It’s too early to shift to federal govt — FVR

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Former President Fidel Ramos is in favor of a shift to the federal system of government but is doubtful if moves to change the Charter will prosper before the 2010 elections.

Ramos, chairman emeritus of the ruling Lakas Christian-Muslim Democrats, said he does not see any move to amend the Constitution before 2010 (when President Arroyo’s term expires).

“The federal system can come in time. But before 2010, I doubt it very much,” the former president said.

It would be very difficult to promote federalism and obtain popular support for Charter Change when the country remains deeply divided, Ramos said.

Partisan political conflicts as well as the communist and Muslim insurgencies have caused deep division in the country, Ramos said.

Ramos said he would welcome the adoption of a federal system—as opposed to the existing unitary system of government)—which is now being espoused by the opposition.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. introduced Joint Resolution 10 seeking to transform Congress into a constituent assembly to initiate amendments to the Constitution and lay the groundwork for the federal system of government.

“However, that must be done in a timely manner. We must first consolidate the country, this archipelago of 7,100 islands and make it solid and stable,” he said.

The shift to a federal system is made more difficult by the fact that the country’s geographical areas are spread over so many islands unlike countries like the United States, Germany, Australia and India, which all have a federal system, he said.

The federalism scheme is nothing new since it was recommended by the 50-member Consultative Commission on Charter Change, formed by President Arroyo, and headed by professor Jose Abueva, which studied proposals for constitutional reforms from 2005 to 2006.

The President should make clear her stand on the issue of Charter Change in the light of her earlier public pronouncements that her administration intended to draw up a roadmap on federalism by 2012, Ramos said.

“What is her objective? Is it just to ensure victory of the administration in the 2010 elections or to keep her allies in power after 2010?” Ramos asked. “If you ask me, the vision must be long-term. It must be for sustainable development and enduring viability of the Philippines.”

Commenting on the stand of Pangasinan Rep. and former Speaker Jose de Venecia, for a simultaneous adoption of the federal and parliamentary system of government, Ramos said this has been espoused by the Lakas leaders.