memorandum Circular No. 52, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Oct. 31 by authority of the President, creating the IATF, which will take charge of “integrating, harmonizing, and coordinating ongoing efforts towards federalism and constitutional reform.”
Pimentel, member of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to draft the proposed federal charter, noted that the creation of the task force is “timely” after talks on federalism and charter change were shelved to allow the government to prioritize the country’s most pressing concerns, such as rising inflation and high prices of goods.
“Considering the circumstances, I think it is timely that the President re-advocated the push for the adoption of the federal system. The reason I say that is, there is a growing perception that the federalism idea is being relegated to the background. And, so this act of the President will put to rest that perception,” he said in a television interview.
“There are many other things that demand the attention of this nation and obviously, the President has to put certain priorities to assuage the people that even if he’s pushing for a long-term plan of revising the Constitution, the present problems of the nation are not forgotten,” he added.
Pimentel said the task force is also necessary to “consolidate” the ConCom’s draft federal charter, as well as other versions of the charter.
“There are many versions of federalism and apparently, in spite of that, there are many other suggestions for this revision,” he said. “I suppose that what he’s trying to do now, we will try to consolidate thing here and come up with a more defined version of federalism.”
Pimentel said he finds the House of Representatives’ version of the federal charter as “problematic,” as it removes the provisions on anti-dynasty and term limits.
“The House of Representatives came out with their own version and I find the version a little problematic in the sense that there is no anti-dynasty provision there and the term limits of officials are not set out very clearly,” Pimentel said.
He, however, acknowledged that the role of the ConCom is only “recommendatory” and Congress has the final decision.
“I understand what the House is trying to do but the thing is that our job as a Constitutional Commission is merely recommendatory and when it is recommendatory, the persons to who you recommend do what they want but we have the right to say ‘You also take into account at least some of the major considerations we put in our work,’” Pimentel said.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that any attempt to revise the Constitution, including the plebiscite, should not coincide with next year’s mid-term elections.
“If you do that, the tendency of the people is to focus more on, ‘Ah, this is my candidate,’ and the issues of political developments of the day rather than the fundamental idea of shifting to a federal system,” Pimentel said. (PNA)